Three Ways to Become Unparalyzed by Perfection

Hi, friends! You’re in for a bonus treat today. My friend Dawna Hetzler is sharing some beautiful thoughts on moving beyond the paralyzation of perfection. Please welcome Dawna!

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I would tell you that I wasn’t staring at him, but I’d be lying. He immediately caught my attention as he wheeled himself down the isle. Stopping beside me, he said, “Hello.” I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.

He lifted himself up in his wheelchair. Unabashed, he balanced on his knees where his lower legs used to be. Unable to move, I watched him stretch, reaching for something on the store’s upper shelf.

What if he fell?

He wobbled as he grabbed his item, and then sat back down in his chair. Before I could offer to help, he’d completed his task. He nodded at me and continued his shopping.

I stood there immobilized by my thoughts. What empowered him to be so, whole? 

His exterior shell broken, but inside—something beautifully different.

I was mesmerized by him, and suddenly it was clear; I’ve been living paralyzed by perfection. My perfection cripples me into believing that everything I do has to be impeccable—my worth rides on my success. But this guy taught me otherwise. He elevated his viewpoint, lived outside the lines, and appeared contented—all signs of living imperfectly.

Now I felt like the one with the handicap. Without a word, he taught me three ways to become unparalyzed by perfection.

Straighten Up

Contorting our alignment, perfectionism bends our perspective—revealing untruths—like if we fail, we’re worthless. There’s a story in the Bible about a woman who had an infirmity for eighteen years and was bent at the waist. “When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’ Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.” (Luke 13:12-13 NIV)

How long have you been bound by perfectionism? It’s time to straighten up! Go to Jesus. He’ll change your perspective. Now looking heavenward, you’ll see there’s only One who is perfect. Then you will be free to walk straight, seeing from the proper viewpoint.

Live Outside the Lines 

Once you’re standing upright, do something out of your comfort zone—live outside the lines.

~Drive with the windows down and let your hair get incredibly messy.

~Get a cake and take a spoonful right from the center. Go ahead, eat from the middle.

~Color outside the lines in a coloring book—make the tree trunk bright orange, the leaves purple, and paint the sky green instead of blue.

Just do something that pushes you outside the lines of perfection that keep you restrained.

Love your life 

On the radio, I interviewed a young man with down syndrome, he looked at me through cheerful eyes and as best he could articulate he said, “I la eye ife!” (I love my life!) I sat there in awe. This differently-abled person proclaimed contentment, even though he had every right to feel otherwise. He made a choice to love his life.  At that moment, I felt a surge of conviction, transformed into gratefulness. And then I joined him in song, “I love my life too!”

Perfection doesn’t validate us, it makes us invalid.

That day, I walked out of the store transformed. Standing upright, challenging myself in a new way, and loving my life—unconfined from the handicap of perfectionism. And I walked out straighter than when I came in.

Your turn. I would love to hear how you’ve overcome perfectionism.

Dawna Hetzler is NOT a morning person and needs lots of coffee to get going, thinking, possibly even breathing. She is a speaker, author of Walls of a Warrior—Conquering the fears of our hearts, and the founder of a growing network of women called, The Jericho Girls.

Connect with her at: www.dawnahetzler.com or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Jerichogirls/

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Knowing I’m Chosen

“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. ” I Corinthians 1: 27-29 

Most of us aren’t people our world would consider wise. We’re not physically powerful like those who competed in the Olympics or unimaginably rich like so many in Hollywood. I know I’m not!

But watching how God is at work in the weak, poor, and most vulnerable of this world has taught me a critical lesson. Even when we don’t have much, our desperation for God is enough. It’s where He shows up.

Our key scripture tells us that God doesn’t just tolerate the foolish, weak, and lowly. He chooses them.

God delights to show His majesty to the meek. He longs to pour out His sufficiency on the suffering. He wants to reveal Himself to the poor in spirit, to those who mourn, and to those hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

It’s our desperation displayed through these characteristics that summon the power of God. Even though the world may tell us that we’re unworthy or unqualified for God’s glorious Presence, He can take a life like yours and mine and show up there. Our surrender is all that’s required to experience God’s power.

