Truth to Hold Onto When Loneliness Threatens {and tips to make it through}

I used to think the only lonely ones were those who were alone. Lately, though, I’ve realized that even surrounded by people, one can feel isolated.

Yet whether physically alone or alone just in spirit, loneliness doesn’t have to consume you.

As the first long weekend without my two oldest marched to an end, I have to admit, I felt it … lonely. The boys’ quiet absence brought a sense of melancholy emptiness at times, even though I had plenty of activity and fun engaging with my younger two children. 

Isn’t it funny how, sometimes, even when others are around, a heavy weight of “aloneness” can descend.

My-shelter-my-portion-

Higher Purpose to Loneliness?

It’s made me wonder if perhaps loneliness doesn’t have a higher purpose.

We were created to be in uninterrupted fellowship with God, but the cavern of sin broke it. Maybe feelings of emptiness/isolation in this life is an aching for the created to be fully restored with the Creator. [←Tweet this.]

A derivative of the severed relationship between man and God in the Garden of Eden, could lonesomeness serve to point us to the only One who can completely fill us.

Because, although Jesus Christ became the bridge to perfectly span the sin rift and reconnect our fellowship with the Father, sin will continue to mess with us until we reach our glory. 

Yet because the Lord is our portion in the land of the living (Psalm 142:5), we don’t have to live with a void in our spirit, even if our homes are empty of others.

Tips to Make It Through 

There are several ways I’m discovering to counteract loneliness: 

  1. Turn up the worship: Dig deeper in the Word. Sing praises throughout your day … really loud (just try it, it works). Don’t miss organized worship. 
  2. Seek out fellowship: Don’t remain isolated physically even when you feel that way emotionally.
  3. Reach out to others. Serve, and receive a huge blessing in return.
  4. Embrace the “aloneness.” Count the blessings; e.g., having more time to worship, serve, and be in the Word; it points us to the Savior.
  5. Be fully present where you are and with whom you are. Then loneliness won’t be so pronounced.
  6. Fully engage in your calling/vocation.
  7. Be reminded of the promises of God for the believer. He is your perfecter. He is your portion, He will never leave you, and He is enough.

Who says one has to be alone to feel lonely and isolated? Sometimes even when others are around, a deep melancholy spirit of emptiness can threaten to engulf us.

So when loneliness threatens, remember who your true portion is in this life and who will fill you for all eternity. [←Tweet this.]

Sing His praises, seek to serve Him, and let Him lift the fog of aloneness.

I cry to You, LORD; I say, “You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.” (Psalm 142:5)

Reflection: What is your favorite verse and/or story about God being your portion? 

Although it seems Ann is no longer offering her Multitude Mondays linkup (although her Joy Dare continues), I will continue to post my 1000-gift list on Monday (okay, today it’s Tuesday) because it seems a great day for it and because … well … I just can’t quit. (Just between you and me, it helps me in the savor department.)

Since beginning nearly 3 years ago, I’ve counted over 3,000 gifts!! What a blessing! So here we go: #3115–3135, read the entire list by clicking here.

  • Bedtime game of Yahtzee Jr. with Joey and Rachel; Pushing Rach through rain puddles on her bike; An osprey and hummingbird perched together!osprey and hummingbird perched-resized
  • Taking the ALS Ice-bucket challenge–at least it was refreshing; Rachel laughing in the mirror at her milk “mustache; Hearing deer warning snorts nightly outside my livingroom window
  • Having a job that often immerses me in the Word; The sight of one of our cats carrying a corn cob across the deck; Rach making supper (with help)
  • Mature decisions being made by my college freshman; My Green Bay Packer-football-fan son making time for his mama during their game; Comfort food, Chicken-Dumpling soup
  • Blessing of nobly occupied/contented children for the evening; Depth, breadth, and richness of God’s Word; Long weekend ahead of rest, jelly/syrup making, and family togetherness
  • Playing the game Twister with Rachel’s “twist” on the game–here’s a hint, it involves wrestling!; On our backs watching dragonflies the size of birds enjoying a meal; Popcorn night
  • Shimmering wild grape jelly and syrup canned; Talking to both my long-distance college boys; Priceless expressions that cross Rachel’s face while playing UNO–gotta love that girl! 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Daily Living, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Thankfulness

Not Everything Is Yours (or Mine) to Do: 6 Steps to Being Intentional

Just because there is something to be done, does not mean it is yours to do. 

