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  • When You Wish You Were a Different Mommy

    Posted on March 9, 2015 by Family Christian

    Alicia Bruxvoort MARCH 9, 2015

    When You Wish You Were a Different Mommy
    ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "… and finally He said to me, ‘My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness.’ So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on — I would rather stake my claim in these and have the power of the Anointed One at home within me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 (The Voice)

    When my firstborn was 3 years old, he told me he wished he had a different mommy.

    He spat the words from the seat of his faded red time-out chair where he’d landed after digging holes in the neighbor’s yard. He was certain that another mommy would understand that the best dinosaur bones were buried in the flowerbed across the street.

    I’d remained silent, the angry words hanging between us like the strand of hair dangling over my son’s icy blue eyes. But every piece of my wounded spirit had agreed with my fiery boy. I wish you had a different mommy, too, my heart cried.

    Truth be told, I didn’t want my son to exchange me for a new mommy; I just wished that I could be a different mommy. One who laughed more, forgave quicker and floundered less. One who never yelled in frustration or cried in exhaustion, and could turn scraps of paper into a Pinterest-worthy craft and bake a birthday cake from scratch. I wished I were a mom who innately knew how to parent children with temperaments unlike my own.

    At first, I assumed my insecurities would disappear in time … that once I figured out how to be a fabulous mom, my parenting flaws would fade. I read dozens of parenting books and studied the habits of moms who seemed to have it all together. But ironically, the more children I had, the more apparent my shortcomings became.

    Ten years later as I sat exhausted, rocking our fitful fifth-born, I eyeballed the mess around me — laundry and Lego piles, homework folders and smelly gym bags — and exhaled a discouraged sigh. Then, in a moment of vulnerable honesty, I confessed my angst to my husband.

    "I feel like I’m not enough. I can’t ever do enough. Love enough. Work enough. Pray enough …" Jostling the fussy infant in my arms, I felt that familiar churn of self-doubt rising in my stomach.

    My husband stared at me, his tender gaze reflecting my pain. "You don’t have to be enough," he murmured quietly. "That’s Jesus’ job."

    I let his reassuring words seep deep into my splintered soul. In my striving to be enough, I’d forgotten that Christ’s perfect plan for my children depends on His faithfulness, not my flawlessness.

    Late that night, I opened my Bible to 2 Corinthians 12:9 and underlined this sacred pledge: "My grace is enough to cover and sustain you. My power is made perfect in weakness." Then I wrote a simple declaration in the margin of my Bible: "I am not enough, but Jesus is."

    From that moment on, I began to replace my fears with faith.

    Instead of spending all of my energy on futile attempts to be a perfect mom, I chose to spend time getting to know my perfect Savior. I committed to reading God’s Word daily and investing in prayer, memorizing Scripture and practicing the habit of gratitude. I "staked my claim" in the promises of Christ, and slowly, my qualms were quelled.

    Today, I can humbly say that my firstborn’s wish has come true. I am a different mommy. I’m still not enough for my children, but Jesus is. As I trust in His sufficiency and rest in His grace, I’m learning to live in His strength rather than obsess over my weaknesses. Because this far-from perfect mommy has discovered a liberating truth — we have a Savior who is an expert at filling holes (even dinosaur-sized ones).

    Dear Jesus, I’ll never be perfect, but You are. I want to live in the light of Your strength and let Your love shine through all of my holes. Show me how to trade my fears for faith and give me an unquenchable desire for Your truth. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Corinthians 1:25, "You can count on this: God’s foolishness will always be wiser than mere human wisdom, and God’s weakness will always be stronger than mere human strength." (The Voice)

    Psalm 18:30, "Everything God does is perfect; the promise of the Eternal rings true; He stands as a shield for all who hide in Him." (The Voice, emphasis added)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Want to help put Truth into a special child’s heart this Easter? Both the Jesus Storybook Bible and ABC Scripture Cards can help the Scriptures come to life. Vividly illustrated, this children’s Bible tells the story beneath all the Bible stories, about Jesus. Similarly, each decorative ABC Scripture Card contains a verse to memorize, as you help instill God’s Word into their hearts and minds.

    Stop by Alicia’s blog today for more encouragement and a special giveaway for imperfect moms.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write out this simple truth and post it where you will see it daily: "I am not enough, but Jesus is."

    Because of Jesus, we can become "different" women. Read Numbers 14:24 and ask yourself, "Is there an area of my life where I’m failing to follow God wholeheartedly?" Write a prayer committing that part of your life to the Lord and invite Him to make a difference in you and through you this week.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Wanted to Give Up Before I Began

    Posted on March 6, 2015 by Family Christian

    Micca Campbell MARCH 6, 2015

    I Wanted to Give Up Before I Began
    MICCA CAMPBELL

    "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him." Psalm 28:7 (NIV)

    I was sitting in my bedroom working on my weekly Bible study when God spoke to me. While I can’t say I heard His voice audibly, it was the loudest thought I’d ever had. His message was clear: "Speak."

