Tag Archives: Amy Carroll

When You Hate Valentine’s Day

Amy Carroll FEBRUARY 8, 2016

When You Hate Valentine’s Day
AMY CARROLL

“The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)

I remember the year I skipped Valentine’s Day and created my own personal boycott. I glared at cards and roses in the store as I shopped, snorted at commercials with lovey-dovey messages, turned my head away from couples holding hands and built a wall of protection around my aching heart.

Just months before I stared uncomprehendingly across the table as my first love and fiancé repeated his previous sentence, “I just don’t know if I can be faithful to you for the rest of our lives.”

Suddenly, I felt an unfamiliar feeling. Instead of being drawn to this man, I had the overwhelming need to flee. My ears heard my mouth form the words, “Then I guess I can’t marry you,” as I stood and walked out of the student union.

In the exhaustion of mid-finals study, my tired mind and thudding heart could hardly grasp what had just happened. Not only had I allowed myself to love deeply and completely, but I was convinced marrying that man was God’s plan for me.

Until that moment. When it all shattered.

Where once I felt loved, I now felt rejected. Where once I felt secure, I felt rocked. Where once I felt sure of my happy future, I now felt lonely and unsure of myself.

The despair lasted for months; the fog just wouldn’t lift. I kept trying to fix things, but the relationship was too broken. Still, I couldn’t seem to move on.

I continued my regular activities with a plastic smile to cover my broken heart. I even went to church and kept going through the spiritual motions, but instead of turning to God for healing, I withdrew inside.

One night, alone in my apartment, I felt God drawing me. At first I resisted. Finally, with a sense of dread (I was convinced God was angry with me for pushing Him away), I lay flat on my bedroom with my face to the floor. Waiting for God’s wrath, I experienced in a way I’ve never felt before or since, the overwhelming, physical presence of God’s love. He surrounded me, enveloped me, comforted me and began healing me.

Maybe you’re facing Valentine’s Day this year without that loving feeling. Maybe you’ve been betrayed by a friend, rejected by someone you love or rocked by a bad romance.

Can I gently remind you of an important truth? A truth that made all the difference to me?

If you are God’s child, you are involved in the greatest love story ever created. Jesus created you, knows you inside and out, and loves you from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. You can celebrate love this year just like everyone else, knowing that you’ve got a deeper understanding than anything that’s advertised or on the shelves in a store.

Twenty-seven years later, I think back to those devastating days with a wry smile. The younger version of myself, who thought that things couldn’t get better, has walked through the hurt into a future that has turned out to be bright — not perfect, but definitely joyful.

Jesus was there through every painful step of those early days of break-up, and He truly used heartbreak to do good things in me. Although I couldn’t see it then, God, in His infinite goodness, was there cupping His loving hands around my broken heart and shaping something beautiful. Even if you can’t see or feel that healing at work, I can confidently tell you He’s doing it for you even now.

God, I come to You shattered and brokenhearted but with a heart full of faith. I believe You not only can heal me but You can turn this despair into joy. You can use my healed hurt to make me more compassionate. I pray You would give me the determination to celebrate Your love story this Valentine’s Day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” (NIV)

Zephaniah 3:17, “The LORD your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” (NKJV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Amy Carroll’s book, Breaking Up with Perfect, is full of stories showing how God redeems the imperfect circumstances of life. Purchase it today for more encouragement.

Amy invites you to visit her blog today where she has a Valentine’s giveaway for singles. You can enter for yourself or for a single person you love!

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Using the gift of hindsight, write a list of hard circumstances God has lovingly used to shape you.

When the opportunity comes, spend time listening to a hurting friend. When the time is right, share one of your stories of hope.

© 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Finding the Happy Ending to Our Sad Story

Amy Carroll JANUARY 29, 2016

Finding the Happy Ending to Our Sad Story
AMY CARROLL

“Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together!” Psalm 34:3 (ESV)

As I made my way across the room to my friend, her eyes widened and then fell to the floor in dismay. Although I was breaking my usual church routine by attending youth group with my son, I was confused as to why she seemed uncomfortable with my presence.

We chatted with the other youth leaders for a while before they drifted off to talk to others. Hesitantly, she asked me why I had come. I explained how curious I was about the workings of the group. I was there to get a sample of what my son would experience as a new member. With a quiver in her voice, she asked, “Did you know I’m the guest speaker today?”

I hadn’t known that she would be sharing, but suddenly I understood why she might not want me there. The topic was abortion, and my friend, the guest speaker, was telling her story for the very first time about the abortion she had chosen years before.

