Chapter OneJanuary 1
Hopes and Dreams
We are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in
Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned
for us long ago. Ephesians 2:10
As the clock rounds midnight and another year closes, a
new year rushes to greet us. A new 365 days are waiting
to fulfill our hopes and dreams. In this new beginning, we
can receive each day like a gift waiting to be unwrapped.
Discover the possibilities by becoming more aware of God's
great love for you.
God has made you unique, unlike anyone else in
history. You are a precious individual, with gifts that no
one else can offer. You are a masterpiece of the master
Creator, who longs for you to become the person he made
you to be.
Does this new year hold new beginnings, a new path
toward fulfilled dreams? Only you can set your goals and
chart your course. Write down your intentions and hang
them on your mirror. Talk to God about your hopes, for
God's desire is to bless you as you live out the dreams he
has placed in your heart.
Unwrap the gift of the present by living your dreams!
Out of the Icy Rut
Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new
person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!
2 Corinthians 5:17
I was entranced. As I rose quietly above the snow-covered
treetops, the serenity of the Rockies captivated me. The
air was crisp and clean, the sky was blue, and the snow
glittered like a dusting of diamonds. Skiing down each
powdery run was an adventure.
This time, about halfway down, my skis locked up.
They were pointing straight down . in a rut. My brain
kept telling my legs to turn, but my skis did not respond.
Then I fell. My equipment kept racing to the bottom of
the next hill, so I was surprised when my skidding, snow-covered
body came to a rest on a mogul below.
In our lives, we must decide to make every day count. If
we do not intentionally choose to enjoy each day, our lives
too quickly get stuck in a rut.
We are made new in Christ. Through him, we are able
to enjoy life fully. Point your path away from life's ruts.
Dream big, and make the most of every day.
Break a new trail.
Joy Is a Choice
This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and
be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
Toddlers are interesting little creatures. It doesn't take
much experience with two-year-olds to realize that their
main concern is with themselves. "Me" is everything, and
"me" is great until something happens that wasn't the
toddler's idea-such as a diaper change or being buckled
into a car seat.
As adults, we sometimes have similar dysfunctions.
Life is great until it doesn't go our way. When we don a
bad attitude in response, we encounter a dilemma. Life is
meant to be celebrated, with each day lived as a gift. Yet
most days we act as if we have nothing at all to be glad
God gives us each day, asks us if we will rejoice in it,
and leaves the choice to us. The outcome of each part of
our lives comes down to a daily choice of attitude. If we
choose joy and thankfulness, each day becomes a priceless
treasure. If we remain focused on ourselves, our world will
close in on us. Take up the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity
to enjoy the gift of today.
Choose joy today!
Who We Are
I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your
Savior You are precious to me. You are honored,
and I love you. Isaiah 43:3-4
The middle-school years are a hard part of growing up, for
a young teenager's self-worth is based on the opinions of
others. I was extra tall and gangly, with a metal-mouthed
smile. I tried to wear the right clothes and not be too
smart, but I was never in the "in" crowd.
So much of what we do is based on what we imagine
others want from us. However, all that we strive to be and
do in pleasing others is still rarely enough.
God takes us "as is" and loves each of us for who we are.
We can do nothing to make him love us more or less. God
knows that we are not perfect, but to him, we are precious,
honored, and loved.
Feast on the richness of God's love today. Allow this
truth to saturate your life: God loves me for who I am. His
perfect love will transform your days.
God loves us for who we are.
Live a life filled with love, following the example
of Christ. Ephesians 5:2
Some people are easy to love, such as the huggable baby
on the television ad who coos and smiles, never has a dirty
diaper, and never makes a mess. The perfect people we
conjure up in our minds are easy to love, but in real life,
no one is perfect.
Sometimes it is hardest to show love to those we really
love the most. At work and in our social lives, it is easy to
put on a smile and a mask that hides our true selves. When
we get home and take the mask off, our true selves show
through. Our families often get the raw edges of our hearts,
the rough places that we hide in public.
It is hard to love others on our own. Yet when we are
tired, disappointed, frustrated, and harassed, we can draw
on Jesus' love to help us love our families. God's strength
and love are enough, but we have to ask for his help.
The only way to love others is to receive love from God.
Ask Jesus to enlarge your loving heart today!
Grow in love.
Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight
in honoring each other. Romans 12:10
Daily life allows us to cross paths with many types of people.
Though most of us prefer being around fun-loving people,
we all encounter people who make life much more difficult.
Be it the quick-to-judge neighbor with the perfectly manicured
lawn or the coworker engrossed only in bettering her
bottom line, certain people offer criticism freely and belittle
others who don't measure up.
Following Jesus by honoring others instead of being
quick to criticize is unnatural for humans. However, we can
learn to honor others by allowing them to be themselves
and by putting ourselves in their shoes before we criticize.
If we are not perfect, how can we pass judgment on others?
With the help of God's love, we can encourage our children
to uncover their God-given interests without forcing
our own ideas on them. We can learn to see our neighbors
through God's eyes. God will help us to love our spouses
even when they come home late or leave their socks on the
floor. Genuine love and honor can replace self-interest and
bring delight and joy to each day.
God helps us to love difficult people.
Hunger and Thirst
Jesus replied, "Anyone who drinks this water will soon
become thirsty again. But those who drink the water
I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh,
bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life."