    After a few minutes of panic, I calmed myself by deciding the whole episode was just something crazy I’d imagined. C’mon, Micca, God spoke to you? No way.

    And with that, I put the thought of speaking out of my head.

    As time went on, mysterious things happened that brought to mind God’s word to me … I received unsolicited invitations to speak at ladies’ luncheons, churches and schools.

    Fear filled my entire being, and I thought about graciously declining, but then I remembered Moses.

    Moses had doubts and fears just like me. When God spoke to Moses through a burning bush and gave him the task of freeing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, he was terrified too. Moses told God he wasn’t capable of taking on such a huge assignment.

    How did God respond? He assured Moses he wasn’t alone. That He would be with him.

    As I revisited this story found in Exodus chapters 3 and 4, God showed me it wasn’t about any commitment on my part, as much as it was about submitting to His plan. With that I decided to obey. "Okay, God. As long as you’re with me I᾿ll give speaking a try."

    Each time I spoke I felt the same — like tossing my cookies. It wasn’t easy! There were so many faces staring at me. I knew they had expectations. And beyond the people in the audience, I felt Satan taunting me with negative thoughts and lies while I was speaking: "Nobody is listening to you. You’re just a simple southern girl. What have you got to offer? Do us all a favor and give up."

    I wanted to give up. So did Moses, but God gave him confidence. The Lord promised Moses He would be with him and help him. God would perform miracles through him. These signs would not only reassure Moses that God was with him, but they would force the king of Egypt to free God’s people from slavery.

    I love that Moses wasn’t afraid to admit his weaknesses to God. How else would Moses have known the Lord would be his help and his strength?

    Trusting in these truths provided strength each time I spoke. That’s not all. Repeatedly, God showed me what He was accomplishing through my weakness and obedience. The most confirming response came when I spoke to a group of college students.

    After the room cleared, a young man approached me. "Excuse me," he began. "When I was in high school, I felt God calling me into ministry. But when it came time for college I ignored that call and chose to study law. After hearing you speak today, God stirred my heart, and I’ve decided to surrender to the ministry. I want to thank you for coming. God used you to point me back in the right direction for my life."

    Wow! I was amazed God invited me to participate in such a beautiful miracle. In spite of my insecurities, doubts and feeble weakness, the Lord used me.

    It was then that today’s key verse, Psalm 28:7, became a reality in my heart: "The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him."

    The more I trusted God in my weakness, the stronger I became, and the more I realized this truth: God never commands us to do something that He doesn’t provide the power and help to accomplish.

    Whether you’re called to speak to 10 or 10,000, lead a Bible study group or give a presentation at work, public speaking can be challenging. And you do have a choice. You can say "no" to your burning bush and be miserable, or you can say "yes" and watch the power of God work through your weakness to accomplish His will and bring glory to His Name.

    The Lord wants to reveal Himself to others through you. The key is admitting your weaknesses to God and submitting to His ability to work wonders through you.

    Father, I confess my fears to You. Help me overcome them by trusting in Your presence and power that You make available in every task. Help me worry less about committing on my end, and focus more on admitting my weaknesses and submitting to Your plans. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    2 Corinthians 9:8, "And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Has God put it on your heart to use words to influence others? Proverbs 31 Ministries is hosting She Speaks, an annual conference for writers and speakers. Join us in Charlotte July 23-25, for a unique combination of spiritual inspiration and practical application.

    If you suffer with doubt and fear, Micca Campbell’s book, An Untroubled Heart, offers a remedy for turning fear into faith.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What’s holding you back from being all God intends you to be? Make a list, then surrender each item to God. Ask God to help you trust Him in every opportunity to minister in His Name.

    © 2015 by Micca Campbell. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Scribbled Truth that Changed My Life

    Posted on March 5, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst MARCH 5, 2015

    The Scribbled Truth that Changed My Life
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.’" Acts 3:6a (NIV)

    There was a season of my life that was very dark. When my baby sister died tragically and unexpectedly, my entire world flipped upside down.

    What I once knew to be true suddenly became questionable.

    Is God good? If so, why this? And if I never know why, how can I ever trust God again?

    Hard questions. Honest questions. Questions that haunted me.

    Until one day I got a note from a friend. A girl I not-so-affectionately called my "Bible friend." She honestly got on my nerves with all her Bible verse quoting. I wasn’t on good terms with God at that point in my life. I didn’t want to believe God even existed. And I certainly wasn’t reading the Bible.

    I made all of this very known to my Bible friend. But in her gentle, sweet, kind way … she kept slipping me notes of truth with gently woven verses tucked within.

    And one day, one verse cracked the dam of my soul. Truth slipped in and split my hardhearted views of life open just enough for God to make Himself known to me.

