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!

Cutting Hair and Change

Recently, a good friend asked me to cut her hair. She didn’t have time to get into a salon, and really just wanted a simple cut anyway. I am by no means a pro, and only trim Lydia’s hair periodically. Still, I was honored that she would trust me at such a personal level.

We had fun, though I decided not to tell her about the time I was assigned the chore of trimming our beloved golden retriever’s fur… that was back in my super-perfectionistic teenage days. Back then, I could envision the outcome, but couldn’t quite figure out how to get there. At first, I cut out cockle burs and matted fur…

Then I just kept cutting, trying to make it look even. Later, a concerned neighbor asked what happened because our poor dog looked like he got hit by a car. He was so embarrassed he didn’t want to go outside for a week!

Yes, I learned from that mistake and know when to put away the scissors now!

When my friend arrived on Monday, we took before and after pictures. We agreed on how much hair to cut—about six inches. I immediately cut off around four inches, because it was dry and tangly. But I wanted to be a little more cautious with the rest. You can always cut more hair, but can’t put it back after it’s gone!

Periodically, I stopped and we reviewed the progress in my bathroom mirror. Well, I’m happy to report that my friend was very pleased with the results. Her hair now looks healthier and has a lot of bounce. She seems even more confident with her new look!

As she learns to style her shorter ‘do, hopefully, it will save my friend a little time. I told her to search for any areas that were missed so we can make slight adjustments, if needed. Overall, it looks really good and she’s received several compliments.

Regardless of your preferred hair style, we can all use a trim from time to time. With our locks or lives, it’s important to rid ourselves of anything that weighs us down. It’s healthy to remove the dry or dead parts of our lives.

Sometimes, though, it can be a little painful to say goodbye to what has grown comfortable. Change can be scary at first! It’s helpful to have support and encouragement as we look at ourselves in the mirror to see what needs to go.

When we finally do make a change, it can be freeing! We wonder, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Well, perhaps that’s part of the learning process. At any rate, change usually ends up being the best option.

Change may require that we learn a new style or way of doing things. My friend will have to style her hair a little differently now, but that is also part of the fun and adventure. Let it bring confidence instead of dread. Just as a haircut offers a new look, life changes can offer new perspective.

In some cases, it is possible just to make small changes instead of one big jump to the final goal. Maybe a phased approach helps one grow accustomed to the idea of change. At times, little tweaks can be made rather than abandoning the outcome altogether.

Lately, I have been challenged to change a few personal habits. But other changes could include stepping out of your comfort zone to volunteer, apply for a new job, make a difficult phone call, write an important letter, or offer someone forgiveness. Just take the first step and everything else will fall into place.

 It was fun to see the positive difference a simple hair cut could make for my friend. May we all embrace change like a hair cut and see other good changes happen as a result. Change is not always easy, but in the end, it is worth it. One small change can lead to many others… with growing impact!

Praise God we don’t have to do it on our own!
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God, thank You for loving us as we are. Thanks for prompting us to change and for walking with us through the process. Give us wisdom and courage as we live for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Are there any changes you need to make? Do you have any funny hair cutting stories?

Tasks: See change as a great adventure, full of possibilities. Move forward in faith!

On Vision and Clarity

During a routine eye exam this week, I learned a ‘new word’: phoropter. Also called a refractor, it’s the device used to determine one’s prescription. The patient looks through the phoropter lenses while the eye doctor changes the dials, asking, “One or two, three or four?”

I was scheduled to see a new eye doctor, though he was running late. (I was glad to have extra time to read!) When the doctor arrived, I noticed he was paralyzed and sat in a wheelchair. I’m sure he required a little more time to get around. He quickly wheeled into the room, introduced himself, and started my eye exam.

When asked how my eyes and vision were, I explained my seasonal allergies have been ramping up this week. My eyes were a little dry that day, making my contacts uncomfortable and my vision blurry.

I could read all the letters through the phoropter, but it was a little more challenging than usual. Besides the blurriness, there was also a glare from the computer. I had trouble focusing because everything seemed foggy. I was frustrated. Finally, I told the eye doctor, “It’s almost as if these lenses need to be cleaned.”

