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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • How to Make Time for You

    Posted on February 24, 2015 by Family Christian

    Jessica Turner FEBRUARY 24, 2015

    How to Make Time for You
    Jessica N. Turner

    "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." Psalm 139:13-14a (NIV)

    Without attention, our schedules become a litany of have-tos that so often cover everyone else’s needs but our own. The idea of making time for ourselves might seem frivolous, but caring for ourselves, and pursuing our passions, is part of becoming who God created us to be.

    I’m reminded of the importance of making time for our unique gifts and talents by watching my children.

    One of my biggest joys in motherhood is seeing my children express their passions. My 6-year-old loves art of every kind. He loves to draw, paint and create. With a marker in his hand, his imagination runs wild.

    My 3-year-old daughter loves to sing and perform. Anything can become a microphone, and the world is her stage. You have never heard a more passionate rendition of "Let it Go" than hers.

    When my son and daughter wholeheartedly live out their talents, their happiness is contagious and their dispositions are cheerful. The evidence that these passions are God-given is undeniable.

    As their mother, I love encouraging their personal expressions, knowing that in doing so, I am helping them to celebrate and live in the way God planned for them. A big part of this encouragement involves giving them ample time to pursue their creativity.

    One of the many prayers I have for my children is that they will always make time for their passions. I see how taking time to do the things they love positively impacts their lives.

    And you know what? I pray that prayer for myself too, because I know that too often, as adults, we don’t prioritize our passions.

    When we invest in ourselves and the talents God gave us, we are more fulfilled individuals. That personal wholeness makes us better wives, moms, friends and co-workers.

    Personally, I often use the fringe hours of my day for my creative pursuits. Fringe hours are those pockets of time that often go underused or wasted all together. Yours might be different than mine, but it’s amazing the fringe hours we can find when we look.

    Sometimes, maximizing fringe hours means I let go of something else. Maybe the dishes wait or the dusting doesn’t get done, and that is okay. Instead, practicing self-care and being intentional with my time for creative pursuits, helps me better live out the other callings God has on my life.

    When I include my own passions in my day, I feel closer to God because I’m proactively pursuing all that He’s made me to be. God didn’t just make me a mother, a wife, a friend — God made me Jessica, a uniquely designed individual with a creative set of passions all my own.

    Today’s key verse in Psalms 139:13-14a is a reminder of how God formed us: "For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made."

    My favorite part of that verse is when the psalmist writes that God "knit" us together. I love the imagery of "knitting," because not only is it an investment of time and creativity but because the finished product is unique, beautiful and one-of-a-kind — and the same is true for you and me.

    When God created us, He didn’t just make a physical being, He made a being full of life, giftings and personality. It is incredibly important that we prioritize ourselves so that, as evidenced in my children, we can be our best selves.

    Are you ready to start making your passions and God-given talents a priority? Are you ready to start living wholly as God made you to live? Redeem those fringe hours and you’ll find that you’re a more joyful person, reflecting the beauty of our Father.

    Heavenly Father, may pursuing my passions glorify You and make me a better steward of the blessings You have bestowed upon my life. Thank You for making me a unique creation. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Matthew 10:30-31: "And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." (NIV)

    1 Peter 4:10, "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you yearn for more time for yourself but don’t know where to begin, check out The Fringe Hours: Making Time for You. This practical and liberating book will empower you to make time for your passions and live the life God intended for you.

    Connect with other women who also want to make time for their passions in a free online book club of The Fringe Hours. Hosted on (in)courage by Angie Smith and Jessica Turner, this study features engaging videos, free resources and honest discussion. Visit (in)courage to learn more and join in.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Look at your schedule today and determine where you might find some fringe hours to do something just for you. Then take advantage of that time!

    © 2015 by Jessica N. Turner. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Revell Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • When My Mind Says "You Failed"

    Posted on February 23, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lynn Cowell FEBRUARY 23, 2015

    When My Mind Says "You Failed"
    LYNN COWELL

    "My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises." Psalm 57:7 (NLT)

    Fail. It’s a word I’ve heard my kids use when something goes wrong. Just plain "fail."

    It’s a word I know as well. Failure is what I felt when I’d done all I knew to do to make a large project successful. Yet, according to my measurement, I had fallen very short. All I could think was, You failed.

    I found my mind swirling, trying to process what happened. Confused, I wondered, God, why didn’t You help me? The project was for Him, after all. You would think He would have stepped up and helped me, at least in the way I was looking for help.

    What did I do wrong?

    Maybe I’m just not cut out for this?

    My confidence was gone.

    Can you recall a time when you thought you were doing what God wanted you to do, yet it didn’t turn out how you anticipated? Was your confidence shaken, not just in yourself, but in God?

    Friend, you are not alone. It’s so easy to lose our confidence when things aren’t going well.

    In today’s key verse, David speaks of confidence: "My heart is confident in you, O God."

    Reading these words, we might assume David wrote them when his life was going well, possibly moments away from marrying the king’s daughter and living happily ever after.

    His reality, in fact, was far from happy. As David penned these words, he was literally running from a mad man (King Saul) who not only wanted to kill him, but also had the power to do so. {You can read 1 Samuel, chapters 19-22, for more of this story.}

    When David wrote these words found in Psalm 57:7, "My heart is confident in you, O God; my heart is confident. No wonder I can sing your praises" – words filled with faith and hope – he was hiding in a cave. Not alone, but with 400 guys who were also running from trouble, in debt or just plain discontented with life as they knew it.

