Meet Kate.

Through mutual artistic friends, Kate and I met in Charleston, South Carolina. Immediately, I felt so welcomed by her kind smile and sweet voice. With warm colors and delightfully inviting compositions, Kate’s artwork has quickly become popular and inspiring to countless artists. I’m currently saving up to purchase one for myself, and cannot wait to tell my visitors all about the artist and her wonderful heart. She also does lovely, live wedding paintings! I was so thrilled when she was willing to share her words for the “as you are series”.

Without further ado, Meet Kate!!

(and visit her website: katewaddellart.com)


I first came to know Christ when I was 17 & the 8 years that have followed have increasingly deepened my grasp on what it looks like to live in the Love of Jesus. I must admit, I’m not always comfortable talking about the fact that I am radically loved and adored by the Creator of the universe- but I want to be.


During my sophomore year of college, I began experiencing rather severe anxiety mixed in with depression. While it was and is still incredibly rough & difficult to go through, I have learned as Paul wrote “to rejoice in suffering”.

Those broken parts of my life constantly point me to the Cross.

I came to see during that year, that my desire to control had kept me from knowing the Peace that comes with the love of Jesus. While it’s still a daily battle, I really do have a peace that ‘surpasses all understanding’ knowing that the God of the universe died to know me & to lavish His love upon me.

Like many, I am continuously hearing the lie that I am not good enough. I’ve always felt like second best with most things – until the Spirit breathes His truth into my soul and mind.

To know that my name was written in His heart & that He called me to a life with Him always soothes & amazes me.

A. W. Tozer writes, “Nothing will or can restore order till our hearts make the great decision: God shall be exalted above all”. It’s in the moments of worship & thankfulness that my heart is the most satisfied. Anxiety is essentially rooted in selfishness & it’s exhausting constantly worrying about my future, what people think of me – if that one person remembers that weird thing I said 4 months ago. So, when I am the least bit focused on myself & instead dwelling in His presence, there is just an explicable Joy that comes from knowing His Love for me.

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As an artist, I am constantly aware of the beauty around me. Whether it be people, color or words, they point me to the Lord.

I remember one day this past May I was painting and as I was mixing a certain color, I was thinking how beautiful it was & then heard the whisper from the Spirit saying, “that’s how I feel about you”. I don't know if it’s the culture I live in or my own sin, but rarely do I genuinely believe that I’m a beautiful masterpiece. When, I remember that I am seen as God’s Beloved, and Christ’s forever, I can’t help but believe & know it.


The word ‘love’ is thrown around so much today. I think we’ve all become a little numb to its true meaning. Love without sacrifice remains numb and mundane. So, to realize that because God is Love, He then died the death I deserved so that I could live a life eternally with Him, it can’t help but change and satisfy my soul.

Our world indeed needs more Love, but not a love rooted out of self-will or selfishness. It is desperately crying out for the redemptive & satisfying Love of our Lord.


I’ve recently been in a mindset of extreme gratitude remembering I have been called by name into a life with Him. Each day & all that comes with it is a gift from above. It’s a chance to know Him deeper & to radiate His Love to those around us.

It has always been my prayer that art would point those that look at it to the grander artist, Himself, reminding them that above all He’s created, He calls us His masterpieces.

Visit her website: https://katewaddellart.com/

Meet Emily.

In college I knew Emily Boone, then Emily Davis, as a ray of sunshine and a dear friend. She has an intoxicating joy about her – even the sound of her voice seems to burst life-giving energy into a room. I adore this girl for so many reasons, and I was anxiously anticipating her blog post for the “as you are” series. Emily has so much to share – talent, hope, beautiful dreams, and a smile that lights up the world around her. I hope you enjoy her words as much as I did… I’ve already read this post several times, in the hopes of it sinking in to my own life and changing me.

Meet Emily.

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I have been procrastinating writing this for a while. When my friend, Jennie, asked me to write a guest post for her blog, it was easy to tell her it would take a while because at the time, we were in the middle of our move to College Station. But it's been several weeks since then, and I've hit publish on blogs a few times since then, too.

So why haven't I been able to sit down and get out this post she asked me to write?

“Emily, can you write me a short blog about what it means to you that you're loved by God and how that has changed your life?”
“Yeah, no problem. Thinks, I've-known-the-Lord-my-whole-life. That'll be easy.”

Crickets.

Sorry, Jennie. Apparently this is a harder assignment than I thought, because to my pride's embarrassment (she's hiding in the corner of my mind, butt-hurt because she's been a Christian since she was a child) I'm coming up empty. This should be so easy for me to explain. Someone who has known God their whole life should surely be able to write a few paragraphs about what it means to be loved by Him. Well, apparently not. And it wasn't until God basically cornered me into finally writing this post that I had the guts to sit down and just do it, which meant discovering why it's been so difficult.

I don't think I really do know what it means to me to be loved by the Lord.

