by Sharon Tubbs 

His eyes are dark, intense and slightly moist with emotion. “I don’t think I’ve ever loved anyone this much,” he says, as his arm, strong yet gentle, draws me into his chest. I yield and tilt my head for the softest kiss. Then he—

Oh, wait… Sorry. Uh… got a little distracted there. I’m supposed to be writing something spiritually enlightening for the Beautiful blog. But something happens these days when I try to focus on what God is calling me to do. An ugly enemy named Distraction draws my mind elsewhere—like to a romantic dinner with this make-believe fantastically suave sold-out-for-the-Lord man of my dreams. Yes, Distraction always interrupts with random thoughts and phone calls. Emails, too. Even if I’m busy, I can’t wait to see what’s in that email. It could be an emergency! (Although it never really is.)

Occasionally, Distraction gets sneaky and masquerades as people who constantly need me. They want to talk about the same problems they had last week, last year—the problems they still haven’t taken steps to solve. And I must set aside what I’m doing to listen, right? At times, Distraction comes as small fires that only I am capable of putting out. (Or is that just my ego wanting to do it all?) Sometimes he emerges in the guise of seemingly insignificant things that—

Oops, stepped away for a sec. Got the urge to watch a Jimmy Fallon video on YouTube. Love me some Jimmy. He is too funny!

So what was I saying? Yes, Distraction may appear so harmless that it lures me away before I realize it.

Have you ever been there? Have you found yourself hard-pressed to focus on God and doing His will? Of course, we should make time for rest, fun and fellowship with others. The problem comes when we look back on your week and wonder what we’ve really accomplished for the Lord.

The Bible compels us to have a one-track mind. As Apostle Paul said,

But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me… I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. –Ephesians 3:12b-14 (NLT)

We should also make the most of our time:

Look carefully then how you walk! Live purposefully and worthily and accurately, not as the unwise and witless, but as wise (sensible, intelligent people), Making the very most of the time [buying up each opportunity], because the days are evil. –Ephesians 5:15-16 (AMP)

If, like me, you struggle with distraction and focus, join me in prayer:

Lord, we thank you for making each of us unique women, with a unique purpose that will bring you glory. Now strengthen us daily to keep you at the center of our thoughts and actions. Help us to “press” toward your calling on our lives. Guide us in making the most of our time, so that our lives glorify you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

What distracts you? Share your comments below! 

Sharon Tubbs works with the Women’s Ministry at Grace Family Church. She is also an inspirational speaker, author and business owner. As she continually strives to reach her potential in Christ, Sharon’s joy comes from inspiring others to do the same by truly seeking and knowing Him. 

by Debbie Altman

My love for the Lord is deeply rooted and I am ever in a grateful, humble place of recognizing His great mercy and blessing in my life.  But, I have to admit that for some time now, I have felt that my spiritual life was good and steady, but perhaps lacking in some passion, lacking in some hope. I have been a little low-key, a little complacent, a little dry; like those places in your marriage where you know you love your husband and will never leave them, but you are just experiencing a little “flatness” at the moment!   While I would like to say that I am always God’s woman of “faith and power,” I’ve had some situations over the last months that have been a struggle, and kept me a little discouraged.  And I must confess that in my spirit, I might have fit the fabulous cliché…”Debbie Downer!”  But with the new year came some added new battles, and…Wow!  I finally got panicked enough, mad enough, fired up enough to get aggressive with the enemy of my soul.  I have been looking up Bible verses that speak to my situations, writing them out and speaking them over my life.  I am ignited again about the power of God’s Word!  Duh right?