    Here, in this awful situation, David reaffirmed his security hadn’t changed even if his circumstances did. His confidence was still built on God.

    According to my study Bible, the word "confident" in the original Hebrew means: "set in place, make secure, to be made ready, be attached."

    I love this last definition: "be attached." My mind pictures a new bride, attached to someone who cares deeply about her, with her face glowing. Her relationship brings her confidence.

    David’s relationship brought him confidence as well. Despite his horrific circumstances, David experienced security and contentment because he knew God was with him even in those circumstances.

    God can make us brave whether our lives are coming together or falling apart. We can have a heart and mind that is set in place, secure and attached, even when our circumstances seem to say, "You failed."

    I want to be like David. Confidence attached to God. Unshaken by any situation or circumstances. Unable to hold back His praises.

    Dear Jesus, the way You define failure and the way we define failure is so very different. Help me see when my circumstances are a set-up, an opportunity to build my confidence in You. Always and only in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Hebrews 10:35, "So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded." (NIV)

    Philippians 4:12, "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (NIV)

    Ephesians 3:12, "In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you know a young woman who needs to learn to build her confidence on God instead of cues from culture? If so, Magnetic: Becoming the Girl He Wants, by Lynn Cowell, empowers young women to move beyond negative thoughts, capricious emotions and others’ opinions to gain unshakeable confidence.

    Visit Lynn’s blog today for 10 Verses For Building Unshakeable Confidence. She is also giving away a Confidence Combo — a set of resources to help you build your confidence on God.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Think of the last time something in your life didn’t go as planned and you felt like you’d failed. How did you respond? Were you able to press into God or did you struggle in self-defeat?

    Write out Hebrews 10:35 and place it where you experience the greatest struggle with your confidence: the scale, your desk, your calendar. Read this verse out loud, allowing God’s Word to fill your heart with His confidence in this area of your life.

    © 2015 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

  • On Dealing with Special Needs

    Posted on February 21, 2015 by Family Christian

    brat

    I will guarantee that many of you have said, overheard or seen sentiments like those pictured above. I know I did. I was one of those moms who had a perfect first child, and therefore thought I knew everything. I had no problem blaming the parents, blaming the doctors, blaming society for allowing "brats" who try to solve the problem by medicating them vs. discipline.

    Then, I had to eat my own words.

    I now find myself one of the first people to defend the child with the invisible disabilities. My second daughter was entirely different from my first. She was far more exuberant, and head strong. She had quirks about her that would make me question, from a very early age, if she suffered from some sort of disorder. I would find myself searching the internet, taking those "how to know if your child has _____" quizzes. My daughter was always the square peg in a world of round holes. Even within the scope of various disabilities, she didn't quite fit the profile. I would think briefly that she must be fine, but then with each developmental milestone we would (or should) hit ... I was searching again.

    When she was just around two years old, we got our first diagnosis. "Speech Delayed". We attended a few assessments, and had our sit down meeting to talk about her treatment plan. This was the first time someone referred to my daughter as disabled. It rocked me to my core. It doesn't matter what the diagnosis is, hearing that your child is disabled ... it takes your breath away. I cried the whole ride home. Someone actually put words to something I suspected all along. But, clearly, it wasn't just a speech delay. Many of the behaviors she was exhibiting, it was assumed, would correct themselves as she became more verbal.

    Her speech cleared up, but the quirks didn't. In some respects, it got worse.

    I remember, time and time again, telling people THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH HER. I actually wanted to know what it was, so I could help her. Answers evaded me. It was her second grade teacher that first mentioned autism, but my daughter didn't fit that profile either. Our next diagnosis was a positive one, GIFTED.

    I knew my daughter was exceptionally smart, which I think was part of what frustrated me about her behaviors. I couldn't wrap my head around why someone SO smart, couldn't see or correct her behaviors.

    It would not come until 5th grade that we would get another diagnosis. ADHD. You know the "brat disease", "excuse for parents who don't want to discipline their children disease", the "too lazy to parent their children disease".... yeah, that one. We would work our way through figuring out medications and dosage. What I couldn't be prepared for, was the response of others.

    "She is just being a kid, she doesn't need medication."

    "Have you tried changing her diet? I have read that _____ causes ADHD"

    "You don't have to give her medication. Mountain Dew or strong coffee will work just as well."

    "She is just head strong. You need to set firmer boundaries."

    They have no clue what it is like to live with a child that has ADHD. Let alone a GIFTED child, with ADHD. They live in a world, where their brains NEVER shut down. They are constantly on the go, on the move. They talk non stop, about everything, to the point of parental exhaustion. They are extreme about how they respond to everything. She is loud. She is intense. She is extreme. She is, exactly how God made her. And, she will happily tell you that.

    When you talk to someone about your child being disabled, and they say "She doesn't look disabled".... it hurts. They do not know what it is like to get a letter home EVERY DAY about your child's behavior, and the calls to the doctor that it may be time to increase her medication. Again. The same medication you were hoping to wean her off of in time, with the grand hope that you can help her learn to control her behavior.

    It is devastating to hear members of your own family speak about her disability. The one who calls her a "zombie" when she is on her medication. And the one, who says they can't handle her off her medication. When people who are her own blood won't babysit her because she is "too much" for them. She will spend the rest of her life unaware of the number of times she was rejected by her own family members. A burden my heart bears, to spare her.

