On Feelings and Frostbite

Yesterday (Tuesday), I had the opportunity to speak at a local moms group. By request, I shared my story in light of making end-of-life decisions. My goal was to provide perspective and offer basic information for these moms.

Through a casual conversation, we discussed wills, trusts, life insurance, and more. To be clear, I am not an expert on any of these topics. But I have experienced the how-tos and what-not-to-dos.

I also recommended these ladies consult with an attorney, accountant, and/or a financial planner. I don’t recommend taking a lot of unwarranted risks in these areas!

I really enjoyed speaking with these moms, and afterward, I went to work like usual. But the emotions caught up with me there (unexpectedly), as my coworker and I just-so-happened to discuss similar topics. Gotta love God’s timing!

Occasionally, I still get a little teary-eyed when discussing all we went through with cancer. And lately, I have been reflecting on our journey more anyway…

I know March will be here soon, and I can’t help but think of two important times. First, I recall March 2010 when Dave found his job in Fargo. We moved later that year, which set the stage for other big life changes.

I’ve also been thinking of March 2013 when Dave was so sick and near death (he died in May that year). That was a tumultuous time and we felt desperate.

This flux of emotions tends to cycle through periodically, though as we move toward March, I have felt it more. Perhaps that’s because we are also fast-approaching another milestone: the five year anniversary of Dave’s death.

Yesterday, we also received several inches of snow. That’s not unusual for February, but I still had to blow snow in the dark of morning and shovel twice. For me, snow removal builds character (ha!), but yesterday, I was more reflective.

In the afternoon, I shoveled away the snow and contemplated my sadness. The physical activity was good for me and channeled my emotions into something productive.

I thought it would be a quick job, so didn’t change out of my work clothes. I wore lightweight dress pants and my lightweight gloves. I didn’t wear a hat and my hood kept falling off. I wanted to work quickly so my fingers wouldn’t freeze!

After about twenty minutes, I thought about going inside to warm up. But, I was still praying through my emotions and just wanted to finish. I threw more snow on already-high mounds. It was difficult because it required a lot of effort to corral the snow!

Soon, my fingers weren’t cold anymore—they were numb.

It was only when I came in about fifteen minutes later that I noticed my fingers again. They were bright red and tingled, like other parts of my skin. There was no frostbite, but that’s not unheard of with extreme wind chills like we have in Fargo.

Thankfully, I had gotten through both the snow and the rough emotions.

Praise God, I felt so much better!

As I put away my snow shovel, I thought about how people manage their emotions in a similar manner. Many people try to ‘shovel away’ their sorrows, without actually understanding the pain. It’s like having spiritual or emotional frostbite.

They bury sadness and grief, frustration and remorse, anger and resentment without dealing with them. They don’t allow themselves the time to heal. Some people freeze their feelings, becoming numb and unable to function properly.

For me, the pain can still feel rough at times, though it has gotten much better overall.

Nonetheless, I still allow myself to feel my emotions and pray them through. The feelings don’t last forever, and I know it will be okay…sooner or later.  

Like snow, healing is messy. It can be difficult work to decipher our feelings and keep them contained. Yet, I always learn more about myself in the process. Reaching a new level of healing or self-understanding isn’t always fun…but it is a valuable gift!

Yesterday, I was also reminded of God’s grace and goodness. Only He can bring full healing. And, the more I share my story, the more grateful I become.

God has been so faithful to me. He has provided for me in ways I cannot even explain. Despite my losses, He has never let me down. What Victory!

Yes, when everything feels like it is falling apart, Jesus is there. He is greater than my pain or problems, and He loves me through each trial. He protects me and allows me to be myself—feelings and all. By His grace, He holds me together!

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Dear God, thank You so much for your grace and goodness. Thanks for taking such great care of me. Please direct my path and guide me on this journey. Thanks that I don’t have to get stuck emotionally. I choose to move forward. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you experienced any signs of spiritual or emotional frostbite? Will you let Jesus handle it?

Tasks: Listen to ‘King of My Heart’ by Kutless and ‘I Will Call Upon the Lord’ by Elevation Worship. Write down your feelings and experiences in a journal. Trust in Jesus!

