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When the clock struck midnight on January 01, 2021, were you wishing that someone had waved a magic wand and all things were made new like I was? Most of us are looking back and reflecting on this past year's events that will fill the pages of history books for future generations. There isn't anything I could write or say that you haven't heard, read, or felt about 2020. As you look back, I do pray you find yourself committing to face whatever challenges and victories this new year will bring in God's strength and not your own. I'm welcoming this new year one day at a time, really one step at a time.

Do you have any goals you have set for this new year? Resolutions are not my thing; I always fail at them. Events like a new year are something I enjoy though. It causes us to pause and evaluate our lives. Hopefully, we make plans seeking God to walk worthy in the ways He has planned for us. We reflect on the past months to learn from the mistakes we made, the trials we faced, and rejoice in the victories.

To move forward this year, I decided to pick a word to focus on. I have done this in the past, and whether I will go back to it consistently throughout the year or just this week, only God knows. The word is 'welcome,' inspired by a bear statue left in my yard by the previous owner. She is ankle-deep into the ground, and you can tell she has been through some storms. But she stands tall with her hands raised holding a fish and the word 'welcome on it'. When we first moved here a little over a year ago, my plan was to at least move it, but there she still stands like the momma bear she is holding that fish declaring victory and dares to invite anyone into her imperfect space. Maybe this is what I see because it is what I long for others to see in my life. Not by my strength or who I am, but because the essence of Jesus shines through in my imperfect life. As I am ankle-deep in the mud, worn from the storms of life, yet still holding arms outstretched in victory, I do pray many will feel welcomed, accepted, and loved.

As I am ankle-deep in the mud, worn from the storms of life, yet still holding arms outstretched in victory, I do pray many will feel welcomed, accepted, and loved.

So on the first day of a new year, I pondered this word 'welcome'. Asking God to show me ways I can welcome others into my life to love and serve for the sake of the gospel. I found myself singing "softly and tenderly," you know the one that is inviting those who are weary and a sinner to come home. It is a beautiful image of Jesus with outstretched arms inviting us and welcoming us with His love. When I searched scripture about Jesus welcoming others, I found myself in Luke 9. The parallels of this passage can be found in Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:32-44, and John 6:1-13.

"When the crowds learned it, they followed Him, and He welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom and God and cured those who had need of healing." Luke 9:11

This is the story of when Jesus feeds 5,000 + with five loaves and two fish. Before this occurs, we find that the 12 disciples had just returned after Jesus had sent them out to proclaim the kingdom and heal. Can you imagine the emotional charge they all had? In their attempt to get away and recharge, the crowds still followed them. In Mark and Matthew, the word compassion is used to describe how Jesus felt when He looked to the crowd. The type of compassion that causes a gut-punch type of emotion, "…because they were like sheep without a shepherd…" Mark 6:34. This is the type of compassion I want for others that drives me to welcome all God has called me to serve with grace and humility.

What do you hope to welcome in your life this year? My prayer for you, beautiful, is that whatever God has placed in your heart that you do it taking deep breaths of grace and in His love!

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