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.

 

A Punch Bowl of Blessings

“That’s a pretty punch bowl, Natalie.” An older woman and I were talking on Sunday.

“Thanks! You know, the funny thing is, I have had this punch bowl for nearly ten years—it was a wedding gift—and I’ve never used it! So, I loaned it out for an event and am taking it back home. My friend was the first one to use it!”

I’m guessing my generation is probably the last group to add this to a wedding registry. The generations after me likely won’t even know what a punch bowl is!

My late husband, Dave, died four years ago, and while I appreciated the generous gift, clearly, it was not something we desperately needed. So for now, this beautiful punch bowl was returned to the original box under my stairs. But as I put it away, I felt a little silly.

I started to wonder, “How many other gifts did I ask for but haven’t used?” Hmmm… what I thought was important back then… really wasn’t.

God has blessed me with both material gifts and spiritual gifts, and I don’t want to take any of them for granted. Just like punch in a bowl, our blessings are meant to be shared.

Am I using those gifts as intended or are they sitting on a shelf somewhere? Am I helping others? Am I a refreshing source of God’s sweet love and grace… or not? 🙂

Both gifts and punch bowls are associated with celebrations. Even though I’ve never used my punch bowl, I still have plenty to celebrate! Over the years, I’ve hosted or joined lots of parties. Graduations, weddings, job promotions, new babies, holidays, etc.

But most often, I enjoy celebrating God’s goodness and grace in everyday life. I relish the freedom that comes from knowing His love. I’ve learned to extend myself the grace I usually reserve for other people.

I continually lay aside my perfectionistic tendencies and let go of lofty expectations. Just as the Lord’s mercies are new each morning, I can explore new things about myself and life in general. I can set new goals as I walk with Jesus and become more like Him.

It’s been humbling to live this widowed, single mom life; I’ve been forced to reevaluate and revamp several things over the years. I’ve had to change spending habits, exercise routines, how I cook, parent, and more. I’ve celebrated many victories too!

Similarly, I’ve also ditched things (or items on my to-do list) that no longer bring me joy or fulfillment. Life is too short to get stuck always doing something you don’t love!

As I think of all my blessings, I am in awe. I have wonderful people in my life. I have health and wholeness. I have a voice to speak up about important issues. My hands aren’t afraid of hard work. And yes, I have more than enough material resources so I can bless others.

It’s safe to say that when I first registered for that lovely punch bowl, I had no clue how much life would change in these ten years. Life sure is different than what I planned. Sometimes it feels a little chaotic, but I’m learning to go with the flow more each day!

I’m most grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness. That’s something I will never stop celebrating!

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Gracious Father, You are the Giver of all good things. Thank You for the rich blessings You’ve given us. Help us have the right perspective and use each gift as You intended. May we have wisdom and a spirit of generosity as we bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What random gifts have you stored away and forgotten about? What are you going to do with them?

Tasks: Take inventory of your gifts, talents, and other blessings so you can use them!

Finding Grace #66

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 favorHis abundant gracethis week?

This week was good! I worked as usual, but also squeezed in an important (non-work) meeting in my car one day. I clocked out of work, drove around the block to find shade, and left my car running for the a/c while I made my phone call. I didn’t want to open my windows because the road construction nearby was stirring up a lot of dirt in the air. After my meeting, I drove back to work to finish out my day. I usually am home for that routine meeting, but didn’t have time to go home and come back. The things we do to make ends meet! Thankfully, no one really minded me talking for an hour in my car!

This week, Lydia attended Vacation Bible School. They talked about God making each of us for a purpose. Lydia enjoyed playing, singing, making art, and eating “really good” snacks. She had a great time and already has asked me to go again next year! 

I bought my first watermelon of the season this week. It was delicious, of course! One night at dinner, Lydia told me, “Mom, I’m feeling really loved because you’re giving me lots of watermelon.” I posted what she said on my social media page. A friend of mine hosts a morning radio talk show. She quoted Lydia, reminding us to savor the simple things of life. That was really cool! Later, I tossed some of the watermelon into a fruit salad with grapes, oranges, and strawberries. Yum!

