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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 191-200

To be perfectly honest, I originally composed this entry while sitting in the hospital waiting room on Monday as my sister-in-law was delivering my precious little nephew, and at that time I was writing about how I was really glad to be saying goodbye to 2011 and getting a fresh start with 2012. It's not that I felt bitter about this past year, it's just that it has brought a lot of unexpected challenges and struggles that haven't been particularly enjoyable, and I'm ready for a brand new year that's full of promise.

I am still looking forward to the fresh start, but over the past few days I've realized that, while 2011 has brought more than its share of frustrations, challenges, disappointments, and struggles, it has also brought some really incredible growth in my life that would not have occurred without the difficulties. And I think, somehow, meeting my perfect, tiny nephew this week has melted away some of my lingering disappointments about this year and helped me to view 2011 in a more positive light... All that to say, I have rewritten my introduction here with a new perspective as I reflect on the past year, and my overwhelming response to 2011, in spite of all the trials I've faced, is GRATITUDE. I am grateful for the wonderful experiences I've had this year. I am grateful for the relationships that have been so dear to me ~ those that have just been formed, those that have grown stronger, and those that have been restored following a period of brokenness. And I am grateful for the growth God has brought to my life through all the good and bad times I've faced.

I am dedicating this week's list of thanks-giving to some of the specific things I've been most thankful for in 2011. As I reflect on this past year, I am thankful...

191. For my first time celebrating Valentine's Day with someone in the picture, even though we weren't officially dating at the time (and even though things didn't go quite the way either of us expected as the year went on).

my first dozen roses

192. For my first international travel, visiting Mexico on a mission trip with my church.

at Casa de Esperanza in San Carlos

193. For the opportunity to see my favorite films of all time, the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, on the big screen again during a special screening series in June.

Yes, I donned my hobbit cloak for the final installment of the series!

194. For the opportunity to see my favorite band ever, U2, in concert for the fourth time, this time in Oakland, with some of my favorite people in the world, also in June!

U2's 360 Tour and our crew in San Francisco the next day

195. For a special birthday celebration in August surrounded by some of my dearest local friends and family at Lake Tahoe.

I love these people so very much.

196. For the opportunity to spend a whole week on vacation with my parents visiting Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, and the Grand Canyon in September. It was an amazing time of refreshment for all three of us to get away from the daily grind and witness firsthand so many breathtaking glimpses of God's magnificent creation in the natural world!

Zion National Park

Dad and Mom at Bryce Point in Bryce Canyon

all 3 of us at Sunset Point in Bryce Canyon

Grand Canyon (North Rim)

197. For the intense period of humbling and growth God led me through this fall... While not pleasant, I am grateful for the ways I have grown, both in my faith and in my relationships with others, because of it. My trust in God has been refined and strengthened as He has led me through this wilderness experience.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that
I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord.
Psalm 27:13-14

198. For the opportunity to see my other favorite band, the David Crowder* Band, one last time on their final tour this fall, this time in San Francisco, and, as with the U2 concert, with some of my favorite people in the world.

David Crowder* Band's 7 Tour and our crew in Oakland

199. For treasured friendships that have endured even through times of severe testing, and for God's grace in giving us stronger foundations in HIM through rebuilding.

Ashley and me in Mexico

Ben and me at the staff Christmas party

Jessie and me downtown

200. For the birth of my precious nephew, Caleb Timothy, just this past Monday.

tiny little life, full of promise

As we bid 2011 farewell, my prayer for all my friends and family is that in 2012 we will see "Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think" work in greater ways than we ever could have imagined. God bless you all, and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 181-190

Forgive me for being a few days late with my list, but I'm sure you all understand with the festivities that inevitably come with Christmas weekend -- and on top of that, we've had a bit of excitement in the Hastings family over the past couple of days that has kept me from getting this entry posted until now!! If you haven't already heard why, read on to find out!

This week, I am thankful...

181. That the nasty cold I battled for over two weeks FINALLY seemed to subside last Thursday ~ PRAISE JESUS!!! I am still not 100%, but the difference is like night and day!

182. That I found a cheap, fairly hideous sweater at a thrift store to wear to my first ugly sweater party Friday night, and that we had a really fun time at the party!

awkward ugly sweater photo lol

our lovely hosts, Lydia and Mitch

183. That I have gradually lost about nine pounds since I started keeping track of my weight in the spring, simply by trying to develop healthier eating habits. (I've also worked out in spurts but my workouts have been much less consistent than my efforts to eat less and eat better.)

184. That as God has worked in my life over the past few months, He has removed the tension and awkwardness I'd previously felt in my relationships with several people.

