Filled with Joy

This week, in addition to Thanksgiving, we are celebrating Lydia’s birthday! Regarding gifts, Lydia only requested one thing: a little toy bird. Of course, I bought it and kept it as a surprise. Actually, I bought her two because I couldn’t decide between them…

Then, a couple weeks ago, we were discussing her birthday. On a whim, I jokingly asked, “Well, what if I don’t get you a gift? Would that be okay?”

To my surprise, Lydia didn’t even blink. Immediately, she cheerfully replied, “That’s okay, Mom! You could just draw me a picture instead.” She went on to explain, “That’s what I do for you since I can’t go and buy you gifts when it’s your birthday or Christmas.”

While I was touched by her response, Lydia probably figured she would get gifts from other people… So perhaps she wasn’t concerned with missing out on a gift from me.

In the past, Lydia has gotten cards or presents from friends and family in several states. A good Father, God always makes sure she is taken care of. She is well-loved!

On her birthday, Lydia took popcorn for a snack at school. Then, at lunchtime, I joined her class for their meal. I also saw most of our little neighborhood friends. It was a fun experience! The kids were so excited to have a visitor.

 Overjoyed, the kids wiggled as they stood in the lunch line. They each wanted to sit next to me, show me a trick, or tell me an interesting story. The principal read a special Thanksgiving story, and I enjoyed talking with Lydia and her classmates.

After school, we went to Cherry Berry for frozen yogurt. Then, we came home to open presents. Lydia was happy with my gifts—a puzzle and two little birds that sing and can repeat what you say. (I may be regretting that soon!) She also received gifts from friends and family. Thank you!

Over the years, I have learned so much while watching Lydia learn and grow. She loves to read and do math! It is amazing to see her become who God intended. Indeed, she has many of Dave’s best qualities. I know he would also be so proud of her.

This season (and birthday) is our fifth time celebrating without Dave. Sometimes it can still be a little bittersweet. Each year has been so different, yet the Lord has been so kind and generous to us. The joy of the Lord is my strength!

Nothing can replace Dave, yet while we miss him, we keep moving forward. God loves watching His children grow through trials and walk in Victory. We can always celebrate His goodness and grace because God’s love never fails.

These days, I don’t often cry because of grief. Instead, if I am teary-eyed, it is usually because I am so thankful for all the Lord has done for us!

This week—and through this season—we will celebrate our many gifts, new milestones, and our dear friends and family… This year, our hearts are filled with joy.

Thanks to all who continue to encourage us and check in on us from time to time. Thanks for all your prayers and support! It means so much to us. We are truly blessed.

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Father God, You are so good and gracious. Thanks for taking such great care of us. Help us remember just how much You love us. Let us share Your love with those around us, especially during this holiday season. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What are you thankful for? How have you grown this year?

Tasks: Call a friend who needs some encouragement during this season. Take them a meal or invite them over to visit. Be a blessing to them!

Finding Grace #88

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 with 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 was a good week! We received a little snow this week, but most of it is gone now. I bought a new snow shovel and snow boots, both of which are a great blessing. Thankfully, the snow was mostly in the evenings. We didn’t have to drive much in the slick weather.

On Thursday, I went to our new Aldi store. It is over in Minnesota, but not too far of a drive. I was trying to hurry, so didn’t spend too much time there. I bought a few items for much cheaper than normal. I’m not sure if the gas money was worth the savings, though. Nonetheless, it was fun to visit a familiar store that reminds me of my family in Illinois!

Lydia had Friday off of school for Veterans Day. We enjoyed a fun day at home and took some time to discuss the meaning of the holiday. Today, we put together puzzles of the United States. We also watched a video about veterans who had suffered major wounds in battle yet were not letting the loss of limbs keep them from living a full life. This prompted a lot of good discussions regarding perseverance, bravery, and gratitude. Thank you, veterans!

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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 #87

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 much different than expected! I thought it was going to be really tiring with all we had to do, yet by God’s grace, I felt energized at the end of the week. On Monday, a meeting was rescheduled so I found myself with an hour of ‘free time.’ I put that time to good use with other tasks and lightened my load later in the week.

