On School Pictures and Mosquito Bites

It’s almost here! There’s a lot of excitement in our house as tomorrow is the BIG day… Lydia goes off to school! We’ve had her clothes picked out for a week. Her backpack is ready to go and her school supplies have been delivered.

We’ve practiced a basic routine (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush hair and teeth, etc). Lydia is ready to ride the bus and ready to learn. She’s excited to meet new friends and eat lunch at school. We’ve both been praying for her teacher, classmates, and a good experience. Praise God, we’re all set.

I was hugging on her the other day, saying, “My baby’s going to Kindergarten!”

Not missing a beat, Lydia’s quickly responded, “Mom, if babies went, it would be called ‘Baby Garden!’”

Yep, life is pretty simple when you’re a kid.

All in all, I have prepared and coached Lydia as best as I know how. I have prayed for years about schooling and other decisions. I trust God to take care of Lydia.

Yesterday, I took Lydia to school for a routine assessment with her teacher. I filled out a little paperwork and gave the teacher a heads-up about our story (Dave, cancer, etc). Hopefully, she doesn’t think I was too emotional…I didn’t mean to shed tears!

Lydia was unfazed, but for me, it just is part of a cycle. Normally, we do okay, but in new situations that are already emotional, explaining things can still be a little difficult for me.

Lydia also got her school picture taken (her grade only)! I thought this was a wonderful idea to get it out of the way before school even started…

That is, until I was brushing Lydia’s hair. That’s when she nonchalantly mentioned three mosquito bites on her face, from playing outside the night before! I hadn’t even noticed the bright red dots, because I was trying to tame her mass of wavy curls (you know, to make them “just right” for the school picture).

Well, I did what I could to cover the spots on her forehead and nose. I used a little of my concealer (makeup) and hoped for the best. While it was frustrating, it was also a little funny. Lydia wasn’t bothered by the mosquito bites, but hated the concealer! Of course…

As we left home that morning, Lydia also told me she had a hole in her the knee of her black leggings. “Oh great,” I thought. “It’s not even the first day of school! Thankfully, that won’t show up in the pictures…maybe her teacher won’t notice!”

Then, I was reminded in 1 Samuel 16:7, that God does not look at our outer appearance, but what is on our heart. I had been focused on Lydia looking her best, but that’s not what matters most. I would much rather her be kind and caring toward others.

Often, what we think is important…isn’t in the long run. No one else will probably notice the mosquito bites or a tiny hole down the road. And while it makes for a memorable story, it’s not a big deal. God loves us so much and created us on purpose!

We don’t have to look or be perfect. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our blemishes are not concealed…they are completely removed and forgiven. Thank You, Jesus! His grace covers us from head to toe. Nothing we do (or don’t do) can alter that!

While Lydia is the one going off to school this week, I’m sure I will have more ‘lessons’ to learn this year, too! I’m thankful for God’s grace each and every day. He is so good!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much. Thanks for sweet reminders of Your grace and delight. Thanks for creating us with intent and for a purpose. May we live to bring you great joy! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Question: Do you have any funny school picture stories?

Grace for the School Daze

August is flying by and very soon Lydia will be headed off to school. As the date draws near, I find myself wanting time to slow down. This Mama Bear has been spending extra time with Lydia, trying to cram in as many special moments as we can.

So far, we’ve baked cookies and done mini makeovers (including makeup, haircuts, and nails). We’ve colored, read tons of books, played games, and put together Lego sets. We’ve ridden our bikes, gone on a scavenger hunt, and eaten donuts at our favorite local place.

I’ve also been quizzing Lydia regarding our address, my phone number, and her school identification number. She’s especially excited about riding the bus, meeting new friends, and eating lunch at school. 🙂 Lydia has been practicing basic addition and pre-reading skills this summer (mostly on her own)—she’s so excited for school!

Yet, I’m only half-joking whenever I ask Lydia what I’m going to do when she goes to school all day. It will be very different and will require both of us to make some adjustments. Her suggestion? “Mom, you can take naps and go to work!” She’s so ready…

In many ways, this transition period to school represents a personal Victory. It is quite humbling to see how far we’ve come. Yes, it has been quite a ride these last 4+ years!

