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I Give Up!

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England was finally within reach. I’d dreamed of traveling to the storied land of Beatrix Potter, tea, the Tube, tea, exciting accents, tea, and Jane Austen for most of my life.

Everything was in order. The money was in the bank. Better-traveled acquaintances made helpful suggestions. Anna, my trusted road-trip sidekick and sister, volunteered to accompany me and navigate. Good friends opened their home for part of our stay. But when crunch time came—buy the ticket or not—the “what-ifs” assailed me, and I almost backed out.

I knew exactly the moment fear struck—when my stomach was gripped by uneasiness linked to my lack of control over what might happen. I may have planned for months. I may have invested hours of emotion, prayer, and energy. It didn’t matter. This was the moment that counted. The moment I decided to be ruled by fear or to face it. Shut down, pack up my toys, and go home? Or take a deep, steadying breath and walk forward?

Fear has many faces, most of which I’ve been taught how to deal with. Healthy fear (jumping out of perfectly good airplanes) and unhealthy (panic attack-inducing) fear. Rational (Is this a bad lump?) and irrational (clowns). Fear of the unknown fits none of these categories neatly. And I don’t deal with it partially because I don’t want to admit it exists.

Why?

Deep down, I know my death grip on the unknown stems from my hesitancy to relinquish control to God. Matthew 10:39 reminds me, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.” The clinging is easy, but how do I give up? Consciously admitting my fear is key, even though it means admitting I don’t fully trust God, which is embarrassing, decidedly unspiritual, and more transparent than I care to be on a regular basis. And I have a feeling I’m not the only one who feels this way.

In these moments, it’s tempting to stick with the straightforward advice of that women’s safety e-mail I’ve read again and again: “Go with your gut!” But that’s no recipe for life. When all I have is a moment, my gut is a good place to start, but the fear I act on in the everyday must be grounded in reality—with a good dose of honesty.

Many women fear the unknown, while refusing to admit, discuss, or keep each other accountable on it. So it becomes a dangerous fear that can paralyze, making us ineffective in the lives God has entrusted to us. In my life, fear of the unknown manifests itself most often in these three areas: relationships, new situations, and planning for “the future.”

Relationship Fear

I meet someone new, and I don’t know what that person thinks of me. Rather than giving that someone the benefit of the doubt until he or she proves unworthy, I assume the worst, so I will be “prepared” if the worst is true. I may even allow the other person to do the heavy lifting in the initial stages of our relationship, hesitating to invest myself before his or her intent is clear.

Real fear: Being vulnerable and sharing pieces of myself with a person who will ultimately walk away.

Real risk: Walking away from a fruitful, iron-sharpens-iron relationship (Proverbs 27:17) because I’d rather be alone or surrounded by known, “safe” people than walk through the ebbs and flows of learning someone new.

The truth sounds worse than the fear, doesn’t it?

Situation Fear

My mother was my first visitor in my new, thousand-miles-from-home city, and I’d been planning for weeks. One morning, tickets in hand, I was overwhelmed by the sick feeling that all was not going to go as intended. Root cause? We were taking an untested bus route and my roommate had casually mentioned that our destination was in a sketchy part of town.

Real fear: That we would find ourselves in a bad situation (dangerous or just uncomfortable) which no amount of planning could fix, and have to rely on God—and our wits—for deliverance.

Real risk: There are any number of things (job, movie, restaurant, trip, relationship, social gathering) I may miss, but they all boil down to one thing: missing out on the opportunity to see God’s hand at work.

In this case, we did have to rely on God’s provision, but He answered our requests for help and we couldn’t miss His hand that day. Sometimes I think we are never more aware of God’s presence than when we feel completely vulnerable, so why do we work so hard to avoid it?

“Future” Fear

As a single woman, I often fret about the impact of my decisions. In fact, I sometimes envy the limited options of my married-with-children friends. Why? To my mind, correct major life decisions are clearly indicated by the parameters of spouse and children. Sure, they can’t move to a new city with an old college friend on a whim, but they might like to. I hesitated at the opportunity. What if moving somehow ruined the rest of my life? What if God was giving me an opportunity I’d wished for, and I turned it down because I didn’t know how it would work out in the grand scheme of my life?

There is a fundamental flaw in my grass-is-greener thought process: Knowing what the “right” decision is doesn’t necessarily make the decision easy. More often than not, when we have the freedom to make a decision, we long for the decision to be made for us. When the decision is made for us, we wish we had the freedom to choose something else.

Real fear: Making a decision that will irrevocably change my life for the worse.

Real risk: Saying “thanks, but no thanks” to God because His offer requires me to step outside my comfort zone.

At the end of the day, decisions are hard, especially those that do not involve clear moral absolutes. Still, I will never know what I’ve missed through the decisions I make. So will I be consumed by that or resolve to live the life I have today?

What do all three have in common? They are legitimate fears. They could all happen and dealing with any one of them would be difficult and possibly painful. As women, we are planners, doers, shapers, and we hesitate to exert effort when the outcome is uncertain. Yet all our effort to avoid unpleasantness can add up to one thing we truly don’t want: a boxed in life that still holds hard times.

Unaddressed fear can rob us of life by paralyzing us in the seemingly safe world of what we think we know. A life with no new friends, no new experiences, and no new dreams.

What do we do?

When we can clearly see and honestly analyze our fear, we must then step back, pray earnestly for direction, and be willing to relinquish whatever it is we fear. For me, the plan of attack is proactive:

  1. Acknowledge this fear so I will recognize it when it crops up (again).
  2. Analyze my response to it for any truth, rather than ignoring it because it’s not going anywhere.
  3. Submit my specific fears to God in prayer, casting them out for His perfect love and accepting His guidance (1 John 4:18).
  4. Trust Him with the outcome, especially when I can’t figure it out.

So, yes. I bought the ticket. There were some fearful moments. Like when we got separated in the Tube on our first jetlagged day in London. But in those moments when fear was appropriate, God filled in the gaps of our human ability. The trip was everything I had hoped for, and more. Giving up my fear to God had cleared space in my life for Him to move in His amazing way.

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After earning degrees in English and Music, Miriam Slagle has spent most of her adult life draining red pens as a proofreader and editor. Now that Word's "Track Changes" feature has made hard-copy editing obsolete, she uses her colored pens doing something else she really loves: writing letters and making cards to send in the mail. She has an uncanny knack for remembering names, is devoted to baking goodies from scratch, and wants to visit all 50 states and more than a few countries before this journey ends.

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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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I Give Up!

by Miriam Slagle time to read: 5 min
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