Roses and Redirection

I hope you are having a wonderful week! On Monday, I planned to attend an evening meeting, but then it was rescheduled for a later date. No worries…God redirected my steps!

Instead of my meeting, on a whim, I invited a good friend over for dinner. We hadn’t seen each other for a couple months and we decided to order Chinese food.

As a sweet gesture, she brought me some flowers. The pink roses really brightened my day as I had been feeling kind of “blah” earlier.

You probably know the feeling. We all have those moments, due to weather, insecurity, fear, or other factors. I wasn’t sure if I was discouraged or perhaps a little discontented. Frustrated or maybe impatient?

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I prayed about my attitude earlier in the day. I took it to Jesus! Before long, I felt more at peace. I was grateful for the redirection.

Later, my friend’s surprise act of kindness—the roses—actually felt like a personal gift from the Lord. He sees me and knows exactly what I need.

After Lydia went to bed, my friend and I continued our conversation. We had a great discussion and everything she said mimicked how I had felt that day. It was such a good reminder that I am not alone.

It was also good to see that our emotions can take on a similar pattern in each of our hearts—even if for different reasons. As we talked, we laughed and encouraged each other. We were both blessed that evening and had such a good visit!

Sometimes, our emotions can get the best of us. But it’s our job to keep them in check. As Lysa TerKeurst says, “Emotions are indicators, not dictators.” So, while it’s okay to pay attention to our feelings, we don’t need to let them have the final say.

This week, I am grateful for how the Lord directs (and redirects) my steps. I’m also glad that with Him, we always have hope. We don’t have to be discouraged…or discontented…or impatient…or _________ by what is going on around us.

What we see is only part of the story. If we are fear-based, we will always miss out on what God is doing. But, if we live by faith, we can rest, trusting that He has all the details under His sovereign care.

By faith, we can tap into all God has for us. He forgives our past and gives us grace for today. We also have hope for our future and strength to stand. Thank You, Jesus!

Often, life is not fair. But really, grace isn’t fair either. By definition, grace is ‘undeserved favor.’ Grace is extended to us because of who God is…not because of what we do.

We are loved because He loved us first.

So, let’s not worry or be afraid. We can trust Him to take care of all that concerns us. In His timing, the Lord will provide everything we need. Roses or redirection…it’s all good!

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Sovereign God, You are so generous and kind! Thanks for Your grace, roses, and redirection. Please help me trust You more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had some ‘holy redirection’ in your life lately?

Tasks: When you notice your emotions getting the best of you, stop and pray. Give it to Jesus. Let Him carry your burden instead!

Taking Heart and Giving Thanks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So take heart. Trust Jesus, and be grateful.

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

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

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

Finding Grace #86

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 week was full of God’s goodness and grace! We had our usual activities with school, work, church, but also had a pumpkin painting party at Lydia’s school. It was fun to see her in action and meet some of her new friends.

At home, I met a writing deadline and then finished housework. Often, if I am focused on writing tasks, I put off other things. The mental effort takes a lot of focus and I don’t want to waste my energy. 😉 I’m sure most people do that to some degree, with their own priorities, but it feels good to get caught up around the house.

I had encouraging conversations with many people this week. I had a great time talking to one person in particular. A man, who recently moved to the area, told me his story. He spent the last ten years in about thirty different locations around the world. Part of this was related to his military experiences. He’s gone through some harrowing trials, including post-traumatic stress, yet, God’s faithfulness was evident through it all. What grace!

After a busy week, I’m relishing the calm weekend. Over the last couple of days, we received our first snow of the season…in October! It was only a light dusting and didn’t stick around for very long. It was quite pretty, nonetheless! Lydia and I spent much of today indoors, just relaxing and having fun. Thank You, Jesus!

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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)!

Grace for the Freak Outs

This past weekend, I was right in the middle of making lunch when Lydia rushed into the kitchen. “Mom, come here! I need to show you something in my room!”

I thought she might be ‘crying wolf’ and I couldn’t really stop what I was doing—unless it was a real emergency. So I asked, “What’s wrong, Lydia?”

