The Beauty of Imperfection and Grace

I sow grace for myself. To be where I am, to be who I am. Enough.

I reap grace for others, to excel at what God called them to do in all the excellent ways He’s gifted them. To allow others to own their gifts and calling without resenting being passed over. They are running their own races. No one can outpace me when my route is different. – Alia Joy

Did you catch that? “No one can outpace me when my route is different.” Yes, yes, amen. We’re done here.

Just kidding. But think about it. How often do we find ourselves stuck in the dangerous downward spiral of comparison? We know comparison is the thief of joy, but we let it in anyway.

We steal glances at the people running beside us, and we try to catch up to those ahead of us. We wear ourselves out trying to compete with others and the standards we set for ourselves.

We let comparison whisper lies to us, telling us that we don’t measure up. We believe the little voice that tells us we’re not enough if we don’t buy all the toys, drive the nice cars, have an impressive job, and live in a massive and beautiful home.

We let the world and its expectations tell us what to believe about ourselves and our worth. We allow others to dictate how we spend our money, our energy, and our lives. We try to fit into boxes we were never meant to fit inside.

We tell ourselves that our dreams are too small or too big. We think they need to be the same as everybody else’s. We rein them in and trade them in.

But no more.

We are not perfect, and we don’t have to pretend otherwise. We are not all the same, and that’s a good thing. We are each unique, each beautiful, each valued, and each worthy. We do not have to do anything to be enough. We already are enough. We don’t have to conform to the rules of somebody else’s game. We are free.

We are enough. You are enough. I am enough. Right where we are today. May we give ourselves enough grace to see that. We don’t have to strive for our worth. We already have it.

Part of living like love is learning to love ourselves in the here and now, not some far-off version of us. It’s learning to embrace both our strengths and our weaknesses, acknowledging the reality of where we are at in this moment, even when it’s miles away from where we want to be.

It’s believing in our dreams, choosing to pursue things that we love, things that are different from our neighbor’s, sister’s, and friend’s dreams. It’s leaning into what makes us us.

But it’s also gently pushing ourselves to greater heights. Not because it will make us more worthy, not because we’re not enough without greater achievements or more impressive lives, but because we know what we’re capable of. We are capable of great things. Let us reach toward them, believing we can reach them, knowing that it is because we are loved and valuable and free that we can achieve our dreams.

We are capable of great things. Let us reach toward them, believing we can reach them, knowing that it is because we are loved and valuable and free that we can achieve our dreams.

 

 

Further reading:

An Anthem of Imperfection by Alia Joy, (in)courage

On Loving the Ordinary

It hardly makes our Instagram feeds or Facebook pages, but we spend most of our time living in the in-between, the ordinary, the mundane moments of life.

We trudge through our work weeks to get a break on the weekends.

We plow through the day to celebrate and kick back at night.

But what about the time in between? Do the moments and days between the big moments count for anything?

In them, we work, manage our households, provide for ourselves and our families, build friendships, create a life for ourselves, and try to keep all our ducks in a row. Those are the days filled with washing dishes, cooking dinner, packing lunches, washing laundry, mopping floors, wiping runny noses, reading bedtime stories, filing reports, checking emails, and running errands.

They are the ordinary days, the regular rhythms of our lives.

We don’t give these regular spaces much value but view them as the mindless path to the more important and productive times in our day. But more and more I see that these routines, chores and daily times of transition are the liminal spaces where we can meet God.

We need not separate the sacred from the ordinary, the “quiet times” and church attendance from our vacuuming and showering. Jesus showed up with a body that ate, slept, walked, built, taught. He told life-changing stories in fields and by mountains, shared truth around tables and while he washed feet. He listened and obeyed the Spirit at every small turn, trusting in the Father to accomplish His will through Him, step by step, person by person, meal by meal. – Aimee Kollmansberger

Did you catch that? We don’t have to separate the sacred from the ordinary. Every moment is sacred. Especially when you consider we don’t know how many more we’ll have.

There is beauty in a well-made meal, time spent with friends and family, a quiet evening alone, a project well done, a quick break to breathe deep, a brief message to encourage a friend, a doodle, a good book, art, and anything that makes us laugh.

We belittle the small moments when we discount their ability to bring us joy. When we rush through them toward the few and far between big things, we don’t do the small moments justice.

They provide the safety and predictability of rhythm when other things get too chaotic. And the simplicity and beauty of them hold so much beauty and joy.