To my surprise, he immediately wheeled out of the room and came back with cleaning supplies. He couldn’t take the entire contraption apart, but he did wipe off the external lenses. I was touched by his compassion and effort so I could see clearly. I’ve worn glasses and contacts for years, but I’ve never had an eye doctor who listened to my concerns like that!

While he cleaned, we talked about the device, its name, and how it works. Somehow, that led to us talking about our kids, his car accident over a decade ago, cancer, and Dave’s death. We talked about ‘seeing the good’ and having a positive attitude. I was impressed at his ability to keep moving forward, despite his paralysis. What fortitude!

In the end, the doctor said my eyes were healthy. Thankfully, my vision hadn’t changed much, yet he saw a lot of debris on my contacts. I was shocked because I just changed the lenses a few days ago. No wonder my vision was blurry! He made some recommendations like wearing my glasses as needed and using a special cleaning solution.

I went to get my vision checked, and left with a different perspective!

That got me thinking…

While I usually only need to visit the eye doctor yearly, I need to meet with Jesus every day. I wouldn’t forget my glasses or contacts… In the same way, regular contact with Jesus gives me focus. He helps me make sense of my circumstances and surroundings!

God has a special plan and unique vision for each of His children. Yet fear can cloud that vision and limit us from becoming all He intended. Fear blurs the path, causing confusion and uncertainty. Over time, we may even get used to seeing poorly!

But when we call on Jesus, He helps us see through the eyes of faith. We don’t have to wander around blindly; we can move forward with confidence and clarity. As we fix our eyes on Him, doubt and darkness flee. Our vision becomes clear again.

In the light of Jesus, we see God’s love and grace in living color. We then see ourselves and others through His perspective. With compassion, we can overlook weaknesses and find the good in each person.

Yes, Jesus brings healing, renews our vision, and restores our purpose. Praise God!

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Jesus, You are good! Thank You for loving me so much. Be my vision and be my strength. Give me clarity as You guide me on the right path. In Your Name, Amen

Question: Do you wear contacts or glasses to correct your vision? Does anything about this post stand out to you?

Tasks: Read these two Bible passages of Jesus healing the blind: Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 8:22-26. Write down any observations.

Easter Excitement!

I don’t know about you, but Lydia has been looking forward to Easter for weeks! She’s been learning about Easter at church and school. While she doesn’t understand all the details, Lydia has made some good observations.

A few days ago, I read a kids magazine to her before bed. The magazine, from Compassion International, explained that some kids in other countries don’t have access to clean water, shoes/clothes, or food. The article was thorough, yet simple enough for Lydia to grasp.

“Lydia, what if some kids walked through dirt or garbage, but couldn’t wash their hands or feet?” I explained, “That could bring germs inside their house and they could get sick.”

Ironically, the next magazine article was about humility and being a servant. We read in John 13 about the Last Supper, where Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. He chose to serve.

We talked about pride versus humility. To hit home the point, I asked Lydia if she’d ever wash one of her friend’s feet. Her response? “That would be kind of gross…but I could do it.” I got a good laugh out of that, but was glad for her honesty!

We’ve also had some points of clarification, such as when I said Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. “Mom, I know what ‘trade’ means like if I have a toy that my friend wants, I give it to them and they give me something they have. But, what does buh-trade mean?”

I love hearing Lydia’s thoughts and seeing her excitement. She may not have all the answers, but she does have the faith of a child. She knows Jesus loves her!

Lydia also seems to understand the real meaning of Easter. “Jesus dies on the cross for our sins. And, Easter eggs remind us that we were lost and Jesus found us—kind of like how you hide the eggs and then I find them.”

Then Lydia added, “By the way, Mom, are you going to hide the Easter eggs when I go to bed or in the morning before I wake up?” She’s sure excited!

At Easter, we celebrate the love Jesus showed us on the Cross. With compassion, He laid down His life for ours because we each owed a debt we could not pay. His sacrifice was the only way to restore our relationship with God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (see John 14:6). Jesus paid it all!

With His blood, Jesus washed away our sins. Jesus’ grace covers our faults and failures…past, present, and future. Praise God, His mercies are new every morning!

