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.

See the source image

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

Feeding The Spirit

Everyone always talks about how we’re made up of the mind, body, and spirit. And I knew that. But…sometimes one forgets the importance of spending time with God to your own spirit.

The past couple of months I haven’t been hearing from God as much. Logically, of course, I realize that there are seasons where He is silent and other seasons, where you hear Him all the time. Feelings or emotions though, did not exactly get my self talk. It was more like…

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Yeah. Not exactly the most helpful thing.

It also happened to make my heart/spirit really anxious and worried.

Definitely not helpful.

So, even though I didn’t necessarily “feel” like sitting down and spending time with God. I made myself do it. Sometimes you have to make yourself do something even if you don’t want to.

I grabbed my Breaking Up With Perfect by Amy Carroll – which is a great read by the way for any perfectionists out there, my Bible, and a highlighter, sat down in my bed and closed the door. Now, everyone has their own way that they do their quiet time and I am by no means suggesting that this way is the “best” way or the “right” way. I tend to overthink things so I do better if I can have a guide, that helps me decide what to read in the Bible.

So, I’ll read through a chapter of the book, and then out of the passages of Scripture, Amy Carroll referenced, I’ll pick one to go more in depth to. This usually transitions to me reading that chapter in the Bible, and then having my prayer time.

I did this for who knows how long, I can’t remember exactly. It wasn’t a super long period though, and then, one day I just realized, wow. my spirit isn’t feeling panic-y and anxious about this. 

This does not mean that I don’t still struggle with anxiety, because I do. But there’s a difference in me being anxious, and my spirit part being anxious. At least, it feels slightly different to me. Additionally, this does not mean that I don’t still have questions or doubts or other such struggles that Christians go through.

Sometimes my head can be very full of thoughts going in all kinds of directions. Sometimes I’ll be obsessing over something, making it turn into an unnecessary anxiety.

But.

There is something that completes our spirit when we spend time with God. I’m not sure exactly what it is – if it’s the fact that the Holy Spirit is in me, or that I am formed by the Maker to know Him, or maybe something else.

I honestly find it amazing, since many times my humanness/sinfulness comes into play and I find myself thinking…I don’t want to do this right now. I have other things I could be doing. And in my own mind, I feel like a hypocrite. How can God want me to spend time with Him, when I have to push myself to do the basic quiet time?

“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust,” ~ Psalm 103:13-14

Love this verse. Somehow, even in the midst of being the most powerful being in the universe, the one who created the stars and moon and sea, He still manages to see us and remember our humanity. Not only remember it, but to show us compassion for it.

Amazing.

The love and mercy of our God always astounds me, and more often than not, I find that my expectations of what it should be are expectations that exist outside of grace. Many times, I can easily start overthinking what I’m doing for spending time with the Lord, but I’m trying to work on that and to give myself grace, and remember that I am human.

As we all go about our day-to-day lives, let us remember the importance of feeding our spirit and to remove the yoke of perfectionism from ourselves, and take up the mantle of grace.

~ Southern Dreamer

 

Grace Abounding

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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

Compassion and Grace ~ A Journal Entry

Recently, I found a passage in the Bible that really touched me. The whole chapter is Isaiah 54. As someone who struggles with perfectionism, I often times tend to see God almost as a dictator. I find myself often thinking, oh no, I just thought that. And that thought usually ends up going in the direction of me fearing punishment from the Lord.

"Shame says that because I am flawed, I am unacceptable. Grace says that though I am flawed, I am cherished.":

Isaiah 54:10 says, “‘For the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”

That’s not the only mention of ‘compassion,’ in Isaiah 54, however. Other references to it are, “but with great compassion I will gather you” and “with everlasting love I will have compassion on you.”

For some reason, I tend to forget the fact that God doesn’t expect me to be perfect. He knows I’m a flawed human. He is not expecting me to think, say, or do the right thing all the time. Psalm 103:8 states, “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love,” and a few verses later it says, “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.”

Merriam Webster defines mercy as, “kind or forgiving treatment of someone who could be treated harshly,” gracious as, “marked by kindness and courtesy,” and compassion as, “sympathetic consciousness of others’ distress together with a desire to alleviate it.”

Next time my mind starts going in that habitual way of thinking, I am going to try and remind myself of the type of God we serve, one who is merciful, gracious, compassionate, and understanding.

God's Grace by southern-dreams on Polyvore featuring art:

Note: I created the second picture/collage, but the quote is not mine. And the other picture comes from Pinterest 🙂

 

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.

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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

 

No Condemnation

Me being myself and a natural perfectionist, I’m always trying to be perfect. Even though that’s not actually possible and the logical part of my mind knows that, I still find myself in that perfectionistic goal.

Just this morning, I was starting to feel guilty (whether false or true) about something I had been thinking about. And it was sort of like an epiphany when I realized that I don’t have to be “perfect” or think all the “right” things all the time with God. That might sound like something I should have realized a long time ago, but my mentality can often be so perfectionistic that it’s difficult for me to see past that.

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Of course, that doesn’t mean I should stop trying to do the right thing – it’s not giving a free pass to ‘do whatever you want.’ It’s more of in the sense, that when I do something wrong, yes I shouldn’t have done it, but I don’t have to panic (*ahemlikeIusuallydoahem*) about, oh my gosh I’m such a horrible person, I can’t believe I just thought/did that.

Romans 8:1 says, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary says that the definition of condemn is: “to say in a strong and definite way that someone or something is bad or wrong, to give (someone) a usually severe punishment, to cause (someone) to suffer or live in difficult or unpleasant circumstances.” And for those who are Christians, we are no longer under condemnation. Sometimes that’s easy to forget at least for me, and go into the mentality of, ‘what kind of punishment I’m going to receive’ when I mess up.

