Merry Christmas and One More Chance

It’s a gray day in NC, but the glow of my Christmas tree and morning thoughts of you are shining brightly.

This is my last post before Christmas, so I want to wish  you a beautiful holiday and close communion with Emmanuel, God with Us, this week. I’m praying for us all to be filled by Him fully!

In this last podcast before Christmas, Cheri & I wanted to focus completely on Jesus, but we couldn’t come up with quite the right idea for a show. Finally, Cheri said that she thought we needed to pull part of our interview with Michele Cushatt off the editing room floor. I agreed wholeheartedly.

There’s one sentence in this interview that took my breathe away way back in the summer, and it’s a sentence that’s been haunting me ever since. Listen and let me know if you know what it is!

This is the last time I’ll send out the link to Grit ‘n’ Grace from my blog. 

From now on, you’ll get one blog post a week from me. If you’d like to continue to get the link to the podcast (Grit ‘n’ Grace) weekly in your email box, you’ll need to subscribe by clicking here. You’ll get a free gift too!

Merry Christmas, y’all! Click on the graphic below to listen to Michele’s heart-capturing words about Jesus.

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When You Lend a Helping Hand

‘Tis the season for giving, and I have to confess that I mostly like it that way. I’m much more comfortable with giving.

In God’s calendar, though, there are seasons for both giving and receiving. As I shared in today’s devotion, “When You Need a Helping Hand“, I’m incredibly thankful for the women who have shared their life with me when I’m in need. They spurred my desire to grow and mature!

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Growth and maturity. That’s the goal.

How do we know that we’ve matured? (Not “arrived” but grown up a little.) Mature women look around for those who they can help. This is the beautiful cycle that passes the Good News from one generation to the next. Paul was the perfect example in how he trained Timothy and then said to him, “ And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” (II Timothy 2:2 NIV)

If you need a hand, how do you find it? If you have a hand to lend, how can you find who needs it? Strangely, the answer is the same for both.

We need to serve to connect.

In the spirit of Christmas giving and to give you a little help in a season when your brain may be weary, I’ve made a download to get you started. Click on the graphic below to download and print. I hope it helps!

Since this is my last post before Christmas, I’d like to offer two other free gifts to you!

Click on the graphic above, enter your email, and receive a download of this mini-ebook along with an encouraging blog post in your email each week.

Click on this graphic, enter your email, and receive 12 permission slips to break bad rules along with the Grit ‘n’ Grace podcast in your email each week. Here’s more info about Grit ‘n’ Grace:

Grit ‘n’ Grace is refreshment for women worn out from following bad rules, working to keep everybody else happy, and overextending their time and emotions. Through interviews with insightful and inspiring guests, Cheri Gregory and Amy Carroll will help you to:

~ Recalculate your journey from our culture’s bad rules to your own Jesus-made path.
~ Overcome error terror as you commit to learning from failure.
~ Replace the exhaustion of self-made goodness with the rest of God’s grace.
~ Discern whose input to invite and whose feedback to forget.
~ Leverage the strength of your emotions instead of either ignoring or being ruled by them.

So join us with your favorite cup of sweet tea and listen in weekly for a new episode of Grit ‘n’ Grace!

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Episode #27: Jesus, The Lord of Grace

For the last two weeks of our Holiday Break series, Cheri and I turn our full attention to Jesus. Just as it should be!

We all need grace for our failures, and Jesus’ disciples needed it too.

Suzie Eller points to both Judas and Peter as stunning failures who had Jesus’ forgiveness extended to them. One chose to accept grace and one rejected it.

Will we live a life of thank you for the grace we’ve been extended? This is the perfect season receive grace with thankfulness.

Click on the graphic above to listen, or download the transcript right here!

