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  • How to Sleep Worry Free

    Amy Carroll APRIL 29, 2015

    How to Sleep Worry Free

    "But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’" Luke 18:16 (NIV)

    A friend looked deep into my eyes and asked, "What do you miss about being a child?"

    In the middle of playing a silly game of questions with a group, the room faded away and memories of my childhood popped into my mind like bubbles surfacing from deep waters.

    Playing with my brother in our treehouse.

    Fun Fridays with my favorite teacher at school.

    Riding my banana-seat bike down the street with friends.

    Most precious … moments snuggled between my parents while our family read together at night.

    Although it sounds idyllic, it wasn’t perfect. Just like I’m an imperfect parent, my parents weren’t perfect either. But as a child I felt loved, encouraged and most importantly, safe and carefree. As I longed for the feeling of safety that blanketed my childhood, I looked at my friend and answered, "I miss having no worries."

    Being an adult is fraught with pits of peril — financial shortfalls, job instability, parenting challenges, marriage conflict and the general stress of being responsible for yourself and others. For me, childhood was free of all those things. But that day, as I faced my friend’s question, adulthood felt like a heavy weight.

    The next day as I sat in the quiet of early morning, God whispered a single word into my heart … trust. He gently showed me the weight of adulthood I had shouldered. He nudged me to consider the hours I’d spent awake staring into the dark ruminating, with no resolution. He refreshed the sense of deep longing I’d felt the day before when I’d expressed my desire for childhood. The good old days of no worries.

    And He called me back.

    Trust is the mark of a child. Of course I had little girl concerns when I was young, but why didn’t I feel the weight of worry? It was because I trusted my parents. They took the weight of responsibility to shelter me — allowing me to feel safe and worry-free.

    Although not all parents do this well, protecting our children from adult problems is still part of a parent’s job description.

    The funny thing is my trust was partially based on illusion. As parents, my husband and I have tried to do exactly what my parents did for me. We don’t tell our kids about adult problems because we don’t want them to worry about things they can’t fix.

    It’s not that we don’t have problems or that we’re completely in control. The truth is, we’re not in control. But there’s good news for those who are faking control while lying awake at night and for those who have never felt safe.

    God is a Father who is entirely trustworthy because He is truly in control.

    As God’s children, we have a heavenly Father who is worthy of trust. All our obsessive worry over our responsibilities and concerns doesn’t change a thing, so let’s resolve to try something different. Let’s give up our illusion of control and rest peacefully like children in Jesus’ unfailing care.

    Now, instead of letting worry consume my nighttime thoughts, I’m learning to pray childlike prayers. I lay in the dark handing over my worries one by one to my faithful Father instead of grasping them in my powerless hands. I’m still in the process of training myself to trust, but I’m sleeping well at night while the One who never slumbers carries it all.

    Lord, I’ve shouldered my cares as if I’m the one in control. Help me become like a child, handing all my stresses, worries and responsibilities to You, my faithful Father. I trust You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    I Peter 5:7, "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." (NIV)

    Philippians 4:6-7, "Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life." (MSG)

    Prayers for a Woman’s Soul by Julie Gillies can help you learn to pray for your needs.

    We all pray … some. But wouldn’t we like to pray more? Better? Stronger? If you can relate, you’ll appreciate Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado.

    Visit Amy Carroll’s blog today to enter to win a unique prayer journal that will help you turn your cares to prayers.

    What worries and responsibilities fill your thoughts and keep you awake at night? Write them on a list.

    Reflect a moment. How has your worry changed the situations on your list?

    Before bed tonight, pray through your worry list and hand each burden to God. Tell your Heavenly Father you trust Him with each one.

    © 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Big Things are in the Small Things

    Chrystal Evans Hurst APRIL 28, 2015

    The Big Things are in the Small Things

    "So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." Matthew 10:31 (NIV)

    I looked out my kitchen window and noticed a little bird had just landed on our bird feeder.

    To be honest, I barely noticed the little creature. It wasn’t a bird to notice really. Grayish brown, small, unremarkable. It perched on the edge of the empty soda bottle bird feeder for just a moment before flying away.

