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  • When Motherhood Leaves You Wanting

    When Motherhood Leaves You Wanting by Stacey Salsbery

    “For I will satisfy the weary soul and every languishing soul I will replenish.” Jeremiah 31:25 (ESV)

    “Mom, watch!”

    But I don’t want to! I thought. Though his ability to jump over a baseball mitt was certainly remarkable for a 3-year-old, I’d already watched him conquer the unprecedented task 48 times (give or take a few), and I was tired.

    So I snapped: “NO bud. Mommy’s done.”

    What was wrong with me? I was living my dream. It was the one I’d dreamt about since I was a little girl, searching high and low for the Stay-at-Home Mom table on career day.

    And now here I was, smack dab in the middle of all I’d ever wanted. Yet all I could think of was being somewhere else. Anywhere, really. The mall … or perhaps a beach with a good book and the ability to take a nap.

    It’s different than what I thought it would be, this whole mothering thing. It’s harder. Motherhood requires more selflessness, patience and praying than I ever expected.

    I didn’t know I’d have to give until I couldn’t give anymore. I didn’t know I’d be front and center in an epic battle of patience. I didn’t know I’d seek ways to escape — plotting and scheming for just a little alone time. Or that I’d army crawl past the living room, just to use the bathroom by myself.

    It just wasn’t what I expected for a dream come true. That whole husband and two (or four) kids and house thing I’d pictured for years and years left me wanting. Wishing for something else (at least for a little while).

    It didn’t fill me because it can’t FULFILL me. Only Jesus can: “For he satisfies the longing soul and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9, ESV).

    Even when we’re tired and rundown and left feeling completely empty, Jesus can satisfy. Did you catch the key verse? “For I will satisfy the weary soul and every languishing soul I will replenish” (Jeremiah 31:25).

    Such a beautiful promise for the mama who needs her soul replenished. Or the sister whose dream isn’t quite what she thought it would be. Or the beloved daughter of God who’s been seeking a key to unlock the ever-illusive door of contentment in all the wrong places.

    In the book of Matthew, Jesus invites and encourages us to come to Him: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, NIV).

    In other words Jesus is saying to us, “Why do you seek satisfaction elsewhere when you can find all you’ve ever wanted, right here with me?”

    Though marriage is a gift and babies are a blessing, though jobs are a necessity and dreams are fantastic, though a home is important and it’s good to be healthy — none of it will lead to lasting satisfaction without Jesus. Not even the accomplishment of a pre-pregnancy pant size. (I know, bummer.)

    Yet when I seek the presence of a Savior so in love with me He knows every thought, every bruise, every hope I’ve ever held — there is abundant peace to be had. And a fullness of joy only God can give.

    Even when it means watching my son jump over a baseball mitt 48 times (give or take a few). So when life or love or motherhood leaves you wanting, seek Jesus, my friend. He’s not only the Savior, He’s the ultimate fulfillment of all we truly savor.

    Dear Lord, help me seek You first and foremost in my life. Fill me with a desire to know You more, and help me delight myself in You and not the things of this world. Replenish my weary soul and satisfy me with Your perfect presence. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Isaiah 58:11, “And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.” (ESV)

    Psalm 90:14, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: In what situation do you find yourself wanting today? Are you seeking fulfillment there or in Jesus Christ?

    © 2016 by Stacey Salsbery. All rights reserved.

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

  • 4 Encouraging Bible Verses about God’s Will

    The Bible is the most accurate and honest place to seek the Lord and gain perspective on His will for your life.

    As Christians, we hear a lot about pursuing God’s will but are often left wondering how to go about it. While only God himself knows His plan for us, He loved us enough to give us His Word as a guide. The Bible is the most accurate and honest place to seek the Lord and gain perspective.

    We asked some of our staff to share a verse that helps them understand who God has called them to be. We hope these scriptures encourage you to dive into the Word and seek the will of God.

