The Wonder of Pink Ruffles and God's Love
Hi, it's me again posting as a guest blogger for my mommy! I was just wondering, "Have you ever felt beautiful?" If not, I suggest you go get yourself a pretty pink ruffly outfit! It makes a girl feel pretty no matter what!

Now mommy says we're all beautiful even without a pink outfit because we are clothed in God's love. I was glad I got to wear both this past weekend! Even before mommy let me see myself in the mirror, I was smiling so big. I could tell by her "oohs", daddy's "ahhs" and my big brothers "wows" that I looked pretty!

This isn't the greatest smile, but it shows how I can stand up all by myself and you can see my whole outfit! Mommy was waiting for the perfect occasion for me to wear it.

It came this past weekend when I was part of the child dedication service where my family and church promised to teach me about Jesus' love. And Jesus was already showin' me His love through my ruffly pink princess outfit. It was given to me from mommy's friend Mrs. Sloan. My pretty princess pink bow was from Mrs. Nicki, and my sparkly princess shoes were from Mrs Prater! Jesus gave me my smile and sparkly eyes.

Mommy keeps telling me I am one very blessed girl to have so many women who love Jesus and me. They have covered me in prayers of affection and clothed me in pretty princess things.

If you want to watch my dedication you can click on this arrow. I liked listening to my Daddy talk about me. He almost cried when he said God made me part of our family. Then pastor Derwin picked me up and I saw how big the crowd was and well, wow! You'll have to tell me what you think.

Special Guest Blogger
Have you noticed my mommy hasn't been blogging as much lately? Me too. I don't know if she's told you, but she can't use her computer when I'm around because I like to hijack it!

Forget all those baby toys, there's nothing like computer keys and screens.

First I sneak my fingers on the lid when she's not looking. I don't let her see my face because then she'd know its me. If she catches me she says, "Aster, nooo touch." And I pretend like I'm listening.

Then I sneak around to the other side.

That is when I try the sweet and curious look.

I know how to work it. I act like I'm interested in the photos. I take mommy's finger and point to things. It usually works.

But not always. So sometimes I just grab the thing!!!

I know I'm gonna get in trouble but its worth it when you're obsessed with screens, lights and buttons.

Uh oh, I gotta go! I hear mommy coming...

She Speaks Scholarship Contest!
Have you ever had a dream in your heart to lead women to closer to the heart of God? Maybe through your blog, your testimony or a Bible study you lead? Or maybe over coffee or the water cooler?

Has God put a desire in your heart to share the story of His amazing grace through writing, speaking or leading a women's ministry?

If so, I'd love to know about it and pray for you! And I want to tell you about something special that just might be the first step toward God preparing you to fulfill your dream.

My friend, Lysa, is offering an opportunity to WIN one of three Cecil Murphy SCHOLARSHIPS that he gave Proverbs 31 ministries to give away this week. Lysa has all the scoop on her blog but before you hop over there, let me tell you a little about our She Speaks conference and why you should prayerfully consider attending this year.

For Speakers:
Whether you are ready to take the main stage and start speaking at conferences and retreats or whether you want to learn how to more effectively teach a ladies’ Bible Study- this track is for you. After attending this conference you will be equipped to:

* Know how to develop a great message from start to finish.

* Understand what keeps an audience engaged and how to make your message memorable.

* Deliver your message in such a way that not only inspires your audience but motivates them to make life changes.

* Increase your number of booked speaking engagements by using proven marketing strategies.

For Writers:
You have had a passion for writing and have even had people encourage you to write a book, but have never known how to get started on the pathway to publication. You will have the chance to attend sessions taught by some of the top Christian publishers- Zondervan, Harvest House, Cook and several others. You will also be able to make appointments to pitch your book proposal.

Or maybe you are a blogger and want to learn how to more effectively connect with your readers, increase the impact of your blog, and hear from someone who successfully got a book contract by maximizing her blog platform.
Whatever the case may be, if you are a writer in the making, after attending this conference you will:

* Discover your unique writing voice and the mechanics of effective writing.

* Understand what publishers are looking for and how to write proposals that get their attention.

* Better understand how to build your writing portfolio by getting published in magazines.

* Know how to write a book that will impact your reader from start to finish.

For Women's Ministry Leaders:
You know first hand the unique opportunities and challenges that present themselves when you lead a ministry in your church for women. You give and serve all year long--- now is your chance to get filled back up with encouragement and training. You’ll have the opportunity to attend a Pre-Conference Intensive as well as the women’s ministry leadership track where you’ll learn how to:

* Build a dream team of ministry partners.

