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Author Archives: Lysa TerKeurst

  • I'm Worried About My Child's Future

    Posted on December 18, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA

    "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps." Proverbs 16:9 (NLT)

    Have you ever felt pressured to ensure your child's success in school because you thought it meant success in life?

    A couple of years ago I overheard my daughter Hope telling a friend she was glad I didn't get all worked up over grades. Not trying to be nosey but totally wanting to be nosey, I kept listening.

    She explained that she and her siblings were expected to do their best, but in the end, as long as they worked hard, my husband Art and I were okay with whatever grade they received.

    For the most part, that's right.

    This hasn't always been the case. When Hope started kindergarten, I felt compelled to help her succeed. I felt enormous pressure because I believed success in school meant success in life, and I wanted to set my child up for success.

    She was a bright and articulate child. But all through kindergarten, she couldn't read.

    Then came first grade. All of the other kids in her class were reading with ease. Not my daughter. I panicked. I had her tested. I worried constantly that I must be doing something wrong as her mother.

    In the end, it was a readiness issue. When she was ready, she starting reading.

    Then along came my next child, who was reading at 4 years old. Finally I'd done something right, I reasoned.

    But then child number three came along, and she was my slowest reader yet.

    Through all of this, God started to untangle the misperception that success in school determines success in life, and as a parent, it is up to me to push, plead, demand and determine my child's future.

    Slowly, I realized God has a plan for each of my kids. As long as I'm depending on the Lord to guide me as a parent, nothing I do or don't do will mess up their futures. I'm reassured of this with our key verse, Proverbs 16:9, "We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps."

    As their parent, it's my job to guide them, but worldly success shouldn't be the ultimate goal. My guiding should focus on leading them into a relationship with God, where He'll make their path straight, no matter what their grades are.

    This revelation has provided such freedom.

    I can celebrate when one of my kids excels in a subject, trusting that particular success is needed for whatever God intends for them in life. If, however, a child struggles and can't grasp a certain subject — well, that's also part of God's direction.

    Of course, working hard, doing your best and being a conscientious student is important. But in our home, grades are not the ultimate determination of success.

    This child may never make marks in school that the world esteems, but giving her freedom to excel as God has designed her is already paying off. She has an eternal perspective that's more valuable for her future than any academic accolades.

    I'm convinced her struggles in school are actually God's way of keeping her on the path He's had for her since she was conceived. Hope was conceived only four months into our very rough start of a marriage. Art and I were two broken sinners thrust into the responsibility of trying to raise a child.

    The day Hope was born I saw God like never before. His tender grace was handed to me wrapped in a pink blanket with eyes so wide, so blue, they were a sea of forgiveness forever staring back at me.

    I'd never physically touched God until that day. And maybe for the first time in my entire life, His hope rushed inside of me and started rearranging and redeeming my brokenness.

    Hope.

    We named her Hope.

    Now, we won't talk about the conversations I had with God when His Hope kept me up in the middle of the night for months after that. And we will save the story of how His Hope has always felt it was beneath her to be the child, and she would put her hands on her toddler hips and tell me not to boss her.

    We'll save those stories for another day.

    But I'll never forget an e-mail I got from His Hope while she was on a mission trip. Hope was walking the broken roads of Ethiopia navigating poverty her mind couldn't quite process. She bumped into sheep and a woman whose house was made of cardboard and ripped bed sheets.

    Hope's steps were steady, though her heart felt shaky as she loved on 30 kids dying of AIDS in a forgotten orphanage on the forgotten outskirts of town.

    She wrote to say, "Mom, I've fallen in love. The kids rushed at me when I walked in and I tried to hold all 30 of them at one time."

    His Hope.

    From a broken mama. Into a broken world. His Hope is still going forth like only His Hope can.

    All that to say, yeah — I don't get all worked up over grades anymore. Trusting God's plan is the only secret I know in the gentle art of not freaking out.

    Dear Lord, thank You for Your truth that says You determine our steps. Help me to remember that when I'm anxious over my child's future. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 138:8a, "The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me;" (ESV).

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What things are you worried about for your child? Write them down and then ask God to orchestrate every detail that concerns you.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • If You Ever Feel Lonely, Read This

    Posted on December 16, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA TERKEURST

    LYSA

    "Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses." Psalm 25:16-17 (ESV)

    There were many feelings I expected to have at this conference I'd been looking forward to attending. Acceptance. Fun. Camaraderie.

    On paper, these were my people.

    They lead organizations. I lead an organization. They are vulnerable. I am vulnerable. Like me, they know the stresses of deadlines, trying to balance kids with ministry, and the nagging sense that we should keep hidden the fact that we have the pizza delivery place on speed dial.

    Yes, these will for sure be my people.

    And the great thing about gathering with people you just know you're going to bond with is that they will get you. Really get you ... like on the level of having inside jokes that makes every conversation comfortable and delightful.

