The One Reason We Can Face an Overwhelming Future Without Being Overcome #AdventReflections

My friend and I struggle with looking too far into our daughters’ futures. It can be frightening.

She because her sweet Taylor has been given a shortened expected lifespan. Me because my sweet Rachel may well live a half century or more but will need care her entire life.

Both of us are facing overwhelming futures in their own right; yet, neither of us have given into despair. My friend and I are not overcome … not because we are stronger than others … not because we have greater faith.

We can stand in the face of such uncertain futures for one simple reason: we know Jesus Christ will be in each moment leading up to those paralyzing futures. And He’ll be in those future moments too, and the ones after that.

The Lord promises, “my grace is sufficient for you,” (2 Corinthians 12:9). And He is faithful.

grace, enough for overwhelming situations

Advent Grace

I can’t see the grace for that moment in time when I’m no longer Rachel’s primary caregiver. I won’t experience it until then. 

Yet this season of Advent assures me grace’ll meet me there, because Jesus will. “’The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23).

Jesus came as a babe to provide a way through the sin that stalks us: Immanuel, God with us.

Jesus died and rose again to life to restore us to righteousness, to reunite us with the Father, to give us hope again. He continues to be with us in our scary and glorious moments alike.

Jesus is coming again. God With Us will be with us into the everlasting future. He’ll erase all our sorrows. He’ll reunite believers. Death will be no more. 

He’ll usher in a glorious future we’ll never be afraid to look into.

God With Us will be with us into the everlasting future: a glorious future we'll never be afraid to look into. Click To Tweet

Overwhelming Future Met With Grace

Jesus’ Advent in the past, present, and future prevent us from being overcome by our situations. Because He came to earth, is present with us, and will come again, we can look into the unknown knowing we’ll be met. 

Overwhelm may still make an appearance, but the Advent of Christ promises we’ll never be overcome!

Overwhelm may make an appearance in our lives, but the Advent of Christ promises we'll never be overcome! Click To Tweet

Grace meets us in God’s Word. Grace presents itself in worship. Grace pours out in the ministering of others.

Because of Jesus’ coming, in whatever uncertain futures we face, grace will be exactly enough, exactly when needed. Darkness will threaten, but light prevails.

Because of Jesus' coming, in whatever uncertain futures we face, grace will be exactly enough, exactly when needed. Click To Tweet

How comforting for me, Taylor’s mom, and all who live in Him! 

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

Reflections: How does the season of Advent bring you comfort in your uncertain and overwhelming situations? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “overwhelmed, but I’m not overcome.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, Grace, Jesus Christ, Rachel

Come Lord Jesus, Come! Our Advent Hope #AdventReflections

Recently, I’ve been reminded anew how fragile and precious life is and how tragic this world can be. I’m struggling to process the sad reality of 

  • young men who see no hope and end it all—most recently a friend of my oldest;
  • their parents, left trying to make sense of the senseless;
  • moms and dads I love faced with devastating diagnoses for their children;
  • displaced and abandoned children, battling to simply survive in war-torn countries … many of them not reaching double digits in age before they lose that fight.

Such sorrows and tragedies beg for explanations; yet, the answers are few and unsatisfactory. And I’m tempted to give into feelings of anger and sadness, fearfulness and helplessness. 

What do we do with it all, the ugliness, the evil, the pain? I guess we have a couple choices: We can curl up and forget that life still goes on, or we can pick up the pieces and somehow keep going.

Once I curled up and tried to forget, but God showed me a better way, a way to live in the mess of this world. A way to go on when it seems impossible. A way to even find joy.

God offers a way to go on when it seems impossible, a way to even find joy in the ugliness of life. #Jesusiscoming Click To Tweet

Advent hope: Jesus is coming!

Our Advent Hope

It’s because Jesus lives!

And He is returning again to wipe away every tear (Revelation 21:4). 

We will again see our loved ones who die in the faith. Someday pain will not exist, parents will not be left to say a final good-bye, children will not wonder if they’ll see tomorrow. Someday we will all be well and whole and want for nothing. 

That is our hope. That is our Advent hope: Christ coming to bring us everlasting peace and joy … to bring us life, beautiful and complete.

Our Advent hope: Christ coming to bring us everlasting peace and joy ... to bring us life, beautiful and complete. Click To Tweet

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Come Lord Jesus, Come! 

Reflections: Where do you turn when the senseless strikes, when life turns ugly and painful? What is your hope in Advent? 

