On Feelings and Frostbite

Yesterday (Tuesday), I had the opportunity to speak at a local moms group. By request, I shared my story in light of making end-of-life decisions. My goal was to provide perspective and offer basic information for these moms.

Through a casual conversation, we discussed wills, trusts, life insurance, and more. To be clear, I am not an expert on any of these topics. But I have experienced the how-tos and what-not-to-dos.

I also recommended these ladies consult with an attorney, accountant, and/or a financial planner. I don’t recommend taking a lot of unwarranted risks in these areas!

I really enjoyed speaking with these moms, and afterward, I went to work like usual. But the emotions caught up with me there (unexpectedly), as my coworker and I just-so-happened to discuss similar topics. Gotta love God’s timing!

Occasionally, I still get a little teary-eyed when discussing all we went through with cancer. And lately, I have been reflecting on our journey more anyway…

I know March will be here soon, and I can’t help but think of two important times. First, I recall March 2010 when Dave found his job in Fargo. We moved later that year, which set the stage for other big life changes.

I’ve also been thinking of March 2013 when Dave was so sick and near death (he died in May that year). That was a tumultuous time and we felt desperate.

This flux of emotions tends to cycle through periodically, though as we move toward March, I have felt it more. Perhaps that’s because we are also fast-approaching another milestone: the five year anniversary of Dave’s death.

Yesterday, we also received several inches of snow. That’s not unusual for February, but I still had to blow snow in the dark of morning and shovel twice. For me, snow removal builds character (ha!), but yesterday, I was more reflective.

In the afternoon, I shoveled away the snow and contemplated my sadness. The physical activity was good for me and channeled my emotions into something productive.

I thought it would be a quick job, so didn’t change out of my work clothes. I wore lightweight dress pants and my lightweight gloves. I didn’t wear a hat and my hood kept falling off. I wanted to work quickly so my fingers wouldn’t freeze!

After about twenty minutes, I thought about going inside to warm up. But, I was still praying through my emotions and just wanted to finish. I threw more snow on already-high mounds. It was difficult because it required a lot of effort to corral the snow!

Soon, my fingers weren’t cold anymore—they were numb.

It was only when I came in about fifteen minutes later that I noticed my fingers again. They were bright red and tingled, like other parts of my skin. There was no frostbite, but that’s not unheard of with extreme wind chills like we have in Fargo.

Thankfully, I had gotten through both the snow and the rough emotions.

Praise God, I felt so much better!

As I put away my snow shovel, I thought about how people manage their emotions in a similar manner. Many people try to ‘shovel away’ their sorrows, without actually understanding the pain. It’s like having spiritual or emotional frostbite.

They bury sadness and grief, frustration and remorse, anger and resentment without dealing with them. They don’t allow themselves the time to heal. Some people freeze their feelings, becoming numb and unable to function properly.

For me, the pain can still feel rough at times, though it has gotten much better overall.

Nonetheless, I still allow myself to feel my emotions and pray them through. The feelings don’t last forever, and I know it will be okay…sooner or later.  

Like snow, healing is messy. It can be difficult work to decipher our feelings and keep them contained. Yet, I always learn more about myself in the process. Reaching a new level of healing or self-understanding isn’t always fun…but it is a valuable gift!

Yesterday, I was also reminded of God’s grace and goodness. Only He can bring full healing. And, the more I share my story, the more grateful I become.

God has been so faithful to me. He has provided for me in ways I cannot even explain. Despite my losses, He has never let me down. What Victory!

Yes, when everything feels like it is falling apart, Jesus is there. He is greater than my pain or problems, and He loves me through each trial. He protects me and allows me to be myself—feelings and all. By His grace, He holds me together!

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Dear God, thank You so much for your grace and goodness. Thanks for taking such great care of me. Please direct my path and guide me on this journey. Thanks that I don’t have to get stuck emotionally. I choose to move forward. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you experienced any signs of spiritual or emotional frostbite? Will you let Jesus handle it?

