Rainy Days Won’t Last Forever

Recently, Lydia found a show on Netflix that I can only describe as an animated reality show, filled with bad humor, clichés, and blonde jokes. Not quite my cup of tea, but Lydia liked it! It’s called “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse.” Yes, you read that right! 😉

On Monday, I was cooking dinner and half-listening to the show to determine if/when it should be turned off. It was rather cheesy, but I decided wait and see… From what I can tell, the episode was about a camping trip gone awry, thanks to the rain.

It’s been rather dry here lately, but I know others have been dealing with flooding. So perhaps I was just more aware… when to my surprise, one of the characters actually had a good point: Rainy days won’t last forever.

The show went on from there, with Barbie and her friends going with Plan B. Even so, as I stood in the kitchen, I gained a deeper perspective. It’s not a new concept, really, but quite often rainy days do parallel grief!

When rainy days come, we find indoor activities. We might read, color, play board games, watch movies, do puzzles, cook, or clean. Grief also tends to separate us from the outside world. It can affect our schedule and even our motivation. But find joy. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Yes, on rainy days, we might be limited in what we can do. But some people are not hindered by the rain. They are the ones stomping and splashing in the puddles! The grief process is a series of emotional challenges and victories. Each stage may look different from one person to the next. Disappointment may settle in. But take comfort and push forward. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Rainy days are valuable. Rain, of course, renews the earth and is just as important as sun to make plants grow. Each has a special role. Grief also has value, though most people would prefer to rush through it. But if we allow grief to run its course, we will be changed for the better. We somehow grow stronger and learn to appreciate what is good around us. Yes, find the good. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Just like there is no real substitute for a good rain storm, there is no quick solution for grief. We cannot bypass the rain, and we cannot bypass grief. Sometimes, it feels unbearable, like the gale of emotions will never end. But hold on. Rainy days won’t last forever.

When it rains, the atmosphere changes. The temperature often decreases as a front moves in. Darkness comes and everything looks different. Grief sure can change the horizon too. Nothing looks the same as before when everything was sunny and well. Yet, we don’t need to feel disoriented for long. Stay grounded. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Rain can bring fear and anxiety for some people, especially when accompanied by thunder and lightning. Grief, too, can bring a wide variety of emotions. Jesus is King of both kinds of storms. Let His love displace fear and anxiety. He loves you. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Rain showers can appear out of nowhere. Grief also can catch us by surprise. I do not consider myself in the midst of active grief these days. Thank God! But, on certain occasions, I still deal with it. Cling to the Lord. Rainy days won’t last forever.

It may be raining at my house, but not yours, even if we live close. I’m always amazed that even within a neighborhood or small community, the rain totals can vary. Grief is also like that. Each person’s experience is different. What triggers one person to grieve may be a non-issue for someone else. Be gracious. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Similarly, it can rain while the sun is still shining. It is interesting to watch, and often, we might see a rainbow in the mix. If we can also see the silver lining even in moments of grief, loss, or doubt, we will find a blessing. Praise God! Rainy days won’t last forever!

I doubt we will keep watching ‘Barbie shows’ much longer. Ahem. But, we can find God’s grace in the least likely places. Barbie, rain storms, and even grief.

Life is beautiful. God is good. Thank You, Jesus.

**********
God, thanks for being with us in the good and bad, whether it is sunny or rainy. Thank You for giving us Your strength and for leading us to Victory. May we trust You to help us walk with grace, even when it is difficult. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you like rainy days? Do you have special activities for when you have to stay inside?

Tasks: Journal about how rainy days affect you. Reach out to help someone who could use some support….due to grief or other reasons.

Tender and Teachable

Lately, I have had several unexpected teaching moments with Lydia.

As a parent, the best teaching moments happen when I see something valuable in the present—when I am not rushing off to the next chore or task or event. I’m sure I miss many opportunities, but I am trying to slow down and take notice regularly.

