Hearing God's Voice
(Feature Articles from 2006 and part of 2007)

By: Lysa TerKeurst

I am always amazed that the God of the Universe pauses in the midst of His creation to touch and speak to our hearts. I believe each day God speaks to us. Sometimes He invites us to draw close and listen as He reveals Himself, His character and His direction. Other times He calls us to actively participate in His purposes. As I've shared my journey of radical obedience, people ask me how I know God is speaking to me.

The truth is there's no secret formula for discerning God's voice. But we can learn to recognize it the way we recognize the voices of those close to us - by knowing God personally and intimately. Then, we can tell if what we're feeling led to do is from Him or not.

Though I've never heard God's voice audibly, I hear from Him all the time. It is a certain impression on my heart that I've come to recognize. I've also learned to ask five key questions to determine if what I'm hearing is from God. Let me describe each of them so you can decide if the promptings of your heart are from the Father.

Does what I'm hearing line up with Scripture? God will not speak to us or tell us to do something that is contrary to His Word. But if we do not know Scripture, we will not be able to discern whether what we are hearing is consistent with it. Thankfully you don't need a seminary degree to read your Bible. If you are new to this, invest in a translation that is easy to understand with a built-in commentary, as well as a journal to record the verses you study. Compare it with your personal experiences and what you are learning as you read God's Word. It is the language of the Holy Spirit that helps us understand what God is saying to our hearts. It can transform the mind and prepare it for whatever God wants to tell us.

Is what I'm hearing consistent with God's character? As you read God's Word and come across verses revealing aspects of His nature, make note of them. He will not say things that are inconsistent with who He is. Galatians 5:22-23 says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control." The Spirit in us develops these character traits, just as they are found in the nature of Christ. When you feel God speaking to you, ask yourself, "Is what I'm hearing consistent with God's love, joy, peace, etc.?"

Is what I'm hearing being confirmed with other messages? When God is speaking to me about a particular issue, I cannot escape it. Around every corner is a sermon, a speaker's topic, or a conversation with a friend that is consistent with what I've been hearing in my time alone with Him. When we invest in spending time alone with God, He will speak to us, and what we hear from Him in these quiet times will be echoed in other places.
Is what I'm hearing beyond me? When God calls us to do something, most of the time we can't do it in our own strength - either it is beyond our ability or beyond our natural human desire. It is not something we can strategize and manipulate into being, in and of ourselves. It can only happen by God's divine intervention. Think about it - Abraham was old, Moses stuttered, Joseph was abused, and Rahab was a prostitute - and the beauty of each of their stories is that God alone worked miracles through them, and for that we give Him all the glory.

Would what I'm hearing please God? It's easy to talk ourselves out of thinking we've heard from God. We'll use pretty much any excuse to convince ourselves it's not His voice so we don't need to act. But there's one very important question to ask that takes away all our excuses: "Would this please God?" You see, if what you are doing pleases God, then even if what you thought you heard from Him wasn't His voice, you still please Him. If you are going to err, err on the side of making God happy.

The more you practice listening for God's voice, the more it becomes a natural part of your daily life. God wants you to hear Him and He wants your faith to grow. Live in expectation of hearing from God, and you will. Then respond with radical obedience.

With great joy,



The Most Beautiful Scars
By: Lysa TerKeurst

"Mommy, what are those silvery lines on your hips?" Brooke was inquiring about the stretch marks that are plentiful on my body; the result of birthing three of my five kids. She was studying them with intense curiosity, mixed with great concern as to what kind of horrible animal could have scarred me so severely. Even though I described the beauty of what the stretch marks represented to me, she couldn't get past how unsightly they were to her.

"Good thing those marks aren't on your feet where everyone would be able to see them," she quipped. Again, I stressed that the stretch marks were a beautiful reminder that my body was used in a sacrificial way to make her birth, and the birth of her two sisters, possible. It's the mark of the ultimate servant who gives her life to make new life possible for others. Not that I actually died in the process, but my unblemished body died during the rigors of pregnancy. Impressed with my own answer I responded, "Now don't you think they are beautiful?"

She wasn't in tune with my spiritual correlations and clever metaphors. "Mom," she started slowly, "you are beautiful; those marks … not so beautiful." Oh, the honesty of a six-year-old! Really, she's right in one sense. The marks themselves are not so beautiful. They are jagged, uneven, discolored signs that my skin was stretched almost beyond what it could bear. It was stretched so thin that it will never be the same.

I stood in front of the mirror and continued to examine the stark evidence of my past pregnancies. A strange sense of pride welled up in my heart as I realized these scars made me like Jesus in a way. I gave my life to make new life possible. I carried these new lives and took on their weight. I was stretched almost beyond what I could bear. My experience left me scarred and forever marked. But the product of these scars is a joy I could not have gotten any other way.

It still moves me to tears to think about Jesus' scars. It is amazing that the God of the universe would care so much for me that He would allow His Son, Jesus, to give up His life for me.

While I have not been called upon to physically die for my children, I have been called to die to the selfishness that characterized my life before kids. Life was about me back then. My schedule, my needs, my wants, my time, my money, my desires, my dreams and my plans dictated how I spent my life. But that is not what God wanted for me. He wanted my life to be about Him and His plans for me. In marched not one, not two, not three, not four but five little beings to make sure I am reminded on a daily basis that the pathway to joy is paved with little stones of service that when carefully laid one right beside another lead to great places.

