Finding Grace #72

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?

Today, I am praising God for another beautiful week. The weather has been hot, even after a few rain showers. That’s summer… 🙂 We stayed inside during the heat of the day, but then spent time out in the evenings.

Otherwise, it was somewhat low-key with work and writing deadlines. A couple friends helped watch Lydia during my work hours, so I was glad to save some daycare costs.

In turn, I watched some of the neighborhood kids on two occasions while their parents went out. It was a blessing for me to help others; Lydia had fun playing with her friends! It was really funny on Thursday night when I used the radio app on my phone so all the kids could play musical chairs in my front yard! I’m sure it was quite the scene for all the passers-by on the bike path and street!

I worked hard all week to get things done, so on Friday, Lydia and I had a free day. We meandered around town, ran some errands, and went to lunch! Then, we hung out with the neighbors and had dinner with them. It was a much-needed rest day!

Today, we are relaxing, cooking food for a busy week ahead, and finishing up a few tasks around the house. Several of the neighbor kids came over to play, too. They rode bikes, played ‘water buckets’ and ran through my sprinkler, among other activities. It’s been a great end to another grace-filled week! 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)!

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!

Finding Grace #68

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?

We had a peaceful week! For the most part, we focused on work, swimming lessons, and a few projects. I gave two presentations this week, which is always fun. The topic was ‘all about cholesterol’ which reminds me of the days I spent teaching heart healthy classes in cardiac rehab. That was seven years ago, but I still think about those fun times often!

On Monday, a friend and I went to see Wonder Woman. It was a cool movie, especially on the big screen. I recommend this movie, even if you don’t normally enjoy superhero shows. I’m still processing it all, but for now, I will simply say that we all have superhero potential within us. And, with Jesus, we can do anything and everything we need to do.

Once again, I really appreciated the friends who helped me with Lydia this week. She also went to daycare three days, while I worked, but my friends’ help was also invaluable. I was able to focus on a large project and make good progress.

I made a cheesecake in my Instant Pot for a neighbor/friend’s birthday. I delivered it today, and she invited me in for a piece. As a dietitian, I don’t recommend lots of cheesecake…but it does make a thoughtful gift! I made a few alterations to the recipe, but here is the original link, if you are interested!

Today, it has been a good day to stay inside and relax, because it has been a little cool and rainy. Other than visiting our neighbors for a bit, Lydia and I have been watching movies and enjoying quiet time together. I even took an hour long nap!

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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)!

Making Toast in the Bathroom

It’s funny how one day can be so different from the next. On Monday, each of our activities was spaced out with adequate time in between. On Tuesday, we had the about the same time margins with even less activities…but I felt disorganized and unprepared.

On Monday, Lydia started two weeks of swimming lessons in the late afternoon. Water safety is imperative, so the time commitment is worth it. However, adding an activity always gives me less time elsewhere. This week it threw off my routine…

Thus, on Tuesday, I felt behind from the get-go. I woke up groggy, despite getting adequate sleep. It took Lydia awhile to get dressed and I soon realized I forgot to pack lunches the night before. Everything took longer!

I threw together breakfast (and lunch) for the road, but rushing only cost me time. First, I chose a too-small container and had to dump Lydia’s breakfast into a larger one. Then, I spilled something and had to clean it up.

Back and forth, I ran around the kitchen. I grabbed lids, baggies, and paper towels to wipe up my messes. Finally, I looked at the clock as I poured my coffee to-go. I was late!

Enter GRACE.

I took a few deep breathes and prayed, reconnecting with what was important. I thanked God for my flexible schedule. I was later than I had planned to be at work, but I wasn’t really late. As long as I arrived earlier than my presentation, I would be okay. I could stay later and still get my hours in on the back-end of my work day. Not a big deal.

Then, I decided to slow down and focus. No amount of stress is worth a car accident or something worse. Being safe and healthy is more important than being “on time” (especially with my flexible schedule).

On the way to work, I heard a quote…something to the effect that Life is 10% what happens to us (circumstances) and 90% what we make of it (attitude). At any rate, I can choose to see the glass half-full! I ended up only about fifteen minutes later than I had planned and was still early for my presentation. Thanks, Lord.

I discussed my morning with my coworker. She laughed and said, “At least you didn’t have to make toast in your bathroom!” She explained that she had a similar morning when her kitchen outlets blew a fuse. Her family was all ready to go except breakfast. Instead of waiting around to find the problem, she was resourceful!

