Heroes Among Us

Monday marked the 16th year since 9/11 happened. I was in college and remember watching the television in a commons area while I was between classes. Initially, I was confused about what occurred because it was completely unexpected and I had no frame of reference for it. As more details became clear, I was glued to the media. As horrific as it was when the two towers fell, there were also amazing stories of heroism.

On Monday, I watched videos online about 9/11 events and found more stories of heroic men and women. These courageous and unselfish men and women lost their lives but saved many others.

In one short video, a man named Rick Rescorla, was on the 44th floor of the South tower when he saw the North tower on fire. He went against orders to stay put and told everyone to evacuate the South tower. After most of his coworkers left, he went back to help other areas. This heroic man was last seen racing up the 10th floor stairway to help more people. Minutes later the tower collapsed—but not before 2700 people escaped.

With tears, I thought to myself, “Wow, what would compel him to respond that way?” In that moment, I remembered reading Luke 16:10 just prior to watching the videos. This verse states that if you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones…

Instantly, I realized…that man was just being faithful. He simply took the next step, the next right choice. I didn’t know him, of course, but I would bet Mr. Rescorla’s decision was an extension of his character (and perhaps his position at work and military background).

He had probably been making similar choices all along—yet with smaller impact—for years. I’m speculating, but I imagine he had been faithful in the small things, and when “the big thing” came, it was a ‘no brainer’ for him to look out for others.

It had likely become second-nature.

I’ve noticed that many heroes have similar reactions when asked to explain their actions. While we are in awe of their bravery, most heroes humbly shrug off the attention, saying, “Oh, anyone would have done the same thing I did. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.” Most heroes don’t consider themselves extraordinary.

So it seems each small choice really does add up over time. I’m sure Mr. Rescorla didn’t think about how ‘qualified’ he was that day. There wasn’t time! He just stepped up to do what he could in that moment. He used his voice and his authority to make a difference.

Some people put their lives on the line nearly every day, such as the police and those in the military. I’m thankful for these heroic men and women.

But even without training, you can be a hero right where you are. Today.

Hopefully, you won’t be faced with life-or-death decisions! But, we can all reach out to help a friend, neighbor, coworker, or even a total stranger. Think of all the recent stories just from people affected by hurricanes or wildfires…

You may be a hero to someone and not even know it. Be a good example for those who are watching. Be faithful in the small things—the often mundane tasks—and sooner or later, you see the difference you are making!

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God, thank You for giving us grace and wisdom! Help us be brave and bold as we walk through life with You. Guide us each day and give us eyes to see the needs around us. May we be quick to respond. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Where were you on 9/11? Who is your hero?

Tasks: Find a place to volunteer your time. Or, donate some money to a cause that is important to you. Be consistent and faithful in your commitment.

Grace for the School Daze

August is flying by and very soon Lydia will be headed off to school. As the date draws near, I find myself wanting time to slow down. This Mama Bear has been spending extra time with Lydia, trying to cram in as many special moments as we can.

So far, we’ve baked cookies and done mini makeovers (including makeup, haircuts, and nails). We’ve colored, read tons of books, played games, and put together Lego sets. We’ve ridden our bikes, gone on a scavenger hunt, and eaten donuts at our favorite local place.

I’ve also been quizzing Lydia regarding our address, my phone number, and her school identification number. She’s especially excited about riding the bus, meeting new friends, and eating lunch at school. 🙂 Lydia has been practicing basic addition and pre-reading skills this summer (mostly on her own)—she’s so excited for school!

Yet, I’m only half-joking whenever I ask Lydia what I’m going to do when she goes to school all day. It will be very different and will require both of us to make some adjustments. Her suggestion? “Mom, you can take naps and go to work!” She’s so ready…

In many ways, this transition period to school represents a personal Victory. It is quite humbling to see how far we’ve come. Yes, it has been quite a ride these last 4+ years!

A couple months after my late-husband, Dave, died, I was crying one night because I didn’t know how I was going to make it as a single mom. It was fairly late, and for some reason, Lydia was still awake. I sat in the dark with her, rocking her back and forth, with tears running down my face.

