Finding Grace #98

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 week, I felt God’s blessing and favor in several personal ways. I was able to help several people in meaningful ways. I prayed for these people and used my writing skills to encourage and advocate for them. I provided timely input when asked and used my strengths. It made me feel like I am exactly where God needs me to be.

We had all our usual activities, including deadlines, work, school, and JBQ. Yet, instead of feeling stressed, I was excited! I think it has to do with the fact that I saw God using me to move in the lives of those around me. I enjoyed seeing Him direct my steps!

The weather is warmer today, but early in the week, we had wind chills near forty below. On Monday, I spent an hour-and-a-half outside clearing snow… Let’s just say it was a character-building experience! My legs and feet are sore even now, but I am thankful for the ability to do what was needed. With the warmer weather, I am taking it easy!

Recently, Lydia joined a cheerleading program through Upward Sports. She and her friends cheered for their first basketball game today! I didn’t know if she would be too nervous, but she handled it like a champ. (I’m sure the camaraderie helped!)

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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)!

The Proverbs 31 Woman: What’s So Special?

Last year, my church read the One Year Bible by Tyndale. I followed along, but most of the time listened to each day’s reading on my YouVersion phone app. So on Sunday (Dec 31st), we finished the Old Testament, the New Testament, as well as Psalms and Proverbs.

Sometimes I wear my headphones, but on Sunday, I did not. Thus, Lydia was listening, too. Proverbs 31 piqued her interest as it lists attributes of a godly wife (or woman). She asked, incredulously, “Wait, Mom…who IS this woman?!” I had to laugh at her reaction. Sometimes, the list does seem impossible!

It seems no one really knows who the woman is. It could be the author’s mom or wife…or more likely even a composite of several women. Anyway, to be clear, we don’t have to be Rosie the Riveter or Suzie Homemaker. We don’t have to feel bad for not doing all those activities listed.

Indeed, we often set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations. This is certainly more likely at the start of a new year. For me, it always seems if I am doing well in one area, another goal is suffering. Maybe I try to do too many new things…

We want to read more, sleep more, and have more fun; weigh less, spend less money, and eat fewer sweets. We feel like we have to do it all to be successful: clean more, eat more veggies, give more, spend more time with our kids, etc.

Thankfully, God doesn’t look at us in the same way—for all we are or are not doing.

Interestingly, the Proverbs 31 woman’s physical appearance is never mentioned. So what makes her worth emulating? What makes her so appealing to us, even all these years later? What’s so special about her?

Here’s my theory… It’s not because her children are dressed immaculately. It’s not that she can afford servants to help her. It’s not her personality or that she is married to a husband who appreciates and encourages her. It’s not even because she’s a bargain shopper or a whiz at using her Instant Pot. Though, those are all wonderful things.

I believe her godly confidence is what makes her so attractive—that is, her confidence in the Lord. She knows she is loved and fully lives out of that freedom and grace. She doesn’t feel the need to compare herself or her life to other women, or anyone.

She trusts the Lord to bless her work and be her provision. As a result, she is kind and generous, wise and industrious. She does not run around frantically but is content and cheerful. She rests in the Lord while she works to honor Him.

This year, I do have few personal goals. Of course… But most of all, I want to stay close to Jesus and let Him lead me. He is the source of all my hope and my expectations.

I’m not saying I will completely relax my standards. But when the laundry sits too long, or I forget to start the dishwasher (again), or I get behind on my exercise program… I will remember my ultimate goal, my ‘One Thing’ is JESUS.

It doesn’t matter what else I do—if I don’t have Jesus, I have nothing. Jesus is my strength and my joy. I trust Him to bring me through to Victory! Without Him, all my “good” efforts won’t last. But with Jesus, I have all I need—and an abundance to share. Praise God!

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Dear God, thanks for loving me so much. Help me make changes as YOU see fit, without setting myself up for unrealistic expectations. Help me stay close to You this year. Be my one thing. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What about the Proverbs 31 woman stands out to you? Are your goals for the year realistic or do they need to be adjusted? What are you looking forward to this year?

Tasks: Don’t compare yourself to anyone else! Stay close to Jesus and He will make you exactly who He wants you to be. Make Him your ‘One Thing.’

Finding Grace #95

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 an exciting week! We took a snowy road trip to see family in Illinois!  We celebrated Christmas with my parents and sat around the warm wood stove…one of my favorite places. It was so restful. I’m grateful for time with loved ones.

Lydia and I road-tripped it back to Fargo on Wednesday to beat more snow-fall and sub-zero temps. I’m thankful for the Lord’s provision and protection during our trip! The weather is always a factor to consider, and He is so good!

Since Lydia and I arrived back, we have been hanging out at home having fun and preparing for the new year. We have a lot of fun events and activities coming up. So far, we’ve played games, watched movies, and made yummy food. I trimmed Lydia’s hair and have done some cleaning and organizing. I’m excited to see what the Lord has in store in the coming weeks.

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)!

Finishing Strong: 2017 Year-End Review

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! As we come upon the new year, I always like to consider the adventures we had and lessons we’ve learned.

2017 was a year of transition for us. I knew that before it ever started. I had been praying for months (and in some cases, years) for events I saw coming. I appreciate how the Lord gives us a vision for things to come and prepares us to walk them out.

For example, I had been praying for two years about getting a roommate. I was not sure what that would entail, but I kept envisioning someone staying in my guest room. Then, in January, my dear friend needed a place to stay and the timing all made sense. We had a wonderful experience during those six months, and I think a large part of that was God’s blessing from all the prayers. Our friendship is even stronger now!

