Writing Reflections

This past weekend, I went to my first writers conference. The conference was held in St. Paul, MN, which is about 4 hours from Fargo. I arrived on Friday afternoon for the Saturday conference, then spent another night before returning home Sunday afternoon.

In order to attend the conference, however, I needed help with Lydia. Childcare is perhaps my biggest challenge as a single mom. Often, I have to make up my mind to do something, and then figure out how I am going to make it work with Lydia.

This is true for conferences, parties, appointments, concerts, certain church meetings, etc. Many times, I just decide the event is not worth the hassle of figuring out child care. But, if I do choose to attend, I trust the Lord to help me make it work.

This weekend, my family came to the rescue! They trekked several hours to meet us in the Twin Cities. Then, they took Lydia to explore the Cities while I was at the all-day conference. Lydia was glad to have grandparents, aunts, and uncles all to herself!

I was grateful for their help…Lydia was grateful to go to Mall of America!

At the conference, I saw several agents, acquisition editors, and publishers. I heard them speak at workshops and at a panel luncheon. I have followed some of them over the years, so it was a really cool experience to see them in the hallway, like any other person!

While I’m not currently ready to publish anything specific, the conference itself was a good confirmation that I am on the right track with meeting my goals. Thank You, Jesus!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the conference was that I didn’t have to explain that I am a writer. You might be thinking, “Well duh, you were at a writers conference!” But it’s common for writers to deal with self-doubt.

In the past, seeing myself as a writer was a challenge. So, I prayerfully invested in a couple online programs and learned to see myself in a new way. Consistent blogging has been helpful, too. Just putting myself “out there” has boosted my confidence in writing.

I’ve come to see writing as a means to document my journey and reflections on life, what God is doing, and how I interact with others. Writing helps me learn more about myself and the world around me.

This past weekend, it was great to ask people what they are writing or answer questions about my own projects. Just having taking people take me at ‘face value’ was refreshing. Even if I didn’t have anything to “show” that day.

In the past, I might have gotten stuck or discouraged. But to my great relief, I was able to see just how much I’ve grown! Praise God!

Our Heavenly Father is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He knows how our stories end, because He sees the end from the beginning of time. In fact, our own stories are wrapped up in His larger story. So, we can trust Him as He leads us!

As we read His word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, God shows us who He is…and who we are, too. We just have to read it and embrace what He says.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we understand about ourselves. It’s a great investment of our time, and by His grace, He calls us like He sees us!

We are saved. We are forgiven. We are free. We are chosen. We are loved. We are redeemed. We have new purpose. We are called. We are empowered. We are His.

Perhaps you don’t enjoy writing… Maybe God wants you to do something different…like stay home with your kids, go back to school, volunteer, change your diet, forgive someone, or introduce yourself to a neighbor. It can be scary to put yourself “out there.” I know.

But ultimately, we have to make a choice to trust. Jesus is faithful and more than able to get us where we need to be. We just have to take the first step.

With His unfailing love and support, how can we fail? Let’s see ourselves like He does and cooperate with Him. We can’t go wrong! And who knows, maybe soon, you will be doing something you never thought was possible!

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God, thank You for putting Your dreams within our hearts. Thanks for walking with us along the way, giving us guidance. Help us see ourselves as You do. Help us be brave! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a dream that seems impossible? How can you trust God and take the first step?

Tasks: Write down all the reasons your dream seems unachievable. Then, write a Bible verse next to each reason, such as Philippians 1:6 or Philippians 4:13. As you pray through each verse, redirect your focus on Jesus and trust Him to help you!

Finding Grace #65

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 a lot of fun! We had the usual the usual work and daycare routine, of course, and I also had a deadline to meet. But all that went well, praise God. (By His grace, I not only met the deadline, but went above and beyond!) Thank You, Jesus!

Best of all, this week we squeezed in a lot of play time. We watched a few movies in the cool basement and enjoyed long afternoons outside in the sun with friends. I mowed yesterday, so have the whole weekend to relax. I am loving summer already!

It’s been hot this week, in the mid-eighties or so. But, we’ve been enjoying the heat anyway with popsicles and water games. Lydia could practically live outside!

Today, Lydia and I were invited to a nearby lake with our neighbors. We drove to Osage, MN, to Big Toad Lake and spent most of the day outside at their family home and restaurant. It was a great way to beat the heat. We were graciously fed and treated like family. The breeze on the lake was just right. We went wading and saw lots of wildlife, including a bald eagle, baby snapping turtle, fish, and a couple leeches! We even helped save a baby bird… I hope to go back again!