Just a toddler, Lydia still required so much hands-on care and I was very overwhelmed. Feeling desperate, I prayed, “Lord, I need wisdom! How am I supposed to discipline, train, and care for Lydia on my own?” I certainly needed help and a new perspective.

As my tears dried, I slowly felt the Lord’s peace surround me. Truthfully, I still didn’t know how I was going to make it—but I did know I wasn’t doing it alone.

As I write this now, I can see God’s grace and His presence all along the way. He’s given me stamina for those tough disciplinary moments. He’s given me strength to stay in Fargo when it surely would have been easier to move closer to family. He has filled the gaps in my parenting skills (Psalm 68:5).

Getting to this point–this current transition–seemed impossible. But with God’s help, I have learned to face challenges head-on. He has made me steadfast in my faith and taught me to stand firm. He’s given me meaningful work and a renewed purpose. I’m so grateful.

Looking back, it doesn’t seem possible that those long days and nights have stretched into years. But here we are! By God’s grace, we’ve made it this far! Thank You, Jesus!

Clearly, when it comes to the school years, we have a long way to go. We are just starting on this new journey and there will be many challenges ahead. Yet, I’ve seen just how faithful the Lord has been these previous four years. He’s come through for me in more ways than I can count. He is so good to me.

So despite my mama-nerves, I am grateful for this necessary transition. It might feel a little chaotic at first, but the Lord is walking with Lydia, just as He is with me. A loving Father, He cares for her even more than I do…which is quite a lot! Like a Papa Bear, He will continue to protect and guide her each step of the way.

Whatever you are facing today, put your trust in Jesus. He loves you more than you can imagine. He longs to comfort and encourage you, strengthen you, and provide for you. If you let Him, He will help you do what seems impossible, too. He will lead you to Victory!

Praise the Lord!

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Heavenly Father, I praise You for leading us to Victory! Thank You for all You do for us. You are so good and so faithful. Please continue to guide us during each and every transition. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: In what ways has God lead you to Victory in the past? What can you do to trust Him now? How can you praise Him in this moment?

Tasks: Meditate on these verses: Psalm 3:8, Psalm 18:35, Psalm 32:7, and Psalm 118:21. Praise God for what who He is and what He is doing in advance!

 

Tacos: A Happy Update

I had an interesting realization yesterday while I was preparing dinner. I had invited my friend (and recent roommate) over for ‘Taco Tuesday.’ She is a good friend and we’ve enjoyed several meals together in the six months she stayed with us. Our favorite meal together has been tacos!

As I was making my black bean and corn salsa, it struck me that I am eating tacos again! I blogged about tacos previously (a year-and-a-half ago). Back then, it was a difficult meal for me. Dave loved tacos so much and always helped me in the kitchen. Tacos reminded me of him and made me sad. I had to make other foods (or variations) instead.

Well, yesterday, I realized that making tacos is no longer a problem! My friend and I happily (and unknowingly) created a new experience regarding tacos. With that, I felt a deep sense of God’s grace and goodness. He has healed another portion of my heart and brought me joy again! That’s a huge Victory!

I hadn’t even noticed the healing process these last few months. I’ve been focused on other things. But yesterday, I was reminded that when we trust the Lord, He always comes through. He is faithful.

I had no expectation that when I opened up my home to a friend in need that God would help me too. I simply wanted to be a blessing. Yet, God has blessed me too!

Occasionally, a wave of grief still comes my way. I’m sure that will always be the case, to some degree. But, I no longer avoid tacos or other things that cause me pain. I am able to face each challenge head-on, without too much difficulty. Thank You, Jesus!

Whether we’re dealing with emotional pain (like grief) or physical pain, we want healing to happen right away. We want to feel good again! But healing takes time and occurs step-by-step. It’s a process.

Indeed, it takes God’s special touch to bring complete healing. We may look okay on the outside and think we are good… But then something may surprise us (like making tacos) and we see a whole new layer of healing has occurred!

