Diana Nesbitt

Always Go Deeper

To All Who Have Fought For Freedom

I see you. You are more than a small face in a grainy photograph. You are more than the blue or gold star they hung in the window. You are more than the helmet peeking above the bushes. You are more than nimble fingers and agile eyes aiming and firing. You are more than bloody hands pressed against your comrade’s chest. You are more than the enemy’s target. You are more than the medal they pinned to your chest. You are more than a white cross in a cemetery. You are more than a name on a monument. You are more than a number in a history book.
You were a person.
You were a son, a sweetheart, a father, a friend. You were handsome – or maybe a bit homely. Maybe you were young. Maybe you wore gray at your temples and this wasn’t your first time “Over There,” but you had to make sure the job was finished this time. Maybe you flew planes. Maybe you fixed meals. Maybe you raised the flag at Iwo Jima, or maybe you spent the duration fighting battles so far on the outskirts you wondered if what you were doing even mattered.
You were a person, with a story. Because you lived your story in fighting, I can live mine in freedom. Thank you.

Although this post is directed towards those who fought during World War Two, the sentiment is equal for veterans of all wars, past and present. Thank you for your service!

What is Easter?

Easter is one of those holidays that never seems adequately celebrated. At the beginning of spring, winter is dying away and the pace of life is quickening in anticipation of warmer weather (which in New England, you have to anticipate by faith some years) and more time outdoors. Easter slips by in a flurry of fuzzy chicks, dyed eggs, new clothing, and ham dinners. But there is so much more to the purpose behind the holiday than this.
Easter, or rather Resurrection Day, to put it more accurately, celebrates one of the greatest climaxes of the story of mankind. It is the fulfillment of the oldest promise on record, kept centuries after it was made. Were it not for Easter, we would have nothing to celebrate at Christmas. For if Christ were only a good prophet like some claim Him to be, and not the Savior of the world, His birth would be inconsequential and His death on the cross would mean nothing other than that He is a liar and a failure. But because Jesus was the Messiah, given to us through the miraculous virgin birth, and because He lived a sinless life, died for our sins, and rose on the third day, Easter is the completion of the gift that we unwrapped on Christmas morning.
Easter is victory, accomplishment, and conquering. There were no human eyes to witness the moment when life returned to Jesus’ body, but if there had been, imagine what they might have seen. Jesus’ body lay still and cold in the dark tomb. In the most important moment in the history of the entire world, his chest, still for three long days, moves. The breath of life which He gave up on the cross reenters His body, and He emerges from the darkness of death into unconquerable life. Scarred and sacred, His resurrected body will bear the signs of our sins for eternity.
Easter is the celebration of this defining moment of victory. All of God’s signs, wonders, and promises led up to this moment. Like the first light of dawn, it is so quiet, so unpretentious, and yet it means so much. This moment means that God really does keep His promises. It means that Jesus really was the Messiah. It means that salvation really is ours for the believing. The blood-stained cross, the torn temple curtain, and the empty grave all silently shout testimony of how deeply God wants us close to Him.
So in the bright mix of Easter baskets and sunrise services, let us carry the joyful reverence of knowing what Resurrection Day is really all about, and engage in full-hearted praise to the God who keeps His promises.

How Faith and Muscle Memory Can Help You Finish

The fingers of my left hand strained to reach their places on the fretboard, and as my right hand swept the pick across the strings, I overshot and struck the next set too. “Ping, thunk. Ping, thunk.” It sounded like someone had stepped on a cat’s tail and then grabbed it by the windpipe.

 
Frustration knotted in my chest and I sat back from my mandolin with a huff. In a deja vu moment I saw myself as a beginner piano student pressing my uncontrollable fingers hard against the keys, the dissonant sound echoing what I felt inside. That was before I discovered the secret weapon I didn’t know I had.

 
What you’re not always told when you begin play an instrument is that your body possesses a type of memory that records repeated movements and etches them into your brain, so in time you will be able to do without conscious effort what is now awkward and uncomfortable. After I discovered muscle memory and learned how to use it, my frustration level dropped, since I knew my practice was sure to pay off.

 
The remembrance of this truth renewed my determination to persevere. Shoving down my impatience, I resumed practice, carefully picking the notes. The choked cat yowls didn’t disappear, but they did become less frequent.

 
We will face challenges and be tempted to quit whenever we set out to achieve something. But if we want to reach our goal, we must finish what we start. This is the most basic requirement for any reward, because nothing is useful unless it is completed. This is true, not only in the projects we undertake, but also in our faith. Just like we intend to finish the projects we begin so they may be useful, so God intends to bring our faith to maturity so we may be useful. He does this by testing our faith, and though being tested is not always fun, gaining maturity in faith is always beneficial in every area of life.

