Give Yourself Some Grace

pink flowers in a pandemic

We’re in the middle of a pandemic, my friends, and my encouragement for you all today is GIVE YOURSELF SOME GRACE!!!

[Or perhaps you are reading this later, and although thankfully the world has returned to somewhat normal, you feel as though you are in a crisis all your own. Read on.]

It’s been a rough couple or few (or how many??? what day is it???) weeks on all of us, and I just want to recognize something. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I am NOT functioning at 100% right now (and many of you know, as I’ve shared on Facebook) I’ve been brought to or almost to tears several times lately). I am recognizing that I am emotionally and mentally taxed.

This is not to suggest that I am ungrateful. NO, I am extremely grateful to have it “good” right now. No-one in my family has lost their jobs/income (although business is a bit slow), we are all together and healthy, and I cannot imagine what others are going through who are being more closely touched by this pandemic.

And don’t even get me started on how hard it must be for all of the health care workers, first responders, and even the many workers in grocery stores, drug stores, and such so that we can be safe and get what we need. I am SO grateful for all of you!!! 

But I realized something.

It is still really hard for all of us right now. It’s tiring and emotionally heartbreaking to do something as simple as go out to get groceries or manage another day in the house altogether. The amount of thought it takes to do things that either would have been “normal” or that are completely NOT normal is crazy.

We feel the sadness and fear of those around us, whether it be our families, the people we walk by (6 ft. away), or the news we hear from outside of our homes, and we cannot avoid it completely. And on top of all that, we cannot get together or touch hardly anyone (which is one of our basic needs!) And we are afraid of what the world will look like when all of this is over.

So yes, let’s allow ourselves some space to feel what we’re feeling, grieve the losses (great or small) that we are ALL experiencing, and cut ourselves some slack. Let’s continue to reach out to to others (that’s a message for another post), so we don’t get stuck in our own negativity, but be OK with not accomplishing it all or being happy in the midst of a really hard situation.

Take some time to care for yourself in whatever way you can. Enjoy the outdoors, some quiet, prayer and Bible reading, play a board game, reading a good book, mindlessly watching TV when that’s all you have left, or doing something you love, and let some other things go.

One of the nicest things my Mom ever told me when she was going through her first cancer struggle many years ago, was that my feelings still mattered, even though they felt small and unimportant to me by comparison.

You are important and your feelings matter, no matter what’s going on in the world around you.

I’m sorry this went on so long, but if you’ve made it this far, know that I am thinking of and praying for you all. 

And enjoy my pretty flowers. 

[This post was originally just something I posted on Facebook, but I soon realized it needed a blog post of it’s own. I pray that you have been encouraged.]

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Fall in our church yard

7 Things I Learned This Fall

It’s been a busy fall, but I managed to record at least some of the different things I’ve learned. Join me and others at Emily P. Freeman’s link-up to read about what we’ve learned this season.

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1.I learned the proper way to forward an entire conversation in gmail.

Do you ever wonder when you wish to forward an email conversation whether the receiver got the whole thing? I took some time to look up the proper way to do this, and it’s really simple. Just choose the conversation you want, select “More” from the toolbar, choose “Forward All”, add any comments you wish, and send.

2. Praying mantis females only eat their mate about 1/3 of the time.

Yes, it’s true.

You may have heard that female praying mantises eat their mate, but I guess it only happens about one third of the time. I learned a bit more about mantis mating habits here, as well as the fact that they can and some have actually eaten hummingbirds. (Yuck!) I also learned some other interesting facts (and not all as gruesome), including how good they are at eating unwanted insects in your garden.

I think I’ll just tuck away this useful information and focus on how cute they are and the fact that they look like they are praying. Perhaps we should have named them, “Confessing Mantises”?

3. I figured out why the leeks I purchased had hard, woody centers.

I bought some leeks to use in a recipe this fall, and was disturbed and confused by the centers being so hard and woody that I almost couldn’t cut through them. To aid in my perplexed state, I looked up some information about leeks, and discovered that they are not even native to our area, and there is a better season in which to buy them. Also, if they have been allowed to flower, the centers will get woody and almost unusable.