    I couldn't wait to be with these people.

    And I couldn't wait for the deep friendships that would surely bloom as a result of our time together.

    I walked into the meeting room and quickly located the table of the people I was excited to meet. Every seat had a nametag attached so I circled the table looking for mine. As I got to the last chair and realized my name wasn't there, I got a sinking feeling.

    I milled around the room looking for my name, feeling increasingly out of place. Finally, at a table on the opposite side of the room, I found my name. I rallied in my heart that the Lord must have a special plan for me to meet and connect with the others assigned to my table. I took my seat and pulled out my cell phone as I nervously waited for my tablemates.

    I waited.

    And waited.

    And waited.

    As the prayer for the meal concluded and the event got underway it became painfully apparent to me that the others assigned to my table weren't able to come for some reason. So, I'd be seated alone. Very alone.

    In reality, I don't think anyone else really noticed my predicament. After all by this time everyone in the room was busy passing rolls and salad dressing options.

    In my head I started to have a little pity conversation: Well self, would you like a roll? Or ten perhaps? It's certainly an option when you're sitting single at a table for ten.

    And that's when a very clear sentence popped into my head, "You aren't set aside, Lysa. You are set apart." It wasn't audible. And it wasn't my own thought. I knew it was a thought assigned by God that I needed to ponder.

    To be set aside is to be rejected.

    That's exactly what the enemy would have wanted me to feel. If he could get me to feel this, then I'd become completely self-absorbed in my own insecurity and miss whatever reason God had for me to be at this event.

    To be set apart is to be given an assignment that requires preparation.

    That's what I believe God wanted me to see. If He could get me to see this, I'd be able to embrace the lesson of this situation.

    Have you ever been in this place? Maybe you're there this Christmas season. It's tough when everything around you screams "merry" while you're aching with loneliness and feel anything but.

    I wasn't just in this place at the dinner that night. I've been in whole seasons of my life where, though I had people around, I felt quite alone in my calling.

    Can I give you three thoughts that might encourage you today?

    1. Look for the gift of being humbled.

    Proverbs 11:2b reminds us that "with humility comes wisdom" (NIV). In this set apart place, God will give you special wisdom you'll need for the assignment ahead.

    2. Look for the gift of being lonely.

    This will develop in you a deeper sense of compassion for your fellow travelers. You better believe when I walk into a conference now I look for someone sitting alone and make sure they know someone noticed them.

    3. Look for the gift of silence.

    Had I been surrounded by the voices of those people I was so eager to meet that night, I would have surely missed the voice of God. I'm trying to weave more silence into the rhythm of my life now so I can whisper, "God what might You want to say to me right now? I'm listening."

    I know it can be painful to be alone. And I know the thoughts of being set aside are loud and overwhelmingly tempting to believe in the hollows of feeling unnoticed and uninvited.

    But as you pray through your feelings, see if maybe your situation has more to do with you being prepared than you being overlooked.

    There is something wonderfully sacred that happens when a girl chooses to look past being set aside to see God's call for her to be set apart.

    Dear Lord, help me see the gifts hidden in this season of loneliness. I'm believing today that I'm set apart, not set aside. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 15:16a, "You didn't choose me. I chose you." (NLT)

  • When Fear Chases Me

    Posted on December 11, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:1-2, NIV)

    My eyes popped open and my heart raced when my phone buzzed at 1 a.m. Good news isn't usually delivered at that hour.

    I hopped out of bed and grabbed my phone to read a text: "Mom, police have my dorm on lockdown and are running up and down the hall shouting. I don't know what's going on but I'm scared."

    It was Ashley, my college freshman daughter, more than seven hours away from me.

    I tried calling her but the reception was so bad neither of us could make out what the other was saying. Texting was my only option so I asked a series of questions trying to get a better handle of what was happening.

    My hands were shaking. My heart was racing. And I felt intensely helpless.

    When she was a little girl and cried out in the middle of the night, all I had to do was run upstairs. I could sit on the edge of her bed and rub her back. I could let her see me. Calm her with my touch. Be there to whisper reassurances.

    But now that little girl was a college girl very far from me.

    I couldn't sit on her bed and she couldn't see me. I couldn't calm her with my touch. I couldn't whisper those reassurances with my voice.

    All I could do was text her.

    And that felt completely inadequate in light of the situation.

    Scary images assaulted my mind with all the possible scenarios a completely shaken mama conjures up in moments of frightening uncertainty. I sank down to my knees and begged God to clear my head and give me the words to text that would help.

    This was one of those times I wished God would appear in a way my eyes could see Him and give me clear, step-by-step instructions saying exactly what to do.

    But I couldn't see Him. And no Spirit Finger wrote instructions on my wall. Instead, I felt this gentle nudge to pay attention to what He'd already given me that week: A set of verses a friend texted me and that I'd passed along to another friend which is our key verse today.

