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Family Christian

  • When You Forget Your Grace-Face

    When You Forget Your Grace-Face by Brenda Bradford Ottinger

    “Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’” Acts 10:4 (NIV)

    “Hey! Kids! No riding bikes on my sidewalk,” she hollered.

    Interesting way of saying “welcome to the neighborhood,” don’t you think? Seems we missed the “Stay-Off-My-Sidewalk-and-Other-Random-Rules” meeting and were unaware all bikes must be diverted into the street so as to bypass “her sidewalk.”

    This neighbor was a handful. And she was our handful for the next 7 years.

    Ever meet someone who didn’t tempt your grace to come out and play?

    Regarding said grace: I tried.

    Regarding said attempts: It’s only right I inform you that I didn’t always succeed.

    I’d love to say I had my grace-face on at all times, but, that would fall into the category of Things-That-Make-Your-Nose-Grow.

    Like that one time the boys came running inside (from our very own backyard, mind you) and informed me she’d fussed at them for playing outside while she was outside. She sure did.

    So. Well, then.

    Like any good-ish mother would do, I set the example-bar high. “She needs to get a life already,” I said. The door might have still been open. And, while we’re on the subject of admission, I may have said it loudly enough to hear across the iron fence.

    Yeah. Like that time.

    Please tell me I’m not alone — that you’ve forgotten your grace-face once or twice, too?

    I’m so glad the Spirit’s good at saving us from ourselves, as every bit of credit goes to Him for ensuring this unlovely response was the exception rather than the rule.

    You see, the humbling truth He kept tethered to my heart was this: She needed God. And, so did I.

    Everyone has a story, and I’d guess hers hadn’t been a fairy tale. Outwardly, she appeared strong, but her sorrow betrayed her. Broken and vulnerable on the inside, she bled pain — through her eyes, her harsh tones, her reclusive lifestyle — carelessly staining those around her. And herself. Especially herself.

    When my efforts at friendliness failed, I did the only thing I knew to do: I prayed.

    And, there in the bedrock of my weary heart, an accidental memorial was being built. These prayer offerings became my stones, like what the Israelites used to signify crossing over the dry Jordan River (see Joshua 3:17-4:8 for more on that). Those prayers were an offering by fire in the temple of my heart, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.

    What a comfort it is to know God sees when we choose humility … when we swallow bitter words before speaking them … when we smile, even when we’d rather sneer. Better yet, He sees from the inside out and knows when our devotion isn’t from an onerous place of cliché religion, but from the quiet of a heart that longs to please the Lord.

    He sees. He hears. He remembers.

    It’s been many years since we sold that home, and, unfortunately, her wall never did come down. But my prayers for her didn’t evaporate, and I trust the Lord will ultimately redeem that time for Himself. The God of yesterday is still the God of today and tomorrow, and He is able.

    Absorbing offenses that seep through frayed pores of the wounded doesn’t come naturally. And sometimes our humanity runs out in front of us, tripping us up.

    Oh, but then there are those sweet spots of partnering with God as He exchanges our grief for His glory. He can help us put our grace-face back on again.

    We see that in our key verse today. A devout and God-fearing man, Cornelius knew what it was to partner with God and understood the value of service and prayer.

    It’s hardly a stretch to see caring for the needy as a sacred directive — a ministry where fruit is seen with human eyes in human time.

    But I’m especially touched by the angel’s words to Cornelius about his prayer life: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God” (Acts 10:4b).

    How beautiful this insight from across eternity, where prayers land on the ears of a listening God. Welcomed, received, memorialized.

    When at first we start to pray, we make a difference in the Kingdom. A memorial arises from the temple within, sacred boundaries are erected, prayers spilled bare are received on holy ground, “a soothing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 2:2, NASB).

    Father, I’m so grateful the deeds and prayers of a true heart aren’t disappearing into nothingness but are falling softly to rest at Your throne. Help me remember my grace-face as I represent You to a hurting world. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 141:2, “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; The lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” (NASB)

    Psalm 51:17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does knowing that God receives our prayers as an offering bring comfort to you today?

