December 31, 2013

2013: Looking Back

I can hardly believe another year is coming to a close.  Though it seems like most of the year went by relatively slow and steady, somewhere along the way the last few months caught speed and now here we are so quickly at the end.

Over the past few days, I've been looking back on the year and reflecting on all that's transpired in our journey and in the life of our family…  All the ground we've covered.  Where we were.  Where we are.  It's been a really good year but also one marked by great change and transition.

Our girl turned sixteen in January which called for a fabulous and memorable mother-daughter trip to New York City to celebrate.  She got her driver's permit, her first real job, her very own bank account, and she started her junior year of high school and began looking at colleges.  Our son grew at least twelve inches it seems and went from looking like a little boy to a rapidly-maturing young man.  He started his eighth and final year of middle school and gave everything he had and then some on the football field this fall.  This summer, we spent a week basking in the sun on the beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina and enjoyed time with family at a reunion in South Georgia.  We also took in a few awesome concerts and sporting events and went on several fun day trips throughout the year… kayaking, snow skiing, hiking and more  And we reconnected with many dear old friends, and began to find our little niche in the social media and blogging world.

But the biggest event of our year by far and the one that stretched us the most was our move.  This time last year, as we prepared to ring in the new year, we had no idea of what was to come… no clue that we'd be buying a new home and moving in 2013.  Just a few days after the start of the year, we learned that our landlord wanted to move back into our rental when our lease expired in June.  This unexpected news immediately sent us down a very long and winding road of praying, searching, dreaming, asking, and big-decision-making. Those of you who have followed my blog over the course of the year, know the anguish we felt over this move… how it was, once again, another giant leap of faith and trust in our God.

photo credit: Pinterest

And now, here at the end of the year, as I look back, I'm amazed at all the months have held and feel such a sense of peace about where we are.  I feel rescued and relieved and some sort of whew-I'm-so-glad-that's-behind-us.  Though it was hard and it took some time to find our way, we're completely in love with where we've landed.  Our new home suits us perfectly and has so quickly become "home" that it's hard to believe we ever lived anywhere else.  God has been incredibly kind and faithful.  He knew what we needed, knew how this home would bring us rest, how it would be a shelter from the storm, a place of life and love. The tides seemed to turn with this new house.  Heaviness lifted.  Light came in.  Our story grew larger.  We've tasted fresh hope and joy and ease since we moved.  We've found more courage and strength.  We're all so deeply grateful.

Near the end of every year, as a family, we pray and ask God what the year ahead will look like, what he has in store for our hearts.  We look and listen for a word or two to give us perspective and guide us in the decisions we make throughout the year.  The word this year couldn't have been more appropriate or fitting. Like a compass, God used it to lead us and give us hope and direction as we looked for and found our way.

The word was freedom.

Happy New Year, dear friends!
May 2014 be marked by the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus and resting in his love. 
Blessings on your year ahead… 
I can hardly wait to see what God has in store!

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to
me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me 
when you search for me with all your heart."
~Jeremiah 29:11-13


December 28, 2013

This Wonderful Middle

The warm winter sun shines through my window and casts the most beautiful light across our bedroom.  It's mid-afternoon, three days after Christmas, and I've yet to get officially dressed… still in my jammies and wearing my fuzzy red and green Christmas socks.  I'm snuggled up all cozy with a blanket on our bed reading and perusing a few new books, while I listen out for the clothes to finish drying in the laundry room across the hall.

We had a wonderful Christmas.  It was lavish and rich and meaningful.  Quiet and peaceful.  Full of love and laughter and fun.  The life and joy of our family of four bubbling up to overflowing and spilling out over the edge.  Perfect in all its imperfection.  I'm humbled and grateful and in awe, once again.  Every Christmas does my heart in more than the one the year before… the beauty of the coming of Christ, his love for me, his rescue of me, the grace and mercy and hope he so freely gives.  I could hardly sing a word of "O Holy Night" at church on Christmas Eve.  The lyrics touched my heart so deeply that all I could do was stand in worship and listen to the voices sing while tears pushed from my eyes to spill down my cheeks.  I was undone.  Loved.  Rescued.  Grateful.