Praise God, I got ahold of my attitude before it got the best of me. I ended up having a good day and was able to laugh it off. I was productive at work and swimming lessons in the evening went well. I even remembered to prepare breakfast and lunches in advance!

Often, Life is unpredictable and feels out of control. Regardless of your circumstances, you are in charge of your attitude. But, you don’t have to deal with it all alone! With God’s help, nothing is impossible. Lean on Him for grace and strength. His timing is perfect and His plan is good.

Most of our daily stressors are minor. They are not worth losing our cool. Thankfully, most of us will never have to make toast in the bathroom!

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Father God, You are gracious and wise. Thanks for the creativity to solve problems as we live for you. Give us inner peace in the midst of chaotic circumstances. May we bring You glory in all we do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you handle daily stress? Do you pray, journal, call a friend, exercise, or what?

Task: Find a healthy way to de-stress!

Summer Hours

This summer is already off to a great start. I don’t know what it is, but I am feeling super relaxed lately. The funny thing is that I actually am just as ‘busy’ as usual, but I don’t notice the stress. My activities and responsibilities haven’t changed much, but I have switched gears and taken a hiatus from certain activities so I can focus on others.

I generally enjoy each season for what it brings–even winter. But, summer is special because everything just seems easier and there is more time for fun adventures. Routine chores like washing dishes become more simple thanks to outdoor picnics and grilling. Laundry seems to take less time too. Yay for shorts, t-shirts, sandals, and swimming suits!

Summer break doesn’t just apply to school kids. Many families change their schedules, but most colleges and some businesses also have ‘summer hours.’ They may open and close earlier, or take certain days off. Work time is condensed, and play time lasts longer!

I love summer hours because I am reminded me of how good it is to rest in the Lord. Indeed, the long summer days are full of God’s grace. Here in Fargo, at the peak of summer, it is light out until around 10:30pm. Of course, the warm weather and beautiful, sunny skies help. Time almost seems to stand still.

I love how summer reflects God’s goodness in our lives. Last night after dinner, I saw a little bird called a “tree swallow.” The male is dark iridescent blue, with dark wings and a white chest, while the female is brown and white. I’d never seen one before this week, so it took me by surprise. I couldn’t identify the female using my bird book and binoculars… But, thankfully, the male stayed put for more than twenty minutes. It was so cool, and it felt like these little visitors were a gift from the Lord.

The beauty of summer is seen in the flowers it brings. I like flowers that are pretty but don’t take a lot of maintenance. But there are many beautiful kinds! I even enjoy seeing the prairie grass sway in the breeze. It reminds me that God’s love is wild and free.

Summer means traveling to see family, but also spending time with friends and neighbors. Summer is a time of generosity and abundance! It means sharing food, sun screen, water toys, and pool time with each other. It also means popsicles, watermelon, swimming, baseball games, and impromptu campfires.

Of course, summer also brings things that can make us uncomfortable, like heat and mosquitos. Sometimes, the heat warrants a retreat indoors to the air conditioning. But, most often, we learn to deal with it in creative ways. A good reminder about life in general.

I love being outside and catching up with my neighbors. So I bought some new outdoor chairs this week to replace some older, rather uncomfortable folding chairs we’d been using. I’ve also been thinking…God has summer hours, too. Yet, His timing is way better than we can ever imagine. He is always with us and sustains us from day to day, season to season. And from where I sit, it’s easy to see that He loves to take good care of us.

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Praise God, thank You for summer! Each morning shows us Your faithfulness. May we turn our eyes and heart to You when we see the beauty You have created. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What is your favorite part of summer? What are you currently thankful for?

Tasks: Find one new way to relax this week! Invite a friend or neighbor to join you!

Live Like You’re Loved

I’m tellin’ you somethin’
This racing, this running
Oh, you’re working way too hard!
And this perfection you’re chasing
Is just energy wasted
Cause He loves you like you are!

The lyrics above belong to the song, “Live Like You’re Loved,” by Hawk Nelson. I’ve enjoyed listening to the song since I first heard it. But lately, I have been listening to the lyrics a little more.

For whatever reason, I feel like I’ve had noticeably less energy lately. My lethargy could be related to the weather, stress, lack of sleep, etc. (or a combination of factors). However, I’ve been enjoying the rain we’ve had, don’t feel overstressed, and have been sleeping pretty well. So, who knows?

Quite possibly, I could just be worn out trying to doing too much!!

