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A Brave Heart: Hagar

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Can you imagine… the weight that comes from being named "Alien", walking through the streets, your body owned? The reality in your womb – your child, but belonging to another. Where did she come from, this stranger, before this was her story? What was the name her mother gave her the day she was born? (Perhaps it was Bravery.) Can you imagine… knowing it was nothing short of slavery, the reality that brought about this life inside you? To be cast out, ironically, for fulfilling your purpose? Then, to be alone in the wilderness at an unknown well, Beer-lahai-roi, and to be met there by the Divine, a presence you had never known. (But isn't this the place where God meets us all?) Can you imagine… the Divine granting you the privilege of giving it a name? "You are a God of seeing…" To be know...
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Rebekah

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I don't know about you sister, but I'm not a big fan of detours. Roads diverted. Plans foiled. Life interrupted. If I'm travelling to Iowa, I want to end up in Iowa. (You Iowa haters, hold your comments.)  No blown tires. No destination changes. I don't want phone calls blowing up my to-do list. Friends cancelling a night out. Last-minute project demands. A job in Minnesota when I want to live in Texas. I have my plans. You know? That's probably why when I was reading in Genesis and stumbled on Rebekah, I had to do a double take. Who just packs her bags and leaves her family and country with a stranger? In one day. And for the purpose of marrying a stranger? I mean seriously. Who does that? Abraham's servant was staying with Rebekah's family, having just met them the night before, whe...
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Finding Wholeness

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For the month of January we Heart Matters gals are going to be writing about brave women... women who had courage, women who faced into whatever life offered them. Women like you and me. Women from the Bible. We pray that their lives will be a blessing to you... She packed up her potential and all she had learned, grabbed a cute pair of shoes and headed out to change a few things — Leigh Stanley Have you ever been so desperate that you were willing to risk everything, even your reputation, to find healing for all your broken bits? To finally find the wholeness you've been longing for? Most of us are timid to share the truth about ourselves. Our secret struggles. The ugly stuff lurking just under the surface. I think that's why I love the story in Mark 5:24-34 so much. The character in...
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Who is the Salvation of the season?

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I attended a church that I don't usually go to this morning. It had a grand and yet approachable feel about it and its well executed form held my heart tenderly as indeed, I felt tender. There came a moment in the sermon presentation when the speaker turned to the advent candles on the stage and walked towards them with the candle snuffer (yes, that is the technical name and yes, it did make me smile as I googled to confirm I had the right name, snuffer). Slowly she extinguished each candle, one by one, slowly speaking of the advent season ending. The lights in the room all dimmed as well and in less than a couple of minutes the whole room was dark except for one candle, the Christ candle. It was powerful and a tangible picture of what this season might feel like. All the lights, glitterin...
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A Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to you all...

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We are praying that you, dear ones, will experience the very near presence of the Savior in all of your gatherings and celebrations. That you will know his peace despite your circumstances, his joy although you may feel despair and His deep, abiding love... for He loves you beyond words...for  that is why He came to earth... for the love of us. The Heart Matters gals, LuAnn, Sally, Nicole and Julie  
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Sacred

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Have you considered the word Sacred, How heavy we've made it, almost untouchable? We reserve it for things like Icarus wings, too hot to handle; not common enough to touch the ordinariness of a life. But then the snow starts to fall, and memories of a story flood in. An angel, a manger, a message... Simplicity itself. We remember how close the words "sacred" and "holy" live to one another. Easy neighbors, Whole. The snow starts to fall, and we remember what it is that the story is trying to teach us: The truth that Love conquers fear.
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Gifts: For Your Friends and Family

Gifts: For Your Friends and Family
Discovering God in the Ordinary: Four Women. Different Journeys. Same Pursuit. We often expect to feel God's presence in joyous mountaintop experiences or when walking through the darkest valley, but we mustn't forget that God can surely be found in the ordinary moments of our lives. In this devotional, we seek to inspire you to find God in your everyday life, whether it's dropping your kids off at school, waiting in the checkout line at your local grocery store, or meeting a friend over coffee. Because here's the truth: God wants to invade every part of our lives, but sometimes, it's just a matter of us opening our eyes to see his hand moving all around us. About our Authors : Heidi is a young wife and mom balancing two toddlers and an infant. Jo is busy balancing the many different roles...
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Beyond the Glitter

