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.

 

Finding Grace #70

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 was an exciting week! In addition to work and our normal activities, I met with two amazing couples from church. We had great conversations related to the class I facilitate as a volunteer. It’s always fun to learn how God made us and how we “fit” with everyone else!

A friend posted online seeking help for a swarm of honeybees. I suggested she call a local beekeeper to come get them. Thankfully, the swarm was captured and found a new happy home. It reminded me of my beekeeping years (and also the hard work involved in managing several hives!).

Tuesday was Independence Day. Lydia and I enjoyed a relaxing day and later celebrated our freedoms with neighbors, dinner, s’mores, a campfire, and fireworks. We watched a beautiful sunset, made even more awesome by a storm passing through. The lightning made a great backdrop for the fireworks!

Now that Lydia is good at riding her bike, I want to take rides together. I haven’t ridden much for quite awhile, years really, since before she was born. My old bike was not a good fit, and it needed lots of work to make it rideable. So instead, I bought myself a new bike! It is a lot more comfortable and fits me well. Already, we’ve enjoyed several miles together! We’re ready for some great adventures!

As a foodie and Registered Dietitian, I always look for new foods to try. Today I enjoyed a farmer’s market and a new food co-op! I walked downtown Fargo this afternoon and enjoyed the warm, sunny day. I didn’t buy much, but did sample a few things. I did get a couple items for Lydia. At home, we tried a coconut-date roll (not bad) and an apple cider drink (it was interesting…but probably won’t buy again). Anyway, I am glad we tried something new! I also helped Lydia make strawberry-infused water. 🙂

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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 #69

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?

I saw God move in many ways this week. I’ve received a lot of encouragement and practical support over the years, and I know how much of a game-changer that can be. So, now I challenge myself to look ways to help others. Sometimes, that means just encouraging someone; other times, I’m able to help in a more tangible way. This week, I was able to do that with two different friends with different needs. I am excited to see what God is doing in them, with them, for them, and through them!

The Lord graciously provided friends to watch Lydia. I had a work meeting out of town and preferred not to send Lydia to daycare the entire day. Then, God lined up my schedule perfectly so it matched up with my friend’s availability. On another day, a different friend watched Lydia early in the morning before daycare opened so I could maximize my time to meet an deadline. That day, Lydia was able to sleep in and I was able to reach my goal.

I love sticky notes. I generally have a million of them around the house. I’ve tried to go electronic, but still prefer old-school pen and paper. I recently decided to actually use my planner as a list-keeper instead of just a time-manager. (Great idea, I know!) Wouldn’t you know, I have felt less stress lately because I can write a task or project one time instead of over and over on various notes. Now, I can focus on just enough tasks for each day and cross them off once, yet still see progress on what I’ve accomplished. (It’s the little things…!)

I enjoy long holiday weekends! Today started off chilly, but has turned out bright and sunny. I ran about five errands (and didn’t have to wait long in line!), mowed the grass, laid down mulch, made sun tea (unsweetened), and worked on a few projects. Lydia played inside for a bit and has been outside too. The perfect day!

As I am writing this, Lydia is eating dinner on the deck. I ate with her but finished before she did. She would have finished sooner, but she’s been “yelling” back and forth with the neighbor girl who is patiently waiting to play. From inside, I just heard: “Hold on! I’m just eating now because my mom made me. I have two more broccolis and one piece of pizza. I already ate my strawberries. They are really healthy. Did you know that my mom is a dietitian? It starts with “d” and she tells people if they are making healthy choices or not.” 🙂

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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 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!

Finding Grace #67

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?

We had an amazing week! We did so many fun activities and saw a lot of wonderful friends. During the day on Monday, we had friends over to visit. This family has been so helpful and encouraging to us over the years. The husband previously worked with Dave, but the family was relocated a year ago for work. They happened to be in town this week, so we caught up with the mom and three-year-old little girl, while the husband worked.  We were honored to see them!

Later on Monday afternoon, many of the neighborhood kids were outside playing. I had a couple large boxes that they were playing with. I used duct tape to make a playhouse for them, while they decorated it. I’m not sure who had more fun! Then, we played foosball in the garage with a couple of the girls. We played three rounds and each of the three girls (including Lydia) switched teams to play on my side…because my team kept winning. 🙂

On Monday evening, I cut my friend’s hair. It was fun to help her and we were pleased with the results. I’m glad she trusted me so much! (I finally did mention about cutting my dog’s hair as a teenager.) By God’s grace, I have kicked perfectionism to the curb!

We had some severe thunderstorms throughout the day on Tuesday. No major damage was done to my property, praise God, but two of my trees were hit by a trampoline that blew in from a couple houses over. Mainly, the stakes took the brunt of the force, and the trees were merely scraped. I would not have believed what happened if another neighbor hadn’t taken a video! Thankfully, the owner of the trampoline came to retrieve it and helped me re-stake the trees. We reviewed the slight damage on the trees and agreed to keep an eye on them. I don’t think they will need to be replaced, but I was glad my neighbor was gracious to help. That’s being ‘Fargo friendly!’