Weather-wise, it’s been another warm week. Thankfully, the wind blew strong and it really didn’t feel too bad. We played with the neighbors on several days. Tonight, we ordered pizza with friends and ran outside to a local ice cream truck that was passing through our neighborhood. Always a fun treat!

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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)!

Finding Grace #65

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 a lot of fun! We had the usual the usual work and daycare routine, of course, and I also had a deadline to meet. But all that went well, praise God. (By His grace, I not only met the deadline, but went above and beyond!) Thank You, Jesus!

Best of all, this week we squeezed in a lot of play time. We watched a few movies in the cool basement and enjoyed long afternoons outside in the sun with friends. I mowed yesterday, so have the whole weekend to relax. I am loving summer already!

It’s been hot this week, in the mid-eighties or so. But, we’ve been enjoying the heat anyway with popsicles and water games. Lydia could practically live outside!

Today, Lydia and I were invited to a nearby lake with our neighbors. We drove to Osage, MN, to Big Toad Lake and spent most of the day outside at their family home and restaurant. It was a great way to beat the heat. We were graciously fed and treated like family. The breeze on the lake was just right. We went wading and saw lots of wildlife, including a bald eagle, baby snapping turtle, fish, and a couple leeches! We even helped save a baby bird… I hope to go back again!

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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)!

Live Like You’re Loved

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This racing, this running
Oh, you’re working way too hard!
And this perfection you’re chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause He loves you like you are!

The lyrics above belong to the song, “Live Like You’re Loved,” by Hawk Nelson. I’ve enjoyed listening to the song since I first heard it. But lately, I have been listening to the lyrics a little more.

For whatever reason, I feel like I’ve had noticeably less energy lately. My lethargy could be related to the weather, stress, lack of sleep, etc. (or a combination of factors). However, I’ve been enjoying the rain we’ve had, don’t feel overstressed, and have been sleeping pretty well. So, who knows?

Quite possibly, I could just be worn out trying to doing too much!!

So go ahead and live like you’re loved
It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be

As I have considered these lyrics, I have taken the song to heart. When I think of all I still have to do, I take it to Jesus to help me sort it out. He loves it when we come to Him! I don’t have to be chained to my to-do list!

So, I have been intentional about taking breaks and resting. I’ve enjoyed reading, catching up on a favorite show, and calling a friend. Lydia and I have walked to a nearby park to play, colored, and made a fun treat together. On a couple of days, I’ve even squeezed in a short nap!

And live like you know you’re valuable
Like you know the one that holds your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don’t be afraid to live in that grace

I am grateful for God’s grace when I feel weak. I know with Jesus, I can do everything I need to do! He is my strength and my song. When I’ve specifically asked Him for help this last week, ultimately, I have been more productive throughout the day!

Yes, the Lord has given me everything I need. His mercies are new every morning and His grace is sufficient. Nothing can compare to His lovingkindness. Praise God!

Live like you’re loved, walk like you’re free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you’re loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

This part of the song (above) is my favorite. It feels a little like a personal anthem. When I remember how much God loves me, I can hold my head up higher. I can smile and laugh and play. I can walk in freedom, knowing He gives me Victory. I don’t have get bent out of shape over imperfect progress. I can enjoy myself instead of stressing out!

“Live like you’re loved” could mean something different to each person and could vary by season of life. I love that we are all unique!

For me, it usually means acknowledging and honoring my weaknesses, inabilities, or failures. This often means asking for help and letting the Lord meet me where I am. Coming to Jesus is the best and first step. Lord, I need You!

I find ‘living loved’ also means recognizing when someone else needs help, because I’ve been there too. When I serve someone else, I notice my problems are not so urgent. Showing compassion is a win-win for all of us!

When I take the time to pause and soak up His love, I notice God all around me. He renews my joy and I can share generously with others. I don’t have to focus on my lack of energy (or other resources)… because with Jesus on my side, I will always have enough!