When we focus on the Lord, we naturally give our pain less attention. I’m not saying the pain doesn’t exist—but rather, Jesus is worthy of our devotion. He is magnified instead. Similarly, when we serve others, our problems seem less important.

Enough time has passed since the original ‘taco post’ that I haven’t even thought about tacos since then. Until yesterday, I didn’t remember that tacos were once a challenge.

Still, I am grateful that God had me making and eating tacos for several months before I became aware of the difference in my heart. Truly, all these months, it hasn’t been a struggle to eat tacos! 😉

Now tacos are associated with positive memories, like my dear friend and ‘Taco Tuesdays.’ And, I can see just how far I have come. It makes me love the Lord even more, because He has made me stronger. He’s brought me healing through helping someone else. Praise God!

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Heavenly Father, You are so faithful! Thanks for Your healing touch. Thanks for walking with us, step-by-step, through each challenge. May we trust You more and more. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Can you see the Lord working in your circumstances to bring a good resolution? How can you trust Him at a deeper level?

Tasks: Meditate on Psalm 89:8 and Philippians 1:6. God is faithful!

Finding Grace #75

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 grace. We enjoyed my mother-in-law’s visit before she left on Tuesday. Then, Lydia and I ran errands and relaxed before the rest of the week picked up.

On Wednesday and Thursday, I attended an all-day work training. It was really good, and I felt like it was meant for me. Now, I am a ‘lifestyle coach’ for the National Diabetes Prevention Program. Instead of teaching the year long program, I facilitate it. This is much more collaborative and research shows great success long-term. In some ways, I felt like I was designed to run this program. As much as I enjoy teaching, I think I enjoy facilitating (listening, asking questions, coaching) even more. I’m excited to be a part if this exciting program! Even better, I earned 10 hours of continuing education–and my company reimbursed me the training fee. Praise God! Of note, a dear friend graciously volunteered both days to watch Lydia. I am so grateful for her help and God’s provision!

Last night, Friday, Lydia and I joined our neighbors to watch the grand finale of the Pyrotechnics Guild International. The PGI creates new fireworks each year, so it was quite the show. We sat in a nearby parking lot with snacks…so we didn’t have to deal with as much traffic! It was a fun and beautiful night!

Today, I have been celebrating my birthday! Normally, I have something planned out, but this year, I just decided to meander have a low key day. We visited friends and just hung out. I’m thankful we because I was able to enjoy the slower pace and savor each card, gift, call, text, email, or social media shoutout. I was also available for deliveries of flowers and chocolate-covered strawberries during the day. 🙂 To extend the celebration, tomorrow, I will go to lunch with a friend after church!

Recently, I came across the idea of the little free library. I’ve seen them before, but just noticed one in my neighborhood this week. I love the idea, and have a lot of my own books to share. So, I think I will buy one (or get some help building one). I just have to figure out the details on what the options are. Reading and literacy is a valuable skill to pass along!

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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)!

Rest: A Holy Staycation

This last week has felt somewhat like a staycation. It’s been great! My mother-in-law came to visit, so it was a good opportunity to let a few projects sit. We enjoyed our time with her doing things we don’t usually do. Of note, we also registered Lydia for Kindergarten in a few weeks!

I’m celebrating another birthday this week, and it seems timely to regroup and get refreshed before a new season starts. Around each birthday, I reflect on the previous year and make changes if needed. But this time, I am taking a wait-and-see approach.

While Lydia and I are both excited for the upcoming transition, there are a few details we just don’t know yet. We have about all the information we could possibly have, but some of our decisions can only be made as we go.

Instead of worrying, I’m thankful Jesus knows what we need and is preparing us! In the meanwhile, I can pray for wisdom and guidance. I can soak up His unfailing love and never-ending grace. I can trust Him to see us through!

I can spend quality time with Lydia, knowing that as she starts school later this month, those times will be fewer and far between. I can also refine my self-care routines to ensure I have enough energy in my tank. This includes getting adequate sleep, eating healthy foods, and making time to exercise.