One recent teachable moment happened on Saturday. For years, I have sponsored children in India through Compassion International. Unfortunately, due to Indian governmental restrictions and regulations, my sponsorship there ends today, which is heartbreaking.

Nonetheless, I prayerfully decided to keep my sponsorship active elsewhere. This time, however, I wanted to involve Lydia. On Saturday, I did a little research and presented options to her. Through the course of our brief discussion, we picked a little girl in Indonesia that shares Lydia’s exact birthdate. We chose another little girl in Ecuador whose birthday was that Saturday—the same day we were discussing sponsorship.

Lydia was really excited to learn these girls in other countries like to draw, color, and sing—just like her. Soon, my eyes started to tear up. It was already a teachable moment, but I was happy to see Lydia’s face light up with joy. We discussed how these kids are similar to her, even though their circumstances are very different.

We talked about giving and helping others in need. While I don’t have huge expectations, I will make sure Lydia has a more active role than she did before. She may write a short note as she learns her letters or draw a picture.

I pray her heart is always tender and teachable.

Then yesterday, Lydia had a cool experience all her own. Recently, she asked me if she could take a picture of her daddy to school. I checked with her teacher beforehand, and Lydia was graciously given the opportunity to share two pictures of Dave during Bible time. At home, I helped her rehearse what to say, but she had already made up her mind! I wrote down a few points for her teacher’s reference, just in case.

I have done my best to teach Lydia about Dave since she was so little when he died. I also have tried to guide her on the appropriate time to share. (I don’t want other children to worry about their parents getting sick.) Still, it is part of her story and I want her to be comfortable with it. I wasn’t there to listen yesterday, but I was so proud of her courage.

Her confidence amazed me! It reminded me that God knows what He is doing… I don’t have to worry about her! I’m also so thankful for her teacher’s understanding.

I find the Lord also gives me teachable moments when I am in His presence. Sometimes I need to just slow down enough to pay attention. In this fast-paced, high pressure world, it’s more important than ever to stay present with Jesus. There’s joy in sitting at the feet of the Master and Teacher.

Jesus shows me His heart and gives me grace when mine doesn’t measure up. He gives me wisdom and guidance when making decisions for my family. He helps me see important needs and provides the means to share with others. As I put my trust in Him, He teaches me I don’t have to worry or be afraid. Praise God!

**********

Heavenly Father, thanks for teachable moments. Thank You for the joy of Your Presence. Please give me a tender and teachable heart. Help me look for ways to encourage and bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had any teachable moments lately?

Tasks: Write down any lessons learned. Pray about how what you have learned and how that could help encourage or teach someone else.

Turning Trials into Triumph

Happy September! We had a great first day of preschool on Tuesday! Of course, Lydia did awesome. I kept it together (mostly) and tried to enjoy the change of pace as well!

First Day of Preschool 2016

Though, on Monday, Lydia played with several friends in the neighborhood. One last hurrah! Thankfully, Lydia was out of earshot when a little girl asked me:

Where’s her father?

Surprised at the question, I explained that he had been sick and is now in heaven. The little girl nodded her head with genuine concern and said, “Oh… that happened to my dog, too!” And then she went back to playing with the other kids.

What a perceptive little girl! She must’ve known all the other dads were at work. While I didn’t expect her question, I was glad she had the courage to ask. Her cute little response made me smile!

Then, on Monday night, Lydia and I talked about preschool as we ate dinner. I told Lydia how proud of her Dave would be. I also reminded her of what she could say if someone asks about him. It doesn’t happen often, but I want her to be comfortable and prepared.

After we laid out Lydia’s new outfit, a sparkly green dress, I painted her nails to match. Then, we read The Night Before Preschool and said our prayers. Lydia was asleep in no time. She was ready

crayons

ME, on the other hand?Let’s just say I needed some time with Jesus!

There wasn’t anything really ‘wrong.’ I was excited for Lydia!

But emotions welled up as I reflected on how far we’ve come—and my conversation with our new little friend. The actual words hadn’t bothered me; it was an honest question. But I was upset that we had to have the conversation. A subtle difference, sure!

