Sweet Words to a Stressed-Out World

by Karen Wingate

“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”  Proverbs 12:25 NIV

I feel rather s­orry for Amazon workers.

Recently, my husband and I moved from an isolated rural setting to a big city with an Amazon distribution center three miles from our home. Within 24 hours after placing our first order, an Amazon delivery truck stopped at our driveway. Ah! That’s how Amazon could boast, “25,000 items delivered to your doorstep in two hours.” I could get used to this, I thought.

That’s the problem. I hope I don’t get used to it.

Our hurry-up society likes to push us to new records and accomplishments. Lunch at the speed of a microwave. Athletic record setting for faster times and higher scores. High tech music performances that make a performer wannabe feel inadequate because it’s not perfect enough.

For years we’ve been told to reach higher, try harder, and run faster.  Is faster really better? Is better and more any more perfect?  And what if, at our accelerated pace, we’re running in the wrong direction? Attaining what was never meant to be ours?

In the case of speedy delivery Amazon service, what’s the tradeoff? Stressed out workers who are asked to do the impossible. A society who learns they don’t have to wait for anything and who forgets the impact our convenience has on others.

Our world’s incessant demand for more, better, and faster is not the lifestyle God intended us to have. The Bible tells me to trust God for my needs (Proverbs 3:5), wait on Him (Psalm 27:14), and put the needs of others before myself (Romans 12:10).

As a Christian, how then should you live? It might feel like you are swimming upstream, but determine in your own life to view time, perfection, and accomplishment from God’s view. You also have a fabulous opportunity to minister to the people around you who are worn out from their high demand world. A few words of kindness will be enough to show them not everyone expects them to kick up their performance by a notch or more.

Words like:

  • “Take your time.”
  • “That’s okay. You did your best.”
  • “You go ahead. I can wait.”
  • “How can I help you?”
  • “Thanks for going the extra mile for me.”
  • “You did a great job.”

Will our reassuring words do any good toward relieving stress? Yes. They will. A lot. Your kindness and concern have the potential to reverberate for perhaps the span of a lifetime.

I was a young, anxious teenager when I went shopping one day with my sweet Aunt Charlotte. I freaked at the line of people behind me in the checkout line, and in grabbing my change, I fumbled coins and became even more distressed.

Aunt Charlotte’s voice murmured in my ear. “Stand where you are. Put your money in your wallet now. Take your time. They’ll wait for you.” Her kind words taught me that haste really does make waste, doing a job well is more important than doing it fast, and to resist assuming that other people won’t wait for me.

Gracious words that allow time, space, and room for mistakes may not sound like much, but they will stand out in stark contrast to the constant barrage of a do-better, move-faster world. Your sweet words will make your listener feel like someone has lifted weights from their shoulders; they’ll feel reenergized to keep moving forward.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

About the author: Karen Wingate is learning to take life at a slower pace after her husband retired from 33 years of located church ministry. She is author of the soon to be released book, “With Fresh Eyes: 60 Insights into the Miraculously Ordinary from a Woman Born Blind,” published by Kregel.

Join the conversation: What gracious words and acts can you express to diffuse the stress in those around you?

Am I Responsible for Their Happiness?

by Debbie Wilson @DebbieWWilson

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.                                                                                                            1 Thessalonians 5:24 NIV

The tendency to confuse faithfulness with responsibility runs deep in my DNA.

I did not distinguish between those things when putting a Saturday women’s conference together for our church. My intent was to minister to the women who attended our Sunday School class. So when I learned how many additional women were registering, I began to worry. Why were they coming? What were they expecting? This wasn’t an event I’d spent months planning. I hadn’t even promoted it but for a notice in the bulletin.

When I feel overwhelmed, I usually discover I’m feeling responsible for something beyond my control. My desire to minister to the women at the conference had morphed into a burden to make them happy. The pressure to meet their unknown expectations was stealing my joy. It was all on me.

The Difference Between a Goal and a Desire

In order to help us understand where our responsibilities end, some thought leaders have delineated between a goal and a desire. A goal is something you want, and you control the means to reach it. A desire is something you want, but you don’t control the variables to reach it. You need the cooperation of other people and/or circumstances for your desired result to happen.