Prayer:

Lord, I’m desperate for Your Presence, and I surrender my whole self to You. I know that what I’m offering is humble and  lowly, so I praise You now that You choose the poor in spirit. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

This devotion is part of It Starts with Him: A 30-day Prayer Guide to End Human Traffickingproduced by my amazing friend Abbi Tenalgia, founder of Transforming Hope. Click here to access this beautiful and helpful resource.

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Helped AND Happy

Even though Ben Saunders, polar explorer, attained a goal that no human had ever attained, he still struggles with disappointment. Why? Because he needed, asked for, and accepted help.

For a total of 105 days, Ben and his partner had pursued their goal, walking 1800 miles from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. They were traveling in some of the harshest conditions on earth. There was 24 hour a day sunlight with no dark to mark their sleep. The sledges they hauled were over 400 pounds each. There were almost constant white-out conditions that Ben described as “like being inside a ping pong ball,” and the temperatures dipped to -70 degrees wind chill.

I listened to Ben’s story on the TED Radio Hour through my earbuds as I walked. I was awed, and I identified.

I’m not an athlete, so I couldn’t identify with him on that level.

I haven’t had an epic adventure like Ben, so I couldn’t identify with him on that level.

This southern girl’s warm blood would surely never survive that kind of cold, so I couldn’t identify with him on that level at all!

When Ben got to the end of his story, however, I suddenly had a flash of understanding. We’re not so different.

When Ben and his travel partner were almost to their destination, a storm came that slowed down their progress to the point that they ran out of food. Suddenly, they had a decision to make. Should they press ahead and face the potential of starvation or ask for help?

Ben really, really didn’t want to ask for help because he had patterned his trip after the Scott expedition from the early 1900s. The expedition goal was to do it “unassisted” meaning that they’d only survive on the food they brought or could retrieve that they had stashed along the way. They were miles away from their nearest outpost, and Ben knew that they had to call for resupply. After all, the Scott expedition hadn’t gained the record because the whole team died on the return from the South Pole. They didn’t want to meet the same fate.

So Ben and his partner used their cell phones to call for help, and a plane brought food–sumptuous food that tasted like the best meal they had ever eaten! They finished their journey and today hold the record for the longest-human powered polar journey in history.

It was when Ben was explaining that needing to ask for help still bugs him that I started to identify deeply with him. He said, “It’s something my ego is still struggling with. It was the biggest dream I’ve ever had, and it was so nearly perfect.”

I have that mentality too. I have thoughts like It only counts if I do it by myself. Or People will think I’m weak if I ask for help. Or Doing it perfectly means doing it alone.

I saw that attitude in myself even this week. I chose to go to a doctor’s appointment alone where there was the possibility of bad news. When I told a friend that I went alone, she said, “Why didn’t you ask me to go with you?!”

Thankfully, I had good news from the doctor, but I had to think about her question. I didn’t like the answer. I didn’t ask her because I didn’t want to be a bother. (My perception, not hers) Because I thought I should be able to handle it myself.

How silly of me to have such a great friend and not ask for her help!

At the end of the interview, Ben ended with this quote:

“Happiness is not a finish line. And if we can’t feel content on our journeys amidst the mess and the striving that we all inhabit– the loops, the half-finished to do lists, the could-do-better-next-time– then we might never feel it.”

Happiness and help. They’re not mutually exclusive. Not only can we have happiness AND help, I’m coming to believe that we’re happier with help. As I said in Breaking Up with Perfect,

“There is truly a time and a need in our souls for giving, but there’s also an often-neglected but necessary time for receiving. Sharing is a concept that implies both giving and receiving. Giving is the mark of charity, and charity is a virtue; however, always giving while never receiving is a lonely, one-sided deal. In contrast, giving and receiving in season creates community.” (p. 112 Breaking Up with Perfect)

To be connected with others in community and friendship brings happiness. To have this happiness, sometimes we need to be ready to ask for and receive help. I’m not ready for an expedition to the South Pole, but I’m ready for help and greater happiness!

If you’re like me and have a hard time asking for help, Breaking Up with Perfect might be just the book for your summer reading. Click here to see where it can be purchased, and then enjoy the free Online Book Study right here on the website!

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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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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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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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Jesus Helped Me Bounce Back

I’m a glass-half-full kind of girl.

