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Waiting to Inhale

The Lord has brought me repeatedly back to the fact that He places great emphasis on the sense of smell.

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The streets of Jerusalem are electrifying in the middle of the day. I love the business, the honking of horns, the way everyone, even perfect strangers, interact like one, big family.

Something stirs in my core to hear the ancient, resurrected, biblical language, Hebrew spoken in everyday, non-religious, simply familial or industrial circumstances.

Eifo ha’sheirutim? (Where is the restroom)?

Kama ze ole? (How much does this cost)?

Lama at lo medaberet ivrit adain? (Why don’t you speak Hebrew yet)?

After 10 months of living here, I still get misty-eyed at the sight of tzit-tzit, tallit, and kipot on the religious men. Reminders of who they are and whose they are.

And I’ve become of the opinion that the Orthodox Jewish women wear the most elegant of women’s fashions. Their hair piled high and majestically, covered with feminine and funky colored fabrics, revealing such strength and dignity in their countenances.

I was never so aware of my five senses as I am living here in the City of the Great King. I get to see and touch and hear and taste the treasures of the Land sought after by historians, theologians, and artists for millennia. But there is one thing that brings my feet to a serene halt on the busiest of streets, causing me to close my eyes, inhale deeply, and hold my breath as long as my lungs can endure before I slowly exhale. The fragrances of Israel are conclusively unmatched anywhere else I’ve traveled to. The warm Jerusalem breeze causes the Middle Eastern spices to mix with the fragrances of the oils, fresh baked breads and pastries, and fresh produce and flowers promised by God to His People and His Land. Together they produce an exotic bouquet that delights me like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

Smells have always aroused so much emotion in me. When I was a little girl one of my favorite fragrances in the entire world was the smell of tar and asphalt on my father’s work uniform. I loved that smell because it meant my father was home, the family was together, and we could settle into our evening routine.

For years after my daughters were no longer babies I brought Johnson & Johnson’s lavender bath baby wash and baby lotion as gifts to baby showers. The fragrance reminded me of the smells of my freshly washed, smooth skinned, all pajama’d up babies fresh from their sink bathing. I was enraptured nuzzling my nose over their bellies and their wild, dark hair. I wanted to make sure every new mommy I knew had the same experience with her babies.

To this day I smile and remember the campground showers of my adolescence when I gently squeeze a bottle of shampoo releasing a puff of air infused with a floral, buttery, fruity scent. That fragrance takes me back a couple decades and then I’m lost in the memory of bare feet, the desert heat, dark, tanned skin, and the Colorado River on the California/Arizona border.

And every Friday morning, with arms full after rushing around my neighborhood on foot to gather all the groceries my family will need for the weekend before all stores close for the Shabbat, I stop at the top of my apartment complex’s stairs before making the four-flight descent and breath in the tantalizing aroma of the chicken soup being prepared by the Jewish wives and mothers before they settle in to their day of rest.

What is it about the sense of smell that is so overwhelmingly powerful? While one smell can swiftly whisk you away to another time and place, another can cause your whole face wrinkle up in repulse or even cause your insides to twist and turn almost violently.

Over the last 10 months the Lord has brought me repeatedly back to the fact that He places great emphasis on the sense of smell; both the pleasant and the offensive.

On sixteen different occasions in the book of Leviticus, an “aroma” is mentioned as something pleasing to the Lord, specifically in reference to the sacrifices commanded by God.

In Isaiah chapter 1, the prophet is given a vision from the Lord. In it, the Lord conveys His feelings regarding the rebellion of His Beloved Israel against Him. He then speaks to the people of Judah and Jerusalem telling them that because their hearts are wicked, their sacrifices are displeasing to Him.

“Listen to the LORD, you leaders of Israel! Listen to the law of our God, people of Israel. You act just like the rulers and people of Sodom and Gomorrah. ‘I am sick of your sacrifices,’ says the LORD. ‘Don’t bring me any more burnt offerings! I don’t want the fat from your rams or other animals. I don’t want to see the blood from your offerings of bulls and rams and goats. Why do you keep parading through my courts with your worthless sacrifices? The incense you bring me is a stench in my nostrils!'”

God commanded these sacrifices of His people, but because of the atrocities of their rebellion, He now said they were a “stench in His nostrils!”

The concept of “fragrance” becomes much more personal to us Gentiles when we read through the teachings of the Apostle Paul. 2 Corinthians 2:15 tells us that we are the “sweet fragrance of Christ.”

On the night of June 15th, three Israeli boys were kidnapped on their way home from school. This event rocked the entire nation as we all felt that they were “our boys.” Just minutes after the news broke of their abduction, our neighbor, *Esther, an elderly Jewish woman from South Africa knocked on our door and with tears in her eyes asked, “Do I even need to ask you to pray for our boys to come home?”

I said, “Esther, we’ve been praying and we have Christian friends all over the world who are praying. Why don’t you and I pray together right now?” I took her precious hands and said, “Esther, you and I pray differently. Is it okay if I pray my way?” She said yes and we prayed.

Three weeks later the bodies of our boys were found and my thoughts immediately went to Esther. I knocked on her door and she came out with tears streaming down her face. I was at a loss for words until she reached for my hands and said, “Will you just hold my hands and pray like you did last time?”

I left her door that night keenly aware that there is a God-fragrance being carried from my home to hers.

[*Editor’s Note: Esther’s name has been changed.]

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Rebecca Verbeten was born and raised in Southern California and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel with her husband and two daughters. She received Jesus as her Lord and Savior when she was four years old and at that time fell in love not only with Jesus, but also with his Bride, the Church. She is a graduate of Master's Commission USA and spent eight years as staff and director of Master's Commission Springfield. She is a licensed minister with IMF, the International Ministerial Fellowship. Along with homeschooling their two daughters, Rebecca and her husband, Patrick oversee Zealous8:2, a ministry connecting young adults in 7 different nations to God's heart for Israel and the Jewish people. She never feels more alive than when she is exploring the Land of Israel with her family. Learn more about Rebecca by visiting her blog, Memoirs of a Slave Girl or following her on Twitter @Rebeccaverbeten

4 Comments
  • SimplySaidMom

    I am a smell and sound girl myself. Remembering places and people and times by the aroma in the air or how a specific sound tickled my ear has always been a gift to me. Loved reading your tale of smells and sights in Israel Rebecca – I almost felt like I was there in spirit with you.

    • Rebecca Armenta Verbeten

      I am amazed by how intricately designed we are! Every one of our senses interacts with God and people on a daily basis.

      Let me know if you ever want to visit.I’ll be sure to introduce you to the best smells of Jerusalem.

  • Lila Verbeten

    What a beautiful article. It blesses me to read it. I look forward to the day that I can smell those smells and understand more deeply the scriptures I read!

    • Rebecca Armenta Verbeten

      We’re looking forward to it 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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Articles

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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Waiting to Inhale

by Rebecca Verbeten time to read: 4 min
4