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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • The Treasures God Longs to Give a Mom

    The Treasures God Longs to Give a Mom by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “And I will give you a new heart — I will give you new and right desires — and put a new spirit within you. I will take out your stony hearts of sin and give you new hearts of love.” Ezekiel 36:26 (TLB)

    “I don’t even know who I am anymore,” my friend moaned as we sat side-by-side on a park bench at the end of a long summer’s day. “It’s like these kids are stripping away the old me, and I just feel hollow inside.”

    She jostled the baby on her lap and dabbed the tears streaking toward her chin. Then she turned her head to gaze at our crew in the sandbox.

    “We’re gonna make the biggest hole ever!” exclaimed one of our preschoolers, as he plunged his chubby fist into the gritty grains. The other kids echoed his enthusiasm and dropped to their knees to dig.

    My friend stared at the cavern in the sand, and my stomach churned with empathy. I pulled my friend into a one-armed hug and tried to formulate a comforting response. But my thoughts were quickly interrupted by a squeamish squeal.

    “Eowww! There’s garbage in here!” My daughter waved a dirty drinking straw in the air and flung it over her shoulder.

    Sure enough, the deeper the kids dug, the more debris they discovered. Their gritty fingers unearthed soggy brown leaves and grimy grey rocks, twisted twigs and long-forgotten gum wrappers.

    And that’s when I realized that my experience of motherhood has been a bit like a dirty sandbox dig. Simply put, motherhood is an unspoken invitation for God to excavate our souls.

    I never knew what lurked in the depths of me until I became a mother.

    I didn't realize the expanse of my own impatience; I wasn’t aware of the parameters of my pride. I didn’t recognize the breadth of my selfish ambition or the width of my weakness, until God asked me to lay down my life for the children He’d entrusted into my care.

    Let’s face it … kids expose our hearts on a whole new level. And in His infinite wisdom, God our Maker uses the daily demands of motherhood to excavate the garbage in our souls.

    Selfishness? It’s uprooted piece by painful piece each time we rise in the dark of night to feed a baby or comfort an anxious child. It’s unearthed every time we hold a bucket in front of a sick child, mop a muddy floor or tackle a tower of dirty laundry.

    Perfectionism? It’s shaved sliver by sliver as we trade firm abs for stretch marks and spotless windows for smudgy handprints; as we stumble through grocery aisles with spit-up on our collars and wailing ones on our hips. It’s steadily shredded as we embrace our tweens’ goofy mannerisms and our toddlers’ peculiar fashion sense.

    Pride? It’s uprooted every time we admit that we don’t have all the answers and we can’t do it all. It’s eradicated when we choose to listen rather than lecture, to compromise rather than control.

    It’s humbling — this heart dig — and harrowing at times. It can leave a mama feeling insecure and confused, conflicted and strange.

    But what if this soul excavation is more than just an identity crisis? What if it’s a holy hollowing?

    Our key verse, Ezekiel 36:26, reminds us God is in the business of making things new — including our hearts. He’s committed to scooping out the impurities within us so we have room to house more of His Spirit, a greater portion of His love.

    The process may be painful, but here’s the good news: When God empties us, He doesn’t leave us that way. He offers to fill our purged places with something new. God’s excavation is always intended for transformation.

    The chasm in the sandbox resembled a moon crater, and the kids stood back to admire their work. Suddenly, eyes brightened. “Hey, that hole’s big enough to hold treasure now!” a little digger declared.

    And in an instant, our scoopers turned into scavengers. They scattered across the park in a flurry of excitement and began to search for hidden treasure.

    My friend shuffled the sleeping baby in her arms and flashed me a subtle smile. And as our kids filled that huge hole with playground pearls, I wondered if a mama’s soul excavation is just God’s merciful way of carving out more room in her heart for the treasures He longs to give her.

    Dear God, do whatever it takes to make room in my heart for more of You! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” (NIV)

    John 3:30, “He must become greater; I must become less.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Invite God to reveal an “impurity” He’d like to extract from your life so He can grow more of His Spirit in you. Commit to cooperating with His holy hollowing today.