 
Regardless of the goal we are trying to reach, there is one necessity for completion: endurance. If you’re like me, trying to persevere just because you know you should doesn’t work out that well. You need something more to turn you from a sprinter into a marathoner. That something is faith – confidence in your reward. When I apply the knowledge of muscle memory as I practice an instrument, I am able to endure the times when practice is difficult, because I know that with enough repetition, my fingers will automatically reach for the right notes. Likewise, when we apply the knowledge of God’s trustworthiness to our lives, we can endure challenges because God promises to reward our endurance and He has the power to keep His promises.

 
Faith and muscle memory are like trains that will carry you to your goal, even through the dark tunnels of struggle and opposition. It takes endurance to stay on the train, especially when it feels like you’re hanging on for dear life on top of it instead of riding safely inside. But if you want to see the light at the end of the tunnel, you can’t jump off the train in the dark. It is by putting your hope in the right place – the sure and firm character of God – and choosing to believe Him in all He says that you will gain the strength to stay on the train until you reach your reward.

 
By faith you endure to receive the reward, and because of your faith you will be rewarded.

 
So be confident, and endure. Your reward will come.

 

2016 in Review

The wayward writer has returned yet again. It’s been a coon’s age since I last posted (although I can’t say I actually know how long a coon’s age is – I assume it could be quite a while), so as a way of saying hello again, I’ll share my review of the past year as a quick, although not very brief, commentary on what has been keeping me busy and away from the writing desk over the last several months!
2016 was a full, interesting year. It brought new opportunities and open doors, some unexpected and some I’d hoped for but never expected this year to bring. I made some new friends and had relationships with others deepen in sweet and special ways. In 2016 I asked the Lord to give me a phrase to help me stay focused, something concise that would remind me of the intentions with which I began the year. He gave me the word finish. It was appropriate, because I have many half-finished projects, crafts, and online classes frequently haunting the back of my mind. This word served well to motivate me toward completing some of these projects. Later on, though, it seemed to apply to not just my projects, but perhaps also to some part of this time in my life. Doors have opened this year, and I’m curious and also a little bit apprehensive to see what the continuation of stepping through them brings in 2017.
January: My first step forward in 2016 was getting my passport (no, I haven’t used it yet). I was hoping to go on a mission trip this year and wanted to have my passport in case an opportunity should arise. I seriously considered a trip to Jamaica, but ended up deciding it wasn’t the right trip for me. However, it was not a wasted opportunity, because through that connection my mom was able to send some dresses and shorts for children that she had made (you can read about that project here) with our friends who were going on the trip, and they were able to distribute them in an impoverished community down there.
March: I started taking a karate class! My coworker had been taking classes for over a year (and telling me how great it is), and she had the opportunity to bring a friend for free for the month so she invited me. I’d always thought it would be cool to learn some self defense but never dreamed I’d actually have the opportunity, so I tried it out and decided to stay on as a student. I’m growing to like it more and more as time goes on. I earned my green belt in early November and am currently working towards my first brown stripe (after two brown stripes comes my brown belt, then three black stripes and my black belt – still a few years down the road but not out of sight!)

My brother got to come to class the night I earned my green belt last November!

A bear who made himself way too comfortable in our yard last spring!

May: I took English composition as my first-ever college class online from a local college. It was a good experience, but not without stress, since it was an accelerated course in which we covered a semester’s worth of work in eight weeks (I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into…), but I received some really helpful guidance from a good friend along the way and that helped me survive. 🙂 The major assignments were a personal narrative essay, a critical analysis, and a research paper. I used each of the assignments to bring to life some ideas that I’d had in my mind for a while, so that made each one even more satisfying to complete. I wrote about my memories of going to the town library for the personal narrative essay, analyzed the plot structure of a Pixar movie (I chose Inside Out – so much fun!) for my critical analysis, and wrote about human trafficking for my research paper. I received some very encouraging feedback from my professor on each of my assignments and overall I enjoyed my first college experience.

Camel ride at Franklin Park Zoo near Boston in the spring

Summer was busy and stressful, with trying to keep up with gardening and yard work and karate and more hours at work. We had more staffing changes at work, so my hours increased and for a few weeks things were pretty intense with trying to fill in the gaps and regroup before new people came on, but we all survived, are now fully staffed, and there is an air of relief and fun now permeating the office. One of our new team members is a friend I’ve known for years, so that made it even more exciting. In July, I also had the opportunity to help a friend set up floral arrangements for at a historic estate for a wedding, which was fun.

Nephews having fun playing with milkweed in the autumn

In November (at the persistent coaxing of my coworker – I asked her a year ago to prod me to do this, and she made good on it!), I tried out for a community production of Fiddler on the Roof at the university in town, and I made it in! In addition to the fact that I’ve always loved all things musical, part of my reason for auditioning was to use the experience of being in a more serious theatre production as a springboard for my research for my novel, which involves summer stock theatre.
Later on in the month, we had a lovely Thanksgiving, spending the evening enjoying dessert and good conversation with friends.
Then December came. Oh, December.


