Finding Grace #94

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 a busy but good week! I worked extra hours this week, in case I want to take some time off next week. Lydia will be out of school, so it is good to have options. I’m thankful to have a flexible schedule and understanding supervisor!

On Sunday, we celebrated Dave’s 39th birthday, his fifth in heaven. We went to church, Blaze Pizza, and the new Ferdinand movie. We think of him often, but I know he would be proud of us! We received several calls and texts throughout the day. I’m so thankful for everyone’s continued prayers, support, and encouragement! I’m also grateful for how far the Lord has brought us and look forward to how He will continue using our story.

On Wednesday evening, we attended a Christmas Eve service at church (early!) to give us more flexibility with our holiday schedule. This year, Lydia has been learning Christmas carols at school and on the radio. It was fun to hear her singing Joy to the World and other songs. I also enjoyed seeing her take it all in and process the lyrics.

At the Christmas Eve event, we also lit candles at the end of the service. It was a leap of faith to give Lydia her own candle. We caught the eye of more than one mom…! Thankfully, nothing (and no one) caught on fire. We did, however, have a good conversation about how Jesus is the Light of the World and how we can share His light with everyone we meet. Thank You, Jesus!

During the Christmas Eve event, a video was shown of kids acting out the first Christmas. Sometimes it is good to see the Bible from a different angle. In one scene, the little shepherds raced to find Jesus. One of the boys fell in the mud with a thud. In that moment, I could envision the real Bible characters in their struggles…and what challenges they might have faced. The shepherds were likely outcasts and the wise men were foreigners (on a lengthy trip in unfamiliar territory). Life wasn’t easy for any of them. I know we can all relate. Yet, they pursued Jesus anyway. What joy each of them must’ve felt when they finally found Him!

We’ve had some snow this week, which is perfect for Christmas. One day, the sun reflected upon the white in the most perfect way. It was so beautiful that Lydia and I felt like we were driving through a winter wonderland! Merry Christmas!

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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)!

The Best Deal Ever

Have you noticed how people often go crazy for a good deal? This holiday season, consumers shopped more online than in regular stores… and set new records for Christmas spending! I, for one, certainly contributed to those figures! I discovered lots of new items for Lydia, other people…and myself. 😉

In many cases, I prefer to shop online because I feel it saves me time (which is also money). It’s even better when everything is delivered directly to my door!

I buy anything from clothes, books, coffee, toiletries, gifts, and lots more. I have several friends who order perishable groceries online.

This year, some of my favorite online purchases were a Dead Sea mud mask, a heated mattress pad, and erasable pens. I try to buy what I need, but clearly, I also buy items just for fun.

It is certainly easy to spend more money online. My go-to statement after showing my purchases (and receipts) to Dave used to be, “Look how much I SAVED!!” He would roll his eyes, and tell me, “Spend more, save more!”

Somehow, I don’t think he was convinced…

While deep discounts are good, FREE is even better!

Have you ever noticed the frenzy that occurs around free stuff? One can usually find free birthday coffee or ice cream. There are also free concert tickets for the ‘umpteenth’ caller into the morning radio show. And, often some ‘lucky’ person will win a free prize for sharing a company’s Facebook post…

I’m sure the odds of winning aren’t that high, but it doesn’t seem to stop us from trying.

I recently balanced my checkbook and updated my budget like I usually do… And to be honest, I felt a little convicted about extra purchases beyond just the usual toiletries. So I decided to return some items that I didn’t really need.

Thankfully, I had my receipts and felt better afterward. But as I considered my choices and habits, this thought struck me: Do I run to Jesus like I do a good sale?!

Really, Jesus offers us the BEST DEAL EVER: Total forgiveness and redemption FREE of charge. He gave us everything, at no cost to us.

He takes away our shame and regrets and gives us His peace. He shoulders our burdens and eases our pain. He is Immanuel and walks with us through each circumstance. He is a faithful Provider, too—in Him, we have all we need! Thank You, Jesus!

Yes, Jesus’ love, mercy, and grace are not for sale, but they sure did cost Him everything. What a wonderful Savior and treasure He is!

I hope you bought some awesome gifts with great discounts this holiday season! However, don’t forget about Jesus! Salvation truly is the BEST DEAL EVER.

