Dream-Reviver Giveaway

I’m so glad you’re here today because I have a treat for you. A special welcome to those who are visiting from Encouragement for Today!

In today’s devotion, When God Seems Late, I expressed my sometimes-impatience with God’s timing and shared how I’m learning to wait for His appointed, just-right time for His promises to be fulfilled.

Knowing Sarah’s story has strengthened my ability to wait, but sometimes it’s really, really hard. In long journeys, we need refreshing and reviving along the way for our dreams. That’s why I’ve gathered some encouraging resources for we who are waiting. There’s even enough inspiration here to share with a friend or two!

If you’re the winner, you’ll receive:

  • Breaking Up with Perfect by Amy Carroll
  • Doing Busy Better by Glynnis Whitwer (she’s got a guest post coming that I can’t wait to share!)
  • She’s Still There by Chrystal Evans Hurst
  • Wait and See by Wendy Pope
  • A beautiful embroidered clutch from India (where half my heart lives)

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment telling where you’re from. I get so excited about seeing the hometowns of all my visitors here. If you’d like to share a story about your wait or what you’ve learned while waiting, I’d love to hear that too!

There will only be one winner of the giveaway, but I don’t want anyone to leave today empty handed. For weekly encouragement and a free five-day devotional called “Five Days to Himperfection”,  click here to subscribe to my blog. I’d love to have you on the journey with me from less perfection to more joy!

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How to Balance Grief and Grace

Maybe you’ve noticed that I’m a girl that loves words. 🙂

An SAT word makes my pulse race. The perfectly turned phrase makes me sigh in bliss. A beautifully written book is my constant friend until I’ve read the last line. I love to read words, write words and speak words.

But it’s my words that come out of my mouth that most often get me in trouble. In fact, I’ve been known to tell my friends that this proverb should be tattooed on my forehead,

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking…” (Proverbs 10:19a NKJV)

But what I really need is the second part. “But he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19b)

This struggle with over-using and abusing my words isn’t new, and maybe that’s what’s made it incredibly painful to me. In the past six months, these questions have run through my mind over and over again.

How could you have said that?

Why wouldn’t you just stop talking?

Why can’t you learn to just listen instead of needing to give your two cents?

Will you ever learn?

You can probably hear the grief in those questions. Grief over my insensitive words. Grief in the number of my words. Grief cause by how my words have affected others.

Grief is good because it leads to repentance, but when we allow grief to take over, like I’ve been doing, it stops being constructive and starts being destructive. When grief takes over it leads to shame. When grief takes precedence, it creates a broken spirit. When we let grief bully, it becomes a bludgeon instead of a tool.

What’s confident grace?

I’ve been studying Job through First 5, and I’ve read as Job defended his own righteousness over and over to his friends. In my reading today Job says, “Let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless.” (Job 31:6 NIV) He is sure that none of his suffering is deserved because he knows that his behavior is spotless.

Part of what we learn in Job is that some of his assumptions about God and His motives were incorrect, yet Job was sure of his own righteousness.

I started thinking that even though I can’t claim blameless behavior (it’s kinda wretched sometimes if truth be told), I can stand in confident righteousness. I’m able to stand in righteousness instead of wallowing in grief over sin because of Christ. In His grace, He bought my righteousness with His blood.

For those of you who have walked with the Lord for a long time, I hope you’re feeling as free as I am from that truth. We should feel shaken by our sin, but we shouldn’t be shocked by our sin. We’re sinners after all. We should use those first moments of grief to turn us away from that sin and toward Christ, but we shouldn’t embrace the grief and hold onto it. We should leverage it to move us forward into grace and then stand in the righteousness that grace gives.

For those of you who are new to being a Christian, some of this might sound like a foreign language to you. Here’s a practical application. Do you wrestle with repetitive guilt over your past? Use that moment of guilt and grief. Feel it, and then pray. Ask God to forgive you and to help you to hand that sin over once and for all. Then, stand in confident grace, the knowledge that you’ve been made right by Jesus.

I’ve been a Christian for almost 40 years now, but I need to go through those simple steps again rather than allowing myself to be mired in grief, shock and shame.