Leeks are native to the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, which surprised me, since they look like a big sort of onion. They can also be grown in other areas. The preferred season is September to the end of April, so that’s the best time to enjoy them.

4. There are many creative ways to use up unwanted conditioner.

We had about half of a large bottle conditioner that just wasn’t cutting it for it’s intended purpose. In an effort to not be wasteful, after storing this unwanted hair product for several weeks, I set out online to see if I could find a good use for it. Apparently, there are many interesting ideas on how to use up unused conditioner, everything from shining up your fridge or your boots to putting it in your bath or helping to clear clogged drains.

In the end, I have to admit the only thing I was comfortable attempting was to help clear our often-clogging drains. So I dumped it down. I’m not sure it made any difference.

So I guess I could have just done that to begin with.

NY cheddar wheel squash

5. Yes, you can ripen green squash off of the vine.

One of the blessings of my farm-stand job (and getting our farm share), is getting to try some new vegetables and storing some for the winter. This year I had the privilege of “meeting” a somewhat rare squash or pumpkin variety known as the Long Island Cheese pumpkin. I guess it is considered an heirloom seed.

What is an “heirloom”? The definition is open to dispute. But the term is usually applied to fruit, flower or vegetables varieties that were being grown before World War II.

https://www.burpee.com/gardenadvicecenter/vegetables/general-gardening/what-is-an-heirloom/article10162.html

If you’d like to learn a bit about this older pumpkin variety, this article gives a brief history of the squash, as well as a nice recipe for Long Island Cheese Pumpkin Soup and a tasty-sounding Long Island Cheese Pumpkin pie.

If you happen to have some squash that are a bit green (like a couple of the ones I got), you can indeed ripen it indoors by placing it in the sun. So pick those green squash at the end of the season and bring them indoors with you.

6. The Crown changed all of their major actors in Season 3.

Have you watched the first two seasons of the Netflix series, The Crown?

My husband and I have enjoyed them together (although we are partial to the first one with John Lithgow portraying Winston Churchill). We were excited to hear recently that Season 3 was finally going to begin, and eagerly watched the first episode. It’s good, but it took us well into the first half of the show to stop being distracted by the fact that the actors all seemed to be different. At first we thought it may be really good make-up, but the changes were too great.

So we paused the show and did what all good modern people do and asked our phones.

Sure enough, The Crown replaced all of the principle characters with new actors, in order to better reflect the difference in time and their ages. It was the plan all along, and I now know to not get too attached, as they plan to change them again for the fifth and sixth seasons.

It’s hard to accept unfamiliar people playing roles to which we’ve become accustomed, but after just two episodes, we think they made good choices. Only time will tell.

If you haven’t tried the show, you may wish to watch the first two seasons and join in for the third, or if you wish to “cheat”, this article will bring you up to date, including sharing recaps of what you’ve missed.

7. When you give someone the right thing at the right time, it is like gold.

A single girlfriend of mine recently underwent surgery, so I and a group of other ladies have been going to help her out and many have provided meals. She came home from the hospital right before Thanksgiving, so as somewhat expected, many delicious turkey leftovers were shared.

A couple of days ago, my friend asked if I could put in a request for something different, like macaroni & cheese or tuna casserole. I took it upon myself to whip up a batch of macaroni & cheese in my Instant Pot, and brought it with me as I went to help with the laundry.

Now I think my cooking is pretty good and macaroni & cheese is tasty, but it isn’t my showcase recipe and doesn’t usually bring on raving reviews. But my friend texted me later that night, stating how much she was enjoying my meal, that it was real comfort food, and it seemed to me as if I had brought her a fine steak.

Like many things in life, doing, saying or giving the right thing at the right time can be impacting or even life-changing. It magnifies the act and turns it into a blessing.

What better time to focus on intentional and sensitive giving than during this Christmas season that we have found ourselves again.

Who knows? Maybe your little gift will make someone’s day.

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May sky with day moon

I’ve Got a Question

May sky with day moon

This post has been created for the Five-Minute Friday link-up, where the prompt for this week is question.

