Embracing Your Imperfect Life

The tree is up, but there are pine needles on the floor.

The presents are wrapped, but I’m pretty sure “that person” will opt to use the gift receipt (like always!).

And the minute I think everything is scheduled perfectly, something will happen to throw me off.


‘Tis the season!

A decade ago, the list above would have thrown me off completely. In spite of all the wonderful things swirling around me at Christmas, the imperfections would have made me feel like everything was ruined.

That way of living was tough on my heart and on the people around me. I’m still very much in process, and perfectionism is the default I have to fight. BUT God has shown me that I don’t have to stay stuck. He’s gently moved me to a new place. A place of embracing my beautiful, imperfect life.

It’s truly a place of greater joy and more freedom.

(Note: Can I confess that I squealed and did the happy dance when I found out that my interview made the Focus on the Family list for Best of 2018? Subscribers, you helped accomplish that by listening. THANK YOU!)

For those of you visiting today after listening, thanks for stopping by! I hope you feel right at home, and I’d love for you to journey with me to Tender Hearts. Strong Voices. For more details and to subscribe, click here. It would be wonderful to have you join our supportive community.

At no additional cost to you, Amy uses affiliate links to help defray the cost of maintaining this website. For all the details, read her disclosures.

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4 Powerful Steps to Help You with Hard Decisions

Researchers say that the average person makes 35,000 decisions a day. That’s 2,000 in an hour, and one every two seconds. Those are mind-blowing numbers!

I don’t know about you, but that level  of decision-making power, or discernment, feels beyond me. Hard decisions start to feel impossible. I just don’t know enough, and even though modern technology overwhelms me with information. No wonder our friends in the psychology world talk so much about decision fatigue. It makes me tired just thinking about all the tiny choices I’ll make each day.

Figuring it out.


Researching… it’s all flat exhausting.

So what’s the alternative? Is there a better way?

Well, we can’t eliminate all our decisions. Some little things like what we’ll stir into our coffee will always be there, but we can roll the weight of our big decisions off of ourselves when we simply ask The One who knows.

When we exchange our own work for God’s wisdom, we discover that instead of finding answers, we start receiving them.

Thankfully, we have a beautiful example of a woman who received the answers she needed, and it’s woven into a Christmas story–perfect for this time of year! Mary was a young woman, wise beyond her years. She shows us four steps we can take when we’re tackling big changes in life. Let’s take a close look. (Although I’ll give excerpts here, I encourage you to open your Bible to Luke 1 to read the whole story.)

She Listened

“Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29).

When I’m troubled by something that’s come my way, I usually spring into “fix-it mode” or start talking incessantly. I’m a verbal processor after all, 🙂 but it’s not helpful.

Mary didn’t speak immediately. Mary “wondered” instead of talking. Word study tells me that the word “wondered” means “pondered or considered.” She waited for an explanation. She listened.

When faced with a dilemma or a decision, the first step is to wait and listen for the words of the Lord.

She Asked a Faith-Filled Question

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1: 34)

Early in Luke 1, we find out that Zechariah was struck speechless when he asked a doubt-filled question (Luke 1:18-19), so how do we know Mary’s question was different?

First, Gabriel’s response was different. Instead of quieting her, he answered her. I love this because it’s another instance that Scripture shows that asking God questions isn’t wrong. The Psalms are filled with David’s questions and Habakkuk, the prophet, was brimming with questions that God answered.

God is big enough for our questions, but how we ask is essential. From observing many, many scenes of questioning in Scripture, I see a dividing line. When we ask questions with open hands and hearts, seeing God as the source of all good answers, He comes near. Sometimes He answers, and sometimes He doesn’t. But He honors faith-filled questions. Only when we ask with fists clenched, leveling a question as an accusation or an expression of distrust, does God reject it.

We also know that Mary asked in faith because Elizabeth exclaims over her, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her” (Luke 1:45).

Have questions and faith? Ask away! This is step two. You can trust God for His presence while you wait for answers.

She Sought Support

“At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth” (Luke 1:39-40).

When we believe we’ve received the word of the Lord about a situation or decision, it’s important to confirm it in two ways:

  1. With Scripture– All truth is God’s truth, so it has to align with Scripture. If it doesn’t, then going back to listening is the next step.
  2. With wise council– If what you’ve heard lines up with Scripture, it’s still a good step to run it by a godly mentor.

I’m always curious about why Mary had to travel to reach the right support. The Bible doesn’t tell us (drat!), so we just have to trust that God guided Mary to Elizabeth. If you don’t have a godly mentor, ask God to guide you to the right person. Having several people whom I trust to confirm or redirect me has been a huge gift in my life.

She Responded to Confirmation with Praise

My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1: 46-48).

Once God’s work in Mary’s life is confirmed, she erupts in praise. Let’s make this our response too! It’s the last step that caps a good decision.