    © 2016 by Brenda Bradford Ottinger. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • How To Love The Life You Live

    How To Love The Life You Live by Nicki Koziarz

    “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.” Galatians 6:4 (NIV)

    I spent the first few years of my childhood in a small town. We were by no means well off, and we always seemed to have just enough to get by. So rarely was there room in our budget for extras … like the black and white saddle shoes I wanted one year.

    My dad was the high school football coach, which meant I spent a lot of Friday nights with my mom and brother in the bleachers. The game itself was anything but thrilling to me. But I didn’t mind going because it meant I was able to watch the cheerleaders. That was exciting!

    I would watch and dream of the day I too would get out there in a pleated skirt with pom-poms and make the crowd roar with enthusiasm for our team.

    The cheerleaders must have known how much I looked up to them because they invited me and my best friend to come cheer with them for one of the last games.

    Our elementary schoolgirl excitement was out of control!

    High school cheerleaders?! YES!

    We practiced in the backyard every chance we could get leading up to the game. And one afternoon, we even put on our uniforms.

    But my zeal for this opportunity quickly faded as I looked down at my friend’s feet. She had a pair of brand-new, shiny, black and white saddle shoes!

    My thoughts screamed with envy: What? Where did she get those? I need a pair too!

    I went to my mom and pleaded for the shoes — but our bank account didn’t match my begging, so no matter what I said, it didn’t matter.

    And so began the sowing of the seed of comparison in my life.

    This seed reaps nothing but weeds of jealousy, envy and discontent into our lives. I wish I could tell you that was the only time I’ve struggled with the seed of comparison, but it’s not.

    Today’s generation seems to be filled with more opportunities to compare ourselves with each other than ever before. We are constantly bombarded with social media feeds that tempt us to compare. Reality TV show us everything BUT reality. And advertisers tease us with promises that their products will provide perfection.

    But here’s the deal … I LOVE today’s key verse, because it’s helping me find a rhythm in my soul with this comparison thing.

    “Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else” (Galatians 6:4).

    The reality is, comparison can compromise the individual calling and beautiful life God has given each of us.

    If we spend more time looking at what others are doing or have, we could miss what we have and are supposed to do. Staying focused on what good things are happening in and through us will help keep this inner battle of comparison at bay.

    Before that big football game, my mom actually found a pair of black and white saddle shoes I could borrow. No, they weren’t shiny brand-new ones like my friend had; in fact, they were pretty scuffed up and a little tight on my feet! But I was thrilled. I took so much pride in those shoes and I loved them.

    Our culture will always try to tempt us with comparison, but God never does. He wants us to love our life just as much as He does. Even if the shoes are scuffed and tight … God helps us love where we are, not where we wish we could be.

    God, help me love the life I live right now. Show me the good things I often overlook and help me be content with what I have. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Hebrews 6:10, “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (NIV)

    Proverbs 30:8b-9, “Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one thing you are grateful for about the life you live? Leave a comment today sharing what it is!

    © 2016 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • You Are Worthy: Lesson from the Least Likely

    You Are Worthy: Lesson from the Least Likely by Julie Sunne

    “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 (NIV)

    I boarded the bus with a badge around my neck, carrying a lunch … and a heavy spirit. I was accompanying my daughter Rachel and her Special Olympics team to their soccer event.

    As a volunteer coach, I had helped with these events in the past, and it was always a special time. But this day, I yearned for something I couldn’t quite define.

    For years, I had secretly thought that if I accomplished enough I’d be accepted and worthy. Each day I spent trying to please others by earning enough money, making a name for myself and providing for every need that crossed my path.

    I believed I should be the greatest mom, the perfect wife, the best friend, the hardest worker, the one who had all the answers and cared enough to respond to everyone’s requests. I bought into the lie that success equals validation.

    It was beginning to strangle me.

    Upon arrival at our venue, as always, smiling faces lit up the stadium. These were genuine I’m-having-the-time-of-my-life smiles, not fake I’ll-smile-because-I-should kind of smiles.

    Nearly every participant displays such a grin, welcoming attendees into the world of Special Olympics and real people.

    Laughter and squeals of delight intermixed with “Good job!” or “Nice try!” and “You can do it!” echoed around the dome.

    As I surveyed the athletes, I realized my longing was for what they had: the freedom to be who they were created to be.

