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Dancing in the Puddles
And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.
Psalm 39:7 NLT
They say you can tell a lot about a person's foundation of hope by the way she handles a rainy day. Does she turn into a Gloomy Gussy, wailing, "Oh, woe is me ..." or does she make the best of a bad situation? A hope-filled person will realize that abundant life in Christ isn't about simply enduring the storm but also about learning to dance in the puddles. So grab your galoshes, and let's boogie!
"Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you."
1 Chronicles 28:20 NASB
What a life verse! What a creed to live by! We are assured that our God will never leave us or forsake us. We draw strength and courage from this assurance and are then able to act; to share our faith boldly—without fear—because we are never alone. The Lord God—our God—is with us.
Shouts of Joy
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter and your lips with shouts of joy.
Job 8:21 NIV
Do you remember the last time you laughed till you cried? For many of us, it's been far too long. Stress tends to steal our joy, leaving us humorless and oh-so-serious. But lightness and fun haven't disappeared forever. They may be buried beneath the snow of a long, wintery life season, but spring is coming, girls. Laughter will bloom again, and our hearts will soar as our lips shout with joy. Grasp that hope!CHAPTER 2
You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the One who lifts my head.
Psalm 3:3 NASB
Have you ever caught a glimpse of yourself reflected in a window and were shocked at the hangdog image you unwittingly portrayed? Slumped shoulders, drooping head, defeated expression? You can straighten your posture and adjust your face, but if the change doesn't come from the inside out, it won't stick. God is our Interior Decorator. Only He can provide that inner joy that projects outward and lifts our heads. Invite Him in to work on your place.
We wish that each of you would always be eager to show how strong and lasting your hope really is.
Hebrews 6:11 CEV
Our behavior is always on display and, like it or not, we are judged by our actions ... and inactions. Without an explanation for our behavior—that we're motivated by faith to be Christlike—people will make up their own ideas: Her mama taught her right; she was just born nice; she acts sweet so everyone will like her. Isn't it better to be up-front and give credit to the One we're emulating? Wear the label of your Designer proudly.
I'm No Eeyore
Then [Job's] wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!"
Job 2:9 NASB
Job's wife was the unwilling recipient of Satan's attacks because of her husband's righteous life. When the going got tough, our girl lost faith and hope disintegrated. We, too, sometimes lose sight of all God has done for us and focus only on what He hasn't done. Our optimistic attitudes are consumed by negativity. Job's response is the key to escaping the shackles of Eeyore-ism: "I know that my Redeemer lives" (Job 19:25 NASB).CHAPTER 3
God has made everything beautiful for its own time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT
Beauty is a concern of every woman to some degree. We worry about hair, makeup, weight, fashions. But real beauty can only come from God's inside-out love. Once we are able to finally comprehend His infinite and extravagant love for us—despite our flat feet and split ends—our heart glow will reflect radiant beauty from the inside out. Only when we feel truly loved are we free to be truly lovely.
Cultivate inner beauty, the gentle, gracious kind that God delights in.
1 Peter 3:4 MSG
In our quest for beauty, we buy into all sorts of crazy things: mud facials, cosmetic surgery, body piercings, obsessive dieting, squeezing size 10 feet into size 8 shoes. The image of Scarlett O'Hara's binding corset makes us shudder. (Reminds me of a pair of jeans I wrestled with just last week.) Yet God's idea of beauty is on the inside—where spandex cannot touch. Let's resolve to devote more time pursuing inner beauty that will never require Botox.
Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful of form and face.
Genesis 29:17 NASB
Have you ever felt like a booby prize? No doubt Leah did. Hunky Jacob labored seven years to marry Leah's gorgeous sister, Rachel. Then their squirrelly father switched his daughters at the altar. Jacob freaked. Leah tanked. We, too, sometimes feel that we're not good enough—that we don't measure up. But Leah gave birth to six of the twelve tribes of Israel, the cornerstone of Judeo-Christendom. God has a mighty plan for all of us Leahs.CHAPTER 4
Granter of Dreams
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 NLT
As a teenager, I dreamed of one day writing a book. But life intervened, and I became a wife, mother, occupational therapist, and piano teacher. My writing dream was shelved. Twenty-five years later, after my youngest chick flew the coop, God's still, small voice whispered, "It's time." Within five years, the Granter of Dreams delivered over seventy articles and nine book contracts. What's your dream? Be brave and take the first step.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.