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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 #20

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

lightning

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

  • This week was spent in Illinois. Yes, Lydia and I took another road trip! A friend of mine got married last Saturday, and then we spent a little time with friends and family. We had a great week and a relaxing visit. Though, we don’t always get to see everyone, we are thankful to know so many wonderful people.

  • I had wanted to take Lydia to the Como Zoo in St. Paul this summer, but so far it hadn’t worked out. Yesterday, on our way back to Fargo, I decided to get a hotel overnight and visit the zoo. It was so hot and humid, but we had a great time anyway! My favorite part was the Butterfly Garden exhibit—between 800 and 1000 colorful butterflies flying all around us in an enclosed exhibit. Wow! Lydia loved the animals and experienced her first amusement park rides at Como Town (connected to the zoo). Later, we ate dinner, swam at the hotel, and watched HGTV. 🙂

  • I am thankful we went to the zoo yesterday, because we had an adventurous trip back to Fargo today! We got around the twin cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and stopped for a bathroom break and snack. No problem. It started sprinkling as we left the gas station, and after about ten minutes back on the highway, we drove into a downpour of rain! Lightning surrounded us as I prayed for God’s protection and help. Scary! By God’s grace, Lydia slept through the entire storm!

  • Many cars pulled off the road due to decreased visibility. I missed a few exit opportunities because I couldn’t see the signs until too late. I was thankful for a truck to follow, several car lengths back. As long as I could see the truck, I knew I was on the road.I was also thankful for my navigation system because we took a few construction detours in the midst of the storm.

  • After an hour or so, we finally drove through the storm, but it rained on and off until about eighty miles outside Fargo. That’s about 2.5 hours of our ~4-hour drive. Along the way, I pulled under an overpass to check my tires. I was concerned I might have a flat tire, as my tire pressure censor came on. Perhaps I ran over a nail—or perhaps it was just the twenty-degree sudden drop in temperature! I will check out the tire, put in some air, and repair it if needed. But, praise God we arrived home a couple hours ago safe and sound!

  • Now, we are jumping back into our routine. I’m almost finished with two loads of laundry, unloading the car, unpacking, going through the mail, etc. I watered my trees and will probably mow tonight. This week will likely be full—I already have about five people to connect with—in addition to work and my own projects. Lydia is happily playing with friends in the neighborhood. Thank You God for Your grace!

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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)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

A Road Trip to Lake Superior

Over 4th of July weekend, Lydia and I went on another road trip! We drove through several small Minnesota towns along Highway 210. We went through Duluth and on to Bayfield, Wisconsin, via Route 13.

Bayfield was once a booming town on a prominent shipping route. Today, it’s a small town along the Lake Superior South Shore, gateway to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore.

Lake Superior

We drove the six or seven hours from Fargo to meet my parents and two other couples from their sailing club (in Illinois). The eight of us had a fun adventure together!

I was looking forward to seeing my parents and crossing some items off my “travel bucket list.” I have wanted to see the Minnesota countryside, including some of the “10,000 lakes” and Duluth. I have also wanted to explore Lake Superior for quite some time.

But guess what? We almost didn’t go!  It was a lot of work to prepare for the trip. I had to pack for two, reschedule a commitment, plan for our return, etc. I have a couple other big plans (and projects) for the summer, so I wondered if taking time away was a good idea. Still, I was excited for the opportunity, and I am so glad we went!

Lake Superior at night

Lydia is an awesome little traveler, and we had a special time away with my mom and dad. Usually when we travel to Illinois, there are other people or plans vying for our attention. We stayed together in a cute bed-and-breakfast and had perfect weather for the entire trip.

What a blessing!

Our new friends were very eager to show us around. Excellent hosts, they generously took us all on their sailboat, speed boat, and dinghy to explore several of the Apostle Islands.

The first night (Friday) we went out to see the stars. We used the ‘Sky View’ app to learn about the constellations! Lydia loved going fast on the boat ride!

Devil's IslandCove at Devil's Island

Saturday included a dinghy ride to see an old shipwreck. The water was so clear! We also motored out to Raspberry Island to see a light house. We toured the buildings, and it was compelling to think about the history and importance of lighthouses. Such brave men (and their families) gave up everything to ensure the safety of sailors and other travelers.

