On Feelings and Frostbite

Yesterday (Tuesday), I had the opportunity to speak at a local moms group. By request, I shared my story in light of making end-of-life decisions. My goal was to provide perspective and offer basic information for these moms.

Through a casual conversation, we discussed wills, trusts, life insurance, and more. To be clear, I am not an expert on any of these topics. But I have experienced the how-tos and what-not-to-dos.

I also recommended these ladies consult with an attorney, accountant, and/or a financial planner. I don’t recommend taking a lot of unwarranted risks in these areas!

I really enjoyed speaking with these moms, and afterward, I went to work like usual. But the emotions caught up with me there (unexpectedly), as my coworker and I just-so-happened to discuss similar topics. Gotta love God’s timing!

Occasionally, I still get a little teary-eyed when discussing all we went through with cancer. And lately, I have been reflecting on our journey more anyway…

I know March will be here soon, and I can’t help but think of two important times. First, I recall March 2010 when Dave found his job in Fargo. We moved later that year, which set the stage for other big life changes.

I’ve also been thinking of March 2013 when Dave was so sick and near death (he died in May that year). That was a tumultuous time and we felt desperate.

This flux of emotions tends to cycle through periodically, though as we move toward March, I have felt it more. Perhaps that’s because we are also fast-approaching another milestone: the five year anniversary of Dave’s death.

Yesterday, we also received several inches of snow. That’s not unusual for February, but I still had to blow snow in the dark of morning and shovel twice. For me, snow removal builds character (ha!), but yesterday, I was more reflective.

In the afternoon, I shoveled away the snow and contemplated my sadness. The physical activity was good for me and channeled my emotions into something productive.

I thought it would be a quick job, so didn’t change out of my work clothes. I wore lightweight dress pants and my lightweight gloves. I didn’t wear a hat and my hood kept falling off. I wanted to work quickly so my fingers wouldn’t freeze!

After about twenty minutes, I thought about going inside to warm up. But, I was still praying through my emotions and just wanted to finish. I threw more snow on already-high mounds. It was difficult because it required a lot of effort to corral the snow!

Soon, my fingers weren’t cold anymore—they were numb.

It was only when I came in about fifteen minutes later that I noticed my fingers again. They were bright red and tingled, like other parts of my skin. There was no frostbite, but that’s not unheard of with extreme wind chills like we have in Fargo.

Thankfully, I had gotten through both the snow and the rough emotions.

Praise God, I felt so much better!

As I put away my snow shovel, I thought about how people manage their emotions in a similar manner. Many people try to ‘shovel away’ their sorrows, without actually understanding the pain. It’s like having spiritual or emotional frostbite.

They bury sadness and grief, frustration and remorse, anger and resentment without dealing with them. They don’t allow themselves the time to heal. Some people freeze their feelings, becoming numb and unable to function properly.

For me, the pain can still feel rough at times, though it has gotten much better overall.

Nonetheless, I still allow myself to feel my emotions and pray them through. The feelings don’t last forever, and I know it will be okay…sooner or later.  

Like snow, healing is messy. It can be difficult work to decipher our feelings and keep them contained. Yet, I always learn more about myself in the process. Reaching a new level of healing or self-understanding isn’t always fun…but it is a valuable gift!

Yesterday, I was also reminded of God’s grace and goodness. Only He can bring full healing. And, the more I share my story, the more grateful I become.

God has been so faithful to me. He has provided for me in ways I cannot even explain. Despite my losses, He has never let me down. What Victory!

Yes, when everything feels like it is falling apart, Jesus is there. He is greater than my pain or problems, and He loves me through each trial. He protects me and allows me to be myself—feelings and all. By His grace, He holds me together!

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Dear God, thank You so much for your grace and goodness. Thanks for taking such great care of me. Please direct my path and guide me on this journey. Thanks that I don’t have to get stuck emotionally. I choose to move forward. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you experienced any signs of spiritual or emotional frostbite? Will you let Jesus handle it?

Tasks: Listen to ‘King of My Heart’ by Kutless and ‘I Will Call Upon the Lord’ by Elevation Worship. Write down your feelings and experiences in a journal. Trust in Jesus!

Valentine’s Victories

A couple weeks ago, I was discouraged when I received some not-so-great feedback on a writing project. My writing coach thought I could do a better job. I was rather disheartened until a friend popped into my office unexpectedly and encouraged me.

So imagine my relief on Monday of this week when I received positive feedback instead! I had revised the same material from before and my writing coach was pleased with the improvements.

As we talked, I explained how frustrated I was previously and how difficult this task had been for me. We discussed how our most challenging work often happens to be the most important.

