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Author Archives: Family Christian

  • Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College: Part One, The Tests

    Helping Your Child Get Into Their Dream College

    Part One, The Tests

    Ciera Horton

     

    It’s that time of year again, with college students heading back, seniors preparing to apply to school, and parents pulling out the tissue boxes. As I return for my junior year of college and my sister prepares to graduate from high school, I’ve seen all the emotional responses in my own family. “My baby is growing up so fast! They’re moving away! How often will they come home? Will they have everything they need? Are they really ready? Am I really ready?”

    Advice for Parents

    Parents, if your child is looking towards applying to their dream schools, you have the opportunity to help them make their goals achievable. College may be overwhelming, but if you stand by your student, then this can be an adventure you embark on together. In this article series, we are going to be examining some of the most common questions, concerns and confusions regarding the college application process. As a student myself at the Christian liberal arts school Wheaton College in Illinois, I know from experience how to prepare for standardized tests, apply for private scholarships, gather letters of recommendation, give a winning interview and write a memorable entrance essay. At the end of my college prep, I got my ideal test scores, earned over $42,000 in private scholarships and made it to my dream school. So let’s get started!  1. What is the difference between the SAT and ACT? Does my child need both? Both the SAT and ACT are official standardized tests that most colleges accept and require. The SAT is a logic and critical thinking style test that will examine your child’s problem solving skills. The subjects on the test are Math, Critical Reading, Writing and the Essay. The Math section will cover basic Algebra and Geometry, but not Precalculus and Trigonometry, and your child can use a standard calculator on this exam. Critical Reading will provide your child with a passage based response section examining their comprehension. Writing is actually a grammar section testing their knowledge of parts of speech and vocabulary. Lastly, there is the essay; your child will have 25 minutes to respond to a prompt in a short written exercise. The number one key to this is having a succinct thesis (single argument or main point) which they then support with logical analysis. If a question is answered incorrectly on the SAT, there is a deduction of 1/4 a point. The highest possible SAT score is a 2400. The ACT is similar, however the Math section does have Precalculus and some Trigonometry. The benefit, however, is that there is no point deduction for incorrect answers. In addition, there is a Science section — this part of the test does not necessarily ask questions based on high school science classes, but instead asks your child to analyze graphing and data provided in sample problems. The highest possible ACT score is a 36. When applying to colleges, students typically need scores from at least one of the two options, but you will want to check each school’s requirements individually.

    2. How do I know when the SAT and ACT are being offered? How do I register my child? You can find the dates for the SAT online at the official CollegeBoard website here https:// sat.collegeboard.org/register. Instructions are provided on how to register your child. You can sign up for the ACT on the official website here: http://www.actstudent.org/regist/.

    3. What is super-scoring and how might it help me? Super-scoring is the standardized testing miracle! It allows you to combine your highest scores form different times the test was taken. For example, if your student gets a 25 on ACT Math and 32 ACT Writing on their first try, but then takes the test the next year and gets a 30 ACT Math and 29 ACT Writing, you can show only the highest scores from each category on your transcript. It will only show 30 ACT Math (from the second try) and 32 ACT Writing (from the first). Talk to your school guidance counselor about super-scoring.

    4. How can I help my child study for the tests? The best way to help your child is to actually make them study. A high majority of students don’t practice or do any sample problems before walking in on testing day. This is like trying to win a sports championship without ever showing up for a team practice! Here are some easy tips. A) Have the SAT Question of the Day delivered to your child’s Inbox every day. The official CollegeBoard website provides this wonderful study tool and will send an email with a practice question to you and/or your student. It’s definitely worth subscribing! When I was in high school, my parents assigned this question to me every day and I was required to do it, but the continual review kept me prepared. B) Buy the official SAT Practice Book. There are so many SAT guide books out there from Princeton review and other text book companies. I would recommend getting the official CollegeBoard book, since the CollegeBoard is the organization that actually administrates the official test. This book comes with instructions, tips and several sample tests. My recommendation is to have your student do all of them. C) Sign up for an SAT Workshop. My favorite was the CollegePrep Genius course taught by Jean Burke. She helps students learn how to think like the test writers and analyze the questions appropriately.

    5. How many times should my child take the SAT or ACT? They should take the test as many times as they need to get the ideal test scores for their school of choice. You can look online to find the average accepted SAT and ACT scores for each school. If your child is applying to Vanderbilt, then make sure their scores are in the goal range for what the school accepts.

