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!

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.

 

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.

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 #81

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?

At first glance, this week was fairly normal. But, in hindsight, I saw God do some pretty amazing things. The first half of the week always seems to be frantic. One of the days, I didn’t feel well but still had a full day. Moms rarely get a day off! I made the best of it and leaned on the Lord for strength that day. I was glad to go to bed that night!

On Tuesday, I brought cheesecake to work for a friend’s birthday. It was well received…the dietitian bringing chocolate-covered cheesecake. 🙂 Lydia and I also went to my friend Sara’s for Taco Tuesday! Later in the week, I experimented with making mini cheesecakes for my neighbor and her parents. They gave me a ton of cherry tomatoes, a huge zucchini, and a pile of fresh green beans! It was a fun week in the kitchen!

On Wednesday evening, Lydia and I returned to church for Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ). Lydia remembered more of the answers this week after we studied at home. It is wonderful to see God’s word getting into the minds and hearts of these children.

This week, I had good conversations with people in my community about books and reading. I love how reading books helps make connections I would otherwise miss! I also have seen good turnover in the books and happily received book donations from a friend at work! Though, I am aware that I can’t save every book for my little library!

This week, I fielded some important calls from people asking for prayer. In addition to praying with each person on the phone, I have been praying throughout the week. It is so important to stand in the gap for those we love. We all need Jesus, but sometimes people don’t realize how desperate their situation is. Praise God, I also received good news from a dear friend. God came through for her and her situation! The Lord is so good and faithful!

Today, Lydia and I went out for Indian food. She couldn’t remember if she liked Indian food or not, but was willing to try it. She liked most everything she tried! I offered her the chai tea and that was perhaps her favorite part…other than the rice! 😉 

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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)!

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.

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!