Valentine’s Victories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tater Tots and Training Wheels

Lately, Lydia has been taking beginner swimming lessons. She already feels over-confident, yet doesn’t realize the safety belt keeps her afloat! “See, I know how to swim!” Her sense of independence has carried over to other areas, too.

Perhaps it’s part of growing up…but the last few weeks have been tough on me as a parent! On several occasions, I’ve needed an extra-large dose of God’s grace to stand firm with discipline. More than once, I’ve lost my patience and needed a parenting pep-talk!

1 Corinthians 15_58

There have been genuine—but mislead—moments of helping me with household tasks. Lydia was proud of herself but spilled water everywhere. I’m glad she’s learning…but each time she ‘helps,’ it requires a time-consuming clean-up!

There have been full-blown meltdowns too. We’ve had personality ‘power plays’ and other issues. However normal, I could do without the whining and tears!

So, I have reinforced the importance of listening and first-time obedience. We’ve talked about boundaries and respect, forgiveness and grace. It’s an hourly process at times.

I know ALL parents go through these challenges. Most kids do similar things…indeed it’s a little funny, hearing my mom’s familiar voice coming out of my own mouth:

“I love you too much to let you act that way!”

Still, we’ve had some really good moments too. I’ve given and received extra attention, hugs, and “I love you’s.” When I point out what is going well, Lydia beams.

Yes, I am thankful for my smart, healthy, spunky, and beautiful girl. I’m keenly aware some people would give anything to have children…but for some reason cannot.

Let me not take this child or this season for granted.

Old Droid X2 Phone (end Feb 2014) 631

Father’s Day is coming up. In the past, I’ve had Lydia send notes or pictures to her grandpas and uncles. Now she’s old enough to realize that her Daddy is not here to celebrate. But, we are not alone. We have a great support system, near and far.

Also, God has been with us the entire time. He loves Lydia even more than I do. What’s more, He promises to be a father to Lydia (Psalm 68:5). True to His Word, He’s graciously placed many wonderful men in our lives. Besides grandpas and uncles, we also have great friends and neighbors who influence Lydia for good.

I appreciate the men who have stomped in mud puddles, played ball, and taught Lydia new things. A few brave guys have let her paint their nails! They have read to Lydia, given her piggy back rides, and made pictures with sidewalk chalk.

I’m amused at the difference between how men and women handle kids. My “mom-friends” are amazing, but surely, I can learn a few tricks from the men!

painting toenails

Last weekend, I tried to feed Lydia dinner before going outside. She, however, was eager to play with one of the neighbor girls… “I’m not hungry, Mom.” Soon, I got a text from the little girl’s dad: “Can Lydia have some deer sausage?” He was grilling out for his family that evening. In addition to two helpings of sausage, Lydia enjoyed tater tots and a popsicle! 😀

A few days before, we visited other friends, who live across the street. Their little boy was learning to ride his bike without training wheels. He did really well, with some coaching from his dad! I have no idea how I am going to teach Lydia to do this… But after talking with my neighbors, I’m sure this dad would gladly help Lydia learn how to ride her bike too.

Tater tots and training wheels? Yes, please!

bike with training wheels

Clearly, I’m not an expert on parenting. 🙂 Thus, I need the help of those around me and the insight of those ahead of me. There is no such thing as a perfect parent. But I can be present, persistent, and praying for wisdom.

I’m always looking for good resources. Recently, I’ve been using, Praying the Scriptures for Your Children, by Jodie Berndt and Personality Plus for Parents, by Florence Littauer. Great books! Also, I found this podcast helpful!

Parenting is certainly a challenging job, but God will help us accomplish it. When difficulties come, let’s stand firm and work enthusiastically, knowing that nothing we do for the Lord is useless (1 Corinthians 15:58)!


Heavenly Father, thank You for this precious child You’ve given me. Thanks for providing encouragement and reinforcements on this parenting journey. Please give me Your wisdom and grace every day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What are your favorite parenting resources? For those of you with older/grown kids…Do you have any nuggets of wisdom or funny stories to share?!

Grace and Gratitude: More Than Enough

During the first two years we lived in Fargo, Dave and I were members of a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program. Our CSA delivered seasonal vegetables from spring until fall. We also attended a few “harvest events” where we picked our own veggies—pumpkins, gourds, melons, corn, green beans, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, beets, cabbages, carrots, and more. At times, we could barely shut the car doors!

We ate or froze as much as we could, but still we had so much left. I hate to be wasteful, especially with such nutritious foods. So, we gave away all the surplus. We dropped off bags loaded with ears of sweet corn to our neighbors. Anyone who dropped by to visit left with us saying, “Here, take a bucket of potatoes! Do you like cantaloupe? Please, take two!”

CSA Veggies 2011

I love the parallel between the bounty we experienced and the plenitude in our lives. God blesses us so we can be a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2). It’s as if each blessing we receive has seeds to share. We cannot contain nor keep them all for ourselves! With gratitude, we can extend God’s love to others.

As we cultivate thankfulness, our lives overflow with joy. As we acknowledge God’s grace and love in our lives, He doesn’t give just a little joy…He gives an abundance! God gives us blessings because of His loving kindness to us. Every good gift is from Him (see James 1:17).

I love these song lyrics by Walt Harrah:

“Think about His love
Think about His goodness
Think about His grace that’s brought us through
For as high as the heavens above
So great is the measure of our Father’s love
Great is the measure of our Father’s love”

As you recall the blessings in your life, write them down. Praise God as you reflect on what He has done for you in the past. Be thankful for the present and look forward to the future. We certainly have a lot to be thankful for.