Sometimes the ‘edits’ are easy—like grammar and punctuation—and don’t affect the overall content. But other times, the edits are tough. Content revisions are more important structurally, and in my case, lay the foundation for the next round.

There will be a bigger payoff later if I do the hard work now.

As I realized the significance of the work I had done, I was excited. I had pushed through this perceived setback, and to me, it felt like a breakthrough.

The victory made we want to celebrate! Soo, on a whim, I decided to go to the movies!

On my way to the theater, I praised God for the writing victory and thanked Him for the movie, too. It almost felt like a Valentine’s date because God blessed me so much that day.

I used a gift certificate to buy my ticket and also bought a kid-sized popcorn (not wanting to over-do it!). I even shared some “snack cash” coupons with the couple in front of me.

I watched ‘The Greatest Showman’ and I’m so glad I did!

The movie was fabulous and I highly recommend it! The music (soundtrack) was also so inspiring. Without giving too much away, I loved the overall message about being yourself and appreciating each other’s differences. It makes you consider what is really important.

Most—if not all—of us have felt like we don’t belong at times. There are days when we struggle with feeling like we don’t measure up. Or, maybe we have been rejected and treated poorly… Sometimes, it’s totally unfair!

Some people feel down on Valentine’s Day if they don’t have a ‘special someone.’ I can understand that perspective. But, don’t be discouraged. Turn those feelings around and make someone else feel special.

Sometimes, we overlook how powerful it is to love people and show kindness every day. Even just a little note or phone call can have great impact.

Remember, whether or not you have Valentine’s plans is not a determination of your worth. You are so very loved!

In Christ, we have infinite value. If we have that perspective, we see that with Jesus, we can thrive. When we keep our eyes on Him, we see His grace and blessings—not our lack.

In Jesus, we have Victory! We are MORE THAN CONQUERORS!

 My little girl, Lydia, reminded me of this Victorious perspective in a recent drawing.

I asked her to explain the picture, which to me, looked a little like four people at a disco party… 😉 Lydia explained, “This is a picture of my family. The first person is my daddy, then you and me, and then God.”

Lydia is starting to understand the difference between immediate and extended family…

I loved that she drew what was in her heart, including both her daddy, Dave, and her Heavenly Father, God. And, the disco figures made me smile. 

I see Lydia’s confidence in God’s love for her as a huge Victory!

Nothing can compare to God’s love for us! He is soo good!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for taking such good care of me. Thank you for leading me to Victory. Help me stay close to You and keep the right perspective. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you had a personal breakthrough recently? Have you seen any good movies lately? How can you show God’s love to others today?

Tasks: Write down your victories in a journal so you can remember them. Celebrate your successes and thank God for all He has done.

Nick at Night: Seek and Find

As I mentioned last week, I am scribing the gospel of John with friends. Mainly, I want to engage with God’s word in a more personal way. I am learning more each day! Last week, I shared a little about Nicodemus in John Chapter 3, but am still thinking about him…

I used to think Nicodemus went to Jesus at night because he feared what everyone (his fellow Pharisees) would think. That may be true, in part, but as a friend recently suggested, maybe he didn’t want to be interrupted by all the crowds that followed Jesus.

Perhaps it’s a parallel that Nicodemus (in spiritual darkness) sought Jesus, the Light of the World (which John mentions later). At any rate, I’m guessing Nicodemus was so intently searching for truth and answers that he couldn’t wait until morning to talk with Jesus.

Similarly, there are times I cannot sleep at night because I am dealing with something. In fact, this happened to me recently. Each time I woke up in the night, I had a prayer on my lips for a friend in need. I love that Jesus is always available to listen, help, comfort and teach us…even in the middle of the night.

We do not have to question if Jesus wants to help. Whenever we come to Jesus for help, we will receive encouragement and direction. That said, we also may receive correction like Nicodemus… We need to be willing to do whatever Jesus says.

v.10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

Here, Jesus gets on Nicodemus for being a spiritual leader without actually understanding spiritual concepts. Ouch… Apparently, the Jews had created eight different ways one could be ‘born again’ (all physical things to do to earn God’s favor). The Jews missed the point of spiritual rebirth and salvation from sin.

But Jesus made it simple.

Interestingly, in my Bible, the words of John 3:16-21 are not in red, suggesting that perhaps Jesus did not say them. This surprised me because I always thought it was Jesus talking. It seems that this may be John’s explanation of what Jesus was saying.

I asked my friends for their input (on who said what) and learned some other Bibles and translations handle this differently. Many Bibles have those words in ‘red letters’ or quotations, but not the one I am using currently… So, I did some prayerful searching online and saw this is a common question.

Various Bible scholars have wondered the same! No one has an exact answer because (ahem) we weren’t there. But either way, the basic consensus is that the words are inspired by God and the message does not change.