I mean, yes, I know I'm loved by God. I know that. And I've had moments in my life where I've felt his love so powerfully that I just wept. But, if I'm being wholly honest with myself, have I seriously known that to my core in a way that impacts my life every day? Maybe not. Because if I did, I'd probably live differently, right?

Here's the deal: I'm a believer. I go to church. I'm in a small group. I read my bible. I pray. Blah blah blah. All the boxes are checked that should indicate I know God's love.

Yet it took everything in me to write this post. I find this to be a really hard concept to explain, because as it turns out, I've been working for acceptance for most of my life. It's a pattern, a coping mechanism. And if I'm working to be loved/okay/acceptable/valuable/worthy, then I've probably never let God really love me because I've made sure I've never needed his love. Make sense?

I've been hardworking and well behaved and rarely one to make mistakes, so a love that covers all wrongs wasn't wholly necessary to me, because my wrongs are pretty minimal. I never really feel the pang of sin because my transgressions aren't going to make headlines here on earth. They're socially acceptable and for the most part, pretty private. I've worked hard to keep it that way, haven't I?

I do good to be good. Maybe you can relate?

Surely I can't be the only one. There must be someone else out there who strives not to be a failure so they don't have to feel the pang of disappointment, of unworthiness. For workers like me, failure is the worst thing in the world because it exposes the whole dang operation. If there's even one tiny failure, that means there's vulnerability. And if there's vulnerability, that means there's not perfection. And if there's not perfection, well, that means I'm exposed as a fraud--I'm not who I've been working so hard to portray myself as. Accepting the pain and frustration of a personal, moral, professional, or relational failure on my part is the hardest thing in the world. It breaks me. Why? Because I've rooted my identity in my ability to be good and never fail in those ways. Did I know I was doing this? Well of course not, because that would be the wrong thing, and I never to do wrong thing! I'm perfect! I never do the wrong thing because I can't handle what'll happen if I mess up!

How can I feel God's love if I don't need it?
How can I know what God's love means to me if I never accept that he loves me despite my crap? (And yes, I do have crap. Admitting it is the first step.)


Honestly, I'm not even sure how to go about doing that. But I do have a hunch: 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm therefore, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery. Gal 5:1

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It's so funny. The very thing I was doing to be okay, to be acceptable, worthy, free of blemish, actually ended up putting me in chains.

Being enslaved to the yoke of perfectionism means certain punishment come the times I slip up. God's love doesn't look like punishment. God's love looks like mercy (James 2:13). If I'm not merciful to myself, can God be merciful to me? My mind is my own worst enemy. When I fail, all the hateful, negative thoughts come screaming in and rip apart my perfect exterior like knives. I'm learning to be kind to myself. To be judged by the law that sets me free instead of the law that keeps me enslaved to my own best efforts.

And when I do that, I begin to feel God's love and accept his caring correction when I fail, instead being torn apart by my outbreaks of self loathing any time I screw up. I also, by the way, discover more of who God made me to be when I throw off perfectionism and jump into the unknown world of being okay with failure, because failure doesn't define me anymore, love does.  

It is a serious burden to be your own correction officer (or better yet, prison guard) especially when the free gift of grace is just sitting there, waiting to beckon you into freedom from the pressure of your own performance.

Failing will become acceptable because no longer is value attached to perfection, but instead, you'll grow tall and strong like a tree by a river, firmly planted in the river of God's unfailing, liberating love. 

Fear is a prison guard.
Faith is a patriot. 

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Fear says you better not screw this up or you're worthless. Faith says you're known and loved and valued despite what you can offer, so get out there and live.

And it does take a little bit of faith to accept that God's love can anchor your self-worth more reliably than your own efforts. How do you do this? Well, for me it's been choosing to do things I know could result in failure. I gotta start letting myself be free. I have to give God's love a chance to protect me or my strict rulebook will just keep stealing my joy and freedom. It's immersion therapy in a way. It's retraining my thoughts and actions to new patterns, which really just looks like following my heart instead of my head.

What will it be for you? I really don't know. However, I do know that if you seek God you'll find him. He's all for giving us more of him, more of freedom. Ask and you shall receive. 

Which, by the way, is how God's love has changed my life. Any time I've failed and my self preservation process has been exposed as insufficient, his love has always been ready to accept me and make me whole again.

It is reliable. It is continual. It is pure. It accepts.  It corrects. And it is always leading me to new levels of freedom. So, I guess that that is what God's love means to me.

It means freedom. 

Purchase Prints of her work: https://emilyboone.smugmug.com/Fine-Art-Photography-Prints/

Follow Emily on Instagram: @emilyanneboone

Website: www.emilyboone.com

Meet Linda

I met Linda when I was consumed with anxiety and trying to tame wild children in a classroom. Linda was a calm in the midst of the storm. Her soothing voice and welcoming eyes gave me a safe place to land. Our friendship came easily, and to this day, I still admire her perfect juxtaposition of relentless kindness and ruthless perseverance. Not to mention, we both love art too.

Today, she remains a successful science teacher, a very talented artist and a sweet friend... and so much more. 

