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Cupcakes, Perfection, and Connection

This guest post by Christen Price includes excerpts from her new book “Invited: Live a Life of Connection, not Perfection.” Used with permission.  

I am in a cupcake war. A battle for perfection.

Standing in the kitchen, covered in confectioner’s sugar, I had been attacked by my strawberry cupcakes. I’d volunteered to bring cupcakes to a baby shower the next day, but my recipe had turned into one big blob of pink mess.  These cupcakes just would not do.

Insecure, I allowed the frustration of failure to mess with my head, causing me to spiral into doubt. All confidence vanished. I heard a soft whisper that I am like these cupcakes…not good enough.

Instead of letting good be good enough, I want to be, have, and give the best of myself to every aspect of my life. That’s why I thought I could make these cupcakes, and that’s why I’m ended up being overly critical of myself.

Do you ever allow the pressure of perfection to cause you to melt down, especially before a celebration?

Just like me, many women desperately chase perfection. Then when we don’t capture it, our emotions take over. The passion of pursuing perfection sometimes causes us to act in ways that make us later feel shame and unworthiness, like we will never quite measure up.

Is there a better way than “perfection?”

God calls us to celebrate, be in community, and believe that connection is far better than perfection. We can spend our whole lives trying to practice hospitality perfectly, but God simply wants us to accept His invitation and extend His love to the people we cherish most. God invites us to release our perfection-induced anxieties, receive others in love, and rejoice in the moment.

Invited by Christen Price

I won the cupcake war.

The next day, I woke up and called a local bakery to order two dozen strawberry cupcakes. Arriving at the baby shower with boxed cupcakes in hand, I arranged the cupcakes on a white tiered cake stand on the dining room buffet. They were delicious, beautiful, and store-bought, but it didn’t make my contribution to the party any less.

That night, instead of feeling not good enough because I couldn’t bake cupcakes as beautiful as these store-bought cupcakes, I was able to connect with friends and watch the mother-to-be open her presents without the pressure of perfection.

Let’s stop letting perfection make us feel not good enough, especially on insignificant matters like store-bought or homemade cupcakes. God is perfect so we don’t have to be. He invites us to live free from the stress of planning, preparing, and performing perfectly and to just be in Him.  Hospitality isn’t about perfection; it’s about connection.

Now, go eat a cupcake!

InvitedIn her new book, Invited: Live a Life of Connection, Not Perfection, Bible teacher Christen Price tackles a problem that plagues many women – the unrealistic striving for perfection. She shares personal stories of her own perfection battle and gives practical advice and helps for finding a beautiful balance that embraces both hospitality and community.

Christen Price is a writer for The M.O.M. Initiative and founder of Undivided Women, an online Bible study community. With the heart of a hostess, she writes devotionals, designs party printables, and creates inspirational art in her Studio that invites women to celebrate their people, place, and purpose. Christen is married to her best friend, Raleigh, and their crew of three little ones, two dogs, and four chickens call the countryside of lower Alabama home. Connect with her at christenprice.com.

 

 

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7 Mountain Moving Prayers to Pray for Your Kids

Lori WildenbergToday Lori Wildenberg – author of the new book “Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home” – offers practical suggestions for energizing our prayers for the children in our lives.

My daily prayers for my kids have become rote.

My consistent plea is, “Lord draw each one of my kids to yourself. Give them a hunger for your Word, a thirst for worship, and a desire to make you smile.” 

Not a bad prayer. I just pray it a lot. I’m bored. I wonder if God is a little weary too. My prayer life sounds like blah, blah, blah. Clang, clang, clang.  It’s time to change it up. Refresh my requests.

I want to pray bold and effective prayers.

I want to pray war room prayers.

I want to pray mountain moving prayers.

This week my petitions to my great big God will focus on the heart; on character traits to be developed or deepened in my loved ones and in myself. I’m committed to no more clanging.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love,
I  am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

Without love for others or for God, we are only an annoying gong. Clang, Clang, Clang. We are nothing and we gain nothing. No matter our intelligence, natural talents or spiritual gifts, and even self-sacrifice. 

7 Scripture-based Prayers to Pray for Your Kids

Here are my short yet big supernatural love prayers for this week inspired by 1 Corinthians 13:1-8.