Psalm 33:18 NIV
The Lord of all creation is watching our every moment and wants to fill us with His joy. He often interrupts our lives with His blessings: butterflies dancing in sunbeams, dew-touched spiderwebs, cotton candy clouds, and glorious crimson sunsets. The beauty of His creation reassures us of His unfailing love and fills us with hope. But it is up to us to take the time to notice.CHAPTER 5
Stop the Roller Coaster
Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God!
Psalm 43:5 NLT
For women, ruts of depression are often caused by careening hormones. Rampaging hormones can cause us to spend countless hours weeping without knowing why—or bite someone's head off, lose precious sleep, or sprout funky nervous habits. Knowing that this hormonally-crazed state is only temporary, we must intentionally place our hope in tomorrow and pray that God will turn the downside up!
God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.
Psalm 46:1 NLT
What is your quiet place? The place you go to get away from the fray, to chill out, think, regroup, and gain perspective? Mine is a hammock nestled beneath a canopy of oaks in my backyard ... nobody around but birds, squirrels, an occasional wasp, God, and me. There I can pour out my heart to my Lord, hear His comforting voice, and feel His strength refresh me. We all need a quiet place. God, our refuge, will meet us there.
A Little Goes a Long Way
"The Lord our God has allowed a few of us to survive as a remnant."
Ezra 9:8 NLT
Remnants. Useless by most standards, but God is in the business of using tiny slivers of what's left to do mighty things. Nehemiah rebuilt the fallen walls of Jerusalem with a remnant of Israel; Noah's three sons repopulated the earth after the flood; four slave boys—Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—kept faith alive for an entire nation. When it feels as if bits and pieces are all that has survived of your hope, remember how much God can accomplish with remnants!CHAPTER 6
Let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.
1 Thessalonians 5:8 NASB
Women's hats aren't as popular as they once were, but you wouldn't know it by my closet. I love accessorizing with a perky hat to make a statement, to disguise a bad hair day, or to keep my brain from sautéing in the sizzling Florida sun. The Bible says we need to protect our minds from bad spiritual rays, too. Nasty input produces nasty output: stinkin' thinkin'. When we're tempted to input a questionable movie or book, let's don our salvation helmets and say, "No way!"
I may have fallen, but I will get up; I may be sitting in the dark, but the Lord is my light.
Micah 7:8 CEV
"Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." This memorable line from the movie, The Princess Bride, rings true. Pain is inevitable in life, but God can use it for redemptive purposes. Pain can knock us down, cast us into darkness, and make us feel defeated. But it's only as debilitating as we allow it to be. We will get up again; we will learn, adapt, and grow through redeeming pain.
Maid of Honor
For I fully expect and hope that ... my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.
Philippians 1:20 NLT
Honor. A word not as respected in our society as it once was. In these days of suggestive attire, cohabitation without marriage, and tolerance for every behavior imaginable, it's hard to remember what honor means. As Christians, our hope and expectation is to honor Christ with our lives—especially in the details—because we are the only reflection of Jesus some people might ever see.CHAPTER 7
The SAM Creed
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us. ... But even if he does not ... we will never serve your gods.
Daniel 3:17–18 NLT
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were Israeli boys who were captured and transported as slaves to Babylon. Ordered by their new king to worship his god or die horribly in a fiery furnace, the boys evoked the SAM Creed, an acronym for their names: My God is able to deliver me, but even if He chooses not to, I will still follow Him. Through tough times, let's resolve to live by The SAM Creed.
See Ya, Self
"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Matthew 5:3 NASB
We don't often think of ourselves as "poor in spirit," but this passage refers to those who are not full of themselves; those who are filled instead with God's spirit. "Poor" in this context means selfless rather than selfish; those with an attitude of dependence on God. How do we become poor in spirit and revel in the hope and promise of heaven? By emptying ourselves of self and the pride of self-sufficiency, and refilling ourselves with Jesus.
We all make many mistakes. For if we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.
James 3:2 NLT
Many of us don't let thoughts marinate long before we spew them out of our mouths. We want to honor God with our speech but seem to spend more time dousing forest fires resulting from sparks kindled by our wagging tongues (James 3:5). Don't despair! There's hope for loose lips! The Creator of self-control is happy to loan us a muzzle (Psalm 39:1) if we sincerely want to change.
Cat-a-tude Versus Dog-a-tude
May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the Lord Almighty.
Psalm 69:6 NIV
Are you a hisser or a wagger?
