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Proverbs 31

  • Will You Give Me Your Son?

    Posted on July 30, 2013 by Glynnis Whitwer

    Glynnis Whitwer

    "And she made a vow, saying 'LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant's misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the LORD for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.'" 1 Samuel 1:11 (NIV)

    As my arms wrapped tighter around my son, I squeezed my eyes hoping the hot tears stinging my lids would stop. Forcing a smile I knew he'd want to see, I released him and stepped back on the airport sidewalk.

    Despite my efforts, tears dripped down my cheeks. I grinned and shrugged, unable to speak. Thankfully my son's gentle teasing helped get past the awkwardness of the goodbye. With a final hug, my 19-year-old left for a mission trip to China.

    Having children willing to serve God was my heart's desire before they were born. It was what I've prayed for since they were small. And it is what I have worked toward for years. I just didn't know it was going to stretch my faith so much.

    You see, long ago my husband and I dedicated our children to the Lord, and we raised them to serve God. I was thrilled at my son's decision to go on a mission trip, but the reality of releasing him to God's calling felt like a piece of my heart was being torn away.

    It was so much easier to dedicate my children to God during the three years my husband and I struggled with infertility. Each time I read the story of Hannah and her struggle with infertility in 1 Samuel 2, my heart leapt in hope. Just as she pledged her child to the Lord if He would only give her one, I was willing to do the same.

    It was also easier to dedicate my children to God once we finally had them, while they were wrapped safely in my arms.

    But standing at the airport, there was a fragile part of me that wanted to take back that offer. Fears rose up. My son is so adventurous, what if something happened? What if I never saw him again?

    I tried to put the fears aside, but hours after our final goodbye, I still had a crumpled tissue in my hand. It was then, I heard God speak to my heart. It was unmistakably Him. I'd never ask myself this question: Will you give Me your son?

    By that time my son was on a plane, so the question seemed pointless. But what I wanted to say was this: Well, now that You've asked ... the answer is no, I've changed my mind about all that dedication stuff I said years ago.

    In the weeks since that day, I've often wondered why God would ask that question since He didn't really need my permission. I've come to believe it's because He knows the influence a mother has on her children, even when they're grown. With words spoken or withheld, tone of voice, and emotional and financial support (or lack thereof) a mother can influence her children's obedience to God's call at every age.

    And in my case, God knows my fears have affected my children. Ten years earlier when my oldest son wanted to go on an international mission trip, my fears stopped him. At that time, I thought he was too young and the destination too far. Without my active support, his plans fizzled.

    Over the years, God has helped me overcome that fear time and time again, and eventually that same son went on other mission trips. Every time I've released my tight grip on my children to obey God, my faith has grown. Apparently my faith needed to grow again, hence God's heart check that day: Will you give Me your son?

    Gripping my soggy tissue, I whispered a shaky "yes." Hoping it was good enough, but sensing it wasn't, I answered again, this time with confidence: "Yes! You can have my son!"

    Immediately peace started to grow in my heart as I turned my eyes from my own situation to His plan for my son. Peace and joy continued to grow stronger each day.

    Sometimes I wish I were one of those mothers who never deals with fear. They seem so confident and faith-filled. But I've learned when I give God my weaknesses, His power is displayed and His kingdom is advanced. So in spite of a bit of trembling, and a few tears, I'm going to say yes each time God asks if He can have one of my children.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me in spite of my weakness. I want to trust You more and confess the times fear has held me back. Help me to be honest with You and receive Your strength. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:


    The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness by Suzanne Eller

    Reflect and Respond:
    Fear has the power to stop us from obeying God's calling for ourselves and in how we support others in their calling.

    How has fear affected your obedience?

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 56:3, "When I am afraid, I put my trust in you." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 1 Samuel

  • White As Snow

    Posted on July 29, 2013 by Suzie Eller

    Suzie Eller

    "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7 (NIV)

    We were friends in youth group. That led to Saturdays at her house. Double dates. And slumber parties where we talked about boys and did each other's hair.

    But more than silly teen stuff, Michelle and I were among the few in the youth group who attended church with no family support. Consequently, we encouraged each other spiritually and often knelt and prayed together.

