• Willow Tree

Family Christian

  • The One Thing To Remember If Your Life Feels Small ...

    Posted on January 7, 2015 by Family Christian

    Alicia Bruxvoort JANUARY 7, 2015

    The One Thing To Remember If Your Life Feels Small ...
    ALICIA BRUXVOORT

    "Who dares despise the day of small things …" Zechariah 4:10a (NIV)

    Laundry frames the end of my day. Stacks of clean underwear and yet-to-be-folded T-shirts, drifts of unmatched socks and mountains of wrinkled jeans.

    Upturned baskets are scattered across the living room like tiny tables awaiting a tea party. But I’;m not in the mood for a midnight soiree; I’m drinking from my own deep reservoirs of self-pity.

    I’m exhausted and the voices of discouragement in my head rise above what my heart knows to be true.

    What did you do all day?

    Why don’t you ever get anything done?

    You’re never going to have time to do something that really matters.

    Dishes and dirt, tantrums and time-outs — some days, a mother’s life can feel so small.

    I rub the palm of my hand over those crumpled jeans, trying to press out the unwanted creases that sprouted in the dark of the unattended dryer. If only I could smooth the ragged edges of my soul in a similar fashion.

    "Sometimes I just want to do something bigger than all of this …" I tell my husband, as he joins me on the floor and begins stacking the folded laundry into piles.

    I imagine you’ve felt the same at one time or another. You don’t need to be a mother to feel discouraged by the daily grind. Whether you’re running errands or running a business, planning a meal or planning a merger, the everyday mundane can seem trifling and insignificant.

    My man sits beside me in silence, weighing his words. Finally, he murmurs, "Just because what you’re doing feels small, doesn’t mean that it is."

    I’m tempted to discard his comment like I dispose of ratty socks, but then I remember the scene that had unfolded on the driveway earlier that afternoon.

    The kids had designed a racetrack on the cement with squiggles of pink sidewalk chalk and then lined up their scooters for a friendly competition. I launched the action with a wave of my hand and stepped back to watch the race. Wheels squeaked. Kids squealed. And then a shrill cry halted the fun.

    My 10-year-old laid sprawl-eagle on the ground, surrounded by a smorgasbord of broken scooter parts. Blood oozed from a gash in her knee, and her blue eyes brimmed with tears.

    "What happened?" I asked as I ran to her side.

    "I don’t know …" Hannah mumbled as she surveyed the collection of bolts and screws, rivets and spokes that dotted the driveway. "My scooter was just missing one little piece …"

    She dropped her head in chagrin. "Something fell off my scooter right before the race began, but it was just a small thing, so I didn’t think it was important."

    As I lifted Hannah to her feet, her little brother began gathering the scattered parts in a bucket. With an ornery grin, he presented the pieces to his sister and declared, "I guess that small thing was really a big deal after all."

    While there’s no mention of a scooter race in the age-old book of Zechariah, God’s message in today’s key verse rings with a familiar echo straight from my pink-chalked driveway.

    "Who dares despise the day of small things …"

    God first spoke these words to the children of Judah as they prepared to rebuild the temple, one small brick at a time. I think He realized that they might grow discouraged in the daily grind, that the monotony of laying bricks day after day might eventually feel insignificant and trivial. But God knew that those little bricks would one day create a big opportunity for worship if His children remained faithful to the task.

    Like the children of Judah, we, too, have a choice. We can measure the significance of our lives by the size of our accomplishments, or we can trust God to use our small offerings for His great glory.

    As for me, I think I’ll ask God to renew my passion for this ordinary, laundry-folding-carpooling life that I live. ’Cause there’s a broken scooter in my garage that reminds me that the small stuff just might be a big deal after all!

    Heavenly Father, please forgive me for trying to measure my significance by the size of my accomplishments. I want to serve You with all of my heart in big ways and small ways. Give me fresh passion for my daily grind and help me to glorify You in all that I do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Colossians 3:23, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters ..." (NIV)

    Galatians 6:9, "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (NIV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Sometimes big change begins with a small yes. Lysa TerKeurst’s devotional, What Happens When Women Say Yes to God Devotional, will encourage you to live for God in big ways and small ways.

    Visit Alicia Bruxvoort's blog today for more encouragement and a small giveaway.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Take a moment to thank someone who has blessed or encouraged you in a small way this week. Your small gift of gratitude could make a big difference!

    Do a heart check! Prayerfully consider your attitude toward the small tasks that comprise your days. Invite God to give you a new passion for the small stuff in your life.

    © 2015 by Alicia Bruxvoort. All rights reserved.