    How many of us long for that very thing — to quit pretending and live the way we were created?

    The weight of trying to do it all eased just a bit.

    I watched as my daughter kicked the soccer ball. Even before it stopped, she raised her hands in victory, eyes sparkling and laughter ringing through the air! The ball fell short of the goal.

    Rachel celebrated anyway!

    The thought snuck in that my worth isn’t something to be found or earned, but it’s innate because of who God created me to be.

    Moving to the next event, Rachel was too busy waving to those around her to listen to the instructions. Still, the ball was there, so she kicked it. It rolled far short of the goal, but her arms still shot up in victory!

    The desire to simply be who God created me to be grew.

    My daughter moved from one ball to the next. She cheered every kick, even when the ball dribbled a mere foot. Her smile never wavered, inviting the audience to experience her joy.

    And I did! My soul began to sing!

    That day I noticed that same joy in the face of each Olympian. I saw their unconditional love, unfettered joy and uncommon grace. I saw the way they live with passion and authenticity, excited to live out who they are.

    As the event drew to a close, I glanced at the athletes one more time and marveled at their serenity and openness.

    There is no pretense at Special Olympics events or in the lives of those with intellectual disabilities. There is no hiding behind masks. There is just love and realness. Who you see is who they are.

    Each Special Olympian is authentic, a genuine representation of themselves.

    I always enjoyed volunteering for Special Olympics. But this time I entered the stadium overwhelmed by a lifetime of busy, trying to make myself into someone of worth. I left realizing I was already that someone.

    I just needed to let myself be her.

    Each of us is created in the image of God — remarkably and wonderfully made. We don’t need to prove ourselves or earn our worth. And as today’s key verse reminds us, God’s works are wonderful.

    Just like Rachel and her Special Olympic friends, we already have worth in our Creator and Redeemer. That realization alone should give us peace as we live out who we are freely in Christ.

    Dear Lord, Thank You for fearfully and wonderfully creating each of us. Thank You for giving us worth in Your eyes. Help us live as the one You uniquely intended us to be. Help us abide instead of strive, living peacefully and joyfully as heirs to Your Kingdom and co-heirs with Christ. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Who are you trying to prove your worth to? Today, embrace the truth that in Christ you are already worthy.

    © 2016 by Julie Sunne. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Finding Peace in the What-If Moments

    Finding Peace in the What-If Moments by Cindi McMenamin

    “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.” Philippians 4:6-7a (NLT)

    If ever I needed peace, it was that moment.

    My 18-month-old daughter, Dana, was on the other side of the closed hospital door, being prepped for a bone marrow test.

    Three days earlier she woke up from a nap with bruises all over her body. Her pediatrician discovered that little Dana’s blood platelet count was dangerously low. He had her admitted to a children’s hospital to see a blood specialist and take a bone marrow test to determine if she had cancer.

    My husband and two friends were planning to wait with me during Dana’s test. But the specialist arrived at the hospital a day early and decided to perform the test immediately. The nurse whisked my sleeping daughter out of my arms and took her into the surgical room for the procedure — the insertion of a needle into her spine to extract marrow from her bone.

    I sank down to the floor on the other side of the door and prayed. “God, this test did not take You by surprise. Neither did whatever is going on in my child’s body. Thank You that You are in that room with her, and You are right here with me, too. Please give me Your peace and the assurance that You are in control.”

    We all know what it’s like to feel helpless when someone we love is in need. We’ve all asked what-if questions, like …

    What if it’s cancer? What if we lose her? What if I can’t get through this?

    Worry seems like the most natural thing to do in these situations. But there’s a reason God’s Word tells us to pray instead: “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Philippians 4:7a).

    As I sat on the floor continuing to pray, I waited for the screaming and crying behind the other side of the door that never came. Dana slept through the entire procedure even though no anesthesia was used. She was still asleep when they handed her back to me 25 minutes later.

    The next morning, Dana was fitted for a little padded helmet to protect her head from bruising, and we were sent home to await the test results.

    A week later, word came that the bone marrow test results were normal. Dana had a condition where the child usually recovers anywhere from six months to five years. After two more weeks, the specialist informed us that Dana had experienced a complete recovery. He’d never seen a child recover so quickly and so thoroughly from this disease as she had.

