The Strength of Women

fran thring on devotional diva

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Fran Thring; Today she shares about the mighty strength of women.]

Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.

I should be at work, but thank goodness I’m not. Instead, I’m seated in my apartment in Cape Town, South Africa in a watery spot of winter sunlight. It’s a public holiday- Women’s day. The day the government of South Africa set aside today to commemorate all the brave and strong women in our past.

Let me indulge you with a quick history lesson. I won’t be long, promise! Let’s head back to 1956 where South Africa was in the midst of Apartheid- the racial segregation system which ruled our country for 46 years. Back then, pass laws were used by the government to try and prohibit the movement of people of colour. Just imagine if you can, immigrations at the airport and then put it inside a country- yip, not a lot of fun.

This system meant if you weren’t white-skinned you had to carry passports when you moved out of your designated “homelands.” It was a whole lot of unfair, and the girls of the day were onto it, so, rallying together, 20,000 women marched to the union buildings to protest.

They left bundles of petitions with more than 100,000 signatures at the office doors of the prime minister. Take that! Then they stood for 30 minutes singing a protest song: “Wathint’Abafazi Wathint’imbokodo!” Now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.

What a great example of bravery and determination. South Africans today reflect on this event with these words: “Makabogwe Amakhosikazi,” let the contribution of women be acknowledged.

Looking back on this, as I sit in my comfortable apartment, I find a powerful resonance in the words, “now you have touched the women, you have struck a rock.” Those words remind me of the many women throughout history who have chosen to stand up against injustice. I think of the many examples in the Bible, such as Abigail, whose bravery saved their families and changed the course of history.

So very often I’m overwhelmed by life, the difficulties of the daily journey, the complexities of unanswered questions and the frustrating gap between what I hope for and what I see. To be honest, getting through the day with a smile when my boss hands me more work, my friend calls with boyfriend issues, our house runs out of electricity and the chicken I bought from the store is off is a challenge.

And yet, I cannot deny that within me there is the deep desire to overcome and do something awesome.

Every day we are faced with a battle. Perhaps your battle is not one of pass laws and inequality, perhaps your battle is your kid’s mean school teacher or trying to budget for your family when everyone is so sick of beans they would rather starve. Perhaps you don’t think that overcoming these are significant or feel like a woman of much strength? You are a women of strength.

To tell the truth I don’t feel like a rock, I feel more like a ball of cookie dough that got squashed by a 2 year old’s foot. Yet, know this, you are stronger than you think you are and what you can’t manage yourself, you can do with a friend.

When we feel more exhausted than insomniac at the end of a marathon here’s a plan: let us look to the women of the past who changed history, and let us look to the many inspirational women of today to build our tenacity. Who cares what the status quo says or what Kim Kardashian is doing with her life?

Let’s be women who build up each other, find strength and unity through community and then who use that strength to break down challenges in our paths and change nations and families. Sound good? I’m in!

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Who do you encourage and walk the journey next to?
  2. What wall do you need to muster up the strength to start pulling down?
  3. Who or what inspires you to be a braver person?

fran thringEqual parts fierce, kind and fun- if I was a character in a book I would be Alice. I have an uncanny desire to live a life which bursts at the seams without falling apart and am often found with a good group of friends and a bottle of wine. I explore topics about faith, relationships and leadership and write to work out the crazy adventure we call life. Feel welcome to join me!

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Unafraid

365 days without fear[Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from Unafraid: 365 Days Without Fear by Gracie Malone. I received a copy of the book so that I could choose an excerpt, and I went with the devotional for November 22nd. Lately, I’ve been having a little trouble falling asleep and this excerpt was encouraging to me. I hope it can encourage you as well.]