    Psalm 91:1-2, "Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'"

    I love that these verses give us a script to say out loud, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."

    Quickly, I texted Ashley these verses and instructed her to say this out loud over and over until she felt some relief from her fear. And you better believe I was saying it out loud over and over as well.

    Isn't it interesting the two words God is called here are refuge and fortress?

    A refuge is a quick place you duck into to find shelter. A fortress is a place built intentionally for the purposes of exceptional security. The Hebrew word for fortress is metsudah, with one of its definitions being an "inaccessible place."

    God is not just a quick refuge from the storm, but He's also the place where fear no longer has access to me.

    Fear can't catch what it can no longer reach.

    It's not that bad things won't happen to my kids or me. We live in a broken world where broken things happen every day. But as a child of God I don't have to live with fear taunting and terrorizing me.

    We still don't know all the reasons why my daughter's dorm was on lockdown. Thankfully, she and her friends were safe and we all eventually got some sleep that night. I understand that other middle-of-the-night calls don't turn out so well. I've sadly lived through those times too.

    But I'm determined to make some imperfect progress when I'm processing fear.

    I now know I can feel afraid but I don't have to live afraid.

    I can say out loud, "God, You are my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." And then close my eyes and picture Him lifting us to a place where fear can't catch us.

    Dear Lord, I'm declaring today that I will not live in a state of fear. I place all of my fears into Your hands and commit to trust Your plan. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 32:7, "You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What fear are you living with? The next time you feel that fear sneaking in, declare the Scripture and prayer that Lysa shared. Remember: you can feel afraid but you don't have to live afraid!

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Want to Quit Ministry

    Posted on December 2, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "... Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'" John 21:15a (NIV)

    Do you ever wish God would appear in the flesh and tell you exactly what He wants you to do in a situation? I do.

    Sometimes I wish He'd hand me a piece of paper with clear, step-by-step instructions written out and personalized for my specific circumstance. And then He'd stay for a little Q&A session where He'd tenderly answer all my questions with deep reassurances.

    I guess some people would say that demonstrates my lack of faith. And maybe it does. Or maybe my heart just feels incredibly vulnerable with some decisions I have to make, and I desperately want to get it right.

    I love the Lord so much.

    I want to honor Him with my life.

    But sometimes I feel Him stirring me to do something that's terrifyingly opposite of what I want to do. Left to my own choosing, I want to take the safe, certain and comfortable route. And then Scriptures march right up to my limited perspective and challenge me to walk a path I'd never choose on my own.

    This question forces my eyes to glance toward that path: More than anything else, do you want to follow God and live His message?

    Or even more deeply: Do you love Jesus and want Him more than anything else?

    It's this question the resurrected Jesus asked Peter at a crucial crossroads in Peter's life. And gracious, do I ever relate to Peter.

    He'd been following Jesus for years.

    Then things got hard, just like Jesus told the disciples they would. Jesus gave them the clear hope to hold onto:

    "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33, NIV).

    But isn't it hard when what you see with your physical eyes seems contrary to what you believe in your heart?

    Problems beg us to forget God's promises.

    Peter denied Jesus because he feared the cost of following Him.

    Then circumstances got really hard. Jesus was crucified and Peter took his eyes off that hard path of continuing in ministry. He went back to what felt safe, certain and comfortable ... fishing.

    Then Peter got one of those visits from Jesus I wish I could have. Resurrected Jesus appeared in the flesh and could not have made it any clearer what He wanted Peter to ponder. With one question, He ruined Peter's justifications to stay safe.

    "... Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?'" (John 21:15).

    Do you love me more than these?

    We've all got our own "these."

    They are anything that make us look away from the less chosen path of following God with everything we've got.

    So, back to my decision.

    Last year, I wanted to quit ministry. Proverbs 31 Ministries had experienced tremendous growth and suddenly I felt enormous pressure that I wasn't smart enough, capable enough or resourced enough to lead this ministry.

    Everything was bigger, which made me feel like everything was scarier.

    The staffing needs.

    The budget.

    The worries.

    Gathering up my fears, I presented a strong case to the Lord to give this assignment to someone else and let me quietly slip away. I set my sights on what felt more comfortable and safe and certain.

    But Jesus' question ruined all my quitting plans: "Do you love me more than these ... more than your fears ... more than your desire to do something easier and less scary?"

    So, here I stand, a girl with trembling hands wearing boots dusty from that uncommon path. I stand and proclaim, "Yes, Jesus, I love You more than these. I will live out the charge presented in Your Holy Word to, "Proclaim the message; persist in it whether convenient or not; rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching," (2 Timothy 4:2, HCSB).

    I realize your struggles and decisions might not look like mine, but whatever they are, my team at Proverbs 31 Ministries and I are committed to meeting you at your point of need with the Truth that points you to God's best pathway for you.

