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!

Dear Younger Me

This week, an online friend asked her other friends to give their best life advice in three words or less. She then asked her audience to write what advice they would share with their 16 year-old selves. (This is applicable when looking back at any age, really!)

I was inspired and wrote, “Find the good.” Then, I reposted her questions on my own page. I loved reading all the phrases! Afterward, another online friend shared it from there.

All week, I have been following each of the three posts for catchy little words of wisdom. It’s amazing what a little time and distance can do for our perspective. The things we thought mattered often don’t amount to much. Experience is a great teacher!

Some people answered with a humorous approach. I saw advice such as, “Chill out, lady. Don’t do that!! Go to sleep. Be Wonder Woman. Eat more cake.” Haha, yes!

Some people turned the focus back to God, writing, “God is good. Jesus loves you. Jesus is Lord! In Christ alone. Put Jesus first. Walk with Him. Trust in Him.” Praise God!

Some of the comments focused on character qualities, like, “Be thankful always. Be kind. Be more honest. Be the good. Be adventurous. Be flexible. Save your money.” I agree!

Some phrases were more inward-focused, almost like personal coaching. “Just breathe. You are enough. You are loved. You are beautiful. Let it go.” So good.

I also noted other words along similar lines. “Don’t settle. Trust your instincts. Follow your heart. Embrace the imperfections. No regrets. Never give up. Make it work. Life goes on. Take the chance. Don’t be late! Forgive, move on. Just be yourself.” Yes!

I had just a few phrases of my own, originally. But then I kept refining and adding to my list! I was trying to collect all my thoughts and capture all the others shared already. 🙂

Life is beautiful. Sure, life is tough…but it is quite beautiful when we pause and take it all in. Beauty surrounds us in nature and in each person we meet. Let’s take notice.

Find the good. Sometimes the negative parts of life are glaring back at us. But it takes a special set of eyes to find the good. See beyond the present moment. See the potential.

Do your best. Just show up. These two can go together. We can only do our best each day and trust God for the outcome. Part of doing our best is to show up and be present.

Set your mind. Whatever it takes. These two phrases also can go together. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Some days, it’s a challenge to stay focused, but do whatever it takes.

God’s got this. I use this phrase often, especially when writing blog posts, apparently! Whatever the struggle, I know God can handle it. He will empower me to do what I need to do, and then He will do what only He can do. He’s more than able!

Regardless of any advice we might share, what God says about us is key. I love you. I forgive you. No matter what. You are free. You are mine. Come follow me. Receive new life. Do not fear. I am with you. Nothing is impossible. It is finished. You are secure. Peace, be still. 

I will be thinking about all these great words of wisdom for quite some time. It’s encouraging to hear what other people find helpful. We all have our own journey and it’s important to monitor what we are telling ourselves. Let’s be gracious with ourselves. 

When we look back and summarize our experiences, even in just a few short words, we realize how far we have come. Thank you, Jesus… Life is short. Live it well.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for loving us so much. Your words are full of grace; they bring LIFE to our hearts. Be with us, Lord. Give us wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. Help us make good decisions, not choices we’ll regret. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What advice would you give to your younger self? What words of wisdom would you share with someone else? Which of these words (above) resonate with you?

Tasks: Share your advice (three words or less) here, or with someone who would benefit! Listen to the song, Dear Younger Me, by MercyMe.

 

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!

Making Toast in the Bathroom

It’s funny how one day can be so different from the next. On Monday, each of our activities was spaced out with adequate time in between. On Tuesday, we had the about the same time margins with even less activities…but I felt disorganized and unprepared.

On Monday, Lydia started two weeks of swimming lessons in the late afternoon. Water safety is imperative, so the time commitment is worth it. However, adding an activity always gives me less time elsewhere. This week it threw off my routine…

Thus, on Tuesday, I felt behind from the get-go. I woke up groggy, despite getting adequate sleep. It took Lydia awhile to get dressed and I soon realized I forgot to pack lunches the night before. Everything took longer!

