Filled with Joy

This week, in addition to Thanksgiving, we are celebrating Lydia’s birthday! Regarding gifts, Lydia only requested one thing: a little toy bird. Of course, I bought it and kept it as a surprise. Actually, I bought her two because I couldn’t decide between them…

Then, a couple weeks ago, we were discussing her birthday. On a whim, I jokingly asked, “Well, what if I don’t get you a gift? Would that be okay?”

To my surprise, Lydia didn’t even blink. Immediately, she cheerfully replied, “That’s okay, Mom! You could just draw me a picture instead.” She went on to explain, “That’s what I do for you since I can’t go and buy you gifts when it’s your birthday or Christmas.”

While I was touched by her response, Lydia probably figured she would get gifts from other people… So perhaps she wasn’t concerned with missing out on a gift from me.

In the past, Lydia has gotten cards or presents from friends and family in several states. A good Father, God always makes sure she is taken care of. She is well-loved!

On her birthday, Lydia took popcorn for a snack at school. Then, at lunchtime, I joined her class for their meal. I also saw most of our little neighborhood friends. It was a fun experience! The kids were so excited to have a visitor.

 Overjoyed, the kids wiggled as they stood in the lunch line. They each wanted to sit next to me, show me a trick, or tell me an interesting story. The principal read a special Thanksgiving story, and I enjoyed talking with Lydia and her classmates.

After school, we went to Cherry Berry for frozen yogurt. Then, we came home to open presents. Lydia was happy with my gifts—a puzzle and two little birds that sing and can repeat what you say. (I may be regretting that soon!) She also received gifts from friends and family. Thank you!

Over the years, I have learned so much while watching Lydia learn and grow. She loves to read and do math! It is amazing to see her become who God intended. Indeed, she has many of Dave’s best qualities. I know he would also be so proud of her.

This season (and birthday) is our fifth time celebrating without Dave. Sometimes it can still be a little bittersweet. Each year has been so different, yet the Lord has been so kind and generous to us. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Nothing can replace Dave, yet while we miss him, we keep moving forward. God loves watching His children grow through trials and walk in Victory. We can always celebrate His goodness and grace because God’s love never fails.

These days, I don’t often cry because of grief. Instead, if I am teary-eyed, it is usually because I am so thankful for all the Lord has done for us!

This week—and through this season—we will celebrate our many gifts, new milestones, and our dear friends and family… This year, our hearts are filled with joy.

Thanks to all who continue to encourage us and check in on us from time to time. Thanks for all your prayers and support! It means so much to us. We are truly blessed.

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Father God, You are so good and gracious. Thanks for taking such great care of us. Help us remember just how much You love us. Let us share Your love with those around us, especially during this holiday season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What are you thankful for? How have you grown this year?

Tasks: Call a friend who needs some encouragement during this season. Take them a meal or invite them over to visit. Be a blessing to them!

Finding Grace #89

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 with 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 felt so blessed this week to catch up with so many wonderful people! On Monday, a meeting was rescheduled, so we had dinner with a friend. She brought me roses and we both had a great time together!

I also caught up with family and several friends in different states. It’s always fun to see how many of us are connected and what God is doing in each of our lives. I’m thankful to know so many lovely people!

Work went well this week. Some of my patients had complicated issues, but, God helped me provide the right education and answer their questions. Instead of just focusing on their nutrition needs, I treated them with compassion and met them on their level.

Today, we attended a Junior Bible Quiz meet. Lydia didn’t buzz in or score, but she had fun anyway. I think she’s getting more comfortable. I’m glad she’s getting God’s word down in her heart. I’m also enjoying getting to know more families in our church.

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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)!

Roses and Redirection

I hope you are having a wonderful week! On Monday, I planned to attend an evening meeting, but then it was rescheduled for a later date. No worries…God redirected my steps!

Instead of my meeting, on a whim, I invited a good friend over for dinner. We hadn’t seen each other for a couple months and we decided to order Chinese food.

As a sweet gesture, she brought me some flowers. The pink roses really brightened my day as I had been feeling kind of “blah” earlier.

You probably know the feeling. We all have those moments, due to weather, insecurity, fear, or other factors. I wasn’t sure if I was discouraged or perhaps a little discontented. Frustrated or maybe impatient?

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I prayed about my attitude earlier in the day. I took it to Jesus! Before long, I felt more at peace. I was grateful for the redirection.

Later, my friend’s surprise act of kindness—the roses—actually felt like a personal gift from the Lord. He sees me and knows exactly what I need.

After Lydia went to bed, my friend and I continued our conversation. We had a great discussion and everything she said mimicked how I had felt that day. It was such a good reminder that I am not alone.

It was also good to see that our emotions can take on a similar pattern in each of our hearts—even if for different reasons. As we talked, we laughed and encouraged each other. We were both blessed that evening and had such a good visit!

