Give Thanks in the Mess: Happy Thanksgiving! #shortburstsofencouragement

I’ve had times when “I can’t see the forest for the trees.” I get too caught up in the minor details and miss the main point.

Yet perhaps more often, I experience the opposite. In the midst of getting through a tough or rushed day, I tend to only notice the forest (and an overgrown one at that) and miss the individual trees in that forest.

You see, my struggles with the day blind me to the gifts within the day. [←Tweet this.]


If I’m not intentionally looking, I fail to acknowledge the very moments that lift me up. The bird singing, the hand helping, the heart praying.

Give Thanks in the Mess

I believe every day is filled with these countless little grace notes, tiny snippets of blessings. However, the big picture of each day can mask the very thing that makes each one rich.

Thankfully the mask can be lifted. The gems within our days can be unveiled.

It’s really about taking a closer look at the day. It’s about peeking into the under story of our forest.

What is it that is carrying you through this day?

What are the gifts of today?

Did someone send a word of greeting?

Did the furnace kick on to offset the 30 degree temps?

Do you have food in the refrigerator? Was there one of your favorite cookies left?

Did you have just enough toothpaste to get your teeth brushed?

Did your car start this morning?

Do you have someone that loves you?

The questions could go on and on, revealing the many things we take for granted. 

Yes, there are always blessings in each day; it’s just that we get so caught up in the mess, we miss those details.

Today, look differently at your day, take time to see the moments that make it up. Notice the drops of grace that sustain you. And be thankful. [←Tweet this.]

As you prepare to feast with family and friends this Thanksgiving, take just a moment to be reminded of the blessings tucked in the chaos. Watch this wonderful preview of The Skit Guy’s video, Messy Blessings.

This Thanksgiving, may God richly bless you with joy of gathering with loved ones, and may He give you the eyes to see it.

“Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:15b-16

Reflections: What is your tendency: do you see the forest (big picture) and miss the trees (details and moments), or do you notice the trees and fail to take in the forest? 

I’m joining Holley Gerth for her Coffee for Your Heart Wednesday link-up and Rachel Wojnarowski for Whimsical Wednesdays. Click on the images to read more linked-up posts. So much wonderful encouragement!


Yours in grace ≈


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Posted in Blessings, Grace, Short Bursts of Encouragement, Thankfulness

But I am only a… (When Faith Is Present)

“[God] needs no one, but when faith is present he works through anyone.”
—A.W. Tozer

One thing I love about reading the Bible is the truth I receive about who I am and what I can accomplish. Because often I don’t feel very accomplished or capable.

And that would be an honest assessment, because none of us, in the eyes of God have anything to offer.

Yet we aren’t left to wallow in self-pity about our inability because God offers us hope. Through faith in Christ, even the least capable among us are given amazing abilities and opportunities. [←Tweet this.]

Here, read and see for yourself.


Legacy of Faith 

Rahab was but a prostitute, but through faith, she came into the line of Jesus Christ.

Peter was but a fisherman, but through faith, he played an important role in building the early Christian church.

Hannah was but a barren housewife, but through faith, she birthed the great prophet Samuel.

David was but a young shepherd boy, but through faith, he slay a giant.

Mary was but a young peasant girl, but through faith, she birthed the Savior. 

But I’m Only a…

From the beginning of creation, God weaved His perfect plan. As He did, He used imperfect and unlikely people to accomplish it, leaving us a legacy of faith. 

How many times have you said, “but I’m only a [fill in the blank]“?

But I’m only a stay-at-home mother.

But I’m only a young woman.

But I’m only sinful person.

But I’m only an office worker.

But I’m only an elderly lady.

But I’m only a disabled individual.

If you’re like me, it’s far more often than you’d care to admit.

Power of Faith

But no more, my friends! You and I have inherited a legacy. Not one of strength and accomplishments. We’ve inherited a far greater legacy, one of weakness, brokenness, and faith.

We’ve inherited a legacy of our limitations meeting God’s limitlessness, of our lack meeting God’s fullness, of our weakness meeting God’s strength, of our fallacy meeting God’s perfection, of our sin meeting God’s grace.

We’ve inherited a legacy of our faith in the Most High God being met by His faithfulness. [←Tweet this.]

And through that faith the possibilities are endless. 

So next time you’re tempted to say “But I’m only a…,” end it with “child of the Father of all creation,” and step out in faith to accomplish His will. 