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Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

I love that phrase “eternal redemption.” For those who are believers, we are redeemed for all of eternity. In the Bible, there is a term – “kinsman-redeemer” – that connects the Old Testament to the New Testament. A kinsman redeemer was someone who delivers or rescues, redeems property or person, avenges the murder of a relative as a guiltless executioner, and receives restitution for wrong done to a relative who has since died (biblestudytools.com).

Jesus is our ‘kinsman-redeemer.’ He delivered us from an eternity apart from Him and redeemed us from sin so that we can be made righteous.

~ Southern Dreamer

Prison of Fear

Everyone has fears. Some are small, others are big, and then, there are those that completely and totally overwhelm us.

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Fear is a tricky thing. It can creep up slowly and over time; perhaps subconsciously, until it rears its ugly head in our face. In other cases, it can come suddenly and without announcement. Maybe you’ve been through something traumatic and suddenly things that you did not fear before, are now quite terrifying.

I think, sometimes, we visualize fear in a one dimensional picture: snakes, the dark, experiencing change. But fear can also be the root cause of other issues in our life. Perfectionism (I fall into this category :p): fearing that you must be perfect, fearing the punishment or reaction if you are not. Being a people-pleaser: fearing that you have to make everyone happy, fearing the reaction of others if you say something that contradicts their own beliefs.

In the Bible, there are over a 100 references where it says, “fear not” or “do not be afraid” (http://www.openbible.info/topics/living_life_to_the_fullest). By that sheer number, it’s apparent that Jesus knew we were going to have fear – BUT, that we do not have to be afraid.

John 10:10 says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

God wants us to live life in the freedom of our salvation. He does not want fear to keep us from experiencing the blessings He offers. Of course, this is easier said than done. I know in my own life, its very easy to say, ‘oh, I’m not going to be afraid. I’m going to give this to the Lord,’ but quite another to actually follow through with it.

2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

Philippians 4:13 says, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”

Yet as the verse above says, God has given us a spirit full of power, love, and self-control. All components that help to combat fear.

Power is the Holy Spirit. If you really desire to be free from fear, this is where everything starts. The others are important too, but without the Holy Spirit, we’re trying to drive a car without gas.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.” Think of a time when you felt completely safe and secure. Was it when you were wrapped in the arms of your father or mother? Watching a movie in bed with your brother or sister? Similarly, God’s love is our security. We do not have to worry whether or not He will love us one moment and stop the next. His love is perfect, unfailing, and encompassing. Jesus demonstrated the greatest form of love there is: dying for us when we were still stuck in the mud of sin and unrighteousness. His love overcomes fear

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Jeremiah 31:3 and Proverbs 8:35

 

Self-control is the last one mentioned in 2 Timothy. This is where our ‘homework’ comes into play. You have to want to be free from fear and be willing to do the necessary work. Self-control does not include only physical actions, but the discipline of the mind – which can be harder in many ways since it is not a tangible thing.

And Jesus does not expect us to fight our fears or anxiety alone! Sometimes I completely forget that I can ask Him to help me to not be afraid; I’m so set on how can I solve this or how I can work through this, that I neglect the one being who can help me through anything.

Being willing to ask for help – tell a close family member or friend. Expose light onto the fear so it cannot continue to ravage around in your mind, rely on God, and put in the effort are all important parts of overcoming fear. Fear doesn’t go away on its own. It must be a conscious decision to defeat it.

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Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

~ Southern Dreamer

Imperfect Prayers

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Do you ever feel so much pressure to be perfect? I know that I do, and for all my fellow perfectionists out there, it can be an awful burden to carry can’t it?

Many times, I find myself praying to the Lord and as I am, any one of these thoughts could very well be flowing through my mind:

Is it too short?

This sounds terrible…

Did I already repeat that?

And the root of each comes from the fact that I feel a need to pray perfectly.

But the truth is, that Jesus does not require us to be perfect people, do perfect actions, or even, pray perfectly. The entire message of the Gospel is grace. Grace is a concept that I find so difficult to grasp and my perfectionism likely only extenuates that struggle.

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.”

Grace hinges on the fact that you aren’t perfect (I see all you perfectionists cringing ;)). And as much as we hate the thought of that, it’s true. We are not perfect and never will be.

It’s something that is so easy to say, yet rather hard to put into practice: being alright with not being perfect. And I would be a hypocrite if I said that I am 100% ok with not being perfect, and not attaining what in my mind is the “perfect” standard.

Psalm 119:96 says, “I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.”

Right there, it says that there is a limit to how “perfect” we can get in our humanity. There is only so much we can do. And even with Christ and the Holy Spirit, we will never be perfect until we come into heaven and are given our eternal bodies.

Understanding this can be freeing, but really changing how your mind is set is much more difficult than “knowing” it. You can know anything and not change your thought habits or actions. Part of recovering from perfectionism – so to speak, is, I believe, giving yourself permission to not be perfect. And to not equate being imperfect or messing up as failure.

Because most perfectionists, myself included, see screwing up as failing. And we hate failure.

C.S. Lewis said, “Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success” (A/N: Taken from BrainyQuote website).

As you find yourself during your prayer time, thinking that yours is inadequate, remember that each fail forward is a step towards a better prayer life. And even if praying eloquently is never your gift, that’s ok. Jesus never said, “Thou shalt pray perfectly.” He did say, however, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

I hope that we all will find the freedom in not burdening ourselves with the ideal of praying perfectly.

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~ Southern Dreamer