It’s Totally Unfair!

This has been an… ‘interesting’… year already. I have seen God direct my path and use me to make a practical difference in other peoples’ lives. But, honestly, I’ve also seen some things that seem totally unfair to me or others…

For example, recently a friend slipped on her child’s Legos in the dark, hitting her entertainment center—with her face.  She busted her nose and needed major surgery. An accident yes, but still unfair.

Another friend had to forgive someone for major offenses when they clearly didn’t deserve it. Forgiveness is required for that relationship to move forward. But it’s definitely not fair.

I have seen friends struggle with various injustices, such as discrimination, financial difficulties, and health problems, too. It is easy to see how anger and resentment build up.

My own story is complex with its own challenges and I know yours is, too. We don’t have time to rehash or compare our stories here… Besides, these issues are not always bad—though at times they really do seem unfair.

Most of us, if we allow ourselves, could easily go down the “poor me” path or the “this would be better if” road. But one thing is certain: Complaining doesn’t help.

If our emotions are allowed to run the show, we will get stuck and never move forward! Instead, I have learned the best thing I can do is redirect my focus back to Jesus. When we bring Him our fear, pain, sorrow, anger, resentment, and embarrassment, He gives us hope, healing, wholeness, peace, forgiveness, and joy.

We can trust Jesus through and through. As both God and man, He has a unique perspective. He understands what each of goes through because He has been there, too.

You see, Jesus faced the same types of battles. Quite often, He didn’t know where His next meal was coming from or where He would sleep. Yet, He was expected to help people at all hours of the day/night. He was often put to the test and judged unfairly. He was used by the people but rarely thanked.

Also, Jesus was like a local celebrity so He was scrutinized at a higher level. He never could win over everyone—but He reached out to help as many as would receive Him.

All Jesus did was done with love. He healed people and comforted them. He even raised the dead back to life! He taught new ways to love and used His own life as an example to follow. Yet, he was still rejected.

Then, at the end of His young life, Jesus was wrongly accused and suffered a horrible death on the cross. Completely unfair. But to Jesus, we were worth it. He loves us so very much!

When I compare my conditions to what Jesus faced, I have no room to grumble. Jesus was well-acquainted with the ups and downs of life. So… if Jesus had to struggle, then we have no excuse.

At least we are in good company!

By definition, grace is an unmerited or unearned favor. Yes, God’s grace toward us is also unfair! We don’t deserve any of it!

Thankfully, God does not see our uncertain circumstances like we do. He can see the end from the beginning—and His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours.

Trials have a way of refining us for the better—though it may take some time to see how. But no matter what we face, God loves us and is for us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He leads us and guides us.

God never changes. And no problem or difficulty—however big or bad—can change God’s goodness toward us. He has us covered!

Yes, God’s grace is unchanging, unfailing, unrelenting, unearned—and praise God, totally unfair!!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for Jesus! Your everlasting love and abundant grace toward us are beyond unfair. Thank You! Help us have the right attitude as we walk in grace, love, and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you respond when life seems unfair? Can you trust Jesus?

Tasks: Listen to “O’Lord” by Lauren Daigle and “Grace that Won’t Let Go,” by Mark Harris

Magnifying the Lord (and Other Divine Moments)

I believe it was Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” When we are going through something difficult, we have a tendency to make the problem our focus. Also, we can get bent out of shape if someone else is doing better than us. We compare our failures (or lack of progress) to someone else’s successes.

We can also lose our joy when we only bring the Lord our worries and complaints, not our praise. Yes, He cares about every detail in our lives, but He is worth so much more!

Thankfully, our setbacks are no match for God’s abundant grace and power. Instead of acting defeated, we can choose to magnify Jesus…not our problems.

I love this example from the Gospel of John:

In John 3:22-36, John the Baptist’s disciples were concerned that Jesus’ ministry seemed more successful than John’s ministry. At that point, people were going to Jesus more than John. But John was not jealous of Jesus and didn’t see Him as a threat.