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Jesus, thanks for all You do for us. You are so good. Help us keep You the focus this Christmas. Show us all the treasure we have in You. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you prefer online shopping or in-store (local) shopping? What are your favorite purchases this year?

Tasks: Next time you are shopping, pause and thank God for Jesus: THE BEST DEAL EVER!!

Finding Grace #93

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 had a layer of ice before it snowed this week, so that made me rethink my daily routine. I don’t like to go out if I don’t have to. Still, a friend flew into town and invited us to a little gathering. Lydia and I decided to brave the weather that night and go. I’m so glad we did! It was great to catch up and eat dinner with a handful of dear friends and meet some new friends too.

In addition to visiting with friends, we have another round of company at our house for the weekend. So far, we’ve had lots of fun and giggles. We’ve made cookies, played games, and drove to see some Christmas lights at night. We have lots of other ideas!

This afternoon, we attended a musical production at our church. It was a modern rendition of “A Christmas Carol.” It was fabulous! The music was an original score and the cast of adults and children seemed professional. I was amazed to see many familiar faces…we have some talented people at our church! It was a free show and was a great blessing to our community. I’m thankful to see so many people using their God-given gifts!

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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)!

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree… So apparently, there are several versions of this song, but now that it’s probably in your head…my work is done. 😉

O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson
That constant faith
And hope sublime
Lend strength and
Comfort through all time.
O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson

While I enjoy the smell of real Christmas trees, Dave and I received a ‘hand-me-down’ artificial one years ago. Dave loved the ornaments, and we always enjoyed decorating it together. I’ve noticed some of the lights are out, but overall it is still in decent shape.

When Lydia was really little (our first Christmas without Dave), I bought a smaller tree and new ornaments because it was just too difficult to think about the big tree. I have come a long way, but it is still bittersweet.

After this year’s Thanksgiving, my dad brought the tree upstairs for me and helped me set it up. Then it sat there until last week. I had brought the ornaments upstairs, but I felt myself postponing it…

So last Friday night, I decided not to ‘fake brave.’ Lydia and I decorated our six-foot-tall Christmas tree for the second time since Dave died. (Last year was our first…and perhaps the first time Lydia has had a more active role.)

This time, we listened to Christmas music while decorating. Lydia was thrilled!

At first, I too, was excited. But as we opened each box of ornaments, I grew more nostalgic. Maybe it was related to the Christmas music. As we opened each box, memories flooded out. Lydia was completely unaware, however.

She was completely in her element, placing all the ornaments just within her reach. Her approach to life reminds me of Dave. “Mom, isn’t this fun?!”

While I never burden Lydia with my grief, I do try to be honest and model that it is okay to show our emotions. So, I mentioned I was a little sad.

As usual, Lydia’s reply snapped me back to reality. “Well, it’s okay to be sad, Mom.” She continued, “But you could try to be happy and enjoy your time with me!” She said it so sweetly, it was hard to disagree.

Ever-practical, Lydia was right. My mind was on Christmases past, instead of focusing on the present. Besides Jesus, Lydia is one of the best gifts God has given me!

 Thankful for Lydia’s outlook and gentle reminder, I took her cue and was glad.

 As I thought about our conversation, I gained a new perspective: This is why Jesus came.

Not only did He come to save us from our sins, but He also came to take our burdens.

When we let Him, He gives us love, joy, hope, and peace. He eases our pain and suffering.

He restores and renews what has been broken.

Hearts included.

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Dear Jesus, thanks for all You do for me. Thanks for carrying our burdens and for bringing us peace. Thanks for renewing our hearts and minds with Your grace and truth. Help us stay focused on You this holiday season. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a real tree or an artificial one? How is it decorated?

Tasks: Let Jesus carry Your burdens and give you His peace instead.

Finding Grace #92

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 a good and interesting week as I saw God working all around me! On Monday, Lydia’s school let out two hours early due to blizzard conditions. A blizzard means poor visibility, not necessarily a ton of snow. I ran two errands just as the storm was starting and was glad to get home safe. When I picked her up from the bus, Lydia said, “Mom, I am only a little sad…because I love school so much!” We spent the rest of the day doing fun little projects!