    I pray this devotion and all the others we send each day help you hold God's Truth close and more clearly discern God's direction for your day.

    I'm determined to persevere. But I'm also determined to recognize I can't do this alone. Will you join us with your prayers and financial support?

    This is so hard and honestly awkward for me to ask. But if I don't, you won't know Proverbs 31 Ministries depends on your support to do what we do each day.

    I need your help and I thank you for letting me ask. Oh, how I wish we could have this conversation over coffee ... maybe one day. I would love that. But for now, if you can join us, please click here for more information. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    Dear Lord, I want to declare today that I love You more than my "these." Thank You for reminding me to follow You even when it's difficult. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Deuteronomy 6:5, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are your "these"? The things that keep you from following God with everything you've got? Once you've identified them, pray about handing them over to God.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Before You Say "Yes" to One More Thing

    Posted on November 20, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORD means safety." Proverbs 29:25 (NLT)

    I want people to like me. I want to please others and pretend I can do all things for all people.

    But I can get myself and my schedule into a mess because of it.

    And in an effort to please others, it's those closest to me who get the worst of me when I'm overscheduled.

    When my oldest daughter, Hope, was about 4 years old she decided it was too boring to take her afternoon nap. Instead, while I was downstairs preparing for guests, she was busy doing something else.

    Please understand I'm not very talented in the kitchen. I do okay with preparing simple food for my people. But I get completely twisted up in a knot when preparing food for other people.

    My timing is off. The veggies are stone cold by the time the meat is done. I forget the bread that's still frozen in the oven. And I also forget that making the salad the day before is a bad idea when you mix the dressing and croutons in it. Which, I've learned, turns it all into one big, soggy mess.

    My emotions are also off. The pressure of my timing issues mixed with my desire to have everything just so with the house, isn't a pretty combination.

    But when my Bible study leader asked for someone to host the year-end dinner and my friends all looked at me, I said, "Oh yes, of course. I'd love to do it."

    Visions of home décor magazine covers started dancing in my head. Recipes and flower arrangements and perfectly set tables swirled about, intoxicating me with the thrill of seriously impressing my friends. Then some greatly deceived part of me quipped, "And no need for y'all to bring anything. I'd love to prepare a really nice meal for us."

    Would somebody get a wooden spoon and knock some sense into me?

    My inner people-pleaser blinded me ... until the day of the dinner party. Then the full-on reality of what I'd committed to made me want to crawl in a hole and hide. I was overwhelmed and underprepared.

    I desperately needed my little people to give me full cooperation with naptime that day.

    But Hope had no intention of fully cooperating. So when I saw puffs of something white coming through the air vents downstairs, my heart sank.

    I dashed upstairs to find that Hope had emptied a large container of baby powder all over her room, herself and every air vent she could find. And now, that powder was filling the downstairs with a layer of white residue that made it look like I hadn't dusted in decades.

    Fury rose from some deep, unbridled part of my already-pushed-to-the-max-self. Every bit of my frustration about the dinner party was now also Hope's fault. I screamed, "What were you thinking? Why do you always mess stuff up?!"

    Instantly, I felt a cloud of shame descend on me thicker than the baby powder ever could.

    And then the strangling effects of condemnation gripped me when her little voice replied back, "I was trying to make it look like heaven, Mommy. I thought you would love it."

    Ouch.

    The jarring reality of this incident started me on a journey of realizing that the ill effects of people pleasing spread. And make me the opposite of the kind of woman God made me to be.

    Saying yes all the time won't make me Wonder Woman. It will make me a worn out woman. This isn't pleasing to anyone. Not my family. Not my friends. Not the people I'm trying to impress. And certainly not God.

    If I know this, I can start to see people pleasing for what it really is ... a trap. Even the Bible calls it this in our key verse, Proverbs 29:25, "Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the LORDmeans safety." (NLT)

    Yes, being so focused on pleasing people is a vicious trap that ensnares us and those who do life with us.

    So, here's what we need to do today:
    • Look for the trap.
    • Unlock the trap.

    To unlock the trap, we must use the word "no." This should be handled delicately and appropriately, but it should be used.

    Back to the baby powder situation. I wound up apologizing to Hope after I had a good cry about my poor reaction. We took pictures of her "heaven." (Pictures that now, 16 years later, are complete treasures to me.)

    I also served pizza to my Bible study group that night. In the midst of baby powder dust. And ... we all lived to tell about it.

    Dear Lord, help me identify and overcome the traps of people pleasing today. I fully place my trust in You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men." (ESV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Identify a trap of people pleasing in your life. Then, look for an appropriate place to say no today. Remember, saying yes all the time won't make you Wonder Woman. It will make you a worn out woman!