Monday

Sovereign Lord, Give _____opportunities to develop patience. Let my child (or me) wrestle with tenacity through life’s challenges in order to learn how to lean on, trust, and hope in you.

Tuesday

Father, Teach _____ how to love and respond in kindness even in the face of disagreement or adversity. Train him or her (or me) how to listen, discuss, and maintain convictions while demonstrating gentleness and respect.

Wednesday 

Provider God, Allow ________ to discover a grateful heart leads to contentment in all circumstances. When life isn’t going well, I ask that you show ______ that satisfaction rests not in the external but in the eternal. When life is going well I pray that, with a heart of thankfulness,  _______ gives you all honor and praise.

Thursday

Lord Jesus, Give_____ an a ability to accurately assess his or her strengths and weaknesses. Create a generous spirit in _______ that will encourage and raise another up. Move _______to share credit with others and give you glory.

Friday

Heavenly Father, Un-clench my (or fill in the blank) fists of selfishness. Open my (or her or his) hand and heart to those who may need or benefit from ________ time, treasure, or talents.

Saturday

My King, Forgiveness is not beneath you. It is you. Release ______ from any bonds of pride or bitterness so _____ can be fee to love and worship. Replace the unforgiving prideful heart with one that is graced with humility, repentance, and reconciliation.

Sunday

Lord, I pray_______ loves the things you love and hates the things you hate. Open ______ ears to hear that still small voice. Give him or her wisdom to understand truth. Give _______ (or me) the will to live by your words and follow your way. Give _____ the discernment to identify true truth from emotion driven belief.

Love never fails. Amen and Amen.

What’s the most powerful prayer you pray for your kids?

 

Lori WildenbergMessy Journey is passionate about helping families build connections that last a life time. She is a licensed parent-family educator and co-founder of the 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting ministry. Lori  is a parent consultant, national speaker, lead Mentor Mom over at the Moms Together Facebook Community Page and blogs every Monday about faith and family. She has written four parenting books including her newest,  Messy Journey: How Grace and Truth Offer the Prodigal a Way Home (New Hope Publishers). Messy Journey is for parents walking the difficult road with a wayward child. Lori offers practical grace- and truth-filled ways of navigating your relationship with a detoured child whether they are rejecting faith, dabbling in sin, or wholeheartedly embracing sinful behavior. There is hope. After all, their struggle isn’t really with you, it’s with God.

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Delicious Comfort Zones and a Giveaway

Rhonda and Kaley Rhea are my guests today! Keep reading to find out more about chocolate and comfort zones, and to enter for a chance to win a copy of their new book, “Turtles in the Road.”

We both love a nice, cozy comfort zone. By “comfort zone,” about eighty percent of the time we probably mean “chocolate zone.” Did you hear about the recent study that determined that 10 out of 9 people love chocolate? It doesn’t even matter that the math doesn’t work. Know why? Chocolate.

Since people are finding more ways all the time that chocolate is good for your health, we’ve decided that we shall never at any time of our lives think of ourselves as “overweight.” We shall forever refer to it as “chocolate-enriched.”

That’s our comfort zone and we’re sticking to it.

Turtles in the RoadWe just recently somewhat stepped out of our non-chocolate-related comfort zone to write a romantic comedy about a gal who was forced outside her…well, on theme…outside her comfort zone. The book is titled, Turtles in the Road and, not to give anything away, but our deliciously funny character finds laughs, grace and all kinds of adventure in her most uncomfy places.

There are comfort zones, and then there are comfort zones. When God commissioned Joshua after the death of Moses, He gave Joshua instructions about the new land He was to possess. He said to him, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9, ESV).

Sometimes God calls us to step out of everything comfortable. We see it all through Scripture. God called Moses to step out before the mantle was passed to Joshua. God called Abraham to leave his home and everything familiar to him to take off to zones unknown. He called Samuel, He called Isaiah, He called so many more. Jesus called His disciples to step away from their nets, out of their comfortable lives, and to follow Him with abandon.

There aren’t a lot of things in this life we can promise will happen, but we can promise this. At some point you will be called to step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be caught off guard. Don’t think you’re being reprimanded. And even more importantly, don’t think for a second that He is not with you in that less-than-comfy place. Be strong. Be courageous. Know He is with you.