    1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NLT Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

    “I love these verses because they clearly describe these character attributes as God’s will for me in Christ Jesus. These verses are very clear that no matter what the situation or circumstance, God is certain that He wants me to be a man of joy who seeks Him in prayer and is full of thanksgiving. These are powerful attributes that allow me to rest in Jesus.” – Steve Biondo, Senior Vice President of Human Resources

    Romans 12:2 ESV Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

    “This verse has always spoken to me in an incredibly deep way. We are constantly being tugged at and pulled toward conforming to the ways of this world, but I will never cease to consistently renew my mind in God and push myself to be exactly who He has called me to be.” – Olivia Holman, Visual Merchandiser

    Romans 8:6 NIV The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

    “Though it’s a daily, moment-to-moment battle, I have found that the rewards of thinking about and satisfying my own wants and desires are so shallow and short-lived. When I pursue God through daily Bible study, prayer, and fellowship it positions me to be led by the Holy Spirit. I am able to serve with joy and I have better perspective on life’s problems, which are inevitable. I experience peace as a result of hope and perspective.” – Dan McAleenan, SVP Store Operations

    Philippians 4:13 NKJV I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

    “These verses remind me that I can achieve anything as long as I seek the will of the Lord. Regardless of the task, circumstance or situation, everything will work out because God is in control and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Andreanna Sims, Real Estate Manager

    We hope these Bible verses inspire you to live your life in alignment with God’s will. We encourage you to seek Him through His Word as you strive to be more like Christ.

    What Bible verses encourage you?

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  • Where I Really Fall Short

    Where I Really Fall Short by Lysa TerKeurst

    “LORD, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.” Isaiah 25:1 (NIV)

    Can I admit something to you on this cold fall day? It’s not pretty. It’s not something I’m proud of.

    And it’s certainly not something I want highlighted about my life.

    But, I must share just in case it might help you: Sometimes I struggle trusting God with my kids.

    There’s just something so hard about this for me. Though I say it with my mouth and I posture my attitude to give off the appearance of complete trust, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of fully living like I trust God with my kids, I fall short.

    I worry.

    I get incredibly anxious.

    I make lots of suggestions to God on their behalf.

    I try to keep things in their world calm, free of hurt and on track toward some “best plan” I’ve imagined for them.

    It’s like I gather up my people in my arms and tell God, “See? I’ve got it all worked out. Now, if You’ll just bless all this. Don’t mess with it, just bless it. And life will be good.”

    Like I said, I’m not proud of this.

    I could go on a little tangent right here and justify the great love of a mother and how God has woven into our very DNA this fierce desire to protect our young and care for them at all costs. But there’s this little prick in my heart because I know how very limited my efforts are. In every way my efforts are faulty and fragile.

    Therefore, I’m learning, slowly, how to grab hold of the only plan that is foolproof with my kids — truly entrusting them to the Lord.

    The very best thing a mom can ever do is to recognize only God is good at being God. I’m finally getting this. And it’s helping me get out of His way.

    For example, if it were up to me, my daughter Ashley would have never ever gone to the college she chose. I could give you a list a mile long why she should absolutely, positively, never ever, under any circumstances go to that school.

    But God.

    He had a plan I never could have imagined.

    He had a woman behind the scenes whom I didn’t even know at the school praying for my daughter.

    He had friends waiting to love her.

    He had small group leaders waiting to show her how to have a real relationship with Jesus.

    He had a church family waiting to become one of the most favorite parts of her life. And He had a young man with the biggest heart and cutest hair you ever did see waiting to fall in love with her and make her a preacher’s wife.

    When she left for college, I couldn’t have seen any of this. I couldn’t have imagined any of this. I couldn’t even sense the tiniest part of any of this.

    That’s why it’s crucial for me to trust God. Because heaven knows He is much better at arranging things than I am.

    My best job as a mom is to be obedient to God. God’s job is everything else.

    I must trust Him to lead me as I lead them to trust Him. I know that’s a mouthful. But honestly, the best way to protect my kids is to show them what it looks like to trust God for themselves.

