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Community, Faith, Family, God, Identity

Lou, Smell the Flowers

July 27, 2016

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When I opened the door, the refrigerated air and the intense smell of flowers filled up my lungs. I immediately became obsessed with this tiny warehouse. As I stepped out of the bright sunlight and into this cement room full of buckets, I saw Lou. We had just talked on the phone for an hour while he taught me about growing dahlia tubers and how to harvest flowers to make them last. When I went to shake his hand, I could feel the years of making arrangements and working in the soil in his grip. There was passion in his eyes but his wrinkled skin gave it away-the sun had beaten him up. Growing flowers is no joke. He said he would buy any product I could grow as long as it was quality and to call him again with any questions. I was curious about this little warehouse so full of life. I asked an annoying amount of questions and only some were about the wedding I was helping prepare flowers for. On my way out, I took one more deep breath of the rose-lily-peony-lavender-eucalyptus goodness and asked him if he ever got tired of that smell and I’ll never forget his response.

 

“I wish I could still smell these flowers.”

 

Over the years, he had just gotten used to the smell. His senses were completely dulled. Man, to be surrounded by such beauty every single day and not be able to fully enjoy it anymore? Not gonna lie, it broke my heart in a little way.

And it made me think.

How many times do I complain about dumb crap instead of enjoying the blessing that is so plain to see?

How many times do I wish time away just to get to the next thing?

How many times do I drive the country roads to work and not realize the changing of the seasons in the color of the wildflowers?

How many times do I hear “I love you” from my husband and take it for granted?

How many times do I forget to be completely amazed at the ability to talk to God in prayer?

How many times do I panic about the future when I know the reality of heaven?

So many times.

 

I wish I could still smell these flowers.

 

So this changes things. Desiring the perspective of being aware of what’s around me has been changing my life. From decluttering my house to decluttering my schedule (these things are still in the beginning stages), I’ve been ever so slightly able to see more clearly.

These few uncomfortable things may change your life like they’re changing mine:

Eye contact. More than what’s usual or expected. With my husband and with the woman who is at the bus stop I drive by every morning. I want to say “I see you and I care” with my eyes.

Silence. I force myself to turn off the podcasts and not call people to leave ridiculous 4-minute voicemails (sorry, Heather). Sometimes it’s almost painful to turn talk radio off and listen to the hum of the road or the drone of the air conditioner at home. When is the last time you truly sat still and stopped your brain from running 100 miles an hour?

Get out! I have been sitting with my baby chickens (this is a whole other post… I’m obsessed with them) every night in the backyard in the quiet as a practice of slowing down. They wander around pecking the dirt and flying at each other and staring at me with their scruffy adolescent feathers and beady eyes like alien babies. And before I know it, I have sweat dripping off my face and bug bites on my legs. But man, something about the fresh air is like plugging my batteries in for a good charge.

 

I wish I could still smell these flowers, said old man Lou.

 

I want to smell the flowers every day.

 

Fight to smell the flowers.

Community, Forgiveness, Relationships, Your Story

Be There in 5 (aka 15)

May 18, 2016

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So I’m addicted to Veggie Straws, I have warts on my right knee, my husband says my hobbies are grandma-like, and I was once entirely convinced that I was going to marry Nick Jonas (Don’t tell me you weren’t too. YES, he was WAY cuter than Joe. Kevin was taken. End of argument.)

And girl, I am always late. Not by two hours, but almost always by two minutes. Sometimes I can make it up by running instead of walking or taking a few liberties with the speed limit, but I hate even typing that because I try SO HARD to be on time. Maybe it’s due to my lack of navigational skills driving and constant wrong turns or my desire to do five million tasks in 5 minutes and obviously never getting it done, but somehow, the clock always revels the unfortunate news that I’m late. I can usually get to work right on the dot and not one second too soon, but any casual appointments just don’t happen right when they’re supposed to.

