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.

Like A Beast

Yesterday, I enjoyed a movie date with my sister and two close friends. We went to see Beauty and the Beast during Lydia’s school hours. My neighbor’s little boy attends there, too, so her husband picked up the kids while we enjoyed the movie. We had a great time!

It’s always fun to think about how I am like the beautiful heroine. But over the weekend, sadly, I was more like an ugly BEAST! In a rash moment, I made a huge mistake.

In short, I blindsided a dear friend by pointing out some (perceived) faults. I didn’t plan to say anything negative or disrespectful, but I really hurt my friend. I totally blew it. To make matters worse, I kept talking. I tried to backtrack and smooth over what I had already said. But the damage was done.

This friend has many wonderful and admirable qualities, but I didn’t get a chance to mention those. This friend is bold and courageous, yet gentle and caring. My friend has strong character and always seeks to do the right thing. This friend encourages me and challenges me to be my best. My friend is faithful to pray for me and Lydia and checks in with us from time to time. We so appreciate our friend.

Yet, in a few short minutes, I nearly ruined our friendship. At least that’s what it felt like.

So, I apologized and went home. On my own, I tearfully considered all that had gone wrong in such a short time. I had wanted to build up my friend, not tear them down. I try to encourage others, but in this case, I did the exact opposite. I was clearly in the wrong. I offered another apology, but knew my friend needed some time (and space).

The next day, my friend was much more gracious to me than I deserved—honest, but not condemning. Just like Jesus. There’s no excusing my poor behavior that day, and I hope to make it up to my friend soon. But trust is earned.

I’d like to say this is an isolated event. This type of thing doesn’t happen often. Even so, there are lots of other times I have messed up! That’s why I need Jesus!

Jesus is kind and considerate, firm yet caring. He does not jump to conclusions and is always willing to give me a second chance. The Lord is slow to anger and rich in love.

Indeed, Jesus offered mercy and forgiveness before I ever knew I needed it. He saved me according to His grace, not because of anything I have done or ever could do. I could never make things right on my own. (See Ephesians 2:4-5)

Clearly, I’m not perfect… but whether I act as Beauty or the Beast, I am grateful for forgiveness, second chances, good friends and God’s grace!

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Heavenly Father, you are gracious and compassionate. Thank You for being merciful when I don’t deserve it. Thank You, Jesus, for taking my punishment on the cross. Thank You for loving me so much and not letting sin separate us! Help me love like You do. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie? In what ways are you like Belle? In what ways are you like the Beast? (Hopefully, I am not the only one!) 🙂

Tasks: Praise God for His forgiveness! Do a quick heart check to determine whether you need to offer someone an apology or offer forgiveness. Then do it!

A Great Privilege

When someone asks me to pray for them, I consider it an honor. Even if someone doesn’t request prayer, if I see or hear of a need, I add it to my list.

I have been praying for several people regarding what I consider heavy topics. Currently, these topics include mental, physical, and/or emotional health concerns; spiritual matters; financial stability and/or job situations; and a variety of relationship issues.

I also have my own prayer requests and share them accordingly. If I’m not careful, though, all of these prayer requests can weigh me down. Yet I know I cannot bear the burden myself. Prayer is so important because there are some things only God can do.

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Prayer does not equip us for greater works, prayer is the greater work.” Prayer is not the only thing I can do for someone, but it is the best thing I can do. I am not ‘off the hook’ from meeting someone’s practical or physical needs, but prayer is a powerful tool!

I’ve had to learn that if I try to encourage someone or meet their needs in my own strength, I’ll be overwhelmed. It’s just too big for me to handle.

But, praise God…He is not overwhelmed! Nothing is too big or too much for Him!

I’m so thankful we can take our needs to Jesus directly. Even before we say anything, He knows exactly what we need. What a privilege to come before Him!

Prayer unlocks God’s power. We can pray God’s word and pray with the help of the Holy Spirit (see Ephesians 6:18). With prayer, we can persevere in trials.

Praising God reminds us of who He is. When we see how majestic and mighty He is, our problems melt away. Praising God makes us grateful! Praise and thanksgiving go hand-in-hand. (see Psalm 13:6)

We partner with God in prayer. We agree with Him, and get on board as He brings the answer. We can also pray with other believers, because where two or more of us are gathered, He’s there too. (see Matthew 18:19-20)

We can petition God with confidence, knowing He always hears and answers our prayers. We can pour out our needs before Him, yet need to let Him be God. He loves us and knows what is best for us. (see Hebrews 4:16 and 1 Peter 5:7)

Prayer changes me. Whether I am praying for myself or someone else, prayer brings transformation. As I yield my heart, mind, and will to the Lord, I am changed. Prayer prepares me for God’s answer and aligns me with His heart. As I intercede for someone else, I can see the difference in their life as well.