Life is short. Live like you’re loved!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for all You do for me. Thank You for renewed strength every day. As I depend on You, please give me energy and direct my steps. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What does “live like you’re loved” mean to you? What is something you can do to live loved right now?

Task: Listen to the song, “Live Like You’re Loved,” by Hawk Nelson!

Finding Grace #63

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’m not sure there are enough words (or space!) to describe this week. It was really sweet to see how everything worked out, by God’s grace. It started with Mother’s Day on Sunday, which combined the 4th anniversary of Dave’s death on Monday, always makes me aware of the void in our lives…of all he is missing. However, both days went well. We had lunch on Sunday with a friend and an impromptu ice cream celebration on Monday with more friends. I felt God’s love all around me and many people checked in with me. Thank you!

Lydia’s last day of preschool was on Wednesday, so we prepared end-of-year gifts for her teachers. All year, Lydia had been asking me to get her main teacher a jar of pickles. (Apparently, she likes them!) So, for the last week of school, I finally agreed. We wrapped up two different kinds of pickles along with a gift card and thank you note for her teacher. Lydia decorated the bag with stickers. I hope she found much humor in it, because Lydia was really excited! (I explained the pickles were from Lydia, specifically…not me!) 😉

On Wednesday evening, we also had an impromptu pancake dinner ‘party’ with the neighbors. After school, I dropped their little boy off and we ended up staying. We were trying to decide what to have for dinner, and I said Lydia had been asking for pancakes all week. I ran home (across the street) for pancake mix, oranges, and my electric skillet. My neighbor supplied bacon and sausage! It was so fun (and delicious!)

On Thursday, a friend watched Lydia while I went to the dentist (no cavities!) and did some writing. I really appreciated her help and felt like I got a lot accomplished. Later, we joined our neighbors again for the Fargo Youth Run (one event of many, during the Fargo Marathon week). We all ran the half mile. Lydia was proud of her cape and “Finisher” medal! I prayed for good weather, as it has been a little cool and windy that day. It was a perfect evening for a run!

I’ve had a dull headache all on-and-off all week, so didn’t do as much as I planned on Friday. Instead, we decided to stay home and rest. Praise God! After a brief afternoon nap, I accomplished a few tasks after all. On a whim, I decided to mow the yard because it may rain for the next few days. I’m glad I didn’t procrastinate!

Today, we shopped for groceries before a gentle rain started. Then, a friend across the street came over to play. I did some reading, made a couple phone calls, and prepped some vegetables for the coming week. After a brief nap, Lydia and I are taking it easy tonight. Maybe we will enjoy a movie while it rains!

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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)!

 

Road Trip Reflections

I love a good road trip! I always enjoy seeing new places and finding new routes to travel. This past week, Lydia and I went on our first over-the-road adventure of 2017.

We drove to Frisco, CO, for a family funeral/memorial service for my aunt who lived out there. I broke up the trip into several legs and built our nightly stops around other activities. Overall, it a was a great trip.

We had a few ‘speed bumps’ along the way, and everything didn’t go quite as planned. I always pray while making plans and God brought us through. All things considered, we still had fun. God is so good!

Originally, I planned to drive two days both ways. But at the wise suggestion of my neighbor, we started out one night early. I’m glad we did because it made the initial drive a little more manageable.

We left Wednesday night straight from Lydia’s school. We drove three hours or so to Sioux Falls, SD, to break up the first leg of the trip. We stayed in a hotel with a water park, much to Lydia’s delight. She fell in love with the water slide and wanted to ride it half a dozen times! Her smiles made the impromptu decision (and extra cost) worth it.

The next morning, we drove three more hours to Omaha, NE. (We briefly went through Iowa too!!) That day, we decided to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo. It had been on my list of things to do for a couple summers, and we finally had a reason to go.