I’m the girl you tell to be there 5 minutes before you are planning on hanging out so that I’ll actually be there around when we say we will be. Oh goodness! I don’t mean to be rude or inconsiderate or too busy! Thank you, Lord, for forgiving friends and a patient husband.

 

Being late causes rushing that I also despise.

Rushing makes me blow past people.

Rushing causes stress.

Rushing decreases my work’s quality.

Rushing makes me frustrated.

Rushing is dumb.

 

Last week, I pulled one long and wiry grey hair out of the side of my head. WHAT THE HECK?! Hello little hair follicles, are the organic veggies and magical sulfate free shampoo not enough to help you keep up your game? I’m trying here! Give me a few more years! Is this inevitable? Can I just make the hard-switch to total grey hair?

Being fully prepared, traveling to a destination without going exactly six miles per hour over the speed limit, and arriving with a few minutes to spare is just the BEST feeling. Maybe one day I’ll figure it out. When teleportation and time travel is a thing. For now, just give me my own time zone.

Community, Faith

Courage, Dear Heart

April 27, 2016

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“Whatever we learn to do, we learn by actually doing it. By doing just acts, we come to be just. By doing self-controlled acts, we come to be self-controlled, and by doing brave acts, we come to be brave.” — Aristotle

I never would have thought of myself as someone who is brave. More accurately, someone who possesses great courage. Sure I’ve done cliff diving or ridden that questionable roller coaster- but that was always accompanied with a heavy dose of fear and the prevailing thought of “What the he– am I doing?” So yeah, big fat wuss over here.

Did you know that the word courage is actually a heart word? Quick school lesson: (just stick with me here people) but the word courage comes from the Latin word which means heart. In its whole, courage actually means: to tell the story of who you are with your whole heart.

And isn’t that what we’re trying to do here? Tell our stories: the hopes, fears and everything in between? To gather our courage and become women who aren’t afraid to be real? Women who know that life is better together out in the open and not in the hidden spaces? So I guess you could say we all  have a lot more courage than we think we do.

When I left the blog last year I had no intention of coming back. My time was done and I had made peace with handing your precious hearts over to a new group of women who I knew would treasure you as much as I did. Something I learned last year was that love and care  sometimes can look a lot like letting go.

Over the past several weeks, Allison and I have been having a lot of hard conversations. Better yet, a lot of courageous conversations. We talked about heart and vision and unity and passion and calling. I asked hard questions and Allison gave hard answers. And together, we made a really hard, yet really courageous decision. Allison is leaving AGLM and I am stepping back in.

After serving as leader of this blog it became clear to Allison just how much she loves ministering to young women like yourselves. However, she also realized that the kind of girl and way she wants to reach that girl doesn’t quite fit the vision of AGLM. So, she is taking the bold move to step away from AGLM to better focus on the place in ministry where her heart’s passion truly lies. She’s writing a book, blogging on her own site and counseling/mentoring  women in her community. She’s bravely stepping into serving in the place her heart feels led, and you know what? We couldn’t be more thrilled.

Taking the reins of this blog back over wasn’t exciting for me, let’s be honest. I worked dang hard last year to let it go. To surrender it. What was going to happen if I came back? Would the passion still be there? Would I even have the energy to do it again? Would you guys still want to hear from me or had this thirty-something year old become irrelevant?

I can’t say I have the answers to these questions, but I can say that I’m anxious to find them out and the only way I can do that is by fearlessly jumping back in. So I jumped.

If courage is the telling of who we are with our whole hearts, I wonder what stories you and I have yet to share? Fears that live only in the silent tears we use to cry ourselves to sleep. Hopes and dreams that are only spoken in the hidden pages of journals and desperate prayers.

I wonder what would happen, if together, we all grabbed onto that courage and hand in hand faced the untouched parts of our stories with unguarded grace and guts. I don’t know the answer to that question either, but I’m ready to find out.

