The Best Deal Ever

Have you noticed how people often go crazy for a good deal? This holiday season, consumers shopped more online than in regular stores… and set new records for Christmas spending! I, for one, certainly contributed to those figures! I discovered lots of new items for Lydia, other people…and myself. 😉

In many cases, I prefer to shop online because I feel it saves me time (which is also money). It’s even better when everything is delivered directly to my door!

I buy anything from clothes, books, coffee, toiletries, gifts, and lots more. I have several friends who order perishable groceries online.

This year, some of my favorite online purchases were a Dead Sea mud mask, a heated mattress pad, and erasable pens. I try to buy what I need, but clearly, I also buy items just for fun.

It is certainly easy to spend more money online. My go-to statement after showing my purchases (and receipts) to Dave used to be, “Look how much I SAVED!!” He would roll his eyes, and tell me, “Spend more, save more!”

Somehow, I don’t think he was convinced…

While deep discounts are good, FREE is even better!

Have you ever noticed the frenzy that occurs around free stuff? One can usually find free birthday coffee or ice cream. There are also free concert tickets for the ‘umpteenth’ caller into the morning radio show. And, often some ‘lucky’ person will win a free prize for sharing a company’s Facebook post…

I’m sure the odds of winning aren’t that high, but it doesn’t seem to stop us from trying.

I recently balanced my checkbook and updated my budget like I usually do… And to be honest, I felt a little convicted about extra purchases beyond just the usual toiletries. So I decided to return some items that I didn’t really need.

Thankfully, I had my receipts and felt better afterward. But as I considered my choices and habits, this thought struck me: Do I run to Jesus like I do a good sale?!

Really, Jesus offers us the BEST DEAL EVER: Total forgiveness and redemption FREE of charge. He gave us everything, at no cost to us.

He takes away our shame and regrets and gives us His peace. He shoulders our burdens and eases our pain. He is Immanuel and walks with us through each circumstance. He is a faithful Provider, too—in Him, we have all we need! Thank You, Jesus!

Yes, Jesus’ love, mercy, and grace are not for sale, but they sure did cost Him everything. What a wonderful Savior and treasure He is!

I hope you bought some awesome gifts with great discounts this holiday season! However, don’t forget about Jesus! Salvation truly is the BEST DEAL EVER.

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Jesus, thanks for all You do for us. You are so good. Help us keep You the focus this Christmas. Show us all the treasure we have in You. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you prefer online shopping or in-store (local) shopping? What are your favorite purchases this year?

Tasks: Next time you are shopping, pause and thank God for Jesus: THE BEST DEAL EVER!!

Filled with Joy

This week, in addition to Thanksgiving, we are celebrating Lydia’s birthday! Regarding gifts, Lydia only requested one thing: a little toy bird. Of course, I bought it and kept it as a surprise. Actually, I bought her two because I couldn’t decide between them…

Then, a couple weeks ago, we were discussing her birthday. On a whim, I jokingly asked, “Well, what if I don’t get you a gift? Would that be okay?”

To my surprise, Lydia didn’t even blink. Immediately, she cheerfully replied, “That’s okay, Mom! You could just draw me a picture instead.” She went on to explain, “That’s what I do for you since I can’t go and buy you gifts when it’s your birthday or Christmas.”

While I was touched by her response, Lydia probably figured she would get gifts from other people… So perhaps she wasn’t concerned with missing out on a gift from me.

In the past, Lydia has gotten cards or presents from friends and family in several states. A good Father, God always makes sure she is taken care of. She is well-loved!

On her birthday, Lydia took popcorn for a snack at school. Then, at lunchtime, I joined her class for their meal. I also saw most of our little neighborhood friends. It was a fun experience! The kids were so excited to have a visitor.

 Overjoyed, the kids wiggled as they stood in the lunch line. They each wanted to sit next to me, show me a trick, or tell me an interesting story. The principal read a special Thanksgiving story, and I enjoyed talking with Lydia and her classmates.

After school, we went to Cherry Berry for frozen yogurt. Then, we came home to open presents. Lydia was happy with my gifts—a puzzle and two little birds that sing and can repeat what you say. (I may be regretting that soon!) She also received gifts from friends and family. Thank you!

Over the years, I have learned so much while watching Lydia learn and grow. She loves to read and do math! It is amazing to see her become who God intended. Indeed, she has many of Dave’s best qualities. I know he would also be so proud of her.

