Bye Bye, Perfect

Everyone has some bizzarities.

Mine just happens to be making up words. Like that one.

I am a good girl raised by the law. And in many ways, I still operate best that way. I’m a list-maker. So I can check it off and see my progress. I have many self-imposed rules. Rules like…

1. Don’t paint your fingernails unless your toenails are painted.

Toenails are just uglier than real nails. So, my priorities are in order. Always paint the ugliest first. I feel as if my toes should always be painted. Even in the winter. Even with close-toed shoes. Always. So if I don’t have time to paint those, I don’t have time to paint my fingernails. I also have an order for shaving.And it gets done year-round. Armpits first, legs next, then…..

But I digress.

Also, I used to hate it when people used the phrase “painting their nails.” It’s polishing, people.

2. Don’t get on social media unless you’re on the treadmill. Unless I have a notification. Or unless I have a specific wall to write on or a specific picture to post. The older I get, the more I forget. So if it’s there, it must happen then before it goes away.

Consequently, I’m not on much. These days, exercise is more outside and with friends and at gyms. I’ll try to make time for you guys. But maybe not again until winter.

Which leads right into…

3. Don’t get on social media without blessing someone. Spread some sunshine. Be positive. Rejoice with someone or cry with someone. The Gospel is not just witnessing. It is testifying. I don’t get on Facebook to just like everyone’s status, although I do plenty of that. I get on to find needs. To identify ways to bless people. To pray over situations. Social media gets a lot of bust, but it’s because people use it to express themselves before they take their expressions to God. I’ve been guilty of it.

I’m in it to change it. I want encouragement to be my main goal. I’m going to redeem this thing before it’s over.

4. If a book is to be MINE, really mine, it will be highlighted, underlined, and marked up. I want posterity to know what was important to me.

Who am I kidding? I want to know what was important to me. Five minutes ago.

5. Recycle paper. We throw so much paper away that just by recycling it alone stretched our trash drop-offs an extra week. That’s a LOT of trees. I believe they’re here for me, yes. And I’d like them to be around when I need a back-scratcher.

6. Keep your metabolism going. Whether that be exercising 5 minutes, or stretching in the backroom while you wait for your lunch to microwave. I jump on the treadmill when I’m talking on the phone, or if I know I have a lot of texts to send. Or an email to read. You’ll be surprised how fast the time goes. And if you hold on with one hand, you can do it in the dark. And still go at LEAST 4 mph.

Incidentally, I hated when people called their cell phones a “phone.” No, a phone was attached to a wall or had an antenna. Now, I rarely use the word “cell.” I do love “cellica-phone”, though. It’s the best form of that word.

7. Don‘t be sucked into “motivation clothes.” Nope. If it don’t fit, it don’t stay. (With the exception of pregnancy clothes that people have given me.) I’m not going out to buy new clothes until I get to the size I want. Now THAT is motivation.

8. As often as you can, give yourself the chance to fast. Either from a meal, or from a shopping spree, or from a treat. For the express purpose of spending time with God. As offering a living sacrifice. It feels so special, so private, so sacred. I’m a huge promoter of finding what works in my relationship with God. Just like you experience different things with your love to find out what commonalities you share, Jesus wants the same treatment.

9. Don’t be routine. This one is reallllyyyy hard for me. I’m a routine girl. I measure my progress by my routine. I want so badly to be consistent, but every day is different, and different days require different needs. So I have to be intentional about getting over myself.

If you have a “prayer closet”, and that’s what keeps you from being distracted, do that. If moving around to different places keeps it fresh, do that. If your bed makes you sleepy, or your desk makes you check off your to-do list mentally, do it at the dining room table. If that makes you hungry, go back to the bed. Find what works for you.

Some people are big proponents of morning devotions. I tend to want to curl up and go back to sleep. I feel like it’s not fair to give God the sleepiest part of my day. I’m more of a night owl, and when I know Brandon is preoccupied with the tv, I feel less guilty about taking time from him and spending it exclusively with God. (I’d love to know what works for you). But like I said, don’t feel like you have to do things a certain way. I am always guilting myself for not being consistent. There’s another made-up word.

Jesus doesn’t want consistent as much as He wants persistent.