Of course, this week included Halloween, which always brings me mixed emotions. God knows I’ve dealt with enough fear in my life…even without scary monster costumes! But, I try to make the best of it, anyway. Lydia and I had fun passing out candy. Then, on Wednesday, we enjoyed a party at church with games and candy, too!

Work went well, and I had fun meeting with patients. I felt the Lord’s grace and blessing on me as I worked! I finished my tasks in a timely manner and even brainstormed ideas for some future projects.

I had a fairly productive week overall, crossing many simple tasks off my to-do list. I returned emails, edited some files, mailed some packages, wrote some thank you notes, paid bills, and ran several quick errands. I even added eye hooks to my little free library boxes, to help secure the doors from our crazy winter winds. I’m thankful for how the Lord directed my path and brought me peace of mind as I finished so many things.

We received more snow in the last few days. Most of it has already melted, but I think we are in full-on winter mode. Lydia had fun playing outside with the neighbors today, though their snowman has already fallen over. While Lydia played, some friends returned my snowblower after they fixed it. So that was perfect timing!

With several unexpected changes this week, I found myself enjoying some extra peace and quiet. I used that time to connect with the Lord and express my gratitude to Him. Now today, Lydia and I are relaxing. So far this weekend, we’ve read some books, put together puzzles, caught up with housekeeping tasks, and made some yummy foods.

Tonight, we gain an hour thanks to daylight saving time. I usually stay up an extra hour, thinking I will get more done or watch a show. Maybe I should just go to sleep, haha! Regardless of what you choose, don’t forget to set your clocks BACK one hour.

God is good!

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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)!

Taking Heart and Giving Thanks

Ah, November. Halloween is now over, and so we are in the holiday season!
In writing this, it hit me that this is also the season where so many personal celebrations occur. In years past, this was a very difficult time. Now, I am surprised it’s already here!

The fact that it snuck up on me after all this time is (I think) a good sign… that or I’ve lost my mind! 🙂 Last year was the best holiday season thus far, and so I hope this year will be the same or even better.

Lydia’s birthday is just before Thanksgiving this year. Then, in December, we have several family birthdays. I’m sure we will do something special on Dave’s December birthday, too.

Of course, there’s Christmas, followed by New Years, and our wedding anniversary in early January. I’m not thinking that far ahead, but the fact that I am not dreading ANY of it is worth noting.

This year, I’m extremely grateful. The road has been rough at times, but here we are four-and-a-half years later. I’m still standing—and even looking forward to this season. Praise God!

For anyone who is struggling, I’m so sorry. It could be grief-related, or due to other factors. I understand the mixed emotions that occur at any special event…but perhaps even more at this time of the year.

In years past, there were times when I didn’t even feel like celebrating. I just muddled through it as best I could. I let go of my expectations and took extra good care of myself, too. Instead of rushing, I rested.

This is my fifth holiday season as a widow, and each year has been so different. I plan to take it easy this year, seeing each moment as a blessing.

I wish I could say it’s easy, but each of us experiences grief, loss, and/or the holidays on our own terms. That’s perfectly alright. Take heart, and do what you need to do. Those who love you most will understand.

Since we are in the Thanksgiving season, perhaps one way to give thanks is simply to praise God for where you are right now. If you are in turmoil, this is especially important. Instead of shutting Jesus out or staying self-centered, find something—anything—for which to be grateful.

Even small wins count. Hey, we’ve made it this far, right? Praise God for that!

You don’t have to thrive in every single moment. Surviving still is a Victory in my book.

If you want to build gratitude, start with being grateful for this day…this moment. Start there, and then add to it. Write down your blessings. Don’t forget to breathe.

As you survey all that God has done for you, take in His abundant grace. His love really is all you need. Also, don’t fake brave. With Jesus, you don’t have to pretend. You can ‘ugly cry’ with Him! (Trust me, I know!) Let Him soothe your heart like only He can.

You may have a wide variety of emotions during this season. That’s normal! But take your heart to Jesus and remember: God alone never changes. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He is with you. He is for you. And, His love never fails!

God’s strength will give you joy and courage. If you let Him, Jesus will take your anxiety, fear, doubts, questions, even your tears. He knows exactly what you need in this season.

So take heart. Trust Jesus, and be grateful.