    Almost two years to the day that I sat on my bed crying about my daughter going to this college so far away, I watched her walk down the aisle to marry a young man I love.

    A young man she met because she walked in God’s plan. And His plan was so very good.

    His plan hasn’t been without ups and downs. But through it all, God really showed me how much better He is at arranging life than I am. And He has moved me to a place where Isaiah 25:1 is truly the cry of my heart: “Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name, for in perfect faithfulness you have done wonderful things, things planned long ago.”

    Yes. God is good.

    And only God is good at being God.

    Father God, You know all of the things I desperately want to control. I’m scared but today I’m ready to give You these areas and walk in trust. I know You won’t arrange things according to my plan. And I’m actually thankful for that. Because I finally recognize Your plan will be so much better. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 19:21, “You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail.” (NLT) Isaiah 46:9, “Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What’s one area of your life that you can prayerfully hand over to the Lord today? © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Tongue

    Don’t Underestimate the Power of the Tongue by Arlene Pellicane

    “No human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8 (NIV)

    When I was in elementary school, I didn’t like recess. In fact, I dreaded recess because of a certain little boy.

    I would be playing peacefully with other girls and out of nowhere, the brown-eyed-boy with the big mouth would appear. “China girl! China girl!” he yelled, chasing me around.

    I’d quickly retreat to the girls’ bathroom to escape the embarrassment. There weren’t many Chinese girls in my elementary school. I didn’t want to be different; I wanted to fit in.

    Recess reminded me I didn’t fit in. I used to think dyeing my hair brown would solve all my problems. I never tried it, but I thought about it a lot.

    Because of those two words spoken to me — “China girl! China girl!” — I became insecure about my God-given race. I didn’t eat Chinese food; I ate pizza and hamburgers. At a young age, I was experiencing the power of other’s words to influence my thoughts and behavior.

    The words we speak hold great potential, both to harm and to heal. Our key verse reminds us of the enormous power yielded by the tiny muscle, the tongue. The Bible tells us the tongue is untamable, restlessly evil, and full of deadly poison. My big thigh muscle hasn’t injured too many, but my tiny tongue? That’s another story.

    In James chapter 3, James contrasts sizes in his three analogies about the tongue: a horse’s bit turns its whole body; small rudders direct large ships; and a little flame can ignite a great forest fire.

    The recurring theme? Don’t be deceived. Although very small, the tongue is powerful and should not be underestimated in its ability to do harm.

    If I am singing God’s praises Sunday morning at church but spreading juicy gossip on Monday morning, something is wrong with my heart, and it shows through the words that pass by my tongue. I don’t become saved by the words I speak (salvation is through Christ alone). But because I am saved, my words are supposed to reflect the presence of Jesus in my life.

    The same mouth should not produce praise and cursing. For example, an apple tree produces apples. It doesn’t produce apples and oranges. Following Jesus is an “all-in” endeavor. You can’t produce apples and oranges, blessing and cursing when you’ve been made into a new creation.

    Does that mean we’ll always speak righteous words at the right time, never lashing out in anger or impatience? No, James tells us in our key verse that “no human being can tame the tongue.” Verse 3:2 says “we all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect” (NIV).

    What’s the use in trying if no one can be perfect or tame the tongue? The emphasis shouldn’t be placed on how far we fall short. Instead we can focus on how far forward we can progress. When we obey God’s Word to become more like Jesus, we are being perfected. We are getting closer and closer to what Christ is like. We are not expecting perfection from ourselves. But by the grace of God, we are striving toward perfection.

    One little, wise word at a time.

    A few weeks ago at bedtime, my 6-year-old daughter Lucy looked at me with her big chocolate chip eyes. “Mommy, I appreciate how you say nice things to me. I appreciate that you help me love God and to do the right thing.”