    They also do not know what it is like to open your child's planner at the end of the school year... to find a note taped in the back. In her handwriting you see the words "Read Every Day". And, as any mom would, you open up the note to see these words written on a cheap valentines day class swap card....

    "I know some people thing you are weird,

    But I think you are awesome."

    It is great to see that someone sees the AMAZING side of your child. It is heart wrenching to know that your child needed that affirmation so much, she would put it into her planner... making sure to read it every day. She needed to know someone other than her parents (and God) liked her. She was alone, lonely.

    Everything changed when she started her medication. The notes stopped coming home. She started making friends. She was able to focus, and her behaviors stopped or at least were minimized. She has best friends now.

    In the church, it is easy for us to know how to respond to the child with a visible disability. We not only see it, but we are prepared for (or at least expecting) that we are going to need to be more patient, more hands on, more helpful and more understanding. We would be more cautious about what we said to the parents. Those parents hear things like "He had a hard day today, but we got through it" or "He did so well today!".

    When you are a parent of a child with an invisible disability, you hear things like.... "Wow, that one... she's a handful", usually accompanied by a look of complete exasperation on their face. When well meaning people off up a litany of suggestions on how to raise this child, you feel defeated. You feel judged. You feel like you are failing as a parent.

    We are now in the middle school years, and our daughter sits with us during Saturday night service. We do not give her medication on days when there is no school, we still hold out hope that she'll learn the coping skills to live off medication one day. Sitting with her, un-medicated, at Saturday night service is the equivalent to sitting with a toddler.

    She fidgets. She talks. She interrupts. She draws. She goes through the papers in the pew pockets. She touches people, gently. She asks a million questions. She hangs on you, pulls on you, sits on you. She sits up, she lays down.

    She can't help herself.

    She also sings with all her might. She raises her hands to the Lord, as she praises. She smiles bigger, and has a twinkle in her eye ... that melts your heart. She laughs with every muscle in her body. She is the embodiment of 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. She may ask a LOT of questions, but they are good questions. Pastor, despite her fidgeting... SHE HEARD EVERY WORD YOU SAID. With certainty, we will be discussing it later. You deposited that information into a vault, a bank she will pull from one day.

    How does the church minister to people like me, to my daughter?

    1) Recognize that unseen disorders are still REAL. These families need support too, they need help... they parent the child no one wants to babysit. When mom walks into the church late (again), looking like she just went through WWIII.... Smile at her, hug her, and connect to that child. The more you make the child feel welcome at the church, the easier it is for us to get them motivated to come.

    2) Be mindful of the words you speak, and the assumptions you make. You have no idea how hard it is to parent these children, every day choosing which battles you are going to fight. While yes, there may be parents who abuse the system, most of us do not. We love our children. We are doing everything we can for them to be successful now & in their future. We need your words of encouragement. When people make comments like the one in the picture above, they have no clue WHO they are saying it to. I've heard it. It makes me cringe. I'm that parent you are calling lazy, and unwilling to discipline. You don't even realize it.

    3) When you see the parent trying to wrangle them in, understand that THIS child REQUIRES different techniques and parenting. We are not being harsh, we are holding firm boundaries. We are still teaching them, and we appreciate your willingness to teach them as well. We appreciate your patience, and that you see the best in our kids. Don't let them get away with something, just because they have a disorder or disability. Just keep it in mind, as you choose how to handle it, that you are not dealing with an average kid. When in doubt, ask the parents.

    I know there are times when my daughter will be a distraction, and you will look. I expect the look. I appreciate the smile.

    For those of you reading this, who may have a child like mine sitting in your Sunday Service, there is HOPE.

    When the pressure is removed from the parents, when they understand that you love their kids... imperfections, quirks, and all... there is an enormous release. We can engage in your message, without worry about what our kid is doing every second. And you set the tone for others, when you (especially as Pastors and Elders) say it is ok... the body will follow. Your smiles, become their smiles. Your acceptance, becomes their acceptance.

    Use your knowledge of members in the body to connect us families together, but also with people in the body that have the skills. Tell us about that occupational therapist that can give us suggestions on getting through the service, or help train the Sunday School workers on how to deal with kids that have disabilities and disorders, particularly the invisible ones.

    And, consider having some of the following:

    juniorshieldGIVE THEM JOBS!!!! - Just because a child or teen has a disability or disorder, doesn't mean they don't have gifts and talents. Giving them a job as part of the service will allow them to plug in, feel important, and something to focus on. Many would love to be a greeter, pass out welcome packets, help pass out the offering baskets, etc. Even something as simple as having a few kids restock the pens and response cards in the pews between services, it can mean a lot. Be sure to speak with the parents first, to help identify the best area to serve.

    actionbible Have a few copies of The Action Bible tucked sporadically under pews or available as the kids come in the door. They are easy to follow, and can help capture the child's attention during the service. Mom and Dad will get to enjoy the message, and their child has something appropriate to keep them engaged.

    worshipbulletins Take a lesson from the Pros! Any restaurant that serves kids has special menus and packs of crayons for kids. Why? Because, they know that kids have a short attention span & patience is not one of their strong points. Children who are disabled will often find these same activities helpful, regardless of their age. Have something like, Worship Bulletins for Kids, available at the pews, in a basket near the door, or being distributed by greeters; they are cost effective and won't take up much space. You can choose to provide crayons, or just let the kids use the pens/pencils already in the pews.

    stickersEven something as simple as stickers is HUGE for kids, it's positive reinforcement & fun. The stickers can be kept at your Information Desk, and after service Mom, or Dad, can bring their child to pick up a sticker for sitting well through service. The parents can come up with a reward system for at home (certain # of stickers collected = reward). For many special needs kids, the sticker is enough. Parents will appreciate that it is not candy too! These Very Veggie Values stickers are perfect because they are fun, but also are learning tools.