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • 3 Ways to Press Through Unanswered Prayer

    Posted on November 12, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

    I opened the anonymous letter and my heart sank. It was from another mom who wanted to make sure I had a list of all the ways one of my daughters was falling short. There in black and white she listed my daughter's mistakes, shortcomings and frailties.

    And then just to make sure I took her nameless letter seriously, she informed me she'd be sending a copy to my pastor.

    My initial reaction was figure out who sent this so I could call her. Talk this through face-to-face. Assure her my husband and I were not only aware of some struggles my daughter was having but also working diligently to help her course-correct.

    But as I reread the letter, I discerned it wasn't sent from a place of love for my family or a heart that wanted to help.

    From the language she used and the fact that there wasn't a way to contact her, it was obvious she didn't send it because she wanted the best for my daughter.

    I sat on the edge of my bed and cried.

    It's so hard to have someone attack you in an area that's already rubbed raw with hardship. Her letter was like a bullet straight to my heart.

    However, it was also a wake-up call to get more intentional in praying for my daughter. I thought about her struggles a lot. I talked about her struggles. I worried about her struggles.

    But thinking about, talking about and worrying about something is not the same as praying about it.

    I determined to turn this letter that felt like a bullet into a blessing by using it as a catalyst to ramp up my prayer life.

    Through my tears I cried out to the Lord, "I will not sacrifice Your grace for my child on the altar of people's opinions. Of course I want my daughter to walk the straight and narrow path of great choices. But I trust You Lord to write her testimony. My main goal for her is not behavior modification but total heart transformation. I want her to want You, Lord, and Your best for her life. Give me the courage to not just pray about my daughter, but to pray her all the way through this."

    Praying her through the ups and downs wasn't easy. There were days I wondered if God was even hearing my prayers.

    It's tough to pray someone all the way through a messy, hard, complicated situation and not see answers. Maybe you've been there. Maybe you are there now.

    Can I speak hope into your heart with 3 ways to press through unanswered prayers?

    1. Know with confidence God hears your prayers.

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

    2. Trust that prayer makes a difference, even when you don't see the difference.

    It may take a while for you to see God answer your prayers. But don't miss an "in the meantime answer" you can receive right away. Philippians 4: 6-7 reminds us of the immediate answer to every prayer: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (NIV)

    Did you catch it? It's the peace of God that will guard your heart and mind in the process while you're waiting for God to reveal His answer to your request. When you pray, you can trust you are doing your part and God will certainly do His part.

    3. Tell fear it has no place in this conversation.

    These prayers are your gateway to feel an assurance you don't see yet. But fear will beg you to focus on the problem more than God's promises. Isaiah 41:10 says, "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand" (NIV).

    It's been a year and a half since I got that hard letter that prompted more frequent prayers for my daughter ... that bullet that turned into a blessing. I recently visited her at college and could hardly believe my eyes.

    She's a completely different girl.

    At one point during our time together, I asked her, "What finally made following Jesus wholeheartedly click for you?" She said, "Mom, I've made friends who love Jesus. I saw a joy in them that I wanted. So, I started doing what they do even when I didn't want to. At first I thought getting up to do devotions was unrealistic, prayer meetings were boring, and listening to praise music, excessive. But as I kept doing these things, the Lord started changing my thought patterns. And when I started thinking about life from the standpoint of truth, I had so much more joy."

    She then paused and said words I've longed to hear and prayed to hear for so long, "Mom, I've just completely fallen in love with Jesus."

    I can hardly type those words without crying.

    I pray this infuses your heart with hope to keep praying. I pray you believe God can take the things others intended to harm you or the ones you love, and use them for good to accomplish His purposes as today's key verse reminds us.

    I need a visual reminder of these truths. And I'm wondering if you do too. This month Proverbs 31 Ministries has partnered with Fashion and Compassion to create beautiful jewelry using repurposed bullets from Ethiopia. Our hope is that when we wear one of the From Bullets to Blessings pieces, you and I can be reminded to pray with deep assurance that God hears us and will bring good from this in His time.

    And if you want my team and me to pray alongside you, visit my blog by clicking here and leave a comment about what you are believing for in prayer today.

    Dear Lord, only You can turn what was meant for evil into good. I thank You in advance for all that You're going to do in my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Reread the three truths Lysa talked about. Then, choose one that you're going to hold on to this week.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Recapturing Us in the Midst of Our Rush

    Posted on November 6, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other." Romans 12:9-10 (NLT)

    Do you ever wonder exactly what God wants you to do, especially when you have so many options and demands to manage?

    So often, we want big directional signs from God. But God just wants us to pay attention to what He places right in front of us. I learned this early on in ministry when I had dreams to do big things for God.

    However, when I looked at what was right in front of me at that time it was my neighbors, Ken and Mary. They lived right down the street and were known for their amazing hospitality, adorable farmhouse and parties that stepped out of the pages of a magazine.

