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!

On Tying Shoes and Learning New Skills

Lydia has already grown so much this year, both in height and skills. She has lost her first two teeth and has grown almost three inches in six months. Even more exciting, Lydia has grown into her larger bike and no longer needs the smaller one from last summer!

Lydia recently asked me to teach her how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It was a little messy even with supervision, but I’m glad it cultivated independence. She’ll need more practice before I let her do it completely alone!

Lydia sometimes enjoys doing chores around the house, too. She likes helping with laundry, garbage, and dishes. Like any kid, her enthusiasm comes and goes. 🙂

This week, we’ve been focusing on tying shoes. I asked Lydia a few months ago and decided she wasn’t ready. “No thanks, Mom. Maybe another time.” But now she has grown into a pair of sparkly tennis shoes so she is eager to wear them!

As I am teaching her, I’ve been remembering when I learned to tie my shoes! I learned differently than I am teaching her. Nonetheless, I think the new way is a little easier.

Sometimes, we’ve both been frustrated. She’ll get upset when she can’t make the ‘bunny ears’ and I don’t like to watch her struggle. But I’m resisting helping her too much.

So, I’ve decided to have her practice about ten minutes a day and then let it go. If she wants to do more, great. Overall, it’s been a positive experience as we celebrate her small wins!

Even though I am watching Lydia struggle, I know she will appreciate the freedom it brings. It will also help her in the near future when she starts school again.

It might take a lot of practice, but in the long-term, the struggle is worth it.

With each new level of independence or growth, we all have new challenges to overcome. These challenges can be good or bad, depending on how you look at them.

Each challenge brings an opportunity to learn. What causes one person to struggle, may be simple for someone else. How one person learns is likely different from the way someone else learns. In the end, though, it’s rewarding to see someone learn and grow!

In Jesus Christ, we have a perfect example to follow. By His grace, we can come to Him for help and direction. He is a wonderful Teacher! Ask Him to teach you how to get to the next level. He knows exactly you need.

I’m glad God teaches each of us according to our unique purpose. Some of the lessons may be more difficult to learn than others. A loving Father, He is so proud of us for trying! Obedience is key, but there’s an abundance of grace!

God is not limited by our challenges, but uses them to help us grow. Thankfully, we are never left on our own to just “figure it out” as we go. The Lord is right beside us, cheering us on. He’s only a question (or prayer) away.

God’s timing is perfect. He never asks us to do something without teaching and equipping us to do the work. He wants us to succeed and live in Victory!

With God, all things are possible. He is patient with us as we practice, learn, and grow. He does not expect perfection and is gracious when we need a do-over. Thank You, Jesus!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for Your grace. Lord, teach me Your ways and guide me in Your Truth. Give us courage as I live for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What is something the Lord is teaching you right now? Is it difficult or fairly easy? (Hopefully, it will become better with practice!)

Tasks: Take the first step in faith and obedience today! Pray and then do what God is asking You to do. He will be with You! 🙂

On Vision and Clarity

During a routine eye exam this week, I learned a ‘new word’: phoropter. Also called a refractor, it’s the device used to determine one’s prescription. The patient looks through the phoropter lenses while the eye doctor changes the dials, asking, “One or two, three or four?”

I was scheduled to see a new eye doctor, though he was running late. (I was glad to have extra time to read!) When the doctor arrived, I noticed he was paralyzed and sat in a wheelchair. I’m sure he required a little more time to get around. He quickly wheeled into the room, introduced himself, and started my eye exam.

When asked how my eyes and vision were, I explained my seasonal allergies have been ramping up this week. My eyes were a little dry that day, making my contacts uncomfortable and my vision blurry.

I could read all the letters through the phoropter, but it was a little more challenging than usual. Besides the blurriness, there was also a glare from the computer. I had trouble focusing because everything seemed foggy. I was frustrated. Finally, I told the eye doctor, “It’s almost as if these lenses need to be cleaned.”

To my surprise, he immediately wheeled out of the room and came back with cleaning supplies. He couldn’t take the entire contraption apart, but he did wipe off the external lenses. I was touched by his compassion and effort so I could see clearly. I’ve worn glasses and contacts for years, but I’ve never had an eye doctor who listened to my concerns like that!