“I’m so afraid you’ll think less of me after you hear my story,” she confessed, her eyes filling with tears.

Stunned and saddened, I gathered my amazing, godly friend in my arms and whispered, “I love you. I could never think less of you.”

She wiped away her tears, walked to the front and started the program with the kids. By the time she finished speaking, there wasn’t a dry eye in the place.

Even though this part of her story had gone untold for decades, we all knew her current story. This was a woman who sparkled with joy and shared Jesus’ love everywhere she went. His light shone out of her and drew others irresistibly into relationship with Him. The beginning of her story about the abortion was sad, but the end of her story stood gloriously in front of us.

When she stepped down from the stage and back into the audience, I made a beeline for her, and blurted out the thought that overwhelmed me. “Not only do I not think less of you because of your story,” I said, “It has magnified God for me!”

King David more eloquently expressed how her story made me feel. He too was overwhelmed by the character and work of God:

“Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep”(Psalm 36:5-6a, NIV).

God fills the expanses. His love is limitless. His power exceeds anything I can imagine. It’s that power that changes us and brings good into even the saddest of stories.

Knowing how God had transformed my friend didn’t actually make God bigger; I just saw more of Him revealed. From knowing her story, I know other truths as well — truths about who God is and how He operates. I know God is real. I know He is at work in us. I know He can change a life and redeem a sad story into one that inspires others. I know that God is BIG.

How do we magnify the Lord together? We transparently share the stories of His work in our lives. Your life isn’t perfect. Neither is mine! But when He uses our stories for the healing and growth of others, that’s part of the redeeming of our sad stories. When we share our own imperfections instead of hiding them, it’s a chance to shine a spotlight on our hero, Jesus, the One who has healed our wounded places and changed the ashes of our sins into the beauty of a godly woman.

Dear God, please use the sin and sad stories of my past for Your glory and the growth of others. Set me free from the shame of those stories and redeem them with Your grace and freedom. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 78:35, “They remembered that God was their Rock, that God Most High was their Redeemer.” (NIV)

Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story — those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Amy Carroll’s book, Breaking Up with Perfect, is filled with much more on moving past the paralyses of perfection and stepping into the power of authenticity. Click here to purchase it today.

Join Amy on her blog today where your God-magnifying comment will enter you for her “Power of Imperfection” giveaway.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What story do you have to tell that would magnify God? Have you hidden it or shared it?

Who in your life might be encouraged by knowing they aren’t alone in their struggle? You don’t necessarily have to share your story in front of a group, but be sure to let God use it to help others.

© 2016 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Finding Peace in the Chaos of Christmas

Amy Carroll DECEMBER 7, 2015

Finding Peace in the Chaos of Christmas
AMY CARROLL

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3 (NIV)

Peace is a word that gets thrown around a lot at Christmas. It’s on cards, decorations and sometimes even lit up in bright lights.

It’s a word that seems to stir a longing in all of us, yet it also seems hard to come by — especially at Christmas. I mean, seriously … there’s a house to decorate, gifts to buy, meals to cook, relatives to connect with and loads of events to attend. How on earth are we expected to find peace in the midst of the extreme hubbub?

There was one Christmas in particular when I had to reevaluate and seek God for a change in my heart to establish peace in my heart and home.

We all started well — my hubs, our two boys and me — peaceful and focused as we decorated early in December. Christmas music played in the background. We sipped egg nog from the red glass teacups I snagged at a tag sale and boxes of decorations from the attic lined the walls.

But it started to go downhill over Christmas tree lights.

A squabble erupted over a tangled string of bulbs. Then someone turned on the football game, and the sound of the TV clashed with the music from the stereo. Instead of sharing lovely stories of the ornaments’ histories as we hung each one, my boys began to make fun of the 70s-style bobbles from my childhood.

Our peaceful tradition of tree-trimming fell apart faster than you could say, “Mama’s in a snit.”

Maybe they just got distracted or maybe it was the maternal growls and snarls that drove them away, but suddenly I found myself sitting alone on the floor in front of the tree.

I furiously gave the tree a yank to position it for another ornament, and … TIMBER! The tree fell on me and drove a metal rod from one of the artificial branches into my arm.

That’s when it happened. Out of my mouth popped some of the overflow of a peace-deprived heart — a big fat four-letter word … which brought my family back into the room.

To this day, there is one favorite Christmas story at my house. It’s not The Gift of the Magi or The Polar Express. Not even How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes the cut. Our family’s favorite story is titled, The Day Mom Cussed When the Christmas Tree Fell on Her.