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​ When we create fantasy images in our heads, we slay the beauty in our lives. – Emily Ley, Grace Not Perfection It helps me to remember Martha this time of year. Had I lived nearby and in her time, we would have been pals. I'm sure of it. Instead, I view her from afar and learn from her story (Luke 10).  Martha was scurrying around, thinking she was doing all her guests a favor. "Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made."  And when she went to Jesus to complain about her sister Mary not helping, who instead  "sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said"  Jesus spoke truth to her. "Martha, Martha...you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be ta...
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The In-Between

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Distressing as these in-between times of the season may be, they can also be nourishing for the soul. —Macrina Wiederkehr Walking in the woods lately I've begun to spot signs of this in-between place. Many trees have long lost their coat of many colors and stand naked against a gray sky and chilly wind. It looks like winter. But it isn't quite yet. Although there is snow on the ground and the temperatures are falling, we have another few weeks before winter sets in in earnest. I can feel the seasons change as I continue to walk the woods. The air is brisker than it once was. Squirrels are fattening themselves for the months to come. And a layer of ice has formed on the nearby lake. There are fewer bird songs in these quiet woods. The trees groan as they relinquish themselves to this i...
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Delight, Beginnings, Purpose

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These last weeks have been hard, deep, full of prayerful heart murmurings, gutsy right action and a bucket load of grace, oh and tears, a whole bunch of tears. I want to tell you one portion of these past few weeks. A huge starting point was that my grandma passed away, back in the UK, we called her Nannie, she was 95. She passed on the morning of a day which couldn't have been more full if it had tried. I spoke to my dad at 6 am and he shared the news. We both wept. By 7 am I was on the road to sing at a church called Eden about half an hour away. By 11.30 am I was on route to my home church, Genesis, who were saying goodbye to a member of staff and mourning that loss. By 12.30 pm someone asked me what I needed and I said company and some food. We ate. By 3.15 pm I was at a rehearsal for ...
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To Start

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The goal is to start for we may never know our own finish. Don't strive for perfection. Don't try to impress. Just keep an open heart and forgive. Yourself. Another. All the others. Forgive what you think you can't so that your life can breathe and your days can play. So that God can send you joy and you will feel it deep in your bones.
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Look Up

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Our path was layered with thousands of red, yellow, brown, and orange-colored tree tears. My friend and I started to climb yet another steep hill whose sometimes calf-level leaves hid all manner of tricksters—branches, deep ruts, prickly vines, stones in sandy soil, loose pebbles, and slippery mud. Our eyes were glued to our path, our forward motion in the leaves making an amplified cereal-smacking sound. Suddenly we heard commotion above and to our left from the high barren trees. We stopped in our tracks and swung our heads around just in time to see two beautiful eagles swoop up and away from their secluded nests. After the eagles were out of sight, their glory no longer ours to observe, my friend said, "We need to look up more! Just think about how many birds up the...
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God Sees You

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If you sold a few sparrows, how much would you get? A penny perhaps? Yet, your Father in heaven knows when those small birds fall to the ground. Beloved, you are more valuable to God than even these. God knows everything about you, even the number of hairs on your head. —Matthew 10:29-30 Tucked into the Wisconsin woods at a prayer cabin one afternoon, a sweet little bird flew into the picture window where I was sitting. The sickening thud stopped my heart for a second. I instantly jumped up, looked out the window and saw that little bird sprawled out on the leaf-covered ground. I grabbed a towel, like my mom always does when a bird hits her window, and went out to investigate. The little bird lay motionless with its tiny wing bent backwards. I thought it was dead. But, when I rea...
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The Holy Practice of Stopping

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We love to lift the voices of women who speak truth into our souls. Today we are blessed to have Sally Eliza Cranham. And we'd like to dedicate this to our Jewish friends grieving the loss of their loved ones in Pittsburgh. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. —Exodus 20:8 For at least the last ten years I have been on a journey of entering into Sabbath, or Shabbat. Shabbat literally means, 'to stop' and we first come across the word in Genesis where God, in the space of completion, stops and rests. Having many Jewish friends, I have been gifted with a deep experience of making Shabbat a set apart moment in my week. They have also helped me unpack an understanding of the commonly used phrase among Christians of, "resting in God". Shabbat is traditionally celebrated on a Friday...
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The Narrow Place