For example, let’s say you plan a picnic for your family. You get up early to shred cheese for their favorite sandwiches. You hum as you spread pimento cheese onto slices of homemade bread. The picture of your family enjoying your special effort brings a smile as you pack a lovely quilt.

An hour before you leave, your son’s friend calls to invite him to the pool. He’s spent time with his friend but not with the family. You say, “Next time. Today is family time.” Disappointment oozes out of his pores. His body comes to the picnic, but not his heart.

At lunch you hand your daughter her sandwich on a paper plate decorated with her favorite cartoon character. She whines, “I don’t like this bread.”

At least you have homemade chocolate chip cookies.

Your son grabs the cookies, the ones you stayed up to midnight to bake, and says, “Mom, they’re moving!” To your dismay, the seal wasn’t tight. Ants march through your cookies.

Did you fail? Was your effort a complete waste? That depends.

If your goal was to make them happy, then yeah, you failed. No one’s happy. But if your goal was to love your family, then, well done! Big success.

Learn from Jesus

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV).

Jesus’ assignments aren’t heavy burdens, when we live yoked to Him. He’s gentle. If we learn from Him, we’ll be gentle with ourselves too. Any goal that requires someone else’s cooperation can be blocked by them. God doesn’t hold us responsible for what we can’t control. He asks us to be faithful—to Him.

God doesn’t measure success by how things appear but by how we trust Him. When I realized the source of my anxiety before the conference, I was able to let it go. I only had to be faithful to do my part in the power of the Holy Spirit and leave the results to Him.

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Am I Responsible for Their Happiness? – insight from @DebbieWWilson on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Drawing from her walk with Christ, and years as a Christian counselor, coach, and Bible teacher, Debbie W. Wilson helps women give themselves a break so they can enjoy fruitful and grace-filled lives. She is the author of Little Women, Big Godand Give Yourself a Break. Her latest book, Little Faith, Big God, was released in February 2020.

Little Faith, Big God: Grace to Grow When Your Faith Feels Small by [Wilson, Debbie]

She and her husband Larry founded and run Lighthouse Ministries, a nonprofit counseling, coaching, and Bible study ministry. She is an AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) certified speaking and writing coach. Debbie enjoys a good mystery, dark chocolate, and the antics of her two standard poodles. Refresh your faith with free resources at debbieWwilson.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever found yourself stressing over what is beyond your control? What happened?

Drowning in Stress?

by Ginny Dent Brant @GinnyBrant

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.  Philippians 4:8 (NKJ)

Hearing the words “you have cancer” just four months after my mother had died from cancer was a jolt to my entire body. The next week, the news got worse: “It’s aggressive.” But strike three came when my surgeon flashed my MRI up on the wall and said, “It appears your cancer has spread to other parts of your body.” It looked like a tornado had invaded my body. Was this really my MRI? Was this my ticket to Heaven?

The way we handle stress and emotions in the trials of our lives can determine our health and well-being. Stress releases a cocktail of hormones that can suppress or temporarily shut down our immune response. It’s normal to experience stress from time to time. However, when stress is constant, our body shifts from defense and repair to an inability to defend against disease. Where we focus our attention in the trials of our lives makes a difference.

God knew that stress would wreak havoc on our bodies, but in His wisdom He has given us remedies—things we can do to help our bodies to restore during troubling times. In the book of Philippians, Paul instructs us on dealing with difficult times that cause stress to rear its ugly head. He first points us to prayer and gratitude (in the preceding verses). Then he challenges us to refocus our mind and attention.

While writing Philippians, Paul was under house arrest and chained to a Praetorian Guard, awaiting to go on trial for his life. Yet his mind is not focused on his negative circumstances. He instructs us to meditate on the things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good reports, and those things that are worthy of praise. I call these “the good things.” Paul is admonishing us to refocus on “the good things” rather than the adverse circumstances around us.

Paul’s advice is well-taken. Drowning in the negative circumstances of our lives provides no benefit. Meditating on the truth of God’s Word, laying our concerns at His feet in prayer, praising Him for the blessings in our lives, and refocusing on “the good things” are all productive actions that give us hope. We know that God will use all things for our good and for His eternal purposes.

Paul’s imprisonment meant sharing the Gospel in ways he could not anticipate. Living under arrest gave him opportunities to witness, time away from the world to refocus, and solitude to write God’s Word.