Meet Linda.

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Looking back on my life, I feel as though I am a seed.

A seed that was planted in hard soil.

One that waited a long time to grow.

A seed that is just now reaching for the light.

 

People who know me now would laugh, but for much of my life, I was not social. I was sheltered.

Afraid of talking to people.

Shy.

This is me working at a Habitat for Humanity site - I love meeting the homeowners who are always on-site to learn as much as they can about their homes.

This is me working at a Habitat for Humanity site - I love meeting the homeowners who are always on-site to learn as much as they can about their homes.

And in the middle of my struggle, I found an unexpected lifeline.

Already feeling stretched thin, I went to a meeting for a volunteer organization. I never knew how facing my apprehension of conversation would change me.

I found that heart-to-hearts with strangers led me to God’s own heart.

After Hurricane Matthew, my amazing church friends organized Operation #FillUpAUHaul to take supplies to Robeson County and my husband and I drove down to help deliver the collected goods.

After Hurricane Matthew, my amazing church friends organized Operation #FillUpAUHaul to take supplies to Robeson County and my husband and I drove down to help deliver the collected goods.

Conversations with every person, no matter their struggles or successes, made for a richer world than the insular, selfish place I had trapped myself in.

They didn’t assign me value because of the grades I earned, or the coursework I took.

It was time.

The time spent with them reflected me,

for better or for worse,

just like a mirror.

So, I decided to try to be better.

To inquire. To learn their stories. To laugh with them. To cry with them.

I felt my heart take deeper and deeper roots as they showed me God’s love.

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President Jimmy Carter wrote about meeting a Cuban-American pastor named Eloy Cruz in his book, Living Faith. In it, he was amazed at Pastor Cruz’s gentle, simple words and intimacy with strangers he had just met.

Pastor Cruz followed a simple rule: “You only have to have two loves in your life - for God, and for the person in front of you at any particular time.

When you hear me strike up a conversation, please know that it is from a place of both fear and love.

Fear led me to love, and that love has helped me grow more into the person I am today.

I am fully loved, and aim to truly love others in what I do.

A seed, after all, can remain in the soil or burst forth with life, with care. On the other side of fear, there is boundless light and possibility - if we will only let it in.

Follow Linda on Instagram – @lindandion

Meet Tiffany

Five years ago, Tiffany and I attended Baylor together and found ourselves in the same small group. Although we have not seen each other in years, I always remember Tiffany as a safe place and a gentle spirit. She has this genuine and sincere presence about her, and warm smile to usher anyone in. She has a divine talent for photography and a special way with words. After college, it is no surprise she landed in YWAM (Youth With A Mission) working in the areas of - Discipleship, Red Light District Ministry and Communications.

I asked her to share her answer to the question: "What does it mean to you that you are loved exactly as you are and how has this truth changed your life?"

Meet Tiffany.

To be loved exactly as you are - it can feel like a foreign, even scary notion at times.

If people truly knew the depths of my heart, would they actually want to stick around? I think this is something that we all wrestle with at times. We get tired and vulnerable and start feeling like we have nothing to bring to the table, nothing to give. We see other people and we feel like we don’t measure up. I definitely have moments where I doubt myself.

I get it, it happens. 

To be fair, we won’t always feel 100% but we can’t afford to stay in that place. Self pity is a nasty, nasty drug.

Instead, we need to learn to celebrate ourselves, to celebrate those small seemingly unimportant victories. We need to take the time to notice the beauty and the extraordinary gifts that God has placed within each one of us.

There are so many templates thrown at us about what we should look like, what size we should be, what we should have accomplished by now, but we can’t fall into the trap of letting all that define us. Honestly, it would be so boring if we all looked the same, operated under the same personality.

Please don’t try to be someone else.

The world needs you to be you. So dig down deep and discover the beauty within, I can promise you it’s in there waiting to be released. 

I think a huge tool I have found in learning to be loved as I am is recognizing that creeping comparison that sneaks in and steals my joy for who I am and where I am. Recognizing it and then nipping that bad boy right in the bud.

Without comparison I am able to measure myself rightly, the way God sees me.

Without comparison I am able to recognize not only the innate value within me but the beauty of who God made me to be.

Without comparison I am able to allow God to love me and in turn to love myself.

It’s about clinging to God’s perspective in the great times and in the hard times.

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Dear one, even if you feel weary and broken, I promise you – you do have something to give. God has intricately woven your heart, your dreams + desires. He has wired your personality and created you to be a unique representative of Him on this earth. There will be ups and downs but please do not let the enemy steal your personality and your fire. We were created to know and be known, don’t stay isolated. 

Let God’s love make you alive, and allow others into that space so that they can not only know you, but love you. 