* Cast your vision for ministry in a way others will catch it.

* Distinguish God's direction for your ministry with confidence.

* Celebrate milestones of your ministry's effectiveness and keep your team inspired.

Doesn't it all sound wonderful? It is!!! And I would love to meet you there this July! Now, to find out more about the contest - go here and get the scoop - then enter to win!

And if you enter the contest, please come back here and tell me so I can make sure I read your entry post!

When the Pain of My Past Makes Me Question God's Plans for My Future
God has a plan for your life.

You were created for a purpose.

God's is working everything together for good.

What do these words evoke in your heart? Do you question their validity or do they make you want to stand up and shout, "I used to doubt that, but now I know it’s true!"

I've been in both places. I remember a friend telling me God wanted to heal the pain of my past and use what I'd experienced and learned to help me find His plans for my future. I didn't want God to use the pain of my past. I wanted it to go away! I doubted it could make me better or stronger or do any good for anyone, especially me.

Doubt held me captive with these words: "Your life is meaningless. Look at all you've done (good or bad), and where it got you. God could never use you. There is no purpose to what you do. You've messed up too many times. You're too ______ for anything good to come of your life.”

Doubting ourselves makes it hard to believe God's truth. That's why we've got to recognize doubt's whispers as Satan’s lies. He uses doubt and insecurity to hold us as prisoners in the shadow of darkness where we feel defeated, isolated, paralyzed and purposeless.

But Jesus wants us to live in the power of God's promise that He offers hope for our future despite the pain of our past.

He knows our past can actually help us find His plans for our future. That friend I mentioned earlier, her name is Wanda. She shared this truth with me while flipping through her Bible to the book of Jeremiah while we sat on the beach together over 20 years ago. I had just asked Wanda, "If God loves me so much, then why has He allowed so much pain in my life?" Her answer was Jeremiah 29:11.

I listened closely as she told me that God knows the plans He has for me, plans to give me a future filled with hope and not harm. I relished those words and then imagined in my mind what those plans might look like. I didn't realized that if I wanted to know God’s plans, I had to read the premise that followed the promise.

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."v12-13

Sometimes it isn’t until we hit rock bottom or run into enough walls that we realize the plans God has for us are found when we surrender ours for His. As Jeremiah 29:11-13 explains, God’s plans unfold each time we come to Him, talk to Him and pause long enough to recognize He's listening and He wants to respond.

I don't think I really went to God and asked what His plans were. I wanted to go create a new, happy, minimal-pain-plan that was all tidy in a boxed up Christian life. But God had other plans.

God wanted to use the hard places in my past that I wanted to forget. I wanted to run from them but He wanted to lead me through them to His ultimate plans - plans for healing and wholeness. Plans for authenticity and redemption. Plans that would require me to deal with my doubts and overcome my insecurities with the power of His love.

As we go throughout our day our doubts will creep up, threatening to steal our sense of hope and purpose. But each time that happens, we can stop and seek Him in that place, moment by moment. We can ask Him to show us His purpose by revealing what is true about who we are and what we have been through to make us doubt ourselves, our purpose and His plans. We can ask Him to help us re-define our identity not through the filter of our circumstances and pain, but through the power of His healing grace and life-giving promises.

And you know what happens when we do that moment by moment, day by day, doubt by doubt? We find Him.

"I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity..." v14.

We find out He is the one Who can heal the pain of our past. He is the One who can bring beauty from our brokenness. He is the One who can lead us to freedom from the captivity of our doubts, insecurities and pain.

I know because I have walked it, wrestled with it, resisted it and finally surrendered to it. God's Word is alive and active. It cuts to the core of our struggles and brings healing purpose to our pain. God's ways are redemptive, using the lies of our past to reveal God's truth and plans for our future!

Psalm 139:16 says, "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed" (NLT).

Everday Life
It's almost lunch time but I feel like I just woke up. Does daylight savings time throw you off?? Whew, it takes me a week to get back to normal!

How was your weekend? Leah and I flew to Knoxville, TN Friday morning for the WINGS women's conference in Sevierville where I was speaking this weekend. It was so much fun! I loved the WINGS event team (special hugs Tamara!!) and getting to meet women of all ages and hear how God spoke specifically to their hearts and made them feel like it was just for them. Love it when He does that!

The worship leader, Beth, and I looked like twins. Not only did God orchestrate the music to flow perfectly with my messages, but He coordinated our outfits, too! We had on the exact same pants and coral colored jackets Friday night. She is 5'2 (just like me) and we look so much alike that a woman gave her a photo of me on Saturday and said, "Here I thought you'd want this picture of yourself." We got a good laugh out of that!