    Feeling guilty for the lack of birdseed, I called for the nearest of my three boys. Thankfully, my middle son was in earshot. He had never filled the feeder before on his own, so I sized him up to see if he was now tall enough to reach it since it hung from a ceiling hook on the front porch. Then, I sent him outside with a stool and instructions to grab the feeder and bring it inside.

    Not long after, he reentered the kitchen. I helped him unscrew the top, place a funnel inside the opening, and pour some birdseed inside. My 9-year-old went back outside, and after three or four reaches, he hung the feeder back up.

    He beamed with pride. He had fed the birds, and they would live another day because his provision had saved the day. His small action resulted in a big difference for the birds that visit our home.

    The big things are in the small things.

    That same morning, just a little while later, I sat at the kitchen table with my sons to have devotions before starting our school day.

    And what was our Bible lesson about?

    You guessed it.

    "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care" (Matthew 10:29, NIV).

    We opened our family devotional and read how God takes care of His children. We were reminded that there is no need to worry because the same God who cares for the birds of the air, cares deeply for His own, knows of our needs, and makes it His business to meet them.

    As I reveled in a parenting moment where God had provided such a perfect illustration for our morning Bible time, my mother’s glory was abruptly cut short when my 6-year-old chimed in.

    "So Mom, does that mean God is going to give me an iPod?"

    What in the WORLD?

    I felt laughter and tears bubbling up at the same time.

    How did he miss the whole point?!?!

    He was so consumed with his perception of a "big thing" that he missed the point entirely.

    My friend, how do you and I miss the point?

    At times, I am consumed with my needs, or better yet, my wants. I waste worry on fears that will never happen or give too much attention to desires that are not designed to satisfy. Thoughts of what I hope for sometimes consume me, and I miss the point — the beauty of a God who faithfully and fully meets every single one of my needs.

    And that, dear one, is the point.

    The big thing is that God consistently and lovingly meets us in the small things. While we might be tempted to focus on the things we want, it is so important to intentionally focus on how good He already is. His seemingly small actions of providing for us on a daily basis with clothes, food and shelter are, in truth, very big. Why? Because His "small" actions make a big difference for us, and the ones who live within our homes.

    Lord God, I thank You so much for Your faithfulness in the small things. Please forgive me for being ungrateful and forgetting to show gratitude for Your goodness to me. You are constant in Your loving care. While I sometimes feel my life is "grayish brown, small and unremarkable," thank You for today’s reminder that I matter, that You see me, and that You make it Your business to meet my needs. Help me not to "miss the point" but to live with an intentional heart of thanksgiving. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Matthew 6:26, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?" (NIV)

    Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Chrystal Evans Hurst will encourage and challenge you to be transformed by God’s truth, seek His best and move forward in the abundant life He has for you.

    Visit Chrystal’s blog for more encouragement.

    What is currently consuming your thoughts? What has been the object of your worry and concern, or the focus of your desires and hopes?

    List the "small things" God has done in your life that really are big things. Will you intentionally give Him thanks today?

    © 2015 by Chrystal Evans Hurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • A Father’s Reflection

    How one rose gardener brought faith into focus

    As a father of three, I struggle to understand how I could possibly make my children’s dreams come true. I get caught up making things work, wanting bigger and better, and relying less on my faith in God to lead the way.

    When I was in Guatemala this past winter documenting a mission trip, I was taken aback by how much simplicity and clarity meeting a rose gardener gave me. While Ramón didn’t say very much, his humbleness and faith seemed unwavering. He gardens during the day to support his family. And with the help of World Vision, he was given an opportunity to tend a rose garden. With the extra work, Ramón is blessed to now have the means to put his six children through school.

    God calls all of us to trust the journey He has us on. And I could see that Ramón has. What began with one of our customers sponsoring a child in Ramón’s community is ending with a brighter future for his children.

    –Nik DeGraaf, Family Christian Photographer

    Sponsoring a child helps struggling communities like Ramón’s. Visit familychristian.com/worldvision to learn more.

