A Lunch Lady in the Library

On Monday, Lydia and I attended a conference with her teacher at school. I’m grateful Lydia is doing well so far. Even better, her teacher also mentioned Lydia has been helping other students. I’m glad she is confident in the material and can tutor others (as needed) at her ‘pod’ of desks. Her eagerness to help others reminds me of Dave’s servant heart.

On Monday, I also volunteered to help with the PTO book fair in the school library. I ran one of the cash registers and rang up book orders. I met some new faces and saw a few friends!

Lydia joined me in the library. She walked around looking at books; played quietly with another worker’s daughter; and returned books to the shelves for me if someone changed their mind. She loves to help!

One cheerful volunteer said she works at the school as a lunchroom supervisor (aka a lunch lady). She happened to be a PTO member, as well. She said, “I worked today and then stayed longer to set all this up. Then, I went to my kids’ conferences and now I am here.” She was very friendly and didn’t seem to mind her extra-long day.

A little while later, during a slower moment, I asked, “Do you have a position on the PTO?” She seemed quite knowledgeable to me! With a laugh, she replied, “Oh, no. I don’t have a position. I just jump in wherever is needed!”

I loved her attitude and eagerness to help. I felt she exemplified a good life lesson: You don’t need a title or position to serve. You don’t have to wait to be asked. Just jump in where you see a need!

Later, we continued to talk. I joked, “Way back in high school, I cashiered at a grocery store, so this is right up my alley.” She nodded and said, “Well, hey, I worked in a bank for four months….so I’d say we’re qualified!” 😉

From time to time, I suspect most of us don’t feel up to par with all that is required of us. I certainly don’t always feel qualified for whatever task or position I am called to do.

But, then I remember that God made me on purpose. He has given me my personality, abilities, strengths, and even weaknesses, for a specific reason. My circumstances are not a surprise to the Lord. He knew what He was doing!

Indeed, God has also used my life experiences (the good and bad!) to shape me. He instilled passions in my heart that are unique to me. He uses each of these areas to equip me and prepare me for all I need to do. My opportunities for both growth and advancement come from Him. I can be still and trust Him!

If I do my work as unto the Lord, I don’t have to worry about what others think. In fact, it’s not about what I do or don’t do… Jesus already did the most important work on the Cross. Thus, whether I succeed or fail, it’s a win-win in the end. I am covered by His grace!

God has a good plan for my life (and yours). Surely, He created us for such a time as this. So we don’t need to be afraid—we can jump in with confidence, knowing He’s got it under control. He’s so faithful!

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God, thanks for giving me Your strength and grace. Thanks for equipping me and qualifying me for each task. Help me do my best and bring You glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions: Where do you find your confidence and strength? In your own abilities? Or in God working through you?

Tasks: Instead of trying to solve each problem on your own, ask Jesus for help. Let Him direct Your path and goals. Trust Jesus because He is the ultimate solution.

Note to Self: Don’t Fake Brave

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All I Can Do

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasks: Meditate on Psalm 59:17.

Like A Beast

Yesterday, I enjoyed a movie date with my sister and two close friends. We went to see Beauty and the Beast during Lydia’s school hours. My neighbor’s little boy attends there, too, so her husband picked up the kids while we enjoyed the movie. We had a great time!

It’s always fun to think about how I am like the beautiful heroine. But over the weekend, sadly, I was more like an ugly BEAST! In a rash moment, I made a huge mistake.

In short, I blindsided a dear friend by pointing out some (perceived) faults. I didn’t plan to say anything negative or disrespectful, but I really hurt my friend. I totally blew it. To make matters worse, I kept talking. I tried to backtrack and smooth over what I had already said. But the damage was done.

This friend has many wonderful and admirable qualities, but I didn’t get a chance to mention those. This friend is bold and courageous, yet gentle and caring. My friend has strong character and always seeks to do the right thing. This friend encourages me and challenges me to be my best. My friend is faithful to pray for me and Lydia and checks in with us from time to time. We so appreciate our friend.

