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 #67

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?

We had an amazing week! We did so many fun activities and saw a lot of wonderful friends. During the day on Monday, we had friends over to visit. This family has been so helpful and encouraging to us over the years. The husband previously worked with Dave, but the family was relocated a year ago for work. They happened to be in town this week, so we caught up with the mom and three-year-old little girl, while the husband worked.  We were honored to see them!

Later on Monday afternoon, many of the neighborhood kids were outside playing. I had a couple large boxes that they were playing with. I used duct tape to make a playhouse for them, while they decorated it. I’m not sure who had more fun! Then, we played foosball in the garage with a couple of the girls. We played three rounds and each of the three girls (including Lydia) switched teams to play on my side…because my team kept winning. 🙂

On Monday evening, I cut my friend’s hair. It was fun to help her and we were pleased with the results. I’m glad she trusted me so much! (I finally did mention about cutting my dog’s hair as a teenager.) By God’s grace, I have kicked perfectionism to the curb!

We had some severe thunderstorms throughout the day on Tuesday. No major damage was done to my property, praise God, but two of my trees were hit by a trampoline that blew in from a couple houses over. Mainly, the stakes took the brunt of the force, and the trees were merely scraped. I would not have believed what happened if another neighbor hadn’t taken a video! Thankfully, the owner of the trampoline came to retrieve it and helped me re-stake the trees. We reviewed the slight damage on the trees and agreed to keep an eye on them. I don’t think they will need to be replaced, but I was glad my neighbor was gracious to help. That’s being ‘Fargo friendly!’

Several friends watched Lydia for me this week (on top of paying for daycare, like usual) so I could get things done. Thanks to the generosity of my friends, I was able to finish up some work duties, write, and run a few errands. I always try to return the favor somehow, or at least pay it forward.

It’s great to have friends who don’t keep ‘score’ but both sides always continue to give generously. A couple summers ago, a neighbor friend had given me a plastic sandbox for Lydia. I decided to get rid of it recently, so this neighbor helped me sell it online. We decided to put the money in our mutual ‘pizza fund’ for those times we eat together. We also swapped kids back and forth, shared meals together with everyone bringing something, and enjoyed s’mores around a campfire. One neighbor oiled our bike chains and get them in better shape. I even met a couple new neighbor girls today when they came over to borrow a cup of sugar. I’m thankful to be a part of a great community!

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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)!

Cutting Hair and Change

Recently, a good friend asked me to cut her hair. She didn’t have time to get into a salon, and really just wanted a simple cut anyway. I am by no means a pro, and only trim Lydia’s hair periodically. Still, I was honored that she would trust me at such a personal level.

We had fun, though I decided not to tell her about the time I was assigned the chore of trimming our beloved golden retriever’s fur… that was back in my super-perfectionistic teenage days. Back then, I could envision the outcome, but couldn’t quite figure out how to get there. At first, I cut out cockle burs and matted fur…

Then I just kept cutting, trying to make it look even. Later, a concerned neighbor asked what happened because our poor dog looked like he got hit by a car. He was so embarrassed he didn’t want to go outside for a week!

Yes, I learned from that mistake and know when to put away the scissors now!

When my friend arrived on Monday, we took before and after pictures. We agreed on how much hair to cut—about six inches. I immediately cut off around four inches, because it was dry and tangly. But I wanted to be a little more cautious with the rest. You can always cut more hair, but can’t put it back after it’s gone!

Periodically, I stopped and we reviewed the progress in my bathroom mirror. Well, I’m happy to report that my friend was very pleased with the results. Her hair now looks healthier and has a lot of bounce. She seems even more confident with her new look!

As she learns to style her shorter ‘do, hopefully, it will save my friend a little time. I told her to search for any areas that were missed so we can make slight adjustments, if needed. Overall, it looks really good and she’s received several compliments.

Regardless of your preferred hair style, we can all use a trim from time to time. With our locks or lives, it’s important to rid ourselves of anything that weighs us down. It’s healthy to remove the dry or dead parts of our lives.

Sometimes, though, it can be a little painful to say goodbye to what has grown comfortable. Change can be scary at first! It’s helpful to have support and encouragement as we look at ourselves in the mirror to see what needs to go.

When we finally do make a change, it can be freeing! We wonder, “Why didn’t I do this sooner?” Well, perhaps that’s part of the learning process. At any rate, change usually ends up being the best option.

Change may require that we learn a new style or way of doing things. My friend will have to style her hair a little differently now, but that is also part of the fun and adventure. Let it bring confidence instead of dread. Just as a haircut offers a new look, life changes can offer new perspective.

In some cases, it is possible just to make small changes instead of one big jump to the final goal. Maybe a phased approach helps one grow accustomed to the idea of change. At times, little tweaks can be made rather than abandoning the outcome altogether.