I got my recommended 10,000 steps that day at the zoo; I was also impressed Lydia walked all the way (minus a three-minute piggy back ride). Thursday night, we also swam at the next hotel. The hotel was fairly blah, though the pool was nice. I should have known by the cheaper price. The old adage is often true: You get what you pay for.

On Friday, we drove around eight hours to Frisco, CO, into the mountains west of Denver. My sister and several others flew instead of drove. I happily beat them into town, thanks to a delayed flight. 🙂 I do like having more flexibility over my schedule when driving.

We had beautiful weather the entire weekend while we celebrated my dear aunt’s life. Ski season in Colorado is over, but there was still some snow on the ground. But, it was not cold. It was so good to be together with family from several states besides North Dakota and Colorado: Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

My aunt who lives in Greece also came, as well as her daughter currently living in Ireland! It was wonderful to see them! I felt the God’s peace as we laughed and cried, sharing funny stories and encouraging one another. I pray the strong showing brings my uncle comfort and courage like it did for me four years ago when Dave died. I’m glad so many people came… There is strength in numbers!

On Sunday, Lydia and I set out for our next stop. We drove about seven hours to Custer, SD, in the Black Hills region. (We also spent a fair amount of time driving through Wyoming!!) We arrived later than I had planned—thanks to a long goodbye over brunch, Lydia puking in the car, and more pit stops overall. We finally made it, but it was too late to do any activities. Thankfully, Lydia was pleased to go swimming…again!

Monday came early, and I realized we didn’t have much time for activities. Despite extensive map reading and GPS, navigating was difficult because nothing seemed to scale. I have been to a different part of the Black Hills, but on this drive, the miles seemed longer. We saw a few bison, wild turkeys, and deer. We took the Needles Highway, but at nearly 40 miles in length, it took much longer than I thought it would. That beautiful scenic road also took awhile because you have to go slow—it has lots of twists, turns, and tunnels!

Eventually, we made it to Sylvan Lake. By the time we arrived, I felt pressed for time given that we still had at least eight hours on the road back to Fargo. We walked around a bit but unfortunately didn’t do any major hiking. (We’ll certainly have to stay longer next time.) Nonetheless, we enjoyed the gorgeous morning!

As I plugged in our home address, I prepared for the long drive. I had forgotten about the time difference between mountain time and central time. So, that meant we would be home after 7pm. The thought of sitting in my car for nearly eleven hours that day (Needles Highway included) was daunting. But, I decided to make the best of it anyway!

Lydia’s a trooper and travels well. I gave her a paper scavenger hunt with objects to find on our way. We looked for cows, horses, tractors, cars of certain colors, and water towers. We also saw a rainbow, windmills, and many items not on the list. It kept both of us alert!

Along the way, I took Lydia to Wall Drug for a pit stop. I’ve been by there many times, but had never stopped. We probably only spent fifteen minutes there, but it was a fun diversion. Now I can cross that off my list too! 😉

We had brought snacks with us for the trip, and I usually grab coffee on the road. We were set! When we travel, I like to listen to the radio, sermons, or audio books. I also like to watch the scenery pass by. Mostly, it was a beautiful drive!

On long road trips, I also enjoy spending a fair amount of time just thinking. Sometimes I think about God’s goodness and how far He has brought us. Sometimes I reflect on changes I should make. Sometimes I think about upcoming plans.

On Monday, I also considered various aspects of our trip. A couple of the hotels were not as I expected. I didn’t sleep well while we were gone. Some of the routes I planned were longer than I thought. I also over-packed, once again… 😉

Throughout the trip, traffic was a little heavy at times, though road construction wasn’t too bad at this point in the season. The wind was really strong on Monday making driving a challenge. With all the driving, I didn’t get to relax much!

But, in the end, everything turned out well. God watched out for us while we drove over thirty hours in along weekend, traveled through six states, and put 2,177 miles on my awesome Subaru. I’m really thankful for a reliable car!

The best part of the trip was seeing family. I am also thankful God protected us and provided for us. It may not have gone exactly as planned, but it was still good. Probably even better, knowing the Lord was in control.