Sunday was spent on an all day trip to one of the farthest islands. On Devil’s Island, we saw another lighthouse and natural sandstone caves eroded by years of wind and water. The colors were beautiful and I took pictures of the caves, water, and ships passing by.

On Sunday evening, we experienced the Big Top Chautauqua (think old tent revivals). The Chautauqua has been around for 30+ years. Its concerts bring many famous acts, but also showcase local talent. We attended a show called ‘Riding the Wind,’ a musical history of the Bayfield/Apostle Islands area. Lydia clapped along with everyone else. But when asked what her favorite part was, she enthusiastically said, “The hot dog!”

Sandstone Caves at Devil's IslandOn the Dinghy Lydia asleep on the boat

Monday was the 4th of July, and truthfully, the best Independence Day celebration I’ve had in years! With just me and Lydia, the holiday has not been all that exciting. This year, we all boated over to Madeline Island for a parade. Lydia received a beach ball, small root beer float, ice cream sandwich, and some candy. Pretty good for her first parade! She was a little timid at rushing into the street for candy (two things I generally don’t encourage!). But she got the hang of it and had fun!

Monday afternoon, my dad and I joined a blindfolded dinghy race! Dad wore the blindfold while rowing and I was his skipper. We raced around a buoy and back to shore, where I talked Dad through a mini obstacle course. We came in third, but had so much fun!

In Northern latitudes, it seems fireworks start around 10:30 pm, just as it starts getting dark (at the peak of summer). In the past, keeping Lydia up hasn’t seemed worth it. This year, however, Lydia enjoyed her first ‘real’ fireworks show. We sat on the dock and watched a couple different shows with several other sailors!

4th of July 2016

I wonder if the fireworks could be seen in Canada?!

Originally, I planned to drive home Tuesday. But, everyone kept asking, “Do you really have to leave?” Now, if I have learned anything these last few years, it’s that life is short. Sometimes, it may upend our plans. Sometimes, it may be costly or inconvenient. But there are limited chances to spend time with loved ones. We will never regret those moments in the future. Also, an open invitation from new friends doesn’t come often.

I realized that as much fun and adventure as we received, we also brought the same to our hosts. When I thought about all we would’ve missed if we hadn’t made the trip, the choice was clear: We really didn’t have to leave Tuesday. So, we stayed for another great day…and enjoyed a few more adventures!

Deep colors

 We all walked knee-deep in the Sisikiwit River, and Lydia loved the hands-on learning! We found two types of wild ferns, wild roses, and a hummingbird nest. We played in waterfalls and saw many types of beautiful trees. After enjoying a steak dinner on the way back, we saw the most gorgeous sunset heading down across the lake. A front was coming in and the wind picked up. But, we all got some great pictures!

Front coming in

It was a memorable trip, one I hope to repeat. If we had stayed home…the easy choice…we would have missed so much. And, I earned a new perspective on what’s really important!

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God, thanks for a great adventure! Thanks for the grace and freedom You bring into our lives. Help me to have the flexibility to make changes when needed and live the life You have for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Have you been on a road trip lately? Where did you go? Did you learn anything new on your adventure?

Finding Grace #17

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

lake

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

  • This week was fairly restful. I had a gazillion things to do (as usual!), but took them at a slower pace. I just decided to enjoy myself! I treated myself to a massage and went to the chiropractor. Wow, I really needed it!
  • I met with a new friend, and helped her feel more connected at church. We had a long discussion about starting over after loss. She recently moved to Fargo and needs to rebuild her support system. (Her family lives several hours away.) She spent several years running from God, and I pray she will see the pattern of His abundant grace and mercy in her life all these years.
  • When I pick up Lydia from daycare, she always asks if we can go for frozen yogurt. Nearly every day! Usually I say, “No.” and we go home. This week, I told her if she had a good attitude for three days, we would go for frozen yogurt. Man, that worked like a charm. Except it actually took about five days for the three days to really “count.” 😉 But, by God’s grace, she did it! I’m not sure who was more proud!!
  • Earlier in the week, I posted a cute story about Lydia on my personal Facebook page. We had a great conversation about serving the Lord and volunteering at church. I explained, “Someday, you will get to do something to help others know God better, too.” Excited, Lydia said, “Well, I’m going to have lots to do if I am going to do that AND be an astronaut and ballerina!” A radio host/friend noticed it and shared it on the radio! Lydia was in awe as she listened. The hosts encouraged her to dream big and do great things for God. You should have seen her little face!