Perhaps you have a feline attitude: It's all about me. I like you for what you can do for me. You'll have my attention only when it's convenient for me. Me, me, me.
Or maybe you have a dog mentality: It's all about you. I love you unconditionally just because you're you. How can I make you happy? God is glorified by selflessness, not selfishness. Let's strive to make our Master proud.CHAPTER 8
It'll Be All Right
Our comfort is abundant through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:5 NASB
As children, there's no greater comfort than running to Mommy or Daddy and hearing, "It'll be all right." As adults, when we're frightened, dismayed, or dispirited, we yearn to run to enveloping arms for the same comfort. Abba Father—Papa God—is waiting with open arms to offer us loving comfort in our times of need. If we listen closely, we'll hear His still, small voice speak to our hearts: "It'll be all right, my child."
I Am His
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.
Psalm 73:26 NLT
My dear friend was dying of an inoperable brain tumor. Mother of three, 48-year-old Sherill could no longer walk or care for herself, yet her voice was filled with hope as she gazed unwaveringly into my eyes and quoted this verse. She added something very significant at the end that I'll hold close to my heart and draw strength from when my time comes: "He is mine forever ... and I am His."
Comforting the Comfortless
He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.
2 Corinthians 1:4 MSG
Heartbroken and hollow after my sixth miscarriage, I struggled to find meaning in my loss. My heavenly Father's arms comforted me when I burst into tears at song lyrics or at the sight of a mother cuddling her infant in Wal-Mart. I finally relinquished my babies to Jesus' loving embrace, confident that I'd see them again one day. I was then able to share His comfort and hope with other women suffering miscarriages.CHAPTER 9
"Where then is my hope?"
Job 17:15 NIV
On hectic days when fatigue takes its toll, when we feel like cornless husks, hope disappears. When hurting people hurt people, and we're in the line of fire, hope vanishes. When ideas fizzle, efforts fail; when we throw the spaghetti against the wall and nothing sticks, hope seems lost. But we must remember it's only temporary. The mountaintop isn't gone just because it's obscured by fog. Visibility will improve tomorrow and hope will rise.
The Eyes Have It
All of you together are Christ's body, and each one of you is a part of it.
1 Corinthians 12:27 NLT
Just as our bodies are compiled of many parts, each essential for functioning as a whole, the body of Christ is made up of hands, feet, ears, hearts, and minds. We women understand this concept but tend to compare ourselves to others. If we're hands, we wish we were feet. If we're noses, we'd rather be eyes. Sometimes we feel like bunions. But God views us as equally important, none better than another. Even us toenails!
I am not complaining about having too little. I have learned to be satisfied with whatever I have.
Philippians 4:11 CEV
I oozed envy as writer buddies received awards, broke sales records, and snagged lucrative contracts. What about me? Where were my accolades? It had always been enough to know I was following God's chosen path for me, but suddenly all I could do was complain. I wanted more.
Then God sent me a sign. Actually, it was a bumper sticker on a passing car: Wag More, Bark Less. Message received ... with a smile.CHAPTER 10
Lord of the Dance
Remember your promise to me; it is my only hope.
Psalm 119:49 NLT
The Bible contains many promises from God: He will protect us (Proverbs 1:33), comfort us (2 Corinthians 1:5), help in our times of trouble (Psalm 46:1), and encourage us (Isaiah 40:39). The word encourage comes from the root phrase "to inspire courage." Like an earthly father encouraging his daughter from backstage as her steps falter during her dance recital, our Papa God wants to inspire courage in us, if we only look to Him.
When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.
Psalm 56:3 NASB
While I cowered in a bathroom stall before my first speaking event, my queasy stomach rolled and sweat beaded on my forehead. I prayed for a way to escape. Into my head popped a childhood memory verse: "When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You." My pounding heart calmed. I repeated the scripture aloud and felt my nausea subside and panic diminish. Peace flooded my soul. When we're afraid, Papa God is right beside us holding our hand.
Bigger than Fear
Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety.
Job 11:18 NLT
Tossing, turning, sleepless nights: What woman doesn't know these intimately? Our thoughts race with the "what if's" and fear steals our peace. How precious is God's promise that He will rescue us from nagging, faceless fear and give us courage to just say no to anxious thoughts that threaten to terrorize us at our most vulnerable moments. He is our hope and protector. He is bigger than fear. Anxiety flees in His presence. Rest with Him tonight.
Excerpted from Everyday Hope by Debora M. Coty. Copyright © 2009 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
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