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5566–5586. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Road tripping with Danny to his appointment; *Family in an out-of-state city who helped us find a good auto repair shop; *Meeting up with niece Betsy and adorable little Vincent for lunch *Flannel sheets
  • *Watching an eagle launch from a branch above the lake; *A day that didn’t include getting into a vehicle; *Getting another full night’s sleeping
  • *Options to explore for Rachel’s future; *More time with Danny on a road trip to another appt; *Clear roads
  • *Able to help get Rach off to school before I had to leave this morning; *Joining with professionals to help facilitate family-educator partnerships; *A little time to Christmas shop on my way home
  • *Home; *Being challenged beyond myself (no I don’t really like it, but I know it’s growing me, so it must be a gift); *Promise of Revelation 21:4 (God will wipe away every tear)
  • *Spending afternoon with Zach; *Amazing Christmas Festival at @WheatonCollege; *People to care for Rach, so we can attend
  • *Surprised by the beauty of an overnight snowfall; *Returning safely home after attempting to make it to church and then having a sweet time of home worship; *Celebrating the life of my husband on his birthday

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, Hope, Jesus Christ, Struggles, Suffering

What You Need to Know When Life Knocks You Down #AdventReflections

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a rather strong person, a pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps kind of person. Generally, I can see the next step and take it. Yet there’s been plenty of times when I’ve felt out-of-control and inadequate to handle a situation.

The big ones that quickly come to mind are my miscarriages and when Rachel was diagnosed with a lifelong disability. However, plenty of smaller setbacks and even normal everyday life can leave one feeling weak and insufficient as well.

I hate it, that helpless feeling, yet I’ve come to realize it’s actually a good thing. Because when we feel powerless, we’re more likely to let Christ in.

Our weakness opens us up to welcome in God’s power.

Our weakness opens us up to welcome in God's power. #AdventReflections Click To Tweet

In God's might we're never powerless

Feeling Helpless

Reading aloud to my children has always been a favorite activity of mine, even when they’re well into their teens. I’m always searching for an engaging Christian or classic story that would lend itself well to our read-aloud time.

Several months ago, my friend and fellow writer Natasha Metzler pointed me to a previously self-published fiction series titled the Tales of Larkin. This wonderful Christian trilogy by Alan W. Harris features a 1-inch tall race of people who initially don’t know about the triune God. Instead they worship many gods.

In the second book, which is really the prequel, war breaks out in the tiny’s world. Eventually, a couple of warriors from the good side, Larkin and his father General Ramus, get washed downstream into the world of giants who know and love Jesus. Befriended by a giant family (think you and me in height), Larkin and Ramus are cared for and learn about the Creator and Savior.

After many months, the two accept Jesus as their Lord and King. A short while later Ramus dies, but not before charging his son with returning to their country of Lanara and, with the help of “the Maker,” trying to save their king and his family from the evil bandits.

But following his father’s death, Larkin feels alone and powerless to follow through on his promise to help King Kaelen, much less return to his country. “I know I promised, Father,” he blurted, “but I don’t know how I’m going to do it!”

In despair, he falls face down before the Maker and pours out his heart to Him. As he prays, deep peace and gratitude wash over Larkin because “Larkin knew that the Maker had received his prayer and help would be coming.”

Tapping Into God’s Power and Might

Help is coming. In fact, help is at hand.

Whether facing big issues or smaller ones, many of us scheme and plan, trying to figure out how we can make it through on our own. We try to stand tall, but our strength can only carry us so far.

Finally, feeling defeated like Larkin, we end up face down before our Lord. But instead of falling despairingly into that position, why not begin there … in a posture of hope?

Humbling ourselves before the Lord should be our first act when faced with a troubling circumstance, not our last resort. It is where we should be often, because that’s where our powerless becomes powerful in the might of our Lord.

Humbling ourselves before the Lord should be our first act when faced w/ a troubling circumstance, not a last resort. Click To Tweet

The victory is secured friends. Jesus secured it. And He hands it to us.

He gives us His strength and power.  We simply need to acknowledge our need.

So let’s begin each day of this Advent season face down before our Lord, in humble gratitude and hopeful anticipation of all He offers. All He offers in His coming—in the past, in the present, and in the future.

Because tapping into His might ensures we’ll never be truly powerless.

Tapping into God's might ensures we'll never be truly powerless. Click To Tweet

“See, the Lord God comes with strength,
and His power establishes His rule.
His reward is with Him,
and His gifts accompany Him.
11 He protects His flock like a shepherd;
He gathers the lambs in His arms
and carries them in the fold of His garment.
He gently leads those that are nursing.” Isaiah 40:10-11

Reflections: In what area of your life do you feel the most powerless? Have you considered beginning your days before the Lord, humbly accepting His strength to get you through?

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “I’m not powerless.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

* This post contains affiliate links.

Posted in Advent Reflections, Endurance, Faith, Hope, Weakness

When Slow and Quiet Is Not Your Reality #AdventReflections

In the past, I jumped from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Like many, I’d bypass the intermediary season of preparation, expectation, and anticipation.

Yet slowly through the years, I’ve begun to realize what I’ve been missing. 

Advent specifically focuses on Christ’s “coming.” His past coming in our secured salvation. His present coming in Word and sacrament. And His future coming when He returns again. 

This year my plans included beginning the Advent season in a slow and quiet manner, reflecting on the full extent of what this “coming” means. I’d have lit candles, background music, and planned scripture and devotional readings. 

Yet life circumstances aren’t lining up very well for slow and quiet. Instead long-distance doctor appointments; out-of-state travel to transport a child to and from home; and meetings found their way into my schedule, taking up entire days. 

