stepping into grace

perfection-part-3

I’m doing a lot of confessing here and it’s time for another one:

I adore fall.

I love the beauty in the changing leaves, the crisp temperatures, and the October blue skies. I love watching the farmers gather the crops and the glow of the setting sun on the dried corn calls to me and awakens a yearning within. But there is another reason I love fall.

Summer brings with it anxiety and self-criticism. I tear myself down about the big and small flaws of a body that’s jiggly from bearing four children which only intense training would repair and said person lives fifteen miles away from any gym. That kind of self-criticism. I battle these thoughts all summer and by the end of the summer I’m weary of reminding myself to stand tall and confident and all I want to do is crawl into my cozy sweaters, jeans and ankle boots.

My perception is not necessarily my reality and I know that my value is not tied to my physical appearance or my productivity, but I still struggle with this truth and my heart tells me the struggle goes much further than just my outside appearance.

I’ve been writing about breaking perfect and I’ve dealt with perfection in my relationships, in my thought life, and now I must address the one area that affects all the others and that’s when perfect interferes with my relationship with God.

Often what we do on the outside indicates issues on the inside and this is true for me. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear more layers and long pants, but when I look at the deep in my heart I see what I’m really trying to do with all my covering up and accessorizing. I’m trying to cover up my imperfections, or at least my perceived imperfections, as if I can distract God with spiritual accessories. I might be able to fool you and myself, but I will never fool God.

Hebrews 4:13 lingers in my heart and reveals my futility in trying to hide. This verse states that nothing is hidden before God and that everything is exposed and laid bare. Everything. My impatience. My anger, selfishness, dissatisfaction, my doubts, and my fears. This verse releases me from the exhausting effort of hiding my weaknesses.

My weaknesses are not liabilities and something to be hid, but they are opportunities for me to come boldly to the throne of God to receive grace. Grace is not a pat on the head and the encouragement to keep trying to live right or even the freedom to live as I please, but it’s the empowerment that enables me to exchange impatience for patience. Anger for acceptance. Dissatisfaction for contentment.

I hide behind perfect because I’m ashamed of my failure at my inability to make these exchanges on my own. Hebrews 4:13-16 stops me in my tracks. It shows me how wrong I’ve been for trying to cover up my heart ugliness behind the facade of perfect, and I’m relieved by the exposure because the hiding gets exhausting, and rubs against my need for truth.

This is the truth: God sees all and knows all and will–he will give me grace when I need it. I don’t need to slink, sneak or sulk my way to his throne, but because of Jesus- the one who faced all the same temptations I do and yet did not sin–because of him, I can boldly, with confidence, come to the very throne of God and receive empowering grace.

Grace to face my imperfections and say: ‘thank-you’. Thank-you for my struggles. Thank-you for my fears. Thank-you. Without imperfections in my life, I wouldn’t need God and and I desperately need God.

He’s authentic in every way with me and desires authenticity from me as well. He sees me. He sees the things I would rather pretend do not exist and do not love about me. But he sees into the hidden recesses of my heart and loves me despite the ugly that’s found there.

I can strip myself down to all the ugly and he will receive me and empower me to choose his way of living. Impatience for patience. Anger for peace. Dissatisfaction for contentment. Doubt for belief.

I’ve been invited to boldly come to him and so have you. We don’t need to get prettied up, even though it’s fun to get our pretty on. Ours is the kind of relationship where we can come confidently in our beauty and in our ugly because grace trumps perfect. We don’t need to stay in the shadows, but can walk boldly up the red carpet to his throne, fall at his feet and receive empowering grace. We can exchange our version of perfect for his perfect love poured into us through his grace.

 

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it’s a break up that continues

perfect-part-2

I broke up with perfect, but sometimes we get back together. Ugh. Perfect makes itself known in my relationships and it has snared me in the fear of man that steals my authenticity and shapes me into a plastic version of myself.  I confessed I was afraid of you and now I must confess I’m afraid of myself.

