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Be Courageous, Mommy

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My six-year-old, Ava, and I walked hand-in-hand back to our house. It was after sunset, and we were returning home from a dinner with friends.

What should have been a leisurely stroll, wasn’t.

My heart raced. Small noises beckoned for my attention. Did Ava notice me nervously looking over my shoulder? Did she realize that our pace was faster than normal?

Since my battle with panic attacks had started almost two years earlier following a miscarriage, I’d developed an intense fear of being outside at night without my husband, Ted. At times it was debilitating. I turned down girls’ night out invitations. I refused to go shopping after the sun set. I even hesitated to open the front door in the evening.

Step by literal step, I fought the fear.

“I’m scared of being outside when it’s dark,” I confided to Ava.

While many kids may have latched on to my expressed fear, she didn’t. Instead, she simply said, “Be courageous, Mommy. That’s what we learned at school.”

Courageous. Having, according to my dictionary, “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”

It’s what Joshua showed as he fought the Lord’s enemies in the Promised Land. It’s what Esther demonstrated when she approached the king. It’s what Mary displayed when she accepted the role of Jesus’ mother. Yet courage isn’t restricted to the extraordinary. It isn’t limited to big acts. It’s an attitude I can practice during the mundane.

It was with my daughter’s timely words of encouragement still fresh in my thoughts that I sat down to watch Sherwood Picture’s fourth film, Courageous.

Written by brothers and fellow pastors Alex and Stephen Kendrick, Courageous hit theaters in September 2011. It opened at No. 4 and remained in the box office top 10 for four weeks. Now available on DVD and Blu-ray, the exclusive collector’s edition features over two hours of special features.

While I have yet to see Sherwood’s first film, Flywheel, I enjoyed both Facing the Giants and Fireproof. Truth be told, I still choke up every time I watch Facing the Giants. Every time. Truth be told, Ted does too.

As a former film student, I was interested to see in Courageous how Sherwood has continued to grow in their movie-making skills since their previous picture. And within the first five minutes, it was obvious to me that the production value surpassed that of its predecessors. Handhelds were used. Jump cuts employed. And, they definitely seemed to be shooting on higher quality film.

Turns out, as I learned in the bonus feature, “The Making of Courageous,” the movie wasn’t shot on film at all. Instead, the filmmakers used three RED cameras — a cutting edge digital alternative to film. It’s a technology we didn’t use when I attended film school almost a decade ago, and I was impressed by the cinematic quality it brought to Courageous.

Yet the technical isn’t what the film’s creators hope impacts viewers the most. It’s the story.

Courageous is all about the challenges of contemporary fatherhood. It chronicles the lives of five disparate men and their families. Viewers watch as police officers Adam Mitchell, Nathan Hayes, Shane Fuller, and David Thomas, along with their friend Javier Martinez, navigate their roles as husbands and fathers. These men learn that fatherhood is much more demanding — and valuable — than anything they encounter in their professional lives. The film explores this theme with a tasteful balance of sobriety and levity, something I’ve come to expect from Sherwood Pictures. I laughed out loud more than once.

While the film is marketed as a call for fathers to take their God-given role seriously, its message that “honor begins at home” is applicable to us all. It takes courage to live the way God calls us to, regardless of our role and responsibilities.

As I watched the characters interact, I found myself growing introspective. What do I resolve to do on a daily basis? Do I resolve to just make it through the day, to just do good enough?

Yes, too often I do. There are days when I watch the clock, anxious for naptime, rather than engage my children as I should. There are moments when Facebook captivates me more than Ted. And there are instances when I choose Netflix over my Bible. When one of the fathers in the movie chooses to watch TV from the couch rather than go on a run with his son, I felt the pang of conviction, knowing I too have put off my kids too many times, and that I could do better.

And that’s what I walked away from this movie with — a resolution to do better. A desire to have the strength to persevere — not merely endure — on those days when kids fight, food burns, and the laundry basket is hidden beneath a pile of dirty clothes. To be, as my six-year-old challenged me, courageous — even when it’s dark outside.

Maybe it is time for me to become a woman of courage. I can start by putting away the fear and letting my friends know that I can make girls’ night this weekend.

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Ashleigh Slater is the author of Team Us: Marriage Together and the editor of Ungrind. As a regular contributor at several blogs and websites, she loves to unite the power of a good story with biblical truth and practical application to encourage others. She has 20 years of writing experience and a master’s degree in communication. Ashleigh lives in Atlanta with her husband Ted and four daughters. You can follow her on Instagram here.

18 Comments
  • “Courage” was my word for the past few months! It means (to me) having the strength to focus on God, on the Good, and the resolve to live accordingly. It means having a spirit of power, love, and reasonableness rather than a spirit of fear.