    Today, Dana is a perfectly healthy 23-year-old college graduate. I don’t call her medical scare a nightmare. Instead, I refer to it as the defining moment in which God built my confidence in Him and taught me that it is far better to pray than to worry.

    I’m grateful for that experience so many years ago because it taught me that I am not, nor have I ever been, in control of my daughter's health, life or destiny. It also showed me where peace is ultimately found: Not in pleasant circumstances or the feeling that “all is well” in my child’s world, but in the palm of God’s hand as He allows whatever He will to come her way and mine.

    Finally, it gave me an experience to look back on and build my confidence upon whenever I begin to worry, doubt or fear for an event in my child’s life — or my own.

    Lord, thank You that nothing takes You by surprise and nothing touches my child’s life — or mine — that hasn’t first passed through Your loving hands. You are more than capable of caring for every what-if question that tempts me to worry. I trust You with what is closest to my heart. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 55:22, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” (NIV)

    Matthew 6:27, “And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (NASB)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What do you tend to worry about the most when it comes to your children? Ask God to remind you that He loves your children even more than you do, and ask Him to help you trust Him more and more each day.

    © 2016 by Cindi McMenamin. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Does Prayer Really Change Anything?

    Does Prayer Really Change Anything? by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b (NLT)

    Our coffee mugs sit empty, but we still cup them in our hands as if the warm porcelain between our fingers might anchor our wobbling souls.

    The clock pushes hard toward the school day’s end, and we know we’ll soon be collecting kids in the carpool line. But for now, we linger in the coffee shop, two women sharing the mess of life over a table dotted with crumbs.

    My throat swells with a lump of tears, and I can’t think of anything to say. Words feel like a paltry bandage for the open wound my friend has revealed.

    Her marriage is flailing, and her hope is too.

    Drizzles of despair roll down her cheeks, and my stomach churns with empathy. I know of the soul aches that throb loud at night and the pangs of disappointment that hover somewhere just beneath the heart in the waking hours.

    I want to fix those lifeless eyes, but mere words can’t rebuild the shards of a shattered union. So with a whisper, I offer the one thing that has saved my marriage a dozen times from landing in the give-up-and-walk-away grave — “Could we pray?”

    My friend fiddles with the ring on her finger, then divulges her doubt: “Do you really think it will change anything?”

    The weight of her honesty steals my breath.

    And suddenly a poignant memory flashes into my mind and pushes me through the years …

    I’m 9 years old again, curled up in a ball of trembling misery, with no words to explain my pain. I just know I feel broken inside because of that girl who teases me on the playground.

    “I don’t want to go to school anymore,” I tell my mom who’s perched on the edge of my bed.

    She nods in understanding but doesn’t endorse my plan to flee. Instead, she murmurs, “Let’s pray for her.”

    I lift my head off the soggy pillow. “Do you really think prayer will change anything?”

    I wait for my mom to assure me that prayer will, indeed, transform my foe into a friend. But she just wraps her arms around me and sits long in the silence. Finally, she exhales a jagged sigh and says, “Honey, I can’t guarantee that prayer will change her heart, but I know it will change ours …”

    The whirr of the espresso machine echoes off the walls, and my friend shuffles in her seat, her question dangling between us.

    I glance at her wedding ring and answer with a sliver of truth I learned as a 9-year-old. “Prayer always changes something …”

    Prayer may not always work in the way we expect, but prayer does work.

    Our key verse promises, “The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:16b).

    Prayer’s no magic wand, but when we humbly place the cries of our hearts into the hands of our mighty God, something wonderful happens.

    Prayer may not instantly fix our quandaries, but it will invariably affix us to our King.

    My friend reaches across the table and twines her slender fingers through mine. “Will you say the words?” she asks. “I don’t have any left.”

    Closing my eyes to hide the burning tears, I begin: “Dear Jesus, we don’t know what to do with this mess, but we know You are in it with us …”

    I’m not sure what to say, but I trust God hears the cry of my heart. And as we bow our heads over those empty coffee cups, we become more aware of the One who can fill the depths of our need with the riches of His grace.

    And slowly, silently, hope swells.