  • When to Weigh Your Words

    Posted on January 6, 2015 by Family Christian

    Karen Ehman JANUARY 6, 2015

    When to Weigh Your Words
    KAREN EHMAN

    "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil." Proverbs 15:28 (NIV)

    One of my favorite Saturday morning pastimes is going to the Farmer’s Market. The scene at this huge building filled with goods from far and near is a delight to my eyes. And on one weekend morning, God used apples to send a clear message about my words.

    Rows of vendors line the marketplace floor. Colorful fresh-cut flowers. Bright raw veggies. Aromatic fruit. Handmade soaps and lotions. Woven textiles and dried herbs. For me, there is no better way to kick off my weekend than to stroll through the market, making fresh purchases for the upcoming week.

    Whenever I pick apples to make homemade pie, I opt for the Michigan Northern Spy variety. They are the best for my family’s favorite dessert, "Spies for pies," my mother always taught me.

    While selecting my apples, I make sure to weigh them on the farmer’s old gray metal scale to ensure I have enough for a pie. (That would be just shy of three pounds per pie, if you must know!)

    One by one, I place the apples onto the scale. When I get close to the three-pound mark, I have to choose the perfectly sized apple for the final one; one that will make the dial on the scale read exactly three pounds. It takes a couple minutes, but by carefully weighing, I’m sure to have the perfect amount of apples for my flaky and tasty pastry.

    And so it is with our words. If we want to ensure we have a pleasant outcome, we need to weigh our words carefully. Especially — as today’s key verse instructs — when giving someone an answer.

    Before we answer a child’s request, we must think through what is really best for our son or daughter before we start to speak. Answering too quickly can lead to a sticky parental situation.

    Before we answer a co-worker or family member who might be upset with us, we need to consider our response cautiously, selecting phrases that will convey the truth, but also promote understanding and peace. Speaking without weighing our words first may escalate the situation emotionally, causing an all-out verbal battle.

    At times we may be asked a question that needs a gentle and tender response — instead of a quick and thoughtless reply. (This is definitely easier said than done!) We need to sort through the options in our minds as we invite the Holy Spirit to give us just the right combination of fruitful words.

    If we are to pursue righteousness, we must heed the advice of today’s key verse in Proverbs 15:28, "The heart of the righteous weighs its answers …"

    Notice it says "the heart." It doesn’t say the mouth.

    Sometimes, by the time the words are starting to tumble out of our mouths, it’s too late. When I don’t first pause to pray and ponder in my heart, hurtful words come out of my mouth. In order to avoid causing heartache and even regret in the future, I’ve learned to contemplate words secretly in my heart. Which means running my thoughts through the grid of Scripture, before I ever let the words escape from my lips.

    Back and forth. Back and forth. Searching for just the right … and righteous … fruitful combination.

    Are you ready to carefully weigh your words today? The result will be a delightful offering, pleasing to you, to the hearer and to God.

    It might even be more wonderful than my famous apple pie a la mode!

    Father, today I will need to speak many words, both in person and online. Help me weigh my words carefully in my heart before I ever let them escape my lips. May they bear much fruit for You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Proverbs 13:3, "The one who guards his mouth protects his life; the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin." (HCSB)

    Proverbs 25:11, "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Have you ever said words that were permanently painful because you were temporarily ticked off? Learn what to say, how to say it and when to say nothing at all in our upcoming Online Bible StudyKeep It Shut, with Karen Ehman. The study starts January 26. Register today!

    Purchase the book through Proverbs 31 Ministries and receive a free, 10-day devotional on Tempering your Tongue! The first 1,200 copies will be signed by Karen as our gift to you!

    Visit Karen’s blog where she is giving away a Keep It Shut bundle that includes a Kindle Fire Tablet.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What percent of the time would you say that you carefully weigh your words before speaking? Is it closer to 100% of the time or closer to … well … never? Be honest.

    What are some questions you can learn to ask yourself before giving an answer to someone? Are there any helpful phrases to keep in your mind that will help you weigh your words? If so, jot them down her.

    © 2015 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

  • Hope for the Messed-Up Life

    Posted on January 6, 2015 by Family Christian

    James Merritt JANUARY 5, 2015

    Hope for the Messed-Up Life
    JAMES MERRITT

    "Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.’" John 4:13-15 (ESV)

    Have you ever messed up so badly that it left you believing God wants nothing to do with you? If your answer is "yes," then you’re in good company, because we all have. We’ve all made poor choices and bad decisions. A bad decision can cost you your marriage, job, friendships and even your peace of mind.

    But, if you’re willing to admit you’ve messed up, you’re a prime candidate for an encounter with Jesus. In fact, He specializes in ministering to messed-up people. One of the many things I love about Jesus is that He gravitates toward those who are typically ignored, ridiculed, hated and rejected.

    One of the greatest examples of this is found in the book of John. In chapter 4, Jesus encounters a woman at a well. This nameless woman meets Jesus while she performs one of the most mundane tasks in her messed-up life — drawing water out of a well.