I threw together breakfast (and lunch) for the road, but rushing only cost me time. First, I chose a too-small container and had to dump Lydia’s breakfast into a larger one. Then, I spilled something and had to clean it up.

Back and forth, I ran around the kitchen. I grabbed lids, baggies, and paper towels to wipe up my messes. Finally, I looked at the clock as I poured my coffee to-go. I was late!

Enter GRACE.

I took a few deep breathes and prayed, reconnecting with what was important. I thanked God for my flexible schedule. I was later than I had planned to be at work, but I wasn’t really late. As long as I arrived earlier than my presentation, I would be okay. I could stay later and still get my hours in on the back-end of my work day. Not a big deal.

Then, I decided to slow down and focus. No amount of stress is worth a car accident or something worse. Being safe and healthy is more important than being “on time” (especially with my flexible schedule).

On the way to work, I heard a quote…something to the effect that Life is 10% what happens to us (circumstances) and 90% what we make of it (attitude). At any rate, I can choose to see the glass half-full! I ended up only about fifteen minutes later than I had planned and was still early for my presentation. Thanks, Lord.

I discussed my morning with my coworker. She laughed and said, “At least you didn’t have to make toast in your bathroom!” She explained that she had a similar morning when her kitchen outlets blew a fuse. Her family was all ready to go except breakfast. Instead of waiting around to find the problem, she was resourceful!

Praise God, I got ahold of my attitude before it got the best of me. I ended up having a good day and was able to laugh it off. I was productive at work and swimming lessons in the evening went well. I even remembered to prepare breakfast and lunches in advance!

Often, Life is unpredictable and feels out of control. Regardless of your circumstances, you are in charge of your attitude. But, you don’t have to deal with it all alone! With God’s help, nothing is impossible. Lean on Him for grace and strength. His timing is perfect and His plan is good.

Most of our daily stressors are minor. They are not worth losing our cool. Thankfully, most of us will never have to make toast in the bathroom!

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Father God, You are gracious and wise. Thanks for the creativity to solve problems as we live for you. Give us inner peace in the midst of chaotic circumstances. May we bring You glory in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you handle daily stress? Do you pray, journal, call a friend, exercise, or what?

Task: Find a healthy way to de-stress!

LEGO and Let God

“Mommy, can you help me put this together?” Lydia held up pieces of a small LEGO alligator. “Sure, but why did you take it apart?” I asked. Lydia gave me the directions and said, “Because I wanted to put it together myself.” I quickly understood that she only wanted me to supervise!

I held the directions and let Lydia do all the work. There were eight steps—little wordless pictures—and just under thirty pieces. I flipped through the pages while I waited.

From my angle, I could see how each step sets up the next. Skipping even one LEGO piece could make the rest more challenging… While it was a fairly simple alligator, I turned it into a short lesson…

Recently, Lydia came home and recited a Bible verse for me at dinner. “Lydia, do you remember Proverbs 3:5-6 where it says ‘lean not on your own understanding?’” I asked.

She nodded yes and kept building her alligator.

I showed Lydia the picture-directions. “Well, sometimes we want to jump to the last page first—like where the alligator is finished—before it’s time. But God doesn’t always show us the end. He has a good plan for each of us, but we have to follow each step as God shows us. We have to trust Him to help us do what we need to do.”

Then we discussed how silly the alligator would look if we forgot something important like his teeth or scales—both middle steps. Also, if we started with the alligator’s eyes—the last step—working backwards to add pieces would be difficult.

As we talked, I felt convicted. At times, I have tried to jump ahead and bypass some key steps along my unique God-given path. I try to figure out all the details myself! I assume I know the plan, the end goal, what’s next and what’s best. Hmmm…you too?

When it comes to our own dreams and plans, often we want to skip to the end, the desired outcome. This may be a promotion, graduation, celebration, etc. It can be frustrating when it looks like we are not making progress. We work hard… and we wait… and often, we worry that we will miss something big.

When challenges come, we either want to give up or take matters into our own hands. We want results! But God things often take time. And it seems He has a special way of doing things, which doesn’t always make human sense.

