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  • Finding Peace in the Chaos of Christmas

    Amy Carroll DECEMBER 7, 2015

    Finding Peace in the Chaos of Christmas AMY CARROLL

    "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

    Peace is a word that gets thrown around a lot at Christmas. It’s on cards, decorations and sometimes even lit up in bright lights.

    It’s a word that seems to stir a longing in all of us, yet it also seems hard to come by — especially at Christmas. I mean, seriously … there’s a house to decorate, gifts to buy, meals to cook, relatives to connect with and loads of events to attend. How on earth are we expected to find peace in the midst of the extreme hubbub?

    There was one Christmas in particular when I had to reevaluate and seek God for a change in my heart to establish peace in my heart and home.

    We all started well — my hubs, our two boys and me — peaceful and focused as we decorated early in December. Christmas music played in the background. We sipped egg nog from the red glass teacups I snagged at a tag sale and boxes of decorations from the attic lined the walls.

    But it started to go downhill over Christmas tree lights.

    A squabble erupted over a tangled string of bulbs. Then someone turned on the football game, and the sound of the TV clashed with the music from the stereo. Instead of sharing lovely stories of the ornaments’ histories as we hung each one, my boys began to make fun of the 70s-style bobbles from my childhood.

    Our peaceful tradition of tree-trimming fell apart faster than you could say, "Mama’s in a snit."

    Maybe they just got distracted or maybe it was the maternal growls and snarls that drove them away, but suddenly I found myself sitting alone on the floor in front of the tree.

    I furiously gave the tree a yank to position it for another ornament, and … TIMBER! The tree fell on me and drove a metal rod from one of the artificial branches into my arm.

    That’s when it happened. Out of my mouth popped some of the overflow of a peace-deprived heart — a big fat four-letter word … which brought my family back into the room.

    To this day, there is one favorite Christmas story at my house. It’s not The Gift of the Magi or The Polar Express. Not even How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes the cut. Our family’s favorite story is titled, The Day Mom Cussed When the Christmas Tree Fell on Her.

    I’m not proud of this story. As Scripture says, "For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of" (Luke 6:45b, NIV). My outburst revealed what was in my heart — overload, frustration and anger. I’d love to blame the stressful circumstances, but the truth is there was something missing inside of me.

    Consider this: The circumstances of the first Christmas were very stressful, too. There was an unmarried, pregnant teenager. There was a scared but faithful fiancé. There was no room in the inn. There were smelly animals and scratchy straw. There was an unidentified star in the sky.

    Yet God gave the gift of prevailing peace in that story in the same way He longs to give our hearts the gift of peace. How did Mary and Joseph overcome the chaos of their circumstances and embrace peace instead? They implemented the truth in today’s key verse. Their trust in God made them steadfast.

    Just listen to how they responded when they were first given the startling and stressful news of being parents to the Messiah:

    Mary said, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior," (Luke 1:46-47, NIV).

    Joseph put aside his plans to divorce Mary quietly, and per God’s instructions, took her as his wife.

    Perfect peace isn’t dependent on circumstances. It comes from a steadfast, trusting heart. Let’s start the Christmas season by intentionally growing our steadfastness by focusing our trust on God who is faithful. The resulting peace will point to the Savior we’re celebrating!

    Lord, I set my heart on You. You are trustworthy, faithful and the Giver of the gift of peace. Please fill me this Christmas season. As others see Your peace in me, let them recognize You as Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Start your day in God’s Word with our free First 5 App. We’re in the middle of studying Matthew and will begin Exodus on January 4. Click here for more information on our Experience Guides.

    Amy Carroll invites you to visit her blog today where she will have a downloadable PDF with Scriptures and a prayer for peace at Christmas.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Do your verbal responses and actions reflect the peace or the chaos in your heart?

    What action step is God calling you to take to build your trust in Him so that your steadfastness grows?

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • Give Hope: Water

    As Christmas draws near, we are reminded of our Savior’s birth and the hope He brought to the world. Today, so many people around the world are struggling, and are without the hope of Jesus. Our prayer is that together we can help fill many of them with that hope.

    There are three ways in which we aim to give hope this year: through education, food and water.

    Give Hope: Water

    Our final initiative this year is giving hope through water. Together with World Vision, we are raising money to provide clean water to so many people who are currently without it.

