Writing Reflections

This past weekend, I went to my first writers conference. The conference was held in St. Paul, MN, which is about 4 hours from Fargo. I arrived on Friday afternoon for the Saturday conference, then spent another night before returning home Sunday afternoon.

In order to attend the conference, however, I needed help with Lydia. Childcare is perhaps my biggest challenge as a single mom. Often, I have to make up my mind to do something, and then figure out how I am going to make it work with Lydia.

This is true for conferences, parties, appointments, concerts, certain church meetings, etc. Many times, I just decide the event is not worth the hassle of figuring out child care. But, if I do choose to attend, I trust the Lord to help me make it work.

This weekend, my family came to the rescue! They trekked several hours to meet us in the Twin Cities. Then, they took Lydia to explore the Cities while I was at the all-day conference. Lydia was glad to have grandparents, aunts, and uncles all to herself!

I was grateful for their help…Lydia was grateful to go to Mall of America!

At the conference, I saw several agents, acquisition editors, and publishers. I heard them speak at workshops and at a panel luncheon. I have followed some of them over the years, so it was a really cool experience to see them in the hallway, like any other person!

While I’m not currently ready to publish anything specific, the conference itself was a good confirmation that I am on the right track with meeting my goals. Thank You, Jesus!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the conference was that I didn’t have to explain that I am a writer. You might be thinking, “Well duh, you were at a writers conference!” But it’s common for writers to deal with self-doubt.

In the past, seeing myself as a writer was a challenge. So, I prayerfully invested in a couple online programs and learned to see myself in a new way. Consistent blogging has been helpful, too. Just putting myself “out there” has boosted my confidence in writing.

I’ve come to see writing as a means to document my journey and reflections on life, what God is doing, and how I interact with others. Writing helps me learn more about myself and the world around me.

This past weekend, it was great to ask people what they are writing or answer questions about my own projects. Just having taking people take me at ‘face value’ was refreshing. Even if I didn’t have anything to “show” that day.

In the past, I might have gotten stuck or discouraged. But to my great relief, I was able to see just how much I’ve grown! Praise God!

Our Heavenly Father is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He knows how our stories end, because He sees the end from the beginning of time. In fact, our own stories are wrapped up in His larger story. So, we can trust Him as He leads us!

As we read His word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, God shows us who He is…and who we are, too. We just have to read it and embrace what He says.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we understand about ourselves. It’s a great investment of our time, and by His grace, He calls us like He sees us!

We are saved. We are forgiven. We are free. We are chosen. We are loved. We are redeemed. We have new purpose. We are called. We are empowered. We are His.

Perhaps you don’t enjoy writing… Maybe God wants you to do something different…like stay home with your kids, go back to school, volunteer, change your diet, forgive someone, or introduce yourself to a neighbor. It can be scary to put yourself “out there.” I know.

But ultimately, we have to make a choice to trust. Jesus is faithful and more than able to get us where we need to be. We just have to take the first step.

With His unfailing love and support, how can we fail? Let’s see ourselves like He does and cooperate with Him. We can’t go wrong! And who knows, maybe soon, you will be doing something you never thought was possible!

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God, thank You for putting Your dreams within our hearts. Thanks for walking with us along the way, giving us guidance. Help us see ourselves as You do. Help us be brave! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a dream that seems impossible? How can you trust God and take the first step?

Tasks: Write down all the reasons your dream seems unachievable. Then, write a Bible verse next to each reason, such as Philippians 1:6 or Philippians 4:13. As you pray through each verse, redirect your focus on Jesus and trust Him to help you!

Road Trip Reflections

I love a good road trip! I always enjoy seeing new places and finding new routes to travel. This past week, Lydia and I went on our first over-the-road adventure of 2017.

We drove to Frisco, CO, for a family funeral/memorial service for my aunt who lived out there. I broke up the trip into several legs and built our nightly stops around other activities. Overall, it a was a great trip.

We had a few ‘speed bumps’ along the way, and everything didn’t go quite as planned. I always pray while making plans and God brought us through. All things considered, we still had fun. God is so good!

Originally, I planned to drive two days both ways. But at the wise suggestion of my neighbor, we started out one night early. I’m glad we did because it made the initial drive a little more manageable.

