The Blessings of Believing

As I’ve written here, I’m working through the Bible this year studying all the times the word “believe” or “belief” is used and trying to understand God’s perspective on the word He gave me for 2017.

Today I got to the verse that’s been tied to my word for the year for 2 years.

“Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)

Do you see how God did that? He’s so amazing! In 2016 my word was fulfill, but I wrote here about how much I struggled with that word. It was a hard year of wrestling with my word, so I thought I might need a do-over.

No, God clearly dropped “believe” into my heart for 2017, but when I went looking for a key verse, there it was. The same verse as last year. I got a new start and a do-over all in one. Woot!

Imagine how excited I was this morning to scroll down in my BibleGateway search to find that today’s verse is MY verse. I mean it’s Elizabeth’s and Mary’s too, but I know they’re sharing it with me. 🙂

I want to testify one more time at how vibrantly alive and active God’s Word is. When I dug into this verse for the hundredth time this morning, I got a whole new message.

We have to believe before God fulfills His promises to us.

I was struck again this morning with how hard that is for a reforming perfectionist. I wouldn’t ever say out loud that I think God needs help. I’m too church-girl for that! My actions, however, reveal what I really believe. I rush ahead into the fulfilling part, trying to make it all happen, when that’s God’s exclusive job. My job is simply in the believing. And patiently waiting.

Belief is confident resting.

That’s not to say belief is passive. It’s resting and watching just like the Israelites did in the dessert. They camped and rested until God moved, and then they followed Him until it was time to camp and rest again.

How does that perspective change things for us? It means that we don’t have to rush around trying to make things happen. We simply respond as Jesus leads. It means that we don’t worry. We trust God to move us into the fulfilling of His will in His perfect timing. It means that we don’t sink into despair when things aren’t going our way. Our hope is firmly in God Himself and not our circumstances.

Even as I write these things I know they’re my biggest challenges. Rest is hard for me and trust has been elusive, but these are the essential elements of belief. I’m seeking God for no less that full belief, complete confidence, and total rest.

Blessings follow belief, and these are the blessings I want for my worn out perfectionist heart and for the people around me to share.

Let’s all use this verse for ourselves. Go ahead, and put your name in it.

“Blessed is ___(your name)___who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!” (Luke 1:45)

What promises has God whispered into your heart?

How can you move into your believing job today and out of God’s fulfilling job?

O, my soul, believe! O, sister, believe! Let’s move into confident rest together.

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Congratulations to the winners of the book giveaways!

Janet (4.6.17 8:32 am) is the winner of Unsinkable Faith by Tracie Miles.

Cynthia Bashaar (4.10.17 5:28 am) is the winner of Out of the Saltshaker by Rebecca Manley Pippert.

I’ve sent emails to both of you, so please reply to me with your mailing address. You’re going to love these books!

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God, Give Me Your Heart for My World

Sometimes writing a devotion is hard. I labor for hours over the right story and the right words to express God’s truth. The devotion published today was different. It flowed out of me quickly, because it’s right where God has been stretching and growing me.

Our church has been doing a series about sharing our faith that has been excellent, and God has been calling me to be both broken and bold as I move through this world interacting with people. It’s amazing the conversations that God sparks when you want to share your faith, and I’ve been excited as I’ve watched Him move in my own sphere of influence.

You have influence too, and the people around you need Jesus’ hope. Maybe you’re excited to share, but you’re a little afraid too. (So normal–me too!) You feel unequipped to talk about Jesus to others.

I want to leave you today with some ways to feel more confident about sharing your faith. It’s my desire that you feel passionate about investing the Greatest Gift ever given–salvation– in someone else.

Several years ago, I did a blog series about sharing your faith story in a simple way. Here are the links to that series as a free resource for you:

Sharing His Story in Your Life

Step 1– Tell Your Story

Step 2– Connect Your Story

Step 3– Make Jesus the Hero

Step 4– End with Inspiration

Also, I have a GIVEAWAY today of my all-time favorite book on evangelism, Out of the Saltshaker & Into the World by Rebecca Pippert. It’s an oldie but goodie that changed my life and my way of thinking in college.

Leave a comment for a chance to win Out of the SaltshakerYou can tell me about a time you’ve shared Jesus with someone or if you’re living life on the fly, you can just put the first name of the person that you want to reach. I’ll be praying for openings for conversation over this Holy Week!

If you love freebies (and who doesn’t?!), you can get a free chapter of my book Breaking Up with Perfect by clicking here. There are also adorable free screen savers on the site that you can download when you click here!