I’m finally tired enough of being tired that I’ve decided to use my “no” more than my “yes.” In this age of crazy busyness, it’s necessary to be intentional, and that requires saying “no.”

something-not-always-yours-

It seems we all commit to way more than time permits. And it may be an epidemic among Christian circles.

For far too long, if there was something to do, I’d say yes. Be on this school committee? Sure. Help with this church activity? Of course. Edit this newsletter? I’ll get right to it.

What I found out was by overcommitting I didn’t do anything particularly well, and I couldn’t pursue the areas I was gifted in or serve my family well.

NY Times best-selling author and Proverbs 31 Ministries Founder Lysa Terkeurst knows the importance of this issue in our lives. She wrote an entire book that just released on this very subject, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands. Since I just started reading it, I won’t review it here, but so far, I’m finding it speaks to my heart.

(And the best thing about this book? Lysa is donating all proceeds from the sale of The Best Yes to charity!—link to purchase it is below.)

Being Intentional

It takes great intention to turn down worthy requests. Our “no’s” have to be preplanned. [←Tweet this.]

After much prayer and reflection, I’ve made certain determinations for my schedule for this next school year.

  • teach Sunday School but not serve in a leadership role
  • target my school volunteering to those activities my children are in or where my particular interests lie
  • prioritize time with God and Bible study
  • set aside an hour a day to write what God has placed on my heart
  • intentionally cultivate friendships
  • stop bleeding work into family time

It’s not easy and I often feel guilty about not stepping up when there is a definite need in an area. However, I’ve realized that when I fill a position as just a warm body, I prevent/deter someone else who is better equipped from doing so.

Not to mention, when I say yes to everything, I overfill my schedule, which negatively affects God’s calling on my life, including caring for my family.

I can’t expect to serve God well when I’m run so ragged I don’t have the energy to hear or obey.

Six Suggestions

We are not meant to do it all.

We are each gifted in certain areas and called to certain tasks. The other tasks are for … well … others. And we were created to rest, as God did (Genesis 2:2).

Rushing through life merely causes us to miss much of the glory God offers in our earthly existence. When we purposely slow down, we find ourselves in a better position to listen and help.

So may I ask, how are you going to take control of your crazy schedule this year? Might I give you a few suggestions?
  1. Study God’s Word.
  2. Schedule in ink the non-negotiables: personal Bible study/prayer, family, sleep, meals, dates, exercise (I struggle with this one), worship.
  3. Schedule other priorities: time set aside to cultivate friendships and pursue hobbies, clean house (maybe this should be a non-negotiable?).
  4. Don’t give an immediate “yes” to a request. Pray about it as you carefully consider each request in light of your gifts and #1 and #2. 
  5. When you make a decision, act on it. Too often we guilt ourselves into changing our minds. 
  6. Remind yourself repeatedly—post it on your refrigerator, write it on your mirror, tattoo it on your hand (just kidding on that one)—Just because there is something to be done, does not mean it is yours to do. 

Calming the chaos in our lives isn’t easy. And no one is going to do it for us.

Making best decisions for our time requires discipline—commitment to gather wisdom and learn discernment—then acting on both. [←Tweet this.]

As Lysa wrote in The Best Yes, “You must not confuse the command to love with the disease to please.”

Go out and love and serve as you are equipped, but don’t bow to the pressure to please others. After all, the only one we need answer to is God.

