How to Reclaim Your Day When the Unexpected Happens

Dropping to my knees, I struggled to regain composure. A Monday morning, particularly this Monday morning, should not start this way.

The night before I had just returned from a four-day convention. I needed today to go as planned. But my daughter delivered the unexpected by messing her bed.

Not an uncommon experience, but one I did not have time for today.

A half-hour later with her cleaned up, I knelt on the floor to tackle the dark stain there. My attitude was anything but gracious.

I struggled to gain perspective.

How many times have I told my children not to let unwanted circumstances get the best of them?

How many times have I written about leaning into the Lord during times of struggle and maintaining joy in the midst of them?

How many times have I shared stories about looking for the blessings in the unexpected happenings?

After all, I blog about embracing grace in the MESS of life! 

So was I? Embracing God’s grace, that is?

steps-established-by-God-smaller

Reframe the Day

Not at first.

But as I knelt with cloth in hand to clean up this unexpected and unwanted mess, I remembered an exercise that helps me refocus on the evidence of God’s love when I’m struggling. It’s the simple act of reaching out and giving thanks for the first thing I touch.

My extended hand fell on my daughter’s bed. And I remembered.

I remembered how excited we were at her birth. How terrified we were when we thought we were losing her at 6 weeks of age when she quit breathing. How we struggled to accept her disabilities.

I silently acknowledged how hard it is sometimes to care for and raise her. But instantly smiled at the incredible joy and inspiration she brings into our home.

Reclaim the Day

As I remembered and gave thanks, my frustrations melted away. Because the truth of the blessings in my life hit me full force in that one act of reaching and remembering.

Rachel is truly a gift. She is worth cleaning up after. She is worth every manner of hard we face as we raise her.

Not because she will hold a high office someday or will accomplish some great feat.

Rachel is a gift because she is our daughter; she has been given to us. She is a gift because God is using her life to grow me and others in great and profound ways. She is a gift because she is God’s beautiful child.

Had I not intentionally reframed my thinking that morning, I would not have been able to reclaim my day. I have no doubt frustration and anxiety would have dominated much of it.

Refocusing on the evidence of God’s love in the midst of the mess didn’t change the circumstances. I still spent the next half hour cleaning up the stain. But it did change my attitude.

The Abundant Life

With the glimpse of the gifts in my life, my joy in the day returned. Yes, I was now behind in work. Yes, I had to do an unpleasant job. But now I could see that this was the priority of this day, of everyday.

This kneeling. This serving. This obedience to let God lead, even when the path leads into messy territory.

This IS the abundant life. Grace showing up in the unwanted. Gifts wrapped in brown paper bags (or, um … brown, stinky something). Joy found in humility … in obedience … in surrender.

This is how we are called to live: anchored in the love of God.

We waltz an imperfect dance, but led by the perfect King of kings, it’s all glory, it’s all grace.

And yes, even when the music stops, He continues to lead … right into eternity.

“A man’s steps are established by the Lordand He takes pleasure in his way. Though he falls, he will not be overwhelmed, because the Lord holds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

Reflections: Are you following the Lord’s steps or trying to lead yourself?

Do you struggle with reframing your attitude when in the midst of difficult or unwanted circumstances? You’re not alone. To help, I created the Reclaim Today action card, three simple actions to take to remember that each day is indeed a gift, despite how it unfolds. Reclaim your day: Click on the button to get your FREE action card now! Reclaim Today button 2

I’m thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “anchored!” as well as Bonnie Gray from Faith Barista. I love these special linkups. They provide an abundance of great inspiration and encouragement all in one place. Click on the image below to check them out.

LIVEFREETHURSDAY    beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

 

Posted in Abundance, Daily Living, Gratitude, Struggles, Suffering, Thankfulness

Live Bountifully in a Messy Life

I’d like to offer a warm welcome to the visitors popping in from Suzie Eller’s blog. I invite you to take a few minutes and look around. You may want to start with my About Page. 

My prayer is that you find something on this site that encourages and inspires you to tap into God’s amazing grace to live abundantly in this messy life.

If you like what you see, sign up to receive every new post directly into your email inbox (you’ll also receive my monthly e-letter). In fact, sign up and receive my free gift, a printable “Discover the Gift of Today” action card that will help you maintain focus on the blessings in the midst of the happenings!