It’s good to remember that stepping out of our comfort zone is also stepping into the comfort of His Holy Spirit. It’s amazing—even in discomfort, there’s comfort! Real comfort from The Comforter. It’s comfort not in a place, not in a possession, not in a food—it’s in a Person, the Person of our mighty God of all comfort.

As you step out in faith, you’ll find there’s growth in every new place the Lord leads you. You can rest assured He will never ask you to step out of one zone and into another without His presence, without His purpose or without His empowering.

It’s a God-enriched life. And as awesome as a chocolate-enriched life is, a God-enriched one is infinitely better.

To enter for a chance to win a copy of “Turtles in the Road,” share your most comfortable comfort zone in the comments! Winner will be drawn Thursday, May 11th at 8am! 

Rhonda Rhea, Kaley RheaMother/daughter writing duo, Rhonda Rhea and Kaley Rhea, are the authors of Turtles in the Road, an inspirational humorous romance that’s just releasing. They are both TV personalities for Christian Television Network’s KNLJ in mid-Missouri. Rhonda is also a nationally-known speaker, humor columnist and author of 11 other books, including Fix-Her-Upper, a soon-releasing nonfiction project coauthored with Beth Duewel. Rhonda is married to her pastor/husband, Richie Rhea, and they have five grown children and two grandbabies. Kaley works at Missouri Baptist University and she and Rhonda both live in the St. Louis area. You can find “Turtles in the Road” at Bold Vision Books and Amazon

 

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5 Routines to Find Freedom

OverwhelmedThis guest post by author Cheri Gregory is a giveaway! Read to the bottom to find out how to enter for a chance to win a copy of “Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity” by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory.

I used to avoid routines. I knew they worked for other people, but to me they felt rigid.

I spent years telling myself, I’m a free spirit. My creative soul would be crushed by routines.

Then I read a paradigm-shifting statement in the book Triggers. Marshall Goldsmith said that structure can serve as “a surrogate for self-discipline.” This grabbed my attention, because I’ve never had much self-discipline.

The right routines replace self-discipline? Sign me up!

Living Without Structure Isn’t Freedom

While developing and implementing my new routines, I quickly discovered how much time and energy I had wasted living “spontaneously.”

When every task was up for grabs every day—Exercise today or sleep in?… Slacks or skirt?… Quiet time now or postpone ‘til tonight?— I was constantly overwhelmed with decision fatigue.

In the time I would spend debating whether or not to do something, I could have gotten it done.

Living without structure isn’t freedom; it’s a free-for-all that turns into chaos.

Conversely, routines guarantee that my Personal Manifesto—a simple written statement of who I am and who I aspire to be, by God’s grace and power—gets walked out in my everyday life.

5 Routines to Follow for Freedom

I’ve experimented with various routines and settled on these five non-negotiables:

Routine #1: Evening Routine

When I follow my evening routine, I’m ready for the day. When I don’t, I’m not. Sounds obvious. But I’ve been surprised to discover how much rises and falls on my faithfulness to my evening routine.

My friend and co-author Kathi Lipp puts it this way: “Our most important evening job is to get set up for tomorrow.”

(For a free evening routine worksheet, click here.)

Routine #2: Morning Routine

Whenever I get to mid-day, consider my morning, and think, “Well, that was time well spent!” you can be sure I followed my morning routine.

And whenever I get to mid-day and ask myself, “Where did the morning go? Why didn’t I get anything important done?” you can be sure I didn’t.

First-thing-in-the-morning Me is energetic and creative but highly distractable. My morning routine keeps focused.

(For a free morning routine worksheet, click here.)

Routine #3: Weekly Routine

I used to try to squeeze the necessary tasks of life—like bill-paying, grocery shopping, dental visiting, and the like—into my spare time.

Problem was, I rarely had any. And when I did, I wasn’t actually prepared to tackle any necessary tasks.

A weekly Prep and Plan Day has changed all that. Every week, I have several hours set aside to pull back, prepare for the upcoming week, and plan for the following weeks and months.

To make lists. Go shopping. Call to set appointments. Deal with paperwork. Do filing.

I don’t think I’ll ever find these sorts of tasks fun, but they are far more satisfying when I schedule time to do them. And then get them done.

Routine #4: Self-Care Routine

Most of us were taught to take good care of the people in our lives – often at our own expense. Yet, our ability to care for others is hindered if we don’t first take good gentle care of ourselves.