    Dear Lord, give me faith to pray even when I don’t have words to say. Help me see past the pain and look to You for ultimate hope and guidance.

    Lord, we know You are in the business of bringing dead things back to life, even marriages that barely have a pulse. Help me trust that You alone can change the God-sized problems in our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Romans 8:26b, “… We do not know how to pray or what we should pray for, but the Holy Spirit prays to God for us with sounds that cannot be put into words.” (NLV)

    Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am with them.” (NLV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What situation in your life feels hopeless? Bring it to God in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to speak on your behalf.

    Meditate on the promise in Matthew 18:20 this week and arrange a time to meet and pray with a friend or two.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • If They Don’t Like Me, Do I Have to Like Them?

    If They Don’t Like Me, Do I Have to Like Them? by Kenisha Bethea

    “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27 (NIV)

    Ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to dislike people different from me.

    I’d just moved to a new city where I experienced blatant prejudice on a scale I’d not experienced before. I grew tired of visiting places where not even the greeters at the front door acknowledged me. Once inside, people either stared right through me or stared me down.

    Then one evening as I strolled through my neighborhood, a pick-up truck pulled up next to me, someone inside shot a gun off in the air and several people hurled profanities at me before screeching off into the darkness of the sunset.

    As I walked home, wiping tears and trying to process what happened and why, I made a simple resolve in my heart: I’m done trying to love these people any more. With all the reasoning of a 5-year-old in a schoolyard scuffle I determined, If they don’t like me, I won’t like them either.

    Once home, I called my mom, told her what happened and shared my decision to stop caring about these people who had hurt me. Honestly it was more than just not caring. I could feel hate growing deep in my heart.

    “How are you going to do that?” she asked, meaning how would I justify my decision to hate as a follower of Christ.

    “I’m glad you’re OK,” she said. I could tell she was holding back tears for my sake. “But I can’t support your decision. You can either continue to be a Christian, to love God and all those He created, or you can decide to go against God and despise His creation … but not both. So which will you choose?”

    I didn’t say anything about going against God, I thought, defending my position.

    But just as quickly as the thought crossed my mind so did the words of a verse I learned as a child in Sunday School: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God created he them; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27).

    Up until that point, I’d mostly heard this verse used to describe the sanctity of human life. But now, I was willing to trade this Truth that deemed all human life worthy for the lie that their behavior makes them worthless.

    The harsh words of my heart were in stark contrast to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:44: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (KJV).

    Jesus continued, “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that” (Matthew 5:47, NLT). In what seemed like less than a nanosecond, the same day I decided to hate others turned into the day I decided never to give my heart over to hatred.

    That’s a hard word for me to even type. But, in order to make a conscious decision about why I would always work to steer my heart away from that word I had to look at that word for all that it was.

    Hate carries a false arrogance that shouts:

    “I’m better than you.”

    “I deserve better than you.”

    “I wish you would go away.”

    At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, the core of the Christian heart is love. It walks with a humbleness toward others — a gentle knowing that we’re all the same at the foot of the cross of Jesus. This kind of love says:

    “I’m no better than you.”

    “All I have I owe to Jesus.”

    “I’m glad you’re here.”

    This kind of heart honors God as Creator of all.

    Father God, forgive me for losing sight of the Truth that You created all people in Your image. By Your grace, help me to see hatred — whether initiated or returned — as a tool Satan uses to keep me from experiencing and sharing the richness of Your love. Dear Lord, even when I don’t like the hurtful things others do, help me love the way You love them, extending the same kindness, mercy and grace I have received from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 2:11, “But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” (ESV)

    John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (NIV)

    Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How does reflecting on the Truth that all people are created by God help you in loving others well? Share your encouragement in the comments section.

    © 2016 by Kenisha Bethea. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Make Room for What You Love

    Make Room for What You Love by Melissa Michaels

    “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)

    As a young newlywed, I’ll admit one of my worries was kind of ridiculous. Don't laugh, but my fear was that paramedics or firemen or neighbors would show up at my door without fair warning.

    Not that I feared the help or the friendly visit. Rather, I was worried I wouldn’t be prepared. I wanted to have at least a moment's notice to clear the clutter and put my lipstick on before I had to swing open the door.

