Amping Up the Joy in Our Work

At one point or another, we’ve probably all found ourselves out-of-love with our work. Weather your work is in an office, caring for a loved one or changing diapers, you’ve probably had days like me. Days of daydreaming of swinging in a hammock on a beach. With a cold drink in one hand and a good book in the other. And someone fanning me. And sparkles on the water…

Wait. Sorry! My day-dreaming took over, so I’m glad you’re still here.

See, just like I said in today’s devotion, seeing work as drudgery happens to the best of us. Only turning our work into worship gives it worth.

Sometimes it hard to shift from drugergy to delight, though. Here are a couple of ways I’ve found to amp up the joy in my work when it’s dulled:

Start Observing a Sabbath

This might seem like a pretty hard-core place to start, but in the last year, God’s been showing me that it’s crucial. The word “crucial” might reinforce our thoughts as an obligation, so let me try again. God’s been showing me that Sabbath is one of His most delicious gifts to us!  Here’s what Isaiah 58: 12-14 tells us,

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,
then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

Let’s start with the promises. God promises us JOY and TRIUMPH, opposites of drudgery. He says we’ll feast on our inheritance, a picture of abundance instead of scarcity. That sounds amazing, doesn’t it? Really different than dragging ourselves through each work day.

But there are some “ifs” that precede the promises. To receive those blessings, God tells us that we need to keep the Sabbath holy, call it a delight and follow His ways rather than our own. There’s so much here that we could spend weeks just on this passage.

The gist is that the Sabbath is meant to be a blessing to us, something for our benefit that increases our joy. Let’s embrace that truth instead of believing that Sabbath is an inconvenience (which I have to confess I’ve done for years)! I don’t want to lay out a set of rules about how that’s supposed to look, but I want to encourage you to do what I’ve been implementing better recently.

Take a day off to worship. To rest. To relax and enjoy.

It’s strange how simply taking a Sabbath changes the rest of my workweek, infusing it with more joy.

Re-Focus on the Good

Years ago, a friend asked how my job was going. I shared for awhile, but then I said, “I like my job, but it’s not awesome every day.”

I’ll never forget his apt reply. He said,”Well, if you loved it every day, it would be your hobby, not your job!”

I laughed, but he’s right. Every job we’ll ever have has up-sides and down-sides. Focusing on the positive will help us see our work in a better light than if we focus on the parts that we don’t like.

Here’s an easy exercise to help shift our focus: Divide a paper in half. Start with all the things you don’t like about your job. Here’s your chance to get it all out! (I don’t recommend sharing this with your boss, though.)

Now, on the other half, write down all the things you enjoy about your job. Once you’re done, pray and ask God to help you focus on the positives. As my friend Holly always says, “What we focus on grows.” She’s so right! Multiple times, this little exercise has shifted my feeling about my work back toward joy.

If you’d like to hear more about joy and worship in our work, I’d love to introduce you to Grit ‘n’ Grace, a podcast that I co-host with Cheri Gregory.

Click on the graphic below to visit our site and listen. We’re all about laughs with learning mixed in, so we hope you’ll subscribe and join us every week!

 

 

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Walk in Victory

Today I’m welcoming my friend Wendy Blight to share from her new Bible study on 1 John, I Am Loved: Walking in the Fullness of God’s Love. There’s lots of exciting information at the end of the post about how you can participate in a study of this wonderful book plus she’s giving away a copy to one of my readers below! 

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My husband and I began our marriage in a difficult place. Eleven months before we walked down the aisle, I was the victim of a horrific crime. For years, I lived in a prison of fear. It consumed my every waking moment. I avoided being alone at all costs.

Monty became my safe place. Being home alone terrified me. So, I never wanted him to leave me. When he chose to play basketball, or go to dinner with friends, I pouted, whining and complaining that he wasn’t putting me first.