    A year after high school, sadly we lost touch. We moved to different cities. Married. Had children. Our lives no longer intersected.

    Until three decades later.

    Her message on Facebook caught me by surprise, and I couldn't wait to see her again. When we met she told me all that had transpired in thirty years, and my heart hurt for my friend.

    So much had taken place, beginning with college and the party scene. She met men who said they loved her, but hurt her instead. Those unhealthy relationships led to more than one marriage. She endured abuse, and eventually began to believe that somehow it was what she deserved.

    Bravely, she left the abusive men. She went back to school and secured a job, taking care of her children on her own.

    But there was still something missing inside of the heart of this woman. Though she had once found sanctuary in an altar at a small church, she wondered if she had strayed too far to find her way back. Did too many men, too many parties, too much sin stand between her and Jesus?

    In Psalm 51:7-9, the Psalmist confronted those same fears. It led to this prayer of repentance.

    "Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity" (NIV).

    Like the Psalmist, Michelle felt the sorrow of her sin and the path that had taken her so far from her once-vibrant relationship with God. But she also knew there was a place to find restoration.

    Not just to be forgiven, but to be restored, renewed, and to rejoice in Whose she was again.

    Michelle reached out for God's love saying, "I knew that I couldn't go back and try to fix the past. I could only make amends and claim the forgiveness that God had ready for me."

    Maybe you know of someone ... maybe you are that someone ... who believes you've gone too far.

    Repentance begins with sorrow or remorse over sin and leads to a change of direction. You turn away from your old life and turn toward God to accept His immense forgiveness. The burden of sin is removed as God cleanses you and takes your sin and replaces it with His righteousness.

    If this is you, return to the love of Jesus. Put the past behind you as you accept the complete forgiveness He freely offers. Don't wait one more moment. Your past may shape you, but it doesn't define you, and it certainly doesn't limit what God can do in and through you.

    Today Michelle is an example of what takes place when we are washed white as snow. She no longer feels ashamed or guilty for her past actions. A light heart and a joyful perspective have replaced these feelings. She volunteers in a rehabilitation home for women who have been abused or are homeless. Michelle delights when a woman opens her heart to receive God's cleansing and healing touch. She knows first-hand the hope and freedom that comes when anyone takes a U-turn back toward all God freely offers.

    Dear Jesus, it is no accident that I read this today. You are inviting me to change my direction and to run toward You for forgiveness. I do so freely and with joy. Thank You for washing me white as snow. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    The Unburdened Heart: Finding the Freedom of Forgiveness by Suzanne Eller

    Reflect and Respond:
    When God enters the picture, your past is reframed. How can your past story be used to encourage others to live free?

    Tell one person your story today.

    Power Verse:
    Matthew 9:6a, "But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • Avoiding a Spiritual Stumble

    Posted on July 26, 2013 by Tracie Miles

    Tracie Miles

    "'Yes, come,' Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. 'Save me, Lord!' he shouted." Matthew 14:29-30 (NLT)

    The loud noise and screams suddenly coming from upstairs caused immediate panic.

    That morning my daughter had set out to run a few miles on our treadmill. Everything was going just fine until the worst happened.

    She lost her focus, then her balance, and stumbled. The treadmill violently threw her off and trapped her between the mat, the floor and the wall. She managed to wiggle free, but not before the treadmill wreaked havoc on her back, legs and arms.

    When tears dried and Band Aids had been gently placed over the raw wounds, I asked her how the accident happened. It turned out she had a lot going on besides just running. For example, a blaring television, incoming text messages (which of course needed urgent attention), a loose shoelace and fatigue in her legs.

    There were a lot of distractions that caused her to fall, and she was too weak to regain her balance. She vowed then and there to never get back on another treadmill. Ever.

    My daughter's tumble is a lot like what happens in our Christian walk. We fully intend to stay focused on Christ, but life's distractions cause us to shift our focus, stumble in our faith and leave us feeling too beaten down to get back up.

