Merging with Grace

Well, today’s post turned out differently than expected. I had a different—I thought better—piece written, but changed my mind late last night. I had been concerned with some key changes happening in my life…

I am starting a new job today!

My former workplace was acquired by a larger healthcare company through a merger. With this new opportunity, I have had mixed emotions. There will be some growing pains as with any transition. But all in all, I think it will be good. My job and my desk probably won’t change much right now.

It’s been a big prayer on my heart these last few months, so I was going to write something about challenges or transitions… But then I had a good, godly conversation last night and my heart changed. I also received a few well-timed messages from other friends. And suddenly, my “big concerns” just didn’t seem so important anymore!

Regardless of what happens, God is in control. My job may change, but He is unchanging. No problem or concern is too big for Him. Jesus loves me. His plans for me are good. Once again, He’s got this!

Now that I am excited for this new season and opportunity, my topic evaporated! So, I decided to go another route instead and share Scripture verses Ive been relying on lately.

We must build our lives on the solid Truth of God’s word…not our dreams, circumstances, or feelings! Praise God, I don’t have to be afraid!

Regarding Psalm 118:24 (above), it’s easy to praise God on bright, sunny days when everything seems to be going well. But we need to remember to praise Him on cloudy, difficult, or uncertain days too!

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.” A great reminder!

I also love 1 Corinthians 15:58, which says, “So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.” Amen! God sees you and knows how hard you work.

This next verse is similar. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people”(Colossians 3:23, NLT). Another version says “work at it with all your heart” because really, we don’t work for a paycheck. Ultimately, the Lord is our Provider and we work for Him. Let’s be diligent!

God cares about every little detail and moment of our lives. Even the tough ones! “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Galatians 6:9, NLT). JESUS is your treasure and your reward!

I dont know how my new job will pan out. There are valid pros and cons on both sides. But, I can move forward with grace knowing God will work it out! I can give God the chance to bless me with my new job. I can let Him show me just how much He loves me—how much He cares.

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Heavenly Father, thanks for your grace. Thank You for being God so I don’t have to be. You are a wonderful Provider. Please bless the work of my hands. Give me peace and rest as I trust You to do the work through me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Did any of the verses above jump out at you? How can you apply them to your work or volunteer situation? Do you have any verses to share with me?

Tasks: Write down meaningful verses on an index card and meditate on those words throughout your day. Write down a prayer to the Lord with the verse. Let it sink into your heart and bring new life.

7 Steps to Making Wise Decisions

It’s only January, but so far I have already made some big decisions that will have impact on the rest of the year. It has been fun to see all the possibilities! But it can also be challenging with all the unknowns. I don’t like a lot of risk!

Of course, in a perfect world, I would love to know all the details and have all my plans figured out in advance. But for me, that’s where faith comes in!

“Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1, NLT). In the midst of Life’s uncertainties, we can trust God’s plan.

God already sees the end from the beginning. His plan for you is GOOD and He’s given you everything you need to follow that plan. Yes, He’s got you covered!

Those who know me well would say I am a thorough decision-maker and planner. But some choices are worth more than others. And at times, I have two options that appear equally beneficial. Occasionally, I have the luxury of putting off a decision; I can delay making a choice until I have more details.

While that stability is great overall, it can also make me slow to make changes. Sometimes big decisions won’t wait that long! My ‘strength’ can become a weakness when I really should jump… instead of stall!

Thankfully, I have several steps to help me decide faster when I need to!

It’s not a formula, but it does help me avoid regret!

1.     First, I pray for wisdom to know what to do and the courage to do it! I picked up this phrase from a friend, but I like the dual purpose. I usually remember to pray for wisdom, but sometimes I can still be afraid to do what I need to do. I cannot make wise decisions if I am not seeking the Lord. At the same time, I cannot move forward without courage. More often than not, this means doing it afraid!

2.     Next, I make a pros and cons list. This seems obvious, but once I get all the information down on paper, it stops swirling around in my head. As the fog of indecision lifts, I gain clarity on what really matters.