    I was often frustrated because I couldn't make our home the sanctuary I wanted it to be. Since home is where we do the holy work of loving God and caring for our people, it should feel like a place of refuge and safety, a place of peace.

    But so often I just felt overwhelmed. The daily dishes, clutter, responsibilities, busy schedule and the desire for order — mixed with the resulting chaos of having no clue how to manage it all — weighed on me.

    I couldn't seem to get myself organized, let alone organize my home or manage anyone else. Sometimes it felt like my shining accomplishment when my kids were little was getting everyone out the door with pants on! It was all too much: the piles, the clutter, the dishes, everything.

    Considering my fear of being unprepared to answer the door, imagine the night I asked my husband to call 911 because I thought I was dying. I felt like the room was closing in on me and I couldn't breathe. I shut my eyes tightly and tried to calm myself down while we waited for help. Who had time to prepare or put on lipstick? Not me!

    I'm relieved to say I lived (and, ironically, the paramedics didn’t care about the clutter or the lack of lipstick). Panic attacks are no joke, but the good news is I learned something from that stressful time. God reassured me He didn't need me to manage everything, just what He’s called me to do.

    Part of that faithfulness was me learning to let go of things that added unnecessary stress or chaos in my life and home. I got serious about clearing out the clutter so I could create a more peaceful sanctuary. Out went the stuff that overwhelmed me: the busyness, the hurry, distractions or idleness, disorganization, perfectionism or any other roadblocks to peace.

    Thank goodness perfection isn’t the goal! Different seasons of life bring change to our home, and change brings the need for continual refinement. Loving people well is messy business! God gives us grace when we open the door to welcome people, whether we feel fully prepared or not. As today’s key verse reminds us, God offers mercy in our weakness and strength for our weariness.

    Disorder in our home life brings so much stress because we try to hang on to more than we can handle.

    I learned that I find more peace when I let go of the clutter and focus on the joy of being a faithful steward of the life and home God gave me.

    Dear Lord, help me to place my trust in You even at times when everything around me feels out of control. Help me to let go of what clutters my perspective so I can find joy in creating a sanctuary. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (NIV)

    Proverbs 24:3-4, “By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What areas of your home or life feel overwhelmed by clutter and stress? Ask God to help you simplify. Let go of what you don’t need, so you can create a more peaceful sanctuary for your family and the people He brings across your doorstep.

    © 2016 by Melissa Michaels. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Wearing Too Many Hats

    Wearing Too Many Hats by Karen Ehman

    “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV)

    As a woman, do you wear a lot of hats? During the course of a busy week, you may wear any of these hats: counselor, co-worker, daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, aunt, grandma, neighbor, chef, nurse, counselor, referee, committee chair, and oh, yeah … a woman of God.

    Sometimes these hats are stacked so high that trying to balance them all on our competent-but-anxious-and-exhausted heads sends us toppling over completely!

    It’s easy to misplace our identity in such roles. And sadly for many Christ-followers, often the last hat we place on top is the crown we wear as a daughter of the King of Kings.

    I love the simple, straight-shooting words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33. He cuts to the chase with clear, understandable directives. Without being complex, He tells us gently, but firmly, what must be done to meet the many demands in our lives and yet still help our hearts not to worry: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

    However simple these verses may be, sometimes fleshing them out in our lives isn’t always easy. Especially in today’s society, a climate of endless activities often breeds busyness. And busyness usually births an anxious soul, as we wrongly surmise that busyness equals importance.

    As a result of buying into this keep-moving mindset, we have practically no white space left on our calendars. Our kids are carted from one activity to the next and many families hardly eat dinner together anymore. Something in us longs to “do more” by painting our lives in a bright, bold shade of busy.

    Although we live in a much different time than the original recipients of Jesus’ words, He wants us to learn from them nonetheless. They were concerned about where they’d find food and clothing. While we share those concerns, we also add things like how we will clean the house, bathe the kids, finish the laundry, prioritize the marriage, visit the relative, complete the work project … and on it goes.

    While our unfinished tasks may tempt us to fret, Christ stands whispering … Stop. Halt the hustle. Resist the rush. Press pause to find a little calm in the chaos. Seek first Mykingdom and My righteousness, and all of these things will be given to you as well.

