Pursuing Perfect

Sometimes our hearts don’t make any sense. Or our emotions. Sometimes we look into a mirror and don’t recognize ourselves. I’ve totally done that. Or we’ve seen just how perfect we look on the outside, but underneath all of that we’re a mess.

Perfection isn’t bad in and of itself. Jesus Christ was the perfect sacrifice and He gave the world hope and new life.
But perfection gets twisted when it becomes our sole pursuit.

And it’s been mine so often.

I don’t want to pursue perfection more than Jesus. I hope you don’t either.

So I think we need to stop and just surrender. Seriously live in surrender. When we withhold things from God that’s when our souls crawl into dark places. Where fear clenches. And despair crowds. And the only feeling left is an empty desperation.

So if you’re struggling with anything, or if you’ve kept anything from God, release it to Him. If you’re hiding or afraid and ashamed, please know Jesus loves you.

And please never believe that your life has become so dark that Christ can’t save you. He can. He pursues you.

Perfection is so empty and living for others is such a defeated way of living. And focusing on anything without letting Jesus take the center stage is just meaningless.

I’ve been so stuck on how I’ve failed in relationships but that doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that I’ve failed at life. I am victorious and you can be too. When Jesus came to die, he came to set captives free.

And that means He came to set you free too.

 

Xoxo Aimee

A Suffering Love

Love, nailed to a tree, His broken body bled out for me.

His heart broken, His heart surrendered, He bore my sin – the evil enslaving me.

Hands outstretched, searing pain as soldiers hammer nails into hands that washed feet and opened blind eyes and welcomed children and draw me in even now.

Love risked – with no regrets.

Love gave – freely.

Love suffered – humbly.

For His enemies, for the ones nailing Him in humiliation.

Mouth silent in the face of His accusers.

And I – I could’ve stood there and said He was innocent. I am guilty. Not Him, take me.

He was blameless. He is.

I am the criminal deserving of a cross. I am the one led astray by my own deceitful heart.

But Love still came and bled out for me.

And rose.

He rose again. Love broke apart my sin and gave freedom -gave life – to me.

 

Only Jesus

There were moments when Chloe overthought every moment like a movie critic and then moments when she wanted to scream and block all the memories out.

Her heart pounded as she walked into the sanctuary.

You’d think that church would be a safe place, but it really wasn’t. Not today.

Why did hope feel untouchable? Why did her heart feel like it was caving in and like everything she’d worked so hard for was all crumbling at her feet? Why did she feel like pulling back and pulling out of everything He had called her to?

Her breath caught as she watched him out of the corner of her eye.

And the anxiety mounted. But where was her trust? And why on earth did she allow him to be more powerful than God in her life?

Or maybe the infatuation and attention – the idea of someone had become godlike. Dangerously so.

But the emptiness and silence permeated every moment. There was something awfully stinging about rejection. It wasn’t just the knowledge that that person had moved on and was somehow wonderfully whole and contented. That all of their dreams had been realized in the aftermath of another shredded heart. No, that wasn’t the worst of it. The worst part was the paralyzing fear of ever being able to give her heart out again. Without expecting it to getting pitched back in her face.

But she would give it out again. And hurt and break apart. Because wasn’t that real living? Wasn’t that what Jesus had called her to? Real love broke and shattered and waited for the only One to build it up again. Maybe her own idea of a perfect life was intended all along to be broken so that someone else could build it more wisely. Like how God gave Nehemiah strength and resources to rebuild Israel. To wake them up and remind them to quit living in the ashes of their broken places, but to build. And maybe this season was all about building too. Building and working and moving.

Not a striving and achieving but a surrendering and moving toward the cross. Letting him restore and repair the broken.

Why had she chosen a life of fear? Was fear her god? Or Christ?

She had worn doubt and cynicism like a badge of honor and she was ready to throw it on the ground in repentance. To turn around. Abandon her will. Give it all up to Him. Regardless of the criticism. Of the stinging loneliness that penetrated her soul. That stuck it’s talons deep into every aching wound of the past. You’re still that insecure, broken, failure of a girl. It would hiss. And it would be right. Except when Chloe remembered the Cross…

I will never leave you nor forsake you.

