Free to be Me

Imperfectly Perfect: Have you ever listened to a song a million times and have even sung the words on numerous occasions, but never truly captured the meaning of those words?  Yesterday the song “Free to be Me” by Francesca Battistelli came on my Pandora station, and the words stood out, brand new as if I’d never heard them.

When I was just a girl
I thought I had it figured out
My life would turn out right
And I’d make it here somehow
But things don’t always come that easy
And sometimes I would doubt

‘Cause I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I’m so clumsy
But on your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me

And you’re free to be you

Sometimes I believe
That I can do anything
Yet other times I think
I’ve got nothing good to bring
But you look at my heart and you tell me
That I’ve got all you seek
And it’s easy to believe
Even though

I got a couple dents in my fender
Got a couple rips in my jeans
Try to fit the pieces together
But perfection is my enemy
On my own I’m so clumsy
But on your shoulders I can see
I’m free to be me

Over the course of the last few years, my self-discovery, uncovering years of unnecessary self-sabotage, has  collided with the  unveiling of my true identity and who I am in God’s eyes. After all, He is the one who created me.  Yet even though I believe God will meet me in my weakness and qualify me to tackle what lies ahead, I have doubt that continuously creeps in.  I’m a perfectionist, so often I find myself wanting to do things right the first time, creating unnecessary stress and anxiety in my life – just ask my husband.  I struggle with accepting criticism, people pleasing, and seeking approval from others.  This battle within creates a hot mess of emotions, self sabotage and the negative replay “I’m not enough.”

I’m Enough:  I’m here not to wallow in the past or “should” on myself, but to give others freedom from their imperfections and offer a gentle reminder that we are all a continuous work in progress.  Everyday is a choice to accept the old lies or live in the new truth.  I feel like I’ve lived too long believing I wasn’t good enough.  I was never the smartest, fastest, coolest, prettiest, craziest, funniest, or “bestest” at anything that would’ve put me “on the radar” growing up.  Confidence is often gained by acceptance.  Not that I never felt accepted, but I thought the path to acceptance was by being noticed for something amazing that I did.  I guess doing a handstand and juggling with my feet wasn’t noticeable enough?  Totally kidding!  If only I would’ve just accepted me for me – not the funniest, but I can make others laugh; not the smartest, but this ain’t no hat rack; not the prettiest but there’s beauty in my smile; not the fastest, but I do find joy in running; not the craziest, but I have ridden on a few roller coasters in my time.  The point is acceptance – accepting myself and being apologetically me at all times (within the boundaries of respectful behavior of course).

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(Above sign can be found and purchased at fellowflowers.com)

I find myself trying to teach my kiddos at a young age to identify and live in their strengths. I try to remind them often and have them remind themselves with the following affirmation:  “I am brave. I am strong. I am smart. I am beautiful. I am a child of God made for greatness.”   I want them to know the truth of who they are before some turd-burglar comes and robs them of their identify with hurtful words or actions.  I want them to believe that God made them just the way they are – talents, gifts, imperfections, and all.  Psalm 139:13 – 14 reminds us:

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I want my children to know that they might not be the best at everything or anything, but they are amazing in so many ways.

Wrap Up: “God gives the exact experiences he wants them to have in order to shape the specific destiny he designed for them.” – Steven Furtick, Sun Stand Still .  Although God did not want years of self-doubt added to my resume of life, He will help me shape it for purpose.

I recently wrote this mission statement:  “I create a world where others see themselves through God’s eyes, unique and wonderfully made, by affirming and constructing written words of truth.”  God is so faithful – I could not have had this awareness had it not been for Him pointing out my skewed sense of identity and speaking truth into my life.

As I move forward in this writing journey, seeking guidance and opportunities, I am reminded not only by my mission statement but also by Isaiah 43:18-19 (NLV):

  “Do not remember the things that have happened before. Do not think about the things of the past. See, I will do a new thing. It will begin happening now. Will you not know about it? I will even make a road in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.

So, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can” -Arthur Ashe and remember, “Be free to be YOU!!!”