    She quickly learned a lesson we all need to know as well — the mundane can become momentous when we let Jesus clean up our mess-ups and radically change our lives. Jesus wants to clean up our mess-ups so much that He will break down every possible barrier to do so.

    For example, to meet the woman at the well …

    Jesus overcame a cultural barrier. Jesus traveled through a region that His people — the Jews — would always avoid. Jesus saw culture, not as a barrier to compassion, but as a bridge to ministry.

    Jesus overcame a moral barrier. This woman carried a terrible reputation. Her past put her in the category of a Hall-of-Fame sinner. She had been married five times and was now living with a man who wasn’t her husband. With this track record, everyone in her community knew her, and no man would dare to speak with her in public. No man, except Jesus! Jesus engaged with this woman, and we see her fess up to her mess-up.

    We live in a culture that teaches us to hide our mess-ups and call them anything except the sins that they are. Jesus demonstrated through this woman that He will forgive us when we are willing to confess our sin to Him.

    Jesus is not intimidated by our past. He sees beyond our failures and offers us a faithful future. You can’t do anything so bad that it will cause God to love you less.

    If you’re reading this today and feel like Jesus wants nothing to do with you, I want you to know that He will break every possible barrier to reach you. Jesus is so serious about the task that He left heaven and came to earth to restore anyone who is willing to be cleansed. Today, you can meet with Jesus, bring Him your mess-ups, and allow Him to clean you up.

    Heavenly Father, Thank You for loving me so much that You destroy every possible barrier that could keep me from You. Help me to quickly fess up to my mess-ups, so that I can receive the wonderful forgiveness that is only found in You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Lamentations 3:22-23, "The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Just like the woman at the well, if we took the time to really live with Jesus, we might be surprised by what we’d find. For hope and encouragement for your messed-up life, you’ll be encouraged by 52 Weeks With Jesus by James Merritt.

    To learn more about Dr. Merritt, visit touchinglives.org.

    Enter to WIN a copy of 52 Weeks with Jesus by Dr. James Merritt. In celebration of this book, Dr. Merritt’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, Jan. 12.}

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What barriers have you built in your mind that cause you to believe that Jesus is not near to you?

    What mistakes have you refused to fully give over to Jesus? Give them to Him today and trust that He has forgiven you.

    © 2015 by James Merritt. All rights reserved.

  • How to Motivate Kids to Clean

    Posted on January 2, 2015 by Family Christian

    how to motivate kids to clean
    Are you looking for ideas to keep your home organized this year? Once you find the best routine for your family, the next hurdle is how to motivate the kids to clean! Trying to get the kids motivated to help can be frustrating, as it frequently breeds a case of the grumps. Here are six tips on dealing with grumpy kids. Before we get started on how to motivate your kids to clean let’s talk about having grace with yourself. It’s a new year and you are gung-ho telling yourself, “This year will be different!” The year starts of perfectly then *BAM*! Life throws a curve. Your routine is in a spiral and you never truly gain the previous momentum. This leaves the feeling of another failed New Year’s Resolution. This year start slowly and steadily embrace a new viewpoint for your old resolution.

    Adopt this philosophy: Keep the clutter moving and the laundry fluffed!

    how to motivate kids to clean 2
    You live in your home, so focus on keeping it fresh and clean. Striving for a model home when you live with kids will only lead to frustration.

    Motivating the Kids

    I have found two tools that help motivate kids to clean. One is using a point system to earn prizes from the treasure box. The other is a chore card. I’ll explain both!
    Point System
    chore cards pointsMy kids earn a Pohl Point (since our last name is Pohl) for every chore they complete.
    Download Point Printable here
    I give bonus points when they work with a positive attitude, without being reminded, or after helping a sibling. However, they pay me points for poor work and grumbling attitudes. At the end of the week and after they have earned X amount of points they get to choose from the treasure box. My kids are super motivated with this method and yours will be too!

    I wanted to fill our treasure box with meaningful and economical items. At Family Christian’s toy department I found a spinning rack with containers filled with perfect little toys that have a positive inscription. The tween area has small buttons, bookmarks, pens, and notebooks that are a great too. Also, I find great treasure box items in the clearance section of the store. I can fill the box for less than $20 and it lasts for weeks!
    treasure box
    Chore Cards
    A chore card an individual card with step by step directions for one particular chore. It’s ideal for kids age 5 and up. You can find the full Chore Card System Packet here. Like a mini laminated tutorial. Each chore in our home has a chore card. The chore cards for my younger kids include pictures. This saves me from becoming a broken record. In the morning I divvy up the chores my kids are to complete and clip them to their clipboard. Typically, I assign one to two chores per person daily. With the directions in hand, literally, my expectations are clear. After completion, the card is flipped over to the backside which says DONE! Then I know to check their work. I also made cards for their morning and night time routines.
    Keep the daily cleaning schedule simple. Set specific things you plan to accomplish each day. To catch the missed messes plan a deeper clean every few weeks. Remember, the idea is to keep things clean and fresh, not perfect. Keep the clutter moving and the laundry fluffed!

