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

How to be an Influencer (a lesson I didn’t want to learn)

Seven hundred women prepare to make their way to Concord, NC, this week for Proverbs 31 Ministries’ She Speaks conference (for aspiring Christian influencers). I won’t be among them.

One minute I’m fine with that, the next my heart longs to be attending. Yet I know this door has been closed to me this year.

As I reflect on this closed door, I feel I need to pass on a lesson God began to teach me at She Speaks 2012 and presented again powerfully at She Speaks 2015. It’s a lesson for those attending this year and for anyone who longs to make a difference in the world.  

You see, both conferences brought me great blessings, but neither time did I receive what I wanted.

Let me explain.  

I wanted a book deal, a speaking gig, an invitation to write or speak somewhere/somehow. I wanted validation that this writing desire wasn’t a crazy idea.

I wanted to be acknowledged as an influencer and encourager. And I believed the lie that a book deal or significant speaking gig would bring me that. 

But God knew what I needed was perspective. And He helped me gain it.

be an effective influencer

Proper Perspective

God helped me see that I  had started running ahead of Him, not following Him. 

He helped me see that I already had what would bring me fulfillment — God Himself. 

He helped me see that I already was an influencer and encourager — just on a smaller scale too easily taken for granted. 

No one needs a large audience to influence and encourage. We just need to be faithful to share the reason for our hope and joy with whoever we come into contact with … one soul at a time.

Don't wait for a large audience to influence & encourage. Share the reason for your hope w/ everyone you meet. Click To Tweet

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin,” Zechariah 4:10, NLT

Remember Why

In my desire to have my plans succeed, I was losing sight of the reason for my plans. I had misplaced my “why.”

In my eagerness to do work that matters, I was leaving out the One who matters (and was ignoring those other ones in my life that matter as well).

In your eagerness to do work that matters, don't leave behind the One who matters. Click To Tweet

I was becoming preoccupied with validation instead of embracing the growth the journey itself brings.

I needed to learn the joy of being faithful in the smaller assignments. To not discount the worth of the assignment God has for me now. 

Because it’s not the size of the ministry that matters. What matters is the One we make it about. 

It's not the size of the ministry that matters. What matters is the One we make it about. Click To Tweet

Pushing forward in an assignment prematurely will cripple our effectiveness and make it about us instead of Him. God knew I needed to be further grounded in my why, in the very reason I am doing this writing thing. 

So, no, I didn’t receive what I wanted from either She Speaks conference I attended. Instead I received exactly what I needed. 

Some of you have high hopes for advancing your ministry. Some of you will be attending She Speaks or another event that offers exciting opportunities and launches amazing dreams.

May I encourage you to not lose sight of the reason you’re there. It’s not for fulfillment, that should be in Christ alone.

All Christian ministries should be about glorifying God and reaching one more soul with the good news. And that can be done effectively with a reach of 1 or 10,000. 

Be an Influencer: Let God Lead

If you share the Gospel, you’re already an influencer.

If God wants to elevate your reach, it’ll happen. Don’t try to push the clock forward prematurely. Rest in His perfect timing.  

It’s not always easy to set aside our thoughts of what will be best for us, but trust that God, indeed, knows what’s truly best for you. 

There’s no guessing on God’s part. He planned your past, He is working in your present, and He is instrumental in your future. 

As you move forward in whatever assignment God has called you to, be open to His leading. Open your heart to accepting and being blessed through His great plan for you instead of holding tight to your own plan and asking Him to accept and bless it.  

Instead of plowing forward with how you see your dreams unwrapped, rest your plans in His hands and let Him shape them. Be ready for action, but act in the perfect timing of God’s clock, not your own. 

In your assignment, be ready for action, but act in the perfect timing of God's clock, not your own. Click To Tweet

Then you’re guaranteed to be walking on the best path toward your fulfillment and His glory! Then you’ll be the influencer you want to be! 