Already back in her room, she yelled down the hall, “There’s a rip in my comforter!” Then, she quickly added, “And I don’t know how it got there!” Funny how she covered her bases… 🙂

I shrugged, then replied knowingly, “Oh, that’s okay. I already saw it. Don’t worry about it!”

To Lydia, it was a big problem…She wanted to fix it right away. I noticed the rip a few days before she did. Yet, her over-reaction was precisely why I didn’t mention it earlier!

The comforter—actually, a multicolored quilt—has held up surprisingly well over the years. I received it as a pretty birthday gift when I was young. It is special to me, but certainly not an heirloom. Hopefully repairs can be made… but it was never meant to be a long-term solution for Lydia’s bedroom.

As I thought about our brief conversation, the Lord spoke to my heart.

When problems arise in my life, I often want a quick fix. I often want to do it all myself! But He sees it differently. God sees opportunities for character refinement. Qualities like patience, gentleness, and perseverance are far more important than my present comfort.

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He sees the end from the beginning. He already knows the solution long before the problem even appears.

Wow, what grace! God knows more about my problems than I do!

Jesus is not only the ultimate problem solver, He is the SOLUTION. I, for one, have no clue how each random problem will unfold. Yet, no detail is hidden from the Lord.

Some of my problems are resolved quickly and easily, while some linger for what feels like forever. Yet, His thoughts are so much higher than ours and His wisdom is unsearchable. Indeed, nothing is a surprise to Almighty God!

At the end of the day, Lydia is not bothered by the fact she doesn’t have a different, newer comforter. She trusts that I have her best interest in mind. In fact, she seems proud that I let her use it! Someday, I’ll certainly let her pick out her own comforter.

Mainly, I’ve been holding off because if I buy something now, she probably won’t take care of it. At this age, her interests change as fast as the latest fad. I want something that will last, and for now, my old quilt works well enough…

As for me, instead of worrying how to make ends meet, I will keep trusting the Lord. I won’t freak out over each little problem. He loves me dearly and has never let me down. I will not miss out on any good thing He has for me. He always takes such good care of me!

God’s timing is perfect. His plans for me are far greater than I can imagine. Someday, I will look back and wonder why I was so concerned with____________ (fill in the blank). For now, I’m beginning to see the wisdom in not telling me the details too far in advance!

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God, thanks for taking such good care of me. You know all about my problems and You guide me through each one. Help me see You instead of focusing on the chaos around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Is there a problem that is causing you to freak out or over-react? What is the Lord asking you to do next?

Tasks: Remember, God knows more about Your problem than you do. Trust Him!

A Lunch Lady in the Library

On Monday, Lydia and I attended a conference with her teacher at school. I’m grateful Lydia is doing well so far. Even better, her teacher also mentioned Lydia has been helping other students. I’m glad she is confident in the material and can tutor others (as needed) at her ‘pod’ of desks. Her eagerness to help others reminds me of Dave’s servant heart.

On Monday, I also volunteered to help with the PTO book fair in the school library. I ran one of the cash registers and rang up book orders. I met some new faces and saw a few friends!

Lydia joined me in the library. She walked around looking at books; played quietly with another worker’s daughter; and returned books to the shelves for me if someone changed their mind. She loves to help!

One cheerful volunteer said she works at the school as a lunchroom supervisor (aka a lunch lady). She happened to be a PTO member, as well. She said, “I worked today and then stayed longer to set all this up. Then, I went to my kids’ conferences and now I am here.” She was very friendly and didn’t seem to mind her extra-long day.

A little while later, during a slower moment, I asked, “Do you have a position on the PTO?” She seemed quite knowledgeable to me! With a laugh, she replied, “Oh, no. I don’t have a position. I just jump in wherever is needed!”

I loved her attitude and eagerness to help. I felt she exemplified a good life lesson: You don’t need a title or position to serve. You don’t have to wait to be asked. Just jump in where you see a need!