    World Vision

  • Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down

    Wendy Pope APRIL 27, 2015

    Give Yourself Permission to Slow Down

    "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." Genesis 2:3 (NASB)

    During my son’s basketball practice, I made my grocery list, returned text messages, checked work emails, read an online devotion and scrolled through Facebook. In the midst of my frenzy, a photo of my friend’s vacation stopped me in my tracks. I could almost feel the warm sun and hear the clear water lapping the shore.

    My shoulders relaxed and my mind rested for just a moment before the referee blew the whistle, and I was off again. Though tired, after the practice I headed to the grocery store, post office and garage for an oil change. I tucked the picture of the beach in the back of my mind and reminded myself that I needed to take a Sabbath — a full day of rest.

    Does taking one whole day off sound foreign to you? I struggle with it, too. That’s because we have lost the rhythm of life, which includes a day of rest. As a result, we are tired, overworked, disorganized, confused and sleep-deprived.

    What has happened to the Sabbath? Where did the ideals of a day of rest go?

    With bills to pay, broken things to fix, kids to care for and work deadlines to meet, it’s difficult to give ourselves permission to slow down. Celebrating the work we’ve done seems like a waste of time. But God said to rest and celebrate. He even modeled it for us.

    We are given an example of the Sabbath in Genesis 2:3: "Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made." The word "blessed" means praise, salute, kneel or bless oneself. The Lord gave Himself permission to rest and to celebrate the work He had done on the other six days of the week.

    Pausing once a week helps to clear our hearts and minds. This "white space" enables us to focus on praising and worshipping the Lord. We find room to rejoice in the work He has enabled us to complete, which balances discouragement over unfinished jobs. It aligns our perspective with what is important and reminds us that these tasks will still be there when we return to work.

    Make plans to schedule a Sabbath rest for yourself. Mark your calendar now and set that day aside for praise and worship, prayer and Scripture reading, naps and knitting (or whatever is restful for you). Most importantly, set your Sabbath state of mind on the Lord and honor Him with a day of rest and celebration.

    Dear Lord, it seems I rarely press pause. Thank You for this reminder to set aside a day of rest and reflection. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Exodus 20:8, "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy." (ESV)

    Spend your Sabbath rest refreshing yourself in God’s Word and Wendy Pope’s Bible study, Trusting God for a Better Tomorrow: A Study of Psalms.

    Visit Wendy’s blog for tips on creating white space in your life for Sabbath rest.

    When is the last time you truly rested and spent time celebrating what God has allowed you to accomplish?

    Sit down with your calendar and decide which day you will take as your Sabbath. If you are married or have children, make this decision as a family.

    © 2015 by Wendy Pope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Thoughts

    Leah DiPascal APRIL 24, 2015

    Breaking the Cycle of Toxic Thoughts

    "This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." Deuteronomy 30:19 (NIV)

    I saw the blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror, and knew it was not a good sign. A quick glance at the speedometer revealed I was going faster than intended.

    I quickly began to build my case as I pulled over to the side of the road. With my two toddlers in the back seat, I was sure this would be an easy fix. After all, once the police officer heard my reasons for being distracted, he would certainly let me off the hook with a simple warning, a gentle smile and a cheerful, "Have a good day, ma’am!"

    That’s not exactly how it went down.

    Despite my attempts to explain, the police officer didn’t budge. It didn’t matter that I was lost in an unfamiliar section of town. It didn’t matter that my friend had just given birth to her second child, or that I’d spent hours preparing a meal for her family.

    I was secretly hoping the lingering aroma of chicken fettuccini would prove my point. But despite all my good intentions and lengthy explanations, the officer proceeded with four words no one wants to hear: "License and registration, please."

    Five minutes later, I was back on the road with a nasty speeding ticket sitting on my dashboard. It might as well have been a neon sign flashing the words: loser, busted, cursed.

    We cried the whole way home. My kids cried because they knew Mommy was very upset. I cried — not because I was sad or embarrassed — but because I was angry.

    What kind of officer gives a ticket to a good person who prepares a meal for a friend in her time of need? Sure, I was guilty of going a tad over the speed limit, but the consequences seemed harsh and I felt completely justified.

    As the day went on, my anger mounted and my invisible stress barometer climbed to new heights. I couldn’t stop thinking about our brief and aloof conversation. Over and over, I mentally replayed alternative dialogues: I should have said this … What if he’d said that?