Braiding this one's hair. Tying that one's shoes. Fixing this one his favorite cookies. Changing another's diaper. Taking one out for coffee. Cheering another at her sporting events. Praying this one through a hard time. Washing that one's clothes. Dusting this one's room. Cleaning up that one's spilled drink. Teaching this one to roller skate. Planning this one's birthday party. Helping another one catch a frog. Putting a Band-Aid on this one's scraped knee. And that's just one day in the life of a mom.

I am convinced there is no greater way to model the heart of God for our kids than to serve our families with a happy heart. Not that we are to become our children's slaves. That would teach them laziness and disrespect. But to model for them the joy that can be found in giving our lives in service to our Lord and others. When we model this joy for our kids, we set the standard for what we expect from them. I expect my kids to have a good attitude when serving family members and others. I want for them what I have discovered - when you serve, you look a lot like Jesus.

Jesus gave His very life so I could find new life. My scars therefore, are precious reminders, real treasures of my service that started the moment of my children's conception and continues to this day. Giving my body gave my kids a chance at life. Modeling Jesus' example of service points them to the new life they can have in Christ. They don't have to fall prey to the selfishness that reigns in this world.

I don't have to be a victim to the selfishness that screams for attention either. I become a giving person by giving. I become a caring person by caring. I become like Jesus by acting like Jesus. Not by thinking about it. Not by making promises to do it. But by the act itself.

Just as these acts change me permanently, my scars also are a permanent marking. Trust me, I know how permanent they are. Before I came to appreciate their beauty, I tried all kinds of creams and lotions that promised to reduce the appearance of scars. Some even boldly claimed to heal stretch marks. I became a marketing statistic as I bought their empty promises. No amount of cream, no amount of rubbing, and no amount of wishing them away worked. They've become permanent residents on my hips. So, since I can't change it, I have chosen to embrace these symbols of my courageous attempt at motherhood.

Jesus embraced His scars as well. And now for all of us, they are symbols of His courageous success of becoming the Savior of the world. After His resurrection, He could have come back without the pierced scars on His hands, feet and side, yet He left them there. The rest of His body was whole and healed, so why leave these scars? While theologians could argue this question, I think He left them because He wanted to. He came to love not the scars themselves, but what the scars accomplished. He was called to be the Savior of the world and He did it. I am called to be a mom, and I'm doing it.

Let's face it - motherhood is a stretching experience whether we are talking about our physical bodies, our mental capacity or our spiritual outlook. But it brings me such joy to see the correlations between my service to my children and what Jesus has done for me that I thought it worth pondering. Whether you birthed your children through your body or through your heart by adoption, you have served … you have sacrificed … you have been stretched.

Ponder today the gifts behind the markings and scars of motherhood…

I looked at the older woman and wondered what it meant.
Do we tell with our body about the life we've spent?
The wrinkles on her face, the posture of her back.
The fingers softly bent, and the joy in her laugh.
I'd seen other faces marked with a frown and scorn.
Their presence seemed quite harsh and their spirit very worn.
But in this woman there was beauty despite the evidence of time.
The peace in her cloudy eyes and laughter behind the laugh lines.
She had a grace about her though her body was now slow.
For she had learned the joy of being and in her heart she knows,
She spent her life in celebration choosing joy to be found.
In whatever life gave her she stood on His solid ground.
Lord, may the markings on my body be like hers in some way,
That I lived and loved and laughed and celebrated every single day.

This article is taken from Lysa's upcoming book: "The Bathtub is Overflowing But I'm Completely Drained." This is a book no mom should miss reading! To pre-order your signed copy see the back page of this issue. This book is due to be released with Harvest House Publishers July 1 and includes a Bible study at the end of every chapter.

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My Daddy
by: Lysa TerKeurst

Do you ever have those moments when deep in your heart you wonder, who am I? Do I really matter? Is God pleased with my life? Is He pleased in the way I am fulfilling my roles as a wife and mom?

Most days I click right along and these questions don't demand my attention. But then something happens and they rush in to the forefront of my thoughts. Someone criticizes me. One of my kids gets in trouble at school. I forget to do the laundry my husband needed. I meant to have a quiet time but got distracted. A friend lets me know her disappointment in me.

It's in these stinging times that I'm forced to remember not to define myself by the circumstances that come my way, but rather by God's truth.

I am a child of God. I am loved. I am significant. Not because of who I am but because of Whose I am. Not because I never fall flat on my face, but because when I mess up I know Whose face to seek. God is tender and loving as He corrects me, assures me, and shows me where to go from here.

As a small child, I wanted nothing more than to have my Daddy assure me of his love and affirm my worth. I remember standing beside his chair, twirling around, while my heart cried out for his attention. While my earthly Daddy didn't notice me, my Heavenly Daddy did. Throughout my whole life, God has brought experiences my way, that if I'll notice His hand in it, reveal the depth of His love for me.

Last summer, I had the privilege of attending the Billy Graham crusade in New York City with Billy's daughter, Ruth. Ruth and I have been friends and prayer partners for several years.

We met and instantly bonded at a women's conference where we both spoke. To me, she is just Ruth; my friend with whom I laugh, cry, pray and experience life. I often forget about the celebrity status of her family.