Sometimes, our emotions can get the best of us. But it’s our job to keep them in check. As Lysa TerKeurst says, “Emotions are indicators, not dictators.” So, while it’s okay to pay attention to our feelings, we don’t need to let them have the final say.

This week, I am grateful for how the Lord directs (and redirects) my steps. I’m also glad that with Him, we always have hope. We don’t have to be discouraged…or discontented…or impatient…or _________ by what is going on around us.

What we see is only part of the story. If we are fear-based, we will always miss out on what God is doing. But, if we live by faith, we can rest, trusting that He has all the details under His sovereign care.

By faith, we can tap into all God has for us. He forgives our past and gives us grace for today. We also have hope for our future and strength to stand. Thank You, Jesus!

Often, life is not fair. But really, grace isn’t fair either. By definition, grace is ‘undeserved favor.’ Grace is extended to us because of who God is…not because of what we do.

We are loved because He loved us first.

So, let’s not worry or be afraid. We can trust Him to take care of all that concerns us. In His timing, the Lord will provide everything we need. Roses or redirection…it’s all good!

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Sovereign God, You are so generous and kind! Thanks for Your grace, roses, and redirection. Please help me trust You more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had some ‘holy redirection’ in your life lately?

Tasks: When you notice your emotions getting the best of you, stop and pray. Give it to Jesus. Let Him carry your burden instead!

Finding Grace #88

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 with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This was a good week! We received a little snow this week, but most of it is gone now. I bought a new snow shovel and snow boots, both of which are a great blessing. Thankfully, the snow was mostly in the evenings. We didn’t have to drive much in the slick weather.

On Thursday, I went to our new Aldi store. It is over in Minnesota, but not too far of a drive. I was trying to hurry, so didn’t spend too much time there. I bought a few items for much cheaper than normal. I’m not sure if the gas money was worth the savings, though. Nonetheless, it was fun to visit a familiar store that reminds me of my family in Illinois!

Lydia had Friday off of school for Veterans Day. We enjoyed a fun day at home and took some time to discuss the meaning of the holiday. Today, we put together puzzles of the United States. We also watched a video about veterans who had suffered major wounds in battle yet were not letting the loss of limbs keep them from living a full life. This prompted a lot of good discussions regarding perseverance, bravery, and gratitude. Thank you, veterans!

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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)!

Birds, Boots, and Blessings

Last weekend, Lydia and I played in the snow with our next-door neighbors. Lydia joined the kids who were building a snowman, while I talked with their mom. I had my back to the wind, but my legs and feet were still cold.

At one point, someone pointed out a bald eagle, flying low and parallel to our property line. It has been awhile since I last saw an eagle, and I’ve never seen one so close to my house. So, it was really exciting!

The next day, Lydia and I were inside and we heard a cute little purple house finch on our deck. He sang his heart out, as we spied through the window. I had just assumed most of the birds had gone south for winter, so it was a nice little surprise!

Then, yesterday, I bought a new snow shovel. My neighbor across the street, Melissa, helped me clear my driveway that morning and recommended it. A great friend, she also recently inspired me to get a heated mattress cover… It’s awesome! So, I happily took her word on the snow shovel too! 🙂

As I drove home from the store, I was in awe. Besides the shovel, I also bought myself a new pair of snow boots. (Ok, Melissa had nothing to do with that!) I have been in search of snow boots since we moved to Fargo in 2010—7+ years ago! Besides snow, we get many days of below zero temperatures and negative wind chills.

Yes, I have hiking boots and dressy boots. But for our super cold winters, I hadn’t found something that would work for me day-to-day. I’ve tried other snow boots, but none have fit just right. They are either too big in the ankle or too tight in the toe—or both. Most boots I’ve seen have lousy traction or make my feet look huge…or are crazy expensive.

Gray, mid-calf, lace-up boots with a rubber bottom, these new boots are rather simple. But God knew what I wanted, and they are exactly what I had been looking for. And, they will go with everything I wear. Bonus!

On my way home with my new shovel and boots, I also had a good laugh. I watched a Canada goose walk out on a snow-covered pond and just sit down. I have no idea why it was sitting there, but it was funny. Technically, we are just south of Canada, but I think most of the geese continue on to warmer weather!

Maybe it was taking a break or waiting for friends?

As I considered the goose, I remembered the bald eagle and the purple house finch. All of them had surprised me in their own way. Each of them provided me with joy and encouragement at just the right moment. Thank You, Jesus!

As I thought about all three birds—each so unique—I praised God for taking care of them. He meets their needs, keeps them warm, and feeds them. Not one bird falls to the ground without Him knowing about it. And, we are worth much more to Him than a simple sparrow or finch… or odd goose…or even a powerful eagle!

Yes, God promises to take care of us too. Each year, I’ve managed to get by when I am outside thanks, in part, to Smart Wool socks. But this season, I will be extra warm with my new boots. What a welcome surprise!

