Wednesday, June 24, 2015

This Perfectionist's Sin

When did I get like this?

I asked myself this as I confessed my perfectionism. There was a time when I finally realized that the only way that I could be rid of the guilt and sin was through Jesus Christ. But there was still something in me that wanted everything to be just right. As an artist, I take great pleasure in seeing something really come into full swing.

Listening to someone preach and getting right to the point and letting those words sink deep into my core, really gives me the chills. Watching a creative living out their dreams and looking so passionate as they use their minds or hands to glorify God, it gets me. My heart becomes so full as I embrace how efficiently God is working through others' lives. But what about those times when things aren't going the way I think they should go? What if I am only seeing chaos and confusion as I try to assemble something together, with my human effort?

I become angry and irritated. I cannot stand slack and half done work. Everything needs to be thought out and prepared. Even when I don't come through with these ideas I still feel that everyone else needs to get it together, as I beat myself up in the corner for not preparing. There begins this downward spiral of shame and feeling like I am not good enough. That God just won't get what He wants out of me. To cover up this shame that I feel, I pound out my feelings on others.

While I felt this anger inside, something just did not feel right. Despite the perfection that I was trying to attain, there was a small part of my heart that was whispering to me. There in the quiet, the Holy Spirit was still present despite my harsh heart. He kept trying to push in front of me that this anger wasn't belonging. That I really did not have a right to be mad. But I just could NOT for the life of me figure out how it got there? Don't I have a right to feel stuff? What part of this is all true?! I was practically yelling in my head.

Wow. Can I just say that God is a-maz-ing.

While I was working this all out and hoping for answers, He was in the background setting the ground work for setting His power inside of me. How does one bring up an issue to a perfectionist? Honestly, I think it is probably one of the hardest things to tactfully accomplish without loosing someone. But God is cool like that. He knows just the right thing to burn my heart and get me to finally flop on over into His promises, despite my pride. We don't give Him enough credit.

God put someone in my path that opened up my heart and made me see that He still felt that I was beautiful despite my inefficient thinking. I felt His arms around me as I cried and spoke about how I just did not feel I was wise in my ways and how I was dealing with this perfection. I kept repeating, "fail", "not good enough, "sorry", "if I just did this", "how come", etc. In trying to get over perfection I was trying to use IT! Not God. Not His power. Not His grace to wrap it all up. Not surrender. Just myself and my weak attempts.

I had forgotten the words of Christ repeated by Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." What did Paul have to say about this? " Therefore most gladly I will boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may REST upon me."

I know these words. I have heard them a million times over. Ya ya, when I am weak God is strong. I get it. NOT. It isn't when I am in a pit calling out for help that I need His strength. His power I need when I am getting in the way of myself, when I think I have this all under control. His grace I definitely need when I get angry and want things to go my way. It is not always when I feel paralyzed and fearful, it is also when I think that I AM STRONG. When I think I know how things should go. THAT is my weakness.

I have been given so many opportunities to taste this gift that God is offering. In little pieces He has shown me His love despite my interpretations of life. While unwrapping my pride and exposing the hurt inside, He has quickly wrapped me in His robe of purples and placed His ring upon my hand. He has shown me that I am a child of a King so great that no matter what I have done or how much I think I have it all together, He is still anxious for me to come home. Even when I am the one standing there telling Him that I have been with Him this whole time as I watch others come into the fold, He is reminding me to celebrate with Him. I am His.

How tactful is this?! How amazing is God's love that while I am exposed in my sin, He is revealing my royal status? Without this opportunity I would not know where I now belong. Without failing, I would not know triumph.

*referenced 2 Corinthians 12:9-10*

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Gathering Together Under One Commonality

One thing that I have discovered about being a part of the Seventh-day Adventist faith is that is very community driven. Even as I have been traveling and moving over the past 14 years I am able to find new friends and become family with other believers very quickly. Here in Philly, a friend of one of our pastors said that he found it to be pretty awesome that he could feel like he knew us for years, even though we just met. We know hardly anything about each others lives, yet we know what we believe and that unites us. 

Every year across the globe and in different districts, groups of our faith get together for a week or so and attend meetings. Some only stay for a little while or just the day. I would have to say the majority of the people that attend these gatherings are there mostly for the socializing and seeing others they haven't seen since last year or even years. I think this is what helps keep us together in the faith and shows us what Christ really came to do on this earth. To be with us and save us. 

I didn't grow up going to camp meeting regularly (it is what we all call it) and we generally would hop between the one in Massachusetts and upstate New York. So I never really became attached to the whole idea. What I have come to enjoy, though, is just sitting all day outside on Sabbath being with others. The way I feel it should be.

This past weekend in the evening Chris and I met up with my grandmother's church family to sing and jam a bit in music. Most years this is what happens and I always find it relaxing. Despite the heat we sit there, without a care in the world. This year I enjoyed being with family and living in the moment. I actually got out my camera and took a few pictures!