Most of the time, I feel like I have a million things to do. Nonetheless, it seems like the Lord always brings me back to a certain point… REST.

In some ways, this time of R&R is like a ‘holy staycation’ with the Lord! Instead of running off to the next thing, I am using this time to be with Jesus.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find that God often moves s-l-o-w. Sometimes I grow impatient while I wait! But, when I embrace the same pace as Him, I am refreshed and rewarded.

Following Jesus requires us to stay close to Him. In times of transition, it is even more important to seek Him and listen for direction. With all the noise around us, we can’t hear His still, small voice unless we walk close in step with Him.

Interestingly, a quick Bible search on the word “stay” yields 246 results. As I briefly peruse the list, I see that when God asked someone to stay, He had further directions or blessings for them. And at other times, He prepared the path ahead. He honors our commitment. (As a side note, sometimes people refused to wait patiently for the Lord and it cost them!)

For example, the Israelites stayed at Sinai for the Ten Commandments. Rahab stayed home and was saved at Jericho. Jacob stayed with Laban and eventually married Leah and Rachel. Ruth stayed with Naomi and met Boaz. Even Jesus stayed where He was, before He left to raise Lazarus from the dead, to God’s glory.

Indeed, I love when God directs my steps, like He did recently when we cancelled our Glacier National Park trip and when my mother-in-law came to visit. At times, He has specific activities, meetings, directions, and even special encounters for us.

And sometimes, He leads us to rest. Praise God!

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God, thank You for leading us as we walk with You. Thanks for letting us rest. Please guide us in this next season. We commit our path to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Is God asking you to stay and rest or get up and go? How do you know the difference?

Tasks: Instead of figuring out your next steps, just rest. Let the Lord lead You in His timing.

 

Finding Grace #73

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, I felt God directing our path in ways only He can do. Originally, we had planned a road trip to Glacier National Park in Montana to visit some friends. Our trip was scheduled for last week and this week. However, last month, we prayerfully canceled the trip. I just didn’t have peace and decided the timing wasn’t quite right for a big trip. Among other reasons, my friend was having surgery and wouldn’t be able to hike much.

Well, God had other adventures planned for us, some of which we could not have known ahead of time. I feel quite blessed to see God move in our lives this week. And, we were able to be a blessing to others as well. So cool. If we had been out of town this week, It’s interesting to think of all we would have missed here in Fargo!

On Sunday, Lydia and I had lunch after church with a friend. We had fun talking about faith and lots of other things. I was thankful for the chance to spend time with our friend. It’s always encouraging to hear what God is doing in the lives of those around us!

Monday was all about writing. I had a routine phone meeting with a writing coach/editor. I received good feedback overall, but also discussed some things to improve. Later that night, a friend watched Lydia while I met with some ladies from the writing conference I recently attended. We reviewed what we learned and discussed our writing ideas and projects. I hope to meet with them once a month or so for encouragement!

On Tuesday, I met my good friend for another exercise class. Last time, we tried Barre; this time, Aerial Fitness! It was fun, but more challenging than I thought it would be. Still, we enjoyed it and I think we could try it again!

At work, I finished a few projects while Lydia hung out with a friend. This friend has a heart for kids and I really appreciate all she does to teach Lydia about life and faith. She has been so helpful over the years, and she’s such a blessing to us!

God definitely directed my path on Thursday. I was supposed to chat with a widow friend and planned to encourage her over the phone. She ended up needing to reschedule, but that worked well for me too. I was preparing for a meeting that night and was able to focus my attention on that. The meeting went really well and we had a good time. I was so thankful for the opportunity to grow my skills and present my topic from a new angle!

Similarly, on Friday, I was supposed to meet a newer friend but she needed to reschedule. So, I was able to clean my house (haha!) and prepare dinner for some other very dear friends. They are moving out of state, and so I was honored to be able to visit with them before they go.

Today, was the best day yet. We had a relaxing morning and read in Lydia’s Jesus Storybook Bible. After some discussion, Lydia decided to accept Jesus into her heart! Leading her in prayer was such a sweet experience, and I told Lydia it was the best decision she will ever make. What a blessing!