    I held that simple note with one Bible verse scribbled on the front as the tears of honest need streamed down my cheeks. My stiff knees bent. And a whispered "Yes, God" changed the course of my life.

    My Bible friend had reached me. And because of her, I’m determined to use my words as a gift to others who may be in hard places … like a friend of mine who recently told me she is struggling with feeling she has no real purpose.

    Life rushes at her each day with overwhelming demands. Everything feels hard, with very little reprieve.

    If ever there were a drowning with no water involved, this is where my friend is.

    Maybe you have a hurting friend, too.

    So I sat down to write my friend a card and send her a little gift. I desperately wanted to love her through my words. My heart was full of care, compassion and a strong desire to encourage but I struggled to translate all I felt on paper.

    As I prayed about it, the word "loved" kept coming to mind.

    Remind her she is loved. Remind her how much you respect her. Remind her she is a woman who has so much to offer. Remind her she is valuable and she is enough.

    In Acts 3, Peter and John encountered a crippled man at the temple gate called Beautiful. They stopped. They noticed. They decided to touch. Riches weren’t available to them but the ability to value was.

    As our key verse of Acts 3:6-7a says, "‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up …"

    Peter and John didn’t have silver, but they had a hand to offer and value to give. The man in need was worth touching. The hurting one in need was a man who needed someone to see him as a man. The man in need had so much to offer. After he got up, he went into the temple courts praising God and stirring up wonder and amazement about God.

    I want my friend to remember she, too, has praise left inside her for our God. She too can get up. She too can stir up amazement and wonder about our God.

    Yes, she is loved and God has a good plan for her. It’s my job to help her see that, just like my Bible friend did for me all those years ago.

    I will never doubt the power of one woman reaching into the life of another woman with some written whisper of love.

    Dear Lord, I’m so thankful for the relationships You’ve placed in my life. Would You help me discern what encouraging words my friend needs to hear today? I want to show her Your love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    1 Thessalonians 5:11, "So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind." (MSG)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Remind a friend she is valued, loved and beautiful with the Proverbs 31 Ministries "Live a Life of Love" Gift Set. Each set contains a piece of stationary, a frameable print and two Scripture cards so she can take God’s Truth with her wherever she goes. Get one for a friend here.

    Learn more about intentionally investing in your relationships with Lysa’s book, The Best Yes. Purchase your copy here.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Which friend comes to mind when you think of someone who needs encouragement? Ask the Lord to give you the words that are specific to her needs in this season as you write a note to her this week.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Day I Wanted to Punch Somebody

    Posted on March 4, 2015 by Family Christian

    Amy Carroll MARCH 4, 2015

    The Day I Wanted to Punch Somebody
    AMY CARROLL

    "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." Romans 8:5 (NIV)

    At first it seemed like a wonderful idea to take my boys to the mall on the craziest shopping day of the whole year. We piled into the car and left home excited about all the deals we’d find. My optimism soon faded as we reached the line of cars twisting out of the parking lot onto the road.

    I dropped my sons off in front of their favorite store and promised to join them as soon as I found a parking space.

    However, each space I saw was immediately filled by the nearest car, and the weight of frustration began to press on my chest. My blood pressure rose with each passing minute.

    I inched my car around the corner of the next row, hoping to be released from the snarl, only to be blocked by an enormous SUV driven by a man chauffeuring his family. One of us had to back up, and it seemed like he had more room behind him than I did.

    So, I smiled and motioned a request for him to back up to let me pass. Shockingly, the man motioned back at me with an obvious lack of the pleasantness I had hoped to convey. He refused to budge.

    Suddenly, the girl many have referred to as "sweet" … the girl who usually doesn’t struggle with anger or take quick offense … the girl who knows violence is the wrong solution to conflict … suddenly that girl’s imagination began to swirl. I pictured myself getting out of the car, screaming insults and jabbing my finger in the man’s chest until he humbly backed his car out of my way. In the heat of my rage, I seriously contemplated creating a scene.

    However, the still-functioning part of my brain realized this man wasn’t going to give way, so roiling with anger, I carefully backed up into traffic for him to pass, glaring at him and his posse as he drove by.

    About an hour later, after I finally found a parking space, I nearly walked right into the man and his family coming out of a store. My heart sank, and I was filled with shame.

    Suddenly, I had a new picture in my mind: Me in the parking lot with a sign on my forehead that said, "I love Jesus and follow Him."

    Until our close-encounter outside the safe buffer zone of my car, my still simmering fury seemed justified. Now deflated, I faced my own fault.

    Today’s key verse calls my initial reaction "the flesh." In studying this verse alongside another translation, I found an exact description of my response. "If you live your life animated by the flesh — namely, your fallen, corrupt nature — then your mind is focused on the matters of the flesh. But if you live your life animated by the Spirit — namely, God’s indwelling presence — then your focus is on the work of the Spirit" (Romans 8:5, The Voice).