Because of Jesus’ death, we have forgiveness and freedom. Jesus is our righteousness and our defense. And because of His resurrection, we also have new life!

We have purpose, protection, and provision! We no longer have to live in fear; we can come straight into God’s presence. We are healed in Jesus’ Name!

God’s grace and salvation are for everyone. Have you received them?

If you belong to Jesus, the same power that raised Him from the dead lives in you and me (Romans 8:11)! Because of Jesus, we have Victory! Hallelujah!

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Precious Jesus, thank You for the Cross! You alone are worthy of all praise. Victory belongs to You! Thank You for loving me so much, Lord. May my life bring You glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Question: What does Easter mean to you? Have you accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross?

Tasks: Read through Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection story. Praise Jesus for His sacrifice!

Tender and Teachable

Lately, I have had several unexpected teaching moments with Lydia.

As a parent, the best teaching moments happen when I see something valuable in the present—when I am not rushing off to the next chore or task or event. I’m sure I miss many opportunities, but I am trying to slow down and take notice regularly.

One recent teachable moment happened on Saturday. For years, I have sponsored children in India through Compassion International. Unfortunately, due to Indian governmental restrictions and regulations, my sponsorship there ends today, which is heartbreaking.

Nonetheless, I prayerfully decided to keep my sponsorship active elsewhere. This time, however, I wanted to involve Lydia. On Saturday, I did a little research and presented options to her. Through the course of our brief discussion, we picked a little girl in Indonesia that shares Lydia’s exact birthdate. We chose another little girl in Ecuador whose birthday was that Saturday—the same day we were discussing sponsorship.

Lydia was really excited to learn these girls in other countries like to draw, color, and sing—just like her. Soon, my eyes started to tear up. It was already a teachable moment, but I was happy to see Lydia’s face light up with joy. We discussed how these kids are similar to her, even though their circumstances are very different.

We talked about giving and helping others in need. While I don’t have huge expectations, I will make sure Lydia has a more active role than she did before. She may write a short note as she learns her letters or draw a picture.

I pray her heart is always tender and teachable.

Then yesterday, Lydia had a cool experience all her own. Recently, she asked me if she could take a picture of her daddy to school. I checked with her teacher beforehand, and Lydia was graciously given the opportunity to share two pictures of Dave during Bible time. At home, I helped her rehearse what to say, but she had already made up her mind! I wrote down a few points for her teacher’s reference, just in case.

I have done my best to teach Lydia about Dave since she was so little when he died. I also have tried to guide her on the appropriate time to share. (I don’t want other children to worry about their parents getting sick.) Still, it is part of her story and I want her to be comfortable with it. I wasn’t there to listen yesterday, but I was so proud of her courage.

Her confidence amazed me! It reminded me that God knows what He is doing… I don’t have to worry about her! I’m also so thankful for her teacher’s understanding.

I find the Lord also gives me teachable moments when I am in His presence. Sometimes I need to just slow down enough to pay attention. In this fast-paced, high pressure world, it’s more important than ever to stay present with Jesus. There’s joy in sitting at the feet of the Master and Teacher.

Jesus shows me His heart and gives me grace when mine doesn’t measure up. He gives me wisdom and guidance when making decisions for my family. He helps me see important needs and provides the means to share with others. As I put my trust in Him, He teaches me I don’t have to worry or be afraid. Praise God!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for teachable moments. Thank You for the joy of Your Presence. Please give me a tender and teachable heart. Help me look for ways to encourage and bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had any teachable moments lately?

Tasks: Write down any lessons learned. Pray about how what you have learned and how that could help encourage or teach someone else.

Merging with Grace

Well, today’s post turned out differently than expected. I had a different—I thought better—piece written, but changed my mind late last night. I had been concerned with some key changes happening in my life…

I am starting a new job today!

My former workplace was acquired by a larger healthcare company through a merger. With this new opportunity, I have had mixed emotions. There will be some growing pains as with any transition. But all in all, I think it will be good. My job and my desk probably won’t change much right now.

