Thursday, November 19, 2015

Owning an Imperfect Life

Photo by Alison Turner

Human beings are interesting things. Perhaps you’ve already realized this, but honestly I think my own knowledge of this fact only grows with time. I’m continually stunned by the resilience of the human spirit… we go through sometimes unspeakable heartache, dreary monotony, and nagging fear, and yet we still hope - we still press on - believing that life is worth living… and it is. But sometimes I think we press forward in order to reach something that we’ll never quite grasp…


Ahhh, that word. That state of being that we all crave. Especially as young people, with our whole lives stretched out before us, the possibilities of that perfect life, whatever it may be that we’ve envisioned for ourselves (i.e. the perfect GPA, the perfect career, the perfect relationship), is hung ever before us… tantalizingly taunting us with it’s attractive promises.

“If you’re perfect, everyone will love you. Everyone will want to BE you. You’ll be remembered. You’ll be valuable.”

I’ve especially noticed people striving after perfection in the area of social media. Perfectly manicured Instagram accounts and Pinterest boards litter the Internet, their followers expanding daily. And “#GOALS” are shoved in our faces from every angle. We’ve been shown what we have to live up to, and we strive to reach it ourselves, subconsciously believing that if we reach their numbers, exceed them even, then we will be happy. It’s the same old promise repackaged.

“If you’re perfect, everyone will love you. Everyone will want to BE you. You’ll be remembered. You’ll be valuable.”

But here’s the Truth: no amount of striving or reworking or editing or manicuring or filtering can create perfection in you or anyone else. Others’ lives may seem perfect, but it’s a lie. And while they are posting about the best of the best in their lives, you’re sitting at home in your old sweatpants and a stained t-shirt, tears streaming down your cheeks because you’ve had the crappiest day, and you compare their best to your worst. What you need to know is that their lives are just as messed up as yours is. They just keep their messes covered, while you cannot hide from your own.

You can’t see the screaming child right outside the frame of the square-shaped Instagram image, and you can’t feel the exasperation and exhaustion of the mother as she wracks her brain for the right caption. You can’t feel the emptiness inside of the celebrity as he posts about that premiere while knowing that every smile, every laugh, was forced. And I know this is a legitimate summary. People such as Essena O’Niell of “Let’s Be Game Changers” have admitted to it.

But when you observe their feeds, all you know is that you yourself feel like you’ll never compare to these lives that appear untouched by the hurts and struggles of life.

I know because that’s been me. I’ve always dreamed big. I’ve always wanted a beautiful life. But when tragedy struck, I started to believe that my life must be some sort of second-rate existence because no matter how hard I tried to make everything perfect, I couldn't. My life was messy. And OCD, type A, idyllic-dreamer me didn’t like that.

But then I grew up a little. Or a lot. And God started to mold my thinking, so gently that I didn’t realize it right away. He showed me that perfection doesn’t exist outside of Jesus Christ.

For us as humans, we have no perfection in any area of our lives (Is. 64:6). Our lives don’t evenbecome messy. They are messy. Just as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, our lives are imperfect. And until Jesus rights all wrongs in the end (Rev. 21:4-5), they will be. Our one and only claim to perfection is Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). And that is actually a beautifully freeing thing!

Think about this… you are free to have an imperfect life. You don’t have to have a perfect body, a perfect home, a perfect marriage, or a perfect talent to be valuable or loved. Jesus loved you in your sin (Romans 5:8), and you have incomprehensible value because of His Blood which covers you. Your value? His love for you? It has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with Him.

And yes, this life is a journey of becoming more like Jesus — sanctification. But the goal while still on earth is progress, not perfection. Jesus perfects you before the Father, and when we are glorified with Him in Heaven one day, it will be realized in full.

So go ahead and own that imperfect life. Remember that we all have messes — tragedy strikes us all. Realize and rejoice in the fact that your value doesn’t lie in your followers on Instagram or the likes you get on Facebook. Know that your worth comes from Christ our Messiah and that will never change. As long as you have accepted Him and your Lord and Savior, you will be perfect before the Father.

Praise His Name.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Soldier’s Gear: The Importance of Bible Study

I want you to take a minute to imagine this: A war has started, soldiers have been recruited from all over the place to fight in what could be the most difficult war of their lives. As some of you might know, soldiers spend an extensive amount of time in training. Training their endurance, their skill, and getting prepared for when the war breaks loose. Now, imagine if war had broken loose and all those soldiers hadn’t spent their time in training. Getting to know the ins and outs of war, strengthening their bodies for what’s to come. Imagine they didn’t have the necessary tools to work with and imagine they didn’t have the protection they needed, what would happen? I cannot predict the future, but one thing is for sure: That battle would have been lost. Just like anything else you dive into without being prepared. 

In Ephesians 6:13-17 the bible states: “Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, hold your ground…… In all circumstances, hold faith as a shield, to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God”. 

Now, I’ll be one to admit, bible studying definitely took time to grow on me. I would sit, and read, and not understand and simply close the bible. Not one bit of motivation to go back and read some more. Time was always an excuse; exhaustion after a long day was one as well. Until one day, where it all changed.  You see, I couldn’t take it anymore. 

People would ask me about my faith and I wasn’t able to give concrete proof or even answers for that matter. People would ask me for advice and I could not refer to one bible passage to soothe their crying hearts. I was loosing the battle. That was the day I DECIDED I wanted more of God, more of his word, more of his Spirit flowing through me, strengthening me for when I was weak, loving me for when I was unloved, forgiving me for when I could not forgive myself, and with his word I became stronger. I became prepared for battle. 

