WE ARE NOT FLAWLESS.

FLAWLESSI am NOT flawless.

& I am tired of feeling like I have to be. I am tired of the world telling women we need to look flawless. I am tired of putting on make-up in the morning because it’s a societal norm to cover up my physical flaws. I am tired of dressing a certain way because I’m afraid to be judged negatively by others. I am tired of looking people in the eyes & feeling like I need to display perfection in order to be accepted. I am tired of being flawed, imperfect, broken, & human, & for feeling guilty for it.

Every direction we look, we hear the world preaching some sort of message to be flawless. It’s everywhere, & yet when we make a mistake our friends & coworkers say, “don’t worry, nobody’s perfect.” It’s true: nobody is perfect. Being flawless is impossible, & everybody knows it. So why, then, does everybody still strive for it? Why, then, do we all still expect it from the people around us?

I just don’t understand. We all know that society’s expectations of us are ridiculous, yet we still hold ourselves to this same impossible standard. We are all so keenly aware of our own imperfections, yet we still shy away from ever admitting or showing any of them, for fear of standing out or not being accepted. We know that we’re all human, yet still somehow allow ourselves to view certain people as perfect — people that we respect, honor, or who inspire us greatly. We know that flawlessness is unachievable, yet we still strive for it. We know that perfection does not exist on this earth, & yet we still expect it in each other. We are surprised when people let us down or when Simone Biles falls off the balance beam. We become frustrated when someone makes a mistake, & ashamed when that person is us. It’s a sick, twisted game we play with ourselves & with each other.

But Psalm 18:30 say this:

Our God – his way is perfect,
the Word of the Lord proves true;
He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.

We cannot be flawless, but our God IS! Our Father is perfect. Everything He says is completely true, & He doesn’t make mistakes, but still stands right beside us when our flaws are showing the most. He loves us, & makes Himself available to us as a refuge when those imperfections surface & we need a place to hide to center ourselves. God loves us regardless of our greatest weaknesses, & tells us that we are flawless in His eyes. We stand before Him as beautiful & perfect creatures because of His sacrifice on the cross.

It has taken me a lot of years to finally realize that ever becoming flawless is impossible. I know I’m human, but I still strive for perfection in a way that encourages insecurity & self-doubt. I’m learning to expect imperfection from others & never hold anyone to a standard that I wouldn’t hold myself to. But I’ve found that it’s harder to admit my own struggles & flaws to the same imperfect people around me. It can be hard to love ourselves when our greatest defects are all we are able to really focus on. But this is not the way God wants any of us to live. We must learn that being flawed is absolutely okay.

Our Father has a path for each of us, & His path is the perfect path. His Word is true, & will prove more & more powerful every time we open the Bible or hear Him speak in our lives. He knows exactly what we need. Instead of running away from Him in the shame of our flaws & imperfections, we must choose to run towards Him, our Shield & our Refuge. He protects us every moment of every single day. No matter how many flaws may come to light in our lives, we are safe in His arms. We are always accepted, always loved, & always flawless in His eyes.

WE ALL NEED LIGHT.

Have you ever met someone that just brightens your day? Maybe you have someone in your life right now that does this for you that just came to mind. A best friend, a spouse, or a sibling, perhaps? Maybe even a parent or a child. I think we all can think of someone, whether past or present, that really lights up our day whenever we see them. It’s like that person can brighten any mood; there’s just something about them.

When we feel as if somebody just truly gets us, I think this is the response. They light up our life. We look forward to being around them. They make our day.

I believe that God puts these types of people into our paths so that He can brighten our day. But aren’t there some days that even the person who gets you the most just can’t brighten? Aren’t there some days where the darkness covers so heavily, & feels so thick, that even the brightest smile can’t cure it?

I believe that God shines His light on us so that we can shine it onto others. That’s what His light is meant to do in our lives. But I also believe that there are going to be days, weeks, or maybe even seasons of darkness that even the closest of friends cannot brighten, no matter how close to God they are, & no matter how brightly they shine.

Adobe SparkIt is in this darkness, where God must be the One who lights our lamp.

I have experienced this darkness. I have been in that season where it did not seem like there was any light around me. Even the closest friend couldn’t pierce through the darkness enough to even light a tiny flame. I felt lost, even though God was with me. I felt alone, even though I was surrounded by people who loved me. I felt like a lost cause, like I would never be rescued, like I was too far gone in my relationship with God to ever be reconciled. But just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, & couldn’t see my hand in front of me, God opened my eyes to see his flickering flame. He lit my lamp with His match, & all of a sudden I could see clearly, & I knew I wasn’t alone.

