31 Days of Imperfection

(Im)perfect Love {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 14}

This morning I found myself thinking more about yesterday’s post about looking back at times when our past keeps us from action in the present or future.  I think one of the biggest hindrances for almost every single human is remembering times when they were hurt in relationships before.  Maybe someone did something that betrayed you, or a loved one died, or someone had to move away.  Whether the loss was intentional or not, these situations often keep us from wanting to love again.  We’re afraid that if we love again, we’ll just be hurt again and we’re not so sure that’s a risk we want to take.

I’m learning a lot right now in my personal devotion life about the truth that if there is fear involved, then it can’t really be love.  See what I mean in 1 John 4:18…

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 

As I said, I’m still learning about this and don’t have it CLOSE to being figured out, but I think it actually has something to do with being okay with imperfection in relationships.  If we could figure out exactly how to be in relationship with other people, if we could discover a way to take away all the risk, I don’t know if those relationships would be worth it.  Isn’t that why God gave us free will in the first place?  He loved us so much but if love was forced into this perfect risk-free box, it wouldn’t really be love at all.  Despite the risk of us turning our backs on him again and again and again, He desired perfect love, which is messy love and risky love.  He wanted real love even if it mean he’d have to die for us.

While there is risk involved, we somehow, by God’s grace, must learn to step past that fear because, as the passage says, “one who fears is not made perfect in love.”  Fear and love can’t reside at the same time because if we’re living truly in the love God’s given us, it drives away all fear.

My perfectionistic personality then wants to “figure it out” to “make sure” I’m loving the “right” way.  Yet what I hear God saying in this passage and the ones before it is this: Don’t worry about if you’re loving “right” just let me love you and it will all flow out of that.  Here is the above passage more in context:

“And so you know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God and God in him.  In this way love is made complete among us so that we have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.  The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:16-19)

Love is worth the risk.  Not only do we need other people, other people need to see Jesus’ love through us.  It’s not about figuring out how to love or if it’s okay to love it’s all about KNOWING and RELYING ON the love God has for us.  If we’re drowning in God’s love, we’re going to be okay.  If we’re drenched in it, other people will take note.  If it’s overflowing in our lives, they’ll get covered in it too.

Perfect love drives out fear. 

We love because He first loved us.

We don’t have to figure out how to get rid of that fear on our own, we just have to seek Love Himself and fear will pack its bags and disappear.

Even if we do get hurt again, God’s love… his PERFECT love remains.  We can trust in that truth and let our hearts rest in that when fear wants to creep back in.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. … This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us.  For God is greater than our hearts and knows everything.”  (1 John 3:16,19-20)

31 Days of Imperfection, First Trinity, God-Sighting Saturday, Lent

Why We Tell Our Stories {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 11/God Sighting Saturday}

As I reflect today on where I’ve seen God this week, I’m humbled almost beyond words.  He’s been so present this week in some powerful ways.  One of the ways I’ve seen him most is one of the same reasons I write on this blog, one of the reasons we do testimonies on Wednesday nights during lent at church, one of the reasons God created us:

We need to hear each others’ stories!

I must say that it’s hard for us to open ourselves up and share the stories from our lives.  I’m getting ready to share a story of my life as part of our Lenten Series on Wednesday night.  At least a few times a week, I come here to this blog to share my stories.  Each day God prompts us to share our lives with other people.  And it’s hard!  We wonder if our story could make a difference.  Satan tempts us to think that our stories are unimportant and that sharing them is selfish.  We’re afraid of what people might think if they see the real us.

We’d rather portray this picture perfect, “have it all together” self.  In telling the true stories of our lives, we realize (and let others see) that our lives aren’t picture perfect and we don’t have it all together. It’s tough, I know, but so important! This is why: God uses our stories, even the painful, ugly, imperfect ones, to help write other beautiful, glorious, amazing stories.

