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.

Finding Grace #79

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

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

This week was a fun week with many unexpected blessings. On Sunday after church, Lydia and I had lunch with dear friend and her parents. I’ve known them for awhile, but haven’t seen them much lately. We shared fun stories and good food. It was a real treat!

Monday was Labor Day and pretty low-key at first. However, the evening perked up when a friend stopped by with banana bread. We shared some chocolate zucchini bread with her and enjoyed great conversation. When she left, another friend brought over a Papa Murphy’s pizza for dinner and books for my little free library. We also had a good time together! Seeing both friends (and eating yummy food) was just what I needed!

One day after school, Lydia and I Skyped with Dave’s sister and her family. It was great to see her, my brother-in-law, and all their kids. They live in Florida, and are keeping an eye on Hurricane Irma. They don’t live in the direct impact area, but anything is possible at this point. The trajectory could change at any time. They’ve made wise plans, and I am keeping them and the entire region in prayer. Lord, have mercy!!

The rest of the week was spent with work, school, writing, and cleaning. Not super glamourous, but important. I bought a new vacuum and enjoyed trying it out. It is cordless and lightweight which makes going up two flights of stairs much more manageable. My old one was broken in two places and always seemed to miss a lot of debris and dust. So, I am happy to finally get a machine that holds up to the hype!

Lydia and I received two yummy surprises in the mail this week. She got a package of cookies and other treats from another dear friend in Florida to celebrate the start of school. This sweet lady is also on my prayer list this week! Then, I received a box of garden fresh tomatoes from my uncle in Ohio. He’s the one who also helped install my little library during his visit last week. We both felt honored to receive such thoughtful gifts!

Earlier in the week, I did laundry and mowed the lawn… so today has been relaxing! We read some books, talked with my family in Illinois, and are having dinner with the neighbors tonight. God is good!

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

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

Grace for the School Daze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Praise the Lord!

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

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

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

 

Rest: A Holy Staycation

This last week has felt somewhat like a staycation. It’s been great! My mother-in-law came to visit, so it was a good opportunity to let a few projects sit. We enjoyed our time with her doing things we don’t usually do. Of note, we also registered Lydia for Kindergarten in a few weeks!

I’m celebrating another birthday this week, and it seems timely to regroup and get refreshed before a new season starts. Around each birthday, I reflect on the previous year and make changes if needed. But this time, I am taking a wait-and-see approach.

While Lydia and I are both excited for the upcoming transition, there are a few details we just don’t know yet. We have about all the information we could possibly have, but some of our decisions can only be made as we go.

Instead of worrying, I’m thankful Jesus knows what we need and is preparing us! In the meanwhile, I can pray for wisdom and guidance. I can soak up His unfailing love and never-ending grace. I can trust Him to see us through!

I can spend quality time with Lydia, knowing that as she starts school later this month, those times will be fewer and far between. I can also refine my self-care routines to ensure I have enough energy in my tank. This includes getting adequate sleep, eating healthy foods, and making time to exercise.

Most of the time, I feel like I have a million things to do. Nonetheless, it seems like the Lord always brings me back to a certain point… REST.

In some ways, this time of R&R is like a ‘holy staycation’ with the Lord! Instead of running off to the next thing, I am using this time to be with Jesus.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that God often moves s-l-o-w. Sometimes I grow impatient while I wait! But, when I embrace the same pace as Him, I am refreshed and rewarded.

Following Jesus requires us to stay close to Him. In times of transition, it is even more important to seek Him and listen for direction. With all the noise around us, we can’t hear His still, small voice unless we walk close in step with Him.

Interestingly, a quick Bible search on the word “stay” yields 246 results. As I briefly peruse the list, I see that when God asked someone to stay, He had further directions or blessings for them. And at other times, He prepared the path ahead. He honors our commitment. (As a side note, sometimes people refused to wait patiently for the Lord and it cost them!)

For example, the Israelites stayed at Sinai for the Ten Commandments. Rahab stayed home and was saved at Jericho. Jacob stayed with Laban and eventually married Leah and Rachel. Ruth stayed with Naomi and met Boaz. Even Jesus stayed where He was, before He left to raise Lazarus from the dead, to God’s glory.

Indeed, I love when God directs my steps, like He did recently when we cancelled our Glacier National Park trip and when my mother-in-law came to visit. At times, He has specific activities, meetings, directions, and even special encounters for us.

And sometimes, He leads us to rest. Praise God!

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God, thank You for leading us as we walk with You. Thanks for letting us rest. Please guide us in this next season. We commit our path to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Is God asking you to stay and rest or get up and go? How do you know the difference?

Tasks: Instead of figuring out your next steps, just rest. Let the Lord lead You in His timing.

 

Deep Cleaning and Deep Questions

Last Friday night, I hosted some dear friends for dinner. I wanted to honor them and enjoy one last visit before they moved out-of-state on Sunday. It had been awhile since they last came over, so in addition to making dinner… I cleaned the house!

In truth, the house needed cleaned anyway. The kitchen island usually gathers mail and other random things that seem important, but probably aren’t. I also dusted, which doesn’t happen often! It felt good to accomplish so much!