Later, we continued to talk. I joked, “Way back in high school, I cashiered at a grocery store, so this is right up my alley.” She nodded and said, “Well, hey, I worked in a bank for four months….so I’d say we’re qualified!” 😉

From time to time, I suspect most of us don’t feel up to par with all that is required of us. I certainly don’t always feel qualified for whatever task or position I am called to do.

But, then I remember that God made me on purpose. He has given me my personality, abilities, strengths, and even weaknesses, for a specific reason. My circumstances are not a surprise to the Lord. He knew what He was doing!

Indeed, God has also used my life experiences (the good and bad!) to shape me. He instilled passions in my heart that are unique to me. He uses each of these areas to equip me and prepare me for all I need to do. My opportunities for both growth and advancement come from Him. I can be still and trust Him!

If I do my work as unto the Lord, I don’t have to worry about what others think. In fact, it’s not about what I do or don’t do… Jesus already did the most important work on the Cross. Thus, whether I succeed or fail, it’s a win-win in the end. I am covered by His grace!

God has a good plan for my life (and yours). Surely, He created us for such a time as this. So we don’t need to be afraid—we can jump in with confidence, knowing He’s got it under control. He’s so faithful!

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God, thanks for giving me Your strength and grace. Thanks for equipping me and qualifying me for each task. Help me do my best and bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Where do you find your confidence and strength? In your own abilities? Or in God working through you?

Tasks: Instead of trying to solve each problem on your own, ask Jesus for help. Let Him direct Your path and goals. Trust Jesus because He is the ultimate solution.

A Cop-Out or A Call-Out

You’ve probably heard the following adage: What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I’ve also heard our past can make us bitter or better. So, it seems to me that there are two ways to look at all of our past trials and how they prepare us for the future.

I can choose between fear and faith.

Regarding cancer and Dave’s death…

Fear could say something like: “Well, that was terrible! How many more awful things am I going to have to endure? What’s coming next? Woe is me!” As you might guess, it could quickly turn into a downward spiral…

Thankfully, I kicked fear to the curb long ago.

Instead, I choose to see all I’ve gone through with eyes of faith.

Faith says, “Wow, that was rough! But look how God brought me through! I’m still standing! God won’t waste my pain… I can’t wait to see how He uses this for His glory and my good!”

Fear points out all the problems in my life—the cannots, the impossibilities. Fear rejects outside help, reinforcing that I am all alone in my struggle.

Faith points me to Jesus—with whom nothing is impossible. Faith accepts His power and grace—with Him, I can do all things!

Fear keeps me from moving forward, saying “maybe later.” Fear hinders growth.

Faith unlocks courage, never-ending potential, and adventure. As I pursue new possibilities, I am empowered. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Fear reminds me of everything I am not. Faith repeats what God says, who I am in Christ.

Fear is crippling, but faith makes me hold my head high with confidence—not in my abilities, but in His.

Fear is often rose-colored glasses, remembering what was. Faith acknowledges the pain and grief, yet clings to Jesus for what can and will be.

Fear can be a cop-out and brings condemnation. Faith calls me out and requires grit.

Fear gives up easily, due to exhaustion and worry. Fear never sees a reward or goodness.

Faith takes endurance, yet yields expectation and wonder. Faith pays off in the end.

Fear is subtle. I never realized its hold on me—until all my worst fears came true.

Fear is not from God. Yet, He used those terrible experiences to teach me that I don’t have to choose fear. Jesus set me free with His unfailing love and grace!

My Victory did not come easy. It was a tough lesson to learn. Indeed, I have suffered major losses with long-term impact. I’m grateful nonetheless.

“See, God has come to save me.
I will trust in him and not be afraid.
The Lord God is my strength and my song;
he has given me victory.” (Isaiah 12:2)

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Heavenly Father, thank You for the Victory we have in Jesus! Thank You that we don’t have to live in fear. Forgive us for our unbelief and help us walk in faith. Help us trust you for good things ahead! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Which do you tend to choose most often: Fear or faith? Are there some changes you need to make?

Tasks: Don’t be afraid! Our past challenges and present circumstances do not disqualify us from a good future. Jesus makes all things new! He forgives us and gives us new opportunities. Choose faith!