    Perhaps His words will prompt us to do a little hat-reduction, ridding our schedules of some of the activities that clamor for our attention, unsettle our souls and draw us away from time spent with Him.

    By pressing pause to connect with Jesus we can learn to re-prioritize our tasks — perhaps bowing out of some optional activities as we do — and calm our anxious hearts. Our lives can then properly reflect this truth: Busyness doesn’t equal importance and our most important endeavor each day is to simply slow down and connect with our Creator.

    Whatever set of hats God directs you to keep wearing, remember to don them in proper order. They will only stay standing when you place the crown you wear as a daughter of the King of Kings on first!

    Dear Lord, I’m sorry for the times that my hats are completely out of order, causing my heart to become anxious. May I seek You and the righteousness You offer me first every day, before I attempt to carry out any of my God-ordained responsibilities. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (NIV)

    Psalm 31:14-15a, “But I trust in you, LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands …” (NIV)

    Galatians 3:26, “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: When it comes to the many hats you wear as a woman, which ones make you the most anxious? How could taking time to connect with God before meeting the challenges of the day help calm your fretful heart? Have a friend hold you accountable to spending time in God’s Word each day.

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Life is More

    Life is More by Suzie Eller

    “Then someone called from the crowd, ‘Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.’ Jesus replied, ‘Friend, who made me a judge over you to decide such things as that?’ Then he said, ‘Beware! Guard against every kind of greed. Life is not measured by how much you own.’” Luke 12:13-15 (NLT)

    Isn’t it fascinating we don’t really know what the disciples looked like?

    We don’t know what size shoe Jesus wore, or whether Peter was stocky or thin. We don’t know if Simon the Zealot had a man-bun, or if Bartholomew was fashionably dressed. There are rare hints in Scripture. For example, we know James the son of Alpheus (James the lesser) was short, but only because it differentiates him from the other disciple named James.

    This is what we do know, however. Simon the Zealot was loyal. Bartholomew was recognized for his good character. John was beloved by Jesus. Judas Iscariot fell prey to greed. Andrew was a dependable, behind-the-scenes kind of guy. While there is little in the Bible about what these followers wore or looked like, their character is clear.

    What’s inside is important to God, and we see that affirmed in the story where today’s key verse is found. Jesus and the disciples are traveling, when a guy stops Jesus and asks Him to step in and demand that his brother share a portion of an inheritance. Jesus hears something in the man’s request that troubles Him. In direct response to the man’s question, He starts a conversation about craving what you don’t have.

    Jesus tells a parable about a rich man who has a fertile farm. His barns are full. Yet instead of being content, he tears down the old barns and builds bigger, better barns to store more grain to acquire even more wealth.

    Jesus warns His listeners that these things aren’t what fulfill us, but rather we find our “riches” in our relationship with God (verse 20). It’s a lesson Jesus taught often. He helped lead His disciples away from worrying over things that didn’t have lasting significance, to center on things that did.

    So often we are measured in this culture by things that have little eternal value, like how in shape (or out-of-shape) we are, the size of our home, the prestige of our job, our cute shoes or wardrobe.

    Can I be honest? Sometimes I measure myself by those same standards, forgetting there’s much more to life than that.

    But I know that as a woman who’s loved by Jesus, I am faith-filled and my faith shines a light in darkness.

    I am strong because of Him, and that sings of bravery in harder times.

    I can be generous in His name, and that makes a difference in the world.

    I am loved well by our Heavenly Father, which allows me to love others.

    Who we are on the inside is what lasts for eternity.

    There’s nothing wrong with being physically fit, owning a pair of cute shoes or even building a bigger barn. It’s just that these are temporary, external characteristics that God never intended to be our main pursuit. These things were never meant to define us or become our greatest concern or worry.

    Instead, what’s on our insides is the story that will have eternal impact. That’s what will be written in the hearts of those who know us. It’s what will be remembered.

    Jesus led the disciples to a life of “more.”

    He leads you and me down the same path — to a life well-lived from the inside out.