While he cleaned, we talked about the device, its name, and how it works. Somehow, that led to us talking about our kids, his car accident over a decade ago, cancer, and Dave’s death. We talked about ‘seeing the good’ and having a positive attitude. I was impressed at his ability to keep moving forward, despite his paralysis. What fortitude!

In the end, the doctor said my eyes were healthy. Thankfully, my vision hadn’t changed much, yet he saw a lot of debris on my contacts. I was shocked because I just changed the lenses a few days ago. No wonder my vision was blurry! He made some recommendations like wearing my glasses as needed and using a special cleaning solution.

I went to get my vision checked, and left with a different perspective!

That got me thinking…

While I usually only need to visit the eye doctor yearly, I need to meet with Jesus every day. I wouldn’t forget my glasses or contacts… In the same way, regular contact with Jesus gives me focus. He helps me make sense of my circumstances and surroundings!

God has a special plan and unique vision for each of His children. Yet fear can cloud that vision and limit us from becoming all He intended. Fear blurs the path, causing confusion and uncertainty. Over time, we may even get used to seeing poorly!

But when we call on Jesus, He helps us see through the eyes of faith. We don’t have to wander around blindly; we can move forward with confidence and clarity. As we fix our eyes on Him, doubt and darkness flee. Our vision becomes clear again.

In the light of Jesus, we see God’s love and grace in living color. We then see ourselves and others through His perspective. With compassion, we can overlook weaknesses and find the good in each person.

Yes, Jesus brings healing, renews our vision, and restores our purpose. Praise God!

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Jesus, You are good! Thank You for loving me so much. Be my vision and be my strength. Give me clarity as You guide me on the right path. In Your Name, Amen

Question: Do you wear contacts or glasses to correct your vision? Does anything about this post stand out to you?

Tasks: Read these two Bible passages of Jesus healing the blind: Matthew 20:29-34 and Mark 8:22-26. Write down any observations.

Easter Excitement!

I don’t know about you, but Lydia has been looking forward to Easter for weeks! She’s been learning about Easter at church and school. While she doesn’t understand all the details, Lydia has made some good observations.

A few days ago, I read a kids magazine to her before bed. The magazine, from Compassion International, explained that some kids in other countries don’t have access to clean water, shoes/clothes, or food. The article was thorough, yet simple enough for Lydia to grasp.

“Lydia, what if some kids walked through dirt or garbage, but couldn’t wash their hands or feet?” I explained, “That could bring germs inside their house and they could get sick.”

Ironically, the next magazine article was about humility and being a servant. We read in John 13 about the Last Supper, where Jesus washed His disciples’ feet. He chose to serve.

We talked about pride versus humility. To hit home the point, I asked Lydia if she’d ever wash one of her friend’s feet. Her response? “That would be kind of gross…but I could do it.” I got a good laugh out of that, but was glad for her honesty!

We’ve also had some points of clarification, such as when I said Judas betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver. “Mom, I know what ‘trade’ means like if I have a toy that my friend wants, I give it to them and they give me something they have. But, what does buh-trade mean?”

I love hearing Lydia’s thoughts and seeing her excitement. She may not have all the answers, but she does have the faith of a child. She knows Jesus loves her!

Lydia also seems to understand the real meaning of Easter. “Jesus dies on the cross for our sins. And, Easter eggs remind us that we were lost and Jesus found us—kind of like how you hide the eggs and then I find them.”

Then Lydia added, “By the way, Mom, are you going to hide the Easter eggs when I go to bed or in the morning before I wake up?” She’s sure excited!

At Easter, we celebrate the love Jesus showed us on the Cross. With compassion, He laid down His life for ours because we each owed a debt we could not pay. His sacrifice was the only way to restore our relationship with God. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (see John 14:6). Jesus paid it all!

With His blood, Jesus washed away our sins. Jesus’ grace covers our faults and failures…past, present, and future. Praise God, His mercies are new every morning!

Because of Jesus’ death, we have forgiveness and freedom. Jesus is our righteousness and our defense. And because of His resurrection, we also have new life!

We have purpose, protection, and provision! We no longer have to live in fear; we can come straight into God’s presence. We are healed in Jesus’ Name!

God’s grace and salvation are for everyone. Have you received them?