This fractured our marriage. Days were hard and nights were long. Soon I began to imagine Monty looking elsewhere for the companionship he lacked with me. I demanded to know when and where he was at all times. When I couldn’t get a hold of him, I panicked.

Jealousy infiltrated my heart.

I knew these feelings were wrong. Even destructive. 

But I didn’t know how to overcome them.

As jealous thoughts took root, they became a mental obsession that fed me lies.

I felt my marriage, and my husband, slipping away. Completely at a loss to know what to do, I dropped to my knees and begged God to help me.

Thankfully, God made a way to release jealousy’s grip on me – and it was through loving Him. As I came to know God more intimately, my jealousy subsided.

God opened my eyes to see Christ in a new way … as my Savior and my “first love.” Until that time, I had found that love and security in my husband. I had confused love and need. I needed Monty so desperately that he became my savior. He was my defender and my protector from the evil in the world. I needed him more than anything else. If I was with him, I felt safe.

Monty sat on the throne of my heart; not God.

This, sister, is the perfect recipe for an unhealthy, destructive relationship. We should never “need” our husbands, our children, or anyone else more than Christ.

We should have only one Savior, and His name is Jesus.

We should have only one first love, and His name is Jesus.

This knowledge put my marriage in perspective. Jesus replaced Monty as my “first love.” Jesus is now my Defender, my Refuge and my Strong Tower. It was in Him and Him alone that I overcame all my fears.

And, Monty became the gift God had given me on this earth to reveal His perfect love to me. As God took His rightful place on the throne of my heart, Monty took his rightful place too.

God’s love left an indelible mark on my heart. His is a distinctive love that, when allowed to blossom and mature, becomes a driving force that nothing can contain.

Through it, God equips us to live distinctively different lives. First, by eradicating our old self through Jesus’ death on the cross. Second, by bestowing upon us a new self through His resurrection.

We express our appreciation for God’s abundant blessings most beautifully when we love others and live a life marked by love.

Some may be loveable people … those are the easy ones to love.

Some may be difficult people … those are the challenging ones to love.

Some may be invisible people … those are the uncomfortable ones to love. Who are the invisible? The disenfranchised. The voiceless. The forgotten. The rejected. The unpopular.

Friend, as you seek to live out the love God has implanted in you, remember these truths:

You have been born of God.

God loves you.

You love God.

You are a child of God.

In Christ, you have blood-bought brothers and sisters in Christ.

Knowing and believing these truths equips you to live loved and spill that love into this dark world.

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I Am Loved: Walking in the Fullness of God’s Love is for every woman who craves to truly understand, walk confidently in, and live out God’s unconditional, extravagant, lavish love because His love truly changes everything. Watch a sneak peek of the Bible study and download a sample week’s lesson for free here. 

The Giveaway

Comment below and one reader will win a copy of Wendy’s I Am Loved Bible study book and teaching DVD. U.S. Addresses only please.

All comments left through Sunday, January 7th will be entered to win. The time is short, so make sure to enter today. We want the winner to receive her book before the Online Bible Study starts!

 

An invitation for you!

Join us for our Online Bible Study of #IAmLoved at Proverbs 31 Ministries. It kicks off January 22 and you can sign up here.

 

Wendy Blight is a wife, mother, author, Bible teacher, attorney, and writer for Proverbs 31 Ministry’s First 5 app. Her desire is to help every woman know with confidence she can tackle any problem life presents through God’s Word. Wendy is the author of I Am Loved, I Know His Name, and Living So That Bible studies, and Hidden Joy in a Dark Corner. She lives with her husband, Monty, in Charlotte, North Carolina and loves most when her two children, Lauren (24) and Bo (19), come home to visit and fill their home with lots of love and laughter!

 

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How to Prioritize Your People in the Most Engaging Way

(This page contains affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help defray Amy’s website costs at no extra charge to you.)

When it comes to prioritizing my people at Christmas, I have one main draw. I know some of you summon your people with the wafts of yummy smells coming from your kitchen.