We left Wednesday night straight from Lydia’s school. We drove three hours or so to Sioux Falls, SD, to break up the first leg of the trip. We stayed in a hotel with a water park, much to Lydia’s delight. She fell in love with the water slide and wanted to ride it half a dozen times! Her smiles made the impromptu decision (and extra cost) worth it.

The next morning, we drove three more hours to Omaha, NE. (We briefly went through Iowa too!!) That day, we decided to visit the Henry Doorly Zoo. It had been on my list of things to do for a couple summers, and we finally had a reason to go.

I got my recommended 10,000 steps that day at the zoo; I was also impressed Lydia walked all the way (minus a three-minute piggy back ride). Thursday night, we also swam at the next hotel. The hotel was fairly blah, though the pool was nice. I should have known by the cheaper price. The old adage is often true: You get what you pay for.

On Friday, we drove around eight hours to Frisco, CO, into the mountains west of Denver. My sister and several others flew instead of drove. I happily beat them into town, thanks to a delayed flight. 🙂 I do like having more flexibility over my schedule when driving.

We had beautiful weather the entire weekend while we celebrated my dear aunt’s life. Ski season in Colorado is over, but there was still some snow on the ground. But, it was not cold. It was so good to be together with family from several states besides North Dakota and Colorado: Illinois, Ohio, New Mexico, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

My aunt who lives in Greece also came, as well as her daughter currently living in Ireland! It was wonderful to see them! I felt the God’s peace as we laughed and cried, sharing funny stories and encouraging one another. I pray the strong showing brings my uncle comfort and courage like it did for me four years ago when Dave died. I’m glad so many people came… There is strength in numbers!

On Sunday, Lydia and I set out for our next stop. We drove about seven hours to Custer, SD, in the Black Hills region. (We also spent a fair amount of time driving through Wyoming!!) We arrived later than I had planned—thanks to a long goodbye over brunch, Lydia puking in the car, and more pit stops overall. We finally made it, but it was too late to do any activities. Thankfully, Lydia was pleased to go swimming…again!

Monday came early, and I realized we didn’t have much time for activities. Despite extensive map reading and GPS, navigating was difficult because nothing seemed to scale. I have been to a different part of the Black Hills, but on this drive, the miles seemed longer. We saw a few bison, wild turkeys, and deer. We took the Needles Highway, but at nearly 40 miles in length, it took much longer than I thought it would. That beautiful scenic road also took awhile because you have to go slow—it has lots of twists, turns, and tunnels!

Eventually, we made it to Sylvan Lake. By the time we arrived, I felt pressed for time given that we still had at least eight hours on the road back to Fargo. We walked around a bit but unfortunately didn’t do any major hiking. (We’ll certainly have to stay longer next time.) Nonetheless, we enjoyed the gorgeous morning!

As I plugged in our home address, I prepared for the long drive. I had forgotten about the time difference between mountain time and central time. So, that meant we would be home after 7pm. The thought of sitting in my car for nearly eleven hours that day (Needles Highway included) was daunting. But, I decided to make the best of it anyway!

Lydia’s a trooper and travels well. I gave her a paper scavenger hunt with objects to find on our way. We looked for cows, horses, tractors, cars of certain colors, and water towers. We also saw a rainbow, windmills, and many items not on the list. It kept both of us alert!

Along the way, I took Lydia to Wall Drug for a pit stop. I’ve been by there many times, but had never stopped. We probably only spent fifteen minutes there, but it was a fun diversion. Now I can cross that off my list too! 😉

We had brought snacks with us for the trip, and I usually grab coffee on the road. We were set! When we travel, I like to listen to the radio, sermons, or audio books. I also like to watch the scenery pass by. Mostly, it was a beautiful drive!

On long road trips, I also enjoy spending a fair amount of time just thinking. Sometimes I think about God’s goodness and how far He has brought us. Sometimes I reflect on changes I should make. Sometimes I think about upcoming plans.

On Monday, I also considered various aspects of our trip. A couple of the hotels were not as I expected. I didn’t sleep well while we were gone. Some of the routes I planned were longer than I thought. I also over-packed, once again… 😉

Throughout the trip, traffic was a little heavy at times, though road construction wasn’t too bad at this point in the season. The wind was really strong on Monday making driving a challenge. With all the driving, I didn’t get to relax much!

