Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Y’all, I am so blessed to have been tagged by my wonderful friend/self-proclaimed twin sister, Issabelle, for this fun and inspiring tag! Thank you so much, Izzy! You can read her post here!
In my “Welcome to 2021!” post, I touched on how God has blessed me and family through such trying times, so if you want to go back and read my earlier reflections, you can do so here!
But, looking back at last year from four months into the new year, I know there has been so much more. (Disclaimer: the post you're about to read may get (1) lengthy, (2) confusing, and (3) extremely weird. You have been warned.)
The rules are simple:
Thank the person who tagged you (check!)
Share eight ways God has blessed you or things He has taught you this past year
Tag five or more bloggers!
#1 God blessed me with Dad’s new job
When I think of blessings, I immediately think of my dad’s new job. I don’t share a lot of my personal life here, so y’all wouldn’t know that in May of last year, my dad was “furloughed” from CSX railroad. Furloughed is the term they use, since you can be called back, but in my dad’s case, it wasn’t like that he would be.
Long story short, he was laid off along with forty other people that day (which was just that day; CSX has been and is laying off more people constantly), but I have to admit that none of my family were very disappointed. As good as the pay and insurance was, he hated his job. It’s a union, very strict, run by liberals who have no care for the workers or their business, etc. Not to mention they changed shifts like I change underwear (which is very often, I assure you), so we never had the assurance that Dad would be home at night.
An auto mechanic by trade, he really wanted a job closer to home, with regular off-days, and where he could do want he wanted to do. But he never felt a peace about leaving the railroad.
Until the railroad left him, so to speak.
From May until late November, he did odd jobs, helped my papa on the farm, fixed cars, and adjusted to having no health insurance, retirement, or steady income. He had a few job opportunities but we never sure about them, since he could be called back to the railroad (which none of use were too gung-ho about it, but insurance and retirement are serious benefits) or one day find a better job.
He found a better job.
A spot opened up just before Thanksgiving at a local garage, and after a trial week, Dad was officially hired on. It’s family-owned and operated, so Dad is working for a good, trustworthy company (I say company, but they’re really not a company). He works seven to four, is off on the weekends, and is so happy!
Not only has this been a blessing to him, it has been a tremendous blessings to our entire family, and I know that if it weren’t for him being laid off, we never would have taken this opportunity!
All things work together, right?
#2 God blessed me with our new church
Ah, now this is a longer story, but there are SO MANY DETAILS and stories that aren’t mine to tell (or that I really don’t want to tell; you can ask if you’re curious, though), so I’ll get to the point.
We left our church.
I grew up Baptist, attending the same church my mom attended for, like, 30-some years. But we’ve never felt like we belonged, even though we know all the people there, my grandparents go there, and we live in the same community. Mostly, that’s due to us just being different. We’re a homeschool family of nine up against upper-middle-class public school families who all work in the health or education system. They have their cliques, and none of us (not even my mother) felt very included.
Of course, that’s a pretty shallow reason to leave a church, I know, but we weren’t very spiritually fed there either. I mean, technically, my family would be classified Pentecostal. Can you take a Pentecostal to a Baptist church and expect them to sit still?
(That was a joke, by the way. Did you get it?)
So, yes, our theology differs. I walked away from every sermon picking things apart. (No offense to Baptists, or the pastor, or people who benefited from those sermons.) There were multiple other components that played into our discontentment and spiritual discomfort.
But we never left.
One of those main reasons was that Dad was never able to attend church with us, since he worked on Sundays for about ten years. We didn’t want to try something new without him, to be honest.
So, between Dad being laid off and the incident I will tell you about if you ask, we decided to leave at the end of September.
And we started going to Southside Church of God, where some family friends and several other lower-middle-class families went.
Suffice it to say that we have been so blessed! The congregants and the pastor and his wife are just the sweetest human beings. Every sermon speaks directly to us. The power of the Holy Spirit is always moving. Y’all, this is the girl who is basically anti-church (I speak against the institution, not the Body of Christ; you can read more here), so when I start talking good about a church, you know it’s gotta be good.
Anyway, my family has so enjoyed and been blessed by our new church, even though Covid has prevented us from attending since just before Christmas. We hope to go back this coming Sunday, though. I’m so excited!
#3 God blessed me with Kingdom Pen
Another sob story. If I sit here and lament my lack of friends since, um, birth, you’ll probably feel more annoyed than sympathetic.
So let me shorten my woes.
#1 Only went to school for 14 weeks, so I’ve never had “school friends.” (I actually had a couple friends, I guess, but you have to understand that once those 14 weeks were over, I almost never saw them again. Kindergartners in 2010 didn’t have text-messaging and Facetime, people.)
#2 Didn’t have many church friends either. To be honest, every friendship I had ended abruptly, so I eschewed establishing any relationships with my peers.
#3 I honestly believed that I was the only teenage Christian writer out there. Scratch that—I believed I was the only Christian teenager out there. I may live in the Middle of Nowhere, Georgia, but that doesn’t mean everybody down here is a God-fearing Bible-thumper, a fact I heartily bemoan. And it ain’t any better up north.
So suffice it to say that my best friend was (and still is) my mom and my only writer friend was my seventy-something-year-old dentist.
Until Kingdom Pen.
I can’t remember the details of how and why I found and joined Kingdom Pen—I know it all started with discovering one of their fantastic blog articles—but I did sometime in late August! (After stalking their forum, of course.) I jumped right into this amazing community of Christ-honoring teen writers, all of whom have not only encouraged me as a person, strengthened me as a writer, and given me a purpose, but have also become my best friends!
