perfect brokenness perfect completeness

perfect-5

You know that ‘thing’ that threatens to break you?

It’s that thing you deny exists and try to run away from? Yeah, that.

It’s okay, you can turn around and face it. There’s hope when you walk towards it and through to the other side because I’ve lived it.

Perfect has been a ‘thing’ for me. I bristle when someone calls me perfect or perfectionist. Perfect hair, perfect smile, perfect performance, perfect response and yet, within the bristle, is a craving for it as well. It’s the craving that made me examine my heart and the hold that perfect had on me.

It has long held me hostage in my relationships, my mind, and in the quiet space of me and God. Perfect has used my fear of rejection to keep me in a place of denial that I really do have issues with perfection.

The deal, though? Perfect became a noose. It became a strangler in my journey towards authenticity in my relationships, with myself, and with my God. As I attempted to break up with perfect, perfect’s hold threatened to break me.

As I began to crumple under the pressure of perfection, God began a different kind of breaking in me. You see, if perfect had broken me I would have been left with shards of perfection that I would have tried to hold and pretty soon my hands would be full and perfect would fail, I would fall and break again into tiny pieces.

God’s breaking is a healing kind of breaking.  And it’s a necessary break. Perfection was so woven into the fabric of who I was that the only way to put me back together again, in the way God saw me, was for him to completely and utterly break me. I needed to be so broken that perfection could be separated from the essence of who I am.

When brokenness happens because God is doing the breaking then he can be trusted to do the putting back together, and the putting back together is the part where his touch can bring healing and a whole lot more wholeness than I ever could bring in my own strength of breaking up with perfect.

God broke me and I was left in shards at his altar.

The initial breaking was painful. Like, I want to never lift my head again painful. It caused sleepless nights where I writhed in heart pain and questions. I would lie in bed listening to the creaking of the old house and the cycling of the furnace and the sound of the coyotes in our backyard and wonder. I would wonder if my heart was repairable. Everything I based my identity on-performance, acceptance, and approval-was suddenly stripped from me.

I was unable to perform to my level of standards in music.

I was failing in church leadership.

Friendships were broken.

I’ve been rejected at the core of who I am.

I have complexion issues, wild hair, and a tongue that’s difficult to control.

I’ve lived through some dark days of groping for God in my own strength.

These were some of my shards and he’s been piecing me back together. He’s filtering through the rejection and discarding the lies that I have long believed about myself.

He is teaching me to say ‘thanks’ for those monthly outbreaks, crazy hair, and to slow down and think before I speak.

He’s showing me that he’s the one who does the growing in my spiritual walk, not me and my efforts.

To be honest, I’ve run from the breaking. I’ve scurried like a rabbit before a prairie fire not realizing that I’m not the rabbit, but I’m the prairie grass that brings life and beauty, and sometimes the prairie needs a good burn.

Perfect.

Only when I’m broken of perfection can I be made perfect by  a perfect God.

Perfect in the biblical sense means to be made complete. My relationship with perfection prevented my completeness in God. God’s desire is for me to be complete in him. I can know him completely and love him completely when I am released from the noose of perfection.

I’ve grown since the initial breaking. I’ve come to see God’s hand in the breaking and to trust him with the healing because as I submit to the breaking and the healing I see how he has discarded the threads of perfection and picked up the pieces of me that glorify him best and he is shaping me into the woman he wants me to be.

So, yes, perfect and I have broken up, and yes, we still get together. But the breaking up with perfect is really done best when I submit to a brokenness before my God and when I do, I find that I receive long-lasting healing instead of the bandaids I apply to my ‘perfect’ issues.

Perfect brokenness is what I strive for now. Complete brokenness before a God who sees me, heals me and loves me enough to break me in order to make me new.

He is perfect and there is none like him and in the security of love he provides I find the true meaning of perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Can Circumstances by Holy?

Recently I felt like my life came to a screeching halt when I heard the news of a life changing diagnosis for a dear friend.  Not long ago, I was overcome by drama as mothers of teenagers often are. I fight for bravery in the face of the unknowns of my future. Will things be okay? Where is God in all my wonderings?

Jesus said that I will have trouble in this life and life has proven this to be true. But there is a theme that began in the Old testament and has continued to be woven into the New. It’s one of the many threads that tie the two testaments together and it is this: The Lord will be with you.

Continue reading at Gathering Place for Sisters in Christ.

Kelli Stuart’s ‘Like a River from Its Course’ Blog Tour and Kindle Prize Pack

Like a River from Its Course Kelli StuartWelcome Grace is a place to explore brokenness in the light of grace. It’s also a place to be encouraged that our histories don’t have to determine or dictate our present or future. I am on the hunt for stories that portray that truth–whether they be fiction or non-fiction.

I was given the opportunity to participate in a book review and ‘Like a River From Its Course’ stole my breath away.

 

About the book:

Travel back in time in Kelli Stuart’s new novel, Like a River from Its Course, as the city of Kiev is bombed in Hitler’s blitzkrieg across the Soviet Union. This sweeping historical saga takes the reader on a captivating journey into the little-known history of Ukraine’s tragedies through the eyes of four compelling characters who experience the same story from different perspectives.

Maria Ivanovna is only fourteen when the bombing begins and not much older when she is forced into work at a German labor camp. She must fight to survive and to make her way back to her beloved Ukraine.

Ivan Kyrilovich is falsely mistaken for a Jew and lined up with 34,000 other men, women, and children who are to be shot at the edge of Babi Yar, the “killing ditch.” He survives, but not without devastating consequences.