Yes, it’s always an adventure with Jesus!

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God, thanks for leading us on our journey. Thanks for protecting and providing so well for us. Help us listen and trust in You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have any road trips planned for this year? If so, where?

Tasks: On your next trip, pray for wisdom and guidance before making plans.

 

Finding Grace #61

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

Where did I find God’s love and favorHis abundant gracethis week?

This week was jam-packed getting ready for our first road trip of 2017. It’s always hectic trying to pack, clean and prepare the car. I also needed to finish planning our route, make reservations, and make sure everything is good in our absence. Thanks, God, for Your grace, provision, and protection!

We have been spending time with family this weekend, as we mourn the loss of my aunt. She passed away in late January, but her services were delayed until better weather. Our large family needed to have time to make traveling plans. I am so glad many of us were able to get together, comfort and encourage each other, and share good memories.

I am praising God for good weather this week! With road trips, there’s no telling how the roads will be. Rain, snow, or fog can make navigation difficult. Thankfully, we’ve had gorgeous weather every leg of the journey.

Finally, I am thankful for good friends and neighbors who helped watch Lydia this week. With so much going on, I needed to focus. They were instrumental in giving me space and time to think and plan!

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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)!

Good Goals, God’s Grace

Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a good start.

Do you make any New Year’s resolutions? Or do you choose ‘a word’ to mark your year?

When considering options for this year, I thought about making changes, choosing a word, or trying something new. But in the end, nothing really resonated with me.

So maybe I will just keep on my current path! That’s a good thing because I don’t think I could appreciate 2017 without my focus from last year.

2016 became a year of rest for me. I felt the need to apply more grace and more space to my everyday life. Once more, I realized I can only do so much. If I don’t remember to take care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of anything (or anyone) else.

Last year, I focused on getting adequate sleep, taking breaks, and keeping a restful mentality. It sounds fairly simple, but it required some effort! The hardest part was cutting out extra activities and distractions. I had to decline many new activities (even some really good opportunities).

I said “no” to finishing my to-do list every day (even when it kept calling my name!). I pushed back deadlines when necessary, instead of trying to push myself to reach an unreasonable goal.

With that restful attitude, I redecorated my house and make it a better representation of our life now. I’m so thankful I did, because now I have a better perspective going forward.

In terms of goals and growth, I don’t like to make drastic changes (though, sometimes I probably should!). Instead, I’d rather adjust my habits. It’s not rocket science, but it does take some determination. Because, of course, I like to take my sweet time

This year, I am developing more self-discipline and consistency in my life. Nothing really new—just less excuses and procrastination! I am not adding any new tasks, but I have tweaked my routine—the timing and structure of it all!

Not super glamorous, but necessary.

Sure, I have specific goals for sleep, exercise, reading, water intake, and more. The common theme, however, is waking up early to accomplish these goals before Lydia wakes up. Or, at least as many of them as possible!

I could go on and on about SMART goals, accountability, or setting up a tracking system. I will spare you all that—but I am amazed at what I can do with a proper bedtime!

By simply readjusting my timeline, I’ve been getting enough sleep and using my time more wisely. I’ve had more energy early in the day, and sometimes can cross off a few more tasks. Generally, I have more wiggle room in my day…and a better attitude all around!

Of course, theres always something to potentially derail me. Even this morning, I have had to switch things around and save them for later. Ill always be a work in progress…

Thank God for His sweet and refreshing grace!

Still, I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be our most exciting year yet. There will be challenges, important decisions, and transitions. Lydia will start Kindergarten and we may try to squeeze in a trip or two. We have lots of options ahead!

But, truthfully, I can’t do it on my own.

I cannot maintain any level of success in my own strength. Trust me, I’ve tried and failed many times! A (recovering) perfectionist’s worst nightmare! 😉

Yes, the only way I will be successful is if I seek the Lord’s input first.

If I am too busy, always running around, I can’t ‘hear’ from the Lord. A slower pace and a more open schedule means less stress and more ‘listening time.’

