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The New Normal

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Prior to my daughter’s birth, I read that after a baby’s arrival, parents often wait for the chaos to calm and life to return to normal. The problem is that life never returns to normal. Rather, a new normal is created.

My little family of three is on the brink of major upheaval. We are about to embark on an intercontinental move in which I return to my country and my husband says goodbye to his.

Where we are going in the United States is uncertain. When, however, is very clear. By the end of this month, it is goodbye Cape Town, South Africa, and hello Anytown, USA.

The thought of starting over excites me. However, the truth is that as much as my heart longs for home, moving petrifies me on those deep, introspective days (which seem to be happening with increasing regularity).

I think I’ve finally learned to accept what’s become my new normal in Cape Town and now it’s time to say goodbye. Time to say goodbye knowing that when the chaos settles, life will be nothing like it was before. In our new city, we will have to build a new life around a new normal.

Over the last decade, I have lived in 10 different cities which has included a couple different countries. These moves have all brought different degrees of excitement, fear, sadness, joy, and change. Every move has transformed what normal was for me and created something new.

The abundance of moves brings with it courage to face this upcoming one, even though I think the goodbyes I will have to say here may be the hardest yet. During my homesick beginnings, I could not have imagined the depth of friendships that God would grant me in Cape Town. I would not have guessed I would come to love my life here.

Settling into a new normal hasn’t always been so profound for me. As I’ve analyzed my past, I can see lessons learned and mistakes made.

Christ

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” (Proverbs 31:25)

I imagine that it’s easy to laugh at the days to come if you know the future is bright and absent of hardships. Usually that isn’t reality, though, and this short verse reminds me that I can laugh at the days to come even in the midst of the unknown.

How can that be?

A sermon on Proverbs 31 suggests the Proverbs 31 woman was able to laugh at the days to come because her hope was firmly grounded in the Lord. That small revelation has had a huge impact on how I look at transitions and the future. Being firmly grounded in the Lord gives me the courage to laugh at what is ahead because I know that Christ is in control.

The journey to a new life will certainly have challenges. However, by being rooted in Christ, I can desire to do more than trust my Savior. I can strive to laugh at the days to come.

Cry

Maybe my tears are shed over the goodbyes that are still fresh on the heart. Or perhaps they come because of the waves of loneliness that are now a reality. Or maybe they will be my emotional response to all the newness. Whatever the reason, I believe that it is OK to allow my heart to grieve what is gone and admit the stress of what is here or is to come.

When I first moved to Cape Town, I don’t think I realized it was OK to grieve my loss of home, place, and community. It seemed wrong to admit that I was struggling to settle despite being married to the man of my dreams. Even though I cried nearly every day in those early months, I felt ashamed that I couldn’t pull it together.

Looking back two years later, I can see that the loss was great, the newness was hard, the sadness was real, and the tears were perfectly acceptable.

Maybe the tears will never come, maybe they will last for a night, or maybe they will carry on for a season. As long as the emotion isn’t crippling, I will accept my tears and not run from them.

Church

Eight years ago when I moved to Rochester, New York, I knew finding a church was of paramount importance. I visited over half a dozen churches before I settled on one primarily because of the warm welcome I received from a couple that attended it.

For the next two years, I tried to figure how to integrate myself into the lives of others, rather than just be a face that showed up on Sundays or for special events. For me, helpful steps included joining a ministry and becoming part of a small group.

Truthfully, however, I could have done more to deepen relationships with others. I spent a long time trying to figure out how to break into already existing friendship circles. I waited for people to invite and include me, but I could have taken risks and invited others to activities I organized.

With this move, I will strive to not expect the responsibility to be on existing members to reach out to me. I also can take a risk, extend an invitation, and let God use me to care for someone else.

Community

The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that Christ builds community. He is the one who brings people into my life and across my path.

When I came to Cape Town, I had preconceived ideas of the types of people I wanted to be my friends. I imagined other newly married couples or people who shared commonalities with my life experiences.

The amazing thing was that when I started to look at who was around me, many of these people were nothing like I thought my friends might be. The diversity of age and experiences were profound. Yet God used these people to care for my family and me. Ultimately, I was reminded that God cares about loneliness and friendship formation.

Now, as we prepare to leave, I am humbled to think of the various people who have become of great importance just because we were open to the people that God brought along.

Choice

My daughter and I begin every morning with a walk through our neighborhood. Along our path, we pass a beautiful bed of roses. Upon closer inspection, I’ve realized that some of the bushes are yielding beautiful blooms while others yield nothing.

This is a powerful reminder to me that it’s my choice whether to bloom or not. God will plant me where He chooses, but it is my responsibility to decide if I want to thrive.

Christ prunes me through the circumstances of life in order to bear fruit that will last. As the Master, He creates the right environment, but I have a choice about whether to use my situation to glorify God or as an excuse to pursue bitterness.

As my new beginning draws closer, I take courage in knowing that Christ, who sees me through the tears, will build a new community for us. In the end, it will be my choice to let my Savior work in my life and the life of my family. My prayer is that my choices will be honoring to God.

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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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The New Normal

by Patrice Gopo time to read: 5 min
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