    By the end of the day, I had a fierce headache, a knot in my stomach and a "don’t-go-near-her attitude." All the over-analyzing, replaying and mental back talk created a toxic mess in my mind and body, making an unfortunate situation worse.

    My choice to speed produced the hefty consequence of a ticket and a marked driving record. But choosing to fixate my thoughts on the problem was like dousing gasoline on a tiny spark. That spark had become a consuming fire, distracting me from the real blessings God had for me that day — like the little ones in the back seat of my car and getting home safely.

    In today’s key verse, Moses challenges the people of Israel to choose between life and death, a blessing and a curse. How? By choosing wisely. To love God, obey His commands and place Him above all else in their lives.

    Today, we’re faced with the same challenge. Will we love God and choose His way to experience life and blessings, or will we choose our way and set ourselves up for some potentially explosive consequences?

    Our words, actions and reactions are a direct result of our thought life. Left to our own sinful nature, we can easily find ourselves in a cycle of toxic thinking, choosing and reacting.

    To be women who choose wisely, we have to go to the Source of all wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you" (NIV).

    Freedom doesn’t come in making our own choices. Freedom comes by seeking God’s perfect wisdom to choose wisely in every area of our lives.

    Friend, where are your choices taking you today? Are your thoughts, words, actions and reactions reflecting who you are in Christ? Let’s encourage one another to choose wisely and live in the blessed freedom that God has already made available to us.

    Heavenly Father, thank You for the many blessings You’ve given me today. Help me to choose wisely so I can live in freedom for Your Glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    James 1:25, "But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it — not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it — they will be blessed in what they do." (NIV)

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

    Learn to make wise choices in the midst of endless demands with Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes.

    Join Leah DiPascal on her blog today to continue this conversation of choosing wisely. She’s giving away two copies of The Best Yes so be sure to sign up here for the giveaway.

    Make a list of 10 choices you’ve made this week. Place each choice in one of two columns: Wise Choices vs. Toxic Choices. Ask God for wisdom on how to move all your choices into the wise column.

    © 2015 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Did I Hear God Wrong?

    Lysa TerKeurst APRIL 23, 2015

    Did I Hear God Wrong?

    "For we live by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7 (NIV)

    Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong?

    I understand. Thoughts of doubt crossed my mind daily when I began to listen to the promptings on my heart to write.

    The International Christian Retail Show is a big book convention where publishers, authors, agents, media and bookstore owners all gather to talk shop. Books are pitched. Books are sold. Books are talked about a lot!

    I went to this conference years ago when I was a wannabe writer with a book proposal and a dream. Recently, as I signed pre-release copies of my new book, two thoughts went through my mind.

    First … thank You Jesus, that people actually came to my book signing. Because there’s nothing quite like standing there with a big stack of free promotion books, a permanent marker and not a soul interested.

    So when people actually came, I just wanted to hug every single one of them. Seriously. And if I had lots of money, I would’ve bought them all a steak dinner. I’m not kidding.

    The second thought was … look for those desperate for your encouragement.

    Many who came through my book signing line were interested in writing a book. I remember being there.

    I know what it feels like to walk around with a tote bag full of book proposals and a heart full of nervous hope.

    I know what it feels like to consciously choose to live every day "by faith, not by sight" like our key verse 2 Corinthians 5:7 instructs. Honestly, it’s hard to hold on to God’s promises when all that’s staring back at you is a pile of rejection letters from publishers.

    That calling we once felt so strongly starts to feel more like a fairytale than a future reality.

    So, I felt the weight of responsibility to give them the encouragement I so desperately needed when I was in their shoes.

    Maybe you are there right now, looking to actively pursue your dreams or the things God has called you to. But whether it’s the hope of being an author or another dream you have bumping around in your heart, here’s what I’ve learned:

    Rejection from people doesn’t mean rejection from God.

    If God has gifted you to write, write! You don’t need a book deal to have an impact with your writing. The same is true with other dreams. If you’re called to sing, create, teach, paint, develop — use your gifts right where you are to bless others.

    Most overnight success stories are years in the making.