John knew he was called to point people to the Messiah—and that’s what he did. He was faithful. I love how in John 3:30, John the Baptist humbly magnified the Lord.

Yesterday, on my way to work, I prayed like I often do. However, I felt discouraged and had a lot of questions for God. I was also confused because something just. seemed. unfair.

Nonetheless, in prayer, I gave my concerns to the Lord, thanked Him, sang a song, and asked Him to direct my steps. I chose to come to Him for peace and help, knowing He cares for me and is greater than any of my problems (real or perceived!).

Then, at work, something unexpected happened. A friend from church popped into my office! She recognized me but wasn’t previously aware that I worked there. We caught up for a few minutes and briefly shared what God was doing in our lives.

We discussed some nutrition topics, but soon our conversation turned to the concerns I had just been praying about. I hadn’t planned on telling anyone, but it felt good that she understood. It seemed the Lord directed our conversation!

As my friend stood to leave, I was struck with an idea. “You know, I was planning to attend that worship event at church last Friday night, but at the last minute, a friend really needed help. I had wanted to go, but felt the sacrifice of my time was worth it.”

This special event had been on my calendar for weeks. I was looking forward to what God might do during that time. I was anticipating something good! Yet, in the moment, I decided to stay and help my friend. I made the best decision but wondered if I missed out.

I continued, “So on Friday night, I prayed about my decision not to go, saying ‘Lord, I can worship You anywhere, and if You have something specific to say to me, then I trust I can receive a word from You anywhere, too.’”

To my amazement, yesterday God showed up and spoke encouragement through my friend. Before she left, she hugged me and prayed for me.

Cue the happy tears!

Oh God be greater, than the worries in my life
Be stronger, than the weakness in my mind
Be louder, let your Glory come alive
Be magnified”

–From the song, “Magnify,” by We are Messengers

Yesterday, I was in awe and deeply touched. God cares so much to speak to me in personal ways… He is so good!

Only God knew… I needed a special word from Him on Tuesday instead of Friday!

I truly believe that if I was still focused on my problems, instead of the Lord, then I would have missed the chance to talk to my friend and be refreshed.

I don’t know exactly how God will handle my problems. But I do know He is working on them for me. I don’t have to worry or be afraid. I can trust Him and magnify Him.

He is greater!

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Oh God, be greater than the worries of my life. Be stronger than my fears, doubts, and questions. Lord, wherever I go and in all I do, be magnified. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How can you magnify Jesus in your life this week?

Task: Listen to the song, “Magnify,” by We are Messengers.

Jesus is Greater

For the last two weeks, I have been scribing the Gospel of John with friends. We are enjoying the process so far, which includes people in eleven states. My friends have invited their friends, too!

It’s amazing how much more I have noticed when going slow and writing it down word-for-word. We are each going at our own pace, but checking in as we go. I have divided each chapter into sections so we just post on what we are currently working on.

I’ve noticed everything from punctuation to chronology, such as the timing of miracles and Jesus’ calling of his disciples. I can sense John’s attention to detail and the honor he must’ve felt when writing about his dear friend and savior. I can also see God’s love pouring through each page and each interaction.

Already, I am amazed at how many times the religious leaders ask Jesus to prove Himself and His authority with a sign. Yet, we do the same thing.

We pray and then immediately want to see our prayers answered. We ask for guidance and then want something to pop up (out of nowhere!) to show that we are on track.

But we can trust in Jesus, the Living Word. He is greater than all things because He was before all things and created all things. He was in the beginning with God…

I love that every single time someone asked Jesus to help, He did. To start, He turned water into wine! And later, He provided food, healed the sick, calmed a storm, and raised the dead…

He met with people in everyday places: weddings (Cana), funerals (Lazarus), drinking fountains (woman at the well), and in the middle of the night (Nicodemus).

When we understand just how much Jesus loves us, we don’t need a sign. We can do what He says (obey) and let Him work out the details on our behalf.

He knows what is best for us and loves to provide us with all we need.

When we pray, we can have confidence that God hears us. We know He is moving, even when we don’t see something happening. We walk by faith, not by sight.