If you belong to Jesus, the same power that raised Him from the dead lives in you and me (Romans 8:11)! Because of Jesus, we have Victory! Hallelujah!

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Precious Jesus, thank You for the Cross! You alone are worthy of all praise. Victory belongs to You! Thank You for loving me so much, Lord. May my life bring You glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Question: What does Easter mean to you? Have you accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross?

Tasks: Read through Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection story. Praise Jesus for His sacrifice!

On the Right Track

Right now I have a strong sense of peace. I have many activities and projects waiting for me… But I am enjoying the quiet. I can easily become overwhelmed by all I have to do…

But when I choose to stop and just enjoy the Lord’s presence, all the chaos subsides. None of that seems important as I rest in Him. I’m thankful for the peace He brings!

This week, I am celebrating small answers to prayer. Despite all of my own effort—working hard to get results—God kindly reminded me that He is faithful. I don’t have to worry or stress because He will never let me down.

In fact, God gave me peace through a simple conversation. Someone confirmed that I was on the right track, just by listening to my concerns and giving me some feedback. The words I heard matched what was already on my heart through prayer.

As soon as that happened, I felt the Lord’s assurance that He has it all under control. He is the one who brings my breakthrough(s)! I can trust Him for His timing.

When He wants me to do something differently, He will make it clear. He always comes through for me! In the meanwhile, I don’t need to try to do it all on my own or figure it out.

There is great freedom in understanding God’s grace. I know He loves me know matter what. His love is not based on what I do, but who I am. I don’t have to compare myself to anyone—there is no one like me! He has made me unique and loves me just for being me.

Currently, there is a small stack of dishes in the sink and I just remembered there is still laundry in the dryer, waiting for another round. I need to go through the mail and clear off the dining room table. But all of those tasks will get done soon enough.

With Jesus, there is no rush. He refreshes me with His love and grace. Somehow, I always have the right amount of time to finish what needs to be done.

In the quiet, I have been thinking of all the ways God loves me. In addition to His protection and provision, I can see how He has helped me in the past. Whether it was related to family, friends, college, jobs, or making decisions, He always worked things out in His time. He has never left me on my own.

Over the years, I’ve had to learn to conserve my energy for certain tasks and let others go (or come back to them later). Grief is like that. Parenthood is like that! Instead of being frustrated with uncompleted tasks, I am learning the ebb and flow of resting in the Lord.

Instead of worrying about unanswered or unsolved problems, I can trust Jesus. When the Lord moves, I move. When He rests, I rest, too. When He says to make plans, I plan. When He says to wait, I wait. He always leads me to Victory!

Yes, staying in-step with Jesus is what matters most. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. His timing is perfect. He always comes through…He is faithful!

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Jesus, thanks for being my Shepherd. Thanks for leading me with grace. Refresh me with Your presence. Help me draw near to You. In Your Name, Amen.

Questions: Do you find it easy or difficult to stay in-step with Jesus? What does that look like for you? Are there any changes you need to make?

Tasks: Memorize Psalm 23.

Like A Beast

Yesterday, I enjoyed a movie date with my sister and two close friends. We went to see Beauty and the Beast during Lydia’s school hours. My neighbor’s little boy attends there, too, so her husband picked up the kids while we enjoyed the movie. We had a great time!

It’s always fun to think about how I am like the beautiful heroine. But over the weekend, sadly, I was more like an ugly BEAST! In a rash moment, I made a huge mistake.

In short, I blindsided a dear friend by pointing out some (perceived) faults. I didn’t plan to say anything negative or disrespectful, but I really hurt my friend. I totally blew it. To make matters worse, I kept talking. I tried to backtrack and smooth over what I had already said. But the damage was done.

This friend has many wonderful and admirable qualities, but I didn’t get a chance to mention those. This friend is bold and courageous, yet gentle and caring. My friend has strong character and always seeks to do the right thing. This friend encourages me and challenges me to be my best. My friend is faithful to pray for me and Lydia and checks in with us from time to time. We so appreciate our friend.

Yet, in a few short minutes, I nearly ruined our friendship. At least that’s what it felt like.

So, I apologized and went home. On my own, I tearfully considered all that had gone wrong in such a short time. I had wanted to build up my friend, not tear them down. I try to encourage others, but in this case, I did the exact opposite. I was clearly in the wrong. I offered another apology, but knew my friend needed some time (and space).