Exchange-went-with-Christ

Her head bowed. Her eyes downcast. I tried to pass her a smile, but she wouldn’t meet my gaze to catch it. 

This was supposed to be a happy event, featuring a Christian comedian and a joy-filled worship leader. Spirits should be soaring and smiles and laughter a given. 

I watched her as she entered the convention hall and slowly made her way to the far corner. Just a young girl, her teenage shoulders appeared to be carrying the weight of the world. 

Wishing I could wrap her in my arms, my heart ached for her pain. As I followed her with my eyes, I silently prayed. 

Dear Lord, Please be with this young lady. You know her, Lord. You love her. Her heart is heavy, Lord. I don’t know her pain, but you do. Comfort her. Help her to feel your presence in a new way tonight. Bring others around her to listen and just be with her. In Jesus name. Amen. 

I wanted to do much more for this grieving girl.

I wanted to run after her. To wrap her in a warm hug.

I wanted to assure her that she is not alone. That this pain will not last forever.

I wanted to give her peace in the midst of her hard.

I wanted to tell her that she didn’t need to carry the world because Jesus Christ had already done that.

Gifts for a Messy Life

On His shoulders clung the horror of the sins of the entire populous, past, present, and future. The depravity of the human condition met Jesus in full at the cross. 

But what looked awful became the ultimate Good. What ended in bodily death, resulted in everlasting life. Where peace seemed impossible, God orchestrated it. 

He did all of this so each of us could be with Him in heaven forever! And then He did more!

The Lord lavished gifts on us to see us through our earthly walk.

The gift of grace.

The gift of mercy.

The gift of love.

The gift of hope.

The gift of peace.

Uncountable, these blessings. All means to living bountifully in a messy world. 

The Exchange

Jesus died so we can claim the abundant life, in heaven and in this life! 

He continues to pour out His grace on us, so we can remain hopeful in hopeless situations. So we can find joy in the midst of sorrow. So we can walk in peace when life reigns chaotic. 

You can be sure whatever troubles this young girl is covered by the grace of God. Whatever troubles you is too!

Turn to God with your struggles, frustrations, heartaches, and pains. Let Him fill you up with just what you need.

Exchange the weight of your world for the light yoke of Christ. 

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Reflections:  What weight do you struggle with? Have you considered exchanging it with the Lord? 

Closing in on 4 years of counting and I’ve surpassed 4,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #3996–4016. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Lunch rescued by my gas stove during this morning’s electrical outage; Broken air conditioner (my joy, not my husbands) smile emoticon ; Evening alone for projects
  • Successful first radio interview–I think (made it through without passing out at least! smile emoticon ); Business cards ordered and new giveaway nearly complete!; Ending the evening with a game of badminton with Joey
  • Squirrels swaying on the edges of branches; Packed and ready for our church’s national women’s conference; A reprieve from a late-night task
  • Hubby taking care of home stuff in my absence; Worshipping and communing with thousands of women all sharing a common faith in the Risen Savior; A nice walking distance from our hotel to the convention center
  • Meeting Christian women from around the country; Hope and truth of Christ shared boldly; Supper out with Danny and church friends
  • Morning walk to a large local Farmer’s Market (and buying homemade pastries); Seeing the joy of the women as they’re reminded of the love and hope found in their Savior; Serving Christian sisters
  • Amazing 5 days with God’s fingerprints all over them; * Uplifting, inspiring and productive ‪#‎LWMLConvention‬; *Weather stayed nice for our family reunion–great to see cousins and aunts and uncles: once a year is far better than none

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Abundance, Daily Living, Grace, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Struggles, Suffering

What You Should Expect in Life

I was a young wife, eager to start a family. So from the time that first pregnancy test showed positive, I expected a baby to be placed in my arms. Counting down the weeks, it never crossed my mind that it may turn out differently. 

Because when one gets pregnant, holding a baby nearly 40 weeks later is just how it ought to be. And God delivers on the way things ought to be. That’s just what He does. Right? 

Well, yes. But what ought to be is not necessarily the way you and I want it to be. 

For years I expected God to conform to an idea I could understand. Instead He conforms to an ideal I have little understanding of. So I had a distorted view of how He was working in my life. 

Actually, I sometimes wondered whether He was working at all, especially when my pregnancies ended in empty arms.

