Finding Grace #43

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This week was rather low key…just how I like the last week of the year to be! This post will be rather short today, because there wasn’t much ‘new’ to report. However, God’s grace still abounds in the more mundane parts of life! 

I went to work this week, as usual, though some of my coworkers were ‘on vacation’ so it was quiet. Still, I was thankful to focus on my work and make progress on a couple projects as a result! Lydia told me she was proud of all my ‘hard work’!

This week I have been finishing up end-of-year details, budgets, and bills. Not super exciting, yet I was amazed to see God’s grace in my review. He always does a good job of providing for us! It can be challenging for me to make so many decisions on my own, but I am grateful for His help along the way.

In reviewing my budget and setting financial goals for the new year, I am excited to see what 2017 holds in store. God has been so faithful. I always want to be a trustworthy steward and honor Him with my money. I want to be generous to others and pray for wisdom to make good decisions in the new year!

Otherwise, Lydia and I have enjoyed a relaxing week. We’ve played games and watched movies together. We’ve snuggled, danced around the house, and made new recipes! A good week indeed! Happy New Year!

*******

These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

2016 Favorite Posts

Hello! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends!

For me, 2016 will be a memorable year. I had many fun experiences, and I’m thankful for all I’ve learned. I’m grateful for God’s gracious love and healing touch!

This week, I am wrapping up some end-of-the-year details and planning ahead. So, to wrap up 2016, here is an index to some of my favorite posts (in no particular order).

Enjoy these posts, and I will see you next week…in 2017! 🙂

1)To the Girls in the Bookstore

(Instead of talking to them directly, I wrote a note to the girls in the bookstore.)

2)Full Circle: A Gift From Around the World

(This post shows there are some things only God can do!)

3)A Note to My 29-Year Old Self

(For all those times you wish you could send your younger self a note!)

4)It Is Well

(A simple title, but it says so much.)

5)Because He Is Good

(This one made the top 5 list, and it still resonates with me!)

6)A Road Trip to Lake Superior

(A fun recap of a summer road trip! New friends and beautiful scenery!)

7)Learning to Love Plan B

(Sometimes Plan B turns out better than Plan A ever could.)

8)For When You’re Exhausted

(God never meant for us to do everything on our own!)

9)Water Heater Heroes

(I am thankful for God’s provision and good neighbors!)

10)Sharing Our Stories

(Who doesn’t love a good story?!)

11)Ctrl + Alt + Del

(A good post for when you need a RESET button…)

12)Baggage Claims and Packing Light

(As we go into the new year, here are some things to leave behind!)

13)Turning Trials into Triumph

(We have Victory because Jesus always keeps His promises!)

14)Because He is Faithful

(This post is all about God’s faithfulness!)

15)Here in This Moment

(Breathe in God’s grace each moment!)

Well, that’s it for now. Thanks for reading!

**********

Father God, thanks for an awesome year! Thank You for giving us Your strength, grace, provision, peace, and rest. As we go into this next year, help us keep our eyes on You. Please guide our steps and show us Your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Finding Grace #42

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This week was loaded with God’s blessings! My friend left on Thursday after a weeklong visit. We had the best time, and I am so thankful she came. After they left, a couple in my neighborhood delivered fresh cookies! I was touched they would go out of their way to stop by. We have mutual friends, but don’t know each other super well. So, I look forward to getting to know them better in the new year!

Other friends in our neighborhood invited us over for an impromptu dinner yesterday! We had steak, baked potatoes and fresh berries. Lydia and I had stayed home all day, as I had a lot of work to do. She did well throughout the day, but it was great to get out of the house and let her get out her energy by playing with the neighbor boys! We also received another round of delicious cookies (different than the day before).

I guess this week was all about the cookies! Lydia and I saw friends at our church’s Christmas Eve service this afternoon. After the service, one of the ladies had a gift for Lydia. We ended up inviting her over to our house…for cookies! We chatted for several hours about what God has been doing in our lives. This has been the best holiday season in about five years. As I finish preparing a few details for tomorrow, I am extremely grateful for the Lord’s grace.

*******

These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Gifts Galore

As I previously mentioned, this entire holiday season has been the best in quite some time! The last several weeks have stood out for many reasons. Each situation—including Halloween, Lydia’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Dave’s birthday—has seemed extra special this year. Praise God!

So far, Christmas has also been distinct. We’ve decorated more, started new traditions, and even skipped a few tasks. We’ve simplified where needed, but have also celebrated at a deeper level this year.

This year, Lydia and I are keeping it simple. I am enjoying the slower pace. Lydia…well, she’s super excited what’s already around the tree. I don’t go overboard, but loved ones have been sending gifts!