    6. What is an SAT Subject Test? A Subject Test is similar to an AP exam. This is where a student can demonstrate expertise in a specific category that is not on the general test. Options include American History, Calculus, Physics, Chemistry, foreign languages and many others. Some schools allow high scores in these tests to exempt freshmen from 100 level intro courses.

    7. What is National Merit and how can my child qualify? The National Merit scholarship is a prestigious honor given to students whose standardized test scores meet a specific requirement. This is only given for students who have taken the PSAT, which is the pre-SAT. Students can only qualify during their junior year, but they should definitely take it as a freshman or sophomore to practice. If your student is a junior, then have them study for and take the PSAT. If they qualify, they could receive full ride scholarships to college. Preparing for college may be a busy and confusing time. For the students, it’s a new challenge and threshold, one that will push them farther than they knew was possible and give them the chance to define their own identity. For you parents, it’s a time to help your student achieve their goals and start a new life. Stay tuned for tips on writing the application essays, winning scholarships, delivering interviews and helping your child set off on the great adventure of college.

    “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

    Advice for Parents With Dr. Philip Ryken, President of Wheaton College, presenting the certificate for the Outstanding First Year Student Award, Class of 2017!

    Bio: Ciera is a unique blend of academic and artistic: she is a writer and world traveler, a lover of old books and swing dancing, and a student at Wheaton College in Chicago.  She shares her culturally-engaging outlook on literature, education and social hot topics for the Christian millennial on her blog, www.cierahorton.blogspot.com.

    Advice for Parents
  • When Bedhead is Beautiful

    Alicia Bruxvoort SEPTEMBER 4, 2015

    When Bedhead is Beautiful ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "A friend loves at all times …" Proverbs 17:17a (NIV)

    I’d forgotten I was sporting a rumpled crown of bedhead until my 3-year-old put on a pair of heart-shaped sunglasses and shimmied right up to the couch where I was sitting.

    I caught a glimpse of myself in the silver lenses, my hair standing straight on end and my eyes rung with smudges of yesterday’s mascara. And I laughed out loud at the shocking sight.

    After a harried morning of getting my school-age children out the door, I was desperate for connection. So after dropping my kids at school, I decided to swing by a friend’s house without worrying about my uncombed hair or my old ratty sweat pants. I might have looked like a woman in disarray, but in that moment, my whole world felt right.

    My friend sat cross-legged on the couch beside me, her white T-shirt stained with a yellowed streak of spit up. For all I knew, she’d slept in that stretched-out T-shirt, rising in the darkness to feed the newborn who now nestled in her lap. But that hadn’t stopped her from inviting me in when I’d knocked on her door that morning with a bag of donuts and two steamy mugs of coffee.

    Dirty breakfast dishes were piled high on the kitchen table. Toys were strewn across the floor, but we perched together in the mess and talked above the roar.

    I confessed my latest parenting flop, and she admitted her struggle with impatience. We swapped prayer requests and potty-training tales, shared recent challenges and victories.

    We wiped noses and mediated arguments, refilled sippy cups and reheated our coffee. And as the kids played at our feet, we asked those hard questions about marriage and motherhood, about daring to dream and walking by faith.

    A droopy-diapered toddler grabbed a banana and began to croon into his make-shift microphone like a star-studded soloist. So we set down our coffee cups and clapped along with the impromptu rock concert unfolding in the living room.

    And as my friend’s laughter rose above the musical clatter, I wondered how many sweet moments I’d missed before I learned this liberating truth: True friends don’t need to have it all together to enjoy being together.

    True friends don’t need to tidy up their lives before they can share them. They don’t need to figure out all the answers before they can voice meaningful questions. True friends don’t need guises; they just need grace.

    Today’s key verse reminds us how God’s recipe for friendship is built on presence, not perfection.

    A true friend is willing to be present in every situation, even when there are breakfast dishes on our tables or stains on our shirts, even when there are muddles in our marriage or struggles in our soul.

    A true friend loves at all times … in the glory and the grit, the bedlam and the beauty, because that’s how Jesus loves.

    We have a Savior who willingly steps into our messy lives and offers us the gift of His friendship. And because His Spirit lives in us, we can do the same for others.

    So, let’s tear down the facades and build up some faith. Let’s shatter the guises and scatter some grace.

    Let’s ask Jesus to show us someone who needs a friend who loves at all times. And then, let’s offer her the perfect present of our imperfect presence.

    It may not be comfortable. It may not be easy. But, in time, it will be beautiful.

    My daughter danced up to the couch where my friend and I sat sipping our luke-warm coffee, and she planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek. Then she twirled like a ballerina and landed in my lap with a giggle.

