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)!

Tacos: A Happy Update

I had an interesting realization yesterday while I was preparing dinner. I had invited my friend (and recent roommate) over for ‘Taco Tuesday.’ She is a good friend and we’ve enjoyed several meals together in the six months she stayed with us. Our favorite meal together has been tacos!

As I was making my black bean and corn salsa, it struck me that I am eating tacos again! I blogged about tacos previously (a year-and-a-half ago). Back then, it was a difficult meal for me. Dave loved tacos so much and always helped me in the kitchen. Tacos reminded me of him and made me sad. I had to make other foods (or variations) instead.

Well, yesterday, I realized that making tacos is no longer a problem! My friend and I happily (and unknowingly) created a new experience regarding tacos. With that, I felt a deep sense of God’s grace and goodness. He has healed another portion of my heart and brought me joy again! That’s a huge Victory!

I hadn’t even noticed the healing process these last few months. I’ve been focused on other things. But yesterday, I was reminded that when we trust the Lord, He always comes through. He is faithful.

I had no expectation that when I opened up my home to a friend in need that God would help me too. I simply wanted to be a blessing. Yet, God has blessed me too!

Occasionally, a wave of grief still comes my way. I’m sure that will always be the case, to some degree. But, I no longer avoid tacos or other things that cause me pain. I am able to face each challenge head-on, without too much difficulty. Thank You, Jesus!

Whether we’re dealing with emotional pain (like grief) or physical pain, we want healing to happen right away. We want to feel good again! But healing takes time and occurs step-by-step. It’s a process.

Indeed, it takes God’s special touch to bring complete healing. We may look okay on the outside and think we are good… But then something may surprise us (like making tacos) and we see a whole new layer of healing has occurred!

When we focus on the Lord, we naturally give our pain less attention. I’m not saying the pain doesn’t exist—but rather, Jesus is worthy of our devotion. He is magnified instead. Similarly, when we serve others, our problems seem less important.

Enough time has passed since the original ‘taco post’ that I haven’t even thought about tacos since then. Until yesterday, I didn’t remember that tacos were once a challenge.

Still, I am grateful that God had me making and eating tacos for several months before I became aware of the difference in my heart. Truly, all these months, it hasn’t been a struggle to eat tacos! 😉

Now tacos are associated with positive memories, like my dear friend and ‘Taco Tuesdays.’ And, I can see just how far I have come. It makes me love the Lord even more, because He has made me stronger. He’s brought me healing through helping someone else. Praise God!

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Heavenly Father, You are so faithful! Thanks for Your healing touch. Thanks for walking with us, step-by-step, through each challenge. May we trust You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Can you see the Lord working in your circumstances to bring a good resolution? How can you trust Him at a deeper level?

Tasks: Meditate on Psalm 89:8 and Philippians 1:6. God is faithful!

Rest: A Holy Staycation

This last week has felt somewhat like a staycation. It’s been great! My mother-in-law came to visit, so it was a good opportunity to let a few projects sit. We enjoyed our time with her doing things we don’t usually do. Of note, we also registered Lydia for Kindergarten in a few weeks!

I’m celebrating another birthday this week, and it seems timely to regroup and get refreshed before a new season starts. Around each birthday, I reflect on the previous year and make changes if needed. But this time, I am taking a wait-and-see approach.

While Lydia and I are both excited for the upcoming transition, there are a few details we just don’t know yet. We have about all the information we could possibly have, but some of our decisions can only be made as we go.

Instead of worrying, I’m thankful Jesus knows what we need and is preparing us! In the meanwhile, I can pray for wisdom and guidance. I can soak up His unfailing love and never-ending grace. I can trust Him to see us through!

I can spend quality time with Lydia, knowing that as she starts school later this month, those times will be fewer and far between. I can also refine my self-care routines to ensure I have enough energy in my tank. This includes getting adequate sleep, eating healthy foods, and making time to exercise.