Because although God doesn’t need anyone to accomplish His will, as A.W. Tozer wisely stated, “when faith is present he works through anyone.”

And that, my dear sisters, includes you and me! 

“So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” Galatians 3:9

Reflections: Today, how are you going to embrace this legacy of faith you’ve inherited? 

Since beginning more than 3 years ago, I’ve counted more than 3,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! So here we go: #3366–3386, read the entire list by clicking here.

  • Blessed with the health and ability to enjoy the splendor of winter; Discovered my work laptop has a lighted keyboard – bonus!; Rachel’s patriotism cuteness
  • Healthy conviction through writings of a grace-filled lady; Christmas candy making officially began today; Joey’s help making Thanksgiving tree leaves
  • Moaning of tree branches rubbing in the wind; Being inspired to a better plan, one that includes more rest; Brilliance of a zillion stars on this cold, clear night
  • My children’s ability to brighten a difficult day; Digging out and throwing away in the deep recesses of the basement; A sister who’s there even to help with gift decisions
  • Uncovering treasures in the deep depths of the basement; Lots thrown away and much to give away–simplifying!; Relative warmth coming, as in above freezing
  • Good dent made in the molded chocolates; My guys splitting wood for the winter; Rachel trying to dance to music on my iPad–first time, so cute
  • The acceptance we feel at our place of worship for our loud, quirky little family; Rachel’s laughter of delight as the rain hit her nose; Snuggling with my teenage boy as we read aloud–I know how all-too-quickly it will end

Yours in grace ≈


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Posted in Faith, God's attributes, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

Humble Prayer: A Doorway Leading to Hope and Healing


When it comes to prayer, I’m kind of a formula girl. I grew up praying memorized prayers.

  • Meal Prayer: Bless us our Lord and these our gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Amen. 
  • The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us…. Amen. You know the one. 
  • Bedtime Prayer: Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

There is something comforting about a prayer format. One we can share with other believers. One we can recite together. 

But I’ve since learned the value of an ongoing conversation with God. A spontaneous prayer if you will. In fact, I’m rarely satisfied, with our standard meal prayer anymore (which has changed to my husband’s Come Lord Jesus one).

I prefer instead to pray from “what comes.”

Yet if I’m not careful my “what comes” is a litany of “I wants” or “You should’s.”  My conversation with God turns into a recitation of what I need or want instead of submission and honest appeal to the Most High. 

Apparently I’m not the only one who struggles with this. Acrostics, such as this popular one (A.C.T.S.: Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication.), have been created to offer guidance for praying. 

Acrostics help us stay focused on what’s important in prayer.

Simple and Sincere Prayer

Many of us are or have been at one time fearful of praying (out loud at least). We may fear doing it wrong or worry about what others might think.

But praying isn’t for God’s benefit but for ours. It’s not meant to be burdensome but freeing.

Our prayers don’t have to be lengthy or elaborate. Simple and sincere work just as well (maybe better). 

God already knows what we will say. The power of prayer isn’t in informing the Almighty of our needs. 

The power of prayer is in the hope and healing that come to us as we humble ourselves before the sovereign Lord. [←Tweet this.] 

The power of prayer is in acknowledging our need for Him as well as His love, mercy, and grace for us. 

Pocket Prayer

In his new book, Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer, Max presents a pocket prayer, a simplified version distilled from different prayers of the Bible. It goes like this:

Father, you are good.

I need help. Heal me and forgive me.

They need help.

Thank you.

In Jesus’ name, amen

What’s wonderful about this prayer is how easy it is to remember and use for specific situations. 

I took the challenge Suzie Eller posed in her post to make this simple prayer my own. Here is my pocket prayer today:

Father, you are good and gracious.

I need your help as the holiday season is upon me. As I try to incorporate stillness into my days, heal me from the need to rush. 

Forgive me for trying to fill my life with meaning by doing, when you have already filled it by dying for me. 

So many need your help in their deep pain of living broken lives in the midst of the coming holidays. Assure them they are not alone, that you are there for them in their brokenness.

Thank you for your everlasting faithfulness.

In the precious name of Jesus, amen.

In chapter 1 of Before Amen, Max remarks that “Prayer is the hand of faith on the door handle of your heart. The willing pull. The
happy welcome to Jesus: ‘Come in, O King. Come in.’”

And now is always the perfect time to welcome the Lord into your heart. 