Listening to God is crucial as we develop:

Tender Hearts. Strong Voices.

Before we make a hard decision, process a circumstance or take a stand on an issue, we need to listen to God.

We need to listen to Him for direction, but we also need to listen so that He can hold His Word up as a mirror–to show us our blind spots…to expose vulnerable places…to straighten deception…to heal wounds and eliminate bitterness. All those tasks can be accomplished if we’ll only listen– through Scripture, through prayer, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit and through asking faith-filled questions.

I’d love to hear from you about what struck you most about this series! What did you learn that you’re putting into practice as you listen to God?

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Moving Out of Starvation to Feasting

This time of year, I’m starving–starving for margin, for face time with my people and for a renewed connection with God.

If you feel the same way, I hope my devotion today, You Were Made to Feast Not Starve”, will feed your soul. In addition, here’s a Christmas Prayer for a soul meal. (Download this free print, but make sure to keep reading below!)

Although it’s easy to starve our souls with busyness this time of year, getting quiet to listen is one way to feed our souls.

I’ve been doing a series on how to listen to God in order to cultivate a tender heart. Today’s interview is with my dear friend, Laura Lee. Settle into my home office with us to find out “How to Tap Into Power When You Listen.” Laura gives huge insights about how to listen to the Holy Spirit in your every day life.

You can click on the titles below for more insights about how to listen to God, and then make sure to join so that you don’t miss any of this conversation about how to develop Tender Hearts and Strong Voices.

How to Know for Sure that Scripture is Trustworthy

How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture

How to Hear God When You Pray

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How to Hear God When You Pray

Last night was an amazing time interviewing my friends Tammy Chapman and Felecia Lucas about “How to Hear God When You Pray.”

The video today is a little longer than usual, but there’s a reason…

The content they were sharing was TOO GOOD to stop!

I literally could have sat with them all night listening to their wisdom about listening to God through Scripture and prayer. I learned so much, and I can guarantee that you’re going to glean something today too. We can learn to hear God when we pray! (Note: Don’t miss Tammy’s acronym for prayer and Felecia’s story about how God used a different kind of fast in her life to help her to hear from Him. Amazing.)

Subscribers, click here to watch the video on the website.

If you want a link to the book Felecia mentioned and notes on Tammy’s acronym, go visit the comments from the video on my Facebook page. I’ve pinned it to the top just for you!)

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How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture

Have you ever wondered…

Is Scripture completely true and can I trust it?

Do I have to go to seminary to really understand the Bible?

Are there some simple tools that I can learn to grasp truth in Scripture and apply it in my life?

The answers are definitively, yes, yes and yes!

If you missed last week’s teaching on the trustworthiness of Scripture, click here.

This week, I’m sharing some simple tools that will help you learn to study Scripture on your own in a way that empowers you to grow spiritually. Please watch the video below. (Click here to watch the video if you’re a subscriber.)

(Although this originally aired as a Facebook Live, I welcome your comments and questions here too.)

I’m so glad you’re here today continuing the series to build Tender Hearts and Strong Voices by walking through these steps together:

Listen –> Feel –> Do –> Speak

If you don’t want to miss a thing, make sure to sign up for my weekly emails by clicking here.

I’ll have some special guests next week talking about “How to Hear God When You Pray”. You can join me live on Facebook at 8:00 pm on Wednesday, November 28th.

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How to Know for Sure that Scripture is Trustworthy

Hi, friends!

In the ongoing “Listen to God” series, I want to build the surest foundation of relying on the Bible for what’s right and true. In order to want to listen to God, we have to start with a confidence that what He says is true. The great news is that the Bible, otherwise known as Scripture or God’s Word, is absolutely true and trustworthy!

Here’s the first video in the series “How to Know for Sure that Scripture is Trustworthy.” Click here to watch on the website if you’re a subscriber.

(If you want to check out the 3-question Bible study tool I talked about in this video, click here to read and access a free downloadable PDF.)

In the upcoming weeks, I’m going to post a series of Facebook Live videos here for those of you who can’t join us live. My next Facebook Live will be Monday, November 19th at 3:30 pm ET. I’d love for you to join me for “How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture”! To watch live, simply click here to follow my Facebook page, and show up Monday to listen and ask any questions you have. (If you don’t see the video at first, try refreshing the page.)

I’ll have guests joining me after Thanksgiving to talk about listening to God through prayer and the Holy Spirit. I can’t wait to share some of my wise peeps with you!

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How to Exercise Faith When You Feel Like Giving Up

I can’t wait to return to the blog next week with some “listen” lessons that I’m dying to share with you, but this week, I’d like to introduce you to my sweet friend, Lauren Gaskill. She’s a young woman setting the world on fire for Jesus. Because we live in the same area, I’ve been privileged to become her friend, and I’m cheering wildly as she releases her first book Into the Deep: Diving Into a Life of Courageous Faith.

