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.

 

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

What’s your miracle?

miracle puffs 6-2

I have a tendency to make this whole God-life thing about me.

What I need.

What I’m doing.

What I pray.

How I live out his precepts.

How I expect his promises to be fulfilled in my life.

How I interpret God’s word.

How I need a miracle…yesterday.

I read about miracles in the news and in missionary letters and I marvel to think that the miracles I read about in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John really and truly do happen today.

The thing? Miracles are for us, but they’re about Jesus.

I look at Mark 10:46-52 and identify with the blind man.

He was desperate for an encounter, an engagement with Jesus so he began shouting his name: ‘Jesus!’ How many times do I call out his name because I am desperate for an engagement with Jesus in my circumstances? Often….

But then this man: blind, calling for Jesus does something else–he references the truth of Jesus’ identity: The Messiah. He emphatically declared who Jesus was.

Do I just call for Jesus by name or do I reference his identity?

Prince of peace= peace for uncertain times

Mighty Counselor= comfort for the weary and worn

Bread of Life= sustenance for the journey of life

River of Life= true satisfaction

I need a savior, absolutely I do, but I also need peace, comfort, sustenance, and satisfaction. And they can be found in the One man who gives sight to the blind.

When Jesus passed by the man, he stopped and asked this question: ‘What do you want?’ The man simply states: ‘I want to see’.

If Jesus were to ask me what I wanted I would have a mile long list with requests ranging from my family loving him to financial freedom to what our future will be.

But what if I stopped and simply said, ‘I want to see.’

I would be like the blind man who didn’t just receive his physical sight, but received spiritual sight.

Sometimes we are so deep into life and our circumstances that we don’t know we are smack dab in the middle of a great big story of grace. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could see a bit of that story?

So today– let’s ask to see and open our eyes to God’s grace in our lives. It might be merely recognizing the blue sky and clouds, the blooming peonies, the dandelion bouquets, the smiles on your babies, or the fact that you took a deep breath before you dove into life.

I will be praying for you to see the miracles unfolding before you today!

 

beauty and belief

love

Beauty and the Beast. I love this story. I even loved the Disney version. (If you get a chance, though, look up the story in a book of fairy tales–beautiful). I use to know the music. I use to sing along to the track in my ’76 Thunderbird, pretending to be Belle as she finds understanding and her destiny in the most unlikely of places: the castle of a beast.

When I look into a mirror, I don’t see beauty, I see a beast. I see the woman who has a sharp tongue oftener than a gentle one. I see a woman who is prone to impatience. I see a woman who distractedly listens to her people while trying to read an article or book or facebook post. I see a woman with freckles that make her face look dirty, especially in the summer, when she fails to use sunscreen.  I see a woman who could stand to exercise more and eat less. I see a woman who failed at loving someone well. I see a woman who was quick to judge and slow to love. I see a woman struggling to love her neighbor.

I know that Jesus calls us to love our neighbor as ourselves. But let me ask this: How can I love my neighbor when I can’t stand myself? Why am I surprised when I struggle to accept my neighbor as they are when I cannot accept myself?

Do I try harder? Do I think positive thoughts? Do I re-imagine myself into a new being? Do I come up with a three-point plan to be executed to the best of my ability? Do I beat my breast and condemn myself in the hopes that that will produce more love for others?

Could this be approaching the problem backward? Love People, be kind to ourselves, love God. Or sometimes we try this approach: Work at loving God more so I can love people better. There is nothing inherently wrong with this statement. It’s a good and beautiful statement. But when we have to ‘work’ at loving God? But when we hate ourselves? When we despise ourselves? How does this fulfill the great commandment to love your neighbor as yourself?

I find this truth: My ability to love is directly related to my ability to know how deeply I am loved.

Loving others cannot be something that is a task I check off my list. The harder I try to love others, the harder it seems. But? What if I started believing the immense truth of how much I am loved by God.