“Prayer is a declaration of our Father’s compassion toward us, a confession of our own inadequacy, and a reminder that he meets our daily needs.” –Mark Rutland

There are many other things to consider or meditate upon when it comes to prayer. Prayer is communication with God, so there is no way this single post could be comprehensive.  Other topics include the Lord’s Prayer, praying through Scripture, and prayer with fasting.

Nevertheless, prayer is a duty and privilege. Let us come before the Lord in prayer!

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Heavenly Father, You are good! Thank You for the privilege of prayer. Thank You for listening and answering us when we come to You. You love us so much. May we always come with confidence before Your throne. In Jesus Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a trusted prayer partner? What is your favorite way to pray?

Tasks: Prayer is two-way communication with God. Balance praying out loud with listening. Try journaling your prayers so you can have a record of Gods answers!

Finding Grace #45

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?

I hope you’ve been staying warm this week! I always appreciate those days where we can stay home when it’s cold, snowy, and blowy. But each day this week, Lydia and I needed to be somewhere (work, school, errands, etc). I’m thankful for my reliable car with all-wheel drive…and for all the years I spent commuting to work during Illinois winters! Praise God for His safety and protection!

I can already tell this is going to be an interesting year. I’m excited for all the possibilities, but know I will need to keep a prayerful attitude. Already this week, I have had to make some small, but impactful decisions. Like always, I’m praying for wisdom and clarity, along with courage to do whatever I need to do (depending on the decision). I’m thankful for God’s input and His provision.  I also appreciate my family and friends who sometimes act as “sounding boards” and help me filter my thoughts! Thanks!

On Thursday evening, I babysat for a family across the street while the parents went to a show. We had a blast! The boys and Lydia were all well-behaved, despite the late night. It was fun to observe their interactions, while playing with stickers, the Light Brite, etc. They even let me play Go Fish and watch their dance party! I was glad to help, and the next evening we were invited for a visit (and dinner!) at their house. I’m thankful for great neighbors!

Today, on our way home from the store, it was about 11 degrees above zero. Heat wave! The sun felt so warm, I nearly had to take off my heavy winter coat while driving. It was wonderful! This next week should be warmer still (in the twenties and lower thirties). I hope to get more time to play in the snow. We have a to-scale version of Mt. Everest just beyond the backyard that keeps calling my name!

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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)!

Growing Pains and Preschool Perspectives

As we quickly move through August, I am keenly aware of the changes coming in just a few short weeks. While my work schedule has been flexible these last few years, soon we will have to live with a little more structure each day.

Yes, Lydia is going to preschool!

This will be the biggest change we’ve had in quite awhile. We are both excited for the transition, but undoubtedly, there will be a learning curve.

Lydia needed only a few items on her school list, but I made a big deal about purchasing them. “Mom, I can’t believe you let me pick out this purple binder! Thank you so much!”

I’m excited to see how she learns, grows, and changes this fall.

Ironically, Ive been both frustrated and so very proud of Lydia within the last week…sometimes in the same afternoon!

Redhawks game

On Monday, we went to her much anticipated dentist appointment. Lydia had SO been looking forward to it for weeks, and has been diligently brushing and trying to floss her teeth so the dentist is proud of her. Pretty adorable.

This, however, was in direct contrast to a few nights before when I sent her straight to bed with no snack. Sobbing, she told me that she didn’t get to brush her teeth…

“But mom, I don’t want to get any CALORIES!!”

Of course, she meant CAVITIES, but I stifled a laugh and let her brush her teeth anyway. 🙂

The dentist appointment went well, and I was pleased with her behavior. She picked out a new toothbrush, new toothpaste, a toy, a sticker… and more floss. Of course!

I thought we’d go to a couple of stores to return some items. Lydia did alright until she saw the cinnamon rolls at the mall. Within a few minutes she had a meltdown and fell asleep in the car. I thought she might be getting sick… Nope. Just cranky!

Or maybe it is ‘growing pains’…

Lydia might going through another growth spurt. She seems extra hungry, cranky and tired lately. In fact, I was surprised to discover this week she has already grown three inches since her birthday last fall!

dentist_Aug 2016

Yes, my little girl is growing up. I’m proud of her for being brave while trying new things. I’m pleased when she requests green peas and devours eggplant lasagna. I’m thrilled when she says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ without being reminded.

But I am also cognizant of how difficult growing up can be. Because she is tall for her age, she looks older. So often, people expect her to act a certain way. Generally, she behaves well, but she does have the occasional preschool meltdown. She’s normal!

I love Lydia’s observant nature, her willingness to help, and her joyous laughter. She loves playing with her friends outside. However, Lydia is fairly social and doesn’t always remember that each family has different rules or goals…and bedtimes. (Nor does she realize why I want her to keep practicing riding her bike without training wheels!)