This season (and birthday) is our fifth time celebrating without Dave. Sometimes it can still be a little bittersweet. Each year has been so different, yet the Lord has been so kind and generous to us. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Nothing can replace Dave, yet while we miss him, we keep moving forward. God loves watching His children grow through trials and walk in Victory. We can always celebrate His goodness and grace because God’s love never fails.

These days, I don’t often cry because of grief. Instead, if I am teary-eyed, it is usually because I am so thankful for all the Lord has done for us!

This week—and through this season—we will celebrate our many gifts, new milestones, and our dear friends and family… This year, our hearts are filled with joy.

Thanks to all who continue to encourage us and check in on us from time to time. Thanks for all your prayers and support! It means so much to us. We are truly blessed.

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Father God, You are so good and gracious. Thanks for taking such great care of us. Help us remember just how much You love us. Let us share Your love with those around us, especially during this holiday season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What are you thankful for? How have you grown this year?

Tasks: Call a friend who needs some encouragement during this season. Take them a meal or invite them over to visit. Be a blessing to them!

Birds, Boots, and Blessings

Last weekend, Lydia and I played in the snow with our next-door neighbors. Lydia joined the kids who were building a snowman, while I talked with their mom. I had my back to the wind, but my legs and feet were still cold.

At one point, someone pointed out a bald eagle, flying low and parallel to our property line. It has been awhile since I last saw an eagle, and I’ve never seen one so close to my house. So, it was really exciting!

The next day, Lydia and I were inside and we heard a cute little purple house finch on our deck. He sang his heart out, as we spied through the window. I had just assumed most of the birds had gone south for winter, so it was a nice little surprise!

Then, yesterday, I bought a new snow shovel. My neighbor across the street, Melissa, helped me clear my driveway that morning and recommended it. A great friend, she also recently inspired me to get a heated mattress cover… It’s awesome! So, I happily took her word on the snow shovel too! 🙂

As I drove home from the store, I was in awe. Besides the shovel, I also bought myself a new pair of snow boots. (Ok, Melissa had nothing to do with that!) I have been in search of snow boots since we moved to Fargo in 2010—7+ years ago! Besides snow, we get many days of below zero temperatures and negative wind chills.

Yes, I have hiking boots and dressy boots. But for our super cold winters, I hadn’t found something that would work for me day-to-day. I’ve tried other snow boots, but none have fit just right. They are either too big in the ankle or too tight in the toe—or both. Most boots I’ve seen have lousy traction or make my feet look huge…or are crazy expensive.

Gray, mid-calf, lace-up boots with a rubber bottom, these new boots are rather simple. But God knew what I wanted, and they are exactly what I had been looking for. And, they will go with everything I wear. Bonus!

On my way home with my new shovel and boots, I also had a good laugh. I watched a Canada goose walk out on a snow-covered pond and just sit down. I have no idea why it was sitting there, but it was funny. Technically, we are just south of Canada, but I think most of the geese continue on to warmer weather!

Maybe it was taking a break or waiting for friends?

As I considered the goose, I remembered the bald eagle and the purple house finch. All of them had surprised me in their own way. Each of them provided me with joy and encouragement at just the right moment. Thank You, Jesus!

As I thought about all three birds—each so unique—I praised God for taking care of them. He meets their needs, keeps them warm, and feeds them. Not one bird falls to the ground without Him knowing about it. And, we are worth much more to Him than a simple sparrow or finch… or odd goose…or even a powerful eagle!

Yes, God promises to take care of us too. Each year, I’ve managed to get by when I am outside thanks, in part, to Smart Wool socks. But this season, I will be extra warm with my new boots. What a welcome surprise!

In His own way and timing, God provided the snow boots I had envisioned all those years ago. When writing this, I was also reminded of other things I have prayed for over the years. The boots are both a blessing and a reminder that God faithfully meets my needs.

I can depend on the Lord—and, He also uses me to bless others. This year, Lydia and I donated coats, hats, gloves, and snow pants so local kids can stay warm, too. It’s cool to see the Lord ‘return the favor’ as He also provides for me and answers my prayers in only ways He can. Praise God!

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God, You are such a good Provider. Thank You for filling my life with good things! Thank You for being faithful and for blessing me. Help me be a blessing to others. Use me to meet the needs of those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How has the Lord blessed you recently? How can you bless someone else?

Tasks: Make a list of all you are thankful for; share it with someone. Make a list of prayer requests; update your list as you see how God faithfully answers.

 

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)!