Trials don’t last forever, but they do make us stronger. Research shows that people who practice a lifestyle of prayer, gratitude, and refocusing their thoughts on the “good things” daily are healthier and heal better.

So what did I do in the middle of a deadly and aggressive cancer journey?  I prayed more, I meditated on the truth in His Word, I sang His praises, I thanked Him for all the blessings, and I refocused on “the good things” along the way. I found that my cancer journey gave me time to refocus my life and eventually use my journey as a gift to help others. What’s good for the cancer patient is good for everyone. Where we focus our attention matters.

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Drowning in Stress? – encouragement from @GinnyBrant on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Ginny Dent Brant is a speaker and writer who grew up in the halls of power in Washington, DC. She has battled cancer, ministered around the world, and served on the front lines of American culture as a counselor, educator, wellness advocate, and adjunct professor. Brant’s award-winning book, Finding True Freedom: From the White House to the World, was endorsed by Chuck Colson and featured in many TV and media interviews. Her recent book, Unleash Your God-given Healing: Eight Steps to Prevent and Survive Cancer, was written with an oncologist after her cancer journey. Cancer prevention blog and more info at http://www.ginnybrant.com.

Join the conversation: On what do you focus when stress threatens to overtake you?

Manger Meditations

By Brenda Poinsett

The season meant to honor Jesus can have the ironic effect of crowding Him out. There is too much to do—shopping, baking, decorating, cleaning. There are too many gifts to buy. There are too many expectations to fulfill. There are too many events to attend. There is too much food. Too much money is spent.

To help me deal with it all, I sometimes place a crude wooden manger (what I’d call “authentic Bethlehem”!) filled with straw by the Christmas tree. It will serve as a tangent reminder of what the season is all about, keeping me centered on Jesus rather than the hustle and bustle.

When the pressures of gift selection (Will she like what I bought?) and gift buying (How will I ever find the money?) close in on me, I sit for a while beside the manger. I reach out and touch the rough wood, and I remember the humble circumstances of Jesus’ birth, how He came to establish not a material but a spiritual kingdom. That prompts me to think about how I can spiritually give to others. Money doesn’t necessarily buy the best gifts, and I can give of myself in friendship and ministry long after Christmas is over.

When I feel rushed and agitated by Christmas expectations, I think about what everyone expected of Jesus. He was consistently Himself, maintaining that His kingdom was not the political one people wanted. I remember what He said in a vexing conversation with the religious authorities: “I am Who I Am” (John 8:24, 28). Recalling His words remind me that I am a Christ-follower, as well as a woman who can make choices. I can exercise some control over the kind of Christmas I have.

Sometimes when I move the manger to vacuum, I get a splinter in my hand, reminding me that the first Christmas was not perfect either. Mary and Joseph did not have a perfect place to lay their son. Jesus came into an imperfect world and accomplished His mission through imperfect people. This reminds me to not be surprised when my Christmas does not go perfectly.

I’m sometimes reluctant to entertain during the holidays because my furniture is shabby, the carpet is frayed, and the upholstery on the wingback chair has a big hole in it. (I’ve tried covering it with an afghan in hopes it won’t slip off, but invariably it does, giving me a real appreciation for Jesus’ words, “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed.”) I cringe at the thought of the detail-noticing gazes of the women who will come. When they step through the door, my house will be under their scrutiny.

I reason: I just can’t invite people here…and then I look at the manger. I rub my hand over the coarse wood, and I remember another invited guest. Jesus will be present!

So I breathe, “I am who I am,” pick up my pen, and start addressing invitations. A sense of expectancy begins to rise within me. I look forward to His presence and for a chance to share Him with my guests. I can’t predict what that will look like, but He will be there because I am who I am and He is who He is.

[Jesus] said to them, ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that ‘I Am Who I Am…’ Many who heard Jesus say these things believed in him.  John 8:28a, 30 TEV

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Manger Meditations – insight from Brenda Poinsett on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

brenda poinsett (2)About the author: Brenda Poinsett works with women who want a new lease on life and with adults who want to know Jesus. She does this through writing, speaking and teaching. She’s the author of more than 20 books including Can Martha Have a Mary Christmas. She and some of her family will celebrate Jesus this Christmas at their home near Saint Louis.