    "You look lovely, Mommy," she proclaimed as she patted my crazy tufts of un-combed hair and raised her eyebrows at me above the rims of those shiny shades.

    I winked at my little girl and returned her happy grin. And I wondered if bedhead looks different through a heart-shaped lens.

    Kind of like looking at ourselves through the eyes of a true friend.

    Dear Jesus, I want to be the kind of friend to others that You have been to me. Help me offer someone the perfect present of my imperfect presence today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:12-14, "My commandment to you is this: love others as I have loved you. There is no greater way to love than to give your life for your friends. You celebrate our friendship if you obey this command." (VOICE)

    Proverbs 18:24b, "… a true friend is closer than a brother." (VOICE)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Get to know the Friend who loves you most through this daily collection of devotions.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog for more encouragement and for a "true friendship give-away."

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Schedule a "bedhead date" with a friend. (You could even sport some pajamas.) Spend time together without any fuss or facades. Just enjoy being together.

    Ask Jesus to show you someone in your life who needs a friend. Do something to get to know that person better.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Who I Am Doesn’t Feel Good Enough

    Lysa TerKeurst SEPTEMBER 3, 2015

    Who I Am Doesn’t Feel Good Enough LYSA TERKEURST

    "‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’" Luke 1:38a (NIV)

    Several years ago I sat in a seminar listening to a very organized mom talking about how she parented her kids. She was an amazing woman; a super mom in my eyes.

    I held up my feeble efforts with my three toddlers and determined I stunk as a mother. Who I was just didn’t feel good enough. So I thought maybe if I went home and imitated her, I could enter into the world of super moms.

    I mentally listed what I discerned must be her secret to success and set about to be just like her. But it didn’t take long before I was absolutely miserable. I mentally beat myself up for not having what it obviously took to be a great mom. What was wrong with me?

    I begged God to make me just like her — that really good mom. And then one day in Bible study I read the story of Mary, the teenage mother of Jesus. My heart beat fast as I realized she didn’t meet the standard of super mom I’d set for myself.

    Somehow, just as she was, God chose her to be Jesus’ mother. And the only qualification she seemed to have was her willingness. We see her trust in God’s plan in our key verse, Luke 1:38a: "‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.‘"

    So I made the choice to try and let go of all those expectations I had for myself as a mom. I let go of the comparisons to other moms. I laid down the measuring stick of perfection. And I simply bowed my head and gave God my willingness.

    Slowly, I started to see my own unique qualities as a mom instead of always focusing on the places I felt I fell so short. I may not be the most organized mom, but I’m a fun mom willing to drop my to-do list in the name of spontaneity.

    I may not do sit-down devotions with my kids every morning, but I’m good at helping my kids see God working in situations all throughout our days.

    I may not be able to even sew a hem, but I know where to find a seamstress who is amazing.

    I may not always keep my cool in the everyday aggravations of life, but throw something big at me and somehow I’ll be the calmest person in the room.

    Sure I have a lot of room for growth in my mothering. God and I work on things daily. But over the past 10 years I’ve learned how to embrace who I am and the beauty of living fully as me.

    And while I still fall short at times, I’m finally embracing that being fully me is so much better than an imitation version of someone else.

    I have the exact qualities God knew my kids would need in a mother. So, each day I hold up my willingness and ask God to make me the best version of me I can be.

    Dear Lord, I lift up my willingness to You today in all areas of my life — at home, at work, in ministry, and in my relationships. My greatest desire is to be the woman You’ve called me to be and not anyone else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 15:16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit — fruit that will last — and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you." (NIV)

    Jeremiah 1:5, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Part of seeing yourself through God’s eyes involves knowing what His Word says. We’d love to have you join us dig deep into Scripture as we journey through Genesis on the First 5 mobile app! Download it today for free.

    The Book of Genesis Experience Guide complements each day’s teaching and will help you grow in your faith, as you reflect and respond to what you’re learning through First 5. Order yours today!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What area of your life have you been comparing to another person’s?

    Remember this week that God has given you the qualities you need to match the position He’s called you to. Pray that He will help you to embrace this truth instead of comparing yourself to others.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Need Help

    Nicki Koziarz SEPTEMBER 2, 2015

    I Need Help NICKI KOZIARZ

    "When Moses’ hands grew heavy, they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat down on it. Then Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other so that his hands remained steady until the sun went down." Exodus 17:12 (HSCB)

    We were sitting in gray chairs next to white walls, listening to the hum of the air-conditioning unit. My legs crossed. His arms folded.