I couldve wallowed there for quite some time. Ahem. But I didn’t. I took it to Jesus, because I know He loves me so much. And praise God, He helped me turn it around!

I gave Him my sadness and concerns. I chose to praise the Lord with thankfulness instead. Then, slowly my heart grew glad as He reminded me that He will go with Lydia.

And, yes, He’s got this!

Psalm 145_13

Now I’m taking a *wild* guess here, but I bet you are facing some changes or challenges of your own. Maybe it’s a really good transition you have been praying about, like a new job or school. Or, perhaps there are heavy burdens on your heart—things you didn’t see coming. An unexpected circumstance popped up and you don’t know what to do. Maybe you have been dealing with the same difficulties for awhile with no relief in sight.

Don’t worry. God’s got this!

At the beginning of the school year, teachers often conduct a basic review to assess what  students have already learned. It can also be helpful for us to review all the trials God has brought us through. When we see our circumstances in the light of His goodness, we can see He has a plan. And, we can trust Him more going forward.

The Lord excels at turning trials into triumph!

(To be clear, I don’t look at how far I have brought myself, for that is not worth much.)

It’s the Lord who has carried me all these years. He is my Shepherd!

When I don’t know what to do, He is my Wonderful Counselor and Prince of Peace.

His Presence is always with me, and He will never leave me to fend for myself.

When I am afraid, He is Protector, my Shield, my Refuge, and my Defense.

He loves me with an everlasting love. (Which is A LOT!!)

I know God has good plans—filled with hope—for my future.

He always keeps His promises; He is faithful to complete every good work He starts.

Yes, it’s safe to say Lydia’s in good hands this year. Besides having wonderful, caring teachers, God’s got her covered. Of course He does…He loves her even more than I do!

And if you let Him, God will take good care of you too!

**********

Heavenly Father, thanks for all the ways You care for us. Help us make the most of these new opportunities. Help us grow in grace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What changes or challenges are you facing? Do you believe God can handle it?

A Note to My 29 Year-Old Self

This week I am celebrating! Not only is it my birthday week, it’s also the one year mark of making my blog public. Can you believe it?! I feel it is still a work in progress, but I am so grateful for you all. Thanks for sticking with me! 🙂

birthday candles

Dave often celebrated my birthday week. That’s because one year, he forgot the exact date and decided to give me gifts every day! He was pretty smooth like that.

These days, celebrating my birthday, like many other things, is different without him.

Typically, I’ll eat lunch with a friend, talk with lots of friends and family, and get a massage. This year, I am also taking Lydia to a local (minor league) baseball game. She’s been asking to go all summer, and the fireworks at the end might be a special perk!

Around my birthday, I like to look back on the last year and set some goals for the next. For whatever reason, this week I also considered all that has happened since moving to Fargo six years ago this month. It’s bittersweet.

Grace mug_Eph 2-8

I have noticed many major life events have occurred since my 29th birthday. In short:

I was twenty-nine when Lydia was born. While Dave and I were thrilled to be parents, the sleeplessness threw us for a loop! Five months later, we were just starting to sleep well when Dave was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. After 364 days of fighting cancer with Dave, I became a widow and single mom at the age of thirty.

Hence, the last few years have been a continual adjustment (and readjustment). So much has changed. But far be it from me to complain!

chocolate cupcake

Have you ever wished you could tell your former self how something works out? Hindsight brings clarity! I can’t explain it all in a simple blog post, but God has been so good to us.

Someday I’ll have all the words… but not today. So for now, with much gratitude, here’s a note I wrote to my 29 year-old self!

Hello, dear Self,

I know you cannot comprehend all that the next few years entail. You can’t possibly fathom the pain and struggles that lie ahead. But God does—and He’s got this.

You don’t realize this now, but fear has been a constant presence lurking in the back of your mind. It limits your decisions at times.