I’m not proud of this story. As Scripture says, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Luke 6:45b, NIV). My outburst revealed what was in my heart — overload, frustration and anger. I’d love to blame the stressful circumstances, but the truth is there was something missing inside of me.

Consider this: The circumstances of the first Christmas were very stressful, too. There was an unmarried, pregnant teenager. There was a scared but faithful fiancé. There was no room in the inn. There were smelly animals and scratchy straw. There was an unidentified star in the sky.

Yet God gave the gift of prevailing peace in that story in the same way He longs to give our hearts the gift of peace. How did Mary and Joseph overcome the chaos of their circumstances and embrace peace instead? They implemented the truth in today’s key verse. Their trust in God made them steadfast.

Just listen to how they responded when they were first given the startling and stressful news of being parents to the Messiah:

Mary said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,” (Luke 1:46-47, NIV).

Joseph put aside his plans to divorce Mary quietly, and per God’s instructions, took her as his wife.

Perfect peace isn’t dependent on circumstances. It comes from a steadfast, trusting heart. Let’s start the Christmas season by intentionally growing our steadfastness by focusing our trust on God who is faithful. The resulting peace will point to the Savior we’re celebrating!

Lord, I set my heart on You. You are trustworthy, faithful and the Giver of the gift of peace. Please fill me this Christmas season. As others see Your peace in me, let them recognize You as Savior. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Start your day in God’s Word with our free First 5 App. We’re in the middle of studying Matthew and will begin Exodus on January 4. Click here for more information on our Experience Guides.

Amy Carroll invites you to visit her blog today where she will have a downloadable PDF with Scriptures and a prayer for peace at Christmas.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do your verbal responses and actions reflect the peace or the chaos in your heart?

What action step is God calling you to take to build your trust in Him so that your steadfastness grows?

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

When I Need Some Help

Amy Carroll NOVEMBER 13, 2015

When I Need Some Help
AMY CARROLL

“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms … I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11:3a & 4 (NIV)

As I walked through the grocery store one evening, I saw a sight that stopped me in my tracks. A tiny girl with sparkling, almond-shaped eyes and dark, bobbed hair smiled at her daddy as he held her hands, helping her to walk on his feet.

The little girl’s feet kept slipping off her daddy’s, so it wasn’t a perfect walk. Yet it was beautiful. Joy shone from the two as they moved in imperfect tandem. She looked at him with a grin and complete trust in her eyes. He gazed back at her with delight, confident in the knowledge that his strength would keep her from falling.

It was captivating to watch.

Soaking in this beautiful father-daughter scene brought back happy memories of dancing on my daddy’s feet as a tiny girl. It also brought to mind today’s key verse, one of my favorite Scriptures where our Father God gives a similar picture of His interaction with His children. Four important truths in these verses touch the deepest places of my heart.

1. I have to be taught to walk. (“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk …” Hosea 11:3a)

Just like babies go from rolling to crawling to pulling up to walking, we are called to growth in our spiritual lives. Instead of being content to remain Christian babies, lying on the floor looking cute but expecting to constantly be served, we need to anticipate growth. We’re not born into our new life knowing how to walk, but God wants us to learn. He cheers us on as we exercise our faith in the small, everyday things until our spiritual limbs grow strong enough to stand.

2. God doesn’t make me learn alone. (“… taking them by the arms …” Hosea 11:3a)

When we’re stronger, He helps us to stand by “holding our arms” just like the dad did for his daughter in the grocery store. God is a compassionate Father who supports us as we toddle, protecting us from many of the bumps and bruises we would have gotten without His help. Our Father holds our hands, watching our progress with loving delight. His joy isn’t diminished by the imperfection of our steps. We’re learning, and He’s there to catch us.

3. He helps us with kindness and love. (“I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.” Hosea 11:4a)

We can become so entrenched in our progress and our own efforts to walk perfectly that we forget to simply enjoy being with our Father. Like a toddler, we internally stomp our feet and declare, “I do it myself!” Instead of holding our Father’s hands and trusting in His strength and direction, we so often try to make our own way.

But when we do, we miss it. We forfeit the joy of His kindness and love. Instead, let’s see our own imperfections — our wobbly steps forward — as an opportunity to grab God’s hands, lean into His strength and trust Him for the next step.

4. My Father tenderly cares for me. (“… I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” Hosea 11:4b)

Oh, how I love the last part of this passage! Do you hear the nurturing character and tenderness of God as He cares for His children? If you’ve loved a child, you probably have memories of cuddling your cheek against the baby’s softness or of carefully spooning food into a waiting mouth.