Once someone experiences what it’s like to live in the darkness, they’ll never want to go back & revisit it. I am so thankful for what the Lord taught me in my dark season as I learned how to let Him light my lamp again, but I NEVER want to go back there. Never even just for a short visit. Darkness is real. It’s heavy. It’s thick. Darkness can take hold of your thoughts & choke hold your dreams. It can become uncontrollable if you live in it. Now that I’ve experienced what it’s like to live in that dark place as a follower of Christ, I recognize it tugging at my heart every day. I see & feel the very real difference in choosing to live in the light vs. the darkness, & I realize that every day I have a choice to make in this battle. I CANNOT lose sight of His flame. I must let God, & ONLY God, lighten my darkness.

I think that God puts some pretty amazing people into our path to shine His light on our lives. But I definitely do not think that they were put in our lives to light our lamps. Godly people can shine on us in order to point us to the God that lights our lamp, but we cannot let anyone but Jesus illuminate our path. He must be the only One who gets that privilege. It belongs to Him alone. He is the light.

“Heart of stone into a prism || Light of heaven flowing through me || Black & white to vibrant color || I’m reflecting Your beauty || I’m overwhelmed, I’m overwhelmed || Just standing in Your presence”
Listen to “SHINE ON US” by William Matthews for the song that inspired this post.

WE ARE DELIGHTED IN.

36e12b8a3629621e81bc69efa0e00adaLast week I wrote about how God has pulled me out of some very deep waters. I think a lot of you have stories of waves you’ve felt God has rescued you from. We all have experienced that feeling of drowning, like I mentioned in my last post. & yes, our God rescues us. He pulls us out of the waves just when we need Him the most.

But God doesn’t stop there.

“He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me.” {Psalm 18:19}

God doesn’t just rescue us from the crashing waves, He leads us to a place of safety. Our Father doesn’t pull us out & leave us on the shore to fend for ourselves. When God sends His heavenly search party, He sends in medics, counselors, the fire department, blankets, towels, food, water, dry clothing, shoes, you name it. Everything we need to recover from the waves are there waiting on the shore to help us dry off & be restored.

But the important thing is not that we were even rescued at all. What God wants us to know is why He rescued us. Remember what the verse above says? He rescues us because He DELIGHTS in us. He wants us to discover our identity in Him, & He gives us a glimpse of that in this verse. God takes great pleasure in us. He enjoys us & finds so much satisfaction in who we are becoming. He wants you to remember that He chose you. He anointed you for His purpose. He LOVES you.

Many times God shows His love for us tangibly through the people around us. Our spouse, friends, family, coworkers, & many of the people we interact with every day. When He rescues us & brings us to a place of safety, it is often found in the arms of the people that He is using in our lives to show His love. When God rescued me from my waves, I had no choice but to trust the people that were waiting on the shore for me. God had placed His relentless love in their hearts, & they were there to support me. We can know that God delights in us because of the way that His people delight in us.

And He does all of this because He has chosen us. He has set His steadfast love upon us. There is NOWHERE we can run from His presence. There is NOWHERE we can hide from His love. We are covered in it. He has declared us as His chosen, Beloved children. We run away from Him because we are scared, ashamed, overwhelmed, & embarrassed, & the waves begin to crash over us. But He is always there. Watching, waiting, planning His rescue & preparing His search party. So why do we choose to run? Why do we work hard at hiding our faces from the only One who even dares look at us in our darkest hour? Why do we turn our backs on the only One who is powerful enough to calm the waves, reach in, & pull us out of them?

Running from God may seem like the easier choice at times, but why? I don’t know, but what I do know is that we have a choice. If we know God’s relentless love, patience, & gentleness is always nearby, then we have no reason to run away from Him. We must choose instead to run TO Him. We must choose to face our fears, surrender our shame, & bear our brokenness before Him. We must choose to be fearless.

A song that really helped me begin to grasp God’s love & care for me, was a song called “Closer” by Amanda Cook. This idea of running towards God instead of away was really solidified in my soul through the lyrics. As God spoke to me through this song, I began to make these words my mission. I encourage you to listen & explore how God may speak to You through it.