Yet, in a few short minutes, I nearly ruined our friendship. At least that’s what it felt like.

So, I apologized and went home. On my own, I tearfully considered all that had gone wrong in such a short time. I had wanted to build up my friend, not tear them down. I try to encourage others, but in this case, I did the exact opposite. I was clearly in the wrong. I offered another apology, but knew my friend needed some time (and space).

The next day, my friend was much more gracious to me than I deserved—honest, but not condemning. Just like Jesus. There’s no excusing my poor behavior that day, and I hope to make it up to my friend soon. But trust is earned.

I’d like to say this is an isolated event. This type of thing doesn’t happen often. Even so, there are lots of other times I have messed up! That’s why I need Jesus!

Jesus is kind and considerate, firm yet caring. He does not jump to conclusions and is always willing to give me a second chance. The Lord is slow to anger and rich in love.

Indeed, Jesus offered mercy and forgiveness before I ever knew I needed it. He saved me according to His grace, not because of anything I have done or ever could do. I could never make things right on my own. (See Ephesians 2:4-5)

Clearly, I’m not perfect… but whether I act as Beauty or the Beast, I am grateful for forgiveness, second chances, good friends and God’s grace!

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Heavenly Father, you are gracious and compassionate. Thank You for being merciful when I don’t deserve it. Thank You, Jesus, for taking my punishment on the cross. Thank You for loving me so much and not letting sin separate us! Help me love like You do. In Your Name, Amen

Questions: Have you seen the new Beauty and the Beast movie? In what ways are you like Belle? In what ways are you like the Beast? (Hopefully, I am not the only one!) 🙂

Tasks: Praise God for His forgiveness! Do a quick heart check to determine whether you need to offer someone an apology or offer forgiveness. Then do it!

Waiting and the World Series

It’s been really fun watching the Chicago Cubs make it to the World Series. I can feel the excitement in the air! (Though last night’s game was a little disappointing.)

The Cubs franchise certainly knows a lot about hard work… and waiting. But while the roster has changed over the years, the discipline and desire have only grown stronger. It is thrilling to think that their ‘breakthrough’ could be at hand!

cubs-stretch

This week, I saw an interesting connection with my personal life. Lately, the Lord has me revisiting the waiting process too! It seems God is both challenging me and encouraging me, because I keep finding ‘well-timed’ books, articles, or podcasts about waiting on Him.

For example:

Wait and See by Wendy Pope

Waiting on God by Wayne Stiles

If God can help the Chicago Cubs make it to the World Series, I know sooner or later, MY breakthrough will come too, if I don’t give up!

I’ll admit though—it would be much ‘easier’ to just jump ahead in several areas of my life right now. Instead of toiling each day, why not just skip to the reward?

Because waiting serves a purpose.

wrigley-field

(PC: Olivia Paul)

First, the outcome wouldn’t be as sweet if it was always so easy to obtain what we desire. On the plus side, most of us will never have to wait 108 years for a breakthrough! 😉

Second, waiting proves that the best things are worth the effort. Think of all the practice the Cubs have put in, both as a team and individually!

Third, waiting builds character so we can keep what we have worked for. We grow spiritual fruit, too. Negative attitudes, hidden motives, and bad habits are uncovered, which could otherwise hinder us from moving forward into what God has for us.

Galatians 6:9 says, “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” Waiting on God is not ‘doing nothing.’ It is taking active steps in the right direction, but pacing ourselves according to His timing.

Think of it as training camp!

baseballs

But waiting itself can feel quite challenging, because we want to move on to bigger, better, and often, more exciting things. Maybe you are stuck in the outfield currently, but don’t overlook what God is doing—He is equipping you for greatness.

“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way” (James 1:2-4, MSG).

In our fast-paced society, waiting longer than we think we should have to can feel unjust. Why me?! If we wait long enough, we tend to doubt ourselves and our abilities. But it’s not about us—or the outcome. In the end, what we learn about God and ourselves is most important.