But, in the end, everything turned out well. God watched out for us while we drove over thirty hours in along weekend, traveled through six states, and put 2,177 miles on my awesome Subaru. I’m really thankful for a reliable car!

The best part of the trip was seeing family. I am also thankful God protected us and provided for us. It may not have gone exactly as planned, but it was still good. Probably even better, knowing the Lord was in control.

Yes, it’s always an adventure with Jesus!

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God, thanks for leading us on our journey. Thanks for protecting and providing so well for us. Help us listen and trust in You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have any road trips planned for this year? If so, where?

Tasks: On your next trip, pray for wisdom and guidance before making plans.

 

Finding Grace #61

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

Where did I find God’s love and favorHis abundant gracethis week?

This week was jam-packed getting ready for our first road trip of 2017. It’s always hectic trying to pack, clean and prepare the car. I also needed to finish planning our route, make reservations, and make sure everything is good in our absence. Thanks, God, for Your grace, provision, and protection!

We have been spending time with family this weekend, as we mourn the loss of my aunt. She passed away in late January, but her services were delayed until better weather. Our large family needed to have time to make traveling plans. I am so glad many of us were able to get together, comfort and encourage each other, and share good memories.

I am praising God for good weather this week! With road trips, there’s no telling how the roads will be. Rain, snow, or fog can make navigation difficult. Thankfully, we’ve had gorgeous weather every leg of the journey.

Finally, I am thankful for good friends and neighbors who helped watch Lydia this week. With so much going on, I needed to focus. They were instrumental in giving me space and time to think and plan!

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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)!

Tires, Target, and Thankfulness

Last week was an expensive week in the car repair department. Before you think I am complaining, let me explain why I am so grateful!

On our most recent road trip back to Fargo, a warning light came on during a thunderstorm. It said my tire pressure was low, but I did not have a flat tire. We were still over two hours from home. I checked all my tires each time we stopped; they looked fine.

I’ve had plenty of flats on other cars over the years, and am pretty good at changing tires! Thanks, Dad! But changing tires far from home and with a child is different.

pile of tires

After we returned home from our trip, I noticed a nail in the rear driver-side tire. Great. This was the third time in less than one year that I have run over a nail. But by God’s grace, I’ve never had a flat tire on this car! Soon, I had made an appointment to fix my tire.

Back in May, I was getting an oil change and was told that I would need new tires by this fall. I was surprised because I didn’t think they would wear down that quickly. We’ve taken several road trips over the last few years, but I didn’t expect to need new tires so soon. But yes, apparently putting over 35,000 miles on your car will do that!

That day I received a quote for new tires, but thought I would wait. It was a lot of money!

Before this most recent appointment, however, I reviewed the quote for new tires. As I researched tire options, I realized the cost was average for tires and the labor seemed very fair. Still not convinced that I really needed new tires, I did the penny trick. This is where you see how much of Lincoln’s head is seen, which translates to how much tread is left. Guess what. ALL of Lincoln’s head was showing!

Yep, I had not noticed it before, but my tire tread was almost bare!

Psalm 25_4

While I certainly needed to get the one tire fixed, I knew I’d probably be back in a couple months anyway. I asked several questions and asked about all the options. In the end, I decided to buy four new tires and avoid the time crunch later.

I wasn’t planning this expenditure for July, but value my time and the safety of my family. And, even though it was a good chunk of money, I was grateful Dave had always set aside money for car repairs. So, it was already in the budget!

I discovered Target was only about a block away, so Lydia and I walked there. I needed to buy a small gift for a friend that day. I was glad to take care of that while we waited because it saved me ‘daycare time’ later on.

Then, we walked back to the shop, thankful for the exercise. My car was almost done. It was getting an alignment, which I learned was very needed. Two tires were pulling off-kilter, but I had grown used to it. I didn’t realize how far off it had been!

After the technician explained to me all they had done, I was grateful to get it fixed! As I drove off, I felt like I had a new car. It drove so smoothly and quietly!

wheel on car

You likely have had different challenges lately! But we can all appreciate God’s protection and wisdom to make good decisions. We can have peace when making decisions knowing He covers us with His grace.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for taking such good care of me! Thanks for showing me the right path to take. Give me wisdom for life’s decisions. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Question: Have you had an unexpected expense that turned out to be a blessing?