Early in the week, I met with some ladies in a writing group. We meet once a month, and I shared about my blog. It was fun to see how much I have grown through the writing process. Later in the week, I had another important writing meeting. I left feeling encouraged about a big project. There is still a lot to do, but I am on the right track!

This week, I shared a video with a friend after we talked at church. The video was about something called a Journible. This is a simple little journaling book in which one can copy the Bible by hand. There are many benefits, including understanding and remembering God’s word at a new level. I have a few friends who decided to do this with me. If you would like to join us (or need more information), leave a comment here or check out Grace and Lemonade on Facebook. I will post more information there. I’m excited to encounter God’s word in a more personal way!

Lydia and I decorated our Christmas tree last night. We listened to Christmas music, and I tried my best not to be sentimental. It is still a little bittersweet to put up old ornaments that Dave loved so much. But, seeing Lydia’s face light up was well worth the emotions I was facing. This season, I am choosing to walk in Victory!

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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)!

Seeking the Savior

Last month, my mom, Lydia, and I went to the movies. We saw “The Star” which tells the Nativity story from the perspective of the animals. It was cute! Since then, I’ve noticed a theme: That special Star keeps popping up in our daily lives!

For example, the other night Lydia woke me up in the middle of the night. “Mom, you should move the Star from Afar because I just found it in the bathroom.” Thanks, Lydia!

The Christmas Star from Afar is a special thing we started last year during Advent. This year, Lydia begged me to set it up. She finds the Star in the morning and we discuss a Bible verse. She then moves the wise men to the star. On Christmas Day, the Star will finally appear over the little stable with Baby Jesus. Pretty simple…just how I like it!

To clarify: I don’t recommend hiding Christmas items in the bathroom! : ) I simply put it somewhere Lydia would find it quickly on a school day. Finding the star each morning has helped Lydia look forward to waking up and getting ready to go.

This past Sunday at church, the sermon was also about the Star and the three wise men (or Magi). Scripture does not denote the number of wise men, but we usually go with three because of the three gifts they brought. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

The Magi were very well-educated, as either astronomers or astrologers. At any rate, they noticed something new in the sky and were eager to follow the Star (or light, as it may have been). What amazes me is that they expected to find something good—the Baby Messiah—probably without having a ‘proper’ or perhaps ‘personal’ knowledge of God.

I’m also amazed by the fact that no one else seemed to understand or pay attention to what was happening in the sky around that time. Jesus’ birth was foretold over centuries. Why did no one else seek the newborn Jesus?

Actually, some people did look for Jesus… Evil King Herod was jealous and wanted to kill Him. So perhaps it was a protection the newborn King didn’t gain a lot of publicity! Also, the shepherds found Jesus after being notified by an Angel and Heavenly choir, but not because of the Star. All things considered, most people must’ve ignored the sign. 

To seek something, you have to be focused and intentional. For instance, on this blog, I use the tagline: Seeking God’s sweet and refreshing grace. It’s as if I am on a mission to find His grace and goodness. I am looking for these things on purpose!

The Magi in the Nativity story traveled a long way to find Jesus. It was a costly and time-consuming trip, possibly requiring a couple years’ journey. They were dedicated!

It makes me wonder…am I like the Magi seeking King Jesus…or do I act like everyone else who apparently couldn’t have cared less about the Savior?

Oh, I never want to take my Lord for granted. I want to seek and celebrate Jesus Christ each and every day! He is worthy of my time and adoration.

Each of us has the potential to ‘be a star’ for others. We can point people to Jesus, living in such a way that they are drawn to Him. On the other hand, our actions and attitude also can deter them from coming to Jesus. Am I helping or hindering others from finding Jesus?

Both positive and negative events (or people) can cause us to seek Jesus. When life is good, these things help us praise Him. When things turn bad, we can praise Him for His help! Either way, we have to be intentional about turning our hearts toward Him.

If we don’t seek Jesus first, we will miss Him in the chaos of everyday life. If we are not careful, something else will always pull us away from Who is most important. Ultimately, I don’t want someone to get stuck following me (or some object or an idea). But I do want to direct them to Jesus the Savior.

Jesus is our Peace and our Wonderful Counselor. He alone is the Rescuer that we need. In Him, we have Victory. Come, Lord, Jesus, Come!