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Dear God, thanks for taking such great care of me. Thank You for showing me Your love and grace in every moment. Please be with me during this holiday season. I cannot make it one minute without You, Jesus! Give me joy and be My strength. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Are you thriving or surviving this holiday season? Are you willing to let Jesus carry you through to Victory?

Tasks: Worship always brings me comfort. It helps me express my heart on days when I am struggling. To start, listen to this song: “Lord, I Need You” by Matt Maher.

Finding Grace #86

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 goodness and grace! We had our usual activities with school, work, church, but also had a pumpkin painting party at Lydia’s school. It was fun to see her in action and meet some of her new friends.

At home, I met a writing deadline and then finished housework. Often, if I am focused on writing tasks, I put off other things. The mental effort takes a lot of focus and I don’t want to waste my energy. 😉 I’m sure most people do that to some degree, with their own priorities, but it feels good to get caught up around the house.

I had encouraging conversations with many people this week. I had a great time talking to one person in particular. A man, who recently moved to the area, told me his story. He spent the last ten years in about thirty different locations around the world. Part of this was related to his military experiences. He’s gone through some harrowing trials, including post-traumatic stress, yet, God’s faithfulness was evident through it all. What grace!

After a busy week, I’m relishing the calm weekend. Over the last couple of days, we received our first snow of the season…in October! It was only a light dusting and didn’t stick around for very long. It was quite pretty, nonetheless! Lydia and I spent much of today indoors, just relaxing and having fun. Thank You, Jesus!

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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)!

Grace for the Freak Outs

This past weekend, I was right in the middle of making lunch when Lydia rushed into the kitchen. “Mom, come here! I need to show you something in my room!”

I thought she might be ‘crying wolf’ and I couldn’t really stop what I was doing—unless it was a real emergency. So I asked, “What’s wrong, Lydia?”

Already back in her room, she yelled down the hall, “There’s a rip in my comforter!” Then, she quickly added, “And I don’t know how it got there!” Funny how she covered her bases… 🙂

I shrugged, then replied knowingly, “Oh, that’s okay. I already saw it. Don’t worry about it!”

To Lydia, it was a big problem…She wanted to fix it right away. I noticed the rip a few days before she did. Yet, her over-reaction was precisely why I didn’t mention it earlier!

The comforter—actually, a multicolored quilt—has held up surprisingly well over the years. I received it as a pretty birthday gift when I was young. It is special to me, but certainly not an heirloom. Hopefully repairs can be made… but it was never meant to be a long-term solution for Lydia’s bedroom.

As I thought about our brief conversation, the Lord spoke to my heart.

When problems arise in my life, I often want a quick fix. I often want to do it all myself! But He sees it differently. God sees opportunities for character refinement. Qualities like patience, gentleness, and perseverance are far more important than my present comfort.

Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega. He sees the end from the beginning. He already knows the solution long before the problem even appears.

Wow, what grace! God knows more about my problems than I do!

Jesus is not only the ultimate problem solver, He is the SOLUTION. I, for one, have no clue how each random problem will unfold. Yet, no detail is hidden from the Lord.

Some of my problems are resolved quickly and easily, while some linger for what feels like forever. Yet, His thoughts are so much higher than ours and His wisdom is unsearchable. Indeed, nothing is a surprise to Almighty God!

At the end of the day, Lydia is not bothered by the fact she doesn’t have a different, newer comforter. She trusts that I have her best interest in mind. In fact, she seems proud that I let her use it! Someday, I’ll certainly let her pick out her own comforter.

Mainly, I’ve been holding off because if I buy something now, she probably won’t take care of it. At this age, her interests change as fast as the latest fad. I want something that will last, and for now, my old quilt works well enough…

As for me, instead of worrying how to make ends meet, I will keep trusting the Lord. I won’t freak out over each little problem. He loves me dearly and has never let me down. I will not miss out on any good thing He has for me. He always takes such good care of me!

God’s timing is perfect. His plans for me are far greater than I can imagine. Someday, I will look back and wonder why I was so concerned with____________ (fill in the blank). For now, I’m beginning to see the wisdom in not telling me the details too far in advance!

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God, thanks for taking such good care of me. You know all about my problems and You guide me through each one. Help me see You instead of focusing on the chaos around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Is there a problem that is causing you to freak out or over-react? What is the Lord asking you to do next?

