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Surviving the Storms of Life

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Living in Florida isn’t always sunny skies. My family and I have experienced three hurricanes in the Sunshine State, two of which happened within a three-week period.

The first was 15 years ago. There was no warning for the uncharacteristic out-of-season hurricane that hit the West Coast of Florida. Termed by some as The No Name Storm of the Century, it took our family of six by surprise. During it, we experienced hours of 14-16 foot waves as they beat their way into our home, ripping off hurricane shutters, blowing out windows, and sweeping prized possessions into the sea. Evacuation arrived 12 hours later.

Homeless for a few days, we stayed with friends until we found an 800-square-foot, two bedroom, one bath apartment to live in temporarily, which ended up being for the next nine months. I remember feeling numb as we searched for familiar items through eclectic storm thrown piles of debris. Baby photos of our four daughters were scattered, buried, and embedded in the ground by the force of the winds and waves, articles of clothing were found blocks away, tightly wrapped around palm trees.

However, we survived, gradually coming out of the no feeling zone to work through the fear, uncertainty, and sense of loss from the storm. We understood from the beginning that God had allowed us to go through the storm and had been with us through it all. Looking back, we began to see how God had worked all things together for our good.

Fifteen years later, the whole experience seemed more like a battle scar and an inspiring story to share. We felt we had recovered well from the trauma and had gained a new comprehension of the temporality of possessions. Time had convinced us that we’d received much more by God allowing us to go through it, in terms of spiritual growth and blessings, than we’d lost in monetary value.

That was until August and September 2004, when Florida faced four hurricanes in a row: Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne. From the time of the first hurricane, the Lord had moved us from Florida, to California, to Hawaii, and back again to Florida, only to be placed right in storms’ way. For these two months, we not only lived under constant threat of an approaching hurricane, but also the realization of being caught in one again. Two were headed directly towards our West Palm Beach area. I believed for certain God had put us in this location, but why in the pathway of multiple destructive storms?

Thinking I was a seasoned storm veteran, I was unprepared for the panic that tried to overtake me as Hurricane Frances headed straight for us. Feelings from the first storm, ones I thought had died with it, resurged. Finding myself overwhelmed by the prospect of dealing with this type of situation again, I started to examine what was at the root. Was I afraid of the unknown? Losing everything again? Did I really trust God?

As it got closer, fearful thoughts kept assailing me. Knowing in Scripture that Jesus tells us to "fear not," being fearful, definitely was out of God’s will for me. And I was convinced that when a hurricane is directly approaching, the safest place to be sheltered is in God’s perfect will.

Isaiah 26:3 states that, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You." Fear, I saw, was lack of trust in God, so every time a fearful thought tried to stay in my mind, I would meditate on this verse.

Along with the approaching threat was the knowledge that my husband, Phil, had to be at the Hospice where he was the Senior Pastoral Counselor. My three daughters and I would have to go through the storm without him. I didn’t feel confident about this, but my girls were apprehensive about staying in a place known for dying. On the other hand, Phil and I had been through so many things together, I didn’t want to be apart.

Trying to be sensitive to my daughters’ feelings, the girls and I attempted to stay at home, until the first initial wind. Timed at around 70 mph, it hit and uprooted one of our trees, leaning it onto our house. With just a few hours before the main impact of the storm was projected to hit, I called Phil to come and pick us up. We drove past exploding utility polls and through blowing debris to our destination.

The wrestling between fear and peace continued until the eye of the storm was precisely over our location. As I lay on the floor of Phil’s office in a sleeping bag, hedged in tightly between family members, I felt God’s peace come over me. It was around 3 a.m. and it was as if God laid His hand upon me and the fear left. It was reassuring confirmation of the peace of God and His presence in the very center of the storm.

Even after the storm had ended and we approached our neighborhood to see dozens of trees torn apart, fear had been replaced by assurance that God was in control.

Returning home, we found that the trees and the screened enclosure had taken a direct hit, yet our house was untouched. I began to realize that the outcome of a storm doesn’t determine whether God is present during it or not. Scripture says that, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…. Though its [earth’s] waters roar and be troubled." (Psalm 46:1-3). God was our refuge and present help both times. Even though we suffered much loss 15 years ago, He was with us. And now with the house

intact, He had been with us, too.

A few days later, as I was looking up a Scripture pointed out by a friend, the verse following it caught my attention. It says, "You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me" (Psalm 139:5). It seemed to describe exactly what I had experienced as the eye of the hurricane passed over us.

A couple weeks later when Jeanne hit us directly, fear was absent. This time, Phil was able to stay with us at home. And although 120+ miles winds howling through the night sounded like they were ripping everything apart, we were surprised to see afterwards that there was no damage to either the yard or to the house. There wasn’t one tree branch down or one shingle missing. It seemed unbelievable! Of course after the storm, there was loss of electricity, curfews, lack of supplies, and missing traffic lights, but God had brought us through the storm once again.

It’s a mystery to me why my family and I have gone through three hurricanes. It seems like maybe one would be sufficient? However, Psalm 20:4 states, "May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, and fulfill all your purpose." I know my heart’s desire is to know Him more intimately. I guess part of it must be taking place in the midst of multiple hurricanes.

I’m also discovering that it isn’t a matter of how many storms I experience in life, but rather, that God is present to help me survive through each one. Three different hurricanes experiences, yet one sustaining and faithful God through each storm.

Lynette Kittle is married with four daughters and serves as associate editor of Ungrind. Her writing has been published in numerous publications including Focus on the Family Magazine, Decision, Today’s Christian Woman, KirkCameron.com, Start Marriage Right, Growthrac, and more! She has a M.A. in Communication from Regent University with experience in broadcast media and also serves as associate producer for Soul Check TV.

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.

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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Surviving the Storms of Life

by Lynette Kittle time to read: 5 min
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