When we are stretched to our limit, we find God’s grace and supply know no bounds. As we refocus on His ability to see us through, we remember Jesus’ faithfulness. His timing is perfect timing and His plans for us are good!

Waiting can leave us feeling weak and worn out. But in Jesus, we already have ultimate Victory. So, we can enjoy life while we rely on His everlasting strength!

ephesians-3_20

Waiting can make us question the validity of our dreams—or even our calling. But, we can trust Jesus to develop us and lead us through each trial. He is trustworthy. And, we can leave the results to Him, because He is able to do abundantly more than all we ask or imagine (see Ephesians 3:20)!

I don’t know what you are struggling with today—or waiting for. Perhaps you need healing, provision, or a promotion. Jesus hears your prayers and cares about every little detail of your life. Ask Him to help you maximize your waiting period so you are fully prepared to step in to all He has planned for you!

It is coming!!

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Heavenly Father, thanks for always working on my behalf. Thanks for all you teach me while I am waiting. Help me remember that Your plan for me is good—and the best things take time. In Jesus’ Name, Amen

Questions:  Are you relying on God in your waiting period? What might you learn in the process?

Tasks: Write down all the benefits of waiting in your current phase of life. Review it when you are tempted to rush ahead of God’s timing!

Finding Grace #30

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

We don’t do that nearly enough!

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

sunset-over-water

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

  • This week I needed God’s grace on an hourly basis. The beginning of the week is usually busier for me. That’s fairly normal, and most weeks, I just deal with it like everyone else! But this week, I was exhausted—completely drained—by Tuesday morning. I saw a friend when dropping Lydia off at daycare, and I’m sure I interacted with her like a zombie. I didn’t even recognize her at first because I was groggy and the sun was so bright in my eyes! I hadn’t slept well for two nights in a row, and it caught up with me. Yet, God was faithful to provide energy when I needed it most. His grace was sufficient for my weakness!
  • It doesn’t happen often, but I met with several different people throughout the week, some for upwards of two hours each for various reasons. Throughout the course of these conversations, I was able to encourage people from church, work, and other areas of life. I visited with old friends and made some new ones! It was energizing to me when I listened and (hopefully) inspired them in their faith. I was thankful for God’s grace and for all the ways He used me this week!
  • I recently bought a magnetic chore chart for Lydia. It has been interesting to see her strive to meet these daily expectations. Some examples include being respectful, helping with dishes, and picking up her toys. I am thankful for the chart because I can keep her accountable without nagging. In fact, Lydia can clearly see if she is not doing right and has redirected herself on occasion. Praise God! When we review each day, Lydia’s able to acknowledge if she doesn’t deserve a token, but doesn’t get upset at me! It’s also been fun to see her excitement and satisfaction for doing well.

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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)!

Where did YOU see or experience God’s grace this week?

Ctrl+Alt+Del

This week, my Monday turned a little chaotic. Mostly, I tried to do too many things at one time. But a good portion of the frenzy was related to computer problems! I am good with daily computer tasks, but on Monday, I was out of my element!

computer connections

Earlier in the day, I sat at the bookstore where I had a meeting and then did some writing. I made great progress until my laptop battery died. Thankfully, I had just saved my file.

No problem!

Then, when I returned home, I plugged in the battery and turned it on. This time, it took forever to load and made strange noises. I’ve noticed it overworking the last few months, so when this happened, I panicked and pushed a million buttons.

Yeah…That only made things worse!

I tried the good ol’ three-finger salute (Ctrl+Alt+Del) in order to stop the laptop from doing lengthy updates. I rebooted it hoping that would help. Nope!

Running downstairs, I grabbed my external hard drive to back up my laptop in case it crashed. I had been meaning to do it for awhile anyway… I did what I could, but had a few questions for my brother. After a 45 minute phone conversation, we discussed a temporary fix. Still, transferring my files took several hours!

Philippians 4_6

Of course, this all happened while I was watering my new trees and making dinner! I ran back and forth outside, to the kitchen, and then to my laptop in the living room.