Note: Starting at the first of the year, I’ll stop posting the podcast links here and go back to sending just one blog post a week to subscribers. We hope that you’ll continue joining us for the podcast, though! If you scroll down to the bottom of the podcast page, you’ll see an opportunity to subscribe there. Cheri and I want to give you the option of receiving all three of our weekly mailings (1 post from me, 1 post from her, 1 podcast post) or any combination of the three. 🙂

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Into the Yes

In November, I was sitting in the airport waiting for my flight home from a speaking event when I heard a familiar sound beside me. It was the crinkle of turning Bible pages. I glanced over and saw the most adorable woman reading intently, so I couldn’t resist.

“What are you studying?” I asked. (Don’t miss her picture at the bottom. You can feel her energy and fun, so you know you would have talked to her too! )

That question opened the sweetest conversation where my new friend Anna’s story of giving unfolded. It was so moving that I wanted to share it with you here.

The reason I love it so much is that Anna gave from what was already in her hands. She heard from God, looked down at what she had, and gave generously. Think you have nothing to give? Well, listen to Anna’s story and maybe you’ll reconsider. Please welcome Anna!

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My sweet friends, as I have been looking toward the Christmas season I have found myself wanting more. MORE!!!!! Let me explain.

As part of my business with a beauty, health and wellness company, we release an exclusive holiday line each year that is specifically for gifts for the holidays. People love this and wait all year for these products to come out!  They are luxurious.  I literally groan when I put them on because they smell and feel so good.

So! Imagine my surprise when I couldn’t get excited about the Open Houses I have lined up to release them this year. This is an opportunity for people to come, experience, have fun, and shop to their heart’s content for their friends and loved ones.  Such a great time and I couldn’t for the life of me get excited about it. The dates were set, the holidays are approaching, but I couldn’t send out the invites.

Finally, after wrestling with this for weeks, I got still and asked the Lord about it. “What is this Lord?? Why can’t I get excited about this?! Why can’t I send these out these invitations? Friends, it came to me so quickly why I couldn’t get excited. It was because it didn’t matter.  I laid it down and walked away, trusting His timing with my planning.

Two days later, I was in my quiet space with Him praying about other things when what I needed to do hit me. And I mean an immediate knowingAt each of my events I would provide blank Christmas cards for those who attend to write letters of love and encouragement to girls that have been rescued from sex trafficking.  Additionally, anyone who wants to can purchase gifts for these girls at wholesale.

I started deeply sobbing knowing this was of the Lord. I immediately reached out to a friend who has been working with these girls and shared what God had just put on my heart. Seconds later, she texted me back–at 6 a.m. mind you–affirming this prompting as she had just stepped into conversation with a global organization who rescues these girls. My friend has been working locally and is now committed globally and I had no idea.  This is the invitation of God.

Friends, I was scared. I am a little bit scared. I immediately asked 6-8 close friends to pray for me as I step into what I know is a battlefield. I have been roughed up in the battle in the past, and a piece of me fears stepping back in. But, girls, so much more than the fear of the battle is these beauties–the fight for their redemption– and the invitation of God. So much more!!!

 Will I ever know them? Only God knows. What I do know is that He has given me an invitation to tangibly love His crushed vessels. His tender ones. And I have a literal balm of Gilead and a platform I can use to get it to them.  We are calling this Gifts of Redemption. I say ‘we’ because it is so very we. It is the we of everyone who steps in.

Today I want to ask you, will you give when you feel pause?  Even especially when we feel pause in activities that are common to us?  Will you be willing with me to give this pause stillness and ask the Lord honestly and openly, “What is it Lord?”  Will you lay down your plan in trust of His?  And with that, can He have your Yes with whatever He tells you?

And can I just remind you that His promise to us is always life to the full?? As I wrote this He reminded me of 2 Corinthians 1:20, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.”

This requires our agreement. This requires our yes.

I have to tell you that Gifts of Redemption has come out of nowhere for me.  This has never been a heart burning passion for me. However, from the moment I said “Yes”, He has only continued to give invitation even deeper into the Yes, and I am experiencing more and more of life to the full.