Here’s a final thought that’s helped me as I’ve grappled and struggled to live this lesson in the last week. My friend Cheri Gregory compared our spiritual growth to a video game where the player progresses through levels. Even though one level might look similar to a previous level, it’s more difficult and higher. As we learn the same lessons in new season, let’s stand in confident grace, knowing that God is using this new level to take us to a place of being more like Jesus.

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Our recent Grit ‘n’ Grace interview with Tricia Lott Williford left Cheri and I with some beautiful lessons about confidence. Click on the graphics below to hear our interview with Tricia and then to listen to how Cheri and I processed what she shared with us.

 

 

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Lord, Help My Unbelief!

Thank you for visiting from today’s devotion, Dealing with My Doubt. I’m so glad you’re here!

One of the ways I remind myself to walk in God’s truth is to post His Word all over my house. I’ve made this free download of a verse that hangs on my office wall for you to print and post as you walk with me, wrestling our doubts to the ground. Click on the image below to access it and ENJOY!

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Need more encouragement in your day? Then join Cheri Gregory and I for the Grit ‘n’ Grace podcast!

We mix Scripture, life and a whole lot of giggles into 20 minute episodes that also include great guests like Kathi Lipp, Shaunti Felhahn, Chrystal Evans Hurst (upcoming episode) and a whole lot more. Click on the graphic below to listen. If you subscribe while you’re there, you won’t have to miss a single episode AND you’ll receive 12 Permission slips to break bad rules. 🙂

Grit 'n' Grace

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How Could This Happen?

How could this happen?

So often that’s our first question when something occurs that rocks our soul… that doesn’t make sense… that sends a stab of pain into the center of our heart.

How could this happen?

It’s been the question in my mind and mouth the last two mornings as the waves of two events shook my underpinnings. The once-settled dust of Big Questions scattered and flew in the winds of tragedy.

On Tuesday morning, I heard Lysa TerKeurst tell our team through sobs that her marriage was ending. If you haven’t already, you can read her post Rejection, Heartache and a Faithful God.

This morning I turned on the morning news to the shocking scene that all of America knows of by now– a baseball field littered with the bodies and blood of our politicians.

How could this happen? thundered over and over in my heart in the past two days, and I’ll bet you feel the same grief. The same confusion. The same anger over things that should not be.

I have to admit that I’ve come a long way just to ask the question. In my pre-break up days (with perfection), I would have tried to find the silver lining. I would have tried to slap a label on it that seemed to shove everything back in order. I would have pulled out a few falsely shiny platitudes and scattered them like poisonous seeds. I didn’t deal well with pain and senselessness and fear.

But I’ve learned to take David’s advice. “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62: 8)

Instead of hiding our tears, tremblings, and terrible questions from God, let’s run to Him with them. Let’s bust down the door of His divinely offered refuge and bring it all in with us. There, in the warmth and comfort of His Presence, let’s pull out each sharp-edged query one by one and ask Him. Not with an accusation or a clenched fist but with the  tear-stained and trusting face of a child.

And then let’s listen because He still speaks. Let’s listen to His Word. Let’s listen to His Spirit. And then let’s rest in the love of our Father Refuge and in the sometimes-mysteries of His ways.

He loves us. He really does. Lysa reminded us and so did many on the news today. He loves us, and He’s not afraid of our questions. He wants to fill our seeking hearts, not always with the answers we want but always with the comfort we need.

Run to the Refuge with me today, and let’s seek the Lord together, asking the questions and praying for all those in the middle of the maelstrom.

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In a season of terrible grief after I lost my precious friend Linda to breast cancer, God sent two of His people to me with books that answered lots of my questions and gave me comfort where there were no answers. I highly recommend these if you’re suffering and grieving.

A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss by Jerry Sittser

Where Is God When It Hurts by Philip Yancey

 

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A Cathedral or a Tent

Last weekend, Barry, my parents, and I visited our oldest son, Anson,  in Cincinnati where he goes to school. It was a wonderful weekend full of the joy of being reunited and the fun of experiencing the pieces of his life.

We went to his concert…

And we toured a fabulous sign museum (who knew there was so much history and so many stories associated with signs?)…

And we visited a beautiful cathedral where Anson played a concert last semester. (No pictures since mass was about to start.)

That visit was actually a surprise, but there was something there that had moved my boy so much that he wanted to share it. Truthfully, I wasn’t too excited about this stop until I went inside. Once there, I understood exactly the awe that he wanted to transmit.