    Although it’s my heart’s desire to live by the Spirit, reflecting God’s indwelling presence to those around me, that day I allowed my flesh to rise up. Instead of being fixated on the things of the Spirit, I focused on what my flesh wanted … a bargain on material things, a parking space and my own way.

    Where our mind is set determines where our actions go.

    Thankfully, the man and his family didn’t seem to recognize me, but I was instantly humbled and repentant when I saw them. Whispering a prayer to God, I asked for His forgiveness and for restoration in my heart and mind to the work of the Spirit. When our flesh rises up, asking God to reset our focus returns us to right relationship with Him and others.

    Lord, my mind’s focus can stray so easily, leading me to live in the flesh instead of in the presence of Your Spirit. Help me start each day by gazing at You so I can live each moment setting my heart, soul and mind on You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Galatians 5:22-23, "The Holy Spirit produces a different kind of fruit: unconditional love, joy, peace, patience, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You won’t find any law opposed to fruit like this." (The Voice)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst is a practical guide for dealing with raw emotions.

    Visit Amy Carroll’s blog today to read more about the beautiful work of God’s Spirit in our lives.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What are indicators in your own life that you’ve moved out of the Spirit and into the flesh?

    Write a plan for how to set your mind on the Spirit the next time you recognize these indicators.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • How Do I Choose?

    Posted on March 3, 2015 by Family Christian

    Sally Clarkson MARCH 3, 2015

    How Do I Choose?
    John Ortberg

    "…See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut…" Revelation 3:8a (NIV)

    Life is full of tough decisions.

    How do I know if he/she is "the one"? Which college should I go to? What should I major in? Which job should I take? Which church should we attend? Should I change careers? Now that the kids are grown, should we downsize? Is now the right time to retire?

    People hate making decisions. Mostly because we’re terrified of making the wrong one.

    Choosing thrills us. Choosing scares us. Choosing comes from the core of who we are. When we truly choose, we have no one to blame and nowhere to hide. And that can be downright terrifying.

    My wife, Nancy, and I were at a restaurant once, and the waiter responded to every choice we made by saying, "Brilliant," "Perfect" or "Excellent decision." This happened so steadily throughout the meal that I finally asked him if he ever told anyone they made a lousy choice. He told us that the restaurant managers had discovered diners are so afraid of choosing the wrong thing, they actually print a list of "affirmation words" that the wait staff is required to say in response to everyone’s order.

    Think about that. Even a question as simple as, "Soup or salad?" renders us so vulnerable that restaurants have to turn their wait staff into therapists!

    In a way, we do the same thing with God. Terrified of making a bad decision, we lay all of our choices at God’s feet and ask Him, "What is Your will for my life?"

    But, what if God’s will for us is that we develop the wisdom and discernment to make our own decisions in light of His Word, and the faith and confidence to know He will be there guiding us regardless of which path we choose?

    Doesn’t that sound freeing?

    God wants us to learn how to choose well. That may be why, when we look at the Bible, there is no chapter devoted to ’How to know God’s will for your life." Paul doesn’t write about "6 Steps to Determine If He’s the One" or "5 Ways to Discern God’s Best Career Path for You."

    What we do see are statements like this: "If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you" (James 1:5, NRSV).

    Or "And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best" (Philippians 1:9-10a, NIV, 1984).

    So the next time you face a difficult decision, instead of asking God what His will is for your life, begin by asking for wisdom. And don’t live in fear of making the wrong decision. Even if you walk through the wrong door, as long as you walk through it with the right heart, God’s will will be done.

    Remember, God’s will for your life is not about whom, or if, you should marry, which job you should accept, or which neighborhood you should live in. God’s will for your life is that you become a magnificent person in His image, somebody with the character of Jesus. And nothing can stand in the way of that.

    Dear God, we know that You are the God of the open door. Every moment of every day is an opportunity for us to grow and serve and make a positive impact on others. Because of Your love, we don’t have to be afraid of failure, nor do we have to live under the tyranny of always making the perfect choice. We pray You will give us the courage and wisdom to walk through whatever doors You open before us. And we pray that through our actions, Your will will be done. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." (ESV)

    Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    How do we determine God’s plans? If you’re searching for more on discovering God’s will for your life, you’ll enjoy John Ortberg’s new book, All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? To dig even deeper with a small group or Sunday School class, explore the 6-session DVD Curriculum.

    Enter to WIN a copy of All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? by John Ortberg. In celebration of this book, John's publisher is giving away 10 copies! Enter to win by leaving a comment here, letting us know why you’d like a copy for yourself OR whom you would give the book to, if you won. {We’ll randomly select 10 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, March 9.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Some decisions seem much harder to make than others. Think back to the last genuinely difficult decision you made and compare that to a relatively simple decision you’ve made recently. What made one so much harder/easier than the other?

    Think back to the last "bad" decision you made. What did you learn from the experience that made you a better person?

    © 2015 by John Ortberg. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Tyndale House Publishers for their sponsorship of today’s devotion.