My calendar is colored far too full to allow for the dream season I had created in my mind. My plan for a reflective Advent season seemed doomed.

Yet a sabotaged calendar doesn’t mean this Advent season of reflection and anticipation has to be sabotaged too. Even when life becomes busy, we can take time to appreciate and anticipate all this season means. 

A sabotaged calendar doesn't mean this Advent season of reflection&anticipation has to be sabotaged too.… Click To Tweet

not quiet and still, but still Advent with Christ

When the Calendar Says No to Quieter and Slower

We think of slow and quiet as something we do externally. Yet when we can’t physically slow down, we can still do it emotionally and intellectually.

We can still prepare our hearts and minds to dwell on Christ. Regardless of the circumstances in our lives during the Advent season, we can give our soul what it longs for, connection with our Savior.  

Even when life becomes busy, we can prepare our hearts and minds to dwell on Christ. Click To Tweet

When slow and quiet is not your reality, consider incorporating such simple practices as

  • breathing a quick prayer of thanks for your salvation,
  • reminding yourself of Christ’s birth and death for you,
  • reciting a prophetic Bible verse that points to Jesus’ coming, such as Jeremiah 33:15
  • Discover the blessing of having your Advent devotions read to you via a mobile Bible app (I like Bible Gateway) while running an errand or driving to an appointment or preparing the evening meal. 

Find something that works and then relax, knowing Jesus will meet you where you are. And the sweetness of the moment will be there when your schedule does slow enough to allow for those extra-special practices like candle lighting and calendar observance.  

Meet Jesus Where You Are

My week ahead continues to present rather full. For me, it’s tempting to cram everything I missed so far and all I will miss in my Advent observance into a one-day session. Yet that wouldn’t be very simple or reflective.

So instead of fighting for it all, I’m going to start where I am. I have today, where the hours are more manageable and the possibility of quiet exists. 

Instead of getting nothing out of any of it, I’m going to grab the slower moments that promise to grace this day. I’m going to quiet myself, so I can be fully present with the Lord in the time that presents today.

So today, the prophecy candle will be lit in hope and expectation for the coming Messiah. Today, the Advent Scripture readings for this day will be enjoyed.

Tomorrow may look very different, with few peaceful moments. Yet as long as we purpose in our hearts and minds to be in Christ, even the busiest days can bring us into closer communion with Him. Isn’t that what Advent is all about? 

Yes, circumstances may prevent us from being outwardly quiet and still, but we can we can still do so inwardly, slowing our minds and preparing our hearts to be with our Savior.

Circumstances may prevent us from being outwardly quiet and still, but we can still be so inwardly.… Click To Tweet

The promise was given, the way is being made straight, and our future hope is secured. We have a lot to be grateful for. Let’s dwell with Him today, whether in the middle of a chaotic day or in the hush of quiet moments.

Dwell with Christ today, whether in the middle of a chaotic day or in the hush of quiet moments. Click To Tweet

And again, Isaiah says, ‘The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him.’  May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.Romans 15:12-13

Reflections: What Advent practices have you planned? How can you sit with Christ during this Advent season even when your days roll out too busy to be still? 

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5545–5565. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Beauty of frosted leaves; *Our oldest back home through the holidays; *The beauty of nature brought inside to decorate for Thanksgiving
  • *Christian radio and podcasts for long drives; *Zach home for Thanksgiving; *Living room turning into a wrestling room with all the boys together, and Rachel joining right in
  • *Cooking for my 6 (okay, maybe enough for 20); *Time to do day-before prep of Thanksgiving dishes to allow for more relationship time on the big day; *Thanksgiving Eve worship with my family and friends
  • *A delicious, on-time meal with the five people I love most; *A little football 500 with the boys followed by a quiet solo walk through the timber at dusk; *Serving my boy by doing a bit of sewing
  • *Sneaking in games between baking and making; *Having a couple helpers with candy/cookie making; *Crockpot soup for an easy meal
  • *Being part of a large family; *Looking past individual differences to love and enjoy time together as an extended family at the Reuter Christmas celebration – it’s not always perfect but it ends up beautiful; *Food, game playing, exchanging gifts, sibling/niece/nephew/cousin bonding, and laughter
  • *More time spent with family; *More car time with Zach, getting him back to college; *Warm hug via a simple, heart-felt text of acknowledgement

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Advent Reflections, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

There is a Reason to Be Grateful

No matter how bad things get, there is a reason to be grateful.

Recently my daughter began communicating, “Thank you, Lord,” with a combination of sign language and vocalizations. She says it often throughout a given day.

However, she won’t say it when she’s upset about something. No matter how much I prompt and coax, she refuses to express her gratitude when things haven’t gone the way she’s wants them to.

Sounds like my daughter is a lot like her mother. I, too, struggle with giving thanks when circumstances aren’t as I’d like. And that happens … often.

To be honest, some days it’s pretty difficult to find something redemptive … in a purely human aspect, that is. Yet, every day holds beauty because each one has been fashioned by God to bless us in some way— often with the gift of refinement.