1 John 4:19 ‘We love because he first loved us.’

Love is impossible without recognizing this truth. We don’t love God because we are commanded to love God. We love God because he first loved us and because of that first arrow of love to our hearts we are enabled and empowered by the Holy Spirit to love God with all our hearts, souls, mind, and body.

My ability to love others is tied directly to my ability to receive the TRUTH of God’s love for me. You see, when I reject myself, which is what I do when I condemn myself for my failures and my imperfections, I am rejecting the love of God for me and in me. I am setting myself up as judge and jury in my life and determining me guilty.

If we press further, we see that the judge has set us free through his son. Not to live and do as we please, but only to live and do as he pleases. And that, my friend, is receiving the love he has for you and me and then allowing that love to flow genuinely through us to others.

Sometimes we have to start small.

Sometimes we have to tentatively step out in faith and say–‘God, I love you because you first loved me. I am going to ruminate on 1 John 4:19 that says that I love because you first loved me. Any love I have for another person has to flow out of that truth.’

And then, I pray that we hear these words of God sung over us:

You belong to me, you belong to me, you’re mine through and through. You belong to me, my Child.’

It’s in my ‘beastliness’ that I reach for and receive God’s grace of his love for me as it flows over and through me. I find my destiny in the truth of God’s love for me. 

 

 

soul imprint

My soul imprint is probably a little screwed up.

A little.

A lot.

It varies day by day.

I take comfort in knowing that you too have a little mess-up in your life. It makes me not feel alone. And yet that solidarity can be a trap. It can fool us into thinking that we are on the same team that must win at being screwed up. It can trick us into the comparison game: ‘Well, I am not as bad as so and so’, or ‘boy, I really screwed up, look at her, she’s messed up too, but is making good, I don’t think I can have the life change she has’.

What if we accepted ourselves as wholly screwed up while at the same time embraced Christ for what he did for us? Which is the removal of our sin, our shame, and our guilt. What if we took the truth of God’s word and wrapped it around ourselves like a mantle and let the truths settle on our shoulders and actually felt the weight truth?

I think I would be wholly changed.

I think that my messed up soul imprint would begin to take on the imprint of God himself and then I must ask myself if I am really as messed up as I believe or is my mess somehow being made beautiful.

Or I am just seeing myself, without the guilt and shame, as God sees me.

Wholly loved.

Wholly messy beautiful.

Can mess be beautiful? I must believe it or I would be crippled by the weight of regret and bitterness and unforgiveness.  Every time I have turned over my regrets to my Abba Father, I come away encouraged that there is redemption. Every time I let go of bitterness I smell the fragrance of the rose rather than feel the prick of the thorns. Each time I choose forgiveness I am reminded of my own forgiveness.

Every time I offer my mess-up soul to him, I receive grace in return and that is wholly beautiful.

Receive grace. Will you offer your messed-up self to him and open your arms to receive his grace? Grace that changes us into a new kind of beautiful we cannot even begin to imagine. Grace that reveals truth. Truth that reveals grace.

Grace and Truth–together.

will you pick me?

Have you ever felt like you are standing with your hand waving in the air, ‘pick me, pick me?’ Maybe as adults we don’t really do that but I think we all have that desire to be picked. Chosen. We ask: Pick me for the job. Pick me because I have something valuable to offer. And sometimes it seems that everyone else is getting ‘picked’ except for you.

I can remember those school play yard games where two kids were picked as ‘captains’ for a rousing game of dodgeball and then proceeded to pick team members. I hated those days.

I was usually the last of the kids picked. It could be because I hated the thought of throwing a ball– hard!–on purpose at someone and having it thrown–hard!–at me. Ouch!

It’s not that I didn’t try at athletics. In middle school I tried track, basketball, and volleyball. I discovered I didn’t like running. Ugh. And I really didn’t like having a ball flying through the air at me. That ball always seemed to connect with my nose as evidenced by a permanent black and blue mark across the bridge of my nose that shows up when I am exhausted. I know, I know…my hands are for catching the ball, not my face.