But at the crusade, there was no forgetting. Famous people were all around us as we made our way through the crowd to our reserved seats. My 11-year-old daughter Hope, who was with me, kept exclaiming, "Mom, there is Amy Grant and Vince Gill! Mom, there are the Clintons who used to live in the White House!" I just played it cool, but on the inside I was as amazed as she was.

I also kept wondering, "Who am I? I don't belong here with all these famous people." But as the questions and doubt started to creep in, Ruth handed us badges to wear around our necks, allowing us access to a private seating area. All the famous people had them on. However, our badges had a gold star on the bottom corner. I quickly realized the meaning of this gold star as we walked past the famous people and sat with the Graham family. We didn't just have special seating passes. The gold star meant we were part of the family.

I sat down and wiped away the tear that started to make its way down my cheek. I looked up to Heaven and winked at my Heavenly Daddy who once again reminded me of Whose I am. His voice was so tender and sweet, as He once again whispered, "You are mine and you are loved."

During this month when we celebrate fatherhood, don't forget to celebrate God being your Heavenly Daddy. Look for His activity in your life and listen for His sweet reminders that you are His and you are loved.

Rejoicing in His amazing love,

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Little Comforts of Refreshment
By: Lysa TerKeurst

"A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men."
Roald Dahl,
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"

We have a special tradition in our home of an afternoon treat. Now, a nutritionist may or may not agree with me, but I think it's a most heart healthy habit. Not that our treats are always that healthy, mind you. These treats are "heart" healthy for how they create moments of joy in the midst of busy schedules, projects that are due, activities to attend and chores to be done. It's a little burst of comfort that I, as a mom, delight in giving my children. It says, I love you …

I think about ways to make you happy … and I consider it a privilege to enjoy a treat with you.

I remember as a little girl my mom making ginger snap cookies for me. Oh how these cookies made me happy. To this day, the smell of ginger makes me smile. If these little treats made me so happy as a child, why do they have to stop? I mean, why is it that I sometimes think motherhood is all about what I do for others and never stop to think of the wonderful benefits of treating myself?

Yes, I think it is the best kind of refreshment to let the Lord fill you. But, just like giving treats to my kids makes me happy, I think our Heavenly Father would like us to consider things that make us happy as a treat from Him.

There has been so much talk about the difference between joy and happiness in the Christian world that many of us shy away from happiness. Now granted, none of the things on my list provide me with lasting joy, but they sure can lighten a heavy moment of feeling drained. So, why not make a list of things that really make you feel happy? Then the next time you are feeling a little drained put together a care package for yourself and thank God for His sweet treats. Here are some of the things on my list:

  • Cinnamon Altoids Gum

  • Black gel pen-medium point

  • A candle that smells of the season

  • New pair of white socks

  • Lemon flavored Propel

  • Brownies from a box mix

  • Dryer sheets-fresh spring scent

  • Inspirational CD

  • Cup of White Chocolate Mocha, skim, no whip, no foam, extra hot

  • Thank you God for these simple treats that make me happy. Help me give myself permission to receive these treats as a simple reason to give thanks to You and make my heart happy.

    Another important and practical thing I do for refreshment is to make sure I always have something to look forward to. Maybe it is a date with my husband, a night out with the girls, having time to work on my scrapbook, getting my hair done in the salon, or even something as simple as taking a bubble bath after the kids are in bed. Sometimes it is a bigger thing like a vacation or getting to shop for something I've saved up to buy. But whatever it is, having something to look forward to is the little glimmer of better things that gets me over the hump of hard things. It's just the pick-up my heart needs when life seems full of mundane chores, whiney complaints, and yet another mess to pick up. So look up, look forward, and put something on the horizon that will make you smile.

    Finally, rid yourself of the "Hoarder Disorder!" You've heard the old expression of Save the Best for Last. Well, I think we do too much of this and never just savor what we have. Think about that candle that cost a little too much but you just loved the way it smelled. So, you bought it but only burn it for company. No, no, no! Go get it right now and burn it because you like the way it smells. Just burn it for you.

    A friend of mine recently shared with me that she was at a scrap booking party where she shared her hesitancy to use her "good" stickers. A lady quipped back at her, "You've got hoarder disorder and you need to get over it. Pull those stickers out right now and use them. What in the world are you really saving them for?"

    How true! Do we really think when we are old and gray that there is going to be some kind of contest at the retirement home? The announcer steps up on the rickety stage and pulls the squeaky microphone close, "Whoever has the most unburned, good smelling candles gets an extra bingo card."

    I don't want an extra bingo card 50 years from now. I want to be a happy person. I want to be a mother with a smile on her face. I want to teach my kids that it doesn't mean you are a worldly person if you happen to find a little joy in the things of this world that bring your heart comfort.

    So, be refreshed my friend. Put together a little care package of happy things for yourself. Put something on your calendar to look forward to and don't save your best for last.

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    Victoria's Little Secret
    by: Lysa TerKeurst

    Okay, confession time ladies. Victoria's got a little secret, and I'm not in on it! This newfound knowledge came to me last week with the treasure I found while cleaning my office. I was making great progress when suddenly I spotted an envelope with hearts all over the outside and a certificate inside.

    I was thrilled to have found this unexpected surprise, I eagerly opened it and found it was a gift certificate to Victoria's Secret. "Oh her," I thought, a little disappointed. Not that I don't like sweet little Victoria, it's just that she is a reminder that my post-kid body leaves a lot to be desired. The thought of wearing something scratchy, overly revealing and undersized just doesn't motivate me to make a special trip to the mall.

