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Run and Release

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My best friend ran her first half-marathon yesterday.

But, amid the feelings of pride and excitement on her behalf, I discovered another emotion — jealousy.

That was supposed to be me.

Running has always been my thing. Aside from my relationship with God and my family and friends, there is nothing I love more than a long and hard trail run in the mountains.

And, I’m good at it. Or, at least, I was. I won the high school state championship in track in the two-mile as an eighth grader and won the state cross-country meet as a sophomore, breaking the previous course record. My prospects in the running world were good. I hoped to run cross-country in college at a top-notch school and be running trail races long after that.

But an injury to my hip shattered some of those dreams and put others on hold. And it’s been tough to swallow. Real tough. A few years down the road, hundreds of physical therapy appointments, countless doctor’s visits, a surgery, and more tears than I sometimes care to admit, it’s still hard.

Why would God bless me with the ability to run, a gift so many told me I “better do something with,” for such a short time? Or, if He still has something for me to do with this gift, why the wait?

Not being able to run feels like a part of my identity that I loved and of which I was proud has been removed. I felt amazing when I ran. I wholeheartedly agreed with Eric Liddell when he said, “When I run, I feel his [God’s] pleasure.” And I did. I never feel closer to God than I did running. My labored breathes, sore muscles, and muddy calves where evidence of an amazing adventure; a secret treasure between my loving Father and myself.

And now, gone.

So here again I sat. I was both excited for and extremely jealous of my best friend. She was out there running 13.2 miles on a gorgeous trail and I was at home, not yet able to run that distance again.

I sat slouched in my pajama pants and hooded sweatshirt trying to ignore the extra pounds that I had put on since my competitive running days had taken a hiatus (further adding to my cheerful disposition). The foggy cool weather outside fit my mood perfectly. I was having a happy little pity party for poor ole’ me.

I remembered every time the latest edition of Trail Runner magazine had come in the mail, every time I’d heard running stories, every time I’d walked past a runner on their daily jaunt, every morning or evening of perfect-for-running-weather, and that giddy mix of excitement soon followed by disappointment and a twinge of jealousy that always came. I thought of my continual prayer, God, you know how much I want to run, to explore the wonder and solitude of your creation with just you, me, and the sound of my feet on the packed dirt. How much it makes me feel alive. Why this stupid injury, God? Can it please be healed now?

But then I paused my thoughts and put a clamp on the growing feelings of jealousy and anger. It was then that I heard the still small voice say, “I love you. My plan is perfect.”

Perfect? Really? Sometimes it feels like You’re screwing something up.

“Yes. Perfect.”

Like an angry teenager, I wanted to rattle off the ways I think His plan isn’t perfect, and no longer limited to my lack of being able to run. But instead, I attempted to calm my spirit as a stream of familiar scripture passages filled my head.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future'” (Jeremiah 29:11).

“His good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2b).

“As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30).

I sighed, convicted of my mistrust, and repeated them to myself.

Perfect. His plan is perfect.

I realized, as I have many times over the course of this injury, that although I know and believe this truth, I struggle with living in the assurance of His plan. I struggle with questions of why and attempt to determine my own direction. The imperfections of this fallen world bombard me with trials everyday that challenge my faith and attitude and, all too often, I forget my utter dependence on God.

My prayers become more about what I need God to do to fix the situation, than humble, worshipful submission to His will. I was OK with walking the path He had for me when it matched step for step with the path I had envisioned for myself. But the moment He moved in a direction different from what my ideas were, I panicked and grew frustrated.

Was I willing to surrender my own goals, dreams, and aspirations to follow His perfect plan? I shuddered at the realization that, although I thought I was, there were areas of my life where I maintained a clenched-fist grasp.

I was hit with the reality of my fair-weather faith. Like the sports fans my dad and I have teased since I was a little girl for their “loyalty” to their team only when championships were being won and MVP crowns awarded, I found myself wanting to abandon God when my life wasn’t as I thought it should be. Or, at least put Him on the bench until His performance “improved.”

I was hit with my pride. That deep down in this depraved, treacherous heart of mine I desired to make much of myself rather than much of God; that my own accomplishments and happiness were of too much importance to me. I was convicted by the words of John who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

As I sat and stared out the window at the foggy rain, tears began streaming down my face. I realized then that these lessons and convictions were all a part of God forming and making me into the woman He wants me to be. And, I want that. More than any trail running championship or marathon record, I want to joyfully walk step-by-step with His plan.

Through my tears I found a new prayer, Father, humble my spirit and give me peace in knowing that I am yours and your plan is perfect. Erase the areas where my will and pride have become more important than glorifying you. I surrender my dream to you God, mold me and make me into the woman you want me to be. Help me find joy in walking in step with your plan. May my life make much of you and less of me.

I don’t know what the future holds. I hope it includes a return to running mountain trails, but it may not. I do know this: My heavenly Father’s plan is perfect. My Savior, the Sovereign Lord, loves me and has a plan for my life that is more than I could ever imagine. And, that is something to find comfort, purpose, and assurance in — whether or not I’m running marathons.

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A Canadian citizen raised in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota, Alida Oegema's heart is in the mountains, where she loves to hike, climb, camp, and explore. She is currently in her second year of college at Northern Arizona University studying Outdoor Recreation and Environmental Studies. She loves organic cooking, writing, photography, traveling, being eco-friendly, and long talks/discussions over tea. She is constantly amazed by God's faithfulness and is so thankful for the endless adventure of grace that is her life.

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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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Run and Release

by Alida Oegema time to read: 5 min
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