Sitting By The Fire

See the source imageThe past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through a book called Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman. As described in another book, Breaking Up With Perfect by Amy Carroll, there are two different types of perfectionists:

“Some lovers of Perfect live with the Good Girl Syndrome. These women are rule followers by nature and bask in earning the pleasure of the people surrounding them. Others live with the Never Good Enough Syndrome. These women use their flawless exterior to cover the wounds and shame of their pasts. Both kinds of women build an external structure rule by rule and pleasant smile by pleasant smile.”

If you struggle with perfectionism, like I do, then you definitely need to pick up a copy!

Recently, I reached chapter twelve in Grace for the Good Girl, titled “Remain.” Right away, I knew that this chapter was going to be one that spoke to me…since this was the first paragraph in it:

“I’ve never liked the phrase quiet time all that much, but I was a good girl who went to Bible college, so I’ve not always been brave enough to admit it. I never knew what I was supposed to do during a quiet time. Read one verse? Is a chapter enough? Maybe I should memorize the whole book. The list seemed both empty and endless.”

Yep. I can relate to that – not knowing if what you’re doing is “enough” for God, and the overthinking mind and perfectionism only heaping on more confusion and stress.

Do any of y’all see yourself in her description? I do.

It can be hard, for us perfectionists to have to work through this. After all, we aren’t supposed to feel like this, are we? We should be jumping up and down for joy, happiness oozing out of every pore at the thought of getting to spend time with God.

And yet, oftentimes, I find myself doing it out of obligation, duty, or guilt. Then, my mind can’t help but go…

You’re such a hypocrite. 

Not exactly the nicest thought to be thinking.

“Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shields him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders,” – Deuteronomy 33:12

While researching, I came across this verse, which I do not think I’ve read before, and knew I had to add in. Sometimes it can be easier to see God as a task master and dictator, than a loving Father.

Rules, justice? I can understand that. It makes sense.

But grace? Upon grace? It befuddles me. And yet, that is what God offers us – free of charge, free of punishment. He wants us to come and rest in Him. Even if that’s just laying in bed in the morning and talking to Jesus, and that’s the only time you have.

I know y’all are probably wondering why I titled this post, “Sitting by the Fire,” when all I’ve talked about so far is grace, perfectionism, etc. So here comes the part where it gets explained 😉

For those of you who have wood-burning fireplaces, don’t you love the crackle of the wood and the smell it gives off? Something dangerous, yet beautiful. Something that puts off heat, that we need, but can also cause damage.

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Emily Freeman, describes this and the analogy from her friend Fil Anderson.

“He likened this fire stoking to time spent with God. He didn’t put the fire out and make a brand-new one every hour. He merely kept the same one going, moving embers and logs around to catch the flame in new ways so the warm kept on warming.”

Then, in the next chapter, she adds this, which connects to her earlier point.

“We breathe in air and breathe out worship. We receive love and extend worship. We embrace children, offering worship. We comfort, we laugh, we mourn, we dance, we read, we dream, we exist – all worship. We pay the bills, we run on the treadmill, we enjoy a good movie, we make dinner, we welcome friends with open arms – worship, all worship. We send money and offer prayer and sit with a lonely neighbor, in Jesus’ name. We wait for love, we long for home, we pour out our hearts and hopes and fears and longing; we create with words and photos and colors and food, all beautiful acts of worship.

But we don’t call it that.

We call those things living. But when the Spirit of the living God lives inside of you, then your living is also your worship.”

Y’all, when I read this I was like WOAH. I have always put my time with God in a category, separate from everything else, and if I didn’t get to it that day, well, I wasn’t a very good Christian then, was I?

I had never thought of it like that before, even so, it made complete sense! Of course everything we do is an act of worship! Our bodies are His temple.

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies,” ~ 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

There are so many things in life that we have to do – school, work, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, visiting friends, etc. As life happens, some days are going to be so busy that we aren’t going to have time to sit down and completely devote fifteen or thirty minutes to God.

In those times, I believe Jesus wants us to just rest in Him. He knows how busy and stressful life can be, and knows that there are some seasons in life that are going to be crazier than others.