    Did you know that there are 748 million people around the world who do not have access to clean water? Because of this, about every 90 seconds a child under 5 years old dies from diarrhea caused by water contamination, poor sanitation and unsafe hygiene practices.

    The surviving children are often in charge of fetching the water. With such long distances to travel, they’re unable to attend school on those days.

    Dorcas WalkingPhoto Credit: World Vision

    Four times a day, nine-year-old Dorcas made the trek for water, which is a necessity, but also a curse. With no other resources, Dorcas and her grandmother were forced to drink water from a filthy open hole—where animals drink, bathe, defecate and even die.

    Sickness caused by this unclean water caused Dorcas to miss even more school than she already had. In the first quarter, Dorcas was absent 12 times in 9 weeks.

    Then , in the fall of 2014, World Vision came to town and installed a borehole right within the city, which has given them access to clean water through a filtration system.

    Now, Dorcas and her entire community live healthier lives since they are no longer plagued by sickness.

    And instead of spending so many hours of the day traveling to get water, Dorcas attends school more regularly, allowing her to continue studying and working toward her dream of becoming a teacher.

    Dorcas SmilingBack in school and in good health, Dorcas can continue working toward her dream of becoming a teacher.

    Without World Vision’s help, providing clean water and teaching the people about proper sanitation and hygiene, who knows how many more of them would have suffered.

    Motivated by a love of Christ and a love for others, World Vision believes everyone deserves clean water. From this love a goal of providing clean water to every single person by 2030 was born.

    And YOU can help them reach this goal.

    Make a difference in the lives of children just like Dorcas by visiting our Give Hope: Water page, or text FAMILY to 52000 to donate $10.*

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

  • Splashes that Matter

    Theresa Moritz DECEMBER 4, 2015

    Splashes that Matter THERESA MORITZ, COMPEL Member

    "The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’" Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

    Recently, we had our kitchen cabinets repainted. Bright white. For about one week, they were gorgeous. Then, the inevitable happened. A reach, a spill … cranberry juice all over. Seriously, how did it get into so many nooks and crannies? For the next week, I found telltale burgundy splashes hiding in the craziest places.

    It got me thinking about my own splashes. Because whether I like it or not, simply by living this life (working, volunteering, even grocery shopping), I make splashes that impact others. The words and attitude that I surround my heart with? This becomes what I splash out. And each day, each moment, I get to choose.

    Throughout the day, I may meet a stressed-out cashier, a new mom starving for conversation, a coworker seeking advice. When I get home these moments continue: my teenager wants to talk, my husband would love me to sit with him and my 6-year-old wants to show me his favorite rock. This, of course, goes along with laundry that needs folding, dinner that needs making, football cleats that need buying and emails that need returning — all by the day’s end!

    If I’m attentive to the whispers of my heart, I recognize these small moments with others as opportunities to jump in fully and splash. I allow time to splash the light and love and mercy of Jesus, allowing Him to touch their hearts through me. Amazing things happen when I choose to splash.

    But when I remain preoccupied, inwardly focused on my own agenda, dullness replaces the beauty God intended for that moment. The opportunity is lost, and hearts remain untouched, including my own.

    I am reminded of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-27). The story tells of a man, beaten and naked, lying on the side of the road, who is ignored by both a priest and a Levite. They actually go out of their way to avoid contact.

    A simple man from an unliked group of people, whom the Bible calls the Good Samaritan, does the extraordinary. He veers off course. He changes his plans without checking his schedule. His actions aren’t powered by some amazing intellect, off-shore bank accounts, superhuman strength or a dizzying social calendar. It was this simple: "When he saw him, he took pity on him." (Luke 10:33, NIV). The Good Samaritan chose to splash love in the ugliness, creating beauty in the moment.

    How about me? Would I see the beaten man? Or would I be looking down, checking my texts? If I saw him, would I allow Jesus’ incredible love and mercy to flow through me? Or would I seek the other side of the road, rushing to opportunities that line up perfectly with my schedule and social status?

    It is important I get this one right. Being willing to splash Jesus’ love on others isn’t a suggestion. The story of the Good Samaritan begins with this question; "On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’" (Luke 10:25, NIV). Splashes matter. For in a splash, we can see the face of God.