    Value the daily discipline of small steps of faith, hard work, honing your craft and putting in time learning and developing. Take classes. Be mentored. Push through those moments you want to slack off. And do it over and over, year after year.

    Be a blessing to others.

    Don’t keep your work to yourself. Find people who could be blessed with your work. I love to write. But what I love more than writing is seeing my writing help other people. That’s where I find the encouragement to push through the hard times.

    Expect opposition.

    The challenges and disappointments and setbacks are all part of it. And honestly, these hard times serve a great purpose. I’ve learned much more from my failures in writing than my successes. Use these lessons … don’t waste them by giving up too soon. And remember to glorify Him whether it’s a struggle or a success. God uses all things for good.

    Look for the small open doors right in front of you.

    I always scratch my head when I meet people who tell me they want to write and speak but aren’t willing to teach a small Bible study first. If God is calling you to do something, He’ll have a door open in front of you. But it might be a small door. Look for the small door and walk through it.

    Actually … dance through that door with great joy because He will always do great things with people willing to be faithful in the small!

    Dear Lord, I’m choosing to live by faith, not by sight. I believe You have amazing plans for my life, and I want to be obedient to You through it all. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." (NIV)

    Zechariah 4:10a, "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin …" (NLT)

    WIF Bookcover

    Be reminded each day to walk by faith, not by sight with a necklace from the Proverbs 31 Ministries Faith Collection. Each necklace is handcrafted by vulnerable and rescued women in Mexico and Charlotte, N.C. Click here to purchase one for yourself or a friend this Mother’s Day!

    Choose one of the encouragements Lysa talked about today and hold it close over the next week as you continue to live out what God has called you to.

    © 2015 by Lysa TerKeurst. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Concern Consumes Me

    Renee Swope APRIL 22, 2015

    When Concern Consumes Me

    "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28 (NIV)

    As we drove home from a weekend away in the mountains, I felt a heavy sense of dread and sadness. Laying my head back on my seat, I told my husband, JJ, "I don’t want to go home."

    The stress and strain of countless commitments at home and at work were taking a toll on me. If only I could return to that little mountain town where no one knew me or needed me.

    JJ asked some clarifying questions, and then he suggested I make a list of everything on my plate so I could ask God what needed to be cut back.

    Honestly, at first I resented the fact that he was adding one more thing "to do" on my already long list of things I’d never get done.

    But later that week I took his advice and wrote out all my commitments and concerns. I made a list of deadlines and dates on my calendar with every appointment, event, conference call and meeting I could think of for the next six months.

    And I prayed: Please God, show me where I need to make changes.

    I assumed the Holy Spirit would suggest adjustments in my schedule, but that’s not what happened. God didn’t tell me to make cut backs at work or in ministry. He didn’t show me our family had too many activities. He didn’t challenge me to take a sabbatical, although I was hoping He would.

    Jesus showed me it was worry — not my workload — that was making me weary.

    You see, during the weeks leading up to my "meltdown," I let my thoughts dwell on the possible negative outcome of several different circumstances and decisions, all at the same time. And without realizing it, I had spent as much time thinking and worrying about concerns, commitments, circumstances and deadlines as I did working on them.

    It was not only how I spent my time, but how I spent my thoughts that left me depleted. It wasn’t until I brought it all to God, and wrote it all out, that I recognized what was happening.

    Instead of escaping to the mountains where no one knows us or needs us, in today’s key verse from Matthew 11:28 above, Jesus invites us to come to Him so He can give us:

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

    Freedom from the captivity of our concerns.
    "‘Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD, ‘and will bring you back from captivity’" (Jeremiah 29:12-14a, NIV).

    Maybe there are worries making you weary. Do you hear Jesus gently inviting you to come to Him, seeking and trusting that His heart is big enough to care and strong enough to carry all that concerns you?

    Dear Lord, when concerns consume me, help me remember You are there inviting me to come to You and talk about all I’m thinking and doing. Show me if my workload or my worries are making me weary and help me trust You more with both. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    1 Peter 5:7, "Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you." (NLT)

    If you ever tire of feeling like you’re not good enough, smart enough or gifted enough, you’ll enjoy A Confident Heart Devotional: 60 Days to Stop Doubting Yourself by Renee Swope.