“Therefore, with your minds ready for action, be serious and set your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13

Reflections: In your eagerness to encourage and influence, are you leaving behind the One who created you for that purpose? Are you looking for fulfillment from accomplishments instead of holding tight to the One who’s already provided it? Do you need to step back and slow down and let God retake the lead in your life and ministry?

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 #5168–5188. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Drive time to interact with my teen; Perfect weather to watch Joey and the band march in the parade; The mix of simplicity and complexity in my girl
  • Completing errands during Joey’s weightlifting; Homegrown blueberries; Rachel’s rather comical insistence that anyone who is home go along on walks with her
  • Spending the entire day with my guy; Enjoying catching up with past friends and acquaintances at a park ranger retirement; Attending the Building 429 concert at the fair
  • Great health report!; Spending the day with Mom and eating supper with her and Dad; Meeting Danny for lunch
  • Dave and Joey off on a transforming week at the National LCMS Youth Gathering in New Orleans; An evening hanging on the deck for just Rach and me; Zach home to camp with friends
  • A day with my girl; Watching and worshiping via the live stream of the National LCMS Youth Gathering in New Orleans; Listening to my 2 older boys chatting on the phone, getting caught up with each other’s lives
  • Rachel’s excitement at having her brother Zach working at Camp Courageous while she attends this week; Conversation with Dan over Coldstone ice cream; Beginning of my 3-day writing sabbatical

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, trust

When Your World Turns Upside Down: the unexpected gift

My world has been turned upside down many times in my life. Some smaller flips; some monumental.

With each successful struggle, although incredibly difficult at the time, I’ve learned to lean in a little closer to Jesus. What a gift!

gift

An Upside Down World

We live in a world that flips all too easy and often.

Financial problems, marital difficulties, health issues, difference of opinions, lack of understanding and compassion, uncooperative children… It all upsets the balance in our lives and sends us reeling.

About the time we get ourselves righted, a new burden pushes the scale over again. It’s easy to feel frustrated, if not altogether hopeless about it.

How are we to remain standing if we continually get bombarded by the next thing? How are we to manage life?

We’re not. At least not on our own.

The Gift of an Upside Down World

In a recently released book she authored with her husband Ken, author, speaker, and disability advocate Joni Eareckson Tada (who happens to be a quadriplegic)  wrote, “It’s trials that really press you into the breast of your Savior” (Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story).

'It's trials that really press you into the breast of your Savior.' ~Joni & Ken: An Untold Love Story Click To Tweet

That, my friends, is the ultimate gift: to be sheltered in the bosom of our Lord. And that requires facing circumstances in our lives that are beyond our strength to handle.

The ultimate gift: to be sheltered in the bosom of our Lord. #pricelessgift #gainchrist Click To Tweet

Our human nature is naturally one of self-reliance. Without being toppled from time to time by situations out of our control, we tend to hold onto that false sense of independence instead of acknowledging and submitting to the One we are all dependent on for life.

We can’t manage well on our own. And we’re not supposed to. 

Through the trials of quadriplegia, chronic pain and breast cancer, Joni and Ken learned that “suffering had been — and would continue to be — the thing God would use in their lives to draw them closer to Jesus.”

God has a purpose in allowing the suffering that we face, part of which is to draw us ever closer to Him. 

That is a priceless gift! 

God has a purpose in allowing the suffering that we face, part of which is to draw us ever closer to Him. Click To Tweet

So when your world begins to flip, don’t give into despair. Instead seek the hand of Jesus. Let Him draw You near. 

“If we are children, then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ—if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:17

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” Philippians 3:8

Reflections: What is your default reaction when life circumstances knock you down? Is it to give into despair and stay down? Is it to try to get back to your feet and shoulder on under your own strength? Or is it to shelter in the arms of Jesus before letting Him help you to your feet and continue the race? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “when our world is turned upside down.” 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 Grace, Jesus Christ, Redemption, Struggles, Suffering

A Psalmist’s Cry During Times of Unrest (#free printable)

When the unthinkable happens and the world spins out of control.