Tasks: Listen to ‘King of My Heart’ by Kutless and ‘I Will Call Upon the Lord’ by Elevation Worship. Write down your feelings and experiences in a journal. Trust in Jesus!

It’s Totally Unfair!

This has been an… ‘interesting’… year already. I have seen God direct my path and use me to make a practical difference in other peoples’ lives. But, honestly, I’ve also seen some things that seem totally unfair to me or others…

For example, recently a friend slipped on her child’s Legos in the dark, hitting her entertainment center—with her face.  She busted her nose and needed major surgery. An accident yes, but still unfair.

Another friend had to forgive someone for major offenses when they clearly didn’t deserve it. Forgiveness is required for that relationship to move forward. But it’s definitely not fair.

I have seen friends struggle with various injustices, such as discrimination, financial difficulties, and health problems, too. It is easy to see how anger and resentment build up.

My own story is complex with its own challenges and I know yours is, too. We don’t have time to rehash or compare our stories here… Besides, these issues are not always bad—though at times they really do seem unfair.

Most of us, if we allow ourselves, could easily go down the “poor me” path or the “this would be better if” road. But one thing is certain: Complaining doesn’t help.

If our emotions are allowed to run the show, we will get stuck and never move forward! Instead, I have learned the best thing I can do is redirect my focus back to Jesus. When we bring Him our fear, pain, sorrow, anger, resentment, and embarrassment, He gives us hope, healing, wholeness, peace, forgiveness, and joy.

We can trust Jesus through and through. As both God and man, He has a unique perspective. He understands what each of goes through because He has been there, too.

You see, Jesus faced the same types of battles. Quite often, He didn’t know where His next meal was coming from or where He would sleep. Yet, He was expected to help people at all hours of the day/night. He was often put to the test and judged unfairly. He was used by the people but rarely thanked.

Also, Jesus was like a local celebrity so He was scrutinized at a higher level. He never could win over everyone—but He reached out to help as many as would receive Him.

All Jesus did was done with love. He healed people and comforted them. He even raised the dead back to life! He taught new ways to love and used His own life as an example to follow. Yet, he was still rejected.

Then, at the end of His young life, Jesus was wrongly accused and suffered a horrible death on the cross. Completely unfair. But to Jesus, we were worth it. He loves us so very much!

When I compare my conditions to what Jesus faced, I have no room to grumble. Jesus was well-acquainted with the ups and downs of life. So… if Jesus had to struggle, then we have no excuse.

At least we are in good company!

By definition, grace is an unmerited or unearned favor. Yes, God’s grace toward us is also unfair! We don’t deserve any of it!

Thankfully, God does not see our uncertain circumstances like we do. He can see the end from the beginning—and His thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours.

Trials have a way of refining us for the better—though it may take some time to see how. But no matter what we face, God loves us and is for us. He never leaves us nor forsakes us. He leads us and guides us.

God never changes. And no problem or difficulty—however big or bad—can change God’s goodness toward us. He has us covered!

Yes, God’s grace is unchanging, unfailing, unrelenting, unearned—and praise God, totally unfair!!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for Jesus! Your everlasting love and abundant grace toward us are beyond unfair. Thank You! Help us have the right attitude as we walk in grace, love, and forgiveness. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you respond when life seems unfair? Can you trust Jesus?

Tasks: Listen to “O’Lord” by Lauren Daigle and “Grace that Won’t Let Go,” by Mark Harris

Nick at Night: Seek and Find

As I mentioned last week, I am scribing the gospel of John with friends. Mainly, I want to engage with God’s word in a more personal way. I am learning more each day! Last week, I shared a little about Nicodemus in John Chapter 3, but am still thinking about him…

I used to think Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because he feared what everyone (his fellow Pharisees) would think. That may be true, in part, but as a friend recently suggested, maybe he didn’t want to be interrupted by all the crowds that followed Jesus.

Perhaps it’s a parallel that Nicodemus (in spiritual darkness) sought Jesus, the Light of the World (which John mentions later). At any rate, I’m guessing Nicodemus was so intently searching for truth and answers that he couldn’t wait until morning to talk with Jesus.