Every day holds beauty—each one fashioned by God to bless us in some way—often with the gift of refinement. Click To Tweet

grateful for God's faithfulness

Steadfast Nature of God

We shouldn’t have to look very far for something to be grateful for as Christians, no matter how tough our circumstances. Because God has redeemed our past, is redeeming our present, and will redeem our future. 

God’s steadfast nature assures us of His faithfulness, no matter how bad things may look.

God's steadfast nature assures us of His faithfulness, no matter how bad things may look. Click To Tweetgrateful-god-steadfast-faithful

You may be in the midst of your deepest hurt. Yet God remains your greatest hope. His love for you … His promises to you … they never change.

His nature and what He does remains a constant. He loves you when you’re unlovable. He provides light in the dark, promises where lies threaten to consume, and hope when all you see is despair.

So when it seems there’s nothing to be grateful for in your life, shift your gaze. Move it from your current heartbreak to your everlasting heart Healer. 

Sorrow, pain, and disappointment may continue, but peace and joy can walk hand in hand with them. For a heart anchored on the steadfast nature of God will never lack something to be grateful for.

A heart anchored on the steadfast nature of God will never lack something to be grateful for. Click To Tweet

“Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;” Deuteronomy 7:9

Reflections: What would happen if we paused to give thanks in the midst of our heartaches? What if in spite of our feelings we remembered God’s unwavering faithfulness and love? How might that change everything?

May a thankful heart begin to take root in your life this Thanksgiving and may it continue to grow year-round. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, with a heart anchored in the Lord!

Enjoy this lovely reminder to thank the Lord by Don Moen.

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “thankful in my least thankful places.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Gratitude, Thankfulness, Uncategorized

Dig Deeper into Scripture (“Journal the Word” Bible Review & #giveaway)

In the United States, the day we focus on giving thanks is almost upon us. And I’m giving away a Bible in the last of my Giving Thanks by Giving Gifts series.

The Holy Bible: God’s Word, His Gospel, His truth, His promises for us, His love letter to us. It’s fitting to give such a gift away this week, because the very words of God hold the very reason we have anything to give thanks for! 

The Holy Bible: The very words of God hold the very reason we have anything to give thanks for! Click To Tweet

Journal the Word Bible

Journal the Word Bible, large print

Stepping Into a Journaling Bible

I journal often. I write in my Bible often.

Yet as much as I’ve journaled and as often as I underline and squeeze in thoughts in my Bible, I’ve never tried a journaling Bible. I’ve wanted to, but I guess I’m a bit scared.

It’s partly because I’m not incredibly artistic. Creating something visually appealing and meaningful takes work on my part. 

I see the beautiful images capturing the essence of Scripture verses by friends like Rachel Wojo and Jana Kennedy-Spicer and think, I can never do that. However, who said I have to create beautiful entries in a journaling Bible? After all, I rarely do so in my current Bible or even in my journal.

In a journaling Bible, I can continue to scribble out my thoughts if that’s what works for me. It’ll be even better, though, because I’ll have room to do so!

And then The Blythe Daniel Agency and The BlogAbout Network took away any final excuses I had. They provided a perfect opportunity for me to give Bible journaling a try by offering me two copies of the NKJV large print version of Thomas Nelson’s Journal the Word Bible … one to keep and one to give away. 

Journal the Word Bible, large print

So I’m going to try this thing called Bible journaling. And I’m going to give myself permission to be myself (not Rachel or Jana [although I love them both]) while doing so. I give you permission too!

If you like to create beautiful images or stylish entries around a certain verse, go for it. If you find more meaning in jotting down your thoughts as fast as they spill out, do that. When it comes to Bible journaling, do you!

You don't have to be artistic to use a journaling Bible. For Bible journaling do you, whatever that looks like! Click To Tweet

So now for the lowdown on the Bible you could win! 

Journal the Word Review

Remember, I’m reviewing this Bible as a person who hasn’t previously used a journaling Bible. I’ve always squeezed my thoughts between the verses in my regular Bible.

So as a beginning journaling Bible user, the thing I appreciate most about the Journal the Word Bible is the abundant space available for recording my thoughts. It offers a wide outside margin to label, define, extrapolate, or expand a word or verse without crowding things together.

I really like that the margins have muted lines to keep text straight yet not be obtrusive when creating something more artistic.

Other features I like in this Bible include

  • a slick, elastic strap to keep this hardback version closed
  • an attached bookmark ribbon to mark your spot
  • the words of Jesus printed in red 
  • that the Bible lays flat when set on a table
  • footnotes that provide significant textual explanations, alternate translations, and New Testament citations of Old Testament passages
  • the easy-to-read aspect of this particular large-print version
  • the cream color of the pages, making it easy on the eyes

The aspect of the Journal the Word Bible I dislike the most is the lack of a concordance. For someone who often has tangent thoughts while in the Word, a concordance is a huge asset. I was truly disappointed to find it missing.