Finding Grace #82

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 was a fun week, and we had some great weather overall. School and other activities are going well and we find ourselves settling into the swing of things. I had a work meeting, and it looks like I will soon be seeing patients more consistently. That makes me glad because I like feeling useful and productive!

On Monday, there was no school, thanks to a teacher development day. It was cooler outside, so Lydia and I relaxed indoors by playing games, reading books and watching a movie. I also got ahead on some housework, but I liked having a calm day together without a lot of running around. I also caught up with family, which is always good!

The fall has brought weather in the sixties, but we still have had a lot of sunshine. I mowed for (hopefully) the last time this season. If anything, I may have to mow once more, but now will be focusing on getting the house and yard ready for winter.

With all the lovely weather, we’ve still been able to outside with the neighbors! Most of Lydia’s friends are in school, so we value anytime we can connect with them. One evening, we even ate pizza with one of the families. I love our impromptu get-togethers!

On Wednesday night, on our way home from church, Lydia said, “Mom, I know how to spell God: G-o-o-d!” Part of me didn’t want to correct her…because God is good! I shared this on my personal Facebook page because I felt it was profound. Then, on Friday, a friend who is on the radio shared it on her morning show. She timed it so Lydia could her it before school. It was exciting for Lydia to be featured with an encouraging message!

Today, we received a package of books for our little free library with an encouraging note! It was from some college friends, now residing in Indiana. That was such cool surprise and thoughtful gift from them and their four children! Thank you!

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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)!

Calling Out the Good

Yesterday afternoon, Lydia and her classmates put on a spring program showcasing some of what they have learned this year. They sang several songs, recited a Bible verse, and acted out the story of David and Goliath. It was really cute!

At the end, the teachers handed out “character awards” to each student. Some of the traits recognized included exhibiting joy, kindfulness, cheerfulness, responsibility, originality, and a positive attitude.

Lydia was one of the last to be called forward, and I didn’t know what to expect for her. Though, I was pleasantly surprised when she received an award for HELPFULNESS.

I thought to myself, “Of course! She is so much like her dad.” Dave was known for his servant heart; he was always eager to help others. I love seeing that in Lydia!

After the show, we briefly discussed being helpful as we ate refreshments. When we were done, Lydia jumped up to help me clear the table. Then, we ran to get gas and groceries before heading home.

Later, Lydia eagerly helped me carry in the groceries and put them away (as best she could). “Here, Mom, I can help you!” Then, we made dinner together.

Lydia set the table and emptied the clean dishes from the dishwasher. “Is there anything else I can do for you, Mom?” I then had to come up with activities to keep her busy while I finished cooking. This involved cleaning her room and picking up her toys.

Just before we ate, Lydia helped stir and dish up some of the food. “Hey Mom, these are like chores! And, I can earn money to give Jesus for missions!” Lydia was quite proud of her revelation. I was quite proud of her giving heart.

In case you are wondering, Yesterday’s excitement and helpfulness are not quite the norm for us. Many days, having a good attitude and doing chores looks very different!

Still, I was amazed at how much a simple award, or any acknowledgement calling out the good, could inspire Lydia to action. All on her own, she felt called to another level of helpfulness. The impact grew as the night went on.

As I was considering all of this, I thought about the times I have experienced something similar. When someone takes the time to say thanks or recognize a good quality, I too, step it up and do more.

We often focus on our individual effort to make a difference around us. “What can I do to help??” But I believe we can have even greater impact by cheering each other on as we go! Together everyone achieves more, right?!

God has given each of His children special gifts. Those gifts are not meant to be kept for ourselves, but to build each other up and show His love to the world. Of course, we don’t serve to get something in return. But, we are happiest when we are helping others.

Indeed, there are times when we all feel down. That’s fairly normal. In those moments, we may feel disconnected from our purpose, our passion, or even our people. Each problem may need a special solution. (I recommend prayer first!)

In many cases, asking for help and reaching out to help others can change our perspective. Part of the key is remembering we are not alone. We are all connected and need a sense of belonging. As Lydia says, “It’s great to be a team because we can help each other!”

In this dark and chaotic world, we should call out the good when we see it. A little appreciation brings a boost of confidence and sense of connection. Even just one word of encouragement can prompt someone else to take action and make a positive difference!

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Heavenly Father, You are good! Thanks for letting us join You in Your work. May we see the good around us and call it out. May we help others in their time of need and show people Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: When was the last time someone called out the good in you? What was your response?

Tasks: Read Ecclesiastes 4:10 and Galatians 6:9. Choose at least one person to encourage!