A couple months after my late-husband, Dave, died, I was crying one night because I didn’t know how I was going to make it as a single mom. It was fairly late, and for some reason, Lydia was still awake. I sat in the dark with her, rocking her back and forth, with tears running down my face.

Just a toddler, Lydia still required so much hands-on care and I was very overwhelmed. Feeling desperate, I prayed, “Lord, I need wisdom! How am I supposed to discipline, train, and care for Lydia on my own?” I certainly needed help and a new perspective.

As my tears dried, I slowly felt the Lord’s peace surround me. Truthfully, I still didn’t know how I was going to make it—but I did know I wasn’t doing it alone.

As I write this now, I can see God’s grace and His presence all along the way. He’s given me stamina for those tough disciplinary moments. He’s given me strength to stay in Fargo when it surely would have been easier to move closer to family. He has filled the gaps in my parenting skills (Psalm 68:5).

Getting to this point–this current transition–seemed impossible. But with God’s help, I have learned to face challenges head-on. He has made me steadfast in my faith and taught me to stand firm. He’s given me meaningful work and a renewed purpose. I’m so grateful.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem possible that those long days and nights have stretched into years. But here we are! By God’s grace, we’ve made it this far! Thank You, Jesus!

Clearly, when it comes to the school years, we have a long way to go. We are just starting on this new journey and there will be many challenges ahead. Yet, I’ve seen just how faithful the Lord has been these previous four years. He’s come through for me in more ways than I can count. He is so good to me.

So despite my mama-nerves, I am grateful for this necessary transition. It might feel a little chaotic at first, but the Lord is walking with Lydia, just as He is with me. A loving Father, He cares for her even more than I do…which is quite a lot! Like a Papa Bear, He will continue to protect and guide her each step of the way.

Whatever you are facing today, put your trust in Jesus. He loves you more than you can imagine. He longs to comfort and encourage you, strengthen you, and provide for you. If you let Him, He will help you do what seems impossible, too. He will lead you to Victory!

Praise the Lord!

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Heavenly Father, I praise You for leading us to Victory! Thank You for all You do for us. You are so good and so faithful. Please continue to guide us during each and every transition. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: In what ways has God lead you to Victory in the past? What can you do to trust Him now? How can you praise Him in this moment?

Tasks: Meditate on these verses: Psalm 3:8, Psalm 18:35, Psalm 32:7, and Psalm 118:21. Praise God for what who He is and what He is doing in advance!

 

Finding Grace #71

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?

When I reflect back on this week, I am so grateful. I am in awe of how the Lord meets my needs, but also helps me bless others. When I think of all that He has done for me, I am reminded of how small I am. Yet, He cares for each of us and orchestrates our lives as they intersect. Only God could take care of so many details and make good out of chaos!

I have been enjoying my new bike, and have even gotten in some longer rides. A friend stayed with Lydia one afternoon so I could go explore for an hour. It’s cool to see how much more “involved” I become when pedaling around my local area. I feel like I have more freedom and can get closer to things I otherwise wouldn’t even notice. Thanks, Lord!

I convinced a dear friend to buy a workout pass at a local fitness center so we could go together. I don’t belong to a gym, but it was a really good deal. To maximize our experience, we decided to try new classes we wouldn’t normally do. (We purchased ten sessions.) It helps going with a friend to try new things. This week, we tried a Barre class. It was a little sore the next day but had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to go again!

A few months ago, I took a leap of faith and signed up for my first writing conference. Well, that was what I did today! It was such a good day. Really, it was something I didn’t know I needed…but was so encouraged by all I heard and learned. It’s great to feel like I am on the right track! We worshipped the Lord, met other writers, and attended breakout sessions and panel discussions. I saw some ladies from my church and we might meet up again to encourage each other in our goals. God is so 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)!

On Tying Shoes and Learning New Skills

Lydia has already grown so much this year, both in height and skills. She has lost her first two teeth and has grown almost three inches in six months. Even more exciting, Lydia has grown into her larger bike and no longer needs the smaller one from last summer!

Lydia recently asked me to teach her how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was a little messy even with supervision, but I’m glad it cultivated independence. She’ll need more practice before I let her do it completely alone!