    Encouragement for Mom

    When my three girls were under six years old I did my best to keep up with our home. Having a preschooler, toddler and infant the mess would easily get out of hand. I refused to let anyone in my home unless it was perfectly clean. My uptight attitude changed one day when a friend showed up unexpectedly.

    I heard the knock at the door. Perfection turned my stomach into knots as I reluctantly opened the door and presented a warm hesitant smile. She leaned forward, expecting to enter. I opened the door further and through my smile said, “I’m happy to see you…. Would you like to come in?”
    I ushered her to our beautiful sitting area. A formal room we rarely used. Nevertheless, with little effort you could see the pile of dishes that covered the table, the toys that lined the hallway, and mountain of dirty clothes that flowed out of the laundry room. I swallowed deeply and offered her a freshly brewed cup of coffee with a slice of cake. She accepted. I served her the refreshments and plopped down next to her.
    She looked at me with grief in her eyes and said, “I was just diagnosed with stage four breast cancer.”
    I embraced her and silently prayed, “Thank you God for the wisdom to lay down my pride by not turning her away at the door.”
    In that moment I learned, God cares about my clean heart more than my clean house!

    Momma, your day to day tedious tasks make a difference in God’s Kingdom. Contrary to our cultural belief, home is our first ministry, an important one.
    Taking care of our family takes diligence and a willingness to be flexible. It is both rewarding and challenging. Smack dab in the middle of the chaos, diapers, hand-me-downs, temper-tantrums, adolescence, and school – it is easy to be drained and lose sight of the big picture.
    I am often encouraged by, 1 Timothy 5:9-10 NIV.
    No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.”
    First on the list, of life time achievement deeds, is bringing up children. That has always brought me peace and continues to bring value to my ministry as the care taker of my home. I hope it does for you as well.
    Keep in touch! Let me know how you’re keeping the kids motivated to clean.
    Written by Michelle {at} Blooming With Joy {dot} com

  • Will God Forgive Me?

    Posted on January 2, 2015 by Suzie Eller

    SUZIE ELLER

    SUZIE

    "And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly." Luke 22:62 (NLT)

    We waited on the front porch. Moonlight filtered through the trees as tires crunched over the gravel driveway. When he stepped from the car, we rose. He saw us and hung his head.

    He had come to live with us because he needed a safe place. That night he was supposed to be home at a certain time. Hours had passed beyond that curfew, and worry had led us to wait in the cool night air.

    We said we’d talk in the morning.

    The next day I walked into the living room and he sat on the carpet, head in his hands, rocking back and forth.

    "Do I still get to stay here?" he asked.

    Surely, he knew we wouldn’t reject him.

    Except he didn’t know. Nothing in his former experiences led him to that belief. He expected punishment, perhaps not physical, but at the minimum he thought he was no longer welcome.

    My husband and I knelt beside him. We placed our arms around him and began to pray.

    Years have passed since then. Today that beautiful young man is a dad. A loving husband. A pastor and a strong man of faith.

    In the New Testament, we encounter another man who worried if he’d be forgiven: Peter, a man who loved Jesus with his whole being. Yet, in Luke 22, on the night Jesus was turned over to the authorities, Peter denied he ever knew Jesus. Peter fled the scene weeping bitterly. Angst and grief were his companions.

    Thank goodness the story doesn’t end there.

    Later we find Jesus talking with Peter on the shore (John 21:17). In the brief conversation, Jesus reminds Peter of who he is.

    And Whose He is.

    Yes, Peter made a big mistake. One that seems impossible to overcome, but Jesus sees beyond the mistake to the heart.

    Over time, Peter became a teacher and speaker, leading crowds to Jesus (Acts 2:14-36) and watching as miracles unfold. He authored 1 and 2 Peter, two books of the Bible that have influenced millions around the world and across generations.

    After his failure, Peter could have rejected Jesus one more time by refusing His love. He could have ignored the words Jesus spoke and allowed failure to define him forever.

    Instead, He accepted that His Savior forgives a repentant heart. That Jesus loved Him still.

    Maybe you failed and you failed BIG. Your greatest regret is feeling you let Jesus down, and it’s the last thing you ever wanted to do.

    In this crossroad moment, you have a choice.

    You can let shame keep you stuck.

    Or, you can lean into Jesus’ love for you.

    Maybe you have amends to make. With His help, make them.

    Maybe getting up seems hard because condemnation weighs so heavy. Release that burden. One day you’ll look back at this pivotal moment and realize getting up led you right back into the arms of Jesus.

