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A Finish to My Beginning

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The New Year has come and gone, the ball has dropped, and 2007 is over. Or, I can be a little more optimistic and say the New Year is here, opportunity is fresh, and 2008 has arrived.

Either way, I just can’t change the little itch in my life that’s taken residence in the areas that can’t be scratched. I’m itchy and introspective, reflecting on choices I’ve made these last 28 years, minus the first two or three years of life. Memories flash through my itchy and introspective mind, replaying images and conversations. No matter how many blessings my life has yielded, it seems as though there is one thing that impresses me the most about the New Year: it promises to bring new beginnings—all over again.

The truth is that I’m excellent at new years. I am comfortable at the starting line. I can easily make new goals, handle fresh choices, and embark on new adventures. New beginnings are exhilarating. They bring mass amounts of certainty. They hold my moments of greatest conviction. It’s in the beginning that I’m the most committed. Let me share a few examples.

To date, I have attended four universities, chased after three majors, accumulated 135 credit hours, and have failed to obtain even one piece of paper that says I have a degree.

In college, I invested $1,000 into a well-known Texan company so that I could have all of their items on hand for all four of my customers. I kept those four customers well supplied for an entire month and a half. Two years ago, I bought into yet another body-care organization, mainly because it was a bargain for only $250. If I go even further back into that deep, dark closet of mine, I can pull out a resume that requires 16 different lines for places of employment, all between the ages of 15 and 21.

For the past three Septembers, I’ve started homeschooling our oldest son. As December 1st arrives, the fatigue and self-doubt set in and erase the perfectly good reasons I had for choosing this admittedly abnormal and sometimes a little socially scary method of education. Usually, by the 20th of December, I’ve called the nearest school and enrolled him in class. Not this year—at least not yet.

Yes, I’m that person who purchases a new outfit, towels for the guest bathroom, and a vacuum all in one day, and then returns them less than 24 hours later with guilt and remorse and a little uncertainty that the color pink is really the best choice for a vacuum.

People warned me of the consequences of such behavior. Others reprimanded me. I simply excused myself and adopted the title, "Free Spirit." However, my high school track coach, Coach Kuzzi, said it so much better. That 105 lb. woman would stand at the finish line, voice booming, veins popping, hair whipping through the leftover winds of winter, screaming out to me, "GIRL! YOU HAVE GOT TO PUSH THROUGH!!! Why does your finish line seem to be located 20 FEET BEFORE EVERYONE ELSE’S?"

I didn’t really have an answer for her. Looking back I can see that, in the middle of life’s race, I lacked the big BANG! of adrenaline needed to catapult me to the finish line of whatever it is I started. The inability to finish with a BANG! on the high school track carried into the rest of my life. Before I knew it, I found myself starting almost anything and finishing almost nothing.

Five years ago, I married after a very short engagement. During that time, God began to whisper a verse into my ears. It is Zechariah 4:10.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabela’s hand.

I like the first half of that verse. I could stop there and be totally content and call it my life verse if only it stopped after "small beginnings." Instead, God gave me a plum line, which I had to go look up.

A plum line is a cord from which a metal weight is suspended. That weight points directly to the earth’s center of gravity. From this weight, one can determine the vertical line from a given point. I like that. I thought to myself, "What if all my ‘new beginnings’ were so centered on Jesus that great adventures were piled, one on top of the other, building one fantastic lifetime."

Last summer, one of these Christ-centered adventures taught me the value of the journey over the aspiration or even destination. I guess you could say that I found my BANG!, and an answer for Coach Kuzzi.

My husband, who is the ambitious and dedicated one, decided several years ago to start up a wilderness ministry. Last year was the first year of major operation. I watched him make preparations. I helped him type up supply lists, develop recipes, and fill spice containers. I scoured the internet looking for steals on great gear and even bought a pair of hiking boots that are firmly against any sense of fashion I might have previously maintained.

Then, the moment arrived. I agreed to go on a trip with him. I spent the week prior to that trip with large quantities of dried peas and powdered milk littering my living room. But I was excited; this was a new thing for me. I had never backpacked before.

Our trip?

It was June, and summer sausage has never again tasted as good as it did in the Big Horns. The weather was gorgeously cold. I awoke in the morning to legs and toes that tingled as my blood vigorously worked to warm them. As I bent over a rushing stream to wash my face, the water stung my checks and snuck it’s way down my sleeves. I could think of no good reason why this river wasn’t a sheet of ice. But something about the coolness of our environment made me feel alive on the inside. It forced by body to become aware of it’s own warmth.

