Valentine’s Victories

A couple weeks ago, I was discouraged when I received some not-so-great feedback on a writing project. My writing coach thought I could do a better job. I was rather disheartened until a friend popped into my office unexpectedly and encouraged me.

So imagine my relief on Monday of this week when I received positive feedback instead! I had revised the same material from before and my writing coach was pleased with the improvements.

As we talked, I explained how frustrated I was previously and how difficult this task had been for me. We discussed how our most challenging work often happens to be the most important.

Sometimes the ‘edits’ are easy—like grammar and punctuation—and don’t affect the overall content. But other times, the edits are tough. Content revisions are more important structurally, and in my case, lay the foundation for the next round.

There will be a bigger payoff later if I do the hard work now.

As I realized the significance of the work I had done, I was excited. I had pushed through this perceived setback, and to me, it felt like a breakthrough.

The victory made we want to celebrate! Soo, on a whim, I decided to go to the movies!

On my way to the theater, I praised God for the writing victory and thanked Him for the movie, too. It almost felt like a Valentine’s date because God blessed me so much that day.

I used a gift certificate to buy my ticket and also bought a kid-sized popcorn (not wanting to over-do it!). I even shared some “snack cash” coupons with the couple in front of me.

I watched ‘The Greatest Showman’ and I’m so glad I did!

The movie was fabulous and I highly recommend it! The music (soundtrack) was also so inspiring. Without giving too much away, I loved the overall message about being yourself and appreciating each other’s differences. It makes you consider what is really important.

Most—if not all—of us have felt like we don’t belong at times. There are days when we struggle with feeling like we don’t measure up. Or, maybe we have been rejected and treated poorly… Sometimes, it’s totally unfair!

Some people feel down on Valentine’s Day if they don’t have a ‘special someone.’ I can understand that perspective. But, don’t be discouraged. Turn those feelings around and make someone else feel special.

Sometimes, we overlook how powerful it is to love people and show kindness every day. Even just a little note or phone call can have great impact.

Remember, whether or not you have Valentine’s plans is not a determination of your worth. You are so very loved!

In Christ, we have infinite value. If we have that perspective, we see that with Jesus, we can thrive. When we keep our eyes on Him, we see His grace and blessings—not our lack.

In Jesus, we have Victory! We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

 My little girl, Lydia, reminded me of this Victorious perspective in a recent drawing.

I asked her to explain the picture, which to me, looked a little like four people at a disco party… 😉 Lydia explained, “This is a picture of my family. The first person is my daddy, then you and me, and then God.”

Lydia is starting to understand the difference between immediate and extended family…

I loved that she drew what was in her heart, including both her daddy, Dave, and her Heavenly Father, God. And, the disco figures made me smile. 

I see Lydia’s confidence in God’s love for her as a huge Victory!

Nothing can compare to God’s love for us! He is soo good!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for taking such good care of me. Thank you for leading me to Victory. Help me stay close to You and keep the right perspective. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had a personal breakthrough recently? Have you seen any good movies lately? How can you show God’s love to others today?

Tasks: Write down your victories in a journal so you can remember them. Celebrate your successes and thank God for all He has done.

Finding Grace #99

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 with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

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

This week was full but good! Once again, I felt God directing my steps each day. I helped friends, met important writing deadlines, and was productive at work. I’m grateful!

Recently, I noticed my furnace wasn’t quite working like it should. I set up an appointment for this week to have it checked out. Turns out, the furnace was fine and just needed a little servicing. I will make sure to keep the maintenance up from now on… Oddly enough, the batteries in my thermostat needed to be changed, though they have lasted about 7 years as-is! Thankfully, the batteries were an inexpensive fix! 

On Wednesday, Lydia scored a book called, The Book With No Pictures, which she loved. She remembered it from last year and started reading it to herself in the bookstore. I couldn’t resist buying it for her. She kept laughing for about an hour!

After several years of going back-and-forth, I finally decided to get a remote starter for my car. I had a coupon, so that helped. 😉 A friend and I went to coffee during that time, and we also enjoyed some tasty treats. I was thankful for the good conversation and a ride!

The weather was fairly mild this week in the upper twenties and thirties. Spring is still a long way off (at least in Fargo), but I can see it will be here before we know it!

Lydia cheered at today’s basketball games (for Upward Sports). She is really enjoying it! The basketball players must’ve been in Kindergarten or first grade. They were so little but surprisingly coordinated. We are looking forward to a great season!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Finding Grace #98

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 with 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’s blessing and favor in several personal ways. I was able to help several people in meaningful ways. I prayed for these people and used my writing skills to encourage and advocate for them. I provided timely input when asked and used my strengths. It made me feel like I am exactly where God needs me to be.

