A Lunch Lady in the Library

On Monday, Lydia and I attended a conference with her teacher at school. I’m grateful Lydia is doing well so far. Even better, her teacher also mentioned Lydia has been helping other students. I’m glad she is confident in the material and can tutor others (as needed) at her ‘pod’ of desks. Her eagerness to help others reminds me of Dave’s servant heart.

On Monday, I also volunteered to help with the PTO book fair in the school library. I ran one of the cash registers and rang up book orders. I met some new faces and saw a few friends!

Lydia joined me in the library. She walked around looking at books; played quietly with another worker’s daughter; and returned books to the shelves for me if someone changed their mind. She loves to help!

One cheerful volunteer said she works at the school as a lunchroom supervisor (aka a lunch lady). She happened to be a PTO member, as well. She said, “I worked today and then stayed longer to set all this up. Then, I went to my kids’ conferences and now I am here.” She was very friendly and didn’t seem to mind her extra-long day.

A little while later, during a slower moment, I asked, “Do you have a position on the PTO?” She seemed quite knowledgeable to me! With a laugh, she replied, “Oh, no. I don’t have a position. I just jump in wherever is needed!”

I loved her attitude and eagerness to help. I felt she exemplified a good life lesson: You don’t need a title or position to serve. You don’t have to wait to be asked. Just jump in where you see a need!

Later, we continued to talk. I joked, “Way back in high school, I cashiered at a grocery store, so this is right up my alley.” She nodded and said, “Well, hey, I worked in a bank for four months….so I’d say we’re qualified!” 😉

From time to time, I suspect most of us don’t feel up to par with all that is required of us. I certainly don’t always feel qualified for whatever task or position I am called to do.

But, then I remember that God made me on purpose. He has given me my personality, abilities, strengths, and even weaknesses, for a specific reason. My circumstances are not a surprise to the Lord. He knew what He was doing!

Indeed, God has also used my life experiences (the good and bad!) to shape me. He instilled passions in my heart that are unique to me. He uses each of these areas to equip me and prepare me for all I need to do. My opportunities for both growth and advancement come from Him. I can be still and trust Him!

If I do my work as unto the Lord, I don’t have to worry about what others think. In fact, it’s not about what I do or don’t do… Jesus already did the most important work on the Cross. Thus, whether I succeed or fail, it’s a win-win in the end. I am covered by His grace!

God has a good plan for my life (and yours). Surely, He created us for such a time as this. So we don’t need to be afraid—we can jump in with confidence, knowing He’s got it under control. He’s so faithful!

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God, thanks for giving me Your strength and grace. Thanks for equipping me and qualifying me for each task. Help me do my best and bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Where do you find your confidence and strength? In your own abilities? Or in God working through you?

Tasks: Instead of trying to solve each problem on your own, ask Jesus for help. Let Him direct Your path and goals. Trust Jesus because He is the ultimate solution.

Decisions, Decisions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

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!