Jesus came unlike a man would come. Jesus came to deliver, redeem, identify, draw in, and save. And wasn’t that everything she’d ever longed for? And she had tasted His love. But somehow in the mess of her life and of her brokenhearted quest for perfection she’d rejected this foundational truth and reality.

Bring me back. Break me down. Take me back. Restore. Save. You are my Savior. The only one who can heal my busted, broken heart.

Only Jesus can rebuild what’s broken. Chloe clung to this truth. It didn’t matter what she would face, only that she would face it with Him. He knew the way. His plan surpassed the clichés and the doubts and the seemingly irreparable.

Seek First

Scenarios play out in my head of what I should be. What I should do with my life. What is the next step, the next goal?

I’m grasping to be satisfied, but all I feel is this rush of fear as it engulfs me. And I wonder, what has led all of us to this?

What are we all seeking and why are we all in such a mad rush to get there?

That’s what I’m thinking as I floor the accelerator, merging into traffic along a main highway in NOVA on my morning commute to work.

Aren’t we all just trying to keep our heads above water? Paddling and swimming and nearly suffocating under the weight of the pressure and responsibility, pain and suffering inherent in this old world? We stress over broken relationships. Financial pressure. Tenuous health, difficult coworkers, and this ever-present desire for more that we just can’t ever fill. We’re overcome with the awful desperate feeling of averageness as we examine our lives up against those we admire.

We strive and work harder and come up empty. Even after achieving what we thought would satisfy, even that leaves a hollow in our souls. Accolades ricochet off cynical, disappointed hearts. Temporary attention and affection barely skim the surface of our deep longing to be fully known.

None of it’s new. But sometimes it feels worse. I toss and turn at night over words people have said, future possibilities that if true, would turn my life into a nightmare.

Possibilities like failure. And humiliation. Shame. Isolation. Oppressive Anxiety. Cold, consuming fear.The images are almost suffocating. The snapshots penetrate my heart because there’s a part that’s true that I don’t want to admit, but can’t keep from the surface any longer. It all ushers in unwanted.

“For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing..” (Romans 7:19)

One of the Enemy’s greatest weapons are lies. Assumptions based on our experiences of all that’s happened to us. All we’ve done. We just believe one convincing lie and he has us where he wants us.

Today, I’m reminded of truth. A really good friend reminded me of this, waking me up like an extra espresso shot to the reality I’m now in because of Christ.

His truth resurfaces again and I remember that I’m seeking after the wrong things. Jesus Christ, foundational to my purpose seeking desperation, is the one who defines me. Who gives me identity and purpose. Peace and hope. He is still working and moving in my life even when I sleep or forget or feel like the barrage and weight of regret and responsibility and pain feel like a deadweight.

Isn’t it incredible that the God who created mankind and the whole universe pursues us with his mercy and grace EVEN NOW in this broken mosaic of our world, despite the deep sinfulness of our hearts?

I love that the Jesus who was nailed to that awful cross at Calvary over 2,000 years ago, knew my name and knew exactly what you and I were struggling with, fighting through, and died for all of these broken moments, to make us whole.

I wonder at the pain he went through. How I forget about it in my everyday moments. How I keep seeking all of these other things and strive for them and come up empty. How I get so consumed by fear and by sin when He already paid it all.

Jesus was perfect. He never sinned and He was fully God and fully man. He knew your name before you were born. He has a plan for your life and calls You by name. Isn’t that awesome? I just never want that to get old. I never want the truths that I learned about my Savior to ever become something that I just assume and move on from, like another movie or another meal or another new friend to meet and get to know.

But then we move on.

I never want that to happen with my relationship with Jesus. And I hope that it never happens to you either. I hope that in all of your striving and anxiety you can remember that He truly does desperately love you. Seeking Him first each day and drawing near to Him as He draws near to us is so crucial to our lives because in seeking Him and following Him, all that striving dissipates. He truly has saved us from this present evil age, including all the chaos and ache and brokenness in my life and yours.

Just knowing that Jesus is alive and defeated my sin and the grave is such an incredible hope that I can hardly wrap my mind around. I hope you know how loved you are today and that you truly don’t need to strive to be accepted or to achieve all your dreams. Let go and let Him move in your life.