“Apply yourself to discipline
and listen to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12

Reflection: How do you avoid the trap to say “yes” to everything? Have you always done it well? Any suggestions?

You can get your copy of The Best Yes to read for yourself (and contribute to some wonderful causes) by clicking on the title or image here:

205851: The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands
This post is also part of Bonnie Gray’s Finding Spiritual Whitespace Blog Tour, which I’m excited to be part of. If you’re looking to find soul-rest and would like to check out Bonnie’s book, you can order one here Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.

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Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Daily Living, Serving

A Critically Important Assignment for Everyday: to Savor {and a Free Printable}

The life of a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) and wife can often be crazy busy or mundane (sometimes both at the same time). The days often mirror each other in their “dailiness.”

I’ve experienced this first-hand as a SAHM and a WAHM for more than 20 years.

Life in the workforce can also be filled with tedium,  frustrations, and burnout. I’ve seen this as I’ve walked alongside my husband for most of his nearly 30 years in the same line of work. 

And there are other days, we’d just as soon forget existed. 

God’s Grace in Each Day

As we travel on our life journey, we can easily lose touch with the gifts found in each day. Yet gratitude is a key component to living a life of joy and contentment. [←Tweet this.]

Learning to notice God’s grace that covers each mundane task, redeems the difficult times, and provides hope for each day is essential if we are to live a God-glorifying life. 

Just think, every morning we hold a treasure of opportunities at our fingertips: the opportunity to make connections, be encouraged and encourage others, share the Gospel, discover the richness of this world and how we fit in, share the grace we’ve received, experience great beauty, grow in our spiritual understanding, draw nearer to the Lord, gather wisdom and discernment, serve, love, and the list goes on. 

Yet it’s far too easy to get caught up in the dailiness, burdens, and demands of our lives. We become content with wearing blinders—focusing only on what needs to be done—instead of appreciating the unique flavor of the day’s offerings. 

God sprinkles spice throughout our days; we need to be intentional about tasting the fullness of each one, even if it’s not a favorite flavor. [←Tweet this.]

A Reminder Gift to Savor Our Savior

When I chose the word savor as my one word at the beginning of the year, I thought it was optional, a nice perk, to living well. Yet as I’ve reflected on its meaning, I came to  realize it’s essential for a Christian. 

As a reminder to receive the gifts God provides in each day, I’ve created several iterations of a “Savor” word cloud to download, print, and post where you will regularly see it. Feel free to save and share each word cloud. (They’re free, just click on each one.)

It’s important we learn to savor the work of the Lord in our days. Only then can we truly embrace His grace and live a life of gratitude. 

I pray the various “Savor” synonyms will help you focus on glorifying our Savior every day. 

Savor14

 

Savor10

Savor6

“Therefore, receiving, as we now do, a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us cherish thankfulness so that we may ever offer to God an acceptable service, with godly reverence and awe.” (Hebrews 12:28 WEY)

Reflection: How do you avoid the dreaded dailiness fog, or how do you rise above the frustrations and difficulties that are sure to occur, to savor each day? 

Although it seems Ann is no longer offering her Multitude Mondays linkup (although her Joy Dare continues), I will continue to post my 1000-gift list on Monday because it seems a great day for it and because … well … I just can’t quit. (Just between you and me, it helps me in the savor department.)

Since beginning nearly 3 years ago, I’ve counted over 3,000 gifts!! What a blessing! So here we go: #3115–3135, read the entire list by clicking here.