Lydia sometimes enjoys doing chores around the house, too. She likes helping with laundry, garbage, and dishes. Like any kid, her enthusiasm comes and goes. 🙂

This week, we’ve been focusing on tying shoes. I asked Lydia a few months ago and decided she wasn’t ready. “No thanks, Mom. Maybe another time.” But now she has grown into a pair of sparkly tennis shoes so she is eager to wear them!

As I am teaching her, I’ve been remembering when I learned to tie my shoes! I learned differently than I am teaching her. Nonetheless, I think the new way is a little easier.

Sometimes, we’ve both been frustrated. She’ll get upset when she can’t make the ‘bunny ears’ and I don’t like to watch her struggle. But I’m resisting helping her too much.

So, I’ve decided to have her practice about ten minutes a day and then let it go. If she wants to do more, great. Overall, it’s been a positive experience as we celebrate her small wins!

Even though I am watching Lydia struggle, I know she will appreciate the freedom it brings. It will also help her in the near future when she starts school again.

It might take a lot of practice, but in the long-term, the struggle is worth it.

With each new level of independence or growth, we all have new challenges to overcome. These challenges can be good or bad, depending on how you look at them.

Each challenge brings an opportunity to learn. What causes one person to struggle, may be simple for someone else. How one person learns is likely different from the way someone else learns. In the end, though, it’s rewarding to see someone learn and grow!

In Jesus Christ, we have a perfect example to follow. By His grace, we can come to Him for help and direction. He is a wonderful Teacher! Ask Him to teach you how to get to the next level. He knows exactly you need.

I’m glad God teaches each of us according to our unique purpose. Some of the lessons may be more difficult to learn than others. A loving Father, He is so proud of us for trying! Obedience is key, but there’s an abundance of grace!

God is not limited by our challenges, but uses them to help us grow. Thankfully, we are never left on our own to just “figure it out” as we go. The Lord is right beside us, cheering us on. He’s only a question (or prayer) away.

God’s timing is perfect. He never asks us to do something without teaching and equipping us to do the work. He wants us to succeed and live in Victory!

With God, all things are possible. He is patient with us as we practice, learn, and grow. He does not expect perfection and is gracious when we need a do-over. Thank You, Jesus!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for Your grace. Lord, teach me Your ways and guide me in Your Truth. Give us courage as I live for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What is something the Lord is teaching you right now? Is it difficult or fairly easy? (Hopefully, it will become better with practice!)

Tasks: Take the first step in faith and obedience today! Pray and then do what God is asking You to do. He will be with You! 🙂

Finding Grace #55

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 grace—this week?

This week I felt like I was living out of my car…but for good reasons! I simply had a number of meetings and places to be. I worked two longer-than-normal days, but had help from a good friend who watched Lydia before school. She was a huge help!

On Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of speaking at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) at my church. I am grateful for the three years I spent at another local MOPS chapter when Lydia was little. This week, I shared my story with a small group of ladies, discussing some of the struggles and joys I’ve had. Momsand women in generalneed to stick together, and I was glad for the chance to share with these ladies.

Yesterday (Friday) was quite busy, but fun. Besides our “normal” Friday activities, I met with a lady from church; encouraged two people who recently loss their spouses; had our neighbors over for pizza and playing; and Skyped with family in Illinois. It was great to see some of the amazing people in my life. I am so thankful for how God uses me!

Today has been full of activity too. In addition to our Saturday routine, we went to a birthday party; cleaned the house; did two loads of laundry; and made my second fruit salad of the week. YUM!! I am looking forward to relaxing tonight before another busy week. I am so thankful for God’s sweet and refreshing grace!

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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)!

Tender and Teachable

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

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

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

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

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

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

I pray her heart is always tender and teachable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions: Have you had any teachable moments lately?

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

LEGO and Let God

“Mommy, can you help me put this together?” Lydia held up pieces of a small LEGO alligator. “Sure, but why did you take it apart?” I asked. Lydia gave me the directions and said, “Because I wanted to put it together myself.” I quickly understood that she only wanted me to supervise!

I held the directions and let Lydia do all the work. There were eight steps—little wordless pictures—and just under thirty pieces. I flipped through the pages while I waited.