That said, I’m not super creative when it comes to gift-giving. In the past, I struggled if I couldn’t find ‘the perfect gift.’ Sometimes I would end up giving nothing if it wasn’t ‘just right.’ But I have since put off perfectionism and put on grace! And gift cards still count. When given with love, everything falls into place. It’s not so much the gift, but the heart that counts.

Jesus is certainly the most precious gift we could ever receive. At the same time, we give gifts to show love to each other. And, we show our love for God by living for Him—doing our best and giving our best back to Him.

I didn’t always understand this. I often felt like others had better gifts and talents—or were better at using them. Perhaps they were just willing to give whatever they had!

I felt like whatever I offered had to be super special…something extraordinary.

Yes, it took me awhile to figure out my God-given talents and abilities. Thankfully, I have learned so much these last few years. He can use anything given back to Him with the right heart. When we use our gifts to serve God and bless others, that’s when we find the most fulfillment, joy and peace.

When I didn’t have much emotional reserve, I brought my tears. I also brought my grief and uncertainty, fears and doubts. I guess you could say I gave out of my lack.

And in return for my weaknesses, Jesus gave me His strength. He also gave me even more of His love and grace, peace and joy. Yes, God has brought healing! He always gives out of His abundance! Gifts galore!!

This year I have seen beauty instead of ashes, color instead of shadows. He’s given me gladness in place of mourning (see Isaiah 61:3). And this holiday season, I have given the Lord praise with a grateful heart.

This week, we’ve had the honor of hosting a friend with her little toddler. Each day has been different but really fun. My friend made plans to stay with us months ago, and we have been looking forward to it. But her visit has also been such a gift to me!

We have visited other friends, watched movies, played in the snow, and shared childcare duties. We’ve enjoyed good food and stayed up late, talking and encouraging each other. These one-on-one skills use my strengths and bring me joy. And as we discuss what’s on our hearts, I can see more evidence of God’s healing my own.

This year, it really has been simple. I’ve been able to rest and give back to the Lord out of the abundance He’s already given me. And, as I have given hospitality, time, and friendship, I have been blessed with even more of the same!

**********

Father God, thanks for giving us Jesus. Thank You for Your gracious healing and dear friends. Help us give our best back to you each day. Change our hearts and perspective as we experience Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have special plans for Christmas? What was the best gift you have ever given or received?

Tasks:  Write down your God-given talents. If you don’t know your strengths, pray about it! Ask God and other people what you do best. Then, serve and bless others!

Finding Grace #41

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

  • This has been a really cold, but fun week. I suppose the ‘polar vortex’ has impacted the below zero temperatures and wind chills, but in Fargo, winter is always fairly cold. 😉 Lydia and I were out in the weather three nights for a work meeting, a Pampered Chef party, and a dinner party with friends. I’m thankful for a safe, warm, reliable car!
  • On Thursday, Lydia had her Christmas program at school. All the kids did a good job, and the program was very cute. We dressed up and had cookies afterward. I’m thankful for the flexibility in my schedule so I can be a part of her schooling. It means a lot to Lydia too!
  • We’ve had the pleasure of hosting a dear friend for a few days. We met in Fargo, but she moved away a year or so ago. She came to visit family and friends before Christmas. We’ve had fun entertaining her toddler these last few days!
  • Today is Dave’s 38th birthday. We are thinking of him, of course, but know he’s having the best celebration in Heaven. This year, it’s more sweet than bitter. I have many pleasant thoughts filled with warm memories. Praise God for His healing touch!

*******

These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

Hope and Healing for the Holidays

What a difference a year can make!

This year, my holiday preparations started back in September! One Sunday, I went up front for prayer during the church service. I asked the volunteer couple to pray with me; I was a little nervous about the upcoming holidays.

I needed peace and reassurance, because the entire last quarter of 2015—October through December—was pretty rough grief-wise. So I was praying for a non-repeat.

I’m so glad I asked for prayer.

Praise God, we’ve had by far the best holiday season yet. We’ve had many special moments with family and friends over the years, but this entire season has been good.

It’s not just what we have done—but also what we haven’t done—that’s different. We’ve hosted visitors, attended holiday events, and enjoyed new traditions, sure.

One thing we did not do: Send Christmas cards.

I felt I would have been running short on time to crank out cards to our many loved ones. And because our season has gone well, I decided to be still and take it all in.

Sure, the picture below is unedited (with other peoples’ heads in the way). 🙂 But, I have more peace and joy as-is. Honoring Jesus by not being so stressed feels way better.

Also, this season, Lydia and I reached a happy milestone! We decided to put up the ‘big’ six-foot Christmas tree for the first time in at least five years.

For the last several years, it was just too much physically and emotionally to handle decorating the tree on my own. It brought me more tears than joy. Yet this year feels vastly different—I am grateful for God’s gracious healing!