    ----------------------------------------

    The great news is that you can find these resources all in one location, www.FamilyChristian.com , they also have an entire section of books for Families with Special Needs Kids including: autism, add, adhd, overeating, fragile x, downs syndrome, and more.

    These books not only are helpful to parents who have children that are special needs, but are great resources to children's ministry leaders and church staff. When you take the time to make an investment to understanding these kids in your church... you minister to our hearts in ways you never will truly understand. There are times when you will treat our kids better, kinder and more lovingly than some of their own relatives. You matter in their lives.

    ----------------------------------------

    Matthew 25:40 "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me."

    Matthew 18:10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven."

    Mark 10:14 He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."

    This was a guest post from blogger Gena M.  You can find from Gena on her blog:  www.genamccown.com

    genafacesmall

  • I Need to Hit the Refresh Button

    Posted on February 20, 2015 by Family Christian

    Wendy Pope FEBRUARY 20, 2015

    I Need to Hit the Refresh Button
    WENDY POPE

    "For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (NIV)

    It never fails. The moment I sit down to work at my computer, I’m interrupted.

    I tend to multi-task, so I can be writing a devotion, working on a speaking message or helping my high-schooler with research for a project, all at the same time. As a result, I often have multiple websites open.

    That’s when the interruptions start. Bzzztt.

    The buzzer rings to move the clothes from the washer to dryer. The water is boiling for spaghetti noodles. Inevitably, "Mom, I need your help!" bellows from the other room.

    Hours later when supper is over, the laundry’s completed and the problem is solved, I finally return to my computer. As my PC awakens I notice the opened websites look exactly the same as when I left them hours before. Untouched. Unchanged. Suspended in time.

    But as soon as I hit the refresh button, all the information on the untouched, unchanged, suspended-in-time pages turns instantly current.

    Something similar happens when we leave our Bibles untouched and then begin reading again. As we read in today’s key verse, God’s Word is "alive and active." Reading it refreshes our souls and can touch and change our lives.

    Recently while I was reading Psalm 23, King David’s words became alive and active. It felt like God hit the refresh button in my spirit to show me the current application of this familiar Psalm. Can I share with you how I was refreshed by these six short verses?

    "The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." (NLT)

    Refreshed, these ancient words reminded me:

    • He gives me all I need. (v1)
    • He lets me rest. (v2)
    • He leads me. (v2)
    • He renews me. (v3)
    • He guides me. (v3)
    • He keeps me company. (v4)
    • He protects me. (v4)
    • He raises me up. (v5)
    • He honors me. (v5)
    • He pursues me. (v6)
    • He will spend eternity with me. (v6)

    Do you feel refreshed? I know I do. God’s Word has power. Each time we read it, words penned thousands of years ago come to life over and over again! His Word is truly alive and active. God longs to touch and change our lives each day with His power. I just love God’s Word! And I pray if you don’t already, some day you will, too.

    Dear Lord, thank You for leaving Your Word for me to read. Help me experience its power in my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:15, "I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways." (NIV)

    Psalm 119:93, "I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Trusting God for a Better Tomorrow: A Study of Psalms by Wendy Pope can help you "hit refresh" to see God’s Word come alive.

    Would you like to bring the message of this devotion to the women of your church? Click here to find out more about considering Wendy Pope as your next retreat or keynote speaker. You can also visit Wendy’s blog for more on living redeemed.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are your thoughts about God’s Word being alive and active? Have an honest conversation with God about them.

    If you’re struggling to feel refreshed from His Word, tell God you’re inviting Him to help you hit the refresh button in your own life.

    Read Psalm 119. In your journal, write all the new and fresh insights you learn from God’s Word.

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Wedding Prayer, A Marriage Prayer

    Posted on February 19, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 19, 2015

    A Wedding Prayer, A Marriage Prayer
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry." Psalm 34:15 (NIV)

    When my husband Art and I got married, we had a tough time transitioning from being two independent people into a unified couple. We didn’t have huge marriage issues to overcome — we had a lot of little everyday annoyances that started to chip away at the foundation of our relationship.

    Slowly, we stopped seeing all we had and started focusing on all that was lacking in each other.

    Honestly, enjoying each other got lost in all the efforts to fix each other. And that can be so disillusioning.

    It can open your marriage up to a world of attack and the temptation to think, Did I marry the wrong person? I didn’t know it was going to be this hard.

    Do you ever find yourself in this place? Me too.

    The other day I came across the prayer Art’s dad prayed at our wedding. And it occurred to me this is much more than a wedding prayer. It’s a marriage prayer.

    As I read back over this prayer, I am amazed at how God has answered so many of the requests intertwined in the words. This was being prayed over two broken, fragile, headstrong, needing-to-learn-a-lot individuals. Individuals who five years into our marriage weren’t sure we were going to make it. But we did.

    And so can you.

    I would encourage you to take your spouse’s hand and either have someone read this prayer over you or read it together. Use it as a reminder and recommitment.