God promised to never disappoint us and He won’t start now.

Romans 7:24-25

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

 

 

 

My God Who Provides

Bless the Lord Oh my soul. Let all that is within me bless His holy name. (Psalm 103:1)

There’s something about praise that settles my soul. Especially at the moment when you realize that the edge of the desert is in sight. That you actually see a waterfall. That what you waited for all your life might not be right in front of you. But it might be a fraction of the puzzle piece. And it’s something. And you can’t help but feel some sort of joy spread through your heart.

Something happened yesterday that nearly blew my mind and at this moment I’m reminded of God’s faithfulness. Of His mercy. Of His goodness and powerful nature. Of how awesome He truly is.

Not only has He heard my cry, but He answered me with His provision.
He is so awesome like that.

Today, I want to remind my heart to never forget the lessons I learned in the desert. I want to remind you too that when we’re in deserts, God shapes us in ways that sometimes seem so painful, but they’re painful just because He’s chipping away at anything that’s left of our old selves. He wants to make us NEW.  In the midst of these deserts, we throw ourselves completely on God’s mercy and faithfulness. Because we can’t provide for ourselves. Because we can’t see the outcomes. And the ones we form in our head crush our spirits.

Please know, having faith in Him in your trial is worth it. It doesn’t matter how painful or uncertain. HE IS WORKING AND MOVING IN YOUR LIFE.

It sounds a little silly to say this, but my life is literally proof of this.

I thought that I was honestly not worth it to anyone to get a full time job and yet the Lord opened doors I could never have opened myself this past week to provide one.

I feel baffled and overwhelmed and grateful and uncertain and slightly scared all at once.

When you face a desert, I hope you know He is working on providing for you. He is working on making you into a person who trusts Him. A person who is fully dependent on Him and who finds their greatest treasure in Him and not in anything else. Not even the gifts He gives.

Never lose faith in deserts. Never doubt Him.

He is the God who does impossible things. He is mighty. He is awesome. There is honestly no God like the Lord.

He provided for so many people throughout the ages who desperately needed Him. And He will provide for you. Believe it in the dark when there are no answers and everything points to the “fact” that it won’t ever work out.

God’s wisdom is mind blowing. I’m convinced we won’t ever be able to grasp a fraction of it while we’re here on earth, but please hear me out on this.

If you’re wading through a desperate season right now, please have HOPE. Cling to it. Declare the Lord’s promises over your life. You are loved. You are called by God if you are in Christ. You are God’s child. His workmanship. He has called you to walk in light. To have an inheritance. He has lavished a love on you that you can’t even begin to grasp in this life.

The abundance of His love spills and pours out over every broken area. And nothing can separate you from His love. Not this trial. Not your enemies. Or your critics. Or a tough job and a difficult boss or cruel and rude people that invade your peace and strip away your confidence and self-esteem. Because the whole point is to lose your self anyway. To find it in Him. To find all the joy you ever searched for in the arms of the God who created you and designed this world and the Universe and the God who thought up atoms and photosynthesis and asteroids and planets and tigers and chameleons is the God who is working on your behalf.

He is for you. He fights for you and strengthens you in the fight.
This desert won’t last forever. He will bring you out.

Have hope. Take heart. Oh it’s so worth it to wait on the Lord.

 

 

 

Expectant

A girl holds her breath.

Waiting for the interview results. Test results. Waiting to hear back from a phone call. Anticipation climbs. Clenching her fists, she pushes through another day. Doubts slide in at the places she wasn’t ready to shield.

She curls into herself. Praying. Despair slicing her heart. Memories of failed hopes taunt. Like nightmares. She clings to the past. She knows it all by heart. On replay – what hopelessness feels like. How it’s a rock on a mountain she clutched only to give way, propelling her in a free fall.

Is she bruised now? Doesn’t she want to give up? Hope is only easy to throw off when it’s not sourced in something or Someone unshakeable. A solid foundation in the cascade of unmet expectation. Failure. Disappointment. Doubt.

I’m convinced that hope is something that our hearts were made for, because it fills us. We’re all empty and lifeless, and maybe so torn down from the fall out of disappointment. But we all still reach, don’t we?