I walked around in the hush craning my neck to see the tops of soaring ceilings, examining the tiny tiles that composed mosaics of exquisite beauty, and soaking in the light shining through dazzling stained glass windows. The space was breathtaking. The stories told all centered on Jesus. The people there were all bent in prayer, and there was an air of expectancy… of wonder… of awe.

In the midst of it all, I was overcome by the weight of the majestic presence of God. My mom even shed a few tears when we got in the car, talking about God’s presence there, and I welled up too. It was a space where He undeniably resided but also where I felt His Kingship acutely. It was a place that inspired worship, and I felt the pleasure of God in that truth. Worship was chiseled into every stone and carved into each altar.

I’ve been thinking about that space ever since, and it’s made me wonder. Have we gotten far too cozy with God? Has our embrace of our friendship with Him made us neglect the reverence of Him? Is God pleased with our jeans-on-Sunday attitudes in a room that’s far more often lit by stage lights than candle light?

Before you jump in with a comment about your preference, please ponder with me for a minute. We need to remember reverence. We need to bring our best to His Highness. We need to make Him center of our worship arts and everything else.

Today, however, as I read in II Samuel 7, I realized that my thoughts had carried me slightly in the wrong direction.

Here’s what God Himself said to David who longed to build God a house that he saw as worthy of Him,

“Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’ (II Samuel 7:5-7)

I grinned a little when I thought of this exchange between David and God, and I cried a little too. It sounds like David might be a recovering perfectionist. His heart was in the right place, and he wanted to do things the right way. Surely, surely he shouldn’t live in a nicer house than God, and he wanted to set things “right”.

But our “right” and God’s true right don’t always match.

Yes, we need to pursue God and long for His presence.

Yes, we need to focus our gifts and their products on Him.

Yes, we need to bring our best to Him in worship.

The way this needs to be done–the specifics of where, when and how–need to be set by Him, though. David thought God needed a temple. God was content and present in the tent.

He doesn’t reside in a place of our prescription. He isn’t summoned by our methods. He isn’t please with what we decide to bring.

He wants us to seek Him and follow Him. That’s it.

He shows up in cathedrals and tents. He comes to us when we’re in suits and when we’re in jeans. His Presence falls when we’re on our knees or stretching with lifted hands.

“The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you.” (II Samuel 7: 11b)

He has established a house for Himself. It’s us! It’s His indwelling Spirit in the human temple of His children.

The Spirit of God didn’t reside in that cathedral just because it was grand. He was there because I was there. He was there because my mom, and my dad, and my husband, and my son were there. If you’re a believer, He would be there if you were there too!

Rest today, reforming perfectionists. You don’t have to build the temple. You are the temple. He’s with you. You don’t have to work harder or figure out the “right” formula. Let’s bask in the overcoming, weighty Presence of our majestic God.

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Note: I’d be negligent today if I didn’t tell you how much I LOVE First 5, Proverbs 31’s Bible study app. That’s the study that sparked all of this in my heart today, so if you haven’t joined, click on the graphic below to find out more.

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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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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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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.

A Gift for You:

To use the graphic above as desktop wallpaper, click on the size that works for you: (Feel free to download all three. You may have to use a little trial and error like me!)

1900 x 1200

1280 x 1024

1024 x 768

 

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A Little Win that Made a Big Difference

In my last post, I shared a failure from last year. As a recovering perfectionist, I often haven’t dealt well with falling on my face. Failure makes me feel… well, like a failure.

God wouldn’t allow me to sink into despair this time, though. The morning after I sat in my chair and realigned my identity with His sacrifice, God reminded me of a way that I had grown during the year.

Withdrawing from God during hard times has always been my tendency. Oh, I might look fine on the outside, maintaining a bright smile and my regular activities, but my prayer life would fizzle when bumps in the road were under my feet.

God gently reminded me that I didn’t do that this year. I brought each emotion to Him and laid it at His feet. I asked Him the big questions and begged Him to intervene. I approached Him with confidence, knowing that He loved me and would see me through. Following David’s counsel, I poured out my hear to Him.

To get a glimpse at how big of a change that’s been for me and get some encouragement about how you too can stay close to God in hard times, click here to read the rest of this post over at Kathi Lipp’s blog.

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