Think chicken…head nowhere to be found. 🙂

I kept forgetting to check the water… and left the hamburgers until they were well-done. Soon, I threw together a plate for Lydia and sat with her for a few minutes. But I had already eaten my hamburger while running around the house and yard!

After dinner, Lydia played outside. I checked on her every few minutes when running out to move the water hose. Later, I walked her across the street to play with those neighbors.

Finally, with everything else going on, I decided to skip a webinar I wanted to attend when Lydia went to bed. I realized I could catch up during a replay session later in the week.

Eventually, everything calmed down. After I put Lydia to bed, I could finally think clearly.

Then, I heard a little voice from down the hall. Normally, it says, “Mom, can I have some water?!” or “Mom, I need to tell you something!”

But, on Monday night, I heard, “Mom can you please cuddle with me?”

Given my recent parenting challenges, I’m thankful I listened. Instantly, I thought: Everything else is just chaos, but this moment with Lydia is what really matters. I spent a few minutes with her, thankful for the opportunity to connect.

Then, in the calm, I thought of a handy solution for future reference….because life and technology, challenges will always “pop up” again! (pun intended!)

ctrl alt del pic

In the midst of overwhelming chaos, think Ctrl+Alt+Del.

Usually, that combination brings up the Task Manager. In real life, this is like my schedule—everything that is going on or needs to be done.

Ctrl: What part of the mess can I actually control? What are the things only I can do? I may not be able to handle the external problem on my own, but I can control my attitude. Pray for help and breathe in God’s grace.

Alt: Is there a simple solution or a better alternative? What are the tasks someone else can do? Don’t neglect to ask for help or take a small break to get clarity.

Del: What can be delayed or deleted altogether? What are the most important priorities? Who else will benefit from making some changes? For instance, I can catch up with the webinar later, but kid moments and cuddling opportunities won’t last forever. Release self-defeating thoughts or feelings.

A few other pointers:

Back up. Consider taking a step back to see the big picture. Go back to God and ask for His perspective. Let Him handle all your frustrations. Give Him your concerns because He really cares. (1 Peter 5:7)

Reboot. Let God transform Your thinking and show you the best path. Sometimes, sleep is the best choice. Things usually look better in the morning. (Romans 12:2, Psalm 143:8)

Restore. If you let Him lead, God can restore all things. Stay present with Him and return to peace as quickly as possible. Do whatever it takes to remain there! (Philippians 4:7)

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God, thanks for Your ever-present help! Thanks for helping us prioritize what is most important. Help us remember to bring all our concerns to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Do you consider yourself a tech-savvy person? Do you prefer a PC or Mac?

 

The Upside of Failure

Occasionally, we have days when everything is amazing. Good food, good hair, good sleep, good kids, good job, good workout, good weather. Awesome! But, alas, it seems there are also days NOTHING goes right! We can push to our limit and give it our best….but still fail somewhere. When experiencing failure, it is easy to feel defeated, like we want to give up.

Thankfully, there is a difference between failing and “being a failure.” Failure (or failing) is good in many ways! Here’s what I learned from a conversation on weight lifting.

weights

A friend’s old exercise plan included completing 4 sets of 10 repetitions before moving on to the next exercise. That was fine until his goals changed. Then, he switched up his routine to use heavier weights and build more muscle mass.

He did as many reps as possible, until he could safely do no more—that is, until he reached “failure.” At that point, the muscles start to break down. Slowly, our body is rebuilt with increased strength and muscle mass.

(That’s oversimplifying things—I’m not an expert!)

This friend grew frustrated when he couldn’t do as many repetitions. He thought failure meant defeat. When he finally saw results, however, he realized—failure brings growth.

He went on to list other important factors for building muscles: nutrition, rest, and time. Nutrition, rest and time are all interconnected. But, each is unique for its role in recovery.

hammock

Proper nutrition is vital for muscle growth. Adequate calories and protein are necessary to heal and increase strength. There are other things to consider, but consistency is key.