Thankfully, I don’t need to know the entire plan or how it will all pan out. I can focus on knowing Jesus and understanding His heart for me. Since I am His precious child, the Lord loves when I ask for His help and input! And when the timing is right, He will show me the next steps to take.

Often, God says NO to something on my behalf, so I can say YES to something better.

It takes trust while I wait! For me, this is where “lemonade” comes in. It’s not just having a good attitude or making the best of my circumstances. (Though, those are important.) It’s knowing Jesus will make something sweet from the sour, something good from the bitter.

It’s trusting God’s plan is greater than mine. His plan is not all about ME. Indeed, my finite mind cannot imagine how God keeps track of His infinite Master plan and the ways all our lives intertwine! That would be a little chaotic for me to organize!

Maybe your life is in transition. Maybe your life looks totally different than expected and you have no clue how it will turn out. I understand.

When your vision doesn’t match your current reality, hang on. It’s not over yet. When you cannot see, rest in Jesus’ unfailing love and grace. He loves you dearly!

God orders our steps even when we don’t understand why. He may be protecting us, asking us to serve others, growing our faith, or developing our character.

No matter what, He is faithful. We can trust Him to come through for us—He always does. Yes, we can LEGO and let God!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for ordering our steps. Thanks for Your unfailing love and grace. Give us wisdom and courage, patience and peace as we trust in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Can you think of a situation where you have wanted to skip to the end result? Can you see God’s wisdom in how it turned out?

Tasks: If you are in a transition, pray for wisdom before making any decisions.

Merging with Grace

Well, today’s post turned out differently than expected. I had a different—I thought better—piece written, but changed my mind late last night. I had been concerned with some key changes happening in my life…

I am starting a new job today!

My former workplace was acquired by a larger healthcare company through a merger. With this new opportunity, I have had mixed emotions. There will be some growing pains as with any transition. But all in all, I think it will be good. My job and my desk probably won’t change much right now.

It’s been a big prayer on my heart these last few months, so I was going to write something about challenges or transitions… But then I had a good, godly conversation last night and my heart changed. I also received a few well-timed messages from other friends. And suddenly, my “big concerns” just didn’t seem so important anymore!

Regardless of what happens, God is in control. My job may change, but He is unchanging. No problem or concern is too big for Him. Jesus loves me. His plans for me are good. Once again, He’s got this!

Now that I am excited for this new season and opportunity, my topic evaporated! So, I decided to go another route instead and share Scripture verses Ive been relying on lately.

We must build our lives on the solid Truth of God’s word…not our dreams, circumstances, or feelings! Praise God, I don’t have to be afraid!

Regarding Psalm 118:24 (above), it’s easy to praise God on bright, sunny days when everything seems to be going well. But we need to remember to praise Him on cloudy, difficult, or uncertain days too!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” A great reminder!

I also love 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” Amen! God sees you and knows how hard you work.

This next verse is similar. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”(Colossians 3:23, NLT). Another version says “work at it with all your heart” because really, we don’t work for a paycheck. Ultimately, the Lord is our Provider and we work for Him. Let’s be diligent!

God cares about every little detail and moment of our lives. Even the tough ones! “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, NLT). JESUS is your treasure and your reward!

I dont know how my new job will pan out. There are valid pros and cons on both sides. But, I can move forward with grace knowing God will work it out! I can give God the chance to bless me with my new job. I can let Him show me just how much He loves me—how much He cares.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for your grace. Thank You for being God so I don’t have to be. You are a wonderful Provider. Please bless the work of my hands. Give me peace and rest as I trust You to do the work through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Did any of the verses above jump out at you? How can you apply them to your work or volunteer situation? Do you have any verses to share with me?

Tasks: Write down meaningful verses on an index card and meditate on those words throughout your day. Write down a prayer to the Lord with the verse. Let it sink into your heart and bring new life.

Radio Reminders

On Sunday night, Lydia and I listened to the radio while making dinner. This time, the radio was backdrop to our conversation. But, as usual, Lydia was still in tune to the words. “Mom, did you hear that?! Jesus’ love is agape love!”

