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The Heart Sweeper

I recently had an epiphany that the spiritual condition of my heart isn’t much different than my kitchen floor.

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If there’s one household chore I despise above all others, it would be sweeping and mopping the kitchen floor. I mean, is there any job more pointless for a mother of young children?

I can spend an entire day swishing my broom across every square inch of hardwood and then get on my hands and knees and scrub for an hour. But when lunchtime rolls around, my sweet babies will sit in their seats and munch on their grilled cheese sandwiches and their Spaghettios. And inevitably, bread crumbs and clumps of cheese and splotches of red sauce will land on the floor beneath them. In a matter of minutes, all my work will have gone to waste.

Or will it?

I suppose at least that corner behind the trash can won’t have a cobweb anymore. And the dried milk spot from last night’s supper will be gone. And maybe — if I’m lucky — those spots won’t reappear until tomorrow. So like a good mother, I’ll wipe up my kids’ mouths and hands, and then I’ll grab the broom again and sweep, sweep, sweep. Then I’ll grab a washcloth and scrub until the red spots are gone. And I’ll do this after every meal. Every day.

I recently had an epiphany that the spiritual condition of my heart isn’t much different than my kitchen floor.

It all started when I allowed my priorities to get out of whack. Like any mother, I was struggling to juggle all the responsibilities on my to-do list. As each day passed, I spent less and less time in God’s Word. I read my Bible, but it was a cursory five-minute exercise in the morning, and I didn’t remember what I’d read an hour later.

And my prayer life? Well, it consisted of a short “Thank You for this food” before meals and that was it.

I’d allowed every surface of my heart to collect months’ worth of cobwebs and dust and food scraps.

It’s no surprise that under those conditions, I didn’t feel close to God. And I certainly didn’t feel much love or joy in my relationships with my husband and children either. I became clogged with so much gunk that I was on life support.

Then one day, I got sick of it and decided to do something about it. I opened up some books that have redirected me in the past, and I lapped them up. As I read, a desire started growing in me — a desire to get rid of the dust in my heart. A desire to be clean again before the Lord and experience His peace and joy.

And so I dropped onto my knees and confessed my shortcomings to the Father. I begged Him to infuse my life again, to become the Lord of everything, to become my top priority. Filled with a renewed determination and hunger, I sought Him in His Word. I started a prayer journal and wrote in it every day. And the dust started to clear.

Sweep, sweep, sweep.

But one day wasn’t enough. Soon I discovered that each day had to start just like the last — with the same priority of meeting with God first. Because on those days when I didn’t sweep out my heart, when I let the busyness of life and the lures of sin and complacency clutter my heart, I was dropping the red splatters of Spaghettios on my heart’s floor. And those spots would remain there until I met with God again and wiped them away. Every day.

I recently heard a sermon about Elijah, recounting the time he’d faced off against the prophets of Baal. He challenged them to call on their god to set fire to an altar they’d built. But their god remained silent. Then Elijah set up his altar and went as far as dumping water all over it. And when he called on the name of the Lord, fire flashed down from heaven and burned up the altar and everything in it.

This was a spiritual high for Elijah. He was invincible after seeking God’s power and watching it at work. His heart had been swept clean until it sparkled.

But in the very next chapter (1 Kings 19), he learned of Queen Jezebel’s plan to kill him, and he fled for his life, wishing himself dead. Right after this huge spiritual accomplishment, he fell to the bottom.

There are many reasons why he could have dropped to this spiritual low, but if his life is anything like mine, he may have given into the trap of complacency. He may have thought, “I just swept out my heart last week when I burned up that altar. So I should be good for a while.” Or, “I’ll skip my prayer time today. I know God is with me; He just proved it back there with those prophets.”

How many times do I make those same excuses? How many times do I think, “I learned so much from the sermon on Sunday, I don’t need to read God’s Word this morning. I’ll just let the sermon simmer for a while.” Or, “God already forgave me for the time I gossiped last week. I don’t need to tell Him about how I gossiped again today at lunch.”

But in letting the daily priorities of Bible reading and prayer slip, I’m letting that dust accumulate all over again. And until I seek Him first, nothing will get swept.

The pastor who preached about Elijah also shared this comment: “We must never presume that yesterday’s sacrifice is twice enough for today’s blessings.”

As I thought about his words, I returned to the image of my kitchen floor. What if I spent two hours scrubbing it yesterday, waxing and polishing and buffing? Does that mean it will be clean today when the dust resettles and the crumbs fall and the cobwebs reappear? Can I just sit in my chair and pretend those crumbs will disappear since I swept them up yesterday?

If I took that approach, my floor would be a sticky and dusty mess by next week.

The truth I’ve learned is that keeping my heart clean comes down to priorities. The more I meet with God, the more He can take His broom and sweep out those dusty corners.

And as I allow Him to do this daily, He will wipe my heart’s surface until it is sparkling clean, putting me one step ahead when the next mess comes.

[This article first appeared here at Ungrind on December 29, 2011. We’re republishing it because … well, we just love it that much. We hope you enjoy it too.]

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Sarah Forgrave is a work-at-home mom whose writing has been published in a Pearl Girls™ anthology and Guideposts' A Cup of Christmas Cheer collection. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Sarah writes romantic novels that blend her love of health and fitness with her passion for God. When she’s not writing, she teaches group exercise classes and loves spending time with her family in their Midwest home. To learn more -- or to sign up for her health-inspired newsletter - -visit www.sarahforgrave.com.

1 Comment
  • Sarah

    Positive reflection on this issue. Whenever I’m feeling like domestic duties are getting me down, I like to re-read the works of Brother Lawrence, too.

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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The Heart Sweeper

by Sarah Forgrave time to read: 4 min
1