How to Create a Better List

Yes, it’s true. I’ve made no secret of my list addiction. My to-do lists keep me on track, supplement my overloaded memory and make me feel accomplished.

But as I’ve shared in today’s devotion, my lists sometimes overtake my true priorities. Not good!

A couple of years ago, my friend Carol shared a new list with me that keeps me on track. It’s called the To-You List, a genius idea straight from the heart of God. Instead of starting our days overcome with our to-do list, let’s replace it with the To-You List, all the things we need to turn over to God as well as our spiritual priorities for the day. This list is more about being than doing, and I’m imagine that if God wrote out our To-You List, it would look something like this:


(You can click on this image to download it and print it!)

It’s the start of the holiday season, so this is just the right time to prioritize our To-You List over our to-do lists. I need to go right now and print this to put on my refrigerator so that I don’t forget!

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If you’d like to hear Carol talk more about how she develops her To-You List, you can watch a video of us discussing it here. That part of the discussion starts at time-marker 12:20.

Breaking Up with Perfect online book study

This video is part of my free Book Study of Breaking Up with Perfect. If you’re looking for a self-paced study, you can find all the details by clicking on the graphic above. There are blog posts, videos and lots of free goodies, I’d love for you to join our private Facebook community too!

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Three Things to Remember If You’re an Imperfect Mom

Motherhood is when perfectionism hit me hardest.

If you’re a mom who resonated with that opening, I’ve got the cure for you today. Jessica Kastner, author of Hiding from the Kids in My Prayer Closet: Finding Grace and Laughter When Motherhood Gets Real, has some wise words for how to overcome perfectionism in motherhood. Please welcome Jessica to the blog today!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. Click here for the details.

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Ah motherhood. The place where our girlhood dreams of baby cuddling and tutu shopping collide with the reality of public tantrums and sanity droughts. Even the most prepared, most maternal of moms be all out shocked at the let-down that ensues when our visions of how we thought this would fly fall drastically short.

Big picture: we know we’re blessed beyond measure, and wouldn’t change a thing (okay we’d sleep more). But when you’re in the thick of those “challenging” moments, wondering when  you actually bathed last, or found yourself talking to yard squirrel while home and lonely with baby, it can be hard not to feel like you’re either doing something wrong, or falling short of friends continually Instagramming their smiling offspring  in non-stained shirts. I battled with feelings of disappointment and inadequacy early on, but now three boys in, after a decade of mothering, these three truths that have really helped me experience lots more joy while enjoying my kids.

Focus on what makes you great.

I burn meals. My laundry skills equate to clothing abuse, and I cannot, for all that is good, keep track of school/sports activities. I used to feel so frustrated by the fact that I seemed be missing this motherly chromosome allowing others to enjoy “mommy and me” craft time and managing to remember school holidays.

I slowly realized I might never be a shoo-in for the school’s “room mother,” (thank you, Jesus) but God has shown me how to appreciate the parts of me that do make a great mom. My kids might think potatoes come from a box, but we have dance ‘til ya drop worship parties  in our house, daily, and I have no problem putting my chores or work  aside to  jump on the trampoline with my boys or lay star gazing atop the shed roof. It’s all about the memories and quality time we spend with our kids. Of course we should always be praying to improve, but by focusing on our strengths and celebrating how we rock it, as a mom is key.

Nothing will ever be perfect if kids are involved. Period. 

And the sooner we accept it, the better! Whether it’s a birthday party, family picnic, beach trip or shopping venture, our experiences and outings with kids are very rarely as easy or perfect as we imagined. I don’t care if the sun is shining, the kids are freshly napped and you have a venti macchiato in hand, heaven can turn to disaster in the less than two minutes after baby takes a digger on the cement sidewalk or an older sibling needs a ride two hours before planned. There goes that playdate in the sky.

When we learn to live in the moment and not get hung up on the guaranteed wrenches thrown into our day, we become much more joyful, relaxed moms.

Find your own mother style.

I don’t believe there’s this magic, one-size-fits-all way to mother. The longer you’re a mom, the more you learn to craft your own style and approach parenthood in a way that suits your personality, and your kids’ needs. I think new moms and even some of us veterans get tripped up by feeling our home life has to look a certain way based on our childhood memories, delusions of grandeur, or comparison to friends. But since no child, mother, or set of circumstances are exactly the same, and since nothing (sweet Moses, nothing) prepares us for motherhood, we’ll never have it all “right.”

And just like any form of art, imitation stinks. If you’re a homeschooling mom with night owl kids, let ‘em stay up past ten if that works. If you find dinnertime to be more like veggie-eating boot camp-swallow now or else!-then start making fruit and kale smoothies with a side of bread for dinner, every night. It’s less than ideal at times, but allowing ourselves to approach every part of motherhood, with a blank canvas, really thinking about why and how we do things, can be very freeing, and much more conducive to joy.

