Finding Grace #80

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?

Sometimes, life get so busy that we fly through our days and miss what God is doing. This week was full like usual, but I was able to slow down and see the Lord move in personal ways. On Sunday, it felt like God had my number… The sermon coincided with a class I lead at church. The six participants were struggling and we had a great conversation about how to stay close to Christ and put him first. I love when God uses me to encourage others! I’m excited to see how the rest of the class goes, too!

I met some more coworkers in my field this week. We had a meeting and I was able to  envision some new opportunities in the near future. No major changes, just little things to make me feel like I am contributing to the team. I wasn’t sure what to make of the merger this spring, but so far, it has been a blessing in disguise. Praise God!

On Wednesday evening, Lydia and I went to church for the Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ) program. JBQ is like a Bible-based quiz bowl competition that gets God’s word in young kids hearts. This is Lydia’s first year and she loved it! I also helped by quizzing kids on the topics/questions of the week. We are both looking forward to a fun year!

Besides writing for the blog, I also wrote a little article for my small neighborhood magazine. In the article, I introduced my little free library to our community. I’ve seen several people stopping by, even from outside our area. Lydia and I are having fun with this project and will probably go on another library scavenger hunt soon!

All in all, this week was very rewarding. I enjoyed a massage, talked with family, celebrated a friend’s birthday, and made some cheesecake to share with other friends. Lydia went to bed super early last night and woke up in an excellent mood after 13+ hours of sleep. I enjoyed relaxing while she slept! Praise God…Here’s to a fun weekend!

*******
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)!

Heroes Among Us

Monday marked the 16th year since 9/11 happened. I was in college and remember watching the television in a commons area while I was between classes. Initially, I was confused about what occurred because it was completely unexpected and I had no frame of reference for it. As more details became clear, I was glued to the media. As horrific as it was when the two towers fell, there were also amazing stories of heroism.

On Monday, I watched videos online about 9/11 events and found more stories of heroic men and women. These courageous and unselfish men and women lost their lives but saved many others.

In one short video, a man named Rick Rescorla, was on the 44th floor of the South tower when he saw the North tower on fire. He went against orders to stay put and told everyone to evacuate the South tower. After most of his coworkers left, he went back to help other areas. This heroic man was last seen racing up the 10th floor stairway to help more people. Minutes later the tower collapsed—but not before 2700 people escaped.

With tears, I thought to myself, “Wow, what would compel him to respond that way?” In that moment, I remembered reading Luke 16:10 just prior to watching the videos. This verse states that if you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones…

Instantly, I realized…that man was just being faithful. He simply took the next step, the next right choice. I didn’t know him, of course, but I would bet Mr. Rescorla’s decision was an extension of his character (and perhaps his position at work and military background).

He had probably been making similar choices all along—yet with smaller impact—for years. I’m speculating, but I imagine he had been faithful in the small things, and when “the big thing” came, it was a ‘no brainer’ for him to look out for others.

It had likely become second-nature.

I’ve noticed that many heroes have similar reactions when asked to explain their actions. While we are in awe of their bravery, most heroes humbly shrug off the attention, saying, “Oh, anyone would have done the same thing I did. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Most heroes don’t consider themselves extraordinary.

So it seems each small choice really does add up over time. I’m sure Mr. Rescorla didn’t think about how ‘qualified’ he was that day. There wasn’t time! He just stepped up to do what he could in that moment. He used his voice and his authority to make a difference.

Some people put their lives on the line nearly every day, such as the police and those in the military. I’m thankful for these heroic men and women.

But even without training, you can be a hero right where you are. Today.

Hopefully, you won’t be faced with life-or-death decisions! But, we can all reach out to help a friend, neighbor, coworker, or even a total stranger. Think of all the recent stories just from people affected by hurricanes or wildfires…

You may be a hero to someone and not even know it. Be a good example for those who are watching. Be faithful in the small things—the often mundane tasks—and sooner or later, you see the difference you are making!

**********

God, thank You for giving us grace and wisdom! Help us be brave and bold as we walk through life with You. Guide us each day and give us eyes to see the needs around us. May we be quick to respond. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Where were you on 9/11? Who is your hero?

Tasks: Find a place to volunteer your time. Or, donate some money to a cause that is important to you. Be consistent and faithful in your commitment.

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!

**********

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?

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!

**********

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 #75

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. We enjoyed my mother-in-law’s visit before she left on Tuesday. Then, Lydia and I ran errands and relaxed before the rest of the week picked up.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I attended an all-day work training. It was really good, and I felt like it was meant for me. Now, I am a ‘lifestyle coach’ for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. Instead of teaching the year long program, I facilitate it. This is much more collaborative and research shows great success long-term. In some ways, I felt like I was designed to run this program. As much as I enjoy teaching, I think I enjoy facilitating (listening, asking questions, coaching) even more. I’m excited to be a part if this exciting program! Even better, I earned 10 hours of continuing education–and my company reimbursed me the training fee. Praise God! Of note, a dear friend graciously volunteered both days to watch Lydia. I am so grateful for her help and God’s provision!

Last night, Friday, Lydia and I joined our neighbors to watch the grand finale of the Pyrotechnics Guild International. The PGI creates new fireworks each year, so it was quite the show. We sat in a nearby parking lot with snacks…so we didn’t have to deal with as much traffic! It was a fun and beautiful night!