The Christmas season can often be a time of great stress and pressure for women, who feel the weight of expectation for a “perfect” holiday. Can Martha have a Mary Christmas is a practical book of meditations that will help the “Martha” in each of us realize that she is entitled to the “Mary” time with Jesus that He desires.

Join the conversation: What stresses you out during this holiday season?

Is God Ever Not Good?

by Ava Pennington @AvaPennington

A friend recently had successful cancer surgery. When she joyfully announced the results on social media, the responses were both positive and predictable:

  • God is good!
  • God truly answers prayer!
  • God really loves you!
  • God is an awesome God!

We rejoiced in her prognosis because we understood the magnitude of what might have been. Still, our collective responses started me wondering. What if God had not extended His hand of mercy to her? What if the surgery had not been successful? What if the cancer had spread? Would we still say:

  • God is good!
  • God truly answers prayer!
  • God really loves you!
  • God is an awesome God!

…or would we doubt His goodness?

The prophet Habakkuk wrote: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV).

Today, we might say: “Though the cancer is not healed and I can’t pay my mortgage, though my marriage has failed and the economy produces no jobs, though there are no book contracts in the offing and no agents who want to represent me,         yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”

No matter what happens, God is good.

Whether we understand our circumstances or not, God is good.

Whether we can serve Him the way we want or not, God is good.

Whether our days are difficult or easy, God is good.

Do you believe this—truly believe this in the midst of your present circumstances? Believe it in your heart and speak it aloud, because it’s true: God is good, all the time. And all the time, God is good.

I hope you’re not experiencing anything today causing you to doubt God’s goodness. But if you are, what will you do with your doubts?

O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!                                                                                                                                          Psalm 34:8 NASB

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Is God Ever Not Good? Insight from @AvaPennington on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

© 2010 Martin Alan Grivjack Photography Martin Alan Grivjack Photography

About the authorAva Pennington is an author, Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) teacher, and speaker. Her most recent book, Daily Reflections on the Names of God, is endorsed by Kay Arthur of Precepts Ministries.

Ava has also published stories in 30+ anthologies, including 25 Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Her articles have appeared in numerous magazines, including Today’s Christian Woman and Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse.

She is a passionate speaker and delights in encouraging groups with relevant, enjoyable presentations. For more information, visit www.AvaWrites.com.

Join the conversation: What has made you question the goodness of God?

Strength in Rest

by Jeanne Gowen Dennis @HeritageTruthTV

 It seems for most of my adult life I’ve been trying to become the Proverbs 31 woman. Through her industriousness and creativity she took amazing care of her family, succeeded in business, and even helped the poor. Just think about the organization skills she needed to get everything done! What self-discipline she exercised every day! What confidence she must have had! All qualities I struggle to own.

As a creative person, I’ve had to face the fact that my natural tendencies fall on the opposite side of the spectrum from hers. It takes all the strength I can muster to stick to a daily schedule, keep everything in order, and disengage from creative activities early enough to get to bed on time.

Am I alone in this? Please tell me I’m not the only one!

When I become discouraged, I often quote Paul’s words to myself: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV). But I have to remind myself that God will give me the promised strength providing I stay in His will.

How can I know God’s will? I’m not talking about the big question, “What is God’s will for my life?” I know the answer to that one. Jesus said God wants me to love Him with my whole heart, soul, strength, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself (Luke 10:27). That’s His will for all of us.

But how can I know God’s particular will for each day, each moment? That requires relationship, and relationship takes time to develop and grow.

I know what you’re thinking. If time management causes me so much grief, how will I find time to develop a deeper relationship with God? With the self-discipline I don’t have? No, I’ll do it with the strength He gives me.

I may seem to be talking in circles here, but that’s exactly how it works. When I spend time reading the Bible and praying, when I turn my thoughts toward God, I receive His power, His wisdom, and the desire to do His will (Philippians 2:13). It’s not a matter of doing more but of resting more in Him.

Resting in Him brings amazing results. For one thing, I find I can get more of the most important things done. When I start the day with God, my priorities shift. His desires become my desires.

I also experience less stress. He gives me the wisdom to see tasks, difficult circumstances, and other people’s requests through His eyes.

Most of all, He fills me with joy that carries me through tough circumstances, disappointments, and even tragedies.