3.     Then, I consider my feelings and motivations. While I can’t make decisions based on feelings alone, I do gather input. Am I excited about this opportunity? Do I feel strongly that it is important? Why do I want to do this?

4.     Taking it one step further, I separate my passion from my feelings. Each of us was born for a unique, God-given mission. Our passion can point us in the right direction. That doesn’t mean it is easy, however! In fact, it can be tempting to give up or walk away when challenges come. The danger is that we may not fulfill God’s call on our lives. Often, those tough moments are what God uses to refine us. So, I discern whether I need to stick with the commitment…and lay aside my feelings…or forgive someone…or make other changes. If God leads me to something, I can trust Him for the next steps in His timing. I don’t want to quit when God wants me to stay and grow!

5.     I also review some lessons learned from Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. In brief, this includes counting the personal cost. Do I have the time, resources, and energy for this? How will it affect my family and other commitments? (and much more!)

6.     I consider the long-term impact of my choice. How will I feel about this in 6 months? 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? (You get the idea.) If we are not careful, we might make decisions too quickly without considering the sustainability of the choice.

7.     Last but certainly not least, I seek wise counsel. When weighing every option is too much for me on my own, I need help. This is NOT rehashing my problems with everyone I meet. This is intentional discussion with those who love me enough to tell me the Truth. I present the facts, concerns, pros and cons to those I trust so they can give me feedback. Typically I ask for input from godly people who are older and wiser (or, someone who has been through something similar). I regularly ask my parents, aunts/uncles, pastors, and other friends who have insight to share.

For me, many of these steps are fluid. I may go back and forth between them until I have peace. If I don’t have peace, I hold off until I do. This has saved me so many times!

Praise God…Jesus is the Prince of Peace!

Then, I sit back and have confidence. I know I gave it my best shot. And, if for any reason I was wrong, God still has my back. It might be a learning experience or a blessing in disguise. He will work it out for my good and His glory!

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Father God, thank You for grace and love! Thank You for providing peace and joy as we serve You. Please give us courage as we make wise decisions, Lord. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How do you make decisions? Do you have anything to add to the list above?

Task: Identify one or two trusted friends or advisors the next time you make a big decision!

Finding Grace #46

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 favor—His abundant grace—this week?

This week felt like a blur! Lydia and I had a full week, with our normal activities, but also had some extra events too. This week, I needed some wise counsel before making some decisions. I had the sense these decisions would dictate other important choices and events this year. (Don’t you love all the unknowns in Life’s adventures?!) Praise God, everything went well! Thank You, Lord for wisdom, peace, and clarity as I make decisions and plans!

By Friday night, I was mentally drained from a week of meetings, deciding, and planning. I was exhausted as I drove to a women’s event at church. But since I invited a friend, I knew I needed to go. I’m so glad I did, because I was refreshed as I sang praises to God with so many wonderful ladies. I was encouraged as I listened to three ladies share their stories of God’s faithfulness. I was energized by connecting with old and new friends. It was just what I needed. What grace!

This week I’m extra thankful for Lydia. Everyday, she has used her manners before I reminded her. She has done well entertaining herself without prompting. We’ve had less whining and more cheerfulness. And like her Daddy, she is a great little organizer. Thank You, Jesus! As I decluttered two bathroom drawers, Lydia tossed old items and sorted like-items. I’m proud that she came up with several good ideas on her own!

Today, Lydia and I Skyped with family in Illinois. They were gathered for a belated Christmas party. We didn’t make it home, but are thankful for technology so we could check in! As I hung up, I thought to myself, “I have the best family! Thanks, Lord!”

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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)!

Good Goals, God’s Grace

Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a good start.

Do you make any New Year’s resolutions? Or do you choose ‘a word’ to mark your year?

When considering options for this year, I thought about making changes, choosing a word, or trying something new. But in the end, nothing really resonated with me.

So maybe I will just keep on my current path! That’s a good thing because I don’t think I could appreciate 2017 without my focus from last year.

2016 became a year of rest for me. I felt the need to apply more grace and more space to my everyday life. Once more, I realized I can only do so much. If I don’t remember to take care of myself, I won’t be able to take care of anything (or anyone) else.