    And if your marriage isn’t at a place where that’s possible, pray this in the quiet shrine of your heart. As our key verse, Psalm 34:15 tells us, God hears you. He knows. He loves you. He will show you the way.

    Father in Heaven, thank You for this husband, ______, and wife, _______, and their commitment to Christian marriage. As we look ahead, we pray that their future will never lack the convictions that make a marriage strong.

    Bless this husband, ______. Bless him as provider and protector. Sustain him in all the pressures that come with the task of stewarding a family. May his strength be his wife’s boast and pride, and may he so live that his wife may find in him the haven for which the heart of a woman truly longs.

    Bless this wife, ______. Give her a tenderness that makes her great, a deep sense of understanding, and a strong faith in You. Give her that inner beauty of a soul that never fades, that eternal youth that is found in holding fast to the things that never age. May she so live that her husband may be pleased to reverence her in the shrine of his heart.

    Teach them that marriage is not living for each other. It is two people uniting and joining hands to serve You. Give them a great spiritual purpose in life. May they seek first Your kingdom and Your righteousness, knowing that You will sustain them through all of life’s challenges.

    May they minimize each other’s weaknesses and be swift to praise and magnify each other’s strengths so that they might view each other through a lover’s kind and patient eyes. Help them every day to be kind and gentle, more like You. Give them a little something to forgive each day, that their love might learn to be long-suffering.

    Bless them and develop their characters as they walk together with You. Give them enough hurts to keep them humane, enough failures to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours, and enough of success to make them sure they walk with You throughout all of their life.

    May they never take each other’s love for granted but always experience that breathless wonder that exclaims, "Out of all this world, you have chosen me." Then, when life is done and the sun is setting, may they be found then as now, still hand in hand, still very proud, still thanking You for each other.

    May they travel together as friends and lovers, brother and sister, husband and wife, father and mother, and as servants of Christ until He shall return or until that day when one shall lay the other into the arms of God. This we ask through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, the Great Lover of our souls. Amen.1

    ~ ~ ~ Dear Lord, thank You for the opportunity to come before Your throne with every concern I have and blessing I desire for my marriage. I pray these blessings over my husband and myself today, believing You will do immeasurably more in us than we can imagine. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    1 Adapted from Dr. Louis H. Evans’ Marriage Prayer for Bride and Groom.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 5:14, "This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If you feel like your marriage is constantly getting your "less" instead of your "best," learn to re-prioritize with Lysa’s book, The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands.

    Pop over to Lysa’s blog today for a free, printable version of this marriage prayer! Download yours here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Take time each day this week to pray specifically for your marriage and spouse. Ask God to breathe new life into your relationship and show you anything He wants to bring to your attention.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • What Do I Have to Prove?

    Posted on February 18, 2015 by Family Christian

    Glynnis Whitwer FEBRUARY 18, 2015

    What Do I Have to Prove?
    GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice." Proverbs 12:15 (NIV)

    A new city, new neighborhood and new school for my children had me feeling very new, too. And insecure. And lonely. And wondering, How would I ever fit in and feel a part of this new community?

    So when my children brought home a flyer for the PTO (Parent/Teacher Organization) meeting, I stuck it to the refrigerator, marked the date on the calendar and decided this was the perfect first step to meet other moms like myself. But that wasn’t all, I also wanted to use my experience and talents somehow.

    The meeting night came, and after a few wrong turns on the unfamiliar campus, I saw a light glowing through the library door. I rushed across the breezeway and walked in with seconds to spare. I’d hoped to meet a few people before the meeting started, but every table was filled with smiling, laughing, we-are-already-friends women. So instead I found a back table, and sat next to a father who seemed as out-of-place as I felt.

    Discussion centered around teacher mini-grants, playground equipment, trees and the annual t-shirt sale. The organization was very well run, and at first it seemed they had no need for me. Until the Spring Fun Fest conversation began.

    Then it became apparent they needed someone to organize the snack bar. The room was silent when they asked for volunteers. Of course, I should have asked what was involved, but I’d been organizing projects since I led my childhood friends into starting clubs, putting on plays and hosting backyard fundraising carnivals. So I raised my hand, and found myself in charge of running all the food service for the event.

    You know that feeling when you are in your sweet spot? That’s how I felt organizing the snack bar. This was something I could do easily. I got myself a new pocket folder to keep my notes, added some crisp lined paper and started making lists. People to call, things to buy, supplies we’d need. They were going to be amazed at how well this was organized! Maybe it would even be the best snack bar EVER!

    Everything was going great, and then the next PTO meeting arrived. One of the other moms, a veteran PTO gal, walked up to me with a huge smile and said, "I found a great sale on soda, so I picked up some for the snack bar. Let me show you where I stored it."

    Rather than appreciating a kind gesture from someone who knew how much work the snack bar really was, I immediately felt defensive. Did she think I wasn’t capable of buying soda for a snack bar?

    I followed her to a storage room and saw stacks of soda — every variety. At that moment, I should have been grateful. I should have oozed thankfulness. But I didn’t. She sensed something was wrong, but didn’t quite know what, and the moment got very awkward.

    My insecurities came from a deep desire to prove myself worthy. To show I have what it takes. When my abilities were questioned (at least in my eyes), I felt like a porcupine with its quills standing at attention. And my potential new friend felt the sting of the barbs.