Sure I still get upset, angry, or frustrated when things go wrong. I still cry and grieve when someone gets hurt or dies. I still wonder what He’s doing when I’m laid low with physical pain or illness when so many tasks remain undone. But deep inside, He holds me together because of the intimate love we share, and I have the inexplicable peace that comes from knowing I belong to Him.

So if you struggle as I do, take heart. It doesn’t take much self-discipline to read a few verses of Scripture and visit with God about your day. When you do, He’ll fill you with the desire for more of His Word and more time with Him. You’ll find your priorities shifting. And without even trying, you’ll become a little bit more like that Proverbs 31 woman. In Jesus’ strength, found by resting in Him, there’s hope for us all.

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28 NASB

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Strength in Rest – insight on #FollowingGod from Jeanne Dennis, @HeritageTruthTV on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Jeanne DennisAbout the author: An award-winning author of a dozen books, Jeanne Dennis hosts Heritage of Truth TV and is a commissioned Colson Fellow and Centurion. Through her writing and online ministry, she encourages Christian families to live biblically in our confused culture. She and her husband of over 40 years serve actively in their local church and enjoy spending time with their family, including three amazing grandchildren.

Have you ever wanted to witness the Red Sea opening or the walls of Jericho falling? Jeanne’s book, Bible KidVentures Stories of Danger and Courage takes you into the middle of the action of your favorite Bible stories. The lives of Moses, Rahab, Jehoshaphat, and early church leaders take on compelling excitement through up-close-and-personal accounts. In each of the four choose-your-own-ending stories, you decide how the story ends!

Join the conversation: What have you experienced when you have rested in God?

 

Woman Interrupted

by Debora M. Coty @deboracoty

Interruptions. We hate ‘em. Let’s be honest and call them what they really are: a pain in the royal rumpus.

That’s how we react to interruptions, isn’t it? With teeth gnashed and face grimaced. Because we don’t like unexpected, unpredictable, unwelcome surprises. We want to do things our way, no muss, no fuss; we want to follow our carefully laid plans to predetermined outcomes.

When our plans are thwarted, our attitude drifts toward that of a two-year-old whose lollipop was hijacked by the Rottweiler.

I’ll admit I’m not a happy girl when my plans are impeded. I praise Jesus and stomp my foot at the same time. Why, oh why, can’t I adapt to change with more grace? A scripture passage that’s helping me handle interruptions better is the story Jesus told in Luke 10:33-35, NASB (emphasis mine):

“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him [the traveler beaten by robbers]; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

And on the next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.

Okay, let’s look a little closer at the parts related to interruptions:

  • He saw him. Compassion usually begins with the eyes; you can’t care until you’re aware. You must see – and often personally experience – a problem before your heart is engaged. Papa God has a way of using unscheduled, divine appointments (we call ‘em interruptions) to divert our eyes from our relentless to-do list to what’s really important.
  • He came to him. It’s easier NOT to help someone when you keep your distance. But once you open your mind to possibilities you haven’t yet considered, you’ll begin to feel the Holy Spirit’s elbow jab of guidance. When He keeps poking, it’s time to step up to the plate, even if you left your best bat at another ballpark.
  • He took care of him. The odds are slim that this dude was a career health care professional galloping off to a medical convention; he very likely had no more emergency wound care training than you or me, but he did the best he could with what he had. He probably ripped up his own perfectly good clothing for bandages, used up his personal stash of wine for wound sterilization, drained his essential oils for healing, and trudged the dusty road on foot so that the wounded man could have the choice seat atop his donkey, the ancient version of EMS.
  • I will repay you. There’s always a cost for kindness – are we willing to pay it? Might be money, time, energy, or worse yet, falling hopelessly behind on our tyrannical to-dos. The ultimate sacrifice.

Although he was hastening down the road with his own pressing agenda, the Samaritan stopped. He saw. He felt. He allowed himself to be interrupted for a greater cause.

You know, despite our meticulous planning (Ha!), we never know when Papa God has scheduled a divine appointment. We must expect the unexpected. Don’t resent interruptions; they’re part of your Creator’s to-do list for your life. Try to view them as opportunities to serve others.

And believe it or not, Papa God is standing by to bless your mess.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9, NLT

*Adapted from Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms with permission from Barbour Publishing.

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Woman Interrupted – insight on how to cope with interruptions from author @deborahcoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release is Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms addresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: When has God interrupted you lately?