 

Connect with Tiffany on Instagram: @gramforthelamb or her website: http://www.tiffanyhopelambert.com/

Meet Kacie

Kacie and I met through Camp Ozark some years ago... almost immediately we connected over our mutual love for CS Lewis and Tolkien, and all things deeply spiritual – we also both love to smile really big and laugh together! Kacie's heart makes any stranger feel warmly welcomed and dearly loved – she embraces even the most wayward with cheerful eyes and a kind empathy. I hope her words touch you, as they did me, and make you feel less alone in hard places. She has this insanely beautiful way of writing, and uses words the way an artist uses a paintbrush. Some day I hope she will write a book. I will be the first to buy it! Soo naturally, I asked her to write an "as you are" post:) 

Follow along with her writings at @kaciemargo on Instagram.

Meet Kacie!

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Two things were consistently true as I grew up: I liked who I was, and I liked people liking who I was. I was also a normal teenage girl and not a mutant, so for sure I had my seasons of insecurity and despair, but overall, I look at my life and think without question: I was loved.

So if someone were to have asked me the question, “How has knowing that you are fully loved as you are changed your life?” I would not have known how to answer. I’ve always felt loved, and I’ve always felt that I was pretty easy to love.

As a general rule, I only showed up around others when I was full: full of joy, full of energy, full of drive, full of creativity and inspiration. There was a small pocket of people who had access to other things I was full of: snark, doubt, overthinking, sass. But for the most part I was full of joy, and it was a priority of mine to be seen as full.

And then,

all of a sudden,

I was empty.

Depression was the diagnosis. The first time I went to a therapist, within twenty minutes he was scribbling his signature for antidepressants. That made me angry. You know twenty minutes worth of my life and you’re trying to get me to pop a pill? So I left.* Then I turned to books. I read anything I could get my hands on about depression, searching desperately for ways to get out of it, as if there were a step by step tutorial to get me out, clean and unscathed. I prayed as much as I could and received as much prayer as I could, and when the heaviness didn’t lift, I began to panic.

I’m not a person people associate with the word depressed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to emotion and can feel all the feels, but at the end of the day, I can find a positive and hopeful angle. This time, I couldn’t.

Whatever this depression thing was… it hit hard. Like a thief in the night, y’all. Nobody was prepared. Especially me.

Then came the metaphors with no solutions:

I feel... like I’m drowning while people play on the beach.

I feel... like I’m in a glass jar, always just out of reach with no ability to escape or connect.

I feel... like I’m in a total fog.

I feel... like Sandra Bullock in the middle of space, untethered and floating sans gravity in dark matter.

I feel… like a total failure.

I feel… utterly unlovable.   

I crawled through the fog of depression for two years. (And there are still days when I wake up and everything is dark and heavy.)

Whomp.

Cue... shame. I mean, who wants to feel like a little piece of squish stuck in a clam shell at the bottom of the ocean when they’re first married?

Cue... more shame. Hello, twenties! The time of your life! The time to determine what direction you’ll go! The time to maximize your potential! The time to make a lot of money and set yourself up for success! The time to dream!

Yet there I was, a dreamer and visionary in my past life, but in this new sucky sad life, I’m the girl that breaks down in tears because she doesn’t know what to make for lunch. Y’all. I’m for sure in the “live to eat” category rather than the “eat to live” one and I lost ten pounds simply because eating felt too hard. What?!?!

I did not feel worth a penny. I was newly wed and unemployed. I was attending a new church, so I did not have the opportunity nor the bandwidth to serve in any form of church leadership, let alone make friends. I had been a worship leader, speaker, and staff member in multiple ministry spaces for the last decade, and went straight to… nothing.

I felt so foreign to myself that I began to hate myself. My journal was filled with countless one-sentence entries. “I feel so empty.” “I don’t want to exist anymore.” “I just want to go away.” “F*#@.”

I felt like a complete and total failure. A failure of a wife. A failure of a Christian. A failure of a friend. A failure at everything.

With feelings of failure came self-condemnation. It was the ugliest. I literally lost every ounce of self confidence. My backbone shriveled into a limp noodle. My husband could so much as look at me the wrong way and I would burst into tears.

I blamed myself for being depressed. I completely exhausted the question, “What did I do wrong?”, convinced that the depression and fog was the consequence of some egregious mistake I had made along the way. I hunted down the “root” of my depression like it was my job.

Birth control. Burnout. Disappointment in myself. All real contributors to the fog and emptiness. So I quit birth control… some improvements. I journaled and read books on burnout… a couple perspective shifts. I went to more therapy… a couple more tweaks. These were good steps in the right direction, but none of them fixed me. Oh, how I wanted them to. I would have believed a telemarketer if they said they could help me quit depression (as if it were some bad life habit!)

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There was not an easy way out, and there is almost never an easy way out. It is nuanced and hard and slow. Surrounded by people, it still feels lonely. And the only way out is through it.

But the focus of this post is not about my experience with depression. This post is about how I came to have a real answer to the question about being known I am fully loved as I am. Of all the unlikely and unfortunate teachers, depression stripped me of all the things I always felt loved for: joy, energy, positive perspective, ambition. My people did not withdraw their love from me, but I withdrew it from myself, and I did not believe it when others offered it.

