Seventeen

The weather is a miserable cold. It’s the kind of wet cold that cuts to the core. It’s dreary and gray. For a lot of people, it matches the tone of 2017. There has been a lot of devastation, loss, trauma, tragedy, and altogether unsettledness. However, I can’t help but look back at all the ways my year doesn’t reflect the weather. It’s been a good one, and I’m filled with gratitude as I literally count my blessings. Cheesy or not, I’m leaving you with seventeen things I loved in 2017. I hope it brings a smile to your face or a roll of the eyes to brighten up your day!

  1. I’ve been waiting to shout this from the rooftops for about 11 months now. I kept hearing God say, “Wait, I’m not done yet.” So, here goes: I have not had a single migraine in 2017! My last debilitating headache was on New Years Eve 2016. Through a combination of diet, essential oils, and a HUGE answered prayer, my migraines seem to be a thing of the past. I shared with my church at Thanksgiving that I was 11 months free, and I truly believe it is a gift of healing from God. BUT, even if I get a migraine tomorrow, I will praise Him for this amazing gift of relief He has given.
  2. Dancing with the Stars. I know, I know, this sounds horribly superficial, but bear with me. Hudson and I started watching DWTS when Sadie Robertson was a contestant, because we were really into Duck Dynasty at the time. I’ll just put it out there: I fell in love with the show. I love the costumes, the choreography, the stars, the pros…it’s the highlight of my week. Daniel even gifted me with tickets to see the show live in New Orleans in February, so I got to go on a date with my handsome (at the time) 5 year old. I spent two hours with a goofy grin on my face. We were both mesmerized. Yes, it is just a TV show, but it’s brought fun into our house. I grew up in ballet, and I was on our high school’s drill team. Both were very disciplined and every move had to be perfectly executed. It wasn’t truly fun. I can say I had fun moments, but it wasn’t a means of expression, rather, precision. Because of this show, I’ve learned to let my guard down and have a dance party with my kids (and husband!) at least once a week. I don’t have to worry if I am getting the steps right- there are no steps! Also, it is now my lifelong goal to be a contestant on the show. Mark and/or Val, I’m looking at you!
  3. Turning 30. Y’all. I hit the big 3-0. And I’m loving it. How could I not when it started with an amazing weekend of surprises? Daniel and my sister surprised me with a thirtieth birthday party. My lifelong bestie flew in from Texas, and I literally had not one inkling that she was coming. I am not a huge fan of surprises- but that was one for the books. My mom planned to come in, and due to some weather mishaps, had to reschedule her trip (not for lack of trying!), but just knowing that everyone came together to help me celebrate meant the world to me.
  4. Seeing the Astros play in their World Series winning season. I will admit that I’m not the biggest baseball fan that ever was, but I grew up cheering for the Astros, going to games with my family, singing the National Anthem with my school choir, and laughing at my sister mispronouncing “Biggio”. Getting to experience a game in such an amazing season with my family took the cake. My dad has dealt with a lot of health issues and scares this year, but he even made the trek to Minute Maid Field. It was a special night, for sure. Their World Series Win was the icing on my already sweet season.
  5. 443 Miles to Magnolia. We drank the Koolaid. We are full out Chip and Jo Jo fans in the Dumas house. This fall, we made the trip to Waco to visit the Silos and eat the cupcakes. Hands down, the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten. I highly recommend making the trip! Also, stop by Baylor to see their bears, and grab a cup of coffee at Common Grounds.
  6. Nashville. If you know me at all, you know it’s my favorite city. I spent a long weekend soaking up Music City in all its glory. Drew Holcomb at the Ryman, Jeni’s ice cream, the Listening Room, Crema, Frothy Monkey, Parnassus Books. And, to top it all off, Daniel and I got to spend the weekend with some amazing friends! Let’s go back! (#wooooo)
  7. I got a new niece! McKay was born in March, and she is the sweetest little red-head you ever did see. Glad to be May-May to another little.
  8. Gatlinburg. Yes, I love Tennessee. I hadn’t ever been, and #abunchofdumasesonvacation was a wonderful week in the mountains. I fell in love with Dollywood, gained a new appreciation for hiking (new hobby?), managed to sneak in a Gus’s Fried Chicken visit, and I had a lot of time with the boys, and nieces and nephew to read books, watch the Sandlot, and take some good walks. Still not a huge cold weather fan, but it was beautiful.
  9. I read a lot of books. That has kind of become the norm, but I finished my second yearly reading challenge, and I have enjoyed getting to know about people I admire through memoirs, gotten lost in Hogwarts (again), grown in my understanding of the Bible, and shed a few tears over people I just “met”. I read more than a few duds, but I’m thankful for the ability to do it. And I’m immensely grateful for audiobook apps that allow me to feel productive when I’m stuck in traffic and utilize my public library at the same time!
  10. Scripture memory. This year, I memorized 2 Timothy. It was really hard, but I pressed on, and I’m so glad I did. Next up, Galatians. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but no time in the Word is ever wasted. It should be fun and fruitful!
  11. I joined a gym. I managed to go at least once a week all year, and most often, two times a week. It may not sound like a lot, but in our crazy busy world, this is what works for me. I’ve enjoyed the discipline, and I definitely feel stronger and more confident.
  12. I slept in a really sketchy hotel and lived to tell about it. If we are ever going on a trip, do not, under any circumstances, let me pick the hotel. Yes, I’ve gotten way more laughs than I probably should have out of the experience, but I would rather not repeat it.
  13. I wrote my first professional article for the Child Life Bulletin. I got to combine my two passions of writing and Child Life, and I’m happy to say, I’ll have another article published this spring.
  14. I saw some really great movies. Beauty and the Beast, Wonder, Wonder Woman, and the Greatest Showman. While I didn’t love the Last Jedi, I still ate up all the hype that goes along with a new Star Wars movie, so there’s that.
  15. We got to see a solar eclipse and didn’t go blind!
  16. I saw Hanson for the seventh time. Have I mentioned how much I love my husband?
  17. Last, but probably my favorite, I published my first book! God’s Green Earth hit the stores in June. It was an act of faith and obedience. It certainly hasn’t led to any major publishing deals or worldwide fame, but it’s paving the way for God’s word to be spread. It is a feeling like no other to see your book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble or to get messages from people reading what you wrote and identifying with it.  I’m forever grateful for the calling, and I hope to continue on the path of writing more.