Surprised, I replied, “Yes, Lydia! That’s right… What does agape love mean?”

I had no idea how she would try to explain God’s unconditional love…

“God’s love never fails!” she proudly exclaimed.

Lately, I’ve had several ‘radio reminders’ of God’s unfailing love, too.

Sometimes, I have moments where I feel a little out of place or somehow “disconnected” from everyone else. I might start to feel lonely or sorry for myself…or focus on my faults.

(Surely, I am not the only one who feels that way occasionally!)

On Sunday morning, as we drove to church, I suddenly had that feeling. I had an unexpected change in my schedule that day and I was lethargic from a late night. It was a good change, really, but for a moment, I started feeling incapable.

I quickly lost sight on how much God loves me…which in extreme cases feels like nobody loves me. Of course I know that’s not true… Hi Mom! 😉

Then, a song on the radio reminded me that I can draw near to Jesus. I knew I needed to see things from His perspective! My trajectory was way off.

Remembering God’s love infinite for me, I shouted out, “Thank You, Jesus. You created me on purpose and love me no matter what. You understand me! I am found in You!”

Immediately, I felt better and rejoiced in the truth of God’s love for me. Hallelujah, my feelings and failures are no match for his UNfailing love!

As I walked into church, I saw several dear friends. Throughout the morning, I had meaningful conversations, received a couple hugs, and met some new friends. The rest of the day went really well, too. I felt loved and valued by everyone I talked with.

God knew just what I needed that day!

His love never fails!

Yes, God’s love meets every need I have! I just have to listen!

Thanks to yet another radio reminder, I thought of these lyrics yesterday morning.

There’s no one like God, no one at all

He gave His Son for us, Jesus our Lord

Who can love us like He does, no one at all

Oh, how we love You, Lord”

This is an older song, but it hit me with new meaning:

There is no one like God—so no one can love me like He does!

I am loved because He loved me first. He is always near. His love never fails!

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Heavenly Father, there is NO ONE like You! Thanks for Your unfailing love and grace. May we grasp how wide and long and high and deep is Your love for us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Have you noticed any special reminders of God’s love or grace lately?

Tasks: Write down at least one reminder of God’s love every day for one week.

When Love Doesn’t Make Sense

Kids often have a way of shining light on what is important, through their unique grasp on life. Earlier this week, Lydia and I were driving home late one night after a meeting. We were listening to the radio as we often do.

“Mom, why are they singing about God’s heart being broken…because He loves us?” Lydia sighed, “That doesn’t make sense!”

I hadn’t been paying much attention to the lyrics. Instead, I was thinking about getting Lydia to bed two hours past her normal bedtime. I wish I knew what song she was referring to, but I don’t. I’ll have her tell me next time she hears it.

I wasn’t sure exactly what Lydia meant. Usually, she is so practical…so it was intriguing to think about when love doesn’t make sense. I thought it was quite profound!

“You are right, Lydia. God loved us so much that it broke His heart when sin separated us from Him. That’s why Jesus came!”

I explained that Jesus came to save us and restore our relationship with God. “And for our sins!” Lydia chimed in. I explained that nobody is perfect; we all need Jesus.

You know, sometimes love doesn’t make sense. Sometimes, love hurts. I suppose each person might interpret ‘acts of love’ based on their own needs, love languages, etc.

But God’s love is different. His love is strong and good! 

Indeed, we can only love others to the extent that we have experienced His perfect love. When we experience His love and forgiveness, we are changed forever! What grace!

These verses are always a good gut-check for me.

Do I love people with God’s love? Is it for His glory or my own benefit? Do I always believe the best of the person, giving them the benefit of the doubt?

Am I patient and kind? Or am I thinking of myself first, through envy, boasting, and prideful arrogance?

Do I honor others, including their preferences? Do I value their input or do I just want my own way?

Do I celebrate the truth, even when I need to do some soul-searching or make changes?