Guilted by the Shoulds

by Debora M. Coty @deboracoty

The dental hygienist fixed her accusing stare on me after a not-so-stellar appointment. “You should floss more,” she leveled. “What are you doing to clean your teeth daily besides brushing?”

“Um …” I groped for something. Anything. “I use the doggie biscuit technique; I chew on extra crunchy chocolate chip cookies.”

She was right. I really should floss more. But sometimes should is a dangerous word. It’s a stress-filled, pressure-packed slave driver. It ruthlessly inflates the bulk of a woman’s to-do list, often crowding out healthy sanity-essentials with guilt-induced clutter.

  • I should go to that meeting; they really need my help.
  • I should cook a big dinner every night like my mother did.
  • I should clean my house so the kids won’t write notes in the dust.

Seems there’s always something more we should be doing.

But as every woman struggling to squeeze into last year’s skinny jeans knows, more isn’t always better; sometimes it’s simply overwhelming. You know, my friend, we can be whelmed without being overwhelmed. Whelmed is livable; overwhelmed is strangling.

So how do we shush that should guilt threatening to overwhelm us? Here are four suggestions that work for me:

Be stress-smart. When you’re slammed into a stress mess, sit yourself down with a calming cup of your fave hot beverage. I’m talking five mere minutes here, not five hours. You can afford it. Close your eyes. Tune in to Papa God’s loving presence … His heartbeat … His peace. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:19 NIV).

Avoid BOOP (Boiling Oatmeal Overflow Phenomenon). BOOP is one of my Coty Near-Facts of Science (theories not yet proven by actual scientific studies but nevertheless known by women to be true). I postulate that women are like pots of oatmeal; at the beginning of the day we simmer – little manageable bubbles of stress rise to the surface and harmlessly pop. But as the day progresses, the heat escalates and the oatmeal boils higher and wilder and meaner until it overflows and spoils everything around it with a nasty, ugly, sticky mess. The key to avoiding BOOP is to know when to remove the pot from the heat. And speaking of burners …

Promote yourself off the back burner. Don’t argue girl, just do it. You may sacrificially place yourself there routinely, but your Creator doesn’t. You’re a front-burner person to him. He wants you to enjoy this marvelous gift of life He’s given you, not sludge through it. So it’s time to add a little fun to your day.

Write yourself into your schedule for an hour of something you really enjoy a minimum of twice a week. Walk in the sunshine, bike a woodsy trail, sing opera, join a roller derby team, boogie your bad self down, get your nails done – hey, whatever tingles your toes. Put the beautiful smile back on your face. Your fam will be ever so grateful.

Be a dipstick. The Lord puts only enough fuel in your daily tank for you to arrive safely at the destination He’s routed out for you. All the detours you add will either run you out of gas or land you in a ditch. Check your tank, review your destination, and then engage in the Three Ps: Prioritize, Plan, and Pace yourself.

Achk, I know. So many things we must do. A few things we want to do. And countless things we should do. We just have to recognize that we have the power to choose which shoulds are potential coulds … and then unapologetically embrace the woman our choices make us.

I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.Isaiah 41:10 NASB

*Adapted from Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms by Debora M. Coty. Used with permission from Barbour Publishing.

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Guilted by the Shoulds – tips for coping from @deboracoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release is Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms addresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: What stresses you out? How do you give yourself a break?

Messy Christmas

by Kathy Howard @KathyHHoward

Christmas often comes with high expectations. We think everything has to be just so. Perfect decorations. Perfect family. Perfect gifts. Perfect meal.

Our culture perpetuates this fantasy. In the dozens of made-for-TV Christmas movies, the girl always finds her soul mate, the estranged father is always reunited with his family, the boy always gets the puppy, and the table is always laden with beautiful food (which must have been made by Christmas elves, because you don’t see anyone slaving away for hours in the kitchen).

But here’s the problem with high expectations: many of us will be disappointed. Life will never be perfect – not even at Christmas. Maybe especially at Christmas. The arrival of December 25th does not magically heal broken relationships or ease the pain of loss or pay the bills.

In fact, Christmas tends to intensify any grief, anxiety, and sadness we feel because we compare our imperfect, messy lives to that unrealistic perfect image. When our lives don’t measure up, we lose hope. Without hope, Christmas becomes a time we have to get through instead of a joyful celebration.