    Rather than walking into that situation with humility, I walked in with pride. Rather than asking for advice and help, I tried to prove something by doing it alone. My approach hindered what my heart really wanted to do: make friends.

    God later convicted me of my prideful attitude, and used that situation to teach me an important lesson that has stayed with me:

    I need to walk into every new situation with something to learn, not something to prove.

    Being a know-it-all isn’t God’s way nor is it the wise way. In fact, the book of Proverbs is clear that wisdom comes from humility. Our key verse says, "The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice" (Proverbs 12:15).

    As I’ve practiced this approach over the years, I’ve learned it’s much easier to make friends. Plus, I’ve learned I really don’t know the best way for everything. God still has new things for me to learn every day, and He usually uses people to teach me. Even when I’m in my sweet spot.

    Father, thank You for teaching me Your ways are always best. Help me approach every new situation with a heart that is open and gentle, ready to learn whatever new things You have for me that day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Ecclesiastes 4:13, "It is better to be a poor but wise youth than an old and foolish king who refuses all advice." (NLT)

    Proverbs 19:20, "Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    I Used to Be So Organized by Glynnis Whitwer can help you manage the emotional and practical sides of being overwhelmed.

    Visit Glynnis on her blog today for more encouragement on dealing with defensiveness.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Maybe you’ve experienced a time when wanting to prove yourself caused a conflict. What lesson(s) could God want you to uncover from a past mistake?

    What needs to change in your heart to walk into the next new situation ready to learn?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Remember Whose You Are

    Posted on February 17, 2015 by Family Christian

    Tracie Miles FEBRUARY 17, 2015

    Remember Whose You Are
    TRACIE MILES

    "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God." John 1:12 (NLT)

    Because of mistakes in my past, I spent a lot of years not liking the woman who stared back at me in the mirror.

    Maybe you’ve been there, too. Maybe you’ve even played the "wonder" game, like I did, for far too long.

    Wondering who you really were. Wondering if you were forgivable. Wondering if you were worthy. Wondering if you were loved by God and others. Wondering if you were lovable. Wondering if you were beyond repair. Wondering if what someone did to hurt you stole your value. Wondering if you were a good enough person, wife, mom, employee, boss, sister, daughter, friend, servant. Wondering if you measured up in any area of life.

    Maybe you still wonder if your life counts for something beyond your responsibilities and obligations, or if you were just meant to march through your daily routines with no real purpose or direction. Maybe you wonder if the lies you hear in your head are true: that not only does your life not matter to God, but that you probably don’t matter either.

    Today’s key verse is a reminder that these whispers from the enemy are nothing but lies. We are each royal heirs to God’s kingdom, but sometimes life gets in the way of that truth. We think we are either too sinful or too messed up to be loved by a Savior, or that our past voids our chances of being loved by God, much less useful to Him.

    Whether we are the sinner or the victim of a sinner, shame can slither in and shape the way we see ourselves. Then it becomes easy for the enemy’s deceptive and damaging schemes to weave a web of lies deep into our hearts and minds. Gradually, we lose sight of who we are in Christ, which is exactly what the devil wants us to do.

    Satan’s ultimate goal is to get us to believe the lies, and live them out in our everyday lives, apart from God. But it is up to us whether he reaches that goal or not. We can thwart his plans by claiming God’s sovereignty over our hearts once and for all.

    It’s possible you have been living in the shadow of the enemy’s lies, either because of your own mistakes or because of someone else’s choices to sin against you. I wasted many years believing the enemy’s lies were absolute truths. When I finally began to believe I did matter to God, I thwarted the enemy’s plans and began to follow God’s instead.

    If you have been living the lie, too discouraged to allow yourself to believe how much God loves you, or too ashamed of your past to accept God’s gift of grace and mercy, let today become the day you begin seeing yourself in a new light with a new reflection looking back at you. Be proud of who you see in the mirror, not because of who you are, but because of Whose you are.

    Today’s key verse reminds us that we are, without question, beloved children of God. As Beth Moore once said, "If you are not royalty, He is not King." We are rightful heirs to God’s kingdom — and His love and acceptance. You are a royal and dearly loved daughter, and He is the King of all kings!

    Oh Lord, how I want to break free from the pain and shame of my past and embrace who I am in You. Cleanse my heart and mind of the lies I have believed, and transform the reflection I see in the mirror into a dearly loved child of God. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 139:14, "Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous — how well I know it." (NLT)

    Matthew 10:31, "So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you long to begin seeing yourself in a different light, accept how valuable you are to Christ, and discover a divine purpose for your life, not despite your past, but because of it? Sign up for Tracie’s free online Bible study of Your Life Still Counts, which begins March 16th! Click here for all the information.

    Tracie is giving away three Your Life Still Counts gift packs valued at $35 each. Visit her blog for more information and find out how to enter!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What occurred in your past that has caused you to believe the lie that God may not love you? How might accepting His truths change your life today?

    Write the lie or lies you have believed for far too long — those thoughts about yourself that God does not agree with. Surrender them to God today and ask Him to help you begin seeing yourself through His eyes, instead of your own.

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The God Who Holds the Stars, Holds You

    Posted on February 16, 2015 by Family Christian

    Sally Clarkson FEBRUARY 16, 2015

    The God Who Holds the Stars, Holds You
    Sally Clarkson

    "Even the darkness is not dark to You, And the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You." Psalm 139:12 (NASB)

    "Mama, the world seems like a very scary place, and it makes me feel insecure and powerless. I’m afraid I’ll be so lonely without friends and family to face the difficulties ahead."

