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"Michele Howe writes sensitively of the struggles faced by the women she has met whether it is a mother experiencing the sorrow of miscarriage or a single woman aching from the heartbreak of a lost romance. . . . she finds a ...
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"Michele Howe writes sensitively of the struggles faced by the women she has met whether it is a mother experiencing the sorrow of miscarriage or a single woman aching from the heartbreak of a lost romance. . . . she finds a thread of hope and weaves it into a beautiful, healing reflection and prayer."
— Judy Tarjanyi, former religion editor, The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
"A rich resource full of real-life situations that will encourage and inspire women of all ages. I particularly enjoyed the scriptures, prayers and encouraging words, from famous people we've come to admire and respect."
— Holly McClure, author, TV host, movie critic
"Timely and timeless are two words that describe Prayers of Comfort and Strength. If ever there were a time that we need to be drawn to prayer, it is now. If ever there were petitions that were applicable to these days, they would be prayers for comfort and strength."
— Jan Silvious, speaker and author, Look At It This Way
Part One: Too Much to Handle.
1 Penny Pinch.
2 No Easy Escape.
3 Tough Call.
5 No Place to Call Home.
6 Unfinished Business.
7 Empty Nest.
8 Ransomed Resources.
9 Shake Down.
11 Visitation Rights.
12 War Casualties.
Part Two: Relational Setbacks.
13 Sudden Good-Byes.
14 Deferred Desires.
15 Blissful Beginnings?.
16 Rocked and Rattled.
17 Mindful Words.
18 Unfair Assumptions.
19 Second Class.
20 Out of Bounds.
22 Under Duress.
Part Three: In Sickness and Health.
23 Never Good-Bye.
24 Easy Does It.
25 Golden Years.
26 Time Out.
27 Tender Talk.
28 The Long Haul.
29 Collision Course.
30 Wounds That Don’t Heal.
31 Service with a Smile.
32 Best Guess.
Part Four: The Final Separation.
34 The Mourning Season.
35 Good Days.
36 Lost Opportunity.
38 The Last Reunion.
39 The Heart Beats On.
40 Double the Fun.
42 Sudden Sorrow.
Part Five: Forsaken Dreams.
44 Sacrificial Love.
45 Remembering Us.
46 Residual Effects.
48 Empty Arms.
49 Motion Detector.
50 Above Board.
51 Double Whammy.
52 Loose Change.
Gwen counted out the change in her purse, almost six dollars and some odd pennies. Enough, she thought with relief. "Here's the money you need for today's lunches kids." Handing off her final cash reserve, Gwen experienced both a rash sense of relief and anxiety. It's only Tuesday and I just know someone's going to need more money before Friday. Shaking her head, Gwen turned her thoughts to meal planning. Let's see, she pondered, what inexpensive meals can I turn out until the paycheck comes in? Some minutes later, Gwen felt a tad more at ease. That's one more task out of the way, she thought. Now on to the difficult stuff, Gwen reached for the newspaper and took out her red pen, armed and ready to circle any possible job openings. It was so aggravating, this issue of budgeting, Gwen decided as she looked down column after column of advertisements. She didn't want to get a job working full-time. Gwen was happy working from her home selling personal care products and further supplementing the family's income by occasionally filling in as the church secretary. But the little she brought in hadn't made a dent in their debt. Gwen's husband finally told her that for at least the next year, she'd need to get a job. "Doing what?" Gwen asked. "Anything," the curt reply.
So today was D day and Gwen was determined not to allow her fear of the unknown to hinder her fromthis job search. Though she'd been diligent to cut costs in the past month or so, Gwen admitted that both she and her husband had been living far above their means for the last several years. In the back of her mind, Gwen had been trying to ignore the niggling little voice that continually cautioned her to pare back and live more frugally. But she hadn't listened and now she was paying the price.
Gwen worked her way through the entire ten-page listing and circled seven possibilities. Tearing the ads out, she wanted to cry again. How would getting a full-time position away from home change their lives? Gwen wondered. Suddenly overcome by the immense transition they would be facing, Gwen sat back in her chair, closed her eyes, and cried out to God for some small measure of strength and peace of mind.
You are not restrained by us, but you are restrained in your own affections. -2 Corinthians 6:12
Dear Lord, upon waking up this morning I was suddenly shaken with the realization that today was it, no longer could I make excuses for not following through on this task. Oh, how I wanted to climb back under the covers and sleep the day away. But it was no use. My poor choices have finally caught up with me. Now I must tackle the difficult work of digging myself out of the trenches of debt we've accumulated. Lord, this is not going to be easy. In fact, when I look at the cold, hard facts, it seems monumental to me. How long will it take for us to rest easy again? I admit that my family and I have been placing far too much emphasis on enjoying the extras of life. We've somehow gotten off track with what's most important. Each of us, I think, has willingly taken the road of comfort and expedience when instead we should have pressed hard to finish the work at hand.