    She spoke slowly in that little 6-year-old cadence, and I savored every syllable. It was like a big hug to my soul and in that moment, I felt fully appreciated and applauded. I pressed in tightly for a hug and thought in amazement, “My little girl understands the value of words of affirmation!”

    Lucy used her tongue for good. When I was around her age, words spoken to me sent me running to hide.

    But now, my child’s words empowered me to mother strong another day.

    How have you been using your words lately? Your words carry great potential to harm or heal. Have you been building your loved ones up or pointing out their faults? Your tongue is a powerful weapon for good or evil; wield it wisely today.

    Lord, I recognize my tongue is inherently evil and can easily be used to harm others. I give You my heart and ask You to refine my words. Help me speak life to those I see today. Give me specific words of encouragement to share with my family and friends. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 34:13, “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies.” (NIV) Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue can bring death or life…” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Since you have become a Christian, how have your words changed?

    Think of a person who could use some encouragement today. Pick up the phone, talk in person or send an email with positive words to bless him or her.

    © 2016 by Arlene Pellicane. All rights reserved.

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

  • Find Your Brave

    Find Your Brave by Holly Wagner

    “She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” Proverbs 31:15 (ESV)

    When my daughter, Paris, was in middle school, we participated in the school’s mandatory science fair. The teacher’s instructions stated that parents were not to help their children. I was elated; I had already graduated from middle school and felt no desire to do another science project.

    Paris was interested in horses, so she chose to build a papier-mâché horse. And it did vaguely resemble a horse — except it leaned significantly to the left, and we’re still not sure why.

    I helped her carry her project to the fair and was interested in seeing all the other sixth grade projects. After we set up Paris’ display, I looked around the room and saw some amazing projects, including a giant set of lungs that breathed and a map of the United States that lit up according to how much power each city used.

    I looked back at Paris’ leaning horse and quickly realized that either some parents cheated, or we had somehow ended up at a university science fair!

    After I reassured Paris that her project was interesting, I began to walk around the room, mainly to give myself time to forgive all those cheater parents. As I perused the submissions, I encountered the most amazing project: a miniature re-creation of the Biosphere 2, which I’m not so sure was built by a sixth grader. But I’m not bitter.

    In 1991, eight scientists lived for two years in an artificial environment in Oracle, Ariz., called Biosphere 2.

    Inside the 3-acre closed system was a small ocean, a rain forest, a desert and a savanna grassland. The scientists produced every kind of weather pattern except wind. Eventually the lack of wind caused the tree trunks to weaken and bend over. It’s the pressure of wind that strengthens tree trunks and allows them to hold up their own weight.

    As I stared at that project and thought about the lessons from the Biosphere 2, I realized something important about life. Like it or not, we have to admit that weathering storms builds our strength. So as much as I hate challenges, I think we need them. Proverbs 31 tells us why.

    At first, I was rather put off by Proverbs 31:15, the verse that challenges us to rise “while it is yet night.” But I believe that verse has less to do with the time of day we get up and everything to do with being women who rise up when chaos and heartbreak and calamity abound. In the darkest hour, she rises.

    On a personal level, perhaps your world is shaking. Maybe cancer has struck your family, or a loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Perhaps divorce has torn apart your home. At times it seems there has never been more pain, disease, famine and heartbreak than now, and yet God has entrusted you and me with this moment in history!

    When everything around us is in the midst of chaos, when our own world is quaking, we are to be “the she” who rises. She does not wilt; she does not complain; she does not blame. She finds her brave, and she rises.

    She actually grows stronger in the midst of dark times when it seems the whole world is trembling. God is looking for a company of women who will find their brave and rise in the midst of any and every challenge — and then be a force for good to help others find their brave.

    We do not have to remain stuck in our trials! We grow through them, and as daughters of the King, we can rise in the midst of dark, shaking moments.

    Lord, You know the trouble I face today. I need Your strength to face it bravely and be a woman who helps others be brave as well. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (ESV) Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is the most recent storm you’ve experienced? How might God be using that storm to make you stronger? How can you be a woman who “rises” when trouble and heartache come?