We flew home Saturday and were picked up at the airport by the Swope crew around 8pm. Then we drove around two parking decks looking for Leah's car because she didn't remember where she parked. Poor thing got stuck in traffic on Friday morning behind a wreck and almost missed our flight. I encouraged her to park in daily and throw her hairspray and other things you can't take on board in her car and just use mine. That way she wouldn't have to check her bag and we'd just pay a little extra for her parking.

So glad she did! She got to the airport 20 mins before take-off and ran up to the gate right as they were boarding. And I have to admit, I enjoyed looking for her car and giggling under my breath. Now my family knows I'm not the only crazy woman who doesn't remember where she parked!

I also spent time this weekend reading through Thursday's comments and praying for each of you who shared your story. If you haven't read that post yet, you can here. You've moved my heart with your willingness to go there with me.

Yesterday our family went to church and ad lunch at a little diner nearby. During Aster's nap, JJ and I went over to Tyndall mattress store . For those of you who knew about my back problems and sleep deprivation due to mattress issues, we finally ordered our mattress! I'm so excited about how it's going to change my life to get more sleep and be free of all this back/neck pain!

Last night while our boys went to youth group, I spent time getting ready for the week, planning our menu, ordering groceries online and straightening up the house. Today I'll be writing and taking it kind of easy catching up.

So, what did you do this weekend? And what will your Monday will look like? I'd love to have peak into your everyday life. UPDATE: I love what Tonia did in her comment. If you have a blog, be sure to leave a link, too!

When Disappointment Leads to Anger, Insecurity and Unmet Expectations
Thank you so much to all of you who have signed up to be part of the "Confident Heart" prayer team.You touched my heart with your words and your willingness to join me in this God-sized adventure. We're creating our group email list and will be in touch early next week! I'm praying for you and each woman who will read this book. I pray we'll all be forever transformed into women who are defined by security, hope and confidence in Christ!

Last year when I surveyed 1200 women about their doubts, I asked if doubt affected their relationships and, if so, which ones? 81% said doubt affects their relationship with family, 69% said it affects their relationship with God, 68% said it affects their relationships with friends, 36% said it affects their relationships with co-workers and 28% said doubt affects their relationships with strangers.

I have a feeling I am going to be telling on myself a lot as I write this book. Yesterday I was thinking about a time when my insecurities and doubts about my future almost tore my marriage apart. JJ and I had been married for several years and were experiencing severe tension. I was all wound up inside. I got angry easily and I didn't know why.

Around that time we attended a marriage conference where Gary Smalley talked about unresolved anger from our past that we bring into our marriage. Bingo! I realized that night my anger as an adult stemmed from years of disappointment as a child. Disappointment that I never got the happily-ever-after I wanted.

You see, my parents divorced by the time I was two years old. I always hoped that one day I'd have a "whole" family and a happy ending. I used to make bouquets out of azaleas and walk down the isle of my dad's long driveway lined with magnolia trees, imagining Prince Charming on the porch waiting for me.

Those were little girl dreams that I thought I'd left behind. But as God reminded me of the dreams buried deep in my heart, He showed me that in some ways I was demanding they come true. When they didn't, my broken dreams became bitter expectations. Unspoken expectations. I wanted JJ to make up for all that my dad had never been as a father to me or as a husband to my mom.

As a broken girl from a broken home, my dreams felt like they were at stake. I was bound and determined to secure my future by creating my own version of a perfect life.

But I couldn't, and it made me panic. My anger and expectations erupted in the form of cutting and critical words toward my husband. Words I thought he needed to hear to help him become the perfect husband and dad I desperately wanted him to be.

I was convinced if he could be those things, my broken dreams could be put back together. My hopes and wishes could come true. JJ would provide security, affirmation and shelter for my little-girl-heart that was still crushed inside my adult body. Then I could be secure and become the confident woman I wanted to be.

God showed me I needed to find my security in Him alone. Despite my broken past and shattered dreams, I needed to remember that "He knows the plans He had for me," (Jer 29:11) and if I want to know them, I need to go to Him. Despite the turmoil and confusion from my childhood, I needed to confess the sin of my anger and expectations and let go of what I thought was my right to a "happily-ever-after."

As I released my grip, I learned to trust God to write the rest of my story. When I did, He began to heal my heart and my marriage. I learned to draw hope and confidence from God's unfailing love and learned to love JJ without conditions. As I let God's words of affirmation shape my self-image, I was able to stop being so hard on myself and my husband.