    Click here to view our policy on 3rd party links.

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

  • What can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

    Posted on March 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    When you have a child with autism or other special needs, even the simple everyday tasks most take for granted can present their own set of unique challenges and issues. Trips to the grocery store, outings to the zoo...and yes, even church! Between the noises, the lights and the crowds, churches can be a lot for kids with sensory issues to handle.

    For parents, this can be very isolating. We find ourselves feeling looked down upon in social situations when sensory issues lead to meltdowns and 'inappropriate' behaviors. Even in church, it's easy to feel a little unwelcome at times.

     

    In an ideal world, every church would offer a sensory friendly service... a special service where families of those with sensory issues could come and worship without fear. Music would be turned down, there'd be no crazy lights, no booming speeches and moving around would be not only acceptable but even welcome. Or perhaps they'd offer a special room (like a cry room, seen in many larger churches) or even a special needs classroom available during the church services. All options would be ideal...but let's be honest, most churches simply do not have the resources available.

    Which leads to the question: what can churches realistically do to make families of special needs children feel welcome?

    One very simple way is by offering a sensory box to use during services to those that need them. This box would contain both sensory products aimed to help deal with sensory overload, as well as fun activities that can help children stay occupied. Here's a look at some ideas to include:

     

    • Weighted Products. Weighted/compression vests, lap pads, etc can be a great for calming and helping kids to stay still.
    • Noise Reducing Headphones. One of the big issues for kids in a church setting is the noise- be it the music, the blare of speakers or just the crowd in general. For my son, we have found noise reducing headphones to be essential in public places when it becomes too much. These are similar to what one would wear at a shooting range and does not block out all noise but rather filters out some of the background noise.
    • Oral Sensory Toys. These would of course be specific to each child (to be stored with a plastic baggie with their name), but can also be a great addition to your sensory box. For my son, I've found that having something to chew on such as this can help him to focus...as well as keeping his mouth off of everything around him!
    • Books. For the child that can read, books can be a great distraction! Fill with bright, vibrant books for various age levels. Consider Veggie Tales comics or fun Bible storybooks. I loved featuring a book called 'God Made Me Special' to remind those differently-abled children that God made them perfect just as they are.
    • Art Supplies. Crayons, coloring books, pencils, etc can all again provide great busy work to make the wait a little easier. Color Wonder papers and markers can be ideal for younger kids or those with fine motor issues to prevent messes. Clay and/or playdoh when possible can also serve as a great sensory experience.
    • Small Quiet Toys. Of course there is no better way to occupy a child's attention than with toys! For this box, the key thing you want to look for is toys that can be played with quietly! Plush toys, soft balls, etc are great options. For the sensory seeking kid, offer a variety of textures. Find toys that have colorful lights. Spinning parts are also popular among kids with sensory issues (gears, wheels, tops, etc).  Inexpensive novelty toys are fantastic for this type of box...they can be replaced easily and inexpensively and because they are not played with every day still keep their appeal. (We used this types of toys often as reinforcements in therapy).
    Of course, every child will be different and what helps one child might not for the next, but this list will give you a great starting point to build upon. The sensory therapy products can all be found at stores specializing in therapy or education, but many great sensory friendly toys and books can be found right where you shop for your other church supplies- Family Christian.Just by letting families know that you have thought of them and want to make their church experience as easy as possible can go a long way in letting them know that they are in fact welcome. But don't let the welcoming end there. Offer support where possible, ask questions about how you can make church a better experience for each individual family and above all be understanding. Even creating the perfect sensory-friendly church experience may still prove too much for some children- reach out to these families where they are. A little bit of compassion can go a long way in making this journey with a differently-abled child a little less lonely.

    Randi Sampson is a Christian wife and autism mom. She blogs at A Modern Day Fairy Tale- sharing stories of motherhood, life, product reviews and everything in between.

  • There’s no Such Thing as a Perfect Mom

    Posted on March 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    Tracie Miles MARCH 2, 2015

    There’s no Such Thing as a Perfect Mom
    TRACIE MILES

    "Her children arise and call her blessed;" Proverbs 31:28a (NIV)

    A teenage pregnancy landed me in an abortion clinic. And for years afterward, I was tormented by regret and shame, worsened by the secret fear that God would never bless me with another child. Yet 14 years later, as I held my first baby in my arms, I began thinking hope-filled thoughts for the very first time.

    I peered into Morgan’s little blue eyes and wondered … Maybe God doesn’t despise me after all. Maybe He does see some good in me. Maybe He does love me, despite me. After all, if God would allow me to be a mom to something so tiny and precious, could He really hate me?

    Those questions were the start of my healing, as Jesus began to mend my shattered heart through the cries of a newborn.

    Over time, I embraced God’s love for me. Yet I still believed I had a lot to make up for. I was convinced I had to be the best mommy in the history of all mommies. I intended to prove to God, this baby and myself that I deserved her. I devoted every waking moment to meeting every need of this treasured child.