This season, let us step more and more into the Yes.

anna

 

Meet Anna… Wife to Ryan for 9 years, momma to two babies in heaven and two babies in my arms, the deepest of my longings is to say YES to Jesus every single day.

 

If you would like to be part of giving to Gifts of Redemption, please email Anna at alltimewoot@gmail.com for all the details. She’ll even write a handwritten card to include with your gift!

Also, consider what’s in your hands. A talent? A small business? Some extra time? In some quiet–a pause– ask God how He might want you to give what you’ve already got.

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Episode #26: Prioritizing Our People

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How can we truly focus on others in healthy ways this holiday season?

When holiday emotions are high, God calls us to follow Jesus’ example in cherishing others and handling them gently.

Cheri and Amy discuss how to shift our thinking in ways that lovingly prioritize our people.

Click on the graphic above to listen and access terrific free resources. Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!

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I Saw the Light. I Felt Loved. I Had Hope.

You’ve probably noticed that there’s been a theme in the last few weeks–giving/investing. The idea for the theme actually came from two places: the devotion I wrote, your comments, and an adorable woman I “randomly” met in the airport. (Make sure to read her awesome story next week!)

In the midst of all this, I want to share an opportunity to invest along with me. There’s an organization that has captivated my heart, it’s where I joyfully give my time, my talents, and my personal finances. It’s an organization that I can confidently say spends donations wisely and with integrity.

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Here are my top 5 reasons that I love P31 and am passionate about investing there:

  1. Our calling is to eradicate biblical poverty. That’s a goal I long to help fulfill!
  2. Measured growth is an important part of our DNA. As you saw in the video, our First 5 app was downloaded for the millionth time, and our devotions are now distributed to over 900,000 people world-wide. Our team plans for growth.
  3. I deeply love and respect the people I work with and follow. How many of us can say that about our work place? What you see online in social media, blog posts, and our website? That’s the real deal. No joke. These women love Jesus and each other. We’re not perfect, but we’re fully committed to follow Jesus.
  4. I know that there are eternal returns coming. When I read the comments left by the women who read and participate in our content, I see lives being changed and drawn closer to Jesus. Beautiful!
  5. We believe in the power of a community. Before Thanksgiving, I got the blessing of participating in our Thank-A-Thon. Our team called over 500 donors, and I did a small percentage of those calls. I hope you got one! It was amazing to connect with the women who do ministry with us. That’s the way we see it. You don’t pay for us to do ministry. We’re in ministry together–straight up!

There’s nothing that shows what God is doing better than a story. Please click here and take a few minutes to watch a beautiful story of the difference our ministry is making. I’m delighted that you get to see up close what I see in Proverbs 31 Ministries.

I’m proud to invest with you!

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Episode #25: Sticky and Prickly- Dealing with Our Tricky Holiday Emotions

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The holidays inevitably boil up some difficult emotions. Childhood hurts reemerge, too many people around fray our nerves, or loneliness leaves us feeling hollow.

Cheri and Amy process helpful ways to deal with our emotions instead of just pushing them down only to have them pop up later.

(Click on the graphic above to access the podcast and the free downloads. Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!)

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Episode #24: Alone But Not Lonely

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Every holiday image we see is centered around family, friends, and rooms full of smiling people.

Facing a holiday spent alone—or feeling alone—is hard.

Cheri and Amy talk about shifting our perspective so that a “silent night” isn’t a painful night but one filled with peace instead.

(Click on the graphic to go listen. Prefer to read rather than listen? Download the transcript right here!)

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Why You SHOULD Think of Yourself When You Give

I was a little surprised. No push-back from last week’s post on giving? Maybe it wasn’t as counter-intuitive to you as it has been to me.

In my reforming perfectionistic brain, there used to be 2 main rules for giving (my time, my money, my talents, my heart):

  • You should never expect anything in return.
  • You should never think about yourself. That’s selfish.

Those bad beliefs have been challenged in my life, and I invite you to process the challenge with me.