We don’t have to lose sleep over what God meant in John 3:16. The point is: God so loved the world and so Jesus came. God gave us Jesus, our Savior, and we have eternal life through Him alone.

We know John did not record every single word or action Jesus did (John 21:25), and that’s okay! Instead of agonizing over the details, we will let the Holy Spirit lead us.

Here are a few takeaways:

It is common to hurry through our day, but in doing so, perhaps we are missing what Jesus really said (or maybe didn’t say). There is always more to the text than meets the eye—I love that my friends are picking up different aspects of the same text!

Nicodemus came directly to Jesus for answers to his deepest questions. He didn’t rely on someone else to ask for him. Jesus often spoke in metaphors and I love that Nicodemus sought clarity. Also, he trusted Jesus’ perspective and didn’t make it about himself.

Studying the Bible with other people can help everyone grow in faith. Nonetheless, we have to personally apply what Scripture says to our own lives.

Finally, God’s Word is trustworthy. When we have questions, it’s okay! God is big enough to handle them with His grace and truth. And, when it comes to Jesus Christ, He is always worth taking a closer look!

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God, thanks for the gift of Your Word! Renew our minds and draw us close to You. Teach us Your ways and lead us into deeper fellowship with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you trusted in Jesus as your Savior? Is there anything in Scripture that you’ve had questions about lately? How can you pursue a deeper level of understanding?

Tasks: Listen to “God so Loved,” by Jaci Velasquez. When you sit down to spend time with God, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you, Jesus, the Living Word.

           

Jesus is Greater

For the last two weeks, I have been scribing the Gospel of John with friends. We are enjoying the process so far, which includes people in eleven states. My friends have invited their friends, too!

It’s amazing how much more I have noticed when going slow and writing it down word-for-word. We are each going at our own pace, but checking in as we go. I have divided each chapter into sections so we just post on what we are currently working on.

I’ve noticed everything from punctuation to chronology, such as the timing of miracles and Jesus’ calling of his disciples. I can sense John’s attention to detail and the honor he must’ve felt when writing about his dear friend and savior. I can also see God’s love pouring through each page and each interaction.

Already, I am amazed at how many times the religious leaders ask Jesus to prove Himself and His authority with a sign. Yet, we do the same thing.

We pray and then immediately want to see our prayers answered. We ask for guidance and then want something to pop up (out of nowhere!) to show that we are on track.

But we can trust in Jesus, the Living Word. He is greater than all things because He was before all things and created all things. He was in the beginning with God…

I love that every single time someone asked Jesus to help, He did. To start, He turned water into wine! And later, He provided food, healed the sick, calmed a storm, and raised the dead…

He met with people in everyday places: weddings (Cana), funerals (Lazarus), drinking fountains (woman at the well), and in the middle of the night (Nicodemus).

When we understand just how much Jesus loves us, we don’t need a sign. We can do what He says (obey) and let Him work out the details on our behalf.

He knows what is best for us and loves to provide us with all we need.

When we pray, we can have confidence that God hears us. We know He is moving, even when we don’t see something happening. We walk by faith, not by sight.

It’s not always easy. In fact, I know lots of people who are going through really tough situations right now. Life hasn’t gone according to plan.

Like Nicodemus, you may have a lot of questions for the Lord. He is the Answer.

Even Jesus went through brutal circumstances, too. He was often judged and misunderstood. His own people used him for miracles but then rejected him. He gave and He gave and He gave. Yet Jesus was rarely thanked for all He did.

Then, on top of that, He was crucified…and still chose to forgive. Wow…

I don’t know the exact details of your situation, but Jesus does. He cares deeply about all you are experiencing. With His help, you can do all you need to do.

Whether you need a friend, provision, peace, healing, mercy, or forgiveness, come to Jesus. Or, maybe you need to do the forgiving—if you let Him, Jesus will enable you to rebuild and move forward with Victory.

Cling to Jesus. He loves you beyond measure. Whatever you need, let Jesus help. With Him, nothing is impossible!! Praise the Lord!!

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Father God, thank You for Jesus! Lord, you are greater than anything we face. Please give us wisdom and courage. Help us to do what is right. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you believe that Jesus is with you and for you? Will you trust Him to help you?

Tasks: Listen to the song ‘How He Loves Us‘ by the David Crowder Band.

 

Taking It Up A Notch

We’re only two weeks into the new year, and Lydia and I are off to running start! Last week, we began some new activities, and this week, we’ve added a couple more!

I’m really enjoying all the exciting opportunities ahead…really, I am! However, I can already feel my stress levels going up a notch.