    Be sure to download Renee’s "3 Steps to Getting God’s Peace" printable and enter to win her "Heart-and-Soul Spa" gift-pack that includes Renee’s A Confident Heart Devotional book, a prayer journal and a Bath & Body Works gift card. You’ll find it all on her blog today.

    If you’ve tried everything else to tackle the disease of stress in your life, with little success, maybe it’s time to give Jesus a try. Stressed-Less Living by Tracie Miles can help you do just that.

    When you think about all you need to get done, what makes you feel like you’re coming undone?

    Write three concerns on a piece of paper and put them in an envelope. On the outside of the envelope write: "Jesus, I’m giving my cares to You because You care about me." Put your envelope in a journal or notebook and let God take care of what’s concerning You today.

    © 2015 by Renee Swope. All rights reserved.

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

  • Hope for When You Feel Squeezed and Broken

    Ruth Soukup APRIL 21, 2015

    Hope for When You Feel Squeezed and Broken
    Michelle McKinney Hammond

    "But while Joseph was there in the prison, the LORD was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden." Genesis 39:20b-21 (NIV)

    When I was a little girl growing up in Barbados with my grandmother, I loved to watch her make sausage.

    First, she would take big chunks of meat and slowly squeeze them into a machine known as a sausage stuffer. Before long, the meat would break down and come out the other side all gushy and floppy.

    I used to feel so sorry for that meat.

    Next my grandmother would add zesty spices and meticulously squish the meat into encasements. And you know what happened? Some of the best sausage you can imagine was formed. It had a wonderful flavor and a long shelf life.

    As you can see, sausage making is quite the process! But the process had a purpose.

    Have you ever felt like that sausage? I have.

    The process of being squeezed and uncomfortable can break us down, making us feel helpless, alone and sometimes even good for nothing.

    We can question, God, where are You? Or, Let’s hurry this discomfort along, OK? (I’m famous for that!) Or even wonder, God, I thought You loved me. What did I do wrong?

    Let me remind you of something, friend. Being squeezed by outside pressure doesn’t indicate God’s rejection, abandonment or that He made a mistake. Sometimes in His great sovereignty and love, God allows for our character to be refined. God reminded me of this recently when I was studying the life of Joseph.

    You may remember Joseph and his coat of many colors. As a teenager, Joseph had big dreams; however, a series of unfortunate events seemed to circumvent those aspirations. He faced difficult and disappointing times — more than once — and was even sold into slavery by his very own brothers.

    Can you imagine going from favored child to slave? I wouldn’t have had a very good attitude about that. "I’m supposed to mop this floor? Don’t you know I watched people mop the floor of my house?" Dear God, get me out of this mess!

    But not Joseph.

    Time and time again Joseph’s plans went differently than expected, yet he ultimately chose to follow God every step of the way. Regardless of outside pressures and demands — slavery, slander, abandonment or imprisonment — Joseph chose to be excellent. The Bible tells us he advanced because of his positive attitude, and he experienced God’s kindness and favor in the midst of struggles and disappointments.

    In our key verse, Genesis 39:21 tells us, "The LORD was with him; He showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden."

    Let’s be honest. The refining process isn’t easy or comfortable. Prison was a dark place, a place where Joseph really didn’t want to be … a place where he saw no way out.

    But throughout Joseph’s story, God reminds us, very diligently, that no matter how awful and appalling the circumstances, He was still with Joseph.

    Want to hear some good news?

    He’s still with us, too.

    So, friend, if you feel like my grandmother’s sausage, squeezed and broken down, please remember, our God has great purpose in His refining process. He uses whatever He can to form the character He desires for us, His dearly loved kids.

    In many ways God works like my grandmother — squeezing and squishing until there’s nowhere else to turn but up. And when God adds the fruit of the Spirit to our lives, then encases us in the shell of holiness, purity and sound character, we too will have a longer shelf life … a life that glorifies Him.

