When the rush of regular life leaves you breathless by day’s end, this collection of everyday stories becomes the place where you can come as you are, and find yourself among friends. Friends who have been there. Friends who’ll lean in close and say, “Me too!” Through our stories the bonds of friendship deepen as we listen to each other, laugh with each other, and learn from each other. Because we’re better when we’re living this one beautiful life together.
With stories from 80 writers, these pages become the very place your soul can exhale, where you can:
· Connect with the hearts of women through stories that echo your own.
· Find beauty in the ordinary and sometimes messy moments of your everyday life.
· See your own stories as an offering of hope to those around you.
· Treasure the unseen ways God moves through even your most regular days.
With 365 readings, each day begins with a passage of Scripture, tells a story of everyday faith, and encourages you to take a moment to breathe with a simple but fun way to complete your day. So kick off your shoes and join us for a relaxing but special time, where friends come together and share the real stuff of everyday faith.
|Publisher:||B&H Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||7.00(w) x 5.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||3 Months to 18 Years|
About the Author
(in)courage welcomes you to a place where authentic, brave women connect deeply with God and others. Founded in 2009 by DaySpring, the Christian products subsidiary of Hallmark Cards, Inc., (in)courage is a vibrant online community that reaches thousands of women every day. Through the power of shared stories and meaningful resources, (in)courage celebrates the strength Jesus gives to live out our calling as God's daughters. Together we build community, celebrate diversity, and become women of courage.
Denise J. Hughes is the author of Deeper Waters and the Bible study series Word Writers. She enjoys serving as the Editorial Coordinator for (in)courage by DaySpring, and she always finds time for tea, books, and a good football game. You can connect with her at denisejhughes.com and on Instagram: @DeniseJHughes
Read an Excerpt
We're All Worth a Second Look
BY HOLLEY GERTH
I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. PHILIPPIANS 1:6
WE WANDER OVER TO our favorite fruit stand, to a table laden with discounted fruit labeled "seconds." A wiry woman says, "These are here because they have some kind of trouble."
I look at her and say with a half-grin, "Don't we all?"
My husband and I have bought these peaches before and we know what she means. There might be a bruise from a hard landing on unrelenting ground. There could be a tiny hole where a bug helped itself to dinner. I glance at the cousins of these peaches sitting on other tables inside the little stand. They're beautiful and unblemished as they sit proudly in their buckets waiting to be taken home by folks who will not settle for anything less. I think if I were a peach I'd rather be on the "seconds" table where the messy is allowed.
We choose our imperfect peaches and cart them home with anticipation. I set one on a small cream-colored plate and split it right down the side with a silver knife. I bring the piece to my mouth and take a bite. It's an explosion of sweet and tart and summer.
I look at it and whisper right to its skin, "Who would have thought you had that in you?" Then I think about how this rings true to life. Because we all have parts of our hearts or stories that we think don't measure up. We call them unworthy and less than and we put them to the side. But the longer I've walked this spinning earth, the more I find those are the places where the glory and the beauty are likely to show up and shout, "Surprise!" I had assumed "seconds" meant "not first, not best." Maybe it really just means "worth a second look."
A Moment to Breathe ...
As you go through your day, look into the eyes of the cashier or the barista or the mailman and say hi. Learn their name. Give them a "second look" and a smile that says, "You matter."
Praying for Rain
BY LISA-JO BAKER
Ask the Lord for rain in the season of spring rain. The Lord makes the rain clouds, and he will give them showers of rain and crops in the field for everyone. ZECHARIAH 10:1
AT THE KITCHEN SINK there are only dishes and soap suds and my thoughts. So late at night while the household sleeps, I straggle into the kitchen to find peace in a sink full of waiting dishes. As I rinse my bright red frying pan, I find myself praying desperate dreams for the future. I pray for what I want but rarely for what I have.