  • Fun afternoon with Daniel before he returns to college tomorrow; Laughing so hard I cried while playing Dutch Blitz with family–what a fun game; Baking quick breads and bars to go with my guys
  • DQ Blizzard followed by a bike ride–zero calories that way, correct?; Apple trees overflowing with fruit in our backyard; Daniel’s safe return to Hillsdale College
  • Getting Rach’s Leappad filled with music she loves; Zach’s things packed in the van to help him get settled at college after his freshmen retreat; Successful first day of school for Joey and Rachel
  • Rain stopping just in time to move Zach into his dorm; Traveling with Mom and Dad; Swimming with Joey and Rach at the hotel pool – Joey’s such a good little brother
  • Meeting Zach’s very nice California roommate and his parents; My parents’ willingness to help out with the kids so I can attend all of orientation; Reassuring message at orientation opening
  • Few late-night minutes reconnecting with a long-distance friend before heading home; Safe arrival home; Peace in believing the boys are where God wants them
  • Fellowshipping at church with other moms who are launching their college boys; Raspberry smoothie and cheeseball supper; Flitting butterflies

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Daily Living, Gratitude, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

“Waiting” Is Not a Bad Word: For When there Is No Clear Direction

“The best thing to do when you don’t know what to do is the hardest thing ever, waiting.”

From the moment we awake, we are on the go. Even when we don’t know where we are going or what to do, we are moving … somewhere.

We’ve developed the mentality that somewhere is better than nowhere. But we forget, the gift of here and now can be a place of great refueling and staging for that next journey. [←Tweet this.]

Blindly going when there’s no clear direction is wearing on the soul.

Sometimes we need to be content to wait until our path, or at least the next step is revealed. [←Tweet this.]

Oh, but that can be the hardest place to be! It feels like time wasted. 

Yet God has a plan for that “in-between” waiting time too. The trick is to wait well. 

Wait for the Lord-

Waiting Well

There are effective and ineffective ways to wait. I think you know the ineffective ones: complaining; remaining close-minded about what you are waiting for; sitting passively–waiting for life to happen, trying to force something to happen. 

I’m in that place right now. Waiting for God to reveal His plan for me, or at least His next step and I’m tempted to whine, adopt someone else’s path as mine, give up, or push through with my own ideas of which way to go. 

But God has graciously allowed me to see that there is a way to wait well. His strategies are revealed in the pages of Scripture.

Throughout His Word God continually called His people to wait:

We remember the shepherd boy David waiting years to take his throne after being anointed king.

Moses waiting for God to act to free the Israelites in Egypt and waiting (and wandering) through the dessert for 40 years afterward. 

Abraham and Sarah waiting for their promised heir Isaac.

Elisha, Elijah, Samuel, Mary and Joseph …

Even Jesus waited for just the right time to launch His ministry. 

You get the picture. Waiting is not new. 

Scriptural View of Waiting

So how do we do that dreaded waiting, so it is not so dreaded? Let’s take a quick look at some scriptural passages that give us guidance, with my emphasis added. 

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice;
    in the morning I lay my requests before you
    and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Lord, I wait for you;
    you will answer, Lord my God. Psalm 38:15 (with assurance)

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
    and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130:5

I will wait for the Lord,
    who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him. Isaiah 8:17

Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show you compassion.
For the Lord is a God of justice.
    Blessed are all who wait for him! Isaiah 30:18

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,
    I wait for God my Savior;
    my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

Wait for the Lord;
    be strong and take heart
    and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 1 Corinthians 1:7

Did you notice the guidelines for how to wait? 

  • Expectantly
  • With assurance
  • With your whole being
  • In trust
  • Open to His blessings
  • In hope
  • With strength and courage
  • Eagerly

Waiting is not a passive, “do nothing” period. Waiting is an active step of faith. [←Tweet this.] It is a time where great growth and discernment can be gleaned. 

It’s still tempting at times to hurry through this waiting period, but I’m discovering a richness in God’s waiting room. 

Don’t shy away from those moments the Lord asks you to wait.

But embrace waiting periods expectantly, with assurance that God is working, whole-heartedly, in trust, and open to His blessings as you hold onto hope, courageously and eagerly waiting for Him to complete His work in you and call you to that next step of faith. 

In so doing, you’ll find strength, direction, and passion anew for the race He’s asking you to run. 