Our normal routine is manageable and has a fair amount of margin. Yet adding even one thing takes consideration as we try to juggle it all. That’s fairly normal for most of us, but I prefer to have some flexibility.

On Monday afternoon, I felt a little overwhelmed. It was one of those days I had a million things to do but didn’t have much to show for all my effort. I was working on deadlines, dinner, dishes, and ‘backpack reading’ (for Lydia)… to name a few. I was also working on a small project for someone.

Later, a friend also invited me to pray at church that evening, as our church is holding nightly prayer events all week to set the tone for the year. We expect God to do good things in our lives, our church, and our community.

Absolutely, yes!

But on Monday, I honestly didn’t know how I was going to add it to an already full day. I had planned on going later in the week, but didn’t want to disappoint my friend…

Thankfully, I knew that praying was the best thing I could do. When I give my time (or other resources) to God, He always makes it work out in my favor. So, I trusted God and went to corporate prayer.

I’m so glad I went. Not only did I receive peace and a proper perspective, I also grew in joyful anticipation. I prayed with friends and heard how God was moving in their lives.

Praying was just the refreshment I needed! With my burdens lifted, I was able to stay in the present and not worry about my schedule or problems.

It was also a great personal reminder that prayer takes precedence. By taking our prayers up a notch we take our problems to God who can handle them so much better.

Our problems are no match for His power!

So far, this week, everything has worked out. I’ve done my best and will trust God to handle the rest. But many times, our circumstances do not change overnight. Sometimes things have to run their course, and some situations need God’s special touch.

There are things only He can do. Don’t give up. Press in and pray it through.

When we pray, God moves on our behalf. When stresses go up, so should our prayers. And if we let Him, God can take our faith up a notch too!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for all Your kindness, grace, and love. You are so good! Thanks for being with us, for listening, and for walking us through each problem and challenge. Help us come You to first, not as a last resort. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Have you ever felt like you didn’t have time to pray? Would you do it differently next time?

Tasks: Continue bringing your heart and requests to Jesus. He loves you so much! Also, read Too Busy Not To Pray by Bill Hybels.

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!

 

O Christmas Tree

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree… So apparently, there are several versions of this song, but now that it’s probably in your head…my work is done. 😉

O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson
That constant faith
And hope sublime
Lend strength and
Comfort through all time.
O Christmas Tree,
O Christmas Tree,
Your boughs can
Teach a lesson

While I enjoy the smell of real Christmas trees, Dave and I received a ‘hand-me-down’ artificial one years ago. Dave loved the ornaments, and we always enjoyed decorating it together. I’ve noticed some of the lights are out, but overall it is still in decent shape.

When Lydia was really little (our first Christmas without Dave), I bought a smaller tree and new ornaments because it was just too difficult to think about the big tree. I have come a long way, but it is still bittersweet.

After this year’s Thanksgiving, my dad brought the tree upstairs for me and helped me set it up. Then it sat there until last week. I had brought the ornaments upstairs, but I felt myself postponing it…

So last Friday night, I decided not to ‘fake brave.’ Lydia and I decorated our six-foot-tall Christmas tree for the second time since Dave died. (Last year was our first…and perhaps the first time Lydia has had a more active role.)

This time, we listened to Christmas music while decorating. Lydia was thrilled!

At first, I too, was excited. But as we opened each box of ornaments, I grew more nostalgic. Maybe it was related to the Christmas music. As we opened each box, memories flooded out. Lydia was completely unaware, however.

She was completely in her element, placing all the ornaments just within her reach. Her approach to life reminds me of Dave. “Mom, isn’t this fun?!”

While I never burden Lydia with my grief, I do try to be honest and model that it is okay to show our emotions. So, I mentioned I was a little sad.

As usual, Lydia’s reply snapped me back to reality. “Well, it’s okay to be sad, Mom.” She continued, “But you could try to be happy and enjoy your time with me!” She said it so sweetly, it was hard to disagree.

Ever-practical, Lydia was right. My mind was on Christmases past, instead of focusing on the present. Besides Jesus, Lydia is one of the best gifts God has given me!

 Thankful for Lydia’s outlook and gentle reminder, I took her cue and was glad.

 As I thought about our conversation, I gained a new perspective: This is why Jesus came.

Not only did He come to save us from our sins, but He also came to take our burdens.

When we let Him, He gives us love, joy, hope, and peace. He eases our pain and suffering.

He restores and renews what has been broken.

Hearts included.

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Dear Jesus, thanks for all You do for me. Thanks for carrying our burdens and for bringing us peace. Thanks for renewing our hearts and minds with Your grace and truth. Help us stay focused on You this holiday season. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a real tree or an artificial one? How is it decorated?

Tasks: Let Jesus carry Your burdens and give you His peace instead.

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!