An athlete wouldn’t skip an opportunity to refuel. Nor would they replenish themselves on junk food! Spiritually, God’s Word is our fuel.  We grow when we spend time with God! As we take in His Word, God renews and transforms us from the inside out (see Romans 12:2). We can’t expect good outcomes if we don’t have good input!

Rest is essential to recovery and well-being. A rest day after intense exercise brings relief to sore muscles. It is a gift! Without rest, there is no restoration. In our quiet moments with Him, God rebuilds us into a stronger person.

Taking a rest break can be a challenge. We live in a fast-paced world. If we’re not careful, we will burn out. For some people, the slower pace can feel unnerving. But it’s worth it. I now look forward to scheduling down time in my life!

Time is also a gift. Waiting is difficult when you have many goals and dreams! As time goes on and we seek God’s input, He refines us. We’re all a work in progress, right?

We spend much of our lives waiting… My goal is to always learn all I can in those times. I look at it as training and preparation while God works out all the details for me.

The best is yet to come!

kettleball

Faith is like a muscle. We have to exercise it in order for it to grow. Just like a healthy body takes effort, so does faith. So, when trials and setbacks come, don’t fear failure. Rather than accept defeat, see setbacks as growth opportunities!

There may be pain, but don’t let that hinder your progress. If you let Him, God will prepare you for greater capacity and greater responsibilities. During your rest period, feast on God’s word as you wait for Him to finish the work.

The upside of failure is that it redirects our focus. God is in control of the final outcome, we just have to be faithful in our role. So, let God teach you—He will set you up for success. It might take some time, but when you (finally!) do see results, it will be worth the wait.

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God, You are so wise. Thank You for leading, teaching, and restoring us during times of rest. Help us trust Your growth process. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: When exercising, do you prefer cardio or lifting weights? Regarding life circumstances, what is God using to grow your faith in Him?

 

Try, Try Again!

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions? Three weeks into January, how are you doing?

While I don’t make resolutions, I enjoy setting goals and making plans.
When it comes to developing good habits, I would rather make simple changes that add up over time. I like to see progress and like the flexibility to alter goals as needed.

There is no problem with setting goals and making plans in general. Yet, I’ve realized that I can attempt to control too many outcomes, including others’ reactions. Have you been there too? Ultimately, this causes a lot of stress and can actually hinder progress.

accomplish-1136863_1280 (2)

For example, this winter I signed Lydia up for ice skating lessons. I thought it was a great idea and would teach her valuable skills. Lydia never requested the lessons (ahem), but I wanted her to try it out and learn. We do live on the Minnesota border after all!

I hoped Lydia would learn to enjoy ice skating as much as I do. We signed up for a six week parent-tot class, where I go out on the ice with Lydia. My main goal was that she would try her best. If she had fun or was good at it, that would be a bonus.

Well, we’re a few weeks into it and things have not gone according to my plan. A few days ago, Lydia flat-out refused to get on the ice. In fact, she stubbornly sat in the bleachers and wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t move her without causing a scene, though she is typically more compliant.

I’d say that Lydia takes after Dave, but nobody would ever believe me! 😉

pizza pic

I didn’t expect perfection, I just wanted her to try!

I finally convinced Lydia to try again after sitting through the entire class. I might’ve threatened to eat her leftover pizza if she didn’t get on the ice. At any rate, she was motivated for the last thirty seconds of class. She skated out as the other kids came in.

Trust me, I did not earn any parenting awards that day!

Then last night, we went to the class again. This time I left all expectations at the door. I was prepared to sit and watch, if needed. I resolved to coach instead of coax. I remained positive and encouraged Lydia at her own pace. She fell several times, yet by God’s grace, she tried her best and did great. We had fun and each learned a few new skills.

I was so proud of Lydia! I realized if I push my plan (aka “You will do this and enjoy it!”), she could grow to hate ice skating. When I backed off and relaxed, we made much more progress. Lydia was able to relax and was proud of herself, too.

ice skating

You know, in my own stubbornness, sometimes I try to do the same thing with God. In my impatience, I can get ahead of God and try to do His part. Or, I prefer my goals and plan to His. I get caught up in my own expectations, and leave no wiggle room for what God wants to do on my behalf.