    I guess when I got the gift certificate, I filed it away with good intentions to use it when my taste buds died, my body shrunk, and muscles suddenly appeared in all the right places. So, when had I gotten this little gift? Upon closer investigation, I doubled over in laughter as I realized the certificate was over 10 years old! My husband came over to see what was so funny and I handed him the paper. He found no humor in the situation and offered to take it off my hands and use it to buy me a gift. I just smiled at him and requested that he remember two things on his shopping trip: warmth and comfort! Does Victoria make flannel PJ's?

    Whether it is because of changes in our bodies, sleep deprivation, time constraints, financial pressures, or a myriad other things, marriage changes after kids. But it doesn't have to be for the worse. We must still make our marriage a priority and watch it grow stronger through the kid-years. After all, one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children is the security of a solid love relationship between Mom and Dad.

    We know this with our heads, but the realities of life make it easy for marriages to slip into what I call "business-partner mode." You are doing life together and sharing responsibilities, but your relationship is void of the romantic spark that keeps a marriage exciting and thriving. Finding that 10-year-old certificate was a wake-up call for me to take an honest assessment of where the romance barometer was registering in my marriage. And to be honest, we were found lacking.

    Somewhere between two hectic schedules we'd stopped getting intentional with our love life. Soccer games, gymnastics meets, school projects, serving in ministry, home repair projects, yard work, running a business, paying the bills are all important things, but they had crowded out time for Art and me to just be together.

    So, instead of hoping things will magically reignite and get better, I've decided to actively pursue a richer relationship with my husband. It will be a matter of choice, not chance. Here are some of my newly resolved choices:

    1. Seduce him.
    Oh, gasp! Is that allowed in a Christian magazine? Absolutely! I know when my husband has been left wanting for too many days in a row, he gets cranky! So, I thought about what makes me just as cranky. The answer is food, or the lack thereof. When I'm really hungry and can't get some food, my perception of everything gets skewed and my mood sours. This is true for most women, so to continue this analogy, imagine for a minute that your husband was your only source for food. But, every time you went to him to get this nourishment you not only want but need, he responded, "Not now. I'm too tired. I have a headache." It would be quite irritating.

    When I think about this scenario, it breaks my heart to think of how often my husband comes to me for the intimate nourishment that he not only wants but needs, and I don't respond. So I'm challenging myself to make the intimate needs of my husband a priority. God says that sex inside marriage is a gift and through it He blesses the husband and the wife. Most husbands would love it if their wives were a little more intentional about initiating intimate connections, so seduce him!

    2. Serve him.
    Oh, I can feel eyes rolling on this one. However, I've discovered that my husband sees me serving all kinds of people … our kids, the women at Proverbs 31 Ministries, friends and neighbors. But when is the last time I really looked for something he wanted and did it for him? Sometimes the thing we least want to do in our marriages might be the very thing that could help our relationships most.

    A friend of mine doesn't like to cook, but a homemade meal means the world to her husband. Recently, I encouraged her instead of trying to convince him his expectations are unrealistic, to make it a priority to make him feel respected and loved by cooking for him. It was what she least wanted to do, but after she cooked her husband a delicious meal, the smile on his face and the pep in his attitude gave her the motivation to pull out her cookbooks more often. Instead of getting offended the next time your spouse asks if you can do something to better meet his expectations, why not see it as an opportunity to invest in your marriage? It's worked wonders for my friend's marriage and it just might work wonders for yours as well.

    3. Simply be sweet to him.
    Why is it that I can be so kind to strangers and then - just seconds later - impatient and unkind to those I love most? Unfortunately that old saying is true, "Familiarity breeds contempt." I don't want short fuses, quick tempers and rushed conversations to be the legacy I build with my husband. The Bible tells us to be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry" (James 1:19 NIV). I have to not only desire to be kind to the ones I love, but I have to choose to do so each moment, reaction by reaction. I have to think about my words before I speak and ask myself, "Am I being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry?" If this is what I really want for all my interactions with my husband, then I've got to make the choice to swallow my quick wit and cutting remarks, and simply be sweet!

    So, my little hidden gift certificate actually has served me well. It was a sign that I need to make some adjustments and investments. I think I'll ask Art if I can accompany him to the mall. And no, I won't be in search of flannel. Maybe I'm starting to clue in to Victoria's little secret after all.


    Where Are You God?
    by: Lysa TerKeurst

    Okay, be completely honest with me. Have you ever felt frustrated with God? Have you ever prayed and prayed over a situation in your life and felt ignored by Him? You want to put on the super-sunny Christian expression that says all is well. You want to quote Scriptures and unearth the deeper purposes for this hard circumstance, but in the depths of your heart what you really want to do is scream, "It's not fair!"

    We don't like hard places. Our souls long for the perfection of the Garden of Eden designed for us. However, the world we live in bounces us from one imperfection to the next. Soon we find ourselves empty and exhausted trying to fix problems that interrupt, inflict pain and break our hearts. We find ourselves frustrated with God, knowing He could fix this problem. With one snap of His Holy Hand He could heal the hurts, rearrange the circumstances, restore the broken places and provide a way out. So why doesn't He?