Most of the time, I feel like I have a million things to do. Nonetheless, it seems like the Lord always brings me back to a certain point… REST.

In some ways, this time of R&R is like a ‘holy staycation’ with the Lord! Instead of running off to the next thing, I am using this time to be with Jesus.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that God often moves s-l-o-w. Sometimes I grow impatient while I wait! But, when I embrace the same pace as Him, I am refreshed and rewarded.

Following Jesus requires us to stay close to Him. In times of transition, it is even more important to seek Him and listen for direction. With all the noise around us, we can’t hear His still, small voice unless we walk close in step with Him.

Interestingly, a quick Bible search on the word “stay” yields 246 results. As I briefly peruse the list, I see that when God asked someone to stay, He had further directions or blessings for them. And at other times, He prepared the path ahead. He honors our commitment. (As a side note, sometimes people refused to wait patiently for the Lord and it cost them!)

For example, the Israelites stayed at Sinai for the Ten Commandments. Rahab stayed home and was saved at Jericho. Jacob stayed with Laban and eventually married Leah and Rachel. Ruth stayed with Naomi and met Boaz. Even Jesus stayed where He was, before He left to raise Lazarus from the dead, to God’s glory.

Indeed, I love when God directs my steps, like He did recently when we cancelled our Glacier National Park trip and when my mother-in-law came to visit. At times, He has specific activities, meetings, directions, and even special encounters for us.

And sometimes, He leads us to rest. Praise God!

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God, thank You for leading us as we walk with You. Thanks for letting us rest. Please guide us in this next season. We commit our path to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Is God asking you to stay and rest or get up and go? How do you know the difference?

Tasks: Instead of figuring out your next steps, just rest. Let the Lord lead You in His timing.

 

Deep Cleaning and Deep Questions

Last Friday night, I hosted some dear friends for dinner. I wanted to honor them and enjoy one last visit before they moved out-of-state on Sunday. It had been awhile since they last came over, so in addition to making dinner… I cleaned the house!

In truth, the house needed cleaned anyway. The kitchen island usually gathers mail and other random things that seem important, but probably aren’t. I also dusted, which doesn’t happen often! It felt good to accomplish so much!

I spent much of the day deep cleaning. I also did laundry, ran the dishwasher, and cleaned the toilets. I went all out! 😉

Around 4 o’clock, I started vacuuming before my guests arrived. By that time, I had already put a new tablecloth on the dining table, hung clean towels in the bathroom, and cleared some clutter. Of course, I finished preparing dinner, too.

As I vacuumed the living room rug, a question popped into my mind. It made me stop in my tracks: How often do I go to this much effort for the Lord?

I paused to consider the question, which led to even more questions. Do I go all out in my personal time with the Lord? Is He my ‘everything’ or do I try to do everything on my own? When was the last time I invited Him to join me in my activities?

It was a really good gut check.

A lot of what we do seems important at the time, but does it have eternal significance? Indeed, it is amazing how much can happen internally in just a few moments. It’s clear God never settles just for surface cleaning. He always goes deep!

When God shows up, all our excuses go away. None of them stand a chance, when compared to His grace and glory. He renews our hearts and resets our priorities.

As I finished cleaning, I also prayed. I apologized for rushing through my day and invited the Lord’s presence into that moment. Lord, you are welcome here.

We tend to call on the Lord in times of trouble—as if He is just there to bail us out. But let’s not forget to seek Him when things are going well!

God cares so much about every detail of our lives. He longs to be our closest friend. He desires to be a part of our day, even if we are “just” vacuuming. Invite Him in!

No matter what we do—even really good things—our relationship with Jesus Christ is what matters most. He must always come first, and then the rest will fall into place.

That evening, I really enjoyed the time with my friends. Yet, it was made even sweeter knowing the Lord was present in our conversation. I know He will be with them in their new adventure, just like He is with me. Praise God!