    The memories of 12 years of arguments flashed before my eyes. The pride, the anger, the selfishness, the cold silence.

    How does happily ever after end up like this? And when did we decide we couldn’t ask for help?

    I know how and when. It happened when we decided to stuff our feelings and put Band-Aids over deep wounds because it seemed more visually appealing than an exposed injury.

    Years had passed, and we kept going until neither of us could take it any longer.

    And now we sit in these gray chairs next to these white walls. Our last effort. The words I couldn’t say all those years before spill from my lips … "We just need help."

    Help is offered, and I can finally breathe again. It was almost too late …

    A few days later, I got one of those early morning phone calls. The kind of early morning call you know once you answer, your life will never be the same. An attempted suicide from someone close.

    A soul who also wasn’t able to say, "I need help." And I’m troubled by another almost too late cry for help I had no idea was being stifled.

    Each day we pass by people who, like Moses, are becoming incredibly weary.

    Moses was in the midst of a battle for the Lord. With the staff of God in his hand, he noticed that each time he let his arms down, the enemy advanced. But each time he held his arms up, the Israelite army advanced.

    Moses had to keep his arms up for the victory, but he eventually grew weary and couldn’t do it on his own. Two people came alongside Moses to hold up his arms for just a little longer, and the Israelites defeated the Amalekites.

    Two things challenge me from this story:

    1. The ability to say, "I just need help."

    The Bible doesn’t say Moses asked for help, but I imagine he did — either verbally or with a "Come here, come quick!" look or motion with his head. Contrary to what my soul screams, these are not words of weakness, but rather strength. They mean I’m not ready to give up: I want to keep going. I just need a little help. Vulnerability is one of the first things we look for in other people but the last thing we are willing to show ourselves.

    2. The ability to see those around me who need me to help hold up their arms.

    Maybe one of the greatest prayers we can pray is to ask God to show us who it is that needs help … our help. Sure it’s risky to stand beside people who are ready to give up, but I believe this is one of the greatest opportunities for our own personal growth. Compassion is a powerful form of strength.

    I want to be a woman who lives to see victory in others and myself. When my arms feel heavy, I want to ask for help. And when I see others’ arms falling, I want to quickly look for stones I can place under them.

    Dear God, help us to be willing to say those words, "I need help" more freely in our lives … to You, and to others. Thank You for the grace You have given us through Jesus for today, tomorrow and the days to come. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 2:4, "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Dr. Kim Kimberling’s new book, 7 Secrets to an Awesome Marriage: Strengthen Your Most Intimate Relationship, can help you make your marriage into what you want it to be.

    Are you a leader whose group is about to give up on something or someone? Nicki Koziarz has a powerful message for your group called, "The 5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit." For information on booking Nicki to speak at your next event, click here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Why do you think it’s so hard for us to ask for help? Let’s discuss this today in the comments section.

    Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Call a trusted friend, or get in touch with a counselor who can walk you through difficulties. Help is available!

    © 2015 by Nicki Koziarz. All rights reserved.

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

  • Is Your Soul Being Held Hostage by Hustle?

    Emily Freeman SEPTEMEBER 1, 2015

    Is Your Soul Being Held Hostage by Hustle? EMILY P. FREEMAN

    "… Be still, and know that I am God." Psalm 46:10a (NIV)

    That Tuesday morning I had grand plans to catch up on a mountain of work. I grabbed my laptop and headed to the nearest coffee shop. While standing in line, I overheard someone mention the Wi-Fi connection wasn’t working.

    I needed Wi-Fi for the work I had to finish so I gathered my things, went back to my car, and drove to the second nearest coffee shop. I checked the Internet connection before I ordered my coffee and finally sat down to be productive.

    But when I opened my computer, all I saw was a blank screen. I held down the power button to restart it when a horrific sound blared through my speakers.

    BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

    I cannot describe to you how loud this beep was. The screen was still blank, and the series of three beeps cut through all the coffee shop chatter, marching on like stubborn beeping soldiers.

    After an inappropriate amount of button pushing and armpit fanning, I finally gave up and shut my computer, only to have the beeping continue even though the laptop was closed. Panic rose in my chest as I watched my productive morning slowly melt away.

    Leaving the coffee shop, I drove directly to the computer store where I waited one full hour for an appointment, at which time they informed me that my computer was dying and would cost $500 to fix. Thankfully it was still under warranty but by this time, my soul was so frantic I had trouble letting that good news sink in.

