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Where Troubles Melt

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The breaking point came on a Wednesday morning. Eleven a.m. central time. I was doing one of the many drive-by cleanings I attempt throughout the day just to maintain sanity.

They start as a bathroom break. Then I take the long route through the laundry room to drop off towels from the bathroom or lonely socks found in hallways along the way. Step through the living room for a dishes sweep. Drop plates and cups off in the kitchen. Return to computer. This time I’d squeezed in a diaper change as well.

Work, emails, and unfinished writing projects waited while I picked up my toddler’s shirt and pondered how it had wandered so far out of place. It was then that I heard the sympathetic voice-over on a commercial for Las Vegas.

“Everybody needs a break,” the voice consoled.

The tears rushed out of nowhere and stung my over-tired lids. That’s when I knew I’d perhaps never heard a truer phrase.

I was tired—the kind of tired that just can’t pick up one more messy room or fulfill one more task at work without reenergizing. I needed to get away.

Not necessarily to Vegas. The truth is, I didn’t really even need a car. That commercial could have been for anything from a candy bar to a steak house to the beach. Any one of those things can sometimes be just what I need to get away.

That day with the wayward toddler shirt and evocative commercial, I determined immediately to do just that. My beautiful life—full of romance, children, big dreams, and fulfilling work — didn’t justify those hot, sudden tears. I knew if I could find some space, I would remember this. And if in that space I also thought of things that needed to change, it was there I’d find the bravery to make it happen.

Over the years, there have been three ways I’ve learned to “get away” from the pressures of life. Whether it’s to a new place, out in nature, or simply through quiet, time has taught me how to fully experience being away so that when real life comes knocking again, I can’t wait to return and present this refreshed, more positive me to life.

Places

I love to see new places. To watch life ebb and flow through different streets, faces, and lives than I’m used to on a daily basis. My problems seem much smaller as they melt into the buzz and whirl of an unfamiliar setting with its own daily rhythm.

Besides that, the unique energy of a new place inspires me along with its varied architecture and unique shops and restaurants. Knowing all that the world can offer convinces me to make the most of what I have. I almost always leave new places adjusting my priorities and organizing my own life into a rhythm I know I can respect.

Mark Twain said that traveling is the surest way to end ignorance and bigotry. I’ve come to see this as true. I like the feeling of learning something new about both the world and myself. As I’m faced with my own unimportance, I become more aware of my place in it.

I may sound like a world traveler, but I’m not. I just deeply appreciate wherever I have been. The places I’ve visited — other than through research, movies, and books—are few and not remotely far between. The thing is, there’s something new and unfamiliar and inspiring in every place — even if it’s only a couple hours away. Even the next neighborhood over provides a getaway if I have the eyes to see it.

Nature

I once tried to change my daily devotional time to a prayer walk. I quickly found that once outside for even a few moments, there was nothing left to pray. Only peace and gratitude remained. The very trees around me told of God’s unlimited power, and the wind seemed to carry the evidence of His ever-present help.

I always feel nearer to God outdoors. Just a brief departure to my front porch accomplishes this nearness for me.

Yet while my porch in Missouri is my most frequented step into nature, I often think past it to the ocean. Far away, it is there, lapping at the shore, still whispering. It is almost impossible to remain stressed around such incomparable beauty. The power and rhythm of the ocean is immoveable. It overwhelms my thoughts, and its salty, breezy goodness whispers right into my soul. It tells me in the age-old words of the psalmist, “Be still, and know God.”

There’s no louder evidence of God — whether the tree-lined street my house sits on or the mighty ocean waves — than the great, quiet expanse of nature.

Quiet

There are times when the best I can do for a getaway is to find a place of quiet. It’s amazing what I can do with my thoughts when I air them out in some good old peace and quiet. I find it in yoga exercises while I stretch and move my body. I find it in the car where creative, happy thoughts fill my mind as I drive. And I can even find it behind the locked door of my bathroom if I just need one moment away from the chaos of motherhood.

In my household of little boys, quiet is sometimes found behind a wall of music. I put in headphones or go to the kitchen and turn on the iTunes that I’ve saved. The songs have memories tied to them that strengthen me. They are tracks friends sent to me as gifts when I was troubled. And they are the light and happy songs I’ve chosen because they make me smile. It’s not truly silence to wrap myself in the music, but it is a certain kind of quiet.

A long drive, a bubble bath, a quick escape to the garden, backyard, or fancy living room where no one ever goes. When I find my quiet place, I’m never far from a getaway.

While I believe what that commercial said that morning, “Everybody needs a break,” I think the purpose of getaways goes further than merely offering a break. I don’t need the space just to escape from life, I need it to rejuvenate for my life. To find the places that remind me to be thankful and that strengthen me to be brave. In this, I experience a true and worthwhile getaway — one that prepares my heart for home.

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Serenity Bohon delivered her third healthy son seven months after being diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer. She is currently cancer-free, and her three sons are her greatest joy. She lives with her husband in small town in Missouri, and works from home for a medical transcription company. Beyond the day job, she loves most to capture in words the chaos of this beautiful life. For more information, visit Serenity Now.

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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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Where Troubles Melt

by Serenity Bohon time to read: 4 min
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