    Irrational? Obsessed? Overachieving? Yes, I was all of those things. I desperately wanted to be a good mom, the best mom. In fact, I hoped I could make up for my past mistakes if I were the perfect mom. So I set standards for myself that I couldn’t meet — no one could — and constantly felt like a failure.

    I imagine many moms feel that way at times. We set our minds to being the most patient, loving, thoughtful, caring, kind, generous and selfless mothers ever, but life and reality get in the way. Colicky babies, tantrum-throwing toddlers, defiant third graders, disrespectful middle schoolers, and hormonal teenagers shake our quest for perfection.

    No matter how hard we try, we can’t live up to the standard of being perfect moms with perfect kids who rise up every day and call us blessed.

    When we read today’s key verse, it might make us wonder if we’re enough as a mom — especially on those days when we don’t feel like enough. But the truth is, this woman’s husband and children, who knew her better than anyone else, were recipients of her love, care and unselfish habits. They believed she was a good mother and wife and respected her faith and who she was overall, and they were proud.

    It doesn’t say she was perfect, just that she was perfectly loved and respected.

    All of us have made mistakes or endured hardships in life, but we don’t have to let our past become a stumbling block for our future or impact the futures of our children. God has called us all to a divine purpose in this life, and sometimes the highest, most divine calling of all, is being a mom.

    Not a perfect mom, but a mom who loves the Lord, and seeks grace when she stumbles and strength when she’s weary. A mom who pushes past her lack of confidence and regrets from the past, and allows God to use those experiences to shape her into a faith role model for her kids.

    A mom who simply tries her best, while remembering she has a God who will guide her through each season of parenting, one imperfect day after another. A mom who loves her children enough to teach them to love Him too, even in the midst of her own short-comings.

    And one day, those sweet babies just might rise up and call us blessed, simply because we built a legacy of faith and love. Then every prayer for grace, mercy, forgiveness, patience and perseverance will be well worth the wait.

    Jesus, sometimes I feel like a failure at mothering, and often wonder if my past choices affect my ability to be a good parent. Help me to remember I am flawed, but dearly loved, and that in Your strength and wisdom I can succeed in this calling of motherhood. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 22:6, "Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it." (NLT)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    For more encouragement on being the woman and mom God called you to be despite the mistakes of your past, consider purchasing Tracie Miles’ book Your Life Still Counts: How God Uses Your Past to Create a Beautiful Future.

    Visit Tracie’s blog for 5 Tips of Encouragement for the Less-Than-Perfect Mom and learn about her upcoming book study.

    Want to help put Truth into your children’s hearts? ABC Scripture Cards were designed to bring Scripture memory to life in the heart of your home. Each decorative card contains a verse to memorize with your child as you help instill God’s word into their heart and mind.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    How have you held yourself to unreasonable standards as a mom?

    How might this journey of motherhood be different if you stopped trying to be perfect?

    © 2015 by Tracie Miles. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Day I Saw My Son Drowning

    Posted on February 27, 2015 by Family Christian

    Katy McCown FEBRUARY 27, 2015

    The Day I Saw My Son Drowning
    Katy McCown

    "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me." Matthew 25:35-36 (ESV)

    It all happened in a matter of seconds.

    We stormed through the hotel pool’s gate with kids, towels, floaties and a stroller. Still wearing my street clothes, I played pool police while my husband, Luke, secured the little ones into life jackets.

    Our 4-year-old son, who knows how to swim, waded down the steps with confidence. But this marked our first time at the pool since the previous summer, and time took its toll on Micah’s memory. He’d forgotten how to swim, but didn’t realize it until it was too late.

    I spotted him first and shouted, "Luke! Micah!"

    Since my husband stood only a few steps away, sporting a swimsuit, I figured he was the guy for the job. I assumed my tone would communicate the urgency of the situation and expected Luke to hop right in and rescue Micah.

    But he didn’t.

    Luke looked at me confused. He didn’t see Micah. He didn’t know what was happening. And every second I waited for my husband to save our son, Micah struggled to breathe.

    I stood steps away, knowing he needed help. But because I reasoned someone else was more prepared or better suited for the job, I did nothing.

    I share one of my worst moments as a mother because I often see the same struggles in our spiritual lives. We see someone drowning and, with good intentions, wait for the "right" person for the job.

    But God put us in front of the ones who need air. We see them with our eyes. We understand the need. God chose us for these jobs. And while we wait for an expert to jump in, someone is drowning.

    Like the new girl at Bible study who unloaded her burdened heart into the middle of our comfortable circle.

    Just minutes earlier, I had greeted her with a smile and tried to make her feel comfortable. I didn’t know much about her, so I asked questions to ease the newness of it all. We grabbed some goodies then shuffled into the living room, where the group gathered in our usual circle.