    A broken computer in need of repair meant I would have to be without it for several days, dashing any hopes of productivity. Driving home I felt out of control, overwhelmed and frustrated with myself that something as small as a broken computer got me this jumbled up. Shouldn’t I be this concerned about hunger and world peace?!

    Here’s why I think talking about this fiasco and others like it is important: because most of life happens not in brightness or in darkness, but in the medium light of a regular day.

    Until we are honest about how these small inconveniences and frustrations are forming us, we won’t know how to move into the brokenness of the world, simply because we haven’t let Christ move into the brokenness of our own souls.

    Later that evening, when I finally became still, I remembered a phrase a trusted friend and mentor said to me at a particularly overwhelming time in my life: "Celebrate your smallness."

    I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, the last thing I want to do is celebrate. Still, my mentor’s words have stayed with me over the years, and the Holy Spirit brings them to mind during times when I am tempted to try and control life.

    I’ve discovered that celebrating my smallness is where Christ wants to meet me. And my "regular" Tuesdays have become a weekly reminder of smallness in my own life.

    It’s easy for me to get tangled in a fast-paced world, distracted by hustle, driven to produce, hungry to check everything off my list. What seems good for my schedule is often suffocating for my soul, but I don’t realize this until my schedule gets wonky and my soul starts to shake.

    So here’s to the difficult Tuesday moments in our lives — may we not be so quick to shove them aside. Instead, may we celebrate our smallness by looking for Christ on the other side of frustrating. May we give our souls some room to follow our key verse, to be still and know that He is God.

    Dear God, Help me let go of the constructed life and embrace the connected life, even if it means I don’t get all my work finished. Remind me to be still in Your presence so I might remember that my soul is made to find my rest in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Colossians 1:17, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Has your soul been held hostage by hustle? Find a kind companion in Emily Freeman’s newest book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World, where she will show you how to embrace today’s work, find contentment in the now, replace competition with connection and learn to breathe in a breathless world.

    If you need space for your soul but don’t know where to start, visit simplytuesday.com and sign up to receive a series of free videos from Emily that offer practical ways to take a soul breath today.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Simply Tuesday by Emily Freeman. In celebration of this book, Emily’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, September 7.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Find five minutes to close your eyes, place your hands gently on your lap and be still in the presence of Christ. Don’t make a list, read a verse or do anything except breathe and know you are loved.

    © 2015 by Emily P. Freeman. 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

  • Are you Busy or a Busybody?

    Glynnis Whitwer AUGUST 31, 2015

    Are you Busy or a Busybody? GLYNNIS WHITWER

    "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies." 2 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV)

    Busy and I have a complicated relationship.

    There were years when I was too busy. Fast-forward was my mode of operation, and my family got lost in the wake. Looking back, I regret many decisions that kept us all on the go!

    After a near meltdown, things had to be different. I made significant changes to balance my schedule. I stepped out of volunteer positions, cut back my hours at work and learned to honor the Sabbath. I still kept a productive pace, but this time it was healthier. Yet when people commented on how much I got done, there was this bit of shame that crept into my heart.

    Were their observations innocent or a veiled suggestion, with a hint of disapproval, that I still work too much? Why did I still feel so guilty about my level of work? Was being busy bad?

    In my search to understand the truth about busyness, God led me to our key verse for today from 2 Thessalonians 3:11: "We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies."

    This chapter as a whole shines a completely different light on being busy. It elevates it. Here’s what Paul (the author of 2 Thessalonians) says just before our key verse: "We were not idle when we were with you … We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate" (2 Thessalonians 3:7b, 9, NIV).

    So if busy isn’t the real problem, what is? In this passage, we get a hint at a potential problem: being a "busybody."

    Busybodies can look busy, but in reality they are busy with things that don’t concern them. As a result, they neglect the work they should be doing.

    This truth cut right to my heart. When I take on responsibilities that aren’t mine to assume, I’m ineffective in what I am called to do. As a result, my schedule gets chaotic, and the people I love suffer from my too-busy life.

    Here’s another truth. The Bible doesn’t say we need to be busy all the time. We need God’s wisdom to know when to work and when to stop. Jesus modeled rest as well as hard work. He knew when to draw away from the crowds, from ministry, from work and press pause in the middle of the day. Jesus also modeled honoring the Sabbath as a complete day of rest and honor to God.

    The Bible shows us how to be busy in a healthy way. We can learn to care for our priorities and not take on those assigned to others. We are not slaves to being over busy. We can trust God to help us get our work done in six days so we can honor His command to rest.