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18 

Reflections: In what way is praying difficult for you–distractions, consistency, boredom, a sense of disconnect, apparent unanswered prayers? If you struggle with knowing how to pray, consider making this pocket prayer your own as I did? 

Linking with Suzie Eller today. Read more encouraging posts about living free and praying simply by clicking here. 

To purchase your own copy of Max Lucado’s new book, click on the image below. 

948482: Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer By Max Lucado

Yours in grace ≈


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Posted in A Prayer, Christian walk, Healing, Hope, Prayer

A Thanksgiving Tree: Because Being Grateful Is That Important

For years I never knew what to do for Thanksgiving decorations. The cheesy turkey candle on the window sill and maybe a couple gourds gracing the hutch was about as good as it got. 

It’s not that I didn’t like Thanksgiving or think it was important. I just didn’t know what to do for memorable decorations, ones that celebrate the day’s meaning. I mean there isn’t a manger scene or a star or anything that significant I could put out. 

So I opted for little. A large dinner with all the fixings, to be sure, but little in the way of seasonal display. 

Then a few years ago I began reading about a Thanksgiving or Gratitude Tree (check out Ann Voskamp for more), and I knew I’d found my decoration of choice. Simple, flexible, and meaningful. Love it! 

Thanksgiving tree

2013 Thanksgiving tree

So I thought I’d pass on the blessing of the Thanksgiving Tree to you, complete with photos and a free Scripture leaf printable.

Thanksgiving/Gratitude Trees


Gathered goodies for this year’s tree

A Thanksgiving Tree can be made out of anything. A Pinterest search revealed dazzling photos of trees made out of paper, cloth, branches, or various seasonal items. The trees can be 3-dimensional or taped against the wall. 

The important thing is to set up the tree as a tool for cultivating gratitude.  

Being a nature girl, we use branches for our tree, and hang colorful Scripture leaves off of them. You can either begin with all the leaves on the tree or have a bowl filled with the leaves and hang them as they are used.

During the week leading up to Thanksgiving or the morning of the day itself (depending on the nature of activities that week), we each jot down 5 things (1 on each leaf) for which we were grateful that year. At dinner we read our Scripture verses and our words of gratitude. 

Thanksgiving tree - bare

Our 2014 tree-in-progress

Just as there are many forms of Thanksgiving trees, there are also many ways to use it.

Here are some options:

  • Take a leaf a day during the week leading up to Thanksgiving Day and reflect on and pray through the Scripture verse.
  • Do the above suggestion but take it a step further by recording a gift your grateful for on the back of the leaf.
  • Choose a leaf for each member of your family and write a word of thanks specifically for them on the back. 
  • Use the Scripture leaves as part of your regular family devotions during November, praying through each verse and discussing any thoughts about it. 

These are just a few ideas. I’m sure you can think of more. 

Benefits of Being Grateful

Cultivating a heart of gratitude has strong physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits. It relieves stress, gives us a greater sense of satisfaction, helps us deal with difficult circumstances, and draws us nearer to the Lord.

And as a bonus, it’s nearly impossible to be simultaneously expressing thanks and complaining. All parents should appreciate that!

This is a meaningful, fun way to celebrate Thanksgiving, this special season set aside to reflect on the gifts we’ve received. [←Tweet this.]

It’s one where the entire family can participate, and it looks cool to boot. I’m grateful to have discovered it and excited to pass it on to you.

Now for the free leaf template printable! I love all different leaf shapes, so I’ve created a Scripture leaf template featuring oak, elm, and maple leaves (there are 2 different sheets with 18 unique verses).

Click on each image to download.  Print them on color paper, cut out, add string, and enjoy!  

Thanksgiving Scripture Leaves (1b)

Thanksgiving Scripture Leaves 1

Thanksgiving Scripture Leaves (2b)

Thanksgiving Scripture Leaves 2

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Reflections: What’s a meaningful way you decorate for or celebrate the Thanksgiving season? 

I’m joining Holley Gerth for her Coffee for Your Heart Wednesday link-up and Rachel Wojnarowski for Whimsical Wednesdays. Click on the images to read more linked-up posts. So much wonderful encouragement!


Yours in grace ≈


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Posted in Gratitude, Short Bursts of Encouragement, Thankfulness

When Your Strength is Gone

There are times when I don’t think I can take another step, much less get through the day. Times when I carry burdens that threaten to defeat me.

