Polished Perfect

“Whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones…”  -Matthew 23:27

As silly as it sounds, every time I paint my nails I’m reminded of the horrific events that took place in the spring of 2012.  One of my best friends left her apartment, checked into a hotel and consumed an entire bottle of 500mg Extra-Strength Excedrin, another of Tylenol and a 2-liter energy drink.  When we found her, she was hardly responsive and her skin had green undertones.  As tears were falling from her face faster than her sleeves could catch them, my other friend, Cara, called an ambulance.

I couldn’t even function.  I just sat there in silence at the foot of the bed, blankly starring at my gorgeous friend’s near lifeless body.  As I picked up her hand, I noticed her fingernail polish was chipped.  Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed a bottle of polish and tried my best to paint her nails.  Looking back on this, we all laugh at how stupid I was to paint her nails in such a time of absolute crisis.  I still kick myself for doing something that was so entirely irrelevant to the situation.

You will be relieved to know and I am thrilled to report that after three days in the ICU, my friend survived and was released without any stomach or liver damage.  God is sovereign.  She is an incredible woman and has a jaw-dropping testimony nothing short of an amazing miracle.

As I was thinking back on all this the other day, I realized that I’ve been painting my nails in the midst of crisis for as long as I can remember.  My coping mechanisms have always been to hold everything together.  Be perfect.  Or at least act and appear to be put together.  Maybe, if I looked whole on the outside, something would transform on the inside to match.  The more I struggled internally, the more I tightened the mask strings.  But inside, beneath the image was always a little girl—and she was completely falling apart.

Image: An imitation of a person or thing; a representation, likeness, impression or conception of oneself; an illusion.

I learned at a young age that the world doesn’t care about how the girl in the pictures really feels.  I quickly learned to have a positive outlook, stuff my emotions, and fight for a flawless reflection.  But this was never a lasting identity, it was only an image.  The more pain, loneliness, rejection and insecurity I felt; the more I strived to paint an inaccurate picture of a girl who had it all together.

Beneath the facade I had no idea who I was or where my value was found.  I fought my hardest to maintain an image that had absolutely no relationship with reality.  But the outside couldn’t fix what was happening inside.

We live in a world that applauds, endorses, and super glues on the masks.  Our world worships images.  We’ve learned by example to push the limits and see how far we will go to maintain the image we want others to see.  We want people to view us superficially so they won’t look past the masks, or God forbid, stick around long enough to see how we really are.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  -1 Samuel 16:7

Thankfully, God doesn’t buy into “fake”.  He isn’t fooled by facades, intimidated by masks, or takes us at our word when we say that we’re “doing great!”  He sees past the act and speaks to our hearts.  He sees us falling apart and breathes life into us.  Like the woman with the alabaster jar, sitting at Jesus’ feet in the midst of her filth, mess, insecurity and pain.  This kind of vulnerability pulls on His heart strings.  He faithfully seeks us out to break off the things that hold us back, threatening to hold us captive.

“All of us then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces.” –2 Corinthians 3:18

This kind of matchless beauty is so raw and undone it scares those who are still in chains.  This reckless transparency with messy hair, mascara running, bent knees and a heart of flesh cannot be fabricated.  It’s as real as they come.  This absolute humility is so authentic it makes others uncomfortable.  But it’s the imperfect that the Lord chooses to use.  Our weakness allows Him to be our perfect strength.

He sees us. Fighting to be faithful, wrestling through motherhood, trying to parent perfectly, in yesterday’s topknot, with dried spit-up down our shirts. He begs us to leave the dishes and climb over the dirty piles of laundry. He beckons us to come away with Him. To sit at his feet. To rest in Him. To just be His daughter.

When your need for approval is fulfilled by what you do, how you parent, or imperfect people, you will always be left desiring more.  I encourage you; Run to the One whose perfection isn’t painted on with brushes, designed by the fashion elite, studied in Ivy League classes, or worn as couture. He is simply perfect so we won’t have to be.  He is the answer to our imperfection.  The sooner we take off our masks and come face to face with who we’ve become, the sooner He can intervene and make us who we were born to be.  It’s still a daily struggle to be real,  but I’m learning how to walk in freedom of who He has created me to be.

His absolute security beckons me to be renewed.  He loves me just as I am.  Broken, hurting, confused, crumbling; real.  And He desires to make me whole and lacking nothing.

So, which is more important to you—your outward persona or your inward well being?  Don’t paint your nails while dying—it’s senseless.

“He said to me… ‘My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:9-10


Fairy Tales & Everlasting Love

“I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. -Jeremiah 31:3b

I distinctly remember my first crush. Ah preschool; running around in a plaid shirt, coveralls, boots and a cowboy hat– his name was Riker. Throughout the duration of my preschool career, he was the only boy taller than me. From the moment I met him, he instantly caught my eye and I thought he was amazing. Despite the fact that he couldn’t spell, I whole-heartedly cherished his letters. I didn’t care that his mother had to translate over half of them. Reading them now, they honestly look more like finger-painted hieroglyphics. It was at this stage in life that I didn’t care about his spiritual beliefs, personality, calling, family, or background. I was more interested in regular playground activities; playing tag, making mud pies, and jumping rope. And he stood far above the rest when it came to them.

