young life

Meet Meredith.

Anyone who knows Meredith Smith, deeply knows they are better for it. Everyone she encounters, people, dogs and horses alike, are greeted with a warm, Shreveport, Louisiana accent and a real, Southern embrace. She's the person who pulls over for a stray dog, who brings warm cookies to your doorstep on your birthday (or sends flowers from a distance),  who cries with you when life sends you curve balls, and will drive through the night just to give you a hug at the airport...I've known Meredith for 9 years now, and I can personally attest to her embodiment of "as you are".

So, Meet Meredith.

Over the last six months I have experienced more joy than I thought possible, more freedom than I ever knew I was capable, and more peace allowing me to trust in His timing and plan.  To me, “as you are” embodies knowing that “who you are” is enough. Being able to genuinely walk (key word, genuinely) in the confidence of who I am is often hard for me. 

As life has taken turns and not gone as expected, my confidence has been shattered and I have felt discontent with my life – huge problem.  In my heart and life, I was grasping for the next big thing (new job, friends, relationships etc.) and missing out on what God actually had for me. This lack of confidence brought insecurities and loneliness from all directions….

The phrase “as you are” didn’t feel like an option.

My “as you are” was super messy, broken, insecure – it wasn’t something I felt proud of, or something I wanted to share.  But, looking back, I see now my messiness was a green light for God’s faithfulness to take center-stage.  

Allowing myself to embrace where I was, who I was, just as I was, I have come to know a confidence that I lost somewhere along the way and recognized a difference in Meredith Leigh Smith, fully loved and accepted as I am – terrible with grammar, messy hair, no make-up, thoughts scattered, often times too quick to speak and forgetting what I needed to know 99% of the time.

Choosing to accept that we are loved just “as we are” is mind-blowing, but nonetheless it is a choice. 

It is an adventurous fact; a fact that brings freedom in being who you were made to be, along every path we choose to take, over hills of hurt, through rivers of restlessness. There is freedom in saying, “Lord, have your will and way and thank you for loving me where I am – just as I am.”  There is no greater adventure than following Jesus and allowing Him to be your confidence, your contentment, your more than enough – to embrace the uncertainty that HE’s got us, and loves us just as we are.

It is indeed Truth that you are loved, accepted and created for His name to be made known. To me, “as you are” means, no matter where you are in life, you are able to come to Jesus as is, no bells and whistles, no expectation to perform, without perfectly articulated thoughts – just you, the created being desired by your Creator.  I’ve never felt or experienced that more than being given the opportunity to be a Young Life leader. 

Young life has allowed me to be loved as I am, while also learning to love others in the same way – to me, that is a game changer.  The reality of your own genuine mess and need of Jesus, hits home when you want people to see what Jesus is doing in your life – even if it is messy.  My girls have loved me, served me, and have not cared I was a mess.  They had zero judgment, they showed up and chose to invest in me and our time together…it is the sweetest gift to pursue Jesus with my high school besties.  

As this phrase has become more, and more real in my life the person who started this has had a super meaningful role to play.  She has boldly walked where God has led her and loved the mess out of me over the last nine years. She has been a friend that distance couldn’t change what the Lord had in store for a friendship. Jennie, thank you for your commitment to pursue the responsibilities, and dreams God has put in your heart and to cheer on others as you come to know them, and love them just as they are.

Meet Michele.

For several years now, Michele has been a very special friend to me. She married one of my best friends, and makes him better. Needless to say, Michele is refreshing - I admire how she lives unapologetically, and she is real in every sense of the word. She is not afraid to love you (every one of you). By love, I do not mean the soft kind that is afraid to say the hard things, but the kind that seeps into your bones and sees you, all of you...for these reasons and so many more, I asked her to write what "as you are" means to her. So meet my friend, Michele...

“It is for freedom that you have been set free.”

Okay. that’s cute. But what does that actually mean? I started following Jesus when I was 16, and free was not a word anyone would use to describe me. Maybe shy, quiet, insecure, numb. But certainly not free. When I got to college I remember reading this verse in Galatians and being unable to shake it.

Christ has set me free.

It is so simple, clear, and definitive. But I didn’t experience freedom at all. I was chained to performing. Chained to fear. Chained to numbing and ignoring my feelings. Chained to constantly proving how enough I was. So I started to wrestle with God, asking him what it meant. God, where is this promised freedom? Could you actually have that for me? And if so, how the heck do I take hold of it?

What I’ve learned is that freedom is in surrender. It’s in the ceasing. Ceasing to prove, perform, and control.

The endless proving of my enough-ness will always leave me lacking. Always push me to try harder to continue to prove and maintain the image I create. I have learned that the only way to truly rest in being enough is to look at God to tell me that it is true. The truth is that he spared nothing to purchase my freedom. He gave it all up—his power, his position, his reputation, his life—so that I can live forever knowing the true value of my heart. Value is determined by how much someone will pay. He paid it all. And he did it for the messy, broken, sinful me. He loves me as I am. 

It blows my mind and has transformed my life. Instead of being defined by my failures and victories, I get to be defined by the unchanging love of Christ. I started to untangle my identity from my grades, my relationships, my leadership skills, and my future plans, and let it be rooted in Jesus’ love instead. Grades became numbers, not a scoreboard. Relationships were allowed to be messy and not define me. I could mess up and not completely crumble under my fear of failure. Slowly but surely God’s Truth began to transform my heart and mind 

Being loved “as you are” is risky.

I don’t know why exactly but there is just something safer about being loved because of acting or doing or saying or being a certain way. Doing something to earn love makes sense. But what I know about Jesus is that he takes the things that seem to make sense to me and flips them upside down. Earning I get. Trading love in exchange for ____ (fill in the blank—being good, doing the right thing, loving people enough) is logical and acceptable. Believing I am loved just because I am makes me feel helpless. It gives all the power back to God. Where it belongs. And I hate that. And yet in that there is true, real, lasting unchanging freedom. I can stop doing for love and start living from love.

In my job, I have the insane honor of walking with girls of all ages. Encouraging them to be themselves and believe their worth gives me so much life. I have the delight of hanging out with a crew of the sweetest 12 year olds around, and watching the way they play, laugh, and openly speak their thoughts is so refreshing. They aren’t afraid to risk big yet. I think Jesus was really onto something when he told his disciples to have the faith of a child. They understand something that us adults tend to forget: the beauty of simply offering themselves.

I went to the talent show at the middle school, where I do Wyld Life, this spring, and the kids who performed blew me away. They sang, they danced, they uni-cycled, they acted, they played instruments. They offered. They were willing to put themselves out there for their corner of the world to see. They were so brave. And they had so much fun. 

When I get anxious and scared and want to play small because the same old lies are running through my head, I remember my middle school friends. I take a deep breath, put on my big girl panties, and remind myself that I am fully seen, fully known, and fully loved as I am.

 And somehow that is enough. 


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