Last year, I focused on getting adequate sleep, taking breaks, and keeping a restful mentality. It sounds fairly simple, but it required some effort! The hardest part was cutting out extra activities and distractions. I had to decline many new activities (even some really good opportunities).

I said “no” to finishing my to-do list every day (even when it kept calling my name!). I pushed back deadlines when necessary, instead of trying to push myself to reach an unreasonable goal.

With that restful attitude, I redecorated my house and make it a better representation of our life now. I’m so thankful I did, because now I have a better perspective going forward.

In terms of goals and growth, I don’t like to make drastic changes (though, sometimes I probably should!). Instead, I’d rather adjust my habits. It’s not rocket science, but it does take some determination. Because, of course, I like to take my sweet time

This year, I am developing more self-discipline and consistency in my life. Nothing really new—just less excuses and procrastination! I am not adding any new tasks, but I have tweaked my routine—the timing and structure of it all!

Not super glamorous, but necessary.

Sure, I have specific goals for sleep, exercise, reading, water intake, and more. The common theme, however, is waking up early to accomplish these goals before Lydia wakes up. Or, at least as many of them as possible!

I could go on and on about SMART goals, accountability, or setting up a tracking system. I will spare you all that—but I am amazed at what I can do with a proper bedtime!

By simply readjusting my timeline, I’ve been getting enough sleep and using my time more wisely. I’ve had more energy early in the day, and sometimes can cross off a few more tasks. Generally, I have more wiggle room in my day…and a better attitude all around!

Of course, theres always something to potentially derail me. Even this morning, I have had to switch things around and save them for later. Ill always be a work in progress…

Thank God for His sweet and refreshing grace!

Still, I have a feeling that 2017 is going to be our most exciting year yet. There will be challenges, important decisions, and transitions. Lydia will start Kindergarten and we may try to squeeze in a trip or two. We have lots of options ahead!

But, truthfully, I can’t do it on my own.

I cannot maintain any level of success in my own strength. Trust me, I’ve tried and failed many times! A (recovering) perfectionist’s worst nightmare! 😉

Yes, the only way I will be successful is if I seek the Lord’s input first.

If I am too busy, always running around, I can’t ‘hear’ from the Lord. A slower pace and a more open schedule means less stress and more ‘listening time.’

God created me to do good things and He has the best plan for my life! So it’s wise to check in with Him before setting my schedule (see Ephesians 2:10).  A huge timesaver!

My victory comes from the Lord. My help comes from Him, too! Jesus sustains and defends me. His grace is more than enough to meet my need. I place my trust in Him!

So set goals. Yes, absolutely! But pray too. Ask the Lord for help.

Life is short. Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter. Only Jesus brings real, lasting change. Commit yourself and your plans to Him. Then you will have true success!

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Father God, thank You for the gift of Today. Thanks for new mercies, grace, and opportunities. Show me the path to take. Help me accomplish the tasks You have for me. I trust You, Jesus. In Your Name, Amen.

Questions: Are you trying anything new this month or year? How is it going?

Tasks: Commit your tasks and plans to the Lord. Trust Him to help you accomplish all He has for you!

Finding Grace #16

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!

creek waterfalls

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

What to say about this week? In all honesty, I felt so overwhelmed by technology! I spent way too many hours with computer problems on Monday, as I wrote in Ctrl+Alt+Del. Yet, it gave me some perspective. Then, later it the week, I tried about a dozen times to download MS Office with a (still valid) code. I probably tried about a dozen times, taking around 45 minutes each time, but only received error messages. Grrr!

For me, daycare is a necessity each week. I try to maximize my time when Lydia is there, so I can be present when we are together. Still, it’s an internal battle because I never feel like I get everything done. And Lydia doesn’t understand if I still have “work” to do; she just wants to play and have fun! (I’m pretty sure every parent struggles with this!)

So this week, I planned to use my “daycare time” to finally read (skim) a couple short manuals for online resources I use. I haven’t put much effort into learning how they work, so that was a major goal for this week. But the computer issues sidetracked those plans.