I spent the last part of the evening taking pictures of this little guy. Every time I seem him I want one. He is such a sweety. Janice certainly didn't mind me oooing and awwing after her little one. It was good to catch up with friends and family this past weekend. 

I mean seriously, how can you deny this face?

What are some ways that you connect with community? Who are the people that you feel right at home with? What is it about being with people that makes you feel great? I certainly have been blessed to be a part of this faith, despite how crazy it all gets. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Battle of the Gifts

Exhortation. I was confronted with this word not too long ago and I remember yelling out to one of my pastors, "what does exhortation even mean?!?" We are all a little laid back at my church so it was completely appropriate to "yell out". When I found out what it really meant, I had chills run down into my soul. Why? Well, you see I really, REALLY like to encourage others to do something. It gives me purpose and lightens up my day. If my life can be an example of positivity we are all on the right track. It makes me higher than cloud nine!

Whoa... hold up! I had to take a double take on this whole encouraging notion. I remember a time when I was all about the negativity and couldn't stop the flow of anxiety, fear, and spiralling pessimism. I suddenly realized that I had come out of this weird funk and was now living what I was meant to be. And to think that I had NO IDEA that encouraging others was a SPIRITUAL GIFT. Ahhhh! I had such an epiphany about the whole thing that I could not contain it and had to share with you all.

I am a human. I do dumb stuff and then regret it BIG time later. I work out the logistics and plot how to avoid it all next time. Then I keep doing it. Ugh. Well, along the way these thoughts started creeping in. Ones of guilt and fear. I wallowed deep in this pit of despair like it was reality. The devil hung my shame over me like a dark cloud. Oh and when I finally realized that I could be forgiven, he was still there prodding me with "you are SO negative" and "just not worth it." Ya, so maybe I am not worth it without Christ, but the devil failed to tell me that I have a Savior. He failed to mention that I didn't have to be in this depressing state. 

Over time I have overcome this pack of lies. Every once in a while I definitely think "things are toooo good right now. Here comes trouble." I have to counteract that with "no. Just because I feel amazing right now, in my head, does NOT mean I am getting it later." Stupid really, but so true for me. Anyways, after I figured out that I had this spiritual gift called Exhortation and that my personality type thrives on its potential I realized one simple point. 


He took the very thing that makes me exhault my Father GOD and replaced it with this negative trash. He got me to thinking that I could help no one. He made me believe that I had nothing to offer. He used my personality to overly give idealistic advice to myself instead of encouragment to others. I was all flipped around and turned inside out. Noticing this made me realize the battle that I face. That we all face. 

Before you get all freaked out that the devil will overcome you or that he will keep you down, read this:


He knows the ins and outs of what makes you tick. He is the one that knows that the only way you can thrive is exhaulting Him in your own way. Despite the sin in this world and the devil's tries, He has a plan tucked away. Even when we get in the way He keeps trying and fiddling with a way to get to our hearts of stone and sheep like demeanors to hear His voice. Like a gentle whisper that ignites your spirit, He gives us life.

He has reminded me time and time again that He has my back. That all those lies that seemed so real and logical really have no roots. I am here today feeling more like myself than I ever did. All I had to do was look for Him and take notice that He was moving in my life. He showed me grace, flowers, kind gestures, beautiful sunsets, and patience. Everything that I show you, He showed me. His finger print is on every good thing in our lives. Ya, sometimes it looks like nothing is good. Again, looking to God will give us the ability to see the good. It gives us the ability to stand when we have no legs, see when we have no sight, and taste His blessings when the sin of this world is crumbling in.

So I urge you, ask God about your spiritual gifts. Maybe you will be like me and say "hey, what does ________________ mean?" Then walk away a survivor and a believer.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

What Grandma D Taught Me in 5 Minutes

I love the way God times everything. There are times I have no idea why He is carrying out a circumstance the way He is, or why He let's things happen. There are those that say "If God is so good why do bad things happen?" and I have a little testimony for that.

Yes, maybe I haven't had a really hard life or experienced something as a child that is hard to grasp. Maybe I seem a little too cheery for my own good. What you cannot do is judge that life has always been easy for me. You cannot look at a person and think, "they have it all" or "they have it good." In the same way you cannot tell God that He is not good because bad things happen.

What I have learned about God is that the closer I get to Him the easier it is to see the blessings in bad circumstances. The more I want to know His holiness and power the more prevalent are His acts to counteract what wrong is being done in this world. What example do I have?

For the last long while I have been trying to understand who I am. I know. It is like I am a teenager again dealing with the drama of my little life. Here me out. Somewhere along the way, I let negativity consume my heart and fear to paralyze my soul. I pretty much became THAT wall flower, yet felt like this was not where I was supposed to hang. I remembered how I used to be, but at the same time knew that if I were to fix this situation I would NOT be that same girl I used to be. So what now?