Lately, I have been challenged to change a few personal habits. But other changes could include stepping out of your comfort zone to volunteer, apply for a new job, make a difficult phone call, write an important letter, or offer someone forgiveness. Just take the first step and everything else will fall into place.

 It was fun to see the positive difference a simple hair cut could make for my friend. May we all embrace change like a hair cut and see other good changes happen as a result. Change is not always easy, but in the end, it is worth it. One small change can lead to many others… with growing impact!

Praise God we don’t have to do it on our own!
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God, thank You for loving us as we are. Thanks for prompting us to change and for walking with us through the process. Give us wisdom and courage as we live for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Are there any changes you need to make? Do you have any funny hair cutting stories?

Tasks: See change as a great adventure, full of possibilities. Move forward in faith!

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! 🙂

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!

Good Goals, God’s Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not super glamorous, but necessary.

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

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

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

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

Thank God for His sweet and refreshing grace!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gifts Galore

As I previously mentioned, this entire holiday season has been the best in quite some time! The last several weeks have stood out for many reasons. Each situation—including Halloween, Lydia’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Dave’s birthday—has seemed extra special this year. Praise God!

So far, Christmas has also been distinct. We’ve decorated more, started new traditions, and even skipped a few tasks. We’ve simplified where needed, but have also celebrated at a deeper level this year.

This year, Lydia and I are keeping it simple. I am enjoying the slower pace. Lydia…well, she’s super excited what’s already around the tree. I don’t go overboard, but loved ones have been sending gifts!

That said, I’m not super creative when it comes to gift-giving. In the past, I struggled if I couldn’t find ‘the perfect gift.’ Sometimes I would end up giving nothing if it wasn’t ‘just right.’ But I have since put off perfectionism and put on grace! And gift cards still count. When given with love, everything falls into place. It’s not so much the gift, but the heart that counts.

Jesus is certainly the most precious gift we could ever receive. At the same time, we give gifts to show love to each other. And, we show our love for God by living for Him—doing our best and giving our best back to Him.

I didn’t always understand this. I often felt like others had better gifts and talents—or were better at using them. Perhaps they were just willing to give whatever they had!

I felt like whatever I offered had to be super special…something extraordinary.

Yes, it took me awhile to figure out my God-given talents and abilities. Thankfully, I have learned so much these last few years. He can use anything given back to Him with the right heart. When we use our gifts to serve God and bless others, that’s when we find the most fulfillment, joy and peace.

When I didn’t have much emotional reserve, I brought my tears. I also brought my grief and uncertainty, fears and doubts. I guess you could say I gave out of my lack.

And in return for my weaknesses, Jesus gave me His strength. He also gave me even more of His love and grace, peace and joy. Yes, God has brought healing! He always gives out of His abundance! Gifts galore!!

This year I have seen beauty instead of ashes, color instead of shadows. He’s given me gladness in place of mourning (see Isaiah 61:3). And this holiday season, I have given the Lord praise with a grateful heart.

This week, we’ve had the honor of hosting a friend with her little toddler. Each day has been different but really fun. My friend made plans to stay with us months ago, and we have been looking forward to it. But her visit has also been such a gift to me!

We have visited other friends, watched movies, played in the snow, and shared childcare duties. We’ve enjoyed good food and stayed up late, talking and encouraging each other. These one-on-one skills use my strengths and bring me joy. And as we discuss what’s on our hearts, I can see more evidence of God’s healing my own.

This year, it really has been simple. I’ve been able to rest and give back to the Lord out of the abundance He’s already given me. And, as I have given hospitality, time, and friendship, I have been blessed with even more of the same!

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Father God, thanks for giving us Jesus. Thank You for Your gracious healing and dear friends. Help us give our best back to you each day. Change our hearts and perspective as we experience Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have special plans for Christmas? What was the best gift you have ever given or received?

Tasks:  Write down your God-given talents. If you don’t know your strengths, pray about it! Ask God and other people what you do best. Then, serve and bless others!

Hope and Healing for the Holidays

What a difference a year can make!

This year, my holiday preparations started back in September! One Sunday, I went up front for prayer during the church service. I asked the volunteer couple to pray with me; I was a little nervous about the upcoming holidays.

I needed peace and reassurance, because the entire last quarter of 2015—October through December—was pretty rough grief-wise. So I was praying for a non-repeat.

I’m so glad I asked for prayer.

Praise God, we’ve had by far the best holiday season yet. We’ve had many special moments with family and friends over the years, but this entire season has been good.

It’s not just what we have done—but also what we haven’t done—that’s different. We’ve hosted visitors, attended holiday events, and enjoyed new traditions, sure.

One thing we did not do: Send Christmas cards.