God’s Word … is alive and powerful, and sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword!(Hebrews 4:13.)  Also read Psalms 119 about the all- encompassing benefits of God’s Words.  Here are a few verses:

I lie in the dust; revive me by Your Word.  vs25

You are my refuge and my shield; Your Word is my source of hope. vs114

The very essence of Your Word is truth.  vs160

I rejoice in Your Word like one who finds a great treasure.  vs162

God’s Word speaks life to us, and to our situations.  And even if we haven’t received the promise of His Word YET, it transforms our attitude and faith about our situation!  Here are just a few of God’s life-giving promises…

God is able through His mighty power at work within us, to do exceedingly abundantly more than we might ask, think or imagine.   Eph 3:20

Understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe Him….the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead….  Eph 1:19-20

I will never fail you.  I will never abandon you.  Hebrews 13:5-7

I will go before you and fight your battles.  Deut 1:30

No weapon formed against you will prosper.  Isaiah 54:17

Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee.  James 4:7

He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.  Hebrews 11:6

I will be the voice behind you, guiding you in the way you should go.  Is 30:21

I will not let you fall, for I am watching over you day and night.  Ps 121:3

I will give you peace, at all times and in every situation.  2 Thes 3:16

He sent out His Word and healed them.  Ps 107:20

My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory…  Phil 4:8

There is no one like God…who rides across the heavens to help you.  Deut 33:26

The Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be above and not beneath.  Deut 28:13

Are you excited yet? I could write a hundred more.  Dive back into God’s Word; find out what it says and pray His Word…His promises…over your situations.  Write them out where you can read them and speak them as often as you can.  Don’t be a Debbie Downer!  Get out from underneath and fight back with God’s powerful Words.  I will stand with you…will you stand with me?

Debbie is the wife of Pastor Craig Altman, and together, they founded Grace Family Church 18 years ago.  She is a former RN and mother of a 27 year old married daughter and 26 year old son.  She is also known as “Nona” to her precious granddaughter. Debbie enjoys family, reading, the beach, and is inappropriately competitive at board games. 

by Leslee Stewart

Throughout my life, I’ve heard turning 40 referred to in less than pleasant ways:

Over the Hill.
Middle aged.
Lordy, lordy, look who’s 40!

From grey hair (already got it), to adult acne (say what?), to extra chin hairs (thank you, Grandma!), most of the older women in my life have left me believing there is little to be desired when it comes to turning 40.

The big 4-0 arrives for me this month and since there’s nothing I can do to stop it, I’ve decided to embrace it.

Hey, world…I’m 40! (There, I said it.) 

To mark this once-in-a-lifetime occasion, my husband and I started a 40-day prayer challenge a few weeks ago (he hits 40 three weeks after me). We are reading “Praying the Circle: A 40 Day Prayer Challenge” by Mark Batterson. It’s a companion book to Batterson’s “The Circle Maker,” a book that has had a profound spiritual impact on us over the last two years.

There’s some big stuff on my prayer list for 2014 and this book is helping me pray about it in a way that is specific, exacting and dogged. I’ve come to a place where I’m not asking God once to answer my prayers; I’m petitioning Him every day, for 40 days, reminding Him of His promises and determined to hear from my Heavenly Father.

Spending time in this book and prayer each day got me thinking about the significance of 40 days in the Bible. Here’s a few interesting things I found:

  • Noah spent 40 days on the ark, waiting for God to deliver him to dry land (Gen. 7:12)
  • Moses spent 40 days on the mount, waiting for God to deliver the 10 Commandments (Exodus 34:28-29)
  • It took the spies 40 days to scout out the Promised Land before bringing back fruit (Numbers 13:25)
  • Jonah warned the people of Nineveh that if they didn’t repent, God would destroy the city after 40 days (Jonah 3:4)
  • Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, prior to beginning his ministry (Matthew 4:1-2)
  • After his resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days with the disciples sharing the wisdom of God’s kingdom (Acts 1:3)

When I looked at the biblical events that occurred around 40 days, almost all of them had something to do with a trial, waiting on God, and trusting Him to deliver His children out of their present situation.

After reading these facts, I was reminded of Psalm 40, one of my favorite chapters in the Bible. In it King David wrote,

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40: 1-3)

After reading through that chapter, and reflecting on all the miracles God performed related to 40 days, I don’t think it’s any coincidence that God has me focused on turning 40.