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Dear Jesus, thank You for being our Savior King, our Rescuer! As we celebrate Your life, may we be a pleasant reminder to others of Your love and grace. Help us point people back to you. All blessings and honor be unto Your Name! Amen

Questions: What (or whom) are you following? Does it lead you to Jesus or away from Him?

Tasks: Read about the Nativity in Scripture: Matthew 1:18-252:1-12; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20.

Finding Grace #91

 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 was packed with activities! After enjoying a long holiday break with family, we jumped back into our normal routine. Yet everything felt condensed because we hit the ground running. We made it through by God’s grace!

December started off well and I was able to meet an important deadline on time. Now I can use my time to catch up on everything else I have let slide. Hmmm…I see a pattern here. 🙂 I’m grateful that the Lord loves me even when I can’t keep it all together!

We’ve had great weather and joined our neighbors for fun activities today. We took our kids out for “T-Rex” pizza and then to a local art museum for an event. We painted, cut, and glued cardboard boxes; thankfully it wasn’t too messy. We also added a little light using a simple circuit. Lydia painted her box blue and added a colorful sailboat inside, floating toward the little light in the ‘distance’.

Then, we and our neighbors walked a block over to a local Christkindlmarkt in downtown Fargo. We had never been before but really enjoyed it. We walked around to see the vendors, got some yummy treats, did a few kid activities, and listened to a group of Christmas carolers. It was a fun day with friends and a great start to the Christmas season!

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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)!

Taking Heart and Giving Thanks

Ah, November. Halloween is now over, and so we are in the holiday season!
In writing this, it hit me that this is also the season where so many personal celebrations occur. In years past, this was a very difficult time. Now, I am surprised it’s already here!

The fact that it snuck up on me after all this time is (I think) a good sign… that or I’ve lost my mind! 🙂 Last year was the best holiday season thus far, and so I hope this year will be the same or even better.

Lydia’s birthday is just before Thanksgiving this year. Then, in December, we have several family birthdays. I’m sure we will do something special on Dave’s December birthday, too.

Of course, there’s Christmas, followed by New Years, and our wedding anniversary in early January. I’m not thinking that far ahead, but the fact that I am not dreading ANY of it is worth noting.

This year, I’m extremely grateful. The road has been rough at times, but here we are four-and-a-half years later. I’m still standing—and even looking forward to this season. Praise God!

For anyone who is struggling, I’m so sorry. It could be grief-related, or due to other factors. I understand the mixed emotions that occur at any special event…but perhaps even more at this time of the year.

In years past, there were times when I didn’t even feel like celebrating. I just muddled through it as best I could. I let go of my expectations and took extra good care of myself, too. Instead of rushing, I rested.

This is my fifth holiday season as a widow, and each year has been so different. I plan to take it easy this year, seeing each moment as a blessing.

I wish I could say it’s easy, but each of us experiences grief, loss, and/or the holidays on our own terms. That’s perfectly alright. Take heart, and do what you need to do. Those who love you most will understand.

Since we are in the Thanksgiving season, perhaps one way to give thanks is simply to praise God for where you are right now. If you are in turmoil, this is especially important. Instead of shutting Jesus out or staying self-centered, find something—anything—for which to be grateful.

Even small wins count. Hey, we’ve made it this far, right? Praise God for that!

You don’t have to thrive in every single moment. Surviving still is a Victory in my book.

If you want to build gratitude, start with being grateful for this day…this moment. Start there, and then add to it. Write down your blessings. Don’t forget to breathe.

As you survey all that God has done for you, take in His abundant grace. His love really is all you need. Also, don’t fake brave. With Jesus, you don’t have to pretend. You can ‘ugly cry’ with Him! (Trust me, I know!) Let Him soothe your heart like only He can.

You may have a wide variety of emotions during this season. That’s normal! But take your heart to Jesus and remember: God alone never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is with you. He is for you. And, His love never fails!

God’s strength will give you joy and courage. If you let Him, Jesus will take your anxiety, fear, doubts, questions, even your tears. He knows exactly what you need in this season.

So take heart. Trust Jesus, and be grateful.

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Dear God, thanks for taking such great care of me. Thank You for showing me Your love and grace in every moment. Please be with me during this holiday season. I cannot make it one minute without You, Jesus! Give me joy and be My strength. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Are you thriving or surviving this holiday season? Are you willing to let Jesus carry you through to Victory?