    Ask God to show you someone who’s “empty” and needs encouragement and prayer this week.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • An Interview With Karen Stubbs of Birds on a Wire

    Karen Stubbs is the founder and leader of Birds on a Wire, a ministry designed to equip moms through truth, encouragement and community. Recently, we were able to have a conversation to learn more about her, her ministry and her passion for helping mothers. Find the interview below.

    Karen StubbsPictured from Left to Right: Curt Andrews (Family Christian CMO), Karen Stubbs, and Ted Weyn (Family Christian SVP of Strategy & Development)

    Family Christian: Who is Karen Stubbs? Did you always want to become an author?

    Karen Stubbs: I am a wife to Greg Stubbs and a mother of four children, Kelsey, Emily, Taylor and Abby. I am also a grandmother to two beautiful grandchildren, Evie and Chapman. I live in Cumming, Ga. Being an author was never on my radar. I wrote a lot in college, and I love writing, but after I had my children, I stopped writing for a long time because I didn’t have time.

    FC: What is Birds on a Wire? And where does the name come from?

    KS: Birds on a Wire (BOAW) is a nonprofit ministry that focuses on equipping and encouraging moms. Being a mom is a hard job, and as I looked around, I didn’t see anyone truly pouring into moms to help them in their journey, so I thought I would start a ministry and do just that: to walk alongside a mom and encourage them.

    The story behind the name is sweet to me. BOAW started off with eight moms in my basement as a small group. In the early years, it was not an organized ministry—we didn’t even have a name. There was an artist, Jenifer Tanskley, that attended and at Christmas the group gave me a painting by Jenifer. The painting was the picture of birds sitting on a wire. I instantly fell in love with the painting and hung it in my bedroom. I kept looking at the painting and one day I called Jenifer and I asked her, “What was your inspiration for this painting?” She said it was Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable then they?”

    Oh my! It hit me like a ton of bricks. We as moms worry and are anxious with our children. We worry if we are going to mess up our child or not be a good mom. But, God has our children, and God has us. We don’t need to worry about anything—it is all in His very capable hands. So, I gathered a bunch of creative moms together, brought the painting in and read Matthew 6:26.

    I said, “Ladies, we need to name this ministry today, and I want it based off this picture and Matthew 6:26, what do you think?” They all started talking it through and one sweet mom, Carla Grogan, said, “We are like those birds, and Jesus is our wire. When the wind blows we just have to hang on for dear life and trust in Him. We really are like a bunch of birds on a wire.” I thought to myself, that’s it! Birds on a Wire.

    FC: How did God work in your life while writing and/or since the completion of writing Moments with God for Moms?

    KS: God started working on my heart before I even wrote the devotional. My eyes were open to how it was a real struggle for most women to carve out time for a quiet time after they became a mom. Once I decided to write the book, I started “listening” to what moms were talking about in the grocery store, Starbucks line, at my children’s ballgames or wherever I was and started finding Scripture that specifically addressed the struggles of a mom. Every devotion in the book is taken from a mom’s point of view. I tried to make it as practical and “real” as I could because I believe God is in the details, even in our role of a mom.

    FC: What do you hope mothers will take away from reading the devotional?

    KS: I pray that every mom will be drawn closer to God in reading this book. My desire is that moms across the world will realize God is in this journey with them and He is a loving Heavenly Father.

    FC: Do you plan/desire to publish more books in the future?

    KS: I am always thinking about “next” topics to explore that would help a mom in her journey. Books are a way to connect with moms, so yes I am planning on writing more books.

    FC: How does Birds on a Wire come alongside moms to give them practical advice (in addition to the devotional)?

    KS: BOAW has an entire library of resources that help moms. I have six DVD curriculums and workbooks that moms can go through either in a group setting or by themselves. The DVDs are a video of me teaching on a topic such as Discipline, Time Management, Boundaries, Contentment, Comparison, Fear, Control and many other topics, and each of these will help a mom and give them practical advice on raising children. I also wrote a book called Letters to Moms, and this book was birthed out of that basement group in the early years; after certain nights, I would write the moms an email on certain topics, hence the name of the book.