But recently, I was reminded of the verse in Zechariah that says: In the season of rain, pray for rain. And suddenly I'm back in South Africa on a dry game farm surrounded by farmers who haven't seen rain in months. These sun-weathered men sit in their rough clothes at a long table outside. The first course is cucumber soup. But with first bites come cold, hard drops. Rain. I prepare to make a dash for the inside of the lodge, but I'm the only one to move.
The men carry on with their meal as the rain falls down and the soup splashes up. But their actions speak louder than words and my father interprets them for me, "They won't leave the rain, because they don't want it to leave them." In the season of rain, they want more rain.
With soap suds up to my elbows, I lean on the sink, remembering. What I have now is once what I wanted so desperately: healed marriage, healthy children, the beginnings of meaningful work. I don't want to lose sight of these in the chase after my next prayer request. In the season of rain, still pray for rain. Because, once the rain begins, it's tempting to walk away from the answered prayer and move on to the next thing. But I do not want to do that. I want to sit and revel in what God has given me here and now. Daily, between soap suds and dirty dishes, I want to pray for what I have.
A Moment to Breathe ...
Pray for the rain that's already falling, giving thanks for the abundance He's already shown.
BY ALIZA LATTA
Therefore accept one another, just as Christ also accepted you, to the glory of God. ROMANS 15:7
THE PLANE HAD JUST started to climb into the air when the man sitting next to me knocked his elbow against mine. I turned to him and smiled. (I always smile when I feel awkward.) "My name is John." He said each word painfully slow, his hand sort of flapping while pointing to his chest.
"Hi, John. It's nice to meet you. My dad's name is John, too."
He then asked, long and slow, each syllable a marathon, "What is your name?" I felt guilty when the word slipped quick and easy from my lips. "Aliza."
"Aliza," he repeated, nodding. He looked at me, his blue eyes sharp but kind. "I have to apologize. I haven't always been like this. I was in an accident." When I understood what he said, I felt this deep sinking in my gut. John felt he needed to apologize because I might think him different.
How many plane trips had he taken where people didn't talk to him because they thought he was different? How many days did he wake up wishing, praying, begging God to go back to the day when people didn't think him different? I saw the looks he was given on the plane and my heart hurt, because the truth is, John is no different than me.
We're both searching and hoping and laughing and struggling, and so yes, maybe those things don't look exactly the same for the two of us, but who is to say that he is different and I am normal?
John says he reads a lot of books and he loves Netflix, and he used to be a really good biker. Before we got off the plane, John elbowed me again. I turned to him, and I'll never forget the words he gave to me. And in the sincerest voice I've ever heard, "Aliza, I hope that you are able to do everything I can't."
A Moment to Breathe ...
When you see someone who might seem a little different, pause and say hello. Look into their eyes. Smile. Give the simple, but important, gift of dignity.
The Hidden Stain
BY DENISE J. HUGHES
... Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. EPHESIANS 5:25
DRAPED IN WHITE LACE I stood ready, waiting. The room brimmed with busyness around me as the bridesmaids clutched their bouquets and the mothers adjusted their corsages. Then suddenly, an eerie silence descended. I searched the faces of my girlfriends while expressions of shock and horror stared back at me. "What happened? What is it?"
I followed their eyes to something behind me. The train of my bridal gown was several feet long — just how I always dreamt it would be. And there, kneeling by my train, my thirteen-year-old cousin held a steaming hot clothes iron; beneath it a dark orange triangle smoldered on the train of my dress. Apparently she tried to iron out the creases in the train, but the iron was too hot for the satin.
As the music began in the sanctuary, I looked up and said, "Quick! Somebody run to the church office and find some liquid Wite-Out!" I figured it might make the fabric clumpy and goopy, but at least it wouldn't be dark orange.
I told my cousin not to worry about it and plotted with my maid of honor how we could hide the stain. Instead of spreading out my train behind me, like she did at the rehearsal, I asked her to fold the fabric over to cover the stain. And down the aisle we went.