It’s been a big prayer on my heart these last few months, so I was going to write something about challenges or transitions… But then I had a good, godly conversation last night and my heart changed. I also received a few well-timed messages from other friends. And suddenly, my “big concerns” just didn’t seem so important anymore!

Regardless of what happens, God is in control. My job may change, but He is unchanging. No problem or concern is too big for Him. Jesus loves me. His plans for me are good. Once again, He’s got this!

Now that I am excited for this new season and opportunity, my topic evaporated! So, I decided to go another route instead and share Scripture verses Ive been relying on lately.

We must build our lives on the solid Truth of God’s word…not our dreams, circumstances, or feelings! Praise God, I don’t have to be afraid!

Regarding Psalm 118:24 (above), it’s easy to praise God on bright, sunny days when everything seems to be going well. But we need to remember to praise Him on cloudy, difficult, or uncertain days too!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” A great reminder!

I also love 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” Amen! God sees you and knows how hard you work.

This next verse is similar. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”(Colossians 3:23, NLT). Another version says “work at it with all your heart” because really, we don’t work for a paycheck. Ultimately, the Lord is our Provider and we work for Him. Let’s be diligent!

God cares about every little detail and moment of our lives. Even the tough ones! “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, NLT). JESUS is your treasure and your reward!

I dont know how my new job will pan out. There are valid pros and cons on both sides. But, I can move forward with grace knowing God will work it out! I can give God the chance to bless me with my new job. I can let Him show me just how much He loves me—how much He cares.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for your grace. Thank You for being God so I don’t have to be. You are a wonderful Provider. Please bless the work of my hands. Give me peace and rest as I trust You to do the work through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Did any of the verses above jump out at you? How can you apply them to your work or volunteer situation? Do you have any verses to share with me?

Tasks: Write down meaningful verses on an index card and meditate on those words throughout your day. Write down a prayer to the Lord with the verse. Let it sink into your heart and bring new life.

7 Steps to Making Wise Decisions

It’s only January, but so far I have already made some big decisions that will have impact on the rest of the year. It has been fun to see all the possibilities! But it can also be challenging with all the unknowns. I don’t like a lot of risk!

Of course, in a perfect world, I would love to know all the details and have all my plans figured out in advance. But for me, that’s where faith comes in!

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT). In the midst of Life’s uncertainties, we can trust God’s plan.

God already sees the end from the beginning. His plan for you is GOOD and He’s given you everything you need to follow that plan. Yes, He’s got you covered!

Those who know me well would say I am a thorough decision-maker and planner. But some choices are worth more than others. And at times, I have two options that appear equally beneficial. Occasionally, I have the luxury of putting off a decision; I can delay making a choice until I have more details.

While that stability is great overall, it can also make me slow to make changes. Sometimes big decisions won’t wait that long! My ‘strength’ can become a weakness when I really should jump… instead of stall!

Thankfully, I have several steps to help me decide faster when I need to!

It’s not a formula, but it does help me avoid regret!

1.     First, I pray for wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it! I picked up this phrase from a friend, but I like the dual purpose. I usually remember to pray for wisdom, but sometimes I can still be afraid to do what I need to do. I cannot make wise decisions if I am not seeking the Lord. At the same time, I cannot move forward without courage. More often than not, this means doing it afraid!

2.     Next, I make a pros and cons list. This seems obvious, but once I get all the information down on paper, it stops swirling around in my head. As the fog of indecision lifts, I gain clarity on what really matters.

3.     Then, I consider my feelings and motivations. While I can’t make decisions based on feelings alone, I do gather input. Am I excited about this opportunity? Do I feel strongly that it is important? Why do I want to do this?

4.     Taking it one step further, I separate my passion from my feelings. Each of us was born for a unique, God-given mission. Our passion can point us in the right direction. That doesn’t mean it is easy, however! In fact, it can be tempting to give up or walk away when challenges come. The danger is that we may not fulfill God’s call on our lives. Often, those tough moments are what God uses to refine us. So, I discern whether I need to stick with the commitment…and lay aside my feelings…or forgive someone…or make other changes. If God leads me to something, I can trust Him for the next steps in His timing. I don’t want to quit when God wants me to stay and grow!