Am I protecting the reputation of others? Am I full of trust, goodwill, and perseverance? Or am I in it just for what I can get out of the person or situation?

Am I committed long-term or only as long as it puts me in a good position? Am I willing to stick with someone or something without recognition?

Yes, sometimes LOVE does not make human sense! It can be challenging at times. Sure, it would be a lot easier to love people who are kind and patient with me. It would be a lot easier to only love people who treat me like I think I deserve. (Ahem.) It would be a lot easier to love people when it is convenient.

But, praise God that’s not how Christ Jesus loves! His love for us cost Him everything.

 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

Loving others is not about me. I want to share the love of Jesus, so that lives are changed. It doesn’t make “sense” why He would give His life for mine, but I am so thankful He did!

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Jesus, thanks for loving me more than Life itself. Thanks for Your merciful sacrifice. Your grace know no bounds. Help me love others the way You do. In Your Name, Amen.

Question: Did anything stand out as you read this post? Have you accepted Jesus’ love into your life?

Task: Using 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (above), put God in place of Love. Example: “God is patient, God is kind…” consider how much He loves you!

A ‘Life Vest’ Kind of Love

Earlier this week, I completed a thirty day early morning challenge. The goal was to rebuild my morning habit, which has been off-track for some time. I find my day really does go better if I get started early. So, I decided to try it once more…relying on the Lord to sustain me. I’ve focused on tracking progress, not perfection.

Each morning of the challenge, a moderator posted a question on social media. Liking it or commenting was our way to check in for accountability. My favorite questions involved our daily verse, Psalm 143:8. One day, the moderator asked us to describe God’s unfailing love.

Participants listed some of these adjectives: inexhaustible, limitless, unending, eternal, always, forever, continual, secure, dependable, reliable, steadfast, sure, complete, active, competent, constant, persistent, solid, never gives up, perfect, trustworthy, sufficient, unchanging, non-judgmental, and unconditional.

Some of these, of course, have similar meaning. But, I was impressed how one word can mean something slightly different to so many people. And that’s just one of God’s many attributes! It’s amazing to think that while God is so big, He cares so personally about each of us.

Another person wrote that, to her, God’s unfailing love is like a life vest. I love the idea of being safely wrapped in His love. To that, I added God’s unfailing love is ‘timely, as in right there with no delay’… when you really need it!

Indeed, I cannot do anything in my own strength. More than once, I have prayed through the verse… God I need your unfailing love so I don’t climb back into bed! 😉

Since that morning, the Lord has showing the pervasiveness of His unfailing love. It’s 24/7! I keep seeing the words ‘unfailing love’ as I read. I’ve also heard stories or songs on the radio with those words, reminding me of just how much He cares.

God’s mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Every morning brings the wonderful news of God’s unfailing love! No matter how bad or good yesterday might have been, today is a new day full of His grace and love. Praise God!

Because of my renewed habit, God’s unfailing love is the first thing on my mind each day. Despite what else may happen, my focus is on the Lord.

In the midst of stressful decisions and transitions, God’s unfailing love is an anchor.

When I receive bad news unexpectedly, His love brings hope and strength.

When I just don’t know what to do, I know He is trustworthy.

When confusion comes, His love is reliable. He brings clarity and keeps me steady.

Jesus is my helper and my sustainer, my rock and my refuge. He protects, comforts, and delivers me. His love knows no bounds.

His love IS inexhaustible, limitless, unending, eternal, always, forever, continual, secure, dependable, reliable, steadfast, sure, complete, active, competent, constant, persistent, solid, never gives up, perfect, trustworthy, sufficient, unchanging, non-judgmental, and unconditional. 🙂

Nothing catches God Almighty off guard. My circumstances are no match in comparison to how much He loves me!! With a heavenly ‘life vest’ kind of love, He hugs me close and carries me to safety. Despite challenges and setbacks, I know with God’s powerful strength, abundant grace, and unfailing love, I have Victory!

And, the more I think about His unfailing love, the more I am changed.

