Showing Up Matters

 

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If you’ve noticed this space has been a little quite lately, you’re right. These last few months have been hard, wonderful, beautiful, and brutal all wrapped into one. Between chronic health issues, finishing my job working with college students, and moving, I have been and still am quite exhausted. I am learning and realizing however that rest is not something I do well, however without it I do not function. In the midst of the exhaustion and uncertainty, I have been amazed because my people, they love so very well. I have needed my people deeply these last few months and they have answered every phone call, text, prayer request, lunch date and so much more. So my friends, I am sorry that this space has been neglected but I am so grateful for these friends who have reminded me of the true gift of friendship. Because these last few months I’ve learned how important showing up can be.

I believe for all of us it is so easy to get on social media, to blog, to correspond electronically with other people and feel like you are known. And I would be lying if I said that I haven’t met dear friends and precious people through these mediums, but community and frienship is so much more than that. And never did I realize that more than I have in these last few months. I need community, I crave it and even more I long to be known. I want to sit down across the table from someone and know that they will understand my heart. I am so grateful that I have a Creator who first knows me better than I know myself and even more that He blessed me with a husband who also knows my heart and wants to do life with me forever. However, community here on earth doesn’t stop there, it can’t.

As one of my favorite authors says, “I believe friendship is God’s greatest evidence of himself here on earth.” And I couldn’t agree more. We desperately need people to shower us with truth even when it is hard to hear. We need people to love us when we are unlovable, show us grace when we don’t deserve it, and sometimes we just need people to show up, because that is the gospel. And the more we live that out the more people are able to see a beautiful story of redemption.

My heart has broken this last week with all the tragedy that as occurred. I have cried many tears over these lives that were lost and yet at the same time I realize I cannot even begin to understand how these tragedies affect peoples lives. When life is hard and life is beautiful we need people. We need people to hold our hands, dry our tears, and sit with us in hard times. And we need people to laugh, throw confetti and celebrate with us in joyous times.  You and I both were born to crave relationships where we are known, loved, and celebrated. Being known is hard, it takes work and vulnerability. Sometimes it takes lots of tears and many “I am sorrys”,  and it definitely takes time.And many times it takes just continually showing up. Sharing our stories and hearing other peoples stories is one of the most beautiful sacred things we can do. When we share our story we are able to the see the gospel at work in each others lives and it becomes more than just a story in a book. Being in a community and surrounded by people you love and who love you, I believe is one of the most transforming things on earth.

Over the last few weeks, I have been able to spend time with my people. Some of my hometeam. These are people I thank God for because of the manner in which they have fiercely loved me. Some are family, some are friends and some are friends who have become family. However, one thing is for sure I am known and I am loved when I am around these people. Phone chats and texts are wonderful inventions but physically wrapping your arms around someone and watching a smile form on their face is joy filling. Looking into someone’s eyes and telling them how very known and loved they are is life changing.

We need friends to be there in those times, good and bad. So today I need to remind myself and I wanted to also remind you my friends, how important these kind of relationships are. We desperately need community this side of heaven to walk through life with and often times this kind of community starts with just showing up. So I want to encourage you this week, to show up. Show up and listen. Grab coffee, send a text, make a phone call, set up a time to hang out. I promise it will be worth it. Because showing up matters more than you’ll ever know.

Much love always,

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The Story Matters

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I am a bookworm. I can sit all day with a book or two, captured in the beautiful world of storytelling. Hand me a cup of coffee to go with that book and you may not see me for days. There is something about reading and falling in love with a story that captures my heart. In fact, some of my favorite books I like to reread over and over again. I love knowing what is going to happen in the book and getting excited when certain parts of the story are unfolding, knowing the conflict will subside and it will end beautifully or at least well. I love knowing the characters and understanding how each one plays into the storytelling. There are certain books that I have read so many times that I could tell you the story from beginning to end, tiny details included. This last year has been one of my favorite years for books, because as much as I love fiction I also love to read true stories of real people. And this year, some of my dearest friends have written some beautiful books and shared their stories with the world.

It hit me though the other day as I was flipping through one of my dear friend’s books, that sometimes I treat my life like my favorite books. I treat my life like the stories I have read assuming that everyone already knows the book cover to cover, so it is safe to just keep living the same story over and over again quietly. And even more, that tons of people have my story and in fact they tell it better.  However those my friend are lies, and when I keep quiet about my story assuming that everyone knows it (or doesn’t need to hear it), I keep quiet about the transforming grace that changed my life. Because, only I can tell my story and only you can tell yours.