From my angle, I could see how each step sets up the next. Skipping even one LEGO piece could make the rest more challenging… While it was a fairly simple alligator, I turned it into a short lesson…

Recently, Lydia came home and recited a Bible verse for me at dinner. “Lydia, do you remember Proverbs 3:5-6 where it says ‘lean not on your own understanding?’” I asked.

She nodded yes and kept building her alligator.

I showed Lydia the picture-directions. “Well, sometimes we want to jump to the last page first—like where the alligator is finished—before it’s time. But God doesn’t always show us the end. He has a good plan for each of us, but we have to follow each step as God shows us. We have to trust Him to help us do what we need to do.”

Then we discussed how silly the alligator would look if we forgot something important like his teeth or scales—both middle steps. Also, if we started with the alligator’s eyes—the last step—working backwards to add pieces would be difficult.

As we talked, I felt convicted. At times, I have tried to jump ahead and bypass some key steps along my unique God-given path. I try to figure out all the details myself! I assume I know the plan, the end goal, what’s next and what’s best. Hmmm…you too?

When it comes to our own dreams and plans, often we want to skip to the end, the desired outcome. This may be a promotion, graduation, celebration, etc. It can be frustrating when it looks like we are not making progress. We work hard… and we wait… and often, we worry that we will miss something big.

When challenges come, we either want to give up or take matters into our own hands. We want results! But God things often take time. And it seems He has a special way of doing things, which doesn’t always make human sense.

Thankfully, I don’t need to know the entire plan or how it will all pan out. I can focus on knowing Jesus and understanding His heart for me. Since I am His precious child, the Lord loves when I ask for His help and input! And when the timing is right, He will show me the next steps to take.

Often, God says NO to something on my behalf, so I can say YES to something better.

It takes trust while I wait! For me, this is where “lemonade” comes in. It’s not just having a good attitude or making the best of my circumstances. (Though, those are important.) It’s knowing Jesus will make something sweet from the sour, something good from the bitter.

It’s trusting God’s plan is greater than mine. His plan is not all about ME. Indeed, my finite mind cannot imagine how God keeps track of His infinite Master plan and the ways all our lives intertwine! That would be a little chaotic for me to organize!

Maybe your life is in transition. Maybe your life looks totally different than expected and you have no clue how it will turn out. I understand.

When your vision doesn’t match your current reality, hang on. It’s not over yet. When you cannot see, rest in Jesus’ unfailing love and grace. He loves you dearly!

God orders our steps even when we don’t understand why. He may be protecting us, asking us to serve others, growing our faith, or developing our character.

No matter what, He is faithful. We can trust Him to come through for us—He always does. Yes, we can LEGO and let God!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for ordering our steps. Thanks for Your unfailing love and grace. Give us wisdom and courage, patience and peace as we trust in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Can you think of a situation where you have wanted to skip to the end result? Can you see God’s wisdom in how it turned out?

Tasks: If you are in a transition, pray for wisdom before making any decisions.

Finding Grace #46

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 favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This week felt like a blur! Lydia and I had a full week, with our normal activities, but also had some extra events too. This week, I needed some wise counsel before making some decisions. I had the sense these decisions would dictate other important choices and events this year. (Don’t you love all the unknowns in Life’s adventures?!) Praise God, everything went well! Thank You, Lord for wisdom, peace, and clarity as I make decisions and plans!

By Friday night, I was mentally drained from a week of meetings, deciding, and planning. I was exhausted as I drove to a women’s event at church. But since I invited a friend, I knew I needed to go. I’m so glad I did, because I was refreshed as I sang praises to God with so many wonderful ladies. I was encouraged as I listened to three ladies share their stories of God’s faithfulness. I was energized by connecting with old and new friends. It was just what I needed. What grace!

This week I’m extra thankful for Lydia. Everyday, she has used her manners before I reminded her. She has done well entertaining herself without prompting. We’ve had less whining and more cheerfulness. And like her Daddy, she is a great little organizer. Thank You, Jesus! As I decluttered two bathroom drawers, Lydia tossed old items and sorted like-items. I’m proud that she came up with several good ideas on her own!

