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Off the Ledge

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A canopy of trees stretched before me. Crystals of sunlight pierced through the thick forest, providing a sliver of warmth to the otherwise cool day. My eyes barely processed the beauty in front of me. The only thing I could focus on was my stomach tied in a web of complex knots that could put a Boy Scout troupe to shame.

My husband Jeff and I were on the trip of a lifetime, an Alaskan cruise, and he signed us up for a shore excursion in Juneau involving suspension bridges and over 6,000 feet of zip lines. Jeff is the daredevil in our family; I’m a self-proclaimed scaredy-cat.

I watched the other people in our tour group take their first zip down a cable that was supposed to be the practice round. I tried to calm my quivering hands and leaned toward Jeff to whisper, “I can’t do this.”

The tour guide standing nearby overheard my comment. She threw a sweet smile in my direction. “Just try this first one. If you don’t like it, you can get down at the next tree stand.”

I gulped and nodded. A panic attack threatened to force tears out of my eyes, breath out of my lungs, and vomit out of my stomach. I closed my eyes and willed the tension away. Soon it was my turn; the inevitable moment had arrived. I stepped up to the edge of the wood platform and waited while the guide hooked my harness to the zip line, explaining how to brake as I approached the next stand.

A rush of air escaped my mouth, and I positioned my hands on the line. My feet stepped off the platform, and I waited to feel my body drop to the earth’s floor. For a few terrifying seconds, I was suspended above the forest, gliding through the trees like an eagle. Time paused, and I prayed I would land without injury. I arrived at the second tree stand on both feet, immediately looking for the escape the tour guide promised me. But it didn’t exist; her soothing words were just a ploy.

I was stuck on this crazy adventure whether I wanted to be or not.

Each zip line was longer as we continued on the course, and the platforms stood further from solid ground, reaching as high as one hundred feet. With every step off the ledge, I felt more confidence and exhilaration flood my body until I couldn’t wait to experience the next suspension. About halfway through the excursion, I let myself fully relax and view the scenery surrounding me.

My eyes gazed up to see the rich green hue of foliage, with the powder blue sky winking between the sway of trees. My nose breathed in the crisp air swirling with the smell of the nearby sea. My ears relished the sound of seclusion from the modern world — the gentle clap of leaves combined with the squaw of birds, the soft conversation and laughter of tourists who discovered new-found camaraderie.

Unfortunately the excursion didn’t end with my newly discovered awe of God’s creation. Throughout the course, I assumed the last zip line would glide me to solid ground, but I learned that it would actually carry me to another tree stand. The only way off the wooden platform was to hold on to a dangling rope and rappel my way down. If I thought I was scared on that first practice ledge, I was kidding myself. Absolute terror was the only explanation for my sweaty palms and thumping heart on this final test.

My pulse picked up speed as the other members of my group swung themselves around from the stand so their toes gripped the edge and their bodies floated in the air. Then they controlled their slack in the rope and lowered themselves to the dirt below. Much to my relief, there were two other self-proclaimed scaredy-cats in our group who opted to slide off the ledge from a sitting position and let the tour guide control their slack. I quickly joined them. When my feet finally landed on the forest floor, a sense of relief rushed through my body. My racing heart no longer pounded due to panic; rather, it skipped from the elation of overcoming my fears.

And all because I had the courage to take that daunting step off the ledge.

There are many times in my life when I’ve stepped off a ledge of sorts, like moving away to a college where I didn’t know anyone. Or going to the elders of my church for prayer and anointing when I faced medical hardships. Or forcing my introverted self to join a mom’s group.

In each instance, I can look back and see that God harnessed me to His line of faithfulness, setting me safely at the next landing. I made lifelong friends in college, including one who introduced me to the man who is now my husband. God healed me of my medical complications, not only physically but emotionally and spiritually as well, helping me realize that He has a purpose for my life even in the midst of my darkest hour. My mom’s group at church has been an amazing support system, providing tangible evidence of God’s hands and feet serving others.

I also had the option in each of those decisions to take the easy route, to climb down the tree stand and return to the cabin without even letting myself reach the first ledge. But I would have missed the thrill of living in the center of God’s purpose for my life, just as I would have missed the beauty of the Alaskan forest and the exhilaration of conquering my fears that adventure-filled day.

There’s a story in the New Testament that speaks to the faith it requires to step off the ledge. A woman had been subject to bleeding for 12 years and was part of the large crowd when Jesus walked by one day. She pushed her way through the crowd to get near Him. “She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.’ Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment” (Matthew 9:21-22).

What if the woman let fear hold her back from taking that step of faith? She could have worried about what others thought of her. Or maybe she could have been trampled by the massive crowd of people. Instead, she pushed forward, knowing that the potential rewards far outweighed the risks. She touched Jesus’ cloak and let herself freefall into a suspension of faith, allowing herself to experience His goodness and healing.

The next time I find myself on a wooden platform, I have no reason to hold back. Whether a canopy of trees stretches before me, or an excruciating decision looms, or the opportunity to pursue a new dream or receive healing awaits, I can confidently step off the ledge with the knowledge that God has an adventure in store, and He’ll be with me through every stage of the journey.

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Sarah Forgrave is a work-at-home mom whose writing has been published in a Pearl Girls™ anthology and Guideposts' A Cup of Christmas Cheer collection. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sarah writes romantic novels that blend her love of health and fitness with her passion for God. When she’s not writing, she teaches group exercise classes and loves spending time with her family in their Midwest home. To learn more -- or to sign up for her health-inspired newsletter - -visit www.sarahforgrave.com.

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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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Off the Ledge

by Sarah Forgrave time to read: 5 min
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