Undivided Heart: The Summer I Embraced The Sloppy Perfectionist

BeachPic-Give Me An Undivided heart

I have spent the year writing about how to deal with baggage while in leadership. My Southern Belle Momma taught me so many valuable lessons in life like… “A lady never airs her dirty laundry in public.” Sorry Mom, I think I just used my gigantic Mom-Spanx as a welcome mat. 

We all have it, this mother-load of baggage from our past, but I’ve learned that we only carry around the things we can’t stand to part with. Our identity is not our baggage, it’s our freedom journey that started with a battle cry and ended with empty hands in surrender and traveling lighter. I wish I could say it’s been all butterflies and rainbows, but it’s been really painful and freeing at the same time. I’ve done all the work to be unhindered.

Sometimes going forward in life means that we have to go back and deal with things that we have tried to ignore. To revisit a memory doesn’t mean that you dwell in that broken place where life left you breathless. You simply acknowledge it happened and you ask God to help you deal with whatever emotions surface in your heart.

If you need to forgive, do it. Don’t let the root of bitterness rot your beautiful bones.

If you need grace and forgiveness, ask for it. If the person you wronged can’t extend grace and forgiveness to you, just know you did your bravest act of humility, then move on and pray for them.

If you need a break, take one. Send out an SOS text and ask for help. Humble yourself and take off that Superwoman cape. We were never meant to do difficult things alone.

I whisper these words over you, a quote from a woman in ministry spoken over me when I was recovering from surgery seven years ago this summer, “Sometimes you learn more from Clark Kent than you do from Superman.”

In my wrecked weakness, her words set me free. She didn’t need me to be the perfect mentor and friend; she just needed to see me. No cape required, no need to mask the painfully awkward recovery I was in. I was scared, trying to heal and love others…and I was a hot-mess sometimes.

I remember crying to my husband weeks after the surgery, “I feel like I’m screaming, but no one can hear me.”

I needed to recover in a peaceful place where I could truly find rest in body and spirit without pushing myself to do things that would set me back physically. It’s the same way for our hearts. We need moments where we are “off duty” without feeling bad about letting someone step in to help.

Maybe you are not recovering from surgery, but chances are you are trying to recover from something.

So, what do you need for soul-recovery?

It could be as simple as a nap or coffee with a friend. It might involve you scheduling an appointment for counseling and walking in ready to unleash the hurts you’ve carried longer than you care to admit.

Maybe you need to start a prayer and soul-recovery journal and make a coffee date with Jesus before your children wake up.  If you aren’t exercising, start with adding twenty minutes of walking and commit to taking care of your temple. It’s the only one you have, be nice to it.

That summer in recovery I learned to embrace the sloppy perfectionist inside of me. I really can’t do all things well and I don’t even care to anymore. I just want to do what God has asked of me and lean on Him to make something of it. I’m nothing if He doesn’t show up every time I speak, write, or reach out to the needs around me.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

The week before my surgery. Things are less scary on the beach.

This well-balanced thing sounds like a good idea, but what if you were meant to do five really noble things and you are too distracted by trying for ten? Take your five really noble things and watch God multiple the beauty and the impact of those things. He alone gives that kind of increase. Focus on the five things that are in your sphere of influence, start inside of your home and work your way out from there.

If we can’t be satisfied with our five noble things, or two or three based on the season of life we are in, how on earth will we ever be fulfilled in our meaningless chasing of the ten?

Let’s not do these difficult things alone, call for backup.

Much love,

Jennifer Renee

Maybe your heart and focus is all over the map, I’m finding clarity from these scriptures by making them my prayer.

Teach me your way, LORD, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. (Psalm 86:11 NIV)

I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me and that all will then go well for them and for their children after them. (Jer 32:39 NIV)

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. (Psalm 84:5 NIV)

Linking up with sweet Holley at Coffee For Your Heart. Join us for words that encourage & lift you up!

20140618-101923-37163604.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Permission to Run

20140421-131747.jpg

A three-hour drive would be enough time to tell him everything, my plan was to end with this: Run.

Forget about how much you love me. Forget about asking for my hand in marriage and getting your first job to pay for my engagement ring. Don’t think about the fact that I’m the first woman you ever said, “I love you” to in a car parked at your daddy’s church with the rain falling so hard it sang us a love song. Just drive me home and I’ll tell you everything and all the reasons why you should run.