It's hard being a mom when you have kids.

Lydia thinks that being a mom equates to being an adult. So often she will say, “When I am a mom, I will get to…” versus saying “When I grow up, I will…”

Perhaps that’s because she’s aware of ‘mom privileges’ like staying up later…using the phone and computer…and getting the last bite of dessert! (ahem)

One day, I was trying to get Lydia ready and myself too. We were running late and I was hurrying the process. Perceptively, she blurted out, “It’s HARD being a mom when you have kids!” I laughed and it lightened my load at the time.

Even in the difficult moments, I am so grateful for Lydia.

In many ways, she helped pull me forward after Dave died. I guess I didn’t have much choice. Being so little, she still needed me to do everything for her!

Now she is getting older and is capable of doing most of those things on her own.

I’ve learned so much about God’s love for me by watching Lydia process life. I regularly pray for wisdom in raising her. I also pray for her precious little heart.

As she continues to grow, so do I. And sometimes, I have growing pains too! But praise God, I don’t have to do this parenting thing without His help.

“He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young” (Isaiah 40:11, NLT).

Over time, we have learned to communicate our frustrations and talk through our difficult moments. It is a blessing when Lydia acknowledges her bad attitude, asks for forgiveness, and prays for God’s help to do better. Clearly, I have had to do the same!

It IS hard being a parent. Especially when kids are involved! 😉 But it can be really good too. And even in the tough times, there is much to be grateful for.

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God, thanks for Your grace and patience! Please continue to lead us along the right path. Give me wisdom as I raise this dear child you have given me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: What are some lessons you have learned from being a parent (or aunt/uncle)? Do you pray for your children?

Because He Is Good

With the flip of the calendar, here we are in May! I love spring in general, but it is a little bittersweet as we near the third year mark of my late husband’s death. Over the last couple weeks, I have been praying about this upcoming anniversary.

Once again, the Lord has come through for me in ways only He can. I had coffee with a friend who reaffirmed me on a day I was feeling down. I also ran into several friends at church, and each time, God used them to lift me up with encouragement. In all these instances, I didn’t mention I was sad. But it was reassuring to see how God met my need. He is so good to me!

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Dave was thirty-four when he died, which is far too young. He was diagnosed after an emergency surgery in May 2012. He died 364 days later. It was a wild and chaotic year, but God was ever-faithful.

This spring, I am a little sad, yes.

But mostly, I am still so proud of Dave after all these years. I admire how he handled his cancer with grace and courage. I’m grateful he did not give up.

Some people may think that God let me down because Dave died. Yet, I do not feel that way. In fact, I saw God do so much more than we could ever dream. He answered big, audacious prayers and small, silent ones. It was an awful situation, no doubt. But, God was so kind and generous.

Already Stage IV, Dave’s prognosis wasn’t great at the start, but God gave us those 364 days anyway. Some people get longer, but we relished every moment we had together. I’m thankful Dave didn’t have to suffer any longer than that because it got to be pretty intense those final weeks…

Psalm 46_1

What’s more, I’m so grateful for all God taught us that year. Dave had a servant’s heart like no other, but realized he couldn’t out-give God. He learned to rest in Jesus’ sacrifice because we can’t earn God’s grace.

For me, perhaps the lessons felt much more dramatic. Emotional roller coaster is an understatement. Our cancer journey brought out some of my worst traits. And trust me, I could be a bear at times! But, God’s grace and mercy were more than enough even then.

God provided wonderful friends who helped us, often with little advanced notice. He provided extra comfort for the worst days and gave us many joys along the way. As Dave himself said, it was a “phenomenal year.”

God used these extreme circumstances to prove that He is bigger than my fears. Every. Single. One. That alone was one of the biggest breakthroughs in my life.

He set me free indeed! What grace!

Can you believe these last three years have been some of the most fruitful years of my life? It’s not been easy, though God is redeeming my pain. He has rebuilt my life from the ashes. And because He is good, I am still standing!1 Corinthians 15_57I don’t know what you are dealing with today. Maybe everything is peachy keen. But, likely it’s not. If you are struggling with something, take it to Jesus. Let Him be your refuge and strength, your righteousness and your defense—He understands exactly what you need.

You simply cannot figure out every detail and outcome of your life. Believe me, I know! But if you place your trust in Jesus alone, He will lead you through it all. Let Him be your peace. He will bring you to Victory!

God loves you and is for you! Yes, life is hard. It doesn’t always turn out like we want. But God can handle everything that concerns you. And ultimately, if your hope is in Him, you will not be disappointed!

I know that full well.

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God, great is Your faithfulness! Thank You for being a trustworthy refuge. When we are afraid, may we place our hope in You. We overcome and have Victory, in Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: How has God come through for you lately? How can I pray for you?