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Excuse me; I have a question.

Are you one who asks a lot of questions? I most definitely am.

It’s how I learn and process information. The more I understand something, the better I will remember it. It’s really helpful to me, but sometimes people don’t understand. Asking many questions can cause some to feel that you’re incompetent or that you don’t trust them, but I don’t think that’s farther from the truth.

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I remember a particular time when after my asking a lot of questions in class some of my classmates taunted me with, “You ask too many questions.” Amazing how some things stick with us for decades.

There most definitely is a place for refusing to doubt, but I’m not entirely sure there’s really such a thing as “blind faith”. How else will our beliefs become truly our own if we haven’t worked through our doubts, questions and even some possible disagreements? How can we trust or follow something we truly haven’t worked to understand?

I am absolutely convinced that my husband is faithful to me, but that conviction is based upon first getting to know each other very well, our public commitment we made before God and many people when we married, and years of faithfulness to each other. I trust my belief in God in the same way. I’m not a Christian just because my parents are or because I was raised that way, but I’ve lived a lifetime of learning truths about God and his word and seeing it play out in countless lives, including my own.

So our “blind faith” is solidly built on facts and the truth of our own experience.

Rather than worry when our own children or someone we know questions God’s goodness or the truth of the Bible, we can be sure that they are at least thinking on their own. They must do the hard work of figuring out why it makes sense to believe. Real faith is not something we just accept or take for granted. Rather, a faith that’s survived questions, doubts and confusion is a firm foundation that will not be shaken.

So next time you have a question, go ahead and ask. Encourage others to do the same.

You will have more understanding and your convictions will become your own.

God can handle our doubts and our questions. Many great men and women of faith have asked their share of hard questions, and their stories live on over the ages to help and encourage people like us.

So please excuse me. I have a question.

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purple creeping phlox in my garden

What I Learned This Spring

purple creeping phlox in my garden

Another quarter has already passed, which surprisingly means another season has also almost flown by as well. It’s time to join my favorite link-up and share What I Learned This Spring. This is a collection of some of the interesting, helpful, and sometimes meaningful things I’ve learned in this season. I hope you enjoy learning a little, too.

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1.Can you really eat pineapple this way? –

Apparently, there is a really neat and easy way to eat a pineapple that went viral on the internet. This article describes the method shared by an actor from a well-known television show, and includes several videos of others’ attempts at using this same method. According to the results, it may not be as simple as it looks, although some people seemed to get it to work.

Truthfully, I haven’t tried this yet myself yet. I don’t have high hopes, but will certainly put fresh pineapple on my next grocery list.

2. I learned how to best store (dried) bay leaves, and that they do indeed have an aroma. –

I finally got to the end of a very old supply of bay leaves. I don’t even remember where or when I got them, but there’s a good chance they had become flavorless, since they had no scent. For this reason, I had developed the habit of using at least twice as many as my recipes called for. So I wasn’t very disappointed when I got to the end of the bottle and had to begin my search on Amazon for some new leaves.

After perusing many options, I settled on a one-pound package of bay leaves with good reviews and pressed the button to complete my purchase.

When I received and opened the very large bag, I was struck by two things. One, bay leaves actually have a smell and they are wonderfully fragrant (no more needing to double or triple up in recipes!), and two, bay leaves are very lightweight (one pound is a LOT of leaves, and looked like a small pillow!).

This led me to two next-steps: finding out how best to store my new culinary treasure, and attempting to share bay leaves with as many friends as possible. I discovered that the best way to store bay leaves is not in your spice cabinet, but rather in the freezer.

I guess my friends and I will be all set for awhile now.

3.There may be a better way to wash your produce. –

We’ve known the importance of washing our produce for awhile now, but according to recent studies, baking soda may be the best way to remove more pesticides from our fruit. A Consumer Reports article states that it is important to scrub the skins of produce and possibly even better to soak it in a solution of one teaspoon baking soda in two cups of water for at least two minutes. The longer the soak, the more pesticides are removed.

I also have a little paper towel trick I use to keep washed lettuce fresh longer.