    © 2016 by Holly Wagner. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks WaterBrook Multnomah 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

  • Slow Down and Listen

    Slow Down and Listen by Jill Hoven

    “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

    The words “Be still” will now forever remind me of my mom.

    “We’re home and fine,” I quickly called to tell her one day. I was always rushing. She simply wanted confirmation we had arrived home safely, but it felt unnecessary to call her.

    Slow down; be patient, whispered a small voice in my mind. I pushed it aside, hung up the phone and rushed my toddlers to bed.

    “Just one more thing?” Mom asked as I was leaving her hospital room, a few months later.

    Pay attention; listen, whispered the still small voice.

    I understood and returned to her bedside as she shared important information with me. She wanted to ensure I knew this before her procedure the next day, in case something went wrong.

    “Everything will be fine, Mom,” I reassured her while wondering if it would be. It wasn’t. Over the next few days, complications of a rare disease and a series of small strokes stole Mom’s short-term memory.

    “Where are you going?” Mom asked me about a year later, as I sat down next to her bed to give us both manicures. She couldn’t remember a necessary work party I was attending later, even though I’d already told her a few times. My heart still broke when she couldn’t remember things, but it didn’t really matter anymore. I wanted her nails to look nice for her upcoming funeral, but it was honestly just an excuse to be with her.

    Be still; be present, whispered the still small voice.

    Mom also couldn’t remember she was dying, which was a blessing. So we chatted about the party as I filed, buffed and polished. It was to be our last conversation.

    A week later, peering down at those lovingly manicured nails in her casket, I whispered to the still small voice, Now what?

    “Be still and know,” came the reply. I knew God’s presence. He carried me through the year of Mom’s whirlwind illness and death. He would continue to carry me through the next year of grief and searching. But being still was difficult.

    I move quickly and always have. I rush to be on time, get things done and hurry to the next agenda item. This rushing often serves me well but also causes missed moments. I see this now.

    God gently used my hardest days to teach me this lesson.

    Slow down. Be patient. Pay attention. Listen. Be still. Be present.

    His whispers to me then are what I teach others now. God directed me to a new path when I was quiet and still enough to listen. He’s continually teaching me.

    Me? The girl who rushes? God asked me to help people with memory issues. Me? The one who’s always gone fast? I must now slow down and be patient. Me. The one who finds it difficult to stop moving … is learning to be still.

    God is all around us. He speaks in His creation, a child’s laughter, a friend’s comfort or a hushed whisper. I always knew His presence but wasn’t always listening. God allows people, situations and things in our lives for reasons we may never understand. But He never leaves us; He is always present.

    Understanding His presence and being still enough to sense it are two different things. I needed to slow down and quiet myself long enough to fully hear Him.

    He’s been speaking my whole life. His inaudible whispers to my soul, the sense of what to do, say or not say — these were always present. But in my haste, I often failed to see or hear them. Making time, slowing down and putting God first has helped me hear His voice more clearly. I now know Him more and encourage others to as well. Hearing His whispers has led me to new adventures I could never have known on my own. But first, I needed to be still.

    Do you sense His presence and still small voice? Pay attention. Slow down. Be still and know.

    Dear Lord, we know Your presence is ever present with us. Equip our hearts and minds to be still and know this in the depths of our soul. Help us to hear and follow Your voice alone. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: John 10:27, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (NLT) Hebrews 12:25, “Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven!” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: What is one way to adjust your day to ensure you hear God speaking to you?

    What would change in your life if you were to slow down, be still and listen to God today?

    © 2016 by Jill Hoven. All rights reserved.

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

  • 4 Cozy Ways to Decorate Your Home for Fall

    Set your dining room table with festive dishes that remind you just how blessed you truly are.

    As the seasons change from summer to fall, we enter into a time of thanksgiving and reflection; thanking God for all that He has blessed us with this year. We open our homes to family and friends and share in the joys and blessings of the season together. Prepare your home for harvest by creating a warm and welcoming space with these fall decorating ideas.

