Grace and Gratitude: More Than Enough

During the first two years we lived in Fargo, Dave and I were members of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. Our CSA delivered seasonal vegetables from spring until fall. We also attended a few “harvest events” where we picked our own veggies—pumpkins, gourds, melons, corn, green beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, cabbages, carrots, and more. At times, we could barely shut the car doors!

We ate or froze as much as we could, but still we had so much left. I hate to be wasteful, especially with such nutritious foods. So, we gave away all the surplus. We dropped off bags loaded with ears of sweet corn to our neighbors. Anyone who dropped by to visit left with us saying, “Here, take a bucket of potatoes! Do you like cantaloupe? Please, take two!”

CSA Veggies 2011

I love the parallel between the bounty we experienced and the plenitude in our lives. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2). It’s as if each blessing we receive has seeds to share. We cannot contain nor keep them all for ourselves! With gratitude, we can extend God’s love to others.

As we cultivate thankfulness, our lives overflow with joy. As we acknowledge God’s grace and love in our lives, He doesn’t give just a little joy…He gives an abundance! God gives us blessings because of His loving kindness to us. Every good gift is from Him (see James 1:17).

I love these song lyrics by Walt Harrah:

“Think about His love
Think about His goodness
Think about His grace that’s brought us through
For as high as the heavens above
So great is the measure of our Father’s love
Great is the measure of our Father’s love”

As you recall the blessings in your life, write them down. Praise God as you reflect on what He has done for you in the past. Be thankful for the present and look forward to the future. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

Giving thanks goes beyond material things. Money cannot buy love, happiness, or gratefulness. Our relationships are the greatest blessings from God. Being together and celebrating His goodness in our lives is more important than the stuff we have.


At Thanksgiving, we visit loved ones and listen to heartwarming stories. We eat delicious food and take part in family traditions. Growing up, my family often had a few extra place settings around the table for friends with nowhere to go for the holiday.

Since college and now in Fargo, I too, have spent many Thanksgiving celebrations with families other than my own. Friends have invited me to their celebrations because of the distance and timing of school or work responsibilities. I’m grateful for the generosity of all those friends, who in many ways have become like family to me.

Hopefully, you’ll see loved ones this week. If not, don’t be discouraged. Instead, take heart. Choose joy. Turn worries into prayers. In every situation, give thanks (see 1 Thess. 5:16-18). God is a good Father and loving Provider. Rest assured there’s a place for you around His table! He longs to fill your life with goodness!

“Let us come before His presence with a song of thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with songs” (Psalm 95:2).

Father God, thank You for the beautiful world You have made. Thank You for providing good gifts to us! Thank You for the love of family and friends. Help us seek Your sweet and refreshing grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Questions: What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? What are your greatest blessings? How can you be a blessing to others?


A Preschool Pick-Me-Up

Lydia and I were in the car earlier this week, listening to the radio on our way home. She was energetic after playing with friends, but I was feeling depleted. I wasn’t quite myself, and the dreary weather didn’t help my attitude.

Soon we heard these words on the radio: “Jesus, He loves me, He loves me, He is for me…” Now Lydia loves the original “Jesus Loves Me,” but this one, by Chris Tomlin, is a new rendition of the classic song.

Preoccupied with my thoughts, I hadn’t paid much attention to the song lyrics. Lydia’s matter-of-fact statement snapped me out of my funky mood. “Mom,” she said with a sigh, “Jesus already knows He loves me.” I smiled at her misinterpretation. In her childlike way, Lydia was irritated at the ‘suggestion’—as if Jesus could ever forget His love for us. As if!

With a jolt, I understood I needed the reminder of God’s love. I hope Lydia is always confident in Jesus’ love for her and boldly proclaims, “Jesus already knows…” To remember He knows what I am going through…to know He cares…and that He is with me is powerful. I can be joyful because of His love for me!

(photo credits: Becca Albertson)


For me, joy is found where gratitude, grace and peace converge. Giving thanks focuses my attention on God’s goodness. I find joy when I accept God’s grace in exchange for my effort and His peace for my chaos. Sometimes it just takes my preschooler to remind me!

This may be a difficult time of the year for you. I understand. Holidays can remind us of loss, as we miss loved ones around the table. You may feel lonely, but with Jesus, you are never truly alone. For me, it is bittersweet because later this week is Lydia’s birthday—her third one without Dave. Nonetheless, I will celebrate the beautiful girl God has given me!

I choose to rejoice in the small things, because those really become the big things! Lydia and I enjoy warm morning cuddles and making banana muffins together. We share silly jokes over popcorn, laugh at our ‘dollar store’ treasures, and pretend we can dance (ahem).

Similarly, I am learning to embrace a slower pace while Lydia is young. This requires making plans to rest instead of resting when my plans are finished (which rarely happens). This includes reading more good books together, instead of booking my schedule. I am thankful for the ability to do that right now because someday that will change.

“This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

True joy goes beyond feelings of mere happiness. Joy brings steadfastness in sorrow or uncertainty. We might not enjoy a difficult situation, but it’s possible to rejoice in the final outcome. My mom is a great example of choosing joy in the midst of pain. She is excited to undergo knee replacement surgery this week. My mom is thrilled to finally get relief after many years; her surgeon said her x-rays are the worst he’s ever seen!


Joy may look different for you. But we can all give thanks for God’s love.