Enter God’s grace. When filtered through the lens of grace, I was able to regain my peace. I spent a little creative time cooking in the kitchen and realized that most of my “to do” list wasn’t urgent. My goals will still be there tomorrow! As long as I make a little progress, they will eventually get done. While computer problems are frustrating and inconvenient, they are not my main thing.

I realized I can try to force my plans to go one way, when God gently redirects me on another path. Sometimes I have to ask for help, which can be difficult to do. Often, I should be more realistic on what I can actually accomplish. Occasionally, it’s good to take a break and circle back around another day. But most of all, I need to remember:

People come before projects.

Even though I was annoyed with my computer and the lack of “progress” it caused, by God’s grace, I was purposeful in the areas that really matter. Clearly, being Lydia’s mom is priority, as are my other roles. Like being a good neighbor, friend, sister and daughter (not necessarily in that order). So, I made a few phone calls to family, sent a few messages to friends, and met a few needs that presented themselves as a result.

I took some extra time with Lydia each day. We built a fort, watched a movie, read some books, and played outside. We each focused on having good attitudes, and all things considered, it was a good week! And, today, I decided to try one more time…and successfully downloaded the program with help from online support. Thank You, 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)!

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

Before and After

According to Donald Miller, every great story has at least six to eight “story turns” or “life turns.” Generally, the plot is built around story turns. These are pivotal moments in the story because once a character goes through that ‘door,’ they can never turn back. These moments change the character and life will never be the same again.

Story turns can be good, like getting married, having a baby, or landing a dream job. (The positive stress that comes with those is called eustress.) Somehow though, moments of distress seem to be the most memorable. Is that because we tend to focus on the negativity, or because they actually have the most potential to bring change?

time for change

I don’t always appreciate change. I like my comfort zone! Often, change isn’t comfortable, but it is good and necessary long-term. Change makes life interesting!

Two of my biggest story turns felt like a one-two punch: Dave’s cancer diagnosis followed by his death 364 days later. I had to learn to walk a new path. Things feel better (most days), but that’s largely because God has carried us as we have adjusted to our new normal. It still feels crazy sometimes, but God keeps reminding me to rest.

Dave and I learned so much when he was sick. But after Dave died, God brought me to a whole new level of grace. Grace for myself. I simply could not keep up with everything on my should-do list. So, I had to relax my standards…and then relax them again.

I knew if I was going to get through the grief process, I was going to need God’s help. Grief is a process. Change is a process. It hasn’t been easy, but in His strength, I’ve been able to accomplish what He has for me to do (Philippians 4:13). Jesus said He would never leave me, and I have chosen to trust Him to show me the way. I’ve relied on His power, and He has given me His peace (John 14:27).

Colossians 3_15

As a Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, I often see “before and after” client photos or food journals. It is gratifying to see the differences after even a few changes are made. Many of them are difficult to implement, but carry life-changing potential.

So, here are some of my “before and after” snapshots (figuratively speaking):

Before, I tried to plan my way to a perfect outcome (or life). Now, I keep planning in perspective. My new motto in many areas is, “Close enough is good enough.” (It doesn’t apply to everything, but it’s a really good ‘get out of jail free’ card most days!)

Before, fear was closely linked to my perfectionist tendency to plan for all contingencies. I often had a nagging feeling that something could go wrong. Now, I praise God fear is no longer a stronghold in my life. I have learned to let things go… In fact, I rarely have any fear at all. And when I do, I catch it right away and deal with it.

Before, I worried about decisions, trying to figure out all the details in advance. I still believe planning is wise, but I don’t over-plan due to fear and worry. Now, I wait to make a decision until I have peace about it. Of course, that doesn’t mean I know all the information beforehand. But, I’m okay with that now. I don’t have to have ALL the answers to walk by FAITH. I know God will come through for me, so I wait for His peace.

May 15th 2016_Three years

Before, I would do everything I could to avoid confrontation. (I was also more of a people-pleaser!) I respectfully address and resolve conflict much quicker now, not letting simple issues drag on. Perhaps I have a shorter fuse now. One thing I do know is that Life is too short to get worked up about petty issues!

