Roses and Redirection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are loved because He loved us first.

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

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

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

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

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.

Tater Tots and Training Wheels

Lately, Lydia has been taking beginner swimming lessons. She already feels over-confident, yet doesn’t realize the safety belt keeps her afloat! “See, I know how to swim!” Her sense of independence has carried over to other areas, too.

Perhaps it’s part of growing up…but the last few weeks have been tough on me as a parent! On several occasions, I’ve needed an extra-large dose of God’s grace to stand firm with discipline. More than once, I’ve lost my patience and needed a parenting pep-talk!

1 Corinthians 15_58

There have been genuine—but mislead—moments of helping me with household tasks. Lydia was proud of herself but spilled water everywhere. I’m glad she’s learning…but each time she ‘helps,’ it requires a time-consuming clean-up!

There have been full-blown meltdowns too. We’ve had personality ‘power plays’ and other issues. However normal, I could do without the whining and tears!

So, I have reinforced the importance of listening and first-time obedience. We’ve talked about boundaries and respect, forgiveness and grace. It’s an hourly process at times.

I know ALL parents go through these challenges. Most kids do similar things…indeed it’s a little funny, hearing my mom’s familiar voice coming out of my own mouth:

“I love you too much to let you act that way!”

Still, we’ve had some really good moments too. I’ve given and received extra attention, hugs, and “I love you’s.” When I point out what is going well, Lydia beams.

Yes, I am thankful for my smart, healthy, spunky, and beautiful girl. I’m keenly aware some people would give anything to have children…but for some reason cannot.

Let me not take this child or this season for granted.

Old Droid X2 Phone (end Feb 2014) 631

Father’s Day is coming up. In the past, I’ve had Lydia send notes or pictures to her grandpas and uncles. Now she’s old enough to realize that her Daddy is not here to celebrate. But, we are not alone. We have a great support system, near and far.

Also, God has been with us the entire time. He loves Lydia even more than I do. What’s more, He promises to be a father to Lydia (Psalm 68:5). True to His Word, He’s graciously placed many wonderful men in our lives. Besides grandpas and uncles, we also have great friends and neighbors who influence Lydia for good.

I appreciate the men who have stomped in mud puddles, played ball, and taught Lydia new things. A few brave guys have let her paint their nails! They have read to Lydia, given her piggy back rides, and made pictures with sidewalk chalk.

I’m amused at the difference between how men and women handle kids. My “mom-friends” are amazing, but surely, I can learn a few tricks from the men!

painting toenails

Last weekend, I tried to feed Lydia dinner before going outside. She, however, was eager to play with one of the neighbor girls… “I’m not hungry, Mom.” Soon, I got a text from the little girl’s dad: “Can Lydia have some deer sausage?” He was grilling out for his family that evening. In addition to two helpings of sausage, Lydia enjoyed tater tots and a popsicle! 😀

A few days before, we visited other friends, who live across the street. Their little boy was learning to ride his bike without training wheels. He did really well, with some coaching from his dad! I have no idea how I am going to teach Lydia to do this… But after talking with my neighbors, I’m sure this dad would gladly help Lydia learn how to ride her bike too.

Tater tots and training wheels? Yes, please!

bike with training wheels

Clearly, I’m not an expert on parenting. 🙂 Thus, I need the help of those around me and the insight of those ahead of me. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. But I can be present, persistent, and praying for wisdom.

I’m always looking for good resources. Recently, I’ve been using, Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, by Jodie Berndt and Personality Plus for Parents, by Florence Littauer. Great books! Also, I found this podcast helpful!

Parenting is certainly a challenging job, but God will help us accomplish it. When difficulties come, let’s stand firm and work enthusiastically, knowing that nothing we do for the Lord is useless (1 Corinthians 15:58)!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for this precious child You’ve given me. Thanks for providing encouragement and reinforcements on this parenting journey. Please give me Your wisdom and grace every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What are your favorite parenting resources? For those of you with older/grown kids…Do you have any nuggets of wisdom or funny stories to share?!

In With the New

My mom and I were on the phone recently, and we had a great conversation. Always my biggest fan, I count on what she says. Mom mentioned how much I have changed these last few years. She said, “This may not be the right word, but you’re not as uptight now!”

I got a good laugh out of that…you know it’s true if you don’t even mind when someone says it! I couldn’t agree more. And, I am so glad my mom and others have noticed!

2 Corinthians 5_17

Later, after some self-reflection and prayer, I retook an online personality test.

You can take your own short test here—I’d love to know your results!

