A Lesson on How to Live Well from Those Who Died Well

Reflecting on the very difficult situations of certain friends and family members, my thoughts keep circling back to one particular thought. All of us are either struggling to live well or we’re struggling to die well.

It seems more tragic to have to do the latter, but perhaps the greatest tragedy is the failure to do the former.

live well in Christ

Desire To Live Well

All around me I see people trying to live well. We all want to know the secret of a worthwhile life.

Is it more money? More prestige? More friends? More vacation time? Earlier retirement? Better health?

We chase the next shiny object, hoping that will be the ticket to a life lived well. Look around at the world, it’s obviously not.

Or maybe living well involves doing lots of good: being the main benefactor for a worthy cause, beginning a foundation for the oppressed, or adopting many unwanted and discarded children.

Nope, that’s not the key either. Although being gracious and caring are certainly wonderful things, by themselves, they won’t deliver the contentment of a well-lived life.

Lesson from the Dying

Over the past few years, I’ve followed the lives of a couple ladies who had to learn how to die well. They knew their time on earth was numbered, and they wanted to steward well the amount that remained.

I watched and learned. They struggled some, sure. They wanted more time with their loved ones. Yet they had a peace that defied their terminal diagnosis.

In dying, these ladies discovered what often eludes us in living. They learned that to live well (and die well) one must abide in the Lord. Living well involves tapping into His deep and abiding grace.

Abide in Christ

It’s not enough to simply acknowledge God or to worship Him periodically. A life lived well is a life lived, not just with Christ, but in Christ. It’s a moment by moment walk in His strength. In His will. In His grace.

A life lived well is a life lived, not just with Christ, but in Christ: a moment by moment walk in His grace. Click To Tweet

And that requires immersing ourselves in the Word and in prayer, in thanksgiving and in praise. It means getting as close as we can to the Lord and remaining there. 

Whether we’re still in a season of living or have entered that season of dying, there’s only one solution to doing either well. The key is to live in Christ. 

There's only one solution to living and dying well: it's to live in Christ. Click To Tweet

When we abide in Christ, circumstances never take center stage, He does. It’s the key that fits in any season. 

“Remain in Me, and I in you. Just as a branch is unable to produce fruit by itself unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in Me.” John 15:4

Reflections: What things have you tried in your pursuit of contentment? In the process, what have you learned about living well?

It’s been nearly 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5283–5303. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Privilege of caring for a runny nose, miserable, still-smiling young lady; Learning a new card game from Zach and Joey; Receiving solid advice and encouragement about launching my book from my Mastermind group members
  • Stare down with a doe as she waited for her fawn to get out of sight; Afternoon spent with Zach getting what he needs for college; Fresh peaches from our tree
  • Overnight visit to my mother-in-law’s; Laughter and fun during an afternoon game of UNO; Unplanned hours and a half with my sister-in-law
  • Enjoying morning time in the Word on my mother-in-laws cute little patio set; Safe travel home; Writing completed for ‪#‎everydaypraise‬devotional!
  • Watching a fawn frolick in my yard; Editing underway for‪#‎everydaypraise‬; Watching Joey scrimmage at the football season kickoff Silver Bowl
  • Driving time alone to think and pray; Being inspired by Micca Campbell at the ReNEWed Life Women’s Event; Fitting in a game of Scrabble with Zach and Joey
  • Danny coming home for a few hours to see his brother off; Cooking supper for 6 again; Fall-like evening, perfect for smores

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, Daily Living, Jesus Christ, Uncategorized

The Reason What You Do Matters (even if it’s small)

Sometimes when asked what I do, I hesitate to say — at least about the writing part. I can easily point to the fruit of raising my children and editing. But the benefits of my writing … that’s less noticeable. At times I wonder if it matters. 

what you do matters

Typing words of inspiration and encouragement to wounded and weary women brings me great joy. Yet, when pressed about my writing career, I’m tempted to duck my head and mumble the answer, because on the surface I have little to show for it. 

Five years after starting a blog and diving into the social media world, I have no book contract and no magazine credits. My name doesn’t grace book covers. Zeros sit in my revenue columns under book and magazine writing.

In the eyes of a culture that values monetary gain and status, I failed.

However, God’s value system varies greatly from the world’s. Where the world esteems money, God esteems service. Where the world reveres growth, prominence and stature, God reveres love, obedience and humility. 

What Matters

My writing matters, not because I’m becoming famous, reaching thousands and making millions, but because I’m being obedient to what I believe God is asking of me.

It matters because through it I’m loving and serving others. 

It matters because I’m being a conduit for the Lord to reach even one with His love and truth.

You, too, may be tempted to duck your head and whisper the answer to the “what do you do?” question. You may feel less than in your accomplishments. You may be wondering if what you’re doing matters.

Let me assure you, if you’re loving and serving, if you’re being obedient to the Lord and desiring to reflect Christ to those around you, then what you do does matter. You’re making a difference.

It may not be reaching thousands, but it’s touching the ones He intends.

What you do may not be reaching thousands, but it's touching the ones God intends. Click To Tweet

It may not catapult you to fame and fortune, but it gives you an avenue to proclaim His greatness.

Because you see, it’s not the best known or the one who can claim the greatest reach who matters the most. It’s each and every one of us who serves from a position of love and humility.