    Freshen Up Your Front Porch Swap out your summer flowers for more seasonal plants by adding mums to your flowerpots. Consider hanging an autumn wreath on the door or displaying pumpkins, squash and corn stalks on your porch to create a festive look and feel.

    Decorate Your Dining Room Table Craft a centerpiece by placing textured fabrics in a basket and filling it with squash, leaves and acorns. Trade in your every day dishes for festive plates, platters and mugs with inspirational messages that remind you just how blessed you truly are.

    Light Candles Take advantage of the shorter days by lighting candles in the evening. Not only do they look pretty, they make your home smell wonderful. Place them in several rooms throughout the house to create a cozy ambiance.

    Set Aside a Quiet Space Transform an area of your home into a cozy reading corner. Use this space to cuddle up with your devotions and spend some time getting into God’s Word. Lay out a throw blanket and some fluffy pillows to kick up the comfort level.

    Incorporating even one of these ideas will make your home feel warm and cozy for fall so pick your favorite and get started. Need an excuse to decorate? We’re offering 25% Off Harvest Gifts, including wall art and dining products, now through October 13.

    How do you prepare your home for the harvest season? Share your favorite fall decorating tips in the comments below.

  • What Mud Puddles Can Teach Us About True Friends

    What Mud Puddles Can Teach Us About True Friends by Alicia Bruxvoort

    “A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times.” Proverbs 17:17 (VOICE)

    I sat in my mini-van in her driveway and agonized over what I would say if she answered the door.

    I hadn't planned to stop as I passed her house on my way to the grocery store, but something my friend said the day before kept running through my head like a doleful echo.

    We’d been sitting on the edge of the sandbox at the park, our young ones building castles at our feet, when she’d mentioned a personal struggle that threatened to steal her hope.

    She masqueraded her vulnerability with a flimsy giggle, but the tears pooling in her eyes bore silent testimony to her pain.

    I hadn’t known what to say, so I’d pressed right through the moment with a one-armed hug and an empathetic nod, and we quickly shifted our conversation to something more comfortable — books we’d read and upcoming church events, potty training woes and soccer schedules.

    But then a verse showed up in my daily devotion before I raced out the door. And a clamp of conviction squeezed my heart in a quiet knowing.

    “A true friend loves regardless of the situation, and a real brother exists to share the tough times” (Proverbs 17:17).

    So there I sat in her driveway, idling in uncertainty and wishing I knew what to do.

    What if I knocked on the door and messed it all up? After all, I wasn’t a psychologist or a pastor, a doctor or a counselor. I was just a sleep-deprived mom with struggles of her own.

    I was about to shift my van into reverse and ignore the nudge in my soul, when I remembered a simple conversation I'd had with my 8-year-old daughter.

    Hannah had come home from second grade with a bloodstain on her sleeve and a splotch of dried-up mud on her backside.

    The story spilled from her lips between bites of apple slices and Goldfish crackers: “Grace got hurt at recess today. She scraped her knee on the cement when she tripped on the kickball and fell in a puddle.”

    I’d swallowed a giggle, as I tried to picture the clumsy scene.

    “So you took her to the nurse?” I’d asked as I attempted to fill in the gaps.

    “No,” Hannah replied with a humble shrug. “Grace’s leg hurt too bad to walk. But the fastest boy in second grade said he’d run and get the teacher for help. So I just sat with her until the teacher came.”

    “In the mud puddle?” I’d retorted with an incredulous laugh.

    “Yeah …” Hannah had replied with a quiet sigh. “I think she just needed a friend to be with her while she waited.”

    I’d wrapped my daughter in a proud hug and vowed to remember what my puddle-percher already knew.

    When we have nothing to give, we can give ourselves.

    When we can't fix the problem, we can offer our presence.

    When we can't heal a hurt, we can hold a hand.

    When we can't find the words, we can render our with-ness.