It’s not always easy. In fact, I know lots of people who are going through really tough situations right now. Life hasn’t gone according to plan.

Like Nicodemus, you may have a lot of questions for the Lord. He is the Answer.

Even Jesus went through brutal circumstances, too. He was often judged and misunderstood. His own people used him for miracles but then rejected him. He gave and He gave and He gave. Yet Jesus was rarely thanked for all He did.

Then, on top of that, He was crucified…and still chose to forgive. Wow…

I don’t know the exact details of your situation, but Jesus does. He cares deeply about all you are experiencing. With His help, you can do all you need to do.

Whether you need a friend, provision, peace, healing, mercy, or forgiveness, come to Jesus. Or, maybe you need to do the forgiving—if you let Him, Jesus will enable you to rebuild and move forward with Victory.

Cling to Jesus. He loves you beyond measure. Whatever you need, let Jesus help. With Him, nothing is impossible!! Praise the Lord!!

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Father God, thank You for Jesus! Lord, you are greater than anything we face. Please give us wisdom and courage. Help us to do what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you believe that Jesus is with you and for you? Will you trust Him to help you?

Tasks: Listen to the song ‘How He Loves Us‘ by the David Crowder Band.

 

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree… So apparently, there are several versions of this song, but now that it’s probably in your head…my work is done. 😉

O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson
That constant faith
And hope sublime
Lend strength and
Comfort through all time.
O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson

While I enjoy the smell of real Christmas trees, Dave and I received a ‘hand-me-down’ artificial one years ago. Dave loved the ornaments, and we always enjoyed decorating it together. I’ve noticed some of the lights are out, but overall it is still in decent shape.

When Lydia was really little (our first Christmas without Dave), I bought a smaller tree and new ornaments because it was just too difficult to think about the big tree. I have come a long way, but it is still bittersweet.

After this year’s Thanksgiving, my dad brought the tree upstairs for me and helped me set it up. Then it sat there until last week. I had brought the ornaments upstairs, but I felt myself postponing it…

So last Friday night, I decided not to ‘fake brave.’ Lydia and I decorated our six-foot-tall Christmas tree for the second time since Dave died. (Last year was our first…and perhaps the first time Lydia has had a more active role.)

This time, we listened to Christmas music while decorating. Lydia was thrilled!

At first, I too, was excited. But as we opened each box of ornaments, I grew more nostalgic. Maybe it was related to the Christmas music. As we opened each box, memories flooded out. Lydia was completely unaware, however.

She was completely in her element, placing all the ornaments just within her reach. Her approach to life reminds me of Dave. “Mom, isn’t this fun?!”

While I never burden Lydia with my grief, I do try to be honest and model that it is okay to show our emotions. So, I mentioned I was a little sad.

As usual, Lydia’s reply snapped me back to reality. “Well, it’s okay to be sad, Mom.” She continued, “But you could try to be happy and enjoy your time with me!” She said it so sweetly, it was hard to disagree.

Ever-practical, Lydia was right. My mind was on Christmases past, instead of focusing on the present. Besides Jesus, Lydia is one of the best gifts God has given me!

 Thankful for Lydia’s outlook and gentle reminder, I took her cue and was glad.

 As I thought about our conversation, I gained a new perspective: This is why Jesus came.

Not only did He come to save us from our sins, but He also came to take our burdens.

When we let Him, He gives us love, joy, hope, and peace. He eases our pain and suffering.

He restores and renews what has been broken.

Hearts included.

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Dear Jesus, thanks for all You do for me. Thanks for carrying our burdens and for bringing us peace. Thanks for renewing our hearts and minds with Your grace and truth. Help us stay focused on You this holiday season. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a real tree or an artificial one? How is it decorated?

Tasks: Let Jesus carry Your burdens and give you His peace instead.

Taking Heart and Giving Thanks

Ah, November. Halloween is now over, and so we are in the holiday season!
In writing this, it hit me that this is also the season where so many personal celebrations occur. In years past, this was a very difficult time. Now, I am surprised it’s already here!