5 Benefits of Taking a Break

I don’t know about you, but I cannot believe how fast the summer is going! It’s probably been the best summer yet, since Dave went to heaven three years ago. Lydia and I are doing well, praise God!

sunflower

With August just around the corner, our month is already filling up. Lydia has a little camp to attend with a friend; we have a visitor coming for a few days; and we have a host of other fun activities.

However, I’ve been somewhat relaxed most of July, having spent 2+ weeks traveling. So, I purposely postponed a few tasks and projects in favor of keeping things simple. I’m not really procrastinating, just focusing on different things for a change. It feels good!

Clearly, God has done a good work in me! In years past, I would have stressed about it. Now, instead of worrying, I’ve just decided to go with it! That’s grace! (And a lot more fun!)

I’ll get back to my normal routine in the coming days.

Meanwhile, here are five benefits of taking a break (or road trip, whatever). 😉

Psalm 29_11

More Rest: This may seem obvious, but we all need rest physically. On my last trip, I slept for 8 hours five days in a row. That’s the longest 8-hour streak I have had in…years! Also, my exercise routine is usually different when I travel. But even if I stay home on a rest day, my activity patterns are still laid-back.

More Relaxation: For me, this is mental. My best thinking and problem-solving comes when I am relaxed. Enjoying a different mental pace frees me up to think about other important things. My body may be hiking, canoeing or swimming, but my mind is on its own adventure! I love when my imagination kicks in and I can explore creative solutions. In fact, it’s a necessity to have a little time (traveling or not) each week to just chill and think clearly.

Less Stress: Cue the release of emotional burdens! We don’t need to carry the weight of our emotional stress. Yet, sometimes we fail to recognize the load on our shoulders. By taking time away, we can leave behind overwhelm, fear, worry, anger, etc. Sometimes, a little distance is all we need to realize we need to make different choices or move on. Stepping away for a little break may bring temporary relief or permanent changes.

Clear Perspective: When we take a break, we can also gain spiritual clarity. We can see the bigger picture, instead of focusing on our present circumstances. During a vacation from our problems, we can see what is really important. Perhaps God wants to provide direction or show us something new. He longs to answer our prayers, but we risk missing Him altogether when we don’t take time to listen. When we slow down, we can hear His Voice in the peace and quiet.

Increased Growth: In addition to new ideas and perspectives, taking time to explore can lead to growth in skills, knowledge, and even relationships. Find what inspires you to live a full life. Make memories with those you love, and meet new friends. Seek new challenges and put away your should-do list.

fishing and rest

I made a confession last week. Here’s another: Often, I don’t realize how much I need a break until I am actually taking one! It is becoming clear to me that I cannot afford to neglect breaks. When I regularly schedule rest, my overall outlook improves.

Psalm 23:2 says, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He refreshes my soul.” Yes, it may be challenging to take time away. But it is so important! Life is short…let God have your worries and take a break! 

Or, as I wrote earlier this year, take the trip you have been putting off.

If you are feeling tired and worn out…relax! Consider options for a daily break, a weekly escape, a monthly getaway, and/or a yearly retreat. Even if you stay home, explore your local surroundings. Try new foods, new parks, new entertainment. Be creative!

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Father God, thank You for blessing us with rest. Thank You for restoring us in the peace and quiet. Help us seek Your grace and Your pace each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Have you taken any trips lately? How can you build more rest and relaxation into your life?

Finding Grace #20

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

lightning

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

  • This week was spent in Illinois. Yes, Lydia and I took another road trip! A friend of mine got married last Saturday, and then we spent a little time with friends and family. We had a great week and a relaxing visit. Though, we don’t always get to see everyone, we are thankful to know so many wonderful people.