So what was my turnaround? What was the moment where I began again to believe “you are loved wholly as you are?”

I’m sorry to say there wasn’t one. No big epiphany or breakthrough for me.

But you know what there was?

Presence.

I tried to isolate as hard as I could, attempting to protect my people from an abundance of dark thoughts and despair. As hard as I tried to isolate, I found myself surrounded by presence.  

There was the real presence of humans I could see with my own eyes: my husband, my friends, my neighbors. They stayed normal. My husband sat through the tears and did not cringe when my biggest triumph of the day was getting out of bed. They remained present. My friends were not phased. We texted and called and wrote letters like we always do. None of them withdrew from me when I attempted to withdraw from them.

And there was the real presence of One I could not see:

my Creator. He did not shame me or try to change me. He did not recoil at my anger or despair. He was not offended by my emptiness. He was not offended by my inability to hope. He was not offended by my inability to believe the best about Him, nor was He offended by my inability to trust in the goodness of anything.

Of all the miracles He could have performed in that season, of all the ways he could have answered my prayer to Please God, fix me, he offered this one:

I am near.

That’s it: I am near.

Did I believe it?  B a r e l y. But “barely” was enough for belief to grow.

I would not have believed Him if he had said “I love you.” It would have been laughable. My brain was so consumed with thoughts of being unlovable that I would have resisted immediately. But I am near was a plot twist. And believing — slowly — that He is near has opened my heart to little slivers of other truths: like I am loved as I am.

If the Creator of the Universe is not only okay to be near me, full of depression and despair (arguably the most draining states of being), but also chooses to come near? Then he has to be full of either insanity or love. Or both. In my opinion, he is insane love. And whether I’m depressed or full of joy, He chooses to come near as I am.

So when it’s hard to believe — even still — that I am loved or loveable, I try to switch words around to truths I can believe a little easier:

I am loved at my weakest = He’s near when I suck.

I am loved when I am producing nothing. = He’s near when I really suck.

I am loved totally and completely. = He’s near and smiling.

Plot twist: I am not loved for my joy, or my leadership, or my good ideas, or my gifts, etc. Those may make me more loveable when they’re flourishing, but they are not the reason I am loved. I am loved *gulp* simply because I was created by Insane Love.

Hello, you. If knowing you are fully loved seems absolutely impossible, and if believing in Insane Love feels trite or ungraspable or simply unbelievable, I can and will still say to you: He is near.

People of faith have all sorts of ways to remember and remind. Some keep a prayer stone in their pocket. Others have rosaries. Others still have tattoos or practice mantras or keep rhythms in their day that help them remember what is true.

For me, as soon as I feel the fog of depression descending again, I close my eyes and think or speak You are near.

When the belief feels unattainable, I find a new place to sit. I’ll hike a mountain. I’ll drive to the edge of a beautiful lake. Or sit outside on my porch and watch fireflies. Or sit in the dirt and tend to my garden. But when belief feels hard or impossible, I have to go sit my butt in a beautiful space. Beauty creates thin spaces that make it easier to believe He is near.

Y’all. He always will be. And believing that is changing my life.

*Disclaimer: I am in no way discounting or undermining the real and amazing work that both psychiatrists and modern medicine can offer for the brain. I simply did not feel heard by the psychiatrist and ultimately decided medicine was not the right choice for me.

I also in no way assume anyone else’s experience with depression is the same as mine, so any sentences laced with humor are in no way intended to make light of depression nor are they intended to speak for anyone else who has experienced depression.

 

Meet Kelsey

The truth is, I have never actually met Kelsey, but I hope some day we can meet in person and share a cup of coffee! Recently, she sent me a message on Instagram about how she wanted to order a Lion painting and how the "as you are" series had really impacted her life at a time she needed it most...

"...For some encouragement on your Monday. I bought a bracelet in 2016 that says “as you are” from the blog you were writing/organizing at that time. It was a super relevant message that God spoke to me through during that season of my life. So I just wanted to say thank you. I have worn the bracelet every single day since August 2016. And have even bought a few for my YoungLife girls I lead in Oregon."

Kelsey's message encouraged me to start posting these stories again, so I asked her to write the next "as you are" blog, in response to the question below –

"What does it mean to you that you are loved as you are, and how has that impacted your life?"

Meet Kelsey!

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“I am not enough”.

Since I was a young girl, this narrative has taunted me. I often get caught up believing I am not a “good enough” friend, pediatric nurse, Younglife leader, or just not a good enough overall.

So what has been my “fix”?

I strive. I please. I perform. I hide the real me.

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to find an antidote to this problem, or something I could do to fix the hole in my heart. I longed to feel known, loved and free, but instead I kept feeling like a total and complete hot mess.

Feel me?

Like a buoy in the middle of the ocean, I was tossed and thrown in any direction. My identity depended upon my circumstances and the voices of the people around me. I became really good at measuring my worth and identity by the wrong things – what others thought of me, how well I pleased others (any other people pleasers out there?), relationships, my appearance, and if I could put a smile on my face and act like everything was okay.

if I looked like I had it all together on the outside, then it would magically change how I felt on the inside, right?