    Joy, my daughter, a senior in college, was leaving the next day for a semester of study in Oxford, England. Yet the day we were packing, ISIS had just killed the second of two American journalists. Friends sent messages to Joy wondering if she had seen the news.

    "England will be the next target, and that might start war while you are there," one of her friends texted. With devastating, disastrous world news including earthquakes, war, immorality amongst Christian leaders … as a young woman, Joy understandably felt overwhelmed.

    Late into the night, we zipped her last suitcase. We were both exhausted from the adrenalin of getting all the details in place for her flight the next day, but she pleaded "Can we have one last time together out on the grass, under the stars? I need some peace before I go to bed."

    I knew her fears were still there, so I whispered, "Yes, my sweets! We will make one more memory together before you go."

    As was our habit, we took some soft, old blankets out to our front yard, under the tall pines, and lay next to each other shoulder to shoulder on the grass. The cold Colorado mountain air blew gently across our faces, and the aspen leaves in the distance swished and danced. A dog barked in the distance, but otherwise, the night whispered clear and quiet.

    We gazed into the sky and silently shared the moment. Stars filled the navy blue landscape and sparkled as though just for us. We breathed out life’s clutter and fears of the day and inhaled the peacefulness of the grandeur above.

    "Mama, when I look at what God has done, and keep my eyes on Him, it seems like my fears are melting away," she whispered and snuggled closer.

    God’s own voice seemed to speak to my heart as I answered:

    "Joy, this vast display of stars has been held in place by the sure, strong hands of God for thousands of years, through wars, tragedies, sadness and disasters of every kind. Not one year of our history has shaken the power or control of God."

    "As I lived through years of sleepless nights when you were gasping for breath with asthma, through car wrecks, financial disasters, the tragedies of our friends, I can look back and see the constant faithfulness of God, every day, every year.

    "Our God who created this beauty for us to behold, who has shown His power through the calm night skies is the one who will be with you every step of your journey ahead.

    "He will fill you with the Spirit who threw the night sky into place, so that you will know His companionship, love, beauty and wisdom each step in your journey. Remember what He told Joshua when he was afraid: ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go’ (Joshua 1:9, NASB).

    "Joy, God prepared a story of faith for you to live. Many in Oxford long to know His love that you will bring. Others who look for meaning will need the messages of His truth that are stored in your soul. Beauty will be strewn across your path so you can observe His fingerprints.

    "Your hope and faith are needed by those who are filled with despair in these dark times. If you embrace the days ahead that He has prepared for you, your time in Oxford will be a purposeful time, no matter what the days hold. Wherever you go, you will bring His light and love.

    "But remember, Joy, you will always have a choice to make.

    "If you look at the darkness and fear of the news of the day, you will grow dark in your soul.

    "Look to God. Choose to trust Him with your days. Live in His reality.

    "Don’t look at fear, just keep the memory of this night, His power and beauty always in your thoughts — and you will find courage and hope that you need every day. The God who holds the stars holds you."

    Heavenly Father, let us keep our gaze upon You and rest in Your ability to carry us through all of our fears, through all of our days. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Joshua 1:9, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go." (NASB)

    Isaiah 41:10, "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." (NASB)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you want to live a life of impact? In her book, Own Your Life, Sally Clarkson shows you how to build an intentional life.

    Visit Sally’s blog for more encouragement.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. In celebration of this book, Sally’s publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, February 23.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Consider the ways you have seen God’s faithful guidance to you this year.

    What fears do you need to lay into His hands?

    © 2015 by Sally Clarkson. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • The Shape of True Love

    Posted on February 13, 2015 by Family Christian

    Alicia Bruxvoort FEBRUARY 13, 2015

    The Shape of True Love
    ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "God sent His only Son into the world so that we could find true life through Him. This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins." 1 John 4:9b-10 (VOICE)

    The first time I danced with my husband my nose came up to his armpit. We were swaying straight-armed beneath the disco ball at our eighth grade graduation party, and I joked about how I hoped he’d used plenty of deodorant that day. His face turned crimson, the red rising from his neck, as he solemnly promised that he was protected with a double-dose.

    I’d stood on my tiptoes in an effort to shrink the gap, but even with my hair ratted and sprayed as high as an ‘80s girl could manage, that boy loomed tall above me.

    Of course, I had no idea I was dancing with my future husband that night in the junior high gym. I never would have guessed that six years later we’d trade the sheen of a disco ball for the gleam of rings and pledge to love one another ‘til death do us part.

    Though we were no longer gangly teens on our wedding day, my groom still towered 10 inches above me. But I wasn’t bothered by my armpit view on that special day; I’d set my sights on the heights of love.

    I’d given my husband a hand-written letter just hours before I’d walked down the aisle, the words scrawled across the page capturing my hopes for the future: "No matter what life sends our way, our love will always stand tall …"

    It was a poetic line, not unlike one you might find on a Valentine’s card this month. But after 21 years of marriage, I’ve come to believe my sentiments were wrong.

    Love is, indeed, a sacred and lofty gift, but two decades of loving and learning has taught me that the mark of true love isn’t height, it’s humility. True love doesn’t stand tall; it bends low.

    As we see in today’s key verse, God sent Jesus to demonstrate how true love is sacrificial at its core.

    True love stoops to pick up the trash bag sitting near the kitchen door and crouches to look a sullen child in the eye.