And now, these three days later, the festivities have come to an end… the gifts have been opened and put away, the cookies and desserts eaten and enjoyed, and the kitchen has been cleaned one last time, at least for now.  I'm rested, but tired.  Content, but longing.  Full, but still hungry.  It's the mix of emotions, the halfway point of the holidays, where I'm almost ready to move beyond Christmas and begin to pack it away, yet I'm still wanting to hang on for just a while longer and linger a bit more.  I'm thinking of the new year that's quickly approaching and beginning to hope and pray and dream about all it may hold, but I'm still savoring this year and reflecting on all that's unfolded over the course of its many days and months.  I'm marveling at how God has worked in our lives and worked in my heart and marveling even more at how he keeps writing our story, so carefully and beautifully, page after page, chapter upon chapter.

No, I'm not quite ready to move on just yet.  I think I'll stay at this halfway point, this wonderful middle, for just a bit longer.  Savoring.  Reflecting.  Resting.  Marveling.  Dreaming.  Hoping.

There's always more to come.

How about you?  Are you ready to move on beyond Christmas, or are you also wanting to linger a bit in the middle… savoring and reflecting for just a bit longer? 


December 21, 2013

Him Brought a Sword

Our boy sat in the back seat sandwiched between his sister and the car salesman who quickly became known to our children as "Mr. Bill."  He was a little over three at the time, full of life and energy and manliness. Adorable in every way, but also a real handful who kept us on our toes since we never knew what he might say or do next.  He had quite a large vocabulary for such a little guy and could carry on a conversation with anyone no matter their age.  Some called him an old soul and I think the title was probably quite fitting. What a cutie he was.

It was January and we were shopping for a new family car.  It was time to trade in the mini-van and move up to a SUV.  (Something I was quite happy about because though our mini-van was practical and convenient with two little ones, it wasn't the most attractive mode of transportation.)  Our lively little boy had just gotten a toy sword for Christmas and it wasn't just any sword... it was Frodo's sword from "The Lord of the Rings".  Sting was its name and it was cool.  It was motion sensitive and lit up with flashing lights and made a woosh-clink-clank sound every time it moved.  To say that the boy loved that sword would be an understatement.  He was crazy about it, which in turn, made us a bit crazy because it was always in motion and therefore, always wooshing and clinking and clanking.

Our little guy at three with his fierce face, blanket cape, and one of his many dangerous swords.  
Oh what I would give to hold and squeeze that little rascal again!  That is, if I could catch him…

He had his sword with him that day as we test drove the SUV that would soon become ours and affectionately known by our family as "Trooper."  As always, the boy was ready for a good conversation and he didn't hold back when he bluntly asked the car salesman, "Mr. Bill, do you know Jesus?"  Of course, Mr. Bill was a bit taken back by his bold question and it took him a few seconds to answer.  "Well... Yes...  Yes, I do know Jesus," Mr. Bill cautiously replied to which our boy then immediately asked with passion and excitement, "Well, did you know that him didn't come to bring peace??  HIM BROUGHT A SWORD!!" and he waved his beloved sword in the air as it wooshed and clinked and clanked.  Everyone in the car burst out in laughter and once we composed ourselves, Mr. Bill explained that yes, he did know that Jesus didn't come just to bring peace, but he indeed brought a sword as well.

My heart smiles as I think back on that day and here at Christmastime I wonder if we hold on to that truth and remember why Jesus really came.  We sing about a silent night, a holy night, where all was calm and all was bright, but maybe we forget that the birth of Jesus was actually a brutal attack, a fierce invasion, on the kingdom of darkness.  Revelation 12 speaks of a woman, a dragon, a baby and a great war in heaven and on earth at his birth.  The coming of Jesus was just the beginning of what would in the end be his victory and our rescue.  That sweet baby, sent from God above, would grow to be a man who would lead us to the heart of the Father, destroy the powers of hell, and give his very life to set us free from the chains of sin and death.  Yes, Jesus did come to bring peace and we can have that peace through him, but he also came with a sword to deliver us from evil and set us free.  He came that we would have life and have it to the full.