    Matthew 14:29 shows us how Peter took a tumble of sorts when he lost his focus. Peter and the disciples were caught in a terrible storm with their boat being tossed around by torrential waves. When Peter saw Jesus standing on the water, he asked to do the same thing. Let's pick up the story there: "'Yes, come,' Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. 'Save me, Lord!' he shouted" (Matt. 14:29-30).

    When waves of fear, insecurity, discouragement or stress crash around me, I stumble too. These quickly become my focus instead of fixing my eyes on Jesus. Without fail, I sink under the weight of these circumstances and fall.

    My "fall" looks like this: instead of praying, I worry about my dad's health. Rather than praising God and looking to Him for provision, I stress about paying bills. And instead of trusting He will help me complete a task at hand, I doubt if I'm able to get everything on my agenda done. All these distractions pull me down and pull my faith away from Jesus.

    Here is the amazing thing about Jesus. When Peter began sinking, he cried out for Jesus to save him. And Jesus did. Just as Jesus didn't hesitate to pull Peter out of the rough waves, He will pull you and me back too as soon as we ask.

    Life has stormy seasons. Unexpected health diagnoses', years when children decide to walk away from the Lord, rough patches in our marriage ... all cause waves of doubt, stress, worry or fear. These can cause us to stumble and fall if we only focus on them.

    The best place to fix our eyes is on Jesus. He's our peace, source of hope, and the One person we can trust will always be there for us. And when we do fall, as soon as we call out to Him, He'll pick us up.

    Dear Jesus, I confess I lose focus on You while running through the distractions of life. I have fallen many times. Help me to trust and have faith in You, and avoid letting life distract me from Your truths. Amen.

    Related Resources:

    NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women is interspersed with 366 devotions written by the Proverbs 31 Ministries team.

    Stressed-Less Living: Finding God's Peace In Your Chaotic World by Tracie Miles

    Reflect and Respond:
    In what ways has life been distracting you, causing you to inadvertently lose focus on Christ?

    Close your eyes and visualize yourself standing in a storm looking at Jesus. Be bold and walk towards Him. Have faith that no matter how much life has caused you to get sidetracked, He is ready to reach out and pull you close once again.

    Power Verse:
    Proverbs 4:25-27, "Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don't get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil." (NLT)

    © 2013 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Matthew

  • There's No Way

    Posted on July 25, 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" John 14:6 (NIV)

    I wasn't in the mood to be messed up.

    I put my head against my bedroom wall, closed my eyes, and whispered, "There's no way." It was late summer of 2003 when my world collided with what seemed like an impossible invitation from God: adopt two teen boys from war-torn Liberia.

    All the reasons why this wasn't a good idea tumbled before me. Honest reasons. Understandable reasons. Solid reasons.

    Missionaries would be much more qualified. Missionaries with grown kids and multi-cultural experience. People much more spiritual than me. People much more gentle and patient enough to do this sort of thing.

    Not this disorganized woman who originally thought Liberia was in South America.

    Not this mom who already felt overwhelmed with her three kids. How in heavens would we add two more?

    Not someone who couldn't find the video she rented a month ago and who paid so many late fees at the library they should have named a shelf after her. Maybe two.

    Definitely not me.

    But it was me.

    The invitation was mine.

    And I knew it.

    No matter how many times I whispered over and over, "There's no way," this nagging sense of possibility wouldn't leave me. It wove its way through every fiber of my being until I stood up and shifted everything I thought my family would be with one weak whisper, "Yes."

    I can honestly say there were moments of sheer joy where I felt reassured I'd heard God right.

    But there were many other moments where life felt chaotic, messy, and really hard. There were tears. There were moments where I loved my five kids but I didn't like them very much. There were moments I wondered if I'd heard God wrong.

    And there were more times even after we adopted where I said, "There's no way."

    There was no way we could overcome a medical diagnosis one of my boys received. There was no way two teenage boys who tested at a kindergarten level could catch up in two years and be ready for middle school. There was no way I could be patient enough to educate them at home during those two years.

    But every time I said, "There's no way," I'd remember Jesus calling Himself, "The way ... " (John 14:6).

    John tells us that Jesus is the way to salvation. Through Him we have access to the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18) who gives us patience, guidance, and peace. All of which I needed. Desperately.