    When I realized my life was out of my control, it took time to rein it back in. There was plenty of time in prayer asking God to show me my best choices, my priorities, my work. It was a yearlong process of stepping out of wrong commitments and recommitting to right ones.

    For me that meant cutting out evening activities and nighttime phone calls so I could be available for my family. It meant saying no to responsibilities I’d done for years, but consistently added stress, like singing on the worship team Sunday mornings. It meant working at home so I had flexible hours.

    Getting control of our schedules isn’t always easy, but it is possible. I’m still learning to rest, and I still struggle with keeping my schedule in balance. The good news is God is faithful to help define my priorities for this season. Now I’m not ashamed of being busy in the right times with a focus on the right things.

    Father, thank You for showing me that I’m wired to work in the exact way You planned. Help me guard that wiring and not take on more than I should. I want to be a woman who lives Your priorities for my life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Titus 2:4-5, "Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Feel empowered instead of defeated as you learn to prioritize your best work. Next Tuesday, September 8, we begin our next P31 Online Bible Study featuring Glynnis Whitwer’s new book, Taming the To-Do List: How to Choose Your Best Work Every Day. There’s still time to join! Click here for more information.

    Join Glynnis on her blog for more insights on how to be busy in a healthy way from 2 Thessalonians chapter 3.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do you feel too busy? Consider if you are involved in anything that is not your responsibility.

    What are some of the dangers of being idle or a busybody?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • Serving in our own backyard

    As I sat by the bonfire we had on the ranch one evening of our mission trip, I was in awe of the hard yet stunning reality of life. I sat there looking into the faces of handsome young men, whose eyes reflect the pain of their pasts but also hold hope for their bright futures.

    Goshen Valley Boys’ Ranch is a foster care alternative in Waleska, Georgia, that helps young men go from burden to blessing—from situations where despair, broken promises, neglect and abuse are the norm to a sanctuary where they can find healing, experience a loving home and possibly be adopted.

    I was so excited to be able to serve in my own country, and see firsthand how this ministry is working to better our communities and country by investing in those who sometimes go unnoticed and slip through the cracks.

    Our team helped build an extension for a pole barn, do some electrical work, paint a deck, organize a clothes closet and more.

    In addition to helping build an extension on a pole barn, paint a deck and organize the clothes closet, our time with the boys blessed me and my team in more ways than we can express. Their smiles are contagious, their sports and academic successes are worthy of praise and their plans for the future are grand.

    Our team was the 23rd that Family Christian has sent to Goshen Valley. On one trip, the team renovated this barn that’s now used for schooling.

    Our team was the 23rd that Family Christian has sent to Goshen Valley. On one trip, the team renovated this barn that’s now used for schooling.

    –Alyssa Helm, Family Christian Copywriter

    Thank you so much for partnering with us and Goshen Valley to help boys in the United States grow into godly men. Just by shopping with us, you’ve helped us donate more than $270,000 so far!

  • The Healing Power of Kindness

    Kenisha Bethea AUGUST 28, 2015

    The Healing Power of Kindness KENISHA BETHEA

     

    "On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’" Matthew 9:12-13 (NIV)

    For several years I struggled with daily headaches. Sometimes mild. Sometimes debilitating.

    The headaches affected every area of my life. I hesitated to make long-range plans with friends for fear of having to cancel. I hesitated to make day-of plans because by 6 p.m. I could be holed up in a dark room with only enough strength to lie down and whisper a prayer for relief.

    I couldn’t even serve in church the way my heart desired. And although I loved my job, it was a chore to get out of bed and get the day started.

    I’d grown accustomed to the pain, so I lived with it until one day my boss sweetly bossed me into a doctor’s appointment. She even offered to go with me.

    It turned out the headaches were a small symptom to a big problem that was going on internally. My doctor immediately changed my diet and started me on several natural supplements. Some weeks I did great, but most weeks I struggled. Big time.

    One day I didn’t take my supplements because I left them at home. Another day I would eat a slice of cheesecake because … well, it’s cheesecake. Then I would replay my shortcomings in my mind and be terrified for my next doctor’s visit.

    Each week I just knew it was the week my doctor would say: "Kenisha, I’m sorry, but I can’t continue to work with you. Come back and see me when you’re ready to get better."

    One day, on the verge of tears, I walked into my doctor’s office and fessed up. I was shocked when he said: "Kenisha, you are making a lot of changes all at once. It’s okay if you messed up. You’ll get there, but cut yourself some slack. We will help you."