When life is overwhelming and your strength is waning.

When your stomach is in knots and you don’t know how to unravel it.

During times of unrest a psalm can be the balm for your soul. Your heart’s cry and your faith’s song. Here’s mine.

During times of unrest a psalm can be the balm for your soul. Your heart's cry & your faith's song. Here's mine. Click To Tweet

Hope Amid Unrest

Lord, the world spins out of control;
The enemy attacks from all sides.
There is bloodshed and hatred,
name calling and finger pointing.

I am sick, Father, watching the images flash across the screen:
Dead police officers, slumped over civilians, starving babies,
weeping mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers.
Where do we find rest from the suffering?

It’s all so incredibly sad.
Unrest continues even while earthly justice is being served.
So we weep on for the suffering and the lost.
Where’s our joy? Where’s our peace?
Not in a prison sentence or a bomb that returns bodies to dust.

Still joy can be found; peace has not been lost.
For God is still God!
The Lord still reigns as King!
He continues to breathe life into existence.
He continues to pour out rain upon our parched land.
He continues to command the sun to bring light into the darkness.

You, Lord, are still mighty and good,
merciful and just, gracious and holy!
You turn our night into day,
our tears into laughter.
You love fiercely and perfectly.

You control the universe.
You have counted all the hairs on my head.
You direct the sun, moon and stars;
You command the lightening and thunder.
Nothing is too great for You, O Lord!

Life on this globe may seem to be turning upside down,
but Hope has not left; because God will not leave us.
In His shelter is our refuge.
Comfort is found in the shadow of His wings.

The battle may rage on,
but no matter how intense it becomes,
or hopeless it seems, we can rest in You, O Lord.
For we are safe in Your bosom.
All Your children find rest in Your mighty arms.

hope amid unrest

Click the image to get the downloadable/printable version.

David, Solomon, and the other biblical Psalmists knew the power of pouring out their hearts to God in the form of a song or prayer. It’s amazing how soothing addressing God in such a manner can be.

Living life can hurt, but truly there is purpose in the pain and brokenness: maybe to point us to the One who longs to offer us rest in the here and now and an eternity of rest with Him in the future.

Perhaps pain and brokenness serves to point us to the One who longs to offer us rest and a future. Click To Tweet

“Trust in Him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts before Him. God is our refuge. Selah” Psalm 62:8

Reflections: Has the unrest in your life or in the world brought unrest to your soul? Why not pour out your heart to God in written words?

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 #5147–5167. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Liberty found in the United States and the ultimate freedom found in Christ; Surprise visit from Danny; Having a quiet evening with campfire pizza pies, s’mores, hanging out in the hammock with Joey, and playing a new Frisbee game
  • Lovely morning for our women’s group to meet in a park; Relief for Rach; Perfect backyard for an evening wog
  • Rachel back to some of her normal activities; Watching a pair of bluebirds play; Hanging with Rach in the hammock
  • Morning visiting with a dear friend; Afternoon checking out a couple local parks with the family; Evening grilling out and playing frisbee
  • Getting our spending plan (aka, budget) up to date!; Black raspberry jelly made; Giving my garden a little TLC
  • Blessing of a chunk of time to work on the images for my‪#‎EverydayPraisedevotional‬; Giving my garden more TLC; Finishing reading aloud to my teenagers the first of a captivating Christian fantasy adventure trilogy: “Hawthorn’s Discovery” by Alan W. Harris (we all loved it and can’t wait to dive into the second one!)
  • A commissioning and blessing at church for the 19 youth and 6 adults leaving for the National LCMS Youth Gathering on Friday; Surprise visit by Danny to watch “Finding Dory” with us; Watching a doe and her 2 fawns frolick in our front yard 

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, Redemption, Rest, Struggles, Suffering

What Does It Mean to Walk as Salt and Light?

Sometimes we put a burden on ourselves we are not meant to carry. We expect ourselves to walk upright in our own strength.