    Yes, Jesus was the One to follow. He was the One who would guide me each day. He was the One I needed to pour out my heart to in prayer. He was the One to listen to. And He was the One who reassured me with many promises in the Bible. One of those promises was Isaiah 58:10-11:

    " ... If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail."

    I could be a light rising in the darkness. I could be full of life like a well-watered garden. I could be refreshing like a spring whose waters never fail. Me. Crazy, incapable, crying-in-my-closet me. If I let Jesus be my way and do what He was asking me to do, these things could be true for me.

    And they can be true for you as well.

    There might not be a way if you look at your situation with only human reasoning and calculation. But if you let Jesus' truth and promises fill you, you'll find a different way. A good way. A sure way. His way.

    Dear Lord, thank You for reminding me that You are the only true way. Help me to see this every day as the circumstances of life surround and sometimes overwhelm me. I desperately need Your help as I learn to say "yes" to Your calling on my life. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Learn more about walking in obedience and strengthening your faith in Lysa's new book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God Devotional, releasing August 1st! Click here to pre-order your copy.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Do you have a situation in your life where you are saying, "There's no way ... "? How does looking to Jesus to be the way change your perspective?

    Power Verse:
    Ephesians 3:20-21, "Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with John

  • Extravagant Love

    Posted on July 24, 2013 by Sharon Glasgow

    Sharon Glasgow

    "And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

    I was SO mad, I thought I would explode! The contents of that explosion would have been hazardous to anyone in my path—namely, my husband Dale!

    Anger was emanating from every pore of my being. What was he thinking? How could he not see the obvious? The more these thoughts swirled in my head, the madder I got. And he didn't seem to care about my feelings either! He just looked at me. That was it! I decided to pack up the kids and leave.

    And (the nerve of him) he didn't even ask where I was going! Apparently, the suitcases said it all. I stormed out.

    Oh, boy. Those were the days many years ago. I'm glad that was then and this is now. My husband said and did a lot of things I didn't understand. It was like we were from two different planets with totally opposite brain and emotional functions.

    All marriages will struggle at some point. Crisis in a marriage has the potential to make or break a marriage. It's tempting to harbor hurt, retaliate with spiteful words and focus on your spouse's faults. But experience has taught me those things do not add up to marital bliss.

    After being gone from Dale for 24 hours, I couldn't stand it any longer. I came home and we made up. Because this wasn't something I wanted to become a pattern, I decided to look carefully at my actions and change the way I loved my husband.

    Turns out there were things I could do differently. Through a lot of prayer and focused choices, I found there were several key things that radically changed my marriage for the better: an attitude of oneness, extravagant acts of love and turning intimacy into a flame of passion, not duty.

    I didn't always feel like doing these three things. As a matter of a fact, many days I didn't have any desire to do them. I knew I needed to draw love out of a deeper well than my own. So I kept Colossians 3:12-17 close at hand and followed it as a way to love Dale. These verses describe a sacrificial and extravagant love, showing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

    They also encourage us to show love in the name of Jesus, which is a way to honor Him. That was my focus as I re-trained my thought pattern not to emphasize the negatives or the momentary stresses. But instead, to keep my eyes on God. It got easier, knowing that by loving my husband well, I was pleasing God.

    I've seen many struggling marriages ignite with passion when one spouse pours out extravagant love on the other. Sadly, I've also seen times when it didn't work. In those instances, we can take heart in knowing that Christ rewards us for how we live our lives wholeheartedly for Him. You may not be rewarded on earth, but you will be in heaven.

    Extravagant love can transform an ordinary marriage into an extraordinary one, induce greater love, ignite intimacy, help us live above our weaknesses and spend less time quarreling. For over twenty years, I've been putting Colossians 3 love into action in my marriage. From watching the movie my husband picks even when I don't like it, to saying "yes" instead of "I have a headache," to caring for him when he's sick, every little act of love adds up to a big reward. It blesses my husband and honors God!

    Jesus, help me love my husband extravagantly! Sharpen my marriage into a beautiful display of Your glory! In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Ask the Lord for His help and for His love to overwhelm you so you can love like Colossians 3 tells us to.