I used to live a life of darkness, of fear, of shame. While one may say this sounds awful, for me it was safe. My eating disorder, my pain, my control kept my life safe because it was what I knew. Stepping out of the darkness was the best thing I could have ever done but it was in no way safe. However, it was go0d. As I gained courage, strength, and hope, I was able to step away from the darkness that controlled my life. It didn’t make each day not scary but it made it good because I was learning a new way to tell and live out my story. I wasn’t living my life in the same way and throughout the hardship and pain beauty began to unfold that I never thought was possible.

Even nearly five years into recovery, life can still be hard and on those bad days I have to remind myself to tell my story. I have to remind myself that I don’t live the story of shame but I live a story of grace. Life is hard and it is anything but safe but the goodness in the midst of hardships are what makes life beautiful. It would be so easy to sit on this side of the computer and tell you how beautiful and wonderful life is. I could live in the fantasy world of the beautiful literature that I love so much. However, I made a decision when I began to write, that I would tell my story and even on the hardest days that is what I do.

So why do I do it? Why do I continue to be vulnerable, to pour my hear out, to share the messiness of my life? Why on some of my worst days, do I sit down and type out the messiness? I do it, because I believe our stories matter. I believe the truth and the realness of our life stories is vital to share. I believe that as one of my favorite authors says, that when we share the brokenness and beauty of our lives that the gospel truly comes to life. The gospel becomes a real life story of redemption and not just abstraction. The other day over coffee, someone asked me about my story and I hesitated. We were sitting face to face and for a moment I was scared. It is a million times easier to share a story with tons of people you don’t know versus the one person you are staring straight at. But I took a deep breath, looked this friend in the eye, and I told my story. I told my story of grace. I told it because my story matters and so does yours. Every time we are brave and choose to be vocal instead of silent about our stories we give people the opportunity to see grace at work.

The truth is my story is one of millions. However, as I said before no one else can tell my story and no one else can tell yours. No one has walked in your exact shoes and lived out every minute of your life, except you. So on the days that I feel like listening to the lies and the shame I decide instead to tell my story. I choose to tell my story of the grace that changed my life. It’s easier to believe the lies, it’s safe, it’s what I have always known. It is harder to believe the truth, it is harder to believe grace but it is good. And each time I have an opportunity to tell that story of grace it becomes a little sweeter.

Friend, I don’t know what each of your stories are. I have said this many times but I wish I did. I wish I could sit down over coffee and hear your beautiful story. I can guarantee you though, without ever having heard your story, that your story matters, not just to you but to the world. Every time you tell your story of real true grace, you allow the gospel to be present, you allow barriers to be broken down, you allow someone else to feel welcome to share their own story. Believe me it’s easy to retell the stories we’ve lived our whole lives and listen to the lies, rather than to tell the story of grace. Because, that story of grace no doubt includes a lot of growing, stretching, and changing. Our stories of grace involves telling of the broken messiness and the heartache in our lives but man is it worth telling.

Because the truth is, my story isn’t about me at all but about a grace that changed my life. My story should have never been told and it certainly should have never been read worldwide, but it is and that is absolutely not about me but about the grace that transformed my life. And that story, is worth stepping out of the safe for. So friend, tell your story this week. Tell your story of grace and redemption and watch other people tell their story. And one day friend, I hope I get to sit next to you and listen as you tell your story.

You Are Loved and Your Story Matters,

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And in case you are looking for some beautiful books where people share their stories, these were written by some incredible people I call friends:

Get Your Story Straight: A Teen’s Guide to Learning and Living the Gospel-Kristen Hatton

If You Could See As Jesus Sees: Inspiration for a Life of Hope, Joy, and Purpose-Elizabeth Oates

This Is Awkward: How Life’s Uncomfortable Moments Open the Door to Intimacy and Connection– Sammy Rhodes

And a book that I was lucky enough to be on the launch team for:

Looking for Lovely: Collecting the Moments that Matter-Annie Downs

Owning The Mess

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“Either I can be here, fully here, my imperfect, messy, tired but wholly present self, or I can miss it- this moment, this conversation, whatever it is-because I’m trying, and failing, to be perfect. But this season I am not trying for perfect. I’m just trying to show up, every time, with honesty and attentiveness.”Bread & Wine