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Proverbs 3:24

The promise is set amidst a discussion about wisdom, understanding, and knowledge – contrasting these life-giving principles with fear and making them synonymous with the gift of sleep. Blessed is the man or woman whose sleep is sweet. Wisdom also promises you will enjoy lengths of days, many years of life, and peace (Proverbs 3:2). Following the pathway of kindness and truth, you’ll find favor with God and a good reputation among men (Proverbs 3:4). Because of your trust and your choice to seek God, he will make your pathway straight (Proverbs 3:6).

for they will prolong your life many years
    and bring you peace and prosperity.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
    bind them around your neck,
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Then you will win favor and a good name
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:2-6

Experts say that lifestyle factors in daytime affect the quality and quantity of sleep at night. Once again professionals find themselves in the good company of biblical truth. The three aspirations above, pursued, ensure restful nights. They are not only imperatives from God but they are traits of his own character. He founded the earth by His wisdom, established the heavens by His understanding, and by His knowledge “the deeps were broken up in the skies drip with dew” Proverbs 3:19-20).

When you find your mind churning during sleepless nights, try to identify the fear that is stifling your faith. Confess it to God. Turn on the lights and read the book of Proverbs. Pray for understanding and knowledge. Ask God for His gift of sleep.

Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. Proverbs 3:23

[Excerpt from Unafraid used with permission.]

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Case of the Widow

 

 

[Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Amanda Batten. Above is a picture she provided of those widows she met in Kenya. Here, she shares some of the lessons they taught her.]

“Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.  Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” –  Isaiah 1:17

Life can change in an instant and can alter us in many ways.  The weather can change in the blink of an eye, but I’ve come to learn that God never changes.  It wasn’t until I went on a mission trip to Kenya in 2013 that I learned just how unconditional God’s love truly is.

When I arrived in a little town called Kisumu with a team of missionaries, the first thing we did was visit the Healing and Salvation church.  There we met a group of widows who were having a meeting on table banking.  Widows are chiefly entrepreneurs, as the job market is scarce in Kenya, especially since many have not been able to access proper education.  These widows learn to be creative as they struggle to feed their families daily, and praise God when He provides for them.  The widows greeted us with song and dance, handclapping, hugs, and cheek to cheek kisses.  I never felt so loved in my entire life.  They certainly know how to worship!

 I felt God prodding me, “These are the women I sent you here for.”  I learned after the trip that it wasn’t so much me helping these women, they were teaching me something.

We each got up to speak to greet the widows with a translator, and told them what our mission was in visiting their country.  I let them know that I was there for them, that I would defend their cause, and I wanted to hear their stories.  Twenty-eight women walked far distances to find me, and told me their stories, which resulted in a book called Case Of The Widow. Their testimonies stirred my spirit and made me realize how blessed I really was, and how amazing God is. 

Widows are the heart and strength of not only Kenya, but Africa.  They are the face of many families; and God commands us to defend their cause.  Certainly there are widows everywhere, but the culture of a widow in Africa is much different. It is only by God’s grace that these widows have overcome.  To be a widow in African culture is considered to be a curse, and most are ostracized from society, and even their own families.  We know that Jesus broke all curses when He died on the cross. 

I learned many things from the widows, but the biggest thing I learned, was that no matter what we face in this world, we have a God that is unchanged and is always there for us.

Through Him we can have a peace that goes beyond all understanding.  The widows are so selfless, and give of all they have, especially for the orphans.  They are truly representative of the widow who gave all she had, with very little to her name. (Mark 12:44)

During many of my interviews with the widows, I asked each of them to give me their favorite scripture.  Most of them gave me John 14.  I call this “the widow’s scripture.”  Psalm 91 was also a big hit amongst the widows, as a source of comfort.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” – John 14:1-4

From God’s word we know that Jesus hasn’t left us, He simply went to prepare a better place for us.  In the face of poverty these widows have certainly overcome through the grace of God.  They have overcome polygamy, rape, abandonment, HIV, the stigma from becoming a widow, and finding new life and purpose in Christ. 

These women have overcome some of the cruelest predicaments, and they praise God through it all; I was humbled in their presence.  They know that what we face on this earth is nothing compared to what Jesus has prepared for us in eternity.