185. That God delivered me from my own stupidity over the weekend when I started to panic about something and take things into my own hands. He used a friend's encouragement to get my eyes off the waves around me and back onto HIM, and thus spared me (and others) from having to deal with the ramifications of acting independently and neglecting to trust the Lord's plan and wait on His timing.

186. For the great encouragement, from my friend Anna, alluded to in the above item.

Anna and me last Christmas at Squaw Valley

 187. For our annual Christmas Eve tradition of going to our church's candlelight service then having Cassidy and Erin over for shepherd's pie (in honor of the shepherds in the Christmas story) and gift opening.

188. For the humor of receiving fun "movie night" themed gifts from my parents AND from Cassidy and Erin, when they hadn't consulted with each other at all! Apparently I have a bit of a reputation!

189. For our annual Christmas Day tradition of having breakfast casserole and opening stockings in the morning then going to a movie later in the day... This year we saw "We Bought a Zoo," and we LOVED it!

190. For my nephew's much-anticipated arrival Monday afternoon!!! Welcome to the world, Caleb Timothy! We are thrilled that you are here!!!

Caleb with his proud daddy in the nursery

Praising God for this precious addition to our family!! Merry Christmas, friends, and have a great week!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Caleb Timothy is Here!!!

My sweet nephew was born yesterday, December 26, at 3:22 pm! We were SO excited to finally get to meet him!! This afternoon we got to spend some quality time with him... He has stolen our hearts!!

beaming parents with their bundle of joy
Look at that perfect little face!!!
first Hastings family photo with Caleb!

We are in love with this little guy! Welcome to the world, Caleb!

Thursday, December 22, 2011


I was really struck by the message of the following passage this morning...
But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

Hebrews 10:32-39
As Believers, we have every reason to be confident. We don't need to fear -- among other things -- looking foolish ("being made a spectacle"), being criticized ("reproaches"), facing hardships ("tribulations"), or losing possessions ("the seizure of your property"). We can look back at God's past faithfulness, and we can cling to His promise of future faithfulness. In those moments when thoughts of discouragement, doubt, frustration, fear, despair, etc. threaten to take over our outlook, we have every reason to confidently silence those thoughts, knowing the One who is guiding us is faithful. We have an enemy who seeks to "steal, kill, and destroy..." Don't let him steal, kill, or destroy your confidence. Don't let him cause you to shrink back. OUR GOD IS FAITHFUL. He IS our confidence. Cling to that truth, and in it, find what you need to ENDURE.

I say this to remind myself as much as anyone.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 161-180

Well hello again and Merry Almost-Christmas! It's been a while... I've been fighting a nasty cold (and a double ear infection on the side) for the past week and a half. It hit just in time for what was probably the busiest weekend of the year for me, with our last choir practice, dress rehearsal, and two Living Christmas Tree performances, plus a graduation party, two Christmas parties, and The Nutcracker Ballet within a six-day span. Praise God, Zicam and hot tea helped keep the cold at bay until our choir performances were over. The congestion kicked in a week ago tonight, and I ended up staying home from work all week, aside from a three-hour block on Friday. I even went to the doctor! I don't do that often. Anyway, between all the festivities last weekend and being drugged up half of this week, I am behind on blogging. So I'm doubling up to cover the past two week's worth of thanks-giving!

Without further ado, these past two weeks, I've been thankful...

161. For a fun sleepover with Jessie two weekends ago involving dorito casserole, the classic movie "While You Were Sleeping," and episodes of the absurdly hilarious show Arrested Development.

162. For a fun Sunday with Jessica two weeks ago ~ lunch at Qdoba with Cassidy, Erin, Jon, and Dana, followed by Jessica's first Yogurt Beach experience, followed by our church's children's choir's Christmas performance!
Jess LOVED Yogurt Beach!

Joyful Noise's presentation of "Meet Me at the Manger" ~
Ashley and Luke were a RIOT as mannequins in the program!

163. For another year of helping my mom decorate the Christmas tree, and for the memories and meanings behind so many of our ornaments.

164. That God used one of our Perspectives speakers and my friend Jill to help shift my Christmas focus back to CHRIST when I had been letting the activities of the season distract me.

165. For unused PTO and sick days.

166. For the fun annual tradition of seeing The Nutcracker Ballet with my mom and for the joy of watching Lauren and Nicole, two beautiful girls from our church, dance in it each year.

167. For a SUPER fun lunch and fellowship time at Olive Garden last Sunday afternoon with Jessica, Ben, Alex, Mike, Rebecca, Jon, and Dana.

168. For the privilege of participating in our choir's Living Christmas Tree again this year. 

me, Katie, and Ashley just before
our opening performance

Thanks, Dad, for playing photographer for me!!

169. That God kept my cold to a minimum of a swollen throat until our performances were over.

170. That Jessie, Amber, Jessica, Ben, and Alex each got to come to one of our performances... It's so much fun to have good friends come support you!