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Dear Jesus, thank You for your sweet presence, unfailing love, and gracious convictions. Thanks for forgiving us and for deep cleaning our hearts. How we need You! Help us recognize You in each moment and keep You first, Lord. In Your Name, Amen.

Questions: Did any of the questions (above) resonate with you? How do you put Jesus first each day?

Tasks: Invite the presence of God into each of your daily activities. Notice how that affects your day!

Finding Grace #73

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, I felt God directing our path in ways only He can do. Originally, we had planned a road trip to Glacier National Park in Montana to visit some friends. Our trip was scheduled for last week and this week. However, last month, we prayerfully canceled the trip. I just didn’t have peace and decided the timing wasn’t quite right for a big trip. Among other reasons, my friend was having surgery and wouldn’t be able to hike much.

Well, God had other adventures planned for us, some of which we could not have known ahead of time. I feel quite blessed to see God move in our lives this week. And, we were able to be a blessing to others as well. So cool. If we had been out of town this week, It’s interesting to think of all we would have missed here in Fargo!

On Sunday, Lydia and I had lunch after church with a friend. We had fun talking about faith and lots of other things. I was thankful for the chance to spend time with our friend. It’s always encouraging to hear what God is doing in the lives of those around us!

Monday was all about writing. I had a routine phone meeting with a writing coach/editor. I received good feedback overall, but also discussed some things to improve. Later that night, a friend watched Lydia while I met with some ladies from the writing conference I recently attended. We reviewed what we learned and discussed our writing ideas and projects. I hope to meet with them once a month or so for encouragement!

On Tuesday, I met my good friend for another exercise class. Last time, we tried Barre; this time, Aerial Fitness! It was fun, but more challenging than I thought it would be. Still, we enjoyed it and I think we could try it again!

At work, I finished a few projects while Lydia hung out with a friend. This friend has a heart for kids and I really appreciate all she does to teach Lydia about life and faith. She has been so helpful over the years, and she’s such a blessing to us!

God definitely directed my path on Thursday. I was supposed to chat with a widow friend and planned to encourage her over the phone. She ended up needing to reschedule, but that worked well for me too. I was preparing for a meeting that night and was able to focus my attention on that. The meeting went really well and we had a good time. I was so thankful for the opportunity to grow my skills and present my topic from a new angle!

Similarly, on Friday, I was supposed to meet a newer friend but she needed to reschedule. So, I was able to clean my house (haha!) and prepare dinner for some other very dear friends. They are moving out of state, and so I was honored to be able to visit with them before they go.

Today, was the best day yet. We had a relaxing morning and read in Lydia’s Jesus Storybook Bible. After some discussion, Lydia decided to accept Jesus into her heart! Leading her in prayer was such a sweet experience, and I told Lydia it was the best decision she will ever make. What a blessing!

Finally, tonight, we are going to a send-off party for our friends who are leaving tomorrow (my dinner guests last night). Then, we are going to see Beauty and the Beast at a local outdoor amphitheater. My neighbors had extra tickets and generously shared them with us. I had thought about going, but never got tickets. So we are very thankful!

What an amazing week! I am so glad the Lord directed my steps. If we had gone to Glacier National Park, we would have likely missed so much. (I will get out there sometime soon!) 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)!

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.

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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.

Dear Younger Me

This week, an online friend asked her other friends to give their best life advice in three words or less. She then asked her audience to write what advice they would share with their 16 year-old selves. (This is applicable when looking back at any age, really!)

I was inspired and wrote, “Find the good.” Then, I reposted her questions on my own page. I loved reading all the phrases! Afterward, another online friend shared it from there.

All week, I have been following each of the three posts for catchy little words of wisdom. It’s amazing what a little time and distance can do for our perspective. The things we thought mattered often don’t amount to much. Experience is a great teacher!

Some people answered with a humorous approach. I saw advice such as, “Chill out, lady. Don’t do that!! Go to sleep. Be Wonder Woman. Eat more cake.” Haha, yes!