Similarly, there are times I cannot sleep at night because I am dealing with something. In fact, this happened to me recently. Each time I woke up in the night, I had a prayer on my lips for a friend in need. I love that Jesus is always available to listen, help, comfort and teach us…even in the middle of the night.

We do not have to question if Jesus wants to help. Whenever we come to Jesus for help, we will receive encouragement and direction. That said, we also may receive correction like Nicodemus… We need to be willing to do whatever Jesus says.

v.10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

Here, Jesus gets on Nicodemus for being a spiritual leader without actually understanding spiritual concepts. Ouch… Apparently, the Jews had created eight different ways one could be ‘born again’ (all physical things to do to earn God’s favor). The Jews missed the point of spiritual rebirth and salvation from sin.

But Jesus made it simple.

Interestingly, in my Bible, the words of John 3:16-21 are not in red, suggesting that perhaps Jesus did not say them. This surprised me because I always thought it was Jesus talking. It seems that this may be John’s explanation of what Jesus was saying.

I asked my friends for their input (on who said what) and learned some other Bibles and translations handle this differently. Many Bibles have those words in ‘red letters’ or quotations, but not the one I am using currently… So, I did some prayerful searching online and saw this is a common question.

Various Bible scholars have wondered the same! No one has an exact answer because (ahem) we weren’t there. But either way, the basic consensus is that the words are inspired by God and the message does not change.

We don’t have to lose sleep over what God meant in John 3:16. The point is: God so loved the world and so Jesus came. God gave us Jesus, our Savior, and we have eternal life through Him alone.

We know John did not record every single word or action Jesus did (John 21:25), and that’s okay! Instead of agonizing over the details, we will let the Holy Spirit lead us.

Here are a few takeaways:

It is common to hurry through our day, but in doing so, perhaps we are missing what Jesus really said (or maybe didn’t say). There is always more to the text than meets the eye—I love that my friends are picking up different aspects of the same text!

Nicodemus came directly to Jesus for answers to his deepest questions. He didn’t rely on someone else to ask for him. Jesus often spoke in metaphors and I love that Nicodemus sought clarity. Also, he trusted Jesus’ perspective and didn’t make it about himself.

Studying the Bible with other people can help everyone grow in faith. Nonetheless, we have to personally apply what Scripture says to our own lives.

Finally, God’s Word is trustworthy. When we have questions, it’s okay! God is big enough to handle them with His grace and truth. And, when it comes to Jesus Christ, He is always worth taking a closer look!

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God, thanks for the gift of Your Word! Renew our minds and draw us close to You. Teach us Your ways and lead us into deeper fellowship with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you trusted in Jesus as your Savior? Is there anything in Scripture that you’ve had questions about lately? How can you pursue a deeper level of understanding?

Tasks: Listen to “God so Loved,” by Jaci Velasquez. When you sit down to spend time with God, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you, Jesus, the Living Word.

           

Taking It Up A Notch

We’re only two weeks into the new year, and Lydia and I are off to running start! Last week, we began some new activities, and this week, we’ve added a couple more!

I’m really enjoying all the exciting opportunities ahead…really, I am! However, I can already feel my stress levels going up a notch.

Our normal routine is manageable and has a fair amount of margin. Yet adding even one thing takes consideration as we try to juggle it all. That’s fairly normal for most of us, but I prefer to have some flexibility.

On Monday afternoon, I felt a little overwhelmed. It was one of those days I had a million things to do but didn’t have much to show for all my effort. I was working on deadlines, dinner, dishes, and ‘backpack reading’ (for Lydia)… to name a few. I was also working on a small project for someone.

Later, a friend also invited me to pray at church that evening, as our church is holding nightly prayer events all week to set the tone for the year. We expect God to do good things in our lives, our church, and our community.

Absolutely, yes!

But on Monday, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to add it to an already full day. I had planned on going later in the week, but didn’t want to disappoint my friend…

Thankfully, I knew that praying was the best thing I could do. When I give my time (or other resources) to God, He always makes it work out in my favor. So, I trusted God and went to corporate prayer.