    FC: Family Christian and Birds on a Wire have recently partnered to provide a Mother’s Day gift bundle, including your devotional, encouragement cards, a gift bag, a bookmark with a 60-day free trial to iDisciple and a free line of personalization. Why is the gift set so valuable to give to mothers on Mother’s Day?

    KS: I believe this bundle is the complete package for any and every mom. The devotional is a daily encouragement and a way to connect to God, the encouragement cards are easy to use and so handy because you can place them wherever you are, at the sink doing dishes, your desk at work, in the car or by your bed, these cards are like a mini shot in the arm for moms, and remind them they are not in this job alone and the 60-day free trial with iDisciple gives moms a whole library of great authors, music and books that they may not have exposure to. Whether a mom is just getting started with a newborn or she is a grandmother of 10 grandchildren, I think this Mother’s Day gift is for everyone and will be a huge blessing for any mom.

  • The Blessing of Brokenness

    The Blessing of Brokenness by Micca Campbell

    “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24 (NASB)

    I clenched my teeth and closed my eyes as I waited for the explosion. My favorite lamp had fallen to the floor and smashed to smithereens. Somehow, in the scattered fragments I saw a picture of my own broken life.

    As I carefully collected the shattered bits, tears stung my eyes and the pain of brokenness surfaced again. It’s a deep hurt. The kind not easily healed. My heart was crushed as if it had been stomped on, broken and discarded. Unable to progress in my work or relationships, I became a hostage to my own sadness. I felt weak and desperate for hope.

    No one enjoys the pain of brokenness. Normally it calls for a letting go of something near and dear to us. At the time, it doesn’t make any sense. Yet, since the broken lamp, I have learned that brokenness leads to an unexpected good.

    It’s for this reason that God breaks us. Not to cause us undue pain. Not because He doesn’t love us. Instead …

    God breaks us to bless us.

    He chips away anything that keeps us from finding our true life in Him.

    God targets an area of our life that we’re unwilling to submit to Him. Perhaps it’s an unhealthy relationship we won’t release. It could be laziness that’s stunting our spiritual growth. Or even a bad habit that’s standing in the way of experiencing the fullness of God.

    Whatever the cause, our tendency is to hold tightly to these things because we believe it’s what we want. We’re convinced they please us by providing the joy, pleasure and fulfillment we seek. But God knows the truth. Only He can truly satisfy our deepest longings. All else is counterfeit to His provision.

    Therefore, God selects the tools it takes to break our self-sufficiency and cause us turn to Him. When we give up our independence, we gain a new perspective of God’s plan and purpose for our lives.

    A great picture of this process is found in our key verse. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24).

    Unless the kernel is buried and dies, it will produce nothing. It will remain a lone, solitary stalk of corn. Imagine passing a field that only hosted one blade of corn. You might ask, “Where’s the rest of this farmer’s harvest?” However, if the kernel dies, it will produce a great harvest. Consider the life of Jesus. On earth, He was like a single stalk of corn. Yet, through His death, burial and resurrection, His life continually produces a harvest of souls.

    In a similar way, as long as I live a selfish life fixed on my own wants and desires, I will produce little. On the other hand, if I die to myself and live according to God’s plan, I will yield a productive life that’s beneficial to God and others.

    It sounds difficult, I know, but the unexpected good of brokenness is that it revives the life of Christ in me. I become less and He becomes more. That’s a good thing!

    The more we become like Him, the more we become like the true selves God intended. The more love and patience I have in my heart, the more joyful and content I am with others.

    Think of it this way. For the wheat to reproduce itself, it had to die. For Christ to reproduce Himself in others, He had to die. If I desire Christ’s life to be reproduced in me, I, too, must die to the lure of the world and my own selfishness. Then, I will experience the fullness of God I desire and reproduce disciples of the same kind. Jesus put it this way:

    “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25, NIV).

    Sometimes God has to break me to bless me. As challenging as that can be, I’m thankful. Because honestly, I want the life God wants to give me instead of settling for the counterfeit.