The fact that it snuck up on me after all this time is (I think) a good sign… that or I’ve lost my mind! 🙂 Last year was the best holiday season thus far, and so I hope this year will be the same or even better.

Lydia’s birthday is just before Thanksgiving this year. Then, in December, we have several family birthdays. I’m sure we will do something special on Dave’s December birthday, too.

Of course, there’s Christmas, followed by New Years, and our wedding anniversary in early January. I’m not thinking that far ahead, but the fact that I am not dreading ANY of it is worth noting.

This year, I’m extremely grateful. The road has been rough at times, but here we are four-and-a-half years later. I’m still standing—and even looking forward to this season. Praise God!

For anyone who is struggling, I’m so sorry. It could be grief-related, or due to other factors. I understand the mixed emotions that occur at any special event…but perhaps even more at this time of the year.

In years past, there were times when I didn’t even feel like celebrating. I just muddled through it as best I could. I let go of my expectations and took extra good care of myself, too. Instead of rushing, I rested.

This is my fifth holiday season as a widow, and each year has been so different. I plan to take it easy this year, seeing each moment as a blessing.

I wish I could say it’s easy, but each of us experiences grief, loss, and/or the holidays on our own terms. That’s perfectly alright. Take heart, and do what you need to do. Those who love you most will understand.

Since we are in the Thanksgiving season, perhaps one way to give thanks is simply to praise God for where you are right now. If you are in turmoil, this is especially important. Instead of shutting Jesus out or staying self-centered, find something—anything—for which to be grateful.

Even small wins count. Hey, we’ve made it this far, right? Praise God for that!

You don’t have to thrive in every single moment. Surviving still is a Victory in my book.

If you want to build gratitude, start with being grateful for this day…this moment. Start there, and then add to it. Write down your blessings. Don’t forget to breathe.

As you survey all that God has done for you, take in His abundant grace. His love really is all you need. Also, don’t fake brave. With Jesus, you don’t have to pretend. You can ‘ugly cry’ with Him! (Trust me, I know!) Let Him soothe your heart like only He can.

You may have a wide variety of emotions during this season. That’s normal! But take your heart to Jesus and remember: God alone never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is with you. He is for you. And, His love never fails!

God’s strength will give you joy and courage. If you let Him, Jesus will take your anxiety, fear, doubts, questions, even your tears. He knows exactly what you need in this season.

So take heart. Trust Jesus, and be grateful.

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Dear God, thanks for taking such great care of me. Thank You for showing me Your love and grace in every moment. Please be with me during this holiday season. I cannot make it one minute without You, Jesus! Give me joy and be My strength. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Are you thriving or surviving this holiday season? Are you willing to let Jesus carry you through to Victory?

Tasks: Worship always brings me comfort. It helps me express my heart on days when I am struggling. To start, listen to this song: “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher.

Grace for the Freak Outs

This past weekend, I was right in the middle of making lunch when Lydia rushed into the kitchen. “Mom, come here! I need to show you something in my room!”

I thought she might be ‘crying wolf’ and I couldn’t really stop what I was doing—unless it was a real emergency. So I asked, “What’s wrong, Lydia?”

Already back in her room, she yelled down the hall, “There’s a rip in my comforter!” Then, she quickly added, “And I don’t know how it got there!” Funny how she covered her bases… 🙂

I shrugged, then replied knowingly, “Oh, that’s okay. I already saw it. Don’t worry about it!”

To Lydia, it was a big problem…She wanted to fix it right away. I noticed the rip a few days before she did. Yet, her over-reaction was precisely why I didn’t mention it earlier!

The comforter—actually, a multicolored quilt—has held up surprisingly well over the years. I received it as a pretty birthday gift when I was young. It is special to me, but certainly not an heirloom. Hopefully repairs can be made… but it was never meant to be a long-term solution for Lydia’s bedroom.

As I thought about our brief conversation, the Lord spoke to my heart.

When problems arise in my life, I often want a quick fix. I often want to do it all myself! But He sees it differently. God sees opportunities for character refinement. Qualities like patience, gentleness, and perseverance are far more important than my present comfort.