  • The young mom who keeps her littles bathed, fed and dressed and introduces them to the Lord.
  • The volunteers who bring love to those they work with.
  • The custodians who serve with gladness.
  • The office worker who seeks joy in her job. 
  • The elderly lady who rejoices in encouraging others through letters and prayer. 

What Makes Great and Wonderful Accomplishments

The world needs to look up to and learn from the likes of these men and women. It needs to redefine success to include selfless, love-filled humble acts. 

It needs to proclaim that those who care, those who look to make a difference in the life of just one person, are the ones who matter. 

God takes our small actions done in obedience and grows and compounds them into great and wonderful accomplishments. He uses those who work backstage and under the radar to set the stage for a great and glorious show of His power and grace. 

You may not have the reach or status you’d like in your current vocation or position, but God has always used the least to do the greatest. He’s using every little thing you offer in humble service to make a difference in this world.

God's using every little thing you offer in humble service to make a difference in this world. And that matters! Click To Tweet

We offer. He blesses. 

And that, my friend, matters!

“Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. 27 Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. 28 God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something,29 so that no one can boast in His presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-29

Reflections: Do you struggle to value what you do, judging it according to the world’s standards and not God’s? Consider those who might be ministered to by your service, whether large or small, and trust God to do great things with it. 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “when you feel like the chair guy.” 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, Worth, Writing

Three Things to Consider When Suffering Makes an Appearance

As believers who love the Lord and long to share in His resurrection, we know we must share in His suffering as well. Most of us, though, want to choose the form our suffering will take.

share in suffering

We plan, scheme, beg and bargain to avoid the worst of the suffering. A little bit of hardship is okay, even expected. A brief financial struggle. Minor relationship difficulties. Curable health issues. That’s suffering enough, right?

For some, yes. For others, no. It’s not up to us to decide.  

Suffering Has a Purpose

Difficult circumstances serve a purpose, and we should expect them. But none of us would intentionally bring on or happily welcome serious afflictions.

However, God has a far more reaching view and comprehensive understanding than you and I do. If he allows a tragedy to occur, He’ll not only see us through it, He’ll redeem it for a greater purpose. 

Through whatever suffering we face, God will change us for the better if we let Him. He’ll grow us and refine us. He’ll chip away at our pride, arrogance, selfishness, greed, impatience, and all the rest.

Through whatever suffering we face, God will change us for the better if we let Him. Click To Tweet

God’s Light in the Dark

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be sad or grieve the loss. It doesn’t mean we won’t walk through some dark times. 

But if we look for it, if we wait for it, we’ll begin to see God’s light shine brighter and more persistently, illuminating even in the darkest corners. 

If we look for it, we'll begin to see God's light shine brighter & more persistently even in the darkest corners. Click To Tweet

Over time, we can learn to look for and notice the beauty that will grow out of hardships, in us and in others. (And there can be beauty from even the ugliest situation.)

Consider…

“In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider: God has made the one as well as the other, so that man cannot discover anything that will come after him.” (Ecclesiastes 7:14)

So when the dark threatens to push out the light, when your world begins to flip, when suffering takes on a form you would never willingly allow, consider

  1. what possibilities await
  2. what grace is meeting you
  3. what might God have planned for this new challenge

When your world begins to flip upside down, lean into Jesus; consider what God might have planned for this challenge. Click To Tweet

Our own suffering allows us to share in the suffering of Christ. It’s not an easy path to walk, but God will be faithful through it all. 

Our own suffering allows us to share in the suffering of Christ. And God will be faithful through it all. Click To Tweet

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” 1 Peter 4:19  

Reflections: What form of suffering are you currently experiencing? What might God be doing in and through it? What’s the next step of faith you can take? 

It’s been nearly 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5252–5282. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Perfect day to write outside; Second and third batch of green beans canned; Rachel exercising her independence in increasing measure
  • Beginning the day with a beautiful morning wog; A big chunk of writing done for ‪#‎EverydayPraise‬; Understanding and cooperation to allow for a focused afternoon
  • Great lessons learned by others and shared with me; Settling my mind by weeding the garden; Another afternoon stretch to do one of the things I love: write encouragement
  • A rainy morning, perfect for reducing the humidity outdoors and getting work done indoors; Rachel’s new-found “hurry” mode, she squeals and kind of runs, so cute; Stormy night, perfect for sleeping
  • Made delicious homemade granola; Zach’s home for the rest of the summer!; Caught up on laundry
  • Saturday with lots of family; God’s glory shining in the lives of babies and little ones; Laughing, loving, and sharing memories: the glue that holds families together
  • Some difficult yet sweet conversations with nieces, nephews and sister-in-laws; Losing game of Monopoly played with Zach and Joey (joy because they’re home to play); Settled back at home after weekend away 

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 God, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Struggles, Suffering, trust

How To Find the Best Shelter When Storms of Life Hit

The best shelter isn’t always where you think. 

God is our solid shelter

The storm had been threatening for the last few hours. Finally, the sky released its fury. The rain and wind pummeled us, but it was the lightening that chased us off the lake. We paddled hard to get to get to shore.

Hubby took charge of securing our canoes while I sought shelter from the storm for my man, myself and our three boys. It wasn’t much, but the low-hanging branches of a pine tree afforded protection from the worst of the rain. 