I felt I would have been running short on time to crank out cards to our many loved ones. And because our season has gone well, I decided to be still and take it all in.

Sure, the picture below is unedited (with other peoples’ heads in the way). 🙂 But, I have more peace and joy as-is. Honoring Jesus by not being so stressed feels way better.

Also, this season, Lydia and I reached a happy milestone! We decided to put up the ‘big’ six-foot Christmas tree for the first time in at least five years.

For the last several years, it was just too much physically and emotionally to handle decorating the tree on my own. It brought me more tears than joy. Yet this year feels vastly different—I am grateful for God’s gracious healing!

Last week, my neighbor helped me bring up the tree out of the dusty closet, so Lydia and I could decorate it. Now that she is old enough to understand more, it is so fun to see her excitement! Lydia is delighted with all things Christmas.

For me, this holiday season feels like a gift. It’s like I am seeing things in full color! To be honest, for the first time in years, I am truly excited to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ birth!!

I am already looking forward to Christmas, without even knowing my exact plans!

Instead of rushing through the season from one event to the next, I’ve taken time to pause and enjoy each moment. We hung a new wreath outside and bought new bright red, Christmas decorations for inside. We’ve played games, made treats and watched holiday movies. It’s been fun!

Dear friend, I pray you are also having a wonderful season of celebration. I hope you are able to feel the joy of Christmas. But, I also know how you feel if this feels like the worst season yet. Last year was unexpectedly difficult for me. So, I’ve been there!

Maybe this year you need to simplify your decorations or buy something new. Or, quite possibly, you might just skip decorating altogether. I understand!

It might be less stressful to stay home for Christmas or maybe you will feel better by traveling to visit loved ones. I’ve done both!

Yes, each season has its own unique challenges. Remember to treat yourself well.

Ask for help, when needed, and adjust your expectations.

If you want to read my holiday posts from last year, click here for the start of my December 2015 posts. I hope you are encouraged!!

You may feel like each day is a battle, when everyone else is laughing and carrying on. You might have to fight just to put on a smile. I get it.

I also know the best thing you can do…. Whether you are facing fear, loneliness, discouragement, or immense sadness, bring it to Jesus.

If you feel like you have nothing to bring to Him for Christmas, bring whatever you have. Your honesty is precious to Him! He can handle it and use it to heal your heart.

Jesus loves you deeply, and He will never leave you alone.

You don’t have to have your life perfect…Just come!

Someday, Life will be good again. It will get better! But, it’s going to take some time to heal. Let our dear Savior King touch your spirit with his grace and love.

Linger in Jesus’ presence. Even if that is all you can do today, that’s okay. The rest will come. Take it one day, one hour, or one minute at a time. Don’t forget to breathe. Conserve your energy, and reserve your best for Jesus.

In the midst of your struggle, God is there. His plan for you is GOOD. Remain close to Him and you will find peace and grace in your time of need.

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Father God, thanks for Your gracious healing. Thanks for making all things new. When our hearts are burdened with grief, pain, or discouragement, remind us to turn to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Do you have any special holiday traditions? Who, or what, are you missing this season? How can I pray for you?

Tasks: Find someone you trust and ask for prayer. Find a quiet spot and just be still before the Lord. Let Jesus fill your heart with peace.

Because He Is Faithful

The last few weeks have been quite full around here … I’m sure you can relate!

I’ve had some awe-inspiring “I-can’t-believe-I-get-do-this” moments and some “not-so-fast-try-again” moments. I’ve had some late nights and a couple early ‘zombie’ mornings, as well. You too?!

These days, I am trying to focus on sleeping more each night and resting more often. But at times, I can still feel overwhelmed! In those moments, it can be difficult to figure out which task needs to be done first. They ALL seem urgent and important!

post-its-all-over

My to-do list often grows faster than I can check tasks off! “To-do or not to-do” quickly becomes the question. I’m sure you’ve been there too!

However, recently, God reminded me He knows the limitations of my day and time. He knows I can’t possibly finish everything at once. He is not the one pressuring me to complete each task…therefore, maybe I am creating my own stress!

As a result, I’ve started to look at things differently…like maybe each task on my should-do list is simply a heavenly heads-up. God already knows I can’t do it all—a lesson I am continually relearning—but He wants me to be in the loop about what is coming.

He is an awesome planner after all!  I keep focusing on working with Jesus, rather than having to accomplish everything on my own. What grace!

So I will continue to pray and prepare wisely throughout the week, but will not worry when things don’t get done. I will work hard, yet stop to take breaks and enjoy life.

I feel better already!

hebrews-10_23

Of course, none of us know what each day will hold—no matter how much we try to schedule it. But I am glad to leave it all in the hands of Jesus.