When a child is left with a babysitter sometimes they will sit and cry, usually out of fear or because they are made to adapt to something that’s unknown, and unfamiliar.  They are out of that comfortable place, with no choice but to long and mourn for the parent to return.

Jesus died on the cross and went to prepare a place for us, and left the Holy Spirit as our – babysitter so to speak.  The Holy Spirit is our peace; like a blanket of protection; a gift given to us to keep us, until Jesus returns to take us home.  God said he will never leave us nor forsake us.  I believe that is why the widows are so comforted by this scripture, because it basically says, “this isn’t the end all, I’m here, I will never leave you, and I’ve gone to prepare a better place for you.  Whatever you are going through is temporary, but what I have given you is eternal.”

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” – John 14:18

I am a personal support worker, and aspiring writer living in Ontario. I was born and raised on the east coast.   My hope is to inspire people to God through my writing.  Feel free to check out my blog at www.heavenlydevotions.org God Bless!

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Super Christians

super christians by alice carter on devotional diva[Editor’s Note: This is Alice Carter’s first devotional as the new Devotional Diva social media intern!]

When I was a child I was a Brownie, and I loved being in the Brownies. We would meet in a church hall each week, sing some bizarre songs, maybe do a craft or two and play a couple of games.

While we were there we had to wear a uniform. It was actually pretty ugly, involving brown culottes, a yellow top a nick tie and a sash, on which you would get your mum to sew on badges.

When you start you only have a couple of badges, just one with the name of the brownie group you are part of, and another one to show which “six” you are a part of; whether you are a pixie or an imp or a gnome. As you spent more time at brownies you were able to earn more and more badges to put on the sash.

I remember there was one girl in my brownie pack whose sash was absolutely covered in badges. She had badges all over the front and even some on the back.

I was desperate to have as many badges as she had. I can remember going home and looking through the “brownie badge book” which described all the badges you could earn. I wanted all of them! If only I had as many badges as that other girl I would be Super Brownie.

I wonder if sometimes we treat being a Christian a bit like being a brownie. We think if we do certain things we will be able to earn the title of “Super Christian.”

Things like reading through the whole Bible, going abroad on a mission trip or leading worship from the front of church. We think if we do these things God and the rest of the church will finally notice us. Maybe there is someone in our church that you aspire to be like. Maybe you think that if you do the things that she does you will finally get the recognition that you deserve.

It doesn’t work like that. There are no levels in Christianity. You are either a Christian or you’re not.

There’s no such thing as a Super Christian. Stop trying to be one. God loves you just as you are. You do not need to try so hard. You do not need to be something that you’re not for God to take notice of him.

All you need to do is love him and serve him.

You see, God doesn’t look at what’s going on the outside; he looks inside, at our hearts. If you are only doing things to gain attention or recognition, God knows, and he doesn’t like it.

Remember David, God choose to use him when he was just a young shepherd boy. God could have chosen any one of his older, more qualified brothers. But God chose David, because he looked at what was inside; at his heart.

What God wants is a humble heart. A heart that is willing to serve him, even without recognition.

At the end of the day he doesn’t care how many people you have spoken in front of, whether you have a theological degree; or even how many people you have converted this week. What he cares about is the heart.

 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”” (1 Samuel 16:7)

alice devotional divaAlice Carter is Devotional Diva’s social media intern. After completing a degree in applied theology at moorlands theological college and then working at a church as a children’s and family worker, Alice married the man of her dreams. They are currently living in the East End of London. Alice loves to crochet, read, bake and blog at www.cherrydropprincess.com — she would love for you to check it out!

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Turning Away From God

turning away from god by jo ann erwin on devotional diva[Guest post by Jo Ann Erwin: Welcome back, Jo Ann! I read this submission soon after I had my baby and I was still so full of hormones. I knew a story about a stray kitten was bound to bring me to tears, but when I read this powerful metaphor of turning away from God…well, I think I cried a lot more!]