My pack, at a whopping 45 lbs, hung precariously from my shoulders, not entirely wanting to conform to the build of my semi-petite figure. The tendon that ran from the back of my neck and outward toward my shoulder was putting up a slightly painful protest against such abuse.

On the last day of our woods adventure, we stumbled across a five-hour maze of trees that had fallen during a recent fire. With packs on backs we wove over and under branches and trunks. There was no definite trail to follow and we were all fairly certain that somewhere along the way, we had missed a TRAIL CLOSED sign.

Finally, early afternoon, the grueling mass of trees gave way to this incredibly tranquil green field sprinkled with early spring flowers. It almost had me fooled. Had I stayed there forever, I might never have guessed that a little piece of hell awaited us around the corner.

Enjoying a gorgeous view, balancing on a log, crossing haphazardly over a peaceful stream, I caught a glimpse of "the end of the trail." It was a hill that threatened my rhythm in life at that very moment. Our insane predecessors had decided to carve a winding path that guaranteed every possible step be taken between the bottom and the top of this monstrous mountain.

My lungs stretched until they burned, begging for just a little more air, please. My back yearned to break free from it’s bondage and I could almost hear it swear that it would never be the same for me again.

Just when I thought I couldn’t take another step without verbalizing my intense desire to just stop walking, the rains began to pour. The pellets were larger than life and the thin membrane of my hooded jacket just wasn’t offering the protection it’s tags had testified to provide. Yet, as I crested that hill and realized that my van was only one corner away, I thought to myself, "This is the sweetest rain my tongue has ever tasted."

So, my dear high school track coach, I found your answer. My BANG! lies in the coldness of a river’s water, the sweetness of a hill well-climbed, and the burn in my legs that used to show up in the last 50 feet of those 800 meter races. A BANG! that’s now teaching me how to push my commitments made on New Year’s into those itchy December days.

As I do, I’ve determined I will work to applaud all I’ve accomplished through December 31st, 11:59 p.m. I will not despise small beginnings, nor will I tire of them. Like Paul in 2 Timothy, I will strive to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.

Marian Green resides with her husband and four children. She is an adoptive mom, a pastor’s wife, and (once again) a student. She is currently working on a non-fiction project for “bad girls” — helping women who have lived lives of promiscuity to redefine marital intimacy. In between it all she takes a deep breath and realizes, none of this was what she had planned in life … and she loves it. Marian blogs at Uprooted and Undone.

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Marian Green resides with her husband and four children. She is an adoptive mom, a pastor's wife, and (once again) a student. She is currently working on a non-fiction project for "bad girls" -- helping women who have lived lives of promiscuity to redefine marital intimacy. In between it all she takes a deep breath and realizes, none of this was what she had planned in life ... and she loves it. Marian blogs at Uprooted and Undone.

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When Doing Justly, Loving Mercy, and Walking Humbly Stand at Odds

If your compassion far exceeds your capacity, here’s one way you can be sure to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly.

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One of my life verses is Micah 6:8, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It is one of my favorite verses because my heart has been so moved by the love Jesus has for me and the sacrifice He made for me that I am grateful to have a way to express my gratitude through acts of justice and mercy while walking humbly with God.

I have found at times, however, the call to do justice and love mercy come in conflict with the call to walk humbly with God. For me, one of the ways to walk humbly with God is to recognize my limitations. I have to put skin to the fact that I am not God which means saying, “no” to ministry requests. It means going to sleep when I could be spending time advocating for the harrowed and helpless in the world. It means limited seats at my table, limited funds in my bank account, and limited energy in my body cannot be ignored but respected and adhered to.

This is hard for me at times, especially when I scroll my Facebook feed and see friends who are caring for their really sick children, spouse, or other family member all while millions of refugees flee war torn countries and babies are slaughtered by the hundreds each day in our country through the abortion industry.

As I scroll, I receive texts about one family member’s surgery gone wrong and another family member announcing a new baby is on the way. I have in mind my neighbor who has inpatient surgery scheduled this week and another neighbor who is trying to hold down a full-time job, care for twins all while battling profound “morning” sickness.