Other things I didn’t care for in this version of a journaling Bible include

  • the absence of maps or supporting documents
  • the relative thinness of the pages: dry highlighters and pencils are fine to use, although “wet” highlighters bleed through, and the text on the backside of the pages can be seen

Overall, the Journal the Word Bible by Thomas Nelson provides a great way to record your reflections and questions about Scripture verses. It offers room to express your heart visually and through the written word when a particular verse prompts a reaction. 

Used in conjunction with a good concordance and commentary, it would be a wonderful tool for processing what the Lord has to say through Scripture. The journaling aspect of this Bible also makes it a helpful tool for Bible memorization. 

Giveaway

So, ready to give Bible journaling a try? Follow the prompts in the Rafflecopter widget for multiple chances to win the Journal the Word Bible, large print edition, from Thomas Nelson Publishers, and be sure to share this opportunity!

Journal the Word Bible hardcover

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Enter to win the #JournaltheWord Bible, large print edition, by @NelsonBibles, thanks to @TheBlogSpotCom! Click To Tweet

“Give thanks to the God of heaven! His love is eternal.” Psalm 136:26

Reflections: Do you currently have a journaling Bible? What do you most appreciate about it? How do you most often use it to express your thoughts: visually or in words? 

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5524–5544. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Pleasantly surprised by the timing of the publication of a guest post I wrote; *Doing some in-depth research into aspects of Advent; *Connecting with online friends who guide and encourage
  • *Morning fog over the lake; *Privilege to pray over my children; *Connecting with a super nice lady from DHS who really cared and wanted to help
  • *Being able to offer a little support by serving at the funeral luncheon for a grieving family; *Taking senior pictures with Rachel; *Tucking my children into bed each night
  • *Walk-jogging in short-sleeves in Iowa on November 17; *Listening to the pheasants call as they glided across our prairie; *Cuddling & enjoying the antics of 5 cute little kittens
  • *Gifting #EverydayPraise to a dear elderly friend; *Introducing Mom to HuHots with Danny; *Talking future with my man
  • *Getting a start on my Christmas candy making; *The best comfort meal: split pea soup and cornbread with maple syrup; *Partnering with Hubby to show Danny and Joey how to play 500 (okay, so maybe they won more
  • *Morning Bible study and worship with Daniel joining us; *Thanksgiving tree put together; *Couple’s Bible study with fun, faith-filled friends

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

*affiliate links present in this post

*Two copies of this book were received from BlogAbout Network and Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Bible, Book review, giveaway, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Scripture, Uncategorized

Learn the Art of Other-Centered Living (Listen, Love, Repeat review & #giveaway)

Proverbs 31 Ministries Author and Speaker Karen Ehman just released her new book, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World. It’s a lovely, practical, creative guide to putting others first. 

listen-love-repeat

And it has a simply wonderful message: listen well to love well and keep doing it. Yes, I want in!

I Was Lost at Listen

But I’m afraid Karen lost me at the listen part. I mean, really, how well do I listen? How well do most of us listen? 

Case in point: I’ve known my mother for, well, nearly half a century now. That’s a long time to share life with someone. Yet when it came to making a cake for her surprise 80th birthday party, I didn’t know what flavor she liked best.

Granted, I haven’t lived with her for the past 30 of those years, but still, I should have heard at some point what her favorite was. I think I may have gotten it right in the end (homemade coconut cake). However, if I would be more attentive to the likes of those I love, surprising them with kindness would be much easier. 

Other examples of my poor listening skills are even more incriminating:

*Not more than 30 minutes after my hubby told me some big news he thought I’d find interesting, I struggled to recall who it involved.

*Within 10 minutes I’d forgotten the details of a friend’s fun news report. 

And the list goes on…

Desire To Love Others Well

It’s not that I don’t care. I want to love others well.

It’s that I let I get in the way. Thoughts of what I need to do next block out the meaning of my mom’s words. Hyper-focusing on a problem I have prevents me from fully engaging with what my hubby or friend is saying.

I cannot be fully present with others when thoughts of me and my life captures all my attention. None of us can. We need to let go of the self-centeredness that binds us.

We cannot be fully present with others when thoughts of 'me' captures all our attention. Click To Tweet

My heart echoes that of the author’s: “I am a woman who wants to love God, but so often I am too busy to love the people he puts in my path.”

llr-heatdrop_ehman

A Welcome Guide to Loving Well

So, although, Karen Ehman lost me at listen, I’m diving deep into this book for two reasons. 

  1. To learn how to listen well
  2. To be inspired to listen well so I can love well

For me, it’s not a lack of want. I want to scatter love and kindness. But I need to let go of me, to get my eyes off me and onto others. 

To scatter love and kindness we need to let go of 'me,' to get our eyes off us and onto others. Click To Tweet

To help, I need that extra push. I need to read stories of the blessing of blessing others. I need to explore how-to suggestions and revisit God’s call to love others. Exactly what Listen, Love, Repeat offers.

Simply and Practically Appealing

This book isn’t filled with catchy, quotable writing. And it isn’t the most profound or deep read. In fact in many ways it’s rather simple.