** If you’d like to continue to follow Allison on her journey, you can find her on her Instagram or her Blog.**

Community, Faith, God, Relationships

God is All-Satisfying

March 23, 2016
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“I have found a desire within myself that no experience in this world can satisfy; the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” C.S. Lewis
 
One thing that I consistently struggle with is unmet expectations.
 
I have always considered myself to be flexible and adaptable, and although that may be true as far as overseas missions go, I have found myself falling into the trap of unmet expectations for the last couple of years. It is never fun to admit to and one of those “ugly” habits that I wish I didn’t struggle with.
 
Our expectations are never truly realized until they aren’t met. When things go our way we usually just respond with excitement and joy instead of saying “Oh my goodness! All my unspoken expectations were just met!” Our expectations seem to be realized when our plans don’t go right and when either people or experiences disappoint us. Then we will be quick to realize those specific things we didn’t even know we wanted.
 
I struggle with not being where I thought I’d be at this stage in my life. I think we can all attest to that in some way.
I struggle with not having a job that is involved with what I’m most passionate about.
I wonder if I will ever live overseas like I have always dreamed of.
I fear what my “normal” will be like with a husband traveling out of town so much.
No church will ever be perfect, but I have had to face unmet expectations with the church that we go to.
I struggle with feeling like I’m not meeting other’s expectations.
I could drown myself in worrying about what others want or need or desire from me on a daily basis.
 
The list can go on and on and on…. SO. MANY. EXPECTATIONS.
 
Is anyone else just tired of them? When do they end? Do they ever end? What is the solution to stop being so disappointed or stop being the one to disappoint?
 
The only thing I know to do is fix my eyes on Christ. It’s not just the church-y answer. It can be confusing, frustrating, messy and imperfect…but it’s the ONLY way to free myself from expectations.
 
When I look to Christ, I see that He is truly all-satisfying. I can try so hard to make all of my dreams come true, and I can try every day to make things go the way I planned…but even if that were to happen, I still wouldn’t be fully satisfied.
THAT is the lie of unmet expectations: That if somehow we get everything we want, we will be happy. Christ teaches differently. He tells us that HE is the only one who can fully satisfy our soul’s longings, and until we are face to face with Him, we will always have that sense of unmet dreams, unmet plans, and unmet desires. It’s God’s way of reminding us that we were made to be fully satisfied in Him, and not in this world.
 
This is a real tension and struggle for us believers. God is teaching me that it’s how I respond to all my unmet expectations that counts. I need to constantly remind myself that this life is temporary, and that getting everything my heart desires isn’t the most important thing. When I think about it hard enough, I truly don’t want my life to be all about me. I want it to be for something greater than what my earthly desires create in my mind. I need to release control and TRUST in my Father who loves me so dearly. Loving God and loving others, in the midst of whatever unfulfilled circumstance we’re in is what God calls us to do. I want to have my eyes so fixed on Christ that everything in this life will fall in comparison to the satisfaction I have in my Father.
 
I’m trying to free myself from the burden of unmet expectations by laying my life, my plans, my dreams at the foot of the cross. I’m not the one in control and I want to be okay with that. God doesn’t promise to give us what we want, but He does promise that we can find all of the fulfillment and acceptance and satisfaction we need, in Him alone. And one day, when we are with Him for eternity, we will NEVER feel disappointment again.
Can I get an amen for that?! The struggle is real, ladies. Thank you Jesus for that promise because He knows we all need that today.
Body Image, Community, Faith, Family, Identity, Suffering, Your Story

