Valentine’s Victories

A couple weeks ago, I was discouraged when I received some not-so-great feedback on a writing project. My writing coach thought I could do a better job. I was rather disheartened until a friend popped into my office unexpectedly and encouraged me.

So imagine my relief on Monday of this week when I received positive feedback instead! I had revised the same material from before and my writing coach was pleased with the improvements.

As we talked, I explained how frustrated I was previously and how difficult this task had been for me. We discussed how our most challenging work often happens to be the most important.

Sometimes the ‘edits’ are easy—like grammar and punctuation—and don’t affect the overall content. But other times, the edits are tough. Content revisions are more important structurally, and in my case, lay the foundation for the next round.

There will be a bigger payoff later if I do the hard work now.

As I realized the significance of the work I had done, I was excited. I had pushed through this perceived setback, and to me, it felt like a breakthrough.

The victory made we want to celebrate! Soo, on a whim, I decided to go to the movies!

On my way to the theater, I praised God for the writing victory and thanked Him for the movie, too. It almost felt like a Valentine’s date because God blessed me so much that day.

I used a gift certificate to buy my ticket and also bought a kid-sized popcorn (not wanting to over-do it!). I even shared some “snack cash” coupons with the couple in front of me.

I watched ‘The Greatest Showman’ and I’m so glad I did!

The movie was fabulous and I highly recommend it! The music (soundtrack) was also so inspiring. Without giving too much away, I loved the overall message about being yourself and appreciating each other’s differences. It makes you consider what is really important.

Most—if not all—of us have felt like we don’t belong at times. There are days when we struggle with feeling like we don’t measure up. Or, maybe we have been rejected and treated poorly… Sometimes, it’s totally unfair!

Some people feel down on Valentine’s Day if they don’t have a ‘special someone.’ I can understand that perspective. But, don’t be discouraged. Turn those feelings around and make someone else feel special.

Sometimes, we overlook how powerful it is to love people and show kindness every day. Even just a little note or phone call can have great impact.

Remember, whether or not you have Valentine’s plans is not a determination of your worth. You are so very loved!

In Christ, we have infinite value. If we have that perspective, we see that with Jesus, we can thrive. When we keep our eyes on Him, we see His grace and blessings—not our lack.

In Jesus, we have Victory! We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

 My little girl, Lydia, reminded me of this Victorious perspective in a recent drawing.

I asked her to explain the picture, which to me, looked a little like four people at a disco party… 😉 Lydia explained, “This is a picture of my family. The first person is my daddy, then you and me, and then God.”

Lydia is starting to understand the difference between immediate and extended family…

I loved that she drew what was in her heart, including both her daddy, Dave, and her Heavenly Father, God. And, the disco figures made me smile. 

I see Lydia’s confidence in God’s love for her as a huge Victory!

Nothing can compare to God’s love for us! He is soo good!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for taking such good care of me. Thank you for leading me to Victory. Help me stay close to You and keep the right perspective. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had a personal breakthrough recently? Have you seen any good movies lately? How can you show God’s love to others today?

Tasks: Write down your victories in a journal so you can remember them. Celebrate your successes and thank God for all He has done.

Finding Grace #98

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 with 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, I felt God’s blessing and favor in several personal ways. I was able to help several people in meaningful ways. I prayed for these people and used my writing skills to encourage and advocate for them. I provided timely input when asked and used my strengths. It made me feel like I am exactly where God needs me to be.

We had all our usual activities, including deadlines, work, school, and JBQ. Yet, instead of feeling stressed, I was excited! I think it has to do with the fact that I saw God using me to move in the lives of those around me. I enjoyed seeing Him direct my steps!

The weather is warmer today, but early in the week, we had wind chills near forty below. On Monday, I spent an hour-and-a-half outside clearing snow… Let’s just say it was a character-building experience! My legs and feet are sore even now, but I am thankful for the ability to do what was needed. With the warmer weather, I am taking it easy!

Recently, Lydia joined a cheerleading program through Upward Sports. She and her friends cheered for their first basketball game today! I didn’t know if she would be too nervous, but she handled it like a champ. (I’m sure the camaraderie helped!)

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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)!

Finding Grace #95

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 with 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 was an exciting week! We took a snowy road trip to see family in Illinois!  We celebrated Christmas with my parents and sat around the warm wood stove…one of my favorite places. It was so restful. I’m grateful for time with loved ones.

Lydia and I road-tripped it back to Fargo on Wednesday to beat more snow-fall and sub-zero temps. I’m thankful for the Lord’s provision and protection during our trip! The weather is always a factor to consider, and He is so good!

Since Lydia and I arrived back, we have been hanging out at home having fun and preparing for the new year. We have a lot of fun events and activities coming up. So far, we’ve played games, watched movies, and made yummy food. I trimmed Lydia’s hair and have done some cleaning and organizing. I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store in the coming weeks.