In Scripture, the church is the bride of Christ. By God's grace, the stain of our sin no longer marks us. We are cleansed and set free. The bride of Christ isn't perfect, none of us are, but Christ's forgiveness is complete.
On my wedding day, no one in the sanctuary knew the bride had a huge ugly stain on her dress. But one day, there will be another wedding, and the bride of Christ will appear ... without spot or wrinkle.
A Moment to Breathe ...
Look on the cover of this book. You'll see a faint stain from a coffee mug. It's there on purpose. Because we all have "stains" we want to hide, but Christ removes them when we ask Him to. And we've no better reason to exhale than that.
What Will the Neighbors Think?
BY MARY CARVER
For am I now trying to persuade people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. GALATIANS 1:10
"WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST be quiet?" I hissed as my daughter raised her voice once again. My eyes darted back and forth, searching for any movement on our street, any evidence that our neighbors were outside and within earshot of my noisy family. Life with a tween and a toddler is awfully loud a lot of the time, and it can be embarrassing. Between back talk from one and tantrums from the other, silence is a hot commodity around here.
Our street is a quiet one, which only highlights our not-so-quiet family. Since we moved here last summer, I've worried about what our neighbors must think of us. We arrived in this community excited to meet new people and share our lives and our faith with them. But insecurity and the need to please quickly eclipsed those good intentions.
One day, as I buckled my youngest into our car, I heard voices. I saw an open garage door and realized another mom was just as exasperated (and expressive) as I often find myself. I heard her holler at her kids to get in the car — and it hit me. I'd been wasting time hiding away and trying to control my family's appearance for people I'd never met when I could have been walking across the street to introduce myself (and my noisy kids). I'd neglected the chance to connect in my effort to impress.
It's impossible to love our neighbors when we're worrying about what those neighbors might think of us. Choosing love requires humility and honesty instead of perfection and protecting reputations. It might even mean letting my kids run wild in our front yard while I introduce myself to that mom across the street.
A Moment to Breathe ...
Don't spend another minute worrying about what others might think. Let's be who we are and share who God is.
Trust the Path
BY ANNIE F. DOWNS
Make your ways known to me, Lord; teach me your paths. PSALM 25:4
I WENT WALKING LAST week around a lake in Nashville, and because I was feeling particularly inspired by the cooler weather, I followed a new sign I had never seen to a path I had never walked. I looked at a map before heading out, even took a picture of it with my phone. I'm prone to getting lost — it's practically a spiritual gift of mine — so I know better than to just jump off the road and onto a path without a map of some sort.
My earbuds in, I walked on the dirt path for ten to fifteen minutes ... thinking, praying, processing. Two particular situations were on my mind. Neither had a clear right or wrong answer to me — both were opportunities that may be worth taking. I was worried, though, that I was going to miss what God had for me. "Just show me, Lord," I said, "and I'll do what You want. I just don't know where either of these are going."
I looked down and realized I didn't know where I was, which was true in lots of areas of my life. A little lost, a little sure I was wrong, a little concerned that I was missing the right thing. I also thought I may be lost in these woods. In a blink, God stamped a statement onto my heart: Trust the path. I looked at my feet, at the path, and remembered the path would take me back to the road eventually. I had seen it on the map.
Trust the path. I knew God didn't just mean the one at the lake. He meant the questions in my heart. I don't have to know where things are going, I don't have to know the destination, I just have to trust the path. So I'm choosing, in my life and in my walk around the lake, to trust the next step. To trust that the path I'm on is going somewhere and wherever that is, God knows.
A Moment to Breathe ...
Take a walk around a park or around your neighborhood. Talk to God while you walk, maybe not out loud (although that's fine too), but listen for His direction.