I know I do. I don’t want others to see my missteps. I don’t want people to think less of me. 

We make the mistake of feeling we must be perfect. We feel we must…

  • express ourselves eloquently
  • struggle infrequently, if at all
  • have just the right word or be in just the right place
  • always respond appropriately
  • never have a bad moment

Oh, how I wish that could be the case! But honestly, it’s not. 

We all have our moments we wish we could take back. We all struggle in life.

But let me take the pressure off. No, let God take the pressure off. “a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the law” (Romans 3:28).

Being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t struggle; being a Christian means you have Someone who has your back when you do.

Being a Christian doesn't mean you won't struggle; it means you have Someone who has your back when you do. Click To Tweet

Being a Christian is loving Jesus, living authentically in the truth of Scripture, and resting in God’s grace when we misstep. 

We are saved not on our own merits, but by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

We gain salvation not by the perfection of our walk, but by the perfect walk of our Savior. 

We gain salvation not by the perfection of our walk, but by the perfect walk of our Savior. Click To Tweet

Called To Be Salt and Light

salt and light

To be certain, as a Christian, God calls us to a high standard of wholesomeness and righteousness.

To be just as certain,

He knew Satan would sorely and repeatedly tempt us. So He, as Father, gave us the truth in Scripture.

He knew the pull of our flesh would be strong. So He gave us a Helper and Comforter in the Holy Spirit.

He knew we’d never live a perfectly righteous or wholesome earthly existence. So He gave us a Savior and Redeemer who could.

God asks us then to be living sacrifices, to walk as salt and light in a sin-filled and dark world. To crucify our flesh and walk in authentic worship. 

“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2

Letting our minds be constantly renewed and our lives be continually transformed by His Word. 

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” John 17:17

Not to walk in self-righteousness, as one who has it all together. But to walk as one being sanctified, serving with humility in the knowledge of and gratitude for the mercy we receive from Him. 

We minister from the place in which we find ourselves through His all-sufficient grace: as broken and redeemed children of God.

We journey imperfectly in the righteousness of Jesus Christ, reflecting Him to those around us.

Because what does it say about God if we act like we can handle it all on our own? What honor does it give God if we pretend we have it all together? 

In the life that you lead, know that it’s okay to let your weakness be known, so others can see God’s grace in action. It’s in this manner that each of us proclaims God’s glory for all to see. 

And from this position of humility, we are well placed to encourage and minister to those around us. To be salt and light to the lost and broken.

From a position of humility, we are well placed to encourage & minister, to be salt & light to the lost… Click To Tweet

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket,but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.” Matthew 5:13-15

Reflections: This topic intrigues me. What does it mean to you to be salt and light in the world? 

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “salty.” 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, Christianity, Grace

The Ultimate Freedom To Celebrate

In the United States, people celebrate  the 4th of July with great intentionality and fervor. Annual traditions form around it. Get-togethers are planned from one year to the next. 

Patriotic decorations and clothing, as well as fireworks, are purchased. Plans are made for gatherings and outings. 

But what really is being celebrated?

Freedom from work for an extra day?

Freedom to make lots of money?

Freedom to gather together?

Freedom to help others?

Freedom to access decent healthcare?

Freedom to obtain a good education?

Freedom to vacation regularly?

Freedom to say what you think?

Freedom to worship in a manner you see fit, or not at all?

Freedom to purchase what you’d like?

Freedom to make friends with a person of any race or background?

Freedom from pain?

Freedom to live comfortably?

These are all worthy things to be grateful for, to be sure. In fact, we’d do well to regularly remember and give thanks for the many freedoms we enjoy in this country, only a few of which I listed in the questions above. 

But is the ability to be happy, healthy and wealthy all there is to freedom? Are these the reasons why our Founding Fathers sacrificed so much?

Are these really the reasons to celebrate the independence of the United States of America?

What if liberty means so much more? What if the freedoms we enjoy in this country run much deeper than any physical benefit we can name? 