    God, help me die to the desires of this world and my selfishness that I might find the life You created for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 12:25, “Those who love their life in this world will lose it. Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What counterfeit junk are you holding onto instead of Jesus?

    How is this object keeping you from becoming who God created you to be?

    © 2016 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • Devastated but Not Destroyed

    Devastated but Not Destroyed by Lysa TerKeurst

    “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

    I took my seat in the middle of the food court and was thankful I could hide my tears by staring down at my food. I quietly brushed my napkin across my cheek. I blinked. I tried desperately to swallow.

    I’m not normally a mall-goer, but that day I needed a place to hide. A place to process. A place to remember that the whole world wasn’t falling apart.

    The news I’d received from just an hour earlier crushed me. And devastated me.

    A friend I love made a decision that I couldn’t for the life of me understand. It wasn’t in keeping with her character. It wasn’t something I ever dreamed this person could do. The affects of this decision would careen across her life and mine with really hard consequences.

    Glancing at the table across from me I saw two women a little younger than me. They were laughing and cutting up food into bite-size pieces for their young kids. I could hear them talking about costumes that needed to be made for their upcoming preschool performance. One of them was having a hard time finding purple tights and she desperately needed purple tights to make the costume complete.

    I whispered under my breath, “I wish my biggest issue was purple tights.” Although my whispered statement was lost in the chaotic chorus of food court voices and noises, the scream inside my heart hovered over me in deafening tones.

    What. In. The. World!

    My mind raced. My throat tightened. My eyes leaked uncontrollably.

    I tried to pray but honestly I felt like God was pretty distant at that moment.

    It’s hard to stand on the goodness of God when you feel like life has just been stripped of so much good.

    I forced my legs to support my body. I walked mindlessly to my car. And I drove home.

    It’s in these moments where we know if the Word of God has seeped deep into our hearts or not. Though the world seemed to swirl and spin without anything for me to hold onto, one simple statement rose to the top of my mind and cut through with crystal clarity, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

    I heard it over and over.

    And I knew it wasn’t my mind conjuring up this Bible verse. It was the Holy Spirit inside of me speaking. Reassuring. And quite honestly, holding me together when circumstances were literally tearing me apart.

    I don’t know what hard reality is crushing your heart right now. But I sense I’m not alone. The enemy is on a full-out attack against everything good, sacred, pure and honest. He is the father of lies who wants us to believe that if our circumstances fall apart, then so will we.

    But take it from a woman in the middle of my own hard reality: Satan is a liar. God is a Redeemer. A Healer. The Author of hope. The Pathway of restoration. The great I AM.

    Right this very minute there are some things you and I must cling and hold to as if our lives depended on it:

    1. God loves us and He will not leave us.
    2. This battle isn’t ours. The battle belongs to the Lord. Let Him fight for you. Save your emotional energy and use it to dig into His Word like never before. Our job is to be obedient to God. God’s job is winning this battle.
    3. The battle might not be easy or short-lived, but victory will be there for those who trust God.
    4. God is good even when the circumstances are darker than you ever imagined. God is good even when people are not. God is good even when things seem stinking hopeless. God is good and can be trusted when you feel suspicious of everyone and everything around you.
    5. Lastly, God is good at being God. Don’t try to fix what He hasn’t assigned you to fix. Don’t try to manipulate or control or spend all your emotions trying to figure it out. Let Him be God. Free yourself from this impossible assignment.

    Sweet friend, be still. And know. He is God.

    I’m praying for you. And I treasure the fact I know you are praying for me.

    We will … be still … and know … HE IS GOD!

    Dear Lord, I choose to hand my situation over to You today. I will be still and know that You, and only You, are God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 13:5-6, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the LORD’s praise, for he has been good to me.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one area of your life you can prayerfully hand over to the Lord today?

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Supporting One Widow Through the Adoption Process

    “I made up my mind I was going to take the kids,” Jean said. “And I was going to do my best, whatever I could for them.”

    Jean and her three children.Jean, a Navajo widow, is trying to adopt her three grandchildren, Ilias, Daniella and Ivas.