5.     I also review some lessons learned from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. In brief, this includes counting the personal cost. Do I have the time, resources, and energy for this? How will it affect my family and other commitments? (and much more!)

6.     I consider the long-term impact of my choice. How will I feel about this in 6 months? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? (You get the idea.) If we are not careful, we might make decisions too quickly without considering the sustainability of the choice.

7.     Last but certainly not least, I seek wise counsel. When weighing every option is too much for me on my own, I need help. This is NOT rehashing my problems with everyone I meet. This is intentional discussion with those who love me enough to tell me the Truth. I present the facts, concerns, pros and cons to those I trust so they can give me feedback. Typically I ask for input from godly people who are older and wiser (or, someone who has been through something similar). I regularly ask my parents, aunts/uncles, pastors, and other friends who have insight to share.

For me, many of these steps are fluid. I may go back and forth between them until I have peace. If I don’t have peace, I hold off until I do. This has saved me so many times!

Praise God…Jesus is the Prince of Peace!

Then, I sit back and have confidence. I know I gave it my best shot. And, if for any reason I was wrong, God still has my back. It might be a learning experience or a blessing in disguise. He will work it out for my good and His glory!

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Father God, thank You for grace and love! Thank You for providing peace and joy as we serve You. Please give us courage as we make wise decisions, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you make decisions? Do you have anything to add to the list above?

Task: Identify one or two trusted friends or advisors the next time you make a big decision!

Work In-Progress

Lately, I have been reading several articles and opinion pieces about the election. Although, it seems everyone has a slant these days. There is much ‘passion’ on every side.

But, I have to remember: There are opinions… and facts. And then, there’s the Truth!

If I were to put too much stock in it all, it could be easy to give in to fear of the unknown. But change does not have to mean doom-and-gloom.

Despite the craziness of the election and its aftermath, God’s power, grace, and love for us are not diminished. Indeed, God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind (see 2 Timothy 1:7)!

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And while I see the big picture, I am also reminded that our corporate responses do not negate our personal responsibilities. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

In other news, Lydia’s birthday is less than a week away. She’s excited for her special day! Of note, I am using this ‘opportunity’ to reevaluate what I am teaching Lydia. I think it’s wise to do this from time to time, anyway! 🙂

After all, I am her ‘first’ teacher!

While Lydia was interested in the election, I felt it was still important to maintain the same boundaries I always do when discussing adult topics. (We’ve already dealt with some pretty heavy topics—such as death and cancer—these last few years.)

I always tell the truth, but I don’t share details that are beyond Lydia’s age and comprehension. I don’t want to confuse her, burden her, or make her needlessly afraid.

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Someday Lydia and I will talk about bigger, more complicated concepts. Sure thing. But some issues can be broken down into smaller ones right now. These topics include the power of our words, not gossiping or blaming others, and not taking offense.

It can be overwhelming at times, on top of our other daily tasks. But lessons on character, friendship, and serving others are always appropriate. We read books on a variety of topics, role play certain scenarios, and talk about life together.

As a single mom, I do the best I can each day. We are all a work in-progress, and of course, I don’t have all the answers. But I rely on God’s help through it all.

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I pray Lydia will truly understand God’s love for her. I pray she will love God and walk her unique path with Him all the days of her life. I pray Lydia will be compassionate, that she will put God’s love in action as she seeks to help others.

Of course, I want Lydia to know that she is capable of doing many wonderful things, if she is willing to work hard. We each have an advantage area, but success is never guaranteed.

Regardless of what life throws at us (fair or not), we don’t have to have a victim mindset. With Jesus, we are more than conquerors. I encourage Lydia that she can do all things she is called to do, because Jesus will give her His strength.

I’m teaching Lydia to be responsible for her choices. Oh boy, this is a tough one to teach, day in and day out. Currently, this means reinforcing first-time obedience and some daily chores. Little by little, she’ll get there.

Lydia’s also learning what gratitude is, and attempts to write thank you notes. At this point, this typically means a hand-drawn picture with stickers and her name on it. 🙂

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Slowly but surely, I am teaching Lydia to master her emotions. A life-long challenge, this goes beyond simple optimism or having a good attitude (though, that always helps). Feelings can change in the matter of a few minutes, but harboring negative emotions won’t resolve anything.