Back Story

February 17, 2016
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Nina’s Story
This right here is like hundreds of coffee dates at one time. Telling our stories to each other reminds me of common threads- joyful days, hard days, belly laughs and ugly cries, pasts and futures that get us all jumbled in the head. Welcome to my belly laughs and ugly cries.
So I was born in south Florida to a southern Kentucky girl and a Colombian papa bear. My parents met on a blind date and were married a few months later. A few years later, I came along and when I came out of the womb, my dad called me “coconut” because of my already thick and dark hair- probably not the most romantic thing my mom could’ve heard in that moment, but anyway…
Next came my brother who probably arrived on earth kicking a soccer ball. We argued a lot growing up, but we were constantly together- playing outside, at each other’s games, watching the same movies, and I may or may not have slept in his room when we were little because I didn’t want to be alone at night. Tough, stubborn, strong older sister? HAHA!
We grew up with family close by and with a solid group of friends that felt like family. Consistently covered in sand from the beach, sidewalk chalk from afternoons outside, or water from the pool, my tendency was to play outside before anything else.
Jesus became real to me in seventh grade during worship at a conference that my youth group was attending. I felt His presence in a way that was unknown to me before and I realized God is closer than the breath in my lungs. Because of growing up in church, I knew the Bible stories but in the quiet days following this trip, I remember sitting behind our house looking into the backyard and asking Jesus to live in me. Since then, I’ve had stepping stones of my faith walk where I learn new parts of His character, but I treasure the memory of that day.
I guess I could further explain my “normal” childhood, sweet and stable family, church friends, the culture shock of public high school after private Christian middle school, and the joy of always having the ocean nearby. But I’d rather tell you about a secret.
In elementary school, I got X-Rays.
Sure enough, my spine showed up on the lit screen as a rotated and backwards “S” just like my mom and grandmas. At first, I was scared for my body because I knew something was wrong. But then I was scared because of shame, that it’d be impossible for me to be perfect because the very thing that held my body together was crooked. My bones weren’t broken, they were distorted.
The doctor sat with us for hours and tried to explain why I’d have to wear a brace while I slept for the next five years. And if it didn’t work to manage the curvature, they’d consider immobilizing parts of my spine with a metal rod to protect my organs from potential damage.
Confusion was paralyzing and I cried from deep fear and sudden panic.
And then I didn’t tell anyone.
Nobody knew my secret. For some reason, I shut up. I avoided sleepovers so that nobody would see the plastic brace I kept under my bed. I know it sounds dumb, but it was a monster to me. I kept my pain a secret for years and ran to hide my brace whenever someone came in the house. When I was in the trenches of the years of endless trips to the doctor, more X-RAYS, and uncertainty of progress, I was frustrated with my spine.
Looking back, I see how simple the situation was. My spine is crooked and God was so kind to put the best doctors in my life to help me heal. The whole story is grace-filled and I love sharing it now, but at the time I didn’t want anyone to realize my flaws.
In college, a friend taught me how to crochet a scarf. Although I’m still clumsy with the hook and yarn, I’ve seen yards and yards of thin string become messy but beautiful pieces of clothing. My first scarf was a disaster but you could still see the woven pattern despite my inability. In the middle of the project it’s impossible to see the fullness of the finished work.
To the girl with a medical history, I see you. Maybe you feel alone in that doctors office and like nobody else will understand what you’re going through- your disease, your deformity, your mental illness. Whether or not it is obvious to the world what’s going on inside you, believe that it is for good somehow. And that it’s okay if you can’t see it now. I know that it is dark and hard and waiting for news sucks, but oh the freedom I’ve found in sharing the struggle. Such freedom. Such grace.
Community, Faith, Identity, Your Story

Embrace who God created you to be

February 12, 2016

 

 

Written by one of our readers:

Hey girls! Can I just say how excited I am to be writing to you all?!? My name is Shanna, and I’ve been following AGLM since 2012.  I am so thankful for this blog; God directed me to it at a very vulnerable time in my life.  As a shy eighteen year old fresh out of high school, I was in desperate need of a community that could pour into my questioning heart.  As I pondered just what I wanted to share with you ladies, the Lord brought this phrase to mind “Embrace the person God created you to be.”

Some of you are saying, what does that even mean?! Good question!! At eighteen, I was thinking the exact same thing.  Now at twenty one, I’m still searching for the answer, but I have a better grasp.  How many of you have spent weeks, months, even years etc.  trying to figure out just what you should do with your life? Or maybe you have an idea, but you don’t know how to achieve it.  Or, you could be like I was, fully aware of what God is calling you to do, but terrified of doing it.