When You Need Permission to Let It Be
BY DEIDRA RIGGS
I lift my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? PSALM 121:1
THE OTHER NIGHT, I sat on the couch, staring at the cursor on my laptop. Blinking. I was considering dressing up as a blinking curser the next time I get invited to a costume party. Thank goodness my husband broke into my reverie: "Let it rest," he said.
"Huh?" I said to him, trying to pull myself away from the hypnotic beat of the cursor.
"Let it rest," he said again. "Close the laptop, and let it be. It will still be there tomorrow," he said. "Nothing will have changed, and nothing is going to change, just because you sit here, staring at that screen."
He had a point. So I closed it. Let it rest. Let it be. And the whole entire world opened up in front of me. I remembered music and food and laughter and the sound of snow melting from the roof overhanging our front porch. I remembered fresh air and sunshine. My husband and I hopped on our bikes and rode a few miles to the lake nearby. We sat on a bench that faced the setting sun, and we talked about where we've been and what we hope will be.
On the way home, we stopped at a red light next to a young boy and his dad, also on their bikes. We waited for the light to turn green, and the little boy was saying, "There are millions of us, racing across the street!" He hunched low over his handlebars, imagining a throng of bike racers, waiting for the starting gun. "One! Two! Three! Four! Five!" he shouted above the whoosh of cars passing by, and then the light turned green and we were off! All five million of us, in the race of our lives. Once we crossed the street, the boy and his dad turned off, but my husband and I pedaled hard and we shouted into the wind, "One! Two! Three! Four! Five!" and laughed out loud as the sun spilled pink and orange across the horizon.
A Moment to Breathe ...
Step away from the task demanding your immediate attention and look up. Go outside and "lift your eyes to the mountains."
On Being the Truest Version of Me
BY ALIA JOY
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me. Lord, your faithful love endures forever; do not abandon the work of your hands. PSALM 138:8
EVEN HER SWEAT WAS cute. Her cheeks flushed a blushing pink like a peony petal. Her hair curled in damp wisps around her face as she lifted a water bottle to her glossed lips and my gaze flicked away from her to the full-length mirrors lining the walls of the gym.
My face was cherry-splotched and my pony tail hung limp and greasy. My oversized T-shirt was soaked through and I could see where it was clinging to the bulges beneath my industrial-sized sports bra — one I struggled to wedge myself into with hooks and clasps and enough Velcro to stick a grown human to a wall, one that might require the jaws of life and some serious intervention to release me from. I won't be showering at the gym.
I went every day for two weeks and then never again. Years have passed since then, but I still remember gym girl. I remember the feeling of being way too much and not enough every time I went. There was a time when my skin was smooth like marble, and my body was strong and young. But I wasn't enough then either.
I see gym girl everywhere when I let envy dictate my dreams, my goals, my reality. I see her in all the ways I come up short. And I let it keep me away from the process. Not to change into a me that's good enough, but to believe that just showing up is part of the journey ... not just to a fit self, but to a fit soul.
I am back to exercising. I pull on my oversized T-shirt and work myself into a fine ache, and when I look in the mirror bypassing the scale, I feel spent yet whole, flushed and alive. I'm not looking for a better version of myself, but a truer version of who I have always been: loved, cherished, beautiful, strong.
A Moment to Breathe ...
Be the truest version of who God created you to be. Be that girl, today and always.
If You Know Him
BY SARAH MAE
For by one offering he has perfected forever those who are sanctified. HEBREWS 10:14
HERE I AM, ON my couch crying, again. I will never get it together. I am such a failure. I am just so tired of making plans and lists and self-help do-overs that end right back where I started. I just can't do it. I can't fix myself.
It's been five years since I had a "failure" break down. I was done, over trying to be better, do better, get better. I just kept missing my mark, my perfectionist, pull-myself-up-by-the-bootstraps, get-it-together mark. So I sat on my couch and cried out to the Lord. I threw my hands up and said, "I'm done."
Excerpted from "A Moment to Breathe"
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Excerpted by permission of B&H Publishing Group.
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