I was so caught up in what I expected and the “unfairness” of it all, I couldn’t even consider their might be beauty in the ashes. 

watch expectantly

Our Limitations

Our expectations don’t always align with what God has in mind or wants to do in our life. Because we don’t see what He sees. 

Our limited vision skews our perception of what is. Our limited understanding blurs our idea of how things should be. 

We grow up with a certain idea of what our days will look like. That presumption, influenced by media, those around us, our past, and yes, our dreams, becomes a certainty in our minds and hearts. 

We plan around it. Work toward it. Rarely give a second thought to the possibility our ideal won’t be a reality. 

From where we stand, it IS the best plan. 

But what if it isn’t? What if our expectations of what should happen will lead us down a dead-end road? What if our plan looks great but has hidden flaws that will leave us spiritually weak? 

Abraham and Sarah’s Expectations

No doubt Abraham and Sarah had expectations on how their marriage should play out. They would become one, begin amassing an estate, and have children to pass that estate (and their wisdom) to. 

Yet one critical thing remained missing as the years went by: the children. I can imagine that weighed heavy on their hearts. It wasn’t until Abraham was 100 and Sarah 90 before they had their son Isaac!

Walking through barrenness for so many years wasn’t what either spouse had in mind when they said “I do.” And they likely didn’t see the hidden fruit growing from their trial either. 

Yet by the time Isaac was born, both had learned critical lessons from their difficult journey. The most important being the faithfulness of the Lord. This lesson alone proved invaluable when God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Isaac.

Abraham’s rock-solid belief in God crowned him “God’s friend.” 

This patriarch and his wife aren’t the only ones made stronger through adversity. 

Growing Through the Storms

In addition to adequate sunlight and water, young tomato plants need to be exposed to wind and harsh elements to become strong. Otherwise, their stems grow thin and weak.

We’re a bit like those tomato plants. Our faith seldom grows strong when life is always sunny. We need the winds and rain to remind us of our own weakness, so we can grow strong in the Lord. 

We need to be stretched and challenged to sink the roots of our belief deep into the cornerstone of our faith, Jesus Christ. God knows this. He knows what’s best for us, even when we don’t. 

So maybe instead of expecting God to keep us from storms, we should expect Him to grow us through them. 

Maybe we should expect Him to deliver just what we need for each moment. 

Because those are expectations we can count on being fulfilled. 

“At daybreak, Lord, You hear my voice; at daybreak I plead my case to You and watch expectantly…. For You, Lord, bless the righteous one; You surround him with favor like a shield.” Psalm 5:3,12

Reflections: By the grace of Jesus Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m expecting God to deliver just what I need for each moment. How about you? 

I’m thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “I’m expecting!” as well as Bonnie Gray from Faith Barista. I love these special linkups. They provide an abundance of great inspiration and encouragement all in one place. Click on the image below to check them out.

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If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Faith, Perspective, trust

Do We Really Mean “Amen”?

A Prayer for Healing

“I’m scared.” My sister’s strained voice found me returning from vacation. She described a joyous time turned very wrong.

Pregnant with twins, her body was failing her and the little ones—she very sick and one baby dying in utero.
Bed rest, medicine, and prayer failed to remedy the situation.

I arrived in time to pass on a hug, and Samantha Lynn and Adam Gregory were delivered by emergency C-section July 28, 2003, at 27 weeks gestation—amazingly, both alive and my sister recovering.

For the next few weeks, Sherri and her husband Greg lived a roller coaster existence. The long days and nights in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) weighed heavy on them. The seesaw/dichotomy of news—especially for their little man—never gave them rest.

Prayer warriors stormed the heavens for Samantha and Adam, beseeching God to work His miracles and strengthen their little bodies as well as the parents’. The prayers, each punctuated by a sure Amen, appeared to be answered. 

Nurses moved the sweet girl out of the critical ward and the tiny guy (born just 11 1/2 ounces, 9 3/4 inches long) celebrated with a “pound party.”

Then all went wrong and our hearts grew heavy with grief. Three and a half weeks after Adam’s traumatic birth, we said tearful good-byes to a precious babe held long in our hearts but so briefly in our arms.

in Him is our Amen

On the Other Side of Amen

We prayed for healing, and like all “good” Christians, we also prayed for God’s will to be done. For some reason, God chose not to heal Adam, but to bring him Home instead. And we were left in the aftermath of our Amen.