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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)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

A Road Trip, Relaxation and Pie

Last week, my daughter, Lydia, and I took a road trip to see a few friends and family. Most often, I aim to get to our destination as quickly as we can, with minimal stops. This means we usually combine fuel stops, restroom breaks, and mealtimes, no less! Even beforehand, while packing, I feel rushed and in a time crunch.

It may be efficient, but it is not much fun.

Generally, we start out before dawn and arrive late afternoon. However, this time, we started out later in the day and so I determined to stay at a hotel along the way. I am so glad I did. At each stop along the way, we were able to really soak in the experience. I even felt more peace while packing, knowing that I didn’t have to rush to get ready. We could meander instead.

That first day, Lydia and I visited with a dear family that we had known in Fargo. We enjoyed swimming and eating dinner with them. Then, back at the hotel, Lydia and I had fun watching television in bed. She was elated about having a television, sink, refrigerator and microwave in the same room as her bed. That alone was worth the cost of the hotel! The following day we arrived at our next stop by lunch time—and we were not feeling hurried or exhausted. Nice!

Lydia eating pie and ice cream

On our return trip, we did make the long drive in one day. Yet, I decided to skip the highway and took the scenic route instead. We drove around Lake Pepin on the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin. It added a couple hours to our travel time, but was well worth it. We stopped at beautiful scenic overlooks and interesting historical markers. We even had a picnic by the Mississippi River. After stopping at a park to play for a few minutes, we wandered into the Stockholm Pie Company. Needless to say, I was glad we stopped for some delicious pie and ice cream.

I started to think about Life’s detours and how God uses them. He provides peaceful rest, teaches us and prepares us for His continued work in our lives. When I only aim to get to the next stopping point, I can miss many lovely details. Like any good vacation, I had few pressing matters weighing on my mind. Time could have stood still, and it would have been alright in my little world.

But, on our return trip, I also felt God’s love in unexpected ways. It was as if He had planned the scenic detour especially for me. The warm breeze and sunny day… the classic tree-lined waterline…the kiss of warm pie and ice cream…shared with my adorable little girl… circumstances seemingly designed just for me. That was the most refreshing part of all!

Powers Lake, WI

In the daily hubbub, I can forget to notice God’s voice, which is usually heard best when I am being still. How about you? His grace is always present, but we can miss it because of our own agenda or our fast pace at breakneck speed.

At times, I do have to hurry back home after a long trip. But, I am now content to stop and smell the roses, as they say. Or should that be…Life is short–stop and eat pie?!

Grace and Ice Cream

Grace is like lemonade. Or, grace could easily be like ice cream too. Both are sweet and refreshing—and delicious… (Hey, this dietitian loves good food and metaphors!)

There are times when my daughter, Lydia, asks to ride her bike or play at the park.

But I reserve the right to tell her no!

Well, in true preschooler fashion, Lydia can throw a good fit. Actually, it is more of a high-pitched, slow whine. “Whyyyyyy can I not play outside?! I want to ride my biiiike!”

Unbeknownst to her, I have better things in mind. When I refuse her request, it is not because I’m a mean mom. I simply want to take her for ice cream.

(Which is way better, right?!)

I love to see the look of joy on Lydia’s face when I surprise her with an exciting outing. But, I also don’t tell her much in advance, because young kids have no sense of time. Also, I may determine to save it for a different day if she has poor behavior. Thus, it is better to not mention the surprise until we are ready to go.

Ice cream cone

I wonder if that is how God sees some of our attitudes and requests too! He has amazing plans for us, but He only tells us a little bit at a time. We cannot fathom eternity as God sees it. Some day we will. For now, we can trust in His grace and goodness. His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are our ways His ways (see Isaiah 55:8).

But for now, we get sidetracked because He does not seem to give us what we want. How many times do we miss what He desires so eagerly to give us, because we won’t give up our longings or requests?

Often, God is waiting for us to calm down—so we can listen, put on our shoes, and get in the car. Apologizing for our bad attitude is also a good idea…

(Oh, wait…)

God, don’t let me settle for anything less than Your best. Thank you for not giving me everything I want or think I need. Help me have a good attitude in the waiting. “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6)!