Finding Grace #83

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 week was full of God’s grace! Lydia and I spent a little time with lots of friends this week. We have friends in town right now for the sugar beet harvest. It’s not October without them here! I also had lunch with another friend this week and spent time praying with several people.  It was a blessed week!

Monday was a big day for me in terms of being brave and embracing God’s grace. I had several other moments this week to not fake brave, as well. I’m so thankful for how much I have learned and grown these last few years!

Tuesday and Wednesday were full with work and other activities. I bought a new light for my entry way and notified the electricians so they can help install it next week. I also bought groceries and cleaned the house… you know, all those important tasks! Yet, I am grateful to have a flexible schedule to get everything done in a reasonable time frame.

I love autumn. Today, Lydia and I spent most of the afternoon with friends on an outdoor adventure! We went on a little hike and treasure hunt. Mostly, we found pretty leaves and a few cool bugs. But we ‘walked to Minnesota and back’ via a pedestrian bridge. We also tracked an ‘alligator log’ through the Red River. Finally, we ended up at Cherry Berry for frozen yogurt! It’s been a beautiful day!

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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)!

Note to Self: Don’t Fake Brave

What surprises me the most about grief is both the depth of the wound and the healing it requires. Thankfully, I gave the Lord control of that long ago. His ways and thoughts are much higher than mine; I trust Him to teach me and take care of me.

On Monday morning, I called my writing coach to discuss a special project. Part of his job is to point out growth areas and things to work on. I trust his professional input!

During his critique, my writing coach mentioned, “You must’ve been in a hurry to finish this piece. It reads like you were trying to be brave.” I had unintentionally chosen a safe route, glossing over some details which might provide more meaning and context.

As we talked, he said, “You have your public life and try to be brave, but on paper you don’t need to be brave. This is where you show how you are really doing.”

Wow, I thought and tearfully scribbled a quick note to myself: Don’t fake brave.

Grammar aside, my coach pointed out a common problem. We often put on a smile to face the world and hope people don’t see our struggles. We try the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. That might work short-term, but long-term, we don’t have to be superheroes.

In real life, just surviving a traumatic event is a Victory. You don’t have to thrive in order for it to count. Whether you run, walk, or crawl through the muck, it’s a win as long as you keep going. Don’t give up!

Also, we don’t need to compare our struggles to someone else’s successes. What I consider a Victory may differ from someone else. Bravery looks different for each of us. That’s okay!

For example, on Monday, bravery looked like tossing an old, holey shirt, even though it was a treasured gift from Dave. Even small wins are good!

Monday evening felt like a Victory, too. My entry way lights have been flickering for quite some time, and I finally got around to asking for help. There were several minor issues to address, but everything turned out better than expected.

I’ll have to buy a new light fixture, but that’s not too bad. At the same time, it was bittersweet because if Dave was here, he would have taken care of the lights on his own.

Ironically, the electricians were impressed with the breaker switches in the fuse box. I explained how Dave had labeled each one. Silently, I remembered how thoughtful he was. I felt the loss.

While the electricians were super friendly, I tried to hold my emotions together. I didn’t want to overshare with strangers! Yet when I did explained my situation, they offered to help install the new light. It was a blessing to be brave!

Yes, Monday was a great reminder of the Lord’s grace. He helped me navigate through each situation in ways that moved my heart and brought healing. Praise God!

All of us practice bravery every day in big and small ways! 

My point is: With Jesus, we don’t have to fake it. He knows our pain, weaknesses, fears and failures. Yet, He eagerly carries our burdens and never leaves us on our own. Lay down your defenses and come to Him just as you are.

With His abundant grace, the Lord provides more than we need to get through life’s troubles. As we seek Him, He comforts us with his strength and joy. He makes our path straight and smooth. That doesn’t mean life is easy…but it is better with Jesus.

Sometimes being brave is not fun or glamorous. For me, it can mean difficult decisions and occasional tears. But, instead of focusing on life’s trials, I celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness. I can be brave (for real) because His love never fails!