Tasks: Worship always brings me comfort. It helps me express my heart on days when I am struggling. To start, listen to this song: “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher.

Finding Grace #42

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 favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This week was loaded with God’s blessings! My friend left on Thursday after a weeklong visit. We had the best time, and I am so thankful she came. After they left, a couple in my neighborhood delivered fresh cookies! I was touched they would go out of their way to stop by. We have mutual friends, but don’t know each other super well. So, I look forward to getting to know them better in the new year!

Other friends in our neighborhood invited us over for an impromptu dinner yesterday! We had steak, baked potatoes and fresh berries. Lydia and I had stayed home all day, as I had a lot of work to do. She did well throughout the day, but it was great to get out of the house and let her get out her energy by playing with the neighbor boys! We also received another round of delicious cookies (different than the day before).

I guess this week was all about the cookies! Lydia and I saw friends at our church’s Christmas Eve service this afternoon. After the service, one of the ladies had a gift for Lydia. We ended up inviting her over to our house…for cookies! We chatted for several hours about what God has been doing in our lives. This has been the best holiday season in about five years. As I finish preparing a few details for tomorrow, I am extremely grateful for the Lord’s 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)!

Gifts Galore

As I previously mentioned, this entire holiday season has been the best in quite some time! The last several weeks have stood out for many reasons. Each situation—including Halloween, Lydia’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Dave’s birthday—has seemed extra special this year. Praise God!

So far, Christmas has also been distinct. We’ve decorated more, started new traditions, and even skipped a few tasks. We’ve simplified where needed, but have also celebrated at a deeper level this year.

This year, Lydia and I are keeping it simple. I am enjoying the slower pace. Lydia…well, she’s super excited about what’s already under the tree. I don’t go overboard, but loved ones have been sending gifts!

That said, I’m not super creative when it comes to gift-giving. In the past, I struggled if I couldn’t find ‘the perfect gift.’ Sometimes I would end up giving nothing if it wasn’t ‘just right.’ But I have since put off perfectionism and put on grace! And gift cards still count. When given with love, everything falls into place. It’s not so much the gift, but the heart that counts.

Jesus is certainly the most precious gift we could ever receive. At the same time, we give gifts to show love to each other. And, we show our love for God by living for Him—doing our best and giving our best back to Him.

I didn’t always understand this. I often felt like others had better gifts and talents—or were better at using them. Perhaps they were just willing to give whatever they had!

I felt like whatever I offered had to be super special…something extraordinary.

Yes, it took me awhile to figure out my God-given talents and abilities. Thankfully, I have learned so much these last few years. He can use anything given back to Him with the right heart. When we use our gifts to serve God and bless others, that’s when we find the most fulfillment, joy and peace.

When I didn’t have much emotional reserve, I brought my tears. I also brought my grief and uncertainty, fears and doubts. I guess you could say I gave out of my lack.

And in return for my weaknesses, Jesus gave me His strength. He also gave me even more of His love and grace, peace and joy. Yes, God has brought healing! He always gives out of His abundance! Gifts galore!!

This year I have seen beauty instead of ashes, color instead of shadows. He’s given me gladness in place of mourning (see Isaiah 61:3). And this holiday season, I have given the Lord praise with a grateful heart.

This week, we’ve had the honor of hosting a friend with her little toddler. Each day has been different but really fun. My friend made plans to stay with us months ago, and we have been looking forward to it. But her visit has also been such a gift to me!

We have visited other friends, watched movies, played in the snow, and shared childcare duties. We’ve enjoyed good food and stayed up late, talking and encouraging each other. These one-on-one skills use my strengths and bring me joy. And as we discuss what’s on our hearts, I can see more evidence of God’s healing my own.

This year, it really has been simple. I’ve been able to rest and give back to the Lord out of the abundance He’s already given me. And, as I have given hospitality, time, and friendship, I have been blessed with even more of the same!

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Father God, thanks for giving us Jesus. Thank You for Your gracious healing and dear friends. Help us give our best back to you each day. Change our hearts and perspective as we experience Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have special plans for Christmas? What was the best gift you have ever given or received?

Tasks:  Write down your God-given talents. If you don’t know your strengths, pray about it! Ask God and other people what you do best. Then, serve and bless others!