But, he didn’t run. As my words spilled out, I watched him grip the steering wheel so tight I thought it would snap. I watched creases and frown lines etched from pain from hearing my story. I found myself comforting him, but I tried not to reach for his hand, for his anything.

I wasn’t raised in a pastor’s home like he was. I didn’t have the view of marriage that he did. Marriage scared me to death. I knew marriage was supposed to mean forever, but I also knew I never, ever wanted my parents back together. Sometimes people come together and become toxic. When one person wants Jesus and the other wants a bottle and to chase women, marriage is a trap and toxic. That wasn’t the way Jesus meant for it to be. In my young mind I thought if you stayed in that you became broken down, trapped, and flailing. Everyday is about survival and brutal. You watch your little girls become different people when a man and fear walks through the door. Your strong self, becomes a scared self. You think about taking your life, you think about running, and you pray with groans, not words. You pray with tears and one-worded-prayers…Help.

And I didn’t want that, not for me. Not ever. I wanted the fairy tale, but fairy tales were a lie and somehow fairy tales saved my life at the same time. I had reason to hope, to dream, and I started that process of escape when I was too little to know what a dreamer was. If it got loud, if I heard raised voices, I could slip away to another place that I created in my head, my La la land, and I liked it there because it was safe. My dad called it having my head up my a**, but I called it wonderful. I felt Jesus there, that heavenly Daddy. And every time I went somewhere else in my mind, I found Jesus waiting for me in my secret space.

If you yell at me, I will check out. I will put my head up my a** and only come back to you when you stop the yelling and scaring me and scarring me.

That was when I learned how to build walls and go somewhere else, an isolated fortress of protection. That’s when I learned how to run, even if it was only in my mind. A running dreamer.

I could emotionally run away until I learned that I didn’t have to anymore. I could stand. I could pray one-worded-prayers. I could hold on. I could let go. And I could ask God to teach me how to let someone love me even if I thought running would be a better, smarter idea.

Sometimes we have baggage that we picked up from other people, our family history, and the ones we love. We wonder if genetics and bloodlines will be stronger than the new creation that God is building in us. But, with all my heart I believe that the old has gone and the new has come when we become followers of Christ and we must be brave enough to believe that the Word will cut and be sharper than all the wrong things we picked up along the way. Sometimes we have to wrestle with the truth for a little while because we have believed lies for so long.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Cor 5:17 NIV)

The old self carried around baggage that we thought belonged to us, the new “us” is not tethered to the past, bloodlines, and bruised knees from falling so hard. When our past life is more like a poorly written country song instead of a fairy tale, we can take God up on His word and ask for a little bit of “new” and a little more of letting go. We can add to our one-word-prayers and add five more words.

Help me let go of yesterday.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Is 43:18 NIV)

The NLT version says it this way, “But forget all that–it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.”

I love that. Forget about all that, all of the mess, and the things you would rather not replay in your mind, and watch what I am about to do because it’s going to blow your mind.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez 36:26 NIV)

I know what it’s like to have a heart of stone. I know what it is like to shut people out and runaway to my emotional hiding place. And I know what it is like to let the former things remain in their proper place, out of my way and a thing of the past. And you can too, you don’t have to carry around the former, broken things and beat-up baggage from bloodlines and bad mistakes. If all you can utter right now is “Help” that’s okay. But, if you can and you mean it, add the five other words, “Help me let go of yesterday.”

Much love to you,

Jennifer

Approval Ratings & Dumpster Diving

20140404-113933.jpg

“She called it baggage. “You’re scared to open your suitcases and see what your mother packed.” ~A.S. King

Somewhere over time, tattered places, and rifts in who I was hoping to “become” I realized I was holding on to traits, fears, and conditions passed down to me. I had learned how to adapt, almost morph somewhat into whoever the person standing in front of me wanted to see. I became a girl jumping through hoops hoping to earn love based on performance. If I just jumped high enough, if I was just good enough, everyone would be happy. I had realistic fears, I could end up in the same category, like the statistics predicted from someone who came from a broken home. I could become someone unable to hold onto a relationship, unable to hold on to hope, numbing my pain while pretending that I was okay. I looked around and viewed something that did not have to be my reality, or my identity, and yet I was tethered to mistakes I had not made. I was carrying someone else’s broken baggage.