Several friends watched Lydia for me this week (on top of paying for daycare, like usual) so I could get things done. Thanks to the generosity of my friends, I was able to finish up some work duties, write, and run a few errands. I always try to return the favor somehow, or at least pay it forward.

It’s great to have friends who don’t keep ‘score’ but both sides always continue to give generously. A couple summers ago, a neighbor friend had given me a plastic sandbox for Lydia. I decided to get rid of it recently, so this neighbor helped me sell it online. We decided to put the money in our mutual ‘pizza fund’ for those times we eat together. We also swapped kids back and forth, shared meals together with everyone bringing something, and enjoyed s’mores around a campfire. One neighbor oiled our bike chains and get them in better shape. I even met a couple new neighbor girls today when they came over to borrow a cup of sugar. I’m thankful to be a part of a great community!

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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)!

Live Like You’re Loved

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This racing, this running
Oh, you’re working way too hard!
And this perfection you’re chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause He loves you like you are!

The lyrics above belong to the song, “Live Like You’re Loved,” by Hawk Nelson. I’ve enjoyed listening to the song since I first heard it. But lately, I have been listening to the lyrics a little more.

For whatever reason, I feel like I’ve had noticeably less energy lately. My lethargy could be related to the weather, stress, lack of sleep, etc. (or a combination of factors). However, I’ve been enjoying the rain we’ve had, don’t feel overstressed, and have been sleeping pretty well. So, who knows?

Quite possibly, I could just be worn out trying to doing too much!!

So go ahead and live like you’re loved
It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be

As I have considered these lyrics, I have taken the song to heart. When I think of all I still have to do, I take it to Jesus to help me sort it out. He loves it when we come to Him! I don’t have to be chained to my to-do list!

So, I have been intentional about taking breaks and resting. I’ve enjoyed reading, catching up on a favorite show, and calling a friend. Lydia and I have walked to a nearby park to play, colored, and made a fun treat together. On a couple of days, I’ve even squeezed in a short nap!

And live like you know you’re valuable
Like you know the one that holds your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don’t be afraid to live in that grace

I am grateful for God’s grace when I feel weak. I know with Jesus, I can do everything I need to do! He is my strength and my song. When I’ve specifically asked Him for help this last week, ultimately, I have been more productive throughout the day!

Yes, the Lord has given me everything I need. His mercies are new every morning and His grace is sufficient. Nothing can compare to His lovingkindness. Praise God!

Live like you’re loved, walk like you’re free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you’re loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

This part of the song (above) is my favorite. It feels a little like a personal anthem. When I remember how much God loves me, I can hold my head up higher. I can smile and laugh and play. I can walk in freedom, knowing He gives me Victory. I don’t have get bent out of shape over imperfect progress. I can enjoy myself instead of stressing out!

“Live like you’re loved” could mean something different to each person and could vary by season of life. I love that we are all unique!

For me, it usually means acknowledging and honoring my weaknesses, inabilities, or failures. This often means asking for help and letting the Lord meet me where I am. Coming to Jesus is the best and first step. Lord, I need You!

I find ‘living loved’ also means recognizing when someone else needs help, because I’ve been there too. When I serve someone else, I notice my problems are not so urgent. Showing compassion is a win-win for all of us!

When I take the time to pause and soak up His love, I notice God all around me. He renews my joy and I can share generously with others. I don’t have to focus on my lack of energy (or other resources)… because with Jesus on my side, I will always have enough!

Life is short. Live like you’re loved!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for all You do for me. Thank You for renewed strength every day. As I depend on You, please give me energy and direct my steps. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What does “live like you’re loved” mean to you? What is something you can do to live loved right now?

Task: Listen to the song, “Live Like You’re Loved,” by Hawk Nelson!

Road Trip Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it’s always an adventure with Jesus!

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

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

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

 

On Spring Cleaning

I have been doing some much-needed spring cleaning lately. I’ve dusted, washed windows, and reorganized some cabinets. I have cleaned those places that are usually overlooked. I still have a lot more to do, but I feel good about my progress thus far.

I have gone through our closets and removed what we no longer need, donating them or passing them onto friends. In Lydia’s case, I’ve removed items that no longer fit! She’s grown so much, and I am preparing for the next season.

Outside, I have pruned the dead off of certain plants in hopes that green shoots will soon start to grow. I have worked on the garage too, though that is an ongoing project!

Our hearts and lives can all use some spring cleaning from time to time. This could be a time of letting go or moving forward. I like the perspective of making room for new things, though the point is not to acquire more stuff.

In order to grow, we have to release “what was” before we can grasp “what will be.”

In a couple weeks, it will be four years since Dave went to Heaven. Four years of making it on the Lord’s strength. Four years of praying it through, knowing the Lord still has good plans in store for us! Because He is good.