You see ladies, this is a hard thing for me to admit, because I wish it wasn’t true, but I spent the first 18 years of my life denying one of the gifts God gave me.  I had a heart for worship and singing that God had been cultivating in me since I was a little girl.  But fear had a tight grip on me. My confidence in who I was as a person was so depleted, that I couldn’t even fathom the idea of singing in front of five people, let alone a congregation at church.  I refused to use my voice to serve God; the very thing he had gifted me the voice for!

My first year of College was a whirlwind of change.  I watched many of my friends head off to Universities, while I stayed home and went to a local community college.  I said goodbye to familiarity that year, and walked uneasily into the season of change that God was bringing.

Lonely, insecure, and confused, I found myself praying for two things; a Godly friendship, and for the Lord to give me a deeper desire for him.

At a time when I needed it most, God answered that prayer. I met my very best friend, Ashley, at church.  We had so much in common; it was like hanging out with myself!  As our friendship grew, I felt the weight of insecurity fall from my shoulders.  I firmly believe that God brought that friendship in my life to bring us both closer to him! I also really began to hunger for God’s word, prayer, and worship.  As I pursued the things of the Lord it became clear to me, God was saying “Embrace the Person I created you to be.”

The closer I became to God, the more secure I was in the person he made me to be.  My identity was no longer my own, I found my true self in Christ.  By the end of that first year, with the encouragement of Ashley and my family, I finally did what God had been asking me all along, I gave him my voice.  I joined the worship team and never looked back.

God has changed my life through worship.  The moment I gave that part of myself to God, fear left me.  I realized that I had nothing to fear; worship is not about me or being heard; it’s about glorifying and pouring out my heart to the one who saved us all.

Being obedient to God and true to who he made you to be is one of the greatest acts of worship you could ever offer.

Think about this, God knows the deepest desires of your heart.  He is familiar with all of your ways.  God loves you as you are.  You don’t have to deny or suppress the dreams and desires that lay dormant in your heart.  God put them there! He created you in a special way, with a unique purpose.  Not only is it okay to pursue the things that God has put on your heart, it is his will!

God’s word says it all.  We are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by the greatest creator.  Our “inmost being,” the very essence of who we are, was crafted by God.  It is God’s Holy Spirit within us that directs our hearts. (Psalm 139)

Ladies, I still don’t have it all figured out.  I’ve only scratched the surface on God’s plan for my life.  There is one thing that I’m absolutely sure of though, it’s not going to take me another 18 years to listen to God’s call.  If you’re in that place of uncertainty, cry out to God.  Ask him to reveal his will, to make his desires your desires too.  If you have sought God’s word and prayed to him, and you know what he is calling you to do, then it is time to follow his lead.

Change your college major…..become that missionary in Africa…..sell your paintings…..lead worship…..whatever it is God is calling you to, do it for him.

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Shanna is 21 years old and a resident of Portland, Oregon. She loves going to concerts (Switchfoot is her all-time favorite).  Creating art, playing the guitar, cooking, singing on her church’s worship team, and spending quality time with family and friends are some of her favorite past-times.

Community, Faith, Family, Suffering, Your Story

Redemption Wins

February 5, 2016

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Written by one of our readers:

I guess you’d say my story started when I was born. 😉 But I don’t remember much from before I was about 5. I know most of my childhood was sheltered and happy. I grew up in a Christian home. I had (have) a big yard, and 5 siblings (you know…tickle monster, clubs, mud pies…a lighthearted childhood!). I was always in good health and mostly happy. For a while I thought I was saved, but now I know I wasn’t. I didn’t have assurance. Oh, I believed in Jesus’ existence my whole life. I “accepted” His “free” gift of salvation over and over again. But nothing changed in my heart. I didn’t actually believe I was bad. I didn’t realize my NEED. And I didn’t realize Jesus was crazy about me. Yeah, I knew “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so” but it was just because I was told that, not because my heart had been transformed by that Love.