Here’s the good news: Real hope for Christmas is not in a golden turkey or a new Kindle or a happy family gathered around a gorgeous tree. Real hope is in a babe in a manger. God come to earth to be with us. Immanuel.

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us… In Him was life and that life was the light of men… We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become the children of God.  John 1:4, 12, 14 NIV

This life is messy and will be messy until Jesus comes back for His children. In the meantime, we will encounter trials, pain, death, sickness, divorce, heartache – oh, just name it! However, in the middle of all our mess we can find strength, joy, and peace in the Savior. The birth of that one tiny baby long ago provides hope – for this life and eternity.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV

Does your life feel messy this Christmas? Lay it all at the manger. Find your Christmas joy and peace in the Child of Christmas. In your Savior.

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Does your life feel messy this Christmas? @KathyHHoward on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

Kathy HowardAbout the author: This post is adapted from Kathy Howard’s Bible study. Lavish Grace: Poured Out, Poured Through, and Overflowing. Lavish Grace is a 9-week journey with the apostle Paul that helps readers discover God’s abundant grace for their daily lives and relationships. You can find out more about Kathy, her speaking and writing, and find free resources at www.KathyHoward.org.

Join the conversation: Are you struggling with a messy life this Christmas season? Share a thought about the hope, joy, and peace you can find in Christ!

I’m Drowning Here!

by Pam Farrel

Ever feel like you are drowning in bad news?  Are the tough times are coming at you one right after another like a torrential down pour?  Is all the negativity and stress making you feel like you can’t even get a breath? Me too.

While I was writing my new book, life felt like I had been caught under the great Niagara Falls, being forced down under the torrent…breathless…helpless. The stressors of that season felt much like when, many years before, I found myself caught in a rip tide while swimming in the Pacific Ocean. My options at that point were terrifying: one was to catch a wave that would carry me to shore, but the shore was a cliff with jagged rock and thrashing waves. The other option was to allow the rip tide to carry me far out to sea. Death by rocks or death by sharks?

But then I remembered a third life-saving possibility: to swim parallel to the shore far enough down the beach to where the riptide ended and the sandy beach began. So as the riptide continued to carry me away from shore, I prayed and began to calmly swim along the shoreline. Eventually, the rip tide’s grip broke. I swam in and walked out to safety, exhausted, relieved, and overjoyed.

One psalm writer was in the press of one hardship after another. He wrote: “Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me” Psalm 42:7 NIV.

This verse captures how many of us might feel when life gets difficult. Some Bible scholars say “deep calls to deep” is a reference to powerful torrential flood waters—that God’s hand of mercy is holding back. “The roar of your waterfalls” references the power of water to keep us down and under the surface—at times feeling like the negative circumstance will drown us. The waves and breakers sweeping over him again pictures being caught in crushing, crashing, unceasing waves. These powerful images are each a vivid portrayal of what it is like to be caught in a flood of challenges.

So, what can we do when the stresses of the unwelcome, unwanted, unexpected, and unbelievably hard circumstances are gushing down like a waterfall? Verse 11 gives the psalmist’s source of hope in the flood: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (NIV).

We can go beyond surviving and actually thrive while living in this broken world. God, our lifeguard, tosses us a life-saving ring of hope and help. When we put our hope in Him, we find a firm rock on which to stand. We can trust in His goodness, and we can trust Him to be faithful. And as we wait for Him to move us through a challenging time, we should express our trust by praising Him. Because as we pray and sing His praises out loud, we remind ourselves of His character, enabling us to trust Him even more firmly than we did before. And we remind ourselves that He is working all things together for our ultimate good. (Rom. 8:28)

Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him. Psalm 62:1 NIV

Photo by Christopher Campbell on Unsplash

pam ferrelAbout the author: Pam Farrel is an international speaker and author of 45 books, including her newest, an innovative Bible study co-authored with Jean E Jones and Karla Dornacher:  Discovering Hope in the Psalms.   Pam and Her husband Bill are Co-Directors of Love-Wise, a ministry to enrich, educate and encourage people’s most vital relationships. When not traveling for speaking, the Farrells enjoy kayaking, paddle boarding, walking the beach and hosting guests on their floating home on the ocean.

Join the conversation: What stresses in your life have made you feel as if you were drowning? How did God rescue you?

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Congratulations to our first week winner: Allyson King!!