What if the everyday freedoms we enjoy bubble up and spill over from the greatest freedom of all, freedom from the shackles of sin? 

The freedoms we enjoy bubble up & spill over fm the greatest freedom of all, freedom fm the shackles of sin? Click To Tweet

ultimate freedom

The Ultimate Freedom

The liberty we celebrate on the 4th of July has spiritual roots. At the core of all our freedoms lies spiritual salvation.

At the core of all our freedoms lies spiritual salvation. Click To Tweet

Jesus Christ sets us free spiritually. He frees us from the shackles of our sins. He frees us from eternal damnation. 

Because of this life-saving gift from our Savior, we can celebrate and be thankful for the physical freedoms we enjoy in this country.

Forget or ignore this ultimate freedom we have in Christ and no other freedom matters! Apart from Him, nothing matters. 

After all, what benefit is there in living in the land of the free if you are spiritually dead?

Many of the Founding Fathers and early leaders acknowledged this. 

“A watchful eye must be kept on ourselves lest while we are building ideal monuments of Renown and Bliss here we neglect to have our names enrolled in the Annals of Heaven.” James Madison, 4th U.S. President

 “God who gave us life gave us liberty. And can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the Gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with His wrath?” Thomas Jefferson, 3rd U.S. President, Drafter and Signer of the Declaration of Independence

“The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave… These may be best understood by reading and carefully studying the institutes of the great Law Giver and Head of the Christian Church, which are to be found clearly written and promulgated in the New Testament.” Samuel Adams: Rights of the Colonists, November 20, 1772

Never Forget Why Freedoms Matter

We should definitely be celebrating the freedoms we have in this country. We should absolutely express our thanks for the blessings we enjoy and those who helped secure it. 

But may we never forget why those freedoms matter. Because we have freedom from our sins, we can celebrate the liberties we enjoy in every other facet of our lives!

Miss that truth and walk shackled, enslaved in a far worse manner, no matter which country you live in. 

Because we have freedom from our sins, we can celebrate the liberties we enjoy in every other facet of our lives! Click To Tweet

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1 (NIV)

Reflections: What’s your favorite way to celebrate the 4th of July (or your country’s national celebration)? In that celebration, do you make a conscious point to acknowledge your spiritual freedom in addition to the physical freedoms you enjoy? 

Have a wonderfully blessed Independence Day as you celebrate freedom in the deepest sense!  

American flag

Going on 5 years of counting and I’m nearing 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5126–5146. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Having medicine available that can help my girl with her recurrent (never-ending) sinus infections; Mini-shopping with my niece; Crazy game of Tri-ominos
  • Berry picking with Samantha Birkett; Baking berry-infused goodies; Ending the day with a campfire and dark-chocolate smores
  • Relaxing couple hours of fishing; Visiting some critters and reliving a bit of history; Fall-like summer temperatures
  • Visiting an antique store while running a long-distance errand; Planning another weekend with my niece to see a few more historic attractions; Filling our last night together with a walk, board games, a campfire, and smores
  • Killing time at Camp Io-Dis-E-Ca with a little Gagaball, knockout basketball and bouldering on the wall; Bringing 2 of my boys home; Relaxing from a fun-filled week with one of my sweet nieces
  • Another perfect-weather day for berry picking; Tryke that works perfectly for taking walks with Rachel; Campground full of friendly people who smile and wave at Rach as we stroll by (she loves it!)
  • Visiting one of my favorite camps, Camp Courageous, to drop off Zachary for work; Watching orioles “play” in the trees; A read-aloud book that captures the attentions of several age groups

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 Freedom, One Thousand (or more) Gifts, Salvation

Why You Should Strike ‘Never’ from Your Vocabulary

Some things we think we could never handle. Some things we give up hope they’ll ever happen.

The factor we leave out in both scenarios is God.

We think we could never handle some situations & believe others are hopeless. Factor we leave out in both is God. Click To Tweet

from never to possible

I look at a friend who moved her family to a country in turmoil to share the Gospel and think, I could never do that.