Eventually, the danger passed and we resumed our paddle to a campsite. 

Seeking Shelter from Life’s Storms

Few of us enjoy being tossed around in a storm: whether a literal one found in nature or a figurative disturbance in our lives. Rather we’d prefer to be sheltered from the affects of either kind.

Unfortunately, we don’t always look in the right place when (not if) the storms attack of life hit. 

  • Sometimes we trust our own strength to anchor us until the squall passes.
  • Sometimes we turn to others to help. 
  • Sometimes we take steps to forget we even need a refuge.

Each of these can be effective on occasion. However, when our hearts are fearful and hurting, we need to find a shelter that is infinitely strong and always present. We need a safe place where we can regain a sense of peace and rediscover joy.  

An Unfailing Shelter

Only one place offers us that unfailing refuge: in the shadow of the Almighty, in the shelter of the Most High (Psalm 91:1). When we feel pummeled from every direction, when life throws us one curveball after another, when we’re soaked to the skin and bone tired, God welcomes us to rest in Him. 

Only one place offers us an unfailing refuge: in the shadow of the Almighty, in the shelter of the Most High. Click To Tweet

He offers unshakeable and unchanging promises. Promises to provide what we need to weather any storm. He’ll set us high upon a rock. He’ll hide us under His wings. He’ll shield and protect us. 

Nothing is too hard for God. No storm is too great. 

But we need to recognize where our shelter lies. We need to offer ourselves reminders as to where to look. 

Nothing is too hard for God. No storm is too great. But we need to recognize where our shelter lies. Click To Tweet

Life distracts. Our pride rears its ugly head. Other options entice. 

King David knew this. He knew that the only shelter he could forever count on would be the Lord. But he also knew how easily it would be (and was) to forget that.

So he wrote about the hope he found in the Almighty. He sang about the greatness of God. He wrote poems and prayers acknowledging the Rock that would never fail him.  

He reminded himself of the promises found in the Lord by praising Him. And when fierce winds threatened David remembered and knew hope. 

Be Reminded of Your Greatest Shelter

I used to find myself tossed around by my daily circumstances. I rode a roller coaster of emotions.

Then I discovered the blessing of reminding and remembering the greatness of God. Through a daily practice of praise and thanksgiving I became firmly anchored in Him.

I now know a peace that withstands gale-force winds. Yes, life has tested it! 

Now unwanted happenings no longer hold the power they used to. Sure, I still know sorrow. I still feel regrets and heartache and anger, but they no longer rule my life, they no longer control my days. 

Praise ushers in a peace that passes all understanding. King David knew it. I’m experiencing it. You can too.

God offers Himself as our solid shelter free of charge. We simply have to remind ourselves He’s there and always will be. 

God offers Himself as our solid shelter free of charge. We have to remind ourselves He's there & always will be. Click To Tweet

And that’s as simple as daily worship. 

I believe so strongly in the power of praise that I’m writing a devotional on the topic of praise. The book, titled Everyday Praise: Walking in Greater Peace, features 31 short devotions accompanied by full-color Scripture-based images. It will release as an Ebook on Amazon Monday September 12 and a month later as a paperback. I’m so excited about this book that I want to give you a sneak peak. Click here to read a little more about the book first or click here to immediately subscribe to my blog and receive the first five devotions absolutely free! As you read them, I pray His peace floods your soul. 

“For [God] will conceal me in His shelter
in the day of adversity;
He will hide me under the cover of His tent;
He will set me high on a rock.” Psalm 27:5

Praise ushers in a peace that passes all understanding. Discover it for yourself. #everydaypraise Click To Tweet

Reflections: Where do you currently find shelter when storms of life hit? Do you turn elsewhere at times because you don’t believe God’s promises or you forget them? Why not incorporate the practice of daily praise and be reminded where your greatest shelter lies?  

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “running for shelter” 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 Peace, Praise, Shelter, Worship

Three Actions To Take When You Feel Ill-Equipped To Pray

The blessing of prayer should be nurtured and exercised by all God’s children. 

prayer when you feel ill-equipped

Ill-Equipped

Confession time, I struggle with words. Sometimes they spill out a jumbled mess, leaving me feeling ill-equipped to properly express myself. 

It’s a bit ironic to admit since I’m an editor and writer, but when it comes to voicing a thought, I struggle with clarity. Explaining a situation unrehearsed often lacks focus. I find myself ending with, “well I hope you know what I mean.”

But where my jumbled mess of thoughts most bothers me is during prayer. Reminders and questions swirl in my head as I attempt to pray, and I find my conversation with God going something like this:

Dear Father in heaven, 

You are holy and all powerful. Thank you for your guidance in my life, for your wonderful blessings. (Forgot to plan for supper.) You are most gracious to me and my family. (Did I switch the laundry?) Thank you for Your provisions. (What time do I need to pick him up?)

Please, Lord, I ask You to strengthen my husband. Help Him to draw nearer to You, to tap into Your strength. (Rats, I forgot to stop in and visit Max again!). I pray for the same for my children … That You would become central in their life (I’ll have to get that writing done tomorrow)….  

This might be a bit extreme, but you get the picture. My prayers often become a cycle of intentional praise, thanksgiving, and petitions punctuated by inerrant thoughts that slip out. 

