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The Briar Patch

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Hope.

When I awake in the morning and lay down at night, there is one hope that I can hang onto. It brings peace to all arguments, vision to my life’s dreams, and authenticity in my mistakes: He’s not finished in me.

The work He began has not been completed.

And my head falls onto my pillow in relief. You won’t always be this way, I tell myself. He won’t leave you like this. He’ll continue the work He began. It’s this hope that allows me to fall asleep.

He can’t leave me this way. And I know this because when Paul spoke of having a thorn in his flesh, the word thorn is singular and not plural and, let me just testify to you right now, that there are still a dozen or more thorns God needs to pluck from my body. I guess you could say I man-handled a briar patch before I knew Jesus.

So, this is my hope — this is my promise from Him: That He will make me more like His Son and less like myself.

But right now, I hurt all over and I keep handing God the tweezers pleading through squinted eyes and clenched fists, “Go ahead. Dig them all out right now. I can handle it. On the count of three …”

Yet I feel no pain, and the tweezers are still in my hand. I open my eyes and notice God rubbing the thorns out, with both hands, like a potter with clay, He is massaging the thorn in my foot — the one that plagues me the most and keeps me from following Him to the ends of the earth.

“God, don’t You know how long this is going to take?”

“Shh, child, I’m working here.”

“But I brought the tweezers. And alcohol swabs to keep infection out. And band-aids to stop the bleeding.”

“Or we can do it My way and you won’t need any of those.”

“But I have things to do for You. Places to go. And if you do it my way I’ll be on my way, livin’ to bring you glory starting in just a few minutes.”

“I have some extra glory saved up,” God smiles. “What’s your rush? Besides, while I have you here, there’s been some things I’ve been wanting to teach you.”

And, of course, He has my foot in His hand, so I’m all ears.

What is my rush? Why am I so eager for God to heal me now, when I have the opportunity to sit and be ministered to by His hands and Spirit? Because I have to be honest, most days I’d rather be doing for God more than I’d rather be with God. I have books to write, bible studies to research, women to share coffee with, and church to attend. I have kids to bring up in the ways of the Lord, I have a husband to partner with in ministry, and I have only seven short days a week to do this.

And I could move a whole lot faster if He’d just take the stupid tweezers and get the thorns out.

Part of me whispers, “But how would I feel about God if the pain were unbearable?”

Recently, we brought our daughter home from Ethiopia. The first two months home with her were a blur of doctors’ office waiting rooms, a flurry of immunizations, pharmacies, and anti-fungal creams. We had a nasty bout with parasites and were ready for vacation. It was going to be a thousand mile car ride to the island my husband grew up on — but aside from an act of God, nothing was going to keep us from this vacation. We needed it. I couldn’t imagine life without it.

The night before we were supposed to leave, I am cleaning my daughter after she used the toilet and I notice that something isn’t right. In fact, something is terribly wrong “down there.” Without adding too many disturbing details, she had an infection that her immune system wasn’t equipped to handle and an invasion of tiny bacteria had caused pustules and infection that swelled beneath the skin and desperately needed to be drained.

The doctor ordered salt baths and drainage of each pocket of infection until everything was healed. Here was the clincher — I had to drain the infection myself because our vacation was going to be in Canada and our insurance didn’t work up there. And, even if it did, we were going to be on an island — an island with my new daughter who was just starting to like me.

Every morning and every night I gave her a dose of “medicine.” She screamed and thrashed and cried while I pinned her sweet little legs down and begged her to forgive me when it was all over. The look in her eyes let me know that she wasn’t sure she could do it.

We had worked so hard on understanding each other and I was ruining it. It took over a month to rebuild the trust with her I lost during those three weeks. She wouldn’t even let me wash her in the bath or change her clothes without shutting down emotionally while we were hanging out together. It broke my heart. And I decided there had to have been a better way to heal her. I decided I would never do it that way again should the need arise.

My hope is in the truth that God’s way is better than my way. So I’ll put the tweezers back on the shelf and let God work. And while I’m here, I think I’ll listen while He works. Someone told me the best way to hear from God was to give Him a chance to speak.

So I will sit quietly while He massages the thorn out of my foot and listen, because if I know God, He has something He’s wanted to talk to me about anyway. And since He has my foot, I’m all ears.

Suddenly, it sinks in that He’s going to heal part of what’s been ailing me today. I get excited.

“So which one are you pulling out today, God? Is it the insecurity I feel about my writing? Or maybe it’s the one where I feel like I’m always trying to make everyone happy? Oh! Wait! Can you get this one up here? The one that looks like jealousy? It’s really starting to do some damage to my marriage and the thorn in my foot doesn’t hurt nearly as much as the thorn in my finger.”

“Shh, child. I’m working.”

I cross my arms and then quickly uncross them, slightly embarrassed at how childish I look.

“Fine. Next time, then. Can you get the one in my finger next time?”

“Of course, I can.”

I sigh. God reminds me a bit of one of my old English teachers. “Will you?”

“I was hoping we could talk a little about this one right here in your foot today, because once it’s out, I’m going to have some new expectations of you. There have been some opportunities you’ve turned down in the past and I’m hoping that with your foot healed, you might consider the journey.”

I can hardly believe that God has something for me to do and somewhere for me to go. I swell with excitement — and since He has my foot, I’m all ears.

Isaiah 55:13 talks about the power of God’s word and its ability to landscape some harsh terrain.

Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the LORD’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
which will not be destroyed.”

God’s not finished with me, yet. That’s my Hope. Because it was all finished with Jesus, I can wake up every morning and know that if I meet with Him, He has a work to do in me, but I need to hoist myself up out of bed, and position myself before Him and get in His word.

From the mouth of God comes power and change. His word has the ability to create and destroy. I want to be under the reconstructing power of His word.

He’s not finished with me yet. As my head hits the pillow every night, the day’s events and conversations replay themselves in my head and I cringe. I murmur a prayer of thanks, because in a few short hours I will wake up and meet with Him and He can continue the work.

He’s not finished with me yet.

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Marian Green resides with her husband and four children. She is an adoptive mom, a pastor's wife, and (once again) a student. She is currently working on a non-fiction project for "bad girls" -- helping women who have lived lives of promiscuity to redefine marital intimacy. In between it all she takes a deep breath and realizes, none of this was what she had planned in life ... and she loves it. Marian blogs at Uprooted and Undone.

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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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The Briar Patch

by Marian Green time to read: 6 min
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