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3 Steps to a Transformed Mind

I couldn’t be more thrilled to introduce you to a dear friend today, Tracie Miles. Tracie’s new book Unsinkable Faith has just released. I have to tell you that I’ve watched Tracie not only write these words but live these words over a very difficult and painful year. She’s the real deal. You’re going to love what she has to say, so please welcome my friend Tracie! (And read to the bottom for a giveaway.)

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My thoughts were running rampant, and I knew it.

The room was pitch black dark, except for a trickle of moonlight peeking through the window blinds. It was the middle of the night, but my mind apparently thought it was the middle of the day. The more I laid there thinking about my problems, the bigger those problems seemed to get. New worries began to bubble up and weave themselves into the tangled up details of the problems I was fretting over. Within a short period of time, even little problems I was fretting over became monsters in my head of which I was sure were going to devour me.

I wish I could say this was the first time that had happened, but that would be far from the truth. So many times I’ve laid awake at night, fretting and stressing over difficult situations or problems I was dealing with, my thoughts morphing them into bigger issues than they probably were, and inadvertently letting them rob of me of peace and sanity. Countless hours spent feeding negative thoughts until they grew bigger than I thought I could handle – when in reality they were not only manageable by me with my heavenly Father’s help, but fully manageable by Him all by Himself.  Yet the more I worried, the more my peace would vacate my heart and mind, while negativity swooped in and took up permanent residence.

Fortunately, as I journeyed with God through those difficulties, He eventually helped me realize that I could either let my thoughts control me, or I could learn to control them instead. I realized I could either choose to capture my thoughts before they captured my peace, or let them continue running rampant and allow them do exactly that.

Romans 12:2 says, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” This verse holds the fundamental principle for positive thinking and joyful living, which is intentionally changing the way we think by inviting God to start a transformation within.

If we allow our minds to be shaped by negative thoughts about the difficult or trying circumstances we face, instead of them being shaped by God’s way of thinking (thoughts that are true and pleasing in His eyes; thoughts based on His perspective instead of our own), we are headed straight toward a life lacking peace, joy, and hope. But when we invite Christ to renew our minds one thought at a time, and humbly admit our need for change, we will be blessed with the ability to enjoy life, despite life. All because we changed our patterns of thinking, which gradually changed our patterns of living.

Although it might seem difficult, and maybe even impossible, it is possible for all of us to change the way we think if we commit to three God-filled strategies. If we intentionally begin to put these into practice in our daily lives, we usher in the ability for God to equip us to begin the transformation of our thoughts, feelings, and lives. These three easy steps are:

  1. Notice negative thoughts.
  2. Reject negative thoughts.
  3. Replace negative thoughts.

Each time you have a negative thought enter your mind, immediately make note of how you are feeling and how you are thinking. Be aware of your thoughts. Ask yourself things like,  Is that thought helping me in any way? Is it making me happy or stealing my peace? Is this  a problem God can’t handle, or am I assuming it is too big for Him? Is it even true, according to God’s Word? Asking God to help us start being aware of our negative thoughts is the first step to learning to control them.

Once you learn to be aware of your negative thoughts when they occur, you can begin to combat them and fight back. Each time you notice a negative thought, simple pause and reject it. Remind yourself not to focus on the negativity, and instead try to focus on something positive. If you’ve decided it is not really true, don’t allow yourself to entertain it anymore. If that negative thought is stealing your peace, refuse to give that negative thought power over your joy, peace or happiness, much less your life.  Take control of what you’re thinking, rather than letting your thoughts run rampant.

Then turn that negative thought around. Replace that negative thought with something more positive, or more true. For example, if something bad happens to us, we don’t have to start believing we have a bad life overall. When we experience something positive in the morning but have to deal with something negative in the afternoon, we have the choice to say whether we’ve had a good day or a bad day overall. If someone hurts our feelings, we can forgive and refuse to let it fester in our thoughts and steal our confidence. If someone insults us, we can focus on our positive attributes and remember what God says about us is most important.

Each time we notice our minds are wandering to a place where discouragement, sadness, fear, anger, or negativity reside, and we notice our feelings are changing our moods, perspectives, and behavior, we have the authority and the power to choose to reject those negative thoughts and shift them to be more positive. It’s simply a matter of deciding to tap into that power and change our habits. Notice your negative thoughts, reject them, and them replace them with something positive and true.  Not always easy, but always possible in Christ.

Might you choose to let today be the first day of your new optimistic life by changing the way you think?

TRACIE MILES

To intentionally make positive living a reality in your life, and to begin experiencing a total life makeover through the transforming and renewing of your mind, consider purchasing Tracie’s newest book, Unsinkable Faith: God-Filled Strategies for Transforming the Way You Think, Feel and Live. You can also purchase a Companion Study Guide & Journal and other valuable, faith fueling resources on Tracie’s blog at www.traciemiles.com.