Yet God knows this—and He’s going to free you from all your fears. What’s more, as He destroys old mindsets, you will learn to walk in Victory. The whole process will certainly be scary, but He will lead you through. Trust Him!

Sometimes, this journey will make you question everything you believe about God. But He is big enough to handle your doubts and fears, your anger and resentment.

He’s got this.

There will be moments you can barely breathe. You won’t know how you’re going to make it. When you think you cannot take anymore, you’re right. But take it to Jesus. He is your hope and firm anchor. Let Him carry the burden for you. He cares for you deeply and knows exactly what you need.

When you feel like giving up or running away, stand firm. The battle belongs to the Lord. He is your shield, your protector, and your defense. He’s got you covered!

When everything falls apart, you will see God holding together what remains. He is your rock and your salvation! Everything that really matters is secure in Him.

Yes, dear Self, life gets rough up ahead. It can feel quite heavy at times. But don’t worry. God’s got this! In fact, there is much good along the way.

New goals and dreams, new purposes and plans. Long-awaited answers to prayer.

God will use these experiences to show you just how much He loves you. He will prove His love and power are stronger than any difficult thing you will (ever) face.

 And yes, He’s absolutely got this!

It won’t be easy, but in time, you will see the pattern of grace. From this side of it all, it actually IS amazing. When the dust settles, you will be grateful. And despite all odds, you will still wake up with wonder at this life you get to live. What a gift!

What felt like defeat, was really training grounds for a new path. Where there was doubt, trust will deepen. In place of despair, hope will rise. In the midst of pain, you will find peace and beauty. You will flourish!

Praise God—He’s got this!

So do not be afraid, dear Self. You are always loved, never alone. God will not falter. His mercies are new every morning, and His grace is more than enough.

Keep your head held high, because the best is yet to come. God is working all this for good, even when you don’t see how. It will be beyond your wildest imagination!

Seek God’s grace and goodness each day. Rejoice in the Lord’s unfailing love and faithfulness! Most of all, hold on tight to Jesus.

Cling to Him for He is your strength and your life.

And you know what? He’s got this!!

XOXO,

Your 30-something Self

**********

Gracious God, thank You for bringing me through with Victory. I celebrate your loving kindness—You are so good to me! Bless this next year and help me live for you! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you ever written yourself a note like this? What words of wisdom would you write?

Before and After

According to Donald Miller, every great story has at least six to eight “story turns” or “life turns.” Generally, the plot is built around story turns. These are pivotal moments in the story because once a character goes through that ‘door,’ they can never turn back. These moments change the character and life will never be the same again.

Story turns can be good, like getting married, having a baby, or landing a dream job. (The positive stress that comes with those is called eustress.) Somehow though, moments of distress seem to be the most memorable. Is that because we tend to focus on the negativity, or because they actually have the most potential to bring change?

time for change

I don’t always appreciate change. I like my comfort zone! Often, change isn’t comfortable, but it is good and necessary long-term. Change makes life interesting!

Two of my biggest story turns felt like a one-two punch: Dave’s cancer diagnosis followed by his death 364 days later. I had to learn to walk a new path. Things feel better (most days), but that’s largely because God has carried us as we have adjusted to our new normal. It still feels crazy sometimes, but God keeps reminding me to rest.

Dave and I learned so much when he was sick. But after Dave died, God brought me to a whole new level of grace. Grace for myself. I simply could not keep up with everything on my should-do list. So, I had to relax my standards…and then relax them again.

I knew if I was going to get through the grief process, I was going to need God’s help. Grief is a process. Change is a process. It hasn’t been easy, but in His strength, I’ve been able to accomplish what He has for me to do (Philippians 4:13). Jesus said He would never leave me, and I have chosen to trust Him to show me the way. I’ve relied on His power, and He has given me His peace (John 14:27).

Colossians 3_15

As a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, I often see “before and after” client photos or food journals. It is gratifying to see the differences after even a few changes are made. Many of them are difficult to implement, but carry life-changing potential.

