Sunday, December 22, 2013

The God of Every Story

He's the God of every story.  2013...I have friends who this year have lost a parent or a baby.  I have friends who have separated from their spouses.  I have friends who have gotten diagnoses that were unexpected.  Friends who have lost a job and their income.  Those are big things.  Hard things.  God is in the middle of those things...and He is carrying them - or He's available to carry them if they choose to let Him.

In a county outside of Charlotte on December 1st, a man, Marcus, was shot in the head when he arrived home while burglars were there.  His wife, pregnant with their first child, and family updated their facebook page, 'Praying for Marco,' with this on Friday after they had to make the decision to take him off of life support:  "Marcus burst into heaven at 12:52 p.m. Our loss is so painful, but we know this was gain for Marcus. Tears and grief are eased by the gentle hand of God, holding us, carrying us, wiping our tears. 'As for God, His way is perfect.'"  What a testimony to so many...He's the God of every story.

What about the friends who have a child who has left home for college or military, whose kids are rebelling, a parent in poor health, who have struggled with physical pain, who are trying to determine whether to go back to work or not, who have wrestled with anxiety or depression this year..  What about those who feel like there just isn't a way that ends are going to meet?  Every single thing we go through...we can trust Him.

At the beginning of the month, I was blessed to be able to go to a girl's night out that Renee Swope and Laura Story were at.  Laura sang a song that really made me think a lot.  "God of Every Story" has examples of real people woven through it. (click on the title to hear it)  It also talks about Laura's husband, Martin, and his brain tumor diagnosis seven years ago.  She sings, "You're the God of every story, You see each tear that falls.  We may not understand but one thing is certain.  You are faithful, You are faithful."  As she gives example after example and I sit and think over my friends and acquaintances and what they've faced this year alone.  What Jeff and I've faced this year.  I know for certain... "His ways are higher than we could ever comprehend.  When our world is shaking,  He holds us in the palm of His hand."  It is frustrating beyond belief sometimes that we don't have understanding of 'why' things that happen happen.  But faith is faith because we don't have all the answers!

This morning at church, Pastor Geoffrey taught out of Isaiah 7.  God sent Isaiah to tell Ahaz, who was scared because of the circumstances around him,  "‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart." (Isaiah 7:4)  And in 7:9 God says, "If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all."  God then says that He will send Ahaz a sign...verse 7:14 says, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."  Immanuel means 'God with us.'  God has given each and every one of us a sign that He loves us and is with us - that He is the God of every one of our stories.  Jesus.  Because of Him, we have hope.  We can believe and trust that there is more.  More than this.  We have hope.  Even through the pain and the tears and hurts of this life...we have a hope - His name is Jesus...and in Him we have eternal life in community with the Creator of the universe and all other believers, in a place (heaven) where there will be no tears or pain or hurts.

If your story isn't going the way you thought it would...if you are scared or frustrated.  Ask Jesus to be with you.  Let Him know that you need Him, that you can't do this life without Him.  That you are sorry for trying to do it on your own.  And allow His power to enter in and guide you as your story in this life plays out and you draw nearer to eternity.  Celebrate the gift of Jesus, Immanuel, 'God with us' in your story.

Image courtesy of digidreamgrafix /

Friday, December 13, 2013

Merry Christmas from the Kissels!

Dear Family and Friends,

Wow!  Has it been another year?  I can hardly believe the end of 2013 is approaching!  As you think of a tree, this year has been one of sending down roots and growing outward for our family.  We were planted here in North Carolina 2 1/2 years ago now.  The ties and stakes have been taken off and our surroundings have become home.  Here is the 2013 Kissel Family Update:

We began the year owning two homes still!  But in March we were so excited to end that 19 month trial in our lives and close on the sale of our Indiana home.  God was still in every detail of our move here - even though our house didn't sell quickly.  He used this time to grow each one of us in our faith and trust of Him as Provider, to teach us a little about His timing, patience, and to be generous - as others had been to us.  It was not a fun time, but we are better for going through it.