“Amen.” A Hebrew word meaning verily or truly. At the end of sentences it may be paraphrased as “so let it be” (Strong’s Concordance). Thayer’s Greek Lexicon adds the definitions of “so it is,” “so be it,” and “may it be fulfilled.”

In other words, Amen is our affirmation of what is being said or prayed. In faith we believe, accept and adopt His promises and truth for our own.

Amen to Adam’s healing? Yes!

But Amen to His death? How can we say “let it be so” to that?

Our prayers for Adam were not answered the way we wanted. We wanted to bring that baby home. To love him and cherish him and watch him grow.

Yet in God’s sovereignty, He chose something different. Not our choice, but somehow His best. 

What do we do with that? How do we process such a hard thing?

By faith we declare Amen to God’s will! Let His plan be. So be His truth. May His promises be fulfilled.

But when circumstances suck the breath right out of us, do we really mean it?  

“For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. 2 Corinthians 1:20

Reflections: What does it mean to walk in “Amen” in the hard times of life?

I’m excited to continue recording blessings this year. Since beginning over 3 years ago, I’ve counted nearly 4,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! So here we go in 2015: #3975–3995, read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Light cool rain splashing my legs as I swing and write; Joey’s help as my assistant; Successful brainstorming session for my book title!
  • Young fawn looking to hide; Afternoon weeding my garden; Moths flocking to the hummingbird feeder
  • Energetic for my morning wog; Arranged short visit to my mother-in-law’s; Rach and the little red wagon (and kitty)
  • Cherry picking; Grandma time; Finalizing plans for the weekend
  • Watching does and fawns slip through the undergrowth to hide; Disturbing turkey in my morning wog; Incredibly engaging gentleman helping with Rachel’s intake into a day hab program
  • 21 years of being a mom; Celebrating Danny’s bday with him in Des Moines; Tour of the State Capitol, nice supper, & ending with the perfect sunset
  • Unusual but inspiring worship service with the whole gang; Father’s Day pizza in the park; Meeting Danny’s super nice summer host mother

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Brokenness, Faith, Struggles, Suffering, Uncategorized

When Interruptions Threaten to Displace Your Security

College holds great opportunities for exploration. My freshman year I took advantage of several of them, including a spring break canoeing trip to Arkansas.

Unfortunately, adventures don’t always go as planned.

what is seen is temporary

A Foolish Exchange

Following a long road trip from northern Iowa to “the Natural State,” we unloaded our van at a put-in point on the scenic Buffalo River. Expectations were high for a fabulous multi-day float. A steady rain did little to dampen our spirits.

The second day, with temps in the upper 50s to low 60s, I felt safe to use my rain gear to keep the food dry instead of my body. This proved to be a near-fatal lapse in judgment.

By early afternoon, our leader noticed the miserable state of many of us drenched canoers and called a break to warm up and eat. For my freezing body it was none to soon.

I remember little of what happened after we returned to the river, but the events of our sandbar break replays crisp and clear in my mind years later.

Our first task was to gather wood. The forest glowed lush and inviting. I wandered in that direction, beyond shivering. Soon I heard the crackling of a fire and heard my name being called. Our guide was calling me to safety. 

Only where he was calling me lay in the opposite direction of where, in my distorted perspective, I perceived safety to be. My hypothermic condition whispered a lie: “the trees offer more warmth than the fire.”

I felt myself being drawn farther into the woods, a deeper peace enveloping me with each step in the wrong and potentially deadly direction.

Skewed Perspective

Hypothermia had hijacked my senses in the Arkansas wilds. From my skewed perspective I tried to trade in certainty and security for what I thought looked like a better option.

Warmth and safety lay in the direction of the fire. What I felt and perceived led me the opposite way.

My distorted mindset sabotaged healthy and wise decision making those many years ago. A phenomenon all-to-common to my life journey in the years since that trip.

Instead of embracing all that God offers in life, I hold tight to my small sphere of what is understood. I shy from stepping into the unknown, preferring a well-lit path. I gravitate to the safe and warm.

I trade in the Lord’s promise of abundance for my idea of what’s best. You too? 

Our human condition whispers a lie: peace and contentment lie on a path we fully see and understand. Seek a smooth trail with no detours or hidden obstacles. 

But the Lord confides the truth: “what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). As our Creator, He knows our senses are vulnerable to deception. So as our loving Father, He offers the answer.

Certain Grace in an Uncertain World

He offers Himself.