In His own way and timing, God provided the snow boots I had envisioned all those years ago. When writing this, I was also reminded of other things I have prayed for over the years. The boots are both a blessing and a reminder that God faithfully meets my needs.

I can depend on the Lord—and, He also uses me to bless others. This year, Lydia and I donated coats, hats, gloves, and snow pants so local kids can stay warm, too. It’s cool to see the Lord ‘return the favor’ as He also provides for me and answers my prayers in only ways He can. Praise God!

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God, You are such a good Provider. Thank You for filling my life with good things! Thank You for being faithful and for blessing me. Help me be a blessing to others. Use me to meet the needs of those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How has the Lord blessed you recently? How can you bless someone else?

Tasks: Make a list of all you are thankful for; share it with someone. Make a list of prayer requests; update your list as you see how God faithfully answers.

 

Finding Grace #87

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 much different than expected! I thought it was going to be really tiring with all we had to do, yet by God’s grace, I felt energized at the end of the week. On Monday, a meeting was rescheduled so I found myself with an hour of ‘free time.’ I put that time to good use with other tasks and lightened my load later in the week.

Of course, this week included Halloween, which always brings me mixed emotions. God knows I’ve dealt with enough fear in my life…even without scary monster costumes! But, I try to make the best of it, anyway. Lydia and I had fun passing out candy. Then, on Wednesday, we enjoyed a party at church with games and candy, too!

Work went well, and I had fun meeting with patients. I felt the Lord’s grace and blessing on me as I worked! I finished my tasks in a timely manner and even brainstormed ideas for some future projects.

I had a fairly productive week overall, crossing many simple tasks off my to-do list. I returned emails, edited some files, mailed some packages, wrote some thank you notes, paid bills, and ran several quick errands. I even added eye hooks to my little free library boxes, to help secure the doors from our crazy winter winds. I’m thankful for how the Lord directed my path and brought me peace of mind as I finished so many things.

We received more snow in the last few days. Most of it has already melted, but I think we are in full-on winter mode. Lydia had fun playing outside with the neighbors today, though their snowman has already fallen over. While Lydia played, some friends returned my snowblower after they fixed it. So that was perfect timing!

With several unexpected changes this week, I found myself enjoying some extra peace and quiet. I used that time to connect with the Lord and express my gratitude to Him. Now today, Lydia and I are relaxing. So far this weekend, we’ve read some books, put together puzzles, caught up with housekeeping tasks, and made some yummy foods.

Tonight, we gain an hour thanks to daylight saving time. I usually stay up an extra hour, thinking I will get more done or watch a show. Maybe I should just go to sleep, haha! Regardless of what you choose, don’t forget to set your clocks BACK one hour.

God is good!

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

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

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.

Finding Grace #86

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 goodness and grace! We had our usual activities with school, work, church, but also had a pumpkin painting party at Lydia’s school. It was fun to see her in action and meet some of her new friends.

At home, I met a writing deadline and then finished housework. Often, if I am focused on writing tasks, I put off other things. The mental effort takes a lot of focus and I don’t want to waste my energy. 😉 I’m sure most people do that to some degree, with their own priorities, but it feels good to get caught up around the house.

I had encouraging conversations with many people this week. I had a great time talking to one person in particular. A man, who recently moved to the area, told me his story. He spent the last ten years in about thirty different locations around the world. Part of this was related to his military experiences. He’s gone through some harrowing trials, including post-traumatic stress, yet, God’s faithfulness was evident through it all. What grace!

After a busy week, I’m relishing the calm weekend. Over the last couple of days, we received our first snow of the season…in October! It was only a light dusting and didn’t stick around for very long. It was quite pretty, nonetheless! Lydia and I spent much of today indoors, just relaxing and having fun. Thank You, Jesus!

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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)!

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!

Finding Grace #85

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 restful and fun. We had a couple late nights, but it was made easier knowing Lydia Thursday and Friday off school. We had teacher conferences this week, a writing meeting, and church (JBQ). But, we enjoyed all of those activities!

At work, a few more kinks were worked out and I feel good that things are on track. I am thankful for what God is doing and I am eager to keep using my skills!

Lydia and I have been enjoying her time off school. We’re both grateful for the break!So far, we have slept in, jumped on the trampoline (inside), put together puzzles, and more. Something excited happened this week in that Lydia lost her second top front tooth this month! It’s fun to watch her grow up!

Otherwise, it’s been a rather low key week. I’ll take it! Since I am not rushing around like the proverbial chicken with my head cut off, I’ve had some extra time to enjoy the fall colors. I have a total of five trees in my yard. One has lost all its leaves, and the others are on their way. Most of them turned a lovely red color (maple trees) while the other one is yellow (a linden tree). Thank You, Jesus!

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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)!