    Journal what He is speaking to your heart today and continue on this course to victory.

    Power Verse:
    Colossians 3:12-14, 17, "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. ... And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Sharon Glasgow. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries
    616-G Matthews-Mint Hill Road
    Matthews, NC 28105
    www.Proverbs31.org


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Colossians

  • Encouragement for the Daily Grind

    Posted on July 23, 2013 by Samantha Evilsizer

    Samantha Evilsizer

    "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer." 1 Peter 3:12a (ESV)

    It's common, everyday stuff. She tells me it's nothing, but I know better.

    This solo parent single-handedly holds each strand of her small daughter's hair. It's getting late, but she must continue ridding the unwelcome "guests." Comb, wash and comb again, fingers exhausted as the clock strikes midnight.

    I send her this text message, You're doing great. She writes me back, telling of her doubt. What's so special about picking out lice? she wonders as she finally collapses in bed, daughter enfolded under her mama's wings. Will this little girl remember her mother's sacrifices? Most likely not. But she will remember the safety and care of her mother's nest.

    And my friend? What will she remember? Shins kicked big by tiny feet, sleepy breath in her face, and trudging through the daily grind. These are what she believes she'll remember, and no one else will ever see or know. These exhausting moments when she wishes she were doing something more noble or noteworthy.

    But I know better. I know I'm not the only one who sees her sacrifices of love. I know that these common moments, built one upon the other, create great lifetimes. These moments are mostly free, yet they cost quite a bit, don't they? Their currency? Time, energy, selflessness, dreams and yes, sleep. All these investments build a life of loving high and deep.

    I'm reminded of a story I read years ago of a woman who opened the front cover of a coffee table book about magnificent cathedrals. She paused to soak in the inscription of this book that had been gifted to her: With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.

    A story, hidden in the pages of her book, is recounted: A rich man came to visit the cathedral while it was being built ... he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it."

    And the workman replied, "Because God sees."*

    Though my friend's efforts were unseen by the rest of the world, they were not unnoticed by the Lord. Her late-night labor of love was building something beautiful in the eyes of God. He saw her just as He promises in 1 Peter 3:12a, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer."

    He watches over us as a mother bird keeps watch on her chicks. God's eyes of love, care and protection see each of our everyday efforts that can bring discouragement in the daily grind. Folding the 11th basket of clothes ... today. Cooking dinner with no "thank you" given. Stripping bed sheets in the middle of the night when kids get sick.

    Whether you are investing in your own children, or someone else's, keep up the greatness in the common moments. It may seem like nothing, but you matter. You're building. You're seen.

    Dear Lord, I can get so weary and tired of persisting in building greatness in the everyday moments of life. It often feels like no one notices or appreciates me. Thank You for confirming that YOU see me. That is more than enough. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Be affirmed of who you are, why you are here and how much you are loved in His Princess: Love Letters from Your King by Sherri Rose Shepherd.

    Our Facebook page offers daily encouragement for the daily grind. Join us by clicking here.

    Reflect and Respond:
    We need to replenish ourselves as we pour out love, energy, and prayer on others. Determine now to set aside time each day to spend with God and notice how He replenishes you.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 33:18, "Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love ... " (ESV)

    *The Invisible Woman by Nicole Johnson

    © 2013 by Samantha Evilsizer. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 1 Peter

  • Progress or Procrastination?

    Posted on July 22, 2013 by Lisa Allen

    Lisa Allen

    "If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done!" Ecclesiastes 11:4 (LB)

    Unhealthy habits had crept their way into my life. At first it was only occasionally, but then it became easier to stay home rather than head to the gym. I turned a blind eye to how much sugar I was eating. And dinner from a drive-through became more convenient when I was in a rush.

    After a few months in this downward spiral, I knew it was time to reintroduce healthy habits. But then the excuses started: I know I should work out, but this just isn't a good time for me ... I have two trips coming up and then there's that birthday dinner for my friend this weekend. And everyone knows that Mondays are the best day to start a good habit!