This need for approval followed me into my early years of ministry, isn’t the minister’s wife supposed to have it all together even at twenty-two? Um, no. I had so many eyes watching me so I went to war with the sloppy perfectionist inside of me. I still needed to know that I was enough, even the messy parts of me.

Somewhere along the way I learned to lay down the baggage that didn’t belong to me, to walk uncharted territories towards wholeness in God.
With God I always knew that I was enough, but it took decades to replace the lie I had believed for so long. The lie that I was not enough. Deep within the tattered places inside a blazing hope consumed that timid, insecure heart. I believed that somehow God could use a girl who didn’t have it all together. To move forward, I needed to lay a few things down.

My inner craving for approval and belonging had become my baggage weighing me down. It became a mask to hide behind, a chain around my heart, crippling the gifts that God had placed inside. But He came to set me free, not part of the way- just barely getting by free, but free indeed. His freedom is so sweet, so satisfying and paid for, no jumping through hoops required. You just open your hands and heart and receive the gift He wants so much for you to have.

Our worth and value does not have to be tied to the bottomless pit of people pleasing. We don’t have to throw away our confidence or dumpster dive for the blessings of others. We don’t have to jump through hoops or work so hard for the approval ratings of others.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”(Heb 10:35 NIV)

The other day I felt slapped with an approval rating, it was pretty low score, actually, and it hurt. It really did. A decade ago I might have spiraled in a pit of depression and accepted this “low score” but somehow growing up gives you room to reject things that might otherwise destroy you and your self worth. We have a choice about what we are going to take into our hearts and carry around with us. Unconditional love doesn’t come with a scorecard and a measuring system. My choice is to travel light. I might have to throw a few things away and unpack my bags from time-to-time, but I will not throw away my confidence.

Much love,
Jennifer

Dirty Hearts & Unpacked Bags

flickr.freedomfrombaggage

“Everyone comes with baggage. Find someone who loves you enough to help you unpack.” ~Anonymous

Jesus walked this earth to set hearts free, not only did He help others unpack their baggage; He removed it. In John chapter 8 the scribes and the Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in the act of adultery. I can’t imagine the shame she felt, all eyes on her eager to condemn her and throw stones at her to end her broken life. But not our Jesus, He stooped and wrote in the ground as if he did not hear them testing him. As they hurled accusations at the broken woman with baggage He raised himself up and said:

“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” 

And then he writes some more on the dirty ground in a crowd of dirty hearts who needed to see their own sin in order to walk away from the woman who was caught in the act. One by one they left and it was just the woman with baggage, desperate to be loved, and Jesus who mends broken places in ragged hearts setting them free.

“Where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, my Lord.”

“Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”

The more baggage we carry, the more intense our desire is to be loved and please others. It becomes a craving that is never satisfied and a lingering emptiness that takes us down dusty roads that lead to dead ends in every aspect of our lives. Ragged hearts tend to find people with jagged edges to pierce their tender state of being and this is our Jesus, the God who goes out of His way to meet with a broken girl in a broken relationship. He sees the jagged edges and tear-stained face and refuses to move on until the stone throwers walk away. He writes in the dirty soil and rewrites this woman’s history. Go and sin no more, your slate has been wiped clean. When the enemy reminds us of our past, let us hold unswervingly to the promise of our future. No matter how many times we fall and fail, we must get back up and remember that moment as Jesus stooped low to write on the ground and set a woman free.

That day a woman with a sketchy past met true and last loving, one that restored hope instead of inflicting shame, scars on her heart, and an imitation of love that only wanted one thing. Loved walked onto the scene and unpacked a very large, ugly bag. Loved removed the label of shame and welcomed her home baggage free. I pray we can love like Jesus does when we noticed the hurting and the wayward, may we rally around them and help them to unpack baggage they have been carrying around for decades. If we can look past all the things we don’t understand about them, maybe we could be more like Jesus and less like a judge and keeper of wrongs.

We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and not a single one of us has it all together no matter how long we have been serving Christ. (Rom 3:23) Let us be grace givers, not stone throwers, for this is the heartbeat of Christ to seek and to save those who are lost. I pray I never forget the way I came to Christ and my all-consuming need of a Savior.

The Jesus who writes in the dirty soil is unafraid of a dirty past, wiping the slate clean and rewriting our story where baggage becomes a platform, under our feet…exactly where it should be.

Much love,

Jennifer