Finding Grace #72

I love 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?

Today, I am praising God for another beautiful week. The weather has been hot, even after a few rain showers. That’s summer… 🙂 We stayed inside during the heat of the day, but then spent time out in the evenings.

Otherwise, it was somewhat low-key with work and writing deadlines. A couple friends helped watch Lydia during my work hours, so I was glad to save some daycare costs.

In turn, I watched some of the neighborhood kids on two occasions while their parents went out. It was a blessing for me to help others; Lydia had fun playing with her friends! It was really funny on Thursday night when I used the radio app on my phone so all the kids could play musical chairs in my front yard! I’m sure it was quite the scene for all the passers-by on the bike path and street!

I worked hard all week to get things done, so on Friday, Lydia and I had a free day. We meandered around town, ran some errands, and went to lunch! Then, we hung out with the neighbors and had dinner with them. It was a much-needed rest day!

Today, we are relaxing, cooking food for a busy week ahead, and finishing up a few tasks around the house. Several of the neighbor kids came over to play, too. They rode bikes, played ‘water buckets’ and ran through my sprinkler, among other activities. It’s been a great end to another grace-filled week! Praise God!

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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)!

Writing Reflections

This past weekend, I went to my first writers conference. The conference was held in St. Paul, MN, which is about 4 hours from Fargo. I arrived on Friday afternoon for the Saturday conference, then spent another night before returning home Sunday afternoon.

In order to attend the conference, however, I needed help with Lydia. Childcare is perhaps my biggest challenge as a single mom. Often, I have to make up my mind to do something, and then figure out how I am going to make it work with Lydia.

This is true for conferences, parties, appointments, concerts, certain church meetings, etc. Many times, I just decide the event is not worth the hassle of figuring out child care. But, if I do choose to attend, I trust the Lord to help me make it work.

This weekend, my family came to the rescue! They trekked several hours to meet us in the Twin Cities. Then, they took Lydia to explore the Cities while I was at the all-day conference. Lydia was glad to have grandparents, aunts, and uncles all to herself!

I was grateful for their help…Lydia was grateful to go to Mall of America!

At the conference, I saw several agents, acquisition editors, and publishers. I heard them speak at workshops and at a panel luncheon. I have followed some of them over the years, so it was a really cool experience to see them in the hallway, like any other person!

While I’m not currently ready to publish anything specific, the conference itself was a good confirmation that I am on the right track with meeting my goals. Thank You, Jesus!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the conference was that I didn’t have to explain that I am a writer. You might be thinking, “Well duh, you were at a writers conference!” But it’s common for writers to deal with self-doubt.

In the past, seeing myself as a writer was a challenge. So, I prayerfully invested in a couple online programs and learned to see myself in a new way. Consistent blogging has been helpful, too. Just putting myself “out there” has boosted my confidence in writing.

I’ve come to see writing as a means to document my journey and reflections on life, what God is doing, and how I interact with others. Writing helps me learn more about myself and the world around me.

This past weekend, it was great to ask people what they are writing or answer questions about my own projects. Just having taking people take me at ‘face value’ was refreshing. Even if I didn’t have anything to “show” that day.

In the past, I might have gotten stuck or discouraged. But to my great relief, I was able to see just how much I’ve grown! Praise God!

Our Heavenly Father is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He knows how our stories end, because He sees the end from the beginning of time. In fact, our own stories are wrapped up in His larger story. So, we can trust Him as He leads us!

As we read His word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, God shows us who He is…and who we are, too. We just have to read it and embrace what He says.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we understand about ourselves. It’s a great investment of our time, and by His grace, He calls us like He sees us!

We are saved. We are forgiven. We are free. We are chosen. We are loved. We are redeemed. We have new purpose. We are called. We are empowered. We are His.

Perhaps you don’t enjoy writing… Maybe God wants you to do something different…like stay home with your kids, go back to school, volunteer, change your diet, forgive someone, or introduce yourself to a neighbor. It can be scary to put yourself “out there.” I know.

But ultimately, we have to make a choice to trust. Jesus is faithful and more than able to get us where we need to be. We just have to take the first step.

With His unfailing love and support, how can we fail? Let’s see ourselves like He does and cooperate with Him. We can’t go wrong! And who knows, maybe soon, you will be doing something you never thought was possible!

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God, thank You for putting Your dreams within our hearts. Thanks for walking with us along the way, giving us guidance. Help us see ourselves as You do. Help us be brave! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a dream that seems impossible? How can you trust God and take the first step?

Tasks: Write down all the reasons your dream seems unachievable. Then, write a Bible verse next to each reason, such as Philippians 1:6 or Philippians 4:13. As you pray through each verse, redirect your focus on Jesus and trust Him to help you!

Finding Grace #71

I love 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?

When I reflect back on this week, I am so grateful. I am in awe of how the Lord meets my needs, but also helps me bless others. When I think of all that He has done for me, I am reminded of how small I am. Yet, He cares for each of us and orchestrates our lives as they intersect. Only God could take care of so many details and make good out of chaos!