Finally, tonight, we are going to a send-off party for our friends who are leaving tomorrow (my dinner guests last night). Then, we are going to see Beauty and the Beast at a local outdoor amphitheater. My neighbors had extra tickets and generously shared them with us. I had thought about going, but never got tickets. So we are very thankful!

What an amazing week! I am so glad the Lord directed my steps. If we had gone to Glacier National Park, we would have likely missed so much. (I will get out there sometime soon!) 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)!

Rainy Days Won’t Last Forever

Recently, Lydia found a show on Netflix that I can only describe as an animated reality show, filled with bad humor, clichés, and blonde jokes. Not quite my cup of tea, but Lydia liked it! It’s called “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse.” Yes, you read that right! 😉

On Monday, I was cooking dinner and half-listening to the show to determine if/when it should be turned off. It was rather cheesy, but I decided wait and see… From what I can tell, the episode was about a camping trip gone awry, thanks to the rain.

It’s been rather dry here lately, but I know others have been dealing with flooding. So perhaps I was just more aware… when to my surprise, one of the characters actually had a good point: Rainy days won’t last forever.

The show went on from there, with Barbie and her friends going with Plan B. Even so, as I stood in the kitchen, I gained a deeper perspective. It’s not a new concept, really, but quite often rainy days do parallel grief!

When rainy days come, we find indoor activities. We might read, color, play board games, watch movies, do puzzles, cook, or clean. Grief also tends to separate us from the outside world. It can affect our schedule and even our motivation. But find joy. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Yes, on rainy days, we might be limited in what we can do. But some people are not hindered by the rain. They are the ones stomping and splashing in the puddles! The grief process is a series of emotional challenges and victories. Each stage may look different from one person to the next. Disappointment may settle in. But take comfort and push forward. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Rainy days are valuable. Rain, of course, renews the earth and is just as important as sun to make plants grow. Each has a special role. Grief also has value, though most people would prefer to rush through it. But if we allow grief to run its course, we will be changed for the better. We somehow grow stronger and learn to appreciate what is good around us. Yes, find the good. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Just like there is no real substitute for a good rain storm, there is no quick solution for grief. We cannot bypass the rain, and we cannot bypass grief. Sometimes, it feels unbearable, like the gale of emotions will never end. But hold on. Rainy days won’t last forever.

When it rains, the atmosphere changes. The temperature often decreases as a front moves in. Darkness comes and everything looks different. Grief sure can change the horizon too. Nothing looks the same as before when everything was sunny and well. Yet, we don’t need to feel disoriented for long. Stay grounded. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Rain can bring fear and anxiety for some people, especially when accompanied by thunder and lightning. Grief, too, can bring a wide variety of emotions. Jesus is King of both kinds of storms. Let His love displace fear and anxiety. He loves you. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Rain showers can appear out of nowhere. Grief also can catch us by surprise. I do not consider myself in the midst of active grief these days. Thank God! But, on certain occasions, I still deal with it. Cling to the Lord. Rainy days won’t last forever.

It may be raining at my house, but not yours, even if we live close. I’m always amazed that even within a neighborhood or small community, the rain totals can vary. Grief is also like that. Each person’s experience is different. What triggers one person to grieve may be a non-issue for someone else. Be gracious. Rainy days won’t last forever.

Similarly, it can rain while the sun is still shining. It is interesting to watch, and often, we might see a rainbow in the mix. If we can also see the silver lining even in moments of grief, loss, or doubt, we will find a blessing. Praise God! Rainy days won’t last forever!

I doubt we will keep watching ‘Barbie shows’ much longer. Ahem. But, we can find God’s grace in the least likely places. Barbie, rain storms, and even grief.

Life is beautiful. God is good. Thank You, Jesus.

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God, thanks for being with us in the good and bad, whether it is sunny or rainy. Thank You for giving us Your strength and for leading us to Victory. May we trust You to help us walk with grace, even when it is difficult. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you like rainy days? Do you have special activities for when you have to stay inside?