So, here are some of my “before and after” snapshots (figuratively speaking):

Before, I tried to plan my way to a perfect outcome (or life). Now, I keep planning in perspective. My new motto in many areas is, “Close enough is good enough.” (It doesn’t apply to everything, but it’s a really good ‘get out of jail free’ card most days!)

Before, fear was closely linked to my perfectionist tendency to plan for all contingencies. I often had a nagging feeling that something could go wrong. Now, I praise God fear is no longer a stronghold in my life. I have learned to let things go… In fact, I rarely have any fear at all. And when I do, I catch it right away and deal with it.

Before, I worried about decisions, trying to figure out all the details in advance. I still believe planning is wise, but I don’t over-plan due to fear and worry. Now, I wait to make a decision until I have peace about it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I know all the information beforehand. But, I’m okay with that now. I don’t have to have ALL the answers to walk by FAITH. I know God will come through for me, so I wait for His peace.

May 15th 2016_Three years

Before, I would do everything I could to avoid confrontation. (I was also more of a people-pleaser!) I respectfully address and resolve conflict much quicker now, not letting simple issues drag on. Perhaps I have a shorter fuse now. One thing I do know is that Life is too short to get worked up about petty issues!

Before, I was always busy but didn’t feel like I made much progress in any area. After Dave died, God streamlined my focus. So now, I am doing less random activity, but having much more impact in areas that are important to me. I have felt much more fruitful and productive these last few years.

How about you? What are your biggest “before and after” moments?

**********

God, You are good! Thank You for writing our stories with Your love and grace. Thanks for being with us on the journey. Draw us near to You, in Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: As you look back on significant “life turns,” can you see how God shown His faithfulness to you? How has your life been changed as a result?

Because He Is Good

With the flip of the calendar, here we are in May! I love spring in general, but it is a little bittersweet as we near the third year mark of my late husband’s death. Over the last couple weeks, I have been praying about this upcoming anniversary.

Once again, the Lord has come through for me in ways only He can. I had coffee with a friend who reaffirmed me on a day I was feeling down. I also ran into several friends at church, and each time, God used them to lift me up with encouragement. In all these instances, I didn’t mention I was sad. But it was reassuring to see how God met my need. He is so good to me!

1361914238347

Dave was thirty-four when he died, which is far too young. He was diagnosed after an emergency surgery in May 2012. He died 364 days later. It was a wild and chaotic year, but God was ever-faithful.

This spring, I am a little sad, yes.

But mostly, I am still so proud of Dave after all these years. I admire how he handled his cancer with grace and courage. I’m grateful he did not give up.

Some people may think that God let me down because Dave died. Yet, I do not feel that way. In fact, I saw God do so much more than we could ever dream. He answered big, audacious prayers and small, silent ones. It was an awful situation, no doubt. But, God was so kind and generous.

Already Stage IV, Dave’s prognosis wasn’t great at the start, but God gave us those 364 days anyway. Some people get longer, but we relished every moment we had together. I’m thankful Dave didn’t have to suffer any longer than that because it got to be pretty intense those final weeks…

Psalm 46_1

What’s more, I’m so grateful for all God taught us that year. Dave had a servant’s heart like no other, but realized he couldn’t out-give God. He learned to rest in Jesus’ sacrifice because we can’t earn God’s grace.

For me, perhaps the lessons felt much more dramatic. Emotional roller coaster is an understatement. Our cancer journey brought out some of my worst traits. And trust me, I could be a bear at times! But, God’s grace and mercy were more than enough even then.

God provided wonderful friends who helped us, often with little advanced notice. He provided extra comfort for the worst days and gave us many joys along the way. As Dave himself said, it was a “phenomenal year.”

God used these extreme circumstances to prove that He is bigger than my fears. Every. Single. One. That alone was one of the biggest breakthroughs in my life.

He set me free indeed! What grace!