Tasks: Remember, God knows more about Your problem than you do. Trust Him!

Finding Grace #84

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 really good! We had a lot going on this week, though God was faithful to help us get through it all. My entry way light was replaced, which is a huge blessing. Now, I can cross it off my to-do list (after nearly a year of putting it off!).

This week, we had several late nights, due to meetings and activities. We had fun though! Surprisingly, Lydia wasn’t overly tired from staying up late. I had her take a nap one after school one day, which really helped. Perhaps she is also just getting used to the early mornings now!

Tuesday and Wednesday were full with work, writing, and church. At work lately, sometimes I’ve been using a new office in a different building. But I’ve called tech support about a half-dozen times for various issues. I had to request a certain program to be installed. Then, I had problems with logging into it. I also had to call about my printer, my mouse, and my phone. Hopefully everything is up to speed soon!

We haven’t been on any major road trips for a few months. But today Lydia and I went to Jamestown, ND, for a Junior Bible Quiz (JBQ) meet. We probably won’t travel to too many meets this year, but we enjoyed this one about an hour-and-a-half away! I didn’t have many expectations for Lydia, since this was her first time. Mainly, we were going to check it out so we know how everything works. Hopefully, when she is older, she will be able to jump right in! All in all, we had fun with friends and enjoyed a beautiful fall day!

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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)!

Note to Self: Don’t Fake Brave

What surprises me the most about grief is both the depth of the wound and the healing it requires. Thankfully, I gave the Lord control of that long ago. His ways and thoughts are much higher than mine; I trust Him to teach me and take care of me.

On Monday morning, I called my writing coach to discuss a special project. Part of his job is to point out growth areas and things to work on. I trust his professional input!

During his critique, my writing coach mentioned, “You must’ve been in a hurry to finish this piece. It reads like you were trying to be brave.” I had unintentionally chosen a safe route, glossing over some details which might provide more meaning and context.

As we talked, he said, “You have your public life and try to be brave, but on paper you don’t need to be brave. This is where you show how you are really doing.”

Wow, I thought and tearfully scribbled a quick note to myself: Don’t fake brave.

Grammar aside, my coach pointed out a common problem. We often put on a smile to face the world and hope people don’t see our struggles. We try the ‘fake it till you make it’ approach. That might work short-term, but long-term, we don’t have to be superheroes.

In real life, just surviving a traumatic event is a Victory. You don’t have to thrive in order for it to count. Whether you run, walk, or crawl through the muck, it’s a win as long as you keep going. Don’t give up!

Also, we don’t need to compare our struggles to someone else’s successes. What I consider a Victory may differ from someone else. Bravery looks different for each of us. That’s okay!

For example, on Monday, bravery looked like tossing an old, holey shirt, even though it was a treasured gift from Dave. Even small wins are good!

Monday evening felt like a Victory, too. My entry way lights have been flickering for quite some time, and I finally got around to asking for help. There were several minor issues to address, but everything turned out better than expected.

I’ll have to buy a new light fixture, but that’s not too bad. At the same time, it was bittersweet because if Dave was here, he would have taken care of the lights on his own.

Ironically, the electricians were impressed with the breaker switches in the fuse box. I explained how Dave had labeled each one. Silently, I remembered how thoughtful he was. I felt the loss.

While the electricians were super friendly, I tried to hold my emotions together. I didn’t want to overshare with strangers! Yet when I did explained my situation, they offered to help install the new light. It was a blessing to be brave!

Yes, Monday was a great reminder of the Lord’s grace. He helped me navigate through each situation in ways that moved my heart and brought healing. Praise God!

All of us practice bravery every day in big and small ways! 

My point is: With Jesus, we don’t have to fake it. He knows our pain, weaknesses, fears and failures. Yet, He eagerly carries our burdens and never leaves us on our own. Lay down your defenses and come to Him just as you are.

With His abundant grace, the Lord provides more than we need to get through life’s troubles. As we seek Him, He comforts us with his strength and joy. He makes our path straight and smooth. That doesn’t mean life is easy…but it is better with Jesus.