It was like walking around with a mask on my face; never feeling truly known.

As far back as middle school, I recall singing Taylor Swift’s song “Forever and Always” at the top of my lungs in my room (usually with a hair brush microphone) because the lyrics struck a cord in me. I so badly wanted someone to come along and be my forever and always, never leave and tell me I was good enough. Maybe this would finally make me feel good enough?

Also, can I get an amen from all the TSwift fans out there?! 

As women today, we are bombarded with two opposing messages – We think we are good enough alone, or our self-esteem becomes inflated with false empowerment narratives.

BuT, in the long run, neither of these actually makes us feel complete.

“For in Christ all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” Colossians 2:9-10

I hate to break it to you sister, but you are not enough by yourself. When we are striving to be enough on our own we are denying our desperate need for grace and love. Only IN JESUS am I complete – I am enough in Him and because of Him.

Period.

God says, “I love you, exactly as you are, daughter. you are worthy and in me you are made complete.”

His view of us is the ONLY one that will never change. He is the ONLY one who will not let us down and defines who we are; no human can hold this responsibility.

We are limited, but He is limitless.

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We are not defined by our successes or failures, or by what we do or do not do. Paul reminds us in the Bible that our worth and position before God is not defined by our actions, but rather by what He did for us. We are chosen, accepted, and protected in Him.

Since our good behavior did not earn God’s acceptance, then our bad behavior cannot un-earn it.

God demonstrated his own love for us, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

So listen closely, love, this means that it is all about Jesus’ “doing” for us by dying on the cross. He did this because he’s so crazy about us he could not stay away. We can stop trying so stinkin’ hard and stop proving ourselves as a cover-up. 

The phrase “as you are” stuck with me ever since I heard it because, truth be told, I heard it at a time in my life when I didn’t feel very loved as I was. I felt more rejected, lost and well… not good enough. However, I have worn a bracelet around my wrist every single day for the past two years with “as you are” engraved on it because I need to be reminded every single day that I am loved as I am.

So here I am, in all my mess, reminding you – Jesus loves you as you are.

I encourage you to dig into what that means. Discovering who the Lord says you are is the best investment of you could ever make. As you grow in who you are in God, you will find purpose and freedom in the journey. Be patient with yourself. There is an unraveling process as we dig into our soul and let Jesus heal us from our past.

His grace is sufficient for you, sweet girl.

Most importantly, ask yourself: who is saying the thoughts that go through your head about who you are?

Bob Goff says, “Most of our decisions are driven by either love or fear. Figure out who’s doing the talking, then decide what you’ll do.

Figure out who is doing the talking in your head. Is it a statement derived from love or from fear? Don’t let the lies define who you are when there is a true identity waiting for you to take hold of it, and put it on.

So, sweet girl, you are so much more than “just enough”– you are an image bearer of Christ, treasured, forgiven, wonderfully made, hand picked and loved so much more than you’ll ever know.

Farther Along

Josh Garrels at Common Grounds. Waco, Texas

Josh Garrels at Common Grounds. Waco, Texas

Josh Garrels and I could not be more different – he's a total Portlander, a skateboarder, musician and mellow personality; on the other hand, I am a devote Texan at heart, ranch girl, painter, and bubbly personality. But, we have one thing in common – we both attempt to draw others into the beautiful Truth that inspires our art, a deep belief in Jesus Christ.

I learned about Josh Garrels years ago, in college, after a friend recommended a song to me. I heard his music and immediately something profound happened, it moved me; I can't exactly explain it, but this song was more than just music – it touched my heart and made me crave more.

The pathos and beauty of Garrels’ music is a function of his artistry – good music is good music, and he knows how to make it – but he is, without a doubt, a man on fire with faith.
An unwavering belief in sin, sacrifice, and redemption are the beating heart of his every song, not as the shrink-wrapped transmission of an explicit message, but as the genuine expression of a lived reality, of a man finding God incarnate in all things – even pain. - Josh Garrels

Have you ever been affected by something or someone, and then had a desire to understand what makes them so different? Sparked by one song, I had this fascination with Josh and his story, and needed to understand what drives him as a person, and as an artist.

The way he approaches business is unusual and inspiring – he gives away his music for free. The beautiful rhythm of his voice, and his poetic lyrics draw listeners into a quiet meditation on the deeper meaning and purpose of life. His quiet personality, and contagious humility just make listeners more intrigued – humility in the sense of someone who does not crave attention for himself, but continues to use his platform to point to beauty beneath his music.  

I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes.

After that I liked jazz music.

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way.
- Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
Josh Garrels at Common Grounds, Waco. 

Josh Garrels at Common Grounds, Waco. 

I think Josh Garrels helped me truly begin to understand what makes real art. If it is authentic, it comes from a place deep within your heart. Any viewer, or listener can tell when an artist is creating from a place of vulnerable authenticity, or drawing from some outside source. Josh helped me understand that. Here's to you, Josh Garrels! Keep doing what you love and creating beautiful music, it changes people... I know from experience. 