So go ahead and live like you’re loved
It’s okay to act like you’ve been set free
His love has made you more than enough
So go ahead and be who He made you to be

As I have considered these lyrics, I have taken the song to heart. When I think of all I still have to do, I take it to Jesus to help me sort it out. He loves it when we come to Him! I don’t have to be chained to my to-do list!

So, I have been intentional about taking breaks and resting. I’ve enjoyed reading, catching up on a favorite show, and calling a friend. Lydia and I have walked to a nearby park to play, colored, and made a fun treat together. On a couple of days, I’ve even squeezed in a short nap!

And live like you know you’re valuable
Like you know the one that holds your soul
Cause mercy has called you by your name
Don’t be afraid to live in that grace

I am grateful for God’s grace when I feel weak. I know with Jesus, I can do everything I need to do! He is my strength and my song. When I’ve specifically asked Him for help this last week, ultimately, I have been more productive throughout the day!

Yes, the Lord has given me everything I need. His mercies are new every morning and His grace is sufficient. Nothing can compare to His lovingkindness. Praise God!

Live like you’re loved, walk like you’re free
Stand like you know, who he made you to be
Live like you’re loved, like you believe
His love is all, that you ever need

This part of the song (above) is my favorite. It feels a little like a personal anthem. When I remember how much God loves me, I can hold my head up higher. I can smile and laugh and play. I can walk in freedom, knowing He gives me Victory. I don’t have get bent out of shape over imperfect progress. I can enjoy myself instead of stressing out!

“Live like you’re loved” could mean something different to each person and could vary by season of life. I love that we are all unique!

For me, it usually means acknowledging and honoring my weaknesses, inabilities, or failures. This often means asking for help and letting the Lord meet me where I am. Coming to Jesus is the best and first step. Lord, I need You!

I find ‘living loved’ also means recognizing when someone else needs help, because I’ve been there too. When I serve someone else, I notice my problems are not so urgent. Showing compassion is a win-win for all of us!

When I take the time to pause and soak up His love, I notice God all around me. He renews my joy and I can share generously with others. I don’t have to focus on my lack of energy (or other resources)… because with Jesus on my side, I will always have enough!

Life is short. Live like you’re loved!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for all You do for me. Thank You for renewed strength every day. As I depend on You, please give me energy and direct my steps. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What does “live like you’re loved” mean to you? What is something you can do to live loved right now?

Task: Listen to the song, “Live Like You’re Loved,” by Hawk Nelson!

Finding Grace #63

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?

I’m not sure there are enough words (or space!) to describe this week. It was really sweet to see how everything worked out, by God’s grace. It started with Mother’s Day on Sunday, which combined the 4th anniversary of Dave’s death on Monday, always makes me aware of the void in our lives…of all he is missing. However, both days went well. We had lunch on Sunday with a friend and an impromptu ice cream celebration on Monday with more friends. I felt God’s love all around me and many people checked in with me. Thank you!

Lydia’s last day of preschool was on Wednesday, so we prepared end-of-year gifts for her teachers. All year, Lydia had been asking me to get her main teacher a jar of pickles. (Apparently, she likes them!) So, for the last week of school, I finally agreed. We wrapped up two different kinds of pickles along with a gift card and thank you note for her teacher. Lydia decorated the bag with stickers. I hope she found much humor in it, because Lydia was really excited! (I explained the pickles were from Lydia, specifically…not me!) 😉

On Wednesday evening, we also had an impromptu pancake dinner ‘party’ with the neighbors. After school, I dropped their little boy off and we ended up staying. We were trying to decide what to have for dinner, and I said Lydia had been asking for pancakes all week. I ran home (across the street) for pancake mix, oranges, and my electric skillet. My neighbor supplied bacon and sausage! It was so fun (and delicious!)

On Thursday, a friend watched Lydia while I went to the dentist (no cavities!) and did some writing. I really appreciated her help and felt like I got a lot accomplished. Later, we joined our neighbors again for the Fargo Youth Run (one event of many, during the Fargo Marathon week). We all ran the half mile. Lydia was proud of her cape and “Finisher” medal! I prayed for good weather, as it has been a little cool and windy that day. It was a perfect evening for a run!

I’ve had a dull headache all on-and-off all week, so didn’t do as much as I planned on Friday. Instead, we decided to stay home and rest. Praise God! After a brief afternoon nap, I accomplished a few tasks after all. On a whim, I decided to mow the yard because it may rain for the next few days. I’m glad I didn’t procrastinate!