I watch a family navigate the road of brutal health issues and think, I could never handle that.

I hear of a situation that requires miraculous intervention to remedy and think, that will never happen.

I see the evil, the tragedy, the horrific events that turn stomachs and think, it will never get better.

I base these assumptions on what I know about myself and how life works, while ignoring the most important factor in all of life: God!

With God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26)! 

Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, we receive the faith to do that thing we thought impossible, we have divine strength to deal with the most difficult circumstance. 

In Christ, we have a hope that surpasses all human understanding! Even in a situation we deem hopeless. 

All is lost in our feeble strength.

The nevers prevail when we look to mankind. 

But hope against all hope (Romans 4:18) reigns in God’s Kingdom.

God’s Power in the Midst of Our Never

Our nevers are based on imperfect sight and limited understanding. We see this played many times in Scripture. Like us, our biblical ancestors believed in impossibilities: 

Gideon couldn’t see how he’d ever defeat the Midianites with the few people God allowed him (Judges 7).

Moses didn’t believe he could rescue his people from slavery (Exodus 3).

Sarah secretly laughed at God’s suggestion that she would have a baby at her advanced age (Genesis 18:12).

Because Jesus arrived after Lazarus death, Martha and Mary never believed they’d see their brother alive again until resurrection day (John 11). 

The disciples were distraught and fearful, struggling to understand how Jesus, their Messiah, could reign after dying on a cross, until they saw the evidence (John 20:9). 

But then God demonstrated His possibilities:

Gideon defeated the entire Midianite army with 300 men armed with trumpets and torches.

Moses led his people out of Egypt, through the Red Sea and the wilderness, right up to the Promised Land. 

Sarah gave birth to Isaac at the age of 90 and became the matriarch of God’s chosen people. 

Jesus brought Lazarus back to life after 4 days in the tomb “so they may believe You sent me” (John 11:42).

Jesus breathed joy and peace back into His disciples by appearing to them after His resurrection (John 20:19-29).

With God, impossibles become possibles; nevers become yeses.

Living in Light of the God Factor

As Christians, we have God’s perfect sight, understanding, and strength to rely on. The Father’s will far surpasses anything we can imagine. 

For God is God. His power and capability far surpass anything we can comprehend.

So instead of looking at the impossibility of a situation, look to the possibility of God. Instead of trusting in your own understanding and experience, trust in the unfathomable vastness of God and the good plan He has in place. 

In light of the greatness of our Lord, let’s put away our uncertainties. Because with God never becomes a possibility. 

It’s past time to shelve our “never” and adopt a new phrase, one punctuated with “if God wills.”

In light of the greatness of our Lord, let's shelve our 'never' & adopt a new phrase: 'if God wills.' Click To Tweet

“Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.” Psalm 145:3

“Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” Psalm 147:5

Reflections: In which kinds of situations do you tend to think, never!? What difference might it make in your life if you shelved your “never” and adopted “if God wills”? 

Don’t miss this sneak peak of my upcoming devotional Everyday Praise! Get the first 5 devotions now by clicking the button! And please, let me know what you think about it! 

everyday-praise-preview-button

I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “all my nevers.” 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, Faith

The Best Way to Begin a New Chapter

Focusing on the promise of God’s work in our lives allows us to savor the sweetness of the past, experience the beauty of the present, and anticipate the adventure of the future. 

Trust God: savor the sweetness of the past, experience the present beauty, anticipate the future adventure. Click To Tweet

new chapter freedom

Hard Change

A bit over a month ago, my boy graduated from college! My firstborn. Earlier this month, he began his first job in the “real” world.

Crazy, I know! And that ends a chapter in Danny’s life and in the lives of his parents and begins a new one.

I don’t know about you but I struggle a bit with my children growing up. And graduating to that first real-world job is the final nail in the coffin of childhood.

This is a BIG change! I’ve used this month to begin processing and adjusting. 