But really? I think it was those traumatizing days of school yard dodge ball that made me hate trying to catch a ball or toss one over the net. Suffice it to say–I was not in the first round pick or the second or the third, but dead last. I tried not to let it hurt, I mean I completely understand why I wasn’t picked first, but being last? over and over? It felt like rejection to me. I was in a different elementary school every year, and every year became a year I could ‘start over’, but the outcome was the same: ‘last pick’.

It’s funny how we carry childhood wounds and hurts into our adult lives, some of those wounds being pretty obvious, but the innocuous ones, the ones that are easy to hide beneath bravado and arrogance and pride and independence, those are the ones that affect our lives in a subtle, but significant way.

One of the ways this epidemic of being picked last in is evidenced in the difficulty in accepting the truth that I am chosen by God–because he wants me not because he has to.

‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight,’ Ephesians 1:4. How about if we replace the pronoun ‘us’ with our name? What if we read it like this: ‘For he chose Jessica in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight’. Try reading it with your name in place of the ‘us’. What is your reaction? When I first allowed that truth to be revealed to me, I followed it with a ‘but…’.

But as I go deeper with God, this truth becomes something I cannot ‘but’ away, but need to face head on and decide if I am going to embrace this truth that God chose me, long before I raised my arm, waving, ‘pick me, pick me’. For this truth to become embraceable I need to lay aside the identity of ‘last pick’ and decide that God’s opinion is ultimately the most important one there is to cling to. He calls me chosen.

He picked me. He picked you. Long ago. Before we even got to the playground of life we were ‘picked’. Chosen. That’s part of your identity. That’s part of mine. That’s one of the words we should hear when we look into that mirror. Will you open your ears to hear that truth or are you stuck following it with a ‘but…’.

Friends, I pray that you will embrace ‘chosen’ as part of your identity and if embracing chosen is an area where you are strong in, find someone to encourage in that truth. Tell them God chooses them. Tell them that God picks them first.  I’ll go first….

You are picked! By our loving, loving God. In fact he says:

Dear child,

I choose you. Embrace the truth as I embrace you.

All my love,

Father God

 

mirror mirror

Mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all….

The face looking back at me runs through the litany of comments….

fat

ugly

selfish

prideful

wounded

graceless

blunt

tactless

opinionated

dominating

controlling

manipulative

jealous

this list could grow and continue and morph into whatever you see or hear when you look into the mirror.

Mirror mirror on the wall….you are a liar or maybe I am the one with the warped perceptions of myself.

 I have seen the truth of these words in myself, but also within these words I have seen the lies.

The reality is that I can be domineering. I can be controlling. I can be ugly. I am wounded. I have wounded. I can be graceless. I can be blunt.

But the truth is that my wounds can be used for God’s glory. The truth is that when I wound, I can experience the beautiful gift of forgiveness. The truth is when I am domineering I have the opportunity to submit to the control of my holy, loving, gracious God. The truth is that all the parts of who I am–the good, the bad and the ugly– are all a part of me and who am I to reject what I see in the mirror. Rather than rejecting the ‘less than’ part of myself what if I were to offer those parts of me up to Jesus and surrender to whatever he wants to do to turn those weaknesses into a strength.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am not giving myself license to be the worst side of me, I am giving myself grace to grow into the best side of me and that side is only found in Jesus Christ. If I am going to grow then I can expect failures. But failures are not a sign that I failed per se, they are an opportunity to grow in a specific tangible way. Only in him can we be our best and if we detect patterns of thought that produce our worst, and we don’t hold them up to him like a child holding up a broken lovey and saying ‘fix?’ then I am not submitting to whatever he wants to do to turn those weaknesses into strengths.

the truth within these words is that there is redemption through Jesus Christ.

Mirror mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all….

forgiven one

chosen one

loved one

approved

appointed

 anointed

royalty

joy filled

saved

full of grace

covered in grace

What does your mirror say?