If you’re still reading, thank you! Wrapping up two years of blogging is something I’m proud of and awed by. I didn’t really know if I would have this many words when I set out to create Jesus and Jello, but God continues to speak, so I continue to type. Happy New Year, dear readers. Cheers to 2018.

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.  Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” And He said to me, “Write, for these words are true and faithful.”- Revelation 21:1-5 NKJV

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Gifts

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” -James 1:17 NKJV

Ask a child what their favorite part about Christmas is, and you’ll likely hear “presents!” (Okay, you can ask me, and I’ll give the same answer). I love presents. Big, small, chocolate, you name it. I just love the excitement of a gift- whether giving or receiving. It’s a thrill to find the perfect gift. It can also be a little nerve-wracking if you  have to follow up said perfect gift, but I digress.

We often say that Christmas isn’t about the gifts, and while it may not be about material presents, it is about the Gift, Jesus Christ. We celebrate His birth, because He came as a gift to us. Without the birth, there would be no death, and there would be no resurrection. He had to start somewhere. His birth was Hope to a hopeless world. We definitely have a lot to feel hopeless about these days, but His Hope sustains us. We know that this is not the end. I’m thankful for that gift.

I firmly believe that the Bible is a gift, too. One, it’s a gift in that we have the direct words of God at our fingertips. We have stories that tell us of God’s grace and love. We have commands that keep us in line with a Christ-like life. We have the hope of salvation, and we have godly examples of those who have gone before us. Two, it’s the gift that keeps on giving. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful”. It doesn’t change-ever- but it does show us different things at different times. I may read a passage of scripture ten times, and find something new on the eleventh read.

This Christmas season, I’ve been reading through the Gospels with several of my friends. Just today, I read Luke 23:6-12, which gives us an account of when Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, since He was from Galilee, and that was Herod’s district. I guess that means that Herod had jurisdiction over Jesus, rather than Pilate. Herod wanted to meet Jesus and see Him perform a miracle, yet he mocked Him and ended up sending Him back to Pilate. And then, get this, Pilate and Herod became friends, even though they had previously been enemies. Somehow, this entire chunk of Scripture has escaped me for thirty years. But even in a terrible situation, Jesus linked two enemies and brought peace. Isn’t that just like His character? Showing up in the most unexpected circumstances and bringing darkness to light.

Yesterday, I was reading a new book by Nika Maples, called Everyday Genesis, and she pointed out the connection between God hovering over the waters in the creation story, to Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33). Jesus walked on water like He had done it before, because he had! (Goosebumps and misty eyes!!) John 1:1-2 tells us “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” The Word here means Jesus. He was with God as He hovered over the waters, and God was with Jesus when He walked on the water. Have I read those passages? Yes! Have I ever noticed the connection? Absolutely not. If that’s not a shiny wrapped package with six inch ribbon curls, I don’t know what is!

Finally, although I eagerly await more of these spiritual presents, let’s talk about The Christmas Story. Our Ladies Bible Study has been going through The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs. You know what I realized? Elizabeth was not already pregnant with John when the angel appeared to Zechariah. It wasn’t a message of “your wife is pregnant”, it was “your wife will become pregnant”. No pressure when you leave here, Z. Oh yeah, and you can’t talk. I just felt like this added a new layer of faith demanded from Zechariah. The angel’s message was exciting, but it was still news of something to come. Zechariah had to trust that this angel was real and that he hadn’t gone crazy. I don’t know why that struck me, but it did. I saw the story in a new light. So, if that wasn’t enough, guess what. Mary wasn’t pregnant when the angel visited her either. Again, no wonder she was terrified. Not only was she being told she would have a baby without being married, the conception had not happened yet. Can you just see the wheels turning? When? Where? How? Yikes! Do you think she noticed a change right away? Do you think she knew when it happened? Since having children of my own, Mary has become one of my most revered women in Scripture. I know she’s probably everyone’s favorite, but I just love her obedience and trust. She knew how the story would end, but she was all in anyway. A new revelation about this treasured woman was possibly my favorite gift of the season. 

You may be reading this thinking “Um, yeah Maddie, I knew that already”, and that’s great! I think we understand Scripture at different paces, depending on where we are in our walks with God. What He reveals to me now is important for my life right now. Notice, the Bible isn’t changing. The words are not different for me, but the lightbulbs turn on in different patterns and times. His Word is forever.

What have you read lately that has new meaning? If you haven’t gained any new understanding, I encourage you to keep reading and/or read a book by a Christian author that helps you comprehend what He’s telling us. I hope you experience the excitement.  I truly value these moments as gifts from God.