    Jean’s heart was heavy. After a car accident left her injured and recovering at home, she became aware that her grandchildren were being abused. After much prayer, she knew she had to get the kids out of the house—even though it would tear apart her relationship with her daughter. Jean began to file papers for custody, with an end goal of adoption.

    New Life Christian Assembly stepped in to help their sister in Christ. They gave clothes to the kids, purchased groceries, provided a home close to the church and are counseling Jean through the adoption process.

    “The church is walking me through it,” Jean said. “And Jesus is helping me every step of the way.”

    We love Jean’s sacrificial spirit. One of the ways Family Christian cares for orphans and vulnerable children is by helping them find forever families through adoption, and we desire to lift up Jean through this long journey.

    If you’d like to support widows like Jean, donate $10* by texting FAMILY to 52000.

    *Your one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your pre-paid balance. Message & data rates may apply.

  • A Pastor’s Call to the Navajo Nation

    In September 2000, God called Nathan Lynch to pastor to the people of Pine Dale, New Mexico. The community is 97% Navajo Native American, and 48% of the families live below the nation’s poverty level. The church, New Life Christian Assembly, ministers to more than 60 widows on a regular basis.

    Nathan Lynch looking on.Nathan has pastored to the Pine Dale community for 15 years and New Life Christian Assembly since 2009.

    “They’re very needy, but they’re beautiful, loving and caring,” Nathan said. “My family fell in love with this community.”

    The district initially asked Nathan to stay for six months until a permanent pastor was hired. But 15 years later, Nathan’s still in Pine Dale—and he stayed because God told him.

    Hear Nathan's story in his own words, as well as how Family Christian has been able to partner with New Life Christian Assembly to help the widows in their community:

    Firewood: A Means of Survival

    77% of homes in Pine Dale use firewood to stay warm in the winter. Pine Dale is tucked away in the mountains—so without firewood, Navajo widows will freeze to death.

    In late 2011, God led us to New Life Christian Assembly in Pine Dale, New Mexico. We were inspired as we watched them be the hands and feet of Jesus through their ministry work with widows.

    Staying warm by the stove.You helped us purchase a heating stove and firewood for Emma so she could stay warm through the bitterly cold winters.

    Through our commitment to James 1:27, we’re passionate about serving widows in distress—both abroad and in the U.S. When we learned having enough firewood was a matter of life or death, we were devoted to helping. And for the past three winters, YOU have helped us keep widows warm and alive.

    Since 2012, we’ve been blessed to send mission teams to Pine Dale to help with light construction work on widows’ homes, including building porches and installing stoves. We also purchased a van for Pastor Nathan so he could deliver firewood, as well as helped fund a new bunk house for future mission teams’ stay.

    All of our work with New Life Christian Assembly would not be possible without you, our loyal customer. Thank you! Help us continue giving hope to Navajo widows, and donate $10* by texting FAMILY to 52000.

    *Your one-time donation of $10 will be added to your mobile phone bill or deducted from your pre-paid balance. Message & data rates may apply.

  • How to Climb the Mountain of Motherhood

    How to Climb the Mountain of Motherhood by Karen Ehman

    “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6 (NIV)

    Some days it seems everywhere I look, I see “mountains” — mountains of laundry to fold, papers to sort and dirty dishes to clean. Tending to the mountains in my life often leaves me exhausted. It also triggers frustration because no sooner have I dealt with one of these mountains, when they start to pile up all over again, staring me in the face and leaving me defeated. Have you been there?

    Being a mom also brings emotional mountains to scale as well. We train and teach the toddlers, navigate the often-tumultuous teen years and tend to the changing needs of aging parents. These life-tasks often unsettle our souls.

    Constant physical tasks, coupled with emotional stress, can make for a difficult climb. Perhaps a little lesson on the sport of mountain climbing can give us insight into how to make our trek a little less daunting.