As much as we have lovingly cared for a child, God, our perfect Father, has surely set the standard in the way He has loved us. Let’s be like the little girl in the grocery store, holding God’s hands and walking on His feet. Let’s trust Him for each step and soak in His delight. He is the strong, trustworthy Father who is teaching us how to walk.

Lord, teach me to walk hand-in-hand with You as You surround me with Your love, care and delight. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 91:14, “‘Because he loves me,’ says the LORD, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.’” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
For about a decade, Amy Carroll has been learning to depend on God instead of her own exhausting efforts to be perfect. Join her in these lessons by purchasing Breaking Up with Perfecttoday.

If you’re struggling with trying to earn love and create your own perfection, Amy invites you to sign up for a FREE series called “Five Days to Himperfection” by clicking here. Visit her blogtoday where you’ll find a printable PDF of verses to remind you of God’s tender love for you.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What are your experiences like when you try to walk alone?

How do those experiences change (or how might they change) when you allow God to hold your hands as you walk?

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

 

 

Discovering Something Better Than “Perfect”

Amy Carroll OCTOBER 19, 2015

Discovering Something Better Than “Perfect”
AMY CARROLL

“As for God, his way is perfect: The LORD’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30 (NIV)

In the beginning of my marriage, I believed my husband Barry was the luckiest man alive. After all, he had married me, a woman who was going to introduce him to one of the principle joys of life, a live Christmas tree.

In my mind, nothing could be more perfect than a live Christmas tree — certainly not the artificial ones he had experienced as a child!

Each year we went to the Christmas tree lot to search for a perfectly-shaped, fragrant live tree. We’d haul it home, put it in the Christmas tree holder filled with water and decorate our lovely evergreen, singing “O Tannenbaum” all the while. Okay, so maybe I’m embellishing a little, but suffice it to say having a live Christmas tree thrilled the HGTV corner of my heart.

There was one thing that made me very unhappy, however. Every Christmas, and I mean every Christmas, my darling husband was sick. The first Christmas, I attended to him with newlywed sweetness. The second Christmas, I tolerated him and brought him soup.

By the third Christmas of holiday sickness, I was just plain annoyed. What was wrong with the man? He was big and strapping and healthy. How could he become so weak and sickly and pitiful every year at Christmas? I began to make snide remarks under my breath like, “Maybe you’re allergic to time with my family.”

Sometime in that fourth year, Barry went to the doctor after another round of illness. A specialist had Barry lay on his stomach while he poked lots and lots of tiny needles in his back. As you may have guessed by now, the results revealed that my poor husband is allergic to almost every green living thing … including Christmas trees.

Because I believed live Christmas trees to be far superior to artificial trees, every year we dragged a beautiful, green, bushy deathtrap into our living room.

Because I came to believe Barry just didn’t like the holidays much, I got snappy with him when he was sick.

Basically, because I believed the wrong things, I acted in wrong ways.

My belief about what’s perfect, like my idea of the “perfect” Christmas tree, is often off-base. Over the years, when I’ve acted on those false beliefs, I’ve damaged relationships.

When I’ve believed I have to hide my flaws to be liked, I’ve kept friends at arm’s length.

When I’ve believed my kids have to behave perfectly to make me the perfect mom, I’ve left all of us feeling as if we don’t measure up.

When I’ve believed I can create a perfect facade with my stuff, my service and my competence, I’ve pursued goals that left me empty and lonely.

After years of struggling with my own perfection, I’m learning a new way. Here’s the freeing truth I’m beginning to live: Only when I give up my own view of perfection can God begin His perfecting work in me. When I embrace God’s true perfection, leaving the exhausting, destructive weight of my own perfection, I can take refuge in Him.

Amazingly, giving up my own view of perfectionism has improved not only my relationship with God, but also with others.

I’m more authentic with my friends, leading to greater closeness.

I’m more grace-filled with my kids, leading to more trust and better communication.

I’m not a live-Christmas-tree-fanatic anymore, so now Hubby and I curl up at Christmas in the glow of a plastic, pre-lit tree. It’s just perfect. We’re sniffle-free and happy.

I’m committed to choosing people over perfection. If you’ll commit to the same thing, I promise you’ll find something better than your view of “perfect.”

Lord, please forgive me for pursuing my own perfection instead of finding refuge in Yours. As You faithfully forgive me, please draw me close to You. Restore my other relationships and help me to choose people over perfection. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 119:96, “To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.” (NIV)

2 Corinthians 12:9, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Amy Caroll’s first book, Breaking Up with Perfect, is now available. Visit the Proverbs 31 Ministries store to purchase it today!