What I wanted most for December was for time to slow, to allow me to savor this last bit of my year of “finishing,” to steep my mind and heart in worship and meditating on the birth of Christ. I wanted to finish learning the beautiful arrangement of Silent Night I’d played off and on for months and play it at church. I wanted to watch Christmas movies and wrap gifts and write things.

Instead, after a week of puzzling and intense pain in his lower abdomen, my dad went to the doctor and from there to the ER on December 9th. They took a CT scan and diagnosed it as an abscess in his psoas muscle. Apparently an abscess like this is very rare, and the doctor shook his head in bewilderment as to why Dad would have even developed such a thing (although we think it might be related to the appendectomy he had two years ago). They transferred him to Dartmouth that night and put drains in his abdomen. When we got there on Saturday they had just put the drains in and some of the infection had spilled into his abdomen (which can happen in these types of procedures) and he was very sick. They transferred him to the ISCU and thankfully by the end of the day he looked better, and the next day he was able to be moved back into a regular room.

He came home the Wednesday of the following week, and for the next two weeks Mom had the fun job of emptying and flushing his drains every day. Although anything medical is NOT her forte, she was a trooper and took good care of him. So, we were all quite happy when Dad came home from his follow up appointment and, with the biggest smile he’d worn all month, announced that the doctor had taken the drains out! After twenty days with them in, he was delighted to be free of them and able to wear jeans again.

December did have some good points, though: I turned twenty-five and got my first smartphone. 😉 Also, I got new tires. Funny the things you get excited about when you become an adult.

My birthday cake – it was a Ukrainian Kiev cake made by a friend who is an excellent baker. It tasted like a giant Ferrero Rocher!

January: After a Christmas season that passed in a way none of us were really expecting, I savored my vacation from work the week after Christmas. I hung on to the last days of the year like an oak tree to its leaves, but time, like the wind, pulled them away from me, one by one. Then January came, and I began one of the most hectic months of my life. Fiddler on the Roof rehearsals took place every day for 18 days, culminating in a total of nine (9!!) shows over the course of two weekends. It was an intense schedule, but it was a lot of fun, especially after the shows began and everyone felt more comfortable with what was going on.

Fiddler on the Roof paraphernalia

Snowy selfie!

Trying out new snowshoes

On January 1st, my family attended a local church that we had not been to before, and thus far, we are really enjoying it. I even have some hope that this may become home.

I also started (and stopped) my second college class at the beginning of 2017. My plan was to take English Composition 2, but after sitting in class for the first few weeks, I discovered that what the professor was teaching and what I had expected to learn from the course description were not matching up. So, after much mental struggle, I decided to drop the class and invest my time in more practical writing experiences – like resurrecting my blog and working on my novel. I just signed up for an online fiction writing class for the month of March and am excited to see what will come from that.

When I look back on a year that has passed, the most important thing that I consider is how I’ve grown spiritually. Over the year of 2016, I came to realize more and more the relational aspect of God’s character, and how much there is that He wants to give us spiritually. I’m just starting to learn to interact with the Lord a bit more as I pray, instead of always throwing my list of “Please helps” at God and expecting Him to listen, and I hope that 2017 brings much more of that.

Now as I look forward to more of what 2017 holds, I have delicately held hope that finally, this may be the year when I take serious steps forward in pursuing this calling of being a writer that God has placed on my life. Over the last month, I have come to realize that He has already answered my often-asked question of “How do I become a writer??” I’ve learned a lot from the research and reading I’ve done over the past few years, and I know the basic first steps that I need to take to pursue this craft. My main desire is that I will do this in strong, humble dependence on the Lord and will seek and recognize His help every step of the way.

So here’s to moving forward in 2017!

How was your 2016? What are your plans and hopes for 2017?

A Letter to My Younger Self on my 25th Birthday

Why, hello there. I remember you. I see you sitting there with your unruly hair, blues eyes that are changing to green rimmed by glasses, sitting there scribbling away in your journal. The words that fly from your pen are all about your schoolwork, friends, snowboarding adventures, love of and longing for music, your frustrations, your inescapable bent towards words, and your questions and dreams about your future.

You wonder about the future so much. Well, I can tell you a little about some of your future, because it is now part of my past. It’s not as grandly adventurous as you’ve always wished it would be – not yet, anyway. But it’s not dull, at least not to you. You’re going to learn a lot – about God, about people, about decision-making, about yourself.  Your hair is going to get curly, and you will finally figure out how to make peace with it – providing the humidity level isn’t too high. You’ll get contacts, but you won’t get your ears pierced just yet, even though you really wanted to for a while.