Tragedy struck in January 2012 when my wonderful dad passed away unexpectedly. I think that his passing really woke me up to the fact that this life is temporary. My 11-year-old brain was desperately trying to deny the news that my daddy isn’t here anymore at the same time I was trying to let it sink in. He is with Jesus now. This experience shouted to my young heart that tomorrow isn’t promised.

This is scary for me to say, but it’s important. God has led me to see that I may not have been saved and seriously started pursuing Him if it hadn’t been for my dad’s death. I know. That’s been a really tough realization for me. My dad was a joyful, strong, and gentle man. I never doubted he loved me. I love and miss him more every day.

I’ve seen God redeem my dad’s death, not just in the redemption of my soul, but also in how I can reach out to others now. My loss has made my heart go out to people who are in pain. It has reminded me to look beyond the small right now, to keep sharp focus on the bigger picture. It has taught me crazy lessons of trust and surrender in God.

In November of 2012, my older sister participated in a local home school drama seminar, which was run by a Christian Drama trade school called The Academy of Arts ministries (AOA). Among other things, AOA travels to Christian schools and home-school groups to hold weeklong drama seminars and on the last day they perform a play. Their mission is to bring the Bible alive– it’s very effective! Throughout the week, my sister told us that group shared a special love among themselves—almost like they were siblings.

Little did any of us know how important her new friends would become to us.

September 2013 a friend introduced my family to Tenth Avenue North. TAN has a huge part in my story. Through them God revealed to me so many truths I had not known or taken seriously before. I learned that I am free to struggle, I am more than what I do, and redemption wins. By them I have been challenged to be honest, to give grace as I have received it, to forgive even if it feels like I’m losing. I have seen and felt God’s love in whole new ways. Their words and music say what I need to hear and tell me I am not alone with my feelings and struggles. Not only through their music have they instructed me, but also in their daily lives. I don’t know them personally, but mostly through the internet I have seen that they’re serious not only about saying but about doing.

They practice what they preach. That is so encouraging and inspiring to me.

The following November (2013), my big brother and I decided to “try it out”. 😉 We had an awesome time! Every morning we would be a little early to sing hymns and pray as a group before the day officially began.

I felt so at home! I knew beyond a doubt that I belonged.

On Saturday after the production, clean up, and pizza party, we wept for hours. I promised a friend I would try my best to come back. I scavenged money, and returned the next year…and the next. Between seminars we love getting together. We will make something up, or drive 6-12 hours, just so we can be together for a few hours! Without these fantastic people, I know I would not be who I am. God has redeemed so much within me through my AOA family.

Then came 2014. Though it had several very beautiful memories, it was overall a very chaotic time in my emotional and spiritual life. That year I wrestled with bitterness, hate, and anger. I struggled to forgive (others as well as myself), to love, and let go. That was the year I hid in my closet (spiritually and physically) several times, not because I was trying to pray, but because I was ashamed, and emotionally hurt–because I was trying to hide from everything. Trying to shut the world, the pain out. Even though I wasn’t planning to pray, by God’s grace, I did end up crying out to my Maker from my closet floor. It was in those dark times that I most deeply experienced His presence; though I know those were the times I least deserved Him.  It was a long process, but that year I came to the point where I finally saw my desperate need for Jesus. And so, it was also the best year of my life in more ways than one. This was the point where He could show me that He loves me with an unreasonable, unquenchable, and unfathomable love. That was the year I really WANTED God for myself and started following my Savior. My heart began to be transformed by His Love.

 

12183743_977968492260208_9173308097032215377_oLeah lives in Southeastern PA. She is 15 years old and homeschooled.

Community, Faith, Forgiveness, God, Identity, Your Story

Not Okay.