    Dear Lord, so often I am busy, focused on the next "to-do" on my list, and I miss the opportunity to be fully present with others. Open my eyes, Lord, and help me to see Your face in all whose path I cross today. Let Your mercy shine through me so they may feel Your loving embrace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 3:27, "Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act." (NIV)

    Proverbs 11:25, "Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered."(ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Longing to write words that are memorable and life changing? Struggling to build a platform, but realize it takes more writing than you thought? Today’s devotion author, Theresa Moritz, is a member of COMPEL, a monthly membership program for those who want to write words that move people. Click here to learn more.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Be watchful today; slow your pace and look up. Do you see someone who needs God’s loving kindness? Make a commitment to respond.

    © 2015 by Theresa Moritz. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Don’t Know What to Say to God

    T. Suzanne Eller DECEMBER 3, 2015

    I Don’t Know What to Say to God SUZIE ELLER

    "… the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Romans 8:26 (NKJV) 

    We were sitting around the family table when my mom announced, "Suzie, you didn’t talk until you were four."

    Um, what?

    This was news to me. "So are you saying that I was quiet?"

    "Nope, you didn’t talk at all. Not a word. In fact, if it hadn’t been for Vicci, we’d never have known what you needed."

    My sister is four years older than I am. Evidently she became a student of her little sister who had no words. When I wanted a drink, she told Mom. When I was tired or hungry, she made certain to communicate my needs.

    I eventually found my words, but may I be honest with you? There have been other times when I’ve lost my ability to know what to say, especially to God.

    As a teenager, I didn’t know if things would ever change at home. I didn’t know how to ask God for help.

    As a young mom, I held my precious baby in my arms who was born with a serious birth defect. I didn’t know what she needed or what impact this might have, or what to do with my feelings of fear.

    When my husband was unhappy with his job and it changed his laid-back and fun personality to quiet sadness, I desperately wanted to help but I didn’t know where to begin or what to say.

    For all of us, there are moments when words simply do not describe how we feel, what we need or what we so desperately desire from God.

    Romans 8:26 reminds us there is someone who has studied us. The Holy Spirit knows us well. He is aware of our strengths, but He’s also keenly tuned in to our weaknesses. When we are unable to express in words what we hope for so desperately, the Spirit Himself steps in and clearly places our deepest needs before the Father.

    I don’t know about you, but that removes pressure that would otherwise weigh this girl down.

    We don’t have to have the right words. We don’t have to know the exact details of what is needed in a situation. We don’t have to try to explain how it makes us feel.

    He already knows.

    Today, if you have no words, be encouraged. When you step into that place of prayer, the Holy Spirit sees your heart. He understands what you want to say, even when it’s still a mystery to you. The moment you place your trust in God, your deepest needs are already being shared.

    Perfectly. Succinctly. With all the right words.

    Father, thank You for the gift of the Holy Spirit. I might have no words, or struggle to tell You what I need, but You already know. I’m so grateful the Holy Spirit knows my heart, and intercedes for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Ephesians 3:16, "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being." (NIV)

    Micah 7:7, "But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you are in a hard place, Suzie Eller’s book, The Mended Heart: God’s Healing for Your Broken Places offers hope and help.

    Join Suzie on her blog where she shares 10 Scriptures To Pray When There Are No Words.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: We often stay away from prayer because we feel that our words are not adequate. Yet it’s exactly where we find what we need.

    Today, walk into that sacred place of prayer. Simply sit in God’s presence. Take the pressure off as you thank Him that He already knows what you need.

    © 2015 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • When You Want To Behold His Glory

    Alicia Bruxvoort DECEMBER 2, 2015

    When You Want To Behold His Glory ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:14 (NIV)

    When our fourth child arrived at Christmastime nearly a decade ago, no one was more excited to welcome a 7-pound miracle into our family than our firstborn, Lukas.

    Though he loved his little sisters, 8-year-old Lukas had long yearned for a brother. He’d wished for one each year when he extinguished his birthday candles with a breathy blast, and he’d plead every night when he closed the day in prayer.

    "Dear Jesus, can I PLEASE have a brother?"