    Mary was alive with creativity and always thinking of ways to bless others. Ken adored living out his retirement years helping his bride create a haven for family and friends.

    But cancer swept in and before long, Ken laid Mary to rest in the arms of Jesus.

    I remember seeing Ken not long after Mary's funeral. I knew I needed to stop and say something. But what?

    When I reached Ken, I just bent down and gave him a hug. "How are you, Ken?" Tears filled his eyes, "Not so good. The silence is killing me, Lysa."

    And with those words, I knew this interaction with Ken was an assignment from God. He was stirring my heart more and more as I began to sense I was to invite Ken over for dinner.

    I started having this argument with God in my mind, "God, he's going to expect food. Cooking isn't in my Top 10 talents. I mean, sometimes we just order pizza and call it a night. My cooking doesn't even hold a candle to Mary's. Are you sure about this?"

    But Ken hadn't asked for an amazing meal. What made his heart ache was the silence.

    So I smiled at Ken and said, "Well then, you must come to our house for dinner. I can't always promise it will be tidy and I'm certainly no great cook, but one thing is for sure ... my house is never silent."

    Thus started a tradition — Monday night dinners with Ken.

    We never had candles or tablecloths or even a properly set table. But the noise of our family was an orchestra of comfort and healing to Ken's lonely heart.

    We wanted to live out today's key verse, Romans 12:9-10, "Don't just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other."

    Being knee-deep in the realities of small children made me feel like this wasn't my season of life to make a difference to the outside world. But offering what little I had was used by God!

    We just did life and let Ken join in. I would often ask about Mary's ways of doing things and his face would light up at the opportunity to keep part of her alive.

    And slowly but surely, as we all made time for these special dinners, we recaptured the sacredness of relationships that so often gets lost in the rush of our days.

    One night, as Ken was leaving our home, he stepped off the sidewalk to make his way over to a bush in full bloom. He tenderly picked up one of the flowers and pressed his face close, breathing in its scent deeply.

    He then looked back at me standing in the doorway and said, "Don't miss this. Don't rush through your life, Lysa. Make time to stop and breathe it all in."

    I've never forgotten that.

    Eventually, Ken met someone who could cook, got remarried and moved away.

    But my family and I still preserve that sacred space for Monday night dinners. We invite co-workers, acquaintances and friends who feel like family to join us. We take time to talk. Laugh. Process life. Breathe it all in.

    Although our to-do lists and schedules tug at our attention, we don't allow anything to take priority over these moments. I refuse to let the people I've been entrusted with get my "less" instead of my "best" because I'm distracted.

    I'm so thankful God entrusted me with that small assignment to give Ken noise all those years ago. A little gift placed in the hands of a big God can change the world. It changed ours and it changed Ken's.

    It's amazing to me that what started out as a simple gesture to help a grieving neighbor became one of the greatest ministry blessings of my life. And I've done a lot of breathing it all in ever since.

    Dear Lord, help me see the assignments right in front of me. I desperately want to unrush my schedule so I can love those You have entrusted to me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: 2 John 1:6, "And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is one small assignment right in front of you that God is calling you to fulfill? Commit to begin living that out this week.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Crushing Times

    Posted on October 23, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

    No one wants to have their heart crushed. But being wounded in deep places happens. Sometimes it just seems to be a part of the rhythm of life.

    And when these hard times come, we feel it all so very deeply. And we wonder if others have these hard, hard moments. After all, we don't snap pictures of the crushing times and post them on Instagram.

    We just wonder if we have what it takes to survive ...

    ... when the doctor calls and says he needs to talk to me in person about the test results.

    ... when the teacher sends one of "those" emails about my child.

    ... when someone I love closes their heart and turns their back on me.

    ... when I feel so utterly incapable and unable and afraid.

    I suspect you know the tear-filled place from which I speak.

    So, let's journey to the olive tree and learn.

    To get to the place I want to take you, we must cross the Kidron Valley in Israel.

    Kidron Valley Map

    John 18:1-2 tells us, "When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it. Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples" (NIV).

    Jesus often met in the shadow and shade of the olive tree.

    The olive grove mentioned above is the Garden of Gethsemane. In this garden is where Jesus, just before his arrest said to Peter, James and John, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," (Mark 14:34, NIV).

    Jesus knew the crushing-heart feeling. He felt it. He wrestled with it. He carried it.

    And I don't think it was a coincidence the olive tree was there in this moment of deep sorrow for Jesus.

    Garden of Gethsemane

    The olive tree is such a picture of why our hearts must go through the crushing times.

    The crushing times are necessary times.

    First, in order to be fruitful the olive tree has to have both the east wind and the west wind. The east wind is the dry hot wind from the desert. This is a harsh wind. So harsh that it can blow over green grass and make it completely wither in one day.

    The west wind, on the other hand, comes from the Mediterranean. It brings rain and life.