    The answer is simple: because He loves us too much to leave us the way we are. Think about a baby inside his mother's womb. He is warm and well fed. He likes this place of security and safety but there comes a time he must leave. He must go through the painful shock of being birthed. Though it is hard, if he resists he will reach a place where growth is no longer possible and death is certain.

    Our spiritual lives are very much the same. We must continue to pursue growth and embrace God's plans for the life we've been given. It's not about changing the circumstances we feel should be different. It's about embracing God's plans for the circumstances and allowing Him to have His full way in us. God wants to work out the kinks and imperfections in the core of your soul to help you find a perspective beyond your own. Only then can you find incredible peace in the storms of life.

    The enemy to having a great life is not tragedy, heartbreak or hard times. The enemy to having a great life is to simply lead a good life; a life where you seek comfort and ease above growth; a life where you avoid the risk of taking chances with God. The problem is we live in a fallen world where it is impossible to avoid every pothole in the road of life. Whether you lead a great life or a good life, you will have hard times. You will get bumped and bruised, but you don't have to get bewildered. Say "yes" to God now. Say "yes" to whatever He brings your way, and seek Him whole-heartedly through it. Ponder what He is teaching you. Surrender what He is requiring from you. And know that He is working out His plans for you behind the scenes. His amazing, wonderful, good and perfect plans are being worked out for you right now!

    This hard place you are in is not a distraction. It's not you being sidetracked. It is His way. "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV). You've probably heard this verse quoted time and again but put it in context with the verses after it you'll see the call to not only trust God but to have peace in knowing He will carry you through. Verses 12- 14 go on to say, "'Then you will call on me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back from captivity.

    I will gather you from all nations and places where I have banished you,' declares the Lord, 'and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.'"

    My favorite call to action here is to "seek God with ALL your heart." Not just the parts of your heart crying for ease. Not just the parts of your heart crying for restoration. But find that place in your heart eager for growth and let it cry out as well. Embrace this perfect plan and you will find God, see His plan from His perspective, and be able to rest in the peace right in the middle of the storm. In the meantime, my favorite promise here from God is that He will carry us. He carried us into this hard place, this exile of sorts, and He will carry us back out.

    This is a season of growth. This is a part of the plan. His plan will not be hard all the way through. Continue to call on Him in great confidence realizing that nothing, no hard place, can separate you from God's comforting presence and boundless mercy. This will soon pass and on the other side waits rich perspectives, beautiful growth and yes, stronger faith.

    Blessings, Lysa


    I'm Tired of Serving Others
    by: Lysa TerKeurst

    Why can't it be all about me today? I'm tired of constantly driving my kids around, running to the grocery store several times a week, cooking, picking up the dry cleaning, paying for everyone's activities, making costumes, setting appointments, helping keep everyone's schedule straight, assisting with homework projects, thinking of all the family details, and chasing after the dog who loves to run away. Being the woman of the household gets exhausting, especially when you feel under-appreciated, overworked and stretched way too thin. When I start feeling this way, I know it's time to make time for me. Not that life becomes all about me. But at times it's important to break away from the daily grind and let Jesus refresh me.

    Mark 12: 30-31 says, "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (NIV). Often we rush through this verse and park our thoughts on "love your neighbor." For women, our closest neighbors are the ones who live under our roof. Then, we love people who live around us, go to church with us, and those we interact with. While it is good to fulfill the "love others" part of the verse, if we don't balance it with the rest of this verse, we'll start to feel drained and grumpy.

    First, we are told to love the Lord with everything in us. Think about all the things you did for your family to show them love this past week. Now contrast that with what you've done to show Jesus you love Him. How much time have I spent praising Him by singing worship songs and quoting Scripture? Have I taken time to talk to Him about my concerns, fears, challenges, expectations, plans, hopes and dreams? Have I even cracked open my Bible in the past couple of days for the sole purpose of wanting to hear from the Lord? Not just doing my obligatory Bible reading, but reading the Scriptures as a treasured love letter from my Beloved Savior.

    Next we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves. The assumption here is that we "love ourselves." Not that we are self-centered and absorbed with our wants and desires, but that we take care of ourselves and make time to refresh and refuel.

    When a vehicle's gas tank is low on fuel, the dashboard indicators warn that the car is almost out of gas. If the driver ignores the warning signal, the vehicle eventually breaks down. This is true for us. If we ignore the warning signals that we are running on empty, we will begin to wear down. Even if we can still go through the motions of life, our attitude and emotional outlook will suffer greatly.

    How can we tell we are running on empty? Here are a few warning signs: a short temper, feeling that life is spinning out of control, having a sense of dread when waking up in the morning, missing appointments, feeling invaded when someone asks a favor, and having a hard time controlling your emotions. I know these well because I have to guard my time and my emotional energy by taking time to love God and myself.

    Do you feel as though you're running low and need to veer out of the fast lane for a bit? Why not pull out your calendar and get intentional by scheduling time to spend with God and time to do things for yourself as well.

    This is not being selfish. A wise person told me one of the best things I could do for my family is to take good care of myself. Then, instead of serving others from a grumpy, grumbling heart, I can serve from a heart overflowing with God's peace and joy.