My personality leans naturally toward sunny, and joy seems to be a gift God has woven into my DNA. I tend to be able to let things run off me, and I’m not offended easily.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not completely Polly Anna. Just like you, I’ve had pain and losses and disappointments, but I’ve always rebounded pretty easily.

Until 2016.  2016 kicked my booty.

In multiple areas of my life, I experienced some things that broke my heart, and instead of settling in to let God heal and reassemble, I wrestled. I cried. I sank into the hurt, and as I embraced the hurt instead of God’s healing, I fought a loosing battle with…

Doubt

Despair

Disappointment

I didn’t stay in these dark places all day every day, but slowly over the course of the year, I was moving towards decline instead of growing towards incline. I covered it pretty well, though, so that most around me didn’t know the darkness I was experiencing.

Finally, in the weeks before Christmas, I confessed to Barry and a friend, “I feel like I’m walking along the edge of a cliff. I’m ok right this minute, but I feel like I could fall off into a major depression at any moment.”

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever let your circumstances overwhelm you? I knew that’s what I had done.

I let my circumstances overwhelm me, and only I can let that happen. Still, I couldn’t figure out how to stop.

The day after I had confided the depths of my hurt to Barry, I sat in the chair where I meet Jesus every morning, and I asked Him, “How did I get here? And how do I get out?”

Gently, He reminded me of two blog posts that I had read in the previous weeks, one from a wise mentor and one from a young woman who is the daughter of a friend. Then He whispered into my heart with a voice as clear as yours across the phone lines, “Amy, you’ve let your identity slide back into what you do. Your identity isn’t in what you do. It’s to be in Christ.”

Oh. Yeah.

It’s so simple, isn’t it? Even baby Christians know this is the way it’s supposed to work, but I forgot somehow… even though I pecked out these words on my keyboard in 2014,

“When tasks rise to the top of my priorities, I stop seeing myself as the richly loved daughter of King Jesus and start feeling like the stepdaughter dressed in rags scrubbing the floor under her Father’s harsh, critical gaze. I start to see God as an unrecognizable taskmaster, and I begin to believe I’m only created to do His work…. Viewing God simply as a divine project manager skews our view of ourselves into dangerously prideful territory, where the work of our hands is exalted above the work of God’s Spirit. The path to the perfectionism pit is short when we trust our own methods and focus on our product.”  ~Breaking Up with Perfect

Even though it was hard to admit that I needed to learn an old lesson again, I thanked God for clearly showing me how to get back on the path to joy. I asked for His forgiveness in allowing my identity to be anyplace but in the safe and loving arms of Jesus, and I asked Him to change my heart.

That’s when a miracle happened.

I’m not one to bandy around lightly a weighty word like “miracle”, friends. I know I experienced a true miracle and the healing of my heart. Many times God heals over time, but this time, I got out of my chair almost physically lighter for having let go of the heft of my own responsibility and shifting into Christ’s rest.

And yet I worried… I was worried that it might be temporary. Or that the sadness might come back the next day. Or that I couldn’t live in this joy, but I’ve experienced a permanent change of heart.

Jesus helped me bounce back.

Are you struggling with the hurt of unexpected circumstances? The pain of being misunderstood? The despair of doubting your calling?

I have one step for you to take. Do a little heart check. Where is your identity resting? Is it tethered to the crumbly underpinnings of your own work? Your own efforts? Your own calling?

Or is it attached firmly to the sure foundation of Christ– a place of rest and safety and unfailing love?

Taking that one step, checking where my identity lay, and asking God to move it back where it belonged set me back on the right track. I believe it can help you too!

In picking apart how I got into the pit and how God helped me out, He also let me see the growth and good that has happened this year. Please hang with me next week to hear about a major victory that might be just what you need too!

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Congratulations to Katharine (1.5.17 10:35 am), the winner of a copy of Overwhelmed!

If you read this, and your first reaction was, “Oh pooh! I really wanted to win that book!” can I make a suggestion? Go and buy it today anyway. There’s still an opportunity to get the companion planner for free when you buy it, so click on the title above and see all the details.

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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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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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Procrastination & Perfectionism Go Hand-in-Hand

Today is the last guest post from my group of recovering-perfectionist friends. I hope you’ve enjoyed them and collected some of the books along the way!