Maybe it seems a little early for a Christmas devotion, but Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner! Visit Amy’s blog today for the beginning of a fun blog tour with Amy and other authors titled UnWrapped Grace: Holiday Help for Recovering Perfectionists. You can break up with perfect, strengthen your relationships and experience more joy over the holidays this year! Register at Amy’s blog to win a $100 gift card for help with gift giving this year.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
If you struggle with perfection, what relationships have you damaged by holding tight to your belief about perfection?

What would letting go of those beliefs cost you? What would you gain?

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

When it all Falls Apart

Amy Carroll SEPTEMBER 21, 2015

When it all Falls Apart
AMY CARROLL

“It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.” Psalm 18:32 (NIV, 1984)

Everything seemed to go wrong at the same time. Instead of having “one of those days,” I was having one of those months!

The emotional load in our home increased as my eldest son moved back from college, filling every square inch of our little house with testosterone. My youngest son graduated from high school and then had an accident that would require surgery. My computer crashed, not just once but three times. A spur-of-the-moment trip required hours of unscheduled time. An event I was planning seemed to teeter between success and epic fail. On top of it all, my little dog came down with intestinal issues … I’ll spare you the details.

For a time, not one thing in my life seemed to measure up to the picture of perfection in my head. Not my messy home. Not my fearful mothering. Not my unstable professional life. Not my overloaded schedule.

Nothing.

I felt weak and overwhelmed. For a woman who loves order, a managed schedule and peace, it’s not easy to face times like these. Maybe you’ve had seasons similar to mine. Perhaps for some of you, it’s been even longer — even one of those years — when chaos seems to reign.

As difficult as it is to cope when life gets messy, we can view struggles as a great opportunity to operate in a new way. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong and imperfect, we can turn our focus to the Perfect One, our heavenly Father. When it’s obvious our best efforts and planning aren’t good enough, we can shift our perspective to the Source of our true strength.

Our key verse, Psalm 18:32, reminds us: Our own strength isn’t enough, but God’s is.

We all want to be strong and competent. Yet the Bible suggests we should embrace our weaknesses as a reminder to trust in God’s strength alone. Paul gave us a picture of the perfection of our weakness when he said, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB).

I’m learning to embrace chaos as a sweet call from God to rest in Him when my own work falls short.

Striving for perfection is exhausting. But God waits for us to give in and step aside. Once I end my pursuit of perfection, God can begin His perfecting work in me. We’re unable to create perfection, but God makes our way perfect.

What does it look like in everyday life to exchange my weakness for God’s strength? To choose His way over my way?

It’s trusting Him, rather than trusting my own capabilities.

It’s surrendering the pictures of perfection that I carry around in my head to the presence of God in my imperfect reality.

It’s walking in daily obedience to His Word and direction, rather than charting my own course.

God works powerfully in the midst of our weakness to show His power as we trust, surrender and obey. That’s when His strength and perfect way is displayed most brightly in our lives.

Lord, I know if I surrender to You I don’t have to be strong all by myself. Instead of sinking into my tangled circumstances, will You teach me to draw on Your strength? In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
1 Corinthians 1:25, 27, “The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than men … but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong.” (NASB)

Proverbs 18:10, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; The righteous runs into it and is safe.” (NASB)

RELATED RESOURCES:
In Amy Carroll’s book Breaking Up with Perfect she shares more lessons learned from giving up the pursuit of perfection in light of God’s loving, perfecting work in us. You can join her in the journey by purchasing one today!

Amy invites you to visit her blog today, where she’s giving away a copy of Breaking Up with Perfect and cute reminder cards of today’s key Scripture verse.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
If you’re in a chaotic time of life, write a prayer of trust, surrender and obedience straight from your heart to God.

If you’re in a peaceful time of life, write a prayer to God asking Him to prepare you for the next time all doesn’t go as planned. Decide now how to react when that time comes.

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Planning the Perfect Life

Amy Carroll AUGUST 7, 2015

Planning the Perfect Life
AMY CARROLL

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21 (NIV)

I was the girl with the Five-Year Plan. In my heart, I carried a list of all I wanted to achieve, experience and accomplish. When I talked about the Five-Year Plan, I’d act like it was no big deal, and I’d laugh about it. Yet in reality … It. Was. No. Joke. I held it tightly.

At the age of 20, my Five-Year Plan included finishing my education degree, teaching for a year, going to Bible college for a year, and then heading to the mission field. It seemed logical to me.

