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Got Joy?

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Wow! Am I ever happy!! I mean seriously, I feel great!!! I think I could take on the entire world, climb the tallest mountain, clean the entire house in 45 minutes, vacuuming forward while dusting behind!!!! Is this joy? I think so!!!!!

All right, maybe it’s the coffee.

I did tell the lady at Starbucks half decaf toffee nut latte, didn’t I? Just how much caffeine could be in one? Because honestly, I don’t feel joyous, just overly jolted.

My hands are a little shaky and I’m guessing not from excitement. After all, the only thing I got in the mail today was a package from someone else’s boyfriend. A package I know I shouldn’t have opened. But it said "Mary Ellen" and I thought someone who had misheard my name "Marian" decided they’d try to cheer me up. Not that I need cheering up. I am joyous, normally. I think.

At least last week I was joyous. Actually, it was last Friday. The day I found the house of my dreams. It was perfect, or at least it would’ve been once we replaced the windows, fenced in the backyard, put the downstairs bedroom to code, refinished the second bathroom, demolished two of the three standing garages, and figured out where to stash all our belongings in the 100-year-old closets. I lost my joy on Monday, when it went under contract to someone else.

Wait, I know. I was joyous last Fall. We’d been battling for the adoption of our oldest son. After multiple 1600-mile trips, four very long years, and two appeals, we got a phone call one November morning. While I knew this day was coming, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried that my faith was even smaller than a mustard seed and that absolutely no mountain of justice was headed my way. Instead, I’ll tell you the advice a friend of mine gave me in the middle of my fervent prayers and breath-holding. Similar to a scene in the film Facing the Giants, she told me, "Two men prayed for rain. One man prepared the fields. The other watched the sky."

With her words playing in my head, for entire year of 2007 I planned a party celebrating the end of the road. Up until this particular November morning I’d planned all the details. I can’t even begin to explain the amount of joy that overtook my insides when I heard the lawyer say through the ear piece of my phone, "It’s over. It’s really over and he is yours!"

I waited until the afternoon to start calling the friends who were helping us plan the party. However, while we were overflowing with relief and gratefulness, their entire family had just received news of the unexpected and horrifically tragic death of a loved one. The party kind of fizzled out in the weeks that followed. We never really did celebrate.

And it’s this up and down of my emotions that often leaves me asking: What is joy? Why does it seem so elusive? Why doesn’t it stick around longer? Why does my joy seem to depend on the circumstances that are called my present life?

In John 15, Jesus talks about joy as a deep desired object that He longs to share with us. A deep desired object I want. Yet there are days when I know I challenge Him.

Recently I stood in the mall, attempting to exchange my cell phone because I hated the fluorescent orange I’d chosen 24 hours earlier. It was too late. They weren’t able to do it. And as I felt my eyes get hot and my mouth start to make funny shapes, I knew I was about to cry in the middle of a mall, standing by a kiosk near the food court on a Saturday night.

However, I controlled my lack of joy and didn’t cry, simply distracting my emotions by asking the employee to reactivate my old phone. I let him know that I’d suffer through life with the same cell phone for four years and not complain, because that’s the kind of girl I am. Strong, obliging, and incredibly too vain to carry an orange cell phone.

The associate was fulfilling my childish request, then paused, and asked me if I would promise to not return the silver cell phone I wanted so badly. He then asked if I really, really wanted it. To which I replied, I promise, and yes, with a small "I’m sorry" at the end.

Before I could stop them, the tears made it to the top again. My eyes began blinking rapidly and adverted their gaze downward. My chin flexed to refrain from shaking. I left with a new phone and a promise to the employee that I would fill out an online survey saying how awesome I thought he was.

What was my problem? Where oh Jesus, do I find this joy You spoke of? The joy You long to share with me?

I called my husband from my new silver cell phone and told him I feared I might be pregnant. That my emotions were unpredictable and my tear ducts had divorced themselves from my body. He told me to hurry home, that the kids were singing with a joyous roar in the background.

On the way home, I began to think about the remainder of Jesus’ words in John 15:9-12:

As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you. Abide in My love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

Two things stood out to me. First, I shouldn’t feel so badly about the manic joy I seem to be experiencing in life. The joy doesn’t belong to me to begin with; Jesus says He wants me to be filled with His joy. So I either have to ask Him for it, or follow the directions He laid out in this paragraph.

The second thing I noticed is that His joy seems to be readily available if I am willing to focus on loving someone other than myself.

Ouch. I will find the most joy when I love others in the same way that Christ has loved me. That means putting them first, that big word s-e-r-v-i-n-g, or how about an even bigger word, D-Y-I-N-G. Other than my kids, there aren’t many others I’d consider physically dying for so that they might live. The joy just doesn’t sound like it would do much good if I were dead. Sure, I’ve never been in the situation, but it’s one I wouldn’t willingly walk

into the way Jesus did.

But how about my other selfish desires dying so that I might love someone else better? What joy could Christ pour into my life if I were to clean house on the inside and share the love on the outside?

What if I got rid of the artificial caffeinated high (or at least stop using it to manipulate my mood), looked beyond my desire to use all my extra cash for a house, and got over the bright orange cell phone and face the facts that perhaps someday it could save my life from a hunter should I be hiking in the woods.

What if I threw the party we’d planned in faith, because my son deserves to celebrate that God’s delivered us to his promised land.

What if I just got over myself? Would I be joyous?

It makes me think about a friend of mine.

Have you ever had a friend that glows? No, I mean an unpregnant friend who hasn’t recently been to the tanning bed.

I do. Her cheeks are always pink. Her favorite holiday is Christmas. She starts singing and shopping in March and has all 163 presents bought and wrapped by September. My friend, she always smiles, loves children, loves the Lord, and never has anything nasty to say. Her laugh is contagious and her generosity is astounding. I knew her for two years before I figured out her secret: she spends her time and energy loving others.

She doesn’t like to hear bad news. She won’t watch it on TV or look it up on the internet. None of it. She actually can’t handle it very well because it breaks her heart and leaves her feeling helpless and incapable of being a solution. She loves others so much, that it doesn’t matter how many hundreds of miles are between her and the origin of bad news, she’ll cry immediately upon hearing it. It’s her ability to love and thus hurt that has turned her into the most generous and joyous person I’ve ever met.

And so, I find myself praying, "Lord, let me hurt." As I recently heard Christie Nockels sing in "Hosanna": “Break my heart for what breaks Yours … I am for Your kingdom’s cause”

So that I may be filled with Your Joy. With a capital J.

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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Got Joy?

by Marian Green time to read: 7 min
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