I like to wash many of my vegetables by first spritzing with my DIY water-vinegar cleaning spray, then scrubbing with a veggie brush and rinsing well. I also try to check produce labels for where they are grown, as certain produce is known to be safer (less pesticides) from some countries than others.

In the end, I believe each of us needs to do our “due diligence” in research and then make decisions about what types of fruits and veggies to buy for our families and be at peace with that.

4. Doing without makes you appreciate something new all the more. –

I recently got new silverware.

My old silverware, which was supposed to be “stainless” steel, started to develop a nasty, blackish tarnish too soon after we purchased it several years ago. We used it as it was, thought about diligently polishing it for hours to try to remove the dark stains, but finally just gave up recently and decided we had put up with it long enough and would replace it.

I shopped around a bit, but didn’t take long to choose a few boxes of some quality pieces at one of my favorite warehouse stores.

I brought them home, washed them and began to replace my old silverware with the new and was quite pleased. For days (or perhaps even a couple of weeks), I realized how ridiculously happy I felt looking at and using our heavy, new, shiny forks, knives, and spoons. I actually said I felt like royalty, all because of a silly thing like brand new silverware.

The moral of the story, which I’ve learned over the years in many instances of either hardship or simply just putting up with something inferior, is that when you do without, it teaches you to really appreciate getting something new. It’s valuable to use what you have and choose gratitude in all circumstances, but also enjoyable to be able to splurge and appreciate a new purchase or gift that you’ve waited for patiently and with anticipation.

5.We’re learning about identifying ducks. –

While on a recent picnic, my husband and I were enjoying a flock of mallard ducks hanging out on a small river. We noticed one particular duck that looked similar, but not quite the same as the other mallards. He looked very dark, maybe all black, contrasted with the telltale dark green head of a common male mallard duck.

I’m still not sure, but I think he may have been an American Black Duck. Interestingly, I didn’t realize that the familiar mallard didn’t always breed in our area (Northeastern United States), but have grown to outnumber the native Black Ducks and thrive, while the Black Duck population is declining.

6.Organizing and decluttering really does save time. –

If there’s one thing that causes me more stress and discontent, it’s clutter and disorganization.

One would think that because I feel so strongly about this, and my personality craves order, that I would have the most orderly, clutter-free home around. But unfortunately, like every personality trait, there is a dark side that comes with each positive quality. I am easily overwhelmed and get bogged down in the details, often resulting in more clutter and less organization overall. I am gradually getting rid of stuff and organizing what’s left, and finding more and more how true it is that you can’t organize clutter.

According to this helpful article (the last frame), “It’s continuous maintenance. For every hour we spend organizing we save 3-4 hours”. Boy, do I believe it! The best advice seems to be to keep at it consistently, even just a few minutes at a time, to keep clutter at bay and continue to move forward with organization.

As I learn and try some of the popular Kon Mari method of tidying, I’m starting to really like the file folding method. Abby at Just a Girl and Her Blog has a great post detailing her take on this practical method.

7. I really like cold-brewed iced coffee the best!

For several years I’ve been tasting and making cold-brewed iced coffee. I first stumbled upon this method of brewing when I was looking for ways to enjoy coffee with less acid, due to some health concerns. I discovered that I also prefer the smooth taste of this type of brew.

Honestly, since switching our coffee maker to a nice system that allows one to make iced coffee immediately about a year ago, I’ve gotten away from making cold brew. Although we love this convenient feature on our coffee maker, I had forgotten just how good cold-brewed coffee tastes.

So I’m getting back to keeping some delicious, lower acid, cold-brewed iced coffee on hand this summer. Some things are really worth a little extra effort!

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Thanks for joining me again in reflecting on some of the things I’ve learned this spring. What are you learning lately? Do you take time to record and/or reflect on a season?

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

Life is an Opportunity

rain droplets on red and green bush leaves

I’m (finally) joining in again to catch this week’s Five Minute Friday link-up, where the word for this week was opportunity.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about life lately.

Through my husband’s heart bypass surgery experience about a year and a half ago, the death of both of his sisters in the same twelve-month period shortly after that, the passing of my last grandmother at 101 years of age, to the recent news that my mother has cancer again, it makes me realize how fleeting life is. We don’t know whether we have five years, or forty-five or one hundred and five.