Lord, is it too late to undo the mess we've made? I wonder. Will you enable us to forge ahead even though the going will be slow and tedious? Help us not become discouraged when we get weary. Show us the path through and make a way for us even today. Please be my guide and provide me with all the discipline I require to live out my life pleasing to you. Let not greed for material wealth put a wall between us. I commit my coming days to you, faithful Lord. I beg your mercy will surround me and that your grace will shore me up whenever I need fresh encouragement. Amen.
Every job is a self-portrait of the person who does it. Autograph your work with excellence. -God's Little Devotional Journal for Women
Under her breath, Lynda fought for control. She want-to cry foul to the school board members who were quizzing her on her son Brent's recent placement into the underage juvenile detention center. True enough, Brent, along with two buddies, had broken into a nearby schoolyard and painted graffiti all over the school rock before the rival game. They had inadvertently damaged the fence as they made their late-night escapes. Lynda had been shocked and heartsick. She thought Brent was spending the night at his father's home. Her ex-husband had believed that Brent was with Lynda. Certainly, Brent had played them both. Aside from feeling foolish, Lynda was devastated that her son, once on the honor roll, had taken this senseless course of action. Why, Lynda wondered, did Brent feel he needed to bring such attention to himself all the time now-and at the risk of getting in deep trouble for it?
Lynda, a former high school English instructor, now assistant superintendent, felt both angry and embarrassed. As such a high-profile employee in her school district, Lynda was especially shaken by Brent's deliberate affront to the rules. He was most definitely going to be paying the price for his decision, both monetarily and in community service time. But Lynda felt the attack of silent accusations from every quarter. Wasn't anyone willing to cut her or her son some slack? With all the nonverbal cues Lynda was getting, she wasn't surprised by her own defensive response. Lynda was struggling inside and out. Help me, someone, throw me a lifeline here, she silently pleaded. Instead, Lynda continued to face what felt like a wall of stone-faced, pious men and women who wanted to knock her down to the same level as her son. Oh, it hurts, Lynda thought with despair. How will they ever respect me in the same way again after this episode? How can I expect them to? Self-recrimination flew fast through Lynda's mind. Then she stopped herself short, what's been done here that can't be undone? And what did I always tell my students when they were feeling stymied while writing their term papers? Simple advice really. Don't give up, make the needed changes, and stay at the task until you have it right. Good advice, Lynda, now apply it.
In Thee O Lord, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed. -Psalm 71:1
Dear Lord, why I am struggling so with this inconsequential issue of my reputation? True enough, I am widely known throughout this area. And, I hope, well enough regarded. But now I feel as though I have disappointed my family, friends, and indeed the entire community. Worst of all, I believe I have disappointed you. Lord, I should not be focusing on the passing comments and trivial opinions of those around me. In time, this event will be forgotten. But my loved one may continue to fight against the battles he's mired himself in. Help me set aside any self-protective thoughts and guide me as I attempt to find practical ways to love my child unconditionally. You know that I fluctuate between anger, resentment, and pity for him. May my heart be unconditionally loving and fully committed to restoring peace in his life and ours. Lord, please forgive my shortsightedness. Too often I am only concerned about me! Lord, I am ashamed to admit this to you. I pray that from this day on you will guard my heart and mind against the temptation to fall into the blackness of despair and hopelessness. Sometimes my heart is in such upheaval, I feel dizzy with thoughts of retribution. In these moments, I want this wayward one to pay the full price for his choices. Again, this is grievous to admit openly. But as I confess these shortcomings, I ask that you shower your compassionate forgiveness upon me-today, tomorrow, and throughout my life. I need your touch of goodness, mercy, and grace to see me through this time of testing. Amen.
Real God-given power isn't what you exert over others. That's force. Real God-given power is what you exert over yourself. It's the ability to discipline yourself, to exercise control over not only your behavior but over your thoughts and emotions. -Richard L. Ganz in The Secret of Self-Control
Settling down with a cup of steaming hot tea and lemon, Emma snipped the end of the honey swizzle stick and poured its contents into her tea. Swirling the sweetener around with her spoon, Emma sighed. What to do? Emma had just returned to her childhood home with her three children. Her status as a single parent didn't have many benefits but it did afford her some flexibility. Emma's elderly parents would be moving with them into the burgeoning family home within the coming weeks. Over the past several years, Emma's mother and father had turned that inevitable corner of no longer being able to safely live in their home independently. When Mother and Dad made the offer to move Emma and the children with them back into same house where Emma grew up, it seemed too good to be true. So Emma had sold her own smaller home within days and together they purchased the old homestead. Once Emma's folks sold their current place, they would follow Emma and live together in the more spacious house.