They are the very things that keep us grounded. They fill up our lives in seemingly small ways, but when we look back, we’ll see that they were everything. They’re our normal, our solid ground, our home base.

We could be living lives that are more consistently joyful if we took just a moment to pause and realize the amazing potential our daily lives have for bringing us joy in seemingly small but noticeable ways.

 

Further reading:

On Finding God in the Pots and Pans by

Just Love People

Photo credit: Josh Felise

Photo credit: Josh Felise

Happy Valentines Day! Do you guys celebrate Valentines Day with gifts? Chocolate? Cards? Flowers? Fancy dinner dates? I’ve never been too big on Valentines Day, but I know my social media feeds are full to the brim with heart-shaped everything and lots and lots of pink.

But sometimes I need a reminder that cutesy little valentines and chocolate aren’t what Valentines Day, let alone love, is really about. If our love is limited to buying and exchanging gifts, we’re missing out.

I’ve been thinking about love more lately, mostly because I chose beloved for my word for 2017. Valentines Day serves to remind me in just one more way that loving the people around me is paramount.

Have a posture that is humble and not above or beyond certain tasks. Actions speak so much louder than words. In the words of Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What if we worried less about saying the right thing or trying to demonstrate our theological knowledge and just tried to simply love people—with no agenda. That is hard to argue with. There are endless opportunities to love people well and serve them, it just takes humility and the courage to be obedient.

– Courtney Bareman

When I don’t know what to do, when I feel lost and purposeless, I come back to what I know is true: people matter more.

People matter more than things.

People matter more than accomplishments.

People matter more than titles.

People matter more than money.

People matter more than the American Dream.

And our people need us to just love them. They don’t need us to solve all their problems, say the “right” thing, or whisk them away to a world where everything is just peachy. They just need to know they’re not alone, they’re cared about, and that at the end of the day, they’re loved just as they are.

What if we remembered that people matter more every day of our lives? What would it look like if we loved people because we believe they are all worth it? What if we loved them with no agenda, loved them just because they are people and they are lovable?

Maybe it looks like sending a friend a hand-written note or thoughtful message, calling your grandparents, doing someone a favor, lending a hand to a friend in need, encouraging a neighbor or coworker, providing meals for someone going through a hard time, or sending someone unexpected flowers (after all, ’tis the season!).

Today, as we celebrate Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to remember that no matter what you do or don’t do to celebrate, the thing that matters most is how you love people. Roses or no roses; chocolate or no chocolate.

Have a great Valentines Day!

 

 

Further reading:

You Can Talk About Your Faith Without Being Annoying by Courtney Bareman, Relevant Magazine

 

 

Image source: https://unsplash.com/collections/806/valentines-day?photo=jjj1rHyYyG0

Our “Calling”

Oh, the ever-so-elusive “calling.” I can’t tell you how many articles and books I’ve read, hoping to find the one that will once and for all spell out what it is I’m supposed to do with my life. But the fact that I’m still searching proves that I have had no luck finding such an article or book.

(Hint: That’s because it doesn’t exist.)

There’s no book or article that can definitively tell me what job I should pursue, where I should live, or what my life journey will look like in detail.

Everyday, I’ve been feeling the pressure
I always gotta know the plan
It’s a weight that I’ve tried to shoulder
I thought I could, but I can’t
And I’m so tired of chasing dreams
When I am wired to let you lead

You’re changing my heart
To want what You want
To love how You love
And that is enough
There’s no greater plan
That I need to know
You only ask me to follow

-Tenth Avenue North, “What You Want”

As a Type-A control freak, I know full well how tempting it is to want to have everything planned out. I don’t like it when things don’t go the way I planned. Even worse, I don’t like it when there is no plan at all.

But when it comes to our lives, God’s will isn’t always black or white. Yes, of course He gives us commandments and guidelines (love as He has loved us, obey our fathers and mothers). But He doesn’t tell all of us to quit our jobs and travel overseas to be full-time missionaries in the traditional sense. He doesn’t expect us all to have jobs in churches, youth groups, or campus ministries.

He just asks us to love. Right here. Right where we are. Right now. Today.

He cares more about how we live than what we do. He’s more concerned about the position of our hearts than the location of our feet.

The way my pastor explained it last weekend was that God’s will isn’t a blueprint; it’s more like a game plan. Blueprints go into very fine detail and are incredibly precise. They have to be exact or things will fall apart. There’s no deviating from a blueprint. Game plans, on the other hand, are far more flexible. There are still guidelines to keep things from getting out of hand– rules to make things go more smoothly– but there is freedom within those boundaries. Changes can be made to account for different circumstances.