As I’ve tossed around what to do about this, three things come to mind.

(1) Continue to pray anyway.

(2) Petition the Holy Spirit to help in this matter.

(3) Experiment with writing down my prayers and thoughts.

Continue to Pray

Countless books have been written about prayer and more will certainly come. A few that quickly come to mind are Max Lucado’s Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer; Mark Patterson’s The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears; Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s Praying Upside Down: A Creative Prayer Experience to Transform Your Time with God; Bruce Wilkinson’s The Prayer of Jabez: Breaking Through to the Blessed Life; and of course Stormie Omarian’s bestselling series, The Power of a Praying.

I’ve read a few of them, and they offer great inspiration to pray and even tips on how to do it. Prayer is obviously an important and powerful tool in a Christian’s life.

So powerful, in fact, that in 1 Thessalonians 5, the Apostle Paul commanded us to “pray without ceasing” (vs. 17) because this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (vs. 18). 

However, prayer is also a unique expression of our faith. An opportunity to come unveiled before our Father and King. 

Prayer is a unique & individual expression of our faith: an opportunity to come unveiled before our Father &… Click To Tweet

Don’t give up on praying simply because you’re not the most articulate person. God created your unique personality and abilities.

Furthermore, He knows what you need before you ask Him (Matthew 6:8). By voicing it, however scattered it comes out, you’re demonstrating your faith in Him.

Petition the Holy Spirit to Help

Still we’re not left to stumble through our prayer life (or any part of our life) alone. God presented us with a great and glorious gift of Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit, the Helper.

I’ll be specifically asking the Holy Spirit to give shape and clarity to my prayers. But those times my thoughts and words still fly heavenward a jumbled mess, I’m trusting He’ll intercede as promised in this passage:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Romans 8:26

When your thoughts and words fly heavenward a jumbled mess, trust the Holy Spirit to intercede for you. Click To Tweet

Write Down Prayers

Still desiring clarity in your prayers? Consider writing them down.

Okay, I’m a writer, so it makes sense for me to write. However, writing out prayers is a great practice for anyone.

Putting pen to paper brings clarity to our thoughts. It helps us present them in a logical manner. It prevents us from forgetting that “one more thing” we wanted to lay in God’s hands or that blessing for which we want to give thanks.

Writing down and even memorizing prayers isn’t the only way or the best way to pray, but it can certainly be a powerful one.

And if you feel ill-equipped to write your own, adopt and adapt the template Jesus gave us:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 
Your kingdom come,

your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”  (Matthew 6:8-13)

Never Ill-Equipped for Prayer

We should never feel unworthy or ill-equipped to draw near to God in prayer. He welcomes, commands and encourages) all of His children — the articulate, the stutterers, the mute and the jumblers alike — to come before Him “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving.”

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Philippians 4:6 NLT

Prayer is a key component of our relationship with God. It’s evidence of the intimate bond we have with the Father, thanks to the Son’s sacrifice. And it should never be neglected. 

So when the enemy whispers in your ear that you lack the finesse it takes to present your heart to God, tell him to take a hike. Then continue to nurture the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Continue your conversation with your Father in heaven. 

You should never feel unworthy or ill-equipped to draw near to God in prayer. Click To Tweet

Reflections: Have you struggled with coherently expressing your thoughts to God? Do you find your prayers to be a jumbled mess of words? What have you found helpful? 

It’s been 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5231–5251. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Great feeling I experienced after forcing myself to get out and do my morning exercise; Rachel’s renewed desire to go outside by herself to push her stroller; ‪#‎everydaypraise‬ book release date set!
  • Cool beauty of a waking day; Visiting elderly ladies who are homebound; Hanging with some great ladies from church at our monthly meeting
  • Morning of games with Joey, Mom and Aunt Marlys; Yummy, easy berry buckle dessert; Listening to Rachel’s giggles as our car radio spit out all 6 CDs in succession
  • Carving out time for ‪#‎amwriting‬; A relaxing couple hours at the Fish Hatchery with Rach and Hubby; Getting grilling done before the storm hit
  • Morning sun shimmering off the lake; Unplanned lunch with Mom; Supper over a fire, finished off with smores and outdoor fun
  • Bright red of nearly ripe rose hips; Strawberry patch cleared out; Ending the day with a little Olympic action
  • Beautiful weather and great turnout for a day in the park; Reconnection with cousins at our family reunion; Having a little time with Danny

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 One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Prayer, Relationship, Uncategorized

When the Burden You’re Asked to Carry Is Far Too Heavy

Sometimes we’re tasked with carrying a burden too heavy to lift. It’s in those impossible assignments where we discover we’re not alone.


Impossible Burden

When God asked me to take on the job of parenting a child with special needs, I felt inadequate for the task at hand. My awareness of that inadequacy has increased as my daughter has grown.

The developmental gap between Rachel and her peers has become much wider, which has created many additional challenges I didn’t foresee in the early years.

  • Rachel has less in common with her peers now, so it’s more difficult for them to find things to enjoy together.
  • Her “different” behavior is more noticeable now at age 18 than it was at 4.
  • As Rachel’s peers have become increasingly independent, their parents enjoy a level of spontaneity and flexibility my husband and I don’t have, increasing our isolation.
  • Education challenges have become greater and meetings more burdensome.
  • Decisions about her future have become more pressing.

burden too heavy

More Than We Can Handle

Some say God will never give you more than you can handle.