Yet it’s precisely that simplicity that makes it appealing, with real-life stories, biblical references, and easy-to-implement practical suggestions for scattering kindness tucked into each chapter (my favorite is the practice of celebrating unbirthdays). It even includes a few recipes for loving others through food. 

Listen, Love, Repeat begins with a look at the need to live alert to the heart drops of those around us and ends with a call to scatter kindness. In between we learn how to minister to the necessary people in our lives as well as the difficult. We receive tips for creating a welcoming home and learn why it’s far better to extend hospitality than it is to entertain. 

This newest book from Karen offers guidance and encouragement to begin moving from a self-centered life to one focused on serving and loving God by serving and loving others. 

Receive guidance and encouragement to begin moving from a self-centered life to an other-centered one. #giveaway Click To Tweet

And who couldn’t benefit from that? 

Now for the best part. I’m giving away one copy of the book, Listen, Love, Repeat: Other-Centered Living in a Self-Centered World AND an accompanying Study Guide with DVD (the study guide and DVD will not be released until November 29; I will hold the book until the entire package can be sent together to the winner)! To enter to win, simply follow the Rafflecopter instructions below. 

listen-love-repeat_ehman_cover
a Rafflecopter giveaway

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” Romans 12:10

Reflections: Do you struggle with listening well? What is one of your favorite ways to scatter kindness? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “I’m finally letting go.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

*affiliate links present in this post

*Two copies of this book and study guide with DVD were received from BlogAbout Network and Zondervan in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Book review, giveaway, love, Serving

When You Want Thanksgiving to Replace Your Grumbling

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!”
1 Chronicles 16:34 ESV

et_oh-give-thanks-scripture

“This is so dumb! Nothing ever goes right!”  

I say it, and then I duck my head, ashamed as I realize how petty I sound. How I wish it were the one and only time I expressed such discontent.

Lately, I’ve been begging God to season the words that come from my mouth with grace and gratitude. Too often, though, they’ve tasted of bitterness and dissatisfaction.

In my mind, I’m grateful … really I am. I know how good I have it. I know how blessed I am.

I simply have to look around to see it. A warm, fully furnished house to live in. Shelves and a refrigerator filled with food. Healthy children. A committed husband of 27 years. Work I can do from home.

Grumbling

The list is truly endless. Yet, here I am, complaining at the slightest disturbance.

My mind realizes how good I have it, but apparently my heart hasn’t gotten the memo yet. If it had, I’d be singing endless songs of thanks instead of whining about how unjust a situation is and how rotten I have it.

Grumbling comes easy when we expect to receive what’s never been promised. An easy life. Fast Internet. No bugs. Tasty, quick meals.

When that doesn’t pan out, we spew our disappointment. When we focus on what we want instead of the gifts we receive, our hearts get all twisted and sour….

When we focus on what we want instead of the gifts we receive, our hearts get all twisted and sour. Click To Tweet

no-grumbling-give-thanks

Reason to Always Give Thanks

God's enduring love is the very reason we can always give thanks! Click To Tweet

I’m so excited to post be guest posting once again on Jana Kennedy-Spicer’s wonderfully encouraging site, Sweet to the Soul. Read the rest of my post here! 

Reflections: What are you most prone to grumble about? What might happen if we’d focus on the gifts received instead of what we think we should receive? 

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5503–5523. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *Close up of bald eagle; *Back in the comfortable routine of home; *Finding one last apple on our tree to get a couple bites out of
  • *Receiving another fun surprise book in the mail; *My young miss feeling better after a 6-hour nap; *Yummy rhubarb-apple crisp
  • *The dedication and work ethic demonstrated by our oldest during this grueling election season; *Beautiful Wednesdays; *Getting to spend some time with Joey by virtue of dentist appointments (hey, a mother of a teenager needs to take what she can get)
  • *Forgoing morning work to spend a couple hours outside with Hubby; *Thursday sunshine; *Baking more rhubarb goodness
  • *All the boys home; *Sharing baked goods with our neighbor; *Hanging around the goofiness of young adult siblings
  • *Pulling off a surprise party celebrating Mom as her 80th birthday approaches; *Mom’s tears of joy; *Cousins enjoying time together
  • *Thanksgiving potluck at church; *Time we had with Zach; *Catching up with a sweet friend after dropping Zach off at college

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Gratitude, Guest post, guest posting, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Thankfulness

Dance Before the Lord (a Christian’s distinct honor)

We act like fools for our sports teams, our favorite political candidates, and even our children’s activities. Yet when it comes to rejoicing in our God we play it safe.

Where we wildly celebrate a World Series win, we become anemic in our celebration of the One who rescued us from our sins. Where we mark in permanent ink on our calendars the next big game or that all-important shopping spree, we pencil in the next worship service. 

dance before the Lord

Rejoice in the Lord

Yet throughout Scripture, we’re told to rejoice in the Lord, to sing to Him, even to dance before Him. We’re repeatedly called to express our joy and passion for Him. 