What I realized is that my calling was more like a life message.  A life message is less a motto and more something you become and embody in everything you do. And what I found as I was struggling in my business and wondering if I’d made a wrong turn is that I could live out my life message in any job.  While being a life coach.  While working at the World Market.  By being a copywriter.  And you can too.  – Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

So when you’re struggling to grasp what God’s perfect, pleasing will for you is, remember some of the things He has called us to do:

-Love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt 22:36-40)

-Go into the world and make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20)

-Love others as He has loved us (John 13:34)

-Care for widows and orphans (James 1:27)

-Serve others in humility (John 13:14)

-Store up treasure in Heaven, not on earth (Matt 6:19-21)

That being said, we were each created uniquely, and we will impact the lives of those around us in ways others can’t. Our purpose is to discover how we can use our talents to point the world back to God.

Our job is to say yes.  God’s job is everything else. – Danielle Allen

It seems so intangible, this “purpose.” What it really comes down to is finding a way to do what you do to the glory of God. Embracing challenges. Facing fears. Taking chances. Having faith that even if you don’t see it yet, it will all work out.

God works in the imperfections. Stop worrying about getting everything right and trust God to work through your weaknesses. When we recognize our limits and God still works through them, He gets all the glory. And that’s the beauty of it. You were designed specifically for this time and place, and the world needs what you have been called to do. Begin building.

-J. Scott McElroy

We don’t have to do it perfectly. We just have to do it. We have to stop letting the fear of not doing the “right” thing keep us from doing anything at all.

And in everything you and I do, we need to love. Love God and others. In our workplaces, we are to love. We are to be light. In our homes, we are to love. In our schools, we are to love. In our neighborhoods, we are to love. In our friendships, we are to love. Regardless of what our day jobs and titles might be, our real job is to live like love wherever God has placed us.

 

Further reading:

Living Out Your Calling by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

Don’t Overthink Your Calling. It’s Closer Than You Think by J. Scott McElroy, Relevant Magazine

 

Image source: www.todayschristianwoman.com

Embrace the Process

I was reminded today that progress takes time. It’s often very slow-going. It’s a journey.

bike-printable-polka-dots-black

Courtesy of 36th Avenue

But sometimes I really wish it could just happen overnight. I know that’s not how it works, but a girl can dream, right?

Anyway, part of my aim to love better this year is to love myself and show myself grace. That means that I have to be okay with making slow progress and even backsliding at times. It’s a two-step-forward-one-step-back type of dance.

It can be really frustrating when all I want is to leave bad habits in the dust. I want to crush them, conquer them, be done with them, and forget they ever existed.

But that wouldn’t teach me much. It certainly wouldn’t foster compassion, patience, grace, understanding, perseverance, or hope. And those are the more important things, anyway, not kicking a bad habit or achieving a new goal. Those are the lessons that are hard-won, the experiences that truly refine character.

Learning new habits and training myself to reach new goals is going to be a lifelong process. I might as well get used to the fact that I’ll always have goals to set, new things to challenge myself to accomplish. There’s always room for growth. And with the growth is room, too, for grace.

We’ll never be perfect. We will continually fall short. We can certainly grow, improve, strengthen, and make better decisions. We can become better versions of ourselves. But all along the way we should practice doing so gracefully.

By grace, we’ve been saved from the need to prove ourselves. By grace, we’ve been freed from having to earn our salvation and our worth. By grace, we’ve been given the opportunity to live life abundantly, without the pressure to do everything perfectly, and truly enjoy the journey.

By grace, we can let go of our pasts, our mistakes, and our baggage. We can move forward, even if our steps are small.

So today I’m choosing (through gritted teeth) to embrace the process, as slow as it might be. I’m going to take it one step at a time, even when some of those steps don’t feel like they’re leading me in the right direction. I’m going to trust that every small decision I make that supports my goals is important, even if some of them feel insignificant at times.

I’m going to persevere when I encounter setbacks and pray for strength when mine runs out. I’m going to refuse to bite off more than I can chew. I’m going to not aim to be perfect (because I know deep down that I never can be anyway), but just try to be one step ahead of where I was yesterday. Just one. Not twelve. Not seven. Not even two. Just one.

 

What’s your one step for today? Do you have any secrets to embracing the process more easily?