    Maybe your former experiences have led you to believe failure equals rejection. That when you fall, you’ve blown it and there’s no way back. Except that’s not truth. This is:

    God will finish the work He began in you (Philippians 1:6).

    His response to your repentant heart is forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

    Your Heavenly Father transforms you as you accept that gift (2 Peter 1:3).

    The young man who once lived with us grew through his mistakes. That incident wasn’t the first or the greatest challenge we walked through together, but every time he leaned into love rather than running away from it, he stood stronger.

    Until one day he knew who he was.

    And Whose he was.

    Your God still loves you. His plan has not been erased because of your mistake. In this crossroad, run toward His open arms and begin anew.

    Dear Jesus, though I want to hide from You, help me to reach for Your love and forgiveness. Teach me through this, and let it grow me. Thank You that I have a future because of You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Acts 3:6-8, "Then Peter said, "Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk." Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Instead of running from your mistake, change your viewpoint as you look for ways to grow through it.

    What is one thing you can you learn from it? What did you hope might happen, and what actually took place? What might you do differently next time?

    © 2015 by Suzie Eller. All rights reserved.

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

  • My New Year’s Prayer

    Posted on January 1, 2015 by Wendy Blight

    WENDY BLIGHT

    WENDY

    "Now listen daughter, don’t miss a word … the king is wild for you. Since he’s your lord, adore him." Psalm 45:10-11 (The Message)

    Don’t miss God’s Word for you today: the King is wild for you.

    Not only is He wild for you, He gave His life for you.

    His Name is Jesus.

    He is …"the One who is, the One who was, and the One who is coming" (Revelation 1:4,The Voice).

    Did you hear John’s words? He is coming.

    Hallelujah! The King is coming!

    And on that day He will come:

    • riding on the clouds in all His glory. (Revelation 1:7)

    • wrapped in a blood-soaked robe, bearing His name: the Word of God. (Revelation 19:13)

    • eyes ablaze with fire and crowns adorning his head. (Revelation 19:12)

    • with His royal title etched on His robe and thigh: "KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS." (Revelation 19:16)

    Until that glorious day, Jesus gives us a great promise. He is preparing a place for us. And when that place is ready, He will return for us.

    He asks only one thing: Make yourselves ready.

    Words from our key verse speak to how we make ourselves ready: "Now listen daughter [that’s you, sweet friend], … Since he’s your lord, adore him" (Psalm 45:10-11).

    Daughter of the coming King, your King who is wild for you, who is captivated by you, asks one thing as we await His return. He asks for our adoration … our honor (NIV).

    The first step of preparation is to walk in the reality of His sacrificial love … to know that no matter our past, Jesus makes us beautiful. His sacrifice erases every drop of sin. He makes all things new! So, if you don’t feel beautiful today or if you feel shame, guilt, hopelessness or unworthiness, remember this: Your King, Jesus, redeems. Your King restores.

    If you’re like me, perhaps you fear that if people saw the real you, the secret things you hide from the world, they wouldn’t like you. Remember, your Savior knows everything. Nothing is hidden from His eye. And not only does He like you, He’s wild about you.

    Today, let’s band together as sisters in Christ to honor and adore our King, to prayerfully prepare our hearts to walk in the newness of who we are in Jesus.

    Please join me in praying this New Year’s Prayer:

    My New Year’s Prayer:
    Dear Jesus, You are awesome in glory and majestic in power. You are the King over all the earth, and You are my King. Today begins a new year for me. Thank You for Your promise that You’re preparing a place for me. With that promise tucked in my heart, I can stand secure in You as Lord of my life. Thank You for sealing me with Your Spirit and engraving my name on the palm of Your hand.

    Thank You that You have made and are making me beautiful in Your sight. Help me to confidently walk in that beauty. Prepare my heart for my reunion with You at the foot of Your eternal throne.

    Awake my soul morning by morning to meet with You. Fix my heart on Your steadfast Word. Show me my sin. Humble my heart to repent of it. Sift me if You need to, Lord. Destroy in me anything that steals my affection from You. Give me an obedient, surrendered heart.

    Draw me close so that I can hear even the faintest of Your whispers. Saturate me with Your love so that I can love lavishly and give generously. Ignite a fire in my heart for more of You. Infuse me with the fullness of Your Holy Spirit power and use me as Your vessel. Revive me when I am weary.

    Strengthen me from within to walk in the plans You have for me, to follow Your will, even when it’s hard. Enable me to trust You in all things. Show me Your ways and move my heart to walk in them.

    I love You, Jesus! And I ask all this in Your precious and holy Name.

    And all God’s girls say, "AMEN!"

    Just think of it! One glorious day, my sisters, we will kneel as one family before the throne of the One whose Name is above every Name. Unimagined joy will fill our hearts as our eyes lock on those of our Reigning King, and we finally see Him face to face!