Sign up for Tracie’s free 5 Day Optimist Challenge. Visit her blog for more information at www.traciemiles.com.

 

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GIVEAWAY:

Leave a comment today to enter to win a copy of Unsinkable Faith and also the Unsinkable Faith Companion Study Guide and Journal. If your life is moving warp speed, simply leave a comment saying, “I need unsinkable faith!”

 

 

 

 

 

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Belief is Better… Than Fear

Belief is better… than what?

After studying the word “believe” for just three months this year, I can tell you with confidence that belief is better than fear, than wavering, than uncertainty, than doubt…

Those were just a few of the emotions I wrestled with until I was exhausted last year. How I wish I had followed Jesus’ words from mini-lesson #1 of 4 today. Well, it’s a new day, so I’m starting now! How about you?

Subscribers, click here to watch the video in Facebook, and I’d love for you to follow me while you’re there so that we can connect in person next time.

If you’d like to learn more about how I’m leveraging my word for 2016, click here to watch a short video I made for Kathi Lipp’s blog. I hope it’s something you can use to maximize your word for the year too!

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A Prayer for My Marriage

A special welcome to those who are visiting from today’s devotion. I’m glad you’re here!

Marriage is one of the topics that I write about with fear and trembling. Although I’m happily married and love being married, we’ve experienced the bumps of life and living together just like you. It was only the picture of the couple in the devotion that compelled me to write about marriage. Watching them together was both exquisite and heart-breaking, but they challenged me to live my vows better.

I want to keep it short and sweet today, simply offering a prayer that you can pray for your marriage. I’m going to God with the same words.

Feel free to download and print it by clicking on the graphic.

Know that today I am praying for the marriage of each person that visits the blog. I’m in this with you, sisters!

Note: If you are in a struggling marriage, I know this topic is particularly painful. My heart is with you.

If you’re experiencing abuse of any kind, please, please enlist the support of a friend and call the domestic violence hotline in your area today. The devotion and prayer today are not to guilt you into staying in an abusive marriage. God loves you and prioritizes your safety.

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We’re building a community here of those who want to replace the exhaustion of chasing perfection with the joy of deeper relationships. Want to join us? If so, click on the graphic below to receive “Five Days to Himperfection” for free along with a weekly encouraging email.

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A Wedding Celebration

I always cry at weddings. Always.

At a few I’ve cried because I was worried about the marriage lasting past the wedding (Sorry if that’s too honest, but it’s true), but mostly I cry because they’re holy.

Weddings are a set apart time that reflects so much of the glory of God. In fact, Ephesians 5 tells us that marriages are a reflection of the divine mystery of the relationship between Christ and the church. God has woven a love for weddings into our heart to point toward His intimate love for His church. Amazing.

I attended three weddings last year where I shed joyful tears, and because you may love wedding pictures as much as I do, I thought I’d give you a peak. (Can you say “Yes to the Dress” obsessed?)

This is my niece Anna,who is the first of her generation to get married in our family, and her husband Tyler. It was pure delight to watch them plan a celebration of their love that shone a spotlight on Jesus. All the little touches that honored both families made the time abundantly special! (Don’t you love the delight on their faces?)

Anna sent me a picture that I didn’t know about proving that I cry at every wedding. This is actually me crying (I know I look like I’m laughing, but I’m covering for my sentimental self.) at Anna’s REHEARSAL. I’m a serious marshmellow.

Whitney and her new husband Charlie had a service that radiated Christ and reflected their personalities so perfectly that I giggled over and over through my tears. When I used to drive middle school carpool for Anson and Whitney, I couldn’t wait for the pre-teen version of Carol Burnett to get in the car everyday, so it was no surprise when their recessional was “Linus and Lucy”, the Peanuts theme song!

I celebrated big at both of those weddings, but there was a third wedding where I not only celebrated but I was challenged to think about the coming marriage at the end of time in a new way. Barry was invited by the bride’s family to play his sax in the wedding, so I was invited along for the ride. You might not be surprised to know that when I found out it was to be TWO weddings in a day–one American and one Indian–I sent a “yes” RSVP right away.

Even though I’ve seen wedding processionals in India, I’ve never been part of an Indian wedding, so I attended each part of the ceremony with excitement. At the very beginning, before the bride arrived for the ceremony, the groom and his family gathered for a processional to where he would meet the bride for the ceremony. Check out this amazing video of the beginning of the procession. The groom is in the white hat.

This celebration went on for almost half and hour with different family members as well as friends dancing with the groom. At the beginning, I was grinning ear to ear enjoying all the sound and color and pure joy, but soon I realized that tears were streaming down my face. I had started thinking about Jesus.