    This pattern of thinking gives me permission to eat unhealthy foods and put off exercise. Somehow I justify that I will ultimately be more successful if all the conditions are perfect for me to improve my health. Perhaps it's my selfish nature that screams, "I want what I want when I want it." The truth is, if I know I should take steps toward healthier choices, then my response should simply be to ask myself, "What can I do today?" and then do it. I don't have to have a plan for a month or even a week ... only today.

    As I've observed this pattern of procrastination within myself, I find when faced with a desire and necessity to make a change for the better, sometimes I wait until I can do it perfectly before I'm willing to begin. Scripture tells us though "If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done!" (Ecclesiastes 11:4).

    I don't know about you, but I struggle with feeling that perfection is unreachable, so I push my goals to the back burner.

    We wait to start consistent quiet times until we feel like getting up earlier. We wait to clean our house until there is a convenient weekend. We wait to join a small group until our schedules open up. We wait to begin a healthier lifestyle until the holidays are over.

    Taking that first step is the hardest and yet most important step. Even a baby step toward a goal is better than staying in place. Aiming for progress rather than perfection can be quite freeing. So, I can't run a marathon. But I can lace up my sneakers and go for a walk. And while my home isn't in spotless, I can wipe down the counters and put away the piles of laundry around my living room. Yes, there are still dishes in the sink, but I have to start somewhere, right?

    God is teaching me that I can make progress in the midst of less-than-perfect circumstances. While I still want to do things with excellence, a friend once told me I need to be willing to "take a B instead of an A+" on some things in life, and that helps bring perspective when excuses start to rise up. Plus, I'm learning to overcome my tendency for excuses by telling myself imperfect action is better than perfect procrastination.

    There may never be a perfect time to get organized, eat less sugar, and workout more. However, we have to begin somewhere. The perfect place to start is where we are today.

    Father, You know me so well, and I confess to You I've been avoiding obedience by waiting for things to be easier, better and more convenient. I recognize this as disobedience and ask You to forgive me. Give me the strength to focus today on this area of obedience. Let me know that You are providing all I need to take this step today and tomorrow, as I continue this journey with You. Amen.

    Related Resources:
    Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

    Reflect and Respond:
    What area of procrastination are you wrestling with? Whatever it is, choose to take one step toward your goal. Share it with your spouse, friend or mom and ask them to help you live this truth: "Imperfect progress is better than perfect procrastination."

    Power Verses:
    Ecclesiastes 7:8, "The end of a matter is better than its beginning and patience is better than pride." (NIV)

    Proverbs 31:27, "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." (ESV)

    © 2013 by Lisa Allen. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Ecclesiastes

  • Things God Planned for Us

    Posted on July 19, 2013 by Van Walton

    Van Walton

    "Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare." Psalm 40:5 (NIV)

    Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Bradford were my favorite sixth grade teachers. They knew two things about me: I was bilingual and I lived close to the largest shantytown in Bogotá, Colombia. I'll always remember the day these two teachers asked for my help.

    In the early 60's, my family lived in Bogotá. Mr. Schmidt and Mr. Bradford taught in the American school I attended. Every day on their way to school, they passed the neighboring shantytown. Soon they developed a vision to educate the children living there, and their big dream included me!

    Would I be their interpreter to translate for the teachers who could only speak English? With approval from the school, they designed a free school for the children who had no access to education.

    Not only did they ask me to translate for them, but they included me in their after school program as a peer tutor!

    This idea awoke something that had been tucked in my heart, waiting for the right time to emerge. I grew up surrounded by unspeakable poverty, and even as a child experienced an ever-present burden. How was it possible that I had a home and the children of the street had nothing? I dreamed of helping but dismissed the idea because I was only a little girl.

    However, God didn't see it that way. He had a plan. My classes in education began long before I attended college. Working beside two committed teachers put me on a career course that laid a foundation for more than a job. It became a life calling.

    Years passed. My family returned to the United States. I graduated from college with a Spanish degree and began my career as a teacher. I married. Babies arrived.

    It seemed my calling to teach was put on hold. But as a stay-at-home mother, I had the opportunity to learn about another education, a spiritual one. I began attending Bible studies and my original passion for education multiplied. I wanted to share the Bible with others. And I did, first with children and then with women.