We had all our usual activities, including deadlines, work, school, and JBQ. Yet, instead of feeling stressed, I was excited! I think it has to do with the fact that I saw God using me to move in the lives of those around me. I enjoyed seeing Him direct my steps!

The weather is warmer today, but early in the week, we had wind chills near forty below. On Monday, I spent an hour-and-a-half outside clearing snow… Let’s just say it was a character-building experience! My legs and feet are sore even now, but I am thankful for the ability to do what was needed. With the warmer weather, I am taking it easy!

Recently, Lydia joined a cheerleading program through Upward Sports. She and her friends cheered for their first basketball game today! I didn’t know if she would be too nervous, but she handled it like a champ. (I’m sure the camaraderie helped!)

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Finding Grace #96

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 with God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

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

This was a really chilly week, but we still saw an abundance of God’s grace! We jumped back into our normal routine and also added some fun activities. Lydia started a cheerleading program with friends at Upward Sports. They will cheer during youth basketball programs. I hope it will be a good way for Lydia to make more friends, have fun, be active, and learn use to her voice in a new way.

We resumed JBQ on Wednesday and Lydia has learned so much already! It is amazing to see these young kids hide God’s word in their hearts. I believe it’s one of the most important things they can do, so it’s good they are starting young. It makes me glad when Lydia says how much she loves it.

Of course, I went back to work and also tackled my ‘usual’ projects, such as deadlines and housework. I also started a new at-home yoga program which I always enjoy. I’ve been doing ‘Yoga with Adriene‘ on-and-off for awhile and can really notice a difference in how my joint, muscles, back, neck, and shoulders feel. I also notice when I skip it. It’s a good reminder to take care of myself…and remember to breathe!

In the little bit of ‘downtime’ I had this week, I watched a nature show on Netflix called ‘Frozen Planet.’ I love these types of shows! I enjoyed watching polar bears, penguins, caribou, wolves, and other animals prepare for winter. I also watched snowflakes and ice form in slow motion and was in awe of just how amazing our Creator God is! It is a short series, so I will have to watch more of it later!

This week, I started scribing the Gospel of John with some friends around the country. We simply copy down each word in John, going at our own pace. This is a great way to spend time with Jesus, the Living Word, and learn directly from Him. Then, we connect online and discuss our thoughts on each section. It’s been really rewarding both personally and corporately. My friends come from a variety of Christian denominations and backgrounds, so it is really cool to see the larger Body of Christ (that is, the Church) in action. One benefit of doing this is that we can retain the written Word longer than just reading it. Plus, we can share insights and encourage each other along the way. Praise God!

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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)!

Filled with Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Grace #78

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

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

This week was an exciting week with lots of momentous events! A couple of neighborhood families gave us zucchinis, tomatoes, blueberries, and sweet corn. Delicious! I’m thankful for good neighbors and all the ways God provides for us.

My aunt and uncle visited from Ohio this week! We went shopping, out to eat, and to the movies with them. It was extra fun for Lydia’s first two days at school. I’m grateful they were here so I didn’t have to come home to an empty house this week! (Going forward, it might be nice…but it’s still an adjustment for me!) It was bittersweet without Dave, but it was also a personal Victory for us and a necessary beginning.

Lydia had a great start at school. She went easily and was eager to meet new friends. She used her new lunchbox and later tried the hot lunch. We took her to school the first day, but then she rode the bus from them on. She jumped off the bus and basically ran the whole way home (down the block). I pray she always has that energy and joy of learning!

This week, Lydia received two little lockets (one pink, one blue), along with other items for school. Just simple little tokens. Then, on the first day of school, to my surprise, she requested a picture of her daddy, Dave, in the blue locket. Later, she said maybe she’d like a picture of me too. ? So, my aunt and I spent some time this week making that happen. Lydia was very excited and has been rotating the lockets each day.

With Lydia at school this week, my aunt, uncle, and I found other things to do. Thankfully, my uncle is handy and was eager to have a project. I recently ordered a little free library online to share my love of books with my community and neighborhood. Praise God, it arrived on the same day as my aunt and uncle! So, he was able to help install the new library. I’m really looking forward to being a library steward!

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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)!

On School Pictures and Mosquito Bites

It’s almost here! There’s a lot of excitement in our house as tomorrow is the BIG day… Lydia goes off to school! We’ve had her clothes picked out for a week. Her backpack is ready to go and her school supplies have been delivered.