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

Reflection: What have you learned about waiting on the Lord?
This post is part of Bonnie Gray’s Finding Spiritual Whitespace Blog Tour, which I’m excited to be part of. If you’re looking to find soul-rest and would like to check out Bonnie’s book, you can order one here Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.

21 Days of Rest: Finding Spiritual Whitespace

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Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Daily Living, Faith, trust

Three Reasons for Our Negative-Sightedness and How To Improve It

Too often all we can see are the hard things in our days–the struggles, valleys, pits, and roadblocks. Yet no matter what our circumstances, goodness and beauty are just a look away.

If that’s so, why don’t we take better notice? 

Negative-Sightedness

As I see it, there are three reasons for our negative-sightedness:

  1. We feel entitled to only good things in our lives (as if we even deserve one good thing).
  2. We have a mindset that easy is good and difficult is bad (not usually true in the end).
  3. We are just too busy to notice the daily moments that don’t require noticing. Our busyness blinds us to the gifts in our lives.

Our propensity to see the negative is the reason books like Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are  become bestsellers. We need reminders and near-daily encouragement to notice and acknowledge the positives.

The Lord says,Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). He’s not saying give thanks because everything is good, but through the grace of God, He will bring good out of everything.

And while we wait, He sends grace-drops, such as rainbows and sunsets and songbirds, to encourage us. 

Yet because the hard stuff draws our attention so readily (and does a dandy job of holding it captive), we often miss the beauty, joy, and blessings surrounding us. [←Tweet this.]

To notice the good that permeates our lives, we first need to open our eyes to its possibility. May I gently suggest resting in these promises:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

“And 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).

“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!” (Isaiah 30:18)

Seeing the Good

Finding space to breathe in God’s glory, to take a few minutes to put aside the craziness of the day and rest with Him, to bare my soul to Him, has been instrumental for me to notice God’s whispers of love. Bonnie Gray addresses this in depth in her book, Finding Spiritual Whitespace: Awakening Your Soul to Rest.

One of my other favorite (and highly effective) strategies for noticing the gems in my days is to take Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare; i.e., to count 3 gifts a day.

Here are some of my favorite blessings recorded during my recent “unplugged” vacation to the northern border of  Minnesota:

blueberries2-resized

Wild blueberries–enough to have in pancakes and still bring some of Rachel’s favorite berries home to her.

Fishing was great, with plenty of fish to eat every day!

Fishing was great, with plenty of fish (walleye, crappie, northern pike, and smallmouth bass) to eat every day!

Such a blessing to this mama's heart to see how much the boys enjoyed all their togetherness.

Such a blessing to this mama’s heart to see how much the boys enjoyed all their togetherness.

A favorite view

A favorite view.

These guys - the whole lot. Love them!

These guys–the whole lot. Love them so!

Soaking in a natural whirlpool.

Soaking in a natural whirlpool.

Gorgeous flowers.

Gorgeous flowers.

Swimming!

Swimming!

Misty mornings.

Enchanting mornings.

Dragonflies.

Dragonflies to eat mosquitoes.

Loons

Loons and other critters.

Gorgeous sunsets.

Gorgeous sunsets.

(My complete list from this wonderful week of rest can be found tucked in the middle of the bulleted list below.)

Granted, it is more difficult to be negative while on vacation, but the practice of scouting out blessings and counting gifts remains helpful in any circumstance.

God doesn’t give promises He does not keep. In Christ, there is always goodness and blessings. [←Tweet this.]

Next time, tough circumstances invade your day, may I challenge you to stop immediately and take notice of something good, beautiful, or helpful instead of allowing negativity free reign. Give thanks in it.

You will likely find your vision a little clearer and your day just a bit brighter. 

Let’s live each day standing on the promises of God. And His promises include a plan for our good. For that there is reason to give thanks. 

Enjoy “Standing on the Promises” sung by Alan Jackson. 

