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Blue Car Blessings

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Before my husband and I were married, we exchanged lists of our life dreams. My list held over 30 bullet points compared to my husband’s six or seven items. On his list, sandwiched between things such as raise a family and travel to New Zealand, was a dream that brought a smile to my face: always drive a blue car.

The words were simple; yet reading them further endeared him to me. They made me realize that he sought joy in everyday life.

I wanted to be part of his blue car dream.

As it turned out, the first car my husband owned was the deep blue color of the ocean, the first car I owned reminded me of the springtime sky, and the first car we owned as a couple matched the sapphire in my engagement ring. The dream seemed as though it could become a reality.

For us, owning blue cars has been a bit unpredictable, though, as we’ve chosen to drive second-hand vehicles.

In mid-January, we moved from Cape Town, South Africa, to Charlotte, North Carolina. We were in a new city, desperately searching for a car that fit our price range. The choices were few, and a time crunch was quickly closing in on us. Other unexpected logistical moving challenges seemed to be dark rain clouds hovering over our every waking moments.

I could feel my normal sense of control rapidly slipping through my fingers. I was grasping at water and unable to hold what I gathered in my hands. Anxious and fearful thoughts crawled into the corners of my mind.

When life is straightforward rather than complex, I find myself relying more and more on my smart planning, intelligence, and sheer ability to solve a problem. In those moments, I confess that I slowly lose sight of my need for my Lord. I rise from bed in the morning, and I think, “Go, go, go! Patrice, you can do it. Just work hard. You can do it!” “It” being whatever needs to be accomplished that day or that week or that month.

Mid-January reminded me of a 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.

The complexity really began the end of 2010 when we decided to move to Charlotte. We needed to set up life for ourselves, and it felt as though we were in the middle of a maze discovering dead ends and roadblocks in every direction. In addition to the challenges, our exhaustion was immense as our baby girl’s all night sleep routine vanished once we stepped onto American soil; replaced instead by a confused little girl who was waking up three, four, and five times each night.

My motivational self-talks were failing me. My planning wasn’t working. I couldn’t figure out how to outsmart all the difficulties. Deep inside, I was wondering if we had made a bad choice leaving Cape Town and moving to Charlotte.

There’s nothing like a loss of control to bring me to my knees, asking God to please work, to please act, because nothing I’m doing is yielding any type of results. That’s where we were shortly after arriving. Tears fell from my eyes and my mind was overrun with stress and uncertainty. My husband and I were in heartfelt prayer, fully yielding our choices over to our Lord. We had been given a challenging reminder of our need to need God.

Almost instantly, God’s gracious gift of peace calmed our emotionally and physically fatigued souls. Our problems didn’t go away overnight, but we started looking more closely for evidence of our sovereign and always working God. We stopped creating perfect plans for our daily actions and started seeking God’s direction. We began believing with greater conviction that God wasn’t far from this situation. In fact, He was closer than we could ever imagine.

The Disciples Depend on Jesus

The account of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Mark 6 holds particular significance for me in light of a January I’m thankful is in the past. The words of the familiar story highlight tangible truths about the power of pursuing dependence on God.

Jesus told the disciples to feed the people. One might almost think that Jesus performed the miracle as a Plan B because the disciples couldn’t figure out how to provide food.

However, Jesus knew what He was about to do from the very beginning. He knew that He was going to miraculously multiply the fish and the bread. I imagine that He was looking to His disciples to turn to Him to solve the puzzling problem of feeding the people. Jesus wanted them to release control of the situation, to express their need for His intervention, and to watch God act.

The result?

A crowd of full people and twelve baskets of leftovers. Twelve baskets! Certainly this wasn’t a mistake. How could the God who knows the number of hairs on our head miscalculate the amount of fish and bread needed by the crowd?

God didn’t miscalculate.

The crowd and the disciples were dependant on the miraculous provision of God. Ultimately, God met the needs of the people beyond anything they could have asked or imagined. The twelve leftover baskets pointed to God’s ability to abundantly provide.

God was glorified. People saw Him display His power in a way that would give all confidence to trust in the goodness of God.

What happened next was even more remarkable. A few chapters later, Christ did the same thing. Well, not quite the same. This time 4,000 satisfied tummies and seven baskets of leftovers. The disciples again expressed confusion about how they were going to feed the people. Jesus again miraculously multiplied fish and loaves.

Silly disciples!

Those were my initial thoughts, followed quickly by deep awareness of my own sinful heart. I saw the reality of my desire to grasp control and search for solutions to challenges myself. Silly me! How like the disciples I am time and time again. Watching the hand of God at work and then forgetting that same hand the next time I encounter major or minor challenges.

Christ calls us to be dependent on Him. For me, this dependency is often easiest when it seems clear that solutions will not be forthcoming outside of the miraculous intervention of Christ. However, dependency isn’t based on my ability or inability. Dependency is what Christ calls me to in the situations that seem out of my control. However, I think, more importantly in the situations that seem very much inside my control.

By the end of those stressful, chaotic January days, we had our new used car in our possession. My heart felt grateful looking at God’s answer to our need in the same sapphire shade as our previous vehicle. My mind wandered back to my husband’s dream: always drive a blue car. It made me think of Christ and His leftover baskets of bread and fish. Abundant provision. After all the stress and uncertainty, my heavenly Father saw fit to honor my husband’s simple dream of long ago. Not just a needed car, but a blue car too.

My choice to be dependant on God is my choice to yield my control to Him. This choice doesn’t necessarily magically produce perfect results or proverbial blue cars or abundant earthly provision.

What it does mean is that God is with me. Always. He hasn’t left, and He is at work all around me whether I can see it or not. Dependency on God is ultimately not because of twelve extra baskets, seven extra baskets, or even the provision of blue cars. Rather, depending on God is releasing control to a loving and gracious Savior who I know is acting for my good and His glory.

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Patrice Gopo lives in Charlotte, North Carolina, with her husband and her daughter. She enjoys glimpsing God’s divine hand in the everyday moments of life. She is passionate about writing, community, justice, and poverty alleviation. Each year that passes she is amazed to see how God connects these passions in ways she could never ask for or imagine.

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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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Blue Car Blessings

by Patrice Gopo time to read: 5 min
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