Tasks: Journal about how rainy days affect you. Reach out to help someone who could use some support….due to grief or other reasons.

Writing Reflections

This past weekend, I went to my first writers conference. The conference was held in St. Paul, MN, which is about 4 hours from Fargo. I arrived on Friday afternoon for the Saturday conference, then spent another night before returning home Sunday afternoon.

In order to attend the conference, however, I needed help with Lydia. Childcare is perhaps my biggest challenge as a single mom. Often, I have to make up my mind to do something, and then figure out how I am going to make it work with Lydia.

This is true for conferences, parties, appointments, concerts, certain church meetings, etc. Many times, I just decide the event is not worth the hassle of figuring out child care. But, if I do choose to attend, I trust the Lord to help me make it work.

This weekend, my family came to the rescue! They trekked several hours to meet us in the Twin Cities. Then, they took Lydia to explore the Cities while I was at the all-day conference. Lydia was glad to have grandparents, aunts, and uncles all to herself!

I was grateful for their help…Lydia was grateful to go to Mall of America!

At the conference, I saw several agents, acquisition editors, and publishers. I heard them speak at workshops and at a panel luncheon. I have followed some of them over the years, so it was a really cool experience to see them in the hallway, like any other person!

While I’m not currently ready to publish anything specific, the conference itself was a good confirmation that I am on the right track with meeting my goals. Thank You, Jesus!

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the conference was that I didn’t have to explain that I am a writer. You might be thinking, “Well duh, you were at a writers conference!” But it’s common for writers to deal with self-doubt.

In the past, seeing myself as a writer was a challenge. So, I prayerfully invested in a couple online programs and learned to see myself in a new way. Consistent blogging has been helpful, too. Just putting myself “out there” has boosted my confidence in writing.

I’ve come to see writing as a means to document my journey and reflections on life, what God is doing, and how I interact with others. Writing helps me learn more about myself and the world around me.

This past weekend, it was great to ask people what they are writing or answer questions about my own projects. Just having taking people take me at ‘face value’ was refreshing. Even if I didn’t have anything to “show” that day.

In the past, I might have gotten stuck or discouraged. But to my great relief, I was able to see just how much I’ve grown! Praise God!

Our Heavenly Father is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He knows how our stories end, because He sees the end from the beginning of time. In fact, our own stories are wrapped up in His larger story. So, we can trust Him as He leads us!

As we read His word, inspired by the Holy Spirit, God shows us who He is…and who we are, too. We just have to read it and embrace what He says.

The more time we spend with Jesus, the more we understand about ourselves. It’s a great investment of our time, and by His grace, He calls us like He sees us!

We are saved. We are forgiven. We are free. We are chosen. We are loved. We are redeemed. We have new purpose. We are called. We are empowered. We are His.

Perhaps you don’t enjoy writing… Maybe God wants you to do something different…like stay home with your kids, go back to school, volunteer, change your diet, forgive someone, or introduce yourself to a neighbor. It can be scary to put yourself “out there.” I know.

But ultimately, we have to make a choice to trust. Jesus is faithful and more than able to get us where we need to be. We just have to take the first step.

With His unfailing love and support, how can we fail? Let’s see ourselves like He does and cooperate with Him. We can’t go wrong! And who knows, maybe soon, you will be doing something you never thought was possible!

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God, thank You for putting Your dreams within our hearts. Thanks for walking with us along the way, giving us guidance. Help us see ourselves as You do. Help us be brave! In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Do you have a dream that seems impossible? How can you trust God and take the first step?

Tasks: Write down all the reasons your dream seems unachievable. Then, write a Bible verse next to each reason, such as Philippians 1:6 or Philippians 4:13. As you pray through each verse, redirect your focus on Jesus and trust Him to help you!

Finding Grace #71

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?

When I reflect back on this week, I am so grateful. I am in awe of how the Lord meets my needs, but also helps me bless others. When I think of all that He has done for me, I am reminded of how small I am. Yet, He cares for each of us and orchestrates our lives as they intersect. Only God could take care of so many details and make good out of chaos!

