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.

the importance of numbering our days

number days

If we’re not careful our days and years can vanish like dandelion fuzz, and we wonder what we have to show for it. We experience seasons of flourishing and seasons of dormancy and each gives us the same opportunity: to grow in wisdom.

I have learned that I need to be willing to be reflective in the varying seasons and filter every lesson through the lens of God’s word in order to grow in wisdom.  A season I have been in for quite a while is home educating our four children. I’m in the double digits now and I definitely know I haven’t got it all figured out, but there have been some lessons I’ve learned along the way that have served me well and made me a better wife, mom, and teacher.

This article is my top five tips for the homeschooling mama, but really? I think they’re applicable to almost any areas in life. I hope you will be blessed by it and see how these five tips can apply to your life as you experience your varied seasons of life.

Blessings,

Jessica

 

the beauty in fog

fog

I have witnessed some of the most beautiful landscapes when they’re shrouded in fog. It’s beautiful to watch the fog roll in as it gently blankets the rolling fields or to wake to a winter fog and see every tree branch coated in glitter, sparkling as it reflects the sun.

This summer has been filled with many good things. I have seen family I don’t normally see. I went to a worship conference where I was taught and renewed. My kids are getting more involved in activities so I have become a keeper of the calendar. My summer is a blessing, but it brought with it a busier pace than most summers. I love it, but with the busy-ness came a brain fog.

A brain fog is a state of mind involving the inability to see or think clearly, which interferes with this thing called life. I am not a stranger to brain fogs, as I have experienced them off and on throughout my life, but I don’t like them. They make me grumpy. They interfere with forward progress and I feel trapped because I cannot see.

This God-life is a pilgrimage, meaning it’s not a one and done type of relationship. I am constantly growing and changing as my mind is renewed and transformed, and I have to set my heart on the pilgrimage and be willing to take the journey as it comes.  The path is always narrow and sometimes it’s easy and other times it takes me down a twist that scares me. Sometimes skies are clear and the birds sing, but sometimes there are storms and the clouds hang menacingly low.

Foggy times are one of those times that frighten me because I feel so very alone and it is oh so quiet.

If I can get past the panicky alone feeling, if I can remember that God is with me even though he seems so far away, the fog becomes a time of beauty with my God.

It’s all in my perspective. Am I going to panic and believe my God has left me when I am shrouded in fog? Or am I going to trust him in a new way and ask him to reveal himself to me in the way he sees fit?

My own personal version of foggy days creates an environment of dependence on God. 

The fog tells me to proceed with caution with the the words I say and the things I do. 

It becomes a natural pause to an other wise crazy brain that chases the same thoughts round and round. 

And when the fog lifts I see the light of God clearly. 

Let me say this again—foggy times worry me because I feel as though I have lost my ability to hear God clearly. Foggy times seem unending because I can’t tell them when to come or when to go.

Until I became aware of what this brain fog was trying to produce in my life I became caught up in my inadequacies and I experienced inward turmoil.  I pouted like a child and thought I could ignore my communion times with God. I grew aware of heart-conditions that needed to be touched by his healing hand.

So the next time the brain fog arrives, I am going to remember the beauty in fog. It gives me a chance to wait for the light to stream into my circumstances and it deepens my dependence on God.

This God-life is a journey and I can expect all kinds of weather, even fog.  I am going to cling to my consistent God even when the weather is inconsistent. Difficult days do not mean we head out on our own, but it means we cling even harder to the one who knows the way.

What about you? How will you face your next foggy times? With trepidation or faith or a little bit of both?

 

Sometimes we just have to speak the truth

determine to know

Sometimes I just can’t believe the truth.

I can’t believe that there is a love that is great enough to die and live for me.

I can’t believe that I am chosen.

I can’t believe that he calls me holy.

I can’t believe that I can boldly come to grace’s throne.

The litany of my regrets and mistakes are clear under my magnifying glass. But what if I were to step back and look at my mistakes through the magnifying glass of grace. Could I believe the truth that says I am forgiven? Could I believe that I am worthy?

I think so?

But I have to determine to know truth. I have to determine to know God on his terms, not mine. I have to be willing to surrender my ideas of truth for his truth. I have to be willing to remove my critical magnifying glass from my life and replace it with his magnifying glass and allow the Holy Spirit to come along and whisper change and acceptance.

I am singing the words of this song to myself.  I am determined to know Truth. I am determined to know Christ in order to know his truth. I hope you will join me.

 3 months ago0007:41Dara Maclean – Blameless – How He Loves

why social media makes me apprehensive

battle win may 16

I recently joined the social media scene…..

….for the third time.

I know.

It makes me look rather flibberty-jibbet and totally unpredictable and not dependable. ugh.

Confession? I didn’t like the ‘comparison-itis’ or the slimy, gossipy feeling I had when I clicked off social media or the lack of consistent authenticity in real-life vs. on-line life. So I deactivated. For my mental and emotional health. For protection.

So. Why try it again?

One, I am looking for community with other writers, heart-stirrers, and word-warriors. I have questions and concerns. I want to know if there are other’s who struggle with the pride and insecurity that seem to plague me and if I’m alone and how someone else worked through it. I need your stories.

Two,  there’s the message within me to call hearts out to perceive their brokenness as something beautiful if placed in the hands of Jesus. And there are a lot of other word-warriors proclaiming this truth. I want to know them so we can join our voices together to proclaim truth and freedom and grace and love.

I cannot tell you how many tears I have shed over social media and really? Isn’t that absolutely stupid? It’s real and raw and pretty messy. And social media is neat and tidy and putting our best foot forward. First impressions are everything. Help?

Two years ago, the Lord broke me free from the chain of the people-approval-seeking-junkie label I have worn my entire life and since that freedom day I have been learning to live free. It’s hard. I accepted the freedom breaking on the condition that God would show me how to live without that noose wrapped around my neck because what’s the point of freedom if I’m not going to live free?

So…

Social Media. It’s stirring things long buried.

My twelve-year-old self is screaming, ‘Danger! Danger! One day you will wake up and everyone will hate you.’

My 20-year-old self is whispering, ‘If you be what they want you to be, you will be liked and accepted.’

My 30-year-old self is whispering, ‘Rejection is going to follow you all the days of your life.’

My 37-year-old self is whispering, ‘You’ve been set free. Trust God. Please him–his voice is all that matters. ‘

My current-year-old self is whispering, ‘This is stinking hard, I don’t know how to do this, I am too weak to live free.’

Which brings me to today–staring down my fears that social media is stirring:

To my twelve-year-old self I say: ‘Sweet thing, you need to forgive those girls who rejected you and abandoned your friendship because of a lie told about you. You know the truth. Jesus knows the truth and you are justified through him. Not every girl or woman is going to be like that crowd of friends.

To my 20-year-old self I say: ‘You can try to please everyone, but you will lose yourself along the way and losing yourself to people makes it really hard to lose yourself in God.’

To my 30-year-old self I say: ‘Rejection is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to define you or control you.’

To my 37-year-old self I say: ‘The brokenness and pain was worth the freedom!’

To my current-year-old self I say: ‘The Holy Spirit will give you power to live, only do not be afraid. Look to your God and listen to him. Listen for him and trust him to light the way for the next step. Be faithful and consistent in what he has given you to do.’

God is showing me how to live in the freedom that being the apple of his eye brings. It’s not without trepidation but I am trusting him to hold me close to his heart. Maybe you have voices in your head too–the kind that are tied to events in your past that affect how you make decisions in your present relationships.

Do you have fears that you wrestle with in your relationships, online or in real life? How are you overcoming them?