You’re going to work at a dental office. This has never been on your list of dreams, but it’s going to be an excellent experience for you and you’re going to grow and gain a lot of confidence there. You have some wonderful people coming into your life whose friendships you will treasure so much. You’re going to know you’re supposed to be a writer, but I’m still not sure how you’re going to achieve that. You are going to go to college! At least for a couple of classes, but maybe more.

The hardest times of your life that I can tell you about are still ahead of you, but you will learn so much from them. They are lessons that you wouldn’t trade for anything, about grace and faith and who God really is and how He relates to you. Your faith is going to be tested and battered, and life is going to feel really dark for a long time, but God will revive and transform your faith, and nothing will ever have to be that hard again unless you choose unbelief again.

I started writing this feeling like I would be the older, wiser voice speaking down to the child of my past. But today, as I was thinking about you, I realized that I have to say thank you to you. Thank you for taking your character formation in your growing up years so seriously. Thank you for fighting those battles against bad thought habits and pride, for getting on your knees and begging fiercely for victory. I can tell you now, you got it – you’ll still have more battles to fight, but your perseverance has given me confidence that they can be won. Thank you for putting Jesus first in your life, for those hours you spent praying, those verses you memorized, and for the effort you put into studying God’s word. You have given me a strong foundation to stand on. I would not be who I am today if  you were not who you were yesterday. So thank you. By God’s grace, I’ll try not to screw it all up. 😉

Happy birthday, kid. I’m proud of you.

Journal entry from December 18, 2004 – a few days before I turned 13: “I’ve got to get out of this ‘phase.’ If this is what 13 is going to be like, I’m staying put.” LOL! 

Created to Grow

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The crushed stone crunched beneath our feet as we walked between the rows of plants. Sunlight, diffused by the plastic that sheltered us from the cool May wind, warmed the greenhouse and intensified the throaty smell of geraniums and tender green plants.
“Want to ride on my back for a little while?” I turned and asked my just-turned-five-year-old nephew.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.” His words came out in excited staccatos. I knelt down on the stones and he wrapped his arms around my neck, a feeling of which I will never grow tired, and groaned as I lifted him up. “I want to ride on your back for a long time,” he said, indicating that he did not think this situation needed to be temporary.
“Well, we’ll see how long I can last carrying you, because you’re getting big,” I said, feeling the weight of his body on my back as we continued to weave our way through the greenhouse.
Plants and children, perhaps the foremost features of a well-celebrated Mother’s Day, have much in common. They require nurturing – a word that has remained in my mind ever since I read this blog post. According to Google, the word nurture means “the process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone or something.” Children and plants require food and water and sunlight and fresh air to grow. Sometimes they have thorns and hurt those who are lovingly caring for them. They have specific needs that must be met in order for them to flourish, but they cannot meet those needs on their own. They need someone else to meet those needs – they need to be nurtured.
We can all nurture those around us. And perhaps the most beautiful, life-giving way for anyone to nurture, that which our mothers do for us beginning at birth and from then on every day of our lives, is to give life out of pain. Out of gasping breathless pain she gives you your first breath. Out of her fear she gives you courage. Out of her worry she gives you security. Out of her depression she gives you joy. Out of her weariness she gives you strength. Out of her confusion she gives you clarity. Out of her hunger she gives you food. Because she went through it she fights so you don’t have to. And that is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross, friends. He experienced separation from God the Father, hell, so we don’t have to if we choose relationship with God through Jesus. Out of His death He gave us life. So this thing that our mothers do so well for us, this thing any of us can do for anyone else, this nurturing, this process that we can see acted out in the rows of cared-for, growing green plants that we buy to beautify our gardens and give to our mom, is all an imitation of what our Savior does for us every day, because He created us to grow.
So, as the abovementioned blog post recommended, go thank someone who has nurtured you – someone who shared a conversation, a kind word, a smile, a hug, a meaningful gift, a helping hand, an answer to a question – someone who took the time to give you a piece of their lives to help you flourish.
To my mom, thank you for the million and one ways you have nurtured me throughout the years. Thank you for praying that I would exist someday. Thank you for proving the doctor wrong when he wondered how the blankity-blank you were going to nurse a premie every single hour for the first month of my life. Thank you for reading the piles of Little Golden Books to me that I dragged back to your bed every day at naptime. Thank you for giving me healthy food to eat. Thank you for teaching me how to brush my teeth, answer the phone and not to point at people in the store. Thank you for giving my Cabbage Kid Dolls voices and for talking for them while you cooked and cleaned and canned and sewed and were trying to go to sleep at night. Thank you for letting me fall asleep in bed with you and for letting me come back in the middle of the night when the coyotes were howling. Thank you for teaching me how to read and write and never, ever once getting impatient with me when I was in school. Thank you for letting me see the anger in your eyes when I did wrong. Thank you for bawling me out so bad when you caught me cheating on a test that I would never ever in my life ever dare to cheat again. Thank you for teaching me about God and that spending time with Him is the most important thing I could do every day of my life. Thank you for giving me your wisdom and for giving me freedom to make my own decisions. Thank you for praying with me. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for life, Mom.
And thank You Jesus for giving my Mom life so that she could give me life.