It was a turning point in our marriage. My insecurities could have taken us down, but instead God used that time to rebuild my own "ancient ruins and restore places devastated long ago"(Is. 61:4). In my brokenness He showed me how He could take my insecurities and let them lead me to find complete security in Christ.

I want us to talk about this. Have you ever found yourself getting angry when your husband (or someone else) didn't meet your expectations or fill your needs?

Have disappointment from your past affected your marriage or other relationships?

I want to hear your stories and thoughts on this topic to help me better understand how all of us are affected by past, our disappointments and how they shape our insecurities. Your insights and experiences are valuable my friend, so please don't ever hesitate to share them. I know this is a vulnerable topic, but we've got a safe little community here where we can share our hearts and stories. I'd love to pray for you as I read today's comments. Feel free to post anonymously if you want to.

Marriage Give-Away

Betty Jones Hodge, you are the winner of a free Marriage Conference Call with Proverbs 31 Ministries. Please send me your phone number, email and I'll have Melissa from the office send you the call-in information!


After sharing earlier today about my struggles in my marriage I wanted to tell you about something that you might be interested in. I'm giving away a free marriage conference call from the comments in this post and my post on marriage/anger/insecurities. You can leave your name in both places for two chances :0>

You can listen to the call "live" or listen online as it's taught by my friend and author of "What Every Husband/Wife Needs" - Melanie Chitwood. (Click here for more info) If you're not married but want to give it to a friend, you can do that too!

Also, I'll be speaking here this weekend! Would love to meet you there!

A Wing and a Prayer
"Let me find refuge and trust in the shelter of Your wings." Psalm 61:4b (Amp)

Today I'm asking God to help me find shelter under His wings. I'm being stretched to believe I can rest in God's sovereignty and choose inactivity (on my part). Instead of working on something I need to do, God's challenging me pray be still, talk to Him and trust He is working when I am not. This is where believing God and doubting play tug-o-war. When a deadline and responsibility hangs over my head and something keeps me from moving toward it, it makes me...

Doubt I can get it done.
Doubt I heard God right.
Doubt God's perfect plans and timing.
Doubt my ability to follow through.

Satan wants us to doubt ourselves
But God wants us to believe HIM and trust Him! This is where we learn to live in the power of HIS promises. It's the only way to live beyond the shadow of our doubts as we walk forward or rest in faith. But it's hard when you're having a bad day. Like the one one that just culminated with a run-away dog this afternoon, and me crying 'cause I didn't think I'd find her since she didn't have her tags on her new collar.

I drove around my neighborhood and surrounding area with my windows down crying out, "Daaaaaaaaisy, Daiseeeeey!" And saying, "God, please don't let this happen. Not today. Not Daisy. You know she'll run forever. She's a beagle whose nose will lead her to SC and she won't even know she left home. This is the last thing I need today. Pleeeaase help me find her."

Finally a man who lives near us brought her home while I was out looking for her. He told mom it took a piece of bologna to get Daisy to come to him. I could've strangled that bologna-eating dog when I got home. But she was smiling and jumping on me like she'd gotten back from a friends house.

I know, life happens! But I sure do wish it would coordinate itself with my needs and deadlines. Today was a writing day and now my brain feels like a sledge hammer is pounding on it. Why do things like this happen on the days I block out time to write my book? Seriously. And can I be honest with you? It's frustrating. I can't write every day so when I can, I really need to.

Sometimes it feels like I am living in the middle of impossible.

So what do we do in the middle of impossible? I am still trying to figure that out but the past several months have given me lots of opportunities to try a few things. First, I am learning to cling to the promise- With God all things are possible! Then I am learning to ask Him to give me a very specific "word" (a promise or a principle) from His Word to act on and put my trust in. Then I look for what next step He wants me to take.

For example, before all this craziness happened today, I was stressing a little about my book deadline and blocking out time to write until I meet it. This weekend He gave me 2 Timothy 1:12b, "For I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I've entrusted to Him for that day."

Then today He challenged me (gave me the opportunity) to walk it out: to be convinced that He is able to guard what I've entrusted to Him for this day. For me it means that I am entrusting Him with the chapter I feel like I should be writing, and the words that are now stuck inside my pounding head.

As far as a step to take, the Holy Spirit reminded again today that God's been nudging me to for a while to ask friends to pray for me and the message of "A Confident Heart" and the women who will read it - until it's written. He's reminded me that the enemy is not happy about what God is up to on the pages of this book and that he will do all he can to stop me.

So, today I am walking out 2 Tim 1:12, and then taking the next step of obedience by asking some friends to pray with me.

