Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A new decade? Really?

For some reason, it just dawned on me this week that we will be entering a new decade on January 1. I don't know why I didn't clue into the fact that 2009 ends the decade of the 2000s (or "Oughts" as I'm told they're called). I guess I just thought that they all ran together. I'll be ready for 2020, though!

After I started thinking about the new decade, that got me to looking back on the old one. I think it's safe to say that the last ten years may have been the most life-changing for me personally. Back at the beginning of the year 2000, I still had a preschooler (even though he started Kindergarten in August of that year) and I was still married. Over these ten years, I have had five different jobs, not counting being a stay-at-home mom. I've driven four different cars. I've become an aunt. And God has done some amazing things in my life and more importantly, in my heart.

Let me see if I can do a brief recap of the meaningful events of this decade in my life:

I went from being a full-time stay-at-home mom to having a Kindergartener and working part time (at Lifeway in Adult Enrichment Events). We also started attending Grace Community Church at fall, and haven't stopped since!

I became more involved as a parent at Daniel's school and continued my roles as wife, mother, and part-time employee. Life was good. No major changes that year for our family, but life in our country changed dramatically after the terrorist attacks on September 11. Having been raised outside of NYC, the World Trade Center attack hit the closest to home in my heart.

Continued on status quo, with a growing school-ager and a husband. I enjoyed being a part of the Adult Enrichment Events team and helped plan marriage events. We got to travel some to help out with those events, too.

This was a turning point year for me spiritually. I began to sense God telling me to stop working part time and stay at home again. I started learning to "taste and see that the Lord is good" and now know that He was preparing me for some major life changes in the next couple of years. Our marriage was starting to be in turmoil, but nobody else knew that yet. We probably didn't realize how serious the damage would be either.

Early that year, I felt God calling me to go on a mission trip with a group from church to an Annual General Meeting of the Central and Eastern Europe missionaries in Poland. The trip took place in March and I loved being a part of that experience. Sadly, things started falling apart in our marriage during that same time period. God used those days to teach me so much about depending on Him and to tell me how much He loved me and would never leave me or forsake me. God provided a part-time job in the library at Daniel's school, allowing me to continue to be involved there while he finished out his fourth grade (and final year) at that school.

Lots of changes for our family: Daniel started middle school at Meigs Magnet Middle School (across town). I started working full time as Director of Administration at The Pruett Financial Group (Northwestern Mutual). Our divorce was finalized that October. I also went to my 20th high school reunion, which was a fun time of catching up with old friends.

We settled into the life of me working full time, Daniel being more and more challenged and involved at school, and continuing to be active at church. Jeanette and Russell moved to Nashville that year, too, which put our entire immediate family in very close proximity to each other (a true blessing).

I moved into a new decade when I turned the big 4-0 in February. I was celebrated by friends and family and didn't grieve that milestone a bit. I have more trouble with the "nines" anyway, so I'd already gotten past the worst of it. I became increasingly discontented with my job, but kept on persevering and trying to be faithful in the place where God was providing for me.

This year I became the mom of a teenager when Daniel had his 13th birthday. We celebrated this milestone in his life and were blessed to have a relationship with him that is mutually respectful and healthy. We also welcomed Erica Jean Massey into our family on August 22nd. What a blessing to have a little girl in the family and to celebrate this long-awaited gift with her parents!

I think this year has been one of learning how much Jesus really loves me. I have known this in varying degrees for most of my life (I was born into a Christian home and brought to the nursery as a "bed baby"), but Jesus has really become "everything" to me this year. I think I've recognized my need for Him more than ever, or maybe have finally surrendered to it. Through the study, "Gospel Transformation" and the devotion book, "Jesus Calling," I've come to a new level of realization that the Gospel is real in my life and that Jesus is my ever-present and constant companion who knows me and loves me better than anyone else ever can or will. In April, I was blessed to become a part of the staff of Grace Community Church. I am so happy with my job and it has affected our family in many positive ways. I am so thankful for this gift and know that God has placed me there as a continuation of the calling He has had on my life since I was in college. Also this year, Daniel started high school at Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet and made a smooth transition to a new school and to the vigorous schedule and courses.

Well, I guess that wasn't so brief, but hopefully you can see that God has had His hand on our lives over this past decade. I'm confident that the next decade will have challenges and changes of its own. I can already predict some (can you say Hume-Fogg Class of 2013?) and also know that God is going to do "far more abundantly beyond all that I ask or think, according to the power that works within me" (Ephesians 3:20).