As hard as these experiences were and are, I know some of them turned out much better than we had hoped, and for that we are thankful. God met us and provided for us in our times of suffering and need, for which we are also grateful. And I’m confident that even through the difficult times, he is faithfully with us and will help us to grow stronger.

When faced with sickness, hardship and even death, it makes me realize once again the preciousness of life.

I see that each moment is a gift.

I recognize that things that seem ordinary are special.

I desire to complain less and praise and encourage more.

I’m learning that wherever I am, I want to be all there.

So wherever we find ourselves, whatever season we are journeying through, despite the hardships and joys and monotony, let’s grasp each moment as it comes and make the best of it.

Let’s enjoy each moment for what it is, rather than what we think it should be.

Let’s learn to just be present,

be real,

be content,

and love the days we’ve been given.

Let’s share each gift we’ve been given, make the most of each circumstance that comes our way, and savor each moment.

Because life truly is an opportunity.

God With Us

Today’s post is written for the link-up at Five Minute Friday, where the word of the week is with.

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“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matthew 1:23 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

In that simple phrase, “God with us”, can be found the entire message of not only Christmas, but the whole Bible.

The Christmas story is unique in that the God of the universe chose to take on frail human flesh to live a life of love to reach us.

He did not sit on a throne of judgement, counting all of our short-comings against us; he doesn’t require us to reach a certain standard before he will accept or love us.

He came to us as a helpless infant, grew up in our skin, and showed us the way to live to find true life.

He made himself the solution to our need.

He came to us.

God with us.

Whatever you are facing this Christmas, take time to be still and reflect on what Christmas means to you.

Have peace knowing that someone cares for you enough that he came to you. You can trust him with your hopes, fears, joy and pain.

Perhaps the story is best told by a simple and familiar young voice:

 

 

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6 New King James Version (NKJV)

 

 

Love has come. Peace is here.

God with us. 

Merry Christmas.

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east coast shore with sun setting

Are You Who You Want to Be?

east coast shore with sun setting

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday link-up, where the word of the week is who.

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I’ve always liked a song by one of my favorite alternative Christian music bands. Some of the lyrics are, “This is your life. Are you who you want to be?” 

Sometimes it’s a challenge to love life, with all of it’s ups and downs, the good and the difficult.

And it’s easy to feel like we don’t measure up.

 

 

Every time I hear the words of this song, I wonder if I’m living the life I was meant to, even though it looks different in many ways to what I had planned.

Isn’t that how life is?

We dream and plan and make choices.

Then life comes along and things don’t always go the way we want or imagined.

Some of these discrepancies are due to our own actions, yet many are uninvited, whether happy or ill.

But I wish to be a person who embraces the life I’ve been given.

We’ve all heard it said that we can’t change our circumstances, but we can choose our reaction to them. It really is true of much of life’s events.

 

There are some choices that can help me to become the person I want to be.

First, I wish to be content.

Even though my personality often tends towards seeing the glass half empty, I purpose to be grateful and enjoy what I’ve been given. Even if it isn’t what I expected, I have been given much.

That’s why I keep a gratitude journal.

Nothing changes our perspective more than a thankful heart.

Secondly, I desire to live with intention.

I’m good at this in some areas, and sorely lacking in others.

But I want to be sure I’m not wasting the precious time and gifts I’ve been given.

I will continue to endeavor to live the life I was created for, and follow his design for me, wherever that may lead.

It won’t always be easy, but my God has never left me on my own.

 

There is a beautiful balance between accepting and enjoying our lives as they are, with grace, and using our strength, wisdom and love to make a difference to ourselves and to others.

 

I need not settle with where I am at, yet I need not pine away for the past or a future that may not be mine.

So in the end, I am who I want to be, and I ask God to help me to further fulfill the destiny he has planned for me.

One intentional baby step and thought of gratitude at a time.

So what about you? Are you who you want to be?