    From teaching Bible classes, God broadened my ministry. And once again, His wonders came to light. It was obvious He had carefully positioned me. A few years ago, I began to reach out to women whose native language is Spanish by translating devotions that reach around the world.

    I certainly never imagined I'd trace God's plan for my life to the Andean hillsides of South America and the vision of two dedicated teachers. That plan continues in the ministry work that fuels my passion today in North Carolina. Looking back, I see the many wonderful things God has had for me, which are truly too many to talk about, just as Psalm 40:5 says!

    I stand amazed that God would choose a young girl living in a jungle and weave her experiences, along with others' lives, into His present and future plans to prove His wondrous ways: "Many, LORD my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare" (Psalm 40:5).

    If God did this with me, He can do it for you.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for planting dreams in our hearts to serve You, even as little children. Open our eyes to Your work all around us, and how You weave people and circumstances together. You are a dream giver and a dream fulfiller. We worship You and give You all the glory. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

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    Reflect and Respond:
    Take a few moments today to reflect on your life. Note how the highlights weave together and point to God's wondrous ways.

    Power Verse:
    Jeremiah 29:11, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (NIV)

    © 2013 by Van Walton. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with Psalm

  • A Little Girl's Dance

    Posted on July 18, 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst

    Lysa TerKeurst

    "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32 (NIV)

    My touch has always comforted my youngest daughter, Brooke.

    I remember running errands when she was a baby, knowing we should have been home an hour earlier for her nap. But also knowing there were things that had to get done, I pressed on, hoping for the best. She started getting fussy. Soon, whines and whimpers escalated into a full-blown meltdown.

    Although I couldn't do much to comfort her while driving, I could reach my arm into the backseat and gently pat her leg. It took a few minutes, but eventually she settled down and reached out her tiny hand to hold mine.

    A few years later, Brooke had a performance with her praise dance team from school. She loved getting on a stage, so I expected her to be full of smiles and giggles. But just a few minutes before the performance began, a very distraught Brooke made her way to the audience to find me.

    With tears streaming down her cheeks, she explained that the teacher had moved her from the front row to the back row, and she didn't know the back row's part. I reassured her, "Honey, just get up there and watch the other girls for cues and follow in step. You know this dance. You'll be fine."

    She sobbed back, "I won't be fine if I mess up, and I know I'm going to mess up."

    That's when it occurred to me. She would need my touch to get through this. But we both knew it would be impossible for my arm to reach all the way up to the stage. So I quickly whispered, "Brooke, lock your eyes with mine, and Mommy will touch you with my smile. Don't look at anyone else. It doesn't matter if you mess up. What matters is that you keep your eyes on me the whole time. We'll do this together."

    Quietly she asked, "The whole time, Mommy?"

    "The whole time, Brooke," I replied as I watched my brave girl walk away to take her place.

    Several times during the dance, Brooke fell out of step. She knew her steps weren't perfect, so her eyes brimmed with tears. However, the tears never fell. With her eyes perfectly locked on my smiling face, she danced.

    My smile was not based on her performance. My smile was born out of an incredible love for this precious, courageous little girl. As she kept her attention focused solely on my smile and the touch of my gaze, it was as if the world slowly faded away and we were the only ones in the room.

    This is the way God wants me to dance through life.

    Though I can't physically see Him, my soul pictures Him so clearly. In my mind's eye He is there. The touch of His gaze wraps about me, comforts me, assures me, and makes the world seem strangely dim. As long as my gaze is locked on His, I dance and He smiles. The snickers and jeers of others fade away. Though I hear their razor-sharp intentions, they are unable to pierce my heart and distract my focus. Even my own stumblings don't cause the same feelings of defeat.

    My steps so often betray the desire of my heart, but it is not my perfect performance that captures His attention. Rather, it is my complete dependence on Him that He notices.

    He then whispers to my heart, hold on to Me and what I say about you. For My words are the truth of who you are and the essence of what you were created to be. I then imagine Him pausing as He adds, "Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

    His truth frees me from the chains of doubt and insecurity. His truth frees me from feeling unable and inadequate to try and pursue God. His truth washes over me as I tentatively whisper, "I want to be a woman who says 'yes' to God."