    All of us at Proverbs 31 Ministries love you deeply and wish you a glorious and blessed New Year!

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Isaiah 49:16, "See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    Write your personal New Year’s Prayer and tuck it in your Bible to pray throughout the year.

    © 2015 by Wendy Blight. All rights reserved.

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

  • When Rushing Takes You in the Wrong Direction

    Posted on December 31, 2014 by Leah DiPascal

    LEAH DIPASCAL

    LEAH

    "Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind." Proverbs 21:5 (MSG)

    I dropped the grocery bags on the counter and glanced at the clock. It’s way past dinnertime.

    I shoved the dirty dishes to one side of the sink and quickly began washing the vegetables that rolled out from one of the bags on the counter. I could feel my heart racing as I grabbed a sauté pan and looked for the pork chops hiding somewhere in the refrigerator.

    Why am I always running late? No matter how hard I try I just can’t seem to get my act together. I’m tired of rushing all the time. Why won’t anyone notice and help me?

    In record time, I had potatoes in the oven, a fresh salad made and my stowaway pork chops sizzling on the stove.

    Hopefully no one’s noticed what time it is yet. Breathe, Leah … breathe!

    Just then I heard my teenage son hollering from the back door, "Mom, please come move your car out of the driveway. I want to shoot some hoops."

    In a mad dash, I headed for the door with my car keys in hand. I have to hurry – otherwise the pork chops are going to burn! I hopped in the car, shoved the gear stick in reverse and quickly backed up … right into my husband’s truck.

    Oh, yes I did!

    The crash was so hard and loud that my husband heard it from inside. In seconds we were surveying the damage. Let’s just say he was not a happy camper. And I wanted to curl up in a ball and cry my eyes out.

    I felt terrible about what had just happened but no matter how many times I apologized, my words couldn’t fix the huge dents in both of our cars.

    Keith was gracious and said it would be OK. But, it wasn’t OK. Not for me. I had made a careless and costly mistake that would have been avoided if I weren’t in such a hurry. My rushing had taken me in the wrong direction. Oh, and the pork chops on the stove? Completely burned.

    Maybe like me you sometimes include too many things in your schedule. Sure, we have good intentions and want to meet everyone’s needs. But how helpful can we really be if we’re rushing around all day, feeling anxious and unintentionally setting ourselves up for careless mistakes because we’re doing too much?

    I long to be a woman who chooses wisely and plans well. A woman who seeks the Lord’s guidance before setting her schedule, so that she can experience the peace of His presence instead of the anxiety of her hurriedness.

    Do you want to be that kind of woman too? What would our days look like if we embraced the pace of God’s steady grace rather than rushing ahead in our attempts to get more done? What if we actually lived like Proverbs 21:25 says, knowing that careful planning puts us ahead but hurry and scurry can put us further behind?

    Would we be more helpful to others and ourselves by slowing down, giving attention to what we’re doing and being present in our circumstances, instead of daydreaming about the next thing on our to-do list? I think so.

    As we enter the New Year, let’s decide to make a change and do things differently.

    Let’s ask God for insight when we create our schedules and move at a pace that pleases Him. Let’s be wise women who choose to avoid the trap of rushing which often leads us in the wrong direction.

    Let’s settle our hearts and watch the anxiousness wash away as we take God’s hand and walk in the gentle pace of His steady grace today.

    Dear Lord, give me Your wisdom as I plan my schedule each day. If I start to feel anxious because I’m trying to do too much, remind me to slow down, focus on what I’m doing and avoid the trap of rushing in the wrong direction. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

     

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Jeremiah 2:25a, "Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?" (MSG)

    1 Peter 5:6-7, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you." (ESV)

    RELATED RESOURCES:
    Learn how to rise above the rush of endless demands and experience the joy of an uncluttered schedule. Order a copy of Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes and start making wise decisions today!

    Stop by Leah DiPascal’s blog and enter her drawing to win a copy of The Best Yes. Discover the strategies Leah now uses to plan her daily/weekly schedule so that you too can be less rushed.

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    If you find yourself rushing around weary and anxious because of the requests and demands of others, what’s one thing you can do differently that will help you feel less hurried and more peaceful?

    When was the last time you asked God to help you plan your schedule? Take a few minutes now and ask Him for guidance and direction.

    © 2014 by Leah DiPascal. All rights reserved.

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

  • Words Matter: Especially the Ones We Say to Ourselves

    Posted on December 30, 2014 by Lisa-Jo Baker

    LISA-JO BAKER

    LISA-JO

    "For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

    There are so many things I’m not good at.

    And apparently I have an inner monologue determined to record each and every one of them from the past year.

     

    There’s a voice in my head that tells me I am not enough. Some days it’s quiet and other days it’s super shouty.