Can you believe these last three years have been some of the most fruitful years of my life? It’s not been easy, though God is redeeming my pain. He has rebuilt my life from the ashes. And because He is good, I am still standing!1 Corinthians 15_57I don’t know what you are dealing with today. Maybe everything is peachy keen. But, likely it’s not. If you are struggling with something, take it to Jesus. Let Him be your refuge and strength, your righteousness and your defense—He understands exactly what you need.

You simply cannot figure out every detail and outcome of your life. Believe me, I know! But if you place your trust in Jesus alone, He will lead you through it all. Let Him be your peace. He will bring you to Victory!

God loves you and is for you! Yes, life is hard. It doesn’t always turn out like we want. But God can handle everything that concerns you. And ultimately, if your hope is in Him, you will not be disappointed!

I know that full well.

**********

God, great is Your faithfulness! Thank You for being a trustworthy refuge. When we are afraid, may we place our hope in You. We overcome and have Victory, in Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How has God come through for you lately? How can I pray for you?

The 12-Hour Turnaround

It is amazing what rejuvenation can come from a get-away. Lydia and I spent almost a week in Illinois, while we visited family and a few friends. It was just the ‘reset’ I needed.

Usually, we drive there and back in two days, stopping overnight each time. This adds a couple extra days to our trip—which is fun, but not always feasible. So, this time, we drove for twelve hours all in one day to Illinois and then the same road trip back to Fargo.

Now we have taken this route numerous times in nearly six years. And we have done the long all-day trek several times too. But this time was different.

sunrise from car

On this road trip, I needed a major turnaround. Yes, an attitude readjustment!

It could’ve been related to not sleeping well the night before. Perhaps it was the sense of leaving family and comfort behind. Maybe there were other factors too—like postponing breakfast—but I was in a funky mood at the beginning of the trip!

It was still dark as we started out. After a little while, Lydia fell back asleep. As I listened to her soft snoring, I started to reflect upon all we were driving back toward (in Fargo). There’s nothing like a little distance to give you some perspective!

Before, on the way to Illinois, we were driving toward family. But, as we drove back to Fargo, there was a void. I also realized as the third-year mark of Dave’s death approaches, we have been making these trips without him longer than with him.

I continued thinking about lessons learned, how many things have changed. Lydia has grown so much! Also, at least eight families—much of our support system—have moved away for various reasons. Though, God has been faithful to provide new friends and a wonderful drop-in daycare!

Other aspects of our lives are fairly steady. I’ve taken huge leaps forward, yet I feel there is still so much to do. Sometimes it is overwhelming. Though we love calling Fargo home—and have no plans to move—it has not been without challenges.

As we made our way North, I turned on the radio. I have a SiriusXM subscription which is awesome for traveling. I don’t use it often in Fargo, but on Monday, I was thankful for the encouraging words on The Message (Channel 63).

With God-focused songs, like Trust in You by Lauren Daigle, I knew I needed to give all my fears and frustrations to God. When I fear, I forget God’s faithfulness. But, the truth is, the Lord has been so, so good to me. He is kind, generous, and trustworthy. I don’t have to worry, because the He is in charge of all the details.

two arrows

As the hours rolled by, Lydia and I sang and talked. As I feasted on God’s grace and truth, a weight lifted. The closer we got to Fargo, the more light-hearted I became. Soon I was confident, hopeful, and trusting God again. What a relief knowing I don’t walk this path alone!

God continually gives me opportunities to trust Him at a deeper level. Oddly enough, I found new motivation to make some changes I previously resisted. My resistance is not on purpose, but I can be stubborn!

Being stuck in my car, I was open-minded to make changes regarding my daily routine. It’s funny how sitting in the car all day makes me want to switch up my exercise plan! 😉 Now, I have a renewed vision for Fargo and am excited to see all the Lord has in store!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Following God is not always comfortable or easy. But, it is so worth it. God is for me not against me. He gently redirects me when I get off track. I can trust Him because He loves me so much!