I am leaving the restaurant after a fine meal, my belly is full.  As I walk to my car, I hear a distress call.  It’s a kitten at the dumpsters.  He is frantic.  It has been raining and he is soaked to the bone.  I call to him and he runs toward me and gets half way and then he stops.  He turned around and went back.  Back to the dumpster. Ok, little fella, I will come to you. 

Matthew 5:7  Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

The dumpster stinks.  There are flies and ants.  There is stench. He calls from behind the dumpster.  I call back.  I coax.  I am tenderly calling.  He answers and when I stop calling, he calls out, as if to ask if I am still there…did I give up ?

I left and went to the store and got some stinky canned cat food, thinking:  He’s got to be hungry, he is surely starving. I set it out, offering him LIFE.  He will not come.  I am calling and calling, tender words “you won’t make it out here alone baby.”

He won’t come.  He’s too scared.

John 6:35  And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.

For an hour I called, I coaxed, I prayed and I cried. He won’t come. 

I left the food there, and I walked away disappointed.  I wanted to save him so badly.  But he wouldn’t come. I was prepared to wrap him up, take him home, give him a bath and feed his belly. Even though he is wet, he probably has worms and parasites, possibly fleas, sore eyes and the flies have found him and he needs to see a doctor… he won’t come.

He desperately needs saving.  But he won’t come.

I had so much to offer him.  LIFE.  A joyous life, an abundant life.  I could imagine holding him and keeping him safe.  He would have hit the jackpot.  But he won’t come with me.

Proverbs 3:23   Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

How many times did Jesus call me, call you, offering abundant life, a joyous life, and you run toward him, but halfway there, those old ways called and you turn around and go back.  Back to the garbage, back to the stink.   Jesus  was also thinking:  If only I could let her see her wonderful future, the LIFE I offer, the safety I provide.

Thank you Jesus for never giving up on me. Thank you that I finally accepted the food when I was hungry.  Thank you for taking me home with you and cleaning me up and giving me LIFE.

jo ann erwin on devotional divaJo Ann Erwin lives in Paris, TN and has raised two college graduates, Melanie and Matthew. She is also mom to one precious poodle-mix named Molly and one high-maintenance cat named Moma Kitty.  Jo Ann volunteers for the local homeless shelter and has for the past 15 years, fully believing that we are all equal in God’s eyes and we all deserve chances through-out our lives to make things right.

 

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Take Good Care of Yourself!

take-good-care-of-yourself[Guest post by Kunbi Ayo-Okanlawon: I found Kunbi’s post about the unhealthy fitness trends on social media very timely and extremely important for our readers. Remember, take good care of yourself!]

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”1 Timothy 4:8 (NLT)

I love fitness and I’ve been called a fitness fanatic a number of times. More importantly, I love encouraging and inspiring people on their health and fitness journey. Being fit and healthy is a good thing, and Apostle Paul alluded to that fact in 1 Timothy 4:8. Eating healthy (and within reason) and staying physically fit ensures that we can easily carry out our day-to-day tasks whilst also doing the tasks God has set for us to do.

In recent months, I have noticed a growing trend in the world of fitness where people are deeply involved in physical fitness but neglect other aspects of their health. A lot of people are suffering from eating disorders in the name of fitness and some aspects of fitspiration (fitness inspiration) on social media do not help matters.

Many people get carried away by what they see and do not take the time to assess and pull in the reins when they are overloaded with pictures of people with 6-pack abs, “thigh gaps”, ripped muscles, etc. So many people in the fitness community are suffering from depression and a number of suicides have been reported.

Orthorexia and anorexia appear to be a mainstay nowadays, and it is heart breaking to read stories of women who started out trying to lose weight and got completely obsessed with it; next thing they know, they are suffering from orthorexia, bulimia or anorexia! Orthorexia, bulimia and anorexia are all eating disorders. In the United Kingdom, bulimia and anorexia are considered serious mental health conditions.

Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with otherwise healthy eating, which can easily spiral out of control. Bulimia is characterised by binge eating followed by intentional purging. People with anorexia intentionally restrict the amount of food they eat in the bid to keep their body weight as low as possible.