I previously took this same test a year or so before Dave died. Some results were accurate, but others left me with questions I couldn’t resolve. This time, I was able to think of specific instances for each question. Some areas scored the same as before, validating my strengths. Just as I suspected, I received a completely different score for the final area.

I’m cautious to place too much value on “results.” But God showed me so much about myself! My doubts were cleared up when I realized the new results were a much better fit.

Now I have explanations for traits I wanted to overlook. I didn’t fully understand them before and considered them weaknesses. Now I can acknowledge them and use that information more effectively. What a relief as I switched my perspective. 

Psalm 139_14

At first, I didn’t know if I should laugh with joy or cry with gratitude at the new results. I love seeing myself in a fresh way. I think I was always meant to be this way because it feels so natural! It just took me a long time to get to a place where I could appreciate it.

Looking back, I think part of the tension from over-planning and perfectionism came from pushing myself to function in ways that were never my strengths. Wow.

Over the last few years, I have planned less and ‘flowed’ more. My stress levels have decreased as I have put less pressure on myself to do things ‘just so.’ I have learned to set better boundaries, say ‘no,’ and schedule downtime to avoid burnout.

Sometimes we need a shift in our thinking. Sometimes we need to do things differently. Sometimes we need to do both!

For example, I love cooking and trying new foods. However, I can easily get stuck making the same things. Even as a dietitian, it can be challenging to regularly think of innovative food options. With fresh summer produce just around the corner, let me tell you about one of my favorite foodie findsa spiralizer. It has brought new life to my cooking routine!

spiralizer

A spiralizer makes spiral cuts on your favorite fruits and veggies. It can make noodles or other shapes and is a lot of fun! I use this one (pictured) from Amazon. No affiliate links. I’m not earning any money off this postI just really like my spiralizer! 🙂

I have enjoyed making new dishes since I bought mine last year. My creativity flows while cooking and I enjoy the freedom that comes with God’s grace!

My favorite items to spiralize include apples, beets, carrots and zucchini noodles.

The first time I used my spiralizer, it was early afternoon and we had not eaten lunch yet. Excitedly, I spiralized some apples. Lydia started shoving them in her mouth! Realizing she was over-hungry, I melted some peanut butter on top and Lydia devoured them.

I love beets, though I recommend using gloves when handling them. I often purchase them already cooked. After spiralizing the cooked beets, I add a balsamic vinegar reduction, goat or feta cheese, and few chopped walnuts. Yum!

Carrot Noodles

Carrots (above) are so pretty when spiralized! I’ve added Alfredo sauce to Lydia’s carrot noodles and chicken with peanut sauce to mine. I have thrown them in with other dishes to jazz up leftovers during the week, too.

Zucchini is a great all-around vegetable. It’s versatile and can be used instead of pasta noodles. Or, you can chop the “noodles” to make something else, like muffins.

If you’re interested, Ali at Inspiralized.com has a great website. She has tons of recipes and tutorials for your favorite veggies. She used the same spiralizer from Amazon until she decided to design her own. I have not tried that one, but you might check it out!

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God, You are so patient and wise. You have made us wonderfully complex! Thanks for Your grace and love as You work in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you ever taken a personality test? What is your favorite kitchen gadget? Let me know in the comments section!

Perfect Peace for An Imperfect Puzzle

In my guest room, I have a framed Thomas Kinkade puzzle. It’s so pretty with the calming colors and serene view. It’s one of my favorites, and there’s a funny story behind it, too!

Years ago, when I was pregnant with Lydia, I had a small ‘bucket list’ to complete before she was born. I knew I’d have little time to myself when she came. I thought a one-thousand-piece puzzle would be a big accomplishment. Great idea, right?!

Puzzle (2)

What was I thinking?!

The puzzle was way more difficult than I imagined! Who knew so many tiny pieces could look exactly alike? It took me several months to complete with a few weeks “off” here and there… Finally, Dave gave me an ultimatum:

Finish the puzzle before the baby comes, or we’re going to toss it.
To be fair, the puzzle had been on the dining room table for months! 🙂

Well, wouldn’t you know that after all that time and effort, I could not find the last piece! Aggh!

(Can you find the ‘hole’ from the missing piece in the picture above?)

Well, Dave framed the puzzle for me and put it on the wall anyway. There’s no way I’d toss it after all that hard work! These days, I still love piecing together puzzles. But, with a little one running around, I have more realistic expectations now!

hands picking up puzzle pieces

Life is not perfect…but, it is still beautiful. In some ways, we’re all like puzzle pieces!