20 Things I’ve Learned from 20 Years with Jesus

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Years I’ve worked at my job: 3. Years I’ve owned a car: 2.5. Years I’ve had a driver’s license: 6. Years since I learned to snowboard: 13. Years since I started playing the piano: 16. Years since I graduated high school: almost 6.
As a 24 year old, there aren’t many things that I can claim to be or have done for more than ten or fifteen years, other than being alive. But there is one significant thing that I have had for twenty years as of this day, the thing that I am most proud and grateful and happy to be, the thing that has shaped me and made me who I am and will one day be more than anything else that I could ever experience: a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Twenty years ago today, I stood in my family’s kitchen, swinging my foot over the pattern on the linoleum floor, listening to my brother reason away my irrational fears that I would die immediately and go to heaven if I accepted Jesus as my Savior (not something that a 4-year old relishes the thought of, when it involves leaving Mommy and blankie and Cabbage Patch Kids).

“Diana,” my brother said, turning around from the sink to look at me, “Mommy and Daddy are saved, and they’re not dead. Josh and I are saved, and we’re not dead.”

That was assurance enough for me, and next, with excitement like that of Christmas morning, my family gathered in my parents’ bedroom and we knelt by the bed. With my dad helping me with the words to say, I asked the Lord Jesus to forgive me for my sin and to be my Savior.

Twenty years later, I can safely say I did not die immediately and go to heaven (although, really, wouldn’t life be easier if it worked that way?). 😉 After twenty years of walking with Jesus and spending time in His Word and prayer almost daily, it seems that I should know a lot more than I do and be a lot more spiritually mature than I am; however, with each year that passes I can trace definite growth and mark victories and answers to prayer – in spite of the many shortcomings and failures that I am aware of as well. Thankfully, the Lord is an extremely patient, yet persistent Teacher, and so, I would like to share some of the things that He has taught me over the years.

All the truths shared below have at some point in my walk with Christ come to have meaning to me beyond mere words or a smart sounding maxim; they are truths that have made their way to my heart. Truth can enter your head quite readily, but it will have no effect on your life until it enters your heart as well. Many of them may not sound very deep or profound, but I’m learning that sometimes the simplest truths are the ones that take the longest to really learn.

Here, in no particular order, are twenty things I have learned after spending twenty years of knowing Jesus:

1. Faith is the utter foundation for a genuine walk with Christ. Not only is our salvation not obtained by anything other than faith, but also the extent of our experience of the earthly benefits of salvation is contingent on truly believing God and His Word. Without faith, it is impossible to please God.

2. Prayer changes things.

3. The way to get wisdom is to ask God for it – but you have to ask in faith.

4. God loves you, not because of who you are or what you’ve done, but because of who HE is.

5. You don’t get to serve God because you’re perfect – you get to serve Him because He is merciful and powerful enough to use messed up humans like us for His glory.

6. Nothing drains away joy and strength like unbelief.

7. Prayer and Bible study are vitally important – the only sustainable and reliable way to grow in your relationship with God. If writing this fact alone twenty times over could communicate the absolute importance and necessity of making this a daily habit in your life without rendering my efforts impotent by redundancy, I would do it. Nothing, absolutely nothing else you can do every day will change your life for the better like this will. It is impossible to reach the full potential of your relationship with Christ without making a faithful practice of these two privileges.

8. God will always give you a “yes” to persistent prayers for spiritual growth.

9. Being a Christian is not about how you perform, but about how you relate- with God first, and then with others.

10. True sorrow over sin is never an emotion to be avoided.

11. Giving thanks in everything requires trust.

12. God cares much more about the state of your heart than your wardrobe when you walk into church.

13. There is so much available in Christ that we don’t take hold of. We could have so much MORE if we’d only ask for it and believe Christ to give it.

14. God will ALWAYS provide for your needs. Although we are not promised perfect relationships, health, or physical safety, we are promised that God will meet our needs if we seek His kingdom first.

15. When you see God act in response to a prayer, it becomes easier to trust Him for similar things.

16. Praying for someone else is one of the best ways to love them.

17. The genuineness of your faith is extremely valuable to God. He wants you to believe and trust Him.

18. Sometimes obeying the leadings of the Holy Spirit feels weird and makes your stomach churn, but if you do, you won’t regret it.