{To listen to Amanda Cook’s song, “Closer”, click here!}

WE ARE ALL DROWNING.

9c366b60baae001bd0f28f0694de2cea.jpgHave you ever been in a season of life where you just felt as if you were drowning? Drowning in shame, drowning in debt, downing in sickness, guilt, to-do lists, people to please, errands to run, dishes to clean, & the list goes on. Even the future can seem overwhelming. Some of you are drowning just thinking about it all!

I am convinced that we are all drowning in something. That’s just life. We get to a point where feel like we’ve finally wrestled the waves & managed to take a breath, but then almost instantly we are taken right back out into the current again.

Man, the Christian life can truly be exhausting. Why isn’t following God easy? Why can’t God just line our ducks in a row & give us an answer right when we ask for it? Why do we have to wait sometimes, & why does He say no to good things & allow bad things to happen? I don’t quite know the answer to all of these questions, but I do know one thing is for certain: we are all drowning.

Why? Because we are not God. We do not have all the answers to life’s questions, & we never will. We will consistently strive to find solutions on our own that won’t work. There is usually something going on that we don’t feel like we can talk about because our friends just won’t understand. We’re drowning! It’s just the way it is. & I believe that’s how it is supposed to be.

Now, I don’t think for one second that God enjoys that we feel like we’re drowning. There’s no way that a life-giving, peace-making Father would ever want us to feel abandoned, in over our heads, or overwhelmed. But He does know that it is when we feel as if we are drowning, that He can easily sweep in & pull us up & out.

& this is what he does, over & over again. But we never see it. It is hard for us to see the way in which He is delivering us from evil every day. We don’t see it because we aren’t looking for it. But this is why I believe we are supposed to feel like we are drowning at times in our lives. I believe these seasons in life are necessary for followers of Christ to experience because it is only in the midst of the suffocation that we experience His deliverance. It is only in these deep waters that we see the hand of God at work. It is in these moments that we are reminded that God is still in our midst.

GOD IS STILL AMONG US!

I know that I have felt as if I was drowning. For two years, I felt completely lost, abandoned by God, suffocating under the waves. At first my waves consisted of questions. Lots & lots of questions for God that I felt were never answered. I never realized then that “no” was an answer too. But still, I asked, prayed, wondered, dreamed, waited for answers, & the waves continuously crashed over me. Before long my waves changed into apathy. I began to drown in my own disengagement from God & spiritual things. I turned to sinful behaviors for satisfaction, but was never satisfied. I knew I was drowning, but I never cried out for help because I was scared of the consequences. I thought I could swim to shore myself & everything would be okay. I fought the waves but my relief never came. Not until I couldn’t swim anymore. I lost all my strength & I realized the only option I had left was Jesus. Why was God’s strength my last resort? I’m not sure, but I’ll never make that mistake again.

I have waves tattooed on my arm because I never want to forget those waves that crashed over me. I was truly lost, but through it all, He still sent out a search party for me. A heavenly search party! & He found me, crashing amidst my waves, striving just to make it above the water so that I could catch my breath. But He reached for me. He reached His loving, strong, & gentle arms into these fierce ocean waves & calmly pulled me out. In the end, God didn’t just let me gasp for air, He brought me to the shore. Safe, sound, dry, & His.

At times in life we will feel like we are drowning. But it is only through the suffocation that we will see the hands of God pulling us out.

WE CAN HAVE PEACE.

 

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Kelly & I in October, 2010.

For those of you who may not know, I graduated from Liberty University in 2009 with a Bachelors degree in Youth Ministry & a minor in Worship. I changed my major several times in my five years of school, but if I would have done things right the first time, I never would have experienced that fifth year. My last year at Liberty was one of my favorite years in college. It was the year that I finally figured out what I was made for; it was the year that I was an RA with my best friend, Kelly. It was also the year when God taught me to pursue Him instead of pursuing the mold that Christians think followers of Christ should look like, especially in ministry.

That year, Kelly was my right-hand woman. We laughed together, cried together, prayed together, & pulled all-nighters together. Just last week I met up with Kelly after six years of life in the real world. We met for lunch & talked about our lives. We shared what God has been teaching us & showing us about ourselves. Together we concluded that we wished we knew in college what we know now. Not just about God, but mostly about ourselves.