 

Further reading:

8 Simple Strategies For When You’re Struggling to Declutter by Claire Wilde, Becoming Minimalist

 

 

Image source: http://www.the36thavenue.com/free-printables-2/

Give Yourself Grace

In pursuit of living a life of love, I’m coming to realize how immensely important it is to give myself grace. We’ve heard that we’re our own worst critics, and it’s definitely true. We can see it in our New Year’s resolutions— when we set the bar far too high and expect too much of ourselves, only to quit a month later and berate ourselves for our failure.

When we hold too rigidly to our expectations, we’re setting ourselves up for greater disappointment if we don’t meet them. If we do meet them, we’re satisfied (but probably exhausted), and if we don’t, we’re crushed. However, if we set more realistic goals, we’re more likely to attain (and even exceed) them, and we set ourselves up for success. Small victories give us momentum to keep going, pushing ourselves forward one step at a time.

I think it’s safe to say we’ll all fall short of our goals at some point. But how we handle that says more about us than the failure itself. If we get back up and remind ourselves that we can accomplish our goals if we only persevere (and maybe alter our goals a bit), we build up our confidence and keep moving forward. But if we get upset and let our inner monologue fill with critical remarks, we’re moving backward and letting fear get in the way of accomplishing anything except sitting on the couch with a pint of ice cream and binge-watching Netflix.

Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a break and lower the bar. If we set our sights a bit lower (not rock-bottom low, but just a step or two ahead instead of twelve), we set ourselves up for success, making it easier to take small steps forward to achieve our bigger goals. If we expect to take great leaps overnight, we might want to crawl under a rock at the first sign of failure. We’re creatures of habit; it takes a while to break an old habit or break in a new one. We need to give ourselves time and room to grow.

In working towards various goals, I’m trying to remind myself often that I need to show myself some grace.

At the end of the day, when only a quarter of the things on my to-do list are crossed off, I’m going to choose to show myself grace.

I will celebrate small victories, knowing they’re the key to achieving big dreams.

When I take two steps forward and one step back, I will respond in grace.

When I hear myself starting to get frustrated and upset about my inability to meet my exceedingly high expectations, I will lower the bar in grace.

I won’t be afraid to dream, and dream big, but will hold my dreams loosely, knowing they might change and grow as I do.

Tomorrow’s a brand new day. It won’t be perfect, but it will be a whole lot better if I extend myself some much-needed grace. And I bet yours will be, too.

 

 

Image source: www.karipatterson.com

One Word

Are you the kind of person who has a laundry list of New Year’s resolutions? Or do you subscribe to the one-word philosophy? Or do you eschew all new-year resolutions altogether?

Last year I picked one word to meditate on: rest. I tried to incorporate it into the regular rhythms of my life. Let me tell you, it was hard. I’m still not very good at it. But I’m much better at thinking about how to integrate it into my life and recognizing my need for it. That’s a step in the right direction, isn’t it?

I’ve been thinking for a while about what my word for 2017 should be. I think that’s a better way for me to move forward instead of setting a dozen goals that I’ll likely forget about or give up on shortly after the new year begins.

In thinking about what words I want to describe me and my life, I’ve realized that what I really want to be known for is love. I want it to emanate from me and be painfully obvious in how I live my life.

I read a post by Jen Hatmaker a while back that really stuck with me (despite the fact that I can’t seem to track it down now). It was kind of a play on words to begin with (hello! already something I love!), starting with the word beloved. It was punctuated, broken up in a way that intrigued me right from the get-go. Jen broke it down into a few different concepts that really hit home with me.

  1. Beloved. It’s who we are.
  2. Be love. It’s what we’re called to do.
  3. Be loved. It’s how we’re related to by those closest to us.

That’s what I want to remember. That’s how I want to live. It’s all too easy to forget who we are in the chaos of daily life, losing our perspective and misplacing our priorities. This year, I want to remember who I am and what my purpose is no matter what curveballs life throws me.

I got a necklace from my parents for my birthday that has the same message on it. It’s from my friend Cambria’s new business, She of Noble Character, and I adore it! It’s so img_1107cute, and it’s truly a great reminder that I am beloved and that I am to be love, called to live like love to the world around me.

So that’s my word for 2017. Beloved. I want to remember each day that I am beloved by the Creator of the universe, my Heavenly Father, the King of Kings, the One who wins in the end. And I want to be reminded that it’s my purpose in life to live like love, to be love.

 

Did you choose a word for 2017? I’d love to hear what it is and why you chose it!

 

 

Further reading:

Choosing Your Word for 2017 – Part 1 by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching

Choosing Your Word for 2017 – Part 2 by Danielle Allen, One Foot Coaching