19. Even when we can’t see it, God is working, fulfilling His plans for our good and His glory.

20. Grace and truth, like so many other contrasting spiritual elements, MUST be held in balance; damage will result from swaying too far either way, but balance can be found in Jesus.

It has been quite a journey thus far, and as I look back I see anew that my Jesus has been utterly tender and gracious to me. At various times I have resisted Him, yelled at Him, fought Him, disrespected Him, disobeyed Him, questioned Him, and always He has been faithful, forgiving, and oh so very patient. I do not deserve all the good that He has poured out on me, and I hope that the next twenty years are filled with more closeness to Him that results in more glory given to Him because of my life than ever before.

2015 in Review: Adventure Awaits

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The design of the journal I filled last year is all about travel and adventure…during the year I thought cynically a few times how inappropriate such a journal was for me, a girl who has never been south of West Virginia or west of Wisconsin and has never even flown in an airplane. Adventure does not seem to know my address, nor to be willing to pull me beyond the confines of my comfortable life. And yet…2015 did hold adventure of sorts, and maybe more than that, offered the renewed hope of promised adventure in the coming years.
The word I chose for myself at the beginning of 2015 was love. I had a list of about five areas of focus, at the top of which was “Love lavishly, create copiously, trust implicitly.” Well, I have to say that my focus on those things didn’t really last much longer than the time it took me to turn the page in my journal after I wrote them down. That’s not to say I utterly failed at growth in all of those areas, but I certainly didn’t spend much time intentionally working on them like I thought I would.
But then again, that’s part of the adventure. We have our plans, and God has His. (And when they don’t match up, His are always better.)
This year, I think God’s word for me was faith. In fact, I think that’s what it was in 2014 too, but I was too thickheaded to see it. This year, however, I can see the progression of growth in myself, His answer to my cries of “I believe! Help my unbelief!”. In my Bible study time, I went through two inductive Bible study books, one on the book of Romans (Experiencing the Power of Life Changing Faith) and one on 1, 2 & 3 John, Philemon, and James (God’s Love Alive in You). Studying James left me wanting to go deeper into the book, especially with its emphasis on demonstrating genuine faith by works, so I decided to start a Precept Upon Precept study of the book of James. This kind of study is inductive as well, but goes much further in depth with more word studies, cross-referencing, and life application exercises. The homework is supposed to take an hour a day but I just spend as much time as I have on it. It will just take me longer to get through the study. 🙂
At work, due to life changes and unexpected events in different people’s lives,  we were short staffed at the office by about 2-3 people at various points for the greater part of the year (which makes a big difference in an office of 13!), and while it was challenging, it was wonderful to see the way God poured His grace over the whole office and orchestrated everything. Everyone simply pulled together to fill the gaps and support each other as best they could, and one of the empty positions was filled by someone who was already set to come in temporarily the very week the position opened. I spent extra hours in different departments than I usually work, which opened doors for me to deepen my relationships with several of my coworkers with whom I ordinarily never would have interacted as much. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and it allowed me to gain a boatload of experience in many different areas of my workplace! Thus, by the end of summer I was officially working full time- something that I had been praying for a while that God would orchestrate if that’s what He wanted to happen.
2015 held some fun, too. In July, I was able to attend a coworker’s wedding, as well as help with some of the decorating and cleanup. It was the first wedding I had been to in a while, and it was fun to sit around a table with people from the office and not hear anyone say the word “tooth” even a single time (not that any of us mind talking teeth! 😉 ). A week or two later, my parents and I and my brothers and their families went camping together. It was nice to have some time to spend with each other in a different setting.
Watching the game of "Kube" going on

Watching the game of “Kube” going on

Grammie and granddaughter talking

Grammie and granddaughter talking

digging in the sand at the playground

digging in the sand at the playground

In September, Mom, Dad, and I went on a day adventure and drove up Mount Washington. The day was clear, which is apparently quite rare for the mountain, and warm. The views were absolutely stunning.
warning at the bottom: if you have a fear of heights, you might not enjoy this drive!

warning at the bottom: if you have a fear of heights, you might not enjoy this drive!

This, friends, is what a hairpin curve looks like!

This, friends, is what a hairpin curve looks like!

The observatory

The observatory

what a view!

what a view!