Apart from God, my family, my passion for writing, and good food (like doughnuts and ice cream), I can honestly think of no greater blessing that I have been given than the amazing friends I have made within the last nine months! I am literally adding to that list every day as I meet (virtually, of course) new writers, readers, bloggers, and inspiring Christian teens!
(Can I also mention that these fabulous human beings have restored my faith in humanity? Like, not every teenager is horrible. There are actually good young people out there. My old soul still can’t believe it!)
So, thank you, God, for Kingdom Pen and all my writerly friends. And thank you, Issabelle, Joy, Emily, Linyang, Kathleen, Libby, Erin, Sandrina, Jody, Chelsea, Ariel, Lexi, Elizabeth, Daisy, Grace Madeleine, Abigail, Hallie, Katherine, Kristianne, Esther, Anna, Kelly, Hannah, Violet, and anyone else I missed! Insert your name here because you know I love you too! And, yes, if you didn’t know it before, I count y’all among my greatest blessings and friends! (I honestly doubt your name is this long, but if it is, you have plenty of room for it now!)
#4 God blessed me with Julie Lessman
This actually falls in with the above, since Miss Julie has become one of my greatest friends and a super awesome encourager!
When everything shut down—including the library—I was left to my own devices—literally, my own laptop—to find reading material. And Julie Lessman’s books were one of the first! (You can read more about that here and here!)
Long story short (these are all long stories, I’m noticing), I fell in love with her writing and devoured every single one of her books. Not only has she provided me with endless hours of entertainment, I have learned so much from her writing and can actually point out to you the changes in my own!
Even better, we’re buds now! (Yes, people, also known as me, say buds in a context apart from things that go in ears. Do people even say earbuds anymore?)
She has been another great blessing in my life by giving me pointers and answering my emails and putting up with my annoying self just being an all-around awesome friend!
#5 God has taught me about grace
His grace, not me. Although I am His Grace, so…
Back to the point.
My experience with grace has actually been in the third-person. As in, I’m learning through my characters. And Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I read The Cost of Discipleship last year, and boy howdy, was that an amazing book! The revelation, the theology, the “why do people not know this, especially considering how obvious it’s been for the last two thousand years and that Bonhoeffer got and this little teenager girl got it”—yeah, it’s all be so astounding.
Anyway, between that and what I’m learning/teaching myself about grace through my current book, Bound and Determined, I think I’ve come to a greater understanding of what grace is, what it does, what is means, how you use it, when you use it, and how it’s applied.
Keaton said it this way (I’m paraphrasing): “Grace is for tomorrow. Not today. Not yesterday. It’s the second chance you have yet to take.”
Or, as my sage priest put it: “Grace is not a piece of driftwood, supporting you as you float away. It is a raft, a rescue. It lifts you from the waves of despair and deposits you on dry ground, where you can begin living for Christ. Mercy cleans your slate. Grace gives you a new one. You can’t accept it until your heart is ready.”
I have a lot more to say about that, but that's for a whole other post. I touched on it some here.
#6 God has taught me about true patriotism
Prior to COVID-19 (and this blog), I wasn’t very concerned with my country. (Keywords: prior to this blog. This is a side of me y’all have not seen yet…)
In fact, I had very little regard for America. Not because of anything she did, per se, but because of (1) what the “Americans” are doing now, (2) what American was founded on (the shedding of innocent blood), and (3) how the truth about America has been distorted for hundreds of years. (That’s a story for another day.)
Plus most of my ancestors didn’t arrive in America until after the Revolution, and the few who did live here at the time were either Jewish or Spanish, and I come from a long line of Rebels and poor white trash. (Which can also be defined as meaning “no, not all Southern white folk owned slaves. The greater portion of them were worse off than slaves, in fact.” But we’re not getting into that either. #controversialsubject)
Point is, I was more annoyed by present-day America than anything and therefore confined my mind to the Caribbean and medieval England and places that were equally as corrupt but in which I don’t live.
Anyway (gee, I keep getting off-topic), when the pandemic hit, my entire family started praying and seeking the Lord for the country. And I started doing more research and cultivating a deep appreciation not for what America is or what she was, but what she can be.
Then I wrote “An Appeal to Heaven.”
Then the election came around, and I started getting really patriotic. Like, in my spirit. You couldn’t tell by looking at me or anything. I didn’t go to any marches or do social media posts or anything. It’s all mental, honey.
I’m still super patriotic. I still care for America and the true Americans. Yes, my views are way off the wall, but I do know that God has His heart set on becoming the One True God of America, and I’m going to do whatever He asks of me to make that happen.
So what exactly has He taught me about patriotism?
He’s taught me that no country is perfect. But that’s not because of the name of the country, the ruler of the country, the type of government within the country, or even the main religion of the country.
It’s all because of the people.
And if I can be just one person living for God, then I am doing my nation a service. I’m making it better by being better. I’m not serving America. I’m serving God. And in serving Him, I’m aligning myself to His will, seeking His face, and bringing His Kingdom to earth. And His will is to restore America to the image He first created for it.
So there you go.
I’m a patriot now.
But I’m a child of God and a follower of Christ before I am ever an American.
#7 God has taught me about His Spirit and power
Now, if I got into this one, y’all’d probably stop reading. (And, yes, I just typed “y’all’d.” I’m a Southerner; it’s permissible.) Why? Because I could go on...and on...and on...and not make sense while doing so.
So let’s keep this short, straightforward, and to-the-point.
Between attending a Pentecostal church and becoming involved the prophetic, I’m learning more every day about Holy Spirit, Heaven, spiritual warfare, and ruling and reigning with Christ. I mean, I knew some. I’ve known a great deal for years, actually. Probably more than most young Christians dare to believe—definitely more than the Baptists do.