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    Thank God for Smelly Shoes
    by: Lysa TerKeurst

    The art of thanksgiving is one that we should teach our children. I'm not talking about how to cook pumpkin pie and turkey. I'm not talking about decorating with cornucopias, dried corn stalks and scarecrows. What I'm suggesting goes beyond setting a candlelit table with fancy linens and fine silver. While those are all artistic ways of expressing the day of Thanksgiving, I'm talking about the attitude of thankfulness that can be so easily overlooked. I'm talking about the art of saying "thank you," every day.

    I am so blessed. But I sometimes get so distracted by the blessings that I forget to thank the One who delivers them. Do I see the loving husband I've been blessed with or do I just grumble about his faults? Do I see the creative child I am blessed with or do I just grumble about her artistic messes? It's easier to grumble about the sweaty laundry, than see the health of a son who can play sports. Do I see the home I am blessed to have, or do I grumble about the constant chores to keep it clean? Sometimes I'm more tempted to murmur about the many housekeeping chores I have, than to be grateful for the home and the ample supply of food we have.

    I decided I wanted to get more intentional with expressing my thankfulness. I also wanted to get more intentional with developing an attitude of thankfulness in my children. I want the words thank you to fall so easily from their lips that it's second nature. I would like for them to thank the Lord for people they know, and even those they don't, with ease.

    Realizing I must model what I teach, I decided to assess how thankful I really am. As I made a mental list of those things I was thankful for, I became distracted with the unusual number of out-of-place shoes scattered about my home. Not so spiritual, I know. But the shoes seemed to be coming out of the woodwork and screaming for my attention. I went from having a full heart focused on God to becoming a grumbling woman feeling frustrated and drained. How many times do I have to pick up shoes? Is this what the journey of motherhood will be like for me? A never-ending cycle of picking up shoes and putting them back, again…and again.

    From where I was sitting, I counted over 14 pairs of shoes. Upon further inspection, they were everywhere - by the back door, the front door, in the laundry room, in the hallway, in the kitchen, by the dog dish, on the stairs, in the guest bathroom, in my bathroom, on the floor in the kids' bedrooms and even in the linen closet. To say I was frustrated was an understatement. Visions of chore charts and consequences for leaving things out and about, danced through my mind. I even went so far as to think this was yet more evidence that my kids are not as thankful as they should be. Kids who were truly thankful for their shoes would care enough to tuck them into their closets.

    As I mentally chided my children for their ungratefulness, I felt God gently give me a piece of my own reprimand. Was I modeling thankfulness in this moment? Was I exemplifying the gratitude I wanted my children to experience in their lives? Scattered shoes are a normal, everyday thing with a hidden treasure about them. It's all in how I choose to look at these shoes which will determine whether I feel drained and frustrated or filled up and thankful.

    I stopped and thanked God for these shoes … this evidence of life. Some had grass and dirt on them as proof our kids are healthy and strong enough to run and play. Some had scuffmarks from one too many dances on the concrete outside. Some had teeth marks from our beloved dog, Champ, whose favorite pastime is chasing kids, balls and stray shoes. One had paint on it from a school project. But all were well-worn, broken in, and definitely used.

    So, here I am, making life's journey in this season with soccer cleats, princess shoes, basketball high tops, teenager wanna-be boots, kitten bedroom slippers and gymnastics flip flops. It's funny how these shoes tell stories of life, if only I choose to listen. Games won and lost, girlhood fantasies, dreams of the future, comforts of home, and expressions of style.

    Maybe you've felt a little frustrated with the shoes scattered about your home as well. But the next time you pick them up, instead of letting frustration whisk you away, listen carefully to the story they tell. Listen carefully and thank God for each and every precious soul that wears those shoes.

    So, what about my thankful list?

    I eventually got back to that. I'm thankful for the gift of our Savior.

    I am thankful for my husband and kids. I am thankful for friends and extended family. I am thankful for our home, full of life and lots of activity. And strangely enough, I'm really thankful for shoes … especially the smelly ones!

    Rejoicing in His Amazing Love,


    This article is taken from Lysa's book, "The Bathtub is Overflowing, But I Feel Drained," available through Proverbs 31 Ministries.

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    You're The One I Want!
    By: Renee Swope

    Christmas was only days away and we still didn't have a tree. Living on a college-student's budget with our first child on the way made it hard to justify spending $25-$50 on something we wanted, but didn't really need. Yet, with each passing day, my husband J.J. and I wondered what Christmas would be like without a decorated tree.

    Even though it seemed trivial, I told God how sad I felt that we couldn't afford a tree. Then I felt guilty since there were so many people who needed much more than we did. I knew telling God would make me feel better, and I hoped He wouldn't think that asking for a tree was a selfish request. So, I asked and God provided. On the way home from church the Sunday before Christmas we saw a sign at a nearby tree lot announcing that all trees were reduced to $10!

    As soon as my husband came home from work Monday evening, we hurried to the lot. There were only a few rows of trees to choose from, and I wanted the perfect one. So we walked down each row to find just the right spruce to fit in the corner of our one-bedroom apartment. Unfortunately, I lingered too long in indecision. The sun went down quickly, the spotlights turned off and the lot was suddenly dark. Here we were with our $10, and several trees to choose from, but we couldn't see any of them.

    My creative, (and very patient,) husband decided to pull our car into the rows of trees and turn on his high beams. The bright lights broke through the darkness and standing right in front of me was the most precious little tree I had ever seen. Although it had some droopy branches and a gap on one side, I knew it was the tree for me. I pointed my finger and said, "That's the one I want!"