I have been enjoying my new bike, and have even gotten in some longer rides. A friend stayed with Lydia one afternoon so I could go explore for an hour. It’s cool to see how much more “involved” I become when pedaling around my local area. I feel like I have more freedom and can get closer to things I otherwise wouldn’t even notice. Thanks, Lord!

I convinced a dear friend to buy a workout pass at a local fitness center so we could go together. I don’t belong to a gym, but it was a really good deal. To maximize our experience, we decided to try new classes we wouldn’t normally do. (We purchased ten sessions.) It helps going with a friend to try new things. This week, we tried a Barre class. It was a little sore the next day but had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to go again!

A few months ago, I took a leap of faith and signed up for my first writing conference. Well, that was what I did today! It was such a good day. Really, it was something I didn’t know I needed…but was so encouraged by all I heard and learned. It’s great to feel like I am on the right track! We worshipped the Lord, met other writers, and attended breakout sessions and panel discussions. I saw some ladies from my church and we might meet up again to encourage each other in our goals. God is so good!

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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)!

Dear Younger Me

This week, an online friend asked her other friends to give their best life advice in three words or less. She then asked her audience to write what advice they would share with their 16 year-old selves. (This is applicable when looking back at any age, really!)

I was inspired and wrote, “Find the good.” Then, I reposted her questions on my own page. I loved reading all the phrases! Afterward, another online friend shared it from there.

All week, I have been following each of the three posts for catchy little words of wisdom. It’s amazing what a little time and distance can do for our perspective. The things we thought mattered often don’t amount to much. Experience is a great teacher!

Some people answered with a humorous approach. I saw advice such as, “Chill out, lady. Don’t do that!! Go to sleep. Be Wonder Woman. Eat more cake.” Haha, yes!

Some people turned the focus back to God, writing, “God is good. Jesus loves you. Jesus is Lord! In Christ alone. Put Jesus first. Walk with Him. Trust in Him.” Praise God!

Some of the comments focused on character qualities, like, “Be thankful always. Be kind. Be more honest. Be the good. Be adventurous. Be flexible. Save your money.” I agree!

Some phrases were more inward-focused, almost like personal coaching. “Just breathe. You are enough. You are loved. You are beautiful. Let it go.” So good.

I also noted other words along similar lines. “Don’t settle. Trust your instincts. Follow your heart. Embrace the imperfections. No regrets. Never give up. Make it work. Life goes on. Take the chance. Don’t be late! Forgive, move on. Just be yourself.” Yes!

I had just a few phrases of my own, originally. But then I kept refining and adding to my list! I was trying to collect all my thoughts and capture all the others shared already. 🙂

Life is beautiful. Sure, life is tough…but it is quite beautiful when we pause and take it all in. Beauty surrounds us in nature and in each person we meet. Let’s take notice.

Find the good. Sometimes the negative parts of life are glaring back at us. But it takes a special set of eyes to find the good. See beyond the present moment. See the potential.

Do your best. Just show up. These two can go together. We can only do our best each day and trust God for the outcome. Part of doing our best is to show up and be present.

Set your mind. Whatever it takes. These two phrases also can go together. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Some days, it’s a challenge to stay focused, but do whatever it takes.

God’s got this. I use this phrase often, especially when writing blog posts, apparently! Whatever the struggle, I know God can handle it. He will empower me to do what I need to do, and then He will do what only He can do. He’s more than able!

Regardless of any advice we might share, what God says about us is key. I love you. I forgive you. No matter what. You are free. You are mine. Come follow me. Receive new life. Do not fear. I am with you. Nothing is impossible. It is finished. You are secure. Peace, be still. 

I will be thinking about all these great words of wisdom for quite some time. It’s encouraging to hear what other people find helpful. We all have our own journey and it’s important to monitor what we are telling ourselves. Let’s be gracious with ourselves. 

When we look back and summarize our experiences, even in just a few short words, we realize how far we have come. Thank you, Jesus… Life is short. Live it well.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for loving us so much. Your words are full of grace; they bring LIFE to our hearts. Be with us, Lord. Give us wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. Help us make good decisions, not choices we’ll regret. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What advice would you give to your younger self? What words of wisdom would you share with someone else? Which of these words (above) resonate with you?

Tasks: Share your advice (three words or less) here, or with someone who would benefit! Listen to the song, Dear Younger Me, by MercyMe.

 

Finding Grace #70

I love 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 was an exciting week! In addition to work and our normal activities, I met with two amazing couples from church. We had great conversations related to the class I facilitate as a volunteer. It’s always fun to learn how God made us and how we “fit” with everyone else!

A friend posted online seeking help for a swarm of honeybees. I suggested she call a local beekeeper to come get them. Thankfully, the swarm was captured and found a new happy home. It reminded me of my beekeeping years (and also the hard work involved in managing several hives!).

Tuesday was Independence Day. Lydia and I enjoyed a relaxing day and later celebrated our freedoms with neighbors, dinner, s’mores, a campfire, and fireworks. We watched a beautiful sunset, made even more awesome by a storm passing through. The lightning made a great backdrop for the fireworks!

