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The Great Purging

A messy playroom becomes a metaphor for my messy life and crowded, mucky heart.

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About two or three times each year, I have a huge emotional come-apart when I see our kids’ playroom. There’s stomping, pouting, threats, crying, and anger. And that’s just me. I see my kids cower in wide-eyed fear of their mother on a mission.

I feel justified in making this scene because usually only months or weeks before I’ve had a similar come-apart where I get upset because my kids haven’t kept neatness and order among their toys. I spend the better part of an hour making passive-agressive threats that maybe we don’t need to buy anymore toys/we will make a donation to charity in my kids’ names in lieu of getting them Christmas gifts/ that none of us deserves anymore stuff.

I fume. They usually cry. I rattle off my frustrations that we just went through this whole rigmarole only months before.

“Remember when we just cleaned this room?”

“Remember how we just organized every LEGO, every Play Mobil figure, every American Girl doll accessory, every book, every piece of the money set, every Li’l Woodzeez, every accessory from the doll house? Remember kids? Remember? See all of these bins and baskets? Why is this room in a state of chaos? Don’t you care about your things? Why aren’t you taking care of them?”

Because I’m basically coming unglued at this point, my husband arrives on the scene wondering how the environment of our calm and loving home has quickly escalated to a scene where Mom likely needs a straight jacket.

This was just the backdrop of our weekend. I ordered my husband to bring his shop-vac upstairs to the playroom so I could remove about 17,736 pieces of cut up Hawaiian grass skirt that littered the floor. My sweet girls were upstairs crying and frantically trying to get up all of the picnic and camping Play Mobil pieces that were strewn about the floor. When the shop-vac comes out, they know, all bets are off. I don’t discriminate with the toys and bits in my warpath way. The same is true with empty trash bags. My children know there’s about to be a mass exodus via the trash bin and a sizable Goodwill donation.

As I began to justify my anger to my shop-vac wielding husband, I began making some pretty broad generalizations.

“They are too old to let their stuff get like this…”

“I’m so tired of making a plan and place for everything up here and then no one keeps it neat…”

“I think we need to rethink our birthday and Christmas purchases this year…”

“I’m sick of this mess. I’m ready to get rid of every single toy in this bonus room…”

My husband let me vent for a hot minute and then he said, “You know, no one likes you when you get like this.” He has been party to many an over-reaction during our marriage. He essentially told me to take-it-down-a-notch and to put into perspective my hysterical, aggrandized rant!

He then reminded me that I was the one giving my blessing to countless Amazon orders and spending-paloozas at Target and Learning Express where our kids’ earned “spend” portion of their allowance burns a hole right through their pockets.

The next few hours played out like usual. I began to cool off. My kids were obedient little helpers and cleaned out and cleaned up the playroom. We all apologized and made promises. I promised to take my emotions down a few decibels and the kids promised to be better stewards of their belongings. Our intentions were honest and sincere.

*****

On the surface I would tell you that I have these episodes of major overreaction because I am tired or overwhelmed. Maybe I feel out of control in other parts of my life, but darn it, I can keep order in our house. And that includes the play room.

On a much deeper, soul-level, I would tell you that fatigue and frustration aren’t at the center of my ugliness at all. It’s much further below the surface than meets the eye.

It took me a few days of consideration and some heart-felt apologies and talks with my family, but I realized that my afternoon of an epic, hysterical hissy fit was the by-product of a sinful heart. It was the manifestation of my sinful heart.

As a mother I often get a little too self-righteous parenting, and if I’m honest, bossing, my kids into submission. I think I can manage them into a disciplined life. I believe the lie that if I just set up enough bins and baskets, chore charts, to-do lists, and schedules that my kids will become happy, productive citizens as they grow up. I believe the lie that their behaviors, choices, and actions are a direct reflection of a false perfection that I, too, am somehow trying to attain.

A messy playroom becomes a metaphor for my messy life and crowded, mucky heart. And just as I like for my kids to contain their mess and keep up an appearance of order and cleanliness, I want my sin and struggles to appear well-organized, neat, and tidy.

My recent outburst gave me pause to contemplate Isaiah 64:6. The Message puts it aptly: “We’re all sin-infected, sin-contaminated. Our best efforts are grease stained rags. We dry up like autumn leaves — sin-dried, we’re blown off like the wind.”

I praise God that there is a solution for my sin. It doesn’t come by way of outbursts and frenzied purging sessions. My Remedy comes in the form of Jesus Christ who forgives me and makes me clean through His grace. In Him, I am a new creation.

1 John 1:8-10 reminds me: “If we claim that we’re free of sin, we’re only fooling ourselves. A claim like that is errant nonsense. On the other hand, if we admit our sins — make a clean breast of them — He won’t let us down; He’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing. If we claim that we’ve never sinned, we out-and-out contradict God — make a liar out of Him. A claim like that only shows off our ignorance of God.” (The Message)

The next time I feel tempted to unleash my inner-clean freak on my kids, I will be reminded that God doesn’t long for me to be perfect, for my house to be perfect, or for my kids to be perfect. We aren’t about keeping up appearances. I will be reminded that God longs to do a work, first, on my heart. He wants to make me clean from the inside out.

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Claire is a native Southerner and graduated with her M.A. in English from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she spent several years teaching in the freshman composition program. She and her husband Ryan, along with their three children now call home anywhere the Army sends them! Claire enjoys trying new recipes, reading on her screened porch, spending time with her family, and entertaining guests. She's been documenting life on her blog since 2008; these days she muses about the challenges of living out her faith as a military wife, the importance of goals and reflection, homeschooling her kids, and her love for reading at elizabethclairewood.com. She recently released her book, Mission Ready Marriage as a resource for other military wives who may need hope for navigating the often challenging lifestyle.

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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 Great Purging

by Claire Wood time to read: 4 min
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