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Taking Flight

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Oswald Chambers often wrote of “abandon” in his collected writings, My Utmost for His Highest. Since I began reading his writing as a teenager, I have loved the concept, the unrestrained giving over of myself to God. There was something so freeing about it; I’ve always half-believed if I did that, I might really be able to fly.

I have had my ups and downs with the idea, however.

I’ve been an unqualified fence-sitter for years, debating pros and cons until I have enough of an argument to justify my actions in one direction or another. I don’t want to have regrets, but I live too much in the middle.

I sometimes “surrendered” to God, sometimes held myself back from Him. I was too afraid to give myself over completely to Him. On the one hand, there was “Jesus paid it all;” on the other, there was “what will others think of me?” I knew I wasn’t yet beautiful enough or spiritual enough to be “abandoned.”

I was unable to receive His grace, because I felt I had to earn His approval. Being “right” was more important to me than being free.

I abandoned hope that I might ever fly.

An Unlived Dream

My journey into photography has paralleled my journey into abandon. I’ve had photography in my life almost as long as I’ve had God in my life, and I started both without any real understanding of how much they would change me and my idea of what was right.

When I got my first camera at 12 years old, I knew I wanted to be a photographer when I grew up. I took myself so seriously, composing and recomposing with my little plastic 35mm point-and-shoot.

My first college crush was a photographer. He had a grown-up SLR (single-lens reflex) camera. I wanted him to notice me, so I started taking photos again with my oh-so-snazzy new point-and-shoot. He didn’t notice me (I was such a dork!), but I was hooked anyway.

I transferred to a new school the next year with an SLR of my own, purchased over the summer. I puttered around with the camera, took pictures of the sky and of my friends and of campus life. I became friends with the college photographer. He gave me Photoshop tips, and loaned me some of his equipment on occasion.

Meanwhile, I jumped from major to major in school, finally settling on Journalism, sneaking the camera into my goals. I would be a photojournalist, I thought. That would justify my desire to take pictures.

When I dropped out of school to work full time so I’d have insurance to cover my healthcare costs, I kept taking pictures, but my dream was on the shelf. And I had so many other things going on in my life that I figured I should never really do anything with photography.

Then my coworker asked me to shoot her wedding. Not knowing any better, I took the wedding with very little research or experience. I bought a digital SLR for the event, so I wouldn’t have to worry about running out of film.

No one came running for more weddings — I look back at those photos and I know why! — but word did get around, and I shot several weddings the next summer. Still, I was constantly questioning myself, alternately loving and hating my pictures, driving myself to a standard of perfection I never met with little time to breach the learning curve and substandard equipment.

When I had my daughter, I shelved the dream yet again, planning only to finish the processing on the weddings I had shot before quitting photography entirely. I was a mom now. I wouldn’t be right for me to be a photographer. I shoveled out the last of the processing during my pregnancy with my son, expecting that would settle things.

But I kept taking pictures, unable to resist the light and the beauty around me. Earlier this year, things took a turn. I was asked if I would mind having one of my photos featured on a website, and I was drawn into a network of people who loved the around-the-house pictures that I posted at my blog.

I started to think I wanted to take pictures of people again. I missed the white dresses, the flowers, the romance of the weddings.

I told myself that it was unrealistic at best; at worst, it would mean neglecting my children. But I couldn’t say no — photography brought me alive.

My husband and I rewrote my functional contract for a solid one, and I began to work on my branding and think about advertising. Even as I worked, however, the question remained in the back of my mind: Should I really do this? I held my heart back, not wanting to commit to it without any justification but my love for the thing. I wasn’t even that good.

I almost quit a thousand times, and almost committed entirely another thousand — the same way I had committed noncommittally to God — but I simply could not abandon myself to the thing that made me come alive. I could not be right enough to do it.

A Coming Alive

About the time this year I began to seriously consider going professional with my photography, God began working in my heart about His love for me. This year has been my “year of the Gospel,” a year spent learning a little more about how Jesus’ death at the cross is actually “good news” worth living for.

Paul writes in Philippians 2 about the glory Christ left behind to become a man, encouraging his readers to “let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus didn’t try to stay in control and grasp equality with the Father. He laid His whole life down for us, even though He knew how deep the death-wound would be.

This was the depth of His love for me, and I didn’t trust Him enough to let go of my own need to control.

Jesus said that no man can serve two masters. In a world where many do two or ten things at once for different jobs or bosses, that statement can get a little muddled. But I know it deep, trying to live with one foot planted firmly on the ground while wanting with all of my heart to step out in complete faith and live fully in Christ.

Practically, I’d rather keep myself safe than risk getting into trouble — or risk getting hurt or rejected. But deep down, I know my pragmatism is really pure cowardice.

There’s no room for God in middle-living. I spent all my time trying to be right, instead of enjoying the freedom He said Christ provides.

The only option open to me was to abandon myself to Him. It was time to stop waiting for logical reasons to justify my actions. I would believe that Jesus’ righteousness was enough to cover me. I would abandon myself to His love, and to learning to love like He loved.

I would not have peace until I left my measured approach to God behind. He didn’t need me to justify myself to Him. Jesus had already done that (Romans 5:8-9). It was time for me accept His life-giving love, time to accept the real grace that He offered me, grace that meant I could be the woman He created me to be.

I stopped trying to be right, and I deliberately abandoned my life under the covering of the One who died in my place.

I was no longer required to justify my actions. I stepped down from the fence and began to pursue my passion — for God, and at the same time, for photography.

Abandon doesn’t look at all as I had expected, but it feels every bit as much like flying as I knew it could.

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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.

1 Comment
  • Beautiful article, Kelly. I’ve been a huge fan of Oswald for many years and can definitely relate to you what you’re saying.

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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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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Taking Flight

by Kelly Sauer time to read: 5 min
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