I disagree. Raising and caring for this precious child of God is a task far too great for me to handle.

The Apostle Paul and his companions also experienced circumstances far beyond their capacity to handle.

“For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.” 2 Corinthians 1:8 

Like Paul and the other disciples, all of us are, were, or likely will be tasked to carry an impossibly heavy burden. But there’s a purpose behind such an assignment.

Paul explains,

Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” 2 Corinthians 1:9

From an early age we’re groomed for independence. Our parents and other loved ones do their best to teach us how to stand on our own two feet, to eventually fly the coop and make it on their own.

And for the most part, that’s a good thing.

Only it gives us a false sense of power and strength. We begin to believe we can build a tower all the way to heaven (see Genesis 11:1-9). 

So God allows suffering. He allows crushing circumstances to drive us to our knees.

Not because He’s cruel, but because He loves us so much, He wants us to find the source of true Life: Him.

God allows sin and brokenness and suffering to survive a little longer so fewer of His children will perish in their self-sufficiency and pride.

God allows sin and brokenness and suffering to survive a little longer so fewer of His children will perish. Click To Tweet

Grace Enough for Any Burden

Yet God doesn’t leave us unprepared for our struggles, and He doesn’t leave us alone in them.

He’s promised,

“My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

No matter how brutal your suffering is, you can rest in that promise!

No matter how brutal your suffering is, you can rest in the promise that God's grace is sufficient! Click To Tweet

As I look back on the past 18 years since the birth of Rachel, I get glimpses of how God prepared me for the role He asked me to assume.

He demonstrated His faithfulness when He chased me down in the agonizing years of miscarriages. He taught me to trust that He will be there for me when I finally shed my self-sufficiency mask.

Now when I need him in those desperate moments, I trust He’ll be there.

As I reflect on the long, winding, rocky road behind me, I catch glimpses of where He’s stepped in to carry me when my strength failed.

Now when a look into my daughter’s future paralyzes me, I trust He’ll carry me through the next moment, the next day, the next year.

God prepared me for raising this sweet gift of mine by offering me His joy and peace when I struggled to find my own. He’s strengthened my faith by meeting me in my darkest hours and sheltering me in the fiercest storms.

Paul knew his ministry would be a difficult one. He knew life wouldn’t be all roses. But He learned to trust that God would help him with his burden, whatever it was.

“He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” 2 Corinthians 1:10

God is preparing you for your assignments too. He’ll be with you, and He will deliver you as well. 

God is preparing you for your assignments. He'll be with you, and He will deliver you as well. Click To Tweet

Trust the Lord. He will prove faithful. Set your hope on its only true source: Jesus Christ!

Reflections: What impossibly heavy have you been tasked to carry, now or in the past? Are you trying to do it on your own strength or putting your hope in the God who will provide? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “that time God asked me to . . .” 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 Faith, Rachel, Struggles, Suffering, trust

Faith Trumps Fear (Step Out in Confidence)

Have you felt compelled to do something yet found it far easier to drag your feet than fully commit? I discovered my procrastination was driven by an underlying fear.

faith-in-God

It began for me last September. I accepted a challenge to publish a blog post for 31 days straight. This was my first time in 5 years of blogging to take the 31-day writing challenge, and it was a big commitment.

But what began as a blogging exercise, God fanned into a greater vision: to create a product that will last beyond the time period of a blog post. Something that would become a bit more permanent. Something that would guide others to experience and develop the powerful daily habit of praising God.

Thus, 31 days of blogging became an Everyday Praise image-based devotional idea! 

So over the past 6 months I’ve messed around with making it happen. And, I’m sorry to say, I really did mess around, as in dabbling. Six months later, I finally have the images done, yet only 5 of the 31 devotions are written. 

When Fear Paralyzes

What’s wrong with this picture? 

God invited. I accepted.

All good so far.

But then I procrastinated. I let fear become an obstacle to fully committing to God’s invitation. 

Oh sure, I worked on the book from time to time. But my heart never completely engaged; thus, procrastination (doing anything but working on the book) became an easy default. 

I was able to get away with stalling because I’m self-publishing this devotional, meaning I can set my own timeline (or none at all). 

I allowed my limitations with technology, my fear of how it will look if no one likes it or what it may mean if people do like it, and the possibility of being spread too thin in my commitments to derail its completion.

Walk in Faith

It’s not the first time I let fear get in the way of fulfilling a God-ordained assignment. And I don’t think I’m alone in giving into fear-based procrastination. 

Yet, when we let fear win, when we put off what God has placed on our hearts to do, we’re letting others down. We withhold the encouragement and insight God has entrusted to us to share. 

 When we let fear win, we withhold the encouragement and insight God has entrusted to us to share. Click To Tweet

We can’t let fear derail God’s assignment for us. If we do, the enemy wins.

We need to trust that if God brings us to an assignment, He’ll see us through it as well.

Where we are weak, He’ll provide the strength. Where we lack the knowledge, He’ll provide guidance. 