Happy New Year!

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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)!

Finishing Strong: 2017 Year-End Review

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! As we come upon the new year, I always like to consider the adventures we had and lessons we’ve learned.

2017 was a year of transition for us. I knew that before it ever started. I had been praying for months (and in some cases, years) for events I saw coming. I appreciate how the Lord gives us a vision for things to come and prepares us to walk them out.

For example, I had been praying for two years about getting a roommate. I was not sure what that would entail, but I kept envisioning someone staying in my guest room. Then, in January, my dear friend needed a place to stay and the timing all made sense. We had a wonderful experience during those six months, and I think a large part of that was God’s blessing from all the prayers. Our friendship is even stronger now!

However, there were still some surprises…the big one is that my dad’s youngest sister died in January. She lived in the mountains of Colorado and so once the majority of snow melted (May), we trekked there to celebrate her life. It was an unexpected loss and an unexpected road trip. But we were thankful to see our extended family, too.

Some of the transitions were known about, however I did not know how they would play out. My job went through a merger in March, and I was unsure of the fallout. I prepared to stay but also felt it would be wise to have an exit plan. Thankfully, it has worked out well for me. That too, was covered with much prayer! I learned a new level of trust and rest during this process. I’m grateful for the Lord’s provision and graciousness!

Additionally, Lydia started school (full-time) this year, and so that has also been a transition. I was a little nervous about how that would go, so I covered that in prayer too. Overall, it has been a smooth (and mostly fun) experience for both of us.

In many cases, I have felt the need to just “roll with the punches” through some experiences. This summer, I decided to change travel plans and stay home instead. Dear friends were moving, a project needed significant work, and I wanted to get ready for the start of school. So my dream of going to Glacier National Park will have to wait…hopefully I will get there someday…but I am at peace knowing the Lord’s timing is perfect.

Sometimes, when life feels a little chaotic, it’s difficult to know what to do. But, if we rely on the Lord, it will all work out. I was hoping to make it home for the holidays, but was unsure about the weather. So, I prayed and planned and prepared as best I could. Then, the weather held up and we literally jumped in the car ready to go. I’m grateful we did because the weather turned snowy again the next day. God is so good!!

I don’t know what 2018 has in store, but I know Jesus has it under control! I am eager to see how He moves in our lives. I know whatever challenges come, He will be with us. As I pray for His wisdom and timing, the Lord will lead me and prepare me for what is to come. Jesus has never let me down, and I am excited to walk Victoriously with Him each day!

So let’s finish strong. Don’t give up. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If you let Him, He will work it out for your good and His glory. Trust Jesus!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for bringing us through another year. Thanks for walking with us and teaching us along the way. May we continue to draw near to You in the new year. Please direct our path, showing us what to do and what to avoid. May we trust You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What events or circumstances stand out to you this year? Can you see the Lord’s faithfulness? How has He come through for you?

Tasks: Pray for wisdom going into the new year. Ask the Lord to give you a vision and prepare you to walk it out. Thank Him for going with you!

 

The Scenic Route

Recently, on the way to get groceries, Lydia asked me, “Mom, is this what you call ‘the scenic route’? I had driven through a neighborhood and around a pond. I intentionally bypassed the main road and avoided about five stop lights.

I often do enjoy less traffic and curvy roads over the normal stop-and-go route. I like noticing the details, such as new houses or construction, trees changing color or losing leaves, and/or holiday decorations.

Our trip to the store wasn’t all that exciting…but it did make me think. This holiday season, I’ve decided to take the ’emotional scenic route.’ That doesn’t mean I am ignoring traditions or avoiding anyone. I am simply slowing down to enjoy the journey!

I’ve been more intentional about ‘doing nothing.’ That is, I’m trying to set aside time to rest and meander with nowhere I have to be. Ok, so this doesn’t happen often, but it’s a goal!

I am taking time to stop and notice all the good around me. It’s something we should do every day, but we can often become so focused on putting out fires that we miss the little things that are going well.

As such, I have noticed more internal peace. I also have noticed when my heart is not peaceful. If I suddenly am feeling worried, stressed, or restless, I can make quick adjustments in my attitude, relationships, or schedule.

I have noticed more joy in a season that sometimes brings pain. The holidays can be rough for many of us, though I am learning to just be present in each moment.

For example, yesterday, as I waited for Lydia’s bus after school, I was in a contemplative mood. I was stuck in a funk, problem-solving and praying for wisdom. Suddenly, I noticed tall trees in the wind, towering over a house near the bus stop.

The trees have already lost all their leaves before winter. Their bare branches stretched straight up toward the sky. As they danced in the breeze, limbs waving back and forth, I imagined them giving glory to God!