A self-care routine means that no matter what kind of day (week…month…year…) I’m having, I take care of myself. Period.

Routine #5: Quiet Time Routine

Pairing the word “routine” with the phrase “Quiet Time” does not automatically mean “rigid.”

Developing a Quiet Time routine that works for you simply means that spending time with God becomes a non-negotiable. It’s something you do every day, in some way, to re-connect to your Creator. And to grow in the fruit of the Holy Spirit. One characteristic which, of course, is self-discipline. Which makes our routines self-reinforcing, in the best possible way.

I used to believe that freedom meant having unlimited choices. But to my surprise, it’s having pre-decided routines that makes me feel free.

Established routines will set you free!

  • Free from wrestling with self-discipline.
  • Free from decision fatigue.
  • Free to live with integrity.

This post is a giveaway! Enter for a Chance to Win!

Kathi and Cheri would like to send a copy of Overwhelmed: Quiet the Chaos & Restore Your Sanity to one of our readers! To qualify for the drawing, you need to do TWO things:

  1. LEAVE A COMMENT below.
  2. SHARE THIS POST on social media.

That’s it! Once you do both, your name will be entered into the random drawing. Be sure to tell your friends so they can sign up too. The drawing will take place on Friday, January 13, so don’t delay! {Contest is limited to US & Canadian readers only.}

Free Offer from Cheri and Kathi

New Year’s resolutions seldom last, but a Personal Manifesto will carry you through the rest of your life! Sign up for great ideas and resources about how to get out from Overwhelmed and you will receive “How to Write Your Personal Manifesto” as our gift to you. Get off the overwhelming cycle of making and breaking resolutions and create a gentle plan for lasting life change.

About “Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity”

OverwhelmedFeeling overwhelmed? Wondering if it’s possible to move from “out of my mind” to “in control” when you’ve got too many projects on your plate and too much mess in your relationships?

Kathi and Cheri want to show you five surprising reasons why you become stressed, why social media solutions don’t often work, and how you can finally create a plan that works for you. As you identify your underlying hurts, uncover hope, and embrace practical healing, you’ll understand how to…

  • Trade the to-do list that controls you for a calendar that allows space in your life
  • Decide whose feedback to forget and whose input to invite
  • Replace fear of the future with peace in the present

You can simplify and savor your life—guilt free! Clutter, tasks, and relationships may overwhelm you now, but God can help you overcome with grace.

kathi-and-cheri-photoKathi Lipp is a busy conference and retreat speaker and the bestselling author of several books, including Clutter Free, The Husband Project, and The Get Yourself Organized Project. She and her husband, Roger, live in California and are the parents of four young adults.

Cheri Gregory spends her weekdays teaching teens and weekends speaking at women’s retreats. She’s been married to her college sweetheart, Daniel, for more than 28 years. The Gregorys and their young adult kids, Annemarie and Jonathon, live in California.

 

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Growing and Sowing the Fruit of the Spirit

Welcome Karen Whiting to my blog today! This post is based on her new book “Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl.”

Fruit of the SpiritAs a mother I worked at nurturing the Fruit of the Spirit in my children. That meant I needed to exhibit it in my own life. But too often my children brought out my lack of patience, kindness, and even goodness. Producing the desired Fruit of the Spirit meant planting the right seeds.

I grew up in a dairy and farming community, so I know the value of choosing good seeds and planting them in good soil. I can’t produce peace by planting anger in my heart or the hearts of others.

Plant the Right Seeds to Grow the Desired Fruit of the Spirit

I studied the Scriptures and the fruit of the Spirit to find what seeds I needed to plant for the Spirit to produce the fruit I needed. Here’s some of what I found:

  • Seeds of service – Jesus revealed that service develops love (Mark 10:45, John 15:12-17). As we serve others (Galatians 5:13) our love grows.
  • Seeds of gratitude –  The Israelites rejoiced with gratitude when God provided creative solutions to escape Pharaoh (Exodus 15). Praising God for His help, grace, and blessings always brings joy.
  • Seeds of righteousness and understanding – When we seek to make things right with others and reconcile differences, God brings peace (Psalm 85:10, Proverbs 3:13,17).
  • Seeds of submission and waiting – Accepting God’s will and learning to wait brings forth patience. Just as a farmer depends on God’s weather and time to grow his crop, our dependence and waiting develops patience (James 5:7-8).
  • Seeds of attitude – The attitude of our hearts produces the quality of our behavior, whether cruel or kind (Matthew 12:34-35). If we want to exhibit kindness and goodness in everything we do, we must allow God to renew our hearts to reflect His character (Psalm 51).
  • Seeds of prayer – Want to be faithful to God and others (2 Corinthians 5:7)? The best way to learn to depend totally of God is by being a woman of constant prayer.
  • Seeds of compassion and forgiveness – Intentionally seeking ways to love and help others will develop gentleness (Ephesians 4:2). As you purposefully practice putting others first and caring for their needs, your gentleness will blossom (Philippians 2:4).
  • Seeds of discipline – Identifying and avoiding temptation fosters self-control. Establishing personal safe guards and boundaries in advance will prepare us to meet situations head on with self-control (Proverbs 25:28, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Planting the seeds is just the beginning. If we want an abundant crop, we must continually work to keep out weeds of greed, selfishness, and other negative emotions. I’m thankful the Holy Spirit is a patient gardener. As the Fruit of the Spirit grew in me, I found it easier to plant and nurture the seeds in my children. Now I watch my grown children doing the same for their children.

In what ways do you plant and nurture the fruit of the Spirit in your own life and the lives of your children?

Fruit of the SpiritKaren Whiting shares these and other thoughts on the Fruit of The Spirit, especially moms of young girls, in a book she co-authored with Doreen Hanna. Raising a Young Modern Day Princess: Growing the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Little Girl is filled with practical tips, activities, and heart-warming stories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Busyness Crowds Out Stillness

busynessJesus studies me. He observes my frenetic activity. My busyness. I am concerned over many things—the largely significant and the extraordinarily unimportant. He sees stress creasing my face and observes the knot in my shoulders. He hears my sighs as my tears tremble on my lashes. He notices me moving irritably toward two quarreling toddlers and listens as I scold my six-year-old harshly. He hears me curse beneath my breath when my husband calls, “I won’t be home until eight.” Hope for a Bible study with friends dissolves.

“Come to me,” He whispers. “If only,” I groan.

“Be still and know that I am God.” “How can I be still?” I grieve, as I recall the mountain of unfolded laundry and watch a million Cheerios tumbling onto the kitchen floor.

How, indeed?

Time with Christ in communion, fellowship, and the word is as important to the saint as food and water is to life. I would like to release you from additional responsibility. But in good conscience, I can’t. I can, however, attempt to liberate you from the burden of it.

Being with Christ in communion is not supposed to be a chore. It’s an invitation to wonder. The invitation says:

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30, The Message

There are ways we can “keep company” with Christ during busy days. We can connect with Him like Brother Lawrence, who practiced the presence of God in his daily life. He meditated, worshiped, and prayed as he performed common labor. We can do the same.

6 Ideas to Stay Centered on God’s Truth in the Midst of Busyness

  1. Pray for your children and husband as you fold clothes.
  2. Pray for leaders and elected officials as you listen to the news.
  3. Listen to worship music while cooking or doing household chores.
  4. Keep the “taxi” radio tuned to your local Christian radio station.
  5. Take advantage of technology. Use a Bible app for Bible reading on the go.
  6. Find a short devotional book for this busy season of life.

Some of these things can help us stay centered on truth. It’s good to have options and a plan when busyness crowds out stillness.

But still, there is nothing like being still.

5 Tips for Making Time for Still in the Midst of Busy

  1. Steal time. Five minutes. Ten. More? Quit texting. Get off Facebook. Facetime God. Don’t make beds. Eat fruit for dinner; your family will survive. Christ is your lifeline and the faithful abiding love of your life. Please steal time. Your family will thank you.
  2. Be still. Close your eyes. First shut the bathroom door. Turn your face toward Him. Breathe His name—His holy powerful name. Jesus. He has promised His presence to His children. He sees all and loves you unconditionally. Rest in His empowering grace. “Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain you.” (Psalm 55:22a)
  3. Know that He is God. Meditating on the unfathomable riches given to us through Christ is empowering (Ephesians 1:1-14; 2:18-21; 3:4-10; 3:13-21). Your ultimate quest is to know God. The knowledge of God and His grace will be a source of hope and a spring of joy. It will also be an endless adventure because He is incomprehensible.
  4. Come boldly. You are righteous through faith by the glorious grace of God (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). You have a right to be in the throne room. Christ gives you that right. You don’t deserve it, haven’t earned it, and can’t earn it. He simply likes you and wants you to come, especially in your weakness, sin, and shame.
  5. Find grace, mercy, and help. “Come boldly to the throne of grace that you may receive mercy and help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) How many times have my children run to me with stubbed toes, skinned knees, and broken hearts? My desire has always been to relieve pain and help. Certainly, I am no better than God—the source of abundant grace.