    Mountain climbing is not for the faint of heart. Besides being physically strenuous, there are changes that take place in the climber’s body as they ascend. The higher you go, the thinner the air becomes, decreasing the oxygen concentration. If climbers aren’t careful to take precautions, the change can wreak havoc on their lungs. This can cause serious medical conditions resulting in hospitalization and in some cases, even death.

    In order to prevent these potentially damaging conditions, an experienced mountain climber knows how important periods of rest are. And not just stopping at the current altitude to take a break. There is a strategy where climbers retreat to a lower elevation than the one to which they have climbed in order to give their lungs a rest — especially at night. This tactic is referred to as “climb high — sleep low.”

    Mountaineers will trek as high as they safely can during the day, but return to a lower elevation to sleep, thereby diminishing the chances of developing a potentially lethal altitude-related lung condition.

    Similarly, the expedition known as motherhood is not for the faint of heart.

    Although the highs and lows we traverse each day might not adversely affect our lungs, they can wreak havoc upon our hearts and drain us physically. Oh, how important it is to rest our bodies and nourish our souls! To pull back from the “mountains” we are scaling — laundry, paperwork, dirty dishes — or the obstacles we encounter such as physically exhausting toddlers or emotionally testing teens. When we lay low to connect with Jesus, our souls can replenish to scale new heights the next day.

    Today’s key verse states it perfectly: “Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken” (Psalm 62:5-6). When we carve out time to rest in God — taking a physical break and filling up our spirits — we gain hope and acquire strength to face the challenges of life. When God is our fortress, nothing can shake us.

    Have you been trying to scale the mountain of motherhood at break-neck speed, rarely stopping to refresh and refuel? Maybe it’s time to adopt the “climb high — sleep low” strategy yourself. It will make a difference. Even if it is just stopping long enough to savor a cup of coffee with the Savior, drinking in deeply the truths from His Word. When we pull back for a bit, we’re better positioned to return to our tasks with renewed strength and a fresh perspective.

    As you scale the mountain of motherhood, God will be with you in the highs. He’ll refresh you in the lows. Press pause, and meet with Him today.

    Father, please help me carve out time each week to get alone and meet with You. May I find rest and rejuvenation so I can continue to climb the mountain of motherhood for Your glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 121:1-3, “I lift up my eyes to the mountains — where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip — he who watches over you will not slumber.” (NIV)

    Psalm 127:2, “It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: As you scale the mountain of motherhood, what new phase are you entering? What issues, concerns and challenges does this phase bring? How can pulling away to stop and rest help you to face these matters with confidence?

    © 2016 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Do You Ever Feel Unappreciated?

    Do You Ever Feel Unappreciated? by Gwen Smith

    “Long ago the LORD said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT)

    The Bible is a timeless note expressing God’s interest in us.

    And let me tell you, I love a good note.

    When I was in high school in the late 1980s, the halls buzzed with everything you would expect, including note passing. When you got a note, you didn’t just let it hang out in the pockets of your Calvin Klein jeans or shove it in your leg warmers — you took it out and devoured it.

    And then you wrote back, circling yes or no to the questions. Do you like him? Did you watch Miami Vice last night? Did you kiss him? Are you going to Kelly’s birthday party? Will you go with me?

    Notes were a dialogue.

    They helped you connect with friends, scope out possible love interests, break up, make up and everything in between. Rarely was just one note passed between two people. (And rarely were teachers happy about them.)

    Get this: God made sure we got a note from Him.

    A love note to pursue our hearts and connect our hearts to His.

    A personal note that’s addressed to each of us and ends with “Love, God.”

    His love is poured out in the Bible chapter by chapter, verse by verse, so we might understand and accept that His intentions for us are as unique as a snowflake and as extravagant as an ocean sunset.

    When I’m feeling unappreciated, unimportant or rejected, it helps to remember that God’s love speaks. I only need to listen.

    Your days may sting with an unfulfilled longing, a perceived inadequacy, a devastating loss or a gaping heart wound. Might I offer a word of encouragement? Whether you’re a mother, grandmother, sister or daughter … single, married, widowed, divorced … whether your loved ones value and cherish you or wound you with broken behavior … no matter what, God loves you, knows you and cherishes you perfectly.