January 29, 2016

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Written by one of our readers:

It was a typical Sunday morning as I walked into the doors of the church I have attended since elementary school. I smiled at the familiar face of a dear friend greeting me at the door and remembered all of the happy pictures on Facebook she shared. “Good morning,” I said cheerily, “How are you?”

“I’m good…” she responded hesitantly with a smile that would appear natural to anyone who didn’t know her. Her eyes appeared to be filled with a burden so heavy, she felt she couldn’t tell anyone… Not even someone she could trust.

I think this is a common story for us ladies in the brave new world of a social media saturated society. Everywhere we turn, there are highly filtered “picture perfect” moments captured and posted on Facebook or Instagram with the hashtag “no filter” or “blessed.” At the beginning of this social media frenzy, photos were not at all filtered, were less than picture perfect, and certainly didn’t have hashtags attached. As time has passed, we’ve become unawaringly numb to the staged images that fill our brains on a daily basis. Now, we’ve started applying that filter to our everyday lives.

We apply a “happy” filter when we’re with good friends and telling them about our lives. We force our eyes to crinkle in a seemingly genuine smile and fill our sentences with words like “amazing,” “awesome,” or “fabulous” while on the inside we’re struggling with where we are at and questioning if what we’re doing is what God has really set aside for us. And our friends are none the wiser because they have their filter on too. We apply our “spiritual” filter at church to show everyone that we’re happy and we’re growing in our walks with Christ when really, we’re struggling with our season of singleness and wondering if this is really God’s best for us. We apply our “content” and “satisfied” filter with our spouse or our family members to show them that we are happy with where we are in life but inside, we’re questioning if there is something more for us in our career, our relationships, our household, and every other area of our lives.

We live in a world that tells us that it is not okay to be anything but okay or good or awesome. We live in a world of staged moments captured on social media and staged responses to basic questions like, “How are you?” We live in a world that tells us to always hustle and strive for perfection but at what cost? Our mental health? Our relationships? Contrary to popular belief, it is not healthy to hold all of those feelings of hurt, confusion, sadness, anger, or whatever other emotion is coursing through your precious veins. I can also tell you that you can’t build a solid foundation for a solid relationship (friendship or otherwise), based of off cookie-cutter responses to cookie-cutter questions. Can I also tell you something else very important? It is absolutely okay that right now, you’re not at all okay.

One of the things I heard in church a lot when I was growing up was, “It’s a sin to question God,” or, “You should never get angry at God because, well, He’s God.” You probably have heard some variation of those overtly religious statements. As I have grown (physically and spiritually) I have learned two really important things:

  1. Religion teaches us rules, while Jesus teaches us relationship.
  2. Part of having a relationship with Jesus means being completely honest about how we feel with Him. He already knows, so why not tell Him?

In my life, I strive to have relationship with Jesus Christ and not rules set up by religion interfering with my Christian walk. Let’s be honest, religion has a lot of rules. Base your life and walk with Christ off of Scripture and Christ Himself, and you’re doing just fine. Notice I said walk with Christ and not walk to Christ. That’s the best thing about the Gospel: we do not have to work to receive God’s gift of His Son. His Son came down to us to be with us as we journey to heaven to be with God for all of eternity. On that journey, there are going to be places where you are angry at God. Those are the places where your relationship with Him will grow and strengthen. Religion tells us to evaluate our lives and see what we’re doing wrong but Jesus tells us to come to Him, walk with Him, learn from Him, and in Him we’ll find rest, healing, and redemption (not in anything we could ever do or say). Religion tells us to grin and bear it. Jesus tells us to fall at His feet and be vulnerable before Him.

If you don’t believe me, read through the Psalms. There are so so many Psalms that David wrote where he is pouring his heart out God, getting mad at God, questioning God, and praising God for His presence and redemption. And what do people call David? A man after God’s own heart.