Giving thanks goes beyond material things. Money cannot buy love, happiness, or gratefulness. Our relationships are the greatest blessings from God. Being together and celebrating His goodness in our lives is more important than the stuff we have.


At Thanksgiving, we visit loved ones and listen to heartwarming stories. We eat delicious food and take part in family traditions. Growing up, my family often had a few extra place settings around the table for friends with nowhere to go for the holiday.

Since college and now in Fargo, I too, have spent many Thanksgiving celebrations with families other than my own. Friends have invited me to their celebrations because of the distance and timing of school or work responsibilities. I’m grateful for the generosity of all those friends, who in many ways have become like family to me.

Hopefully, you’ll see loved ones this week. If not, don’t be discouraged. Instead, take heart. Choose joy. Turn worries into prayers. In every situation, give thanks (see 1 Thess. 5:16-18). God is a good Father and loving Provider. Rest assured there’s a place for you around His table! He longs to fill your life with goodness!

“Let us come before His presence with a song of thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with songs” (Psalm 95:2).

Father God, thank You for the beautiful world You have made. Thank You for providing good gifts to us! Thank You for the love of family and friends. Help us seek Your sweet and refreshing grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.


Questions: What is your favorite Thanksgiving memory? What are your greatest blessings? How can you be a blessing to others?


Favorite Nancy!

I have aunt whose name is Nancy. Lydia remembers Aunt Nancy reading to her when she came to visit us last year. In fact, Aunt Nancy read just about every book Lydia could find! Then, on our family vacation in July, we saw her again. Later, Aunt Nancy also mailed Lydia some books for us to read.

I also recently met a lady named Nancy at our church. I called her, and left a voice mail. When she returned my call, Lydia got excited (and a bit confused!).

Besides these lovely ladies, we received the book Fancy Nancy from a cousin in the mail. Lydia and I often quote the book to each other, as we really enjoy it!

It’s fair to say the name “Nancy” has been a hot topic around our house!

While I was on the phone with Nancy from church, Lydia was jumping and singing. “Aunt Nancy, Aunt Nancy…. She’s my favorite!”

After I got off the phone, I tried to explain a few things to Lydia. First, we don’t sing loudly when someone is on the phone. Second, there are two different “Nancys.” I explained how Aunt Nancy is my aunt, so she is Lydia’s great-aunt.

I thought I did a pretty good job—until Lydia began twirling and singing again. Loudly. Off-key. “Great Nancy! She’s my favorite! My Nancy! Aunt Nancy, Nancy! I looooove her!”

Lydia will gain better understanding someday. For now, I am going to enjoy her singing…

Zephaniah 3.17

“Great Nancy! She’s my favorite! My Nancy! Nancy, Nancy! I looooove her!” Soon, I was able to envision God doing the same thing. (Though, I doubt He sings off-key!)

The Bible says God delights in each of us. He sings and dances at the thought of me and Y-O-U. Can you sense His excitement?! He protects us and watches over us while we sleep. Even when we are totally unaware, God still adores us.

As if that is not enough, our Creator God is more than able to love each of us in personal ways. It is not good for parents to play favorites—because we don’t do it well. But, Father God, in His grace and wisdom, takes great joy in each of us as individuals.

Do you understand what this means? Yes! YOU are His favorite! (And so am I!) God thinks of you every moment. He has you written on the palm of His hand (Isaiah 49:16).

But when Life gets tough, it is easy to forget God’s love. We can’t always sense God’s loving presence. But He is there nonetheless. He calls you by name, and has fashioned you for a specific purpose. He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).

So let’s make this personal. Insert YOUR name here, and imagine God singing about you!

“Great ________! He/She’s my favorite! My ________! ________, _______! I looooove him/her!”

Listen. Can you hear it?

Then share this with the next person you see-—more than likely, they need to hear it too.

Father Knows Best

Over the last two years since Dave died, I’ve been able to go through many of his belongings. But, until recently, I still had his 1965 Chevelle (a classic car). I started praying for God’s help in selling the Chevelle. It was time to sell it, but I was struggling with how to go about it.

Over a few weeks, I had several people interested and even received a couple (low) offers. I was frustrated at these perceived setbacks.


So, I asked God if there was anything I was missing, or that He wanted to show me…

I had been prepping my daughter, Lydia, for several months in anticipation of selling the car. I explained that it will no longer be “Daddy’s car” when we sell it. Lydia had never ridden in it because she was still so little—17 months old—when Dave died…and there were no seat belts in the back. In the past, I tried to put her in it and take some pictures but it never worked out.

On a recent Sunday evening, we were talking about the Chevelle (still in our garage). On her own, Lydia said she would like to ride in the car. I had never even thought of that! Right away, I realized that is probably what the Lord was waiting on…that moment.

My neighbor drove Lydia and two of his daughters on a tour around the neighborhood. He said Lydia talked the whole time, and had a great ride! She never would have been able to remember such an event previously. So, I am very glad to wait on God’s perfect timing. Had we already sold the car, she would not have that experience!

Lydia and I often talk about God being our (her) Father. I want her to have closure, but Father God cares so much more about her little heart than I do. I was so touched, that God would wait until she was older for her to have this special experience. One she will actually remember, and can look back on with joy.

God’s plan is always perfect, and often He is working behind the scenes. This was most certainly worth the wait! Thank You, Father, for all you do for us. Father knows best! 🙂