Before, I was always busy but didn’t feel like I made much progress in any area. After Dave died, God streamlined my focus. So now, I am doing less random activity, but having much more impact in areas that are important to me. I have felt much more fruitful and productive these last few years.

How about you? What are your biggest “before and after” moments?

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God, You are good! Thank You for writing our stories with Your love and grace. Thanks for being with us on the journey. Draw us near to You, in Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: As you look back on significant “life turns,” can you see how God shown His faithfulness to you? How has your life been changed as a result?

The 12-Hour Turnaround

It is amazing what rejuvenation can come from a get-away. Lydia and I spent almost a week in Illinois, while we visited family and a few friends. It was just the ‘reset’ I needed.

Usually, we drive there and back in two days, stopping overnight each time. This adds a couple extra days to our trip—which is fun, but not always feasible. So, this time, we drove for twelve hours all in one day to Illinois and then the same road trip back to Fargo.

Now we have taken this route numerous times in nearly six years. And we have done the long all-day trek several times too. But this time was different.

sunrise from car

On this road trip, I needed a major turnaround. Yes, an attitude readjustment!

It could’ve been related to not sleeping well the night before. Perhaps it was the sense of leaving family and comfort behind. Maybe there were other factors too—like postponing breakfast—but I was in a funky mood at the beginning of the trip!

It was still dark as we started out. After a little while, Lydia fell back asleep. As I listened to her soft snoring, I started to reflect upon all we were driving back toward (in Fargo). There’s nothing like a little distance to give you some perspective!

Before, on the way to Illinois, we were driving toward family. But, as we drove back to Fargo, there was a void. I also realized as the third-year mark of Dave’s death approaches, we have been making these trips without him longer than with him.

I continued thinking about lessons learned, how many things have changed. Lydia has grown so much! Also, at least eight families—much of our support system—have moved away for various reasons. Though, God has been faithful to provide new friends and a wonderful drop-in daycare!

Other aspects of our lives are fairly steady. I’ve taken huge leaps forward, yet I feel there is still so much to do. Sometimes it is overwhelming. Though we love calling Fargo home—and have no plans to move—it has not been without challenges.

As we made our way North, I turned on the radio. I have a SiriusXM subscription which is awesome for traveling. I don’t use it often in Fargo, but on Monday, I was thankful for the encouraging words on The Message (Channel 63).

With God-focused songs, like Trust in You by Lauren Daigle, I knew I needed to give all my fears and frustrations to God. When I fear, I forget God’s faithfulness. But, the truth is, the Lord has been so, so good to me. He is kind, generous, and trustworthy. I don’t have to worry, because the He is in charge of all the details.

two arrows

As the hours rolled by, Lydia and I sang and talked. As I feasted on God’s grace and truth, a weight lifted. The closer we got to Fargo, the more light-hearted I became. Soon I was confident, hopeful, and trusting God again. What a relief knowing I don’t walk this path alone!

God continually gives me opportunities to trust Him at a deeper level. Oddly enough, I found new motivation to make some changes I previously resisted. My resistance is not on purpose, but I can be stubborn!

Being stuck in my car, I was open-minded to make changes regarding my daily routine. It’s funny how sitting in the car all day makes me want to switch up my exercise plan! 😉 Now, I have a renewed vision for Fargo and am excited to see all the Lord has in store!

“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

Following God is not always comfortable or easy. But, it is so worth it. God is for me not against me. He gently redirects me when I get off track. I can trust Him because He loves me so much!

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Father God, thanks for Your unrelenting grace and love. Thanks for never giving up on me. Lord, I need You—I cannot make it on my own. Help me trust You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What are your favorite music tunes for the car? Has God ever changed your heart during a road trip?

After the Leap

Did you do anything special to celebrate Leap Day this week?

For me, it was mostly like a regular day. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lydia in her gymnastics class. There were moments when I laughed wholeheartedly at the kids’ antics. They were trying so hard!

