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I sat on the squeaky, sheetless Murphy bed, gazed at the moldy walls and wept. The tiny two-room flat felt claustrophobic. The gray, muddy carpet matched the gray sky outside. Our lives were packed into half a dozen suitcases, scattered throughout the flat. Alien bugs flew around the room after we’d opened the windows to let in a breeze. Life in England was certainly not starting out as glamorously as we’d imagined.

How would I ever be able to make a home here?

The flat had 450 square feet, no dressers, no washer or dryer, no shower, no bathroom cabinets, and a tiny corner of the living room that served as the kitchen. We had no sofa, no comfortable chairs, and a tortuously vindictive Murphy bed whose thin mattress barely covered the steely bed frame.

I hated my life in the United Kingdom pretty seriously for the first six months. My husband and I were far from home with our four-month-old son and we knew no one in the entire country. Things were smaller and older than we were used to. Daily activities like cooking, shopping, and laundry were awkward and difficult. It was like learning to do everything left-handed. It should have been so simple, but every task was incredibly frustrating.

I remember the first time we went to church in our new town. The warm reception of the churchgoers was balm to my weary heart. They weren’t content to merely greet us. Multiple people came over and gave us a genuinely warm welcome, asking us questions about our lives.

One family invited us to lunch at their home after the service. We gratefully accepted, and eagerly plied them with questions about culture, how to perform daily tasks, and what on earth some of the signs and words we’d come across meant. As a nursing mom, I was so relieved to have a drink and a quiet place to sit while someone else prepared the meal.

I was surprised to see how small the home of our hosts was. Everyone squeezed into the tiny dining room without so much as murmur of apology or a glimpse of discomfort. Later, I was even more surprised to find that this was one of the largest homes in our church.

As we continued to visit the church, we were quickly enveloped in love and fellowship. People offered us lifts to the shops, invited us home for tea, rang us up if we missed church, took us camping, led us on walks, and invited us into their homes nearly every Sunday for a meal.

Both years we were there, we received multiple invitations to spend the whole of Christmas day with members of our church family. No one I knew had matching furnishings, a flat screen television, or a 2,000 square foot home. No one apologized for squeezing too many chairs around the table.

I felt loved.

The attitude of unselfconscious hospitality was inspiring, nurturing, and ultimately infectious. We began having people over to our flat. Yes, our flat. We had to borrow chairs. People saw our piles of dirty laundry. They saw our toiletries lined up on the windowsill. They had to watch me brush crumbs off the chair that my son’s booster seat usually rested on before I offered it to them.

We had 10 guests for Thanksgiving dinner. My kitchen was so small that I began cooking four days before Thanksgiving. This plan resulted in a slight disaster. My pumpkin pie, which had been carefully made from a specially ordered fresh pumpkin, went bad. I was mortified. Thankfully I discovered it the morning and did not serve it. My enterprising husband went on a quest for a replacement pumpkin, which is considered an “exotic” (and therefore rare) vegetable in the UK. We all had a good laugh about it over the table and the story lives on in family lore.

We began hosting a film discussion club for students at the university, often packing more than a dozen people around our computer to watch a movie. This gave us the chance to share the gospel and build relationships that last to this day with people who would have otherwise been acquaintances.

I hope that our hospitality was as much of a blessing to our friends as their kindness and concern was to us. By the time we left the UK 18 months later, our hearts were heavy with longing and sorrow. We were leaving our British family, perhaps never to see them again, except in the heavenly courts. What a change in attitude we brought home with us. I am so thankful for the example of unselfconscious hospitality that our British church family displayed. I am striving to import that love into my own life.

I have learned that when I am real I allow my friends to be real too. Martha Stewart may be a fabulous party-planner, but she isn’t someone most people want to be friends with.

Perfectionism kills friendships in two ways. First, it diverts my time and attention away from nurturing my friend, distracting me from them and their needs. What is their mood? Who are they? What is their life experience? When I’m busy wondering whether the bathroom is clean enough or whether they see the dust on the bookshelf, I can’t focus on them because I’m too busy worrying about what they think of me.

The second way that perfectionism stifles friendship is that the closer I get to my goal of the perfect party, the more likely the chance of that perfect party becoming a wall between us. I’m silently intimidating my guests, making them feel as though they can’t be real with me either, but they must meet the same standard of entertainment when we visit their home. Please don’t misunderstand; I love to make things pleasant for my guests. But it is important to keep a heart of nurture that is longing to know and love them, rather than a heart of perfectionism that is focusing on what their impression of me might be.

I need to love what I have. My tiny uncomfortable flat taught me that. I still don’t have the biggest house or nicest things, but I invite friends to sit on my old cracked cement porch with me. They relax in my yard sale chairs, stained but cozy, and tell me what God has done in their lives. It turns out that that love and friendship don’t require a great deal of square footage; all they need is an open door.

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Jordan Douglas is a sinner saved by grace, called to be a wife and full-time mother in Boise, Idaho. As she fumbles her way through that calling, she is reminded that God's power is made perfect in weakness. She enjoys photography, reading classic literature, and writing.

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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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Welcome Home

by Jordan Douglas time to read: 4 min
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