Watching those huge trees sway in the wind prompted me to take a second glance. It really did look like the trees were worshipping God!

I soon realized that I was holding onto my ‘little’ problems when like the trees, I should be praising the Lord! Jesus is greater than my problems!

I quickly surrendered my bad attitude and let God handle my problem. It was a special moment, which I might have missed had I taken another route or been reading on my phone.

Life is an adventure, isn’t it?!

Occasionally, we find a bypass that gets us to our destination more quickly! And sometimes, scenic roads can take longer…

Quite often, we don’t know what lies around the next corner. Taking the scenic route can lead to unexpected road conditions or detours. Surprises may throw us off-track, but if we move forward with expectancy, we are better prepared.

Either way, this season, I plan to enjoy each day for what it is. I’m making up my mind to embrace each challenge as it comes. I’m choosing to have a good attitude and praise God. He is always faithful, so I can confidently smile and expect good things ahead!

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Dear Jesus, You are so gracious. Thanks for showing me beauty and glory each day. Help me stay in the joyful present with You. Guide me and give me peace each day, no matter which path we take together. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you like to meander along the scenic route, or do you prefer to follow the beaten path? Do you like to map your own way or follow the navigation (ie GPS)?

Tasks: Pre-decide your attitude before the path changes. Pause each day and notice what is going on around you. Decide to praise God no matter what!

A Lunch Lady in the Library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Grace #84

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 really good! We had a lot going on this week, though God was faithful to help us get through it all. My entry way light was replaced, which is a huge blessing. Now, I can cross it off my to-do list (after nearly a year of putting it off!).

This week, we had several late nights, due to meetings and activities. We had fun though! Surprisingly, Lydia wasn’t overly tired from staying up late. I had her take a nap one after school one day, which really helped. Perhaps she is also just getting used to the early mornings now!

Tuesday and Wednesday were full with work, writing, and church. At work lately, sometimes I’ve been using a new office in a different building. But I’ve called tech support about a half-dozen times for various issues. I had to request a certain program to be installed. Then, I had problems with logging into it. I also had to call about my printer, my mouse, and my phone. Hopefully everything is up to speed soon!

We haven’t been on any major road trips for a few months. But today Lydia and I went to Jamestown, ND, for a Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ) meet. We probably won’t travel to too many meets this year, but we enjoyed this one about an hour-and-a-half away! I didn’t have many expectations for Lydia, since this was her first time. Mainly, we were going to check it out so we know how everything works. Hopefully, when she is older, she will be able to jump right in! All in all, we had fun with friends and enjoyed a beautiful fall day!

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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)!

A Cop-Out or A Call-Out

You’ve probably heard the following adage: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’ve also heard our past can make us bitter or better. So, it seems to me that there are two ways to look at all of our past trials and how they prepare us for the future.

I can choose between fear and faith.

Regarding cancer and Dave’s death…

Fear could say something like: “Well, that was terrible! How many more awful things am I going to have to endure? What’s coming next? Woe is me!” As you might guess, it could quickly turn into a downward spiral…

Thankfully, I kicked fear to the curb long ago.

Instead, I choose to see all I’ve gone through with eyes of faith.

Faith says, “Wow, that was rough! But look how God brought me through! I’m still standing! God won’t waste my pain… I can’t wait to see how He uses this for His glory and my good!”

Fear points out all the problems in my life—the cannots, the impossibilities. Fear rejects outside help, reinforcing that I am all alone in my struggle.

Faith points me to Jesus—with whom nothing is impossible. Faith accepts His power and grace—with Him, I can do all things!

Fear keeps me from moving forward, saying “maybe later.” Fear hinders growth.

Faith unlocks courage, never-ending potential, and adventure. As I pursue new possibilities, I am empowered. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Fear reminds me of everything I am not. Faith repeats what God says, who I am in Christ.

Fear is crippling, but faith makes me hold my head high with confidence—not in my abilities, but in His.

Fear is often rose-colored glasses, remembering what was. Faith acknowledges the pain and grief, yet clings to Jesus for what can and will be.

Fear can be a cop-out and brings condemnation. Faith calls me out and requires grit.

Fear gives up easily, due to exhaustion and worry. Fear never sees a reward or goodness.

Faith takes endurance, yet yields expectation and wonder. Faith pays off in the end.

Fear is subtle. I never realized its hold on me—until all my worst fears came true.

Fear is not from God. Yet, He used those terrible experiences to teach me that I don’t have to choose fear. Jesus set me free with His unfailing love and grace!

My Victory did not come easy. It was a tough lesson to learn. Indeed, I have suffered major losses with long-term impact. I’m grateful nonetheless.

“See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.” (Isaiah 12:2)

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Heavenly Father, thank You for the Victory we have in Jesus! Thank You that we don’t have to live in fear. Forgive us for our unbelief and help us walk in faith. Help us trust you for good things ahead! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Which do you tend to choose most often: Fear or faith? Are there some changes you need to make?