171. That the choir somehow managed to finish singing Joy to the World a cappella when the track for that song suddenly cut out during our second show (quite the challenge considering this version of the song included key changes)!

172. For a fun time chatting with Ashley, Rebecca, Michelle, and Katie after our final performance as we were disassembling the tree. 

173. For a SUPER fun staff Christmas party Monday night with the world's best co-workers...

We had tons of delicious food and...

...a hilarious white elephant gift exchange!

174. ...and for two particularly hilarious gifts that kept us laughing throughout our white elephant gift exchange ~ the "Singing Rabbi" that Cassidy opened and the "Family Blankeez" prank box that Ben ended up with!

175. For blankets, pillows, and movies to keep me company when I'm sick.

176. For the movie "Australia"... I had forgotten how good it is!

177. For modern medicine. I typically try not to take too much medication, even for something simple like a headache, because I never want to get dependent on anything, but when you're feeling as miserable as I was earlier in the week, the dazed, drowsy feeling that comes after taking cough syrup with codeine in it is pretty darn blissful!!

178. That Ben scored an 88 on his ASVAB this week -- six points higher than when he took it previously (which was already a good score)!!! So excited for him!

179. For the incredible blessing of ongoing encouragement that God has given me in my friendship with Rebecca.

180. For my BFF-since-1st-grade/Roadie/Prayer Warrior, Anna, and for happy memories of her and her mom visiting us last Christmas.

Christmas Eve dessert
at Cassidy and Erin's

The Fantastic Four, reunited
for the first time since 2007! <3

dinner with Reno friends

shopping in the snow at South Tahoe

Whew! It feels good to be all caught up! Hope you all are almost finished with your Christmas preparations and that you are able to keep your focus on CHRIST during this busy season! Have a great week!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thanksgiving All Year: 151-160

Well, I didn't quite meet my goal of blogging every day in November, BUT I think setting the goal definitely motivated me to blog more than I otherwise would have, so I'm going to call it good! Now here we are in December... Can you BELIEVE IT?! I can't... I think I'm glad. I'm ready to say goodbye to 2011 and welcome a fresh start with 2012.

My devotion today called for me to read Psalm 145. Verse 18 reads, "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him..." while verse 21 reads, "My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord..." I made a note in the margin of my Bible that I don't want to focus on calling upon the Lord at the expense of praising Him. I want to do both.

With that in mind, this week I am thankful...

151. For a 5-day weekend during the Thanksgiving holiday, during which I actually relaxed instead of trying to get a bunch of stuff done. 

152. For a beautiful Saturday afternoon spent walking along the Truckee River downtown with Jessie.

153. For dinner and a movie with Judy -- in belated honor of her birthday!

154. For ways God has been moving in my heart this week...
  • through Sunday morning's sermon about being a living sacrifice
  • through Sunday night's episode of The Amazing Race
  • through my devotional reading on Monday which reaffirmed what God had spoken to my heart through the sermon
  • through our Perspectives speaker on Monday evening about transformation coming through obedience, not through head knowledge
  • through learning to find joy in supporting someone else in something he (or she) is passionate about... I'm thankful God has been teaching me to look beyond my own desires to find joy in supporting someone else's.
155. For my mom, and for a family dinner outing to celebrate her birthday on Tuesday.

156. For moments I expect to be awkward that turn out to be encouraging.

157. For a FUN choir practice in the Living Christmas Tree ~ for the surprise of being placed in the very top of the tree this year; for finding that I actually enjoy being in that top spot (I had my doubts!); and for having two of my besties, Ashley and Rebecca, positioned right below me in the tree.

my view of the sanctuary
from 18 feet above the stage!

158. For Rebecca's friendship and sweet encouragement in my life.

159. For this HILARIOUS video that had me CRACKING UP!!!

160. For Needtobreathe. I honestly can't think of another band whose music I truly enjoy such a large percentage of. (For instance, U2 and David Crowder* Band are two of my FAVORITE bands, but I probably really LOVE about 60% of their songs, while the other 40% I could take or leave... However, I probably really LOVE about 85% of Needtobreathe's songs............ Annnnnd who, aside from me, would ever think through something like this?? I'm such a geek!)

One of the verses from my devotional reading on Monday that really summarized the attitude God's been cultivating in my heart lately is Philippians 2:17...
But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
This is a lesson I wish I'd learned a long time ago... To find joy in seeing others fulfill God's call on their lives by pursuing the passions He's given them, whether it's my ideal option or not. I pray God is working in your heart and speaking to you in these days as He is working in mine and speaking to me, and I pray you have the courage and conviction to follow Him in obedience! Happy December!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How's Your Heart?

