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Becoming a Glass Half-Full Kind of Girl

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Two autumns ago, my son sprawled on the couch to watch college football with my husband. Nathan, then six, enjoyed the time with Andy more than the game itself. He excitedly asked question after question.

"Wow, they hit him hard, huh, Dad?" "Did the blue guys get the ball?" "Hey, Dad, which team do we want to win?"

Nathan’s most frequent question by far was, "What’s the score?" Every ten seconds he’d repeat, "Who’s winning?" "How many points have they got now, Dad?" "Is our team ahead yet?"

Finally, I could stand it no longer. "Nathan," I scolded in exasperation, "you don’t need to keep asking Daddy for the score. It’s right there on the screen. Just watch the TV!"

Nathan squinted at the television, then innocently turned toward me. "I can’t see those numbers. They’re too … fuzzy."

Andy and I looked at each other knowingly. Within a week, Nathan sat in the eye doctor’s chair, straining to decipher even the giant "E" on the top of the letter chart. And two weeks after that, our first grader got his first pair of bifocals.

Focus

Good vision, it goes without saying, is important. Healthy eyes let us experience the world — including college football — more fully. In the same way, our spiritual eyesight needs to be 20/20, if we are to live abundantly. Proper spiritual vision is crucial to a joy-filled life.

Real joy, we know, is not based on circumstances. And yet, our circumstances often cloud our vision. The dead-end job. The unfulfilled marriage. The less-than-perfect children. Illness, finances, even bad weather. Sometimes, we only see the negative, and our joy vanishes.

I know this from experience. You’ve heard of the person who always sees the glass as half-empty? My glass is three-quarters empty, and leaking, and off its coaster, and leaving a giant water ring on my wood table! I simply have a knack for seeing the bad in every situation. I see the dirty dishes in the sink rather than my precious family who piled them there. I see the empty checkbook instead of the God Who faithfully provides everything I need.

A few years ago, when the only cheery thing in life was my Prozac, I realized there must be more. After all, hadn’t Jesus promised abundance? My life was characterized by anger, paralyzing fear, and discontentment — not the joyous life I read about in scripture. How had I lost my joy so completely?

Answer: focus. My focus — my spiritual eyesight — was impaired. I began to see that joy comes, not from the absence of problems, but from the presence of Jesus. Only when we focus on Him completely can we truly experience the joy He offers.

As I worked to restore my "vision," I noticed three examples of this in the New Testament: three different people who experienced joy once they focused on Jesus. Despite past, present, and future obstacles, they saw only Jesus, and lived in His joy.

Samaritan Woman

The Samaritan woman in John 4 is one of my favorite Bible characters. She was thirsty, not just for water from Jacob’s well, but for a soul satisfaction. Her past sins and mistakes defined her; she couldn’t see a new beginning or new identity.

And yet, when she encountered Jesus — when she met the Man who offered "a spring of living water welling up to eternal life" — she found joy. No longer did she avoid her community by going to the well in the heat of the day. Now, she ran back to town to share the good news.

"He told me everything I ever did," she said. But thanks to Jesus, she no longer carried the weight of her past. In the same way, Jesus has forgiven my past sins, too — every last, ugly one of them. What joy is mine when I choose to focus, not on the guilt of yesterday, but on the Savior who gives grace today!

Paul

The apostle Paul is known for his joy. His letter to the Philippians is filled with thanks, rejoicing, and contentment. Paul seems to be having one of those blissful days where the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the little children are laughing together. But actually, he wrote Philippians from jail — a Roman prison, under Nero’s rule … and Nero wasn’t exactly known for his kindness to Christ’s followers.

How could Paul speak of joy in the midst of all that? He focused on Jesus. "I want to know Christ," he wrote, "and the power of his resurrection." By knowing Jesus — by seeing only Him — Paul had joy.

Obviously I’ve never found myself chained to Roman guards, facing persecution for my faith. Not even close. But I have had less than favorable circumstances entangling me. Post-partum depression, a miscarriage, conflicts with friends and family. It’s easy to look at these "chains" and despair. But Paul reminds me to focus, not on my present circumstances, but on Jesus. Joy is found in Him.

John

In the Book of Revelation, John caught a glimpse of eternity, and saw the forever joy that will be ours. Crying and pain, death and fear remain only for a while. In the future, Jesus will make everything new.

Jesus tells us through John, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me." My heart skips a beat at the thought! Just imagine what that reward will be. Rich chocolate cake without calories, perhaps. And definitely no sit-ups, exercise balls, or diet soda. Oh, how I look forward to a world without lies and heartbreak and cancer. All this and more, John says, when we finally focus on Jesus forever. Everlasting joy will be ours in His everlasting presence.

Fixing Our Eyes

My bifocal-wearing son taught me that everyone needs a vision check-up from time to time. And I’m not just talking about optometry. I mean, spiritually. How is your spiritual vision? Where is your focus? Past sins, present circumstances, and future unknowns can all cloud our vision, but joy comes from focusing on Jesus in everything. Let’s make Him the "giant E" at the top of our spiritual eye charts. As Hebrews instructs, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus." Joy is found in Him.

Amy Storms lives in Santa Clarita, California, with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and a terribly unmotivated basset hound named Belle. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of Amy’s very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and say them. Too many of them. Read more of Amy’s words at www.amystorms.com.


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Amy Storms is a wife, mom, and writer in Joplin, Missouri. An Oklahoma girl at heart, she lives with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and about a hundred other "sons" in a dorm at her beloved alma mater, Ozark Christian College. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of her very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.

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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.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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Becoming a Glass Half-Full Kind of Girl

by Amy Storms time to read: 5 min
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