Scripture repeatedly calls us to express our joy and passion for our Lord and Savior. Click To Tweet

“Honor His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek Yahweh rejoice.” 1 Chronicles 16:10

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5

“But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them shout for joy forever. May You shelter them, and may those who love Your name boast about You.” Psalm 5:11

“Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; shout for joy, all you upright in heart.” Psalm 32:11

 “Let us be glad, rejoice, and give Him glory, because the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has prepared herself.” Revelation 19:7

Be glad.

Rejoice.

Give Him glory.

Honor His holy name.

Shout for joy. 

Boast about Him.

It’s all about expressing our love and awe for the Creator of the universe and the Redeemer of our lives. But do we? 

King David’s Example

King David demonstrated such fervor when returning the ark of God to Jerusalem.

So David went and had the ark of God brought up from Obed-edom’s house to the city of David with rejoicing. 13 When those carrying the ark of the Lord advanced six steps, he sacrificed an ox and a fattened calf. 14 David was dancing with all his might before the Lord to the city of David with rejoicing.” Samuel 6:12-14

David sacrificed to the Lord, rejoicing in Him with dancing. What a beautiful scene that must have been!

His faith demonstrated. His joy in his Lord evident. 

Might we be called to the same? Might we also be ridiculed for our Savior? 

Read King David’s response when his wife shared her disgust at his very public celebration of the Lord. 

21 David replied to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord who chose me over your father and his whole family to appoint me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel. I will celebrate before the Lord, 22 and I will humble myself even more and humiliate myself. I will be honored by the slave girls you spoke about.” 2 Samuel 6:21-22HCSB

“I will celebrate before the Lord!” he exclaimed, declaring “I will humble myself even more and humiliate myself.”

King David looked a fool to honor His God. He was willing to be less in the eyes of others, so his Lord could be exalted. 

Are we willing to be less in the eyes of others, so our Lord is exalted? #bgbg2 Click To Tweet

Reason to Dance

David danced because God chose him. He humbled himself because God appointed him. He felt it an honor to worship his Father. 

We are chosen. We are appointed. It, too, is our privilege to humble ourselves in worship and praise to our Lord and Savior. 

It a Christian's privilege to humble ourselves in worship and praise to our Lord and Savior. #bgbg2 Click To Tweet

I have a beautiful example of unhindered worship in my daughter. Rachel celebrates God with unbridled passion. 

She dances and shouts for joy at a song that mentions Jesus. She high fives during worship when the Lord is mentioned in a reading or the sermon. While she may not understand much about her faith, Rachel demonstrates her love for her Savior raw and real. 

While I’m not suggesting we all start dancing and high-fiving during worship services and in our work places (although that might be fun), I am suggesting we let our adoration and reverence for the Lord show. 

Let’s Dance

In our homes, at our places of employment, while going about our daily lives, let’s show people we rejoice in our God. Let’s look a fool, if that’s what it takes, to glorify our King. 

Let's show people we rejoice in our God. Let's look a fool, if that's what it takes, to glorify our King! Click To Tweet

In whatever situation we find ourselves, let’s make a point to dance before the Lord. For humbling ourselves before Him in worship is a Christian’s distinct honor and blessing. 

It just might be time to dance before the Lord: a Christian's distinct honor and blessing. Click To Tweet

Hallelujah!
Praise God in His sanctuary.
Praise Him in His mighty heavens.
Praise Him for His powerful acts;
praise Him for His abundant greatness.

Praise Him with trumpet blast;
praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with tambourine and dance;
praise Him with flute and strings.
Praise Him with resounding cymbals;
praise Him with clashing cymbals.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord.
Hallelujah! Psalm 150

Reflections: What might it look like for you to dance before the Lord, to demonstrate unbridled worship? 

Looking to explore praise deeper? Pick up your copy of Everyday Praise: Walking in Greater Peace. Don’t forget one for a friend. Gift-giving is right around the corner! Click here!  

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “dance if you feel like it.” Click on the image to check out the wonderful encouragement.

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I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

Posted in Christian walk, Praise, Worship

Can Brokenness be the Door to the Abundant Life? (The Broken Way Review)

A broken heart. A broken life. Can they be the makings of an abundant life?

A broken heart. A broken life. Can they be the makings of an abundant life? Click To Tweet

The broken way to abundance is what best-selling Author Ann Voskamp explores in her new book The Broken Way: a daring path into the abundant life. As captivating as it is deep, this book is no relaxing, light read. You’ll want to set aside dedicated time to absorb Ann’s poetic prose and digest her thought-provoking insights.

The Broken Way

The Book

Mirroring the book that shot her to fame, One Thousand Gifts, (and perhaps even more so) Ann Voskamp’s The Broken Way engages your mind as well as your heart. No one can suggest that Ann doesn’t make you think with her writing.

Agree with all of the author’s theological conclusions or not, she definitely pushes you to explore your beliefs. Ann’s love for Jesus Christ, her vulnerability in exposing her failings, and His redemption of the same, ring loud throughout the book.

Personal stories from Ann’s life punctuate deep theological and philosophical explorations of our real and often hurting lives. Although her personal interjections occasionally caused me to lose my train of thought, there is no denying that her writing touches chords in my own heart and mirrors some of my own wonderings.