Here’s what I mean:

We have the opportunity at First Trinity to hear the stories of congregation members each week of Lent (You can listen to them all if you’ve missed them).  Without fail, every week, I hear multiple stories of people who really needed to hear the testimony that was shared that night. This week was no exception.

On Wednesday, Josh Deveso, a 9th grade student, shared his testimony.  One of the volunteers on our High School Ministry Team on Thursday nights normally does not come, but made a special effort to be there Wednesday to support and encourage Josh as he shared.  As Josh was walking up to speak, the volunteer’s phone vibrated.  He knew something had to be wrong since his wife, who was calling, knew he’d be in church but was calling anyway.  He didn’t want to miss hearing Josh’s story so as soon as Josh finished, the volunteer stepped out to call his wife back.  It was at that point that he found out that a 33-year old relative had just died suddenly of a brain aneurism leaving the whole family, but especially her husband and 4-year old son, in complete shock.

As the volunteer recounted this news to the groups of high schoolers on Thursday night (Josh included), he said that all of the questions that he suddenly had running through his mind were many of the same exact questions that Josh had JUST talked about in his testimony.  Questions of why God would let something like this happen or what to do next.  He said that as he stood there in the lobby on the phone with his wife, he realized that every question that came to his mind, had been answered in Josh’s testimony, and that while the situation was hard, He could trust God was in the midst of it because just moments before he had heard Josh’s story that confirmed those answers he was seeking.  Josh could have acted as if he handled the tough situations in life in a “picture perfect” way, but instead he had shared those questions, share what it looked like to seek God in the midst of it, he shared his story, imperfections and all.  Because of that, God was able to bring comfort to a family in pain and shock.

The volunteer walked into church that night hoping to encourage and support Josh and without knowing realizing it at the time, the opposite came true as well: Josh was able to encourage and support him!

The power of our stories doesn’t stop there!  As the volunteer opened up and shared the story above on Thursday night with the whole group, and told Josh what an impact it had on him, I witnessed God use THAT story to strengthen Josh, and many of the other youth.  He didn’t act like the death of this relative wasn’t hard.  He didn’t act like he “had it all together”.  He just said where he was at and in the process was able to point to God in a more powerful way than we could have tried to created in any lesson.


I challenge you today: What story do you have to tell?  We all have one!  We all have MANY!  Each day of our lives are filled with them.  Some of you may be called in the future to share your story in front of a lot of people.  Or maybe, like me, you feel called to share your stories in written format on a blog.  Maybe God simply calls you to share your story with a neighbor who’s struggling, or a young person that could use a little wisdom you’ve gained from the experiences life has brought you.  Wherever God calls you to share, listen for that little nudge from the Holy Spirit, and trust that God can use our imperfections to point powerfully to Christ.  What’s your story? Ask God where you can share it today and then sit back and be amazed!

31 Days of Imperfection, Music

“As Is” {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 10}

What a great reminder… God takes us ‘as is’!


by Peder Eide
Moses was a stutterer
David was a murderer
Jeremiah suicidal
Naked in the street
Paul, he had a problem
The specifics left unsaid
Timothy had stomach-aches
And Lazarus was dead

Samson was a long-haired
Arrogant womanizer
Rahab was scarlet corded
Lady of the street
John the baptist eatin’
bugs and honey on his bread
Gideon a scaredy cat
And Lazarus was dead


As is
As is
He chooses us as is
As His
As His
Infuses us as His
With never ending
Love transcending
All our weakness
No excuses
He uses us as is


Noah was a drunk man
Abraham an old man
Jacob was a liar man
Leah second best
Jonah should have followed God
But ran away instead
Martha was a worrywart
And Lazarus was dead


Jesus said to stay awake
They went to bed instead
Peter turned and ran away
Jesus hung and bled

As is
As is
He chooses us as is
As His
As His
Infuses us as His

With never ending
Love transcending
All our weaknesses

No excuses
He uses us
No excuses
He chooses us
No excuses
He uses us
As is

31 Days of Imperfection

Saying No: When Perfection is Imperfect {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 9}

Exactly one year ago today I returned to Buffalo from my first trip to Haiti.