This new chapter means my boy-turned man will no longer have weeks to hang at home over Christmas break. He’ll no longer have “summer” jobs or fall and spring breaks.

This chapter contains many endings, and in the same pages, many beginnings. It’s filled with challenges, yet also opportunities.

That’s the way with all changes. Something ends, but something else begins; some of it will be easy to handle, some of it, far more difficult. 

How we enter a chapter of these big changes sets the scene for the remainder of the story. 

My gut, mama instinct in the immediate aftermath of his college graduation is one of pride yet also sorrow, grieving the loss of my little boy. Holding onto and reliving what was. 

Yet when we remain focused on what was, we miss what is and what is to come.

Beautiful Process of Change

Holding onto the sweetness of the past, blinds us to the beauty of the present and the promise of the future.

Holding onto the sweetness of the past, blinds us to the beauty of the present and the promise of the future. Click To Tweet  

As I look forward to the hand of God in my son’s life, I see a story of challenges and opportunities.

I see chapters filled with the tension of quiet waiting and deep contemplation and others packed with heart-stopping adventure.

I see scenes of sorrow but also scenes of great joy. 

I see grace and mercy at work delivering constant hope in the struggle of living in a temporal and broken world. 

This beautiful process of change brings growth and refinement.

With Christ at the helm, change makes blind eyes see (John 9:39).

It softens hearts of stone (Ezekiel 36:26).

It transforms a shackled soul to one liberated (Galatians 5:1)! 

Embracing the Freedom in Each New Chapter

Freedom in Christ is real. Each new chapter in our lives begins saturated with its promise.

Each new chapter in our lives begins saturated with the promise of freedom in Christ. Click To Tweet

Those big and little changes we hesitate to embrace move us out of our own way so we experience that freedom. 

So despite the things I will miss about having my children at home and under my wing, I’m making the choice to trust.

I’m trusting that in the hands of a faithful God, change is beneficial. I’m trusting God is writing a good story for each of us. 

In the hands of a faithful God, change is beneficial, a necessary part of the good story He is writing for you. Click To Tweet

I’m choosing to turn my eyes from the past to the present. I’m choosing to turn my lamentations to rejoicing as I celebrate the beauty of what change brings in my life and in the life of our children. 

I’m walking the path laid out believing God has the best plan … and it always involves change! 

“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

Reflections: Through what big change are you trusting God? 

Going on 5 years of counting and I’m nearing 5,000 gifts in Ann Voskamp’s Joy Dare! What a blessing! Here are numbers #5105–5125. Read my entire list by clicking here.

  • Life and health of my oldest; Youngest being successful in driver’s ed; Good news heard and celebrated!
  • Danny living close enough we can take him out for his birthday (a day late); Dinner and a walk on the Missisippi River; Last-minute proofers willing to step up and help me roll out my product preview
  • Having my devotion published at Proverbs 31 MinistriesEncouragement for Today; Releasing a preview of my ‪#‎everydaypraise‬devotional; Rest
  • Evening of family fishing with a successful catch of rainbow trout and 1 bullhead; Fresh fish on the grill; S’mores around the fire
  • Zach home for the weekend; Participating in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life fundraiser & walk: being reminded of how precious life is; Visiting with dear people I haven’t seen in a while as we walked until midnight
  • Ripening of wild berries; Sharing our land with friends and getting caught up on the news; Having time with Zach to get some paperwork taken care of
  • Time with extended family at our annual family reunion; My niece staying for the week; Joey and his cousin attending church camp together

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 Change, Freedom, One Thousand (or more) Gifts

Where to Find Grace When Trouble Comes Knocking

The test results return disturbing news. The phone call delivers worse. The children beg (and bicker) endlessly. The money runs dangerously low.

Each day brings more trouble than the previous one.

And we wonder where God is.

Where is God’s promise of a prosperous plan?

Where is this abundant life?

How we can continue?

Where is the sufficient grace? 