Would you'd like to be part of the "Confident Heart" prayer team?
I think it'd be so wonderful to seek Christ' heart with you and ask Him together to make Himself famous through this book. Leah (my assistant and dear friend) and I are excited to see who God will gather with us. We'll collect names/emails to send requests and we'll also be praying for them too! To join us, leave a comment below with your email address and we'll send you updates, probably once a week. (Or email with "Prayer Team" in the subject line.)

Now that I've written all of this, I have a feeling God is writing a chapter right here in the middle of impossible. I'd love to know if you ever feel like you are living in the middle of impossible? What are some promises you cling to and some steps you take to help you get out of that hard place?

I love to hear from you! (and pray for you, too)

UPDATE: Thank you so much for blessing me with your words of affirmation, ideas, suggestions and perspectives for the subtitle of "A Confident Heart." It was the best feedback I could have gotten!! You make me want to write this book even when it gets hard! Random integer chose Stephanie Pace as the winner of the $20 giftcard. So sorry it took me a day to count the names and get it posted. Congratulations Stephanie!

Want to help me out and win a $20 Gift Card?
Okay, so most of you know I'm in the process of writing a book. My first book! Just last week my publisher chose my suggested title, and I just about jumped out of my chair! I hope you like it as much as I do. You ready? Drum roll please…

A Confident Heart

I love those three words. They describe what I have always wanted. For so many years I lived with an insecure, fear-filled, doubting-myself kind of heart. But over the past several years, God has taken me on a journey of moving beyond simply believing in Him to really believing Him; to really putting my trust in the power of His promises and living like they are true!

Some days I do much better than others. But when I choose to believe and live what I know about who I am and Whose I am, I experience a wonderful thing - a confident heart!

Do women struggle with self doubt?
Last year I surveyed over 1200 women about their self doubts. Here is some of what they shared when I asked what doubt whispers and how doubt affects them:

92% hear doubt whisper:You’re not good enough.”

85 – 90% hear doubt whisper: “You can’t balance your life.” “You’re not gifted enough.” “You worry too much.” “You’re not smart enough.” “You’ll never change.” You can’t follow God consistently.”“If people knew who you really are…”

95% say doubt makes them: feel like quitting or giving up; feel paralyzed or stuck; question how and what they are doing; feel uncertain about God's plan for their lives; feel discouraged and defeated; distracted; or steals their focus.

I am praying, "A Confident Heart" will set women free from the trap of doubt and give them the God-fidence that is ours when we live in power of His promises.

How can you help?
I need a subtitle to summarize what will be inside the book. And that is where I’m getting stuck. So, I've decided to call upon some of the smartest people I know…YOU! Will you help me think through the subtitle?

This message will help a woman navigate through the causes and paralyzing effects of self-doubt and illustrate, through Biblical and real-life examples, how she can live confidently in the truth of who she is and who she can become in Christ. A Confident Heart will give voice to the questions, doubts, struggles, and hopes many women have but are afraid to admit. This book will set free the captive heart that lives in the darkness of insecurity and uncertainty, but longs for the illumination of God’s power, truth, and grace. This is not a cookie-cutter approach to forever eliminating doubt like one would a grass stain on a white T-shirt. It’s about learning how to identify, process, and even use doubt to get you to a place of secure dependence, by stepping out of doubt's shadows and into the power of God's promises.

How can you win a gift card?
Will you read over the following subtitles and let me know what you think about them? Would any of them grab your attention and prompt you to want to buy this book?

A Confident Heart
How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Start Trusting God's Promises

A Confident Heart
Stop Doubting Yourself and Start Believing God

A Confident Heart
Learning to Live in the Power of God's Promises

Which one do you like best? Please vote for one, and if you think of another idea (after reading what the book is about), also give us your suggestion.

For everyone that comments between today and the weekend, I will enter you into a random drawing to win a $20 Starbucks or Target card. Bribery isn't all bad right? I'll announce the winner Monday morning! Feel free to comment as many times as you like as ideas come to you.

To leave a comment please click on the word "comments" below and type in the white box. If you don't have a blog, click anonymous. If you are reading this via email or facebook, double click on the title and it should take you to my blog where you can leave a comment. Or email and put "Subtitle" in the subject line. Then we'll post it here.

Include your email or come back Monday so I can let you know you won.

Roll Call please. Tell me where you are from (state, country) and your age. Pleeeeaaaasee. It's so helpful and interesting to know more about you who gather here.

More than ever before, I need your help and your opinion. And I know you have one. Please don't doubt that what you think will be helpful!! My publisher and I want to hear your thoughts and we value your input. It's you (and women like you) that I'm writing this book for!