To Him alone be the glory!

Saturday, December 19, 2009


Have you seen those bumper stickers on cars saying "igbok"? I'm probably way behind the times, but I just found out what that means this week. "It's going to be ok." Of course, it was my savvy teenaged son who told me! And it was when I was about to embark on the second or third mini meltdown of the week. He turned to me and said, "igbok." I love that kid!

Once I clued in to the meaning of that acronym, I realized how much that it calms me down. I think it speaks to my innate need for comfort and security and I love to hear someone say to me that it's going to be ok.

Almost eleven years ago, when I was diagnosed with a malignant thyroid tumor, I remember talking to a good friend on the phone, telling him about what we had learned from the doctor. His words to me brought me such comfort when he said, "you're going to be ok." This friend wasn't a doctor, but I believe that God was using him to speak to me and remind me that my health was in God's hands.

A few weeks later, after the surgery to remove my thyroid, I had to spend three days quarantined in the hospital to receive radioactive iodine treatment. I was isolated in a room and couldn't have visitors. The nights were the worst, because my room was on an oncology ward and I would sometimes hear announcements of other patients "coding" and hear commotion out in the hallway. It was a dark and scary time for me. During one of those nights, I couldn't sleep and was afraid, so I turned on the TV to get a distraction. I channel-surfed and wound up on a Christian broadcast station which was playing a Michael English concert. I don't rememember much about it except the words of the song he was singing. "It's going to be alright," he sang over and over. What a huge comfort that was to me in the middle of the night lying in a hospital bed dealing with the word "cancer" being attached to my name! I was able to fall back asleep and was so thankful to God for once again bringing me comfort with those words. Thankfully, the doctors and friends were right. I was and am ok from that health issue (and some people reading this might not even know that I ever went through that experience).

God has been faithful to comfort me through other hard times in my life, some big, some small. I remember when I was going through the difficult days of my marriage separation, God comforted me with His Word in Isaiah 41:10:
So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

For me, that was a huge "igbok" from the Lord. He didn't say that I wasn't going to go through the pain of divorce or that everything would work out the way I wanted it to. But He reminded me that He was with me and that He would be holding my hand. Igbok.

I did a little research about igbok and found the website of the people who coined the acronym. It is biblically-based and speaks truth that we can believe. At this season of celebrating the coming of the Prince of Peace, may we all find comfort and joy in those little letters. Igbok.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The hustle and bustle of Christmas

This weekend (and the week leading up to it) will be my busiest for the month. Saturday and Sunday night we will have Christmas Worship services at church (probably most of the readers of this blog will be participating in some way, but I like to write as if I'm a real blogger!), and I'm singing in the choir. I can't remember how many years this makes for me singing in the GCC choir for Christmas, but it is so much fun (most of the time) and I love the feel of the service. From the minute we start walking into the Chapel singing "Sing Aloud on This Day," it brings the birth of Christ to the forefront in my mind and heart.

Of course, since I'm now working at the church office, my level of involvement has jumped to a new level! Not only did I have the hectic schedule of rehearsing every Sunday afternoon for six weeks and enduring the "dreaded" dress rehearsal (which is a misnomer, since nobody dresses in what they'll wear for the real thing), but this year I got to be involved in the behind-the-scenes preparations (i.e.: the bulletin and helping to line up childcare for rehearsals and getting the notebooks--important stuff!). And yes, I'm tired on this Friday night. But am I any less excited for the actual nights? NO WAY!

The other thing that will make this a busy weekend is that I have not decorated our house for Christmas yet. Usually, we take care of that on the first weekend of December, so we can enjoy the tree all month and so Daniel is at my house and can get in on the fun (and put the angel on top). Well, for several reasons, we decided not to do it last weekend, one big one being that Daniel's drum set was sitting in the spot where the Christmas tree goes. Well, the drums went to their other home for a while and now there's a big, empty spot in the living room, just waiting for a tree. Oh, how I wish that elves would come in the night and get out all the decorations and let me wake up to the twinkling lights and a clean house! Dream all I want, I know that won't happen, so I'll work all day tomorrow to clean the house and put up the tree, and then will go sing my little heart out at church!

Once this weekend is over, my holiday season will get increasingly more quiet. I hope to do some fun things and still have Christmas cards to get in the mail and a few presents to buy, but most of the hustle and bustle will be over for me. And that won't necessarily be a bad thing! I can make a hot cup of tea (or a whole pot), find a good book and spend some time reading by the tree.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Earlier this year, I discovered a blog called Flying Solo by a writer named Denise Hildreth. Basically, she's a single-again, Christian woman who writes about being single and living life to the fullest as a believer. I've gotten some good perspective from reading this blog and while I don't feel like I am at the same place where she is in her journey (content with her singleness), it has been thought-provoking for me.

