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!

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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)!

Little Red Library on 8th

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” –Harry S. Truman

Recently I decided to put a ‘little free library’ (LFL) in my front yard. An LFL is essentially a free neighborhood book exchange. Typically, it consists of a wooden, water-resistant box on a post in a yard or common area. But, I have seen other creative LFLs like a repurposed newspaper vending machine or a telephone booth. The ideas are endless!

A few weeks ago—right before my birthday—my neighbor across the street pointed out an LFL a couple blocks away. I was hooked on the idea and immediately started considering options for my yard. The more the merrier!

The ‘caretaker’ of a little free library is called a steward. I asked for input from the steward of the library near me. He was kind to answer my questions and provide some insight into the decisions I was making. Lydia and I also went on a scavenger hunt around Fargo to see others and get ideas for what we wanted to do.

I have already been to that other little library about four times out of curiosity! However, I wondered if an LFL closer to my area might get a different level of traffic. We each live near the same school and parks, but I am closer to about seven apartments and see a lot of foot traffic from kids, dogs, and bikes.

Either way, I don’t think you can have too many book exchanges in one area! 🙂

While many people decide to build their own little library, I decided to purchase everything. For me, it came down to cost versus time and ease. Without the right tools and experience, it was worth a little money and peace of mind to make sure everything was done well. Plus, I wanted to beat the cooler weather!!

I used birthday money from my parents and in-laws to cover some of the cost. Books were a huge part of growing up for me. I have always loved to read and learn through books. In fact, each year, my mom volunteered to listen to kids read at school.

Mom was an extra pair of ears for the teachers. Indeed, many of my peers still attribute their reading skills to her sitting with and listening to them. Similarly, my mother-in-law has worked with children for many years, too. So it seems fitting to honor them in this way.

It felt like perfect timing in that everything I ordered was delivered exactly five minutes after my aunt and uncle arrived last week. It was a blessing my uncle could help me with this project on a moment’s notice! I’m so grateful!

“The more you read, the more you know.
The more you know, the smarter you grow.
The smarter you grow, the stronger your voice,
when speaking your mind or making your choice.”

The overall goals of the little free library movement are to strengthen communities and inspire readers. Going to the regular public library is good too! But some people just won’t get there (due to a variety of factors). Plus, then you have to return those books. 😉

With the LFLs, you don’t have to return the books. Of course, it is good manners to return or at least replace the book…but not mandatory. Yay for stress free reading!

I’m excited to see what books pop up in the little library.

Reading is not only fun, but it can be empowering, too. Reading opens up the world of imagination and creative thinking. Books can lead to great conversations and exchange of ideas. Books can teach and offer different perspectives.

To me, good reading skills are key to lifelong learning. I read somewhere that if parents can foster the love of learning in their children, they are more likely to be successful throughout life. Apparently, the love of learning is a better predictor of success than having access to the best schools or athletic opportunities. Interesting!

Either way, reading and sharing books is a great idea! For more information, check out littlefreelibrary.org. There is even a world map of all ‘registered’ little free libraries online.

You can also follow along on my new Facebook page, find me at Little Red Library on 8th. I will highlight books in the library each week. I welcome book donations, too!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for Your love and grace! Thanks for providing a fun way to share books and reading with others! Please protect this little red library and bless all who participate. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you enjoy reading? What types of books or genres do you prefer?

Tasks: Follow Little Red Library on 8th on Facebook. Join in the fun! Take a book, return a book, share a book!

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!

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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?

Finding Grace #72

I love giving God a shout out for what He has done. We don’t do that nearly enough!

You may have seen the acronym GRACE as God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. Grace is also God’s unmerited favor, or God doing for us what we cannot.

I find grace overflowing in God’s love, joy, peace, blessings, mercy, power, provision, protection, and wisdom. Thank You, Jesus!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!
There’s grace in every situation we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Making Toast in the Bathroom

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

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

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

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

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

Enter GRACE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Task: Find a healthy way to de-stress!

Summer Hours

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding Grace #57

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

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

This week was good overall! We enjoyed a birthday pool party for a little family friend on Monday. She was born about six weeks before Dave died, so she is quite special to us. We’ve enjoyed seeing her learn and grow over the years. It was fun catching up with her parents and older siblings as well.

We’ve had a beautiful week weather-wise! It was bright and sunny most days, and I happily wore shorts on a few occasions. On Thursday afternoon, I sat outside with a couple neighbors while our kids played together. A few other neighbor kids joined us for riding bikes and scooters, chalk on the sidewalk, snacks, running around, and other shenanigans. An exciting early start to summer!

One highlight of my week was enjoying the serenade of a little finch 3+ days in a row. At first, I thought he was a purple finch. However, later I decided he might be a house finch. Either way, he was red/brown and quite cute. He sang his heart out, without a care in the world! As I listened, I remembered God sees and cares for every detail of our lives.

Lastly, Lydia lost her first tooth! She diligently wiggled it all week and last night, just before bed, it came out. She was very proud of herself. We plan to get some frozen yogurt as a special treat to celebrate this milestone!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

Finding Grace #43

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 was rather low key…just how I like the last week of the year to be! This post will be rather short today, because there wasn’t much ‘new’ to report. However, God’s grace still abounds in the more mundane parts of life! 

I went to work this week, as usual, though some of my coworkers were ‘on vacation’ so it was quiet. Still, I was thankful to focus on my work and make progress on a couple projects as a result! Lydia told me she was proud of all my ‘hard work’!

This week I have been finishing up end-of-year details, budgets, and bills. Not super exciting, yet I was amazed to see God’s grace in my review. He always does a good job of providing for us! It can be challenging for me to make so many decisions on my own, but I am grateful for His help along the way.

In reviewing my budget and setting financial goals for the new year, I am excited to see what 2017 holds in store. God has been so faithful. I always want to be a trustworthy steward and honor Him with my money. I want to be generous to others and pray for wisdom to make good decisions in the new year!

Otherwise, Lydia and I have enjoyed a relaxing week. We’ve played games and watched movies together. We’ve snuggled, danced around the house, and made new recipes! A good week indeed! Happy New Year!

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These are only a few examples, but God’s grace never runs out!

There’s grace in every situation—we just need to look for it. God promises if we seek Him, we will find Him (see Jeremiah 29:13)!

A 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?