Because He is faithful, I don’t have to depend on my own understanding. I know He will show me the right path to follow (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Because He is a faithful Provider, I don’t have to worry about making ends meet. I can go to bed at night and rest well, knowing He is watching over me and working on all that concerns me (Psalm 127:2).

When I feel weak, wanting to give up or give in, He gives me the strength to persevere. And because He is faithful, I can do all things He has called me to do, though not necessarily everything I think I should do (Philippians 4:13)!

path-in-the-woods

Yes, because He is faithful, I can be content despite my circumstances (Philippians 4:11). In the midst of trials, I know He will come through for me.

When I don’t measure up, even then, He won’t let me down. When I stumble, I know He is faithful to forgive. His mercies are new every morning and His grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9)!

Because He is faithful, I know Jesus will keep His promises (Psalm 145:13). Life is tough, but He will not leave me to fend for myself. So I will let Him lead me and sustain me. He knows exactly what I need!

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Jesus, thanks for the daily reminders of Your love and grace. I put my hope and trust in You, for You are faithful. Lord, help me keep the right perspective that I get to do life with You, and don’t have to do it alone. In Your Name, Amen.

Questions: Is there anything you are trying to handle on your own? Can you take it to Jesus and leave it with Him?

Task: Write down a list of all the ways God has been faithful to you.

 

Like A Canvas

A few days ago, I took a social media quiz to determine my so-called ‘life quote’. I’m sure you’ve seen similar ‘tests’ regarding personality traits, how good of a friend you are, etc. I generally avoid them, but got sucked into this one nonetheless. 🙂

This is what my results showed:

“Your life is like a canvas: every morning it is up to you to decide if you like to keep on painting the same old picture or create a new one.”

wildflower-fresco

While I don’t think this quote is the ultimate reflection of who I am, it stood out for several reasons. First, I hadn’t seen this quote before, so it made me stop and think.

Second, I have been pleasantly surprised at how much of a mood lifter the recent changes to my home have been. I have seen the value in changing my surroundings, which has prompted me to be open to change in other areas of my life.

Third, the idea of keeping the status quo or creating a new opportunity reminded me of a fun mom’s night out with friends two years ago. A local artist hosted a painting night, with a predetermined picture as the goal.

There were two options and I since I am not super crafty, I decided to go with the easier choice. The end result was supposed to be a silhouette of two song birds on a branch or wire. The little birds looked very cozy against an azure background.

I thought it was so cute, similar to this cheery picture I recently bought for my home.

happy-birds-on-a-wire

At the beginning of our painting session, my friends and I were given the same size canvas and amount of paint, and the same directions and materials. It seemed fairly easy, and the artist gave us pointers as needed.

All was going well until…

I added too much white paint to the blue! I started spreading it around but that only made it worse. Of course I kept smearing the white paint, trying to blend it in…

As you can tell in the picture (below), my results looked nothing like the original plan! I tried to make the birds and the branches. But, it turned into a big mess. Soon, I took a step back and considered my options.

I could keep going and hope the old plan worked out—or I could go another direction entirely. The second option—the obvious choice—was a much better fit for my skill level…

above-the-chaos

Ok, clearly I’m not meant to be a painter! Stop laughing and let me explain!

I decided the white against the dark blue looked a little like a thunderstorm clouds. Or, possibly, a turbulent ocean… I couldn’t quite decide. 😉

Either way, I felt it represented a sense of turmoil.

In the end, I painted tiny v-shaped birds at the top of the clouds (or waves?!) to signify rising above the chaos. I wrote ‘Isaiah 40:31’ in the corner, and decided that was the best I could do! Whew!

isaiah-40_31

As I think about that experience and the ‘life quote’ above, there are a few parallels.

Sometimes our life ‘canvas’ looks good. The brush strokes match up just as we envisioned. Occasionally, smudges or spills can make a big mess—and we feel like we have to start over. But, often, those creations turn out to be the most interesting.

Perhaps we just have to reframe the failure or make it into a new picture!

You might have to take a second look to see the hidden beauty and potential amidst all the smudges. You might not understand all that has happened in your life or how it could possibly turn out well.

Rest assured. You might not see God’s hand in it all. But, trust me—He’s there! He cares deeply about you and is the Master of second chances. It might not look perfect, but God can make our lives into a beautiful masterpiece as we rise above the chaos.

lydia-artwork

The key is letting Him show us what to keep (the old) and what to change (make new). Thank God, the final result is more dependent on Him leading us than our artistic talent!

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God, thanks for seeing the beauty within us and for developing it in our lives. Thanks for second chances and new direction. Please continue making us—and remaking us—like You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: When it comes to being artistic, do you prefer painting, drawing, photography, music, writing, food, or something else? Did you ever have a project that required a do-over…or a complete overhaul?

Task: Make something creative today!