 

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:11)

Reflection: Noticing the blessings in a broken world takes some intentionality.  Through the grace of God, the blessing of my daughter with special needs and Ann’s Joy Dare have transformed my eyesight to 20/40 positive and improving every day. How has God provided for your improved eyesight? Or are you still struggling in this area?

I’m once again linking up with Ann Voskamp’s 2014 Joy Dare, and catching up from the past 3 weeks. Find the linkup at A Holy Experience. Since beginning nearly 3 years ago, I’ve counted over 3,000 gifts!! What a blessing! #3050–3114, read the entire list by clicking here.

  • Zachary is released from cardiology followup–praise God!; Refreshing day spent with Zach–he always makes me laugh; Seafood!
  • Enjoying an evening with friends–a rare treat; Watching the boys interact with there special sister–heartwarming; Lightening bugs over the prairie
  • Successful night last night in the sleep disorder room w/ Rach; Early brkft at IHop w/ my girl;Clothes dryer that works!
  • Morning Bible time on the deck with hummingbirds playing chase around me; Watching first part of Sound of Music with the kids; These beauties–it’s like bringing the sun in
  • Last day of vaca prep before R&R begins!; Riding in a car w/ mobile app expert; Sharing blessing of extra garden produce
  • Those thoughtful people God places in our lives who help things be okay; Rach safely at Camp Courageous; Rest of us arrived at our destination
  • Great news of no permanent damage to our young friend’s spinal cord; Entry into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area; Relatively easy portages; Found one of the last open campsites before dark
  • Finding the campsite we wanted open; Getting into the fish–walleye for supper; The fun our boys have together
  • Enchanting foggy morning; Drying out from the nighttime storm; Fresh fish sandwich for lunch; Playing at Curtain Falls; Sitting among the dragonflies swooping around us eating their fill of mosquitoes
  • Finding peppermint plants; Exploring Iron Lake; An evening meal of butter-fried fish and Teriyaki noodles; Swimming with Zach and Joey
  • Jumping in Rebecca Falls; Laying on the rock with the boys as the stars and moon came out; Finding an large blueberry patch to pick to take home to Rach; Playing Hacky Sack in the middle of the BWCA with my boys; Canoeing and fishing with Joey as my canoe partner–he’s growing up so fast! 
  • Dave’s enjoyment of catching Crappie in the BWCA; Full moon over the lake; Readily finding a nice campsite on Lake Agnes; Seeing pelicans and a type of falcons, perhaps merlins
  • Safe leg out of Boundary Waters; Stopping to see Dave’s sister and brother-in-law on the way home; Greeted with all good news upon reconnection with family and friends
  • Orange and black flash of a morning warbler; Reunited as a family with Rach; Seeing how well our young diving accident friend is doing–thank you, Lord!
  • Entire family walk with a crazy funny Rach; Memories of Zach’s high school acting relived as he heads off to college tomorrow; Wildflowers brightening up the dinner table
  • Dan’s company to take Zach to Wheaton College Passage; Leaving Zach at college knowing it’s where he belongs; Prayer power = God’s peace
  • Good doctor report for Daniel; Results are in: No sleep apnea for Rach!; Traveling mercies for the more than 14 hours of driving we did over the past 2 days
  • Porch swinging with Rach; Peach jam canned; This little fellow sharing my morning Bible-reading spot
  • Afternoon of editing made better by being next to my girl on our deck swing; Dan “cooking” supper–frozen pizzas; Sounds of families enjoying time together in the park

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

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Posted in Grace, Gratitude, Multitude Mondays, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Thankfulness

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Hello, I'm Julie, an imperfect wife and mother of four. Life in this broken world is not always easy. Yet, joy can be found in each day through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ.

I find it's easy for our day's BLESSINGS to get lost in its HAPPENINGS. But God's "mercies never end" (Lamentations 3:22) and His "grace is sufficient" (2 Corinthians 10:9).

May the posts and pages on this site offer you a measure of peace and encouragement.

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