    Let His love speak life to you.

    The Lord declared to Israel, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself ” (Jeremiah 31:3).

    Just as He spoke these words to His children, the Israelites, long ago, God speaks across the universe today to each daughter’s heart:

    “I notice you!” “You are special to Me.” “You matter.” “I love you … perfectly … eternally … completely, and I really, really, really mean it.”

    He showed us His love through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus.

    His Spirit whispers that love to the hearts of His children continuously.

    He speaks it still today through His Word. Are you listening?

    Once you open and read God’s love note, the Bible, you’ll want to respond. To go back and forth in conversation, deepening the relationship. To circle yes or no to His questions: “Do you know how much I love you? Are you aware of the distance between My holiness and your sin? Will you let My love meet you in your achy places? Do you know how beautiful you are to Me? Will you trust Me with that roadblock? Will you acknowledge Me as the source of your significance and the validation you are desperate for?”

    I want to circle my answers, Yes!

    I want to be so deeply rooted and grounded in God’s love that it stabilizes my faith, no matter how unstable other factors of my life might seem or how unappreciated I feel.

    Don’t you?

    Dear Lord, Thank You for loving me. When I’m overwhelmed with feelings of frustration, please remind me that You see me and will meet me there with Your everlasting, all-satisfying love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 36:5-6a, “Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.” (NIV)

    1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are you afraid of when it comes to God’s love for you? How will you allow the truth of God’s love for you to affect your feelings today?

    © 2016 by Gwen Smith. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks David C Cook for their sponsorship of today's devotion.

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

  • The Freedom of Releasing Regrets

    The Freedom of Releasing Regrets by Amy Carroll

    “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” 2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV)

    “Time’s up!” Those two words battered my heart over and over as I sat in the silence of an empty nest, drowning in the pain of regrets.

    I had thought I’d break into celebration when our two boys headed out into the world on their own. Even though I knew I’d miss them terribly, they were going to good places with spiritual growth as a priority, decision-making skills intact and solid friendships to encourage them … mostly.

    I agonized over how I should have done more to fill every gap. I should have prayed more, taught more about Scripture and instructed more concerning finances. I convinced myself I should have stopped to listen more, been present more (instead of consumed with my to‑do list) and empathized more.

    Instead of celebrating our boys’ launch into adulthood, I was sinking into despair, but I knew I shouldn’t allow regrets to reign.

    Based on past experience, I knew regret would be erosive and paralyzing — washing away my confidence in God and myself. I knew what it would be like to feel powerless to live in the victory and freedom God has for us. Too many times I’d collapsed under the weight of imperfections, mistakes and sin.

    Thankfully the Bible, our manual for life, has instructions about how to rid ourselves of regret. As we see in today’s key verse, “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

    This verse helped me assess the situation. Are my sorrows (or regrets) leading to salvation and an eventual release from the regret? Or are they leading to death, a dark place where there’s no freedom in sight? For me, I knew my parenting regrets were of the worldly type because I was in a downward spiral.

    One silent morning, after several days of wrestling with regret, I spent time with God, telling Him about my sadness and worry that I had fallen short as a mom. One by one, I took my regrets to Jesus and left them in His care.

    With time He brought me to a place of asking Him for forgiveness. Where there were places of sin, I repented. Turning away from those sins was a step that left me feeling washed clean. With others, He showed me how my imperfect parenting had still been enough. God was much gentler with me than I was with myself! For each regret, He promised that His work would succeed where mine had failed and that He would complete what I had left unfinished.

    I walked away from my time with God that morning with exactly what He said in His Word — the hope of salvation and a release from regrets. I rested in the truth that His power floods in to fill our gaps. He offers that same relief to you, no matter where your sorrow lies.

    Are you worried you haven’t parented well enough? God is still at work in our children’s lives, even after they become adults. Their story isn’t over, and God is big enough to finish the work He started in our hearts and homes.

    Are you swamped with shame from your past? God offers salvation today for every circumstance in our rear-view mirror. That door didn’t close the moment we wandered. He is able to soothe our sorrows.