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Video presentation telling about the experience of recording the fastest wind speed on record

Video presentation telling about the experience of recording the fastest wind speed on record

The anemometer that recorded the highest wind speed

The anemometer that recorded the highest wind speed

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The following month my aunt and uncle from New York came to visit, and we visited the World War Two museum in Wolfeboro and took a drive to view some of the most brilliant foliage we’ve ever seen. With as warm as it was this fall we weren’t sure how the colors would be, but they were amazingly vibrant.
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“Sweetheart jewelry” at the Wright Museum

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In December, quite outside of my original plans,  I purchased my second car! I had been planning to run my little blue car as long as I could, at least until I could save up for the majority of the cost of my next car; however, one day my coworker said that she was selling her mother’s car for her- a 2007 Toyota Corolla with only 13,047 miles on it.  The price she was asking was extremely reasonable, and the wheels in my head started turning. I began crunching numbers, doing research, and most importantly, praying hard for wisdom about the decision. Long story short, God gave me peace about purchasing it, and there is now a cute little seafoam green car sitting out in the driveway!
Even better, my blue car has already sold. I had prayed, and I know my Mom had too, that it would sell quickly; winter in New Hampshire isn’t exactly the best time to have a car sitting out for sale. Before I had even gotten around to putting the “for sale” signs on it, a lady stopped by asking if it was for sale, as her daughter was looking for a car. We gave her some information and she left, saying her husband might stop by and look at it.
On the first of January, on somewhat of a whim, yet with intention of making my request in belief that God would (not could, but would too often I know in my head that God is capable of doing something, yet in my heart I don’t truly believe that He will) do it if He was pleased to do so, and with the intention of giving Him praise and glory if He chose to grant my request, I asked God to let my old car sell within one week. The next day, the lady’s husband stopped by, and the following day they came over and the young lady test drove it and that night they phoned and said she would take the car. By the following evening, the spot in the driveway that my little blue car had occupied was empty. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think!
I hope and pray that this testimony to God’s work of giving me grace to believe Him and act on prayer and faith is only a taste of what is to come in this new year. I hold more hope in my heart for a good year than I have dared to dream of in recent times, because the Lord has encouraged my faith. Almost two years ago, I clearly remember sitting on my bed, realizing that I had no real belief that God was actively working on my family’s behalf for our good. Life had never looked darker for as long as it did at that period of time. But slowly, gradually, as I called out to God, kept studying His Word, fought Him and fought my fear of obeying Him and my fear of not obeying Him and fought to gain greater trust in Him (yes, lots of fighting went on!), He gently showed me that He is faithful and trustworthy, and that faith is a prerequisite for seeing God act.I am becoming convinced that what God wants from us, maybe more than anything else, is our faith. He values our faith greatly and will allow us to go through almost anything to strengthen it. He wants to be trusted. And it is those who lack trust in Him, who will not believe Him to act on their behalf, who do not see Him act. Jesus Himself did not perform many miracles in one of the towns He traveled through because of the unbelief of those who lived there.
Living by faith invites much testing, to be sure, but yet it is so much easier on your mind and soul and body to live by faith, to have the tranquility and peace of mind brought by believing God is good and has good things in store. Life is going to come with challenges and hard times no matter what, but if we yield to the work of endurance, and allow it to do its complete work, we will be mature and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:3-4), and we will see God do amazing things.
And that is the best part of the adventure that awaits.
The word that I have chosen for 2016 is finish. I hadn’t planned on choosing a word this year, but I had asked the Lord to give me a simple, yet profound maxim, you could call it, for the year. Something that would help me stay motivated and focused on the things that are important. A few days ago, the word “finish” came into my mind, and it seemed a good word for this year. My goal-setting went down the drain the past couple of years and I have many unfinished projects (for example, I only published 8 blog posts last year, and yet I have 19 rough drafts waiting to be edited!) and goals that it’s time to wrap up, so that I can be ready for whatever adventure life brings next.
Sometimes adventure doesn’t always come in the form of driving up a winding narrow mountain road and standing at the top of the tallest mountain in the northeast….sometimes it comes in the form of unplanned friendships and learning to trust God and be brave enough to obey His voice.
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He Didn’t Come As a Royal King Should Have

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He didn’t come as a royal king should have
The High King of Heaven come down to earth
Unwelcomed by fanfare or clamoring crowds
Quietly humble, His miraculous birth

Curled up inside of a womb He’d created
No guards to protect this valuable life
Only to outcasts His birth was announced
By angels and a great star in the night

Prophets for centuries long had foretold it
A Savior would come, would be Emmanuel
But those in Bethlehem slept, unaware
That the promised Messiah had just joined them there

Creator condemned by His own creation
He carried our sorrows and bore all our shame
Unwelcomed, unwanted, they tried to dethrone Him
They murdered Him, still He continued to reign

Next time He comes it will be in His glory
He will take up His king’s place on the throne
All knees will bow, every tongue will adore Him
Saints will rejoice as He welcomes them home

He didn’t come as a royal king should have
But it wouldn’t have been right if He had
Not only a King, but a Saviour as well
He came not to rule but to save us from hell.

I hope your Christmas is filled with sweet meditations on the most loving and gracious Gift ever given- Jesus! Merry Christmas! 

