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It’s My Party

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"Did you see the email from David?" my husband Ted asked over the phone.

"No," I replied, "not yet."

He quickly filled me in, summing up the email we’d both received just a few minutes earlier. "Turns out they won’t be able to make it to the party after all. They’re going to be on vacation."

I was taken aback. I thought they’d already RSVP’d with a resounding, "Yes!" But as I read the email myself, my heart sank. Here was one more set of guests to mark off the invite list. That left us with only one family able to attend.

The news was more than I could take. Before I knew what was happening, the tears started to flow. My voice trembled, dissolving into sobs of disappointment. I questioned whether we should even have the party now.

It’d been one of those mornings. My pregnant body felt less than 100%. Closer to 35%. There was constant screaming and fighting between my two daughters. And the steady traffic in and out of the house by the general contractor, electrician, and framing inspector—all there to work on the basement we were finishing—was getting old. Fast.

My emotions felt raw. Spent. Out of control. Anything but a reflection of peaceful tranquility.

I quickly allowed the disappointment to morph into feelings of being slighted. In my free reign of emotions, I started making assumptions I had no basis for. Vacation. I thought. I guess it wasn’t too hard to find something more appealing than coming to our party.

In tears, I called my mom. "I’m canceling the party," I informed her, going on to share how our friends couldn’t come because they were now going on vacation. I waited for her to join my pity party and affirm my feelings of rejection.

She didn’t.

Instead, she encouraged me to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe the best. "I’m sure they have a good reason. Maybe they had a family-related issue come up and they simply didn’t want to get into all the details."

As I listened to her words, I started to see how sinful my response to the situation had become. While there wasn’t anything innately wrong with feeling disappointed, as soon as I’d allowed that disappointment to turn into assigned motives, I’d ventured into sin. Even worse, if truth be told, I’d inwardly justified my over-emotional reaction as a result of hormones. Being six months pregnant was no cake-walk, after all.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the first time I’ve used my emotions or hormonal state as an excuse for sin.

During this pregnancy I’ve found it more difficult than normal to keep my emotions under control. One minute, I’m grouchy. The next, I cry at the drop of a sippy cup. Then, I’m irritated and impatient. Too many times, I nurture these feelings when I should send them packing. Before long, my emotions aren’t merely internal. I verbalize them through complaining. Or I nurse self-pity into a full-blown party, tiny violins and all. What’s worse, I justify my behavior. "I know I shouldn’t complain," are the words that come out of my mouth. "But I’m pregnant. My hormones are crazy right now. I can’t help it.”

I think part of me feels entitled to act however I want when my body is experiencing hormonal changes during pregnancy or when it’s that time of the month. After all, my emotions are going every which way. During these times, I tend to justify behavior that other times I’d consider unacceptable. Sadly, in doing so, I expect those around me—including God—to understand and excuse sin in my life.

It’s not that I necessarily want to give into sin. Or that I set out to indulge in it. It’s simply that it’s a lot harder to exercise self-control when my emotions don’t want to cooperate. Emotions are powerful. Even though they sometimes change from minute to minute, they can seem like a close friend. And too often, I strongly believe I’m 100% justified in whatever I’m feeling, often throwing self-control to the wayside.

More and more, my crazy emotions bring with them fresh identification with Paul in Romans 7:18-20. I find myself echoing his words:

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

I struggle with constant condemnation because in the battle with my emotions, I often lose.

But I don’t have to. Even in the midst of pregnancy hormones, I don’t have to allow my emotions to so easily carry me into sinful attitudes and behaviors. I’m learning I can follow some practical steps to keep my emotions in check and to stay on guard from indulging in and excusing sin. And, in the process, live a much more peaceful life.

Take responsibility. When I find myself participating in sinful thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors, I’m learning not to excuse them. Instead, as soon as I recognize them, it’s my goal to take responsibility. Repent. Walk away.

In her book Be Angry, But Don’t Blow It!, Lisa Bevere writes that I’m putting the blame for my sin on God when we say "I couldn’t help it" or "I just couldn’t control myself." She explains that in doing so I’m "contradict[ing] God, who says we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us." When I think about my excuses—such as pregnancy hormones—in this light, they become much more serious. I’m able to recognize my sin for what it is: sin.

Be reminded of God’s truth. Feelings are fickle. God’s Word isn’t. As Joyce Meyer writes in her article, "Who’s the Boss, You or Your Emotions?":

Feelings change from day to day, hour to hour, even moment to moment. Not only do they change, they lie. For example, you may be in a crowd of people and feel that everybody is talking about you, but that doesn’t mean they are. You may feel that nobody understands you, but that doesn’t mean they don’t. You may feel you are misunderstood, unappreciated or even mistreated, but that doesn’t mean it is true. If we want to be mature, disciplined people, we must be determined not to walk according to what we feel.

How can I not walk according to my emotions? By reminding myself of God’s truth as written in His Word. I can "preach the gospel to myself," a concept I was introduced to several years ago. What this means is I first recognize, as noted above, feelings lie. Many times they don’t reflect reality. I then go to Scripture so that I can counter the subjective truth of my emotions with the objective truth of God’s word.

For example, when it came to the party, I felt slighted by our friends. My feelings screamed: They’ve broken their commitment to come because of a vacation! A funeral, I’d understand. But vacation? I then started rehearsing in my mind the situation. When instead, I should have been quick to extend them the same grace I’d want to receive if the tables were turned. I didn’t know all the details. They’d been faithful friends to us and deserved my understanding. As Jesus instructs in Matthew 7:12, "So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

Ask for accountability. I’m learning the importance of asking my husband or a trusted friend to hold me accountable for my attitudes, words, and actions. I continually ask my husband to point out to me—in a loving way—if he sees me behaving in a sinful manner. Proverbs 27:5-6 tells us, "Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend."

Recognizing my sin in the situation with our friends wasn’t a magical formula that caused the disappointment to suddenly subside. But what it did teach me—even as I continued to struggle—was the importance of viewing the cancellation with grace and understanding. And not with sin. I once again discovered that even at my most emotional moments, I can learn to walk in a way that is Christ-honoring. Pregnancy hormones and all.

Ashleigh Slater is the editor of Ungrind. As a wife and stay-at-home mom, she enjoys moonlighting as a freelance writer, proofreader, and editor. Her writing has appeared in print and online in publications including Marriage Partnership, Thriving Family, MOMSense, Brio, Brio & Beyond, Guideposts’ Angels on Earth, Focus on the Family Magazine, Radiant, Campus Life’s Ignite Your Faith, Focus on Your Child, Clubhouse, Jr., Small Group Exchange, and Sunday/Monday Woman. She spent five years as a media critic for LinC (Living in Christ): Youth Connecting Faith and Culture and two years writing music reviews and artist bios for All Music Guide. She graduated from Regent University with a M.A. in Communication. She currently lives in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri with her husband Ted and four daughters.
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Ashleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together and the editor of Ungrind. As a regular contributor at several blogs and websites, she loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage others. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. You can follow her on Instagram here.

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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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It’s My Party

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 6 min
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