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Awesome Father, I love you! Thank You for loving me so much! Help me remember to turn to you all throughout the day. Help me rest in your unfailing love and extend your wonderful grace to others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What does ‘unfailing love’ mean to you? Have you put on your ‘life vest’ today?

Tasks: Think about or pray through Psalm 143:8 and see how it impacts your day. Or, join the next HelloMornings challenge!

 

7 Steps to Making Wise Decisions

It’s only January, but so far I have already made some big decisions that will have impact on the rest of the year. It has been fun to see all the possibilities! But it can also be challenging with all the unknowns. I don’t like a lot of risk!

Of course, in a perfect world, I would love to know all the details and have all my plans figured out in advance. But for me, that’s where faith comes in!

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT). In the midst of Life’s uncertainties, we can trust God’s plan.

God already sees the end from the beginning. His plan for you is GOOD and He’s given you everything you need to follow that plan. Yes, He’s got you covered!

Those who know me well would say I am a thorough decision-maker and planner. But some choices are worth more than others. And at times, I have two options that appear equally beneficial. Occasionally, I have the luxury of putting off a decision; I can delay making a choice until I have more details.

While that stability is great overall, it can also make me slow to make changes. Sometimes big decisions won’t wait that long! My ‘strength’ can become a weakness when I really should jump… instead of stall!

Thankfully, I have several steps to help me decide faster when I need to!

It’s not a formula, but it does help me avoid regret!

1.     First, I pray for wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it! I picked up this phrase from a friend, but I like the dual purpose. I usually remember to pray for wisdom, but sometimes I can still be afraid to do what I need to do. I cannot make wise decisions if I am not seeking the Lord. At the same time, I cannot move forward without courage. More often than not, this means doing it afraid!

2.     Next, I make a pros and cons list. This seems obvious, but once I get all the information down on paper, it stops swirling around in my head. As the fog of indecision lifts, I gain clarity on what really matters.

3.     Then, I consider my feelings and motivations. While I can’t make decisions based on feelings alone, I do gather input. Am I excited about this opportunity? Do I feel strongly that it is important? Why do I want to do this?

4.     Taking it one step further, I separate my passion from my feelings. Each of us was born for a unique, God-given mission. Our passion can point us in the right direction. That doesn’t mean it is easy, however! In fact, it can be tempting to give up or walk away when challenges come. The danger is that we may not fulfill God’s call on our lives. Often, those tough moments are what God uses to refine us. So, I discern whether I need to stick with the commitment…and lay aside my feelings…or forgive someone…or make other changes. If God leads me to something, I can trust Him for the next steps in His timing. I don’t want to quit when God wants me to stay and grow!

5.     I also review some lessons learned from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. In brief, this includes counting the personal cost. Do I have the time, resources, and energy for this? How will it affect my family and other commitments? (and much more!)

6.     I consider the long-term impact of my choice. How will I feel about this in 6 months? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? (You get the idea.) If we are not careful, we might make decisions too quickly without considering the sustainability of the choice.

7.     Last but certainly not least, I seek wise counsel. When weighing every option is too much for me on my own, I need help. This is NOT rehashing my problems with everyone I meet. This is intentional discussion with those who love me enough to tell me the Truth. I present the facts, concerns, pros and cons to those I trust so they can give me feedback. Typically I ask for input from godly people who are older and wiser (or, someone who has been through something similar). I regularly ask my parents, aunts/uncles, pastors, and other friends who have insight to share.

For me, many of these steps are fluid. I may go back and forth between them until I have peace. If I don’t have peace, I hold off until I do. This has saved me so many times!

Praise God…Jesus is the Prince of Peace!

Then, I sit back and have confidence. I know I gave it my best shot. And, if for any reason I was wrong, God still has my back. It might be a learning experience or a blessing in disguise. He will work it out for my good and His glory!

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Father God, thank You for grace and love! Thank You for providing peace and joy as we serve You. Please give us courage as we make wise decisions, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you make decisions? Do you have anything to add to the list above?

Task: Identify one or two trusted friends or advisors the next time you make a big decision!