    He spent years waiting and wishing, pleading and petitioning, and finally, a week before those stockings on the mantle brimmed full, God answered his prayer with a brown-haired bundle of joy.

    As we settled into our new routine as a family of six, I wondered how I would manage to appease all the eager hands vying to hold the baby. Surely the proud big brother would try to trump his sisters’ rocking-chair time.

    But I soon learned that the pace of my 8-year-old’s life didn’t lend itself to sitting and cuddling, swaying and snuggling. There were snow forts to build and Legos to assemble, spelling words to master and math facts to learn.

    Lukas left his little sisters to fight over "holding rights." When the sun was shining he remained content to merely smile at his baby brother as he sped by in pursuit of his next activity.

    But when the noise of the day grew hushed and the girls were tucked snug in their beds, when the toys were returned to the closet and the snow boots were lined on the rug, my firstborn would sidle up to the rocking chair where I sat with his wish-come-true.

    Then, before he climbed into his top bunk and pulled the covers to his chin, he’d ask, "Can I be holding the baby now?"

    With a nod, I’d place our tiny bundle into his arms and watch as my eldest fixed his baby blues on his sleepy-eyed brother. Holding him. And beholding him.

    One night as Lukas rocked the baby in wordless wonder, I asked him why he always waited until the day’s end to hold his brother.

    "Mommy," my son said with a sigh, "it’s just easier to be holding the baby when my feet are slowed down."

    Our "baby boy" won’t be snoozing through the holiday hoopla in his brother’s arms this year. (Chances are, he’ll be challenging him to a backyard race or trying to wrestle him to the ground in the light of our twinkling tree). But even though I won’t be making room for a cradle beneath those evergreen boughs, I will still search for ways to make room for a manger in the middle of our Christmas mayhem.

    Because at the heart of this sacred season is a Baby who is the answer to all of our prayers.

    Our key verse tells us, "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us and we have seen His glory." God wrapped Heaven’s Hope in wrinkled skin and splintered wails and invited us to draw near to His gift of grace.

    More than parties and pageants, gleaming lights and tinseled trees, Christmas is an invitation to savor the gift of our stable-born Savior and let the wonder of His love meet the deepest longings of our hearts.

    But be warned: Not everyone spies His splendor.

    If we want to see His glory, we need to slow our stride and still our souls. ’Cause according to the wisdom of an awe-struck 8-year-old, it’s just easier to "be-holding" the Baby when our feet are slowed down.

    Dear Jesus, Please slow my feet so I can see Your glory this Christmastime and always. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 1:23, "‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child and give birth to a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel’ — which, when translated, means, ‘God with us.’" (AMP)

    Luke 2:11-12 "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: If you want to enter into the wonder of the Christmas story, take time to savor Liz Curtis Higgs’ The Women of Christmas.

    Stop by Alicia Bruxvoort’s blog today for more encouragement and for a free printable that will help you make room for the manger.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Take time to read the Christmas story in Luke 2. Ask Jesus to show you something new in His story to ignite fresh awe as you consider His birth.

    Cultivate a childlike heart of wonder this week. Do something you enjoyed doing at Christmastime as a child.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Hope Lives in 90 Minutes In Heaven

    In January of 1989, Don Piper was killed in a car accident. But 90 minutes later, thanks to the prayers of one courageous pastor, he was brought back to life. While his family and friends were grateful that he survived the accident, he was not as pleased. In fact, he wished he hadn’t come back to life at all.

    That’s because for those 90 minutes, Don Piper was in Heaven. He experienced love, joy and life like never before, and all of that was taken away from him when he was brought back to earth.

    You may already be familiar with this story: In 2004, Piper wrote a book chronicling the events leading up to the accident, and more so, the long road to recovery afterward. Since then, more than 6.5 million copies have been published in 49 different languages.

    After the book was published, a number of film studios sought to make his story into a movie. Unfortunately, none of them really wanted to stay true to what really happened.

    Then Don Piper met entrepreneur and founder of Giving Films, Rick Jackson. Giving Films is unlike other studios in that it is an entirely non-profit organization. All movie profits go to support charities around the world, especially ones that serve underprivileged children.

    The two quickly bonded over a shared faith in Christ. After discovering Jackson’s heart for the orphan, he knew the movie would be made with integrity.