I’m afraid of disappointing myself, and I fear failing my expectations. What if I have to buy new clothes because I can’t stick with an exercise program? What if I wrinkle my face into a permanent scowl because I’m perpetually disappointed in myself? What if I try, again, to organize my life into some resemblance of order and once again, fail? Why can’t I have endless energy? Why am I so jiggly? Why am I crabby in the morning and why do they expect me to be cheery? What if I give something my everything and it’s not good enough? What if I’m not good enough?

And there lies the root of my alliance with perfect. If I’m perfect then I’m good enough and the maddening what ifs stop taking over my mind. This is not a healthy place.

Enough.

I am enough. You are enough. But why do we struggle to receive this truth? Why do we wrestle with God over this?

It could be that I’ve confused my ‘fear of not being enough’ with being aware of my sinful nature and the journey toward holiness.  I’m wide awake to my failures and struggles: selfish ambition, fear, impatience, and judgement.  But those aren’t the things that make me ‘not enough’ and overcoming them isn’t what makes me ‘enough’ either.

So what makes us enough? It’s found in the depth of God’s love for us which is a deep, deep well we can draw from and find the sweetest of waters. He loved us while we were trapped in sin and we love him because he first loved us.

If this is truth then where does the alliance with perfect begin? Does it begin when we don’t believe ourselves worthy? Is the idea of a love freely given so far outside our comfort zone that we make ourselves work for it?

Our experiences with perfect are not going to be the same. We live in a society that tells us we can have it all. We reach higher and higher instead of resting in God’s expectations of us. His yoke is easy and his burden is light, but we burden ourselves when we add intentions outside of what he’s called us to do.

It seems easier to beat myself up for failing to follow through on that popular exercise program or that my calendar is still hopelessly disorganized or that I didn’t reach out to a hurting friend because I was self-absorbed with my problems. I failed again.

Perfect leaves no room for failure so I put even more pressure on myself to be everything to everyone, including myself. This is exhausting and impossible. It becomes a merry go round that takes me lower and deeper into the pit of perfect and further and further away from the truth of God’s expectations. 

Discovering God’s intentions has been the most freeing antidote to breaking up with perfect. My problem is that I think I need to add amendments to them creating an atmosphere of scales and balances.  I think to myself, ‘Oh, God says to be perfect? Well, I’d better not make any mistakes and not ever let anyone down,’ while disregarding the fact that God intends for me to be complete in him, which is not some twisted version of perfect that my mind thinks up.

God’s expectations for my life involve making him Lord of my life and doing what he wants me to do. The problem comes when I forget to listen and that’s usually when  perfect and I get back together.

Making him Lord means freedom from perfection because we don’t have to worry about fulfilling the unrealistic expectations we place on ourselves. It means we get to find out what he expects of us and release our fears of not being enough because he says, ‘Beloved you are enough. Rest in me, listen for my voice, and you will be complete.’

 

 

breaking up is hard to do… part 1

breaking up pt.1

Last week I gave you a list of things I’m afraid you might not like about me. I listed my hair, snorting when I laugh, sassiness and sarcasm, but the nitty gritty truth of it is this: I have spent far too much time wondering if you like me or if I’ve offended you.

Sometimes I forget to speak before I think and most of the time it works out okay but other times it doesn’t. I’ll catch a twitch in your eye at something I spoke and will wonder  if I offended you. Then I roll the conversation over and over in my head and before long I’ve broken out in a sweat and spent the majority of my time thinking about the incident, taking my anxiety out on my loved ones. Picture a snapping turtle and an unsuspecting hand. That’s me and my lovelies when I am wrapped up in fear.

So with effort I redirect my thoughts and for a time sail through the day, but the conversation start to auto-play in my mind, and I would be twisted up inside wondering, wondering, always wondering how I could have said it differently and if you still like me.

Sad, isn’t it? It’s true though. I’ve spent the majority of my adult life knowing that I put way too much stock into being perfect for you while knowing that God has the one opinion that matters.

There’s a lot of information on how to navigate relationships from psychologists, personality specialists, and other writers who have journeyed through the choppy waters of relationships. I’ve benefited from this wisdom, and I’ve also consulted close friends whom I trust enough to keep the nitty gritty details of my failures and insecurities close to their hearts while giving me sound advice.

However, man’s wisdom is incomplete.