I spent much of the day deep cleaning. I also did laundry, ran the dishwasher, and cleaned the toilets. I went all out! 😉

Around 4 o’clock, I started vacuuming before my guests arrived. By that time, I had already put a new tablecloth on the dining table, hung clean towels in the bathroom, and cleared some clutter. Of course, I finished preparing dinner, too.

As I vacuumed the living room rug, a question popped into my mind. It made me stop in my tracks: How often do I go to this much effort for the Lord?

I paused to consider the question, which led to even more questions. Do I go all out in my personal time with the Lord? Is He my ‘everything’ or do I try to do everything on my own? When was the last time I invited Him to join me in my activities?

It was a really good gut check.

A lot of what we do seems important at the time, but does it have eternal significance? Indeed, it is amazing how much can happen internally in just a few moments. It’s clear God never settles just for surface cleaning. He always goes deep!

When God shows up, all our excuses go away. None of them stand a chance, when compared to His grace and glory. He renews our hearts and resets our priorities.

As I finished cleaning, I also prayed. I apologized for rushing through my day and invited the Lord’s presence into that moment. Lord, you are welcome here.

We tend to call on the Lord in times of trouble—as if He is just there to bail us out. But let’s not forget to seek Him when things are going well!

God cares so much about every detail of our lives. He longs to be our closest friend. He desires to be a part of our day, even if we are “just” vacuuming. Invite Him in!

No matter what we do—even really good things—our relationship with Jesus Christ is what matters most. He must always come first, and then the rest will fall into place.

That evening, I really enjoyed the time with my friends. Yet, it was made even sweeter knowing the Lord was present in our conversation. I know He will be with them in their new adventure, just like He is with me. Praise God!

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Dear Jesus, thank You for your sweet presence, unfailing love, and gracious convictions. Thanks for forgiving us and for deep cleaning our hearts. How we need You! Help us recognize You in each moment and keep You first, Lord. In Your Name, Amen.

Questions: Did any of the questions (above) resonate with you? How do you put Jesus first each day?

Tasks: Invite the presence of God into each of your daily activities. Notice how that affects your day!

Easter Excitement!

I don’t know about you, but Lydia has been looking forward to Easter for weeks! She’s been learning about Easter at church and school. While she doesn’t understand all the details, Lydia has made some good observations.

A few days ago, I read a kids magazine to her before bed. The magazine, from Compassion International, explained that some kids in other countries don’t have access to clean water, shoes/clothes, or food. The article was thorough, yet simple enough for Lydia to grasp.

“Lydia, what if some kids walked through dirt or garbage, but couldn’t wash their hands or feet?” I explained, “That could bring germs inside their house and they could get sick.”

Ironically, the next magazine article was about humility and being a servant. We read in John 13 about the Last Supper, where Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. He chose to serve.

We talked about pride versus humility. To hit home the point, I asked Lydia if she’d ever wash one of her friend’s feet. Her response? “That would be kind of gross…but I could do it.” I got a good laugh out of that, but was glad for her honesty!

We’ve also had some points of clarification, such as when I said Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. “Mom, I know what ‘trade’ means like if I have a toy that my friend wants, I give it to them and they give me something they have. But, what does buh-trade mean?”

I love hearing Lydia’s thoughts and seeing her excitement. She may not have all the answers, but she does have the faith of a child. She knows Jesus loves her!

Lydia also seems to understand the real meaning of Easter. “Jesus dies on the cross for our sins. And, Easter eggs remind us that we were lost and Jesus found us—kind of like how you hide the eggs and then I find them.”

Then Lydia added, “By the way, Mom, are you going to hide the Easter eggs when I go to bed or in the morning before I wake up?” She’s sure excited!

At Easter, we celebrate the love Jesus showed us on the Cross. With compassion, He laid down His life for ours because we each owed a debt we could not pay. His sacrifice was the only way to restore our relationship with God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (see John 14:6). Jesus paid it all!

With His blood, Jesus washed away our sins. Jesus’ grace covers our faults and failures…past, present, and future. Praise God, His mercies are new every morning!

Because of Jesus’ death, we have forgiveness and freedom. Jesus is our righteousness and our defense. And because of His resurrection, we also have new life!

We have purpose, protection, and provision! We no longer have to live in fear; we can come straight into God’s presence. We are healed in Jesus’ Name!

God’s grace and salvation are for everyone. Have you received them?

If you belong to Jesus, the same power that raised Him from the dead lives in you and me (Romans 8:11)! Because of Jesus, we have Victory! Hallelujah!

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Precious Jesus, thank You for the Cross! You alone are worthy of all praise. Victory belongs to You! Thank You for loving me so much, Lord. May my life bring You glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Question: What does Easter mean to you? Have you accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross?

Tasks: Read through Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection story. Praise Jesus for His sacrifice!

On the Right Track

Right now I have a strong sense of peace. I have many activities and projects waiting for me… But I am enjoying the quiet. I can easily become overwhelmed by all I have to do…

But when I choose to stop and just enjoy the Lord’s presence, all the chaos subsides. None of that seems important as I rest in Him. I’m thankful for the peace He brings!