Case in point: Today's post on the blog asked some questions about finding your passion. I decided to take some time to answer the questions it posed and thought I'd share my answers here.

3 Tips To Awaken Your Life's Passion

1. List 10 things that you liked to do as a child. The age not important. Think about what you liked to do, how you enjoyed spending your free time, serious or silly things. Open your memory to the fun times you can recall.

1. Reading books
2. Playing pretend games with my sister
3. Drawing houses and decorating the rooms
4. Playing with our doll house (decorating it)
5. Taking pictures
6. Watching TV
7. Riding my bike
8. Spending time w/ friends
9. Going on trips (esp. to my grandparents' house and to Ridgecrest, NC)
10. Playing board games w/ my family (no laughing, Family!)

2. List 10 things you like doing as an adult. As above, no restrictions, give yourself permission to be fully true to yourself and honest about what you love to do since you became an adult.

1. Reading books/magazines
2. Making cards
3. Scrapbooking
4. Spending time w/ friends
5. Taking pictures
6. Walking (esp. at Radnor Lake or other park)
7. Going on trips
8. Spending time w/ family
9. Worshiping w/ other believers
10. Playing board games w/ family or friends

3. If you had $30 million deposited into your bank account ... tax free, after you upgraded your housing, made sure all your family and friends were financially secure, bought a new car, went on all the vacations you wanted, gave to all the charities you wanted, what would you do next with your life?

1. Ride in a hot air balloon.
2. Hire a personal trainer and a registered dietician/chef
3. Explore and nurture my writing gifts/abilities

There are really two parts to answering this question. First of all, putting the money to one side. Are you doing now what you love to do, whether or not you were being paid to do it? If you did not need money, would you be doing it anyway? If not, what would you be doing, just for the love and pleasure of it? Open your mind.
Second of all, how would you use the money? How might you be living? Are you called to make a difference in any part of your world?

The Huffington Post/Anne Naylor

After reading back over my answers to the first two questions, one thing that I found interesting was that I had very similar things that I liked to do as a child and as an adult. I think that shows that I have not changed a whole lot in that way since I was born and that I thrive on spending time with people and being creative.

Another thing I realized from answering the final question was that I would do the job I'm doing even if I wasn't being paid for it. I have finally been given the opportunity to have a job that that I feel fits my giftedness and personality. As an added blessing, I am doing something to serve the Lord and the Body of Christ, and that is very rewarding. I give praise and thanksgiving to God for providing this for me this year! Sure, there are times when things get hectic or I have to do a task that isn't as fun, but on the whole, I love my job!

So, maybe you are in a place where it would help you to think about these things. If you feel like sharing them, leave a comment or email (nrryan5100@yahoo.com) me. I'd love to hear about what your passions are!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Christmastime is here!

It's December! Christmas is coming! Most of the time I'm very excited about the season and look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus. Of course, watching Erica discover Christmas this year is very fun! She probably still won't remember this Christmas when she's older, but at fifteen months old, she is definitely engaging more in the festivities. This picture below is my favorite one taken when we were helping Erica and her parents put up their Christmas tree.

I'm also excited about a couple of favorite Christmas season events that I'm going to be a part of again this year. One is the Nashville Baptist Association Toy Store. In the past, I've volunteered as a "shopper's helper" and assisted a mom as she chose toys and gifts for her children, free of charge. This year, I've been able to coordinate the donations and volunteers from our church and am looking forward to being a "shopper's helper" again on Monday. This experience always puts things in a different perspective and I get as much a blessing out of helping the moms shop as I hope and pray that they get in receiving the gifts.

The other event that has become a tradition for me is singing in the choir for our church's Christmas Worship service. I enjoy being able to sing with the group and each year the numbers have grown (I think we have around 50 singers this year). It really helps put me in the Christmas spirit and helps me remember why we celebrate.

There are hard things about this season for me, too, especially on these "quiet" Christmases, when my parents and I will be together while Daniel and the Masseys are away for part of the time. When I start to get sad, though, I remember that I have a very full life and am blessed to have my family and friends and many other blessings in my life. I just need to continually keep my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith. He's the One we celebrate and is our Emmanuel, God with us!