Daily we are invited to know God, fellowship with Him, and contemplate His truth, grace, and glory. It’s not a chore. Remember? It’s an invitation to wonder.

How do you find time to “be still” with God in the midst of a busy life?

Engaging MotherhoodLinda Barrett is the co-author of the recently published Bible study “Engaging Motherhood: Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling.” Linda has spent her life pointing others to the glory and grace of God through teaching, mentoring, writing, and art. Birmingham, Alabama is home. She is wife to Raymond and mother to three grown children. Linda blogs about life, beauty, and wonder at Invitation to Wonder.

 

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A Glorious Adventure of Faith

My guest blogger today is Gwen Smith! Gwen is an amazing musician, worship leader, woman of faith, and author of the brand new book “I Want it All!”

Gwen SmithGod has a plan for you, and it’s not an “I’m fine,” average life. You were created to be a woman of impact who is so in love with her Lord and so aware of His might that she cannot help but expect great things and move in His power and grace.

God’s plan for you is unique. No cookie cutter Christianity here. His plan may not look like the dreams you had as a little girl, but it IS a good one. Do you trust that?

God wants you to have a full, beautiful life—in Him, through Him, and for Him. Truly. The Bible tells us so. He offers us joy, but not the world’s joy (John 15:11); peace, but not the world’s peace (John 16:33); power, but not the world’s power (2 Timothy 1:7); love, but not the world’s love (John 15:12-13). I want every ounce of His joy, peace, power, and love. Don’t you? God’s plan is a good plan . . . for us, not against us . . . a plan that is filled with hope and a future. His is a plan that leads us directly to His presence in worship, and, ultimately, to a deep and intimate relationship with Him. Yes, please!

I want to live out God’s sacred plan that invites me to a glorious adventure of faith, that beckons me to perfect love, that calls and challenges me to His cross-carrying ways, that demands my everything and satisfies the longings of all I’ve ever dreamed my life can and should be.

I know many of you are going through difficult and painful challenges. Life throws curve balls that can leave us gasping for breath on any given day, at any given moment. I’m right there with you in the ditches of reality. God’s ways do not always make sense. They don’t always feel good. At times they even sting wildly, but one thing is always true: the great life He intends for us to live begins and ends with the Word. The Word made flesh: Jesus. And though we remain broken and impacted by an imperfect world, we can rise above and get through anything in the power and hope of God, for His glory.

And just like God spoke vision and life to the weary prophet Jeremiah thousands of years ago, His Word speaks vision and life to us today, and every day, reminding us of the beauty available to all in Christ. A beauty that brings Him glory.

That’s the ALL God wants us to want. All of Him.

What do you want in life? Will you be satisfied with the “all” the world offers or do you want God’s all?!

 

Gwen SmithGwen Smith is an author and volleyball enthusiast who lives in sunny North Carolina and has been married to her college honey, Brad, for 23 years. They are tired parents to three tall, competitive-sport-playing teens who keep them on their toes and on their knees. Her online friends meet at GwenSmith.net and Facebook.com/GwenSmithMusic to connect and be encouraged, and her goal is to help women think big thoughts about God and be inspired to live out the grace and truth of Jesus. Gwen’s latest book, I want it allI Want It ALL, (David C. Cook), was released on March 1, 2016 and comes complete with a study guide and questions for reflection. Gwen speaks, leads worship, and eats potato chips at women’s events everywhere, and she is a co-founder of the conference and devotional ministry Girlfriends in God.

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5 Tips for Handling Stress

StressToday’s post is by Karen Jordan author of “Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul.”

Are you overwhelmed with stress in your life? The book of Lamentations offers a clear word on how to deal with stress. “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lamentations 3:25-29 MSG).

