Decisions, Decisions

So far, this school year is off to a good start. I’m glad Lydia is enjoying the learning process. I am keeping up with coordinating everything behind the scenes. Clothes, hair, breakfast, backpack, library book, permission slip, *optional* homework, special shirt for spirit week, snacks, lunch, bus…the list goes on!

As usual, I’ve had to juggle (and re-juggle) several competing priorities. Most of us do that every day. The difference is that I’ve also had several new requests for my time.

Should I take on more work? Should I join the PTO? Should I volunteer for this activity? Am I available to help with X and Y? Can I meet this deadline? To do or not to do…?

Over the last few weeks, many people have asked me to be involved in a variety of activities. I’m so glad to have such opportunities! But, I haven’t committed to many of them…just yet.

Instead, I’ve been relying on the Lord for help in managing each task and request. It takes time and prayer to discern what to do in each season. I would be foolish to think I can do it on my own. I want to know His plan for me, because that’s where I want to be.

So, my prayer for the last month-and-a-half has been, “Lord, please direct my steps.”

I am so glad God’s grace covers me each day. I hate the feeling of letting people down, but I only have so much wiggle-room in my schedule. I only have so much energy on reserve! (I’m glad I finally realize this!) 😉

So, instead of worrying about not doing enough, I celebrate how God made me unique. He never created me to do EVERYTHING… But there are things only I can do.

Even without extra activities, life can feel a little hectic at times! As I pray about what should be in my schedule, I consider how much time, effort, and resources each option will require. Then, I consider if it is wise to add (or delete) something.

Here’s another blog post about making decisions. I always find these ideas helpful!

I am really enjoying this current season. I’m thankful for the grace and freedom to do what God has put in front of me for the moment. And praise God, I don’t have to do it perfectly!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for all You do for me. As I review each opportunity, show me which path to take. Help me to choose wisely and bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you decide which activities to add or delete from your calendar? How do you know when you need to make a change?

Tasks: Take a look at your current responsibilities. Pray, asking the Lord to show you if you need to make any changes.

Heroes Among Us

Monday marked the 16th year since 9/11 happened. I was in college and remember watching the television in a commons area while I was between classes. Initially, I was confused about what occurred because it was completely unexpected and I had no frame of reference for it. As more details became clear, I was glued to the media. As horrific as it was when the two towers fell, there were also amazing stories of heroism.

On Monday, I watched videos online about 9/11 events and found more stories of heroic men and women. These courageous and unselfish men and women lost their lives but saved many others.

In one short video, a man named Rick Rescorla, was on the 44th floor of the South tower when he saw the North tower on fire. He went against orders to stay put and told everyone to evacuate the South tower. After most of his coworkers left, he went back to help other areas. This heroic man was last seen racing up the 10th floor stairway to help more people. Minutes later the tower collapsed—but not before 2700 people escaped.

With tears, I thought to myself, “Wow, what would compel him to respond that way?” In that moment, I remembered reading Luke 16:10 just prior to watching the videos. This verse states that if you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones…

Instantly, I realized…that man was just being faithful. He simply took the next step, the next right choice. I didn’t know him, of course, but I would bet Mr. Rescorla’s decision was an extension of his character (and perhaps his position at work and military background).

He had probably been making similar choices all along—yet with smaller impact—for years. I’m speculating, but I imagine he had been faithful in the small things, and when “the big thing” came, it was a ‘no brainer’ for him to look out for others.

It had likely become second-nature.

I’ve noticed that many heroes have similar reactions when asked to explain their actions. While we are in awe of their bravery, most heroes humbly shrug off the attention, saying, “Oh, anyone would have done the same thing I did. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Most heroes don’t consider themselves extraordinary.

So it seems each small choice really does add up over time. I’m sure Mr. Rescorla didn’t think about how ‘qualified’ he was that day. There wasn’t time! He just stepped up to do what he could in that moment. He used his voice and his authority to make a difference.