    Dear Lord, sometimes my days are hard and I feel squeezed in every way. Thank You for the reminder that You will never leave my side, even when it’s uncomfortable. Please help me to experience Your kindness today in a fresh new way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    James 1:3-4, "You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way." (MSG)

    1 Peter 4:12-13, "Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner." (MSG)

    Joseph: Waiting on God’s Timing, Living in God’s Plan by Michelle McKinney Hammond can help give you insight into the power of your choices as you wait on God while pursing your dreams. Watch the first session of Joseph free here.

    Visit Michelle’s website for more encouragement.

    Enter to WIN a copy of Joseph Study Guide with DVD: Waiting on God’s Timing, Living in God’s Plan by Michelle McKinney Hammond. In celebration of this Bible study, Michelle’s publisher is giving away 5 study guides with DVD! 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 5 winners and email notifications to each one, by Monday, April 27.}

    What situations have proven to be uncomfortable for you? How have you responded?

    In what ways can you see God at work in your life today?

    © 2015 by Michelle McKinney Hammond. All rights reserved.

    Proverbs 31 Ministries thanks Zondervan 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

  • Is There Room for Me?

    Glynnis Whitwer APRIL 20, 2015

    Is There Room for Me?

    "Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’" Matthew 9:37-38 (NIV)

    Standing on the outside looking in hurts. So many times I’ve looked at others on the "inside," hoping someone would notice and invite me in.

    I still remember standing on the sidelines in 7th grade, while the "fast" kids played speedaway. Somehow the teams always got filled before I could get on one.

    I’ve stood on the sidelines of other sports and music tryouts, watching the real athletes get chosen and the highly talented musicians get the parts. I’ve even stood on the sidelines watching friends hang out together, wishing I’d been invited.

    Perhaps the most difficult sideline times are when I’ve looked at my personal gifts and talents and believed no one wanted — or needed — what I had to offer.

    Feeling left out stinks. But feeling like there’s no room left for us in our careers or callings can be downright scary. What if all the good spots are already taken? Then what?

    For years I struggled, fearing what I had to offer just wasn’t good enough. All these fears and questions collided when I sensed God was calling me to write.

    I held out my meager gift in faith, doubting anything would ever really come of it. After all, there were so many really talented authors already. And they were much better than I was at connecting with important people and marketing themselves. For heaven’s sake, I consistently show up at conferences without my business card!

    Believing all the spots were already taken by much more qualified people, made me want to quit before I’d even started.

    But then God gave me a picture of what His kingdom is really like. Previously, I had this image of a slice of "pie" that was reserved for people with my calling, and only the best got in.

    But God showed me He isn’t in the business of dividing a sliver of opportunity among His children: He’s in the business of making a bigger pie!

    What hope this has planted in my heart. There is room for me! And more than enough of it.

    When we answer God’s call on our lives, there is unlimited opportunity to serve Him. Whether it’s teaching, dancing, singing, serving, leading, organizing, public speaking or writing, there is room for each of us to do His Kingdom work.

    God isn’t limited by market trends or economic downturns. Nothing is too hard for Him. So if He’s called you, there is room for you, too.

    Satan wants us to believe opportunities are scarce or that we’re not really necessary in God’s plans. He’d much rather have us allow the sense of competition to simmer so we never truly celebrate each other’s successes.

    Or better yet, have us fight amongst ourselves, scratching and clawing to climb higher on the ladder of success by stepping on each other.

    When we realize there is more than enough room, and that we are all invited to "play," our hearts should change. Rather than worry about our place and position, we should lace our fingers together, offering a firm place to step, and give our sisters and brothers a boost.

    Jesus spoke these words to His disciples in Matthew 9:37-38, "Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’"

    In this verse, Jesus encourages us to pray for more people to step up and serve Him.

    Can you imagine the world acting like this? What a radical way to think. Rather than worrying if there’s a place for me to serve God with my specific gifts and talents, I should be praying for more women and men to start doing exactly what I’m called to do. And then do whatever I can to help them succeed.

    I’m so thankful God changed my heart. It frees me to fully be myself and truly celebrate others’ successes.

    Jesus said, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few." So … what’s stopping you? Come join me in the harvest. There’s lots of room!