**********

Father God, thanks for Your unrelenting grace and love. Thanks for never giving up on me. Lord, I need You—I cannot make it on my own. Help me trust You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What are your favorite music tunes for the car? Has God ever changed your heart during a road trip?

After the Leap

Did you do anything special to celebrate Leap Day this week?

For me, it was mostly like a regular day. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lydia in her gymnastics class. There were moments when I laughed wholeheartedly at the kids’ antics. They were trying so hard!

Their attempts at cartwheels, crab walks, and the balance beam had me rolling. These cute tumblers practiced somersaults and log rolls. They jumped on a trampoline, chased each other, and crawled through tunnels. The kids had such joy!

There was plenty of leaping, jumping and even some marching. When the kids fell, they got back up. When they failed, they started over. Occasionally, they asked the teacher for help. Other times, they skipped over a station if they didn’t know what to do. Interestingly, none of the kiddos were concerned if they landed correctly or not.

They were carefree and having fun!

trampoline

As you know, February 29th only comes every four years. That’s 1461 days. Yet, it goes by quickly. When I consider that four years ago, I had an infant and today, I have a preschooler…WOW!!

I also think about all that has happened in those four years, including a baby, parenthood, cancer, widowhood, grief, hard work, writing, serving, and lifelong friends.

Perhaps the last four years have turned out differently than you expected. Likely, you faced some disappointments too. Yet, most things turned out way better than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful and forever amazed to see God’s hand in it all.

It’s curious that there are a few days between Leap Day and March 4th (Forth)… What happens between leaping and marching forward? To me, that middle ground represents that transition time spent adjusting… changing… waiting… and overcoming doubt. It’s like the struggle before the victory. After the leap, it’s necessary to steady your feet before you can take any ground.

leap

Maybe you leaped into a new venture recently and aren’t sure what to do next. It probably looked exciting at first, but are you facing uncertainty now? Maybe you didn’t land where you anticipated or you’ve lost your footing.

Remember: It’s okay to pause and ask the Teacher for direction or clarity. God is eager to help us when we ask! Take some time and regroup, sure. Refocus and get some perspective.

Find your balance, yes. But don’t wait too long and don’t let fear stop you. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7).

Taking things day by day can make time seem slow—and it can be difficult to see progress. But don’t be discouraged or lose hope. By faith, trust that God’s plan for you is good. Get excited about what He is doing and have fun! There’s great joy in His presence!

jumping off table

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7).

Whatever happens in the next 1461 days, don’t worry about the outcome or end results! Let the Lord set your pace. Soon you’ll look back with amazement at how far you’ve come. And yes, God will work it for good if you trust Him (see Romans 8:28).

So keep your head up and keep marching!

**********
God, You know all of our days before any of them ever occur. Thank You for being with us on each step of our journey. Helps us keep moving forward. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What would you like to see happen during these next four years? What steps are you taking to move forward?

Learning to Love Plan B

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ~Corrie ten Boom

As a planner, I enjoy knowing what to expect. But for most of my life, I was also a world-class worrier. In hindsight, I know my worries were rooted in fear…because God’s plans for me are good (Jeremiah 29:11).

Todayisagift.

Fear sucks the life out of the present moment and causes needless anxiety. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Worrying steals from Today as we obsess over future “what ifs” that may never happen. When we seek His presence, we stay in the present moment. There is no room for fear!

Worrying kills the joy that comes with expecting God’s goodness and blessings. When we anticipate what He will do on our behalf, there is excitement. If it’s God’s plan, it will not fail!

Worrying destroys our faith in God’s grace and provision. By holding onto our imperfect plans, we hinder God’s best for our lives. When we pray instead of worry, our trust grows. God empowers us and makes us brave as we move forward!

day-planner

Planning for contingencies is wise preparation. But worrying adds no value to the end result. Plans frequently change, yet God’s peace is constant. Hence, the lack of peace is a reminder to let Him lead (see Colossians 3:15).

It seems Life is like being guided through an obstacle course while blindfolded in deep woods. God alone knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He designed the specific way each of us should go, according to His unique and special plan for us.