Luda is sixteen when German soldiers rape her. Now pregnant with the child of the enemy, she is abandoned by her father, alone, and in pain. She must learn to trust family and friends again and find her own strength in order to discover the redemption that awaits.

Frederick Hermann is sure in his knowledge that the Führer’s plans for domination
are right and just. He is driven to succeed by a desire to please a demanding father and by his own blind faith in the ideals of Nazism.

Based on true stories gathered from fifteen years of research and interviews with Ukrainian World War II survivors, Like a River From Its Course is a story of love, war, heartache, forgiveness, and redemption.

REVIEW BY JESSICA VAN ROEKEL:

Like a River From Its Course is a heartbreakingly, beautiful, and well-researched tale of the horror, courage, and determination four people experienced as the Ukraine faced Nazi invasion in WWII. This book drew me in with its complex characters and the battles that raged within each one.

Ms. Stuart did a splendid job creating four distinct voices and I was able to seamlessly follow each character’s stories they intersected and affected each other while being hurtled into different directions.  My heart connected to each character in part due to the realism this work of fiction portrayed, but also due to the descriptive and emotive voices possessed by the characters.

Like a River From Its Course is not a light-weight read. It is a treatise on overcoming adversity. The theme—triumph over adversity– is well developed, however, if you are looking for a strong Christian theme of faith and reliance on God, you won’t find it here. You will find a well-crafted tale of the tragedy and bravery within the human condition realistically placed before you with a gentle discovery for God.

In the books I read, I look for ‘take-aways’, the lessons that imprint themselves onto my heart and ‘Like a River From Its Course’ does this well. Frederick reminds me that when I seek the pleasure of man or society I will be left cold and empty. My mother’s heart identified with Ivan as he felt the impotence of a father unable to protect his children. Luda and Maria reminded me of the possibility to make the hard choices to bravely face devastating, life-altering circumstances.

Sometimes life is about living the hard stuff and not letting it cripple your heart to the point that empathy is impossible. Maria, Ivan, and Luda show us how to live courageously in the face of heart-crippling loss and Frederick shows us the consequences of placing our hopes in an ideal that cannot survive.

I would recommend this book due to the well-researched plot line, the intriguing characters and the distinctive voices of the characters. Kelli Stuart has written a novel that encompasses a significant period of time in our collective history, one that is worth reading and passing along to friends.

http://litfusegroup.com/author/kstuart

(I received this book free from Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for an honest review)

Celebrate the release of Like a River from Its Course with Kelli by entering to win a Kindle Fire Prize Pack.

like a river - 400

One grand prize winner will receive:

like a river - prize collage (1)

Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on July 18th. The winner will be announced July 19th on Kelli’s blog.

like a river - enterbanner

Dear lost little one

upward and onward 6-16

Loss is a part of this life. This I know. I don’t go a day without hearing of a loss for someone somewhere. I often don’t know how to respond–sometimes the pain is too great. Sometimes the fear that it will happen to me will hold me tight in it’s grip and I will freeze.

I also know I will minimize my loss in the face of someone else’s greater loss because I want to respect those who have experienced greater losses than I.

However, I am learning it’s important to experience the pain of my own loss. Grief, however large or small, needs to be felt and experienced. A long, long time ago I lost a little one. I lost the promise of motherhood within a 12 hour period. I lost myself in the process.

Miscarriage is experienced by many, but many don’t talk about it. In a society where a baby is called a fetus and described as dispensable, those of us who have lost a baby through miscarriage don’t know where to turn and how much or if we can talk about the lost baby.

A hole was created in my heart and has now become a beautiful ache in my heart. The ache was born from the what if’s and if only’s and beauty was found within.

As difficult as the journey was up and through, it’s one I don’t regret taking. God used it to mold me and draw me closer to him and for that my heart is full.

I recently wrote a letter to my gone little lovely:

“Hello dearest love,

You were with me for such a short little time. You knew me better than I knew you. You heard my heartbeat before I could hear yours. You heard my voice and I never heard yours, but I want you to know your life became one of the greatest gifts I ever received.

How I grieved your loss. I grieved the first snuggle, the first smile, the first birthday, all the firsts that you and I never got to experience. I grieved barely getting to know you because you left after a short 10 weeks.

But lovely little one, your life had purpose. Your life had gain. It was because of your life that going deeper with God would be my lifelong journey.

Your life became the starting point for mine.

You see, I had known Jesus as my Savior for years. I had clung to the truth that God will never leave me. I knew beyond any shadow of doubt the truth that God loved me. But I was also trying to live my life for myself and giving him only part of me. I was one of those Sunday Christians and not an everyday Christian.

You changed that for me.

Because of your life…..

I was able to let go of the bitterness and resentment that had taken root in my heart.

I came to realize the depth of God’s grace to me.

I learned, again, that beauty comes from brokenness.

Because of your life I laid my plans on the altar of God’s plans.

It was not my plan to say an early good-bye. It was not my plan to always wonder if you had hazel eyes or blue, curly or straight hair, tall or short, or whether you were a boy or a girl. It was not my plan to lose you. It was my plan to keep you and to know you.

But God had a greater plan for your life. A plan to bring life to mine. I live with my wonderings and rather than be overcome by them I am overcome by the life your little life brought to my heart.

Thank-you for what you showed me about life. I will be forever grateful for you.

Love,

Your mama”

Wherever your heart is today, I am praying for you. Whatever loss your facing-whether it’s a miscarriage, a death of a friend, a loss of normal, or a loss of a relationship that you would know how deep God’s love for you is, even in the midst of your darkest and deepest days.

The journey up and through is doable. I hope you will say ‘yes’ to God and hold tight to his hand as he leads you onward, trusting him to bring you to life.

 

 

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?