Last week, my neighbor helped me bring up the tree out of the dusty closet, so Lydia and I could decorate it. Now that she is old enough to understand more, it is so fun to see her excitement! Lydia is delighted with all things Christmas.

For me, this holiday season feels like a gift. It’s like I am seeing things in full color! To be honest, for the first time in years, I am truly excited to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ birth!!

I am already looking forward to Christmas, without even knowing my exact plans!

Instead of rushing through the season from one event to the next, I’ve taken time to pause and enjoy each moment. We hung a new wreath outside and bought new bright red, Christmas decorations for inside. We’ve played games, made treats and watched holiday movies. It’s been fun!

Dear friend, I pray you are also having a wonderful season of celebration. I hope you are able to feel the joy of Christmas. But, I also know how you feel if this feels like the worst season yet. Last year was unexpectedly difficult for me. So, I’ve been there!

Maybe this year you need to simplify your decorations or buy something new. Or, quite possibly, you might just skip decorating altogether. I understand!

It might be less stressful to stay home for Christmas or maybe you will feel better by traveling to visit loved ones. I’ve done both!

Yes, each season has its own unique challenges. Remember to treat yourself well.

Ask for help, when needed, and adjust your expectations.

If you want to read my holiday posts from last year, click here for the start of my December 2015 posts. I hope you are encouraged!!

You may feel like each day is a battle, when everyone else is laughing and carrying on. You might have to fight just to put on a smile. I get it.

I also know the best thing you can do…. Whether you are facing fear, loneliness, discouragement, or immense sadness, bring it to Jesus.

If you feel like you have nothing to bring to Him for Christmas, bring whatever you have. Your honesty is precious to Him! He can handle it and use it to heal your heart.

Jesus loves you deeply, and He will never leave you alone.

You don’t have to have your life perfect…Just come!

Someday, Life will be good again. It will get better! But, it’s going to take some time to heal. Let our dear Savior King touch your spirit with his grace and love.

Linger in Jesus’ presence. Even if that is all you can do today, that’s okay. The rest will come. Take it one day, one hour, or one minute at a time. Don’t forget to breathe. Conserve your energy, and reserve your best for Jesus.

In the midst of your struggle, God is there. His plan for you is GOOD. Remain close to Him and you will find peace and grace in your time of need.

**********

Father God, thanks for Your gracious healing. Thanks for making all things new. When our hearts are burdened with grief, pain, or discouragement, remind us to turn to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Do you have any special holiday traditions? Who, or what, are you missing this season? How can I pray for you?

Tasks: Find someone you trust and ask for prayer. Find a quiet spot and just be still before the Lord. Let Jesus fill your heart with peace.

Finding Grace #40

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

  • We welcomed full-blown winter weather this week! We had a blizzard on Tuesday, which meant an unexpected snow day for us. A blizzard on the Great Plains does not necessarily mean tons of snow. It has more to do with the lack of visibility. Because of that, Lydia’s school was closed and I worked from home.  It felt like an ‘extra’ day, so that was fun! Later, I shoveled and used my snow blower to clear the snow drifts!
  • I had several good one-on-ones with people. During one meeting, I received meaningful feedback regarding a personal project. And, then a new friend came over to visit. She and I discovered we were quite alike, so that was so much fun!
  • My neighbor offered to help me put up our large Christmas tree. It has been in the closet for at least 5 years, mainly because it was physically and emotionally challenging to put it up on my own. This year, Christmas feels joyful as I see everything through Lydia’s eyes. So, I am so grateful my neighbor encouraged me and helped me set it up on Thursday! We also ate homemade cheesecake, sot that really ‘helped’!
  • This weekend, Lydia and I have been enjoying holiday traditions, such as watching Christmas movies and listening to seasonal music. Tonight, we attended a Christmas program at church. It was fun to see all the kids use their God-given gifts (singing, dancing, and playing instruments). Maybe Lydia will be up their next year or so!

*******

These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

The Greatest Gift

After Lydia’s birthday in November, we sent out around ten thank you notes. Her job was to decorate each card with stickers. So when she started grumbling, I told her, “Well, if you aren’t grateful, I’ll just tell everyone NOT to send you gifts next year. Then, you won’t have to worry about saying thanks.” That seemed to do the trick!

Then, on Monday night, we read the Nativity story at bedtime. We’ve been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. I love how each story ends by pointing back to the Lord!

I usually ask Lydia questions to see if she can recall the main points.

Lydia has been interested in the night sky for several months. So the other night, we discussed the special star God placed in the sky at Jesus’ birth. She asked about the gifts Jesus received from the wise men. We chatted about frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

I also asked, “Did you know Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever receive?!”

Naturally, with Lydia’s birthday not too far from Christmas, this intrigued her. “So then, why do we give each other gifts?” She wondered out loud.