The next day, my friend was much more gracious to me than I deserved—honest, but not condemning. Just like Jesus. There’s no excusing my poor behavior that day, and I hope to make it up to my friend soon. But trust is earned.

I’d like to say this is an isolated event. This type of thing doesn’t happen often. Even so, there are lots of other times I have messed up! That’s why I need Jesus!

Jesus is kind and considerate, firm yet caring. He does not jump to conclusions and is always willing to give me a second chance. The Lord is slow to anger and rich in love.

Indeed, Jesus offered mercy and forgiveness before I ever knew I needed it. He saved me according to His grace, not because of anything I have done or ever could do. I could never make things right on my own. (See Ephesians 2:4-5)

Clearly, I’m not perfect… but whether I act as Beauty or the Beast, I am grateful for forgiveness, second chances, good friends and God’s grace!

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Heavenly Father, you are gracious and compassionate. Thank You for being merciful when I don’t deserve it. Thank You, Jesus, for taking my punishment on the cross. Thank You for loving me so much and not letting sin separate us! Help me love like You do. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie? In what ways are you like Belle? In what ways are you like the Beast? (Hopefully, I am not the only one!) 🙂

Tasks: Praise God for His forgiveness! Do a quick heart check to determine whether you need to offer someone an apology or offer forgiveness. Then do it!

Tender and Teachable

Lately, I have had several unexpected teaching moments with Lydia.

As a parent, the best teaching moments happen when I see something valuable in the present—when I am not rushing off to the next chore or task or event. I’m sure I miss many opportunities, but I am trying to slow down and take notice regularly.

One recent teachable moment happened on Saturday. For years, I have sponsored children in India through Compassion International. Unfortunately, due to Indian governmental restrictions and regulations, my sponsorship there ends today, which is heartbreaking.

Nonetheless, I prayerfully decided to keep my sponsorship active elsewhere. This time, however, I wanted to involve Lydia. On Saturday, I did a little research and presented options to her. Through the course of our brief discussion, we picked a little girl in Indonesia that shares Lydia’s exact birthdate. We chose another little girl in Ecuador whose birthday was that Saturday—the same day we were discussing sponsorship.

Lydia was really excited to learn these girls in other countries like to draw, color, and sing—just like her. Soon, my eyes started to tear up. It was already a teachable moment, but I was happy to see Lydia’s face light up with joy. We discussed how these kids are similar to her, even though their circumstances are very different.

We talked about giving and helping others in need. While I don’t have huge expectations, I will make sure Lydia has a more active role than she did before. She may write a short note as she learns her letters or draw a picture.

I pray her heart is always tender and teachable.

Then yesterday, Lydia had a cool experience all her own. Recently, she asked me if she could take a picture of her daddy to school. I checked with her teacher beforehand, and Lydia was graciously given the opportunity to share two pictures of Dave during Bible time. At home, I helped her rehearse what to say, but she had already made up her mind! I wrote down a few points for her teacher’s reference, just in case.

I have done my best to teach Lydia about Dave since she was so little when he died. I also have tried to guide her on the appropriate time to share. (I don’t want other children to worry about their parents getting sick.) Still, it is part of her story and I want her to be comfortable with it. I wasn’t there to listen yesterday, but I was so proud of her courage.

Her confidence amazed me! It reminded me that God knows what He is doing… I don’t have to worry about her! I’m also so thankful for her teacher’s understanding.

I find the Lord also gives me teachable moments when I am in His presence. Sometimes I need to just slow down enough to pay attention. In this fast-paced, high pressure world, it’s more important than ever to stay present with Jesus. There’s joy in sitting at the feet of the Master and Teacher.

Jesus shows me His heart and gives me grace when mine doesn’t measure up. He gives me wisdom and guidance when making decisions for my family. He helps me see important needs and provides the means to share with others. As I put my trust in Him, He teaches me I don’t have to worry or be afraid. Praise God!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for teachable moments. Thank You for the joy of Your Presence. Please give me a tender and teachable heart. Help me look for ways to encourage and bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had any teachable moments lately?

Tasks: Write down any lessons learned. Pray about how what you have learned and how that could help encourage or teach someone else.