    The olive tree needs both of these winds to produce fruit ... and so do we. We need both the winds of hardship and winds of relief to sweep across our lives if we are to be truly fruitful.

    The crushing times are processing times.

    Another thing to consider about the olive tree is how naturally bitter the olive is and what it must go through to be useful. If you were to pick an olive from the tree and try to eat it this month, its bitterness would make you sick.

    For the olive to be edible, it has to go through a lengthy process that includes:
    washing,
    breaking,
    soaking,
    sometimes salting,
    and waiting some more.

    It is a lengthy process to be cured of bitterness.

    If we are to escape the natural bitterness of the human heart, we have to go through a long process as well ... the process of being cured.

    The crushing times are preservation times.

    The final thing I want to consider about the olive is not just how bitter it is, but also how strong and hard it is when picked straight from the tree. If you are harvesting olives for oil, you must pray for a soaking rain to come if you hope to get oil from the olives. It needs a hard rain of at least two to three hours so the water can make it all the way up the roots, through the tree and to the olives.

    Then the olives can be picked and preserved.

    And the best way to preserve an olive for the long run? Crush it and extract the oil from it.

    The same is true for us. The biblical way to be preserved is to be pressed. And being pressed can certainly feel like being crushed.

    But what about our key verse, 2 Corinthians 4:8, where it says we are "pressed ... but not crushed"? Let's read verses 8 and 9 in the King James Version: "We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; ..."

    This was one of the biggest "aha" moments for me standing in the shadow of the olive tree: crushing isn't the olive's end.

    Crushing is the way of preservation for the olive. It's also the way to get what's most valuable, the oil, out of the olive. Keeping this perspective is how we can be troubled on every side yet not distressed ... pressed to the point of being crushed but not crushed and destroyed.

    But here's the thing I must remember as I think back about my time with the olive tree:

    When the sorrowful winds of the east blow, I forget they are necessary.

    When I'm being processed, I forget it's for the sake of ridding me of bitterness.

    And when I'm being crushed, I forget it's for the sake of my preservation.

    I forget all these things so easily. I wrestle and cry and honestly want to resist every bit of this. Oh, how I forget.

    Maybe God knew we all would forget.

    And so, He created the olive tree.

    Dear Lord, speak to me in whatever way You need to. Whatever part of this is for me personally, may I see, receive and be revived. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY: James 1:2-4, "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (MSG)

    Are you going through a crushing time? Look back on the points Lysa made: crushing times are necessary, and allow for processing and preservation. Write out how your situation may fall into one or all of these categories.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • Dear God, Where Are You?

    Posted on October 7, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa

    "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

    "Mom, I didn't make it. Please pray for me. I just feel confused about God."

    My heart sank. I felt my daughter's deep hurt. I felt it as clearly as if it were my own.

    I know what it feels like to want something so badly and have that dream shut down. That door close. That opportunity slip away.

    She'd been talking about going for this special achievement at summer camp for three years. Every time we talked about camp, she talked about going for this achievement. But she wasn't old enough to try until her fourth year at camp.

    Finally, this was going to be her year.

    She met every challenge and could see the goal in sight ... until the fire. She was supposed to light a campfire with nothing but three matches, one small square of newspaper and a few sticks of wood.

    She struck the first match and held it up to the newspaper. It didn't ignite. She struck the second match and held it up to the newspaper. It still didn't ignite.

    She stared at the third and final match. Knowing that a big part of the challenge was teaching the kids how to communicate with God and fully rely on Him, she'd been praying through every stage of the challenge. But now, she didn't just pray — she cried out to God.

    "Please help me, God. Please," she mouthed as she struck the third match. She held the flame up to the paper once again and watched in complete disbelief. The matchstick burned but the paper did not.

    As soon as the final match burned out, she lowered her head in defeat, and gave all her wood to the girls still in the challenge.

    When I arrived at camp to pick her up a week later, she asked if we could go sit by ourselves and process this situation.

    The fact that she didn't get the camp honor was not what was bothering her the most. What was bothering her the most was not experiencing God's power like the other girls. They all had stories of God answering their cries for help in amazing ways that carried them all the way through the challenge.

    "Mom, I didn't get that with God. Why?"

    This was a tough question. One of those questions as a mom that you don't want to mess up in answering.

    I asked her to help me recall every step of her challenge so we could intentionally look for God's hand. As she recalled every part, I listened intently for anything unusual and unexplainable.

    And when she got to the fire, I found it. There was no reason her newspaper shouldn't light. None at all. Everyone else's paper lit. Hers should have. But it didn't.

    "Honey, that can only be explained by God intervening. He was there. He was listening. And we just have to trust that there was some reason you shouldn't have continued that challenge. We may not know that reason, but we can certainly trust God was right there ... protecting you ... loving you ... revealing His power to you."

    She put her head on my shoulder, "You really think so, Mom?"