    I stared once more at my friend’s front door and then dropped my head in prayer. Lord, show me what to do. When I opened my eyes, I noticed a dried splotch of chocolate milk splattered across the knee of my well-worn jeans.

    The splatter was a battle scar from our hurried breakfast chaos, but in that moment on the driveway, the unsightly blotch of chocolate bore an uncanny resemblance to a murky brown mud puddle.

    So, I took a cue from a second grader who understands friendship a little better than her mama, slipped out of the van and walked up the front sidewalk. I rang the doorbell and waited with nothing to offer but my stain-splattered self and my humble gift of with-ness.

    Because sometimes more than Band-Aids or Bible verses, more than rescue or repair, our struggling friends just need someone who is willing to sit with them in the muck.

    Dear God, give me courage to offer the gift of my presence to a friend in need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Proverbs 18:24, “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (NIV)

    John 15:14, “You are my friends if you do what I command.” (NLT)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Spend some time with a friend who needs the gift of your presence this week.

    If you are in a “mud puddle” season, invite Jesus to be the friend in your mess. Read Matthew 1:23 and savor the meaning of His Name.

    © 2016 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • Don’t Let This Heartbreak Destroy You

    Don’t Let This Heartbreak Destroy You by Lysa TerKeurst

    “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18 (NIV)

    There’s a line from the prayer my father-in-law prayed over us at our wedding that I think of quite often: “Lord, give them enough hurts to keep them human and enough failures to keep their hands clenched tightly in Yours.”

    There were many other lines of blessing in the prayer, but this part made me tilt my head, heavy with sprayed-up curls and a homemade veil.

    My face flushed at the realization I’d forgotten to cross that part out.

    I’d seen the prayer beforehand. It was all typed out. But in the rush of everything, I’d forgotten. And now, we had essentially asked God for heartbreak. At our wedding. Awesome.

    But Art’s dad is a man of wisdom. And I’m thankful he didn’t take it upon himself to strike that part.

    I couldn’t have understood the prayer on that day full of white tulle, giddy whispers of love and my 3-year-old sister singing “Happy Birthday” during the lighting of the unity candle. But as life has unfolded, I now very much understand the beauty of those lines.

    Our life could have been very self-focused. Our marriage. Our home. Our kids. Our plans. Our life.

    But God wanted so much more from us. He didn’t bring us together simply to build a life that would make us happy. He brought us together to be partners in the purpose He assigned. Our own strength would not have prepared us for kingdom assignments. It probably would have crippled us with selfishness and pride.

    Heartbreak is a part of life.

    It’s certainly been a part of different seasons of my marriage. And though every single hurt seemed like an exposure of weakness in our relationship, it actually brought out a strength we couldn’t have gotten any other way. The breaking of us has actually been the making of us ... the God-strengthened us He could use.

    I don’t know what kind of heartbreak you are walking through right now, sweet friend.

    Maybe your marriage didn’t remain standing under the weight of life. Maybe you’ve never been married, but you long to be. Please don’t get stuck thinking these truths are only for couples.

    Married or not, do not let the heartbreak you’ve experienced be wasted. God is still with you. His promises still stand. Soak in His truths and let them seep into the deepest places of your heart rubbed raw with uncertainty.

    Don’t let what breaks your heart destroy your life.

    Hold fast to Jesus and remember: This breaking of you will be the making of you. A new you. A stronger you. Strengthened not with the pride of perfection, but with the sweet grace of one who knows an intimate closeness with her Lord.

    And don’t miss out on the hope God offers in our key verse: “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit,” (Psalm 34:18).

    Using the original language for this verse, you could read it like this: The Lord draws near to the one who’s had her heart shattered and delivers her from exposed grief to victory.

    He draws you near despite the sharp evidence of your grieving heart. The anger. The deep disappointment and disillusionment. The questions of why you, and why now? The comparisons that make you feel as though God loves other people more. How could He let this happen? The cussing and banging your fist on the steering wheel. The shame and anguish. All of these are shards of being shattered.