I am sitting here in our immaculate bedroom, in the background great music is playing, a creme brûlée scented candle is burning, I am lounging on our made up bed complete with throw pillows, and to top it off I am writing all of this in a perfectly coordinated outfit. This is the MK I am totally comfortable with. It is this MK that if you dropped by right now, would welcome you into her home and maybe even offer to make you some homemade cookies. However, that is the MK who I would like you to think I am 100% of the time, when the truth is that MK is who I am maybe 1% of the time. In fact, if you had dropped by earlier today you would have found me a messy disheveled girl, wearing a stained t shirt, hair piled haphazardly on my head, receipts and a paperwork spread all over my floor, bed unmade, throw pillows everywhere, a huge pile of laundry in the middle of the room and music blaring. If you had rung my doorbell this afternoon, I would have hid behind it, praying my cellphone wasn’t on loud and you didn’t hear it ring and in turn discover I was home. I would have been mortified if you had seen me in the midst of that mess.  And I would have been scared that you would have guessed that MK is the real me…

Just like the phyiscal mess I sat in today, I am well aware that my life once contained a mess. As I continue to share my story with others I begin to believe I am okay with my mess. However, the truth is I  was/am only okay with my mess to a certain point. I am totally fine with sharing details about my hardest days in the past but what about when someone asks me if I still struggle? What if they want to know if certain things are still hard for me? I push back, I don’t want to talk about that but the truth is I need to, we all do. It in these moments that I have a choice to make.

Just like today, what happens if my friend drops by and I look less than presentable and my room is a mess? What if they have time for a quick lunch and I haven’t showered that day? What if someone wants to get together and it is just a rough day? In these times, I get an opportunity to make a choice. I can either push them away or invite them into my daily mess, the unglamorous, sometimes ugly, hard moments of everyday life. So friends, I am making a choice and I am going to try to keep making this choice. The secret is out…my life is still kinda a mess and I secretly hope I am not alone in this. It doesn’t make me any less of a  wife, recovery warrior, believer, friend, daughter, sister, or person to admit that. However, sometimes I have this deep dark fear that if people knew I didn’t wash my hair everyday, that I get way too emotional at times, that I talk too much, that some days I stay in yoga pants all day and that some days I still struggle, then they might look at me differently. However, I am making the decision to be real and share the mess anyway.

Just like the quote states, when I choose to be fully here in my mess. I experience life and I am myself. Just like I used to hide my identity in Ed I still try to hide my identity on being the girl who has a perfect story of recovery. Trying to be perfect on any level and not embrace my mess is not only the opposite of grace but it also causes me to not live my life in the moment. When I worry about what people think of my mess then I am not experiencing life to the fullest.

I am going back to my roots I am going to continue to leave my perfectionist ways behind and learn grace and begin to have more of it for myself. I am going to be fully here, even if that means unmade up, t shirt wearing, crying MK, even if that means inviting people into a messy room, even if that means forgoing laundry for a deep conversation instead. I want to show up. I want to be present not perfect. I want to live life fully. I want to show grace. I want to own my mess.

Friends, will you join me? Will you begin to own and share your mess? Will you let others in, even if it is hard? Will you just show up and be present even if it is hard? Something tells me it will be worth it, more than we can imagine.

So much love for you!

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Stop Looking In the Mirror

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I was a little over two when I realized that beauty mattered, way too young for a little girl to discover whether she was beautiful or not. I loved watching and participating in fashion shows at an early age and I loved watching beauty pageants. I was a little girl who loved anything to do with pretty dresses, high heels, and sparkles. This girly love wasn’t all together a bad thing, until I let it define and take over me. However, once my quest for beauty began is when I lost it all.

At two I looked in mirror before a family photo was taken and told my parents and grandmother, “My hair don’t look pretty.” What at the time was a funny comment from a precious little girl turned into my mantra. In the years that followed I would look in the mirror, and would always find something that “didn’t look pretty”.  Mirrors tortured and taunted me, no matter what anyone else said. Every time I heard the words, “You’re beautiful.” it was all I could do not to laugh, because there was no way I could have believed it.

The mirror is where I found my truth. If the mirror said I looked good (which it rarely did) than the day would go well and if the mirror showed that one hair was out of place than game over. For me, overcoming my issues had a whole heck of a lot to do with me not seeing myself as beautiful. They were all lies and I know that now but it can still be difficult. It didn’t just happen overnight and it certainly didn’t happen without a whole lot of work. As a woman, I think I can safely say that I believe all women struggle with the idea of beauty and feeling beautiful. We live in a society that is rampant with ideas of beauty, false, unattainable, unrealistic standards of beauty. It wasn’t until I finally realized and accepted that beauty wasn’t in a made up face, it wasn’t in high fashioned clothes, it wasn’t in a size zero, that it began to sink in. Beauty used to mean a specific size and specific numbers, but it doesn’t anymore.