    I whispered, "I know so."

    I know so because I trust the truth God has given me. Truths like these are anchors that hold me to the reality of who God is:

    He is the One in whom I find comfort and reassurance: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NIV).

    He is right here with me in the midst of my trouble, I am not alone: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

    Yes, I know deep hurt. But I also know deep hope. So, I whispered it again, "Yes, sweetheart, I know so."

    Sometimes God's power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen. We may never know why. But we can always know and trust the Who.

    Dear Lord, thank You for knowing what I need and what I don't — even when I don't agree. Help me see Your "yes" and "no" as protection and guidance. Today, I choose to trust You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 126:5, "Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Look back at a situation where you felt God didn't answer your prayers. Can you see His power in not allowing your prayer to be answered?

    Write out your prayers today. Focus on trusting who God is and not why He is choosing not to answer or delaying His response. Remind yourself, "God's power is shown as much in preventing things as it is in making them happen."

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • What to Do When You Don't Know What to Do

    Posted on October 2, 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst

    LYSA

    "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:7-8 (NIV)

    I felt so fragile sitting in the parking lot of Target, too sad to stop crying. And although I had a list of things that really couldn't be put off another day, I was now entirely too tired to run errands or do much of anything. So there I sat.

    Alone.

    Moments earlier, a friend had called to tell me something she'd seen posted about me online.

    It was harsh and hurtful.

    I tried to give myself a little pep talk, "Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Who on God's green earth came up with that ridiculous saying? It's not true. I cried a little more.

    I pulled up the social media page my friend referenced, and there it was for all the world to see: Opinions about me flying through the Internet, intent on ripping me apart. As soon as I read the unkind words, daggers hit their mark deep inside my heart.

    It was only a handful of people but they debated me as if I were a product sitting on a shelf, void of a soul. A soul that feels and breathes and cares so very deeply about everything.

    Instantly, I wanted it all to stop.

    I looked up and saw people walking into Target and felt so very envious of them. They seemed peaceful, happy or at least neutral. I suddenly wished for a less risky life.

    Why do I display my heart to all the world typed up in pixelated letters?

    Words like, "calling" and "disciple" suddenly felt like burdens, not blessings.

    I looked back at my phone and reread the hurtful remarks posted online. What's a girl to do when she's feeling desperate to fix something that can't be immediately fixed?

    Should I defend myself?

    But I don't want to sound defensive.

    Should I pray for others to defend me?

    But I don't want to pull others into this.

    Should I just stay quiet?

    But then what if my silence just feeds their case?

    Every response felt like the wrong response.

    What do you do ... when you don't know what to do?

    Maybe you've sat in a Target parking lot crying, too. The circumstances might have been different, but the hurt is the same ... that sliced-open feeling of being judged, misunderstood and wrongly exposed for the purpose of a good debate.

    I wish I had the perfect answer. I don't. These kinds of situations are messy, complicated and unable to fit in formulaic boxes.

    However, I have an imperfect solution that will get us pointed in the right direction: Do the next small thing, the right way, right away.

    In other words, find some small right thing to do that negates the negativity. Do that right thing, right away, to prove to yourself what's being said isn't ALL true.

    There might be some small tangles of truth in the hurtful thing being said. We can pray about that and do something later when the hurt isn't so fresh.

    But first things first. We have to stop the bleeding from the deepest wound.

    Do the next small thing, the right way, right away.

    The small thing I decided to do was see their comments coming from a place of hurt, not hate. Hurt people hurt people. Something caused hurt to stir up in their hearts. Maybe I even inadvertently added to it without meaning to. Regardless, having compassion for them eased my pain.

    I called my friend who'd shared the hurtful comments and told her, "I don't know what to do except be a picture of love in this situation. If I respond out of hurt, things will only get worse."

    Our key verse, 1 John 4:7-8, reminds us of the importance of showing love to each other, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love."

    So, I must let love guide me.

    Love can empower me to feel hurt without becoming a person consumed by that hurt ...

    I can feel offended, but I don't have to be offended.

    I can feel insecure, but I don't have to act insecure.

    I can feel angry, but I don't have to respond in anger.

    That's the choice love makes.

    And please understand I'm not all Pollyanna about this and able to walk it out perfectly.

    I have to give myself permission to be honest about my feelings. But I don't have to compound the hurt by reacting out of those feelings.

    I never did make it into Target that day. And there are still days I feel so very fragile and vulnerable. Maybe you do too?

    Let's allow love to take us by the hand and empower us in each and every situation where we don't know what to do.

    We can feel afraid, but we don't have to be afraid to do the next right thing, right away.

    Dear Lord, I want love to guide me today. Help me to do the next right thing right in front of me. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Romans 13:10, "Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Are you in a situation that feels hurtful? Look closely at the options in front of you and choose to do the next right thing, right away.

    © 2014 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

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