    Jackson wanted to make sure the scenes in the film were accurately portrayed though, so he invited Piper and his family to be on set any time they wanted.

    Don Piper While he still longs to return to Heaven, today Don Piper is happy his story has provided hope for so many people.

    The power in this story comes from the fact that these events really took place. Adding anything extra would only have taken away from the message of overcoming extreme hardship, hope for the future, and the promise of Heaven.

    Living in a fallen and sin-filled world, we are subjected to a number of trials and tribulations. As Christians though, we have hope—eternal hope.

    Our hope rests in Christ alone, because He willingly bore our sins and died for us. When we put our faith and trust in Christ, we are promised eternal life.

    In Scripture, we are told of the power of prayer and the reality of Heaven. In 90 Minutes in Heaven, we see a first-hand account.

    While we shouldn’t view his story with the same regard as we do Scripture, Don Piper’s life is truly an inspiration and a comfort to us all. Whether you’ve gone through difficult times in the past, or you’re going through them right now, 90 Minutes in Heaven offers you the reminder that we do have hope.

    The final product opened in theaters in September of this year, and today releases on DVD and Blu-ray.

    Additionally, you can go further into your study of Heaven and hope with the 90 Minutes in Heaven DVD Study.

  • I Didn’t Know How to Find What I Needed in the Bible

    Lysa TerKeurst DECEMBER 1, 2015

    I Didn’t Know How to Find What I Needed in the Bible LYSA TERKEURST

    "So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it." Isaiah 55:11 (NKJV)

    I closed my eyes and warm tears slipped down my face onto my pillow. I knew I should pray but quite honestly, I doubted God was listening. I could hear the kids fighting in the kitchen. More evidence I wasn’t measuring up. I knew I should get up and address whatever was causing the chaos between them, but I just didn’t have it in me. Not that day.

    Not when the very foundation of my family was imploding. I mean, if your house is on fire surely you don’t stop to straighten a picture hanging crooked on the wall. The issues with my kids felt minor in comparison to the issues with my husband.

    "I just don’t know how to fix things between us."

    Those 10 words he’d said were running on repeat through my mind. Each time cutting deeper and deeper into the most vulnerable places of my heart.

    I didn’t know what to do.

    I didn’t know who to call.

    I didn’t know how to pray and get some sort of answer from God.

    And I certainly didn’t have a clue how to find something relatable to read in the Bible.

    This is the desperate place I was in during the early days of my family.

    The desperation. The helplessness. The days full of hurt and seemingly void of hope. I know those feelings deeply and personally.

    That’s why my team and I are so committed to the work we do at Proverbs 31 Ministries. We are devoted to meeting women right where they are and helping them connect with God in ways that restore their hope, renew their relationships and, most importantly, revitalize their faith.

    These women and families are literally begging for help. And we know if we connect their needs with God’s truth, their lives will dramatically improve.

    Chances are if you’re reading this devotion, we’ve shown up in your inbox with words that the Lord gave us to make you feel less alone, more understood and more deeply connected with truths from the Bible.

    More than 810,000 women are engaging more deeply with Biblical truth and growing in their relationship with the Lord because our Encouragement for Today daily devotions exist.

    Yes, in a day and time where the world is trying to quiet Biblical truth, we’re determined to help people engage with God’s truth like never before. We’re determined to get people into God’s Word so God’s Word can get into them.

    But we need your help.

    If you’ve donated to Proverbs 31 Ministries before, thank you. Please know your investment is used to carry God’s Word around the world on a daily basis. Your continued support is a well-placed investment allowing you to truly know you’ve played a crucial role in fulfilling Jesus’ instructions for us to carry the Good News to those both near and far. Click here to continue your support.

    And for those of you who haven’t invested yet, this is an incredible time to participate! Click here to give to Proverbs 31 Ministries today.

    There are so many more to reach. We want to reach your friends and family and neighbors who have never known how to connect the life-changing truths from the Bible to their needs of today. And it is possible! We’re hearing from people every day who find our devotions, then begin a relationship with Jesus and start studying the Bible as a result. He has answers for all their greatest needs. As Isaiah 55:11 reminds us, God’s Word never returns void!