Where we are weak, God provides the strength. Where we lack knowledge, He'll provide guidance. Click To Tweet

I’m Stepping Out in Faith with My Book

So, I’m done using procrastination as a way to avoid facing the fear of failure or success or technological breakdowns. Technology issues, lack of sales, wild success, whatever happens, let the book get published! 

And to keep me moving forward, I’m officially releasing the date of my first published book in this post. You’re the first to know that the release of Everyday Praise: Walking in Greater Peace as an eBook will be Monday, September 12!

Everyday Praise devotional: faith walk

I’d love your prayers. 

Learn more about Everyday Praise here, and if you’d like to get all the book progress updates, the launch team invitation, and any special book offers, simply sign up to my site. 

Trust God

Let’s stop allowing fear to paralyze the growth and ministry God has for each of us. God will provide a way for each mission to be fulfilled.

Let's stop allowing fear to paralyze the growth and ministry God has for each of us. Click To Tweet

It may be difficult and sometimes not even turn out the way we’d like, but in the process, we’ll experience incredible growth and refinement.

Trust Him!

Put your faith in the Most Faithful! And move forward in the confidence of His might. 

Put your faith in the Most Faithful, and move forward in the confidence of His might! Click To Tweet

 “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’” Matthew 17:20

Reflections: Are you dragging your feet on something God laid on your heart to do? Could fear be at the root of your procrastination?  

Tomorrow will be 5 years of counting and I’ve well passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5210–5230. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • First of the green beans picked; Having the blessing of a very hectic day to get through; A quiet night to rest and refresh
  • A boy off on a football camp adventure; Date night on the lake with a great couple; A beautiful fox crossing our path
  • Running across raccoon siblings who seemed to be enjoying the morning too; Lunch with Danny; Healthy eyes
  • Joey back home from football camp; Kayaking on the lake with two of my guys and Miss Rach; Winding up our family day with a movie
  • Joey’s back feeling better after chiro adjustment; A little garden harvesting of beans, zuchinni, rutabaga, and turnips; Watching the last of the Hobbit trilogy with Joey and Rach
  • A family morning; Grilled freshly picked green beans; Celebrating a niece’s graduation and sending her off to serve in the Marine Corps: proud of you Ashley!
  • A church family who is very understanding when my girl makes a bit too much noise during the service; Rachel’s ongoing lesson of enjoying the simple things in life; Taking time out to play

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 book release, Christian walk, Everyday Praise, Fear, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Praise

It’s Not All Yours To Do! (don’t miss your assignment)

There’s still time to enter my giveaway of a great book that will bring the world to your family, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. MartinCheck out my review here and follow the Rafflecopter prompts at the end. 

A truth to imprint on our hearts: God has something He wants each of us to do, but He hasn’t assigned everything to any one of us.

God has something He wants each of us to do, but He hasn't assigned everything to any one of us. Click To Tweet

My list keeps getting longer. The weight on my shoulders keeps getting heavier. I often struggle under the load I place on myself. 

It is all good stuff. Important stuff. Meaningful stuff. Godly stuff.  

Online friends ask for prayer warriors. A few others request reviewers for their books.

I have a backlog of people on a “should visit” list. There are more on the “should write to” list.

My boys have Mom-requests, and Rach has ongoing Mom-needs.

Several writing projects nag at my conscience. Online Bible studies beg to be joined. 

And of course there are daily household tasks and appointments to manage. 

You all have your own endless lists. 

assignment not everything

My Assignment or Someone Else’s

When I first saw this week’s #livefreeThursday linkup topic from my friend Suzie, “You don’t mean me, do you?,” I nodded in agreement.

How often have I looked around for someone else, believing God couldn’t have meant me when making such a grand (or scary) assignment? 

But then a new thought began to surface: How often do I take on every assignment I come across thinking they’re all for me? 

I reason it out like this: Surely if it’s a good and godly task that comes into my view, it’s one I should act on. 

So I say yes to the book reviews and launches. I say yes to the wonderful groups and task forces.

I say yes so I don’t have to feel like I’m missing out. I say yes because it’s a good thing to do. 

But as Ann Voskamp’s husband wisely counseled her, “Every yes automatically says no somewhere else.”

It’s easy to get caught in the cycle of saying yes without first evaluating and praying about an opportunity.

It's easy to get caught in the cycle of saying yes without first evaluating and praying about an opportunity. Click To Tweet

In her bestselling book, The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst, warns us about the consequences of jumping on every request that comes to us: “Don’t miss your assignment because you’re caught in the rush of endless demands.”

Are You Missing God’s Assignment?

Are you missing God’s assignment because you’re caught on the endless-demands merry-go-round? 

I’m not going to tell you I have the secret for getting off. But I do want to give you something to think about.

Sometimes God does mean you. Sometimes the Lord of the Universe chooses you for a certain task.

Don’t be surprised by that. In Christ, you are more than equipped for any assignment God asks you to take on.

Equally, don’t think every request or need that pops up on your Facebook feed or enters your inbox is one you should say yes to. 

Pray about those opportunities you’re presented with. 

Then ask yourself, Do I feel the nudge to say yes? or Do I feel a sense of holy hesitancy? 

When we take on those things we shouldn’t, it binds our hearts and hands from investing in those we should.