Now, that doesn’t mean this is a free-pass-never-read-the-Bible-again-ticket. That’s not what I’m saying. There’s a difference in giving yourself grace, resting in God, and completely and blatantly taking advantage of it and making a consistent pattern of not spending time with the Lord.

In the end, as we learn to walk in grace, it’s less about performance, and more about expanding our definition of what it means to be in the presence of the Father – every breathe in worship.

~ Southern Dreamer

Grace Abounding

grace

Y’all probably know by now that I tend to struggle with perfectionism. With perfectionism, comes a viewpoint that makes grace incredibly hard to understand. I think as humans, grace is a hard concept in and of itself. Most situations we encounter in life are performance based and there is no grace if you mess up. Perfectionism doesn’t exactly help this already difficult topic to get any easier.

So, I was sitting in my college dorm room a month or two ago, and doing what I tend to do often, go through the motions of perfectionism, guilt, fear, etc…Then, I had this thought that I believe the Lord shared with me.

God does not base the grace He gives us on a scale. He doesn’t look at the entire week, and go, “Well, Monday through Wednesday you really screwed up, so when Saturday comes, there’s no grace for you.”

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I don’t know if anyone else does this, but I usually think about the grace that God might give me in terms of everything I’ve already done that week.

I messed up on this too many times this week.

I haven’t spent time with God in several days, but now I really can’t cause I have an exam to study for – cue guilt.

Does this sound familiar to y’all? Do any of you find yourselves doing the same thing?

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness,” ~ Lamentations 3:22-23

For me, realizing this, gave an entirely new meaning to the verse, “his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.” Not only are His mercies new every day, but He is not judging us on all of our actions in order to determine whether or not He should give us grace.

Is anyone else’s mind exploding? Cause mine definitely is.

As believers, with the Holy Spirit living in us, we are heirs in grace. Grace is the birth certificate, the blood of Jesus is the writing, the Holy Spirit is the identification.

“But he gives more grace,” ~ James 4:6a

And then in James, He expands on the concept of grace. Not only does He give us perfect grace, but He gives more grace. When we think that surely we have exhausted the supply of grace, that God cannot possibly want to extend further grace to us, the Bible clarifies that nope, God actually loves to extend grace to His children.

I love this quote from Dwight L. Moody:

“We must not limit the mighty grace of God.”

How true is this? It can be so easy to carry guilt for things that we should not feel guilty for, or if we should feel guilty, then instead of freeing ourselves from that guilt after repenting, we continue to hold it close – telling ourselves, that Jesus could not really mean that we receive grace for that.

“And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace,” ~ John 1:16

But wait. There it is again – more grace. Grace upon grace.

Grace.

Such a simple word, but so difficult to wrap our minds around. I don’t know if we will ever understand grace or how deep it goes on this earth, yet I do think that as we grow in our faith, we will be able to better grasp a tiny portion of the truth, strength, and expansiveness of God’s grace.

~ Southern Dreamer

And Everything Was Still

“Be still and know that I am God,” ~ Psalm 46:10

Know: be convinced or certain of, have understanding of, perceive directly, have knowledge of.

Still: free from noise or turbulence, devoid of or abstaining from motion.

Last December (I know…a long time ago, but I’m a senior so 😉 ), I felt God reminding me of this verse. I’ve never really fully understood it; I’ve always thought of it as being really serious. But I think that the Holy Spirit revealed to me, at least, part of what it means.

“I am God…”

I am…LOVE: an assurance of affection, unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the Cutest thing I have ever seen: good of another, warm attachment/enthusiasm/devotion, strong affection for another.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” ~ Romans 5:8

I am…PEACE: freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions, a state of tranquility or quiet, a state of security.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid,” ~ John 14:27

I am…GRACE: a special favor, unmerited divine assistance, a state of sanctification Easter Sessions with a lamb and cross, in a beautiful field of wildflowers! www.expressionsbybrandy.com: enjoyed through divine grace.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” ~ Hebrews 4:16

I am…COMPASSION: sympathetic consciousness of others distress, together with a desire to alleviate it.