Ultimately, we are blessed to be a blessing. We are called to love others and be respectful, even if we don’t always agree with someone. What I teach Lydia at home, will have lasting impact not only in her life, but also those she connects with.

One by one, we each have the opportunity to serve others and make a difference.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for being with us in the daily struggles of life. Please give us wisdom. Help us to love and honor each other, despite our differences. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Have you learned anything ‘new’ lately by watching current events? Are there any changes you will make in your personal life as a result?

Tasks: For the next news article or opinion post you see, look for the original quotes, facts, or figures. Compare the conclusions!

Turning Trials into Triumph

Happy September! We had a great first day of preschool on Tuesday! Of course, Lydia did awesome. I kept it together (mostly) and tried to enjoy the change of pace as well!

First Day of Preschool 2016

Though, on Monday, Lydia played with several friends in the neighborhood. One last hurrah! Thankfully, Lydia was out of earshot when a little girl asked me:

Where’s her father?

Surprised at the question, I explained that he had been sick and is now in heaven. The little girl nodded her head with genuine concern and said, “Oh… that happened to my dog, too!” And then she went back to playing with the other kids.

What a perceptive little girl! She must’ve known all the other dads were at work. While I didn’t expect her question, I was glad she had the courage to ask. Her cute little response made me smile!

Then, on Monday night, Lydia and I talked about preschool as we ate dinner. I told Lydia how proud of her Dave would be. I also reminded her of what she could say if someone asks about him. It doesn’t happen often, but I want her to be comfortable and prepared.

After we laid out Lydia’s new outfit, a sparkly green dress, I painted her nails to match. Then, we read The Night Before Preschool and said our prayers. Lydia was asleep in no time. She was ready

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ME, on the other hand?Let’s just say I needed some time with Jesus!

There wasn’t anything really ‘wrong.’ I was excited for Lydia!

But emotions welled up as I reflected on how far we’ve come—and my conversation with our new little friend. The actual words hadn’t bothered me; it was an honest question. But I was upset that we had to have the conversation. A subtle difference, sure!

I couldve wallowed there for quite some time. Ahem. But I didn’t. I took it to Jesus, because I know He loves me so much. And praise God, He helped me turn it around!

I gave Him my sadness and concerns. I chose to praise the Lord with thankfulness instead. Then, slowly my heart grew glad as He reminded me that He will go with Lydia.

And, yes, He’s got this!

Psalm 145_13

Now I’m taking a *wild* guess here, but I bet you are facing some changes or challenges of your own. Maybe it’s a really good transition you have been praying about, like a new job or school. Or, perhaps there are heavy burdens on your heart—things you didn’t see coming. An unexpected circumstance popped up and you don’t know what to do. Maybe you have been dealing with the same difficulties for awhile with no relief in sight.

Don’t worry. God’s got this!

At the beginning of the school year, teachers often conduct a basic review to assess what  students have already learned. It can also be helpful for us to review all the trials God has brought us through. When we see our circumstances in the light of His goodness, we can see He has a plan. And, we can trust Him more going forward.

The Lord excels at turning trials into triumph!

(To be clear, I don’t look at how far I have brought myself, for that is not worth much.)

It’s the Lord who has carried me all these years. He is my Shepherd!

When I don’t know what to do, He is my Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace.

His Presence is always with me, and He will never leave me to fend for myself.

When I am afraid, He is Protector, my Shield, my Refuge, and my Defense.

He loves me with an everlasting love. (Which is A LOT!!)

I know God has good plans—filled with hope—for my future.

He always keeps His promises; He is faithful to complete every good work He starts.

Yes, it’s safe to say Lydia’s in good hands this year. Besides having wonderful, caring teachers, God’s got her covered. Of course He does…He loves her even more than I do!

And if you let Him, God will take good care of you too!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for all the ways You care for us. Help us make the most of these new opportunities. Help us grow in grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What changes or challenges are you facing? Do you believe God can handle it?

