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Where Do You Find Contentment?
by Felicia Alvarez

During my teenage years, my biggest goal was to get the main role in a production at my ballet studio. Finally, after many hours of hard work, I landed my first solo. I was thrilled! I danced my heart out and was truly content—up until the curtain closed on the last show. Then I realized it was all over. My bubble of happiness popped. I waited anxiously for the next audition, and my happiness sprang up again when I saw my name listed as a main character. It was a strange cycle of contentment and discontentment—all dependent on when I had a good role. In the book of Philippians, Paul speaks on contentment. He says, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatever state I am in to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (

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Stop Running from God
by Samantha Villenave

Are you running from God? Are there areas of your life that He is seeking to deal with that you repeatedly hold back from Him? We have all been in seasons where we do not want to obey and yield to the work that the Holy Spirit is calling us to. Whether it be a clear instruction from the Lord that we do not want to obey, or the gentle urge in our heart to open up to Him and allow Him to bring change, the result is the same. We hold ourselves back from Him, and allow ourselves to believe that we can continue on our own path and everything will be fine. But nothing is fine; when you gave your heart to the Lord, everything changed. You entered into a relationship that you cannot break or ignore in the areas that do not suit you. His plan is for your good, and He wants you to be free, joyful, and prosper. It is impossible to walk in the fullness of the blessing of the Lord if we do not yield to Him, obey His instruction, and trust His word.

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“You are stronger than you know.” She hears the words and wants to throw them back in his face. She wants to yell, spit, run. “What do you know?” she thinks. “How can you tell me I am strong when I struggle to maintain a job, or look put together, or be the mother my kids need me to be?“ She can hardly believe the response, “What defines ‘success,’ my love?” “I do. I define success. My success” she tells him. And then she runs. She doesn’t want to hear him anymore. So she runs far away, as far away as she can. Deep into the place where she’s convinced she can’t be seen. The place that is deeper and further away than any physical location on a map. It is the place in her heart, deep inside her, where she tucks herself away. “No one. Not one person can find me here,” she insists. &ldquo

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How to Overcome Unimaginable Loss
by Samantha Villenave

Losing a dear one is one of the most difficult experiences of the human existence. The closer the loved one is to us, the deeper the pain becomes. In a moment, our world can be shattered. How do I go on without my friend, husband, mother, father, son, daughter... or the child that was to be?There are certainly no easy answers and the process of living after a death so near can be an overwhelming task. How can I laugh again? How dare I move forward when the one I love is gone? Why have my friends abandoned me to live out this pain alone? How can I find the desire and will to continue? We must continue, and we must trust that God, who understands the acuity of our every suffering and pain, is able to bear our burden and comfort us in our time of need. He will ensure that you make it though, although it is unlikely that you will make it though the same.

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God's Grace and Our Grief
by Brooke Cooney

I haven’t seen her in weeks. I know her by name but her story only secondhand. An outgoing woman in her sixties, she remembers names and relational details of everyone she meets during her morning workout. This woman lost her young adult son a few years ago. When fellow believers speak of God between sets or steps on the tread meal, I see her anger and bitterness toward a God who would allow pain and the death of her son. For this woman, grief has led to choices which severed her faith in a loving God. A friend of mine lives in the wake of the unexpected death of her husband. She and her children just faced a second Christmas without him. While others fell into familiar holiday rolls and routines, she pressed on to cherish the heart of the Savior at Christmas and chose to focus on the grace of God in her grief.

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Is Your Pride Holding You Back?
by Samantha Villenave

Are you weighed down and weary of issues and struggles that you have no idea how to change? It is not an uncommon thing. When we are born again, we receive the nature of Christ in place of our old, sinful nature. Yet, the root of sin and pride in that old nature is like a vicious weed that will grow in every crack of our heart that remains open to it. It can be tempting to work to achieve the perfection and beauty that Christ has already bestowed upon us, rather than humbly abiding in the knowledge of the love of the Father and the fact that He will care for our every need. We put our best efforts toward attaining a lovable nature, born of works and not of grace. We believe that our efforts make us more worthy of His love and that we can be rescued by the fruit of our own fragile efforts. We allow a root of insecurity, pride, and willfulness take hold in our lives, weaving a web of false solutions that lead us astray from the simple victory tha

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I'm going to let you in on a little known secret about myself. It's something that only those closest to me know, and it's defiantly something God has been working on with me for quite some time. Are you ready? Here it is–– I have a hard time receiving. Small gifts? Not so much. But anything that can be considered extravagant? Oh yes, friends––that fits the bill. Gifts of this magnitude immediately make me cringe and think, "I can't accept this!" while knowing I also cannot not receive a gift someone has so thoughtfully given to me. And so I am left in an uncomfortable predicament, with my heart screaming "don't take it!" and my mouth saying, "Thank you! You shouldn't have done this." Now, here's the interesting part. I love to give. I always have.  I remember being on family vacations on a lake as a little girl, asking all of my cousins what treats they would like

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Are We Ever Free of Jealousy?
by Samantha Villenave

Are you content, or do you have feelings of insecurity that gnaw away at you? Jealousy can manifest in many different ways, including as clever disguises. We don't spend a lot of time talking about it, but we all experience it. Jealousy, if left unchecked, will spin a web of deceit and lies. Jealousy will steal your peace, demolish your gratitude, and cause your contentment to transform itself into restless nights of stress and fear. It will push you to follow paths and set goals that are not of the Lord. It will make your heart bitter and tired, as you pursue meaningless fulfillment through material possessions, status, or relationships: your attempt to fill a void that only the Holy Spirit can satiate.We have a brand new devotional study called, "Jealousy - The Sin No One Talks About" from

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The only way to kill a monster is to chop off it’s head. I’ve learned that the hard way when it comes to the green-eyed monster in particular. Jealousy isn’t a friend—it’s a life-threatening, life-sucking spirit that attaches quick and lingers long. Part of his arsenal of tricks is that he pops out when you least expect it. It can be as simple as scrolling one post too far on Facebook, or as innocent as reading a text or answering a phone call. Ignoring him is fruitless. He’ll set up a camp under your bed, make a home in your closet, and feed on your insecurities until he grows to three times his original size. Denial of his residence is the equivalent of giving him new address cards. You can’t pretend he’s not there. Telling him to leave doesn’t work, either. You can talk until you’re out of breath, convincing yourself you’re not falling for his tricks and you’re not affected by

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There's Always Hope for the Weary
by Samantha Villenave

Have you ever been in a situation where you felt so crushed, forgotten, and incapable of facing your circumstances that you thought nothing good could ever come of it? Sometimes, the promises of God seem so far-removed from the drudgery and even suffering of our current personal circumstances that we are tempted to fall into hopelessness and despair. Believing that He has plans for "hope and a future" echoes like a far off fairy tale. Our faith takes a deep, painful hit.The temptation is dual; put on a good face and do our best to behave like good Christians in spite of what we are experiencing, or respond in anger towards God. Neither ever helps. We must face our pain and find a way to remain open and vulnerable before the Lord in the midst of our trials. Therein lies the key to the door that opens into our next season of blessing, hope, and victory over our flaws and fears. We just received a new series

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