Lowering our expectations won’t satisfy us faster. Maybe it’ll satiate some temporary ache, but when we rush into something, casting aside our hope for the “better” God wants us to wait for, aren’t we de-valuing ourselves? Aren’t we plugging our ears and deliberately blinding ourselves to how God made us?

As men and women with needs and wants and desires. People who desperately crave hope.

Today, I want to remind myself and you that the journey to glory is through suffering. But in pain and suffering that “We have this hope as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul” (Heb. 6:19), based on Jesus’ propitiation and God’s unchanging character that we have the hope of intercession and redemption: the hope of life.

Let’s raise, not lower our expectations this year. Of what God can do in you and I. What He is doing regardless of what we do. How awesome to be a part of that?

He calls us to lift up our heads. Not lower our heads to look at our circumstances. He calls us to fullness of joy. Not the emptiness of the world’s love and desire and it’s promises that only carve a larger hole in your heart. The void of love echoes in our world. Will you address it? Will you seek to change it? Will you step up and be brave?

Will you let God work in you as He points you to hope?

Psalm 62:5-6

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence. For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.

 

 

Dreams, A Hebrew Slave & God’s Sovereignty

I’ve been reading through Genesis lately.

A story I’ve been familiar with all of my life has stuck with me as I’ve been walking through these uncertain days. Of all this waiting. Wading in the uncertainty. Grappling with the questions. And struggling with what to do with the dreams that feel like they’ve been put on hold.

Joseph grew up with twelve older brothers. Being the youngest, Joseph struggled with his identity. His parents favored him, which of course strained his relationship with his brothers. As it would in any other family.

What really gets me about Joseph’s story is the dreams. And his unique ability to interpret them. I find it astonishing initially to read about how he interprets these obscure scenarios into specific future events. He was basically given a God-given talent, but flaunted it in front of his family to hopefully gain some sense of security.

He was Joseph the dream-interpreter, after all.

We know the story. What he got in return was a torn coat, a complete loss of freedom, and eventually two years in prison.

The whole time, the Lord worked in and through Joseph’s life in ways unimaginable to him surely before he was forced into a foreign land, living among a pagan people in a culture so different from his own.

Could this even be a place Joseph could use his talent? Had the Lord forgotten him completely? How could being a slave be a part of God’s plan for his life? Especially after all he thought God had been trying to tell him through his dreams?

I wonder if Joseph wrestled with doubt each night. If he cried himself to sleep over the loneliness and abandonment that he felt. I wonder if the hatred ate at him, if the bitterness was too much to bear if he felt like he couldn’t sink lower than that pit his brothers had thrown him into. And yet after Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him of sleeping with her, he faces another two years of a prison sentence wondering if God had forgotten him completely. If he would waste away and die there.

And then God provided him another opportunity. He led a few men to ask him to interpret their dreams. He eventually paved the way for Joseph to interpret Pharoah’s dream. And of course Joseph becomes his right hand man.

Joseph suffered in Egypt. He waited for years without answers. And the opportunities opened when God wanted them to open and when they happened Joseph gave all the glory to God.

I want to be faithful like Joseph. Through false accusations and jail sentences and seasons that just feel so dry and empty and lonely. I want to be a reflection of God to those around me. That not even a pagan culture could deny. I love that the Bible specifically states that people could tell that the Lord was with Joseph.

That is the most beautiful part of Joseph’s story. How God changed Joseph from a haughty, insecure young man to a humble, secure man confident in the Lord’s interpretation and the Lord’s Sovereignty. His refusal to cultivate doubt in his pain is something so beautiful. Even before we get to the part where he is faced with his brothers. Even before he ever sees his loved ones again, Joseph is changed completely by God, and his wrongs weren’t made right and the pain surely didn’t go away and the loneliness persisted, but God was so faithful in providing for Joseph and changing Joseph into the man and the vessel that he wanted him to become.

 

Jesus. Critics. & Mondays

Mondays for me are quite unlike Mondays for the rest of the world.

I have most Mondays off work, so I treat them like Saturdays. This Monday I’m spending trying to accomplish everything that I’ve forsaken in the mad rush I’ve dashed through this past week.