Exactly one year ago today, I also was proposed to by one of the most amazing, godly, wonderful men I’ve ever met.


I can only imagine the reactions of some of you reading this right now…

Say, WHAT?!?

You’re engaged?

How didn’t I know about this?

What’s going on?

Did I miss the invitation to the wedding?


I guess I should continue by saying:

Exactly one year ago today, I made one of the best decisions of my life this far and said, “no”.



The story of how Isaac and I met (in Uganda) and the journey leading to a proposal is a great one and I’d be willing to share it with anyone who wants to hear about it.  But for today, the ‘no’ is the important piece of the (extremely long) story.


As I said before, Isaac truly is one of the most amazing, godly men I’ve ever met in my entire life.  He is passionate about sharing Jesus with others.  He is well respected  by the people in his family, at his job, in his town and by everyone who meets him.  He cared for me and made sure I was protected while in some possibly dangerous situations in Uganda.  He encouraged me in my calling to ministry and my calling as a child of God (and continues to do so as an amazing brother in Christ).


By now some of you are probably wondering why in the world I said “no”.  While there are many reasons, one of the biggest reason is that I simply wasn’t in love with him.


Throughout the discussions about marriage that we had, and despite the fact that HE truly WAS in love with me, I slowly came to realize that one of the only reasons I continued to consider the prospect of getting married to Isaac was because I thought maybe that’s what God wanted me to do and I needed to prove my willingness to sacrifice for God.  Sure, Isaac had many of the characteristics of the man I hope one day I get to call “husband,” but to move forward in a big life decision like this simply out of duty is NOT the life God has called us to.


In my striving for perfection, I set aside one of the most important gifts God desires to give us: JOY.


In the weeks and months of me seeking God for wisdom, guidance, and direction, I realized that if I stepped forward in this relationship and it really WAS God’s plan, he would bless it with joy and peace.  Yet, as my heart leaned that way, there was nothing but confusion, duty, and sacrifice.  I’m not saying that God’s plans for our lives don’t involve sacrifice, because they often do, but in my trying to follow God perfectly, I had forgotten that following God is just as much about finding joy in our lives (IN HIM) as it is sacrifice.


Another big issue was that God gave me my passions, gifts, desires, and talents for a reason.  At that point in my life, I didn’t know where I was going to end up after my internship, but I could sense God’s calling loud and clear that I was supposed to be in America.  Throughout the time I knew Isaac, I could tell that his passions and gifts were rooted in ministry in Uganda.  As I said before, God’s plans for us are often different than our own and often include sacrifice.  However, nothing I read in God’s Word points to a God who creates us with unique desires, passions, and gifts for ministry in His Kingdom only to tell us to ignore it all.  Instead, the God I know and love gives us opportunities to use all that in a way that brings Him glory.


In my striving for perfection, I lost sight of this truth:

My God loves me.

He doesn’t love me because I was willing to give up everything and marry a guy (I didn’t really love) and move to Africa. He also doesn’t love me because I stayed here in America to serve him.  He doesn’t love me BECAUSE of anything I do.

He just simply loves me… imperfection and all. No ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, or ‘buts’.

He LOVES me!


Sometimes recognizing that love, joy, and peace comes … in saying “no.”

31 Days of Imperfection

Trying to Cover Up Imperfection {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 8}

A few months ago I moved into a new house.  Well, I guess I should say it was new to ME but definitely not new.  All houses have their quirks, I’m sure, and this 60+ year old house was no exception.

As I was cleaning the kitchen preparing to move in, I found myself replacing some of the shelf paper that was old and torn.  Looking in the corner cabinet, I discovered the lazy susan was also covered in shelf paper. I can only imagine how long it took the previous owner to cover this item.  Square shelf paper doesn’t cover round objects well.  Pieces and strips were put this way and that to get it covered.