That’s important. Jesus doesn’t want consistent as much as He wants persistent. All of these rules that make up my existence, they are nice standards to go by. They do reflect my priorities. But if, at the end of the day, I feel like I don’t measure up and I have none of my lists checked off, I’m not under par. I’m loved. I’m a child of God. Instead of beating myself up about not spending an hour on my knees before work, I walk around and pray throughout the day. I read a devotional on the shelf and thank God for my job. I find people to minister to and I encourage them. I mediate on Scripture.

These are simple things, but they are HARD for a girl wired like me. I can’t measure my goodness in hours and minutes. I can’t check off meditation or prayers. I can’t show the world or my diary how spiritual I am.

But He knows. And he’s my standard. And any other standard of perfection is an idol.

So the nails go unpainted and the exercise and social media go to the wayside and my perfectionism goes back on the shelf. Because Jesus is my God. I’m not only proclaiming it with my mouth, but also with my life.

Bye-bye, perfect.

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Dumpster Diving

I pulled out an old devotional last night called “A Call to Die.” As I flipped through the pages, I landed on a chapter in the middle of the book. It spoke of the disease and hunger that infested places like Calcutta, India. A volunteer went over for a few weeks to assist those who were dying. Their main mission wasn’t to heal, but to give them a dignified place to die. They would shave their heads, give them one last hot meal, and give them new clothes and a nice bed. Most of them couldn’t even eat the entire meal because they were so weak and their bodies had lost all appetite. When the trash was taken out, the children from the neighborhood would rush to tear open the bags of half-eaten food, pus-filled syringes, and diseased clothing to try to find anything they could fill their bellies with. 

The author likened it to the things we fill our bodies with. We easily identify physical trash, but we fill our minds and hearts with so many forms of trash every day through media, movies, books, and dirty conversation.He pointed out that when we stuff ourselves so full of trash, we have no room left for what God wants to fill us with. 

My mind went back to a devotional I gave every year as a floorleader. I had a bag with my name on it, and filled it one by one with snack size snickers. I told the girls that when they fill their lives with things that they think will satisfy them, they have no room left for the plans God wanted to fill their “bag” with. I so often found myself munching on snack-sized snickers while cleaning for company, only to find that when the meal was prepared, I wasn’t a bit hungry for the really good food. This author said that even when we hear a good song or a sermon or read a great verse, it’s like eating a bite of pizza on top of the junk we are stuffed with. It isn’t truly satisfying, rich, and delicious like God intended it to be. 

I have often said that the more a person watches tv, the more desensitized they become to evil. Violence, language, and sex are so predominant that you can’t even watch the commercials without blushing. Unless, of course, you see them constantly. Then you don’t even think about it. The first time those children went through the trash, it was probably embarrassing and awkward. But after they did it a few times, they decided that the food wasn’t so bad and it became their main food source. A movie might make us uncomfortable initially, but after a while, we get adjusted and find that bad language doesn’t bother us unless it’s “a lot”. Or, “There’s only one sex scene.”

We need to be extremely careful. The things we excuse in our own lives will one day be prominent in the lives of the people who look up to us. Our responsibility is huge.

Are we promoting BUSY? Are we getting our needs met with social media, food, entertainment, relationships, tv? I don’t mean to suggest that instead of going to work, we should stay home and feast on God’s Word. But I do mean that we should be intentional about gauging the things we put in our lives. If there is more junk in our lives than healthy things, we should make some adjustments. All of us have needs. But most of us choose the wrong things (or the easy things) to fill up on.

It’s time to reconsider our diet. It will not be easy to stop dumpster diving, but the feast at God’s table is far better than anything we’ve had before.

Me, Myself, & Lies

I never realized how ruthless I am. I am just plain mean. I say horrible, nasty things. I say all sorts of things that aren’t true or proven or real. I make things up. I am so unkind. And I lie.

To myself.

I may be nice to everyone else, but I never give myself the benefit of the doubt. I never give myself a break. I expect perfection, 100% of the time. And I usually shoot for better than perfect. I almost never reach it. And then I am hard on myself. Really hard on myself. I mean, I think I would rather get an old-fashioned spanking rather than deal with the torture I give myself.

Notice how many “I’s” and “my self’s” there were in those two paragraphs? Jesus never meant for us to focus so much on ourselves. He meant for us to look to Him. Then we can get the true standard of perfection.

I was talking with a sweet friend this morning and telling her about how the lies were affecting my relationship with God and my self-esteem. She didn’t skip a beat to tell me I was wrong. “People talk about self-esteem, but it’s really pride.”