This past week I’ve dealt with a lot of difficult situations. Working in retail can drive a person insane sometimes. Other times it turns into something worthwhile and meaningful.

I met Theresa this past week. She had a pile of dresses to try on in the fitting room and she wanted my advice on how everything fit. She thanked me graciously upon deciding to purchase a chic maroon V-neck Dolan dress. These dresses are phenomenal I’m coming to realize. Every woman falls in love with them once she tries one on. And somehow, it’s more meaningful when the customer is an extraordinary person who makes the effort to make friends with you.

Regardless of how annoyed I get at all of the entitleds, I’m realizing that it comes with the territory. They’re not all angelic or demonic. They’re just people. With similar struggles I deal with and situations that may spiral out of their control, similar to mine.

We all deal with adversity differently. Call it what you want: suffering, pain, tribulation.

I’ve only skimmed the surface at twenty-something, but I’m realizing that when people storm through our store, castigating us with their cruel words, demanding and ordering us to style their wardrobes for them, they too have suffering and pain and insecurity and pride clinging to their hearts.

Compassion always seemed so understandable when I was younger. It made sense. Of course you need to give that person without money some water or a few dollars to buy some food. Yes, you should go up and talk with the girl that is all alone in the room. Of course.

But showing compassion to rude people isn’t only one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it feels almost completely impossible. Not only do they feign as though they wield power over me through their heartless words and actions, but I let them. They order me around and point out my flaws and cut to my weakness. And I let it eat at my heart. At my joy. At my confidence.

But nothing can separate me from the confidence I have in Christ Jesus. That is where I’m struggling today. I know that critical words and rude actions have no power over me in Christ, but lately I’ve been living as though those people dictate my life. And my joy.

People are lousy gods. But even more – when we allow ourselves to be dictated by others’ approval, we sink into discontentment. Because we can never measure up to them. We can never completely win the approval of anyone. No matter how hard we strive for perfection. There will always be something about us that falls short.

If anything, I want to remind you today that yes, you are going to have critics in your life. And trials. There are going to be waves in this world that will beat you back and tear down your determination to move forward. But you’ve got to move forward. I’ve got to, too.

Jesus came so we didn’t have to strive…He came so we could be set free from trying to live up to God’s standards. He already knows that we fall short. But when we come to Him, He comes and changes us. Offers us His perfect character. Right now I’m realizing I need to stop striving so much and forgetting who I am. I belong to Jesus. It doesn’t matter if my life makes no sense. If I’m struggling financially and relationally. It doesn’t matter if people tear me apart. Don’t trust me. Don’t believe in me. There are always going to be people like that.

Today, I hope you remember that if you know Christ, that you don’t have to strive for perfection. Measuring up to our own high standards or others’ high standards is so burdensome. It’s like dragging a weight around each day. I’ve felt it. But right here, I’m giving it over to Jesus. Because He promises to carry burdens we can’t carry. And He fulfills God’s righteous requirement. He came to give us abundant life. Not an easy one. But a dependent one.

Maybe the path you’re walking is really dark today.. Please know that Jesus came to save you. He’s right there with you. And He won’t ever let go of you. It doesn’t matter the pressure. Give it to Him. He will carry it and you and won’t ever let go of you.

 

Broken Hearts & God’s Love

I didn’t think I would be writing this post tonight.

The one about my unbelief. The path of doubt I’ve chosen. The one where God’s mercy reached in, showering over me as I don’t deserve it.

But God knows better than I do. Tonight, I’m giving Him the words.

Tonight I want to talk about heartache. And loving someone when they don’t love you back. How painfully humiliating it is. How it chains you to doubt, restrains you from moving forward and steals your joy in Christ. Or at least it has stolen mine the past few days and I didn’t even realize it until tonight.

Relationships in your twenties are tenuous.

I wish someone would have told me that a few years back, or at least, provided me with some kind of armor so that the heartache wouldn’t penetrate my soul. But love has this way about it, where it rushes in unexpectedly. Then dashes out after it’s had enough. Love can’t be controlled like I thought it could when I read romance novels in high school. I really believed those stories were real. I believed in the hero sweeping in, rescuing the heroine. I believed in true love. No broken hearts. It didn’t involve fear of inadequacy. Or scenes where the heroine had to compete with dozens of other beautiful women for the prince’s attention. She was all he adored. Her insecurity didn’t assert itself in vicious sarcasm. The certainty of long term commitment was present in each of those stories. Along with contentment and hope.  In all my teenage idealism, I held on to the hope that it would someday happen to me.