A Note to My 29 Year-Old Self

This week I am celebrating! Not only is it my birthday week, it’s also the one year mark of making my blog public. Can you believe it?! I feel it is still a work in progress, but I am so grateful for you all. Thanks for sticking with me! 🙂

birthday candles

Dave often celebrated my birthday week. That’s because one year, he forgot the exact date and decided to give me gifts every day! He was pretty smooth like that.

These days, celebrating my birthday, like many other things, is different without him.

Typically, I’ll eat lunch with a friend, talk with lots of friends and family, and get a massage. This year, I am also taking Lydia to a local (minor league) baseball game. She’s been asking to go all summer, and the fireworks at the end might be a special perk!

Around my birthday, I like to look back on the last year and set some goals for the next. For whatever reason, this week I also considered all that has happened since moving to Fargo six years ago this month. It’s bittersweet.

Grace mug_Eph 2-8

I have noticed many major life events have occurred since my 29th birthday. In short:

I was twenty-nine when Lydia was born. While Dave and I were thrilled to be parents, the sleeplessness threw us for a loop! Five months later, we were just starting to sleep well when Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. After 364 days of fighting cancer with Dave, I became a widow and single mom at the age of thirty.

Hence, the last few years have been a continual adjustment (and readjustment). So much has changed. But far be it from me to complain!

chocolate cupcake

Have you ever wished you could tell your former self how something works out? Hindsight brings clarity! I can’t explain it all in a simple blog post, but God has been so good to us.

Someday I’ll have all the words… but not today. So for now, with much gratitude, here’s a note I wrote to my 29 year-old self!

Hello, dear Self,

I know you cannot comprehend all that the next few years entail. You can’t possibly fathom the pain and struggles that lie ahead. But God does—and He’s got this.

You don’t realize this now, but fear has been a constant presence lurking in the back of your mind. It limits your decisions at times.

Yet God knows this—and He’s going to free you from all your fears. What’s more, as He destroys old mindsets, you will learn to walk in Victory. The whole process will certainly be scary, but He will lead you through. Trust Him!

Sometimes, this journey will make you question everything you believe about God. But He is big enough to handle your doubts and fears, your anger and resentment.

He’s got this.

There will be moments you can barely breathe. You won’t know how you’re going to make it. When you think you cannot take anymore, you’re right. But take it to Jesus. He is your hope and firm anchor. Let Him carry the burden for you. He cares for you deeply and knows exactly what you need.

When you feel like giving up or running away, stand firm. The battle belongs to the Lord. He is your shield, your protector, and your defense. He’s got you covered!

When everything falls apart, you will see God holding together what remains. He is your rock and your salvation! Everything that really matters is secure in Him.

Yes, dear Self, life gets rough up ahead. It can feel quite heavy at times. But don’t worry. God’s got this! In fact, there is much good along the way.

New goals and dreams, new purposes and plans. Long-awaited answers to prayer.

God will use these experiences to show you just how much He loves you. He will prove His love and power are stronger than any difficult thing you will (ever) face.

 And yes, He’s absolutely got this!

It won’t be easy, but in time, you will see the pattern of grace. From this side of it all, it actually IS amazing. When the dust settles, you will be grateful. And despite all odds, you will still wake up with wonder at this life you get to live. What a gift!

What felt like defeat, was really training grounds for a new path. Where there was doubt, trust will deepen. In place of despair, hope will rise. In the midst of pain, you will find peace and beauty. You will flourish!

Praise God—He’s got this!

So do not be afraid, dear Self. You are always loved, never alone. God will not falter. His mercies are new every morning, and His grace is more than enough.

Keep your head held high, because the best is yet to come. God is working all this for good, even when you don’t see how. It will be beyond your wildest imagination!

Seek God’s grace and goodness each day. Rejoice in the Lord’s unfailing love and faithfulness! Most of all, hold on tight to Jesus.

Cling to Him for He is your strength and your life.

And you know what? He’s got this!!

XOXO,

Your 30-something Self

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Gracious God, thank You for bringing me through with Victory. I celebrate your loving kindness—You are so good to me! Bless this next year and help me live for you! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you ever written yourself a note like this? What words of wisdom would you write?