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We Heart Matters Gals are thrilled to announce that we have a poet who has joined our team. Nicole Duclos! We couldn't be happier! Please welcome her warmly... There is a tiredness, an ache in the bones, that calls us to wake up to all the things ignored. Things that extend so far back they feel like breathing, like they are layered into our souls. There are times (isn't it true?) after we have been rescued that we still call out for our prisons, our walls. We have been told, the way out is through the wilderness. When we are called, how many of us will go? Will we even hear it? How many of us will have the courage to trade our tiredness for freedom?
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When Blustery Winds Blow

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I am like a deaf man who cannot hear…  Be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. Psalm 38:13a / 35:22b The wind blew strong all through the night, rattling windows… and my nerves…and today it blusters still.Even as I sit here, it howls and hollers. Our neighbor's screen door slams open and closed, being pushed and pulled with each stiff gust. Leaves scurry and scatter across our lawn in every direction. The typical sounds of a neighbor's dog barking or of traffic hurrying along the nearby highway are muffled, if not silenced, by the wind's boisterous behavior. But, it is not just the wind that has been blustering of late. My mind feels tumultuous as well. Unsettled thoughts have been clamoring noisily in my head; yet, the more I try to pull them together, the more strewn they beco...
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Freedom

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I  read something this summer, and I couldn't get it out of my head. It was a "light switch-flipped-on" moment. You know the ones. Where the truth of it sinks into your inner soul while simultaneously making you wonder how you never saw it before. Here were the light switch words: "Our freedom of choice is so valuable to Him that He restrains Himself from manifesting His presence in a way where our freedom of choice would be removed…when He reveals Himself in fullness, even the devil and his demons will declare that Jesus Christ is Lord." — Bill Johnson, Encountering the Goodness of God He restrains himself. Wow. That's how important our freedom is to him. How important it is that we choose him. It makes sense though, doesn't it? We are made in his image and don't we want to be c...
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When you lose your child's future

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​We have the very sweet privilege to share the following story by ​ Hannah Michele Fordice ​ . When she lost her dad to a house fire, she also lost the precious child she was carrying. If you've experienced miscarriage or someone close to you has, you will blessed and encouraged by what you read today.  Although 15-20% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, I don't often hear about the effect this kind of loss has on the women who've experienced it. Its like society has gagged 1/4 of the female population into silent, invisible grief. And to be honest, I'm guilty of holding the gag in place. Its not that I haven't wanted to write about my miscarriage… I have. I just honestly didn't know how. Because how do you describe what it is to miss something you never got to have? I remember when my...
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The Art of Listening

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Listening seems to be a lost art these days. Most folks in today's culture would rather debate than dialogue. And we're rather an opinionated lot. Instead of being quick to listen and slow to speak, we tend to be quick to speak our minds and slow to bite our tongues and listen. It's so easy to talk over each other without really hearing what is being said. If we're honest with ourselves we are often formulating our response (or rebuttal) before the other person can complete their thought.  Listening is  truly an art form. Art, true beauty-filled art, requires skill. And skill is cultivated with hard work and study. The more time spent practicing one's skill, one's art, the more one develops an eye, ear, and feel for it. With time and practice art becomes ...
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Delinquent Daisy

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While the dogs were running around at a nearby park thick with surrounding woods, I called to them as it was time to skedaddle. Work to do. A growling stomach to fill. As usual, one was delinquent. This time it was Daisy. I'm pretty sure that every night after I go to bed they do rock, paper, scissors —a doggie version of course —to determine whose turn it is to tune me out. So my 90-pound newfie mix and I trudged back to the car. I gave Mia her treat for listening and got her settled comfortably in the car with the windows down. I called again to Daisy and was about to get in the car to drive closer when she bounded out of the woods. She came to a baseball diamond fence, however, and was just not sure what to do. The fence was standing between her and me. She looked at me expectantly acro...
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The Desert

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The desert is lovely in its restfulness—the great brooding stillness over and through everything is so full of God. —Lilias Trotter Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert...where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days... When the devil had finished all this tempting...Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit. —Luke 4:1-2, 14 It's hard to imagine going without food for forty days. Experiencing the darkest of temptations. And not only overcoming them, but, stepping out of the desert full of the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, that is exactly what the New Testament account states. I've never been to a desert. The closest I've come was out on the western range of Colorado and eastern Utah. It's considered to be semi-desert shrubland. B...
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A Blessed Labor Day to you!