Much as I love fitness, I am very particular about other aspects of my life that need attention – my physical, mental and spiritual health. Fitness is not worth it if we develop a mental illness from it.

It’s not worth it if by working out and trying to be fit or lose weight, we are letting go of our spiritual and mental health.

Apostle Paul says in that 1 Timothy 4 verse that training for godliness is much better than physical training. Why? Because it promises benefits in this life and in the life to come. What’s the point of building our physical muscles when our spiritual muscles are soft and flabby? What’s the use of being able to flex our physical muscles when we cannot flex our spiritual muscles?

As we spend time doing our workouts and keeping fit, let us spend even more time in God’s word and in His presence in order to grow our spiritual muscles.

Exercising is awesome and it’s something we should all do BUT while we work at keeping fit and looking good, let us not neglect other more important aspects of our lives. It’s easy to obsess with food and fitness; I have been in that situation myself where I was becoming obsessed with logging and tracking every single kilogram of my food. But, I have always had a rule in life and it’s this:

The moment I notice that I am getting a little obsessed about something, I cut it out of my life, no questions asked and no mulling over it.

This has worked for me in many ways over the years and it is something that you can give a try too. More importantly, hand it over to God by praying about it.

God is an amazing God and we can turn to Him for help and direction in EVERY area of our lives. You can also talk to someone you trust and be accountable to them. Please do not suffer in silence and please, take good care of yourself.

 

kunbi_ayookanlawonMy name is Kunbi Ayo-Okanlawon. I am a medical writer, serial blogger, wife and mama of a boisterous 3+ year old girl. I have a passion for writing and I love encouraging people with what I have learnt, what I am still learning and what God lays on my heart. I blog at www.kunbibalogun.com and www.natsandfitness.com

 

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When the Fireworks Lost Their Sparkle

when the fireworks lost their sparkle by nicole bernard on devotional diva

[Guest post by Nicole Bernard: We’re welcoming back Nicole today to share her perspective on how our sins hurt God.]

The Fourth of July can be quite stressful…. at least that’s my experience as a mother to a rescue basset who suffers from anxiety issues.  This year, while my husband, Steve, and three-year-old son, Carter, sat outside enjoying the fireworks, I remained inside with Lucy as she paced, panted, trembled, and occasionally lost control of her bladder (and worse).  

As I sat crouched on my knees near our living room window, scrubbing away at the carpet, a burst of light flashed, catching my eye.  Turning my head, I was soon captivated by the nearness of the fireworks.

Sheepishly, I realized what was truly happening:  There I was on my hands and knees, literally scrubbing away precious time while my family was outside making wonderful memories.

Abandoning my task, I jumped to my feet, heading towards the door.  It was time to take my place in those memories… not remain in the background cleaning up after a neurotic hound dog.

Turns out, that was only the first lesson I learned that night.

I came through the door to see Steve and Carter, side-by-side in lawn chairs, watching the sky.  Smiling at the picture they made, I came up from behind, squeezing Carter’s shoulder.

My son, who’d always loved spending time with his mom, looked at me and said, “No, I don’t want you.  Go inside.”

Though I don’t take orders from a three-year-old, I can’t say his words didn’t slash…that my happiness didn’t dim; and that the lights in the sky didn’t suddenly lose their luster.  Here was my son; this precious little person whom I love so much…for whom I’d suffered, sacrificed, and rearranged my entire life for…telling me to get lost… It was my first real rejection from my child, and it cut deep.  

But don’t I do that to God, my Father?  The truth is that God created the earth and the heavens for his glory.  We, too, were created to reflect his glory, and to embrace with gratitude the gifts he’s placed all around us.  How much time have I spent failing to recognize what he’s done for me; the glory that is obvious all around me?

It’s so easy to fixate on the things we feel are lacking in our life; to become consumed by the few things that we want but don’t have… and somehow miss God’s glory and his very presence all around us.  

For years I didn’t understand that my sins hurt God.  I reasoned that I was only hurting myself.  But what if that’s not true?