Today, I have been celebrating my birthday! Normally, I have something planned out, but this year, I just decided to meander have a low key day. We visited friends and just hung out. I’m thankful we because I was able to enjoy the slower pace and savor each card, gift, call, text, email, or social media shoutout. I was also available for deliveries of flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries during the day. 🙂 To extend the celebration, tomorrow, I will go to lunch with a friend after church!

Recently, I came across the idea of the little free library. I’ve seen them before, but just noticed one in my neighborhood this week. I love the idea, and have a lot of my own books to share. So, I think I will buy one (or get some help building one). I just have to figure out the details on what the options are. Reading and literacy is a valuable skill to pass along!

*******
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)!

Rest: A Holy Staycation

This last week has felt somewhat like a staycation. It’s been great! My mother-in-law came to visit, so it was a good opportunity to let a few projects sit. We enjoyed our time with her doing things we don’t usually do. Of note, we also registered Lydia for Kindergarten in a few weeks!

I’m celebrating another birthday this week, and it seems timely to regroup and get refreshed before a new season starts. Around each birthday, I reflect on the previous year and make changes if needed. But this time, I am taking a wait-and-see approach.

While Lydia and I are both excited for the upcoming transition, there are a few details we just don’t know yet. We have about all the information we could possibly have, but some of our decisions can only be made as we go.

Instead of worrying, I’m thankful Jesus knows what we need and is preparing us! In the meanwhile, I can pray for wisdom and guidance. I can soak up His unfailing love and never-ending grace. I can trust Him to see us through!

I can spend quality time with Lydia, knowing that as she starts school later this month, those times will be fewer and far between. I can also refine my self-care routines to ensure I have enough energy in my tank. This includes getting adequate sleep, eating healthy foods, and making time to exercise.

Most of the time, I feel like I have a million things to do. Nonetheless, it seems like the Lord always brings me back to a certain point… REST.

In some ways, this time of R&R is like a ‘holy staycation’ with the Lord! Instead of running off to the next thing, I am using this time to be with Jesus.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that God often moves s-l-o-w. Sometimes I grow impatient while I wait! But, when I embrace the same pace as Him, I am refreshed and rewarded.

Following Jesus requires us to stay close to Him. In times of transition, it is even more important to seek Him and listen for direction. With all the noise around us, we can’t hear His still, small voice unless we walk close in step with Him.

Interestingly, a quick Bible search on the word “stay” yields 246 results. As I briefly peruse the list, I see that when God asked someone to stay, He had further directions or blessings for them. And at other times, He prepared the path ahead. He honors our commitment. (As a side note, sometimes people refused to wait patiently for the Lord and it cost them!)

For example, the Israelites stayed at Sinai for the Ten Commandments. Rahab stayed home and was saved at Jericho. Jacob stayed with Laban and eventually married Leah and Rachel. Ruth stayed with Naomi and met Boaz. Even Jesus stayed where He was, before He left to raise Lazarus from the dead, to God’s glory.

Indeed, I love when God directs my steps, like He did recently when we cancelled our Glacier National Park trip and when my mother-in-law came to visit. At times, He has specific activities, meetings, directions, and even special encounters for us.

And sometimes, He leads us to rest. Praise God!

**********

God, thank You for leading us as we walk with You. Thanks for letting us rest. Please guide us in this next season. We commit our path to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Is God asking you to stay and rest or get up and go? How do you know the difference?

Tasks: Instead of figuring out your next steps, just rest. Let the Lord lead You in His timing.

 

Finding Grace #74

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 so much fun. I enjoyed coffee with a friend at church on Sunday, and then we went to a neighbor girl’s bowling birthday party! Of course, when we returned home, Lydia wanted to play with the neighbors who just went to the party!

I bought myself an indoor recumbent bike (like at a gym) and it came this week. I like riding my other bike outdoors, but the weather will only cooperate so long in Fargo! Plus, I can’t go for an early morning bike ride without Lydia. So, I am thankful and look forward to many years of use. (My treadmill is going on ten years old, so it is nice to have another option too!) I was also proud of myself for putting it together all by myself!

The new indoor bike prompted me to reorganize the downstairs workout area. Most of my equipment is inexpensive and has been acquired over the years since college. Still, I have already enjoyed using each item more than before. This works well for me as a single mom because it would be a challenge to find a babysitter each time I wanted to go to the gym (or go for a solo run or ride). It also saves me a gym membership.

For the last six months, I have had a friend living with us. She simply needed a place to stay while she figured out her next steps. My guest room downstairs provided adequate space; she even had her own bathroom! She moved out this week into a new apartment, but we really enjoyed our time with her. She was a big help in watching Lydia and we became even closer friends. I’m so thankful we had the opportunity to help in her transition. It was both a joy and a win-win. Praise God for good friends and His provision!

My mother-in-law came to visit this week, which is always fun! She went with us to buy school supplies and a new backpack for Lydia. Then, we went to a local farmer’s market, a donut shop, and specialty tea shop. We also ran a few errands and ate at some yummy restaurants. I appreciate the special attention she gives to Lydia!

Today, a friend came over to help hang some new garage lights. After several months, I am happy to finally cross it off my to-do list! I already did what I could on my own, that is putting in as many new bulbs as I could. A neighbor helped me earlier this summer, but back then, I still had to buy replacement lights for those that no longer worked. Three of the four-foot lights needed replaced, and even with a ladder, it was too much for me to do. So, I was very thankful my friend could stop by! It was a big help!

*******

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.

**********
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.

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!

*******
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!

**********

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!