5 Biblical Tips to Deal with Stress

  1. Go off by yourself. Solitude often seems impossible for me, even with an “empty nest.” But Jesus knew the importance of spending time alone with His Father. When He needed to listen, He would pull away from everyone. After Jesus fed the 5,000, He “climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night” (Matthew 14:22-23).
  1. Enter the silence. When we seek God in silence, Satan often tries to distract us with fear, like in the story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). Hanna’s husband had two wives—talk about stress! And her husband’s other wife taunted her year after year, blaming and accusing God for Hannah’s inability to conceive children. Then, when Hannah prayed, her spiritual leader misunderstood her. “Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk” (1 Samuel 1:13).
  1. Bow in prayer. Prayer can be as natural as talking with a good friend or as intimate as sharing a secret whisper. It can occur any time of day, no matter where you are or what you are doing. God promises that if we call on His Name, He’ll listen. “And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours” (1 John 5:15).
  1. Don’t ask questions – My questions often interfere with my communication with God—I’m talking, instead of listening. When Jesus taught His disciples, He asked them on several occasions, “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (Matthew 11:15).
  2. Wait for hope to appear – Waiting rooms seem to bring out the worst in me, like my impatience or frustration. But waiting does not have to be hopeless. “I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip” (Psalm 40:1-2, MSG).

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (Matthew 6:30-34, MSG).

So, remember, “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lamentations 3:28-29 MSG).

 Do you struggle with stress? What helps you handle the stressful times in your life?

More about today’s guest Karen Jordan

Karen loves to encourage others to tell the stories that matter most, as an author, speaker, writing instructor, and blogger, addressing topics about her faith, family, and writing. Native Texans, Karen and her husband, Dan, now live in Hot Springs Village, Arkansas, close to their children and grandchildren. Karen’s Karen Jordanfirst book, Words That Change Everything: Speaking Truth to Your Soul, LeafWords that Change Everythingwood Publishing, released in 2016, along with her eBook, RESTNotes: A Fifteen-Day Devotional Guide to Words That Change Everything. Read a sample of “Words that Change Everything.” Visit Karen’s website!

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Sex Trafficking, Hope, and a Bracelet Giveaway

Bracelet giveawaySadly, the following story is not only true, it’s just one of many like it. There are currently 24 million women and children enslaved in sex trafficking across the globe today, many of whom are trapped in brothels in India and Nepal. This story is told by Vision Beyond Borders, a Christian ministry that works to rescue women like Anna (named changed for protection) from sex trafficking in Nepal and India. Keep reading to find out how you can help. And comment for a chance to win a beautiful bracelet made by a woman like Anna.

Anna was raped by one of her mother’s relatives when she was just 10-years-old. Although initially imprisoned, the relative was later released when Anna’s mother accepted 20,000 rupees (about $200) from him as payment.

When Anna was a little older, she was followed home by three men who raped her again, then abandoned her on a dirt road. When Anna told her mother what happened she would not believe her. Just like she ignored the worsening sexual abuse by Anna’s stepfather. Not only did Anna’s mother refuse to help her, she verbally abused Anna herself.

Vision Beyond BordersIn desperation, Anna decided to run away. She left home with two friends and some other girls who told them they knew of a better place where they would be safe and able to make money. They took her near Nepal’s border with India where Anna then worked in a dance bar. She was the youngest girl working there and the customers touched her inappropriately. But Anna desperately needed money.

Not much later, the police found Anna and her two friends. But the girls who had taken these three young girls to the dance bar could not be found. Later, the police discovered that the older girls had planned to sell Anna and her friends in India, where they would earn a greater profit for their youth.

Anna was imprisoned for several weeks while her case was reviewed by several non-government organizations. When her paperwork was finally completed, she was brought to the Vision Beyond Borders safe house to recover from all she had endured. By God’s grace, Anna is doing well and has recently come to know Christ as her personal Savior! She recognizes God’s great love toward her, and He is healing her from the pain she’s endured.

Now 15 years-old, Anna is in school and is also learning skills in hair styling and jewelry making in the safe house. She is one of 16 girls currently in the safe house, including the 5 year-old daughter of one of the girls. Many of the girls share similar stories and have been sold by family members due to the lack of respect for women in their Hindu culture.