I’m sure it served its purpose but this hodgepodge of now SUPER sticky paper became quite the task to get off.  It also rarely came off in pieces bigger than a couple inches at a time.

In the 40 minutes I was working on this (before giving up and deciding it was fine the way it was) God taught me a lot about my heart.   You see, underneath the red checked paper was a fun, lime green lazy susan.  I loved it! It was bright and beautiful.  While there were a couple little scratches, I’m not sure why someone would have covered it.

But that’s how it goes with our imperfections.  We see a few little things that don’t live up to what someone else sees as perfect.  We notice a stain on that part of our heart.  We desire something new.  And so we find things to cover up our heart.  At first, it looks so nice and neat.  It looks crisp and clean and SO much better than what was there before.  But as time goes on, the covering begins to chip … starting at the edges and working closer and closer to our hearts.  Finally, it gets to a point where we realize that we should have never covered up the real us in the first place, but all we’ve ever let anyone see is the fake us and we’re scared to let them see what’s underneath… will they accept me?  One glance at our imperfections and we convince ourselves they won’t.

Sometimes, (like other cabinets in my house) when we see the paper beginning to tear, instead of taking off the covering we’ve placed around our lives we just cover it up again.  Layer after layer after layer get applied in efforts to cover up what’s really going on deep inside.  As long as it looks okay on the outside, that’s all that matters right?

But eventually we get to a point where we finally let ourselves hear God’s pursuing,  his asking, his pursuing, “Will you let me take it all off?  I don’t want to cover up the bad stuff in you, I want to restore and renew the REAL you, the one I created you to be.”

So the process begins,  the layers MUST come off.  And it is quite a process!  It’s a lot harder to take off than it was to put on… it’s stickier now … it’s become a part of us.  But it must happen, no matter what the cost.


Piece by piece it comes off…

“Let me take away your pride,” God says, “and now maybe a little bit of that selfishness.”

“That relationship could use a little healing, too, don’t ya think?”


And the process isn’t pleasant for us OR God.  It’s hard to forgive.  It’s hard to admit we were wrong.  It’s hard to walk back through the pain in our lives that we just swept under the rug or ignored.

“You never let yourself see My grace for that incident… can you accept it now?”

Another chunk is torn loose.


“I need you to depend on Me, and me alone.  I’m going to have to take some things away, and it might hurt, but it’s better for you.  Can you trust Me? PLEASE trust ME?”

Ever so often a bigger piece breaks loose and our heart feels like it can breathe again!


We begin, slowly, to see our true selves shine through.  And we like what we see!  That alone is what keeps us moving forward even when we’d rather just stop the process and put another layer over our hearts.


Who knows how long the process will take… and sometimes we DO find some other mask to cover up imperfections.  But God, the Master Renovator never gives up on us like I did on my cabinet.  He sees the beauty that’s underneath… beauty in the midst of imperfections and as tenderly as he possibly can, daily strips away more and more of what’s not me to restore me to His perfect image in which I was created.


And because of that promise of re-creation, we have hope for today.


“Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” (Colossians 3:10)

31 Days of Imperfection

Fake Imperfection {31 Days of Imperfection – Day 6}

One of the things I’ve found I love about doing a series like this is learning new things about whatever is the focal point.  Both in this series and the one focused on hope, I set out with a few ideas of things I’ve been shown that I feel compelled to share.  However, the greatest joy comes in walking into each day with open eyes.  Some days, God blows me away with a new ways of looking at the topic. Today is one of those days.


So far, most of the posts in some way have danced around the idea of accepting our imperfection… of being okay with it… of living in it so that we might live also in God’s grace.  Today, though, God’s convicted me of an imperfection He never wants me to be okay with… one I struggle with a lot: the FAKE imperfection we imagine and create through comparison.


From the time we are kids, our sinful nature tells us to compare people:

Look at that guy, he’s so weak! Why’d coach even let him on the team?!?