Thoughts such as, “today’s bread is enough bread, today’s grace is enough grace, today’s God is enough God. The question is, can I believe that when the suffering and the grief comes? And if I can—will it make me feel any less alone?,” leave me nodding.

'today's grace is enough grace....can I believe that when the suffering and the grief comes?' #TheBrokenWay #giveaway Click To Tweet

The Difficult Parts

Ann Voskamp’s writing style is uniquely her own. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to follow her more poetic language and frequent shifts in setting. 

In addition, as a professional editor, the excessive liberties taken with grammar make me cringe. And I sometimes question some of the author’s understanding and presentation of theological concepts.

Occasionally, The Broken Way also had me squirming with the uncomfortable (which isn’t necessarily bad). But just as quickly as the script moves the reader into the uncomfortable, it pivots to expose a beautiful thought or truth about our Savior and Redeemer. This book inspires and convicts, tears down and builds up.

The Beautiful

The Broken Way is for those searching for answers to the suffering and sorrow of the world. It addresses the ages old questions of what am I here for and how do I find it? It busts them wide open in an attempt to discover how all the brokenness fits together for our good and God’s glory. 

The Broken Way - brokenness - God's gloryThe two most beautiful aspects of this book are the openness with which Ann shares her own struggles and the endless well of God’s grace she constantly refreshes us with.

“You never have to overcome your brokenness to claim God’s love. His love has already overcome your brokenness and claimed you.” and later “There’s always more grace in Christ than there is guilty in us.”

The Broken Way to the Abundant Life

Ann proposes that the answer to our broken hearts is to be the GIFT. The answer to our broken world is for us to notice and enter into the busted up world. We need to cast off our comfortable and easy life and embrace the brokenness.

“When we won’t see the suffering—who are all of us—we never form our lives like our Savior’s…. A Christ-shaped life is not a comfortably shaped life, but a cross-shaped life.”

Securing abundance then is to pour out what Christ has so freely poured in: to gift out love as Christ has gifted us. “You do something great with your life when you do all the small things with His great love.”

Securing abundance is to pour out what Christ has so freely poured in: to gift out love as Christ has gifted us. Click To Tweet

Ann contends that we never need be afraid of brokenness: “God made the work of Jesus to ‘bind up the brokenhearted’ and there is more belovedness in Christ for us than there ever is brokenness in us.”

She wants the reader to see that the broken way, giving away our broken pieces, is the way to true abundance. “Brokenness doesn’t need shame and guilt—brokenness needs to be shared and given. Broken and given and shared with Jesus, and with a world that needs to embrace weakness to embrace abundance.”

The broken way, giving away our broken pieces, is the way to true abundance. #TheBrokenWay review and #giveaway! Click To Tweet

Because Ann writes, “communion is our course to abundance.”

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Mebecause He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poorHe has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blindto set free the oppressed19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-1

Reflections: Do you struggle with facing the world’s and your own brokenness? What would it mean to you to discover that brokenness is truly a path to an abundant life? 

More wonderful news is that The Broken Way study guide with DVD will be available before Christmas. And I may just have another giveaway to celebrate! 

The Giveaway!

Enter to win your own copy of Ann Voskamp’s captivating, convicting and inspiring new book, The Broken Way! Simply follow the Rafflecopter instructions.

The Broken Way

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s been more than 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5472–5502. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • *New cell phone finally decided on and shipped; *Rachel’s over-the-top excitement about getting a reading app on her iPad; *Others willing to share their brain power to help me with direction
  • *November beauty; *Winterizing the garden with 2 of my men; *Going through a great introductory Bible study on joy with friends
  • *Refreshing walk/jog out in the light rain; *Rachel making supper; *New phone finally up and running (is any technology ever easy?)
  • *Lovely fall day and time to fit in a walk with Rach and Joey after school; *Gift books ready to go out! *My grace-filled life
  • *A sister who’ll help a gal out; *Off on a weekend away with my man for a late-anniversary trip; *Soaking up the past in an historic bed and breakfast
  • *Exploring the historic town of Galena with good friends & a good man; *Amazing lobster ravioli for dinner; * Ending the night with games and laughter
  • *Starting my Sunday with God on the porch of a beautiful bed and breakfast; *Another day enjoying Galena with good friends; *Reunited with a happy, but tired girl and boy

I'm so glad you're here to walk with me through this messy but glorious journey called life! Please consider sharing this post with your family and friends. And don't miss a single piece of encouragement! Sign up to get every post in your inbox. It's free, and you'll receive free gifts just for signing up. Oh, you can unsubscribe at any time.

Yours in grace ≈

Julie

*affiliate links present in this post

*Two copies of this book were received from BlogAbout Network and Zondervan in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts are my own. 

Posted in Book review, Brokenness, giveaway

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Everyday Praise

We were created for praise! Cultivate the practice of glorifying God daily. Let your heart find rest in the shelter of God's goodness.

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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 12:9).

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

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