We’ve practiced a basic routine (get dressed, eat breakfast, brush hair and teeth, etc). Lydia is ready to ride the bus and ready to learn. She’s excited to meet new friends and eat lunch at school. We’ve both been praying for her teacher, classmates, and a good experience. Praise God, we’re all set.

I was hugging on her the other day, saying, “My baby’s going to Kindergarten!”

Not missing a beat, Lydia’s quickly responded, “Mom, if babies went, it would be called ‘Baby Garden!’”

Yep, life is pretty simple when you’re a kid.

All in all, I have prepared and coached Lydia as best as I know how. I have prayed for years about schooling and other decisions. I trust God to take care of Lydia.

Yesterday, I took Lydia to school for a routine assessment with her teacher. I filled out a little paperwork and gave the teacher a heads-up about our story (Dave, cancer, etc). Hopefully, she doesn’t think I was too emotional…I didn’t mean to shed tears!

Lydia was unfazed, but for me, it just is part of a cycle. Normally, we do okay, but in new situations that are already emotional, explaining things can still be a little difficult for me.

Lydia also got her school picture taken (her grade only)! I thought this was a wonderful idea to get it out of the way before school even started…

That is, until I was brushing Lydia’s hair. That’s when she nonchalantly mentioned three mosquito bites on her face, from playing outside the night before! I hadn’t even noticed the bright red dots, because I was trying to tame her mass of wavy curls (you know, to make them “just right” for the school picture).

Well, I did what I could to cover the spots on her forehead and nose. I used a little of my concealer (makeup) and hoped for the best. While it was frustrating, it was also a little funny. Lydia wasn’t bothered by the mosquito bites, but hated the concealer! Of course…

As we left home that morning, Lydia also told me she had a hole in her the knee of her black leggings. “Oh great,” I thought. “It’s not even the first day of school! Thankfully, that won’t show up in the pictures…maybe her teacher won’t notice!”

Then, I was reminded in 1 Samuel 16:7, that God does not look at our outer appearance, but what is on our heart. I had been focused on Lydia looking her best, but that’s not what matters most. I would much rather her be kind and caring toward others.

Often, what we think is important…isn’t in the long run. No one else will probably notice the mosquito bites or a tiny hole down the road. And while it makes for a memorable story, it’s not a big deal. God loves us so much and created us on purpose!

We don’t have to look or be perfect. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, our blemishes are not concealed…they are completely removed and forgiven. Thank You, Jesus! His grace covers us from head to toe. Nothing we do (or don’t do) can alter that!

While Lydia is the one going off to school this week, I’m sure I will have more ‘lessons’ to learn this year, too! I’m thankful for God’s grace each and every day. He is so good!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for loving us so much. Thanks for sweet reminders of Your grace and delight. Thanks for creating us with intent and for a purpose. May we live to bring you great joy! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Question: Do you have any funny school picture stories?

Finding Grace #77

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

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

This week was full of God’s grace! Each day was also full of activity. On Sunday, we Skyped with some of Dave’s family. Lydia met some of Dave’s extended family for the first time. I am thankful for modern technology that we can “see” people all around the world and talk at the press of a few buttons!

Monday, of course, was the solar eclipse! Lydia and I had fun tracking it in real life and online (via the NASA broadcast). After that, I went to work for a few hours and had a writing meeting that evening. Lydia was able to go to daycare to play.

On Tuesday, I worked, had coffee with a friend, then went back to work. 🙂 After that, I took Lydia with me to get an oil change followed by haircuts. It was a full day, but the timing was good to get those last minute errands done before school starts.

Wednesday went fast, but was good. I spent some time praying for a friend going through a tough spot. Intercessory prayer is both an honor and a privilege! After that, I went to work and had a good meeting with my supervisor. I am interested to see how my fall schedule plays out with Lydia in school. It will be good to get into a different routine!

On Thursday, Lydia woke up excited for all we had planned. At lunchtime, we went to Caterpillar for the fifth memorial car and bike show held in Dave’s name. Then, we did a little last minute shopping before going to an open house at school to meet Lydia’s teacher. Immediately after that, Lydia went to a friend’s birthday party. It was a fun day!

Yesterday and today have been more laid back. Lydia and I ran to Menards and Walmart for some household items and groceries. I mowed the grass and had a couple good phone conversations. I also did some cleaning, organizing, vacuuming, and laundry. It’s been good to “relax” after the busy week!

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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)!

Grace for the School Daze

August is flying by and very soon Lydia will be headed off to school. As the date draws near, I find myself wanting time to slow down. This Mama Bear has been spending extra time with Lydia, trying to cram in as many special moments as we can.