Some people turned the focus back to God, writing, “God is good. Jesus loves you. Jesus is Lord! In Christ alone. Put Jesus first. Walk with Him. Trust in Him.” Praise God!

Some of the comments focused on character qualities, like, “Be thankful always. Be kind. Be more honest. Be the good. Be adventurous. Be flexible. Save your money.” I agree!

Some phrases were more inward-focused, almost like personal coaching. “Just breathe. You are enough. You are loved. You are beautiful. Let it go.” So good.

I also noted other words along similar lines. “Don’t settle. Trust your instincts. Follow your heart. Embrace the imperfections. No regrets. Never give up. Make it work. Life goes on. Take the chance. Don’t be late! Forgive, move on. Just be yourself.” Yes!

I had just a few phrases of my own, originally. But then I kept refining and adding to my list! I was trying to collect all my thoughts and capture all the others shared already. 🙂

Life is beautiful. Sure, life is tough…but it is quite beautiful when we pause and take it all in. Beauty surrounds us in nature and in each person we meet. Let’s take notice.

Find the good. Sometimes the negative parts of life are glaring back at us. But it takes a special set of eyes to find the good. See beyond the present moment. See the potential.

Do your best. Just show up. These two can go together. We can only do our best each day and trust God for the outcome. Part of doing our best is to show up and be present.

Set your mind. Whatever it takes. These two phrases also can go together. Colossians 3:2 says, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Some days, it’s a challenge to stay focused, but do whatever it takes.

God’s got this. I use this phrase often, especially when writing blog posts, apparently! Whatever the struggle, I know God can handle it. He will empower me to do what I need to do, and then He will do what only He can do. He’s more than able!

Regardless of any advice we might share, what God says about us is key. I love you. I forgive you. No matter what. You are free. You are mine. Come follow me. Receive new life. Do not fear. I am with you. Nothing is impossible. It is finished. You are secure. Peace, be still. 

I will be thinking about all these great words of wisdom for quite some time. It’s encouraging to hear what other people find helpful. We all have our own journey and it’s important to monitor what we are telling ourselves. Let’s be gracious with ourselves. 

When we look back and summarize our experiences, even in just a few short words, we realize how far we have come. Thank you, Jesus… Life is short. Live it well.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for loving us so much. Your words are full of grace; they bring LIFE to our hearts. Be with us, Lord. Give us wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it. Help us make good decisions, not choices we’ll regret. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What advice would you give to your younger self? What words of wisdom would you share with someone else? Which of these words (above) resonate with you?

Tasks: Share your advice (three words or less) here, or with someone who would benefit! Listen to the song, Dear Younger Me, by MercyMe.

 

Celebrating Our Freedom

I hope you had a great 4th of July! As Independence Day rolls around every year, it’s a great time to reflect on what freedom means. Despite our differences, we Americans have so much to be thankful for. I am thankful for our freedom and all who have fought for us. God has graciously blessed America!

I certainly don’t want to take any of my freedoms, rights, blessings, or gifts for granted. Sometimes, however, these things can be difficult to define. I suppose each of us has a different perspective on what “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” means. That’s part of what makes America special.

On Sunday, we celebrated our freedom at church. At the core of America’s history is religious freedom. If the first European settlers had not come largely, due to religious persecution, we might not be here.

The United States has had many ups and downs over the years. But regardless of political tension or drama, America remains an exceptional nation. People all around the world come here for better opportunities. Some come for education, safety, a new start, or other reasons.

Both as a nation and as individuals, we are called to be a blessing to others. We have many immigrants who call our church “home.” On Sunday, we extended that blessing to people from twenty-one other nations. They stood up and said which country they are from and we blessed them. It was powerful.

It’s amazing to think that we have so many countries represented in one congregation! Some of these people have become American citizens and some will return to their own countries one day.  As we connect with each other, each interaction has potential to change the world.

As a Christian, I am also a citizen of Heaven. Spiritually speaking, I have even greater freedoms, rights, blessings, and gifts. I also have greater responsibilities to help others in practical ways. Thank You, Jesus.