    Dear Lord, I’m so thankful Your Word never comes back empty. I’m praying today for all those who have yet to know You in a deeply intimate way … especially my loved ones. Work in their lives, Lord, and use me as a vessel to show them Your Truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Matthew 24:35: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (NIV)

    Hebrews 4:12: "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." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Help us continue to reach women and families all over the world with God’s Word by partnering with us through prayer or a monetary gift. Click here to give now.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What things are you believing God to help you with? Pray and ask God to reveal Himself to you whether it’s in a verse, a sermon, a song or another way He wants to speak to you.

    Also consider how you might share God’s Truth with someone close to you this week!

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Great Wall of Motherhood

    Karen Ehman NOVEMBER 30, 2015

    The Great Wall of Motherhood KAREN EHMAN

    "With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall." Psalm 18:29 (NIV)

    Maybe I could fake being sick.

    Or pretend to twist my ankle.

    I just have to think of something that will get me out of this! The voice inside my head uttered words of panic.

    It was my freshman year of college, and I stood staring at it — a legend on campus. "It" was made of wood and stood tall in the Midwest countryside. They called it simply: "The Wall."

    The legend was also a tradition, one that every freshman must take part in: Scale the 10-foot beast, assisted only by the 12-member freshman "core group" led by one upperclassman.

    On the backside of the wall was a platform, near the top. Once you were over the wall, you could lower yourself and stand solidly on it. From there, you could reach back over and assist classmates who’d yet to experience the thrill of conquering this wooden monster.

    Getting the first person over was the hardest, since no one was on the other side to help to pull them over. Usually the tallest, thinnest and most athletic guy went first. Others hoisted him up on their shoulders, and then he diligently tried to pull himself the rest of the way and topple over to the other side.

    Then, one after another, more students lifted, hoisted and pushed until they all made it safely to the other side. I did my part to help others over, but I dreaded my turn. I tried to speak positively to myself: You can do this. Focus. Jump high and grab on tight! But those words of encouragement were drowned out by my thoughts of fear and doubt.

    I backed up, took some running steps toward the wall, and then leapt upward with all my might, praying someone’s strong arm would catch me.

    After a brief moment of panic, I felt the hand of a teammate grab hold of mine and grip tightly. My team then helped me to the top and I gingerly set my feet down on the other side. Sweet relief. We had done it! We had scaled The Wall.

    Three years after I was married, I learned I was expecting our first child. I was excited to be carrying a new life. However, I also felt fear as I stared at the massive wall of motherhood I would have to scale — mostly because I thought all the weight was upon my shoulders to be my child’s everything.

    Caretaker. Provider. Cook. Teacher. Nurse. Social director. Counselor. Coach. And probably something else I hadn’t even thought of yet. How in the world was I ever going to be able to do all that?

    Thankfully, today’s key verse assures us God is near and ready to come to our aid when we are afraid. He can enable us to scale whatever walls of life we face. And now, a quarter-century into my mothering, I see God’s hand and help. His hand has been there to guide me as a mom. And He’s sent help in the form of other mothers who’ve taken my hand and shared both victories and struggles.

    I still talk negatively to myself at times, doubting my abilities as a mom and berating myself for the times I blow it. Maybe you do, too. But what if we stopped listening to the voices inside our heads — the ones that fear and fret and worry? What if instead we reached up and out? Up to God who is waiting to tightly grasp our slipping fingers and out to other mothers who have yet to scale the wall?

    God is ever faithful. Always nearby. Full of love, compassion and beautiful second chances when we aim high and come up short. God — the perfect parent — will help us parent our children for His glory.

    Yes, moms, with God and each other, we can scale the wall of motherhood.

    Father, when the voices of fear and doubt threaten to send me into panic, may I hear Your gentle whisper telling me that You are near. Help me reach out to You, and to other moms on this journey, for help in parenting and in life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 56:3, "But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you." (NLT)

    Psalm 56:11, "I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?" (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Karen Ehman’s newest book for moms, Hoodwinked: Ten Myths Moms Believe and Why We All Need to Knock It Off, just released. If you purchase the book through Proverbs 31 Ministries, you will be given a free downloadable journal entitled, "On My Knees & In My Heart: 5 Mini-Spiritual Retreats for Moms."