Tasks: Don’t be afraid! Our past challenges and present circumstances do not disqualify us from a good future. Jesus makes all things new! He forgives us and gives us new opportunities. Choose faith!

Finding Grace #83

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 full of God’s grace! Lydia and I spent a little time with lots of friends this week. We have friends in town right now for the sugar beet harvest. It’s not October without them here! I also had lunch with another friend this week and spent time praying with several people.  It was a blessed week!

Monday was a big day for me in terms of being brave and embracing God’s grace. I had several other moments this week to not fake brave, as well. I’m so thankful for how much I have learned and grown these last few years!

Tuesday and Wednesday were full with work and other activities. I bought a new light for my entry way and notified the electricians so they can help install it next week. I also bought groceries and cleaned the house… you know, all those important tasks! Yet, I am grateful to have a flexible schedule to get everything done in a reasonable time frame.

I love autumn. Today, Lydia and I spent most of the afternoon with friends on an outdoor adventure! We went on a little hike and treasure hunt. Mostly, we found pretty leaves and a few cool bugs. But we ‘walked to Minnesota and back’ via a pedestrian bridge. We also tracked an ‘alligator log’ through the Red River. Finally, we ended up at Cherry Berry for frozen yogurt! It’s been a beautiful day!

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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)!

Little Red Library on 8th

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” –Harry S. Truman

Recently I decided to put a ‘little free library’ (LFL) in my front yard. An LFL is essentially a free neighborhood book exchange. Typically, it consists of a wooden, water-resistant box on a post in a yard or common area. But, I have seen other creative LFLs like a repurposed newspaper vending machine or a telephone booth. The ideas are endless!

A few weeks ago—right before my birthday—my neighbor across the street pointed out an LFL a couple blocks away. I was hooked on the idea and immediately started considering options for my yard. The more the merrier!

The ‘caretaker’ of a little free library is called a steward. I asked for input from the steward of the library near me. He was kind to answer my questions and provide some insight into the decisions I was making. Lydia and I also went on a scavenger hunt around Fargo to see others and get ideas for what we wanted to do.

I have already been to that other little library about four times out of curiosity! However, I wondered if an LFL closer to my area might get a different level of traffic. We each live near the same school and parks, but I am closer to about seven apartments and see a lot of foot traffic from kids, dogs, and bikes.

Either way, I don’t think you can have too many book exchanges in one area! 🙂

While many people decide to build their own little library, I decided to purchase everything. For me, it came down to cost versus time and ease. Without the right tools and experience, it was worth a little money and peace of mind to make sure everything was done well. Plus, I wanted to beat the cooler weather!!

I used birthday money from my parents and in-laws to cover some of the cost. Books were a huge part of growing up for me. I have always loved to read and learn through books. In fact, each year, my mom volunteered to listen to kids read at school.

Mom was an extra pair of ears for the teachers. Indeed, many of my peers still attribute their reading skills to her sitting with and listening to them. Similarly, my mother-in-law has worked with children for many years, too. So it seems fitting to honor them in this way.

It felt like perfect timing in that everything I ordered was delivered exactly five minutes after my aunt and uncle arrived last week. It was a blessing my uncle could help me with this project on a moment’s notice! I’m so grateful!

“The more you read, the more you know.
The more you know, the smarter you grow.
The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice,
when speaking your mind or making your choice.”

The overall goals of the little free library movement are to strengthen communities and inspire readers. Going to the regular public library is good too! But some people just won’t get there (due to a variety of factors). Plus, then you have to return those books. 😉

With the LFLs, you don’t have to return the books. Of course, it is good manners to return or at least replace the book…but not mandatory. Yay for stress free reading!

I’m excited to see what books pop up in the little library.

Reading is not only fun, but it can be empowering, too. Reading opens up the world of imagination and creative thinking. Books can lead to great conversations and exchange of ideas. Books can teach and offer different perspectives.

To me, good reading skills are key to lifelong learning. I read somewhere that if parents can foster the love of learning in their children, they are more likely to be successful throughout life. Apparently, the love of learning is a better predictor of success than having access to the best schools or athletic opportunities. Interesting!

Either way, reading and sharing books is a great idea! For more information, check out littlefreelibrary.org. There is even a world map of all ‘registered’ little free libraries online.

You can also follow along on my new Facebook page, find me at Little Red Library on 8th. I will highlight books in the library each week. I welcome book donations, too!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for Your love and grace! Thanks for providing a fun way to share books and reading with others! Please protect this little red library and bless all who participate. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you enjoy reading? What types of books or genres do you prefer?

Tasks: Follow Little Red Library on 8th on Facebook. Join in the fun! Take a book, return a book, share a book!