But that’s not me. (Although I’d clean up at your house if you invited me over to eat!)

And I know that others have lure your people in with a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts under your tree.

That’s not me.

I can imagine the gorgeous decorations that lots of you use for the eye-candy that gets your people to stop and enjoy.

That’s sort of me. 🙂

I have always had one main passion that I share to reel in my people and that’s my love for books and reading. I’m an unabashed bibliophile, and books are what I love to use to spend time with my people. I share books with friends, read books to children, and read aloud to my hubby in bed. Ok. He doesn’t love that, but I can’t help myself!

Last week I posted a photo of my Christmas book bucket, and it created quite a wonderful conversation online.

I know many of you love books the way I do, so I wanted to give you a gift idea for those of you who still need a few last minute items. There’s still time to give a book! (Or collect a few for next year.) Here’s the list of some of the favorites in my book bucket:

Sacred Stories:

The Tale of Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt

Jacob’s Gift by Max Lucado

Just for Fun:

The Nutcracker: A Pop-Up Book illustrated by Phillida Gili

Hillbilly Night Afore Christmas by Thomas Noel Turner

Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair

Note: The last two must be read with the appropriate accents!

Childhood Classics:

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston

Santa’s Favorite Story by Hisako Aoki

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

My Friends’ Pick:

The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado

I just ordered The Crippled Lamb today for a sweet young one in my life! Do you have any favorites that I missed? I’ll add yours to my list for next year. Once I add yours, I’ll need a bigger bucket– a dream-come-true for me. One day in the future, I won’t necessarily be the grandma with a plate of homemade cookies (although cookies can be bought!), but I will be the one who will sit and read to the little person on my lap until they either fall asleep or jump down.

Merry Christmas, friends!

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Giving Up on the Perfect Christmas

The further I read into the editorial the shorter my breath grew, and I felt the heat of stress radiating from my constricted heart. “At my house, the bustle stops when we gather with our daughters to trim the tree,” the editor of Better Homes and Gardens, gushed.

Then she went on to describe her family’s lovely evening complete with traditional music, story-telling, and eggnog. She ended by saying, “By the time our quiet evening concludes, we’re energized and ready to try something new.”

Wow. That sounds just like my family. (Insert sarcastic tone here.)

My case of hives from the article came from memories of the previous year’s tree trimming at my house.

We all started well–hubs, the boys and me–matching up with the perfect pictures of Christmas preparations in my mind. It was just like BH & G. Amy Grant crooned Christmas carols in the background. Egg nog was poured into the vintage, red glasses I inherited from my grandmother, and boxes of decorations from the attic lined the walls.

However, it all started downhill over the lights for the tree.

Squabbles erupted over tangled strings of bulbs. Somebody turned on the football game, and the sound of the TV clashed with the music from the stereo. Instead of telling lovely stories of the ornaments’ histories as we hung each one, my boys began to make fun of the 70s-style bobbles from my childhood. It all fell apart faster than you can say, “Mama’s in a snit.”

Maybe they just got distracted, or maybe it was the maternal growls and snarls that drove them away, but suddenly I found myself sitting alone on the floor in front of the tree. The rest of my family had abandoned the traditional decorating of the tree.

I furiously gave the tree a yank to position it for another ornament, and…   TIMBER! It fell on me, driving the metal rod of one of the artificial branches into my arm.

That’s when it happened. Out of my mouth popped some of the overflow of a disgruntled perfectionist’s heart—a big, fat, four-letter word.

That brought the family back into the room.

“Mom! Did you just say #*[email protected]?!”

To this day, there is one favorite Christmas story at my house. It’s not The Gift of the Magi or The Polar Express. Not even How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes the cut. Our family’s favorite story is The Day Mom Cussed When the Christmas Tree Fell on Her.

Sigh.

So much for the perfect family Christmas. Ours might be rated R….