    And in that moment, with my eyes locked on His, I am.

    Dear Lord, I want to keep my eyes on You as I dance through the highs and lows of my life. Direct my steps today. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:
    This devotion was taken from Lysa TerKeurst's new book, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God Devotional, which releases August 1! Click here to pre-order your copy!

    Reflect and Respond:
    Take some time to reflect on verses where God says who we are to Him, such as Ephesians 1:3-8, 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, and John 1:12.

    Power Verse:
    Psalm 121:1-2, "I lift up my eyes to the mountains - where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with John

  • Is God's Strength Still Available for Me?

    Posted on July 17, 2013 by Glynnis Whitwer

    Glynnis Whitwer

    "'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.' And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said." 2 Chronicles 32:7-8 (NIV)

    Strength is an appealing characteristic. Strong wills. Strong arms. Strong jaws. Strong emotions. We admire them all.

    We love movies with strong heroes.
    We watch sports with strong athletes.
    We look up to strong leaders.

    Yet it's easy to compare our own motivations, muscles and minds with others who appear strong, and feel quite insignificant and weak in the comparison. We whisper things in our hearts that no one hears. Things like:

    If only I were that strong ...
    ... I'd say no to the temptations that no one sees.
    ... I'd follow my dream to change careers.
    ... I'd go to college.
    ... I'd be the mother or employee I KNOW I could be.

    Then reality washes over us like a splash of ice water, waking us from our daydream with an unpleasant start. Back to our weaknesses that seem destined to chain us to a resigned life. Bad habits, damaged relationships, unfulfilled dreams ... that's my life ... our despairing hearts sigh.

    Oh how I know those thoughts. For most of my life, I've battled feeling weak in certain areas, while strong in others. And my inconsistencies frustrate me. I could be brave when facing a huge project at work, but the thought of sharing my faith with my unbelieving father made me feel weak. I feel strong saying no to many obvious sins, but then weak when I don't say no to over-eating in the privacy of my home.

    And then I read stories like the one told of Hezekiah, king of Judah in 2 Chronicles 32. The story is worth reading in its entirety, but verses 7 and 8 speak truth that's worth repeating today: "'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him. With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.' And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said."

    It's so easy for me to forget there is a source of strength available to me every moment of every day. It's free of charge. There is no "closed" sign in the window of heaven. And I don't get a recording when I call for help.

    For those who have chosen to follow Jesus, God's strength is available. That doesn't mean tomorrow I'll be able to run a marathon; it's not that kind of strength. But as I ponder the type of strength God promises, a clue is found in the word "confidence." Confidence not in myself, but in God's ability to effectively deal with any challenge I'm currently facing.

    As I've learned to turn to God for His strength, I've experienced the courage to press on in situations when my flesh wants to give up. I've experienced hope when relationships seem dead. I've experienced peace when fear threatens to overtake me.

    We serve a God of unlimited power, and yet it's so easy to forget and rely on our own imperfect strength. What if we accepted that God's life-changing power was really for us? What kind of difference would that make in our lives?

    Let's make this personal. What kind of difference would it make if you truly believed God's power was available ... to you?

    Heavenly Father, thank You for being my strength and power. So often I feel weak and inadequate. Thank You for reminding me that I don't have to do life on my own. Help me to look to You first when I need help, and not myself. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    Related Resources:

    Take time today to read about God's immeasurable strength in His Word. Pick up your copy of the new NIV Real-Life Devotional Bible for Women. The Proverbs 31 team has written 366 devotions to unpack Scripture with you.

    Reflect and Respond:
    Most of us don't face war, but we do face battles every day that seem insurmountable. What "battles" do you face?

    If you believed with all your heart that God's power was available to you today, what would do differently? What would you attempt?

    Power Verses:
    Isaiah 40:31, "... but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (NIV)

    Psalm18:2, "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold." (NIV)

    © 2013 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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


    This post was posted in Daily Devotion, Proverbs 31 and was tagged with 2 Chronicles

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