Finding Grace #50

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

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

This was a great week! SO many good things happened, I’m not sure I can adequately describe them all. I had many uplifting and encouraging conversations this week. I talked with my boss about some job-related questions. While we didn’t come to any solid conclusions, I was glad to be moving in the right direction. There are good transitions coming and I want to ‘figure it all out.’ Instead, I’ll trust the Lord’s wisdom and timing!

I had some new insights on my volunteer role at church, which made me so happy. I have a lot of passion for that ministry. Interestingly, I’ve seen my skills as a dietitian support my role there! At work, I discuss nutrition, health, and wellness for individuals and corporations. At church, I help people discover where they fit in the Body of Christ (that is, the church) and then I make sure they are spiritually fit and able to keep contributing. So, as the corporate Body, we all thrive, grow stronger, and serve each other, functioning as a whole unit! (I am still in awe of this!)

Tuesday was Valentines Day. Lydia had just about the best day ever, in that she received a few little gifts from me, plus was the class leader at school, had a party there, and won the guessing game! 🙂 I also had a wonderful day. After work, I went to the movies and saw Hidden Figures. I would highly recommend it! I also talked with family and many dear friends throughout the day. I felt very loved!

Last night, Friday, Lydia and I went to a kids’ game night at church. She’s currently one of the youngest and sometimes is a little shy in crowds. So, I was happy to go with her and see things from her perspective. I taught her the basics of foosball, air hockey, and carpet ball. She played with other kids and I met some new families as well. We had a lesson about God’s unfailing love, a snack, and prizes. It was fun!

We had beautiful, sunny, and warmer weather most of the week. I switched seats on Lydia’s bike to prepare it for the next season. She tried it out and was pedaling through puddles from the melted snow! Praise God, Spring is nearly here!

Another bright spot included meeting a writing deadline for a personal project and receiving good feedback on it. I also had good, lengthy ‘God conversations’ with a friend going through a difficult time. We both benefitted that day. Oh, how He loves us!

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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)!

Gifts Galore

As I previously mentioned, this entire holiday season has been the best in quite some time! The last several weeks have stood out for many reasons. Each situation—including Halloween, Lydia’s birthday, Thanksgiving, and Dave’s birthday—has seemed extra special this year. Praise God!

So far, Christmas has also been distinct. We’ve decorated more, started new traditions, and even skipped a few tasks. We’ve simplified where needed, but have also celebrated at a deeper level this year.

This year, Lydia and I are keeping it simple. I am enjoying the slower pace. Lydia…well, she’s super excited about what’s already under the tree. I don’t go overboard, but loved ones have been sending gifts!

That said, I’m not super creative when it comes to gift-giving. In the past, I struggled if I couldn’t find ‘the perfect gift.’ Sometimes I would end up giving nothing if it wasn’t ‘just right.’ But I have since put off perfectionism and put on grace! And gift cards still count. When given with love, everything falls into place. It’s not so much the gift, but the heart that counts.

Jesus is certainly the most precious gift we could ever receive. At the same time, we give gifts to show love to each other. And, we show our love for God by living for Him—doing our best and giving our best back to Him.

I didn’t always understand this. I often felt like others had better gifts and talents—or were better at using them. Perhaps they were just willing to give whatever they had!

I felt like whatever I offered had to be super special…something extraordinary.

Yes, it took me awhile to figure out my God-given talents and abilities. Thankfully, I have learned so much these last few years. He can use anything given back to Him with the right heart. When we use our gifts to serve God and bless others, that’s when we find the most fulfillment, joy and peace.

When I didn’t have much emotional reserve, I brought my tears. I also brought my grief and uncertainty, fears and doubts. I guess you could say I gave out of my lack.

And in return for my weaknesses, Jesus gave me His strength. He also gave me even more of His love and grace, peace and joy. Yes, God has brought healing! He always gives out of His abundance! Gifts galore!!

This year I have seen beauty instead of ashes, color instead of shadows. He’s given me gladness in place of mourning (see Isaiah 61:3). And this holiday season, I have given the Lord praise with a grateful heart.

This week, we’ve had the honor of hosting a friend with her little toddler. Each day has been different but really fun. My friend made plans to stay with us months ago, and we have been looking forward to it. But her visit has also been such a gift to me!

We have visited other friends, watched movies, played in the snow, and shared childcare duties. We’ve enjoyed good food and stayed up late, talking and encouraging each other. These one-on-one skills use my strengths and bring me joy. And as we discuss what’s on our hearts, I can see more evidence of God’s healing my own.