God’s wisdom is best and so I turn to his word to find the truth about my battle with perfection in relationships. I found a glimpse of this truth in Proverbs 29:25 which says that the fear of man is a snare. This, my friends, is true.

Fear of man and perfectionism in friendships became one and the same to me because the push to be perfect was rooted in the fear of rejection. It was like a noose slowly suffocating the life out of me and when I mixed perfectionism with friendships I discovered that my truest self was hardly recognizable behind the facade of perfection.

The plastic version of myself was suffocating the authentic version of myself and the self-recrimination of living up to someone else’s standard was drowning out the voice of the Lord. I was beginning to break under the weight of living up to perfect so perfection and I had to break up.

But it’s hard, you know? I catch myself falling into the habits of replaying conversations and causing myself to come up short every. single. time. I begin fearing my interactions with friends, family and strangers and forgetting that there is no fear in love.

1 John tells me that there is no fear in love and perfect love drives out all fear. So the key to breaking up with perfection lies in fully understand God’s love for me. When I’m secure in his love, I’m secure in my relationships and no longer seek to be perfect for others. Blessed freedom!

The hard part is when I feel alone in this battle. I can’t visibly see God cheering me on from the sidelines even though I know he’s there. I can’t see you struggling with the same things because maybe you’ve become a plastic version of yourself too. What I do see is you and I visiting and me trying hard not to look for that twitch in your eye that might indicate  I stepped on your toes or not lived up to your expectations when in reality that twitch could just be a twitch.

Breaking up with perfection is becoming a habit and the merry-go-round ride is getting shorter and the length between the rides is getting longer. Eventually, when that perfection merry-go-round stops to invite passengers on, I might not join the ride because I will finally be so secure in God’s love for me that I will care more about how I love the other person rather than if I’m being perfect for the other person.

I’ve kicked perfection to the curb. And you? In what ways have you let perfectionism drive your relationships? Can we learn from each other to push forward through the hard part of breaking up with perfection so we can live free in the perfect love of God?

Let’s love one another well. Free from perfection. Free from fear. Free to love.

breaking up is hard to do

perfection slayer

I’m a little afraid of what you might think. I’m afraid you won’t like my hair or the way I dress or the fact that I sometimes snort when I laugh. What if you don’t like my words or the way I express myself? I’m afraid you won’t like the way I can sometimes be sassy and blunt and sarcastic.

Actually, I’m a lot afraid, or at least I was until God showed up and revealed that your opinions were more important to me than his. I’ve been trying to live up to perfect and I’ve found that perfection is a hard task master whom I can never ever please.

So. Perfection? I’m breaking up with you.

Perfection, you’ve used my fear of rejection to sway me into a relationship with you.  It’s impossible to please you, and my heart has been twisted until it has little resemblance to my truest self. I keep breaking up with you because ours is a toxic relationship, but we get back together because you woo me with flattery and deceive me into thinking that you are the reason I’m accepted.  You use my fear of rejection against me, but perfection? I have a message for you:

Being perfect cripples and shames because perfection is impossible to attain and shame’s cousin is fear, which pulls me in tight and won’t let me go.

So I raise the white flag of surrender, not to my fears, but to my God. I bring my fears and shame to him and lay it at His feet because fear and shame keep me from receiving and being perfected in His love.

His perfect love means He is the one I fear, He is the one I please, and He is the one who holds me close when my world falls apart. So perfection? You and I are breaking up for good because His love is the key to overcoming my fear, not a relationship with you.  Sincerely, me. 

Breaking up with a habit, attitude or train of thought requires diligence in order not to re-form an alliance with that thing that holds us back from moving forward in our relationship with God. The ‘thing’ that cripples and stunts our growth is going to be different for each of us. It could be: jealously, religion, an inaccurate view of God, negative thinking or a lack of thanksgiving, but what if we stopped the crazy cycle and embraced the crazy, unfathomable love God has for us as individuals where our fears are gone and our perfection has nothing to do with us, but everything to do with his love. What if we let his love drive out our fears and submit to being perfected in his love?

Being perfected in His love is coming to a fuller, richer, and greater understanding of his love for us.  Perfection is this: to live so securely in His love that the crap of life doesn’t change our security in his love.

