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What They Didn’t Teach Me in Sunday School

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“Well, we’re all women.”

There I sat, silently hoping that I might find a friend even though gender was the only thing I could see linking me to the rest of the room’s occupants.

How did I end up at Bible study with the married girls?

I invited myself.

I needed community, and these women were at least in my age group, although I doubted we had much in common. They had husbands and kids, so they were probably way more together than I was. On top of being deliriously happy, I was sure. But it was this, or nothing.

I had made my judgment calls as an outsider. It was easy to do. But I was about to go on a journey that would forever change my way of viewing the people around me.

Lesson #1: It’s All in My Perspective

Those first few weeks and months, I think we were all surprised by what we learned about each other.

Some days they have to remind themselves that their children are a blessing. Some days I have to remind myself that an uninterrupted night of slumber is a blessing. They think they’d like my freedom to travel. I think I’d like an anchor (like theirs) to ground me.

Living life in regular contact with women with different lives added perspective to my outlook. The “grass is greener” mentality we suffered from got a dose of realism. Instead of being so thoroughly enchanted by what my life did not have, I became more content. As gratefulness invaded, I began to see that our lives were actually more similar than I had thought.

Lesson #2: It’s What’s Underneath That Matters Most

The very diversity of the group forced us to be just a little more real than we were used to. We weren’t all newlyweds. We weren’t all singles. We weren’t all young marrieds with kids. The convenient and familiar divisions were gone. The surface details of our individual lives, which had always seemed so important, became little more than illustrations for the deeper issues we all struggled with as we attempted to be authentic Christian women.

It would have been so easy to dissect our daily issues at length, but we didn’t have that luxury because not everyone could relate. Instead, we found the heart of our struggles: insecurity, fear, unbelief, ingratitude, pride, self-centeredness, disobedience, bitterness, lack of joy. And once we acknowledged the core problems that plagued us, we began to confront them, to pray together about them, and to encourage each other from week to week to purposefully walk away from struggles we had once been unable to name.

Lesson #3: Find Authentic Heroes

Through this lens of unexpected discovery, I began to wonder what else I had gotten wrong over the years.

Oh, yeah. The Bible girls.

I could never understand why so many parents named their daughters Sarah, Rachel, and Rebekah. Sure, they are the matriarchs of the faith, but these women were ridiculous! Who laughs when God promises them a child? Who demands more children when God has already given them one? And perhaps my favorite: What kind of mother favors one child over another — even helping that child deceive his father and brother? These were not women I wanted to model my life after.

I had a little more compassion on my own namesake, Miriam. I’ve always liked her story’s combination of the heroic with the ugly. Yes, she did watch over Moses in the bulrushes, negotiating swiftly and wisely to ensure that their own mother was his wet nurse before he moved into the palace. But her desert rebellion against God’s decision to use Moses was punished with flesh-wasting leprosy until she repented.

Miriam, and in fact, all of these women, are the best kind of heroes because the Bible tells their whole stories, triumphs and failures. My dismissiveness of their lives due to their flawed behavior blinded me to the wisdom offered by their experiences. They make mistakes; they don’t listen — but at the same time they are powerfully used of God. There is redemption for them.

It is doubtful that my highs will be as high or my lows as low, but it is a sure thing that there will be a day when I look back and say, “What was I thinking?” And that will be the day that I will want to hold these stories close. I need the reminder that God can (and will) use me despite my flaws, that I will stumble, and that I can be restored and remembered for my good choices rather than endlessly berated for my bad ones.

I’ve learned not to get sidetracked by the mistakes. Instead, I look at the remarkable victories through eyes that know how (and why) mistakes are made and marvel that God uses people who make huge mistakes.

Lesson #4: Don’t Walk Alone

The Book of Hebrews describes a great cloud of witnesses cheering on earthbound believers. Sarah is there, one of only two women mentioned by name in Hebrews 11. She’s not mentioned because she laughed at God. Neither is Rahab mentioned because she was a prostitute. They are both mentioned because they lived by faith. I am not meant to dismiss them because they made mistakes, I am meant to look at their faith and absorb its lessons.

But we are not just surrounded by a great cloud of heavenly witnesses, we share a life journey with fellow believers. Though the exact faces will change over the course of our walk, challenging, supporting relationships are essential at all phases of life. And a key ingredient to an authentic life is intentionally seeking out these types of friendships with a variety of people — at least some of whom have lives that look at least a little bit different from my own.

So, I still catch myself moving toward the split-second judgment call. But these days, I recognize the signs and I remember to take a step back. To view everyone concerned as a person. If I close myself off in my “I’d never do that” shell, I have learned nothing. It’s in honestly sharing the journey that the pathway gains meaning.

I am still supremely confident that I won’t ever tell my husband to sleep with our maid so we can have the child God promised us. But I might try to convince him to do things my way, and that’s where I can take a lesson from Sarah on walking by faith. And there’s still a chance that when God shows up in a way I don’t expect, I just might laugh, and our kinship will be complete!

We are women, after all.

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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.

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What They Didn’t Teach Me in Sunday School

by Miriam Slagle time to read: 4 min
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