This. This is what I believe the marriage of the Lamb will be like. It will be a celebration like none other. Jesus the Bridegroom will come to get His bride, and I believe that the abandoned celebration reflected in this little video clip will be the heartbeat of that wedding procession.

Yes, I know that we say we can celebrate in our hearts with a quieter exterior, but is it really true? Just think about how our culture celebrates anything else… great performances on a stage, stunning wins on the field, etc. We’re exuberant and loud. We’re cheering and whistling. We’re dancing and waving.

Do we celebrate Jesus that way? Will we be ready for a Bridegroom who comes with exuberant joy?

I want to be ready to dance at the marriage of the Lamb. “Believe”, my word for the year, is giving me dancing lessons. My life is just as imperfect and messy as in 2016, but my perspective has changed. Believing what God says is absolutely true is making my heart light. Each day as I follow the steps in the previous post, I feel my faith growing, and it’s making me want to celebrate.

How about you? What’s making you want to celebrate these days?

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Beyond Wallowing

Happy Thursday, friends!

I’m so happy to be here with you today. I don’t know what it’s like for you outside, but the sun in shining in my heart when I think of all of us here– a gathering of girls who just want less perfectionism and more joy. That’s what I call freedom!

Freedom. What a beautiful word. It’s right up there with another word I love which is “celebrate”. Celebrate is one of those words that sounds like what it is– balloons, pink icing, and raucous-sounding party favors. Toward the end of last year, I had decided that “celebrate” would be my theme for my January blogs, but I got side-tracked.

I wanted to celebrate, but first I needed to heal.

Now I’m ready to celebrate, and I hope you are too! I’ve spent a lot of time talking about how tough 2016 was, but I want to move on. I’ve never been a wallower, and I don’t intend to start now. Jesus promised us abundant life, and I don’t want to settle for less,

Make sure to come back next week for a video I’ve been saving for months to share with you. I promise that when you watch it that you’ll fully enter into the mood to celebrate with me.

In the meantime, I want to give you a little assignment this week that I’ve been doing since the beginning of January that has lifted me out of any remaining funkiness and washed the wallow right off of me. Here are the steps:

  • Choose a word for 2017 or dust off the one that you started with.
  • Do a little scripture study of your word. You can type it right into BibleGateway.com to find all the verses that contain your word.
    • Your word isn’t in the Bible? That’s ok! Choose a synonym or word that expresses the meaning of your word and search for it. ie.  Your word is “sparkle”. Search “light”.
  • Answer these questions and take some notes on one verse a day:
    • What does it say? I just write out the verse word-for-word.
    • What does it mean? Write down the main idea that God is trying to get across.
    • What do I apply this? Write down an action step to make in your current circumstances based on the truth God showed you.

Next week, I’ll share the video and some insights God has been filling my heart with about my 2017 word.

Want extra inside scoop? Click here to watch this 4-minute video I made for Kathi Lipp’s blog!

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The Pain of an Imperfect Life

Maybe you’ve come here today because you’re feeling the pain of an imperfect life just like I described in my devotion today.

I understand how you’re feeling. (And there’s a gift to encourage you at the bottom of the page.)

If you’re like me and struggle with the pursuit of perfection, that feeling is even more acute. You’ve worked hard to attain the perfect life that you see in other women’s social media posts, but now you’re exhausted, and…

You truly want the best for the people you love, but you’re driving yourself and everybody else crazy with your out-of-control expectations.

Even though you bust your hump on every little thing, you constantly feel the nagging tug of failure.

You’ve been hiding your true self behind the façade of perfection for so long that you almost can’t remember who you really are.

You’re working hard to build the best life possible, but you have no time to enjoy it.

It’s become so critical to be perfect that every mistake or misstep is crushing.

I’ve been in your shoes, but through the love of truth-telling mentors, God-given aha experiences, and the excavation of wrong beliefs, I’ve moved toward celebrating the woman God has created me to be. Of deeper and more fulfilling relationships. Of kissing perfection good-bye and embracing more joy.

That’s the journey I share in my book Breaking Up with Perfect.

Because of the joy I experienced going through the book with a group of women last summer, I want to extend the Online Book Study to you for free. It’s formatted so that you can access every lesson and resource to work through the book at your own pace. Click here to get all the details and to start.

Note to leaders: There are lots of resources just for you so that you can lead your small group through my book! Please feel free to share all beautiful downloads, extra lessons, and fun videos with your group contained in the Online Book Studyand there’s a Leader’s Guide chock-full of information and help for you. You can buy it by clicking here and scrolling down below the book.

I’d love to be with you in person too! A fun way to launch your study would be to have me come speak at your church. Watch the sample video below, and click here to receive more information about having me at your event from our Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker coordinator.

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