This year, it really has been simple. I’ve been able to rest and give back to the Lord out of the abundance He’s already given me. And, as I have given hospitality, time, and friendship, I have been blessed with even more of the same!

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Father God, thanks for giving us Jesus. Thank You for Your gracious healing and dear friends. Help us give our best back to you each day. Change our hearts and perspective as we experience Your presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have special plans for Christmas? What was the best gift you have ever given or received?

Tasks:  Write down your God-given talents. If you don’t know your strengths, pray about it! Ask God and other people what you do best. Then, serve and bless others!

The Greatest Gift

After Lydia’s birthday in November, we sent out around ten thank you notes. Her job was to decorate each card with stickers. So when she started grumbling, I told her, “Well, if you aren’t grateful, I’ll just tell everyone NOT to send you gifts next year. Then, you won’t have to worry about saying thanks.” That seemed to do the trick!

Then, on Monday night, we read the Nativity story at bedtime. We’ve been reading the Jesus Storybook Bible. I love how each story ends by pointing back to the Lord!

I usually ask Lydia questions to see if she can recall the main points.

Lydia has been interested in the night sky for several months. So the other night, we discussed the special star God placed in the sky at Jesus’ birth. She asked about the gifts Jesus received from the wise men. We chatted about frankincense, gold, and myrrh.

I also asked, “Did you know Jesus is the greatest gift we could ever receive?!”

Naturally, with Lydia’s birthday not too far from Christmas, this intrigued her. “So then, why do we give each other gifts?” She wondered out loud.

“Well, we show God’s love through our gifts.” I replied, in awe that she even asked. “It’s one way to celebrate what Jesus has done for us.”

When it comes to Christmas, I’ve been upfront with Lydia about Santa Claus. I have nothing against Santa, but I prefer to focus on Jesus and teach Lydia about Him.

And yes, Lydia knows not to tell her friends about Santa! Though, it is a little funny when an adult asks her, “So, what’s Santa bringing you for Christmas?”

In those moments, Lydia looks confused and concerned…like she’s thinking… “Wait, they don’t know about him?! …Well, I’m not going to tell them. Hmm…but what should I say?”

Up until last year, Santa wasn’t an issue for us. But then Lydia’s imagination kicked into high gear, and she started asking what was real and what was pretend. It became difficult to explain the nuances of make-believe cartoons versus shows with real actors.

Lydia questioned, “Is the person in that movie real?” I didn’t think much about it at first. “Well, yes. The person really exists, but he’s an actor who is pretending.”

Before long, Bible characters were examined, too. “Mom, was Jonah real?” … “Hey, my Daddy’s name was David! … So was King David real too?”

I answered Lydia’s questions, but was unsure if she understood.

When the holidays came, Lydia quickly applied the same ‘logic’ to Santa. “Why does the Santa on tv look different from this one in the book…and the one at the mall?”

I felt the need to address Lydia’s confusion in a truthful, yet sensitive way.

I decided to tell her the truth about Santa using a familiar example. “You know how Daniel Tiger (a PBS cartoon) is not REALLY real? He’s make-believe. Well, Santa is not REALLY real either. It’s fine that everyone talks about him, but he is just pretend.”

(Yes, St. Nicholas was real, but Santa has become quite different in our culture.)

Lydia took it fairly well. For about ten seconds, she looked a little surprised. “Oh.” And, then she asked about Rudolph, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny. “Yep, their pretend too.” Twenty seconds later, with a quick, “Oh, okay,” she was onto the next thing, unfazed!

For me, this all is pertinent because there are bigger concepts at stake. Dave died when Lydia was not quite 18 months old; therefore, she doesn’t really remember him. So, over the years, I’ve done my best to answer questions about Dave and Heaven. Still, she occasionally she gets fuzzy on the details.

But whenever her thoughts drift toward Dave, I don’t want Lydia to ever doubt that Dave—and his love for her—was real! He loved her so very much!

Similarly, I never want Lydia to be confused about Jesus, because He is our only true hope in this chaotic world. Jesus and His love for us are most certainly real!

Last night, as I wrote this post, I asked Lydia, “Does it make you sad that Santa isn’t real?” To my surprise, she shrugged and answered, “No.”

Curious, I asked, “Really? Why not?” Lydia didn’t hesitate in her answer. “I’m not sad, because I still get gifts!” I laughed at how simple it is for her. Lydia isn’t going to sweat Santa; she knows she is loved. And to her, the gifts are evidence of that love.