Despite our obvious connection; our relationship was cut short when he moved out of state. For a little while, I still received letters. It was an exciting “pen-pal” kind of relationship. While I’m sure long-distance relationships can work for others, in our case, the letters eventually stopped. I remember this gut-wrenching, heart-breaking reality. He was no longer mine. I seemed to be somewhat of a quiet drama queen- Holding my breath when I was angry, until I passed out. Writing depressing songs that consisted of phrases such as “all it is to you is another heart beating, another person breathing.” Yes, I was a rather odd child, crammed into a glass case of emotion, with no sense of reality, and a peculiar passion for life.

Though I may no longer be attracted to coveralls, care for mud pies, or pass out for attention, some things still remain the same.  After talking to some of my girlfriends, I’ve found a few feelings of ownership which we claim to have the right to. I’ve discovered, whether the dumper, or dumpie; we seem to think that the particular boy we are no longer with shouldn’t ever move on. As if, we are God’s special gift to them or something.

We think to ourselves; “Surely, they will never be blessed with another girl as good-or God forbid- better, than us.” For instance, if our best friend gets harshly (or nicely) dumped, we assure her that he has made a mistake. We convince our poor & miserable friend not to worry, that he will never find anyone as talented, beautiful, or caring. After talking to some of my small group girls, I found a few things we had in common. Whether we were responsible for the heartbreaking or not- in both scenarios we were still bitter and confused when they moved on. Over and over in our heads, we think to ourselves- “What, how could he move on just like that, that’s impossible, he’s not actually happy.”

We allow those around us to determine the weight of our self esteems. We build our confidence on people who were never created to define our value. Lets face it ladies, this is a pathetic attempt to justify building our worth on something which should never have been built on to begin with. We have a tendency to immediately compare and evaluate ourselves. Somehow, we weren’t enough; we didn’t cut it. Not pretty enough, not nice enough, not funny enough, not caring enough, not skinny enough, not talented enough, etc…Because if we were, he would be incapable of moving on and thus, he would still be madly in love with us until the day we die. This is painfully pitiful.

Or, maybe you were more like me in another sense; known to have “daddy issues” as a highschooler. I grew up with an abusive father who eventually walked out of my life completely. I lived trying to earn a father’s love and attention which seemed to come so easily for other girls. Growing up, this drastically influenced me to answer the question; “why am I unlovable, and what will make me likeable”. As a girl, this was a dangerous question to wrestle with- especially in our society.

At a young age, I realized that I wasn’t able to get my dad to love me but I could get guys to like me. I grew comfortable with wearing a mask on the outside which displayed an inaccurate picture of a girl whose life was perfect and had it all together. I became the unattainable tease that was never broken up with first. I vowed I would never be hurt again. I went to any length to be assured of it and have my way. Break up first; this was my motto. Unfortunately, just because I broke up first and hurt others, it never made me feel any better- or made life any easier. I was now the one hurting not only myself, but others as well. The fairy tales I read as a child- and my life had absolutely nothing in common.

I remember skipping meals, throwing up, and working out for hours at a time to keep up with models in the industry and the plastic barbies on TV. All this in hopes of being prettier, in order to gain power to get any guy I wanted. But then again, I also remember trying to gain acceptance from my own father. Dancing my heart out in order to receive approval from him. The few times he was able to make it to my performances, it made the 40-hour rehearsal weeks in point shoes worth it all. I was manipulating everything on the outside, in order to fix a deep wound on the inside.

Whether you’ve been hurt, hurt others, both, or are simply human. I believe we all feel the need to belong. We each desire to be wanted. This world shoves diet pills, sex, plastic surgery, and success, in our faces- implying that if we follow their easy step plan for lovability; we’ll be happy. However, at the end of the day, while our attempts at improvements might grow our likeability; true love’s essence is hard to come by. We eventually rationalize that we aren’t like the characters in a storybook. And, somehow, we are to blame for being unlovable.We forget that as humans, we are incapable of loving someone fully, extensively, and exclusively apart from God and His love. Unfortunately, because of our naivety, we still do our best to earn other’s love and approval by any and all means possible.

I believe that true Love doesn’t fade, grow weary, die, or ever give up. This is what it’s supposed to look like. And I believe True Love Himself, died on a cross in order to prove just how long suffering REAL LOVE is; any length, any width, any depth, any height. When we realize just how everlasting HIS love is for us, man’s version of fake and phony love pails in comparison. Cheap imitations aren’t and won’t ever be enough to fill the void. No person, job, fame, weight, hobby, or relationship will ever bring as much fulfillment as acknowledging and accepting His exclusive love. His love doesn’t hinge on our actions. He just simply loves us. Forever. It’s that simple. It’s this simplicity which makes God’s love so hard to understand. Why? Why, does He love us this way? He just does. Because He wants to. And that’s all there is to it.

I was set free when I recognized that He is the only one with the capabilities of this powerful love. It makes sense that others fail me. It is not because of what I am, or am not. It is because we are simply incapable of loving others unless we ask God for His innate ability to love. This agape love is the glue originally designed to hold marriages together. Marriages fail, not because they are supposed to, but because the relationship is most likely founded upon man’s feeble desires and indecisive “feelings”. While man’s heart can be fickle and untrustworthy at times, there is a Love worth absolutely everything in my being. This love chooses by its own will to love me steadfastly, exclusively, and despite any obstacle. When we accept that God is the only one capable of loving, and offering this kind of love—we take our eyes off of ourselves in having to earn love. I choose to rest in His unending, everlasting love that will stand against any and all odds. Who needs likeability when you have True Love?

I hope this has inspired you to embrace the One who will love you more than any one person ever will. Walk in confidence; you are loved with an everlasting love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. -1 Corinthians 13:4-7