    Dear Jesus, I know that beauty begins with my heart, but sometimes that’s not where I put my energy or thoughts. Give me wisdom to end the pursuit of things that have little eternal value. Help me run after what changes me from the inside out. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (NIV)

    1 Samuel 16:7b, “People judge by outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (NLT)

    1 Peter 3:3-4, “Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be fit or owning a home where people come in and feel welcome. The trap is comparing ourselves with others or what they have, then allowing discontent or greed to define who we are.

    Write down one characteristic you possess that writes an eternal story in the heart of others.

    © 2016 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

  • Looking for the Good in Your Man

    Looking for the Good in Your Man by Kathi Lipp

    “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:6-7 (NIV)

    When Roger and I were first married, he would leave for work every day and yell upstairs, "Shut the door!"

    At first, I was so confused. Shut the door? Why? He was the one at the door. Why did he want me to shut it?

    This went on for weeks (OK, maybe it only felt like weeks). As a new bride, I didn't want to rock the boat, but boy, did it bug me. I felt like every single morning he said, "Be sure the door is locked because you are not an adult and I have to remind you every. Single. Day."

    Plus he was leaving the house without even saying "I love you" …? That made me even more upset.

    Once again, he left the house one morning, yelled upstairs, "Shut the door!" and then walked to his car.

    Finally — after being angry for way too long — I confronted him.

    "I hate it when you yell ‘Shut the door!’ every morning. It makes me feel judged and just a little stupid."

    Roger looked dumbfounded. "I've never said 'Shut the door' to you in my life." And after he thought about it, a look of understanding came over his face.

    "Wait, do you mean when I yell 'Je t'adore'? That means ‘I adore you’ in French.”

    Um … Whoops!

    All this time, I heard criticism when all my husband intended was love.

    How often do we do this in our relationships? Our spouse rearranges the dishwasher to fit more dishes while helping in the kitchen, and we take it as criticism of our abilities.

    Or he picks up a skinny vanilla latte for us, and our first thought is: He must think I look fat. When in reality, he just knows our standard order.

    Why is it so easy to hear criticism when love is intended?

    Sometimes we gird ourselves for the hurt we think is coming, so when roses are headed our direction, we only see thorns. It’s as if we can’t see the truth of what’s being said.

    1 Corinthians 13:6-7 says, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

    We want to see the truth about our relationship with our husband, and at the same time work on being someone who protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres on behalf of our relationship. We want to live out love every single day.

    So how do we become purposeful in looking for the love our husbands intend?

    1. Receive well. I love what Luci Swindoll said, "Take everything as a compliment. You'll live longer."

    2. Look for the good. Several years ago, when I was looking for a new van, I had a friend recommend a certain brand, saying “It’s the most popular minivan on the road.” Which I highly doubted, since I didn’t remember ever seeing one.

    But when I got to the dealership, I was talked into that make and model. On the way home, I didn’t see one. Instead, I saw six. That’s because, for the first time, I was looking for it.

    It’s the same with looking for the good in our husbands. When we look for love, we start to see acts of love we’ve missed in the past. We start to hear the love we’ve been missing in casual conversation.

    3. Create a husband-friendly environment. Maybe things have been tense. Maybe the language of love hasn’t been spoken in a while. Make it safe for your husband to show love. For instance, compliment him on his BBQ skills. Thank him for entertaining the kids while you finish up work. (Sure, that’s his job. He’s their dad. But say Thank You anyway.) Be a noticer of good things and call them out in your husband. A husband who feels respected and appreciated, just for being who he is, walks differently in the world.

    So now, when my husband and I want to express our deep love to each other, we write "Shut the door!" on a Post-it. We both know all the history (and love) that is behind those three little words.

    Don’t just wish for love. Keep looking for it.

    Father, I pray that I will hear everything my husband says through Your truth and Your love. Let me receive his words and actions in the way they are intended, each and every time. Build up a reservoir of grace within me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 1 John 3:18, “Dear children, let’s not merely say that we love each other; let us show the truth by our actions.” (NLT)

    2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one thing you can do today to create a “husband-friendly” environment? What’s one great thing about your husband you can remind him of today?

    © 2016 by Kathi Lipp. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Harvest House for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries 630 Team Rd., Suite 100 Matthews, NC 28105 www.Proverbs31.org

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