I had to chuckle reading this story again that I originally posted a couple of years ago. In some ways, nothing has changed, but in the most important ways everything has changed.

Last year, I decorated the tree alone. Barry was traveling, and our sons were off at college until mid-December, so I thought no one would mind. I was surprised to find out that I was wrong.

“How could you decorate the tree without us, Mom?!” Anson exclaimed as he walked into our fully decorated living room.

Goodness. I didn’t know that they cared, but it turned out that both boys were incensed to have been left out of the yearly chaos… ahem, tradition… that is our family tree decorating time.

So this year, I worked hard to include them again. We were out of town for Thanksgiving, but Barry helped me haul the trees down from the attic and set them up before we left. On the one day that both Anson and Nolan were home before going back to college, we turned on Amy Grant and poured the egg nog.

We’ve learned a valuable lesson and now have pre-lit trees, and Nolan, our family tech support, showed his dad how to activate the double screen on the tv so that he could watch the game and stream the music simultaneously. Ok. Not quite what I had in mind but a compromise and win for everyone, right? My “vintage”/childhood ornaments were still mocked, but this time I laughed with the rest of the crew.

Finally, Anson, who is also a recovering perfectionist, must have felt a little tension on my part and asked the crucial question, “Mom, did you enjoy decorating the tree by yourself last year more than this? Is this stressing you out?”

I paused and assessed before I answered. “In the worst days of my perfectionism, someone would have been hurt by now! But no. I’m enjoying this!”

And I meant it. Finally. FINALLY, I’ve let go of the perfect Christmas. The joy of having my family around me was greater than my need to control and have things done my way.

It’s a Christmas MIRACLE! No joke.

How are you doing keeping your expectations in check this Christmas season? If you’ve had some bad days already, I understand. (I might have done a little rearranging on the tree once everybody left.)There’s always time for a fresh start, though. Start by purposefully prioritizing your people, and watch the joy increase.

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Congratulations to Linda Gray (11.30.17 at 4:57 am)! You’re the winner of Make Your Move by Lynn Cowell. I’ve sent you an email, and we’ll get the book on it’s way once we have your mailing address. 🙂

(This page contains affiliate links. Your clicks and purchases help defray Amy’s website costs at no extra charge to you.)

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Can’t You Hurry Up, God?

I want you to think about your friend. The friend who you know you can trust to love every part of you while telling you the whole truth. The friend who you’d trust with your life because you know she has your best interests at heart.

Lynn Cowell is one of those friends in my life. She’s a trusted friend, so I can’t wait to introduce you to her today.  Make sure to read to the end where there will be a way to enter to win a great package including her new book Make Your Move. Please welcome Lynn!

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The whole situation didn’t make sense. The job description fit me perfectly. And I just knew God had made me aware of that opportunity so I could move forward in my heart for ministry. Yet all the doors closed, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Weeks turned into years as the quicksand of discouragement pulled me under. I felt forgotten, and I often looked back on that lost opportunity with regret. Maybe there was something more I could have done to make it work? Why didn’t I try harder?

Time went on, and I was no closer to my dreams. I couldn’t understand why God kept me from that perfect position.

In the Bible, we learn that Sarai, Abram’s wife, was stuck too. God had promised them offspring – as many as the stars in the heavens (Genesis 15:5) – yet time was ticking. Sarai was growing older and worried she had yet to have a child.

Sarai may have believed she’d become invisible to God, and it was time to take matters into her own hands. She decided she wouldn’t wait any longer, so she devised a plan to get what she wanted.

And she got it, alright – a pregnancy plus a whole lot of trouble.

Sarai followed a common practice of her time and gave Hagar, her Egyptian slave, to Abram to become a surrogate mother. But her plan backfired. Hagar became pregnant and also a little haughty. With another person looking down on her barrenness, Sarai was more miserable than before.

If only she would have waited instead of manipulated.

Like Sarai, I had a hard time waiting on God. I couldn’t understand what was taking Him so long! Yet, when the perfect position opened down the road from my home, instead of a 1,000 miles away, like the other job, it all made sense.