If the underlying cause of all sin is a basic rejection of God and his ways, why would I not believe that it would cause him pain?  In Deuteronomy when God speaks of the Israelites he says:

“For I will bring them into the land I swore to give their ancestors – a land flowing with milk and honey.  There they will become prosperous, eat all the food they want, and become fat.  But they will begin to worship other gods; they will despise me and break my covenant.”

Deuteronomy 31:20 NLT

How had I believed this would not be hurtful?  With all God did to demonstrate his love for the Israelites, and all the miracles he performed while freeing them from slavery…  How could I ever believe that their blatant rejection didn’t sting?  

On the Fourth of July, I began to understand.

With Carter, reconciliation came quickly.  Less than an hour after telling me that he didn’t want me, he was cuddled in my arms falling asleep.  And though he’d hurt me, I was more than willing to embrace him.  The same is true of our Heavenly Father.  In whatever way we’ve rejected him, be it intentional, or unintentional, the remedy is simple.

He’s ready to forgive and restore.  Just tell him, repent, and rush into his ever-waiting arms.

And enjoy Him.

“Sing hymns to God;

all heaven, sing out;

clear the way for the coming of

Cloud-Rider.

Enjoy God,

cheer when you see him!”

-Psalm 68:4 MSG

nicole bernard on devotional divaNicole has spent the past 3 years as a stay-at-home mom to her young son (and two hound dogs); and considers this time away from work to be an incredible blessing. This season at home has given her the space to focus on growing in her relationship with God as well as the time to explore her faith in writing.  You can read about her journey at Faith Over Understanding.  (If you are a dog lover, you may also enjoy her dog blog: Two Suburban Hound Dogs).

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Criticism and Worship

criticism and worship by Hannah Kallio on Devotional Diva

[Guest post by Hannah Kallio: I especially appreciated this post from Hannah, because criticism is definitely something I am trying to work on myself. I’d rather worship in the right way!]

 

She Was the Worst. Worship Leader. Ever. (and I Was just like Her)

Have you ever read the Bible, and seen your best and worst reflected back at you?

That happened to me recently when I read Miriam’s story.

I hadn’t noticed how much Miriam and I had in common. Her finest moments were moments of worship:

Then the prophet Miriam…took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing. And Miriam sang to them: “Sing to the Lord, for He has triumphed gloriously; horse and rider He has thrown into the sea.” Exodus 15:20-21

I picture her with her face flushed and eyes laughing, breathless from singing and dancing, but exhilarated.  She looks like she was born for this.

Her worst moments were moments of criticism:

Miriam and and Aaron began to talk against Moses…”Has the Lord spoken only through Moses?” they asked. “Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”And the Lord heard this. Numbers 12:1-2

I see her jaw tighten, her eyes narrow… and my heart sinks as I recognize myself. Because her jealous, critical response has been so pervasive in my own life.

Here’s the thing: criticism and worship are two sides of the same coin. Both are about focusing intently on something, and calling attention to it. Worship is focusing on God and calling attention to what’s right about Him. Criticism is focusing on people and what’s wrong about them.

As a woman with a capacity to feel deeply, and a sensitivity to God’s Spirit, I’m hyper aware whenever anything isn’t what it could be. And without even realizing it, I can becoming a “worship leader” in my sphere of influence, for better or for worse.  I’ve helped thousands of people redirect their attention to God. But I’ve also seen loved ones wither under my criticism, and become more critical themselves as a result.

Miriam’s challenge, and mine, is to take that keen awareness God has given me and direct it towards what’s right about Him, and spend myself magnifying that.

God is healing my critical spirit. When I find myself in a situation where I would normally respond with criticism, God is teaching me to redirect my focus by asking Him these questions:

How are you at work in this situation? What do you want me to notice?

How are you on display in this person’s life? What about you in them can I celebrate and focus on?

Realizing that criticism is misdirected worship empowers you to become a worship leader (in the best sense) in every conversation.