Today, Lydia and I Skyped with family in Illinois. They were gathered for a belated Christmas party. We didn’t make it home, but are thankful for technology so we could check in! As I hung up, I thought to myself, “I have the best family! Thanks, Lord!”

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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)!

The Greatest Gift

After Lydia’s birthday in November, we sent out around ten thank you notes. Her job was to decorate each card with stickers. So when she started grumbling, I told her, “Well, if you aren’t grateful, I’ll just tell everyone NOT to send you gifts next year. Then, you won’t have to worry about saying thanks.” That seemed to do the trick!

Then, on Monday night, we read the Nativity story at bedtime. We’ve been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. I love how each story ends by pointing back to the Lord!

I usually ask Lydia questions to see if she can recall the main points.

Lydia has been interested in the night sky for several months. So the other night, we discussed the special star God placed in the sky at Jesus’ birth. She asked about the gifts Jesus received from the wise men. We chatted about frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

I also asked, “Did you know Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever receive?!”

Naturally, with Lydia’s birthday not too far from Christmas, this intrigued her. “So then, why do we give each other gifts?” She wondered out loud.

“Well, we show God’s love through our gifts.” I replied, in awe that she even asked. “It’s one way to celebrate what Jesus has done for us.”

When it comes to Christmas, I’ve been upfront with Lydia about Santa Claus. I have nothing against Santa, but I prefer to focus on Jesus and teach Lydia about Him.

And yes, Lydia knows not to tell her friends about Santa! Though, it is a little funny when an adult asks her, “So, what’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?”

In those moments, Lydia looks confused and concerned…like she’s thinking… “Wait, they don’t know about him?! …Well, I’m not going to tell them. Hmm…but what should I say?”

Up until last year, Santa wasn’t an issue for us. But then Lydia’s imagination kicked into high gear, and she started asking what was real and what was pretend. It became difficult to explain the nuances of make-believe cartoons versus shows with real actors.

Lydia questioned, “Is the person in that movie real?” I didn’t think much about it at first. “Well, yes. The person really exists, but he’s an actor who is pretending.”

Before long, Bible characters were examined, too. “Mom, was Jonah real?” … “Hey, my Daddy’s name was David! … So was King David real too?”

I answered Lydia’s questions, but was unsure if she understood.

When the holidays came, Lydia quickly applied the same ‘logic’ to Santa. “Why does the Santa on tv look different from this one in the book…and the one at the mall?”

I felt the need to address Lydia’s confusion in a truthful, yet sensitive way.

I decided to tell her the truth about Santa using a familiar example. “You know how Daniel Tiger (a PBS cartoon) is not REALLY real? He’s make-believe. Well, Santa is not REALLY real either. It’s fine that everyone talks about him, but he is just pretend.”

(Yes, St. Nicholas was real, but Santa has become quite different in our culture.)

Lydia took it fairly well. For about ten seconds, she looked a little surprised. “Oh.” And, then she asked about Rudolph, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. “Yep, their pretend too.” Twenty seconds later, with a quick, “Oh, okay,” she was onto the next thing, unfazed!

For me, this all is pertinent because there are bigger concepts at stake. Dave died when Lydia was not quite 18 months old; therefore, she doesn’t really remember him. So, over the years, I’ve done my best to answer questions about Dave and Heaven. Still, she occasionally she gets fuzzy on the details.

But whenever her thoughts drift toward Dave, I don’t want Lydia to ever doubt that Dave—and his love for her—are real! He loved her so very much!

Similarly, I never want Lydia to be confused about Jesus, because He is our only true hope in this chaotic world. Jesus and His love for us are most certainly real!

Last night, as I wrote this post, I asked Lydia, “Does it make you sad that Santa isn’t real?” To my surprise, she shrugged and answered, “No.”

Curious, I asked, “Really? Why not?” Lydia didn’t hesitate in her answer. “I’m not sad, because I still get gifts!” I laughed at how simple it is for her. Lydia isn’t going to sweat Santa; she knows she is loved. And to her, the gifts are evidence of that love.

Clearly, each child and each family is different. Therefore, everyone should handle these topics in their own way. But as Lydia reminded me, when talking about Santa and gifts: “Mom, Jesus loves me MORE than that!” Yes, Jesus truly is the greatest gift ever.