I’m so glad I went. Not only did I receive peace and a proper perspective, I also grew in joyful anticipation. I prayed with friends and heard how God was moving in their lives.

Praying was just the refreshment I needed! With my burdens lifted, I was able to stay in the present and not worry about my schedule or problems.

It was also a great personal reminder that prayer takes precedence. By taking our prayers up a notch we take our problems to God who can handle them so much better.

Our problems are no match for His power!

So far, this week, everything has worked out. I’ve done my best and will trust God to handle the rest. But many times, our circumstances do not change overnight. Sometimes things have to run their course, and some situations need God’s special touch.

There are things only He can do. Don’t give up. Press in and pray it through.

When we pray, God moves on our behalf. When stresses go up, so should our prayers. And if we let Him, God can take our faith up a notch too!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for all Your kindness, grace, and love. You are so good! Thanks for being with us, for listening, and for walking us through each problem and challenge. Help us come You to first, not as a last resort. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you ever felt like you didn’t have time to pray? Would you do it differently next time?

Tasks: Continue bringing your heart and requests to Jesus. He loves you so much! Also, read Too Busy Not To Pray by Bill Hybels.

The Proverbs 31 Woman: What’s So Special?

Last year, my church read the One Year Bible by Tyndale. I followed along, but most of the time listened to each day’s reading on my YouVersion phone app. So on Sunday (Dec 31st), we finished the Old Testament, the New Testament, as well as Psalms and Proverbs.

Sometimes I wear my headphones, but on Sunday, I did not. Thus, Lydia was listening, too. Proverbs 31 piqued her interest as it lists attributes of a godly wife (or woman). She asked, incredulously, “Wait, Mom…who IS this woman?!” I had to laugh at her reaction. Sometimes, the list does seem impossible!

It seems no one really knows who the woman is. It could be the author’s mom or wife…or more likely even a composite of several women. Anyway, to be clear, we don’t have to be Rosie the Riveter or Suzie Homemaker. We don’t have to feel bad for not doing all those activities listed.

Indeed, we often set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations. This is certainly more likely at the start of a new year. For me, it always seems if I am doing well in one area, another goal is suffering. Maybe I try to do too many new things…

We want to read more, sleep more, and have more fun; weigh less, spend less money, and eat fewer sweets. We feel like we have to do it all to be successful: clean more, eat more veggies, give more, spend more time with our kids, etc.

Thankfully, God doesn’t look at us in the same way—for all we are or are not doing.

Interestingly, the Proverbs 31 woman’s physical appearance is never mentioned. So what makes her worth emulating? What makes her so appealing to us, even all these years later? What’s so special about her?

Here’s my theory… It’s not because her children are dressed immaculately. It’s not that she can afford servants to help her. It’s not her personality or that she is married to a husband who appreciates and encourages her. It’s not even because she’s a bargain shopper or a whiz at using her Instant Pot. Though, those are all wonderful things.

I believe her godly confidence is what makes her so attractive—that is, her confidence in the Lord. She knows she is loved and fully lives out of that freedom and grace. She doesn’t feel the need to compare herself or her life to other women, or anyone.

She trusts the Lord to bless her work and be her provision. As a result, she is kind and generous, wise and industrious. She does not run around frantically but is content and cheerful. She rests in the Lord while she works to honor Him.

This year, I do have few personal goals. Of course… But most of all, I want to stay close to Jesus and let Him lead me. He is the source of all my hope and my expectations.

I’m not saying I will completely relax my standards. But when the laundry sits too long, or I forget to start the dishwasher (again), or I get behind on my exercise program… I will remember my ultimate goal, my ‘One Thing’ is JESUS.

It doesn’t matter what else I do—if I don’t have Jesus, I have nothing. Jesus is my strength and my joy. I trust Him to bring me through to Victory! Without Him, all my “good” efforts won’t last. But with Jesus, I have all I need—and an abundance to share. Praise God!

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Dear God, thanks for loving me so much. Help me make changes as YOU see fit, without setting myself up for unrealistic expectations. Help me stay close to You this year. Be my one thing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What about the Proverbs 31 woman stands out to you? Are your goals for the year realistic or do they need to be adjusted? What are you looking forward to this year?

