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The Gut-Level Friend

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One of my best friends in the world is 11 years younger than me. Now, we haven’t always been so close. In fact, our first year of knowing each other consisted of me correcting her every move. Literally. I was her dance team instructor. Never did I think in 1999 that almost a decade later I would be sharing some of the most meaningful times of my life with her.

I didn’t know Aimee very well when I left my job at the high school. She had only been on the team for a year. But we’d formed enough of a connection that she felt comfortable e-mailing me to keep in touch. I say she felt comfortable because at this point I was still maintaining the distance between teacher and student that I was trained to keep.

Not long after her initial contact, she started pouring out her heart to me and my compassion took over. I e-mailed her my phone number and I soon received a sweet call from a desperate 16-year-old looking for comfort and answers. Aimee’s life was overwhelming to her and she had nowhere to turn. But God, in His love and knowledge, sent her my way. I would find out years later that it wasn’t only for her benefit, but mine as well.

I had the privilege of sharing the truth of Jesus’ love with Aimee soon after that first phone call, and about a week later, she turned over her life to Him. Our relationship changed at this point and I found myself in a mentoring role. It’s funny now that I look back on it. I had only been serious about my relationship with God for less than a year, yet here I was trying to tell her how to do it. So like me—in over my head and having no idea.

Over the remainder of her high school career, Aimee and I became closer. I attended her shows and competitions and we spoke often. It was a time for me to love on her and let her know I cared. I answered questions and comforted as much as I could from across the city. But it was in her college years that our bond was cemented.

She set off on her campus journey with aspirations of setting that place ablaze for Christ. However, what she encountered when she arrived sent her off-course quickly. Although she had a heart for Jesus, the seductive voice of the college party life beckoned her. She found herself vacillating between two opposite lifestyles. She wanted to do both and the battle was driving her mad. The phone calls I got during this time were the most, um, let’s just call them interesting.

I’d say nine out of ten of our conversations ended with Aimee in a puddle of tears and me saying, "I know it’s not what you want to hear, but…" In addition to her calling about various, typical college issues like her roommate, parents, and school problems, she would also call when she was in active rebellion against God. It was during these conversations that I learned the value, as Ephesians 4:15 talks about, of being truthful and speaking that truth in love.

I remember very specifically a time during her senior year, after she’d been pretty close to the Lord for a couple of years. She drove down to see me and just hang out. She should have known that upon arrival I would be grilling her to find out what she’d really been up to on campus. I was always suspicious of what was really going on in school. Maybe because that’s where I personally went whacko, but that’s beside the point. Aimee informed me in a rather matter-of-fact, I’ll-do-what-I-want voice, that she was living it up nightly in the bars and doing life her way right now. And in her words, didn’t "feel bad about it at all." Aha! I knew it!

This sweet, timid girl had turned into a feisty rebel. My response was to lay the truth on her, whether she wanted to hear it or not. She needed someone, anyone, to stand up and tell her the ideas she was believing were not true. This life she was living was promising things it couldn’t deliver. My sweet girl was being bombarded with lies at school, and it was my job as a good friend to stand up and hold out the light of the truth.

Thankfully, Aimee came around that day (after my husband put in his two cents, too). Now, she didn’t leave with a smile on her face and a "Can’t wait to see you again!" as she was walking out the door. In fact, she told me later that she was livid. But thankfully, she listened anyway. She processed what she had heard on the 2-hour drive home and spent some time with God. She let Him in and she surrendered. I know my input wasn’t the only thing God used, that I was just one His many instruments, but I know it had an impact.

That was three years ago. Aimee is now in seminary getting her master’s degree with plans to go into full-time vocational ministry. She has one of the most genuine, transparent relationships with the Lord I’ve ever seen. I’m honored to get to be a part of her life.

Our relationship has now turned from a mentoring relationship into one of the deepest friendships I’ve ever known. As much as I got in her face, she has returned the favor. Quite happily, I might add. She has no problem letting me know where I’m messing up or thinking wrongly. She has also walked with me through the loss of a child, and I am walking with her through a life-long illness. We have shared every emotion in the book. And I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one of the biggest reasons we are as close as we are is because our interactions have always been gut-level honest.

I’m thankful for Aimee. I’m thankful that I need her now as much as she needs me. And I’m thankful for one of the lessons our relationship has taught me: that speaking the truth in love, although uncomfortable, is essential to godly relationships. That "spur[ring] one another on toward love and good deeds" sometimes feels exactly like that: a spur in the side (Hebrews 10:24). But it’s that spur that nudges us back onto the correct path. I’ve learned this is what a true friendship is about—loving one another enough to speak the hard things.

Misti Gil hails from the Lone Star State where she lives with her husband and treasure of a son. They all three minister to teens together through a nation-wide ministry called Young Life. It is one of their deepest passions as a family. Misti is still on her journey to healing and wholeness and has a deep desire to walk with women along that same road. She does so through a weekly devotional blog, Walls Down.

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Misti Gil hails from the Lone Star State where she lives with her husband and treasure of a son. They all three minister to teens together through a nation-wide ministry called Young Life. It is one of their deepest passions as a family. Misti is still on her journey to healing and wholeness and has a deep desire to walk with women along that same road. She does so through a weekly devotional blog, Walls Down.

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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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The Gut-Level Friend

by Misti Gil time to read: 5 min
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