    God isn’t afraid of your sharp edges that may seem quite risky to others. He doesn’t pull back. He pulls you close. His love and grace covers your exposed grief. And step-by-step He leads you to a new place of victory.

    Father God, thank You for the way You tenderly minister to the shattered places in my heart. I’m so grateful You are able to use every heartbreak in my life for good. I am choosing to believe today that You are leading me to a place of strength and victory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Psalm 34:17, “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Are you currently walking through a season of heartbreak? How could God actually use it to strengthen you?

    © 2016 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • He Never Gives Up

    He Never Gives Up by Lynn Cowell

    “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)

    The crunching of the gravel ceased as our van rolled to a complete stop. We had traveled from a swarming, heavily populated city in India to find the number of people had decreased, but the poverty had only increased.

    Before that morning, I thought I was prepared for what we would see; our guide shared a video detailing the environment with us the night before. I soon learned a camera could not capture, nor is the human heart made to take in, the suffering we saw before us.

    A handful of families made their home together, living as rag-pickers. Each day, their work consisted of going to the dump and pulling out anything of value — plastic, cardboard, fabric. After a full day’s work, they’d redeem their collections, earning approximately a dollar a day.

    You would expect to see despair on the faces of those whose daily lives seem so dismal. Yet as the villagers emerged from their tarp-covered tent homes to greet us, not even the 110-degree temperature was enough to wilt their warm welcome. The children came first, extending their darling hands and dressed in vibrant shades of pinks, purples and whites.

    Though our language was a barrier, our smiles connected us. They’d been expecting us.

    Once inside the makeshift home, we were ushered to seats of honor with garlands of flowers placed upon our necks as these beautiful people expressed their gladness for our arrival. After offering a power-filled prayer of praise, the leader began songs of joyful worship, turning the dark, dingy shelter into a sanctuary. Louder and louder, the people clapped and sang praises to God for His goodness to them. Their glimmering eyes shone brightly; hope and gladness poured out.

    While these are the poorest of the poor in India, the outcast and rejected of their culture, these people are not without hope. They’re on a new path, taking them to a new place.

    This journey out of darkness and into life began when a man named Raju came to know Christ as his savior. From there, he became a student in a literacy class offered by Mission India. Besides teaching Raju to read, write and calculate, this class taught him more of the new life Jesus died to bring him.

    Raju didn’t keep this to himself. After completing his course, he became a literacy teacher and then a church planter.

    Raju has become an advocate for his village. With this new confidence, he helped his village obtain a well, land rights and food rations. He is passing on his new knowledge.

    The villagers are also learning to read and write and even more importantly, aout the salvation Jesus offers. They are growing daily in their relationship with Jesus through the literacy classes and church.

    As we watched these beautiful people singing praises to Jesus, our Mission India leader asked, “Would any one like to give a word of encouragement?” Philippians 1:3-6 immediately came to my mind and I asked to share. “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (NIV).

    Culture has shouted to these precious people: You are not wanted. Your life doesn’t matter. You are not welcome. In contrast, Christ says to us all: You are wanted. Your lives do matter. You are welcome.

    Once Jesus begins His work in our lives, He never gives up on us. He loves us, encouraging us to reach our fullest potential, no matter where we live or what others say about us.

    We are partners together in sharing the Gospel, the Good News of the new life Christ offers each and every one of us. He will not stop working this good work in us, and He will never stop working in the lives of our new family members in India as well.

    Lord, no matter where we live or how different our circumstances, we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and family supports each other. May we do all we can — not only to share from what we have been given, but to help the Good News of Your new life reach the unreached. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: Philippians 1:9-11, “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND: Like these people in India, have there been times in your life when you have felt like an outcast?

    How can a relationship with Jesus bring healing to this hurt?

    © 2016 by Lynn Cowell. All rights reserved.

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

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Activate Your Faith - Phillipians 4:13
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