I’ve heard others express similar feelings. When struggles become great and we don’t understand why or can’t see a way out, our strength tends to fail us.

It’s a lonely and frightening place to be.

So when I came across the account of the great prophet Elijah and his despair, I couldn’t quit reading. Let me take you there. 

Elijah’s Waning Strength

It was glorious…and terrifying. Elijah, confident in his God, called down the power of the Lord on King Ahab and the Baal worshipers

At the time for offering the evening sacrifice, Elijah the prophet approached the altar and said, “Yahweh, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that You are God in Israel and I am Your servant, and that at Your word I have done all these things. Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that You, Yahweh, are God and that You have turned their hearts back.” 

Then Yahweh’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench….

The power of the Lord was on Elijah, and he tucked his mantle under his belt and ran ahead of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. 1 Kings 18: 36-38, 46

Two sentences later, Elijah’s confidence seemed to wane as he ran away, fearful for his life. His burdens overwhelmed him and he fell to the ground in despair.

Then Elijah became afraid and immediately ran for his life…. He sat down under a broom tree and prayed that he might die. He said, “I have had enough! Lord, take my life, for I’m no better than my fathers.” Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. 1 Kings 19:3-5a

God Provides of Himself

“I have had enough!” How often do we echo that in our own lives? [←Tweet this.]


But the Lord didn’t let Elijah stay there. It’s fascinating to read how God strengthened his prophet when he felt unable to go on.

Twice an “angel of the LORD” admonished Elijah to “Get up and eat” and then provided food for the journey (1 Kings 19:5b, 7b). And a little further into the passage, the Lord Himself spoke, and even appeared, to his prophet, insisting Elijah “Go out” and “Go and return” (1 Kings 19:11, 15).

Not only did God provide Elijah with physical sustenance in the form of food and water, but He also showed up Himself to refresh His servant.

Although this scene begins dramatically, its ending seems a bit anti-climatic: Elijah simply “left there” (1 Kings 19:19). Yet when we look closely, it’s anything but unimpressive!

Here is a man who loves God, who has served Him all his life, but is now totally spent, physically and emotionally. He wants nothing more than for God to take him to heaven right then and there.

Instead God meets Elijah in his need. He provides of Himself to nourish and replenish.

Talk about an amazing picture of God’s love in action! 

And the best thing is the Lord provides for us as well. Remember, Emmanuel, “God With Us”! He is with us and in us to nourish and replenish each one of us. [←Tweet this.]

Dropping the name “Emmanuel” may seem like a Christmas thing, but God doesn’t wait until Christmas to provide. 

When our burdens become more than we can bear… When we can’t possibly take one more step, the Lord meets us there. When our strength is gone, He provides the sustenance to go on. 

So when you find yourself emotionally and physically spent, “get up and eat” of the Lord. Let His Word, His very presence lift you up, so you too can “go” and do His will.

 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying: “Who should I send? Who will go for Us?” I said: “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

Reflection: As you read the passages I quoted, did you find yourself relating to the Prophet Elijah in his confidence or his despair? Why?

Since beginning more than 3 years ago, I’ve counted more than 3,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! So here we go: #3345–3365, read the entire list by clicking here.

  • A little girl who is finally feeling better; Fluffy kittens, one that looks like Garfield; Night ending with Hobbit read-out-loud and game of Cribbage
  • Awoke to the first snowfall of the season; An unexpected day away with my hubby; Woodstove fired up
  • Digging deep into the Word with a friend; Flurries softly falling; Giving hugs to all the “littles” at church who are no longer so little
  • Flock of turkey greeting me in the morning; Gift of sweet hymns and the stories behind them; Rachel “speak” when she’s excited – can’t understand most of it, but it is so cute!
  •  Making & eating raspberry/white chocolate scones; Little Legos war with Joey; Friday night family movie laughs with Ice Age: Continental Drift
  • Rachel and her wonderful helper prepared both items for tomorrow’s church potluck; Rachel wanted to run her own bath water and brush her own teeth tonight; Humble beginnings of our Thanksgiving tree Thanksgiving-tree-items
  • Thanksgiving potluck at church with great food and fellowship; News that Pastor and his family are staying; Wrestling with my Joey

Yours in grace ≈


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Posted in Daily Living, Endurance, Faith, Persevere, Renewal

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

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

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

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