"Ultimately, if I have any influence at all, I want to help people look up, and see that the Lord’s alive and well, and His love can change everything." - Josh Garrels

Daring to Hope

To all you talented people out there,

Discouragement has been the consistent theme of many conversations I have had lately. Whether it's the upcoming election, seasons of singleness, difficult marriages, job dissatisfaction, world news...life is hard, and I don't write this to give you false hope – the harsh reality is, the Cubs haven't won the World Series in 108 years, golf is Peyton Manning's new sport of choice, Robert Redford is aging faster than my grandparents, and in all seriousness, life does not go the way we planned, most days.

But.

we do not give up in the face of hopelessness, nor ignore the tough emotions that come with the difficulties. 

My own BIG slice of humble pie has taken the form of newfound self-awareness. For most of my life, I've realized I have lacked grace for my own humanity – and consequently, I have withheld that same grace towards the people I love the most. 

I took a personality test, The Enneagram, and learned I have some Type 3 - "The Achiever" tendencies and also, some Type 2 - "The Helper". It literally says in the description, "At a young age, they got the message they were not allowed to have feelings and be themselves: they must, in effect, be someone else to be accepted." It's humbling really, to read these descriptions and accept the new, not so appealing, self-awareness.

I learned what is often true of ourselves, we unconsciously project on other people – that is what hurts the most.

That "someone else" I spent most of my life trying to become, turned out to be an unachievable standard; an unrealistic, perfect version of myself that had no room to be emotional, nor space to mess up. But, deep down, I just wanted someone to look me in the eyes and tell me, "Jennie, it's okay to mess up, it's okay to not be okay."

Instead, I lived in a secret prison of my own making and worked myself to the ground trying to "achieve" the life I assumed I should live. 

The truth is, I do not understand why some people achieve things, while others try and try and fail. I do not understand why I get to paint for a living, while others work in a cubicle all day. I do not understand why some were born with talent to play sports, while others could spend their whole life training and never quite get there. I do not understand why some people have life handed to them on a silver platter, and others have to slave for one penny at a time. 

But, maybe, instead of overanalyzing everything I do not have, it's okay to some days just accept ourselves and life as it is, and as we are. Maybe it is not what you expected it would be, or you are not who you hoped you would become...but that is okay.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.
2 Cor. 4:16-18

Let yourself grieve for the good things you long for, but don't sit in the ashes forever. Wake up tomorrow, take a deep breath and slowly, day by day, seek hope and you will find it. 

It is not a matter of us being "good enough," or controlling the outcome, but it's about trusting God enough to say, "Okay, I trust you and who you have created me to be, as I am. I am not enough in and of myself, but I am enough because You are enough.

Your heart has longings too deep for words. God has equipped you with certain gifts and passions to share with the world and make His name known...as long as you keep them within yourself, they are not being shared with the world. Embrace your gifts. Live your passions, no one else can give the world what you have been given. As we are obedient to the core of who we were created to be, God will hold our hand. We may not know where he is leading us, but we can trust the One leading. Take a step and then another, little steps and that's all. Start small.

Daring to stay open to whatever will come to me today, tomorrow, two months from now or a year from now – that is hope. To go fearlessly into things without knowing how they will turn out, to keep on going, even when something does not work out the first time, to have trust in whatever you are doing – that is living with hope.
- Henri Nouwen

Meet Christen.

The first time I met Christen, I was in my last year at Baylor, and she was a youthful sophomore working behind a counter at the best coffee shop in Waco, Texas (Common Grounds). Her brother, in some way or another, manipulated us into spending time together and as I actually got to know the girl, she had some powerful level of genuine, authenticity. It only took us a few walks around the "Bear trail", a couple cups of coffee, and several "me too!" moments before we officially declared ourselves kindred spirits. 

In just a few short years, Christen has taught me so much. She is wise beyond her years, and beautiful in every way. I am so honored and excited to share her post with you...

Meet Christen. 

 

Growing up, I always asked myself the question, “Where do I fit in?

This is a pretty ordinary question for an insecure teenager. But to me, it meant much more than that. This question alluded to the deep yearning in my heart to know where I belonged and where I could find fulfillment.

I asked this question daily and based every decision off the supposed answer. For a long time, I thought the best answer was fitting in to the church I grew up in. I tried conforming to everyone around me by following the rules and acting as if I was a "perfect Christian girl that went to youth camp and never sinned". I thought that if I could change my personality, clothes, humor, and interests to fit the mold of Christian culture, then I’d figure out the whole Jesus thing. I quickly realized that trying to fit into this Christian mold was incredibly draining and nearly impossible. So I decided to change directions and start looking for fulfillment in other “worldy” things. This led me to my next destination -- boys.