And the reason it doesn’t matter anymore is because I realized some pretty incredible and important truths. Beauty is in the smiles that spread across faces when we experience joy, beauty is in the laughs that echo from our mouths as we enjoy our lives, beauty is in the eyes that sparkle as dreams come true, beauty is in the grace that we live our lives by.

My worth will never again be determined by my outside appearance, for I am worth far too much for that and so are you. Beauty is measured by the heart and the love and grace we show to others.

All of this sound like too much to swallow? It once did to me too, but now I know that it is completely true. I don’t ever want to live up to the world’s standards of beauty because it only causes, pain, heartache, and a life surrendered to these. I no longer have to have my life dictated by these unreachable standards and neither do you. Because whether you realize it or not, I know it’s true….YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL and my prayer is that you would see and realize this beauty and know that it is lasting. So this week don’t look into the mirror for your beauty look into your heart.

All my love,

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When the Rainstorm Hits

As I sit here my eyes are heavy and my head is running a hundred miles an hour with a million things to do. Truth is I am a list girl and my lists are piling up. And when my lists pile up so do my perfectionist tendencies, so do my worries, so do the lies. For the past week I have been worn out emotionally, physically, spiritually, in all areas in my life and when I am worn down bad habits start to creep up. And instead of being honest and open with people, I shut down and I shut up. I don’t say how I am really doing and I put on the Miss Perfect Hat. I let little things get to me and I start to only see things as right and wrong in my life or as black and white. So what am I doing instead of listening to the overwhelming lies in my head? I am sitting down and talking to you dear friends. Because maybe you’ve had a week like mine. Maybe you need to hear this as much as I do.

When everything in my life seems uncertain, I do the one thing that make life feel more certain to me…I control. I control my relationships, I control my behavior, my decisions, even my wardrobe. Honestly, it’s not bad to plan to be well prepared but I take it to the max when I feel the need to control. In the past Ed, was the master at this he knew just how to control my life tugh negative food behaviors. Even being strong in recovery for three years, there are days in the midst of uncertainty that I have to sit back and take in the truth and not listen to the lies that start to creepin. Because the fact is, I don’t believe them anymore and I don’t live by them. However, when I am worn down and fragile they have a way of breaking through the steel trap door which I have locked them deep behind.

Maybe you have struggled with Ed, maybe you haven’t but I think we can all understand the desire to control when everything seems out of control. Here is the bad thing though, when I lean into the control I lean into my perfectionist qualities. When I lean into my perfectionist self I don’t like who I become. That MK always has an answer for everything, she has to constantly have her hair and wardrobe perfect, she has to always say the right things, she is irritable, she can’t mess up, and she certainly cannot share her mess. She becomes more focused on the results and not the relationships and people in her life. That MK, cannot leave the house in yoga pants, she cannot relax when she is with friends, she cannot stand when one thing in the house is out of place, she can’t sit still, she can’t be really present, and she cannot deal with imperfection. Let’s be real, that MK is NO fun to be around!

There are times when my life is just more messy than usual. There are times where the pain and past wounds seem to still sting. There are times where I just cannot catch my breath and the last few weeks have been like that. Don’t get me wrong there has been a lot of joy and wonderful times in the past few weeks. I have always been a glass more than half full girl. I can tell you all about the sunshine and the roses but today I need to tell you about the rainstorm because that is just as real. We don’t talk about the rain and hail, especially in the midst of it, so I am going to take a big leap of faith and do just that. In the midst of the rain, when I cannot see the sun, life is hard and my desire is to control and when I control I become the worst version of myself. However, I don’t have to be that controlling person, but that takes major effort.