Thankfully, the Lord doesn’t just let me skate by! Sometimes, I need to sit and watch what He is doing. Sometimes, I have an active role. Many times, I’m the one needing the lesson!

When Life doesn’t go as planned, we can change goals and alter our expectations. When we persevere and don’t give up, God is faithful to direct us where we need to go.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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Father God, thank You for being patient with me when I am stubborn. I am a slow learner at times. Thank You for grace and do-overs. Your plan is far better than mine! Help me do my best. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Questions: Are you stubborn too? 🙂 What is something you are learning lately?

Tidings of Comfort and Joy

This holiday season, I’m enjoying how ecstatic Lydia is for Christmas! She loved decorating her own little tree. At church, Lydia and her friends are practicing Christmas carols to sing in front of our congregation. Yay for sparkly dresses!

Lydia also listens intently to the Christmas carols on the radio and provides commentary. It has made for many interesting conversations. “Mom, is Jesus is the King?” And then, “But Jesus is not the angry king—that was somebody else.” (She was thinking of King Herod!)

Noting Lydia’s interest in Christmas carols, I decided to take her to a special Christmas concert this week. I can’t wait for her interpretation of the songs! Pretty much every song becomes Lydia’s favorite… 🙂

Though, I debated about going at all because this holiday season has taken me by surprise. I have been sadder than I expected due to a combination of factors. Most often, these things don’t cause sorrow. But sometimes, it just all adds up.

It took me awhile to recognize what I was feeling: a new wave of grief. It’s not sadness 24/7, but for me, it ebbs and flows. A dear friend prayed with me, validated my concerns, and made me laugh. Just getting it all out—acknowledging the struggle—was so helpful. Now, my heart is light again.

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Note these famous words of the Christmas carol, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.”
“God rest ye merry, gentlemen
Let nothing you dismay
Remember, Christ, our Saviour
Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power
When we were gone astray
O tidings of comfort and joy,
Comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy”

Christ Jesus brings rest, comfort and joy. He sustains us with His mighty strength. Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. What a relief!

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If you are finding it difficult to ‘be merry’ this Christmas season…

Take some time to reflect. Stop and acknowledge whatever you are feeling. It’s okay. Don’t run from your feelings. Allow yourself to feel the emotions (however awful); you’ll ultimately grow stronger. Each time, your heart heals a little more. Trust in God’s timing and love during this tender process. (see Philippians 4:6-8)

Then, call a friend. Share your struggle with someone you trust. There’s no need to bear it alone. Give voice to your pain; call it what it is. Ask God to bring His hope and healing. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT).

Also, take good care of yourself. Go to a special event, like a Christmas concert. Buy yourself flowers …or an orange poinsettia! Try this five-day Bible reading plan on grief during the holidays. Maybe take a nap, read a book, squeeze in a walk/run, or get a massage.

Finally, relax your expectations of the season. Celebrate those traditions that bring comfort, and hold off on the others. Keep it simple. Loss affects many people. You might feel better by helping someone else, so find a friend who needs encouragement too.

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If you are comforting a grieving friend or family member, here are some tips for you: Remember everyone’s grief is different. Time doesn’t heal all wounds, but it does help. Grief can come at the most random moments—that’s normal. Grief cannot be “fixed” but it’s invaluable to know a good listener. Don’t press them to talk, but let them know you care. Invite them out or bring them a meal. Given the freedom to grieve, the feelings of loss may dissipate sooner.

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God doesn’t expect us to have it all together. So receive God’s grace and come to Him, just as you are. You are dearly loved. He has good plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11)!

Remember: Jesus already knows. And yes, He is the King!

Father God, thank You for Jesus! Thanks for Your peace, grace, and joy. Wrap Your loving arms around those who need comfort and healing during this season. Help them perceive  Your presence and Your love. Give them rest as they wait on You to heal their hearts. In Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.