    • Elizabeth, you comment made me think of 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” This is definitely a verse of which I remind myself!

  • Jodie

    M and I watched the film for the first time last weekend. Yes, Sherwood Films’ skills and equipment are markedly improved!

    I about couldn’t handle the tragedy. But I took home how we need to be more intentional and interactive in our children’s lives. It’s so easy to quip, “I’m busy right now,” or “Go play with your sisters,” than taking the time and small effort to play, to dance, to make a fool of oneself for the sake of a child’s laughter — a laughter that can be taken away in an instant.

    I also was convicted of the way I talk to my children. It’s often easier for me to be short with my girls and be too quick to say, “No.” it’s a lot more work, especially with my two girls coming from hard places, to be there, make them look me in the eyes, and CALMLY make them correct the offending behavior.

    Yes, this movie targeted men — encouraging fathers to stand up and be the leaders God intended. But it’s also a call for us all to have the courage to do the right thing.

    • Jodie, one of the most heartbreaking moments for me to watch was the dancing scene following the tragedy. Wow.

      • Jodie

        Seriously. And that really struck me. I wanted to scream at him when he was sitting in the truck watching his daughter to get out and dance with her. But that’s what really convicted me. How many times have I done that sort of thing?

  • I’m not a crier during movies, but I regret not bringing tissues with me for this one. I watched it while visiting my boyfriend, with his mom and a close family friend. It was such a strange dynamic to walk out and see what the movie meant for each one of us – a windowed mother, a son who grew up without a father, a woman dealing with the pains of her past, and a girl who’s smack in the middle of dealing with the frustrations of having a passive father.

    The dancing scenes – both of them – had me in tears because I realized it’s something I’ll never get the chance to do with my dad, but wish I could. You learn, though. From the actions of your parents you learn what it is you need to offer your children. I really wish I could get my family to sit around and watch this movie together.

    I’m not a parent yet, but this movie definitely taught me a thing or two about living with purpose. Every action you [do or don’t] take and every word you [do or don’t] say has a greater impact than you expect on those around you, even if it’s something that has nothing to do with them at all. Like John Donne says, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main…”

    • Monica, I loved how you shared, “It was such a strange dynamic to walk out and see what the movie meant for each one of us.” To me, a good story does that — it impacts each of us with our different roles, responsibilities, and pasts. It’s funny too, my husband was just explaining to our kids last night what John Donne’s quote “No man is an island” means. :-)

  • Courageous means to take each day at a time…step by step moving into God’s purpose for me and further away from my fears. I get fearful when I focus on the big picture that I cannot attain today, but as I learn to take steps each day…I feel much more courageous an assured

  • Joanne Viola

    Someone just asked me if I had seen this movie yet, which I have not. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copty.

  • Joanne Viola

    OOPS – forgot to finish – Courageous to me means just moving forward. Sometimes that is all we can do. Even though I might be fearful of what lies ahead, I move forward knowing that God not only goes with me but He has gone before me.
    Again, thanks for the opportunity.

  • Terry Avila

    Courageous to me means facing your fears for the greater good. It doesn’t mean not being afraid of anything but being able to triumph those fears in the toughest of situations.

    • Congrats, Terry! You are our winner! Rafflecopter randomly selected your entry. I’ve sent you an email.

  • Erin

    I think being courageous means doing what you know you should even if you have to do it afraid.

  • Being courageous means not letting “those moments” pass. Taking the time to enjoy the time I get to spend with my husband. Living this season of life to the fullest. Jumping at the chance to partake in something that God is doing around me, without letting my “plans” get in the way. All courageous, in different ways.

  • beautiful post Ashleigh. I can be such a people pleaser at times, so for me to be courageous in daily life often means to be more concerned with what God thinks and to have the courage to stand for what is truth.

    Thank you for this post.

  • JJ

    Courage: putting one foot in front of the other, when you have no idea what lies ahead.

  • You are exactly right! Although a call for Courageous Fatherhood, I believe it’s really a call for courageous living: as men, women, husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, friends, family members. My husband and I are doing the 4-week Bible study series in our couples small group. Excited to see how God moves! Great post!! Just found your blog today via Time-Warp Wife!

  • Thanks for reviewing this. Our Friday night Pizza/movie nights have been exploding with new recruits every week–we might show this one Friday!

    Chana
    author of THE FALL (Rapha Chronicles, #1)
    http://www.chanakeefer.com

Articles

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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Articles

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.

As you read, we hope you consider us friends, the kind you feel comfortable sitting across the table with at the local coffee shop. You can read more about me HERE and our team of writers HERE.

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Be Courageous, Mommy

by Ashleigh Slater time to read: 3 min
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