When I was 8 years old, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. At 12, a missionary who spoke at my church planted a seed of growing passion for the nations. So I designed my schedule to achieve these plans the millisecond after I left college. After all, God had planted these dreams in my heart. It was my job to fulfill them, right?

Sounded perfect to me!

About two years into the Five-Year Plan, my “perfect” plan was interrupted by a tall, blue-eyed man who wasn’t part of what I had written onto my extended calendar. I told my mom he wasn’t my type before our first date.

Then I married him.

That might seem like an odd juxtaposition, and it was. Nine months after I declared Barry Carroll “not my type,” I walked down the aisle toward him, my white dress trailing behind me. I was so choked with love and the overwhelming solemnity of the occasion that I could barely gasp out my vows.

This year we celebrated our Silver Anniversary, and my bridegroom is the best interruption to my plans that ever happened to me. It turns out, God’s Word is true. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).

Sometimes it takes an interruption of our perfect plan to start the life that’s perfect for us.

When I was young, I thought plans were revealed, but it turns out life unfolds. Those dreams God planted in my heart as a girl? They’ve come to pass one by one over the past 25 years, and I’m living some dreams I never imagined at all.

Are you a planner? Good for you! Plan away, but hold those plans with open hands and a heart ready to wait.

Just this morning as I read 2 Peter 3, I found plans that all of us should hold tightly while we leave the unfolding of our circumstances to the Lord. “What kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11b-12a, NIV). We should all plan who we’re going to be, rather than what we’re going to do.

Are you frustrated by a lack of plans? It’s okay. Really. God is no less in control of your life than the other planners’ lives around you. Wait. Watch for Him, and let His plan unfold. You’re probably better off than we planners who constantly struggle to let go and recalibrate as God works. You can help your planner friends relax and go with God’s flow!

I’ve given up my Five-Year Plan, and I’m learning to wake up each day determined to sync my calendar to God’s. He’s the faithful unfolder of my days.

Lord, I trust You to fulfill Your plans in my life, and I surrender my own plans to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

2 Thessalonians 3:5, “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
In Amy’s new book Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You, she reveals how we all can find more joy in a less-than-perfect life.

Amy invites you to stop by her blog today, where she’s giving away a of copy Breaking Up with Perfect.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Are you a planner? List some of the things you’ve included in your Five-Year Plan. Put a check by the ones that have come to pass. When you look at the rest, can you identify places in your life that have been better than your original idea of perfection? Write those events on your list, and thank God for them.

Are you frustrated by a lack of plans right now? Write out a prayer thanking God for holding your life in His hands. Tell Him you trust Him for every detail of your future, even though it’s unclear to you. Ask Him to help you on the days that fear and uncertainty seem overwhelming.

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

My Relationship with My Stuff

Amy Carroll JULY 22, 2015

My Relationship with My Stuff
AMY CARROLL

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35 (NIV)

This morning I stood in my closet and considered all the multiples — multiple shoes, multiple scarves and multiple purses. Too much stuff!

How have I gotten to this place again with a collection of more than I need? The most honest answer is that I use my things to define myself. I think my “perfect” purse makes me seem more perfect. I believe my cool shoes transfer their vibe to my persona. I hope my trendy scarf affirms my relevance.

It’s time to clean out! Not only do I not need so much, but years ago I learned a memorable lesson about the soul-cleansing power of simplifying. I learned it while visiting a humble, cinder-block house in the mountains of Ecuador.

Early on a Sunday morning, the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team and our local hosts loaded into buses that drove us out of the large capital city of Quito, into the gorgeous countryside and up the mountains.

As the bus rounded a corner on the twisting mountain road, a stucco church with a red-tiled roof came into view. Our group clambered down the steps and walked toward the church flanked on either side by two rows of stunning, dark-haired, dark-eyed children clad in heavily embroidered clothing. Once their shyness melted away, these darling children climbed onto our laps and held our hands throughout the entire worship service.

When the sermon ended, our team split into pairs to visit with the children in their homes. Our guides explained that their beautiful faces might cause us to overlook the harsh reality of their lives. So, with groceries in hand for the families, we set out to visit their homes and see their true living conditions.

One of the mothers, Dolores, greeted us and invited us into her home to meet her family. Her husband, a builder working in Quito, wasn’t there that day, but evidently they had a loving relationship when he was home … he and Dolores had filled their tiny space with seven children!

