When we think back over our lives, there are certain memories that stand as markers of time or seasons that your mind automatically scrolls through. For our family, 2009 was a year FULL of those mile-marking memories.
For the first time ever, our family took a Disney vacation! We spent a week in Orlando, staying at a Disney resort and enjoying a great time of rest and excitement all at once. We saw priceless looks on the faces of the children when we surprised them (in Jacksonville, FL) with the news that they would be standing in front of Cinderella’s castle in just a few short hours! The week was a wonderful time for us to be together as a family and create life-long memories for them AND for us. We spent at least one day at Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and Hollywood Studios and had a meal with a handful of Disney characters on each day. You will have to ask the children what each of their favorite moments were, but be prepared to sit a while. I don’t think any of us can claim just one.
After five years of balancing full-time work with writing research papers and being a great Daddy to five energetic children, 2009 marked the completion of Nathan’s undergraduate work! In May, Nathan graduated, earning his Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies. It was a WONDERFUL day for the whole family, as we all felt a sense of accomplishment. We feel extremely blessed to have been placed on this journey together as a family. In August, Nathan began working on his Master of Divinity in Biblical Counseling. He is also finishing his second year as an intern at our family church, where we fellowship with a beautiful church family. In these last five years, we have all learned and grown in our walk with the Lord in ways we cannot measure by degree or merit. God has used this time in NC to teach us about who He desires us to be and how He desires us to minister to this world.
In addition, 2009 marked an end to homeschooling for our family, at least for now. MaryEvelyn and Cooper joined Graycen at a GREAT charter school. Graycen (age 8) entered 3rd grade and adjusted to the added responsibility and heavier workload. MaryEvelyn (age 7) had a seamless transition into 2nd grade and loves going to school. Cooper (age 6) began Kindergarten and is having a great time discovering the foundations of learning. Ella (age 5) and Annagail (age 2) have enjoyed having a smaller crowd at home during the day and have become “bestest friends”, as they say.
Finally, it would be difficult to mention all of these wonderful mile-markers in 2009 without also mentioning one of the biggest mile-markers of this year for us. This year Nathan was laid off from his employer and has spent the last ten months seeking employment. Although it is hard to be a part of the large number of Americans that are struggling to find work in this current economy, it has also been a mile-marker of TRUST and FAITH for us. When we look back on this year, we will remember how the Lord completely held us through all of this. Finances are obviously tight and it takes a lot of preparation and communication to keep things going, but we have been held in the Grace of the Lord this year. We have enjoyed time together. We have been able to minister to others that are going through struggles. I can honestly say that we have laughed together more this year and have enjoyed true PEACE that comes from knowing that God’s plan for our lives is better than anything we could have ever dreamed up. We find strength in verses like Isaiah 12:2,"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation." We find comfort in verses like Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” During this time, we have also enjoyed getting back to doing portrait & event photography and are watching the Lord grow our business according to His perfect will. You can check us out at www.kariseenimages.com.
Looking forward to 2010, we pray that, regardless of our circumstances, we will continue to seek His will for our lives and that we will continue to rest in the provision of Christ’s birth, His life, His death for our sins, and His resurrection. Our prayer for you in 2010 is that you, regardless of circumstance, will know this peace also. When we celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas, we are praying that each of you will know the peace and love that can only come through a very personal relationship with God. He was more than just a baby born in a manger. He is THE way, THE truth, and THE life (John 14:6). Our prayer for YOU is that 2010 is a “mile-marker year” that reflects JOY and BLESSING that comes from living in Christ alone.
Nathan, Angela, Graycen, MaryEvelyn, Cooper, Ella, & Annagail Murray