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Love Actually

True confessions. There have been moments when I have sat in church with an unsettled heart filled with anguish, hurt, bitterness, and maybe even a little bit of the “h” word. To be honest, a heart filled with this type of ick can be consuming and poisonous to the soul. As the ick lingered within, conviction swooped in through the words of the pastor preaching about forgiveness. Dear God, how did you know to preach this to my heart today? Conversation and questions evoked from this particular sermon, “How does one forgive? How can one forgive betrayal? What does forgiveness look like? I want to do the right thing, but please help me navigate through forgiveness when that’s all can do is harbor these feelings that come with the aftermath of heartache and hurt.”  I wish I had the magic answer to help not only myself but others navigate through the path of forgiveness.  The only solution that has managed to help my own heart is to purge the “hate,” releasing and surrendering what I cannot control through prayer.  And repeat until peace trumps the anguish that has settled within.  Romans 12:9 – 19 has often helped to free myself from the bitterness, hurt and even hatred:

Love must be sincere.  Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.  Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.  Practice hospitality.  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.  Do not be conceited.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

 “Let those around you, even those who have hurt you, see Jesus through you and your actions,” were powerful words once spoken that shook me to the core.  Love with abandon. Love without fear. Love without judgement.  

“Love means giving up-yielding my preferences, comfort, goals, security, money, energy, or time for the benefit of someone else.” – Rick Warren.  

Love has been a word that has crossed my path more than usual lately, and it is the inspiration behind the following messages that have been laid on my heart to share.

Undeserved Love:   The first message came through one of my morning devotions where Jesus is asked why he would choose to eat with sinners and tax collectors.

Mark 2:15-17   While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.  When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Think about that for a minute. It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Jesus’s life on earth was spent helping those who were in need, not only from physical ailments, but those who also needed acceptance and love. How many people need to experience love and acceptance? What if you or I could truly be the hands and feet of Jesus, offering people a chance to live a life of freedom – free from shame, condemnation, and bondage from their sins and wrongdoings by showing them love through our words and actions?

Sacrificial Love:  Another moment came recently while watching the Passion of the Christ. I watched the Passion years ago before I had a true understanding of Christ’s journey and suffering. This year I was committed to re-watching it through a different lens.   I will admit it was difficult to watch, yet convicting in so many ways. The entire time Jesus was whipped, beaten, kicked, and mocked, He knew what lie ahead-the suffering that would lead to death. Jesus’s death on the cross would be the ultimate sacrifice for sin, making a personal relationship with God available to us.  As I watched him suffer, I wept knowing He did this for me, for you, for all who believe in Him.  The people He loved not only betrayed him but denied that they ever knew Him. And yet, Jesus didn’t curse their name, He didn’t hold a grudge, or get upset. As He stretched out on the cross, nails pounded in His hands and feet, and His body marked for death, He prayed for those who persecuted Him, crying out to God, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they have done.”  Oh my heart, can I offer the same level of forgiveness and love to others that Jesus displayed here on the cross?  Everyday I have a choice to harbor the ick or with the help of God’s Spirit, I can love and pray for those who have done me harm.

Wounded Love:  My final point is told through the recent heartache of a woman named Lydia. Lydia has loved the same man for almost her entire life. Sadly, her and her husband parted ways after decades of being together in what so many thought was an infinite bond. Her heart still aches and longs for the only man she has always loved. His heart, however, has fallen in love with someone else. What complicates things is that the life Lydia and her husband built includes grown children and grandchildren-a family they shaped, knit together with unconditional love. What was once a close knit family is now trying to pick up the pieces, doing their best to navigate through this new family-dynamic.

I recently paid a visit to Lydia and what surprised me was the welcoming of her now ex-husband into her new home. Against the advice of some friends and family, Lydia welcomed him in for the holiday. She had a place for him at the table and gave him an opportunity to be with the entire family. Her loving, giving, gracious part of her heart bypassed the bitterness and pain she still harbors. Lydia, in her humbleness, attributed her welcomed invitation to being “emotionally weak.”  What she doesn’t understand is the love and sacrifice I witnessed that day despite the hurt that shown in her eyes. Thank you Lydia for showing me the love of Jesus through your actions.  

Final Thoughts:  From the written words of Steven Furtick in his new book Unqualified, “Look at every human soul Jesus encountered, from the disciples he handpicked to the sinners he ate dinner with, to the thief he forgave on the cross. Jesus saw the best in people at their worst. He met them in their messes, in their realities, in their most desperate moments. He loved them and believed in them when there was nothing lovable or admirable about them.”

Love, actually.   “This is my command:  Love each other.” – John 15:17