You better work harder if you’re going to get good grades like your sister!

Why can’t you be more like Jack?  He gets his projects in to his boss earlier.

Even worse, in my opinion, is the comparison that takes place in our own minds:

I’m better than her because I have 48 crayons and she only has 24. 

Hannah wears a size 3 and I wear a 13.

I wish my house was always clean like Jill’s.


Whether the comparison is put upon us by others or ourselves, it’s all around us and it creates a sense of imperfection.  The other imperfection we’ve talked about in the blog has been true imperfection, times when we sin… when we don’t live up to GOD’S standards for our lives.  That is true imperfection for which God said, “I’m perfect, I’ll step in and make you perfect again.  However, not living up to our standards or the standards of people around us creates a false sense of imperfection that is harder for our souls to battle with.

I’ve found that when I’m simply living in the gifts, talents, passions, and experiences God’s given me, I feel complete… I feel whole.  I feel anything BUT imperfect.   Only when I begin comparing myself to others or seeking their approval do I start dwelling in imperfection.  That’s because we weren’t created to be able to do what Jack, Hannah, and Jill were created to do.  It’s like comparing apples and oranges. It seems that a great deal of anxiety, stress, pain and hurt could be avoided if we’d just remember this truth:

We’ve been created perfect by a perfect God.  He loves and accepts us just as we are and expects nothing more, nothing less, nothing else

Chris Seay, author of A Place at the Table, says it this way in his book:

The Scriptures declare that my value comes from my Creator, not my love of self or accomplishments. … when our actions are motivated by this truth, we can finally breathe.  Can you imagine a life without the continual comparison to one another?

I know it’s difficult to imagine that kind of life, but I challenge myself, and all of you, to just dream for a minute… and then do it… breathe… give up false imperfection… give up comparison.  Remember, you are created in God’s perfection and deeply loved JUST AS YOU ARE!   Now if that doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I don’t know what will.

31 Days of Imperfection

31 Days of Imperfection {Day 1}

One of my goals for 2012 was to do another “31 Days of…” series on my blog similar to the “31 Days of Hope“series I did October/November of 2010.  I’ve been contemplating the last few weeks what I might want to do it on.  For a while I was intently focused on the names of God and thought maybe that was it.  God’s also been teaching me A TON about the concepts of rest and Sabbath which would also  be a fun month-long adventure.  Yet, for some reason, I’ve landed on:

31 Days of Imperfection

Now, if you follow any other “31 days” posts from around the blogosphere, mine may seem a little out of place.  31 Days to an Organized Home, 31 Days of Living with Purpose, 31 Days to Change the World or even 31 Days to Building a Better Blog (maybe I should check that one out?)  What do you notice about all of these?  They’re focused on becoming better in some area … better in parenting, better in your relationship with God, better in hobbies or trades, better in life or making lives better.  So why in the world would I want to focus an entire month of my life to blogging about IMperfection?  Shouldn’t the goal be to become closer to perfect?

To be honest, I’m not sure how I came upon this focus, though it might have come out of another one of my goals for 2012: “to be okay with imperfect.”  You see, my personality is such that I want to do the best at everything I do, I strive to “give 110%” or “be all that I can be.”  While that’s generally not a bad thing, it can be.  Often, striving for perfection gets in the way of understanding grace.  As I set out on this 31 day journey to look at where I don’t live up to the standards I, or others, or even God, put out there for me, I pray that I experience (and express) GRACE in a more beautiful way than I could ever imagine.  I pray that as I allow myself to believe what my dad often told me: “sometimes done is better than perfect”, as I stop and recognize my limits, as I embrace the imperfect in my life, that I would have a greater appreciation for the One who never fails… the same One who “gives us more grace.” (James 4:6)  And above all, I pray that my eyes would be open to whatever God wants me to discover on this journey.

Will you join me as I explore 31 days of imperfection?