Lydia and I had a rather low-key holiday, which is fine with me. We slept in! We sat on the deck and relaxed on my new red benches (see pic). I did a little reading, while Lydia played. Then, we enjoyed a bike ride around our neighborhood.

Later, we hung out with our neighbors. Together, we ate dinner, enjoyed the hot weather, and watched neighborhood fireworks around a campfire. We watched a gorgeous sunset of purples, oranges, and pinks.

As we made s’mores, God joined in the celebration. His lightning made an awesome backdrop for the fireworks! Lydia and I walked back home around 11pm, and around midnight, I enjoyed listening to a rain storm.

It was the perfect ending to a great celebration!

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Father God, thank You for blessing our America. Thank You for the freedom we have in Your Son, Jesus. Help us be wise stewards of all you have given us. May we show others Your grace and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What are you doing with your freedom? How can you be a blessing to someone else?

Tasks: Give thanks for your many blessings and freedoms. Look for ways to help others.

A Punch Bowl of Blessings

“That’s a pretty punch bowl, Natalie.” An older woman and I were talking on Sunday.

“Thanks! You know, the funny thing is, I have had this punch bowl for nearly ten years—it was a wedding gift—and I’ve never used it! So, I loaned it out for an event and am taking it back home. My friend was the first one to use it!”

I’m guessing my generation is probably the last group to add this to a wedding registry. The generations after me likely won’t even know what a punch bowl is!

My late husband, Dave, died four years ago, and while I appreciated the generous gift, clearly, it was not something we desperately needed. So for now, this beautiful punch bowl was returned to the original box under my stairs. But as I put it away, I felt a little silly.

I started to wonder, “How many other gifts did I ask for but haven’t used?” Hmmm… what I thought was important back then… really wasn’t.

God has blessed me with both material gifts and spiritual gifts, and I don’t want to take any of them for granted. Just like punch in a bowl, our blessings are meant to be shared.

Am I using those gifts as intended or are they sitting on a shelf somewhere? Am I helping others? Am I a refreshing source of God’s sweet love and grace… or not? 🙂

Both gifts and punch bowls are associated with celebrations. Even though I’ve never used my punch bowl, I still have plenty to celebrate! Over the years, I’ve hosted or joined lots of parties. Graduations, weddings, job promotions, new babies, holidays, etc.

But most often, I enjoy celebrating God’s goodness and grace in everyday life. I relish the freedom that comes from knowing His love. I’ve learned to extend myself the grace I usually reserve for other people.

I continually lay aside my perfectionistic tendencies and let go of lofty expectations. Just as the Lord’s mercies are new each morning, I can explore new things about myself and life in general. I can set new goals as I walk with Jesus and become more like Him.

It’s been humbling to live this widowed, single mom life; I’ve been forced to reevaluate and revamp several things over the years. I’ve had to change spending habits, exercise routines, how I cook, parent, and more. I’ve celebrated many victories too!

Similarly, I’ve also ditched things (or items on my to-do list) that no longer bring me joy or fulfillment. Life is too short to get stuck always doing something you don’t love!

As I think of all my blessings, I am in awe. I have wonderful people in my life. I have health and wholeness. I have a voice to speak up about important issues. My hands aren’t afraid of hard work. And yes, I have more than enough material resources so I can bless others.

It’s safe to say that when I first registered for that lovely punch bowl, I had no clue how much life would change in these ten years. Life sure is different than what I planned. Sometimes it feels a little chaotic, but I’m learning to go with the flow more each day!

I’m most grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness. That’s something I will never stop celebrating!

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Gracious Father, You are the Giver of all good things. Thank You for the rich blessings You’ve given us. Help us have the right perspective and use each gift as You intended. May we have wisdom and a spirit of generosity as we bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What random gifts have you stored away and forgotten about? What are you going to do with them?

Tasks: Take inventory of your gifts, talents, and other blessings so you can use them!

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!