Now that Lydia is good at riding her bike, I want to take rides together. I haven’t ridden much for quite awhile, years really, since before she was born. My old bike was not a good fit, and it needed lots of work to make it rideable. So instead, I bought myself a new bike! It is a lot more comfortable and fits me well. Already, we’ve enjoyed several miles together! We’re ready for some great adventures!

As a foodie and Registered Dietitian, I always look for new foods to try. Today I enjoyed a farmer’s market and a new food co-op! I walked downtown Fargo this afternoon and enjoyed the warm, sunny day. I didn’t buy much, but did sample a few things. I did get a couple items for Lydia. At home, we tried a coconut-date roll (not bad) and an apple cider drink (it was interesting…but probably won’t buy again). Anyway, I am glad we tried something new! I also helped Lydia make strawberry-infused water. 🙂

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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)!

Celebrating Our Freedom

I hope you had a great 4th of July! As Independence Day rolls around every year, it’s a great time to reflect on what freedom means. Despite our differences, we Americans have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for our freedom and all who have fought for us. God has graciously blessed America!

I certainly don’t want to take any of my freedoms, rights, blessings, or gifts for granted. Sometimes, however, these things can be difficult to define. I suppose each of us has a different perspective on what “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” means. That’s part of what makes America special.

On Sunday, we celebrated our freedom at church. At the core of America’s history is religious freedom. If the first European settlers had not come largely, due to religious persecution, we might not be here.

The United States has had many ups and downs over the years. But regardless of political tension or drama, America remains an exceptional nation. People all around the world come here for better opportunities. Some come for education, safety, a new start, or other reasons.

Both as a nation and as individuals, we are called to be a blessing to others. We have many immigrants who call our church “home.” On Sunday, we extended that blessing to people from twenty-one other nations. They stood up and said which country they are from and we blessed them. It was powerful.

It’s amazing to think that we have so many countries represented in one congregation! Some of these people have become American citizens and some will return to their own countries one day.  As we connect with each other, each interaction has potential to change the world.

As a Christian, I am also a citizen of Heaven. Spiritually speaking, I have even greater freedoms, rights, blessings, and gifts. I also have greater responsibilities to help others in practical ways. Thank You, Jesus.

Lydia and I had a rather low-key holiday, which is fine with me. We slept in! We sat on the deck and relaxed on my new red benches (see pic). I did a little reading, while Lydia played. Then, we enjoyed a bike ride around our neighborhood.

Later, we hung out with our neighbors. Together, we ate dinner, enjoyed the hot weather, and watched neighborhood fireworks around a campfire. We watched a gorgeous sunset of purples, oranges, and pinks.

As we made s’mores, God joined in the celebration. His lightning made an awesome backdrop for the fireworks! Lydia and I walked back home around 11pm, and around midnight, I enjoyed listening to a rain storm.

It was the perfect ending to a great celebration!

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Father God, thank You for blessing our America. Thank You for the freedom we have in Your Son, Jesus. Help us be wise stewards of all you have given us. May we show others Your grace and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What are you doing with your freedom? How can you be a blessing to someone else?

Tasks: Give thanks for your many blessings and freedoms. Look for ways to help others.

Finding Grace #69

I love 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?

I saw God move in many ways this week. I’ve received a lot of encouragement and practical support over the years, and I know how much of a game-changer that can be. So, now I challenge myself to look ways to help others. Sometimes, that means just encouraging someone; other times, I’m able to help in a more tangible way. This week, I was able to do that with two different friends with different needs. I am excited to see what God is doing in them, with them, for them, and through them!

The Lord graciously provided friends to watch Lydia. I had a work meeting out of town and preferred not to send Lydia to daycare the entire day. Then, God lined up my schedule perfectly so it matched up with my friend’s availability. On another day, a different friend watched Lydia early in the morning before daycare opened so I could maximize my time to meet an deadline. That day, Lydia was able to sleep in and I was able to reach my goal.

I love sticky notes. I generally have a million of them around the house. I’ve tried to go electronic, but still prefer old-school pen and paper. I recently decided to actually use my planner as a list-keeper instead of just a time-manager. (Great idea, I know!) Wouldn’t you know, I have felt less stress lately because I can write a task or project one time instead of over and over on various notes. Now, I can focus on just enough tasks for each day and cross them off once, yet still see progress on what I’ve accomplished. (It’s the little things…!)

I enjoy long holiday weekends! Today started off chilly, but has turned out bright and sunny. I ran about five errands (and didn’t have to wait long in line!), mowed the grass, laid down mulch, made sun tea (unsweetened), and worked on a few projects. Lydia played inside for a bit and has been outside too. The perfect day!

As I am writing this, Lydia is eating dinner on the deck. I ate with her but finished before she did. She would have finished sooner, but she’s been “yelling” back and forth with the neighbor girl who is patiently waiting to play. From inside, I just heard: “Hold on! I’m just eating now because my mom made me. I have two more broccolis and one piece of pizza. I already ate my strawberries. They are really healthy. Did you know that my mom is a dietitian? It starts with “d” and she tells people if they are making healthy choices or not.” 🙂

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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)!