    Later, as I reflected on his words, I wondered, Why on earth didn’t he bash me, or at least give me a stern lecture about the molecular structure of sugar and its effect on the human body? He’s the picture of health and he’s so knowledgeable. He really could’ve let me have it.

    That’s when the words of our key verse came to mind: " … It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick" (Matthew 9:12b).

    Jesus said these words to the religious leaders of His day who hated that He and His disciples spent time with sinners and tax collectors — the latter of which had a terrible reputation for being dishonest. Even one of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, had been a tax collector before he left that life to follow Jesus.

    Later that evening, I read Matthew 9, verses 12 and 13 together. I sat and cried. Instead of sacrificing me on the altar of his knowledge and experience, my doctor chose to reflect Jesus, the Great Physician, with his kindness toward me. It was that kindness that left me encouraged and feeling better about my journey to health.

    The truth of this verse is something Matthew knew then, and we can know today: Before Christ, we were spiritually ill and dying. But when Jesus came into our lives He healed our sin-sick souls. His kindness melted our hardened hearts. He showed us The Way, because if we could do it ourselves, we wouldn’t need the One who is called the Great Physician.

    Father God, thank You that You have never turned me away, but instead You sent Your son Jesus to show me The Way to You. Help me be patient with myself as You continue Your work in me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 53:5, "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed." (ESV)

    Romans 2:4, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Ever wonder about your value to God, or if God could really use you for a divine purpose? Get your copy of Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Futureby Tracie Miles and embark on a journey of healing, life transformation and the discovery of purpose.

    If today’s devotion inspired you, you might appreciate Encouragement for Today: Devotions for Everyday Life, a book containing 100 of our favorite devotions.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Take several moments to remember what your life was like before Jesus. Write a prayer of gratitude to Him for healing you, and cleansing you from your sin.

    If you don’t already know Jesus, get to know Him today. It will be the best decision you ever make in your life.

    © 2015 by Kenisha Bethea. All rights reserved.

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

  • And God Said, "Ta-da!"

    Liz Curtis Higgs AUGUST 21, 2015

    And God Said, "Ta-da!" LIZ CURTIS HIGGS

    "For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation." Psalm 149:4 (NASB)

    Feeling less than likeable? A far cry from beautiful? Today’s encouragement from God’s Word might be just what you need to change your view.

    First, the Lord takes pleasure in you. He doesn’t simply accept you, forgive you or put up with you. He delights in your company. He celebrates your place in His kingdom. "As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you" (Isaiah 62:5b, NIV).

    What about your family history, your personality, your popularity? People worry about those things, but not the Lord.

    So, your education, your resume, your bank balance? Impressive or not, none of that changes how God values you.

    Even your behavior doesn’t alter His kind affection for you. His love is unconditional and irrevocable. God doesn’t love you because you’re wealthy or clever or good. He loves you because you’re His. "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1a, NIV).

    Even more good news? The Lord says you are beautiful. Not just slightly attractive or marginally appealing. Beautiful. You are lovely to look at because "God created mankind in his own image" (Genesis 1:27a, NIV). And that includes you.

    As today’s verse, Psalm 149:4b, tells us, "He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation." You are beautiful beyond description when you’re covered in His grace.

    We are endlessly obsessed with our earthly appearance, doing everything possible to look our best, to measure up, to please others. Yet invariably, we look in the mirror and are disappointed with the results.

    But not God. He knew exactly what He was doing the day He knit you together in your mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13).

    Some women are quick to say, "Maybe God was pleased when He made me, but I’m not sure He’s happy with how I turned out …"

    Listen. God knows your first breath and your last (Psalm 139:16), He counts every hair on your head (Matthew 10:30), and He stores all your tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8). Our God? He is not surprised or disappointed with how you turned out. He loved you then, He loves you still and He will love you forever.

    We get in trouble when we compare ourselves to others, always finding someone who is younger, taller, thinner, more athletic, more graceful … the list goes on.

    But God does not compare. God does not clone. Each of us is a unique work of His creation. You are God’s definition of beautiful for you, beloved. Are you ready to see yourself as God sees you?

    Here’s a simple exercise I’ve been teaching women for ages. Every morning, stand in front of a mirror (fully dressed, of course), stretch up your arms with joy, and say it like you mean it: "Ta-da!"

    Feels good, yes? Looks good, too. You can’t say it without smiling, which always improves things. "Ta-da!" is the LRV (the Lizzie Revised Version) of "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1:31a, NIV).