When we take on those things we shouldn't, it binds our hearts and hands from investing in those we should. Click To Tweet

When a friend asks me to review her Christian growth book or another invites me to an online gathering of sisters in Christ, everything in me screams, Yes!, even though the best answer may be No. 

We are all called to do good and godly things, but every good and godly thing is not for me to do. Every good and godly thing is not for you to do.  

We are all called to do good and godly things, but not every good and godly thing is for you to do. Click To Tweet

God has a plan and it includes specific assignments for each of us. That doesn’t mean everything that enters your inbox or gets posted to your Facebook feed is yours to take on. 

Not every assignment that enters your inbox or gets posted to your FB feed is yours to take on. Click To Tweet

Be wise, be in the Word. and be in prayer. Then you’ll be less likely to ask, “You don’t mean me, do you?” and more likely to verify, “You mean me, Lord, don’t you?”

Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different ministries, but the same Lord. And there are different activities, but the same God activates each gift in each person.” 1 Corinthians 12:4-6

Reflections: Which do you struggle with more: taking on assignments that are not yours or passing on assignments that are? 

 I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “You don’t mean me, do you?” 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, Daily Living, Serving

Develop a Grander Picture of Our Global Family (#BookGiveaway)

It’s far-too-easy to get caught up in our own little world and forget we’re a part of a grander picture.

It's far-too-easy to get caught up in our own little world and forget we're a part of a grander picture. Click To Tweet

Early in my editing career, I obtained a freelance job with a company that published travel guides. This position allowed me to see the world without ever leaving my home.

It brought me joy and insight as I visited places different from where I called home.

Even before I started my own family, I knew I wanted to travel with them. To explore various environments, to meet different people, to experience other cultures. However, as life goes sometimes, circumstances prevented us from traversing too far too often.

Still there were opportunities for “visiting” other places. Yet I’m sad to say I never gave much thought to intentionally expanding my children’s global-mindedness in other less-taxing ways until they were starting to stretch their own wings.

That’s when I realized my oversight.

global family

Shrinking World, Expanding Influence, Global Family

We live in a world that is shrinking. The definition of neighbor is expanding. No longer do we interact only with those who share our climate, pastimes, vocations, or even language.

That’s a good thing. God created all of us. We’re a part of a global family, whether we like it or not … whether we can relate or not.

We’re called to love our neighbors as ourselves. We’re called to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15).

We are called to proclaim the gospel to the whole world. It is easier to do now than ever before. Click To Tweet

And it’s easier to do now than ever before.

But how can we interact with and share hope and love to those who act and talk and live differently? How do we influence and impact a culture we know nothing about?

To bring the gospel to the corners of the earth, we need to be aware of our brothers and sisters around the globe. We need to have some understanding of the world.

To love others as we’re called to, we need to have at least a little knowledge of what love looks like to someone living in another culture. We can no longer be content with being aware simply of our immediate surroundings.

It’s time to prepare our children (and ourselves) to understand, empathize, and relate with our brothers, sisters,  and neighbors who live across the ocean.

A Wonderful Resource for Understanding the World

I wish I had done better at intentionally introducing our children to those in distant lands. So when I was offered an opportunity to review and giveaway a copy of Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin, I jumped at it.

Give Your Child the World

A masterful resource for parents, Give Your Child the World, opens with the author’s backstory and how God brought love, connection, and compassion to her in a miraculous and global way. It’s fascinating to look back and see God’s hand so obviously active in Martin’s early life, reminding me that the same is true in each of our lives.

Part One continues with one of my favorite chapters, Practical Ways to Invite the World into Your Home. The author fills this chapter with a myriad of simple ideas that make a big difference in developing global mindedness in our families.

Wow, if I had only possessed this book 15 years ago!

I’ve long agreed with Jamie that story and reading to our children is a powerful and rewarding way to connect and shape our children. Like her, I believe in reading aloud to our children far after they become independent readers.

In fact, I’m still reading to my two youngest who are 15 and 18.

To “help you make reading a natural part of your family’s life,” the first part of Give Your Child the World concludes with suggestions for developing a story-solid foundation.

An Invaluable Guide

The rest of this wonderful resource consists of lists, summaries, and personal notations of hundreds of books that will bring the world to your family. These book lists are divided into age groups (4-6, 6-8, 8-10, and 10-12) within chapters representing different continents or areas of the world, with one general multicultural chapter.

One of the most useful aspects of this book are the extensive indexes, with books listed by title, historical time period, country/region, and author. With the ability to cross-reference by time and region, you’ll always find the perfect book for your circumstances.

With this guide, you will have at your fingertips an invaluable resource to connect the next generation with our far-flung neighbors.

Jamie C. Martin believes in the power of story to develop our children’s awareness, empathy, and compassion for others around the globe. In her words, “What we have in common with our worldwide neighbors far outweighs what separates us.”

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time is a book I wish I would have had years ago. But global-mindedness is a timely concept to weave into our lives at any age; therefore, I have no doubt I will be referencing this resource for years to come.

Now you can too. 

Develop a grander picture of our global family. Win #GiveYourChildtheWorld #giveaway @jamie_cmartin @TheBlogSpotCom Click To Tweet

“Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all peoples.” Psalm 96:3

Reflections: Have you intentionally cultivated global-mindedness with your children? If so, how did you do it? If not, what would have helped you make it a priority?

