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Prime-Time Parking

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The mall parking lot was full, or close to it. Although I’m not sure why we expected anything less. It was a Saturday afternoon or, what I like to call "prime time" in the world of shopping.

Row upon row of parking spots were full. A sea of cars surrounded us as we slowly drove up and down each aisle, keeping our eyes peeled for a spot close to the door.

I suppose we could have parked out further and walked. But living in Florida, where afternoon thunderstorms weren’t merely predicted, but pretty much expected by residents, we wanted close access.

A few minutes passed. Another row covered. Nothing.

"OK, girls, pray!" my mom instructed my three sisters and me.

So, the praying began.

Before long, our eyes beheld a beautiful sight. Headlights directly ahead of us. Two spots from the door. With no other cars bidding for it, the spot was ours.

Now I know that for some, this doesn’t seem like a big deal, especially for those who are statistically minded. Because the fact is, the longer one drives around a parking lot, the greater the chance of finding a good spot. It’s purely a matter of odds that’s easily predicted by mathematical figures.

But for us, it was a big deal. It was more than odds. It was answered prayer.

Growing up, it wasn’t unusual for my mom to encourage my sisters and me to pray for parking spots. It was unusual for her not to. I was raised with the firm belief that God isn’t merely concerned with the big details in life, but all of the details of life.

Yes, He cares about where I move or what job I may take. But His concern doesn’t stop there. God, who takes care of both the sparrows and the lilies, also cares about a good parking spot, a safe trip, and finding needed items on clearance, such as a winter coat or a new pair of shoes for a quickly growing toddler. He’s the same today as we see Him in the Gospels.

Involved.

I’m currently reading through the Book of Luke. With each chapter, I find myself marveling at how Jesus stopped to meet the needs of people. Look at the story of the widow in Luke 7.

We’re told that Jesus was visiting the town of Nain. As He and His entourage approached the gate, they met a funeral procession:

As He approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out — the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, His heart went out to her and He said, "Don’t cry." Then He went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. (Luke 7:11–15)

What I love about this passage is Jesus’ care for the widow. While this woman was of course weeping over the death of her only son, I can’t help but think she was also weeping for herself.

While I’m not well-schooled in the social position of widows during biblical times, I know enough to assume that this woman’s son was her livelihood. He provided financially for her. Without him, there would literally be no bread on the table. Perhaps she’d even lose the house she was living in and be forced to beg. Or, if she was lucky, maybe a distant relative would take her in.

She had to be thinking, "Now that my son is dead, who will care for my needs? How am I going to survive day-to-day life?" No doubt she felt alone with a desolate future before her.

Jesus knew her fears. He didn’t merely see grief in her lament. And He didn’t tell her to toughen up and make the best of her situation. Seeing that she was in need of earthly protection and provision, He stopped. He took the time to ease her burden. In this case, it meant bringing her only son back to life.

I wonder what the widow felt when Jesus gave her son back to her. Astonishment? Joy? Relief? I’d guess all of these and more, including gratitude. Thankfulness that Jesus took the time to stop and get involved, to care about her needs right down to how she’d put food on the table.

Just as Jesus cared about the widow’s needs, He cares about my needs. He takes the time to stop and concern Himself with my day-to-day living. Not because of anything I’ve done, but because of His great mercy, love, and goodness.

And what I’ve come to discover is that it’s easier to live each moment praising God if we truly believe He does care about every aspect of our lives. If we’re confident that God is present and active in our day-to-day living and that events aren’t simply matters of chance, but rather, that He’s in those events, seeing fit to bless us and watch out for us.

I love what singer and songwriter David Crowder writes in his book Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi. He says:

Every second is an opportunity for praise. There is choosing to be made. A choosing at each moment…. Finding God moment by moment, in the sacred and the mundane, in the valley and on the hill, in triumph and tragedy, and living praise erupting because of it.

It’s my desire to continue to find the goodness of God in the moment-to-moment. To live my life with the awareness that the Jesus I read about in the Gospels is still the same Jesus I serve today — the same Jesus who took the time to stop and care about a widow’s fears. The Jesus who is active, involved, and concerned. The Jesus who doesn’t dismiss matters that others may deem trivial.

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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Prime-Time Parking

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 5 min
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