I’ve broken up with perfection and in its place is a brokenness which only God can fill, but it’s through the brokenness that I come to a fuller realization of this amazing grace that flows down and in and around and through me so that I only breathe in His love and breathe out His grace onto my brokenness and onto yours.

We’re all a broken mess and it’s only through God’s grace that we can break up with the toxic behaviors in our lives and be filled with his spirit so that we can run in the freedom he sets before us. 

A freedom to live securely in his love.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NIV)

“I hold fast to your statutes, O Lord; do not let me be put to shame. I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:31-32 (NIV)

 

 

How to embrace the changing colors of our dreams

dreams

When I was a little girl I use to dream of family.

The kind of family where the mommy and daddy loved each other and the kids basked in the glow of that love.

The kind of family where it was a safe place to fail.

The kind of family where kids were encouraged to dream big and use their imagination.

The kind of family where performance didn’t mean acceptance.

The kind of family where perfection and rejection were not related.

Then I grew up.

I married at 20 and had my first baby at 23. Three more followed in the next 7 years. My dream had come true. I was living my dream.

What I didn’t know was how stinking hard it would be to steward the dream.

Continue reading here: The Colors of Our Dreams

broken benefits

Isaiah 40-31

James 1:2-4 ‘Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything.’

So often I want to be mature and complete in my walk with Christ without wanting the trials and perseverance, but these verses clearly lay out the path to maturity:

Trials.

Test Faith.

Perseverance.

Maturity

Completeness.

What if we were to look at every trial that comes along through the lens of this verse? Trials are stepping stones to maturity and completeness. Who doesn’t want maturity—wouldn’t it be wonderful if all believers were mature immediately after salvation? Wouldn’t it be amazing if the body of Christ—the church was complete and not lacking anything?

Society would be affected for the good. Jesus would be represented well. God would be known.

But these verses and others like them indicate that maybe, just maybe trials are for our benefit. Faith is tested, and as our faith is tested we get to practice a little muscle called perseverance.

I’m not so sure I like that word: perseverance. I mean it sounds super noble and all that, but it also sounds a little vague, like trying to catch a cloud. Honestly, when I am in the middle of ‘persevering’ it usually feels messy and lonely and a little bit desert-y. Just what is perseverance? Is it facing down our trials with grit and determination? It’s actually a steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or a delay in achieving something.

How do we reconcile trials as joy and being plucked from the net and mirey clay the Psalmist talks about? Could it be more of a heart condition rather than our physical condition?

I am a sunny optimist with a heavy dose of realism as well. I know that life can be rough. I know that people disappoint and I know that we make choices every day to further our relationship with Christ or not.

I think we have to get to a point where God is bigger than our life junk. We need to ask for the eyes of our hearts to be opened and  aware of the bigger picture and when we can’t see the bigger picture for the haze and fog, then we must trust God because we are confident he has our good in mind.

I certainly don’t go out and seek trials and stand with excited anticipation for the next opportunity to exercise perseverance and I don’t think you do either, but I think we can stand with bated breath waiting for our God to show up and blow us away with how he moves in us during our trials.

Trials can break us and it’s in our breaking that we can experience an overflow of amazing grace into our lives. You see, brokenness isn’t necessarily something we should shy away from because sometimes its in the brokenness that we find the best kind of grace.

The brokenness that Christ suffered brought us immeasurable grace and his subsequent triumph over death ensures that we will triumph, but we must submit. We must submit to his lordship in our heart and run in his ways and walk in his precepts even if they take us through fire.

He has your back. He stands waiting for you to run to him. He will be your strength. He will cause you to soar on the wind.

I pray that you will begin the journey of knowing God more and that he will reveal himself to you and he will open your eyes and your heart would be filled with the gift of faith, which he fans into a steady flame.

Welcome grace,

Jessica

what happens when the most powerful weapon is unleashed

lamp and light

The most powerful weapon in the world is at our fingertips. It has the power to destroy or to build up. It’s also the most volatile weapon because it is so uncontainable. What is this weapon?

To read more head over here to find my answer.

Thanks for reading and I would love to hear your story about this powerful weapon!!

Blessings,

Jessica