We try so hard to be good so that we can be proud of ourselves. So that others can be proud that we have it all together. So that God, somehow, too, can be proud. We know better than that. God is not proud of us because of what we’ve done. Any goodness of ours is filthy rags to Him. The only reason we can be good is because of Christ, and the only reason He can even fellowship with us is because of Christ. We are nothing apart from Him.

So, when I pick myself apart and feed myself to the birds, I am focusing on myself. When I lament things said or not said, I am being selfish. When I replay conversations in my head and think about what should have taken place instead, I am wrong. As my best friend says, “Don’t ‘should’ all over yourself.”

Jesus specifically declares war on those thoughts with Philippians 3:13. “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…” I am sinning to recall past events so that I can continually drag myself over the coals.

His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in my weakness. Paul says we should rejoice in our infirmities. As was pointed out in church on Sunday, we don’t generally thank God for things we don’t like. But if we did, I think it would revolutionize our thinking. Changing our thinking is the key to success in any area. And we can’t do it alone. We need Him to renew our minds (Romans 12: 1-2). We could then start seeing those failures and weaknesses as opportunities for God to be glorified.

Today, I am taking my thoughts captive, in obedience to Christ. Because I am so much harder on me than Jesus is.Image

Grace for the Good Girl

It’s exhausting. Finding your identity in what you do.

The server. The giver. The card-sender. The food-baker. The volunteer. Always saying yes. Even when you’re not asked.

Even if your motive is pure initially, somewhere along the way you start expecting. Expecting to be accepted. Expecting to be appreciated. Expecting to be needed for what you do. The problem with that is that you gain friends who appreciate you for only one thing: what you do. Not who you are.

I talk a lot about identity. Because I am just discovering who I am. And you can’t discover who you are until you know who you aren’t. 

The problem is not serving. God calls us to serve, and we are not being obedient if we don’t. The problem is the person serving. Unless you can keep it in check, eventually it messes with your mind. Either your motive changes, or your “why” changes.

For me, I came to the place where I never asked for help. Because I thought I was supposed to be the helper. People came to me for advice, but I couldn’t confide in anyone else because I was supposed to be the strong person. When people asked if they could help, I denied them the blessing because I thought more highly of them than myself… I thought their needs were more important than my own.

We are supposed to think of others as more than ourselves. But it is a disservice to others when you continue to treat them as if they are the only person in the world that matters. It’s like spoiling a child. I was wrong to refuse help. Call it pride or just a mental switch. But I was denying them a blessing. And that was wrong of me. I constantly saw others refusing help because they wanted to look like they had it all together. And I called it out in their lives.

But that was me.

The truth is: I have taught people that I have no needs, but I am secretly angry at them for believing me.

That‘s what Emily P. Freeman says in her book “Grace For the Good Girl.”Image

My needs may not look like others’ needs. I may not need gas money or a meal, but I do need love and for my feelings to be validated and I need someone to really ask me how I am and be able to really tell them. I don’t want someone to feel sorry for me, but I do need someone to pray with me and give me advice and point me to Scripture. I don’t need someone to “ahh” over me like a child with a boo-boo. I need someone to take me seriously and say, “I understand.” “I’ve gone through that.” I need someone to listen. To really listen. Someone to ask me to lunch and let me talk.

I’m not asking to take precedence over spouses or children. I’m just asking for someone to notice me. To give me 5 minutes of their time.

There is someone in your life like that. Who are they? We all have busy lives, whether we have a family or a job or not. But I’m asking for you to look past your busy-ness. And notice. Simply notice.

And for those of you like me, don’t get burnt out serving. Don’t only serve the ones you want to serve or the ones who surround you. Go outside your comfort zone. Find a widow or an elderly person or someone lonely. They can’t give a thing in return except gratitude. It is absolutely the best.

If you are exhausted and starting to alienate people, stop. And start saying no. To others, and most importantly to yourself (the you who thinks you have to initiate and do everything.) Don’t continue to drain yourself. Fill yourself daily with God and ask HIM to put people in your life to bless. Then, when they come, you will be absolutely sure that is who God wants you to bless. And you’ll be less likely to burn out and get bitter.

When you get bitter, your mind starts playing games. And you start noticing everything with a different pair of eyes. You get over-sensitive and paranoid. And then you shut down to everything and everyone around you. That is not the abundant life that Jesus promised us.

Your identity is not in what you do. It is who you are. Don’t find your identity to who you serve.

Link your identity to WHO you serve.