Please welcome Lauren today as she shares some rich encouragement with us!


The stage lights dimmed and the music faded as I stood in the center of the room, unable to process the feelings rising up from deep within me.

I should have felt overjoyed, but instead I only felt overwhelmed — unsure if I could keep myself afloat in the choppy waters following Jesus had led me to.

God, I don’t think I have it in me to keep doing what you’ve called me to do. Jesus, help me. I prayed.

Have you ever prayed a similar prayer?

When life feels heavy and we feel like giving up, we have two options: We can sink into despair, or we ask Jesus to help us overcome the waves as we exercise the three Ps of a deep faith:

1. Rest in His Promises 

Faith starts with choosing to believe and trust God, but it doesn’t stop there. Once we reach out to God in faith and surrender our lives to Him, we have to bathe ourselves in His promises as the ancients of faith did. Just as we bathe our bodies to keep ourselves healthy, so we must bathe our minds with God’s promises to keep our souls healthy.

The Bible is full of hundreds of promises, but here are the top ten promises that have helped me most in my faith journey, both after my first faith crisis and in the many battles I’ve faced since then. If your faith needs to be strengthened today, take courage in knowing these promises are just as true for you as they are for me. God’s promises are not exclusive to certain people or groups; they are true for all of us!

2. Ask for Provision

Remembering God’s provision is one of the most important things we can do for our faith. Here’s why: When our faith is shaken and we’re in a high-sea battle, it’s extremely comforting to know that our needs are going to be taken care of. Fear might rear its ugly head for a moment, and we might not have a clue how we are going to make it to the other side of the trial; but when we trust God to meet our needs no matter what, that changes everything.

God has promised provision for every torrent and trial (see Philippians 4:19).

That medical bill you don’t know how you are going to pay; that to-do list that you feel like you don’t have time for; that depressive episode you don’t know if you’re going to make it out of alive—God promises to meet every single need along the way. If we know this to be true, then in faith we can turn to God and praise Him as we await the provision. We can live expectantly with great hope as we recall all of the ways in which God has provided for our needs in the past.

The same God who met your needs and rescued you from sinking yesterday, last year, or many years ago is the same God who will continue to meet your needs today and for the rest of eternity. Although we don’t always know what God’s provision is going to look like, we can trust Him to fill us with His living water and give us our daily bread when we turn to Him.

3. Resolve to Persevere 

As a child I was raised to stay the course, live tenaciously, and never give up. When I look at my bloodline, there’s no denying these traits are what set our family apart. For us, the term “hardy” goes beyond just having a strong last name. It’s a mindset—a way of life that has enabled us to overcome and keep the faith. Though I changed my last name when Alex and I married, these persistent attributes remain strong in me. In the words of my father, “You can take the Hardy out of the name, but you can’t take the Hardy out of the girl.”

In the same way, we have a biblical bloodline that helps us persevere when our faith is tested. You see, you and I belong to the family of Jesus, the most perseverant person to walk this earth. He persevered to death on a cross in order to accomplish God’s will and set us free, and we too can persevere in faith when we remember all Christ suffered and endured on our behalf.

Do you feel like giving up today? Are you feeling overwhelmed by life’s circumstances or what God has called you to do? Rest in His promises. Ask for provision. And resolve to persevere.


Lauren Gaskill is an author, speaker and founder of She Found Joy. She has just released her first book, Into the Deep: Diving Into a Life of Courageous Faith. Diagnosed with an incurable genetic disorder (Hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome), Lauren is passionate about encouraging others to fight for faith and keep hope alive — no matter what. When she’s not writing, Lauren loves to cook, bake and go on hikes with her husband and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, who is affectionately named Reese after Lauren’s favorite candy, peanut butter cups.

At no extra cost to you, there are affiliate links in this post. If you’d like to see the full explanation and disclosure, click here.



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Challenge #1 and Giveaway Reminder

Have you tried the 3-Step Bible study method I shared in last week’s post?

If you have, this is a reminder to post a pic of your study in the comments of the pinned post on my Facebook page. (It’s easy to find because it’s the first one and includes this graphic:

We’d love to learn from you, so tell us one great truth you found as you studied. I’ve left a sample comment for you of my notes, and a truth that’s changed the way I think about prayer.

If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s not too late. Click here to download the handouts and take it into your time with Jesus today.

I’ll randomly choose a comment to receive a copy of You Don’t Have to Try to Hard by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory, a book I loved so much that I endorsed it!

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Trusting God in the Midst of Change

In my devotion today, “The Uncomfortable Gift of Elbow Room,” I shared about a change that led to sadness and a season of insecurity in my life. That’s true of all change, though, to some degree.