    We’ve all known beautiful women who, when they opened their mouths, quickly lost their appeal. And we’ve also known average-looking women who love the Lord with all their hearts, and it shows on their radiant faces. Gorgeous.

    When the light of Christ shines through us, we are utterly transformed. That’s the real story, the hope of glory, the ultimate "Ta-da!"

    Father God, many of us have struggled with our appearance or sense of worth all of our lives. Let this be the day we turn away from the world’s lies and embrace the truth of Your Word and the beauty of Your Son. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

    Ecclesiastes 3:11a, "He has made everything beautiful in its time." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Liz Curtis Higgs’ newest book, It’s Good to Be Queen, explores how you can become as bold, gracious and wise as the queen of Sheba, as it addresses thorny life questions and considers which qualities best serve a godly queen of any realm.

    Stop by this week, as Liz explores why "He Is Worthy of Our Praise," on her blog.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Since God’s opinion of us is the one that truly matters, we need to remind ourselves daily that we give Him pleasure and He considers us beautiful.

    Is there a verse in today’s post you want to memorize? Or an idea you want to study further? To help you see yourself the way God does, Liz Curtis Higgs has created laminated cards with some of today’s encouraging message plus vinyl "Ta-da!" stickers to pop on your mirror. Ten winners will receive a "Ta-da!" card from Liz, chosen at random from all who comment on today’s post.

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

  • Am I Messing Up My Kids?

    Lysa TerKeurst AUGUST 20, 2015

    Am I Messing Up My Kids? LYSA TERKEURST

    "‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’" John 9:3 (NIV)

    Okay moms, as another school year is upon us … let’s get gut-honest. Have you ever had these thoughts tug at the corners of your mind: What have I done wrong? Am I messing up my kids?

    I’ve had two in-depth conversations recently with friends, and the same theme was woven throughout both conversations. Our kids sometimes struggle and when they do, often our first thought is: What have I done wrong as a mother?

    Certainly good can come from a healthy assessment of how we’re doing in our crucial role as moms. However, when the question comes in the form of a personal assault rather than a call to action over a specific area of improvement, it’s not healthy.

    It’s paralyzing. It’s draining. It’s defeating. It’s evidence of a hole in the spiritual filter of our minds.

    So I’ve been determined to fill my mind with God’s truth. I figure the more truths I have to fill my mind with, the more untruths will get crowded out.

    I’ve been taking a book of the Bible and focusing on one verse from each chapter. Then I reflect on what this verse says about God and how it speaks to me personally.

    The other day, before a conversation with one of my friends, I read John 9. In that chapter, Jesus meets a man who was blind from birth. His disciples ask Him, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2b, NIV).

    Then this verse jumped out at me and seemed to swirl in my thoughts constantly: "‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him’" (John 9:3).

    Because this verse kept bumping into my conscious thoughts, I knew it was crucial to think on it, pray through it and let it seep into some deep places needing this truth.

    Then later, when I was talking with my friend, there were little hints of that question: What have I done wrong as a mother?

    What a delight it was to have that verse right on the top of my mind. Like a healing balm, I soothed my friend with the truth that what her son is going through right now has nothing to do with her mistakes or even his for that matter. God is helping her son work through some fears that will eventually be a mighty display of spiritual depth in his life.

    Sweet sister, have you caught yourself asking lately, "What am I doing wrong as a mother?" Maybe it is time to make some adjustments.

    Or maybe, redirect this line of thinking with a different question, How might God work in this situation so that His work can be displayed in my child’s life or in my life? Either way, remember this truth: You are loved by God and so is your child.

    Dear Lord, help me process my motherhood journey using the filter of Your truth and nothing else. I need Your assurance and guidance, God. I don’t want to do this without You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

    Romans 8:28, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Make progress in your understanding of the Bible with Proverbs 31 Ministries’ new mobile app, First 5. Beginning August 31, we’re unpacking the book of Genesis studying one verse per chapter per day so God’s Word doesn’t feel complicated! Download First 5 today.

    Continue your First 5 journey with The Book of Genesis Experience Guide. The Experience Guide is designed to accompany each day’s teaching and grow your faith, as you reflect, respond and learn what makes the book of Genesis so unique. Purchase yours today!

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Is there something your child has struggled with lately that made you feel like you’ve done something wrong as a mother?

    Prayerfully ask God if there is anything you can do better as a mom. Also, ask Him to help you see all that you’ve done right as a mom and how to accept that some of your child’s struggles have nothing to do with your actions at all.

    © 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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