    For more motherhood encouragement and "5 Ways to Support Other Mothers," visit Karen’s blog today and enter to win a copy of Hoodwinked.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What are your biggest fears as a mom?

    How does the imagery of God helping you to scale a wall help you as you face those fears?

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • Family Christian: Moving Forward

    In this brief, but thorough video, our President and CEO, Chuck Bengochea, discusses what's new at Family Christian and what is still to come. In it, he touches on new store designs and layouts, our new service promise, and how thankful we are for your support and trust in us.

    At Family Christian, we put purpose over profit. Check it out:

  • Be The Gift God Created YOU To Be

    Mmichele Dudley NOVEMBER 27, 2015

    Be The Gift God Created YOU To Be MICHELE DUDLEY

    "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other" 1 Corinthians 12:7 (NLT)

    When I cleaned out my messy closet recently, I found a beautiful gift a friend had given me many months ago.

    I remember when she gave me the gift — I was thrilled! It made me feel so special and loved that she purchased it with me in mind.

    Yet somehow in the busyness of life, the gift became buried underneath "stuff," hidden and unused. I can’t imagine how disappointed my friend would be if she knew I hadn’t continued to treasure it.

    It made me pause and think about the gifts that the Ultimate Gift Giver has given each of us … and whether or not we’re using them.

    1 Corinthians 12:7 says, "A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other" (NLT).

    I envision God, with His infinite creativity, pouring over each of us as He formed us, selecting unique abilities and spiritual gifts to prepare us for the work that He has called us to do (Ephesians 2:10). And not for our own good, but for His good and the good of His people.

    It’s our job to steward these gifts. We must prayerfully consider what they are and how we can use them to serve a world in desperate need — this is our purpose, our calling.

    At Fashion & Compassion, I work with women who are overcoming exploitation, addiction, war/conflict, domestic abuse and incarceration in the U.S. and around the world. Because of their life circumstances, many of these women have never considered God’s purpose for their life.

    For example, Carrie came to us three years ago, emotionally beaten down after 30 years in an abusive marriage. She was essentially locked in her home — with her seven children — and constantly told she was "stupid" and "useless" by her husband.

    When Carrie came to Fashion & Compassion, she was frightened and scarred, afraid she couldn’t do anything right. Through love, encouragement and prayer, Carrie now sees that God gifted her with a HUGE heart of compassion for suffering women and an incredible artistic gift.

    As our jewelry project manager, Carrie loves and ministers to women with a genuine empathy, compassion and peace that can only come from the healing and restoration she has received from Christ. She patiently teaches and encourages other vulnerable women to make jewelry, and she uses her God-given creative abilities to develop many of our beautiful designs.

    Once Carrie understood who she was in Christ and allowed Him to heal her past, she became free to use her gifts to minister to women in a way that only she can.

    So as you shop for special gifts today, remember our key verse and use those gifts to serve one another.

    Just imagine what the world would be like if we began to steward the gifts God has given us to serve each other and bring healing to the broken.

    And unlike the gift my friend gave me long ago, let’s not keep our unique gifts from God hidden under a mountain of stuff in the closet of our lives. Let’s use our gifts for His glory NOW!

    Dear God, Thank You for the sacrificial gift of Your Son — the BEST gift I can ever receive. Keep me mindful of Jesus during these busy days and don’t let the busyness of life keep me from using the gifts You have given me to serve a world in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 139:13-14, "For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well." (ESV)

    Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES: Remind someone they are loved by God and by you by giving them a "Loved" charm dangle bangle bracelet made by a Fashion & Compassion artisan. You can purchase the bracelet and other jewelry made by women overcoming poverty & injustice here.

    Enter to WIN a one-of-a-kind Fashion & Compassion bracelet designed by Carrie by signing up to receive our email updates. We’ll randomly select 10 winners from those who join our list and send you an email notification by Friday, December 4, if you win.

    Unsure what your spiritual gifts are? Find out by taking this spiritual gift assessment.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Have you seen God use your gifts and abilities to transform the life of another person? Please share your stories in the comment section.

    How could you serve your church or a ministry in your community using the gifts that God has given you? Ask for God’s leading as you prayerfully consider next steps.

    © 2015 by Michele Dudley. All rights reserved.

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

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…to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27
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