My heart swells and my eyes fill with tears as I think about the beauty and mystery and power of his birth, his coming to this world.  But my heart also rejoices and waits and longs and hopes because I know he will return.  He will come again just as he said and that is just the most glorious news, the greatest gift of all.

The weary world rejoices.  

And watches and waits.  

For a new and glorious morn is still coming…

Jesus is coming again.

"And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me 
that you also may be where I am."
~John 14:3

"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  
I did not come to bring peace but a sword." 
~Matthew 10:34

"Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." 
~Philippians 4:7

"I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."
~John 10:10

Merry Christmas from the Barker Family

May your Christmas season be filled with love, joy, and laughter, and most of all, hope.


December 3, 2013

I Am The Poor

It was a beautiful yet chilly Thanksgiving day in Washington, DC.  We had just left a somewhat upscale restaurant in the district where we lingered over a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, savoring each delicious bite.  As we sat at an intersection waiting for the light to turn, he approached our car all disheveled and dirty wearing mismatched and torn clothes, layer upon layer, to keep himself warm.  He carried a tattered and torn cardboard sign asking for help and he held close an old cup in which to collect any spare change he might be given.

I don't normally roll down my window and give money to the homeless since I wonder if they might use it for drugs and alcohol instead of for food or other things they may truly need.  Though I know this may not always be the case, it does concern me.  But this day, this time, was different and we all felt the tug on our hearts to give to the man.  As he walked past, I rolled down my window and put three dollars in his cup.  Maybe that would be enough to buy a small burger or a hot cup of coffee, but not near enough to get him into any trouble.  I smiled at him and wished him a Happy Thanksgiving and told him to stay warm.  He smiled back and with what seemed like genuine gratitude said, "Oh I will.  Thank you, ma'am.  God bless you."

Photo source: Etsy

Many times throughout the scriptures, Jesus tells us that we will always have the poor with us and how very right he was.  Every time we drive into the city and sometimes even in the suburbs where we live, I see them all around.  The homeless and destitute.  I feel compassion for them and wonder at their story.  How did they become so impoverished?  What chain of events brought them to this place?   Where do they live or stay?  How do they survive?  I wonder at their journey and at what life must be like for them.

By the sheer grace of God, I have never been penniless or homeless and I can't, even for a moment, understand that plight.  I've never lived on the streets or been without a home, or slept on a park bench and wondered where my next meal would come from.  I've never had to dig through trashcans to look for tossed scraps of food, or hold out a cup to beg for spare change.  But in some ways, I am not completely unlike them.  I, too, am the poor.

Photo source:

Though I've been incredibly blessed materially and I have everything I need and then some, spiritually, I am hungry and thirsty and impoverished without God.  My cup runs empty and bone dry and I know that only the life of Jesus can fill it.  I am poor in spirit, desperate and needy, and in recognizing my great poverty, I am all the more aware of my even greater need for Jesus.  Jesus said, "I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)  He satisfies my hunger and quenches my thirst and provides for me time and time again.  He gives strength and joy and hope and healing.  Love and mercy, forgiveness and power.  Over and over.  Grace upon grace.

May I never stop falling on my knees and holding out my cup.  

May I always be the poor.

“The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the poorer we become - the more we realize that everything in life is a gift. The tenor of our lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving. Awareness of our poverty and ineptitude causes us to rejoice in the gift of being called out of darkness into wondrous light and translated into the kingdom of God's beloved Son.”
 ~Brennan Manning

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
 ~Matthew 5:3

"For he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things."
~Psalm 107:9

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
~Matthew 5:6

(I'm linking up today with Emily at for Tuesdays Unwrapped… choosing a gift from an ordinary day and finding the miracle secret it holds.)

*My apologies for the blurry images.   Quality pictures were hard to find.

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