2016…..you were a good teacher.


The sun has set on 2016.  It has been a wonderful year beginning with moving into our beautiful new home.  Throughout the year many doors have opened, opportunities have been given and blessings have been felt.  And in the midst of it all, I have learned….A LOT.

I’ve learned a lot of about focus.  It’s very important to focus on the big picture.  The big picture being your relationship with the Lord and His will for you.  So often it’s easy to get tripped up on the little things or even the big messes.  These things we fixate on is where the enemy is waiting in the wings to grab hold of you.  When our focus sways, so does everything else.  Even when we are in the midst of trials, stress, messes or whatever it is –  God is there.  Our precious Lord is in the midst of that mess with you.  Don’t miss Him.  While in the midst of this trial you’re facing right now, it may be hard to even breathe sometimes yet we must not miss the fact the He merely wants us to turn to Him, focus on Him and cry out His name.   Focus on Him – never lose sight.  Seek Him with all your heart!

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13

-I’ve learned that there are a lot of hurting hearts out there and many times they are quietly suffering.  Oh how that makes my own heart hurt.   If you just bend your ear a little, you can hear the hurt and quite possibly be a voice of hope.  You see, when we live out grace and tender mercy our attitudes change and our understanding broadens.  It’s so easy to just give an answer of “I’m great” or “fine” when we are passing each other in the hallway or the grocery store aisle and so often that’s a lie.  And It’s even easier to keep walking and not truly dig in and say “no really, how are you?”   Why can’t we be more transparent?  Why do we feel like we have to act a certain way or pretend all is well?   In learning the magnitude of hurt out there, I’ve began to pray that the Lord will allow me to be a beacon of hope wherever He takes me.  I’ve began to pray that the Lord will stop me in my tracks of busyness if necessary to hear a heartache of a friend, a neighbor or whomever crosses my path so that I can come to the Throne of Grace with them and maybe just maybe they can experience that same peace, joy and freedom I do.  Let others see Jesus in you.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.  1 Corinthians 11:1

-I’ve learned a lot about friendship or rather I should say I have gained a renewed perspective.   Friendship is a sacred precious gift from the Lord that should be treasured.  It is something to invest in and something to not give up on. My circle of friends is a very small one but I am very okay with that.  It is about quality not quantity.  2016 was a year I spent praying specifically about and for friendship.  Can I share a sweet story about one of my dear friends and how the Lord used her to speak to me this year?   A few months ago I received a text from this precious friend that lives many many states away.   We don’t get to talk very much or see each other a lot but we often send text messages of prayer requests we have or just sweet notes of love and encouragement to each other.  Well this particular day she sent me a text that was totally out of the blue but totally perfect timing.  You see, for several days I’d been quietly hurting over a particular past friendship that I’d lost. I had been desperately praying for the Lord to help me see Him in this ugly mess that was made.  It was then that the Holy Spirit led my sweet friend to send this beautiful message that you may not quite understand all of but I just wanted you to understand that magnitude of it.

She sent me this text after a nudge from the Holy Spirit not knowing how I’d take it nor that I was struggling with this very subject at that very moment.  I sat in my car just weeping at the tenderness of it, the perfectness of it and the beauty of it.  She simply obeyed a nudging from the Holy Spirit to 1) pray for me and 2) send me a beautiful note of love and encouragement on the very subject that my heart was aching for.  In this very moment everything about friendship made sense to me.  When we allow the Lord to be the center of our friendships it is such a beautiful thing.  He used my precious friend to speak to me and send me a little love note that yes – He heard my cries and He is at work.  When we allow the Lord to be the center of our friendships it is such a valuable tool.  We can pray for each other, we can build each other up, we can sense the Holy Spirit telling us to reach out when our friends need and we can even pray over other broken friendships because we love each other.  ~~Friendship is incredible when we allow the Lord to be a part of it.~~

…….a sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9

I’ve learned that the Lord’s not looking for extraordinary ultra-talented squeaky clean people.  But instead, simply lovers of Him who lay down their own broken selves in order to point others towards Him.  Simply those who will bring glory only to Him not taking it for themselves.

If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.  If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever.  Amen.  1 Peter 4:11

More than anything I know that I will never be perfect, but Jesus is.  I will never be strong enough, but Jesus is.  I will never be enough, but He absolutely is.