Tasks: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else! Stay close to Jesus and He will make you exactly who He wants you to be. Make Him your ‘One Thing.’

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!!

Seeking the Savior

Last month, my mom, Lydia, and I went to the movies. We saw “The Star” which tells the Nativity story from the perspective of the animals. It was cute! Since then, I’ve noticed a theme: That special Star keeps popping up in our daily lives!

For example, the other night Lydia woke me up in the middle of the night. “Mom, you should move the Star from Afar because I just found it in the bathroom.” Thanks, Lydia!

The Christmas Star from Afar is a special thing we started last year during Advent. This year, Lydia begged me to set it up. She finds the Star in the morning and we discuss a Bible verse. She then moves the wise men to the star. On Christmas Day, the Star will finally appear over the little stable with Baby Jesus. Pretty simple…just how I like it!

To clarify: I don’t recommend hiding Christmas items in the bathroom! : ) I simply put it somewhere Lydia would find it quickly on a school day. Finding the star each morning has helped Lydia look forward to waking up and getting ready to go.

This past Sunday at church, the sermon was also about the Star and the three wise men (or Magi). Scripture does not denote the number of wise men, but we usually go with three because of the three gifts they brought. Gold. Frankincense. Myrrh.

The Magi were very well-educated, as either astronomers or astrologers. At any rate, they noticed something new in the sky and were eager to follow the Star (or light, as it may have been). What amazes me is that they expected to find something good—the Baby Messiah—probably without having a ‘proper’ or perhaps ‘personal’ knowledge of God.

I’m also amazed by the fact that no one else seemed to understand or pay attention to what was happening in the sky around that time. Jesus’ birth was foretold over centuries. Why did no one else seek the newborn Jesus?

Actually, some people did look for Jesus… Evil King Herod was jealous and wanted to kill Him. So perhaps it was a protection the newborn King didn’t gain a lot of publicity! Also, the shepherds found Jesus after being notified by an Angel and Heavenly choir, but not because of the Star. All things considered, most people must’ve ignored the sign. 

To seek something, you have to be focused and intentional. For instance, on this blog, I use the tagline: Seeking God’s sweet and refreshing grace. It’s as if I am on a mission to find His grace and goodness. I am looking for these things on purpose!

The Magi in the Nativity story traveled a long way to find Jesus. It was a costly and time-consuming trip, possibly requiring a couple years’ journey. They were dedicated!

It makes me wonder…am I like the Magi seeking King Jesus…or do I act like everyone else who apparently couldn’t have cared less about the Savior?

Oh, I never want to take my Lord for granted. I want to seek and celebrate Jesus Christ each and every day! He is worthy of my time and adoration.

Each of us has the potential to ‘be a star’ for others. We can point people to Jesus, living in such a way that they are drawn to Him. On the other hand, our actions and attitude also can deter them from coming to Jesus. Am I helping or hindering others from finding Jesus?

Both positive and negative events (or people) can cause us to seek Jesus. When life is good, these things help us praise Him. When things turn bad, we can praise Him for His help! Either way, we have to be intentional about turning our hearts toward Him.

If we don’t seek Jesus first, we will miss Him in the chaos of everyday life. If we are not careful, something else will always pull us away from Who is most important. Ultimately, I don’t want someone to get stuck following me (or some object or an idea). But I do want to direct them to Jesus the Savior.

Jesus is our Peace and our Wonderful Counselor. He alone is the Rescuer that we need. In Him, we have Victory. Come, Lord, Jesus, Come!

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Dear Jesus, thank You for being our Savior King, our Rescuer! As we celebrate Your life, may we be a pleasant reminder to others of Your love and grace. Help us point people back to you. All blessings and honor be unto Your Name! Amen

Questions: What (or whom) are you following? Does it lead you to Jesus or away from Him?

Tasks: Read about the Nativity in Scripture: Matthew 1:18-252:1-12; Luke 1:26-38, 2:1-20.

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.