Some people put their lives on the line nearly every day, such as the police and those in the military. I’m thankful for these heroic men and women.

But even without training, you can be a hero right where you are. Today.

Hopefully, you won’t be faced with life-or-death decisions! But, we can all reach out to help a friend, neighbor, coworker, or even a total stranger. Think of all the recent stories just from people affected by hurricanes or wildfires…

You may be a hero to someone and not even know it. Be a good example for those who are watching. Be faithful in the small things—the often mundane tasks—and sooner or later, you see the difference you are making!

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God, thank You for giving us grace and wisdom! Help us be brave and bold as we walk through life with You. Guide us each day and give us eyes to see the needs around us. May we be quick to respond. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Where were you on 9/11? Who is your hero?

Tasks: Find a place to volunteer your time. Or, donate some money to a cause that is important to you. Be consistent and faithful in your commitment.

Finding Grace #76

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, I saw the Lord directing my path in many areas! As we come into a new season (of weather and life), I see new opportunities on the horizon. It’s always exciting to see what the Lord has for me…but I already know I need to rely on Him for strength in this transition time. The biggest change for us is that Lydia’s going to school!

My friend came over for Taco Tuesday this week. She also helped me make final decisions on the little free library. I decided to buy everything new instead of building my own. That’s easier and quicker all around! I mentioned the idea to a few neighbors, so hopefully we can all enjoy it together. I can’t wait until it arrives and is all set up!

On Wednesday, I met a coworker for lunch. We discussed some upcoming ideas and options for me at work. I’m glad for the new opportunities I have as a result of the job merger this spring. It will be fun to see all that happens!

This week I’ve done several special activities with Lydia. In a couple weeks everything will be different… I can hardly believe it! So, we’ve been relishing our time together.  I am amazed at who she is becoming. It seems she’s grown so much even this month!

Today, Lydia and I went on a little scavenger hunt to find other ‘little libraries’ in Fargo. We saw several different styles of decorated libraries, including a newspaper vending machine-turned-robot book dispenser. We only made it to about eight of the locations, so we’ll save the rest for another day (or two). Lydia loved finding new books!

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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 #75

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. We enjoyed my mother-in-law’s visit before she left on Tuesday. Then, Lydia and I ran errands and relaxed before the rest of the week picked up.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I attended an all-day work training. It was really good, and I felt like it was meant for me. Now, I am a ‘lifestyle coach’ for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. Instead of teaching the year long program, I facilitate it. This is much more collaborative and research shows great success long-term. In some ways, I felt like I was designed to run this program. As much as I enjoy teaching, I think I enjoy facilitating (listening, asking questions, coaching) even more. I’m excited to be a part if this exciting program! Even better, I earned 10 hours of continuing education–and my company reimbursed me the training fee. Praise God! Of note, a dear friend graciously volunteered both days to watch Lydia. I am so grateful for her help and God’s provision!

Last night, Friday, Lydia and I joined our neighbors to watch the grand finale of the Pyrotechnics Guild International. The PGI creates new fireworks each year, so it was quite the show. We sat in a nearby parking lot with snacks…so we didn’t have to deal with as much traffic! It was a fun and beautiful night!

Today, I have been celebrating my birthday! Normally, I have something planned out, but this year, I just decided to meander have a low key day. We visited friends and just hung out. I’m thankful we because I was able to enjoy the slower pace and savor each card, gift, call, text, email, or social media shoutout. I was also available for deliveries of flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries during the day. 🙂 To extend the celebration, tomorrow, I will go to lunch with a friend after church!

Recently, I came across the idea of the little free library. I’ve seen them before, but just noticed one in my neighborhood this week. I love the idea, and have a lot of my own books to share. So, I think I will buy one (or get some help building one). I just have to figure out the details on what the options are. Reading and literacy is a valuable skill to pass along!

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

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

Dear Younger Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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)!