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This summer flew by quickly... I'm sure you all feel the same way. And now autumn will quickly be upon us in all it's colorful beauty. It's chilly temps. The smell of fires in the fireplaces.  But, until then. We pray that you will enjoy these last fleeting moments before school begins and life shifts into high gear. God bless you dear readers - we are so very grateful for you! LuAnn, Heidi and Julie
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When Tensions Run High

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​ Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be. —Dr. Wayne W. Dryer It's always a little harrowing to drive into a city that you're unfamiliar with. As I am the navigator or the directions person in our vehicle and my hubby the driver, invariably that can lead to high tension. I hadn't been to Pittsburgh in over twenty years. Besides that, whenever we did go we always drove down with my aunt and uncle, who knew the city like the back of their hand. But, Pittsburgh was precisely where the American Cheese Society Conference was being held this year. As we approached the city and crossed over Veteran's Bridge, we desperately searched for our exit into downtown. It wasn't until we passed the exit that we realized it went by another...
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Hidden

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As I was heaving the watermelon out of the cart into my mini black SUV trunk on a sweltering summer day, tiny silver hoops on a white card caught a glint of sun's rays and flashed a hello up at me. So I finished unloading the rest of the bags from the cart, slammed my trunk door, rolled the cart to its nearest holding tank and made my way back into Walmart with my errant earrings. I scurried to the nearest self-checkout. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a Walmart worker coming my way. So much for trying to remain unseen. I figured she was probably wondering what was up. As I began to explain that my earrings had been playing Hide-and-Seek, I realized she didn't want to hear about it. Instead I was being chastised for not waiting in line. There was a line-up for self-checkouts? Who knew? W...
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What God Might Say...

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Of my past, God might say, You are my child, then and now, and I have always loved you. Even in heavy moments of shame, the darkest of nights; in the hours you thought I would never love you again. Even then. Of my faith, God might ask, What is faith? Some people think it is just following the rules, abstaining; keeping your legs expertly crossed, and your hair brushed neatly. But faith cannot be shown in outside things. Except, perhaps, the kindness from your eyes as you look into the face of another while they share their pain. Faith comes down to the words of my Son: Love one another. No version of rule following can mean more to me than this. Of my future, God might say, I can promise you, if you stop living as if I am taking accounts, and live, instead, from loving… my love for you, y...
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We Heart Matters Publishing gals care about women. Their joys. Their struggles. Their everyday, ordinary lives. We write from those very same places hoping to uplift, challenge and encourage your soul and deepen your faith.

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The Heart Matters Gals

  • Julie

    Julie

    I’m turning 60 next month. I can hardly believe it myself. But, I’ve decided that I no longer want to live comfortably. I want to live with a spirit of adventure like I had in the past. To be unafraid of what’s new or different. I want to remain so open to the Spirit of the living God that his love compels me to go wherever he leads me.
  • LuAnn

    LuAnn

    I am passionate about people leaning into all that Jesus is. You. Me. Us. Journeying together with God. This is my greatest blessing. And now that my kiddos are out on their own, I’m learning to navigate my new normal. And I am finding there is life after little ones and teens after all!
  • Nicole

    Nicole

    Nicole is a stay-at-home mom of one, and is just returning to writing after a too-long hiatus. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Philosophy, Nicole previously worked in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Nicole is using her time at home to discern God's next path for her life and to spend as much precious time with her husband and daughter as possible! She is honored to be writing for Julie Miller and Heart Matters Publishing.
  • Sally

    Sally

    Sally Cranham is a singer and writer from the UK. She uses biblical narrative and her own experience to write deeply into the heart of the human condition. She currently works as a volunteer for SourceMN as their Arts Outreach Coordinator and has lived as a Residential Volunteer at Source’s anti-trafficking transitional annex alongside women who have come out of the life of prostitution.
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