When we mature, I think the biggest thing that changes for us is the way we think. The way our minds process information changes as we grow older. The filter becomes more strict. There are more factors that we take into consideration when we make decisions. We can become either less sensitive or more sensitive. We usually think more rationally, usually have more intellect, & are likely to be more cautious. Usually the changes that happen in our mental maturity are good ones; they are changes that make us wiser, stronger, & more self-controlled.

When we are maturing in Christ, there is another component to our mental life that progresses as well. We find more about this in Romans 8:5-7:

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.

It can seem harsh to say that someone is “dominated” by the sinful nature. But the reality is, when we are dwelling on sinful things, or things that aren’t necessarily coinciding with God’s will for our lives, our minds are being dominated by the sinful nature. We are letting that sin control our minds. We may mean well, & even as followers of Christ, dwelling on sinful things is never our priority. But when we don’t choose to make the life-giving, peace-making decisions, we are certainly choosing disobedience. No matter how long you’ve been following Christ, the sinful nature is always there, taking Godly thoughts captive & trying to inch its way back into dominating your mind.

Kelly & I fell prey to this a lot back in those college years, & we didn’t even realize it until now.

In the years since I’ve graduated, I have experienced what it means to both set my mind on the Spirit & to set my mind on the sinful nature. I have made decisions to step out in faith solely based on God’s leading. But I have also made decisions based on my sinful desires & selfishness. I have seen the difference that these decisions make in my life, & sense the difference in impact that they have on my conscience. I have experienced immense peace when I’ve trusted God & been patient to follow His lead. & I have experienced the immense darkness that comes with disobedience.

When I look back at who I was even just a year ago compared to who I am now, I see two completely different women. The more I have drawn near to the Lord, the more I have become controlled by the Spirit. The more I have become controlled by the Spirit, the more I have experienced peace. My life is enriched more & more daily as I have let His Spirit take control of my mind. It hasn’t been easy to do this, & I am still not a pro yet. I fall prey to unhealthy thoughts every day, but I know what they look like now. I know if left in control, I’ll be taken to that dark place again. But I am not that woman. The woman that God has made me —she is choosing every day for her mind to be controlled by the Spirit. She is choosing to live a life of peace, not of darkness.

Peace is about coming to terms with who you are, right this very second, & accepting who that is. It’s about being so self-aware that you have goals, daily ones, that push you closer to becoming the woman God has planned for you to become. Peace is something you pursue as you discover your pride & seek to pitch it out the window. It’s accepting God’s life for you, & being content & excited & grateful for whatever that is, no matter how different from your own dreams of what the perfect life might look like.

I believe that peace is simply a series of choices. The first one begins with allowing God to have control over every thought in your mind. Only then can your journey to finding peace truly begin.

WE ARE NOT OUR SIN.

77a5967bf83b609306923d52f2053497I have made some pretty heavy mistakes in my lifetime. If I were to look back on them all & make a list, I would be buried in shame. The weight of my sins would crush me like a thousand tons. I know exactly how I have hurt God. I know exactly how I have let Him down, betrayed Him, & turned my back on Him. & in many of these dark moments, I have let other people down as well. My sins never just hurt God. I have betrayed friends & family members & turned my back on the people that have tried to love me. My mistakes are not unknown to me, & I’m sure that you can relate. I’m sure that many of yours are not unknown to you either.

Over the years, I have let my sin, failure, & mistakes define me — I acted immaturely in that situation, so therefore I am immature. I didn’t think before I acted, so therefore I am careless. I broke his heart, so therefore I am insensitive. I hurt my friend’s feelings, so therefore I am selfish, & the list goes on. So often we can let our sin project identities onto ourselves. These identities become what we think are true of ourselves because we think others view us through this lens. We think the people around see us the same way we see ourselves. We begin to believe the lies we hear in our heads, & over time they can become truths in our view of who we are. I am careless. I am insensitive. I am selfish. I can never change. No one will ever accept or love me because I am… (fill-in-the-blank).

But God says:

Because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. (Romans 8:2)

The Spirit has FREED US because the Spirit gives us LIFE.

The Spirit does nothing else but give us LIFE. He doesn’t tear us down, call us names, or identify us by our mistakes. The Spirit frees us from all of these identities that we give ourselves, or let others give us, that are not true. With the Spirit living & active in our hearts & in our lives as followers of Jesus, we MUST look to Him to give us life. We must remember to only choose to believe life-giving identities that we hear in our hearts.

