Friday, December 31, 2010

A Year in Review - in Pics...

Well, there's just a little bit of time left in 2010 (a matter of minutes actually), but what an incredibly full year it's been. Yesterday, I reflected in words. Today, in pictures!

Becky and Dale's New Year's Day Wedding!

Anna and Alyse at the Melting Pot in Greenville, SC - Anna's 13th birthday dinner!

With Kandi, Suzanne, and Becky at Scrap Camp!

A quick Myrtle Beach getaway weekend for Chris and me!

Lunch in Savannah on our way to Florida with my LLMI co-workers!

Strawberry picking with the Hampson family!

Mission Trip to Liberia, Africa!

Another new friend in Liberia.

Speaking in Africa.

The rest of our Liberian mission team: Frankie and Ginger!

She Speaks Conference with Lorie Newman!

Tubing fun on Lake James!

Goofing off with Anna at Hungry Mother State Park!

Mary Kay Fall Blast Off Retreat!

My husband, Chris, excited to be apple picking!

A spontaneous weekend trip to Pittsburgh for dinner with my hubby! This is our view from Monterey Bay Fish Grotto!

Reuniting with Liberian Baby Grace the night before her surgery at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN!

Surgery Day - Vanderbilt Hospital! Posing with Baby Grace's parents, aunt & uncle.

Baby Grace, with Anna, post surgery.

Anna getting ready for the semi-formal dinner at the girl's Wisdom Conference at our church (and goofing off a little too!).

We love volunteering for our church's Hoopla! each Halloween.
(Anna really is happy. The sun's just in her eyes. Hee hee!)

We were happy to celebrate with the Toth family as they brought home their newly adopted China doll - Collins! (This is Collins and her new mommy, Jill.)

Kelly and I celebrating Lorie's miracle conception at her baby shower!

Baby Grace and her parents visit our church in Western NC before returning to Africa a few short weeks later.

Thanksgiving with the Newman family during our moving weekend!

Christmas with the Hampson's! Loads of fun and picture taking as always!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year in Review - in Words...

At the end of each year, I always love to reflect back on the prior 12 months. Did I reach any of the goals that I set at the beginning of the year? (No - not resolutions - I don't like those things.) Were there any fun surprises? How about disappointments? Did I grow spiritually? I also like to reminisce through pictures, and being the shutterbug that I am, there's usually never a shortage of photos to browse. So, in an effort to keep my blog posts fairly short (yes - my disclaimer word here is "fairly"), I thought I'd let you have a glimpse of my own in words...tomorrow in pictures. I've discovered that 2010 is rather hard to capture in pictures, because many of the things that took place actually occurred internally or without photo opportunities. Therefore, pictures alone don't do it justice. But, I know there are some of you out there that stick with me only for the pics. So, tomorrow's post is for you! As for today...

2010 was one of the most joyful and one of the hardest on record for me!

The year brought:

1. My first ever mission trip - to Liberia, Africa in June!
2. A trip to Florida in April with a fun group of gals from work! (Side trip to Savannah included as well.)
3. My daughter's 13th birthday! I can't believe I parent a teenager now!
4. My first She Speaks Conference in July!
5. The start of my Mary Kay business - a way for me to earn some money to support mission trips & the orphan crisis!
6. A new job with a great Christian organization practically in my back yard!
7. Moving to a new house!
8. Joining the Speaking Thru Me Ministries speaking team!
9. The US visit of friends from Liberia I met on my mission trip in June!
10. The miraculous surgery of Baby Grace (read previous blog posts to learn more about this)!

The year also brought:

1. Deep conviction over my sinful self.
2. Sorrow over unmet expectations and wasted opportunities.
3. Godly discipline.
4. Extreme disappointment.
5. No changes in weight (good in one way, pitiful in another).
6. Health challenges - other than gallbladder.
7. Deeper bondage in some areas of my life.
8. Questioning...
9. Longing...
10. Spiritual "quietness" that was not wanted or expected.

There you have it. An amazing journey through a year! I wouldn't trade any of it for anything - even the not-so-fun things. Because, God disciplines those He loves. I know He loves me. I know He has some exciting things in store for me, and He refuses to let me stay where I've been. Praise Him for that!