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He sees the end from the beginning. He already knows the solution long before the problem even appears.

Wow, what grace! God knows more about my problems than I do!

Jesus is not only the ultimate problem solver, He is the SOLUTION. I, for one, have no clue how each random problem will unfold. Yet, no detail is hidden from the Lord.

Some of my problems are resolved quickly and easily, while some linger for what feels like forever. Yet, His thoughts are so much higher than ours and His wisdom is unsearchable. Indeed, nothing is a surprise to Almighty God!

At the end of the day, Lydia is not bothered by the fact she doesn’t have a different, newer comforter. She trusts that I have her best interest in mind. In fact, she seems proud that I let her use it! Someday, I’ll certainly let her pick out her own comforter.

Mainly, I’ve been holding off because if I buy something now, she probably won’t take care of it. At this age, her interests change as fast as the latest fad. I want something that will last, and for now, my old quilt works well enough…

As for me, instead of worrying how to make ends meet, I will keep trusting the Lord. I won’t freak out over each little problem. He loves me dearly and has never let me down. I will not miss out on any good thing He has for me. He always takes such good care of me!

God’s timing is perfect. His plans for me are far greater than I can imagine. Someday, I will look back and wonder why I was so concerned with____________ (fill in the blank). For now, I’m beginning to see the wisdom in not telling me the details too far in advance!

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God, thanks for taking such good care of me. You know all about my problems and You guide me through each one. Help me see You instead of focusing on the chaos around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Is there a problem that is causing you to freak out or over-react? What is the Lord asking you to do next?

Tasks: Remember, God knows more about Your problem than you do. Trust Him!

A Lunch Lady in the Library

On Monday, Lydia and I attended a conference with her teacher at school. I’m grateful Lydia is doing well so far. Even better, her teacher also mentioned Lydia has been helping other students. I’m glad she is confident in the material and can tutor others (as needed) at her ‘pod’ of desks. Her eagerness to help others reminds me of Dave’s servant heart.

On Monday, I also volunteered to help with the PTO book fair in the school library. I ran one of the cash registers and rang up book orders. I met some new faces and saw a few friends!

Lydia joined me in the library. She walked around looking at books; played quietly with another worker’s daughter; and returned books to the shelves for me if someone changed their mind. She loves to help!

One cheerful volunteer said she works at the school as a lunchroom supervisor (aka a lunch lady). She happened to be a PTO member, as well. She said, “I worked today and then stayed longer to set all this up. Then, I went to my kids’ conferences and now I am here.” She was very friendly and didn’t seem to mind her extra-long day.

A little while later, during a slower moment, I asked, “Do you have a position on the PTO?” She seemed quite knowledgeable to me! With a laugh, she replied, “Oh, no. I don’t have a position. I just jump in wherever is needed!”

I loved her attitude and eagerness to help. I felt she exemplified a good life lesson: You don’t need a title or position to serve. You don’t have to wait to be asked. Just jump in where you see a need!

Later, we continued to talk. I joked, “Way back in high school, I cashiered at a grocery store, so this is right up my alley.” She nodded and said, “Well, hey, I worked in a bank for four months….so I’d say we’re qualified!” 😉

From time to time, I suspect most of us don’t feel up to par with all that is required of us. I certainly don’t always feel qualified for whatever task or position I am called to do.

But, then I remember that God made me on purpose. He has given me my personality, abilities, strengths, and even weaknesses, for a specific reason. My circumstances are not a surprise to the Lord. He knew what He was doing!

Indeed, God has also used my life experiences (the good and bad!) to shape me. He instilled passions in my heart that are unique to me. He uses each of these areas to equip me and prepare me for all I need to do. My opportunities for both growth and advancement come from Him. I can be still and trust Him!

If I do my work as unto the Lord, I don’t have to worry about what others think. In fact, it’s not about what I do or don’t do… Jesus already did the most important work on the Cross. Thus, whether I succeed or fail, it’s a win-win in the end. I am covered by His grace!

God has a good plan for my life (and yours). Surely, He created us for such a time as this. So we don’t need to be afraid—we can jump in with confidence, knowing He’s got it under control. He’s so faithful!

