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A Life Unplugged

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I believe I am the last human in America who does not own a cell phone. People ask me for my cell number all the time. You should see their faces when I tell them I don’t have one.

"What do you mean?" they’ll usually say, thinking they didn’t hear me correctly.

"I don’t own a cell phone." I say again, trying to sound as normal as possible.

"You don’t own a cell phone?" they repeat in utter disbelief.

"I don’t own a cell phone," I say a smidge slower, over-enunciating my words so that I’m extra clear.

"Wow. You don’t own a cell phone." They’ll undoubtedly repeat again, shaking their heads as if I just told them I was homeless. "Huh. That’s … wow. How do you do it?"

"Do what?" I ask, playing dumb to their dumb question.

"I mean, how do you survive?" they ask with total sincerity, as if living without a cell phone is like living in the desert without any water.

To be honest, I wonder if sometimes my life would be easier with a cell phone. But then I wonder what exactly an "easier" life means. People would be able to reach me at any time of the day or night. So really, life would be easier for other people if I had a cell phone. I think my life would just be busier.

As it is, my home phone rings off the hook. Have you ever tried having a serious conversation on the phone with two toddlers trying to climb your legs as if they were tree limbs? If you were a fly on my wall, you’d hear my side of a phone conversation go something like this:

"Oh, wow. I am so sorry to hear that. That must be—hang on a second—get off the table now and first take the scissors out of your mouth—I’m sorry you were saying? Hmmm. That’s rough, wait, one more sec—I am on the phone and yes, as soon as I’m off I’ll make you some popcorn—Boy, I’m sorry, you were saying? Oh yes, that’s just awful. What can I do to help—Wait. Absolutely not, you may not ride your tricycle nude. Put your clothes back on this minute—I’m sorry, I’m back. Yes, that must be so hard for you."

Needless to say, in this season in life, I don’t really enjoy talking on the phone. It actually makes life harder for me. Email—now that’s the best way to reach me. So my friends tell me I should get a hand held raspberry, blueberry—some sort of electronic berry thing that is portable that allows you to check your email. Initially, I thought this could be a good idea. But when I’m out and about, do I really want to be checking my email? Can’t my email wait?

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote about this in The Cost of Discipleship in the early part of the last century; clearly a prophetic warning: "Earthly possessions dazzle our eyes and delude us into thinking that they can provide security and freedom from anxiety. Yet all the time, they’re the very source of all anxiety." Of course, when he wrote that in 1937, he wasn’t thinking of cell phones or email or Blackberries. Yet how true his words are today in reference to technology. It’s amazing how these gadgets were created to enhance life, but often, people end up feeling oppressed by them.

In his book, Freedom of Simplicity, Richard Foster writes, "The pace of the modern world accentuates our sense of being fractured and fragmented. We feel strained, hurried, breathless. The complexity of rushing to achieve and accumulate more and more frequently threatens to overwhelm us."

I don’t know about you, but I can relate to feeling breathless. And sadly, what takes my breath away most of the time isn’t a sunset or the snow-covered Pike’s Peak or a beautiful painting, but the 15 new email messages or the eight new voicemails I have.

I remember a couple years ago feeling breathless one night because I was trying to get my girls into bed quick so I wouldn’t miss a show on TV. I was angry when I realized I missed half of it. But sitting there on the couch, I started to hear the whisperings of the Holy Spirit asking me if this was the best use of my time. How did this pull of TV’s mindless entertainment become stronger than my desire to read one more book to my little girls? I felt so ashamed.

Neil Postman in his book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, writes about the dangerous distraction of television, saying:

In the age of technology, spiritual devastation is more likely to come from an enemy with a smiling face than from one whose countenance exudes suspicion or hate…. When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments … then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.

I decided to pull the plug on our television that night. The first few days felt like I was going off crack-cocaine. It was tough. But soon I didn’t miss it at all. I loved the extra time I had. Time to do so many things. Or nothing at all. Now there’s a concept that doesn’t come naturally for me: being still.

Charles Spurgeon was a mighty British minister in the late 1800s. I keep a copy of his book, Spurgeon’s Gems, on my desk. The following "gem" relates to this concept of being still:

Some persons say they cannot bear to be an hour in solitude; they have got nothing to do, nothing to think about…. Let me give him the word Jesus, and only let him try to think it over, and he shall find that an hours is naught, and that eternity is not half enough to utter our glorious Savior’s praise.

If Spurgeon thought that back then people couldn’t stand to be silent for an hour, I bet he’d think people today couldn’t handle being still for five minutes. I’m not even sure if I’m able to hold the same train of thought for five minutes. My prayers often sound like this: "Lord, teach me Your will. Help me to follow your plan. To really focus on You and I wonder if I actually did defrost the chicken."

But unlike those in Spurgeon’s time, solitude seems more difficult to grasp today, not because we have nothing to do, but because we have too much to do. Too much to think about. Too many technological tools and gadgets reminding us of things we ought to be thinking about.

Solitude is hard to come by. It must be intentionally sought after. It may require unplugging some things where you live. And even when you do, embracing solitude is a discipline that may take some getting used to. I keep Brother Lawrence’s book Practicing the Presence of God on my nightstand. It’s full of insights into praying without ceasing and learning to be silent before God. I must say, I’m still learning, because usually, I find myself practicing the presence God right into snoozeville. Note to self: do not attempt to be still before God while horizontal.

Finding a balance with technology is key. If it can enhance your life without overwhelming it, you’re good to go. But it can’t hurt to take a break from it now and then. I’ll try to send a letter instead of an email when I can. (Believe it or not, stationery is still sold in many stores). I want to talk less on the phone and more in person. Watch fewer movies and read more books. Spend less time on iTunes and more time singing to God. Take a sabbatical from surfing the Net and try being silent before the Lord of Lords. Maybe I’ll be still and call upon Him now. I’m signed up for unlimited minutes on that. It’s actually a really good plan.

Kara Schwab loves being a freelance writer and mommy to her two little girls in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Since writing this article, she has finished two marathons and is training for her third, committed to moving forward through the aches and the pain of running … and of life.

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Kara Schwab loves being a freelance writer and mommy to her two little girls in Davidson, North Carolina. Since writing this article, she has finished two marathons and is training for her third, committed to moving forward through the aches and the pain of running ... and of life.

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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 Life Unplugged

by Kara Schwab time to read: 6 min
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