The home was tidy, but the floors were bare dirt and plastic sheeting served as a ceiling. There was running water and electricity but no appliances in the kitchen. The only sign of food was a small stack of maize in the corner. In the bedroom, we saw two beds for the whole family, and though we knew the mountain nights and winters to be cold, I didn’t see a furnace or any indication that the house was heated. Even so, it was obvious that Dolores was proud of her well-built home and of the hours her faithful husband had spent building it for their family. She glowed as she described the care and craftsmanship he invested for them.

As we prepared to leave, my team partner asked Dolores a pivotal question: “Dolores,” she began. “How can we pray for you and your family? What is your greatest need?”

While we waited for the interpreter, I took a mental assessment of Dolores’ many needs. But my mouth hung open as I listened to her response: “My greatest need is to be able to teach my children about Jesus so they will follow the Lord all the days of their lives.” Tears filled my eyes as my heart absorbed the lesson this Ecuadorian woman in humble circumstances taught me.

Dolores’ prayer request revealed that her deepest desire isn’t for the perfect house or the signature outfit. She values relationships — with God and others — more than material things.

That experience impressed this truth upon my heart: God created us for connecting, not collecting.

As I clean out my closet, I want to value the same thing Dolores values. I vow to hold my “stuff” loosely and be defined by the closeness of my relationships.

Lord, forgive me for my defining relationship with stuff. I want to be defined by You and my love for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Learn to value relationships over resources in Amy Carroll’s brand new book, Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You.

Amy invites you to visit her blog today where she’s giving away a copy of her book Breaking Up with Perfect and a beautiful sign that says, “God created us for connecting, not collecting.”

You can also sign up for “Five Days to Himperfection,” five devotions and freebies centered around ending the exhausting pursuit of perfection by clicking here.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
What material things have you used to define yourself? Your house? Your clothes? Your car?

What do you have that you could give to bless someone else, build relationships or help you start to redefine yourself by love rather than by what you own?

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

A Righteous Rebellion

Amy Carroll JULY 7, 2015

A Righteous Rebellion
AMY CARROLL

“Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV)

I was at the height of my glory. All my friends had gathered in a large closet off my third grade teacher’s classroom, where we put together a play for the class. Our girlish giggles floated through the air as we created a story and practiced our lines. I was in charge.

Large and in charge.

I directed. I bossed. I revised. I plain took over. Soon the giggles turned into grimaces until finally the group staged an all-out mutiny. They were tired of trying to live up to my idea of perfection, so my cast abandoned brokenhearted me to deliver a monologue.

Sadly, that same kind of scenario continued to play out in different ways again and again into adulthood. I wanted to do well so badly, and I wanted the approval of my friends even more. Perfection seemed like a good goal, but my Good Girl List, the list residing in my heart of all the things I needed to do to earn approval and love, constantly battered my relationships. My perfectionistic ways drove friends away instead of drawing them close.

I learned this truth: Relationships shatter when we value perfection over people.

Maybe you hold the Never Good Enough List close to your heart. Instead of listing all the things you need to do to measure up, it’s the list of all the ways you feel you don’t make the grade. You’re going to die trying, though!

On the outside, Good Girls and Never Good Enough Girls look the same. We work hard to create a perfect facade in order to hide our mixed-up insides.

It’s exhausting! Always trying to do it right. Always working to follow the rules. Always falling short and feeling the sting.

It’s strange that Jesus has used a little rebellion to rescue me. Even though I tend to be a rule-follower, I have a rebel streak, too. I hope you have a little rebel in you as well — whether you wrestle with the Good Girl List like I do, or struggle with the Never Good Enough List. Just when we feel beaten down and nearly subdued by our lists, our inner rebel rises up, our sass kicks in and fresh strength surges to fight our urge to be perfect!

Inside, we’re sick of our own perfection — those facades and lists — and we scream, “Enough!”

When our lists interfere with the gifts God has for us, including the gift of friendship, that’s when it’s OK to rebel. Not only OK — but good!

When we — as freedom-loving women — band together in this uprising for authenticity and against perfection, a miraculous thing happens. Restoration begins. Relationships begin to flourish, and these relationships fulfill the profound longing we all have for deeper love — a love that extends to God, ourselves and others.

Even though our longing for relationship is a God-given desire, we often turn that longing upside down, and it becomes an unhealthy impetus for approval. That upside-down longing is what propels us into a frenzy of trying harder and harder to earn love.

But when we participate in this righteous rebellion, our longings are turned right-side up and morph from the warped pursuit of perfectionism to the beauty of authenticity.

Instead of seeking perfection, we’ll be free to connect deeply with God and with the people we love. These new relationships will be tighter and more invested than we ever imagined. Tighter than all our self-determined work could ever accomplish. And that’s what we’ve been after all along.