Every change involves an exchange, the known for the unknown.

Sometimes the unknown is exciting, like a promotion or an anticipated birth or a new next door neighbor that looks like she’s going to be your friend.

But sometimes change is plain painful. A death. A rejection. A disappointment.

There are big changes with huge impact and small ones that may seem insignificant. Either way, can I share a tender truth in the tension of uncertainty…


God’s love for us means we can trust that changes in our lives will always be for our good. Even when they don’t feel good. Even when the circumstances didn’t start with good.

In the midst of change, sometimes we have to really search for God’s good, sifting through each moment to find the one grain that sparkles. But it can be done, and here are three practical steps I’ve used to hunt down good and grab it.

Count Your Blessings

Just this week, Barry and I had a some moments of stress and panic when he began having some symptoms that potentially pointed to a life-changing diagnosis.

The night before his appointment, we lay in bed, fingers entwined, and practiced what we’ve always done in times when fear threatens to overtake. We counted our blessings. Back and forth. Back and forth we went, listing out loud the good in our lives.

Even when we can barely whisper the one good thing that comes to mind, the light of thankfulness diminishes the darkness of uncertainty. Thankfully, the news wasn’t what we feared this time, but gratitude will forever be our go-to.

Remember God’s Track Record

Decades ago when I was pregnant with our oldest, I did Knowing God by Henry Blackaby. In his study, Blackaby has participants make a list of “spiritual markers,” times when you’ve seen God at work in your life. It was an amazing exercise. I started listing slowly, but once I began, the momentum increased. I still have that very long list (hmmm… past time to add to it!) tucked inside the Bible I was using during that time.

When change comes and circumstances are unsure, remembering God’s work in our lives steadies us. He’s been faithful in the past, and He won’t fail us now.

Pour Out Your Heart

In Psalm 62: 8, David says, “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”

This point is the hardest for me because I’m a girl who’s most comfortable bringing cheerful to Jesus. That’s my issue, not His. God wants us to bring it all to Him, including our pain, disappointment and anger when change comes. He’s bigger, so He can handle it. I promise.

When we count our blessings, remember God’s track record and pour out our heart to Him, we learn that He’s faithful. We can trust God in the midst of change.


From now until Christmas, I’m doing a series called “Listen,” and this first part is about leaning in to listen to God. Click here to read the first in the series that came out yesterday and to join us in a fun challenge with a great giveaway!

Click here to make sure you don’t miss a single post in the series as we develop tender hearts and strong voices by learning to listen –> feel –> do –> speak.

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To Be Successful Always Refer to #1

See if this resonates with you…

Good golly. In this new season of learning and growing, I need this tattooed on my hand. Since I often raise it to gesture before I speak, hopefully I’d see this note to myself and close my mouth before I gets me in more trouble! Speaking needs to be my last step. First I need to…

Listen to God.

We’re starting here with the new direction of  this blog. As my kids’ children’s pastor used to continuously repeat,

God’s ways are always best.

For every conversation and question in the upcoming posts, referring back to #1 is going to be our default. We’re often wrong, but God never is. As He says,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

Here, we’re going to practicing listening to God, and tuning out

Talk show hosts.

Political pundits.

Influential friends.

Charismatic speakers and writers.

Any other voice except The Voice.

Success in developing a tender heart begins with listening to God. And we’re going to go to the source, Scripture, of where God speaks, using our Bibles as the foundation of how we think, act and speak. Remember the process we’re going to work through?

Listen–> Feel–> Do–> Speak

Through Christmas, I’ll be blogging about listening to God. Forever and always here, our #1 is “Listen to God,” and that will be our answer to every question, point of contention or place of confusion. Instead of slogging around in rhetoric and opinions, we’ll look to see what Scripture says. (Hold me to it, girls! Hold me to it!)

To be clear, I’m not totally oblivious to reality. I understand that true followers can still land on the opposite sides of issues after studying Scripture, but it’s still our best step to faithfully walk with God. The beauty of looking to God through His Word together is that we’ll be unified in our purpose to seek Him instead of divided by parties or church circles.

Each week, I’m going to issue one action step so that we’re truly changing instead of just dealing in ideas. Here’s this week’s challenge:

Listen to God–Challenge #1

  1. Read this blog post about a simple but profound way to study Scripture.
  2. Print the handouts so that you can give the 3-step method a try.
  3. From wherever you’re currently reading the Bible, take one passage of up to 10 verses this week and do the 3-step Bible study.
  4. Leave a comment with a picture of your notes on the Facebook post pinned at the top of my Facebook page and tell something you learned.

To keep it fun, anyone who posts a picture before November 1st will be entered to win a drawing for Kathi Lipp’s and Cheri Gregory’s new book You Don’t Have to Try So Hard!







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