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Father God, thank You for the gift of Jesus! In Him, we have everything we need. Help us be generous with others and spread Your love in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: How do you handle Santa in your home? What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Tasks: Consider ways to highlight Jesus this season. Check out Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. For kids, check out Star from Afar!

Birthday Blessings and Beyond

Lydia and I have enjoyed celebrating her birthday over the last few days!

I gave her two gifts—a Chicago Cubs t-shirt and a new razor scooter. Having grown three inches this last year, her hand-me-down scooter is almost too small!

Still, Lydia received many gifts, cards, calls and texts for her birthday. Because people in six different states remembered her birthday, we spread out the celebration!

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Since Saturday, Lydia has been opening a couple gifts each day, with a few more later this week. This girl is very-well loved.

We played multiple rounds of Hello Kitty Bingo and Go Fish. We made treats and Skyped with family. We went out for a birthday lunch, and Lydia took Popsicles to preschool on her special day. (Never mind that it was freezing outside!)

Thanks for all the birthday wishes—Lydia will be making several thank you cards!

you-can-never-say-thank-you-enough

Of course, Lydia loves all the gifts and attention. But really, it’s not about the gifts. (She doesn’t “need” anything.) No, for me, it is different. Each time a gift comes in the mail, or someone remembers us, I am prompted to recall God’s goodness.

Again, it’s not about the token itself, but the love it reflects.

While we have many friends and family around the world, we don’t talk to everyone regularly. But each time someone reaches out to us, I am reminded of the magnitude of encouragement and support we have received over the years. Wow!

God has taken such good care of us. Thanks for being a part of that!

birthday-ice-cream

“What if you woke up today with only what you thanked God for yesterday?”

Last night, I gained yet another perspective from Lydia. She is my greatest blessing. Instead of reacting to my frustrations (below), she kept her cool and was a real trooper.

Here’s the recap:

After doing a little research and considering a few options, I decided to upgrade my old router. To do this, however, I had to undo quite a few cords and other parts downstairs. One by one, I disconnected Dave’s speakers, a surge protector and an old computer. Probably about twenty (gazillion) cords…

I called both of my brothers for help, and they each talked me through a few key points. I also disconnected the printer, modem, and old router before reconfiguring the new. Long overdue, I also vacuumed the entire area!

Lydia was eager to “help” so I had her running all over the house for flashlights and such (to keep her busy, and out of the way). Though, she WAS the perfect size to squeeze in between the wall and table to grab a few loose cords!

These techy things always take me so much longer than I expect. So, I knew it would take awhile, but it seemed fairly straight forward. Well, it was more challenging than I thought and I was beyond frustrated. After about 2 hours, I decided to walk away for a much needed “break” (you know, right before I actually broke something!!).

Lydia wanted to watch a movie and have a picnic, but I kept stalling, telling her, “Ok, but just wait. Go play, and I will be done soon.” I didn’t realize so much time had passed, but that sweet girl made herself dinner and got mine ready, too! I made Lydia’s sandwich, but she got herself an orange, some chips, and even scooped out yogurt without making a mess! (Praise God!) She got my fork, spoon, and plate too. That was so kind of her!

Well, everything took so much time we didn’t get to watch the movie. Lydia was a trooper though. At one point, with mixed emotions, I apologized, “Sorry it took me so long. Your dad wouldn’t have had this much trouble.” (It was all his stuff and system.)

Thankfully, my sour attitude went over her head. Lydia quipped, “Yeah! It took me AND your two brothers to help you figure it out!” She was pretty proud of herself, and all the help she provided, along with dinner. 🙂

There’s never a dull moment around here! And sometimes, our deepest griefs, frustrations, and struggles end up making us the most grateful.

I am so thankful for my sweet girl. She always keeps me on my toes!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).

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Father God, thanks for your constant help and presence! Thanks for bringing us this far! Thanks for all your blessings. Help me not take them for granted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What are you thankful for? What is something that frustrated you at the time, but you were eventually grateful for? How does the above quote (enlarged) impact you?

Tasks: Write down a list of blessings in your life. Write a thank you note to someone!