God created me to do good things and He has the best plan for my life! So it’s wise to check in with Him before setting my schedule (see Ephesians 2:10).  A huge timesaver!

My victory comes from the Lord. My help comes from Him, too! Jesus sustains and defends me. His grace is more than enough to meet my need. I place my trust in Him!

So set goals. Yes, absolutely! But pray too. Ask the Lord for help.

Life is short. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. Only Jesus brings real, lasting change. Commit yourself and your plans to Him. Then you will have true success!

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Father God, thank You for the gift of Today. Thanks for new mercies, grace, and opportunities. Show me the path to take. Help me accomplish the tasks You have for me. I trust You, Jesus. In Your Name, Amen.

Questions: Are you trying anything new this month or year? How is it going?

Tasks: Commit your tasks and plans to the Lord. Trust Him to help you accomplish all He has for you!

A Birthday Bash Rehash!

This past weekend, Lydia and I flew to Illinois for my mom’s 60th birthday. My sister and I threw her a party, but since I live twelve hours away, planning was a team effort!

My mom worked over thirty years as a florist, arranging flowers for weddings, holidays, and funerals. She was always saddened by the fact people typically only send flowers after someone has died. So, Mom wanted this party to be a celebration of her life while she’s still here to enjoy it.

Why wait until someone dies to show your love?

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It seemed fitting that people came to honor my mom this weekend! She loves to encourage others, and gives accordingly. Many people have benefited from Mom’s kindness and generosity over the years. Indeed, she inspires me to use my own gifts to serve others!

The party was an open house, and Mom requested no gifts. Instead, she asked for donations of canned items to the local food bank. (See the last picture below!)

Even on her birthday, my mom was thinking of others!

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I knew we would have a good time, because my family knows how to have fun! But, the party was even better than I could have expected. Everything turned out perfectly.

It was a good reminder for me to just let God take care of our ‘plans.’ He always does an excellent job of providing just what we need!

As I looked around the party room, I could see evidence of God’s grace. The food was plentiful and delicious. But really, the atmosphere was key. The mood was warm and welcoming, inviting everyone to sit and stay awhile.

The relationships were what made the party special!

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In our small farming community, we knew some people wouldn’t make it because of the Harvest. Even so, we were so glad a few farmers left their fields early to come to the party. (That rarely happens because time is so precious!)

It’s a busy time of year, and some people couldn’t make it due to previously scheduled trips or other events. That’s understandable! Still, we still had a steady stream of people throughout the night. In fact, one couple postponed their special anniversary trip because they “wouldn’t miss it for anything.” 😀

I enjoyed seeing people at the party that I haven’t seen in quite awhile. It was exciting to catch up with dear family and friends. (Since I moved away six years ago, I don’t always stay in the loop.) I also loved meeting newer friends and introducing them to Lydia!

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On Saturday night, we had a wide variety of backgrounds present. It was another instance of God’s grace bringing so many people together for a common purpose. Praise God!

I even saw people sitting together that never would have done so previously. People were laughing to the point of tears, overflowing with gratitude. Only God could have restored those relationships—and what an awesome job He has done!

Throughout the evening, I heard comments, such as, “We haven’t been to a party in forever!” or “What a great reason to get together and celebrate!” Sometimes, we can focus on surviving the daily grind or acquiring more stuff, instead of what’s really important.

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It’s also tempting to focus on what is ‘wrong’ in our lives…what is not going well, who slighted us, or how we will make ends meet. But none of us are guaranteed tomorrow.

My mom’s birthday party was so much fun! She has spent years encouraging others, and so many people showed up in her honor. It was amazing to see!

As the evening came to a close, my very wise mother said, “People are our treasures—the only gifts that will last. We can always get more stuff, but people cannot be replaced.”

Let’s remember to celebrate one another more often!

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God, thanks for the relationships You have given us. Please help us to be an encouragement to others and use our gifts as a blessing to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: How can you use your gifts and talents to be an encourager?

Task: Write a thank you note to someoneor call them just to catch up!