Here is how I imagine it: One person is guided to the left to bypass a tree, while someone else is directed to duck under a branch. Still another person crawls over muddy roots to avoid disaster. We may go in the same general direction, but God builds character through different life circumstances. (Cue Plans B, C, and D…)

When blindfolded, the weaving, bobbing, and details just don’t make sense. Only as we look backward does clarity come. It can be challenging to trust God to lead us forward. And, we might get a few scratches along the way. But the other option is to ignore God’s vision and run into a tree, figuratively, of course. 🙂 We walk by faith, not by sight.

Plan B

We don’t have to worry. In fact, God command us: “Do not fear.” While we can’t always see the path, we can walk with God each day. He will prepares us for what is ahead. On this lifelong adventure, it would be foolish to move ahead of Him. Let’s plan to trust God!

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NLT).

When Dave got cancer and died, my worst fears came true! But God’s grace held fast. When everything fell apart, He remained in control. When I relinquished my ideas (Plan A) for His greater plan, I was finally freed from fear and worry. As I learn to love Plan B, there is joy in the journey. God continues to take care of all that concerns me. Praise the Lord!

**********

God, thank You for working on our behalf. Give us wisdom as we make plans. Help us not get ahead of You and Your perfect timing. Thank You for Plan B. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What do you tend to worry about? Can you envision what it would be like to not worry anymore? What can you “let go” of to have more peace?

 

 

The Significance of Our Stories (Video Testimony)

“The thing about telling your story is that it helps you believe you have a story to tell.”—Sarah Mackey, NaNoWriMo

 There is freedom as we share the stories of our lives—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Our stories have the power to encourage others on their journey. Stories have potential to turn a stranger into a new friend. We can connect with family and friends across generations. We can learn how to live a better life.

I have been changed as I understand the significance of telling my story. As I piece it all together, I’ve seen patterns in my story and these have helped clarify my goals and purpose. To recognize my imperfections, and be ‘okay’ with them is healing.

There’s a song called My Story, by Big Daddy Weave, and I love these words:

“If I should speak then let it be
Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
Oh to tell you my story is to tell of Him”

At the end of the day, how we frame our stories is vital. In Hebrews 12:2, it says that Jesus is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. Our individual lives and stories matter because they are part of His larger story. It is His story we are living.

As a writer, I love that some versions of Hebrews 12:2 even state that Jesus is the Editor or Finisher of our faith…praise God! I don’t have to write the perfect life story or know exactly how it ends. I can leave the precious details in the hands of the Artist.

We all face defeat or failure in our day-to-day journeys. But those moments are merely a paragraph on the page. As you consider your story, be strong and courageous. Don’t believe the lie that your story doesn’t matter. God can do far more than we can ask or imagine, if we let Him. Trust in Jesus for the victorious outcome. He is in control.

chalkboard-620316_1280

“Because Your love is better than Life, my lips will praise you!” (Psalm 63:3)

Recently, my pastor asked me to share my story (or ‘testimony’) about what God has done in my life. The recording (linked below) was used for a sermon series, with a few other videos. Our church was setting its core values which represent our church culture, and this one highlights the importance of being connected to each other in meaningful ways.

We were not meant to do Life alone.

I want to share it because it helps explain the unique ways God worked in our situation. As we experience God in personal ways, we can live the Life that He has made for us.

I also want to point out that the video is not really about me or anything I have done. It is all about God’s faithfulness to bring me through with His grace and love. God uses people to show His character traits; yes, we can be a willing extension of Him to others.

Of course, all the footage was edited down to only a few minutes for time and intent. Therefore, it only hints at the gratitude I have for all the help, support, encouragement, and general rallying around us on this journey. It has made all the difference for us.

Thank you!

You can find the video here: https://vimeo.com/142877469

Father God, thank You for redeeming our pain and rewriting our stories with Your grace. All glory, honor, and praise to You! Help us live Your story. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.