    We shared and prayed and pondered God’s Word and will for our lives.

    Then the dam broke. The headache in the heart of this new face made her wince as the words poured out of her mouth. Floods of self-doubt and confusion gushed through the gaping hole in her soul.

    She described the uncertainty of new things, the unsettled places of old things and the unraveling of too many things. When the words ran out and the tears came close to spilling over, she lowered her head and pleaded, "I just need to know what to do."

    And we all sat silent.

    The girl who invited her should be the one to say something, I reasoned. Or surely the leader of the group will shed light on her situation. Or at least someone who’s known her longer than five minutes! I thought to myself.

    Everyone else must have rationalized the same way I did. Because not one of us offered a life preserver or anything to help keep her head above water.

    In today’s key verse, Jesus paints the picture of the day we stand before God. He says people will ask Him, "When did we see you hungry and feed you? Or when did we see you naked and give you clothes?"

    In Matthew 25:40 Jesus shares the startling truth, "And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’" (ESV)

    Thankfully, my son Micah’s story ends brighter than the woman at Bible study. That day at the pool, a stranger rescued my son. He saw Micah drowning and took action. I wish it had been me, but I thank God for that man who chose not to hesitate.

    The Bible study visitor never returned. She likely left disappointed and embarrassed. I pray God uses someone else to draw her to Him. I wish it had been me.

    I urge you today, if you see someone drowning, jump into the water. Grab them by the hand and guide them to the only true Life Preserver. Whatever you do for them, you do also for the King of Kings.

    Lord Jesus, give me the courage to jump. I want to be Your vessel who brings hope and rest to those You love. Give me Your eyes and help my arms be like Yours and reach for those who are sinking. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 2:12b-13, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose." (HCSB)

    2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Do you long to write powerful words that are memorable and life changing to someone in need of God’s hope? Today’s devotion author, Katy McCown, is a member of COMPEL, a resource for those who want to write words that move people. Click here to learn more or become a member of COMPEL today.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries also hosts She Speaks, an annual training conference for writers and speakers. You’re invited to join us in Charlotte this July 23-25, 2015, for a unique combination of spiritual inspiration and practical application.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Take inventory of the places where you spend time and make a list of people around you who might be sinking beneath rough waters. Ask God to show you how you can offer His hand of hope.

    Considering 2 Timothy 3:16-17, what’s one thing you can do today to feel better equipped to for the good works God has in store for you?

    © 2015 by Katy McCown. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Don’t Want to Raise a Good Child

    Posted on February 26, 2015 by Family Christian

    Lysa TerKeurst FEBRUARY 26, 2015

    I Don’t Want to Raise a Good Child
    LYSA TERKEURST

    "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it." Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

    When my daughter Hope was in high school, she decided her senior year should be adventurous and a little out of the "normal" box. A lot out-of-the-box, actually.

    She withdrew from traditional school. Applied with the state to homeschool. Enrolled in online college courses that would allow her to get both high school and college credit simultaneously. And planned to spend a month serving in Nicaragua doing missions.

    This didn’t surprise me, really. Hope has always liked charting her own course. This thrills me now. But it didn’t thrill me so much in the early years of raising this strong-spirited child.

    When she was really little I was scared to death I was the world’s worst mom, because Hope was never one to be contained. And I honestly thought all her extra tenacity was a sign of my poor mothering.

    One day I took her to the mall to meet several of my friends with toddlers to grab lunch. All of their kids sat quietly eating Cheerios in their strollers. They shined their halos and quoted Bible verses and used tissues to wipe their noses.

    Not Hope.

    She was infuriated by my insistence she stay in her stroller. So, when I turned away for a split second to place our lunch order, she wiggled free. She stripped off all her clothes. She ran across the food court. And jumped in the fountain in the center of the mall.

    Really, nothing makes the mother of a toddler feel more incapable than seeing her naked child splashing in the mall fountain. Except maybe that toddler refusing to get out and said mother having to also get into the fountain.

    I cried all the way home.

    Not because of what she’d done that day. But rather because of how she was every day. So determined. So independent. So insistent.

    I would beg God to show me how to raise a good child. One that stayed in her stroller. One that made other people comment on how wonderfully behaved she was. One that made me look good.

    But God seemed so slow to answer those prayers. So, over the years, I changed my prayer. "God help me to raise Hope to be who You want her to be." Emphasis on, "God HELP ME!"

    I think I changed my prayers for her because God started to change my heart. I sensed He had a different plan in mind for my mothering of Hope.

    Maybe God’s goal wasn’t for me to raise a good rule-following child. God’s goal was for me to raise a God-following adult. An adult who was just determined and independent and insistent enough to fulfill a purpose He had in mind all along.

    Today’s key verse reminds us we are training children so that when they are old they will not turn away from Biblical principles, but rather implement them in their life-long pursuit of God. Remember, the things that might aggravate you about your child today might be the very things that, when matured, make them great for God’s kingdom tomorrow.