Today, we shopped for groceries before a gentle rain started. Then, a friend across the street came over to play. I did some reading, made a couple phone calls, and prepped some vegetables for the coming week. After a brief nap, Lydia and I are taking it easy tonight. Maybe we will enjoy a movie while it rains!

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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 Spring Cleaning

I have been doing some much-needed spring cleaning lately. I’ve dusted, washed windows, and reorganized some cabinets. I have cleaned those places that are usually overlooked. I still have a lot more to do, but I feel good about my progress thus far.

I have gone through our closets and removed what we no longer need, donating them or passing them onto friends. In Lydia’s case, I’ve removed items that no longer fit! She’s grown so much, and I am preparing for the next season.

Outside, I have pruned the dead off of certain plants in hopes that green shoots will soon start to grow. I have worked on the garage too, though that is an ongoing project!

Our hearts and lives can all use some spring cleaning from time to time. This could be a time of letting go or moving forward. I like the perspective of making room for new things, though the point is not to acquire more stuff.

In order to grow, we have to release “what was” before we can grasp “what will be.”

In a couple weeks, it will be four years since Dave went to Heaven. Four years of making it on the Lord’s strength. Four years of praying it through, knowing the Lord still has good plans in store for us! Because He is good.

On occasion, I will find something of Dave’s that I forgot about. This might include a book on a random shelf or a tool in the garage. I keep what I can still use, but try to address the rest. For the most part, I find it gets easier as time goes by. But there are days when nostalgia (or another wave of grief??) kicks in and it becomes more challenging.

Like faith, spring cleaning is not for the faint of heart!

Letting go or cleaning house doesn’t always mean we have to physically get rid of anything. Sometimes, the best thing we can change is our mentality. As our attitude shifts, we begin to see things differently. This may even lead to other positive changes!

To start, we can let go of a crazy schedule that no longer suits us. We can embrace the peace Jesus promised us. We don’t have earn His love!

We can let go of anger or resentment, embracing forgiveness and a change of heart. Jesus died to give us total freedom. Bring your turbulent heart to Him.

We can get rid of outdated expectations (our own or those put on us by others). We can pray for God’s perfect timing and purpose, knowing He loves us dearly.

We can purge our hearts of fear and worry. We can trust God to make a way, even if it looks impossible. He is more than able.

We can nix the desire to do everything ourselves, or in our own strength. We can always ask for help. And, we can trust God to do what He says He will do.

We can kick bad habits to the curb. We can praise God for the new life we have in Christ!

We can work to live and not live to work. We can rest, trusting God to protect and provide for us. We can sleep, knowing the Lord is watching over all that concerns us.

We can put on love and pass it on. We can share Jesus with our friends, family, and neighbors! We can make a difference in our communities.

With courage, we can move forward in faith. We can rely on God’s unfailing love and abundant grace. His mercies are new every morning!

Praise God!

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God, You are good and Your love endures forever! Thank You for giving us a fresh start every day. Help us rely on You for strength and courage in every season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you done any spring cleaning lately? What did you let go of or remove from your life?

Tasks: As you make changes in your home and life, notice how it makes you feel. Lighthearted? Cheerful? Free?

Finding Grace #59

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!

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

This week was wonderful! We celebrated Easter and I met a new eye doctor.  We enjoyed our normal activities, too. Lydia learned about Jonah and the whale/fish at school. To illustrate the point, Lydia’s entire class was able to go inside a HUGE blow-up whale. It definitely made for a memorable story!

With the beautiful weather, we spent several afternoons outside with the neighbors. I tackled cleaning the garage, putting out my wind chimes, and putting out patio furniture for the season. A morning rain shower on Tuesday made the grass brighten almost instantly. I also noticed more flowers starting to grow!

At church this week, I met a really cool couple from Chicago. It was great getting to know them better and see what God has done in their lives. We talked about how sometimes people think we are really strong after going through difficult times… But we all agreed that it’s because we’ve relied on God’s strength to bring us through!

I also enjoyed getting together with another friend while our girls were in preschool! She and her younger boys came over to play and catch up. With the beautiful weather, we walked to the neighborhood park.

In fact, I am so thankful for all the connections I had with people this week. I felt useful at work, which is always a great feeling. I was able to pray with another friend and encourage her! I talked with other friends about future plans and events. All in all, I am thankful God knows just what I need!

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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 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.