Who are you most critical of? What about them reminds you to worship God?

hannah-k

Hannah Kallio is a relentless kingdom treasure hunter. She mines God’s word for truth, and helps women discover treasure in God, in themselves, and in their families. She loves the one man, five kids, and crazy story God’s writing in her life even more than palm trees, ancient ruins, and deepest dark chocolate. Download her favorite free tool for having a powerful quiet time (without getting up earlier) at: http://hannahkallio.org/this-is-for-you/

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Companion on the Journey

companion on the journey by Samantha Hanni on Devotional Diva

[Guest post by Samantha Hanni: Trying to conceive, infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy are difficult times and Samantha is right — it’s so important to have a female companion on the journey! God certainly placed someone like this in my life, and what an encouragement she was!]

Luke 1:5-36; 39-45; 56

Elizabeth and Mary. Two pregnancies against all odds.

A virgin birth? A pregnancy after menopause? Medically impossible. Highly unlikely.

Imagine the looks the teenager and grandma-aged lady must have gotten from neighbors, even friends. The suspected immorality. The arched eyebrows and whispered comments behind palms.

How trying and humiliating…to be pregnant is to be already vulnerable, but to be labeled as odd on top of that? I can’t imagine.

However, God in His tenderness didn’t leave these special women to fend for themselves. I believe He orchestrated these two dynamic pregnancies to coincide with one another to provide the support and encouragement the new moms would need.

Elizabeth’s husband, John, couldn’t talk throughout her pregnancy. How hard would that be to not hear the voice of your love, your closest friend for nine months?

Mary was not even with Joseph for a third of her pregnancy, a whole trimester. I fight anxiety when my husband is out of town for the weekend, so I can’t imagine being separated from him for that length of time.

God’s love and care is demonstrated by bringing these two women together under extraordinary circumstances.

They were women who had a unique road ahead of them. The friendship and pregnancy moments shared during those months they stayed together undoubtedly fortified them for the days to come.

Whether it’s in pregnancy, miscarriage or barrenness, God is faithful to provide companions to join you on the journey. You have to be willing to let God accomplish this work, though. Sometimes it means opening up a difficult part of your life. Sometimes it means finding friendship in unlikely places.

Bringing new life into the world and conversely, waiting oh-so expectantly for life to begin in you is a difficult road to walk. And while husbands provide the tenderness and support that few others, even family members, could provide, other women in the same situation understand subtleties of the journey that few others can.

Look around you. If you are struggling with feeling alone and isolated, I am willing to bet God has placed companions in your life who will pray for you, share your burden and join you on the journey of bearing life, or the journey of struggling to understand why your body has not borne life yet.

Maybe God is calling you to reach out to some women in your life.

I had shared with a friend at church that I was due to start my monthly cycle the day before my 25th birthday, and I was dreading the disappointment from another month passing with no change, right before my special day. And Aunt Flo came right on schedule- and that meant my birthday was a very PMS-y day. Yuck. She texted me that morning and later in the afternoon saying she was praying for me that I would feel peace and contentment in spite of the circumstances.

Those words meant the world to me because I knew she understood. She knew how it felt to have another month go by with…nothing. Nothing but cramps and emotions that were all over the place.

It’s the enemy who wants us to feel isolated and alone. He can wreak great havoc on those who are separated from the flock. God never wants us to feel isolated and alone. His word promises He is always with us, and He desires that we find companionship and support in the body of Christ.

Sisters, let us follow Elizabeth and Mary’s example and support one another, during such seasons as these and always.

samanthaSamantha Hanni graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma in 2012 with a degree in journalism. Her passion is encouraging other people and seeing God’s truth make a difference in their lives. She is featured in the devotional book “Big Dreams from Small Spaces” by Group Publishing and blogs at mrshanni.com. Samantha and her husband reside in Oklahoma City.

 

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When Can't Becomes Can

when can't becomes can devotional diva

[Guest post by Myána Chartese: We all know those times when accomplishing something seems like an insurmountable task. Here, through her son, Myána describes when can’t becomes can.]