From freshman year in high school on, I developed an obsession with obtaining approval from men. I wore gallons of makeup, dressed provocatively, and developed somewhat of an eating disorder all in the hopes of attracting a guy that would love me. I dated guy after guy, looking for someone that could fill the void in my heart that screamed for affirmation, identity and unconditional love. After a few heart breaks and a lot of bad decisions, I began to realize that this too would not answer the question “where do I fit in?”. From then on, I continued to pursue every outlet possible – popularity, family, alcohol etc.

But the answer to my question continued to be “no”. So, I retreated to a dark place of feeling completely rejected by everyone and everything.

During my freshman year of college my search to answer this haunting question came to a dramatic end.  All of my pursuits came crashing down around me. The boy I was dating broke up with me because I cheated on him while I was black-out at a party. I transferred schools and didn’t have any friends. No one knew who I was and it didn’t feel like anyone cared. Lastly, my amazing father passed away after an eight month fight with cancer.

I was done.

Hopelessness began to sink in and I thought about where all of my pursuits had gotten me. I never thought in a millions years I would end up here -- depressed and alone and not knowing if I could keep moving forward or not.

That’s when Jesus showed up.

In my brokenness, sin, and shame I remember feeling this urge to pray. For the first time in my entire life, I heard God speak to my heart, 

“Christen, I created you and I love exactly how you are and there is nothing you can do that will ever change that.” 

I was baffled. I thought I had to fit a mold in order to be loved.  God was telling me that he made me exactly who I am and that He loves me despite how broken I am. In Ephesians, Paul talks about God’s unconditional love for his children.

He says, “that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

God loves me unconditionally and perfectly.

I realized I had been asking the wrong question the whole time. “Where do I fit in?” suggests that I could change and conform to fit a worldy mold that I’d once considered “right”. And in doing so, I would have finally felt whole. But what I didn’t know, and came to realize, is that this wholeness can’t be found looking outward at the world, but in looking inward at the work God is doing in my heart.  

The question I should have been asking was “Who am I?”

I am fearfully and wonderfully made in God’s image for the purpose of bringing glory to Him through embracing my unique design and using it whole-heartedly here on earth. That is the answer I was looking for all those years -- I just couldn’t find it because I was asking the wrong question.

Now, armed with the right answer, everything else started aligning. My depression lifted, my feelings of insecurity and fear subsided, and a new sense of purpose gave me vision for the years ahead.

From that day on, I started to walk in the new identity God gave me. I didn’t need boys, alcohol, popularity or Christian culture anymore. I just needed God, His word and His identity.  

Meet Rachel.

The first three words that come to mind when I think of this lady:

beautiful, kind, talented

Beautiful - Rachel has a passion for life that burns from the inside, warms her soul and it's abundance overflows into the people around her.  Kind - one of those people who throws gorgeous, backyard dinner parties, and welcomes people into her home; not with-holding a thing, she shares her magical cooking skills, and her heart for hospitality. Talented - put a camera in her hands, and watch her capture special moments with a unique eye for beauty.

That's just three words, but let me, let her tell you more, straight from her heart...

Meet Rachel.

(and be sure to check out her blog: http://www.thefondlife.com/)

Photo: @cruandcompany

I never thought I would struggle with the simple concept I sang so happily as a child, that "Jesus loves me, this I know.”  But a question has plagued me during this past year, a year that has been marked by a continual and debilitating spiritual dryness.  

“Does God really love me?” 

This question punches me in the heart because I am in a place where I have nothing to give Him. Literally … nothing.

In the dryness I have not sought Him. I have not been in prayer. I have not read His word. I have not thanked Him for His gifts. I have not sung his praises. 

The words and actions of my life have given him nothing. I know this and it eats away at my worth because I have no way to earn His love.

And so the question has persisted, “Does God love me? Does he love me in this season where I have nothing to give?” 


Last Monday morning I *finally* decided to open my Bible and I read Daniel 1.

The verse that stuck out to me was vs 17: "To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.” 

I thought about this verse for a few minutes and how dreams are a vessel that God uses. How some dreams exist for a purpose and what that means for us. 

Unbeknownst to me, the night before I read this verse, an old friend from high school who I hadn’t spoken to in years had a dream about me. 

She had a dream that she was sharing words that God had put on her heart for me. That God had marked me for a reason, that I was born for a purpose and that I was loved as a child. In her dream I started crying, and said that I really needed to hear that. 

The next night she had another dream. 

@cruandcompany

This time, we ran into each other and were catching up when I shared something about my childhood. In her dream she said, "that is so funny because last night I had a dream that God gave us a word for you about how your childhood was marked by Him. That He was with you.” 

I’ve thought a lot about these dreams. I think the reference to childhood refers to right now. That it refers to my current wrestling to believe I am his beloved child, regardless of what I have to offer him.

Him turning my attention that verse in Daniel tells me that He is nudging at my heart.

Her dreams tell me that He is chasing me, and loves me as I am, no matter what I have to offer. 

Her dreams remind me that He is enough and needs nothing from me in order to love me.

They remind me that He loves me as I am.