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When Dreams Must Surrender

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This was the year I was supposed to realize a dream. Completion of my undergraduate degree was just around the corner. My books had been bought—all $546 of them. A second car was purchased so that I could make the forty-five minute commute averaging thirty-five miles per gallon. Best of all, God had blessed my endeavor by sending me a check for the sum of $7,500, exactly what I’d taken out in student loans for my senior year.

The first day of classes, I drove the forty-five minute drive in what felt like fifteen. I sat in class and soaked in the syllabi. Each moment I was there, I counted it a privilege and couldn’t wait until two semesters from now when I was finished and holding a piece of paper in my hand.

I never guessed that I would hand my dream over one short week after the journey began.

My second day of classes I returned home to an excited husband. Nathan had received a phone call from a church he’d been interviewing with for the last six weeks. Each stage that passed, he would share with me his insecurities: "This offer is too good to be true," or "I totally botched that interview." Yet at every stage he continued to get a green light from the church leadership. Sure enough, that day there was a new offer my husband eagerly shared. Out of forty applicants, he was one of two to be invited to visit the church for a face-to-face meeting.

This incredible tug-of-war began inside my soul. I was excited for him and proud of how far he’d progressed through the applicant process. Not even five years ago, when we were newly married, my husband was previously divorced and I entered the marriage with a three year old. During that first year of trying to find a steady job, we were actually hung up on in the middle of an interview with a church out of Ohio. I remember the message that disconnected phone call had imparted to my husband: He wasn’t good enough. He was damaged. It was a message that he’s carried with him for several years. Now, here he was, being considered for an opportunity that was beyond his wildest dreams.

Sure, I could continue on with my $3,600 semester and risk not being able to transfer any credits should the 50/50 chance of being offered the job fall in our favor. I could stubbornly insist, It’s my turn to accomplish something great. It’s my turn to dictate a chapter in our lives together. I’m tired of following. I could continue down the path of harnessed rebellion and independence I experienced this summer, failing to control my team-spirit inside marriage.

The summer had been an unusually difficult one. Nathan was gone for almost seven weeks. I chased after three boys, balanced a little work here and there, started on a book, and listened to my mother-in-law tell me what type of birthday feast she was fixing for him as he celebrated with her 2,600 miles away, for the third time in our five-year marriage. In all honesty, I reverted back to bitterness and pride over the summer. I’d been a single mom before we married and sort of felt like I was doing it all over again. It was a struggle to keep myself under Nathan and God’s authority, in ascending order. The only joy I felt was on August 31st, knowing that September 1st was only two days away from September 3rd, the start of school and a new chapter of independence for me.

So here we were, September 10th, exactly one week and thirty-seven study hours after school began, and I was faced with the ultimate decision. Do I trust God enough to hand over my dream?

Even now, tears sting my eyes as I ask myself that question. Not because I doubt what He will do, but because I don’t know exactly when He will do it. How do I handle that unknown? How do I wait patiently for Him to give me back my dream and allow me to fulfill that longing inside my soul?

My pastor spoke on patience, but I think it goes further than that. I think that I’m about to learn an incredible lesson in self-control that looks something like this …

If I’ve truly turned my dream of education over to God, I can’t blame my husband for this surrender. This should be easier than what it is. But controlling my tongue and refraining from speaking harshly is a huge struggle for me. Each time we daydream about the job opportunity that might be in our future, my excitement is immediately chased by bitterness. The lie that tries to consume my thoughts says, Here you are again, giving up your dreams for his. I would like to control my beliefs of what is truth and say back to that voice, No, it’s our future and our ministry. It’s our marriage, and our life.

If my dream is God-inspired, letting go of my classes this fall isn’t going to hinder the realization of that dream. I never considered myself a worrier until now. Now, I think about it constantly. The same day I dropped all my classes I also found an online program through a prestigious university. They only accept twenty applicants a year. All I can think is, What if they don’t choose me? If my dream is God-inspired, He will choose the university from which I finish. I want to choose self-control and not worry about the very thing I chose to place in God’s hands.

If I am going to walk through this refining moment and emerge on the other side having learned the intended lessons, I better put on my walking shoes and decide to stick with it. The summer was a difficult one, in which there were moments I wasn’t sure I knew how to hold onto everything important. On the days I wanted to throw in the towel, I decided to just take life one step at a time, one success (feeding the boys a healthy lunch) and one failure (being angry to the point that I refused to talk with God) at a time. On my really weak moments, I just reminded myself that God is a God who can keep me from stumbling. That is His promise. I want enough self-control that I am able to place myself in His Word, even when my emotions are void and numbing.

There you have it—a life being lived with unrealized dreams. We all have them. We all live them. There are days that the dreams feel a lifetime away. Today is not one of those days. My dream is at the forefront of my mind. In fact, it’s ranked high enough in my thought hierarchy that it might be a borderline idol. Ouch. Yet with an extra measure of patience and self-control, I think I will be able to wait until I meet my textbooks again.

Marian Green resides with her husband and four children. She is an adoptive mom, a pastor’s wife, and (once again) a student. She is currently working on a non-fiction project for “bad girls” — helping women who have lived lives of promiscuity to redefine marital intimacy. In between it all she takes a deep breath and realizes, none of this was what she had planned in life … and she loves it. Marian blogs at Uprooted and Undone.

Marian Green resides with her husband and four children. She is an adoptive mom, a pastor's wife, and (once again) a student. She is currently working on a non-fiction project for "bad girls" -- helping women who have lived lives of promiscuity to redefine marital intimacy. In between it all she takes a deep breath and realizes, none of this was what she had planned in life ... and she loves it. Marian blogs at Uprooted and Undone.

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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When Dreams Must Surrender

by Marian Green time to read: 5 min
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