My missing puzzle piece reminds me that each one of us has importance to God. The picture is sadly incomplete if pieces are missing. Also, if a few people don’t do their part, we all suffer. Let’s pull together and use our talents and gifts.

God is in charge of the ‘big picture.’ He knows how the puzzle goes together because it is His design. We are His masterpiece and He misses the lost pieces! We may not see how we all fit until later. But, we can trust Him to guide us into place. Let’s participate cheerfully and help those around us.

We all have unique shapes and functions, but each one has intrinsic value. For instance, there are only four corner pieces along the edges, yet, the corner pieces are not more significant than others along the edge. Some pieces are more prominent, but all pieces are needed for a complete picture.

Humility and good attitudes are key to getting along with those in close proximity. Cover personality differences with grace, and connect with others. Don’t be overly concerned about what is going on in the far corners, but do your part to hold your quadrant together. May we lay aside our pride and include others.

Some puzzle pieces have rough edges and won’t feel like a good fit. God may use them elsewhere eventually, but don’t miss the opportunity to extend them grace. Treat them well. Show them God’s love. Maybe they will become a great fit or dear friend after all! We’re all a work in progress, right?

We can’t fix our own imperfections. The truth is we’ll never will be able to get it all right, all the time! But, we don’t have to worry about our lives or the final outcome. God Himself fills the gaps for us and holds all things together (see Colossians 1:17).

puzzle_peace

Yes, God has solved the puzzle of peace in our lives. He has shown us His loves through Jesus (Romans 5:8), who gave His life on the Cross to redeem us and bring us His perfect peace. Because of His resurrection, we can be restored and live a new life of purpose.

God’s grace is more than enough for our lack; He fixes and renews what is broken. Let’s keep our eyes on Jesus and the big picture. He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).

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God, thank You for Jesus! Thanks for the gift of new life You offer. Help us shine Your light as You piece us together, and let Your peace reign in our hearts. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you accepted God’s gift of new life and peace? Do you have any tricks for keeping all the pieces of a puzzle together?!

 

On Rivendell and Rest

Before Dave and I got married, I had a little list of things I wanted to do. It sounds funny now, but watching the Lord of the Rings series one more time was on my list! I love the epic story line between good and evil. I love the beautiful scenery too! And of course, the hero wins.

When Dave died 5+ years later, God took my mind back to Rivendell. At the end of the story, Frodo goes there to recover after his arduous adventure. In the movie, Rivendell is a gorgeous citadel nestled in the mountains. It’s characterized by towering waterfalls, beautiful light and even soft music. There’s a sense that everything is going to be okay…

After our own trip through what felt like Hell, God used the imagery of Rivendell to teach me about His peace, provision, and rest. The contrast was striking.

I am somewhat task-oriented; I thrive on to-do lists, sticky notes, plans and goals! Right away, I felt overwhelmed by extra responsibilities, which Dave would’ve done otherwise. I felt like it was “all on me” to keep the house in working order, pay the bills, discipline and take care of Lydia—not to mention working, preparing food, and trying to sleep.
Even in my grief, I knew could not do it all.

Then, in the midst of turmoil, God’s peace filled my heart. It was a supernatural calm, one I cannot adequately describe. Rivendell doesn’t do it justice!

In my mind’s eye, God gave me a similar sense of rest and tranquility, safety and security. It was extremely comforting. I didn’t need a game plan; I just needed to recuperate.

I knew, eventually, my heart would heal enough to take on other things. But in the meanwhile, I let God do the heavy stuff. True to His Word, He gave me “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Peaceful waterfalls

Slowly, God’s grace started to change—and heal—my heart. It was as if He told me just to rest, and in His time, He would see to it that everything was accomplished. And then, God’s generous grace for me allowed me to give myself grace.

I felt like God literally moved my personality default to a more laid back disposition. I realized I didn’t have to do everything, but only the most important things. I reorganized a few systems, like responding to mail and paying bills. I asked for help when needed. God also provided friends to help with outside housework, like mowing the lawn.

“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

As I clung to the Lord for support—minute by minute at times—I relaxed my standards and let some things go. I decided “close enough is good enough” for many tasks. At the time, I just needed to focus on Lydia and grieving well.

I may always be a checklist person! But now, I focus on what is most important—that is, joining God in the work He has for me. No more, no less. I am glad we can live in freedom and rest, knowing God is in control!

Because of His gracious love, we can live in peace and receive His provision.

God takes it personally upon Himself to help us. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we can walk in grace, peace and Victory. Thank You, Jesus!

Questions: Can you think of any epic story lines or movies that have paralleled your journey? What have you learned?

What is God asking you to let Him handle, so you can walk in Victory?