Although tea and lemon calmed Emma's nerves most times, even this tranquil setting didn't begin to temper Emma's rising blood pressure. Hadn't her kids just told her how much they relished living in their new home? Hadn't her dad just last week been demanding to be moved over immediately? Hadn't her mom given her the OK to have a contractor come out and erect a cement wheelchair ramp? Hadn't Emma already moved all of her own belongings as well as many vans full of her parents' goods to their home? To the entire above, yes! So it was understandable that Emma felt as though her world was spinning off its axis after she received the call from her mother with the news they decided not to move to the homestead after all. Shock? Dismay? Emma was uncertain as to how to handle this devastating news flash. Although it was certainly unwanted, Emma admitted to having a small, niggling premonition that her mother just might change her mind at the eleventh hour.
"Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, Now I will arise," says the Lord; "I will set him in the safety for which he longs." -Psalm 12:5
Dear Lord, can it be that my parents have switched gears on me again? Even now I'm still mired in disbelief. I've asked myself a dozen times if I correctly heard my mother verbalize her change of heart. Why is this happening? Why now? Can I handle another change? Am I up to this complete turnaround? Again? Oh Lord, I realized going into this situation that it would not be easy. Yet to have sold our home and moved only to do it a second time in a few months' time is just too much to ask. I need you, Lord, more than ever before to come to me and quiet my troubled heart. My mind is literally consumed with disdain for what my parents have done. Please undertake for me now. Enable me by your abundant grace to forgive and let go of this offense.
Take me under your wings and give me all that I require to serve my parents and my children. I believe you have called me to offer my strength and support to those I love. Yet I am wavering now, afraid of what the future may hold for me. Undergird me with your resilience and lend me your strong and mighty hands of support. Lord, take this puzzling circumstance and bring good out of it. Change hearts where change is required. Soften the hard edges of personalities and conform us to your son Jesus. Provide wisdom and understanding so that peace might reign supreme. Above all, teach me how to demonstrate your unconditional love and acceptance-unconditionally. Amen.
Reach out and take God's hand. Step over the boundary into the unknown and let his tide of love and grace carry you. The life of faith is lived on a need-to-know basis. -Jud Wilhite in Faith That Goes the Distance
The day after a fire swept through their home, Kim and her family circled around the perimeter of their property in small steps. When warned that the remaining house structure was still too unstable for them to begin a "search and rescue" for any undamaged valuables, Kim's face betrayed her. Awash in grief, she slowly sidestepped strewn fragments of her house that had crumbled outward as it burned. "Destroyed, it's all gone now," Kim lamented. As she mentally started tabulating all that they would need to replace, Kim felt sick. "Take me back to your house," she told her parents. After making another attempt to emotionally regroup, Kim continued to fight the waves of nausea that would suddenly take her by storm. Where to begin? What to do first? How does one tackle the immense task of rebuilding not only one's home but also everything that lay within it?
Slowly, with her family and friends' assistance, Kim and her family got the insurance claims filed. A cash advance arrived for needed personal items, but they still had to decide whether to rebuild their home or buy another one. Not sure what else to do, Kim and some friends, along with her teens, went to dig around through the heap of debris that used to be their home. They had on heavy work boots and thick gloves, and they had an empty truck to fill-if there was anything worth salvaging. After a couple of hours of work, what they'd been able to salvage didn't amount to much. Blinking back tears, Kim peeked in the truck bed, and something inside her died again. As they all drove back to Kim's parents' home, the friends told her that they needed to make a stop. "Fine," Kim replied numbly, and thought bleakly to herself, I've got no home to return to anyway.
Some twenty minutes later Kim and a crew of family and friends were assembling outside her church. Surprised and taken aback, Kim suspected that this gathering had something to do with her, but she wasn't sure what it could be. "We're here to help get you set up for housekeeping until you move into a permanent place," one friend announced. "We all have a few used, but still nice items we'd like to donate to your family. And once we're finished here, a few of the ladies are going to take you and your kids shopping for clothes and such. And we all pitched in for you to have a new family portrait taken." Kim, aghast, simply stood in shock. Where did all these people come from? All this goodwill? "Just say yes," Kim's friend nudged her. But Kim couldn't say anything, so she just nodded weakly in agreement. A small smile finally reached her heart for the first time in many days.
The generous man will be prosperous, And he who waters will himself be watered.]
Excerpted from Prayers of Comfort and Strength by Michele Howe Excerpted by permission.
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