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Mirror Image

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About a year ago I took up a self-portrait project in the mirror in an attempt to get a photo for my blog. I didn’t want a posed picture with a tight-lipped portrait smile. I wanted to capture some reality to offer my readers a glimpse of who I am.

My self-portrait session began dismally. I’m a photographer and not a naturally photogenic person. I can see the beauty in others and I love capturing it, but I don’t usually bother looking for beauty in myself.

But it was me behind the camera looking at me in front of the camera. And I didn’t like what I saw through my lens. I couldn’t manage a real smile to save my life. I had no trouble capturing my frustration with myself. The angry looks. The annoyance with my subject. The stuck-out tongue.

I had to laugh, though, when I realized that I was making faces at myself in the mirror. I aimed a chagrined look skyward, remembering that I wasn’t really alone in the room. As I was suddenly reminded of God’s affection for a silly girl, I discovered life in my reflection. I saw someone who was loved, and I could see the beauty He’d placed there. The mirror image revealed some of His work in me.

I have an interesting history with mirrors.

When I was eight years old, I picked up a mirror, slathered on the lipstick, and soundly kissed my own reflection. I didn’t decide if I’d be good at kissing or not, but I was rewarded with a very nicely-shaped lip mark and an embarrassing moment for the record books.

At 17, I was an oldest sister in a long-desired room of my own. The glow from the candles lit in my room danced in the dresser mirror, lighting my face and revealing eyes of a young woman I didn’t know I had become.

At 21, a mirror reflected a sparkle back to me as I realized my first love, a sparkle that was soon replaced with the pain of thwarted desire. Over the next few years, the mirror assisted in its masking.

My wedding day reflection disclosed wedding-stress weight loss, nervousness, hope for the future, and my desire to leave the past behind. And there was one very large, non-disguisable zit in the center of my forehead.

The mirror was both friend and enemy during my pregnancy, revealing the changes in my body, reminding me of the baby still growing inside me. I watched my transition from girl to woman in the journey that is every woman’s rite of passage.

It is no secret that we live in a culture dominated by image. Image both defines and disguises who we are. Do we wear the right clothes? Do we say the right things? Do we have the right friends?

Even as a believer, I have struggled not to buy into this image philosophy. I constantly weigh myself, examining and refining my image to cover my insecurity, lack of faith, and failures. Too often, I define myself by what I can see and attempt to remove my own imperfections by covering up my blemishes and pretending that what I see is who I really am.

But the image I see in the mirror is only a part of who I am.

Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 13 that “now we see through a glass, darkly, but then, [at Christ’s coming], face to face.” John tells us we don’t yet know what we will be, but then, we will see God as He is, and we will be like Him (1 John 3:2-3).

Too often, I focus on the image itself instead of on the One who created it. In my frustration with my reflection for its flaws, I forget that who I am is a reflection of Him.

Created in the image of God, Adam and Eve had no need of a mirror to reveal or perfect who they were. In their innocence, they were unafraid to be naked before Him. Generations after this vulnerability was shattered by sin, I still try, like them, to cover my shame.

Yet there is nothing I can do in front of any mirror that will earn or exclude me from the love of God in Jesus. I am already perfect and complete in Him. My blemishes have been removed at the Cross. When I walk in faith believing this, I am free.

I find that my ideal image of me is a poor reflection of Him. Believing that God is changing me into His image, I have set my bid for attainment aside, and I have gained a glimpse of Him and what I will be when I see Him face to face. The question I ask when I look in the mirror is no longer “what have I done to fix my image?” but “what is God doing in me that reflects His image?”

Lately, the woman in my mirror has been seeing a lot of herself that she doesn’t like. She wasn’t a contented single. She’s not the greatest wife. She’s not a stellar mom. She is solidly entrenched in the “foolish and weak” category. Strangely, though, she has found herself content. Peaceful. Joyful, even.

As my faith grows and my inadequacy is revealed, I am learning that the work of faith itself is believing that God is changing me when I can’t change or control my image to perfect myself.

When I look at my reflection through the lens of faith, I see that I am no longer shame and imperfection. I no longer have to hide myself behind an image. I am free to know and be known, to love and be loved.

When I look in the mirror, I can no longer define myself by what I see or what I’ve attained. Neither of those will affect what the mirror reveals: a woman being changed from the inside out by a God who sees her more clearly than she will ever see herself.

My reflection discloses an ongoing transformation that goes from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18). This glory that God is revealing in me as I am changed into His image is something that I can barely glimpse now. It is not mine to restore, improve, or manufacture. It is His to reveal as He finds occasion.

Reflected in a mirror held by a loving Father (who doesn’t mind this silly girl) I see a more real me. I see failures, imperfections, blemishes, and flaws. But I also see a woman standing in Jesus, no longer afraid that she won’t measure up.

In the lens of His love there is no condemnation. The very real smile that gets captured in this mirror is overflowing joy.

Kelly Sauer is a writer, wedding photographer, restless heart, wife, and mama to two. She makes fine art out of real life, revealing beauty where it wasn’t. She shares her art and her real life at www.kellysauer.com. You can find her on Twitter as @kellysauer.

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Kelly Sauer is a writer, wedding photographer, restless heart, wife, and mama to two. She makes fine art out of real life, revealing beauty where it wasn't. She shares her art and her real life at www.kellysauer.com. You can find her on Twitter as @kellysauer.

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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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Mirror Image

by Kelly Sauer time to read: 5 min
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