All these girls have come to accept Jesus as their Savior. Their transformation after salvation is miraculous! Some of the girls want to be in Christian ministry and others businesswomen, but they all love sharing about the Lord and radiate His joy and faithfulness.

sex trafficking in Nepal

4 Ways You Can Help VBB Fight Sex Trafficking

  1. Pray for the continued healing of the girls in the safe house and for their Hindu families (Download 15-day prayer guide).
  2. Purchase bracelets made by the girls to support their futures. Each piece was handmade in the VBB safe house in Nepal. One hundred percent of the proceeds go back to helping them.
  3. Go on a VBB mission trip to India or Nepal.
  4. Donate to the Vision Beyond Borders ministry to women.

This post is a giveaway! Comment below for a chance to win a bracelet made by one of the girls at the VBB safe house in Nepal. Leave a short prayer, words of encouragement, or simply tell us what color bracelet you’d like to win! Giveaway closes on Wednesday, June 8th at 5pm.

 

More about Vision Beyond Borders ministry to women:

VBB works in Nepal and India to rescue women in the sex trafficking industry and help them discover new lives in Christ. They provide safety, training, and healing and guide them into jobs and businesses to eventually support themselves. Sine VBB’s safe house in Nepal opened in 2014 more than 30 women have been rescued. VBB also operates a hair salon in India that’s a ministry base for women. Vision for Women is working to expand into other countries as well.

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Have you ever forsaken God?

I can see a lot of us shaking our heads and saying, “No! I have never forsaken God!” If you are a Christian, this thought probably seems shocking and unimaginable. But let’s pause for a moment to consider if we have ever left God behind or forgotten about Him for a time.

Have you forsaken God?

Here are just a few ways we may have forsaken God:

  • Doubted God’s goodness, faithfulness, or provision during times of difficulty
  • Forgot that God was in control and took matters into our own hands
  • Failed to give God glory or recognition when He answered our prayers
  • Didn’t remember God’s past mighty works or intervention on our behalf

Forsaken GodI don’t know about you, but I must admit that I have forsaken God. My friend Janet Thompson addresses this topic in her new book, “Forsaken God: Remembering the Goodness of God our Culture has Forgotten.” In Forsaken God?, Janet helps us recall our own memories of God and learn new ways to remember God’s goodness. She also shows us the power of sharing those memories with the next generation.

Today, Janet shares some thoughts from Forsaken God? to help put us on a path of remembering our great God!

Today’s culture is quickly forgetting the goodness and power of our Great God. If we don’t remember what God has already done, we won’t believe what He is capable of doing in the future. Memory builds faith.

The Bible describes the potential destruction to people who forget and forsake God. The dangers are paramount. We read the Old Testament and lament at how forgetful the Israelites were of God’s goodness. Every time he did something good for them, they started grumbling that they needed something else.

God was only as good as the next miracle or provision. A forsaken God.

We wonder at how the Israelites could be so blind and ungrateful. Why couldn’t they trust that a God who provided and protected them in the past, would do the same in the present and future?  But are we any different today?

Our memories tend to be very short. God has done amazing things in our lives, but when the next crisis arises, we panic that He might not show up for us this time. Or when prayers are answered, we might take credit ourselves or offer praise to someone else instead of giving God the glory and recognition he deserves.

We would never intentionally forsake God, but if we’re honest, we do unintentionally forget Him. 

We live in a world today that is quickly trying to eliminate God from the public square and even in the private domain. Christians must help a lost world remember God and that starts with remembering him ourselves.

Questions to Prompt Your Memory

Use the following four questions to get the memories flowing. Have a journal or notebook ready to record what God brings to mind:

  • What has God been doing in your life?
  • How did you become a Christian?
  • How does God help you through the day?
  • How did God answer a prayer request?

Helps to Remember the Future

Now with some past memories firmly in place, let’s be purposeful in recognizing and remembering the things God will do in the future. Here are some ways to capture them:

  • Take pictures
  • Journal
  • Read our Bibles
  • Receive Communion
  • Keep an ongoing “thankful list”
  • Join a small group
  • Share with others

What other ways can you think of to remember and share the goodness of God?

ForsakenGod.inddJanet’s book is challenging and practical. If you want to cling to the goodness of God and share it with the next generation, get a copy of Forsaken God?” today! Each chapter includes questions and conversation starters for discussion in small groups, Bible study groups, book clubs, mentors and mentees, or with family and friends.

Forsaken God? is available at:

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