    I’ve certainly seen this in raising Hope.

    I don’t know which mama needs to hear this today. But let me encourage you from the bottom of my heart with three simple mothering perspectives you must hang on to:

    1. Don’t take too much credit for their good.
    2. Don’t take too much credit for their bad.
    3. Don’t try to raise a good child. Raise a God-following adult.

    And all the mamas of fountain-dancing children said, "Amen!"

    Dear Lord, I know You desire for me to raise a God-following adult. Please give me Your wisdom as I seek to become the parent You called to this high honor. Redirect my perspectives and equip me for this task today. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Deuteronomy 11:18-19, "Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up." (NIV)

    Isaiah 40:11, "He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learn how to make God-honoring decisions throughout your motherhood journey with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. Get your copy here.

    Find community with other moms when you hold The Best Yes Bible study in your home or church! Click here to get started.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Which of the three mothering perspectives Lysa shared resonated with you the most? Focus on that point this week as you spend time with your kids.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • How to Keep Your Lips Zipped

    Posted on February 25, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman FEBRUARY 25, 2015

    How to Keep Your Lips Zipped
    KAREN EHMAN

    "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" Psalm 141:3 (ESV)

    I still remember the first time I witnessed the power of zipped lips.

    Sitting around my tiny dorm room with a group of girls in college, the topic of someone else on campus came up. One by one, everyone chimed in and shared their opinion about this person.

    That is, everyone but my roommate. She sat silently on the bed, staring out the window. Even when another girl asked directly, "Don’t you think so, too?" she said nothing.

    Finally, someone asked if she was listening. Her reply was classic. "Oh, yes. I am listening all right. And I don’t think I have anything to say. We shouldn’t be talking like this behind her back."

    The silence that followed was deafening. But I learned a good lesson.

    My roommate was right. None of us would want others to talk about us, so why were we so eager to talk? Yes, perhaps the most effective way to avoid gossip is to simply keep our lips zipped. And if you want another powerful tool to do that, you might try what I started doing a few years back.

    Make a Promise; Keep a Commitment

    Years ago, I received a call from someone wanting to know if I’d read the newspaper that day. I hadn’t.

    But I didn’t need to see it, because the caller then related all the details about a news story* from the small town where I lived at the time. They asked if I knew a person mentioned in the article — who’d just been arrested for a horrific offense.

    I did know the person. A close relative of theirs was a friend. My heart ached as I imagined what my friend might be experiencing since she was totally blindsided by the situation. Soon my phone started ringing and I heard the computer alerting me to new email messages.

    Knowing it was wrong to talk about this situation, I chose not to pick up the phone and ignored the emails for fear someone might mention the incident to me. I wanted so much to honor God — and my friend — and avoid gossiping about this situation. It was then that I felt God nudge me, saying, "Really? Then tell her that."

    So I sent my friend a text. I said she was loved and treasured, that I could not imagine what she was going through, and then added this note: "I just want you to know that I will not be talking about this situation to anyone other than God. Please let me know how I can pray for you. And if you want to talk or need anything at all, call or text me. We love you."

    I wanted (and needed!) the Lord to help me refrain from idle talk about what was happening to this family. The author of Psalm 141:3, today’s key verse, obviously need the same help when he wrote: "Set a guard over my mouth, LORD; keep watch over the door of my lips."

    By contacting my friend and making a direct commitment to her, I felt like I had set a "guard over my mouth." And if I ever felt tempted to bring up the situation, I zipped my lips before any words emerged. I simply would not go back on a promise to a friend or to God. Making this commitment to my friend was life-changing. Because I promised her I would not gossip, I didn’t. (Thank God for that!)

    If someone else brought up the situation, I said I’d promised my friend not to discuss the situation with anyone besides her and God. The promise helped me refrain from gossiping, and encouraged a few other people to do the same.

    In our gossip-rich culture, the choice to remain silent will be hard. But like the psalmist, we can ask God for help, knowing He’ll be a faithful guard over the door of our lips.

    Lord, help me honor You with my words. Please set a guard over my mouth when I’m tempted to say something that will hurt You and someone else. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 10:19, "Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut." (NLT)

    Proverbs 20:19, "A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    If avoiding gossip is something you’d like to know more about, you’ll appreciate Karen Ehman’s latest book, Keep It Shut: What to Say, How to Say It and When to Say Nothing at All.

    Join the discussion on how to zip your lips today on Karen’s blog. She is also giving away a book and DVD Bible study bundle of Keep It Shut.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Do any of the verses above prick your conscience you as you read them? Is God asking you to make a call, send a text or craft a private message asking for forgiveness?

    Will you commit to not gossiping about someone else’s "newsworthy" life in a gossipy sort of way? If so, tell one trusted friend about your commitment.

    *Special Note from Karen Ehman: Some details in this story have been changed to protect my friend, who granted me permission to use it.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

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