Clearly, each child and each family is different. Therefore, everyone should handle these topics in their own way. But as Lydia reminded me, when talking about Santa and gifts: “Mom, Jesus loves me MORE than that!” Yes, Jesus truly is the greatest gift ever.

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Father God, thank You for the gift of Jesus! In Him, we have everything we need. Help us be generous with others and spread Your love in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: How do you handle Santa in your home? What are your favorite Christmas traditions?

Tasks: Consider ways to highlight Jesus this season. Check out Because of Bethlehem by Max Lucado. For kids, check out Star from Afar!

Birthday Blessings and Beyond

Lydia and I have enjoyed celebrating her birthday over the last few days!

I gave her two gifts—a Chicago Cubs t-shirt and a new razor scooter. Having grown three inches this last year, her hand-me-down scooter is almost too small!

Still, Lydia received many gifts, cards, calls and texts for her birthday. Because people in six different states remembered her birthday, we spread out the celebration!

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Since Saturday, Lydia has been opening a couple gifts each day, with a few more later this week. This girl is very-well loved.

We played multiple rounds of Hello Kitty Bingo and Go Fish. We made treats and Skyped with family. We went out for a birthday lunch, and Lydia took Popsicles to preschool on her special day. (Never mind that it was freezing outside!)

Thanks for all the birthday wishes—Lydia will be making several thank you cards!

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Of course, Lydia loves all the gifts and attention. But really, it’s not about the gifts. (She doesn’t “need” anything.) No, for me, it is different. Each time a gift comes in the mail, or someone remembers us, I am prompted to recall God’s goodness.

Again, it’s not about the token itself, but the love it reflects.

While we have many friends and family around the world, we don’t talk to everyone regularly. But each time someone reaches out to us, I am reminded of the magnitude of encouragement and support we have received over the years. Wow!

God has taken such good care of us. Thanks for being a part of that!

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“What if you woke up today with only what you thanked God for yesterday?”

Last night, I gained yet another perspective from Lydia. She is my greatest blessing. Instead of reacting to my frustrations (below), she kept her cool and was a real trooper.

Here’s the recap:

After doing a little research and considering a few options, I decided to upgrade my old router. To do this, however, I had to undo quite a few cords and other parts downstairs. One by one, I disconnected Dave’s speakers, a surge protector and an old computer. Probably about twenty (gazillion) cords…

I called both of my brothers for help, and they each talked me through a few key points. I also disconnected the printer, modem, and old router before reconfiguring the new. Long overdue, I also vacuumed the entire area!

Lydia was eager to “help” so I had her running all over the house for flashlights and such (to keep her busy, and out of the way). Though, she WAS the perfect size to squeeze in between the wall and table to grab a few loose cords!

These techy things always take me so much longer than I expect. So, I knew it would take awhile, but it seemed fairly straight forward. Well, it was more challenging than I thought and I was beyond frustrated. After about 2 hours, I decided to walk away for a much needed “break” (you know, right before I actually broke something!!).

Lydia wanted to watch a movie and have a picnic, but I kept stalling, telling her, “Ok, but just wait. Go play, and I will be done soon.” I didn’t realize so much time had passed, but that sweet girl made herself dinner and got mine ready, too! I made Lydia’s sandwich, but she got herself an orange, some chips, and even scooped out yogurt without making a mess! (Praise God!) She got my fork, spoon, and plate too. That was so kind of her!

Well, everything took so much time we didn’t get to watch the movie. Lydia was a trooper though. At one point, with mixed emotions, I apologized, “Sorry it took me so long. Your dad wouldn’t have had this much trouble.” (It was all his stuff and system.)

Thankfully, my sour attitude went over her head. Lydia quipped, “Yeah! It took me AND your two brothers to help you figure it out!” She was pretty proud of herself, and all the help she provided, along with dinner. 🙂

There’s never a dull moment around here! And sometimes, our deepest griefs, frustrations, and struggles end up making us the most grateful.

I am so thankful for my sweet girl. She always keeps me on my toes!

“Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; His love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1).

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Father God, thanks for your constant help and presence! Thanks for bringing us this far! Thanks for all your blessings. Help me not take them for granted. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What are you thankful for? What is something that frustrated you at the time, but you were eventually grateful for? How does the above quote (enlarged) impact you?

Tasks: Write down a list of blessings in your life. Write a thank you note to someone!