The Frances Project: A Legacy of Service

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On July 23, 2014, one of the strongest, spunkiest women to ever grace the planet was gathered home to her Savior’s bosom. Frances Catherine Fisher, my grandmother, was a member of the greatest generation. She survived the influenza epidemic of 1918, two world wars, the Great Depression, the early death of her true love, and the uncountable ups and downs of 5 children and 99 years of life. Although she only completed school through the eighth grade, she was not lacking in intelligence or talent, and creativity, practicality, and hard work were a few of the characteristics that marked her life. She was self-taught on the mandolin and played alto completely by ear in a Ukrainian orchestra in school. Thanks to her Ukrainian heritage, she was bilingual and retained her ability to speak fluent Ukrainian all of her life.  She worked in restaurants and a drug rehabilitation center as a cook, and in her free time she embroidered pictures that looked like they were painted with thread.

And she served people.

The Servant’s Servant

I learned something new about my grandmother as I listened to different people -mostly her children- speak at the memorial service held at her longtime church in New York. I had never really heard much about her church life, how faithful and involved she was in her church family, nor of all the ways she had helped people. I listened as my aunt told of being a pastor’s wife and how Grandma helped her prepare meals when guests came for dinner, and how she cut out flannel graph figures for Sunday school lessons- something she also did for my own mother. I’ve heard from my mom how before coming to visit Grandma would say “Save your mending, it’ll give me something to do while I’m there.” As I listened to all these ways she helped people, I came up with a title for my grandmother: a facilitator of other people’s service. Her ministry was to help other people minister. To put it yet another way, she was a servant’s servant. I can’t think of a more Christlike way to live.
Grandma lived, worked hard for her family, and died. The world at large would not hail her life a stunning success, but I know Someone who would. Someone who defines success, not as achievements and accolades, but giving your life for the benefit of others.
That’s exactly what Grandma did. And she’s still doing it. Grandma was never wealthy, but what she had she was always sharing with others, always sending checks in the mail with a card (usually with a funny face scrawled in it somewhere), to her children and grandchildren at birthdays and Christmas. Somehow, through her hard work and serious thrift, she still saved enough to give something more to her children after she went home to heaven-as if they could want anything more than the treasure of a life with her.

The Frances Project

With a portion of what she received from Grandma, my mom bought a sewing machine – a larger one than she had so that she would be able to machine quilt on it. She prayed hard and researched her decision, and finally settled on one. Not too long after her purchase, I saw an article on Facebook about a 99 year old woman who makes a dress every single day for little girls in Africa. I shared the article and tagged my mom in it, saying “Here’s something you can do when you’re 90!” Mom looked at it and said “Forget 90! I can do it now!” And so was born the Frances Project.

Mom began sewing, using fabric from cotton tablecloths that we had long ago stopped using. The first dress was simply darling – blue and white gingham with little flutter sleeves. DSC09263DSC07190 DSC07193 DSC07199

The Puzzle Only God Could Piece

Meanwhile, a coworker of mine was going through racks and racks of clothing that her mother no longer wore and was trying to find useful homes for it all. Knowing that I sew, she offered me some clothing in case I could make anything out of it. I didn’t think that I’d be able to make anything for myself from the garments, but I thought it might be just perfect for what Mom was doing. I mentioned it to my coworker and she was delighted at the thought of her mom’s clothing being used in that way. She brought a large bag of the clothing to work and I took it home with me, and Mom started sewing. The first dress she made was from a denim jacket. The pattern fit just perfectly on the jacket, allowing small pockets and embroidered leaves to be perfectly placed on the front of the dress. The end result was adorable, and after my mom finished it she brought it to work to show my coworker. She was so pleased and touched with the way it came out, and asked to show it to her father, whom she said just loves to help little children in need.

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It was the perfect situation for both parties- my mom had fabric to use for her little dresses and shorts, and my coworker had a good use for her mother’s clothing. It was a puzzle whose pieces only God could have put together. Grandma, my mom, my coworker, and her parents – all pieces in the God-ordained puzzle, blessed to be able to share in the gift of giving to others.

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The puzzle isn’t quite complete yet, though. These dresses and shorts still need to find the little children who need them. We’re not exactly sure where they are going to go just yet, but we have a few ideas. If you have any suggestions for where we could send them, feel free to share in the comments!

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If you have a desire to serve the Lord by helping those in need, ask Him to show you what your part is in that. There’s a piece of His puzzle that needs to be filled by you! If you are interested in doing something similar to this, check out this website for patterns and guidelines.These clothing items and other small items could also be made for Operation Christmas Child.

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What you can do: we would so love it if you would join us in praying that these dresses and shorts will make their way to just the children who need them, and that they will be a tool for letting the children know how much Jesus loves them and cares about them.

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As my grandmother’s life so aptly shows, service doesn’t need to be flashy to be effective. It only needs to be done out of love.

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“This is My command: love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12

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