    Since a pregnant woman will bond with almost anything, I immediately connected with that cute little spruce pine. That night I sat on the couch looking at it, grateful for not only the tree, but for the tangible reminder of God's concern for both the big and little things that matter to me.

    I thought about how sad I felt earlier when the darkness made it impossible to see the Christmas trees. Then the beams of light illuminated the lot, and my heart filled with hope again. Etched in my mind was a picture I would never forget, an image that drew me back to another time marked by darkness.

    It was a time when I was not the one choosing, but the one who needed to be chosen. For nearly 20 years I had searched for someone, or something, that would make me feel valuable.

    Just when I thought all hope was gone, God's light pierced the shadows surrounding my heart and illuminated His love into my life. It happened on another winter's eve when my Heavenly Daddy looked at me and said, "That's the one I want!"

    At some point in our lives, each of us can identify with that little tree. Scarred by disappointments, we wonder if anyone will ever choose us. With gaps that mark us as candidates for rejection, we hope others won't see the holes in our hearts. Like my little spruce, it seems the only way we'll ever get chosen is if all the "good" ones are picked first.

    Christmas is the time when God invites us to pause and remember that He chose to send His Son to light our darkness. First Peter 2:9 reminds us that we are chosen too: "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (NIV). God has chosen us, and called us His own.

    That spruce pine and I had a lot in common, and to this day, many years later, it's still my favorite Christmas tree!

    Renee Swope is a speaker for Proverbs 31 Ministries. For a list of her topics or for more information about scheduling her for an event, visit her blog at www.ReneeSwope.com.

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    The Pineapple Lesson
    by: Lysa TerKeurst

    Let's face it … a pineapple is only sweet to eat if you know how to get inside it! For years I didn't have a clue about how to cut a pineapple. I walked by the produce aisle looking at the fresh pineapples with longing. I wanted what was inside; I just didn't know how to get beneath its tough outer skin. I had visions of slicing and dicing, dripping with sticky juice and completely mangling the fruit so that even the dog wasn't tempted to partake. So, unless someone else was serving it, I simply settled for the canned version. At least I knew how to operate my can opener!

    One day I watched a friend accomplish what I thought impossible. She didn't miss a beat as she sliced with ease. First she cut off the top and then the bottom. Next, she sliced the cylinder into four equal pieces. She then slid the knife along the back edge to cut off the skin and along the pointed center to remove the . Laying the long wedges on the cutting board, she chopped them into bite size pieces and viola! Fresh cut pineapple was served. Watching her gave me courage to try it on my own. Finally, I was able to help myself to the yummy fruit.

    This might sound a bit strange, but learning to cut a pineapple became a real life lesson for me. More than just the skill of wielding the knife around a tropical fruit, I learned I had bought into the notion there were some things I just couldn't do. I was challenged by the thought that I might be missing out on a lot in life because I had talked myself into thinking some things were impossible.

    Mark 10:27 reminds us that with God, all things are possible. If we ask for God's help, we dedicate our endeavor to Him. We admit that in our strength this would not be possible, but we proclaim that God can accomplish anything through someone who is willing. We put God's courage into our hearts with His truth. We retrain our minds by taking the words "I can't" out of our vocabulary.

    So, I'm tackling some of the major, I can'ts in my life. Throughout this year, you'll be reading about my progress in areas that have troubled me for years. I'll be gut honest about my struggles with weight loss, organization, reining in my temper, and several others. I'll also be sharing stories from other women who have faced a challenge head on and decided to turn her I can't into I'll conquer! Maybe you have a story you'd like to submit. I'd love for you to write us and send it to our mailing address … who knows, maybe you'll be featured in an upcoming issue of the "P31 Woman"!

    This month it was a pineapple but trust me, next month we're tackling something a little more "sticky"… a woman's romantic desire for her husband. My thought is we Christian women should be honest about our struggles, but not be content with just staying there. Let's motivate and spur one another on to greater heights with God. Everything about our lives should proclaim, "With God all things are possible!"

    Oh, and the next time you see a fresh pineapple, buy it! Cut it open and let its fruit inspire you with the truth that there is sweet victory on the other side of every conquered challenge.


    Help! I Think I've Misplaced My Sexual Desire...
    by Lysa TerKeurst


    Bring up this topic among a group of women and you'll get quite a response: giggles, rolled eyes, smiles and yes, some frowns. While speaking recently at a women's conference, I led a session entitled, "The Eight Things Every Wife Should Know." Number three on the list is Enjoy Your Husband Sexually. I told the women that I didn't title the session "endure him" sexually or "put up with him" sexually; I intentionally used the word "enjoy." The ladies got very quiet, and I think I know why.

    Had I been sitting in that audience just a few years ago, I would have rolled my eyes at the speaker and quietly picked at a thread on my jeans while discounting everything she said. The reality was enjoying sex and truly desiring my husband was an "I can't" in my life. Since the theme of my articles this year will be "tackling the I can'ts of life," I knew I needed to address this one.

    I had bought into the notion that sex was a chore and something else I had to do for my husband. It was in no way a priority to me, and my husband knew it. It became a huge source of conflict in our marriage. The very thing God designed to bring us closer together was tearing us apart. I felt frustrated and misunderstood. Art felt neglected and rejected. Satan, whose very name means "one who causes a separation between two," was having a field day.