I have been enjoying my new bike, and have even gotten in some longer rides. A friend stayed with Lydia one afternoon so I could go explore for an hour. It’s cool to see how much more “involved” I become when pedaling around my local area. I feel like I have more freedom and can get closer to things I otherwise wouldn’t even notice. Thanks, Lord!

I convinced a dear friend to buy a workout pass at a local fitness center so we could go together. I don’t belong to a gym, but it was a really good deal. To maximize our experience, we decided to try new classes we wouldn’t normally do. (We purchased ten sessions.) It helps going with a friend to try new things. This week, we tried a Barre class. It was a little sore the next day but had a lot of fun. I can’t wait to go again!

A few months ago, I took a leap of faith and signed up for my first writing conference. Well, that was what I did today! It was such a good day. Really, it was something I didn’t know I needed…but was so encouraged by all I heard and learned. It’s great to feel like I am on the right track! We worshipped the Lord, met other writers, and attended breakout sessions and panel discussions. I saw some ladies from my church and we might meet up again to encourage each other in our goals. God is so 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)!

A Punch Bowl of Blessings

“That’s a pretty punch bowl, Natalie.” An older woman and I were talking on Sunday.

“Thanks! You know, the funny thing is, I have had this punch bowl for nearly ten years—it was a wedding gift—and I’ve never used it! So, I loaned it out for an event and am taking it back home. My friend was the first one to use it!”

I’m guessing my generation is probably the last group to add this to a wedding registry. The generations after me likely won’t even know what a punch bowl is!

My late husband, Dave, died four years ago, and while I appreciated the generous gift, clearly, it was not something we desperately needed. So for now, this beautiful punch bowl was returned to the original box under my stairs. But as I put it away, I felt a little silly.

I started to wonder, “How many other gifts did I ask for but haven’t used?” Hmmm… what I thought was important back then… really wasn’t.

God has blessed me with both material gifts and spiritual gifts, and I don’t want to take any of them for granted. Just like punch in a bowl, our blessings are meant to be shared.

Am I using those gifts as intended or are they sitting on a shelf somewhere? Am I helping others? Am I a refreshing source of God’s sweet love and grace… or not? 🙂

Both gifts and punch bowls are associated with celebrations. Even though I’ve never used my punch bowl, I still have plenty to celebrate! Over the years, I’ve hosted or joined lots of parties. Graduations, weddings, job promotions, new babies, holidays, etc.

But most often, I enjoy celebrating God’s goodness and grace in everyday life. I relish the freedom that comes from knowing His love. I’ve learned to extend myself the grace I usually reserve for other people.

I continually lay aside my perfectionistic tendencies and let go of lofty expectations. Just as the Lord’s mercies are new each morning, I can explore new things about myself and life in general. I can set new goals as I walk with Jesus and become more like Him.

It’s been humbling to live this widowed, single mom life; I’ve been forced to reevaluate and revamp several things over the years. I’ve had to change spending habits, exercise routines, how I cook, parent, and more. I’ve celebrated many victories too!

Similarly, I’ve also ditched things (or items on my to-do list) that no longer bring me joy or fulfillment. Life is too short to get stuck always doing something you don’t love!

As I think of all my blessings, I am in awe. I have wonderful people in my life. I have health and wholeness. I have a voice to speak up about important issues. My hands aren’t afraid of hard work. And yes, I have more than enough material resources so I can bless others.

It’s safe to say that when I first registered for that lovely punch bowl, I had no clue how much life would change in these ten years. Life sure is different than what I planned. Sometimes it feels a little chaotic, but I’m learning to go with the flow more each day!

I’m most grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness. That’s something I will never stop celebrating!

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Gracious Father, You are the Giver of all good things. Thank You for the rich blessings You’ve given us. Help us have the right perspective and use each gift as You intended. May we have wisdom and a spirit of generosity as we bless others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: What random gifts have you stored away and forgotten about? What are you going to do with them?

Tasks: Take inventory of your gifts, talents, and other blessings so you can use them!