Folks at church are fighting for their lives in physical and spiritual ways, and strangers who pass me on the road are clearly battling something as demonstrated by their impatient honking because I won’t take a right turn on red. I want to meet the needs of all; I want to do justice and love mercy, but I’m daily confronted by the fact that I am so limited.

What am I to do when doing justly and/or loving mercy seem to come in conflict with walking humbly with my God?

God keeps bringing me to this answer: prayer.

God invites us to cast our cares before Him because He cares for us.
God tells us to be anxious for nothing BUT WITH PRAYER present our requests before Him.
God commands us to pray without ceasing.

And, when I walk humbly with God, I see the immense kindness in His command.
He gives us a way to do justly, love mercy WHILE walking humbly with Him.
It is by praying without ceasing.

I cannot take a meal or give money to every sick person or family I know. I cannot extend kindness to all my neighbors all at the same time they’re in need nor conjure up sustainable solutions for the refugee crisis and contact all the necessary world powers to make it happen.

I cannot heal all, but I know the Healer.

I cannot provide for all the needs, but I know the Provider.

I cannot rescue everyone in need, but I know the Rescuer.

I cannot comfort all the broken, but I know the Comforter.

I cannot speak peace over every situation, but I know the Prince of Peace.

I cannot be all to all, but I can go to the Great I Am through prayer, lay all the people, problems and pleas for help before the Omniscient and Omnipresent God of all Creation.

I can do this through prayer.

Recently, via an Instagram contest of all things, I came upon A–Z prayer cards designed by blogger/author/speaker, Amelia Rhodes. It is a simple concept packed with a powerful prayer punch. It has served me personally in this tension of wanting to do far more than I practically can do. It provides prayer prompts starting with each letter of the alphabet along with a scripture that coincides with the prayer focus. It ranges from Adoption to a creative “Zero Prejudice” for the letter “Z.”

The cards are well thought out, color printed on sturdy cardstock with blank lines for the user to write in the names of people and/or organizations that are personal to them.

If, like me, your compassion far exceeds your capacity, pick up a set of these prayer cards and unload your burdens onto a God whose competence matches His kindness, both boundless.

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Facing Our Fears in Motherhood

Do you have fears tied to motherhood? If so, here’s encouragement for you.

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“Are you scared?”

I was taken aback by his question. Scared? Of what?

“Of anything,” he answered.

I had just shared my due date with a new class of trainees.

“He has three boys,” another new hire volunteered. So fear is to be expected, I reasoned. I’m just about to face the most frightening experience in my life.

Of course I was scared.

I was scared…

  • I’ll lose my temper.
  • I’ll whine about sleepless nights.
  • I’ll breastfeed too often or not often enough.
  • I’ll leave piles of unfolded onesies in the middle of the nursery floor because I’m too tired (or lazy?) to fold teeny-tiny baby clothes for the upteenth time.
  • I’ll go with disposable diapers when the better choice would be cloth.
  • I’ll work too many long hours at the office and miss precious moments with her.
  • I’ll sign her up for too many activities and push her to become Miss Achieve-It-All.
  • I’ll pass on to her my ugly pride, self-righteousness, and perfectionism like a dreadful contagious disease.
  • I’ll miss countless little joys in life while pursuing worthless dreams.

Facing Our Fears in MotherhoodIn short… I was afraid I was going to fail miserably as a parent.

And now, holding my second-born daughter in my arms, thinking back on that brief exchange just a few years ago, I realize those fears were well-founded. I’ve failed many times. I’ve lost my temper. I’ve raised my voice. I’ve worked too much and played too little. I’ve seen my own sinfulness reflected in my daughter.

Yes, I’ve failed, but over and above it all, God’s grace has covered my parenting imperfections and made me run to the cross day after day. The writer of Proverbs puts it this way:

Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.
Proverbs 14:26

When it comes to fears, we have two choices: Will we fear the unknown or will we fear the Lord? Will we allow the uncertain to grip us in its clutch or will we turn to God’s Truth to set us free?

Scared? Oh yeah. There was so much to be scared of that day. And even now, if I’m completely honest, there are still fears nibbling at the edges of my consciousness. Fear that we won’t outgrow the temper tantrums. Fear that the two girls won’t get along. Fear that I’ll mess them up and cause them interminable hours on a psychologist’s couch.

I’m sure you have fears, too.

But rather than allow those fears to consume and paralyze us, we can take them to the Lord, acknowledging His sovereignty over our parenting, pleading His grace over our mistakes, and entrusting His provision over their futures. He is not only able to handle it all — He is far more capable to be trusted with it all.