So often now as I take my short drive to the office, I find myself very thankful I waited for God to provide.

If we can wait and not manipulate, God promises us He is always at work for our good (Romans 8:28). Even when the situation seems to be going the wrong way, we can trust that His way is best. We must be prayerful, wait and trust. Easier said than done, though, I know.

Yet when we wait and see God’s goodness come to past, we create a history with God, a repertoire of faith moments when we have seen God’s faithfulness. This foundation builds our faith in Him so we know we can trust Him again and again.

These stories, these faith-building encounters with God, are the same stories I share with my kids, helping them to trust God with their dreams for the future as well. Helping them also learn to wait and not manipulate.

Today, thank God for the times you have seen His faithfulness. If you are in a current struggle, pray for the patience to wait and not manipulate.

Giveaway

Lynn is giving away a Make Your Move Bible study book and DVD bundle to one of you! Let us know below of an area in your life you are asking God to “hurry up”. Comment by Wednesday, December 6 for a chance to win. (U.S. addresses only please.)

In Make Your Move, Lynn Cowell explores how confidence-in-question keeps us from boldly experiencing what God intends for our lives. Learn more about her new women’s Bible study, encouraging you to dig into God’s Word to find confidence and boldness to do great things here: http://lynncowell.com/make-your-move/.

Lynn Cowell is a national conference speaker who is passionate about helping women of all ages understand the importance of Christ confidence. She is the author of several books including her newest study for women, Make Your Move: Finding Unshakable Confidence Despite Your Fears and Failures, and Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You , just for girls ages 8 – 12. Lynn and her husband, Greg, have been married for over 30 years and are the parents of three young adults. They enjoy spending time together, especially when it combines the mountains, well-worn sweatshirts, and anything with chocolate and peanut butter. Connect with Lynn today at www.LynnCowell.com.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving to You!

It’s been a week, friends. I did a wonderful round-trip to CA for a conference and then spent the rest of the week on the couch with a virus. Ugh!

I couldn’t miss out on telling you how I feel about you, though. I’m thankful for you. Truly. Even though I’ve only met a handful of our community in person, I love knowing that we’re journeying together.

I’m praying that today is a day filled with love for you, knowing that our Jesus loved us most, but also full of the love of friends and family. I’m proud to count you as both!

Much Love,

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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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Standing in God’s Sufficiency

Following my 50th birthday in October, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and praying about aging well. It’s my prayer that as my body  weakens that my spirit and character would strengthen, becoming increasingly beautiful!

For years I’ve been studying the older women around me to see how they’re meeting that goal, and I’ve been inspired by so many.

The excerpt below is from the book proposal I told you about in this post. This is a different Ruth than I wrote about in this post, but I’m starting to think that there’s something powerful carried in that name! 🙂 Here’s an important lesson that I learned from Ruth that I want to attain in my own life:

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I watched our passel of energetic children run outside, and then turned to seek out Ruth.  I found my gray-haired, sparkly-eyed friend in the kitchen cleaning up the mess of our extended families with the rest of the women.  I waited for a moment alone after all the work was done to speak with her.  Ruth, a dear family friend in her eighties, had lost her husband and life-long friend, Sam, the previous October.  I was concerned about her despite her happy demeanor.

“Ruth,” I asked, “how are you really doing?”  She smiled as she explained how she missed Sam every minute of every day, but then she went on to quote her sister who had become a widow years before.  “I have stood in front of my Sunday school class for thirty years and taught about the sufficiency of God.  If I can’t live it out now, what did it really mean?”

I love Ruth.  She’s a woman with a lot of spunk just like me, and she is a person of strong convictions.  She is confident and decisive, but she is weak in all the right places.  She is reliant on God and has found that He is all she needs.  Ruth has practiced depending on God throughout her life, and now she finds her provision, companionship, comfort, and purpose in Him.