    Heavenly Father, thank You for creating me just as I am and calling me to serve You with my gifts and talents. I believe You have a place for me and accept Your invitation. Please call more of our sisters and brothers to serve You in the harvest. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    James 4:1, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?" (NIV)

    Philippians 2:3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." (NIV)

    Feeling called to write or speak? At Proverbs 31 Ministries, we believe there’s room for you to develop your God-given gifts wherever God has placed you and would love to help you answer that call! That’s why we developed our monthly writing program, COMPEL Training, and our annual conference, She Speaks, held July 23-25, 2015 in Concord, N.C.

    Join Glynnis Whitwer on her blog for more encouragement to pursue God’s calling on your life.

    What would you do for God if you knew you couldn’t fail?

    What’s the next step you can take today to answer God’s call on your life?

    © 2015 by Glynnis Whitwer. All rights reserved.

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

  • The Cure for Envy

    Liz Curtis Higgs APRIL 17, 2015

    The Cure for Envy

    "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones." Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

    I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didn’t sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.

    Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasn’t envious. Simply, uh … discouraged.

    Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.

    Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come she’s moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasn’t jealous, of course. Merely, uh … competitive.

    The awful truth revealed itself one rainy morning when I received an announcement from a colleague who’d been blessed with an opportunity I was convinced should have been mine. I tossed her letter across the room in an angry huff. "It’s not fair, Lord!"

    His response was swift. "Have I called you to succeed or to surrender, Liz?"

    Groan. Clearly, jealousy and envy were alive and well in my jade-green heart. When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters — women who love and serve the Lord — I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue. One said, "I understand competition in the secular marketplace. But I grieve over it in the body of Christ. What are we doing, setting one person’s work above another, if not absorbing the world’s way of doing things?"

    Her words echo the Apostle Paul’s: " … For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans?" (1 Corinthians 3:3b, NIV). Sadly, we are.

    Today’s verse reminds us that envy takes a toll: "A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones" (Proverbs 14:30). For all of us who struggle, here’s the way out:

    Confess. Healing begins when we acknowledge that envy is a sin: "But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth" (James 3:14, NIV). Humble admission is the single best antidote for prideful ambition.

    Avoid comparison. Consider the words of Jesus, when Peter fretted over John’s place in Jesus’ ministry, and asked, "‘Lord, what about him?’ Jesus answered, ‘ … what is that to you? You must follow me’" (John 21:21b, 22b, NIV).

    Rejoice. Feeling overlooked? Look up and celebrate with others. Send an email or text on the spot, and chase away those negative feelings. "Rejoice with those who rejoice" (Romans 12:15a, NIV).

    Be patient. Many a career or ministry has collapsed under too much, too soon. Embrace the tasks you’ve been given, rather than longing for something bigger, better or faster. Success isn’t money or fame — it’s love for one another. By definition, "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud" (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV).

    Befriend your rival. As one of our sisters explained, "A woman was brought in on a fast track executive management program at my corporation. At our first meeting, I thought, ‘Well, here’s my rival.’ Then I heard God say, ‘She is smart, energetic and sharp — just like you. You could become best buddies.’" And, they did.

    Count the cost. Behind every successful woman is a host of sacrifices we never see. The truth? We’re seldom jealous of all the work a person does — just the outcome. Whether building a tower or building a career, the Bible cautions us, " … Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money" — or time or energy — "to complete it" (Luke 14:28b, NIV).

    Lean on the Lord. He stands ready, willing and able to overcome our weaknesses through the power of His Spirit. "Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always" (1 Chronicles 16:11, NIV).

    Heavenly Father, we know envy and jealousy are no match for Your mercy and grace. Forgive us when we grumble over how You bless others, and help us be grateful for all the ways You have kindly blessed us. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." (NIV)

    1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time." (NIV)

    Want more encouragement from Liz Curtis Higgs to start your day? Rise and Shine offers engaging stories, upbeat advice and heartfelt prayers to brighten your morning.

    All this spring, Liz is exploring why "He Is Worthy of Our Praise" on her weekly blog.

    If you’ve ever succumbed to envy or jealousy, now’s the time to confess the truth and experience genuine success: rejoicing with others, as you trust God’s timing.

    Of the seven steps above, which one are you ready to take today?

    © 2015 by Liz Curtis Higgs. All rights reserved.

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

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