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.

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

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?

 

do you wish you could be more confident?

confidence

There are days I want to run far, far away to a place where mankind is kind and words are used to build instead of tear down, but then I look in the mirror and see the face staring back at me and realize that no matter how far I run, I can’t get away from me.

I am a survivor by instinct. I have long been independent and self-sufficient, which at times have been detrimental on my journey in this God-life. My instinct is for self-preservation. My instinct is to defend myself. My instinct is for myself…. and I get tired of myself.

I know there is another way. The way of surrender, dependence, and letting go.  It’s a journey of being completely and totally God-dependent. 

But life? Storms come up out of nowhere and I take a broadside hit. I go to bed with blue skies and wake up to gray. I have heart-wounds that reopen and I respond defensively.  I am misunderstood. I am maligned. I am misused.

Where is my confidence? Is it in myself and my abilities? 

It’s found in the exact opposite of what my instinct might be. True confidence is found in taking refuge in God and waiting in the shadow of his wings. It is found in crying out to him and believing he will fulfill his purpose for me. It’s understanding that sometimes I have to wait and watch for him to work on my behalf.

Confidence is allowing my heart to sing even in the midst of the hurt and the pain. It is about bringing God glory in the midst of my junk because it’s my circumstances–not God– that don’t meet my expectation. Confidence is realizing that his love is great and his faithfulness reaches to the skies.

True confidence is knowing God so well that despite the pain of my circumstances, my heart can still sing. 

But what can I sing when my hurts are so loud?

I can sing of his goodness.

I can sing of his justice.

I can sing of his love.

I can sing of his strength.

I can sing of his righteousness.

I can sing of his faithfulness.

Then if I listen closely I can hear the echo of my song in his voice as he sings over me. 

And he sings:

‘I love you.

You are mine.

I am your refuge.

Let me hide you in my shadow.

I am moving on your behalf.

My faithfulness reaches to the skies.

I am your righteousness.

I am.’

A steadfast heart is a confident heart. A steadfast heart knows where her trust is found and stays in the refuge of God when life becomes so very, very difficult. A steadfast heart rests in her identity in Christ. A steadfast heart makes the difficult choice to lay down her independence and self-sufficiency to rest in God’s love and faithfulness knowing he will take care of her business.

‘My heart is steadfast, O God; my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music.’ Psalm 57:7. (NIV)

I need to remind myself of this when I am feeling shakey and unsure of myself because uncertainty provides me with an opportunity to exercise this steadfast heart that sometimes isn’t so steadfast.

Steadfastness is one of those traits that grows stronger with time and practice. Oh, to be sure, each time something comes along that threatens my faith or my belief in the goodness of God I tremble and shake, but the more I choose confidence in God the less time I spend shaking and trembling.

Confidence isn’t about me and my ability, it’s about resting in the trustworthiness of God. It’s about believing that through him I am more than a conqueror.

I may not be confident in myself, but I am steadfast in my faith in God and that makes me confident.

I pray you will find rest and strength and steadfastness in God today. He is good. He is worthy of trust. He is worthy of praise. Can we be steadfast together?

 

When Your Path Leads through the Sea

your path

The unknown. 

Sometimes the unknown is exciting, such as embarking into life as newlyweds or becoming parents for the first time. The way ahead is unknown, but it’s faced with anticipation. 

But sometimes the unknown is frightening such as dealing with a cancer diagnosis or a marriage that is heading towards failure or a child who turns away from you.

Unknowns. Whether the unknown is looked at with anticipation or with trembling I am assured of two things.

 1: I don’t go alone.

‘Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.’ Psalm 77:19 (NIV)

Sometimes following God is obvious. I can see where he has been because I see his footprints and I can step into them as I follow him down the path. Other times? Well, it seems like the path leads right up to some mighty waters and I can see the path on the other side, but I have to walk through the waters to get there.

I have a couple of choices. I can stay on this side of the bank and look for another way across. This usually leads me through bushes and brambles resulting in exhaustion and  heart wounds because I decided I could find another way through ignoring the call to come into the waters. Or I can step into the mighty waters knowing he will be with me to guide me. 

2: I will grow.

Growth happens. Everyday. We can grow straight and tall and strong. Or we can grow crooked and small and broken. It’s really about how we choose to face the uncertainties that crop up in our unknowns.

I can choose to trust God that though the way seems overwhelming and I can’t see what’s beneath the water that I can trust that the path is still there. To trust that his way is the best way and trust him to bring me safely to the other side.

Unknowns are unavoidable. We cannot know what is going to happen tomorrow and we can’t live in fear of the unknown.

Unknowns become opportunities. They become opportunities to trust in His presence and to grow.

The path we’re on may lead us through the fire. It may lead us through the desert. It may even lead us through the sea. The key is securely resting in the truth that if God led us this way he will lead us through. We simply trust.