I love to cook meals that take longer than six hours to make.
My old friend the Crock-Pot, filled with simmering garlic,
Italian dressing, and a pot roast, makes an irresistible dinner.
As it cooks all day, hunger also builds, and snacking to
suppress the hunger doesn't satisfy. It remains until we eat
the pot roast, the source of the wonderful Crock-Pot aroma.
We humans are born to be dissatisfied . until we
identify the source of our need. We can search our whole
lives for something to fulfill our longings, but we often
don't know what we're looking for. Different days bring
different ways of attempting to satisfy the thirst-shopping,
church activities, relationships. Our culture encourages
indulgence in more money, success, and power. But
the satisfactions of having more things, perfectly controlled
relationships, a position on the church board, or a
completely filled schedule are only temporary.
Jesus created our thirst, and only he can satisfy it.
Jesus satisfies our longings.
The Lord hears his people when they call to him for
help. He rescues them from all their troubles.
One night after dinner, our oldest son fell from the monkey
bars while playing in our backyard with his brothers. His
fall initiated a grueling string of events: rushing to the
hospital, struggling through X-rays, and enduring a two-hour
emergency surgery for a severe break through his
elbow. Life changed in an instant.
Life often brings suffering. It is tough to deal with the
unexpected pains of life, and as we endure, we cry for help.
As parents, it is hard to see our children suffer. It
must also be tough for God to see us, his children, living
through pain. We are fragile, but he is powerful. When we
feel that we cannot endure, he strengthens us.
The Lord hears us when we call on his name. Our Lord
God knows our pain, grief, and sorrows, and he promises
to rescue us in his time. God is as close as the air we
Recognize God's presence in everything you do. Call
out to him, and he will draw near. Ask him for help, and
know that he is with you. God's presence will bring you
Take courage in God's presence.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God's will for
you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Every single day, we are faced with a choice. We can see the
things we have to be thankful for, or we can focus on what
we don't have and say, "Poor me!"
It is so easy to fall into the self-pity trap. Discontent can
arise over anything-the big house we don't have, the nicer
vehicle, better figure, longer vacation, better job, or more
attentive loved ones-when we compare our lives with
Instead of a pity party, God wants us to experience
thankfulness in all circumstances. All circumstances! That
means that even when we think we need something more,
we must practice being thankful for what we already have.
Each day is a gift! Break free of the self-pity trap.
Concentrate on what you have been given rather than on
what you don't have. Make this a great day by counting
your blessings. You will receive the incredibly fulfilling gift
Then take your real needs to the Lord, who promises to
provide everything we need.
Choose to give thanks.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with
their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. Proverbs 17:28
April Fools may be a fun day, but playing the fool isn't
usually a good idea. Years ago, when I was pregnant with
our first child, I remember feeling quite vulnerable since
I felt as big as a house. I will never forget two comments
that I heard that year. One neighbor matter-of-factly stated
that she knew we would have a boy because my behind was
so large! Ouch! A well-meaning relative said loudly, "Well,
how's the big momma doing?" I wanted to melt away into
my maternity clothes.
As women, we have an amazing ability to speak before
we think. Surely we all make comments that we don't really
mean, and we try to catch the words on the way out. Open
mouth, insert foot-the damage has already been done.
Thoughtless words can be very hurtful.
Solomon writes that the fool's downfall is her mouth!
Everyone knows a fool by the way she talks. Resolve to speak
only after you've considered the other person's feelings. Put
yourself in that person's shoes and speak words of life and
encouragement. Bless the world with your words; ask Jesus
to help you build others up.
Think before you speak.
Those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They
will soar high on wings like eagles. Isaiah 40:31
God had a good sense of humor when he created earth's
animals. Some animals inspire wonder, such as the chameleon,
with its ever-changing colors. We are amused by the
antics of monkeys and chimpanzees, and the lion and the
cheetah arouse awe. Eagles are able to soar effortlessly, far
above the earth. I'm convinced that our souls were made to
soar through the heavens and rise above it all.
In order to soar, we must be willing to spread our wings.
It is difficult to take the risk, but we won't know how high
we are able to fly until we try. The eagle does not soar by
any effort of its own, but by riding the thermal currents.
We can only soar when the Lord provides the lift under our
Whether you are trying a new hobby, reconciling a
rough relationship, or making some other new venture, put
your trust in the Lord. He gives us wings to fly and loves to
lift us up. His love will carry you higher than you dreamed
Trust God for strength.
I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener.
He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce
fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so
they will produce even more. John 15:1-2
Gardening is a favorite part of my life. I love to dig in the
dirt, get my hands dirty, and plant a scene of beauty from
materials that don't seem beautiful at all. For a garden to
flourish, dead plant material has to be pruned in early
Nearly every plant in our extensive gardens needs some
sort of pruning. Each plant answers the question of how
much to remove by its growth. In early April, new leaves
and flower buds are forming and can easily be seen. The
best pruning cuts off the dead matter where the growth
stops so that the live part can keep growing, unhindered.
In John 15, Jesus talks about the master Gardener's
pruning. God prunes off every bit of deadness in our lives
so that we may continue to grow and reach our full potential.
Though the pruning is never pleasant, the results in
greater growth always make it worthwhile.
God guides our growth.