Writing Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Grace #71

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?

When I reflect back on this week, I am so grateful. I am in awe of how the Lord meets my needs, but also helps me bless others. When I think of all that He has done for me, I am reminded of how small I am. Yet, He cares for each of us and orchestrates our lives as they intersect. Only God could take care of so many details and make good out of chaos!

I have been enjoying my new bike, and have even gotten in some longer rides. A friend stayed with Lydia one afternoon so I could go explore for an hour. It’s cool to see how much more “involved” I become when pedaling around my local area. I feel like I have more freedom and can get closer to things I otherwise wouldn’t even notice. Thanks, Lord!

I convinced a dear friend to buy a workout pass at a local fitness center so we could go together. I don’t belong to a gym, but it was a really good deal. To maximize our experience, we decided to try new classes we wouldn’t normally do. (We purchased ten sessions.) It helps going with a friend to try new things. This week, we tried a Barre class. It was a little sore the next day but had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to go again!

A few months ago, I took a leap of faith and signed up for my first writing conference. Well, that was what I did today! It was such a good day. Really, it was something I didn’t know I needed…but was so encouraged by all I heard and learned. It’s great to feel like I am on the right track! We worshipped the Lord, met other writers, and attended breakout sessions and panel discussions. I saw some ladies from my church and we might meet up again to encourage each other in our goals. God is so good!

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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)!

Summer Hours

This summer is already off to a great start. I don’t know what it is, but I am feeling super relaxed lately. The funny thing is that I actually am just as ‘busy’ as usual, but I don’t notice the stress. My activities and responsibilities haven’t changed much, but I have switched gears and taken a hiatus from certain activities so I can focus on others.

I generally enjoy each season for what it brings–even winter. But, summer is special because everything just seems easier and there is more time for fun adventures. Routine chores like washing dishes become more simple thanks to outdoor picnics and grilling. Laundry seems to take less time too. Yay for shorts, t-shirts, sandals, and swimming suits!

Summer break doesn’t just apply to school kids. Many families change their schedules, but most colleges and some businesses also have ‘summer hours.’ They may open and close earlier, or take certain days off. Work time is condensed, and play time lasts longer!

I love summer hours because I am reminded me of how good it is to rest in the Lord. Indeed, the long summer days are full of God’s grace. Here in Fargo, at the peak of summer, it is light out until around 10:30pm. Of course, the warm weather and beautiful, sunny skies help. Time almost seems to stand still.

I love how summer reflects God’s goodness in our lives. Last night after dinner, I saw a little bird called a “tree swallow.” The male is dark iridescent blue, with dark wings and a white chest, while the female is brown and white. I’d never seen one before this week, so it took me by surprise. I couldn’t identify the female using my bird book and binoculars… But, thankfully, the male stayed put for more than twenty minutes. It was so cool, and it felt like these little visitors were a gift from the Lord.

The beauty of summer is seen in the flowers it brings. I like flowers that are pretty but don’t take a lot of maintenance. But there are many beautiful kinds! I even enjoy seeing the prairie grass sway in the breeze. It reminds me that God’s love is wild and free.

Summer means traveling to see family, but also spending time with friends and neighbors. Summer is a time of generosity and abundance! It means sharing food, sun screen, water toys, and pool time with each other. It also means popsicles, watermelon, swimming, baseball games, and impromptu campfires.

Of course, summer also brings things that can make us uncomfortable, like heat and mosquitos. Sometimes, the heat warrants a retreat indoors to the air conditioning. But, most often, we learn to deal with it in creative ways. A good reminder about life in general.

I love being outside and catching up with my neighbors. So I bought some new outdoor chairs this week to replace some older, rather uncomfortable folding chairs we’d been using. I’ve also been thinking…God has summer hours, too. Yet, His timing is way better than we can ever imagine. He is always with us and sustains us from day to day, season to season. And from where I sit, it’s easy to see that He loves to take good care of us.

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Praise God, thank You for summer! Each morning shows us Your faithfulness. May we turn our eyes and heart to You when we see the beauty You have created. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What is your favorite part of summer? What are you currently thankful for?

Tasks: Find one new way to relax this week! Invite a friend or neighbor to join you!

Road Trip Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, it’s always an adventure with Jesus!

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

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

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

 

Finding Grace #61

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Grace #56

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

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

For the most part, this week was fun and relaxing! My sister came to visit for most of the week, so we enjoyed many special activities. While my sister was here, we pre-registered Lydia for school in the fall; saw Beauty and the Beast with friends; had another friend over for dinner; got massages; and did a little shopping. Lydia also got to spend quality time with my sister when I was at work!