“Well, we show God’s love through our gifts.” I replied, in awe that she even asked. “It’s one way to celebrate what Jesus has done for us.”

When it comes to Christmas, I’ve been upfront with Lydia about Santa Claus. I have nothing against Santa, but I prefer to focus on Jesus and teach Lydia about Him.

And yes, Lydia knows not to tell her friends about Santa! Though, it is a little funny when an adult asks her, “So, what’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?”

In those moments, Lydia looks confused and concerned…like she’s thinking… “Wait, they don’t know about him?! …Well, I’m not going to tell them. Hmm…but what should I say?”

Up until last year, Santa wasn’t an issue for us. But then Lydia’s imagination kicked into high gear, and she started asking what was real and what was pretend. It became difficult to explain the nuances of make-believe cartoons versus shows with real actors.

Lydia questioned, “Is the person in that movie real?” I didn’t think much about it at first. “Well, yes. The person really exists, but he’s an actor who is pretending.”

Before long, Bible characters were examined, too. “Mom, was Jonah real?” … “Hey, my Daddy’s name was David! … So was King David real too?”

I answered Lydia’s questions, but was unsure if she understood.

When the holidays came, Lydia quickly applied the same ‘logic’ to Santa. “Why does the Santa on tv look different from this one in the book…and the one at the mall?”

I felt the need to address Lydia’s confusion in a truthful, yet sensitive way.

I decided to tell her the truth about Santa using a familiar example. “You know how Daniel Tiger (a PBS cartoon) is not REALLY real? He’s make-believe. Well, Santa is not REALLY real either. It’s fine that everyone talks about him, but he is just pretend.”

(Yes, St. Nicholas was real, but Santa has become quite different in our culture.)

Lydia took it fairly well. For about ten seconds, she looked a little surprised. “Oh.” And, then she asked about Rudolph, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. “Yep, their pretend too.” Twenty seconds later, with a quick, “Oh, okay,” she was onto the next thing, unfazed!

For me, this all is pertinent because there are bigger concepts at stake. Dave died when Lydia was not quite 18 months old; therefore, she doesn’t really remember him. So, over the years, I’ve done my best to answer questions about Dave and Heaven. Still, she occasionally she gets fuzzy on the details.

But whenever her thoughts drift toward Dave, I don’t want Lydia to ever doubt that Dave—and his love for her—are real! He loved her so very much!

Similarly, I never want Lydia to be confused about Jesus, because He is our only true hope in this chaotic world. Jesus and His love for us are most certainly real!

Last night, as I wrote this post, I asked Lydia, “Does it make you sad that Santa isn’t real?” To my surprise, she shrugged and answered, “No.”

Curious, I asked, “Really? Why not?” Lydia didn’t hesitate in her answer. “I’m not sad, because I still get gifts!” I laughed at how simple it is for her. Lydia isn’t going to sweat Santa; she knows she is loved. And to her, the gifts are evidence of that love.

Clearly, each child and each family is different. Therefore, everyone should handle these topics in their own way. But as Lydia reminded me, when talking about Santa and gifts: “Mom, Jesus loves me MORE than that!” Yes, Jesus truly is the greatest gift ever.

**********

Father God, thank You for the gift of Jesus! In Him, we have everything we need. Help us be generous with others and spread Your love in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: How do you handle Santa in your home? What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Tasks: Consider ways to highlight Jesus this season. Check out Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. For kids, check out Star from Afar!

Finding Grace #39

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

poinsettia

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

  • This has been a busy, but good week. I rearranged a few things in my “normal” schedule, to give me more flexibility in other areas. Besides my regular work hours and Lydia’s preschool schedule, I had a deadline this week, three extra meetings with various people, an oil change, and Lydia’s annual well-check at the doctor. So while they were all good events, it took some creative planning!
  • When my dad was here visiting last week, he noticed a hazardous problem with my garage door. He temporarily fixed it, but didn’t have all the right tools. So, I promised to have someone look at it. I asked my neighbor for a reference, and he suggested someone. Thankfully, the man came right away and was able to fix it promptly, so no more damage occurred! Praise God, it was an inexpensive repair!
  • My other neighbors gave us a pair of ice hockey tickets yesterday to watch the local team play. Lydia and I had so much fun! We hadn’t been to a hockey game in almost two years, so this time, Lydia really got to enjoy the experience and atmosphere. She cheered, danced trying to get a t-shirt, and asked a million questions! We were so thankful for the opportunity!
  • Today, Lydia and I went bowling with another dear family. My friend, Amy, is a widow like me, so we try to get together regularly and support each other. We had a great time with the kids, and we enjoyed good conversation. I always leave encouraged that someone else understands the ups-and-downs of our journey!

*******

These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?