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God, thanks for giving me Your strength and grace. Thanks for equipping me and qualifying me for each task. Help me do my best and bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Where do you find your confidence and strength? In your own abilities? Or in God working through you?

Tasks: Instead of trying to solve each problem on your own, ask Jesus for help. Let Him direct Your path and goals. Trust Jesus because He is the ultimate solution.

A Cop-Out or A Call-Out

You’ve probably heard the following adage: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’ve also heard our past can make us bitter or better. So, it seems to me that there are two ways to look at all of our past trials and how they prepare us for the future.

I can choose between fear and faith.

Regarding cancer and Dave’s death…

Fear could say something like: “Well, that was terrible! How many more awful things am I going to have to endure? What’s coming next? Woe is me!” As you might guess, it could quickly turn into a downward spiral…

Thankfully, I kicked fear to the curb long ago.

Instead, I choose to see all I’ve gone through with eyes of faith.

Faith says, “Wow, that was rough! But look how God brought me through! I’m still standing! God won’t waste my pain… I can’t wait to see how He uses this for His glory and my good!”

Fear points out all the problems in my life—the cannots, the impossibilities. Fear rejects outside help, reinforcing that I am all alone in my struggle.

Faith points me to Jesus—with whom nothing is impossible. Faith accepts His power and grace—with Him, I can do all things!

Fear keeps me from moving forward, saying “maybe later.” Fear hinders growth.

Faith unlocks courage, never-ending potential, and adventure. As I pursue new possibilities, I am empowered. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Fear reminds me of everything I am not. Faith repeats what God says, who I am in Christ.

Fear is crippling, but faith makes me hold my head high with confidence—not in my abilities, but in His.

Fear is often rose-colored glasses, remembering what was. Faith acknowledges the pain and grief, yet clings to Jesus for what can and will be.

Fear can be a cop-out and brings condemnation. Faith calls me out and requires grit.

Fear gives up easily, due to exhaustion and worry. Fear never sees a reward or goodness.

Faith takes endurance, yet yields expectation and wonder. Faith pays off in the end.

Fear is subtle. I never realized its hold on me—until all my worst fears came true.

Fear is not from God. Yet, He used those terrible experiences to teach me that I don’t have to choose fear. Jesus set me free with His unfailing love and grace!

My Victory did not come easy. It was a tough lesson to learn. Indeed, I have suffered major losses with long-term impact. I’m grateful nonetheless.

“See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.” (Isaiah 12:2)

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Heavenly Father, thank You for the Victory we have in Jesus! Thank You that we don’t have to live in fear. Forgive us for our unbelief and help us walk in faith. Help us trust you for good things ahead! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Which do you tend to choose most often: Fear or faith? Are there some changes you need to make?

Tasks: Don’t be afraid! Our past challenges and present circumstances do not disqualify us from a good future. Jesus makes all things new! He forgives us and gives us new opportunities. Choose faith!

Finding Grace #83

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 week was full of God’s grace! Lydia and I spent a little time with lots of friends this week. We have friends in town right now for the sugar beet harvest. It’s not October without them here! I also had lunch with another friend this week and spent time praying with several people.  It was a blessed week!

Monday was a big day for me in terms of being brave and embracing God’s grace. I had several other moments this week to not fake brave, as well. I’m so thankful for how much I have learned and grown these last few years!

Tuesday and Wednesday were full with work and other activities. I bought a new light for my entry way and notified the electricians so they can help install it next week. I also bought groceries and cleaned the house… you know, all those important tasks! Yet, I am grateful to have a flexible schedule to get everything done in a reasonable time frame.

I love autumn. Today, Lydia and I spent most of the afternoon with friends on an outdoor adventure! We went on a little hike and treasure hunt. Mostly, we found pretty leaves and a few cool bugs. But we ‘walked to Minnesota and back’ via a pedestrian bridge. We also tracked an ‘alligator log’ through the Red River. Finally, we ended up at Cherry Berry for frozen yogurt! It’s been a beautiful day!

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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)!