Give thanks for His strength to stand firm during trials. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10).

Give thanks for His peace as He guides us on our journey. “You shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace” (Isaiah 55:12).

Give thanks for His presence along the way. He is always for us! In His presence is fullness of joy (see Psalm 16:11).


Lord, thank You for daily reminders of Your love. Guide us with Your grace. Thank You for filling us with joy! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What brings you joy? What are you thankful for?

Thank God for Our Soldiers

Today, we remember the sacrifices of those in the armed forces who fought on our behalf, many of whom gave their lives for ours. We celebrate them and thank them, for all they have given to protect us and preserve our nation. Family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers—just about everyone knows a soldier. Be sure to tell them ‘thank you’ today.


When I think of my own heritage, I am proud that my grandfathers enlisted in the Army and Navy, during World War II. But, the women also contributed to the fight for freedom.

“If no one is shooting at you, it’s a good day.” –Norah Yeagle

Norah was my dad’s mom, my grandmother from England. She met my grandpa, Allison, who was an American GI, while she was a bank teller in Bristol. She lived through the blackouts and dark days of World War II. After the war ended, Norah became a war bride and bravely left all she knew to move to central Illinois, where she raised a family.

My grandmother’s wise words really put into perspective the freedom our valiant men and women have earned for us. I attend the church of my choice and can speak freely without fear of losing my life or going to prison, unlike other places around the world. I can choose where to live and how to spend my money, largely because of the courageous effort of those who have gone before me. There is no room to complain when times get tough.

On my mom’s side, my great-aunt Pat was a nurse/medic in the British Army during World War II. She raced across the battlefield to rescue wounded soldiers, with bullets whizzing past her head. Talk about courage under fire! Aunt Pat met her future husband, Uncle Harold, in a ‘foxhole’… Imagine that!


What would’ve happened if all these brave men and women did not step up in the time of need? Where would you and I be today?

These soldiers put their lives on hold to fight for ours. And, don’t forget those currently serving and their families, who make many sacrifices for us too. Thank God for them!

We often think of bravery in times of intense action. This may include fighting in a war, taking a bullet for someone, or saving a stranger from oncoming traffic. Absolutely, yes! However, bravery comes in many forms. Courage is needed whether in the field or back at home.

Everyone has an important role.

In fact, it takes courage to have a difficult conversation and forgive someone. Courage is needed to set boundaries, know your limits, and grow as a person. It takes guts to say “Yes” to what is right, even when saying “No” to the other option brings fear, disappointment, or even judgment from others. Courage is required to face a future that looks different than expected.

Many people I know face chronic pain or debilitating disease, often putting on a brave face, showing more concern for others than themselves. It is admirable to move forward and continue living a full life despite the pain.

Often, courage requires a choice to go in another direction, to choose a difficult path instead of the easy one. It can be uncomfortable. You might have to stand alone.

But fear not. You are more than a conqueror. The battle belongs to the Lord.


God, thank You for the courageous men and women who fought for our freedom, and for those who are still fighting for us. Thanks for Your protection and provision. Thank You for making us brave. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Significance of Our Stories (Video Testimony)

“The thing about telling your story is that it helps you believe you have a story to tell.”—Sarah Mackey, NaNoWriMo

 There is freedom as we share the stories of our lives—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our stories have the power to encourage others on their journey. Stories have potential to turn a stranger into a new friend. We can connect with family and friends across generations. We can learn how to live a better life.

I have been changed as I understand the significance of telling my story. As I piece it all together, I’ve seen patterns in my story and these have helped clarify my goals and purpose. To recognize my imperfections, and be ‘okay’ with them is healing.

There’s a song called My Story, by Big Daddy Weave, and I love these words:

“If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him”

At the end of the day, how we frame our stories is vital. In Hebrews 12:2, it says that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Our individual lives and stories matter because they are part of His larger story. It is His story we are living.

As a writer, I love that some versions of Hebrews 12:2 even state that Jesus is the Editor or Finisher of our faith…praise God! I don’t have to write the perfect life story or know exactly how it ends. I can leave the precious details in the hands of the Artist.

We all face defeat or failure in our day-to-day journeys. But those moments are merely a paragraph on the page. As you consider your story, be strong and courageous. Don’t believe the lie that your story doesn’t matter. God can do far more than we can ask or imagine, if we let Him. Trust in Jesus for the victorious outcome. He is in control.


“Because Your love is better than Life, my lips will praise you!” (Psalm 63:3)

Recently, my pastor asked me to share my story (or ‘testimony’) about what God has done in my life. The recording (linked below) was used for a sermon series, with a few other videos. Our church was setting its core values which represent our church culture, and this one highlights the importance of being connected to each other in meaningful ways.

We were not meant to do Life alone.

I want to share it because it helps explain the unique ways God worked in our situation. As we experience God in personal ways, we can live the Life that He has made for us.

I also want to point out that the video is not really about me or anything I have done. It is all about God’s faithfulness to bring me through with His grace and love. God uses people to show His character traits; yes, we can be a willing extension of Him to others.

Of course, all the footage was edited down to only a few minutes for time and intent. Therefore, it only hints at the gratitude I have for all the help, support, encouragement, and general rallying around us on this journey. It has made all the difference for us.

Thank you!

You can find the video here:

Father God, thank You for redeeming our pain and rewriting our stories with Your grace. All glory, honor, and praise to You! Help us live Your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.