Being a mother is one of the most precious gifts you can receive from the Lord, and I’ve learned more about the nature of God and the love of God during motherhood, than I have from anything else that I’ve been graced to do throughout my journey in life. 

Most recently I was in the basement ironing clothes and my son came downstairs to join me, and there was a particular toy that he wanted me to take upstairs for him in the middle of my ironing.  At first I told him that I didn’t want that toy upstairs because it was kind of big, but he insisted, so I told him that if he could get it up there on his own he could play with it upstairs.  

For me to take the toy up the steps was nothing, but for a four year old it could prove to be quite difficult.  His reply to my offer was, “I’m not strong enough yet to take it upstairs.”  I reassured him that he was, so onward he trekked. 

When he came to the first set of stairs, I could hear him from the other room struggling with it.  I walked to the hallway in the basement and talked him through it, and then went back into the family room to continue ironing. 

By the time he reached the second set of steps, he started to get frustrated and didn’t want to carry the load any longer and wanted someone else to do it for him. 

As a result he started yelling, “I CAN’T DO IT!!!” 

However, I wouldn’t allow him to give up!  I talked to him from the bottom of the stairs that he had just climbed and told him, “Stop defeating yourself, you are strong enough!  Look how far you’ve come, you’re almost there.” 

I urged him to keep going and talked him through the last set of steps, and as he relied upon my voice and my instruction he made it to the top, and I of course celebrated his accomplishment. 

He had a little smirk on his face that he didn’t want me to see because he was still mad that I didn’t do it for him.  I knew that behind that smirk was a valuable lesson that my son learned and it was that he is more than able to do things that are uncomfortable, difficult, and takes more strength than he believes that he has for that moment.  His I “can’t” became “I CAN,” and it is no different with us.

This experience reminded me of Paul’s thorn in the flesh and how he had implored the Lord three times and God still didn’t remove the thorn.  He allowed Paul to go through it because he was equipped to handle it, and so are YOU!!!  2 Corinthians 12:9-10 in the Amplified Bible says,  

“But He said to me, My grace (My favor and loving-kindness and mercy) is enough for you [sufficient against any danger and enables you to bear the trouble manfully]; for My strength and power are made perfect (fulfilled and completed) and [b]show themselves most effective in [your] weakness. Therefore, I will all the more gladly glory in my weaknesses and infirmities, that the strength and power of Christ (the Messiah) may rest (yes, may [c]pitch a tent over and dwell) upon me!

1So for the sake of Christ, I am well pleased and take pleasure in infirmities, insults, hardships, persecutions, perplexities and distresses; for when I am weak [[d]in human strength], then am I [truly] strong (able, powerful [e]in divine strength).”

There is an important message found in 2 Corinthians 12 that should inspire all of us to receive the grace of God to push through challenges, and not to give up when God doesn’t answer our prayers in the way that we thought that he should, or in the timing that we insist upon. 

We learn in these moments just how resilient and powerful we are, all while God’s strength perfects our weaknesses.  When we finally get to the END of ourselves, and our need to wrestle with whatever our “thorn” is, we allow God’s glory to be seen in us, and that is what fortifies us to rely upon His voice and His instruction, so that when we get to the place that we don’t believe we are strong enough, and ready to give up we are then made able to make it through that test, accomplish that goal, and have the great privilege of saying, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). 

And we know that at the end of it all there is a crown of righteousness for our, I CAN.

Myána Chartese on devotional divaMyána Chartese, a native of Clinton, MD centers her writing on faith.  Besides her blog myanachartese.com, she loves exploring writing poetry, plays, short stories, songs and movies. She published her first book in 2012, The Memoir of a Red Bottom Shoe, and her 2nd book Super Faith (a children’s book) is set to be released shortly.  Myána has a heart for God and desires to empower, encourage, and uplift women through the ministry of writing and public speaking.

photo credit: Sunday Picnic via photopin (license)

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