Two and a half years ago I looked at myself in the mirror with disgust and said “How did I get here?”  Today, as I look back over 2016, looking forward to 2017; I can look in the mirror and say with freedom and JOY “How did I get here?”  The answer to the first question was selfish, awful, evil motives where my focus had turned from Jesus Christ to Dawn Spicer.  The answer now is hard work, obedience, and more than anything a fierce, relentless, redeeming love of a gracious, life-breathing God.  It’s like looking in the mirror at the transformation and realizing that nothing I’ve done or am doing is changing me but instead everything He is doing is changing me.

And with that, as the sun rises on 2017, I say hello with great anticipation.


These Things I Pray…..

View More: http://vanderfordphotography.pass.us/djs

Sarah Vanderford Photography

I remember that day so clearly:  the day we found out we were having twins and that they were boys’.   I was going to a midwife for my prenatal care and this particular midwifery only did one ultrasound your entire pregnancy and that was at 5 months.  I had been extremely sick my first trimester, losing 15 pounds.  Morning sickness is a form of torture, I’m sure of it.  Everyone just thought that this was what my body did during pregnancy.  No one, including me, ever thought that I was so sick because TWO babies were in my belly!   So, as this day approached I was coming out of morning sickness and getting more and more excited!  We had a boy name and a girl name picked out.  We went in for the ultrasound, back when you still brought in a VHS tape for them to record the ultrasound for you and your reaction when they told you what you were having.  So after setting everything up and turning everything on,  the woman places the little instrument on my belly and immediately starts shutting everything off.  I began to panic thinking something was wrong with the baby.  She then looked at us and said “do either of you have twins in your family?”  We both said, “No.”  She replied, “well you do now!”  I began crying, Jeremy began laughing and we left the office that day completely shocked!  We now had four months to prepare for not one baby but two!  Now, here we are in middle school.  WOAH.  Being a boy mom is fun, adventurous and often times gross.  As a boy mom cleaning toilets is the worst and frequently makes me angry.  How does one miss the giant toilet bowl when going ‘potty?’  Seriously……  And as a boy mom, we didn’t dress up Barbie’s, we never played with babydolls and I don’t get to share beauty secrets and makeup tips. It was Tonka trucks, Bob the Builder and GI Joe’s all the way.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.   I look at these two boys’ today and I get excited imagining what the Lord has in store for them!  I am so excited to see the path that He has created for them.  Yet, I’m not a fool to think that path will be without hiccups, struggles and missteps.  It is starting off great though!  Our greatest hope and prayer became a reality this past year when they both accepted Christ and are now followers of Him.  There is no greater joy than to see your children surrender their lives and put their hope in Jesus Christ.  Now it is our duty as parents to nurture that by living a life that exemplifies that and also teach our children the Word of God.  We should also instill in them good manners and life skills, which includes discipline, to help them to know how to face this BIG crazy world!   I do have to say, they could not have a more incredible model of a Godly man than their father.  For that, I am exceedingly thankful.  My hearts prayer is that they will follow the lead of their Daddy.   But I will tell you this:  the number one thing that I do as a Mom every single day for these two boys is pray for them:  Every Single Day.  While these specifics I am listing are daily written prayers in my journal, often times a situation arises that causes me to pray earnestly in a different direction for them whether it be a friendship, a specific middle school struggle, schoolwork etc.  The point here is that one of our most important duties as parents is to pray unfailingly for our children.

Daily I pray over these three things:

  1. Their walk with the Lord: as they grow older that it matures and remains their focus.
  2. Protection and Strength from the Lord. Protect their hearts, eyes and ears from junk.  But when (not if but when) they are faced with ‘junk’ that they will have the strength to turn away from whatever it is and speak Truth to whomever is sharing it.
  3. Future Spouse: I believe it is so very important to be praying now for whomever the Lord has chosen for each of them.  She is out there, living her life right now. (Hey Girl!  I’m praying for you beautiful!)  So, I pray daily that the Lord is surrounding her with Godly examples in her life and that He is doing a work in her heart.  I also pray for the relationship I will have with her.  I hate that “mother-in-law” has such a negative association to it.  I pray for a beautiful relationship with my future daughters-in-law.

One day I hope to show my boys my journal of prayers for them.  Maybe on their wedding day, I don’t know?  But, what I do know is that I will never cease in praying for them.  The Lord has so graciously gifted us two precious boys to teach, nurture and love.  I count that a privilege and want to treat it as such.

Sons are indeed a heritage from the Lord, children, a reward.  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the sons born in one’s youth. Happy is the man who has filled his quiver with them.  Such men will never be put to shame when they speak with their enemies at the city gate.                                                                                                                                                                                                  Psalm 127:3-5