31 Days of Imperfection

Comparison and Grass Watering {Day 6}

When I was younger and would imagine what it would be like to be “mom”, I never could have imagined I would first be in this role with a teenager, let alone one from another country.  A colleague who found out about my AFS journey recently made the comment, “Good luck!  I think there’s a reason that the teenage years typically come along much later in the parenting process.”  It’s true, my path to “volleyball mom” has been anything but typical but I’m kind of glad.  

Currently, I’m reading an amazing book called “Fresh Out of Amazing” by Stacey Thacker.  The chapter I just finished this morning was all about how we compare ourselves to each other as humans and come to the conclusion that “She’s Amazing and I’m Not.”  Whether this is looking at someone else and thinking they have their lives together or simply desiring what seems like someone else’s “amazing” life, it is so easy to fall into this trap.

The author uses the story of Rachel and Leah from the Bible (Genesis 29) as she discusses comparison.  In case you don’t know the story, here’s the short recap:

  • Leah was the older sister; Rachel was the younger sister
  • Rachel was beautiful; Leah was not
  • Jacob loved Rachel and worked for 7 years to take her as his wife
  • On the wedding night Rachel’s dad married off Leah instead of Rachel to Jacob 
  • Jacob worked another 7 years so he could marry Rachel too
  • So yes, in short, he married both sisters
  • Leah could have kids: Rachel could not
  • Jacob loved Rachel, but not Leah

Okay, so now we’re all caught up on the story we can see that this is one big mess.  (Side note: it’s stories like these that make me believe the Bible is true… you can’t make this stuff up!!!)
Out of all of this what struck me this morning was the fact that Rachel had Jacob’s love but longed for children.  Leah could have children, but simply longed for Jacob’s love.  What a picture of our own lives… often thinking the grass is always greener on the other side.

I once heard a pastor say, “If the grass is greener on the other side, maybe that’s God telling you to WATER YOUR GRASS!” The important thing is that we keep our eyes on Jesus and trust his plan for our lives individually is way more beautiful than we could imagine. We don’t have to look to the people around us to gauge our worth or value or meaning in life, we look to Jesus. 

Stacey Thacker puts it this way:

“When we see God as big, we lose the desire to merely look at the horizontal.  It isn’t that we completely miss all the thing other amazing [people] seem to be doing. But we aren’t threatened by them, because we are more aware of the work God is doing in us.” 

It is so easy to try to compare my life to the people around me.  It’s easy to long for things I see in their lives and get frustrated when things don’t happen as I hope.  It’s easy to try to take things into my own hands like Rachel did in giving her servant to Jacob to have a baby for her.  It’s easy to do those things.

But… we’re still left longing.  Comparing myself to others just brings bitterness and resentment.  Focusing on what I don’t have makes me miss the blessings overflowing my life.  Taking things into my own hands doesn’t fix the things that only God has control of and typically makes a bigger mess in the process.

So how about instead of comparing our lives to each other, let’s take time to encourage and uplift each other….to call out the beautiful things God’s doing in other people’s lives… to celebrate and give thanks for the awesome fact that our stories are different… and that’s a good thing.  Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus and help others to do the same.  Let’s give up the comparison game and start watering our own grass!

31 Days of Imperfection

31 Days of Imperfection – Day 31!!!

I always am frustrated trying to wrap up something like this.  For 31 days (with a few grace-days) I’ve posted about imperfection.  A month ago I walked into this challenge hoping, praying, desiring that in the process I’d become (at least a little more) “okay with imperfect”.  In everything from sharing Bible passages God brought to my attention to flat out admitting some of my imperfections, it’s been quite the journey.  As I said, I’m not the best at wrapping these things up, so I guess I’ll just do so tonight by recalling some of the things I’ve learned (whether I shared them on the blog or not).  Thanks for joining me on the journey!

So there you have it, just a little summary of a few of the many things I’ve learned over the course of this month.  What lesson did you most need to be reminded of as we conclude this series?

31 Days of Imperfection, First Trinity, Life Lessons Learned in the Kitchen

Ministry is Messy! {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 30}

While my blog series focusing on “being okay with imperfect” started 30 days ago, God’s been teaching me this lesson for quite a while longer. One of the ways I’ve seen myself being forced to be okay with imperfect is in realizing that ministry is MESSY! As you’ve probably figured out in the last 30 days, I prefer perfection. I prefer things to be organized and always in their place. I’ve come to realize that just can’t happen in effective ministry.

Take First Trinity’s Young Adult Ministry for example.  As I packed up my car and moved halfway across the country to begin my internship, First Trinity’s “College Ministry” consisted solely of writing notes to college students a few times throughout the year. I am extremely thankful for this ministry and it continues to be a blessing to students still today. However, that didn’t give much direction for the overall ministry that made up 45% of my job description.

Without many young adult ministry models to follow, it’s been a messy process. Aside from simply getting to know people and building relationships with them, “trial and error” has been our most frequently used method.  However, I’ve seen God do some AMAZING things in the midst of the mess.  GOD IS AT WORK! LIVES ARE BEING CHANGED!

Whether it’s starting a new ministry or just going through the everyday tasks as a DCE, I’ve come to realize that I can’t really make anything happen that’s worth anything if I’m not willing to live with a little mess for a while. Often this “better way” is very intimidating. Taking the effort to make programs and ministries that are truly valuable can be very daunting. It’s kind of like baking bread, which can often be an intimidating task. I can have this great idea to bake my own bread instead of just buying a cheap $.99 loaf from the store. However, the process can just seem overwhelming; the hardest part is just getting started. Even if you know it’d be worth it in the end, and each step in itself is not difficult, you still have to actually DO it.