As I said last week, I believe we should expect to receive something in return, and I think we should absolutely think of ourselves when we give. As I said last week, we need new terms for thinking this way. From here on out, I’m going to switch to the vocabulary I used last week. When we give, we might not think of ourselves, but when we invest, we should be looking to how we’re affected.

Here’s why thinking of ourselves when we invest is crucial:

We should ruthlessly seek the good work being done within us. In the comments you left over the last few weeks, I’ve read a few with a longing to have your evident spiritual gift. For some of you, giving is like breathing. You can’t do life without it, and it’s part of your divinely given DNA. Giving is your gift.

I wish giving was my gift, but it’s not. Giving is a challenge for me. I lean toward selfishness and comfort, and I have to fight against those negative forces every time I do something for someone else. It’s an ugly part of me to share, but I’m just keepin’ it real.

When I give, I have to ask God to reveal my motives with His spotlight of righteousness. Am I investing with eternal purposes in mind, or do I have a hidden selfish motive? Am I doing truly investing for another, or do I have a secret motive for gain?

Investing always stretches me in the best possible way.

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How can we know our motives are pure so that God’s purifying work can be accomplished in our investing? It must be done from love.

“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.” I Corinthians 13:3 (NIV)

Too often I’ve given so that I can boast. Sadly, that’s an investment with a negative return. I become more entrenched in self when I give this way, but love means that I gain God’s refining work in me. Let’s invest in love with an eye to gaining more of the fruits of the Spirit like thankfulness (Psalm 106:1) and to earning the blessing of more Jesus in us (Acts 20:35).

We should choose to be nothing, but we shouldn’t see ourselves as nothing. In Philippians 2:5-11, we read that Jesus chose a position of humility. He “made himself nothing”. He gives us a high example to follow in His humility. As I say in Breaking Up with Perfect,

“Rather than trading on His rightful position, Jesus intentionally gave up the perfection of heaven and chose a new position. ‘He made himself nothing.’ He isn’t nothing, but He chose to become nothing. Although He holds power and authority and is due respect, He elected to abdicate the rights and benefits of His high status by giving up the privileges He rightfully holds with His rank. Giving up perfection, He accepted an assignment in a flawed, broken, sinful world as a servant.” (p. 63)

It’s good to choose to become nothing because that reflects Christ-like humility. It’s not good to believe you are nothing.

Even though there were only the sounds of crickets chirping after my post last week, I’m sure that many of you have bought into the two bad beliefs I confessed at the start of this post. I heard it in the comments in the devotion and blog post I wrote several weeks ago, and some of your comments broke my heart in two.

I heard the echoes of what you believe about yourself in what you wrote. You. Don’t. Count. I want to set the record firmly in place on that belief. You, dearest one, do count. You matter.

There’s an equation that God the Father established in the Old Testament that Jesus the Son repeats in the New. When a man who wanted to test Jesus approached Him with a question, here’s how it went down:

 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22: 36-40)

There’s an equation here with three parts:

Love God + Love others + as yourself= Greatest commandments

You are not a zero sum in the equation. Jesus put you there.

Perfectionists often get this wrong. We’ve stripped ourselves out of the equation for so long that we become convinced that we don’t count–To Jesus. To anybody else.

I love how some genius used one of my all-time favorite words, JOY, to make an acronym.

J-Jesus
O-Others
Y-You

Here’s the thing. Too many of us are only experiencing JO instead of JOY. See the problem? 🙂 Here are some questions to discern whether you’re leaving yourself out of the investment equation in a negative way:

  • Is it wearing you out and leaving you empty instead of building you up and making you filled?
  • Are others appreciative of what you give? I’m not talking about expecting gratefulness everyday or every time, but God cares about you. In asking you to invest, He’s not asking you to be prey for takers. That’s enabling, not investing. If you suspect that you’ve taken on the roll of enabling, put “you” back into the joy equation and see how the investing feels then.
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