    I finally got to such a broken and weary place that I cried out to God. "Can I talk to you about sex, God?" I whispered the word "sex," as if my having been troubled by this topic for years was some big secret to Him. As I prayed, my words went from embarrassed whispers to loud cries for help. Slowly, truths and perspectives started filling my mind that could have only come from God.

    God gave me a word picture to help me better understand my husband's point of view. I mentioned this in one of my feature articles from last year but I think it is worth repeating. Imagine if my husband was the only source of food my body not only wanted, but needed. However, every time I went to him for food he would reply, "Not now … Are you crazy? … I'm too tired …

    I have a headache … no." After a while, my hunger would consume me, I would grow bitter towards him, and eventually I would look for food elsewhere.

    Just like I need food, my husband needs the sexual nourishment only I can provide. His desire for intimate connection with me was given to Him by God and is a gift to draw us together. Under God's perfect plan for marriage, I'm the only one he can share this gift with. But he not only needs me to share the encounter with him, he also wants me to share in the desire for sex. He needs to hear that I want him!

    I'll never forget how mechanical I sounded the first time I tried to utter, "Oh honey, I really w-w-w-want you." Art just smiled back and said, "Wow, I can really tell." But over the years I've learned how to whisper this in his ear and really mean it. It lights my man's world on fire to hear me express my desire for him. And do you know how I got a burning desire back for my husband? I asked God for it.

    I asked God to retrain my mind. I asked God for a burning desire for my husband. I asked God to reveal to me ways to make sexual encounters with my husband a bigger priority in my life. I asked God to give me wisdom to better understand my body and courage to talk to my husband about the things that truly make me feel good. I asked God to help me think about sex in good and desirable ways. And it worked. God honored each one of my requests.

    I'm not perfect in this area. I still have quite a way to go. But I realize that my marriage is worth the investment of time, creativity and energy.

    Oh, the cutest man you've ever seen just pulled up in my driveway. It's time for me to go and whisper something in his ear!

    Rejoicing in His Amazing Love,



    Living Your Dream
    by Lysa TerKeurst

    If you've been reading this magazine for very long, you've hopefully picked up on one truth about me, I'm very ordinary. I have faults and struggles that weave in and out of my pursuit of a life of faith and obedience to God. I heard Naomi Judd recently say that she has finally made peace with being a woman of faith who sometimes has issues, by recognizing that she is a spiritual being who sometimes has flesh moments. Boy can I relate!

    Yes, I am an ordinary woman. Dirty dishes, piles of laundry, unorganized drawers, carpool schedules, overgrown cuticles, and cellulite are the realities of life that greet me each and every day. But there is something else that greets me, that most days wakes me up with a smile on my face and peace in my heart. I have discovered the purpose for which God created me and I am living out the dreams He tucked in my heart.

    God created me to be a wife, mother and friend. But He also created me to speak His truth and inspire others to live a life that makes a difference for Christ. There is such joy in living out this dream. Life is an amazing adventure when you take the hand of God and go wherever, and do whatever, He tells you. What is your dream? What has God tucked inside your heart that when someone brings up that topic you feel your pulse quicken and your mind start racing with thoughts of "what if," "if only," and "maybe one day."

    My friends, the day to start your adventure toward the dreams God put in your heart is today. The path toward a fulfilled dream is filled with ordinary days surrendered to the extraordinary power of God. The minute you say, "I can't," is the minute you put up a roadblock and deny God's ability to overcome anything in you and through you. If we say we want to live lives of faith, but our lives require very little faith, then we are in a spiritual crisis that must be addressed.

    God has given us everything we need to live the lives He created us to live - dreams and all. Second Peter 1:3-4 says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

    Isn't that encouraging! God has given us everything we need. Not just some of what we need and we have to get the rest on our own. Not just part of what we need and we have to fill in the gaps with our own strategizing … no! God has given us everything we need through the gifts and talents He's entrusted to us, the people He put around us, the place He's called us to live in, and most of all through His spirit in us that leads us daily.

    And make no mistake, these very great and precious promises - the dreams of our heart - are not there to make us feel significant and important once we reach them. We are significant and important simply because we are children of the most High God. These dreams are in our hearts so that as we pursue them, we have the privilege of participating in God's divine nature. In other words, we start experiencing God like never before. We start living in expectation of seeing Him and His activity around us.

    Matthew 5:8 says, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God." This doesn't mean you will see God only if you are super spiritual and never mess up. It doesn't say blessed is the perfect woman with a tidy heart, home and fingernails. No, it says you will be blessed when you so desire God that you wake up every morning and pray, "God I want to see you. God I want to hear you. God I want to know you. God I want to follow hard after you and become all that you designed me to be."

    Living your dream will seem very daily at times. But that's how dreams come true … one step at a time, one decision at a time, one day at a time. Determine to follow God in each moment that comes your way. Look for those open doors that He will surely bring across your path and walk through them. Listen carefully to His voice and go where He tells you. Surround yourself with godly friends who can give you wise counsel and who will pray for you. Share your dream with your family and let them participate in the divine adventure you are embarking on.

    And hold fast to God's Word, His instruction manual … your love letter of inspiration, correction and promise. "For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).

    I am living proof that it is possible to be an ordinary woman, empowered by an extraordinary God, who lives her dream. May it be so for you as well.

    Rejoicing in His Amazing Love,



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