  • I had wanted to take Lydia to the Como Zoo in St. Paul this summer, but so far it hadn’t worked out. Yesterday, on our way back to Fargo, I decided to get a hotel overnight and visit the zoo. It was so hot and humid, but we had a great time anyway! My favorite part was the Butterfly Garden exhibit—between 800 and 1000 colorful butterflies flying all around us in an enclosed exhibit. Wow! Lydia loved the animals and experienced her first amusement park rides at Como Town (connected to the zoo). Later, we ate dinner, swam at the hotel, and watched HGTV. 🙂

  • I am thankful we went to the zoo yesterday, because we had an adventurous trip back to Fargo today! We got around the twin cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and stopped for a bathroom break and snack. No problem. It started sprinkling as we left the gas station, and after about ten minutes back on the highway, we drove into a downpour of rain! Lightning surrounded us as I prayed for God’s protection and help. Scary! By God’s grace, Lydia slept through the entire storm!

  • Many cars pulled off the road due to decreased visibility. I missed a few exit opportunities because I couldn’t see the signs until too late. I was thankful for a truck to follow, several car lengths back. As long as I could see the truck, I knew I was on the road.I was also thankful for my navigation system because we took a few construction detours in the midst of the storm.

  • After an hour or so, we finally drove through the storm, but it rained on and off until about eighty miles outside Fargo. That’s about 2.5 hours of our ~4-hour drive. Along the way, I pulled under an overpass to check my tires. I was concerned I might have a flat tire, as my tire pressure censor came on. Perhaps I ran over a nail—or perhaps it was just the twenty-degree sudden drop in temperature! I will check out the tire, put in some air, and repair it if needed. But, praise God we arrived home a couple hours ago safe and sound!

  • Now, we are jumping back into our routine. I’m almost finished with two loads of laundry, unloading the car, unpacking, going through the mail, etc. I watered my trees and will probably mow tonight. This week will likely be full—I already have about five people to connect with—in addition to work and my own projects. Lydia is happily playing with friends in the neighborhood. Thank You God for Your grace!

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

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

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

Baggage Claims and Packing Light

If you are a regular reader here, I hope I have earned your trust. That’s because I have a small confession to make. Yes, here is my baggage claim: When it comes to traveling, I always pack too much stuff! (Whew!)

I have gotten better over the years, but still, I tend to over-pack! When I was younger, my older sister would sit on my suitcase in order for me to zip it shut! 😀 Even now, I like road trips slightly more than flying because I can pack just about anything I want! I have a whole car to work with!

luggage

It’s not that I absolutely need everything I pack. I am relatively low-maintenance in terms of clothing and cosmetics. Nope. I simply like to have options! You know…JUST. IN. CASE.

Extra shirts, socks, shoes… Extra shampoo, floss, and nail clippers… You need it…I have it!

  It is wise to be prepared. However, I may need to scale back on my planning and preparedness. It’s rare that I actually run out of an item, but yes, I could most likely borrow or purchase something if it was important.

I also tend to pack other items for family or friends to save me postage. On my last trip, I packed a sweater for my mom, a jar of apple butter for my mother-in-law, and a couple shirts for a friend.

As you can imagine, all of that extra weight starts to add up. After a couple recent road trips (still over-packing), I started to wonder…how much extra stuff do we carry around in our daily lives?

luggage in meadow

Our schedules. We often jam too much in our days. We can feel overwhelmed with all we have to do. This is a big one for me. I am learning to prayerfully consider what I can really handle before saying yes to something.

Our social calendars. We say yes to too many events, often because we are afraid to upset someone by saying no. Let’s ditch the need to please!

Emotional baggage. This may include fear, guilt, anger, resentment, unforgiveness, or even self-pity. Releasing these burdens can certainly lighten your load.

Other burdens. This might include buying too much at the local ‘stuff mart.’ Whether overspending or simply wanting more stuff… Indeed, sometimes less truly is more. A little contentment goes a long way.

All of these things can weigh us down. If we’re not careful, we can hinder ourselves from moving forward and living a full life. We were never meant to carry the entire load on our own. Jesus beckons to us to let Him help.

Matthew 11_28

Life can be difficult. Even if you don’t travel much, perhaps daily burdens are adding up. If so, consider adding these to your daily pack:

Start with God’s love and grace. His love is the best foundation and carries us securely throughout the day. Don’t leave home without it! God’s grace is always abundant and reminds us of His goodness. It also makes a great gift to give away.

Then add joy. Joy keeps us light-hearted on our journey.