So far, we’ve baked cookies and done mini makeovers (including makeup, haircuts, and nails). We’ve colored, read tons of books, played games, and put together Lego sets. We’ve ridden our bikes, gone on a scavenger hunt, and eaten donuts at our favorite local place.

I’ve also been quizzing Lydia regarding our address, my phone number, and her school identification number. She’s especially excited about riding the bus, meeting new friends, and eating lunch at school. 🙂 Lydia has been practicing basic addition and pre-reading skills this summer (mostly on her own)—she’s so excited for school!

Yet, I’m only half-joking whenever I ask Lydia what I’m going to do when she goes to school all day. It will be very different and will require both of us to make some adjustments. Her suggestion? “Mom, you can take naps and go to work!” She’s so ready…

In many ways, this transition period to school represents a personal Victory. It is quite humbling to see how far we’ve come. Yes, it has been quite a ride these last 4+ years!

A couple months after my late-husband, Dave, died, I was crying one night because I didn’t know how I was going to make it as a single mom. It was fairly late, and for some reason, Lydia was still awake. I sat in the dark with her, rocking her back and forth, with tears running down my face.

Just a toddler, Lydia still required so much hands-on care and I was very overwhelmed. Feeling desperate, I prayed, “Lord, I need wisdom! How am I supposed to discipline, train, and care for Lydia on my own?” I certainly needed help and a new perspective.

As my tears dried, I slowly felt the Lord’s peace surround me. Truthfully, I still didn’t know how I was going to make it—but I did know I wasn’t doing it alone.

As I write this now, I can see God’s grace and His presence all along the way. He’s given me stamina for those tough disciplinary moments. He’s given me strength to stay in Fargo when it surely would have been easier to move closer to family. He has filled the gaps in my parenting skills (Psalm 68:5).

Getting to this point–this current transition–seemed impossible. But with God’s help, I have learned to face challenges head-on. He has made me steadfast in my faith and taught me to stand firm. He’s given me meaningful work and a renewed purpose. I’m so grateful.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem possible that those long days and nights have stretched into years. But here we are! By God’s grace, we’ve made it this far! Thank You, Jesus!

Clearly, when it comes to the school years, we have a long way to go. We are just starting on this new journey and there will be many challenges ahead. Yet, I’ve seen just how faithful the Lord has been these previous four years. He’s come through for me in more ways than I can count. He is so good to me.

So despite my mama-nerves, I am grateful for this necessary transition. It might feel a little chaotic at first, but the Lord is walking with Lydia, just as He is with me. A loving Father, He cares for her even more than I do…which is quite a lot! Like a Papa Bear, He will continue to protect and guide her each step of the way.

Whatever you are facing today, put your trust in Jesus. He loves you more than you can imagine. He longs to comfort and encourage you, strengthen you, and provide for you. If you let Him, He will help you do what seems impossible, too. He will lead you to Victory!

Praise the Lord!

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Heavenly Father, I praise You for leading us to Victory! Thank You for all You do for us. You are so good and so faithful. Please continue to guide us during each and every transition. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: In what ways has God lead you to Victory in the past? What can you do to trust Him now? How can you praise Him in this moment?

Tasks: Meditate on these verses: Psalm 3:8, Psalm 18:35, Psalm 32:7, and Psalm 118:21. Praise God for what who He is and what He is doing in advance!

 

Finding Grace #76

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 saw the Lord directing my path in many areas! As we come into a new season (of weather and life), I see new opportunities on the horizon. It’s always exciting to see what the Lord has for me…but I already know I need to rely on Him for strength in this transition time. The biggest change for us is that Lydia’s going to school!

My friend came over for Taco Tuesday this week. She also helped me make final decisions on the little free library. I decided to buy everything new instead of building my own. That’s easier and quicker all around! I mentioned the idea to a few neighbors, so hopefully we can all enjoy it together. I can’t wait until it arrives and is all set up!

On Wednesday, I met a coworker for lunch. We discussed some upcoming ideas and options for me at work. I’m glad for the new opportunities I have as a result of the job merger this spring. It will be fun to see all that happens!

This week I’ve done several special activities with Lydia. In a couple weeks everything will be different… I can hardly believe it! So, we’ve been relishing our time together.  I am amazed at who she is becoming. It seems she’s grown so much even this month!

Today, Lydia and I went on a little scavenger hunt to find other ‘little libraries’ in Fargo. We saw several different styles of decorated libraries, including a newspaper vending machine-turned-robot book dispenser. We only made it to about eight of the locations, so we’ll save the rest for another day (or two). Lydia loved finding new books!

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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)!