Lord, my pursuit of my own perfection has worn me out. Help me stage a righteous rebellion, surrendering to Your perfecting work in me. As I surrender, please restore my relationships with You and others to a place of true authenticity and love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Psalm 19:7, “The instruction of the LORD is perfect, renewing one’s life; the testimony of the LORD is trustworthy, making the inexperienced wise.” (HCSB)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Today’s devotion is adapted from Amy Carroll’s newly released book, Breaking Up with Perfect. Enjoy the FREE resources included with your book purchase today.

Amy invites you to visit her blog where she’ll be giving away 10 copies of her brand new release and a grand prize you won’t want to miss!

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Which list do you hold most closely … the Good Girl List, or the Never Good Enough List?

How would it change your relationships if you staged a righteous rebellion and laid your list down forever?

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org

Tired of Trying to Be Perfect

Amy Carroll JUNE 10, 2015

Tired of Trying to Be Perfect
AMY CARROLL

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:13-14 (NIV)

I’ve always struggled with perfectionism — in every stage of life. When I was young, I strove for excellent grades. As I grew older, I wanted to be perfect in my friendships. Not only did I want to be the best for my students when I became a teacher, I aspired to earn awards and accolades, too.

If you’re also a perfectionist, I bet you can relate.

My losing battle with perfectionism was at its worst after I had my first baby. As a resource junkie, I was sure I could research my way to being the perfect mom. My friends loaded me up with their recommended parenting books and being a voracious reader, I dug right in.

Soon, I envisioned two very different supermoms in my mind. The first was Earth Mama. She wore a bohemian skirt, chandelier earrings and a quilted baby sling as her predominant and most important accessory. Earth Mama cheerfully flexed with her baby’s every need, cuddling up together in the family bed at night or confidently supplying her — ahem — natural sources of nourishment at a moment’s notice no matter where they were — home, a restaurant or in the middle of a department store.

Then there was supermom number two, Right-on-Schedule Mom. This mom wore chinos and a dry-cleaned shirt that was always unwrinkled because she only picked up her baby when it was time — time for a meal, time for a nap or playtime. Right-on-Schedule Mom’s baby slept through the night at two weeks in her own snazzy crib and sat up before anyone else in their Mommy and Me group. Any natural sources of nourishment were tented in public and permanently covered at precisely one year.

How to choose? How to choose? Each model seemed perfect in its own way, and I vacillated between them until I ended up confused, worn-out and frustrated.

Whether you’re married, single, a career woman, or a domestic manager, creating an image of perfection is a never-ending, exhausting activity. Because the measure of perfection keeps shifting, the stage we’re in and the crowd we follow determines the units on our current measuring stick.

The perfect sorority girl tries to live up to a very different image than the perfect athlete.

The perfect socialite works to have an image that is in stark contrast to the perfect revolutionary.

The perfect preppy disdains the perfect punk.

Not only do these personas divide women instead of creating relationships and community, these perfect images start a cycle of never-ending shape-shifting.

Maybe you’re the career woman who works more hours than you’d like to gain the approval of your team.

Maybe you’re the single woman who accepts blind dates your married friends arrange even though you’re content in your singleness.

But God didn’t create us to be shape-shifters. God crafted us to reflect His image, not create our own.

As a young mom, I finally realized that I was trying to figure out the wrong thing. I didn’t need to choose an ideal supermom. I needed to allow God to show me how to be the best mom to the baby He had given me.

Living fully in the knowledge that we are one of God’s wondrous works is our greatest praise to Him! It’s in becoming our truest, God-created selves, reflecting His image in the gifts and wiring He’s given us, that we’ll connect most deeply with our Creator and with others.

Lord, I’m worn out from trying to be perfect. I long to walk in freedom and to become the woman you intended me to be when You wove me together. Help me be authentic, instead of shape-shifting to please others or to attain an impossible image. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (NIV)

Genesis 1:31, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.” (NIV)

RELATED RESOURCES:
Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You by Amy Carroll releases next month. Click here to pre-order your copy.

Amy invites you to visit her blog today to celebrate the release of Breaking Up with Perfect. There will be a terrific free resource and a giveaway.

REFLECT AND RESPOND:
Do you live life as a shape-shifter or an image-bearer?

In what ways would you live freer by giving up a “perfect” image?

Write a written response to this verse from the Bible, “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17, NIV).

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

Proverbs 31 Ministries
630 Team Rd., Suite 100
Matthews, NC 28105
www.Proverbs31.org