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A Full Heart

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When I was six, my parents adopted a drug baby. Time revealed he had more challenges than we originally thought. There was ADHD, asperger’s syndrome, and anger management issues, to name a few.

At a very young age, he was diagnosed as emotionally disturbed, and was put on medications, enrolled in therapy programs, and given dietary restrictions. These resulted in a lifestyle change for our entire family, as he demanded much more attention than we’d anticipated.

When one is forced to learn big lessons at a young age, it’s easy to fall into a trap of unhealthy habits and damaging boundaries by default. I found this to be true for myself.

I loved my brother immensely and desired the best for him. I wanted to contribute to making our home environment optimal for his recovery. So I embraced small sacrifices, which I thought might be helpful. What I didn’t realize was that these small sacrifices were the very things that fed my soul. The very activities that I cut were the things that made my heart beat and allowed me to feed into him in the first place.

We learned that my brother wasn’t left or right brain dominant. He had to start therapy sessions to retrain his brain, which included not listening to music with words. We were told that our brain processes the instrumental portion of music in a separate place than the words. He was only allowed to listen to classical music during the four years of switching his brain function. I felt guilty listening to any of my own favorite artists because I knew he’d feel like he was missing out, so I decided to stop listening to music with words altogether.

In addition to giving up music, I also changed the kinds of food I ate. When we found out he was allergic to sugar, I too embraced rice product ice creams and other odd foods to demonstrate to him how tasty they were. “I prefer Rice Dream to regular milk products,” I claimed openly. I thought, Who needs extra sugar anyway … this is the healthier choice. I convinced myself to actually believe I didn’t like sugar even though I’d go to birthday parties and binge if my brother wasn’t around, not knowing when the next opportunity would come when I’d be able to eat cake.

The ups and downs of my brother’s emotional swings, his destructive bouts, and his medication schedules were very draining. My energy and emotional levels plummeted to the point that I stopped painting. It seemed like a draining task to throw into the mix, so I cut it from my activity list.

These were all well intended decisions, but what I didn’t realize at the time was that I turned something good — the desire to help someone — into something personally detrimental. By cutting out the things I loved, I drained my stored resources. I stopped functioning because my own heart and soul were no longer being nourished. Over time, I found myself in a place where I was so dry of nutrients that I had nothing left to give. I was malnourished from my inability to maintain the proper boundaries of balancing the things that fed into me with the things that took away from me.

My mom once told me a story of a mother who always cut the end off the ham before putting it in her roast pan. When her daughter was grown, she asked her mom one day the purpose behind the tradition.

“I don’t know, my mom always did it, so I just followed her example,” the mom answered contemplatively.

The daughter, still wanting to know the tradition’s purpose, called up her grandmother to ask why she always cut the end off the ham before baking it.

Her grandmother responded simply, “Oh, I never had a roasting pan large enough to fit the whole ham, and it was easier to cut it off than to buy a new pan!”

In applying this story to my own life, I wondered, How many things do I do that appear to have purpose, yet really are quite meaningless? How much of my perfectionist tendency or people pleasing nature is actually trimming the meat and nutrients out of my life?

I realized that God created me to function a certain way by giving me talents, strengths, and capabilities. I needed to remember that my heart was created uniquely, and in order to operate at my fullest and be able to nurture others, I must nourish the strengths He has given me.

After so many years of sacrifice, I wondered if I missed the point of my placement in life because of an image I wanted to maintain. I focused on being a helpful sister and daughter, rather than functioning in life the way I was created to.

I began to dive into the core of my own heart and discover how God had created me to function. Giving up music, painting, and consumption of enjoyable foods were not areas in which I needed to make sacrifices. In fact, creativity and the ability to bake and explore the tastes of foods were gifts and talents God gave me. I felt drained because I literally had created a situation where I allowed myself to give too much without filling back up, until I was so drained that I didn’t know how I could fill up again.

Many years ago a good friend challenged me by saying, “You need to learn to set low expectations for yourself. If all you get done today is going to the grocery store, and the house is still a disaster, and you ordered take out for dinner, you can still feel like that was an accomplished day.” At the time, I thought it was an odd thing to say to me, since it went against the very grain of how I was functioning, but I came to see the wisdom of her words.

Once I narrowed down how my soul was created to function, I started being proactive in setting aside disciplined time to nurture myself. I enrolled in a painting class. I stayed in bed every Saturday morning for an hour to read a book of my choice. I lowered my expectations of tasks and time management to eliminate any outside voices in my head that might make me feel guilty for going to my painting class instead of volunteering at church. It was important for me to break the habit of constant perfectionism and people pleasing, and my friend’s words became sound advice for me.

I had to set lower expectations for myself and be OK with a slower pace rather than the multi-tasking mania I was used to. I had to tell myself over and over that I couldn’t volunteer again until my heart was full. I had to nurture my own heart before I could nurture anyone else.

Now, when I interact with my brother, I am able to enjoy the time spent with him more. I have more tolerance to withstand the tug of his draining nature, and because I’ve put up proper boundaries, I find myself more patient and loving toward him than I used to be capable of offering. Because I am filled from other activities, I’m able to feed into him and other people again, yet not walk away feeling drained.

I found that I function best when I nurture my God-given talents, and others can benefit more when I take time to fill my own heart too. Family dynamics can still be challenging from time to time, but I can choose to handle it in healthier ways that allow me to be my best self, the way God intended when he created me in the first place.

BriecravenbioBrie Craven resides in Los Angeles, California. She graduated with a BA in English with a creative writing emphasis from Cal State LA. In 2009, she did play writing for 3ofakind Theatre Company in North Hollywood. She has also done freelance copywriting, and has led writing workshops on the side. When she isn’t writing, or brainstorming writing projects, she usually paints to unwind from life. Brie blogs at Growing Up with a Crack Baby.


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Brie Craven resides in Los Angeles, California. She graduated with a BA in English with a creative writing emphasis from Cal State LA. In 2009, she did play writing for 3ofakind Theatre Company in North Hollywood. She has also done freelance copywriting, and has led writing workshops on the side. When she isn’t writing, or brainstorming writing projects, she usually paints to unwind from life. Brie blogs at Growing Up with a Crack Baby.

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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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A Full Heart

by Brie Craven time to read: 6 min
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