How do we become dependent on God?  How can we experience the truth that He is enough in every stage of our life?  How can we battle our culture’s self-fulfillment, me-time, do-what-feels-good, self-actualizing mentality in our quest to become godly women?  In actively observing the lives of women around me, there are some patterns that begin to emerge that are worthy of emulation. These women have found that God is enough.  They have discovered that God is sufficient in every season to help meet every life challenge.

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God alone is sufficient. That’s the way I want to live until my last breath!

What lessons have you learned from the older women around you that you want to live well?

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How to Build Belief on an Unshakable Foundation

Belief is a tricky thing. If our belief rests on our outcomes, we’ll be shaky and doubts will sprout. But if Jesus Himself is the foundation of our belief, we’ll be unshakable with a thriving faith. That’s the core of today’s devotion, “What Is True Belief?”

When our beliefs are anchored to our circumstances, we anxiously wrestle. When our beliefs are fettered to Jesus, we confidently rest. Here’s a free download as a gift for you that you can print to remind you of this truth:

What we believe shows in the way we act, the decisions we make, and the choices we pursue. Over a decade ago, I learned this important lesson from a winsome woman I met at a women’s retreat. Her name was Ruth.

Ruth stood out in the retreat crowd not only because of her lustrous gray hair but also because of the cluster of younger women around her. They were talking with her, doting on her, and soaking in every word she said, so I headed over to meet this woman who drew in like a magnet.After listening to this delightful woman talk for a while, I asked her, “What’s your secret?  Over the  years, how have you continued to grow in the Lord, stay positive and exude joy?” Her answer was simple yet profound,

“Be today who you want to be tomorrow.” 

As she spoke, I remembered a conversation from a girls-night-out with some women from my church.  Conversation  flowed freely from one topic to the next as I got to know the women across from me.  We talked about our kids, our homes and our work.  Ironically, both women had done specialized nursing with geriatric patients.

I started to question them about their work and their patients.  Finally I asked, “Why do you think that so many older people, particularly women, seem to struggle with negativity as they age?”  Both looked at me in surprise and said that I was incorrect.  They were unanimous in their theory of how aging affects personality.

“Aging only magnifies who you already are,” my friend said.

“Yes,” chimed in the other, “If you are kind when you are young, then you’ll be even kinder as you age.  If you think positively when you’re young, then you will also have that habit as you age.  But if you are a complainer when you are young, then you’ll get worse as you age.  If you are unforgiving when you are young, then you’ll become very bitter as you age.”

They explained that occasionally diseases that affect the brain will change a person’s personality, thinking and actions. Generally, however, through stories and comments of family members about the early days of their elderly patients, they had found that their original hypothesis held true.  Ruth’s answer to my question about the secret to aging well was completely consistent with my friends’ observations.  “Be today who you want to be tomorrow.”

I’d like to propose a corrolary truth to Ruth’s today:

What you believe determines who you’ll be.

Aging magnifies what we believe. If we believe that Jesus commands us to use words to build up, then we’ll develop the habit of encouraging words.

If we believe that God is good despite our circumstances, then we’ll develop the pattern of praise in the midst of hardship.

If we believe that He is the provider and healer, then we’ll cultivate patient, expectant waiting (without complaint…ouch!) as we wait for His provision and healing.

If we believe that the fruits of the Spirit given to us are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, then we’ll pursue portraying those traits.

Ruth’s beliefs shone brightly because of the kind of woman she had become. Who she had become reflected what she believed.

Do you desire to be a godly, older woman like Ruth? I do! Then, we’re called to pursue knowing Truth (belief is part of truly knowing!) and living the Truth. It really does change everything– including our aging.

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I’m doing a little series in the coming weeks about aging into the woman you want to be. I’d love for you to join us! Click here to receive the posts in your email and to also receive a free mini eBook called Five Days to Himperfection, lessons on living the better-than-perfect live.

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