This is one of my favorite questions that I am occasionally asked by one of my best friends. Over the past few days God has given me a whole new perspective on how to answer that question at any given moment, and the lesson came from a very unlikely place...

My television.

One of the challenges on this week's episode of The Amazing Race included performing various maneuvers with a Ford Mustang (such as weaving through a set of cones and coming to a complete stop in front of a dummy car without hitting it -- within 16 seconds) at the Ford Proving Grounds in Belgium ~ a total dream for many guys, including the snowboarders I'm such a fan of. The two decided Tommy would complete the task, but Andy wrestled with some jealousy over it due to his love of cars. Later in the episode he identified that jealousy as sin in his heart and said he had asked for forgiveness from Christ, Who then lifted the burden.

Tommy behind the wheel while Andy waits {source}

 I don't know many people, including myself, even in the Christian community, who are so quick to recognize sin in their hearts, call it what it is, and ask the Lord to remove it.

It seems so elementary. Sin enters heart... Sin needs to be removed... Christ removes it upon asking. DONE! Yet it's something I've failed to grasp for most of my life. I frequently wrestle with things like anger or jealousy, and suddenly I'm realizing it's probably because I try to figure out how to handle them when what I need is for Someone to remove them.

Andy's example has really made an impression on me. One of the reasons I became a fan of the snowboarders, before I even knew they were Christians, was that they get along SO WELL! They don't argue and fight when things get stressful. They just enjoy the race for what it is and trust the Lord with whatever setbacks they encounter. Andy's honest self-assessment this past week offers a BIG CLUE as to why this is true! There is no other way to live with the sort of freedom and joy I've seen in Andy and Tommy than to immediately deal with any sin that tries to creep into my heart by asking God to remove it -- and letting Him take it -- before it has a chance to take root and turn into bitterness.

Maybe these guys should write a book...
"How to Run the Race With a Smile On Your Face" {source}

How many times have we been told to guard our hearts because the heart is the wellspring of life? I think we too often take this to mean we should guard our hearts from other people, when really what we need is to guard our hearts from sin. Is this something you do on a consistent basis? I don't. But I want to change that. This morning I discovered a line in Gungor's song "Church Bells" that I'd never picked up on before... 
May our jaded hearts be healed. Amen.
I'm waking up to the fact that my jaded heart can only be healed by identifying any sin there, allowing Christ to take it from me, and therein finding the freedom to move forward in unconditional love and peace. In the future when I am asked, "How's your heart?" I want my response to be based on whether or not I'm allowing any sin to dwell there. I want a soft, forgiving heart, not a hardened one. I want a heart that thinks the best of others, not one that doubts them. And I want a heart that is experiencing the abundant life Christ intended, not one that is lonely and bitter! I want to run the race of life the way Andy and Tommy are running The Amazing Race!

May our jaded hearts be healed. Amen.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mom!!

I'm cheating and predating this post even though I am writing it on the 30th of November... I wanted to honor my mom with a post on her birthday as I have done with a couple of other important people who have somehow made an impact in my life, but between work, a birthday dinner outing with the family, and helping my mom with a project last night, I just didn't have time to blog on her actual birthday. So, forgive the fib and read on!

with my mom at Bryce Canyon in September

I really can't even begin to describe what my mom means to me, so I'll actually keep this fairly short. The best thing I can say is God knows what He's doing and I couldn't be more thankful that He chose the mother He did for me. My mom has a heart for the Lord like you wouldn't believe. She looks beyond the surface of EVERYTHING (and I do mean EVERYTHING) to find spiritual truth. If she sees a new movie, you can expect her to come away with some sort of illustration of the Christian life. If she's giving you a gift, she must include a message of Godly encouragement or it is nearly worthless in her eyes to give it. Ever heard of GORP ("Good Ole Raisins and Peanuts")? It's basically a trail mix that my school classes made at Thanksgiving when I was growing up. Each student would bring a different food to add to the mix to symbolize the Pilgrims and Indians combining resources for the first Thanksgiving. My mom has given the tasty treat a whole new spin with specific components that each have a meaning relating to the Thanksgiving story (for example, she includes Bugles to signify the cornucopia or "horn of plenty" representing the abundant harvest), and she has renamed it "Pilgrims' Journey Mix." With my mom, everything means something. Nothing is empty. It's a trait I've picked up through the years, and it's one I'm glad to have.

Aside from being one of the most devout Christians I've ever known, she has also become one of my very best friends through the years. I always know she is there to listen when something is bothering me, plus, we just have a good time together. God has blessed me TREMENDOUSLY by giving me the mother He gave me, and I will always be more thankful than I can express for the ways she has influenced and shaped my life.

after seeing The Nutcracker Ballet
last Christmas -- an annual tradition!
I love you, Mom!!!