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Wooed Over Italian

Jennifer Napier

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"Which sweater is better to wear on a date? The pink or the green?"

A look of horror crossed my husband Mike’s face. "Pink. What do you mean, date?"

I giggled nervously. How would I explain?

Embarrassed, I shared with Mike what God had put on my heart. "Well, I feel like God wants me to go on a date with Him." I told him how I sensed that He was telling me to go to a certain upscale Italian restaurant and spend some quality alone time with Him.

Thankfully Mike was supportive. Without mocking me and in a tone that was encouraging he replied, "Sounds good!"

I drove to the restaurant. My Bible and laptop in tow. I was unable to remember a time when I went to a restaurant such as this alone. I don’t know if I ever had before.

There was a part of me that wasn’t excited about this date with God. Part of me that was in a frenzied state of not wanting to be alone with my thoughts and feelings and with Him. Part of me that wanted to shut Him out. That wanted to drown out that small, still voice.

We had just moved into a two bedroom apartment with two toddlers and then found out we were having twins. Finances had been stretched. Bills were piling. My husband had just started a new job on top of being in seminary full time. With all this stress, it seems my natural reaction would be to turn to God and cry out to Him. But it wasn’t. Instead I withdrew and questioned God. Why was He letting this happen? Did He really care? Was He going to care for me? Did He love me?

I pulled up to the restaurant feeling more than just a little reticent. I sat in the car for a couple of minutes debating whether I should go through with this and questioning if I was truly hearing God.

When I finally walked through the door of the restaurant, I tried not to be shy when asking for a table for one. I wasn’t going to explain that I wouldn’t really be alone. That they would be unable to see my date.

The server came up with a big smile, took my drink order, and brought me bread and dipping oil. I then placed my dinner order and was left alone.

I sat and closed my eyes for a moment. "Am I dumb? Am I really hearing you Lord? Why did you tell me to come here? Why not somewhere cheap at least?"

Sitting quietly, I tried to hold back the tears. I knew He was drawing me. I’d been fighting it. Trying to keep busy. Trying to stay distracted. And yet here I was, alone in a restaurant faced with my thoughts and feelings…and Him.

He had captured my heart as a child. He had made me His own. I still remember praying for Jesus to forgive my sins and to make me a new creation. As I grew up I continued to know Him in an intimate way. I had seen so many evidences of God’s faithfulness to me. Time and again, He poured blessings and grace upon my life. There would be an anonymous check or a gift card for groceries just when we needed it. People would buy diapers for the kids or share clothing that their children no longer needed. When we were sick people brought meals and would help with laundry. When our son was in the hospital people would come and visit us. God was faithful to me in giving me a good husband and dear children. More importantly He had redeemed me from my sins and restored me to Himself.

Even so, there are many times when I feel unimportant and I question His goodness. When I’m tempted to see myself as a failure; a reflection of imperfection and someone who doesn’t measure up. Feeling like I need to keep the perfect house, job, children, and body. Every expectation and opportunity is often seen as another area where I will fall short and mess up.

Yet, when I look at others I believe that God loves them. He has a plan for that person’s

life. But when it comes to me personally, I doubt. I doubt His love for me. I doubt that He wants to show me goodness.

At my table, I opened my laptop and began to write. I wrote the questions that were on my mind and all that I was feeling. How I had been tempted to feel forsaken and abandoned by Him. How I was tempted to feel condemned and ashamed and alone. How I knew my efforts were not enough. I asked Him about the life He said He would give me; and not just any life, life abundantly. I told Him how I was anxious and fearful and worried. How the pressures of this life were choking me and how I felt I was drowning, overwhelmed, and burdened.

And then it was His turn.

I opened my Bible and the words jumped off the page. Promises of peace, comfort, and joy. He was telling me to cast my cares and anxieties on Him. He was reminding me that His burden was easy. I realized that the yoke I had put on myself was not from Him, but it was from me. I had taken on so many unnecessary burdens. He reminded me that He would never leave or forsake me. His words were soothing, calming, and hopeful. They were wooing words.

In that moment at the restaurant, God was reminding me that He saw me as valuable. He saw me as "worth it." I wasn’t too expensive to be treated to this type of meal. I was His princess. He loved me and He wanted me to know it. He wanted me to remember that I’m the apple of His eye (Psalm 17:8). That I’ve been chosen by Him (1 Peter 2:9).

Psalm 149:4 says, "The Lord takes pleasure in His people, He adorns the humble with salvation." Takes pleasure. That’s what He says. He takes pleasure in His people. He loves us. He wants to woo us. He wants us to fall in love with Him again. Me included.

He doesn’t woo me to finish a check-list or to be the perfect woman. He woos me to Himself. He gives me hope. It’s more than just an emotional high of feeling loved by Him. My value is not based on myself, my character, or my good works. It is found in Christ. His perfect righteousness has become my own.

My questions that night were once again answered with the reminder that God does love and care about me, that He is faithful and has a plan for my life. Once again I needed to put my trust in Him that He is who He says He is.

True joy and peace flooded my heart not from the high of temporary feelings but founded upon the unchanging reality of God’s goodness. He keeps His promises. And while I’m sure these questions will come again, the truth of His Word remains.

For me, the time at the restaurant was just the beginning…once again. Jesus had broken through my hardened heart. He came when I was afraid. He came unbidden. He sought me even when I didn’t want to seek Him. He started it. He provoked it. He reminded me that I love because He first loved me.

That night was more than just a good meal, it was a fire rekindled in my soul. I was wooed over Italian. I fell in love with Jesus again.

JennifernapierbioJennifer is a full-time home and life manager (cook, dish-washer, diaper changer, personal assistant, launderer, maid, amateur medical professional, pharmacist, taxi driver, gardener, planner and organizer, nanny, boo-boo kisser, baker, barista, and home decorator). Her passion is Jesus Christ: knowing Him and making Him known. Married to her best friend, Mike, they live in Virginia with their four children, ages four and under. In her spare time she enjoys freelance writing, posting on her blog, Musings by Jennifer and embraces life through photography, writing, reading, knitting and mommying.
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Jennifer Napier is a new resident of Norfolk, VA where she and her husband are part of growing a new church. Her recent decision to throw all caution to the wind and jump into home schooling all five of her precocious but precious children has left many alternately applauding her bravery and questioning her sanity. She is an avid reader and writer and enjoys long soaks in the tub and sweet iced tea. She can often be found with her children at the zoo, a thrift store or in a doctors office as she manages the special needs of her kids. Though a Christian since she was five Jennifer has continued to grow in a deeper understanding of God’s grace and love. She continues to proclaim God’s faithfulness in the midst of many years of trial, suffering, loss and grief. Her primary goal in life is to know God and make Him known. You can follow her adventures and thoughts on God, life, and motherhood at her blog, Musings by Jennifer

1 Comment
  • I’m not sure which I enjoyed reading more, Jennifer’s post or Jennifer’s bio. Both of them are amazing.

    This was so encouraging to read. You’re definitely busier than I am, but in the midst of my peacefully frantic world I sometimes find myself caught up in my cares just trying not to be frustrated at God, or feel neglected by him. I love that you went on this date with God, and just the whole idea of being wooed.

    I’m in need of a little down time, getting away from everything and hanging out with God. I also love that you brought your laptop and wrote down your thoughts and questions. My thoughts often go off like a derailed train and I find myself getting lost in them instead of in Him.

    This story was really encouraging; thank you. :)

Articles

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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Articles

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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Articles

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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Wooed Over Italian

by Jennifer Napier time to read: 6 min
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