I believe He wants me to view this birthday as more than just a milestone on the calendar. He wants me to see it as He does – it’s a milestone that marks a turning point in my life – a milestone where I can look back in the future and recognize that the time I took now, just before my 40th birthday, to pray and petition God, was the beginning of something amazing.

So like David said in Psalm 40, I’m waiting patiently for the Lord to answer me. And even if my answers don’t come at the end of 40 days, I’m not going to stop. I’m going to keep circling the big things on my list, because I know that God has the ability to answer them anytime, anyplace, anyhow.

And that makes turning 40 feel fabulous!

Leslee Stewart is a wife, stay-at-home mom of two boys and former communications executive. She and her husband love the adventure of parenting and sharing their journey with others. When she’s not cheering her boys on at the ball field, you can find her in the aisles of HomeGoods adding to her throw pillow addiction. She loves cheap jewlery, junky old furniture and can sing all the parts of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” 

 by Renee Scott

There are times when God speaks and you must have the boldness to be vulnerable and obedient to His calling.  During last Monday’s Beautiful meeting, I had to answer God’s call with boldness.  As I prepared to teach a lesson on faith, I wanted to avoid sharing my testimony but I knew it was God’s desire.  I’m a pretty private person, so the thought of sharing some of the details of my life was hard. 

I don’t normally get nervous when speaking but that was not the case on Monday night.  Even with church beginning at 7pm, I was still struggling at 6:45pm.  Not because I wasn’t prepared, but because I didn’t want to share my testimony.  In the back of my mind, I knew that the Bible was clear about the power of our testimony….

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Revelation 12:11 (KJV)

Despite my hesitations, I boldly proclaimed where I’ve been and the journey I’m still taking.  Boy oh boy, am I a work in progress.  Last semester I stepped down from the teaching team for much needed counseling and I will do the same this semester.  Sometimes when we see others on “stage” we think they have it all together.  One thing I’ve learned is that we all have issues and concerns that will keep us needing a Savior to guide and lead us at all times. 

Since sharing my testimony, several women have encouraged me.  They identified with the pain of my past and celebrated my new path of healing.  I NEEDED to hear those women.  It was confirmation that God’s will was fulfilled.  That night when I returned home, instead of feeling lighter, I felt heavier.  Satan continued to try and battle me within my mind. 

You shared too much.  Your words will only cause judgment, not help others move toward healing.  Those were just some of the thoughts that Satan tried to taunt me with.  For a few brief moments I internalized his words and started to actually regret sharing my testimony.  This was not how I wanted to feel after being obedient to God’s will.

I quickly remembered Philippians 4:8 (NLT)….

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Here’s my word to each of the readers.  You can NEVER go wrong when you follow God’s leading.  We are all the sum total of our experiences.  Whether good or bad, God has purpose in our pain and in our victories.  We are able to overcome by the word of our testimonies.  I will continue to be BOLD for Christ. 

Share with us about some of your recent bold moves for Christ.

Renee ScottRenee Scott is co-founder of the popular blog,  www.doubleportioninspiration.blogspot.com ,where she shares encouragement and inspiration to men and women all over the world.  She’s been a member of Grace Family Church for four years. She loves to run and recently completed her first half marathon. She is a wife of over 14 years and mother of two children. 

by Becca Christensen

Last year I went through Freedom.  For 10 weeks I met with a group of ladies and dealt with our baggage. As I was writing my fourth card for 2014 (I’m writing one letter a week thanking or encouraging someone) this morning I was reminded of my answered prayers.

One of the beautiful aspects of Freedom is releasing anything holding you captive.  As I searched my own heart and prayed about what was holding me back from being emotionally and spiritually healthy I knew that if I were ever going to be and stay whole, I had to let go of my unmet expectations.

If you’ve been my friend in real life for long you know that I have extremely high standards of people.  I should say that I hold myself to the highest standards of all.  If I expect someone to call me on my birthday every year – then I make sure I call them on their birthday, anniversary, and Christmas.  If I ask my small group girls to do homework for bible study then I do the homework, cook the dinner, and read an entire book just for an idea of a closing prayer request question.  I try always to set the bar highest for myself. However, my standards for other people and often for myself are unrealistically high.