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sailboat on Lake Winnipesaukee

The Key to Living in Freedom

 

sailboat on Lake Winnipesaukee

 

I’d like to share two seemingly unrelated things from my quiet time this morning which actually go together quite nicely.

 

One is this quote that jumped out at me from my devotional reading (from A Moment to Breathe, devotional from the (in)courage community):

“The actions we take in honoring the people in our lives show us the face of God.”

I’m still chewing on that one…but it seems that as we show love and honor to others, we see and know more of God.

Then I read another devotional from my emails (Loop, Gather ministries) this morning and listened to the suggested song, Sails, which you can enjoy below.

In my natural disposition, I do not consistently live in freedom. I have been blessed over the years with a fun family (both growing up and the one my husband & I created), so I don’t always go around sulking and down.

But when left to my own devices, especially in the busyness of life, I can easily let go of my lightheartedness and freedom, and grasp instead at control and perfectionism.

And how can I reach out and share with others when I am bound up in my own negative or overwhelming emotions, distracted from my purpose and mission for which God created me?

This song feels like that freedom to me. I need to “let out the sails of my heart” and just be with God, the One who created me and truly knows me, yet still loves me.

And when I walk and live with Him, I will really live set free.

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Do you want to live in real freedom? What things hold you back or keep you bound? How does this affect your reaching out and sharing your gifts with others?

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blueberry avocado muffins thriving home

Thirteen: Unlucky Number or Baker’s Dozen?

blueberry avocado muffins thriving home

Today’s post contains my thoughts about the Five Minute Friday link-up prompt, thirteen.

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The number thirteen conveys so many different things.

The first aspect of thirteen is that it is the “unlucky” number. People feel so strongly about this that it has created many superstitions, even causing many tall buildings to not even have a thirteenth floor.

Although I don’t consider myself to be superstitious, I often naturally tend to see things in a negative light.

But thirteen has a better meaning; one on which I’d much rather place my focus.

The baker’s dozen.

What can be better than going to purchase your favorite home-baked donuts or fresh bagels and being offered a thirteenth, free baked good?

Instead of focusing on something negative or bad, I’d rather focus on the good, and even special things in life.

I need to remind myself daily to choose gratitude and to see things from a larger perspective, rather than dwell on what seems negative or difficult in the moment.

Besides, even difficulties can cause us to grow if we allow them, and I believe there can be purpose even in our pain.

It’s a matter of perspective.

So next time I see the number thirteen, rather than going down the path of negativity, I choose to focus on the good; the free gifts that life has to offer me.

It may not be easy or come naturally, but we can choose gratitude and a positive perspective.

This is the life I wish to cultivate.

Won’t you join me?

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bush shaped like a heart

Learning to Adapt My Dreams

bush shaped like a heart

Writing today for the Five Minute Friday link-up, where our word prompt is adapt.

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Do you have dreams?

I’m not sure I always do. In fact, a few months ago when I read or heard somewhere a question to challenge us to think about what was holding us back from our dreams, I realized with some dismay that I feel like lately I haven’t had any.

I naturally tend to get caught up in life’s busyness and “shoulds”, and often forget to dream for something bigger.

And I totally believe that there are some of us, in certain seasons, where we need to adapt our dreams to something bigger; something that only God can help us to accomplish.

But equally important, what if we were to accept the “regular” life we have right now, with all of it’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows, as God’s dream for our lives?

I read two different blog posts this past week that encouraged me to think a little differently.

One reminded me that God’s dream for me may be the life I’m living right now; the other spoke about how all of life is art and that we grow closer to God’s purposes for us in the mundane tasks of everyday life.

One of my favorite songs from Switchfoot challenges me that this is the life I’ve always dreamed of, or at least it can be.

 

 

So instead of focusing on the future, on what may yet to be (as wonderful or ordinary as it may turn out), I am learning to adapt my dream to the amazing and complex and awesome life that God has given me right now.

I pray that I may live each day to the fullest, accept God’s plan for my days, and choose to do the next right thing along the way.

May I adapt my dreams to love the life I’m living.

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If you’ve enjoyed this song, you may purchase the song or the album on which it appears, The Beautiful Letdown.