Next, add thankfulness mixed with praise. When we praise God with thankful hearts—even in the difficult moments—we avoid a pileup of worries.

After that, add faith and hope. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). When we trust that God has great things in store for us, we can expect good things…even if our travel plans (or life plans) go awry.

Finally, don’t forget your peace. Peace comes hand-in-hand with God’s rest. If we remain at peace, it is easier to have rest in our hearts and in our lives. The lack of internal peace is a good indicator that something is not quite right. Therefore, we can use that to make adjustments so we can retain a good attitude and right perspective throughout the day.

Praise God, we don’t have to carry our troubles alone. May we bring our burdens to Jesus today! In exchange for our problems, He gives us His peace and rest. He will also make sure we have everything else we need for a successful journey. Thank You, Jesus!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for walking with us side-by-side. Remind us to bring our heavy loads to You. May we have light hearts and live freely in the beauty of each day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Do you have any tips for an over-packer, like me? What other qualities would you add to your daily pack?

Finding Grace #18

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

sail boat

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

  • At the beginning of the week, we were still on our vacation to Lake Superior in Bayfield, WI. We had an amazing time and made wonderful memories. It is always good to settle back in at home, and we had plenty of tasks and errands to keep us busy the rest of the week. 🙂
  • One exciting event was that I upgraded Lydia to a twin bed. It was long overdue, but I just got around to it this week. A friend helped me put it all together, and I surprised Lydia after picking her up that day. She was so excited she even volunteered to take a nap! We had to rearrange her room, but all in all, it was a great experience.
  • I dislike sitting for long periods of time for several reasons. Whether it is due to inactivity or unintentional slouching, prolonged sitting brings me discomfort. And of course, I sit more when traveling or writing regularly! I found a handy sitting contraption this week, that has already brought immense relief. This BackJoy seat forces you to sit differently, by simply tilting your pelvis forward into its natural, preferred position. I have found it super comfortable and would highly recommend it to anyone who has back or posture problems. I am thanking God for this easy solution!

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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)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

A Road Trip to Lake Superior

Over 4th of July weekend, Lydia and I went on another road trip! We drove through several small Minnesota towns along Highway 210. We went through Duluth and on to Bayfield, Wisconsin, via Route 13.

Bayfield was once a booming town on a prominent shipping route. Today, it’s a small town along the Lake Superior South Shore, gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Lake Superior

We drove the six or seven hours from Fargo to meet my parents and two other couples from their sailing club (in Illinois). The eight of us had a fun adventure together!

I was looking forward to seeing my parents and crossing some items off my “travel bucket list.” I have wanted to see the Minnesota countryside, including some of the “10,000 lakes” and Duluth. I have also wanted to explore Lake Superior for quite some time.

But guess what? We almost didn’t go!  It was a lot of work to prepare for the trip. I had to pack for two, reschedule a commitment, plan for our return, etc. I have a couple other big plans (and projects) for the summer, so I wondered if taking time away was a good idea. Still, I was excited for the opportunity, and I am so glad we went!

Lake Superior at night

Lydia is an awesome little traveler, and we had a special time away with my mom and dad. Usually when we travel to Illinois, there are other people or plans vying for our attention. We stayed together in a cute bed-and-breakfast and had perfect weather for the entire trip.

What a blessing!

Our new friends were very eager to show us around. Excellent hosts, they generously took us all on their sailboat, speed boat, and dinghy to explore several of the Apostle Islands.

The first night (Friday) we went out to see the stars. We used the ‘Sky View’ app to learn about the constellations! Lydia loved going fast on the boat ride!

Devil's IslandCove at Devil's Island

Saturday included a dinghy ride to see an old shipwreck. The water was so clear! We also motored out to Raspberry Island to see a light house. We toured the buildings, and it was compelling to think about the history and importance of lighthouses. Such brave men (and their families) gave up everything to ensure the safety of sailors and other travelers.

Sunday was spent on an all day trip to one of the farthest islands. On Devil’s Island, we saw another lighthouse and natural sandstone caves eroded by years of wind and water. The colors were beautiful and I took pictures of the caves, water, and ships passing by.