If this review has peaked your interest, why not enter to win your own copy? Just follow the Rafflecopter instructions for multiple chances to enter. (Follow a link to purchase a copy.) Happy travels!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Going on 5 years of counting and I’ve passed 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5189–5209. Read my entire list by clicking here.

    • Short but confidence-building first day of my 3-day‪#‎writingsabbatical‬; Quiet place to use as a retreat; Better feed tonight for the National LCMS Youth Gathering livestream
    • Rescued a baby turkey from the likes of my dog; A lovely rainy day to keep me productive on my ‪#‎writingsabbatical‬; Cooking brats over an open fire, just because I’m alone and I can
    • Completed the 31 full-color scripture images for my‪#‎EverydayPraise‬ devotional; Knowing my guys are on an overnight bus home after 5 days gone; Getting in a wog tonight
    • Lazy start to my day; Having my traveling guys home!; Spending a few hours with family & friends at a Tupperware party
    • Editing project to work on; The way the boys love their sister (and vice versa); Having my girl home from camp
    • Friends willing to keep Joey out of the storm until we could get in to pick him up; Zach’s surprise visit home; No injuries or significant damage in our area from strong winds and heavy rains
    • Listening to testimonies from our youth (and chaperones) about the impact of National LCMS Youth Gathering​ 2016; An older son willing to run a younger son to an activity; Evening picnic on our dock with Rach

*This honest review is in exchange for a 2 free copies of the book from The Blog Spot Network.

**Disclosure: There are affiliate links on this page, meaning if you click through and purchase, I’ll get a small commission at no added cost to you.

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 Book review, Christian walk, giveaway, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Witnessing

The Sign You’re Looking for Is Closer Than You Think

Have you ever missed a sign, and it’s left you confused, frustrated, and lost?

I have. It happens, for instance, when I navigate for a particular son on road trips on a route he isn’t entirely familiar with.

I forget he doesn’t know the way, and he forgets to watch the signs and/or ask. We find ourselves in some interesting places. 

Like the time when we went right when we should have veered left and ended up traveling through Wisconsin on our way back to Iowa from Illinois. No, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the Midwest, that is most definitely not the quickest way!

Or the time we stayed straight instead of exiting onto another interstate highway and wound up a couple hours south of the route we wanted.

For both trips the signs were there; we simply became distracted and missed them. An occurrence that unfortunately is not isolated to driving.

sign you're looking for

Distracted and Forgetful

We do it in our daily life as well. We get distracted and forget that 

◊ we are dearly loved 

◊ we have been given the wisdom and guidance to know our next step

◊ are never left without hope, no matter how messy our mess is

◊ as long as we have breath, we have purpose

◊ this is not our home; there’s something far better

We forget that we’ve already been provided with all the direction and assurance we need for any situation. It begins (and ends) with God! 

We've been provided with all the direction & assurance we need for any situation. It begins (and ends) with God! Click To Tweet

The Sign We’re Looking For

God gives us the markers to live life well:

*the words of Life in the Bible and the evidence of Jesus and His death and resurrection to assuage our concerns for the future

*His promises and our past experiences that demonstrate His faithfulness to see us through any mess

*love: love from others that came first and perfectly from Him

*the law to guide us in upright conduct and His Holy Spirit to prompt us in the way of our next step

*the whole of creation to evidence His sovereignty, creativity, majesty, power, and even His delight in us (and I think His sense of humor too — I mean just look at some of the critters He created!)

*His Word to reveal to us our purpose — to love and serve Him — and the needs of a broken world to further assure us there is a need for our prayers, support and love. Each one of us has a purpose to serve, love, and glorify God by serving and loving the hurt and lost around us

Each one of us has a purpose to serve, love, and glorify God by serving and loving the hurt and lost around us. Click To Tweet

God is the sign we’re looking for in our journey, and He’s given us all the markers we need as we travel.

That’s not to say He has revealed His whole detailed plan for each of our lives. But we have enough guidance to move confidently forward. And we can rest assured that His grace will be sufficient for the future we don’t know.

When we begin to feel lost or ill prepared it’s because we have become distracted from Him and forgot to take note of one of His markers. 

Abide and Seek

If my son and I would quit getting distracted on our road trips, we wouldn’t get lost. I guess the same is true when we long for direction and guidance and hope in our daily lives.

God’s already provided what we need to know for how we should live, which direction to journey, and why we can have hope and live out a life of purpose.

But that guidance is only helpful if we take note of it by abiding in Him and seeking His wisdom.

God has given us guidance for our lives, but it's only helpful if we take note of it, by abiding in Him &… Click To Tweet

Today, ask God to open up your senses to the signs He’s posted in your world. Be encouraged, guided and hope filled. We have every reason to be and the evidence to boot.

He reveals Himself and, yes, His will for us in many ways. But it boils down to one thing, being open to receiving it from Him. 

God has revealed Himself and His will for us in many ways. But we must be open to receiving it from Him. Click To Tweet

“From one man He has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. 27 He did this so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.28 For in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.'” Acts 17:26-28

Reflections: What sign are you wanting from God? Could it be it’s already been revealed and you were too distracted to notice? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “When I think I need a sign.” 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, Daily Living, Perspective, Worth

Thanks for stopping!

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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