He promises He is the path to security and satisfaction. A certain outcome in an uncertain world.

Rains drench. Doubt caresses.

We default to making our own contentment or believing there is none to be found.

Yet the Lord holds out an endless pool of peace. His mysterious grace.

He gives it freely and lavishly, right in the middle of all those messy interruptions! Those things that trip up our dance. The ones that lead us into the wilderness.

His grace brings the security we try to orchestrate. He does the making; we do the receiving.

And when we welcome His offering, we find ourselves right where we need to be; wrapped in the warmth of His eternal embrace.

If we nudge our hearts to trust in something our senses struggle to perceive….

If we open our hearts to the promises found and fulfilled in Christ….

“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
Reflections: In what ways do you struggle with trusting God to be your security? 

I’m thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “I give you my heart” as well as Bonnie Gray from Faith Barista. I love these special linkups. They provide an abundance of great inspiration and encouragement all in one place. Click on the image below to check them out.

     beloved_brews_faithbarista_badge

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Brokenness, Daily Living, Peace, Struggles

What Do Our Circumstances Look Like in Light of God’s Plan to Give Us Hope?

Each morning I awake to the same task. Whether summer break, a weekend, a school day, or even on vacation, every morning I’m tasked with helping my teenage daughter with her hygiene needs.

Toileting, teeth brushing, dressing: I’ve helped her more than 17 years now, and it doesn’t look like she will obtain those independent skills anytime soon.

Although I love Rachel immensely, honestly, it gets old. I get tired. I get frustrated. This isn’t the life I had expected.

Four children instead of the nine my body conceived. A daughter who will never live independently. How did my life get so turned around and flipped upside down?

Do I Trust Him?

My life circumstances look so wrong. And in many ways they may be.

Yet I need to consider another way of looking at them. In the twenty-ninth chapter of Jeremiah, God tells us He has plans to prosper us and give us hope (vs. 11).

He wants us to prosper, to grow, to hope. Therefore, there must be good hidden in the more difficult aspects. 

That alone gives me hope and pause to ask: 

What do my circumstances look like in light of God’s plan for my welfare?

How-long-until-believe

I guess it comes down to whether I trust God with my life more than I trust myself. And I do, but then sometimes…

 I forget there is One who knows the beginning and the end of my life and everything in between.

I forget that God has the perfect vantage point.

I forget that going where my limited vision directs can keep me from the His best for me and even lead me into dangerous territory. 

Throughout the Israelites’ exile from Egypt, God repeatedly directed the Israelites. Yet their refusal to trust in His guidance kept them from the Promised Land and ushered in 40 long years of wandering for their children.

What might our lives hold for us if we trusted in the Lord’s plan instead of ours? How might our circumstances look different?

The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them? Numbers 14:11

Reflections: What might your life hold if you trust in the Lord’s plan instead of yours? What makes it hard for you to trust in God’s plan for your life? 

I’m excited to continue recording blessings this year. Since beginning over 3 years ago, I’ve counted nearly 4,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! So here we go in 2015: #3975–3995, read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Early morning quiet for reflection; First picking of strawberries; Afternoon/evening time to hang by myself at our barn
  • Short, easy-to-lead women’s meeting with an interesting speaker; Pink, white, red bouquets in my rock garden; Racing Rachel and Danny through the campground
  • Kindness of Proverbs 31 Ministries staff; *Afternoon/evening spent exploring caves at a nearby state park where Zach works; *First time Rach enjoyed caving–her squeals of joy echoed off the cave walls
  • Freedom to have a relaxing day; Corresponding with a man who cares about more than the bottom dollar; Grace to say yes to my boys, even though the game wasn’t one of my favorites
  • Simple fun games Rachel can play with the family; Fresh, cool air wafting in through the window; Being on the receiving end of Rachel’s loving
  • Waking up to a battle of the crows in our front yard!; Sharing our land with a “crew” preparing for a wilderness excursion; Cousin love
  • Fireflies dancing in the night sky; Brilliance of the lightening flashing across the dark sky as a storm came in; Weekend spent focused on family

Linking with Kelly Balarie for her #RaRalinkup:

purposefulfaith.com

If this post encouraged you, please consider sharing it with your family and friends. And don't miss a single post, click here to subscribe to receive each one in your inbox (or complete the form in the sidebar). It's free and you can unsubscribe at any time. 

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Daily Living, Perspective, trust

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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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