As a friend shared with me from her devotional yesterday, I was sweetly reminded and deeply convicted of my sinful nature and God's ability to do amazing things in spite of it. The devotion says it better than I can, so I'll Just share the brief excerpt that she shared with me:

"And being absolutely certain that whatever promise He is bound by, He is able to make good" (Rom. 4:20).

We are told that Abraham could look at his own body and consider it as good as dead without being discouraged, because he was not looking at himself but at the Almighty One.

He did not stagger at the promise, but stood straight up unbending beneath his mighty load of blessing; and instead of growing weak he waxed strong in the faith, grew more robust, the more difficulties became apparent, glorifying God through His very sufficiency and being 'fully persuaded' (as the Greek expresses it) 'that he who had promised was,' not merely able, but as it literally means 'abundantly able,' munificently able, able with an infinite surplus of resources, infinitely able 'to perform.'"

How did God "perform" in your life in 2010? Are you ready to watch Him magnificently do so in 2011?

Monday, December 27, 2010

Getting Ready...

Hi Blog Friends...

As promised in a previous blog, I'm preparing for another 40 day stretch of consecutive blogging! Woohoo! The thought of it exhilarates me and nauseates me at the same time. It exhilarates me, because the only other time I've done this (the last 40 days of 2009) resulted in some of the most amazing blogging experiences I've had to date. It resulted in new followers that became new friends. It resulted in writing discipline for me. Most importantly, it resulted in sweeter fellowship with my Savior.

On the other hand, it was nauseating. It nauseated me for fear of letting you, my readers and bloggy friends, down. It nauseated me to think that I might run out of blog posts to write. It nauseated me to think you might just get plumb blored with reading my posts. Simply put, the pressure of the challenge I put upon myself was too much at times.

That said, I'm doing it again. Crazy as it sounds...the good far outweighed the bad in my last consecutive 40 day blog challenge. So, if you dare...hop along on this journey with me. The 40 days officially begin on Saturday, January 1! I would still commit to this journey even if I were the only one reading my posts, but it's oh so much more fun having you along to chat with. To make it more of a community, I invite you to plug in via any or all of the following ways:

1) Become a follower! Click the little follower tab to the right and follow the instructions.
2) Leave a comment on a post (see comments link at the bottom of each post).
3) Follow me on Facebook! Click on my Facebook badge to the right or search for me by name: Leah Slack Gillen.
4) Follow me on Twitter: @LeahSGillen
5) Email me!

Now, there's no excuse not to find me somewhere! Ha! I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE connecting with you!

To give you a little heads up about something I'm personally participating in and incorporating into my blog this year, check out Beth Moore's post HERE. This will be my first post of the 40 day blog challenge. I participated on the Siesta Scripture Memory Team in 2009 and was not only challenged but extraordinarily blessed! Friends, with everything in me, I challenge you do this with me this year. You don't have to officially participate via Beth Moore's site if you don't want to, but I'll be offering the same comment accountability via my site. It's not only important to hide God's Word in our hearts through the discipline of's vital! If we want to live vibrant, effective, joy-filled, strengthened, authentic lives of faith, then we must know God's Word. To know God's Word means we need to read it, hear it, meditate on it, memorize it, and live it! Will you join me for this challenge? Again, check out the "instructions" via Beth's post HERE. Get ready, get set, and we'll GO on January 1!

Be blessed!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Burgundy Outfit

The pants were made of a soft velvet-like burgundy shade. The shirt was pin-striped white and burgundy (to match the pants, of course). And...if that wasn't enough, burgundy socks and penny loafers completed the outfit. Get the theme yet? Burgundy. Regardless, I thought it looked great on me. I even resembled the older high school girls that I looked up to. It was a happy occasion. Then...I woke up. I was thirteen years old and had literally just woken up from a dream of the "perfect" outfit. No...not a daydream. A real...slept all night...dream. I couldn't wait to share with my mom.

Excitedly, I announced to my mother, "I've got it! I've got it!"

"Got what?" mom asked.