As hard as it is, we must also choose to let go of any identities that are not from the Spirit. These are the hardest to throw away sometimes, depending on how long we’ve believed them. These are also the hardest to let go of because sometimes we really agree with them too. But if they don’t give life, they are lies.

Having freedom from sin is a choice. We choose to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit & let Him breathe life into our bones. Or, we choose to believe lies, & struggle with sin all of our lives. We never forgive ourselves. We never accept His love, or love from anybody else, because we are dead set on believing that we are not worth it.

But, my darling, you are worth it. Jesus wouldn’t have died for you on the cross if you weren’t.

Yes, we are sinful. Yes, we will never be perfect. We make mistakes everyday, either publicly, for others to see, or in our hearts & minds where no one but God can even see them. Because of this, we know that we deserve every consequence that may come our way. I deserve to go to prison if I murder someone. I deserve for my friend to be angry at me if I hurt her feelings. We know the level in which our sins affect other people. But with repentant hearts, we can own up to our sin & accept God’s forgiveness every single time. When He died on the cross, He knew we wouldn’t just mess up once.

Sure, we wish we could be different or could have acted differently in a situation, & if we truly are repentant of our sin, we should respond this way. But God says that we cannot let these things define us. We are not our sins. We are not our mistakes. Our sin will not become our doom.

WE ARE NOT CONDEMNED.

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Did you hear that? NO CONDEMNATION.

No matter what you have done. No matter how terrible, you are not condemned. If you belong to Jesus Christ, then when God looks at you, He sees purity. And if He sees purity, then He cannot condemn you because He has nothing to condemn you for.

This is probably one of the hardest Truths to believe.

As a teenager I was what I call a “serial dater.” I was that girl who had a different boyfriend every week, sometimes a few at a time that didn’t know about each other. On the outside, I acted proud of this. I loved that I knew how to wrap any boy around my finger. But on the inside, I was terribly ashamed. I was empty. I was lonely.

At the time, I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ; I wasn’t even sure that He existed. But I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I didn’t even care for these boys. I just loved that with a boyfriend, at least somebody cared for me. But then I would date them for a week & realize that they didn’t really care for me, they just wanted something from me. Thankfully, I cared enough about myself that I never gave them what they were looking for. But I still felt like I did. I still cried myself to sleep every night over the shame of even giving whatever I did give them.. going however far we even went. Sometimes I would just feel shamed I kissed a boy because I didn’t even like him. I felt guilty for leading them on out of my selfishness. My list of sins just grew longer & longer, & it tore me apart inside.

Yes, I literally wrote down everything & kept it hidden. I wrote down every single name of every boy I had ever kissed, how many times, what else we had done, EVERYTHING. Talk about condemnation! I feared someone would find that list, but for some reason I was obsessed with remembering everything. I chose to write it all down because I wanted to remember everything. I was choosing to stay covered in my shame, & to stay fearful about others finding out the real me. If only they knew all I had really done. It didn’t matter what I hadn’t done.

Thankfully when I was 18 years old, I met Jesus. His love gripped my heart & I finally threw away the pages of sins I had kept for so long. He forgave me, so I forgave myself. He freed me from the shame I felt for so long.

But even now, 12 years later, I still find myself doing the same thing sometimes. Okay, maybe I don’t keep a list of sins in my journal anymore, but I surely do keep them. It has become more of a mental note now. I choose to hold on to all the ways I wrong people. I choose not to forget the pain I’ve caused others. I choose to dwell in feelings of shame. And in all of this, I am the one condemning myself. I am the one labeling myself as a failure, a cheater, & a liar. In all of this self-condemnation, I am forgetting that there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ! NO CONDEMNATION! NONE!

Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.”

In my darkest moments as a follower of Christ, I looked up one day at a cross hanging on a wall at a store where I worked. Literally, in one tiny blip in time, the Lord reminded me of this very Truth, in a way that I will never forget:

Remember that list of sins you’ve been collecting? I knew it. All the ways you’ve hurt other people, all the ways you’ve hurt yourself, all the way you’ve hurt me: I knew it all. I took my place on that cross already fully aware of every sinful bone in your body. Nothing surprises me. Nothing fills me with regret. Nothing will ever make me change my mind. I loved you then, & I love you still. You are my Beloved Daughter, whom I’ve forgiven, whom I cherish, whom I’ve washed as white as snow. There is no condemnation for those who belong to me, & Beloved, you are mine.

When Christ hung from that cross, He stared you straight in the face & said “this is for you, my child.”