On occasion, I will find something of Dave’s that I forgot about. This might include a book on a random shelf or a tool in the garage. I keep what I can still use, but try to address the rest. For the most part, I find it gets easier as time goes by. But there are days when nostalgia (or another wave of grief??) kicks in and it becomes more challenging.

Like faith, spring cleaning is not for the faint of heart!

Letting go or cleaning house doesn’t always mean we have to physically get rid of anything. Sometimes, the best thing we can change is our mentality. As our attitude shifts, we begin to see things differently. This may even lead to other positive changes!

To start, we can let go of a crazy schedule that no longer suits us. We can embrace the peace Jesus promised us. We don’t have earn His love!

We can let go of anger or resentment, embracing forgiveness and a change of heart. Jesus died to give us total freedom. Bring your turbulent heart to Him.

We can get rid of outdated expectations (our own or those put on us by others). We can pray for God’s perfect timing and purpose, knowing He loves us dearly.

We can purge our hearts of fear and worry. We can trust God to make a way, even if it looks impossible. He is more than able.

We can nix the desire to do everything ourselves, or in our own strength. We can always ask for help. And, we can trust God to do what He says He will do.

We can kick bad habits to the curb. We can praise God for the new life we have in Christ!

We can work to live and not live to work. We can rest, trusting God to protect and provide for us. We can sleep, knowing the Lord is watching over all that concerns us.

We can put on love and pass it on. We can share Jesus with our friends, family, and neighbors! We can make a difference in our communities.

With courage, we can move forward in faith. We can rely on God’s unfailing love and abundant grace. His mercies are new every morning!

Praise God!

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God, You are good and Your love endures forever! Thank You for giving us a fresh start every day. Help us rely on You for strength and courage in every season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you done any spring cleaning lately? What did you let go of or remove from your life?

Tasks: As you make changes in your home and life, notice how it makes you feel. Lighthearted? Cheerful? Free?

Calling Out the Good

Yesterday afternoon, Lydia and her classmates put on a spring program showcasing some of what they have learned this year. They sang several songs, recited a Bible verse, and acted out the story of David and Goliath. It was really cute!

At the end, the teachers handed out “character awards” to each student. Some of the traits recognized included exhibiting joy, kindfulness, cheerfulness, responsibility, originality, and a positive attitude.

Lydia was one of the last to be called forward, and I didn’t know what to expect for her. Though, I was pleasantly surprised when she received an award for HELPFULNESS.

I thought to myself, “Of course! She is so much like her dad.” Dave was known for his servant heart; he was always eager to help others. I love seeing that in Lydia!

After the show, we briefly discussed being helpful as we ate refreshments. When we were done, Lydia jumped up to help me clear the table. Then, we ran to get gas and groceries before heading home.

Later, Lydia eagerly helped me carry in the groceries and put them away (as best she could). “Here, Mom, I can help you!” Then, we made dinner together.

Lydia set the table and emptied the clean dishes from the dishwasher. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Mom?” I then had to come up with activities to keep her busy while I finished cooking. This involved cleaning her room and picking up her toys.

Just before we ate, Lydia helped stir and dish up some of the food. “Hey Mom, these are like chores! And, I can earn money to give Jesus for missions!” Lydia was quite proud of her revelation. I was quite proud of her giving heart.

In case you are wondering, Yesterday’s excitement and helpfulness are not quite the norm for us. Many days, having a good attitude and doing chores looks very different!

Still, I was amazed at how much a simple award, or any acknowledgement calling out the good, could inspire Lydia to action. All on her own, she felt called to another level of helpfulness. The impact grew as the night went on.

As I was considering all of this, I thought about the times I have experienced something similar. When someone takes the time to say thanks or recognize a good quality, I too, step it up and do more.

We often focus on our individual effort to make a difference around us. “What can I do to help??” But I believe we can have even greater impact by cheering each other on as we go! Together everyone achieves more, right?!

God has given each of His children special gifts. Those gifts are not meant to be kept for ourselves, but to build each other up and show His love to the world. Of course, we don’t serve to get something in return. But, we are happiest when we are helping others.

Indeed, there are times when we all feel down. That’s fairly normal. In those moments, we may feel disconnected from our purpose, our passion, or even our people. Each problem may need a special solution. (I recommend prayer first!)

In many cases, asking for help and reaching out to help others can change our perspective. Part of the key is remembering we are not alone. We are all connected and need a sense of belonging. As Lydia says, “It’s great to be a team because we can help each other!”

In this dark and chaotic world, we should call out the good when we see it. A little appreciation brings a boost of confidence and sense of connection. Even just one word of encouragement can prompt someone else to take action and make a positive difference!

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Heavenly Father, You are good! Thanks for letting us join You in Your work. May we see the good around us and call it out. May we help others in their time of need and show people Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: When was the last time someone called out the good in you? What was your response?

Tasks: Read Ecclesiastes 4:10 and Galatians 6:9. Choose at least one person to encourage!