"I know exactly what I want for Christmas," I boldly proclaimed.

I proceeded to tell my mother all about the dream and the burgundy outfit that I now wanted for Christmas, which was only about a month away.

She looked at me a little perplexed and simply said, "We'll see." (By the way, that's short for more-than-likely in my mom's "Mom-ese".)

Since dreaming of my perfect outfit, I couldn't stop thinking about it. It consumed me. I was super sensitive with my appearance anyway, and I knew this outfit would be nothing short of flattering for my middle-school girl figure. If only Christmas would come quickly...

The big day finally arrived! I opened a few gifts in search of THE one. I knew it had to be there, and you can only imagine the glee that surfaced on my face when I finally unwrapped the thing of burgundy all its glory! Here it was - the very thing that consumed my dream that night and my thoughts for days thereafter. The very thing that would turn my boring life into one of excitement. I held it in my hands. It was EXACTLY what I asked for, somehow didn't look as spectacular in the box as it did in my dream. Even looked even less spectacular on me as I tried it on. I looked frumpy, blah, and simply "not me". What was I thinking?!?! I banked all emotion on this gift, and it was NOTHING like I expected.

My burgundy outfit resurfaced again last week. No - not the actual manifestation of it, but the emotional draw to it. God actually brought it back to my mind in the least expected way. In my quiet time, I was crying out to Him (okay, maybe whining a little and begging a bit too) over some things I desired of Him. I dreamed of these things. I had a perfect picture of the way it was supposed to be, if He would only grant my deepest desires.

In the stillness of my spirit, He whispered, "You want the burgundy outfit again?"

I paused.

A little louder this time, "Sweet daughter, do you want me to give you another burgundy outfit of your own making or do you trust the garments I have planned for you?"

I was quickened.

Scripture teaches that God's plans are so much higher than our plans. His ways are P.E.R.F.E.C.T. Sure, sometimes He'll give us exactly what we ask for, but sometimes what we ask for isn't all it's cracked up to be. Then again, sometimes he says "no", because he knows the "outfit" won't flatter us, and we're asked to wait as He creates the perfect garment to adorn us with in His perfect timing.

In these days of sheer disappointment and utter frustration over hopes and dreams not yet realized, I have to trust Him. Not MY plans, not MY things, and not even MY dreams. I know that I know that I know that His love for me is complete, and because of that I know that regardless of disappointing dreams, unrealized expectations, or less-than-ideal results, I want only His plans for me. That's a tough, but true, statement to make. How about you?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blogging Beak Over!

Hi Bloggy Friends!

I pray you didn't think I'd abandoned my "blogship"! Honestly, I've gone through a season of B.U.S.Y. like I've not experienced in awhile. Within the past 6 months, I've experienced a mission trip to Africa that continued beyond Africa (see previous blog posts about Baby Grace), a job change, a move, and several health challenges. Whew! But, I'm back and will start posting more regularly again. As a matter of fact, I'll be doing another 40-day consecutive stretch of blogging beginning January 1. So, stay tuned and encourage others to follow along. I love interacting with all of you!

Just a couple of updates about Baby Grace and her family:

1. The surgery was a complete success! She's doing amazingly well! God gets ALL the glory for healing this sweet angel!

2. Her family came to visit my hometown a few weeks ago, and her dad (Pastor David) spoke to our Sunday School class at church. My words cannot even begin to convey the depth of his message. I am forever changed.

3. We celebrated Grace's 1-year birthday while she was visiting. This was the birthday she wasn't "supposed" to live and see. But God.

4. This precious family returned to Liberia this past Saturday! Please pray that their acclimation back into the harsh Liberian life goes smoothly! Please pray that God continues to pour out blessing upon blessing upon this amazing family and the churches they serve! It was so hard to see them return home, but they are eager to continue the work God has given them to do in the location He has chosen to place them.

This family has now become an extension of my own, and I love them with a love that comes from above and is bigger than my heart can conceive. Thank you to so many of you (some I have never even met in the flesh) that have supported Baby Grace and her family financially and/or through prayer! I pray God's blessings rain down upon you for the part you played in this amazing story! To Him be all the glory!