Their attempts at cartwheels, crab walks, and the balance beam had me rolling. These cute tumblers practiced somersaults and log rolls. They jumped on a trampoline, chased each other, and crawled through tunnels. The kids had such joy!

There was plenty of leaping, jumping and even some marching. When the kids fell, they got back up. When they failed, they started over. Occasionally, they asked the teacher for help. Other times, they skipped over a station if they didn’t know what to do. Interestingly, none of the kiddos were concerned if they landed correctly or not.

They were carefree and having fun!

trampoline

As you know, February 29th only comes every four years. That’s 1461 days. Yet, it goes by quickly. When I consider that four years ago, I had an infant and today, I have a preschooler…WOW!!

I also think about all that has happened in those four years, including a baby, parenthood, cancer, widowhood, grief, hard work, writing, serving, and lifelong friends.

Perhaps the last four years have turned out differently than you expected. Likely, you faced some disappointments too. Yet, most things turned out way better than I could have ever imagined. I am grateful and forever amazed to see God’s hand in it all.

It’s curious that there are a few days between Leap Day and March 4th (Forth)… What happens between leaping and marching forward? To me, that middle ground represents that transition time spent adjusting… changing… waiting… and overcoming doubt. It’s like the struggle before the victory. After the leap, it’s necessary to steady your feet before you can take any ground.

leap

Maybe you leaped into a new venture recently and aren’t sure what to do next. It probably looked exciting at first, but are you facing uncertainty now? Maybe you didn’t land where you anticipated or you’ve lost your footing.

Remember: It’s okay to pause and ask the Teacher for direction or clarity. God is eager to help us when we ask! Take some time and regroup, sure. Refocus and get some perspective.

Find your balance, yes. But don’t wait too long and don’t let fear stop you. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7).

Taking things day by day can make time seem slow—and it can be difficult to see progress. But don’t be discouraged or lose hope. By faith, trust that God’s plan for you is good. Get excited about what He is doing and have fun! There’s great joy in His presence!

jumping off table

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him” (Psalm 28:7).

Whatever happens in the next 1461 days, don’t worry about the outcome or end results! Let the Lord set your pace. Soon you’ll look back with amazement at how far you’ve come. And yes, God will work it for good if you trust Him (see Romans 8:28).

So keep your head up and keep marching!

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God, You know all of our days before any of them ever occur. Thank You for being with us on each step of our journey. Helps us keep moving forward. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What would you like to see happen during these next four years? What steps are you taking to move forward?

A Lovely, Unexpected Retreat

This past weekend was Valentine’s Day. Normally, at this point, I wouldn’t give it another thought. Historically, Dave and I didn’t do much because the recent holiday season also included his birthday and our wedding anniversary. We might’ve watched a movie or made tacos, but nothing over-the-top.

But, God surprised me this weekend with what felt like a Valentine’s retreat! He rearranged my schedule and I enjoyed a much slower pace as a result. As a busy single mom, it felt like a getaway—even though we stayed home—and was just what I needed.

lake and chairs

Jesus said, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly” (Matthew 11:28-30, MSG).

On Friday, friends came over to visit. When we spoke the day before, I mentioned an important meeting I had planned. Thus, our time together would be limited. But, we decided to squeeze in a play date anyway.

Well, for reasons outside my control the meeting was rescheduled and our friends were able to stay longer. We enjoyed catching up and our girls played so well together. After that, Lydia and I ran some errands. While we were out, our neighbors invited for us over for an impromptu dinner/play date.

That also was refreshing—and we stayed there about two-and-half hours past Lydia’s bedtime. After we walked home, Lydia helped me finish some laundry. She cheerfully exclaimed, “It’s my job to help you fold the laundry!” And, I don’t even think she was trying to get out of going to bed!

relax-stone

Thus, on Friday, we spent about seven hours with two dear families. I think we all were encouraged that day. I went to bed in awe that God would arrange such a lovely day on my behalf. I rarely allow the opportunity to just sit and relax. (I’m working on that!) It was completely unexpected, and I didn’t realize how much I needed that down time. I was also thankful for the community God provided during a (potentially) bittersweet weekend.