Sometimes being brave is not fun or glamorous. For me, it can mean difficult decisions and occasional tears. But, instead of focusing on life’s trials, I celebrate God’s goodness and faithfulness. I can be brave (for real) because His love never fails!

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Heavenly Father, You are so good. Thank You for carrying our burdens and giving us joy. God, give us the courage to come to You and be brave. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: In what ways do you fake being brave? Do you think that is helpful or a hindrance to healing?

Tasks: Don’t fake brave. 🙂 Let Jesus shoulder your burden. Journal through your grief or other challenges. Share your heart with a trusted friend.

Finding Grace #82

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 was a fun week, and we had some great weather overall. School and other activities are going well and we find ourselves settling into the swing of things. I had a work meeting, and it looks like I will soon be seeing patients more consistently. That makes me glad because I like feeling useful and productive!

On Monday, there was no school, thanks to a teacher development day. It was cooler outside, so Lydia and I relaxed indoors by playing games, reading books and watching a movie. I also got ahead on some housework, but I liked having a calm day together without a lot of running around. I also caught up with family, which is always good!

The fall has brought weather in the sixties, but we still have had a lot of sunshine. I mowed for (hopefully) the last time this season. If anything, I may have to mow once more, but now will be focusing on getting the house and yard ready for winter.

With all the lovely weather, we’ve still been able to outside with the neighbors! Most of Lydia’s friends are in school, so we value anytime we can connect with them. One evening, we even ate pizza with one of the families. I love our impromptu get-togethers!

On Wednesday night, on our way home from church, Lydia said, “Mom, I know how to spell God: G-o-o-d!” Part of me didn’t want to correct her…because God is good! I shared this on my personal Facebook page because I felt it was profound. Then, on Friday, a friend who is on the radio shared it on her morning show. She timed it so Lydia could her it before school. It was exciting for Lydia to be featured with an encouraging message!

Today, we received a package of books for our little free library with an encouraging note! It was from some college friends, now residing in Indiana. That was such cool surprise and thoughtful gift from them and their four children! Thank you!

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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)!

All I Can Do

Lately, I have had the honor of praying for a variety of people. These prayer requests include everything from relationship issues, health problems, job uncertainty, financial strain, parenting difficulties, big decisions, relief from natural disasters, and more.

I’m glad to pray for others and share their burdens in practical ways. But as I consider these needs, along with my own, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. On my own, I am totally inadequate to handle them all. Thank God for Jesus!

I don’t need fancy words or impressive deeds for Jesus to answer my prayers. He eagerly waits to hear from each of us because He loves us so much!

When life is just too much to handle on my own, I need Jesus.
The converse is also true: When life is going well, I need Jesus.

 Sometimes, all I can do is draw close to Jesus. Anytime I need help, I can lean on the Lord, my Rock. He is my strong tower so I run to Him. When I don’t know what else to do…sometimes, that’s all I can do.

When I fall, I know He will catch me. When I humbly surrender everything to Jesus, He lifts be back up–better than before. The good news is that Jesus readily offers His grace and truth, strength and joy, mercy and forgiveness. He is so good!

Whatever I am facing—bad or good—I can bring it to Jesus. When I leave the issue in His hands, I can rest and pray, listen and obey.  He is mighty to save.

I can choose to trust God over my feelings. I can choose joy and gratitude over fear and self-doubt. I can choose to stand in Victory instead of living defeated. He is the Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace!

I can choose to forgive myself and others, leaving the past where it belongs. With God’s abundant grace, I can move forward in faith. He is more than enough for me.

Yes, I can cling to Jesus, knowing He will never leave me on my own. I can also ask for wisdom, clarity, and courage. Really, that’s the least I can do.

Praise God, I don’t have to beg or grovel for help. Jesus is right here with me! He longs to do for me what I cannot do for myself. But, I do have to choose to let Him help me.

Yes, the Lord is my refuge, my strength, my righteousness, and my defense.
I wholeheartedly trust in His unfailing love. Indeed, that’s the best thing I can do!

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Heavenly Father, thank You for hearing us when we pray. With you, nothing is impossible. Help us listen and obey as You work through us. You are so good, Lord. Refresh us with Your sweet grace and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Are you trying to meet your own needs or are you asking the Lord for help?

Tasks: Meditate on Psalm 59:17.