Tuesday, January 03, 2012

2011: Life and Other Musings

“This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.” - Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

2011 was a crazy year. When I sit down and think about everything that has happened, I get a little overwhelmed and have to remind myself that it was only *one* year in which all these things happened. It has felt like a lifetime.

But, I learned so much! In spite of some difficulty and stress, I have recognized God's careful, loving hand as He molded and shaped me. Through difficulty the Lord has revealed grace. I've been reminded that this life isn't about *me*. The Lord has been teaching me to take the focus off of myself and to focus more on Him and loving others as He loves. I've learned that I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. Instead, I need to look at Jesus and take example from him. I need to love as He loves. It hasn't been easy...actually, it's been difficult, but I am grateful for the learning - for the process and where it has brought me in my relationship with those close to me as well as with the Lord.

Besides, without the difficulties in 2011, I wouldn't have a realization that family are the most important people in the world - friends come and go, but family is always, always there for me. I wouldn't have a closer, encouraging relationship with several friends who I hadn't appreciated before as I should have. (I am so grateful for the true friends that the Lord has blessed me with! You know who you are!).

And so many more things that I am unable to write down.

More importantly then anything, though, I have learned that no matter what we may be going through, no matter what tough choices and decisions we face - God is always there, leading us and teaching us and shaping us to be more like Him. When we're in the middle of a hard situation, we don't always see or understand what God could possibly be doing, but when it's over and the worst is behind us, we can look back and see God's hand throughout the storm. He is faithful, dear friends. That is what 2011 has taught me above all...no matter how difficult the future may look, God is in control of it all. He loves us and He holds us in the palm of His hands. Trust in that. Trust in Him.

“At times God puts us through the discipline of darkness to teach us to heed Him. Song birds are taught to sing in the dark, and we are put into the shadow of God's hand until we learn to hear Him...Watch where God puts you into darkness, and when you are there keep your mouth shut. Are you in the dark just now in your circumstances, or in your life with God? Then remain quiet...When you are in the dark, listen, and God will give you a very precious message for someone else when you get into the light.” - Oswald Chambers

Of course, I don't want you to think that my year has been nothing but difficulty! On the contrary, my hardships have revealed greater blessings! Plus, sooo many wonderful events have happened this year & I have been able to see my sisters who live so far, more often then I did the year before, which was a great blessing to me. Also, James, my oldest brother, got married, Tiffany & Ben had a baby girl, I turned 21, I flew a plane for the first time, I experienced the Northern California mountains up close and personal (cough) and I got to have all of my family together for the Holidays. I call that wonderful. The Lord has truly blessed me. :)

Happy, happy 2012! May this new year of your life be a blessed year and bring you closer to our Savior!

Without further ado, here is a recap of the year in photos. :)

Life Rally 2011
(This is our singing group!)

Twelfth Night 2011

Valentine's Day

Liberty Day!
My first experience with being completely in charge of the household for a week. This includes meals, cleaning, schooling the kids, etc. It was a HUGE learning experience for me! But I was super glad to have Mom and Melissa back home. ;-)

An outing in DeKalb with dear friends!

My eldest brother, James VI asked Jill to marry him and they had a lovely wedding in Peoria! I gained a niece AND another sister this year. :)

Road Trip!
Our big road trip this year consisted of driving all the way out to California. A full, three day journey! It was full of fun & was definitely a highlight of the year. :)

Mom & Mrs. Chapa!
We loved staying with the Chapa family on our way out and back!
We love our Colorado friends. :)

I flew a plane for the first time while I was out in Colorado!
Mr Chapa is a fantastic pilot and let me take control of the plane for a few minutes! It was thrilling & terrifying! And let's not even get into the stalls that we did... :-)

Dad & Mr. Chapa!

Visiting with the fabulous Storrie girls while out in Colorado!

Presbytery took place in the beautiful mountains of Northern California!

Spending some much-missed time with our wonderful, amzing outlaws! I miss y'all!!

Sister & Brother-in-Law! <3

Nic & I were the milkshake makers.
They tasted pretty good if I do say so myself. :-)

I miss my outlaws!!

Moosh & Caleb, exploring the mountain behind the Hectors home!

The baptism of my niece, Lilyana Shapirta Hector!


Back home! This is our Spring Family Photo!

Turkey Festival!

The Fourth of July was spent with dear friends!

Lilyana and Tiff came out to visit for the Ladies' Tea! And she brought SURPRISES: Mrs. Hector, Matthew, Nic & Anthony!!!

My beaaaautiful niece!

We're just missing Christa & Mom! :-(

Shopping trip!

Because we love little coffee houses... :)

Saying goodbye was ridiculously hard...*sigh*

Some dear friends blessed me with this entire Agatha Christie Mystery collection! I am in love. :)

Dad, Caleb & Mr. Vogel built a tree-house. It is spectacular!

Family Camp in Nebraska!

Concert with the Wintons!

Dates with girlfriends. :)


And the family is back to visit again!! Not Justin Bieber. ;-)

Christmas Morning!

Visiting with my little niece was definitely a highlight. :)

Sisters 2011

Our entire family: Christmas 2011


Ella said...

Even though I have seen those pictures before, I loved seeing them again.....you had a blessed year, girl!! I have loved being your twin through it <3

Rissi said...

Thank you SO much for following my blog, Jessica. =) I hope you stop in often.

I think so long as we learn things in every year, then the year has been a "good" one. Each new day, new week, new year brings challenges, but hopefully there is a triumph in them knowing we learned valuable life lessons.

Happy 2012 to you and your family.

Kathryn Grace said...

Loved the recap. :-) Looks like you've had a year that has been well mixed between hard things and delightful things.
I love the sisters photo... so cute. :-)

Hope to see you soon!!

Shelbi said...

I enjoyed seeing all the pictures! Thanks for the great post. :)

I recently looked into the Agatha Christie mysteries, but forgot about it until I read your post just now. Are there any that you might recommend to start out with? I never could figure out if they went in any particular order.

Happy New Year!

Jessica McDonald said...

Ella, And I have loved you being my twin through it. Your friendship is one of the many blessings I've experienced this year and wouldn't trade for anything. :)

Rissi, I'm sorry I didn't check out your blog until recently! I really enjoyed reading it!! Happy New Year! :)

Kathryn, It really has. Also, we got the invite in the mail the other day!! I'm so excited! :-)

Shelbi, So glad you enjoyed it. :) I love Agatha Christie! I recommend starting with "And Then There Were None". Also, "Spider's Web" is good as well! They aren't in any particular order, so just read as you will. :-) Hope that helps! Happy New Year!