But no one could have prepared me for this season of valleys. I want to say that I’m fine now. My heart’s moved on and healed. But still, the doubts I wrestle with daily continue to taunt the secure hope I have in Christ.

You see, I’ve been struggling with the whys. Why this pain. Why here and now. But God has been showing me that when we go through seasons like this, it shows us more of His character. Specifically the nature of His love.

In the abstract, I always thought love was this feeling. This emotion of joy and chemistry and excitement you get that makes another person irresistible to you. Over the years, God has been showing me what it really means to love, though.

Love means sacrifice. It means being hurt and choosing to forgive. It sometimes means caring for another person more than they cared for you. It means tearing up when they experience joy and new seasons without you. It means being broken. Sobbing when you thought you were finished healing. But healing is a process. As is love. And knowing Jesus.

When Jesus came to die, He chose the cross when we were still in our sin. He chose to take on our sin, to be the propitiation for them so that we could know Him and spend eternity with Him. But it began with Him recognizing that many would reject Him.

I am overcome by the fact that His grace continues today as He works in our lives, as He sanctifies and justifies many. Because the ones He sanctifies and justifies were once His enemies. Completely turned their backs on Him. Did not reciprocate His love.

It’s the story of Israel, who although God chose to love them, abandoned God for perceived “better prospects” of kings, idols and their own will. It’s the story of Jonah and Peter – how while they were yet sinners, Christ died for them. (Romans 5:8).

It’s my story, too. Wrapping my mind around this is flooring, because I’ve been so reticent to accept this lesson. To learn and grow from it. But it’s so beautiful. Sometimes God brings us through seasons of heartache in order to show us how He loves us when we forsake Him. When we sin against Him and break His heart. When we were still His enemies, and He pursued us still.

Love is worth it and it’s found at the cross. It’s found in the promised King who will come again to save us. I hope you know that Your heartache helps you experience God in a deeper way. That through your pain you can see that through forgiveness and love, regardless of the unrepentance of the person who wronged you, you can know joy. You can experience mercy. And true love that never fails.

 

Superficial Resolve?

New Years’ resolutions baffle me. Not just because they are often outrageous. Impetuous. And Insincere.

According to a study at the University of Scranton, only 8% of Americans achieve their New Years resolutions. Forbes

Without consistent, daily determination to follow through with a goal, how is an impetuous resolve at 12:01 am as the ball drops amidst a cacophony of voices welcoming in the new year going to make any lasting impact on my lifestyle?

Yes, maybe for a few weeks I will more consistently post on my blog. OK. Thanks New Years. Are we congratulating ourselves in the new year just because its a new year, new us? Or because somehow the energy we glean from it we think will compel us to transform into a new creation?

We grasp at concepts that provide identity and purpose, no matter how transient or unfulfilling: The New Year Me will be: More Fit, More Well Read, More Successful, More Admired, More Disciplined, etc. Essentially, we grasp at the unattainable. We want transformation with no commitment. New life is attractive to us and so we grasp at the wrong things in the wrong places, or sometimes for the right things with the wrong motives.

Let your resolve be something that doesn’t come from one specific day offering you superficial transformation at no cost. Change requires sacrifice and discipline. It requires each day waking up, determining to love and forgive. Not just on New Years or Christmas or Easter, but each day. New life is found in Christ and His redeeming work is something persistent and steady and changing, and never static. It doesn’t offer empty promises. New life is a daily progression of acknowledging the flaws in yourself and working each day to rise above and conquer them by the power of His grace and holiness.

Just as every day, I want to love more, I want to know Christ more, I want to share His love more with the world. But that’s not something I want to limit to the first few days or weeks of 2017. I want to write more and use my gifts for His glory. I want to be a leader. I want to sing. But these again are not resolutions I’m making for a new year. They’re projects. For the new creation that I already am and continue to become.