Because of Friday’s change of plans, I incidentally had more free time on Saturday too. I took Lydia out for lunch after she passed her very first series of ice skating lessons. After sticking it out for six weeks, I was so proud! Lydia was proud too and sighed with relief, “I’m so glad I passed that class!”

That afternoon, we watched a movie, read books, completed puzzles, and even took a short nap. Then, I called a few friends and family like I normally do. I enjoyed each moment!

On Sunday, we stayed home and rested. It has been months since I lounged all day and did nothing in particular—not even chores. It was peaceful with few interruptions! I did prepare meals for the upcoming week, but even then, I enjoyed the creative outlet. And, it didn’t feel like work!

books

Lately, I have been busier than my normal for this time of year. I have several good ongoing commitments and projects—but they require lots of energy. Ironically, by resting during our little unexpected staycation/retreat, I feel renewed in my focus. It was delightful to realize God had a wonderful weekend all planned out! I felt so special to Him!

If you are overwhelmed with life or even frustrated with a project, consider pausing and reevaluating your schedule. Is there something you can postpone or remove?

It’s worth taking a break because REST is a part of Restoration!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for restoring my soul with a peaceful Sabbath. Thanks for Your loving grace that covers me. Help me implement more rest and relaxation so I don’t get burned out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: How long has it been since you last took time to rest and relax? What personal benefits could be found in choosing a slower pace?

Learning to Love Plan B

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength—carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” ~Corrie ten Boom

As a planner, I enjoy knowing what to expect. But for most of my life, I was also a world-class worrier. In hindsight, I know my worries were rooted in fear…because God’s plans for me are good (Jeremiah 29:11).

Todayisagift.

Fear sucks the life out of the present moment and causes needless anxiety. Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

Worrying steals from Today as we obsess over future “what ifs” that may never happen. When we seek His presence, we stay in the present moment. There is no room for fear!

Worrying kills the joy that comes with expecting God’s goodness and blessings. When we anticipate what He will do on our behalf, there is excitement. If it’s God’s plan, it will not fail!

Worrying destroys our faith in God’s grace and provision. By holding onto our imperfect plans, we hinder God’s best for our lives. When we pray instead of worry, our trust grows. God empowers us and makes us brave as we move forward!

day-planner

Planning for contingencies is wise preparation. But worrying adds no value to the end result. Plans frequently change, yet God’s peace is constant. Hence, the lack of peace is a reminder to let Him lead (see Colossians 3:15).

It seems Life is like being guided through an obstacle course while blindfolded in deep woods. God alone knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). He designed the specific way each of us should go, according to His unique and special plan for us.

Here is how I imagine it: One person is guided to the left to bypass a tree, while someone else is directed to duck under a branch. Still another person crawls over muddy roots to avoid disaster. We may go in the same general direction, but God builds character through different life circumstances. (Cue Plans B, C, and D…)

When blindfolded, the weaving, bobbing, and details just don’t make sense. Only as we look backward does clarity come. It can be challenging to trust God to lead us forward. And, we might get a few scratches along the way. But the other option is to ignore God’s vision and run into a tree, figuratively, of course. 🙂 We walk by faith, not by sight.

Plan B

We don’t have to worry. In fact, God command us: “Do not fear.” While we can’t always see the path, we can walk with God each day. He will prepares us for what is ahead. On this lifelong adventure, it would be foolish to move ahead of Him. Let’s plan to trust God!

“Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NLT).

When Dave got cancer and died, my worst fears came true! But God’s grace held fast. When everything fell apart, He remained in control. When I relinquished my ideas (Plan A) for His greater plan, I was finally freed from fear and worry. As I learn to love Plan B, there is joy in the journey. God continues to take care of all that concerns me. Praise the Lord!

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God, thank You for working on our behalf. Give us wisdom as we make plans. Help us not get ahead of You and Your perfect timing. Thank You for Plan B. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What do you tend to worry about? Can you envision what it would be like to not worry anymore? What can you “let go” of to have more peace?