    It’s the strangest thing to discover the back of your brain muttering mean things to yourself.

    The voice is so ordinary, so routine by now that I rarely stop to investigate. I just let the words run through my veins until they seem like a normal part of my DNA.

    This house will never be clean.

    You’ll never get caught up on the laundry.

    Your words won’t match up to hers.

    You’ve never lived up to your New Year’s resolutions.

    You’re never going to get caught up.

    You’re going to start another year already behind the curve.

    You’re just not good at this.

    I heard that voice in the car today. I was sitting in a coffee shop parking lot in our minivan. Alone. Maybe that’s why I listened without just letting it wash over me. Maybe that’s why I tuned in to the nefarious whispering I’d been ignoring until then.

    I listened and almost couldn’t believe what I heard. I was surprised, actually. Kind of amazed that I was capable of such petty meanness to myself. Because the thing about that voice is it’s a nitpicker. It delights in destroying the DNA of a day, a dream, a moment … bit-by-petulant-bit.

    But when I tuned in, the voice sounded more and more like static. Fuzzy, harsh, unforgiving and small. My friend Holley Gerth calls it "devil static" – the noise that tries to drown out the truth God is speaking into our lives and through our lives. The noise that crackles and cackles and tries to poke fun at who we are growing up to become. The noise that tries to derail us out of sheer embarrassment.

    I told that voice off today.

    Yes, I talked back to myself in an empty car.

    I spoke out loud the words that have been spoken over me by The Word — by the Voice who speaks the only words that matter.

    As our key verse reminds us, "… we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand," (Ephesians 2:10a, ESV).

    I called out that small voice in my head with all its mean and miserable words. And in doing so I could almost hear it deflate. I addressed that no-voice with my whole attention, reciting my inheritance in Christ, my royal claim as a child of God, my significance because of Him. Because He is enough I am chosen, cherished and beloved. And I could hear the static fizzling.

    I am not nothing.

    You are not nothing.

    We are daughters of the King. We are bought at a price. We are loved.

    And there is a much greater Voice, a voice with all the rich, resonant tones of Truth so filled with love for us that unlike that devil static, He will rejoice over you with singing (Zephaniah 3:17).

    With singing. Not hissing or criticizing or comparing or mocking, but with singing.

    Hold onto that as we head into this New Year. That the words we say to ourselves matter because the God who is The Word says we matter. And it’s time we start believing Him.

    Dear Jesus, help me see myself through Your eyes and Your words this year. Teach me kindness to myself and compassion to others. Make me a word sister to my friends and a word model to my children. Give me the gift of Your Word in my life and make them a lamp to light my way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (NIV)

    Zephaniah 3:17, "The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing." (NIV)

    Psalm 119:105, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What lie have you been saying and believing about yourself this past year?

    What Truth from God’s Word can you use to replace the lies in the coming New Year?

    © 2014 by Lisa-Jo Baker. All rights reserved.

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

  • Click to Change a Life

    Posted on December 29, 2014 by Karen Ehman

    KAREN EHMAN

    KAREN

    "For the Word that God speaks is alive and full of power [making it active, operative, energizing, and effective]; it is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating to the dividing line of the breath of life (soul) and [the immortal] spirit, and of joints and marrow [of the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and sifting and analyzing and judging the very thoughts and purposes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 (AMP)

    "Look, Miss Karen! When you click here you can change the color of her fingernail polish just like that!" I was watching my friend’s pre-teen daughter for the weekend. She was parked on the couch playing around on a nail art website on my computer. Each time she clicked on a different bottle the color instantly changed on the model’s hands.

    Clicking a mouse to change things on our computer screen is so simple. If only real life were the same!

    Many times I look at my circumstances and wish I had a special mouse so I could click and change everything I don’t like. But life doesn’t work like that. While there’s much I can change, there’s much more I can’t.

    And when I focus on all I can’t revise, my heart can feel defeated. There are people I can’t change, finances I can’t control and circumstances that leave my heart feeling shattered. If only I could recolor bad attitudes or rewrite difficult experiences, then I’d feel better. Right?

    Wrong.

    I've discovered that trying to change other people or alter their circumstances isn’t really a fix for my often-troubling situations, because it isn’t something I can make happen. I can't control another's behavior, only my own. Here is where the solution lies: Even when circumstances and people stay the same, my attitude toward them and my perspective can change. What can bring about this transformation?

    God’s Word.

    God’s Word can snap me back to attention, soften my heart and help me view my life through a different and God-honoring lens. It can align my heart and actions with God’s so I don’t do or say things today I will regret tomorrow. As our key verse of Hebrews 4:12 states, it helps to expose, sift, analyze and judge the very thoughts and purposes of the heart.

    In a very practical way, God’s Word makes it all click — and that clicking makes me change.