On Sunday evening, we experienced the Big Top Chautauqua (think old tent revivals). The Chautauqua has been around for 30+ years. Its concerts bring many famous acts, but also showcase local talent. We attended a show called ‘Riding the Wind,’ a musical history of the Bayfield/Apostle Islands area. Lydia clapped along with everyone else. But when asked what her favorite part was, she enthusiastically said, “The hot dog!”

Sandstone Caves at Devil's IslandOn the Dinghy Lydia asleep on the boat

Monday was the 4th of July, and truthfully, the best Independence Day celebration I’ve had in years! With just me and Lydia, the holiday has not been all that exciting. This year, we all boated over to Madeline Island for a parade. Lydia received a beach ball, small root beer float, ice cream sandwich, and some candy. Pretty good for her first parade! She was a little timid at rushing into the street for candy (two things I generally don’t encourage!). But she got the hang of it and had fun!

Monday afternoon, my dad and I joined a blindfolded dinghy race! Dad wore the blindfold while rowing and I was his skipper. We raced around a buoy and back to shore, where I talked Dad through a mini obstacle course. We came in third, but had so much fun!

In Northern latitudes, it seems fireworks start around 10:30 pm, just as it starts getting dark (at the peak of summer). In the past, keeping Lydia up hasn’t seemed worth it. This year, however, Lydia enjoyed her first ‘real’ fireworks show. We sat on the dock and watched a couple different shows with several other sailors!

4th of July 2016

I wonder if the fireworks could be seen in Canada?!

Originally, I planned to drive home Tuesday. But, everyone kept asking, “Do you really have to leave?” Now, if I have learned anything these last few years, it’s that life is short. Sometimes, it may upend our plans. Sometimes, it may be costly or inconvenient. But there are limited chances to spend time with loved ones. We will never regret those moments in the future. Also, an open invitation from new friends doesn’t come often.

I realized that as much fun and adventure as we received, we also brought the same to our hosts. When I thought about all we would’ve missed if we hadn’t made the trip, the choice was clear: We really didn’t have to leave Tuesday. So, we stayed for another great day…and enjoyed a few more adventures!

Deep colors

 We all walked knee-deep in the Sisikiwit River, and Lydia loved the hands-on learning! We found two types of wild ferns, wild roses, and a hummingbird nest. We played in waterfalls and saw many types of beautiful trees. After enjoying a steak dinner on the way back, we saw the most gorgeous sunset heading down across the lake. A front was coming in and the wind picked up. But, we all got some great pictures!

Front coming in

It was a memorable trip, one I hope to repeat. If we had stayed home…the easy choice…we would have missed so much. And, I earned a new perspective on what’s really important!

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God, thanks for a great adventure! Thanks for the grace and freedom You bring into our lives. Help me to have the flexibility to make changes when needed and live the life You have for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Have you been on a road trip lately? Where did you go? Did you learn anything new on your adventure?

Finding Grace #4

I love the concept of giving God a shout out for what He has done.

We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as “God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.” Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot. I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

heart cloud

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

  1. On Monday, I had a 12-Hour Turnaround on our road trip back to ND. I am so thankful Lydia is a good traveler; she didn’t notice my funky mood. She happily gazed out the window and pointed out shapes and creatures in the clouds. The rest of the week was spent getting back into our routine after traveling. And, I have been thanking God for His work in my life.

2. On Monday, we were in the car so long the radio repeated songs two or three times each. My heart has been full this week as I overhear Lydia singing worship choruses, while playing or trying to fall asleep. It’s a joy listening to what is on her little heart.

3. I firmly believe in sending handwritten thank you notes. This was instilled in me as a child, and Lydia will learn this too. Daniel Tiger (a PBS kids show) has an episode dedicated to “Thank You Day.” Lydia was excited to have her own Thank You Day, where she made cards covered in stickers for relatives who gave her little gifts and trinkets at Easter. I helped write in the cards, of course, but Lydia signed her name. I sent my own notes too, and Lydia volunteered to sign her name on them to show her appreciation as well!

4. Yesterday, we celebrated a sweet little girl’s birthday with an indoor pool party. She was born three years ago today, when Dave’s health was rapidly declining. Her proud daddy visited us in the same hospital after she was born. I’ve enjoyed watching her and her siblings grow over the years, and I am so thankful for her and her family. They have been good to include us in many activities.

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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)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?