This summer we were able to take a fun family vacation to the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  First we took a small? detour up the coast to Delaware to see our friend Scott.  We visited Dogfish Head Brewery, ate blue crab, walked the boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach, and saw wild ponies at Assateauge Island, Maryland.  We also drove under the ocean in the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  Eek.  The Outer Banks were perfect - just sitting on the beach listening to the waves.  Jeff and I snuck out early one morning and watched the sunrise.  We saw the Wright Brothers museum, Roanoke Island, and one of the many lighthouses.

Jeff and I spent a night in Asheville, North Carolina after dropping the kids off in Indiana this summer to spend a week with the grandparents.  We visited several microbrews and did some shopping and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the mountains.

In August we were blessed with an unexpected trip to Hilton Head Island for a few days.  Again, the family enjoyed the beach...until Evan was stung by a jelly fish many times and minutes later sharks were sighted in that same area!  We enjoyed the pools after that!  This trip was one of relaxing, but we did eat at The Salty Dog Cafe - which you can't not do while there.  Beautiful island...wonderful memories.

Miss Emily turned 11 in February, got braces in April, and 'graduated' grade school in June.  She started middle school in August and didn't skip a beat... adjusting within a week.  She started band this year, taking after her mama and playing the flute - quite well I might add.  She is enjoying her Cadette Girl Scout troop this's almost cookie time - you'll be hearing from her soon!  She also is loving Wednesday night youth group at church - there are many other sixth grade girls and they are doing a great job building wonderful relationships with each other.

Little Evan turned 9 in May.  He is finding that third grade is a little more serious and is learning how to put forth his best effort in everything he does.  He...and thus Jeff... joined cub scouts this fall.  So far the boys are enjoying this time together.  They've even gone tent camping..something I never thought I'd see Jeff do.

Jeff still enjoys rooting on his Hoosiers...we meet people from Indiana here often because he's always sporting his swag.  Still my chef, baker, joker, and love of my life...can't imagine life without him.  This year he and some buddies started a podcast, Charlotte Beercast, which is a 'talk show' about craft beer.  He's enjoyed this and getting to know the Charlotte brewers.  This fall Jeff and I launched a new Life Group and have been so blessed already as we've grown to love these five other families.  Jeff spent a weekend somewhere in the NC mountains being manly this fall for a men's retreat and had a great time too.

In January I began cleaning homes a few times a week and have continued to all year long - it's been a blessing for us and I've met some special families through this!  Still involved at school, but not as much. This year I've loved getting more plugged into our church family this year - through a leadership group, a Bible study, our Life Group and serving I've made some awesome sister friends.  Around August it was like a switch was flipped for me and I suddenly found myself feeling completely at home here as the mourning was over!  In October I shared up on stage for about twenty minutes during a women's event...willingly - If you knew me in high school - that is a shocker! ;)  It was a neat experience, allowing God to work through me.  I'm still enjoying writing my blog (which now that you've found your way here I invite you to keep up with us here all year!), crafting and landscaping when I have the time.

This year has been filled with highs and lows...obviously I've written all about the good parts of 2013 and left out the melt downs, bad attitudes, hurts, tears and pain.  Please don't be fooled into thinking our life is perfect.  Our circumstances aren't always good ones, but we have hope and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ. Our attitudes aren't always good ones, but we have forgiveness because of Jesus.
One day He will arrive to gather us home...we hope and pray that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. Time is short.  As we celebrate this season, take some time to think about Who we are celebrating.  He gave us a way out..a replacement...someone else to pay for what we've done.  Why?  Because He loves you and wants to save you.  As you think on these truths, please contact us if you have questions about them.  Celebrate and sing, "Joy to World, The Lord has Come!" and enjoy the moments of 2014!

Jeff, Amy, Emily, and Evan