On a gray and rainy day in a dark and drizzly week, all I wanted to do was retreat to the sofa with a book and a blanket. All the cold and damp aggravated my old knee injury, so just hobbling to my desk seemed like too much effort. All I wanted to do was curl up in a cocoon on the couch.

Instead, I called Terra, a former coworker, and asked her to meet for lunch. I braved the tempest and limped through the crowded Chinese restaurant. We ate beef and broccoli while Terra told me about the breakup of her marriage, her upcoming move to a new city, the medical problem that put her in the hospital for two days.

“But I’m not crying anymore,” Terra said. She shook off her slump and again became the cheerful and positive friend I worked with years ago. “I know God is taking care of me. God will work it out.”

“This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

On that cold and dreary day, I was reminded that my aching knee is not the only pain in the world. My story is only one of many stories. God hears every prayer, and he knows every concern. Each day he offers me a new opportunity to choose joy in the life I am given, look for the reasons I have to be grateful, trust in him for the resolution of the future, and care for someone else within my reach.

Leaving my cozy and comfortable home reminds me of my purpose: to reach out and connect with friends, offer companionship and support on our shared journey, spread cheer and encouragement wherever I am able. When I trust that God is taking care of me, I am free to forget my small problems and focus on caring for others instead.

When we choose to confront each new day with joy, give thanks for all we are given, and love others we meet on the way; then the drizzle becomes less dreary, and the sun begins to break through the clouds.

How will you face the new day the Lord has made? How do you rejoice and give thanks for God’s care?

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I said a simple prayer today for anyone who needs an encouraging word this morning.

I pray you feel the peace that comes from knowing God will provide your every need.

May you feel the confidence that grows in following God’s plan and purpose for your life.

May you find the strength to stand and start each day anew.

May you enjoy the comfort of God’s presence and gentle influence on your every moment.

I pray all you ask and seek will be revealed to you, and every door that leads to your destiny will be opened wide before you.

Trust God to protect and guide you as you walk with him today.

Amen.

What is your prayer for today? What special request do you need to bring before God?

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Kelly’s bedroom under the eaves of her house had sloping ceilings and a tiny doorway into a creepy attic crawlspace. I was jealous because she had her own half bath and cable TV. I spent many middle school and high school New Year’s Eves in Kelly’s bedroom, eating microwave popcorn and watching the Times Square Rockin’ New Year’s Eve party on her 13 inch TV screen. Back then, the excitement was in staying up all night and seeing how far we could get into the new year before we crashed.

As I’ve grown older, crashing into the new year takes on a new and more serious meaning.

Some people are approaching 2017 with fear and frustration, but I am choosing to be optimistic and hopeful about the year ahead. I’m excited about the changes I see approaching for my work and family. I want to confront new experiences and move forward with the new lessons I learn. I’m looking forward to pursuing new challenges and welcoming new opportunities to help others.

And I’m choosing to believe that though anything that happens in the future may be out of my hands, God has the whole world within his grasp.

“Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you,” God promises. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27), “For I am with you always , even until the end of time” (Matthew 28:20).

I am choosing to trust God’s promise that he will never leave nor forsake the people who love and trust in him. We may face many challenges in the year ahead. We may experience uncertainty, confusion and even crises in the new year, but we know God will be with us throughout every moment.

So be still and know that he is God! (Psalm 46:10) I pray this year that you know God’s presence and feel his unending care for you. Be comforted that God is always with us, and he will never change.

What are you looking forward to in 2017? How are you preparing to move forward into the new year?

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I said good-bye at the door of my daughter's kindergarten classroom and headed for the parking lot; but when I looked back, my daughter came running after me, shrieking down the hallway. Her dad and I had just divorced, and my daughter and I were both going through a period of separation anxiety.

The school counselor suggested I allow my daughter to bring something from home, something small and unobtrusive she could wear or keep in a pocket, something to remind her of the loving adults who would still be there for her at the end of the day.

locket-1141737_1920-1In my dresser drawer, I found an old, gold-tone locket necklace, and I put tiny pictures of her dad and me inside. My daughter wore that locket every day of kindergarten, and she stopped chasing me, crying, through the hallways when I dropped her off at school.

Some kids carry teddy bears or old blankets to remind them of home and help them feel secure. Most kids outgrow carrying their security objects around all day.