This week, I am celebrating small answers to prayer. Despite all of my own effort—working hard to get results—God kindly reminded me that He is faithful. I don’t have to worry or stress because He will never let me down.

In fact, God gave me peace through a simple conversation. Someone confirmed that I was on the right track, just by listening to my concerns and giving me some feedback. The words I heard matched what was already on my heart through prayer.

As soon as that happened, I felt the Lord’s assurance that He has it all under control. He is the one who brings my breakthrough(s)! I can trust Him for His timing.

When He wants me to do something differently, He will make it clear. He always comes through for me! In the meanwhile, I don’t need to try to do it all on my own or figure it out.

There is great freedom in understanding God’s grace. I know He loves me know matter what. His love is not based on what I do, but who I am. I don’t have to compare myself to anyone—there is no one like me! He has made me unique and loves me just for being me.

Currently, there is a small stack of dishes in the sink and I just remembered there is still laundry in the dryer, waiting for another round. I need to go through the mail and clear off the dining room table. But all of those tasks will get done soon enough.

With Jesus, there is no rush. He refreshes me with His love and grace. Somehow, I always have the right amount of time to finish what needs to be done.

In the quiet, I have been thinking of all the ways God loves me. In addition to His protection and provision, I can see how He has helped me in the past. Whether it was related to family, friends, college, jobs, or making decisions, He always worked things out in His time. He has never left me on my own.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn to conserve my energy for certain tasks and let others go (or come back to them later). Grief is like that. Parenthood is like that! Instead of being frustrated with uncompleted tasks, I am learning the ebb and flow of resting in the Lord.

Instead of worrying about unanswered or unsolved problems, I can trust Jesus. When the Lord moves, I move. When He rests, I rest, too. When He says to make plans, I plan. When He says to wait, I wait. He always leads me to Victory!

Yes, staying in-step with Jesus is what matters most. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His timing is perfect. He always comes through…He is faithful!

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Jesus, thanks for being my Shepherd. Thanks for leading me with grace. Refresh me with Your presence. Help me draw near to You. In Your Name, Amen.

Questions: Do you find it easy or difficult to stay in-step with Jesus? What does that look like for you? Are there any changes you need to make?

Tasks: Memorize Psalm 23.

A Great Privilege

When someone asks me to pray for them, I consider it an honor. Even if someone doesn’t request prayer, if I see or hear of a need, I add it to my list.

I have been praying for several people regarding what I consider heavy topics. Currently, these topics include mental, physical, and/or emotional health concerns; spiritual matters; financial stability and/or job situations; and a variety of relationship issues.

I also have my own prayer requests and share them accordingly. If I’m not careful, though, all of these prayer requests can weigh me down. Yet I know I cannot bear the burden myself. Prayer is so important because there are some things only God can do.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works, prayer is the greater work.” Prayer is not the only thing I can do for someone, but it is the best thing I can do. I am not ‘off the hook’ from meeting someone’s practical or physical needs, but prayer is a powerful tool!

I’ve had to learn that if I try to encourage someone or meet their needs in my own strength, I’ll be overwhelmed. It’s just too big for me to handle.

But, praise God…He is not overwhelmed! Nothing is too big or too much for Him!

I’m so thankful we can take our needs to Jesus directly. Even before we say anything, He knows exactly what we need. What a privilege to come before Him!

Prayer unlocks God’s power. We can pray God’s word and pray with the help of the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 6:18). With prayer, we can persevere in trials.

Praising God reminds us of who He is. When we see how majestic and mighty He is, our problems melt away. Praising God makes us grateful! Praise and thanksgiving go hand-in-hand. (see Psalm 13:6)

We partner with God in prayer. We agree with Him, and get on board as He brings the answer. We can also pray with other believers, because where two or more of us are gathered, He’s there too. (see Matthew 18:19-20)

We can petition God with confidence, knowing He always hears and answers our prayers. We can pour out our needs before Him, yet need to let Him be God. He loves us and knows what is best for us. (see Hebrews 4:16 and 1 Peter 5:7)

Prayer changes me. Whether I am praying for myself or someone else, prayer brings transformation. As I yield my heart, mind, and will to the Lord, I am changed. Prayer prepares me for God’s answer and aligns me with His heart. As I intercede for someone else, I can see the difference in their life as well.

“Prayer is a declaration of our Father’s compassion toward us, a confession of our own inadequacy, and a reminder that he meets our daily needs.” –Mark Rutland

There are many other things to consider or meditate upon when it comes to prayer. Prayer is communication with God, so there is no way this single post could be comprehensive.  Other topics include the Lord’s Prayer, praying through Scripture, and prayer with fasting.

Nevertheless, prayer is a duty and privilege. Let us come before the Lord in prayer!

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Heavenly Father, You are good! Thank You for the privilege of prayer. Thank You for listening and answering us when we come to You. You love us so much. May we always come with confidence before Your throne. In Jesus Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a trusted prayer partner? What is your favorite way to pray?

Tasks: Prayer is two-way communication with God. Balance praying out loud with listening. Try journaling your prayers so you can have a record of Gods answers!