I am here to tell you to put on your armor of God. You have to make the choice. Dive into what is the most love-filled experience. May you ask the Holy Spirit to give you understanding so you may fully dive into the words God has prepared for you. We find time for so many unimportant things in our lives, find time for what actually matters. 

May God continue to bless you and your journey, and may your battle be fought with love and compassion. Put on your armor, darling! You have been chosen!

Thursday, November 5, 2015


photo: Zoey Orlans
“You lead me beside still waters….” 
-Psalm 23:2-

My senior year of high school. What a roller coaster of thoughts, emotions and events. At times my heart would be bursting with all of the blessings and joyful moments that the Lord brought in that special year. However, at other times the tears would come. That’s the thing about senior year. There are so many unknowns and change is racing towards you. Some of my classmates were extremely excited to go to college and leave our hometown behind. I, however, was not one of those. The Lord greatly blessed me with friends, teachers and mentors who poured in to me and encouraged me. I loved my life and was not ready for it to change. 
Photo: Zoey Orlans 
(Rebecca, thank you for having such a huge impact in my life. The three of us were so blessed to have you as a teacher, mentor and friend!)
Photo: Zoey Orlans
(“The Fabulous Five", Thanks for loving me unconditionally!)

But the Lord had different plans for me. He gave me that strong foundation of community and encouragement so that I could be launched in to a new phase of life. College was new and crazy, scary yet exciting. The one word that keeps coming to mind when I think of my first year in college is trust. It is clear now that trust is what the Lord taught me through all of the transition and change. I learned that the hard way and through many tearful nights, but the Lord was faithful through it all and kept saying to me – Zoey trust me. I have you in the palm of my hand. God blessed me with a new community at UGA and I had a deeper sense of community than ever before. I am forever thankful for the people He placed in my life.
photo: Zoey Orlans
(The most amazing group of people. They represent every sense of true community.)

My relationship with Jesus changed my first semester of college. He became the only one who could satisfy me and the only one who was there every moment of every day. It’s a hard but beautiful thing to be in that place of full reliance on the Lord. Your beliefs and faith really must become your own once you move out and make decisions for yourself. It’s a new time in life that comes with a lot of fun and excitement, but also makes you think about what you believe and who or what you are going to believe in.

Through all of the different lessons and growth in my relationship with the Lord that first semester of college, He was constantly changing my heart and teaching me to fully trust in His word. Little did I know that He was preparing me for one of the biggest tests of my life. One morning, towards the end of my freshman year of college, I woke up and the world was spinning. I could not maintain my balance and could barely even open my eyes. This strange vertigo spell was the first sign of what was coming my way. About three months later I found out that there was definitely something wrong. One doctor diagnosed me with Lyme Disease. Another said I had absolutely nothing wrong with me. Still another said that I had fibromyalgia and the list went on and on. While doctors could not decide and diagnose what I was dealing with, I continued to feel worse and worse and became a shell of myself.

 Fast forward two years and I’m taking a trip to Baltimore to see a team of experts. Still no answers. And now, almost three and a half years later I still don’t have answers. However, there has been a constant theme; the fact that trusting the Lord was and is the only thing that I could do and can do now. He gave me joy in that. I was never worried about what would happen during this time. I knew that God was sovereign and He would take care of all of the details. I just had to trust that He would bring me through it. Now it wasn’t easy, and every doctor appointment brought along anxiety, some fear, and sometimes anger that American doctors could not figure out the problem. But I was consistently reminded that doctors are human beings and they can’t have all of the answers. Only God knows all.

I share all of this to say, how did God teach me to trust? By giving me hard things. By turning my world upside down. All while consistently leading me and guiding me and loving me. When I had answers and when I didn’t have answers. I could have decided not to trust at all. To believe that God was not sovereign. However, Psalm 46 became my constant encouragement and came to my mind over and over again.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within HER, she WILL NOT FALL; God will help her at break of day. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Friends, the Lord is good all of the time. He is good when we are hurting. He is good when we are excited for what’s to come. He is good when we are doubtful about the future. I encourage you to take a leap of faith in whatever circumstance you might find yourself in right now. Trust in Him. The one who knows your heart, is full of grace and who is sovereign above all. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Monthly Scripture Memory Program: November (Hebrews 4:16)

As we shared in September, one of the heartbeats of Grace Engaged is the scripture memory program that we hope y'all will join in with each month! Each school year we will be picking one "theme" to look at in scripture and for the 2015-2016 school year we have chosen "grace" as our theme. For the month of September we memorized a portion of 2 Corinthians 8:7 and for October we memorized a portion of Ephesians 2:8. For November we are memorizing Hebrews 4:16 which states: "So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most."

One of the things that we are passionate about here at Grace Engaged is encouraging ladies to know that we have a Savior who not only loves us big and beautifully but that we can come to at any time, especially in our hour of need. He is always ready to meet us with grace and mercy. 

What I love about this verse is that there is great promise and hope that we can come just as we are. So many of our humanly relationships that we have are based off of what we have to offer someone. Lots of time in high school it always seems that we have to be "popular" enough to fit in with a certain group of people. The beautiful thing about the gospel is that we can come BOLDLY to our Heavenly Father and Savior knowing that we are approaching the King of Kings and that we will receive His mercy when we come and that we already completely belong. We don't have to do anything but come. 

Joni Eareckson Tada once said: "Scripture calls everyone of s to the throne of grace, but doesn't tell us how to get there. Maybe it doesn't matter. Run, walk, or crawl on your stomach through the muck. Come in your tears, come in your rage, come in your perplexity, come in your anguish of soul, just come and mercy awaits you."

What a beautiful thing to be thankful for in this month where thanksgiving and gratitude are the focus. Happy November friends! May you be encouraged as you memorize this verse!