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Heavenly Father, You are so good. Thank You for carrying our burdens and giving us joy. God, give us the courage to come to You and be brave. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: In what ways do you fake being brave? Do you think that is helpful or a hindrance to healing?

Tasks: Don’t fake brave. 🙂 Let Jesus shoulder your burden. Journal through your grief or other challenges. Share your heart with a trusted friend.

All I Can Do

Lately, I have had the honor of praying for a variety of people. These prayer requests include everything from relationship issues, health problems, job uncertainty, financial strain, parenting difficulties, big decisions, relief from natural disasters, and more.

I’m glad to pray for others and share their burdens in practical ways. But as I consider these needs, along with my own, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. On my own, I am totally inadequate to handle them all. Thank God for Jesus!

I don’t need fancy words or impressive deeds for Jesus to answer my prayers. He eagerly waits to hear from each of us because He loves us so much!

When life is just too much to handle on my own, I need Jesus.
The converse is also true: When life is going well, I need Jesus.

 Sometimes, all I can do is draw close to Jesus. Anytime I need help, I can lean on the Lord, my Rock. He is my strong tower so I run to Him. When I don’t know what else to do…sometimes, that’s all I can do.

When I fall, I know He will catch me. When I humbly surrender everything to Jesus, He lifts be back up–better than before. The good news is that Jesus readily offers His grace and truth, strength and joy, mercy and forgiveness. He is so good!

Whatever I am facing—bad or good—I can bring it to Jesus. When I leave the issue in His hands, I can rest and pray, listen and obey.  He is mighty to save.

I can choose to trust God over my feelings. I can choose joy and gratitude over fear and self-doubt. I can choose to stand in Victory instead of living defeated. He is the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace!

I can choose to forgive myself and others, leaving the past where it belongs. With God’s abundant grace, I can move forward in faith. He is more than enough for me.

Yes, I can cling to Jesus, knowing He will never leave me on my own. I can also ask for wisdom, clarity, and courage. Really, that’s the least I can do.

Praise God, I don’t have to beg or grovel for help. Jesus is right here with me! He longs to do for me what I cannot do for myself. But, I do have to choose to let Him help me.

Yes, the Lord is my refuge, my strength, my righteousness, and my defense.
I wholeheartedly trust in His unfailing love. Indeed, that’s the best thing I can do!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for hearing us when we pray. With you, nothing is impossible. Help us listen and obey as You work through us. You are so good, Lord. Refresh us with Your sweet grace and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Are you trying to meet your own needs or are you asking the Lord for help?

Tasks: Meditate on Psalm 59:17.

Finding Grace #80

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?

Sometimes, life get so busy that we fly through our days and miss what God is doing. This week was full like usual, but I was able to slow down and see the Lord move in personal ways. On Sunday, it felt like God had my number… The sermon coincided with a class I lead at church. The six participants were struggling and we had a great conversation about how to stay close to Christ and put him first. I love when God uses me to encourage others! I’m excited to see how the rest of the class goes, too!

I met some more coworkers in my field this week. We had a meeting and I was able to  envision some new opportunities in the near future. No major changes, just little things to make me feel like I am contributing to the team. I wasn’t sure what to make of the merger this spring, but so far, it has been a blessing in disguise. Praise God!

On Wednesday evening, Lydia and I went to church for the Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ) program. JBQ is like a Bible-based quiz bowl competition that gets God’s word in young kids hearts. This is Lydia’s first year and she loved it! I also helped by quizzing kids on the topics/questions of the week. We are both looking forward to a fun year!

Besides writing for the blog, I also wrote a little article for my small neighborhood magazine. In the article, I introduced my little free library to our community. I’ve seen several people stopping by, even from outside our area. Lydia and I are having fun with this project and will probably go on another library scavenger hunt soon!

All in all, this week was very rewarding. I enjoyed a massage, talked with family, celebrated a friend’s birthday, and made some cheesecake to share with other friends. Lydia went to bed super early last night and woke up in an excellent mood after 13+ hours of sleep. I enjoyed relaxing while she slept! Praise God…Here’s to a fun weekend!

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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)!