As I mentioned in Wednesday’s post, I am especially grateful for God’s grace and forgiveness in restoring relationships (with Him and other people). I’m also thankful for my gracious friend. When it comes to friendships, we have Jesus as the best example of how to love and be kind. Praise God!

We’ve had gorgeous weather this week! I’m glad I saw a few robins! Growing up, we always had a nest of little blue robin eggs in our tree house each spring. So, to me, robins are a tell-tale sign… When I see them, I know spring is here!

Today has been an relaxed day of spring cleaning. I caught up on some reading; Skyped with family; paid some bills; washed the car; did some laundry; and a few other chores. Now, Lydia is outside playing with neighbor friends and I’m on my way outside too! 🙂

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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 #55

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

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

This week I felt like I was living out of my car…but for good reasons! I simply had a number of meetings and places to be. I worked two longer-than-normal days, but had help from a good friend who watched Lydia before school. She was a huge help!

On Wednesday evening, I had the privilege of speaking at MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) at my church. I am grateful for the three years I spent at another local MOPS chapter when Lydia was little. This week, I shared my story with a small group of ladies, discussing some of the struggles and joys I’ve had. Momsand women in generalneed to stick together, and I was glad for the chance to share with these ladies.

Yesterday (Friday) was quite busy, but fun. Besides our “normal” Friday activities, I met with a lady from church; encouraged two people who recently loss their spouses; had our neighbors over for pizza and playing; and Skyped with family in Illinois. It was great to see some of the amazing people in my life. I am so thankful for how God uses me!

Today has been full of activity too. In addition to our Saturday routine, we went to a birthday party; cleaned the house; did two loads of laundry; and made my second fruit salad of the week. YUM!! I am looking forward to relaxing tonight before another busy week. I am so thankful for God’s sweet and refreshing 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)!

Finding Grace #54

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 had many bright spots! Throughout the week, I talked with various friends and family on the phone, which is always fun! A newer friend also came over on Tuesday evening for a good chat. We were both encouraged and enjoyed praying for each other. 

I’m still figuring out my work flow (at my ‘new’ job), and have been a little stressed going into the office more. While I am thankful to have a job, it’s been throwing off all my other areas, including housework, projects, and time with Lydia. I’ve had very little downtime (or personal space) lately, though as a mom, that’s somewhat par for the course. I apologized for being terse with Lydia this week, but apparently, she hadn’t noticed. Unfazed, she confidently said, “That’s okay, Mom. I’m not feeling left out.” I had to smile at her interpretation and response, because she has been following me around all week! 🙂

One positive at work was that I met with another dietitian this week. She showed me more about the computer system we use. She was friendly, helpful, and a good teacher. I was glad to learn about more of what she does!

Today has been fairly relaxing. I have been catching up around the house and preparing for next week. But, I am also taking time to enjoy some downtime with Lydia. I am thankful God’s grace covers all!

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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 #53

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 was a slower-paced week compared to the last few! Lydia was on spring break so we had one less commitment this week. On Monday and Wednesday, I went to work and felt productive. On Tuesday, I worked on personal projects and housework while a friend generously watched Lydia for me. 

On Thursday, my mother-in-law came from Illinois to visit! We’ve had a great time so far. She and Lydia have read books, played games, put together a new LEGO set, and made a special dessert. We also watched a movie and ran to Costco! 🙂 When Lydia went to a neighbor’s birthday party today, my MIL and I went to a specialty tea shop and out to lunch! We always enjoy when she visits…I’m thankful for the encouragement she brings!

Otherwise, not much new to report. The weather here was windy and cold most of the week. Now, it is still chilly but the wind has died down. It’s always good to see the bright sun and blue, blue skies! With the time change, we will be enjoying more and more beautiful spring weather!

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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 #48

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?

Overall, this was a good week! The weather turned chilly again, in the teens and twenties. But, overall, it was bright and sunny. Praise God!

I had several one-on-one meetings week with a variety of people. I was glad to talk with these friends to help them process life events and decisions. Often, by listening to others, I also gain valuable insight into my own life. I still have some pending decisions to make, but I’m giving my concerns to the Lord. Indeed, I’ve been praying for each of these decisions on-and-off for 2+ years! I know God’s got me got me covered!

I’m extra grateful for God’s grace and comfort during loss. Sadly, this week we had a death in our extended family. My dad’s youngest sister died quite unexpectedly. She was fairly young and so it was a shock. She was a beautiful soul and will be sorely missed. Still, it was good to talk with so many of our family members this week. I’m thankful for the love we share, even if we don’t see each other often due to living in several different states!

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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)!