But many adults still have security objects that we keep near to see and touch. Sometimes we all need a physical connection to our invisible sources of strength and love. img_0503

When I was feeling particularly anxious and insecure, I found my old Cowardly Lion doll and stood him on my dresser to remind me to have courage and keep moving. I hoard quilts that hold memories of special people. I will never part with the Taz doll my husband won for me at the amusement park game stall. And lately, I've started carrying this smooth river stone to remind me of the strength and solidity of God's presence.

img_0640I know all these lockets, dolls, and stones don't hold any special powers. They are not lucky charms, and they possess no magic spells. Our touchstones are merely tangible reminders of the love and safety available to us and the special people who give us comfort and peace.

On first grade picture day, I pulled from the dresser drawer that old, golden locket, now tarnished and tangled. I asked, "Do you want to wear this today?"

My daughter shrugged.

Lockets and stones can never take the place of the love they represent, and once we become secure in that love, the reminders become merely reminders again.

My daughter moved on to wearing necklaces she and her friends made out of safety pins. But I still have that Cowardly Lion doll.

What security objects do your children treasure? What are your own tangible reminders of love?

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The morning was still fairly dark when I walked my daughter to the school bus stop outside our apartment building. All the kids from the apartment complex milled around the parking lot, next to dumpsters and discarded furniture. We shivered in the autumn air. The rising sun glared brilliantly off the frost on the car windshields. When my daughter climbed on board and the bus pulled away, I walked to work through the morning chill with my hands in my pockets and my nose sniffling.

Fall is the foreshadowing of winter. The early darkness and cooling air warn us of the chill and stillness to come. Every fall I feel a sense of drawing in and settling down. I want to feel cozy, to curl up and cocoon; not to avoid the dark and cold, but to enjoy the promise of comfort and warmth.

In preparing for the icy days and nights ahead, I've found a few ways to enjoy and appreciate the changing season:

baby-1331996_1920Make the most of the last nice days by wearing sweatshirts and jackets to play at the park.

Look for free and low-cost indoor entertainment. My daughter and I enjoyed the warm and humid Botanical Center where we stood under the banana trees and counted the geckos clinging to the leaves.

Dig the warm pajamas out of storage, put sleeping bags on the living room floor, and enjoy a slumber party movie night. Make popcorn and use flashlights for lighting.

Buy extra flashlight batteries for possible winter power outages. Check and change batteries in all home smoke detectors.

Bake cookies. Let children help. child-221042_1920

Buy extra shelf-stable food so we're not traipsing to the grocery store during winter storms. I stock up on condensed milk, peanut butter, dry cereal, cans of chili and soup.

Make homemade chili and soup. Try this taco soup recipe.

Buy extra over-the-counter pain reliever and cough medicine so I'm not dragging a kid with a cold to the store in frigid weather.

Have the car's oil changed. Check and rotate tires. Replace wiper blades and fill washer fluid.

Buy extra socks for everyone in the household. Save a couple of pairs to make sock snowmen, following a Youtube tutorial.

Trace fallen leaves onto red, orange, and yellow construction paper. Cut out the shapes to decorate the apartment windows and walls.

Then curl up on the couch together, pull up the blanket or quilt, and snuggle in luxurious warmth. Talk about the autumns and winters, springs and summers of our childhoods. Appreciate this gift of time to connect, be present, and talk quietly.

I hope you all enjoy a cozy, comfortable evening together before resting through the long, cold night and then seeing them off to school in the morning.

How do you enjoy the changing season? How do you prepare for the cold weather ahead?

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Because I had some minor surgery yesterday, I've planned a few days off to focus on activities that are comforting and relaxing. It's nice to be reminded sometimes that life is about more than work and recognition. My plans for the coming week include:

  1. Sleep til 6 every morning and take a nap every afternoon.
  2. Take a long walk with someone who is very special to me.
  3. Eat ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream.
  4. Reread Jane Eyre, the story of a poor nanny who marries her wealthy boss.
  5. Rewatch Pride & Prejudice, the story of a poor farmgirl who marries a wealthy aristocrat. (I see a pattern in my entertainment choices.)
  6. Enjoy unhurried conversation with my daughter and friends who stop by.
  7. Call my old mentor, Vivian, to catch up.
  8. Organize my closet and get some warm, cozy sweaters out of storage.
  9. Start sewing the quilt I'm making from old pajama pants.
  10. Watch the History Channel specials remembering 9/11 and be reminded that life is fragile. I will be grateful for every moment, value the people who are special to me, and recommit to helping others when I can. I will pray for God's peace, grace, and mercy for our world.

How do you spend any time you have for relaxing? What are your thoughts as we remember 9/11 this weekend?

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