However, there were still some surprises…the big one is that my dad’s youngest sister died in January. She lived in the mountains of Colorado and so once the majority of snow melted (May), we trekked there to celebrate her life. It was an unexpected loss and an unexpected road trip. But we were thankful to see our extended family, too.

Some of the transitions were known about, however I did not know how they would play out. My job went through a merger in March, and I was unsure of the fallout. I prepared to stay but also felt it would be wise to have an exit plan. Thankfully, it has worked out well for me. That too, was covered with much prayer! I learned a new level of trust and rest during this process. I’m grateful for the Lord’s provision and graciousness!

Additionally, Lydia started school (full-time) this year, and so that has also been a transition. I was a little nervous about how that would go, so I covered that in prayer too. Overall, it has been a smooth (and mostly fun) experience for both of us.

In many cases, I have felt the need to just “roll with the punches” through some experiences. This summer, I decided to change travel plans and stay home instead. Dear friends were moving, a project needed significant work, and I wanted to get ready for the start of school. So my dream of going to Glacier National Park will have to wait…hopefully I will get there someday…but I am at peace knowing the Lord’s timing is perfect.

Sometimes, when life feels a little chaotic, it’s difficult to know what to do. But, if we rely on the Lord, it will all work out. I was hoping to make it home for the holidays, but was unsure about the weather. So, I prayed and planned and prepared as best I could. Then, the weather held up and we literally jumped in the car ready to go. I’m grateful we did because the weather turned snowy again the next day. God is so good!!

I don’t know what 2018 has in store, but I know Jesus has it under control! I am eager to see how He moves in our lives. I know whatever challenges come, He will be with us. As I pray for His wisdom and timing, the Lord will lead me and prepare me for what is to come. Jesus has never let me down, and I am excited to walk Victoriously with Him each day!

So let’s finish strong. Don’t give up. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). If you let Him, He will work it out for your good and His glory. Trust Jesus!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for bringing us through another year. Thanks for walking with us and teaching us along the way. May we continue to draw near to You in the new year. Please direct our path, showing us what to do and what to avoid. May we trust You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What events or circumstances stand out to you this year? Can you see the Lord’s faithfulness? How has He come through for you?

Tasks: Pray for wisdom going into the new year. Ask the Lord to give you a vision and prepare you to walk it out. Thank Him for going with you!

 

The Scenic Route

Recently, on the way to get groceries, Lydia asked me, “Mom, is this what you call ‘the scenic route’? I had driven through a neighborhood and around a pond. I intentionally bypassed the main road and avoided about five stop lights.

I often do enjoy less traffic and curvy roads over the normal stop-and-go route. I like noticing the details, such as new houses or construction, trees changing color or losing leaves, and/or holiday decorations.

Our trip to the store wasn’t all that exciting…but it did make me think. This holiday season, I’ve decided to take the ’emotional scenic route.’ That doesn’t mean I am ignoring traditions or avoiding anyone. I am simply slowing down to enjoy the journey!

I’ve been more intentional about ‘doing nothing.’ That is, I’m trying to set aside time to rest and meander with nowhere I have to be. Ok, so this doesn’t happen often, but it’s a goal!

I am taking time to stop and notice all the good around me. It’s something we should do every day, but we can often become so focused on putting out fires that we miss the little things that are going well.

As such, I have noticed more internal peace. I also have noticed when my heart is not peaceful. If I suddenly am feeling worried, stressed, or restless, I can make quick adjustments in my attitude, relationships, or schedule.

I have noticed more joy in a season that sometimes brings pain. The holidays can be rough for many of us, though I am learning to just be present in each moment.

For example, yesterday, as I waited for Lydia’s bus after school, I was in a contemplative mood. I was stuck in a funk, problem-solving and praying for wisdom. Suddenly, I noticed tall trees in the wind, towering over a house near the bus stop.

The trees have already lost all their leaves before winter. Their bare branches stretched straight up toward the sky. As they danced in the breeze, limbs waving back and forth, I imagined them giving glory to God!

Watching those huge trees sway in the wind prompted me to take a second glance. It really did look like the trees were worshipping God!

I soon realized that I was holding onto my ‘little’ problems when like the trees, I should be praising the Lord! Jesus is greater than my problems!

I quickly surrendered my bad attitude and let God handle my problem. It was a special moment, which I might have missed had I taken another route or been reading on my phone.

Life is an adventure, isn’t it?!

Occasionally, we find a bypass that gets us to our destination more quickly! And sometimes, scenic roads can take longer…

Quite often, we don’t know what lies around the next corner. Taking the scenic route can lead to unexpected road conditions or detours. Surprises may throw us off-track, but if we move forward with expectancy, we are better prepared.

Either way, this season, I plan to enjoy each day for what it is. I’m making up my mind to embrace each challenge as it comes. I’m choosing to have a good attitude and praise God. He is always faithful, so I can confidently smile and expect good things ahead!

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Dear Jesus, You are so gracious. Thanks for showing me beauty and glory each day. Help me stay in the joyful present with You. Guide me and give me peace each day, no matter which path we take together. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you like to meander along the scenic route, or do you prefer to follow the beaten path? Do you like to map your own way or follow the navigation (ie GPS)?

Tasks: Pre-decide your attitude before the path changes. Pause each day and notice what is going on around you. Decide to praise God no matter what!

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)!