    Are you fretting over lost opportunities? Our good God redeems our misses and can fill our lives with second chances. Let’s trade our despair for hope today!

    Lord, we come to You needing release from regrets. Instead of wallowing in despair, help us trust in Your powerful, ongoing work. Instead of agonizing over our imperfections, help us look to You for perfecting. In all things, help us turn our regrets over to You, our Redeemer. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 116:3b-5a,6, “I was overcome by distress and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the LORD: ‘LORD, save me!’ The LORD is gracious and righteous; The LORD protects the unwary; when I was brought low, he saved me.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What regrets in your life have paralyzed you in their grip?

    Bring those regrets to the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to show you:

    • What needs His forgiveness?
    • What needs His comfort?

    Write out a prayer asking God to release you from your regrets and to move forward in complete trust in His work.

    © 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Chain of Courage

    A Chain of Courage by Lynn Cowell

    “The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.” Exodus 1:17 (NIV)

    Each day I started my workday by telling myself, You can do this! It’s not a big deal. For many people the task I needed to complete was simple — something they could accomplish in a few short minutes. But it wasn’t for me.

    Even though this simple act would help others in their walk with Jesus, that motivation wasn’t enough to push me through. The fear of failure crippled me. I finally found the courage I needed to push past my phobia when a story leapt off the page and into my heart.

    The first two chapters of the book of Exodus tell the tale of a chain of courage — one act of fearlessness prompting another until the whole of these women’s actions changed history.

    Act 1: Shiphrah and Puah, midwives in Egypt, are commanded by Pharaoh to kill all males as soon as they are born. Exodus 1:17 tells us, "The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live."

    What bravery these women showed in obeying God rather than Pharaoh!

    Act 2: Jochebed, the mother of Moses, courageously decides she will not obey Pharaoh, either. Rather than kill her son, she hides him at home. When she can no longer keep his existence a secret, she puts this one she loves in a basket, hiding him in the Nile River.

    Jochebed’s faith to take the risk of hiding a baby and putting him in a river is compelling!

    Act 3: Miriam, Moses’ sister, stands by, watching the basket boat. But she isn't just observing. When Pharaoh's daughter calls for the basket to be brought to her, this grit of a girl steps up and addresses the princess, giving royalty advice on how the child can be taken care of.

    Do you see the chain effect one woman's courage had on another's?

    Shiphrah and Puah decided to go against Pharaoh together.

    Jochebed, in the same steps of the midwives, chose courage instead of compromise.

    I have no doubt that Jochebed inspired her daughter to show her prowess to the princess.

    I want to be a part of a chain effect of courageousness, too!

    As a young mother, my mom stepped out of her social norm, embraced Jesus as her Savior and became a prayer warrior for her eight children. Even though several were already adults when she came to know Christ, through her prayers and life testimony, all of us serve Him today.

    Seeing my mother’s fearless faith gives me courage to make a difference in my world. Seeing God answer her prayers for her children empowers me to pray for my children’s salvation, asking God that they will follow the steps of Miriam — on the lookout for where God can use them — and when the time is right, boldly step up with the wisdom God gives them.

    Friend, where are you in a chain of courage?

    Is God calling you to be the first in your family to break out? To step up and bravely make decisions to bring God’s redemption to your family line? To redefine “normal” in your family's legacy?

    Maybe like me, you are blessed to have witnessed the courage of another, and it’s empowered you to be brave. We have to be careful not to grow comfortable or complacent when we're in the middle of the chain but instead be empowered by the Holy Spirit to keep courage going.

    We can start by:

    1. Praying for courage.
    2. Surrounding ourselves with others who are courageous.
    3. Reading stories of others who’ve been courageous in the Bible or in books.

    Let's be brave. Let's display daring boldness and in turn, teach others to be courageous.

    Lord, help us to choose courage over fear. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to lean on You and take the steps You call us to take. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (NIV)

    2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” (NKJV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: How can we teach the next generation to be brave?

    Let's spur each other on today. Share today’s devotion with a friend or family member, asking them to join you in a chain of courage.

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

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