Here’s to a great fall, with more laughter, and less perfection. The whites will gleam and the steak will be tender in heaven, that’s for sure.

Jessica Kastner is an award-winning journalist and a contributor for Beliefnet.com, Huffington Post’s Christianity blog, and CBN.com. As Connecticut’s coordinator for Straight Ahead Ministries, she shares God’s message of hope by leading Bible studies in juvenile detention centers. When she’s not on the trampoline with her three boys in her hometown of Southington, Connecticut, Jessica offers her commentary on Christian life at www.JessicaKastner.com.

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An Easy, Beautiful Way to Make a Difference

Hey, gang!

I wanted to let you know that tonight I’ll be co-hosting an online auction with my friend Sarah Carroll to benefit Encouraging Words, Inc. and Agape School in Kolkata. We’ll have beautiful goods from Nepal for sale, so you can buy something beautiful and help build a Christian school in one of the poorest places in Kolkata.

We’re doing it via Facebook Live so join the fun at 7:00 pm Eastern Time by clicking here to go to the auction Facebook page.

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How to Reach Every Beautiful Face and Heart

Did you know that Proverbs 31 Ministries’…

First 5 app has been downloaded in 115 countries in the world–including the UK, Singapore, the Philippines and Nigeria?

Devotions are distributed worldwide and that our top 11 countries include 2 in North America, 1 in Europe, 3 in Africa, 3 in SE Asia, and 2 in the South Pacific?

Online Bible Studies + Devotions + First 5 + website and social media reach = 192 countries total?

Y’all those statistics leave me in tears. Those aren’t just numbers. They’re faces.

Can you see them?

They’re every skin hue you can imagine. The variety and beauty of those faces are dazzling, and just below each face beats a heart. A heart created by God to be returned to Him.

I love Proverbs 31 Ministries for so many reasons, but the main one may be our desire to reach every heart around the world with the transforming gospel of Jesus. I’m proud to give of our family finances to support such an effort.

Will you click here to read my devotion today, and will you pray about giving to support the teaching of God’s Word that’s spreading through the world via Proverbs 31? I’d be so proud to have you stand with me!

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Something Sweet

We’re women, so by definition we wear lots of hats.

Nurturer

Employee

Domestic consultant

Family CEO

You know the deal, and I’m sure if you made a list of all your rolls, you could fill pages with all your gifts, responsibilities, and life investments. Sometimes the enormity of it all can make your head spin!

Last week I spent the week in FL with Barry. While he was on the road in his new territory, I worked at my computer in the hotel room, but I also took advantage of the workout room. And I worked HARD.

I sweated and toiled on the treadmill (thank goodness that Chip and Joanna were my companions to mix in some fun with the work), and by the end of the week, all my discipline really felt good. My pants were a little looser too. That’ll make a girl say hallelujah!

Whether you’re running on a treadmill or creating at your work or vacuuming in your home, I know you’ve been working hard too. We’re fulfilling the God-created blessing of work and this scripture…

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks. (Proverbs 31: 17)

All that work and discipline and work felt good, but late in the week, Barry and I were walking along through the business district near the hotel when we spotted a sign that said “French bakery” across the street. Oh dear.

I agonized for a bit, but then I decided that all that work deserved a little something sweet. The 80/20 rule, you know?So we hoped right across the street and bought this little box of goodness.

I’ve had macarons bought in a store before, and they’re ok, but they in no way compare to the scrumptiousness of these little jewels. We truly shared them one at a time because the yumminess of each bite was so satisfying. I’m grieving that I’m now home and so many miles away from more, but that’s probably God’s provision for my waistline! Enough about macarons already….

Here’s my profound permission for you:

Do something sweet for yourself today.

Seriously. Work hard at all the Lord has given you to do. Sweat and toil, because He’s embedded joy and satisfaction in it. But He made life sweet too. It’s to be enjoyed, not just endured, so do something to add a little sweetness today.

Cuddle with a grandchild.

Lay in the sunshine with a book.

Make your favorite cookies.

Turn up the radio and sing out loud.

Dance.

Whatever delights your heart and seems sweet to your soul, take a little time to indulge amidst the work of your day.

 

An exciting announcement:

You know me as mom, wife, speaker, writer… but maybe you don’t know I’m also a speaker coach. (Those of you who aren’t speakers or writers probably have friends who are, so would you hang in there with the post and consider sharing? I’d be so grateful!)

This week my partner Melanie Chitwood and I launched a brand new home for Next Step Coaching Services where we serve speakers and writers. I’m so, so excited about the new site, because it was designed to share lots and lots of free help along with information about our individualized coaching.

If you haven’t seen the site yet, I invite you to click on the graphic below and take a peek. I hope it encourages you, and I’d be so honored if you’d share it up.

Love being in community with y’all!

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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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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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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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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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