    True love bows to change diapers and to shovel snow, to deliver goodnight kisses and offer hugs.

    True love bends over the dishwasher and over the sick child. True love hovers over the hurting and kneels quietly in prayer.

    True love chooses to be righteous instead of right, servant instead of master, humble instead of haughty.

    Let’s be honest, true love isn’t headline news. It’s not greeting card verse. It’s not blockbuster buzz. True love is Heaven’s hope, as we see in 1 John 4:10: "This is the embodiment of true love: not that we have loved God first, but that He loved us and sent His unique Son on a special mission to become an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

    God didn’t declare His love for us with a bouquet of red roses. He didn’t wrap up a box of fine chocolates or a flowery card. Instead, God wrapped His only Son in wrinkled flesh and proclaimed His undying love on Calvary’s cross.

    It’s crazy when you think about it, the way the truest love of all stooped the lowest — so we might know the summit of His glorious love.

    I didn’t realize it as a starry-eyed bride, but the heights of love can only be discovered in the depths of surrender. It sounds unnatural, doesn’t it? Impossible … on our own.

    But 1 John 4:14-17 tells us that when we confess Christ as our Lord, He perfects His love in us. And as the stooping Savior makes Himself at home in our hearts, our lives proclaim the truth that the whole world longs to hear:

    The shape of true love isn’t a diamond. It’s a cross.

    Dear Jesus, Thank You for loving me with a true and unshakeable love. Grow in me a humble heart so that Your perfect love can shine through my imperfect life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 John 4:11-12, "My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us — perfect love!" (MSG)

    I John 4:17, "God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us …" (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Lynn Cowell’s Devotions for a Revolutionary Year can help you or a young woman in your life begin each day with a reminder of Christ’s true love.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog today for more encouragement and for your chance to win a true-love giveaway!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one way you can "bend low in love" today?

    Send a friendly text or write a thank-you note this week to someone who has "stooped low in love" for you.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • 3 Ways to Find Life-Giving Relationships

    Posted on February 12, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 12, 2015

    3 Ways to Find Life-Giving Relationships
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works." Hebrews 10:24 (ESV)

    I pressed my forehead against my front door window while tears quietly slipped down my cheeks. I watched my husband pull out of the driveway and head off to another day at work. I then turned to look at what my day would hold — a crying baby, a messy house and an overwhelming feeling of dread. How could this be?

    I finally had everything I ever thought would make me happy, fulfilled, significant and satisfied, yet I was more miserable and lonely than I’d ever been. Finally realizing a great husband, healthy baby and a comfortable house with a flowerbed planted out front, weren’t the answers to ultimate happiness in life, rattled my soul to the core.

    There are deep places within our soul that God hand-designed and reserved only for Him to fill.

    But my whole life had been focused on getting these other things that I thought would fill me up. So when they fell short, I slid to the ground and cried, "God, I can’t do this. Where do I go from here? How do I find You? Help me!"

    A few weeks later, my husband called and said there was a woman in his restaurant who wanted to meet me. I glanced down at my spit-covered sweatpants, ran my hands through my greasy hair, and willed my mind to override the desire to pass on meeting her that day.

    I couldn’t handle the relationships I had in my life, I certainly couldn’t make time for more. Plus, if I got too close to women who appeared to have their lives together, they’d judge me for the pitiful way mine was falling apart. I just didn’t have the whitespace for anything but my family.

    But that was exactly the problem. I was giving everything I had to my family with nothing to fill me back up, no one to encourage me past the hard spots, and no one to share practical advice because she’d been there, done that.

    So, I crammed my diaper bag full and headed out the door.

    Over the years, I’ve thought about that pivotal decision to pursue and embrace the necessity of friendships. Not only have they helped me personally, my friendships have been crucial to my success (and sometimes survival) in my roles as wife and mom as well. They’ve made our key verse, Hebrews 10:24, come to life for me.

    What I once thought would take away from my family, has proven to add a richness I couldn’t have gotten any other way.

    If you can relate to the season I was in, here are 3 practical ways to find life-giving friendships:

    1) Find a friend who does something well that you wish you were better at.

    It may be managing paper piles, cooking, organizing kids’ rooms, creatively loving her husband, effectively disciplining her kids or a hundred other things. Whatever it is, ask her if you could spend time observing how she does what she does so well. Women love to talk about things they do well.

    2) Choose a friend with whom you feel comfortable to pray.

    There is no better gift we can give our families than to be wives and moms who pray. Praying with a friend about our families will not only knit our hearts closer to the ones we love, but to that friend as well.

    3) Pursue a friendship with someone who is one stage behind where you are in life.

    Offer them practical help in their area of stress and weave in the wisdom you gained as you went through that same stage.

    Why not spend some time today praying for the friends you have and the friends you’ve yet to meet? God loves to answer those friendship prayers! And trust me on this — go ahead and wash your hair, just in case you get a call like I did all those years ago.

    Dear Lord, You know the friendships I need in this season of my life. So I’m praying today for the friends I have right now and ones I have yet to meet. Help me be a God-honoring friend who always points them back to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:16, "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Relationships help nourish us in ways nothing else can! Learn how to be intentional in your most treasured relationships with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. Purchase your copy here.

    Gather your closest friends and hold The Best Yes Bible study in your home! Click here to get started.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Consider the three friendship points Lysa talked about today. Choose one and pursue it this week!

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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