If I say one thing to that frightened 9-month-pregnant me standing in that room years ago, I would say this: Don’t let fear rob today’s joy with tomorrow’s unknowns. Each day has enough worries of its own (Matthew 6:34).

Instead, let us keep seeking God, running to Him as our secure fortress and resting in the knowledge that He will care for us and our children one day at a time.

What are you scared of today? Name your fears and bring them to the Lord, allowing Him to replace them with His peace that passes all understanding.

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He Gives Shade To The Weary

If anxiety is a struggle for you right now, remember that He gives shade to the weary.

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Do you ever have those moments of fear because you don’t know what lies ahead? When do those thoughts tend to happen to you?

For me, most of those thoughts happen when I lay my head down to sleep at night. The vulnerability comes forth every time. That’s what happened the other night to me. I shut my eyes and immediately anxiety welled up inside me.

What if we don’t succeed in this new venture? What if we have to move? What if we can’t pay our bills?

I laid there with the covers drawn tight over my head (I still think that I am safer if the covers are over my head), praying scripture over my anxious heart. Assuring myself that God sees me and that He cares.

In the morning, I turned to Isaiah 41, specifically verses 10-20.

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10, NASB)

Yesterday, the “what if’s” piled up as I anxiously looked about me. My daughter needs tutoring, however at this point in life, tutoring feels like a luxury we can’t afford. So I listed some items online to sell hoping to make just enough to cover the tutoring. I’m buying groceries on a Visa reward card. I’m holding my breath until the next paycheck comes. But what did God speak over me: Do not fear. Do not look anxiously about you.

“For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’ Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:13-14 NASB)

Why shouldn’t I be anxious? Because God will hold me up. God will help me. When I first read the word “worm” as a description, I took it as a slam against Israel. Like, gesh, God. What animal does He relate me to? But through further study, He calls them a worm because worms are helpless. They are viewed as insignificant, despised and weak. God will help me — seemingly insignificant, helpless me — because He is my Redeemer. He is my go’el — my next of kin. The Redeemer is the one who provides for all my needs. Rent. Car payment. Credit card bill. Gas. Food. Clothes. Debt. God will redeem.

He Gives Shade to the Weary

“Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges; You will thresh the mountains and pulverize them, And will make the hills like chaff. You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, And the storm will scatter them; But you will rejoice in the Lord, You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isaiah 41:15-16 NASB).

God is transforming me from a helpless one to a powerful one. The description of that type of threshing sledge is like a modern day earth mover. Powerful. Strong. Immovable.

“The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none, And their tongue is parched with thirst; I, the Lord, will answer them Myself, As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.” (Isaiah 41:17, NASB)

He will come to our rescue. God, Himself, will answer you and me. Can you hear how personal that sounds? Have you ever pleaded with someone important whether your boss, public figure, or even a parent, and they responded to the need themselves? You expected for them to send their assistant, but instead they — the most important one — responded to you.

“I will open rivers on the bare heights And springs in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water And the dry land fountains of water. I will put the cedar in the wilderness, The acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree; I will place the juniper in the desert Together with the box tree and the cypress.” (Isaiah 41:18-19, NASB)

This passage describes the wilderness-like times in life. You are barren. You are thirsty. You are hot. You are in need. God will provide what you need. God will quench your thirst. He will provide shade when you are weary. During those times, God can provide in creative, innovative ways. He can provide something out of nothing. Doesn’t that give you great hope? Even when you can’t answer how He will do it, He is creative enough to figure it out even when the odds are stacked against you.

“That they may see and recognize, And consider and gain insight as well, That the hand of the Lord has done this, And the Holy One of Israel has created it.” (Isaiah 41:20 NASB).

God will do all of this so that His glory will be put on display. People — including yourself — will see that He is powerful.

So you can see how after a night of wrestling with fear and anxiety, reading this was like shade and water for my soul. God is a god who sees. And God is a god who acts on your behalf.

What do you need His help with today? What are you fearful about today? What keeps you awake at night? Where do you need some shade?

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Hi, I'm Ashleigh Slater, founder and editor of Ungrind. Here at Ungrind, it’s our goal to churn out biblically-based encouragement for women. We strive to be honest and transparent about our struggles in a way that inspires hope, faith, and perseverance.

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A Finish to My Beginning

by Marian Green time to read: 6 min
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