It’s okay to not be okay. It’s okay to be scared. God isn’t expecting perfection. He’s expecting honesty and trust. Take your filters off before the God-Man that gave up His life to know you. Take off your filters before the people that love you and desire relationship with you. Vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a sign of trust and that’s all God wants from us: our explicit trust because if He has that, He has the rest of us. And can I tell you a secret? He will never let you down, never leave you, never hurt you, and never take advantage of you. He loves you more than life itself, dear one.

Processed with VSCO with b5 presetAllison Mozingo is 21 years old. She’s from Clayton, NC. She’s a junior at Campbell University and studying Elementary and Middle Grades English.

Community, Faith, Family, God, Identity, Relationships, Your Story

Confessions of a Perfectionist

January 22, 2016

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Written by one of our readers:

You’re not the only one who feels like this
Feeling like you lose more than you win
Like life is just an endless hill you climb
You try and try but never arrive
I’m telling you something this racing this running
Oh you’re working way too hard
And this perfection you’re chasing is just energy wasted
Cause He loves you like you are

I felt a little shocked the first time I heard this song.  How did a Canadian musician whom I have never met somehow write a paragraph exactly documenting my struggles during the past few years?

See, I grew up in a good Christian home, with five sibling and parents who loved each other and us.  Yep, I pretty much had it made.  But a few years ago, a trait that had for the most part laid dormant during my childhood reared it’s ugly head in full force, and I was suddenly a fanatical perfectionist.

I suppose it came partially from the fact that I am highly sensitive, which is in strong contrast to my three rough and tough older siblings.  I felt rather different — in a not good way — from the rest of my family, and to counter that decided I had to be the perfect daughter and sister and friend and whatever else.  I can also be extremely secretive about weighty matters, and the combination of those two led to a very long, lonely period of my life.

I was obsessed with being perfect, for my parents, for myself, and for Jesus.  And of course, I failed miserably.  It’s simply not possible for a hormonal teenaged girl to be perfect, day in and day out.  So when I inevitably goofed, it was hard to keep from all out hating myself.  Self harm began to make sense.  And then it became a temptation.  I thankfully never acted on that temptation — mostly because it wasn’t something a perfect girl would do — but it was often on my mind just the same.

Any sort of critique or rebuke would make me extremely defensive because I didn’t want any more guilt added to load I already carried.  But it was always added anyway, and then I would have to fight my way through the next few days until I did something ‘right’ enough to please myself and take some of the pressure off.

Though it may have originated in my family environment, my perfectionism injected the most poison into my relationship with Jesus.  Because I wasn’t measuring up to what I felt like He should have from me, I preferred to remain at arms length, not to protect myself, but to protect Him from me.  As someone once said, ‘You hand me grace, and I think You’re handing me an expectation.  And it weighs so much.’  I put up barricades because anything more than short, distant communication was unsettling, again, not to defend myself, but to keep Him out of my mess.  And I thought I was hiding my issues pretty well, until my very perceptive brother let me know otherwise.

I had just purchased Tenth Avenue North’s latest album, No Man Is An Island.  And while I liked the concept of the album in theory, I still was hesitant to open up about my troubles to anyone.  While chatting with my brother one day (who is no Tenth Avenue North fan and knows very little of their music) he said, “I get the feeling you’re on an island.”  I was slightly freaked out by the coincidence, and that, along with some other factors, prompted me to confide in some trusted friends about what was going on.  But for the next few months, I still was on a roller coaster of guilt that just wouldn’t go away.

And then, after a startling revelation one evening as I was driving home from work, things finally began to change.  I had the music cranked up and pondering the fact that the only time I felt close to God anymore was when I was worshiping.  It suddenly clicked.  I had spent years focusing on my own inadequacies, and even when you’re looking at yourself finding fault, you’re still looking at yourself.

Since that memorable day, I’ve been trying hard to ditch the microscope I was carrying around to assess my failures with, and invest in a telescope instead.  It hasn’t been all uphill, and I often feel myself sliding back into the old familiar ruts of self hatred.  But by God’s grace, I’m at least spending a lot less time there than I used to.

FullSizeRenderVirginia Kirby