I was taking a self paced course and it just so happened that I needed to take a personality test. I always thought those things were so dumb. It is like I could predict what the score was going to be just by how I wanted to respond, but I took the thing anyways. I tried to be as honest as possible. It hurt and I felt like the worst person alive. I know. Drama.

Once I took it there came up the results and what flew across the page in huge letters was the word "DIPLOMAT." I was curious so I read on about my strengths and weaknesses. What at first seemed like it was going to be painful ended up being amazing. I learned where I needed to improve and where I could flourish. I was excited because I not only discovered new things about myself, I knew deep down that this was me all along. I was just clouded to the idea. 

One thing that I learned is that my personality tends to execute two types of people. One minute I am there in the middle of a group, having a good time and pretty much drawing attention to myself. Then I am out of there, like a scurrying cat. I used to become so troubled by the somewhat extraverted part of myself that I would think it was all a joke. Or a way to cover up the "real me." I often found myself thinking that I was THE joke when everyone laughed at something that I said or did. I hated it. I hated this wide open part of myself.

While keeping this in mind, let's move onto another story. 

I never really understood my grandmother. Especially as I grew older and really started to develop my own persona. She LOVED to be the center of attention and have a good time. It wasn't very often that you would find her in some deep conversation and to me she appeared shallow. How was I supposed to connect with this person that seemed so different than myself, or even my family? For a while it troubled me. Especially when I thought "what if her life is shortened and I never get to really know her or connect with her?"

A few months ago I decided I was going to be there when she got out of brain surgery. I hadn't really been around in the last few years with school and life. As I sat there all week with my mom and aunt I really began to think about who I was and who she was. I would stare at her as she was lying there on the bed coming in and out of a fog. I would feel sorry that I wasn't there sooner when she wasn't so groggy and having hallucinations. Sometimes she would wake and when I would come close she would get excited but then would fade off back to sleep. I had a LOT of time to reflect. 

My last night visiting her in the hospital I was sitting there next to my little cousin zoning out. I faintly heard my mom call to me and I looked to see my grandmother reaching out an arm, palm up. Once I realized that she wanted my attention, she pulled her fingers toward herself and I knew I was supposed to come over. She faintly, I believe, said "come dear." So I did and within that moment I felt like I was 6 years old again. Her home in Charlotte, NC flooded back and I could see the hydrendas and Magnolia tree in my mind. The way that the chimes would speak in the wind and how she would hug me. 

When I came to her side I fell into her arms and just rested my chin behind her head. I suddenly knew what brought us together. She whispered "I love you" and I just squeezed her tighter because I could not get the words out. For that little point in time I felt like everything I had questioned, everything that made me a part of her life, all made sense. I was hers and she was mine, no matter how different we were. 

Because the surgery was so serious and her health was not where it should have been, there was the chance that things could not turn out the way we all hoped. In that moment, though, I thought "I am ok with all of this. If I never get to hear her voice again, I will know that I have this moment cemented in my memory." From here I knew that she had given me a part of herself. Despite the fact that my grandmother likes to be the life of the party and despite thinking she wasn't much of a deep thinker, I finally knew her depth. 

There in her embrace I felt what made my grandmother come truly alive. All the times she ever made me feel special and loved by her embraces or words, came flooding back. For a moment in time two different people blended together to create something deeper than even my own thinking. Without that dimension and experience with her I would not fully understand God's purpose in making us all unique.

So when my grandmother did finally pass, I knew that within my heart I had a piece of her. Though this life is rugged and harsh, God still blessed me with the timing. If I had not spent the time trying to understand who I was, I would not have understood in a matter of 5 minutes who exactly my grandmother was. And now?

My photography has sky rocketed. I have no idea if it looks any better than before, but now I know who I am deep within and that a part of my grandmother is in my abilities. Understanding her outgoing personality now feels appropriate when I have the energy to tell a story with drama and intonation. I appreciate the part of me that isn't so deep and secretive, now. I always thought that to really connect with someone you had to have some philosophical conversation, but it won't always be like that. Sometimes it is just in making other people laugh till they cry. Or giving a hug.

Ya, my grandmother is sleeping now in Christ. She cannot give me hugs or come whispering "I love you." I understand that she really is gone, but I also know that who I am definitely includes her. Finally I am not ashamed of all the parts of me. When I go to take a picture I can think of her. When I laugh a really deep belly laugh with others, I know that she influenced me.

For me, God has perfect timing. Despite the sin that is in this life, God is making the harshness a little less of a blow. Yes, there are regrets. There will always be things we wish we had done or NOT done. What we can remember is that if we put our lives in God's hands, He can turn the last 31 years of misunderstanding into 5 minutes of an overwhelming eternal blessing!

I long for that day, where death is just a memory..... God is good.