When I thought about the relationships I felt burned by over the past few years they could all be traced back to unmet expectations.  I felt let down when people didn’t handle situations the way I would have.  Pretty unfair, huh?

I am unapologetically uncompromising in what I believe.  I once was failed from a college course for standing up to a professor who belittled his students.  I simply couldn’t keep quiet about something I knew to be wrong.  

I imagine I’m about 10 years later than the rest of the world in realizing that everyone isn’t like me.  Some people are shy or quiet.  Some are reserved.  While I’m a trail blazing leader, there are also followers.  Just as wholly as I am a chief, there are also Indians.  And you know what, the world needs that balance.  In fact, the idea of a world full of crazy, headstrong survivors like me is a bit terrifying.

What I mean to say is, with all the variety in people how could I possibly expect people to all react or handle things the way I do?  How did I even expect them to know what I would do?  And mercy, it hardly seems like a good idea for people to run around asking what Becca would do.  But without realizing it, I think that’s what I was doing. 

Ok let me get this back on track.  My fourth card of the year went out to a friend I am in the process of reconciling with as a result of what I learned and let go of in Freedom.  I stood before my prayer partner and my God and I released all of my unmet expectations. This may sound a bit dramatic but I pictured myself literally taking all my grudges, hurt feelings, anger, and ‘stuff’ I’d been toting around with me and set them down at my Saviors feet.

The flip side of this is that I also realize how many expectations I’ve failed to meet over the years.  Worse still, I recognize what a terrible quality being ungracious and unforgiving is. I’ve prayed earnestly over the past few years as my small group girls can attest to be more forgiving. I know how wholly I have needed forgiveness and how graciously it’s been given to me.  Somehow this still is a struggle for me.

In Freedom I became infamous for sharing on the first day that I have a tendency to consider people ‘dead to me’ if they offend me at a certain level.  I said that in my typically sarcastic Becca way but I was also giving them a window into my struggle.  As I had hoped, sharing that struggle was the beginning of overcoming it.

When I prayed to release all those unmet expectations from several key relationships in my life – I remember adding at the end ‘and I promise Lord, not to take them back’.  Maybe you’re all a million times better at this stuff than I am.  I hope so.  But I have a tendency to ‘let something go’ only to pick it back up when that person lets me down again.  I’m careful not to bring it up in a fight but the feelings come up anyway.  I have allowed them to resurface over and over as a justification for why I feel the way I do about that person or situation even months down the road.

This time, I was determined to give them up and not take them back.

The woman I prayed with asked me afterwards, so, do you think this will fix your relationships?  My coworkers like to say I live in the ‘honest box’ where I hold nothing back.  I told her it wasn’t about that.  I wasn’t sacrificing my expectations to make something work.  I was giving them up because they were holding me back in my relationship with the Lord.  He calls me to be forgiving.  He tells me in his word he’s going to forgive me the way I forgive others and you know what?  In November, that was still a pretty scary thought.

That prayer?  That was about me doing the right thing.  It was a necessary step in getting myself where I need to be with the Lord, the only one who’s never going to let me down.

In the months since then I have prayed to stop putting those expectations on other people. And I’ve kept my word, never picking back up those unmet expectations I sacrificed that morning.  Here’s the truly sweet part.  Even though it wasn’t my motivation for doing so – there has been restoration in my relationships.  In the two that were heaviest on my heart when I went into that weekend – I have seen growth in leaps and bounds.  

When I finally dealt with my piece, the restoration and healing was waiting.  It came easy and natural.  No one is more surprised than I.  Or more grateful for that matter.

How can you release what is holding you captive? Share your comments below! 

Becca Christensen works at Grace Family Church as a Ministry Assistant. She loves to travel, entertain, read, spend time with family, and root on the Indianapolis Colts. In addition to contributing to the Beautiful Blog, Becca leads a table at Beautiful Monday Nights. You can read more about Becca on her  blog, www.beccachristensen.wordpress.com