Glynnis Whitwer, today’s guest, is a woman I both love and respect. I pursued her friendship from the first time I met her at She Speaks with our Proverbs 31 team because she’s smart, warm, and a woman known for her integrity.

Please welcome her today and leave a comment at the end to win a copy of her book and mine.

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Years ago, I naively thought I was decent at decorating, until people started re-doing my efforts. Whether at church or work, if I was assigned the setup of a table of any kind—snacks, desserts, book sales—someone would come along behind me and re-arrange the items.

It happened so often, that I just stopped trying. I’d laugh it off, and ask to be assigned something else. It’s hard to face a weakness.  And because I so desperately want to be good at decorating, it hurts.

When I take a step back, I can see that my standard for decorating is ridiculous.  I’m comparing my home, my income, my resources and my style to others who are truly gifted in this area.  Logically I should see those comparisons and my personal expectations aren’t fair, and give myself a break.

Only there’s this critical voice inside me that says admit defeat and give up.  In a quiet little hiss it says things like, “You’ll never be happy with the results … someone will come along behind you and do it better … you aren’t artistic … if you can’t do it well, just forget it.”

That voice has a name: Perfectionist.  And it’s not my friend.

One would think that the desire to do things well is an asset. And it is.  But perfectionism isn’t the pursuit of excellence. It’s the pursuit of perfection.

Excellence is possible is some things; perfection is possible in nothing.

Excellence pushes us to do our best; perfectionism pushes us to be the best.

Perfectionism is the enemy of learning and growing and enjoying areas of life where we haven’t achieved mastery. And we procrastinate addressing those areas for fear of feeling unsatisfied, critical, and discouraged.

Procrastination and perfectionism go hand-in-hand for me.  And one of my most memorable bouts with perfectionism was when I was writing a book on procrastination.

It was amazing what other tasks I chose to do rather than write.  They were all things I’d procrastinated, but apparently dreaded less than writing that book.

I scheduled a medical screening I’d put off for years, made a copy of a car key that required a special locksmith with a special machine, and decided to start excising again.

But write? I was paralyzed by the thought of it.  Seriously, why did I tackle a topic that only very intelligent people with lots of degrees and initials behind their name wrote on? I’m no expert!

The more I researched the topic, the more I became so consumed over what to include in the book, that I couldn’t start. Visions of people thinking they’d wasted their money just about made me sick.

Then it didn’t help that I’m friends with someone who has had three books hit the New York Times best-seller list. And although I know I shouldn’t compare my success with hers, the impossibility of writing a best seller made me want to call my publisher to quit multiple times.

Finally, I had to admit I wasn’t going to write a perfect book.  And I’m not the perfect person to write on this subject. But I have been called by God to do it.  So, since He is MUCH smarter than me, I decided I better sit down at the computer, ask for His help, and start writing, trusting God to lead me.

This was not a one-and-done conversation I had with myself. Each chapter, I had to face that same high expectation and those same fears.  What if I left something important out? What if I quoted a study that was debunked a year later, only I didn’t know it? What if a psychologist reads this and posts an angry comment on Amazon?

The perfectionist bully taunted me with dire consequences throughout the entire process of writing this book.

So how did I actually get it done?  I chose to trust God.

I know that sounds simple, but it’s really true. Years ago God challenged me to trust Him, not just say I trusted Him.  What a difference it makes.

Perfectionism directed my focus on the end result.  But when I took my eyes off the results and put them on God, perfectionism lots its grip on me.

No longer was the burden of the results squarely on my shoulders.

Just knowing God won’t let me down gave me courage to start. And He’ll do the same for you. Here is some truth from His Word:

Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

When we are faced with a challenging assignment, one where we doubt our ability to do it perfectly, we can choose to trust God will not fail us. Assured of God’s faithfulness and His love, we can proceed with confidence, giving the work our best efforts.

GlynnisWhitwerGlynnis Whitwer is on staff with Proverbs 31 Ministries as the Executive Director of Communications. She is one of the writers of Encouragement for Today, the Proverbs 31 e-mail devotions, with over 750,000 daily readers.  She is the author and co-author of 8 books, with her latest, Taming the To-Do List, releasing last summer. Glynnis, her husband Tod, have five young-adult children and live in Glendale, Arizona.  She blogs regularly at www.GlynnisWhitwer.com.

 

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