We may not always notice, but, for a Christian, grace is actually right there. It’s packaged in with the trouble. It’s wrapped up with the hard and the mundane.

Because grace abounds in Christ Jesus, and He is present and active in our troubles. 

Grace abounds in Christ Jesus, and He is present and active in our troubles. Click To Tweet

Grace is Jesus Christ in action. 

What Grace Looks Like in Times of Trouble

grace abounds in times of trouble too
Grace looks like a healed and restored girl, where once had stood a broken and battered one.
Grace looks like a hand reaching out to rub a weary back.
Grace looks like a smile when there’s nothing to be smiling about.
Grace looks like a meal delivered in the aftermath of difficult news.
Grace looks like a note of encouragement left in a lunch box or suitcase.
Grace looks like a hug given to a grieving mother. 
Grace looks like a phone call placed to a lonely widow.
Grace looks like a joyful heart in the midst of intense pain.
Grace looks like a kind word in the face of angry dialogue.
Grace looks like singing “It Is Well With My Soul” when nothing is outwardly well.
Grace looks like beauty in the jagged edges.
Grace looks like the death of one man to bring life to all men.
Grace looks like the expression of THAT love in the lives of His beloved.
Grace looks like God’s love in action.

Because, in fact, that’s exactly what it is! 

“Grace is a God who stoops.” ~Max Lucado, Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine

Grace is packaged in with the troubles. It's wrapped up with the hard and the mundane. It's God's love in action. Click To Tweet

“Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness.” John 1:16, HCSB

Reflections: What does grace look like in your life right now? 

Don’t miss this sneak peak of my upcoming devotional Everyday Praise! Get the first 5 devotions now by clicking the button! 

everyday-praise-preview-button

 I am always thrilled to link up with Suzie Eller for #livefreeThursday and this week’s prompt, “what grace looks like.” 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 Grace, Struggles, Suffering

Why Praising God Matters

Welcome Proverbs 31 Encouragement for Today readers! I’m so excited you decided to stop over. In celebration of this wonderful opportunity for me, I’d like to give all my visitors a welcome gift: the first 5 devotions of my upcoming image-based devotional, Everyday Praise.

All you have to do is enter your first name and email address to receive this free download. By signing up, you’ll also be the first to hear when my devotional is published on Amazon as a Kindle book and then this fall in full-color print form. Just click here to sign up, receive your download and begin praising Him today! Below is an excerpt from the introduction to Everyday Praise. 

And for those of you who haven’t read my Encouragement for Today devotion yet, click here to read it! What a blessing to be sharing there! 


Praise is the way over any mountain, through any swamp, or across any valley.

I don’t have to tell you the world in which we live holds difficult terrain to navigate. You’ve likely already fallen into a few mud holes, waded flooded streams, or stumbled over rocky riverbanks. Maybe you’re in the middle of a desert right now.

Each of us can expect difficulties. Jesus promises: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33, NIV). Trials then should not take us by surprise. But what do we do when they come?

We should praise Him.

Really? Yes!

praising God is the way

When we reflect on the goodness of the Lord, it brings our daily challenges into perspective. No longer do they seem so overwhelming.

When we reflect on the goodness of the Lord, it brings our daily challenges into perspective. Click To Tweet

His power and majesty assure us He can handle all those troubles. In fact, Jesus comforts us later in the same verse: “I have overcome the world.”

Despite the trials of this life … in the midst of the hardships, in the ugliness of this world … the Lord is worthy of our praise. And it is to our benefit to do just that.

Praise is the way over any mountain, through any swamp, or across any valley. #everydaypraise Click To Tweet

“David said, May You be praised, Lord God of our father Israel, from eternity to eternity.” 1 Chronicles 29:10b

Reflections: What is your default when life gets messy and the hard becomes harder? Where do you turn to find relief and perspective? What stops you from choosing praise?

If you want to know more about Everyday Praise before signing up, click on over to my devotional information page. And if you have a comment or question, I’d love to hear from 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 Everyday Praise, giveaway, Praise

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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