There is a huge part of me that likes to dream big dreams, but holds back because of the mess it may take to get there. I have to be willing to take that first step and “get out all the ingredients”… I’ve gotta just get started.  Thankfully, as we turn to God, he is always faithful to give us the “ingredients” we need. Instead of being scared of the whole process and worrying about getting it perfect, we can simply just keep turning to him for the next step, and the next step, and the next step, of the recipe trusting that even if it looks a little messy right now (like when you have to dump flour all over the counter to knead the bread dough), it will be worth our time and effort in the long run.

Thanks be to God that our Savior Jesus was willing to show up, right in the middle of our mess as a man and walk with us on this earth… Dying, rising, forgiving, loving. And he still enters in, day after day, right in the middle of our mess! And that’s why we have to be okay with messy sometimes, because that’s often where God shows up in the biggest ways… in ministry, and just in life!

31 Days of Imperfection

When… {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 29

When you forget your daily blog post… for the second day in a row…

When your attempt to catch up on sleep by going to bed early gets interrupted by your own thoughts…

When you struggle… with THAT… AGAIN…

When your alarm goes off and you just roll back over creating a hurried morning without much time to acknowledge Jesus…

When you walk into the kitchen and are greeted by the dishes you should have done yesterday…

When you say something you regret…

When you forget to respond to someone’s e-mail…

When you fall into that sin again…

When you introduce YOURSELF incorrectly…

When you’re serving communion and drop the lid from the wine pitcher and it clanks loudly up against the chalice…

When you drop a cup at lunch and have to use the time you were hoping to spend taking a nap cleaning up glass shards from your dining room floor…

When you just find yourselves overwhelmed by the faults, failures, and frustrations that often fill our days …

 

… you can be thankful that we have a God who knows we’re not perfect and somehow, can miraculously pick up even the tiniest “glass shards” we make out of our lives and piece them back into a beautiful creation.

Thank you Jesus, for grace. 🙂

31 Days of Imperfection

And He Loves Me Anyway… {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 27}

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again:

I LOVE MY LIFEGROUP!

Somehow ordinary living rooms become sacred as we open our hearts and open God’s Word.

At one point last night, our conversation drifted slightly off topic (which is where the most sacred moments are often found) and what happened there reminded me of this blog series… about our imperfect selves and God’s perfect love.  I’m not sure where the conversation started, but we found ourselves reflecting on this truth:

GOD KNOWS EVERYTHING!

While that in itself was too big for us to begin to comprehend, it got even crazier with the next comment:

… and he STILL loves us!?!?

Our minds were boggled and the only logical response was…

WHY?!?

 

 

I’m not sure if anyone else sensed the beauty of that moment, but it seemed as if we were all lost in our own thoughts of the many reasons God could have to NOT love us.  Each of us carries things with us that perhaps not even a single other soul knows.  Most of the time, these secrets are secrets not because they’re exciting, wonderful things but rather we hide them in shame… they’re THAT bad.  I found myself baffled that God knows even THOSE things and loves us anyway.

And slowly, but surely our “WHY!?” of questioning and doubt becomes a “WOW!” filled with overwhelming gratitude, awe, and wonder.

 

Jesus, help me never forget just how big Your love for me is! Amen!

31 Days of Imperfection

Giving Up on Perfect {31 Days of Imperfection -Day 26}

Repost from December 16, 2011

Ever have those days when a message gets repeated over and over and over in various contexts? …one of those days where you start to think that maybe God might be trying to tell you something?

Today is one of those days for me. The “something” isn’t anything grand or revolutionary. It’s nothing new… God’s told me these things before and often with a lot more power. As I saw this theme pop up today, it wasn’t life changing; it didn’t shatter my reality or bring about some great insight. It actually kind of makes me think of the story where God tells Elijah that he’s going to show up. There was some great wind, but God wasn’t in the wind. There was an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake. There was a fire, but God wasn’t in the fire. God simply came in a “gentle whisper.” Today, God’s Presense (as we’ve been talking about all Advent here at FT) didn’t come in any big way today… but rather in a couple gentle whispers. I guess the easiest way to say it is that God simply wanted to remind me …to be me.

It started this morning as I wandered through the blogosphere. On one of the blogs I read regularly, someone had posted a comment and the title of their blog caught my attention: Giving Up on Perfect. As I opened the page I read this quote in her header:

“The thing that is really hard, and is really amazing, is giving up on being perfect and beginning the work of becoming yourself.” – Anna Quindlen

“… the work of becoming yourself.” I don’t know, but for some reason I feel like it shouldn’t be “work” to be yourself. Shouldn’t that be natural? Shouldn’t that be effortless? But the more I think about this as I’m writing, the more I realize it really is hard work. I think about the youth and young adults I work with each and everyday (including myself!!!) and I realize that it is hard word to become the person God has uniquely designed you to be. Parents, teachers, friends, movies, television shows, commercials, and yes…even church all lay out ideas of who the best you is. Even in the midst of good intentions and maybe even accurate insight into who you are, mixed messages make “becoming me” hard work. Big life decisions make “becoming me” hard work. Figuring out what you really want in life is hard work.

This afternoon while looking for some resources at work, I stumbled upon another blog: Average Youth Ministry. The subtitle of the blog was what drew me back to the reminder to “be yourself” from the morning… the second “gentle whisper”:

“Average Youth Ministry: Settling into who God made you to be”.

I’m not sure what “the work of becoming [me]” nor “settling into who God made [me] to be” actually looks like, but I know that’s right where I am right now… right smack dab in the midst of the “working” and the “settling”. As the quote above says, it may be a hard place to be at times, but it is also a really amazing place… a place of “average”… a place of giving up on perfect… a place I’m learning to love.

“But by the grace of God, I am what I am.” 1 Corinthians 15:10