    Spending time daily in the Bible is imperative to bringing about this change, and we at Proverbs 31 Ministries are committed to helping women around the world interact with God’s Word daily through our many ministry avenues. In the past year alone, God impacted more than 750,000 women daily through our free Encouragement for Today devotions. We celebrated with over 5,000 women who made first-time decisions for Christ, and we led an additional 150,000 women from 120 countries through our Online Bible Studies.

    It’s not only the volunteers and staff who contribute to God’s transforming work. So does everyone who gives a financial gift — no matter the size — to Proverbs 31 Ministries.

    We value every gift and giver. The ones who give hundreds … the ones who forego lattes each month to share their saved $25 … the ones who donate $5.

    Yes, $5 makes a big impact.

    Together, we offer perspective-changing truth that can renew a woman’s heart and mind, no matter what age or stage of life she’s in.

    Together, we point women to the Healer, made known on the pages of Scripture, who can make their spirits whole.

    Together, we teach women how to study the Bible, forgive and mend friendships, strengthen a marriage and effectively parent children.

    Do you want to change the world by offering hope, help and even life from behind your computer screen? We’d love for you to join us. When we give our collective "littles," God transforms them into a big movement that can alter lives both now and for eternity.

    With a click of your mouse, you help change the world.

    We’d be honored if you would join us.

    Dear LORD, thank You for the life-altering and perspective-changing power of Your holy Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Psalm 119:11 "I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you." (ESV)

    Psalm 139:23-24 "Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    When is a time that God’s Word helped to change your bad attitude or wrong perspective?

    Will you forward this email to a friend who needs to receive encouragement from God’s Word?

    © 2014 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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

  • I Can't Do Everything

    Posted on December 26, 2014 by Amy Carroll

    AMY CARROLL

    AMY

    "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me ... For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:9,10b (NIV)

    "I don't want to go bowling," I said hearing a cringe-inducing whine creep into my voice.

    While my entire extended family enthusiastically prepared for a fun outing, I was dragging my feet. In reality, I don't dislike bowling terribly. I just really, really, REALLY don't like doing things I'm not good at. And I'm terrible at bowling.

    Avoidance or quitting is my natural default.

    Our self-esteem driven culture says, "You can do anything you want!"

    But the truth is I can't do everything.

    My dream as a little girl was to be a platinum award-winning pop star. I sang into my hairbrush and made sure I stood on the stage for every talent show my school held. But no matter how much I practiced, my heart-felt but average singing was met with tepid applause and sympathetic pats on the back from my friends.

    Yes, if I'd been born just a little later, I would be one of the pitiful audition examples on American Idol — a contestant who's convinced she's great while the rest of the world watches with wide eyes and gasps. My family, the world's greatest encouragers, would be at home cheering wildly while the rest of the world muttered, "Bless her heart!"

    No matter how many lessons I take or how much I practice, I'm never going to progress from the choir loft to the stadium stage. It's just not going to happen.

    Singing isn't a gift God has given me, and I don't feel His leading to take a leap of faith. If I were to audition, it would be foolish, because it would be a risk taken from my own desires and based on an unrealistic assessment of my gifts. Simply put, there's a clear difference between a foolish risk and an inspired risk.

    I think it's great for us to understand our limits. But I have another issue that's not so great. It's my propensity to give up too quickly when things get hard ... when I'm challenged to do something I'm not already good at.

    Recently I've been challenged to complete the most difficult process of my professional life. I've worked and struggled and fallen more times than I'd like to count. Day after day I've wanted to quit. And I've become painfully aware that this assignment is too big for me.

    But this assignment is an inspired risk. It's based on the beginnings of a gift God has placed in me and on His clear calling.

    So I've spent time on my knees asking God for direction and just a little more fortitude.

    He has faithfully encouraged me. God continues to point out He not only opened the door of opportunity, He surrounded me with others to help me develop this embryo of a gift.

    Instead of doing what our culture does, passing out false praise and "you can do anything's," God has instructed me to rejoice that I'm really not good enough ...

    To do it without Him.

    To accomplish it without the help of others.

    To finish without perseverance (which produces character, and character hope, Romans 5:3-5).

    Sometimes, when we're given a task beyond ourselves, we just need to rejoice. It's a good thing we're really not good enough. It's in those times of struggle, failure and ultimately growth that we find out God is enough.

    Lord, teach me to rejoice in the difficult assignments, because it's there I come to the end of my own abilities and learn to lean on Yours. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

    TRUTH FOR TODAY:
    Philippians 4:13, "I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (NIV)

    1 Corinthians 1:25, "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." (NIV)

    REFLECT AND RESPOND:
    What is an inspired risk you believe God wants you to make?

    Write a prayer asking God to help you obey when He calls you to something that seems beyond your ability.

    © 2014 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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

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