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things,” ~ Mark 6:34

I am…HOPE: to expect with confidence, trust, to cherish a desire with anticipation.I remember days like these, young and at my Grams. Such cherished memories of how magical I remember my childhood. Children are such blessings. And their lil voices have so much to offer ☀️                                                                                                                                                     More:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope,” Jeremiah 29:11

I wrote out these definitions to remind myself, yes God is holy, but He is also our father…daddy. And sometimes, or most of the time, I forget that and struggle with thinking that God is out to punish me.

1 John 4:18 addresses this. For all my fellow perfectionists out there, this is a good verse to remember 🙂

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love,” ~ 1 John 4:18

So when God says, “be still and know that I am God,” I do not think He is only referring to the literal meaning. I think this is also referring to being still, resting and soaking in God’s love, grace, and compassion.

God is righteous and holy and omniscient, but He is also our father, dad. And like any good parent, He does not want us to fear Him. We should have a respectful “fear,” of course, in the sense that He is God and it would be foolish and idiotic to mock, test, etc…Him.

JESUS on Pinterest | Greg Olsen, Son Of God and Pictures Of Jesus: With that said, we do not have to fear the Lord. Using the verse again from under the definition of grace, it says:

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” ~ Hebrews 4:16

With confidence. Not terrified or worried about coming to God. He says that we can come to Him with confidence.

Confidence is, “the quality or state of being certain, a communication made in confidence, a relation of trust of intimacy.”

The next time you and I begin to fear punishment from God, I hope we can remember His great love and the invitation to come to Him with confidence.

~ Southern Dreamer

Note: The definitions for love, peace, grace, hope, and compassion along with confidence, came from Merriam-Webster.

Grace…Not Perfection

Well. You’ve probably figured by now that I’m a perfectionist.

Full House! One of my favorite shows growing up!

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Anyway.

Now that we’ve covered that I am a perfectionist, the rest of this post will probably make more sense.

As a perfectionist, legalism is something I struggle with. I want to do everything right. All the time.

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Ah. Mary Poppins. Sadly, however, I do not do everything perfectly. And this…sort of drives me crazy. Especially in my relationship with God.

If I don’t read my Bible in the morning, forget to read Scripture altogether, or neglect any sort of devotional reading…it’s instant guilt.

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My mind whispers…you must be a terrible Christian. What kind of Christian doesn’t read their Bible every single day? Or forgets to read it?

Yep. Good ‘ole perfectionism. Constantly lurking in the back of my brain.

Logically, I “know” what God’s grace means. We’re no longer under condemnation. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.”

Heck, Romans 11:6 takes it a step further, saying, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

And my brain is all like…

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I can’t wrap my mind around the fact of grace. In the world we live in, the grace that Jesus offers doesn’t exist. And adding my naturally perfectionist nature to that, my reaction is more or less…

When you’re sitting in class and the professor dares call on you: | Community Post: 27 Times "Hannah Montana" Accurately Described Being A College Student

Recently, I was heavily feeling that perfectionist, legalist guilt. I had not read my Bible in the morning three days in a row – *gasp*

And then I saw this, scrolling through Instagram one of those nights.

grace

Cue me staring at that for several seconds like a deer in the headlights.

Well. God couldn’t have gotten clearer. He may as well have painted it in neon colors: LET MY GRACE BE ENOUGH.

I’m literally blanking on what to write after that. I think that was the message that God wanted me to share with y’all. So my fellow perfectionists, as we battle the enemy of perfection, let’s remember God’s wondrous grace and that we no longer have to fear his reaction if we mess up.

Jesus died for that. His blood covers all of our screw ups: little, small, and big.

I’m not saying it’s easy. Heck, I know half the time I’m still thinking ‘oh crap, I just thought/did this. How is God going to punish me?’

And that’s totally not how He wants me to think. Sure, there are consequences. But as Amy Carroll said in Breaking Up with Perfect (a book I’m currently reading), one of the lies of perfectionism is that, “God is a taskmaster who rations out love in measure with our output.”

That, of course, is not true at all. God is not a taskmaster. He will love us regardless of whether or not we are “perfect” and have everything “together.”

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As we go into this weekend, I hope we can all remember to accept the grace that God so readily gives!

~ Southern Dreamer