It is during the rainstorm that I have to take time to rest, to practice self-care, to be still, and to know that taking care of my self, especially when life is hard, is NOT selfish. If we don’t give our bodies time to rest, to feel all the emotions that come with uncertainty and to work through them, then we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. For me unwinding is reading a favorite book curled up with a cup of coffee, it is watching cheesy ABC family sitcoms, it is a glass of wine and a chat with my best friend, its a nap in the middle of the day, it is praying, it is singing at the top of my lungs to my favorite song. Those are all healing for me, however I will say this healing activity can soon turn into numbing. I know all about numbing from my years with Ed and I never want to go back there. So I build in me time but I also don’t let it take over. Because lets be real, I could sit and read for days, I could lay in bed and watch every episode of every TV show ABC family ever created, but that wouldn’t be helpful and it would certainly check me out to life and I don’t want that. So I rest and take time to heal but I don’t numb out.

This coming week I am striving to be the more balanced MK. The MK that doesn’t freak out when her plans go awry, the MK that can get ready in ten minutes, the MK who doesn’t focus on what she eats. And here is the secret, I will slip up this week and want to go back to the control and so will you, because we aren’t perfect. Each slip up though reminds me that instead of focusing on what I did wrong there, I have a chance to do it right the next time. And in allowing myself to mess up I give myself grace and with that grace comes rest, and when I rest I loosen my grip on the control and perfection because I don’t need them anymore. That is what I wish for you this week my friend, that you would show yourself grace and give yourself rest. Rest in whatever way you need to and loosen your grip on control because control destroys. Know not only can you do it this week but also I will be there with you doing it and cheering you along.

Sending you love,

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It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay

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“I believe that God is making all things new. I believe that Christ overcame death and that pattern is apparent all through life and history: life from death, water from a stone, redemption from failure, connection from alienation. I believe that suffering is part of the narrative, and that nothing really good gets built when everything’s easy.”

I sat at the table staring out the window, I didn’t want to make eye contact, because I was afraid she already knew what my answer would be. Still, I could see her looking at me through love filled eyes. “Martha, some day you are going to have to choose. You are going to have to pick your Eating Disorder or Jesus. You are going to have to jump. Are you ready?” I smiled at her, my painted on ,”you are very sweet, but you just don’t get it smile.” I looked her in the eye and with a level of defiance stated,  “Thanks but I am just not ready yet.”

A month later, I sat in the office of my beloved counselor as tears streamed down her face first and then mine. “Martha, you need serious help. You need a professional treatment team. Your Eating Disorder is serious and it is killing you.” She let the words sink in and through my tear soaked cheeks, I nodded. ” I will help you, she said, but I am scared that if we don’t start really fighting this…well I am scared of what will happen to you.” I sobbed, for the first time ever about my Eating Disorder.

I spent the next few days crying. Talking to dear friends and to my family. I spent the time thinking and praying and wondering what I would do. All along though I knew the choice I had to make. Finally, it was real and I knew what I had to do. Shakily, I picked up the phone and called my sweet friend who told me I had to choose. I called and told her I needed help. I wanted to fight. I never said the exact words, but she knew and looking back I knew too. I was ready to jump. I was choosing Jesus.

It has been three years since those conversations and since I chose Jesus and ran into the arms of grace. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about those conversations or the days leading up to my choice. I was sick. I was addicted. And I was a mess. Today only one of those is true. I am still a mess but I am no longer sick or addicted to food or the constant thoughts of food or body image. Sometimes I get scared to talk about my story of grace in it’s fullness because in all reality Jesus and Grace are trigger words. They make people take a second look at what you are writing. They make people fidget and look away. People either love you or hate you for writing about Jesus and your Faith. However, the truth is grace is scandalous and unimaginable and nothing about it is safe and comfortable. Even more so this story that I am living out is NOT about me. It is about a grace and love from a Father that I could never imagine. My story is about the gospel.

When I decided to fight and choose Jesus I had no idea the ride I was in for and am still on. It is only by the grace of His spirit that I have and had the strength to stand up to Ed and my ways of control. It was through Him and the people He placed in my life that I constantly was given the choice to embrace the beauty of grace. If it was left up to me, I couldn’t have done it and the road at times can still be rocky because I am always a work in progress, as is my story of recovery and grace.

This past fall I celebrated three years of recovery. I celebrated the decision to jump off the cliff into the arms of grace and say, “It is okay that I am not okay because Jesus is better than being better.” The most beautiful part is, embracing grace doesn’t mean that I am not still a mess. However, it envelops me in all my messiness and it allows me to be my messy broken self. Because Grace is bigger than my flaws. Grace is bigger than my mistakes. Grace is bigger than my guilt. And Grace is so much bigger than my shame. In fact, it washes it all away and says: You are loved, You are fearfully and wonderfully made and Your worth is not in Your outward appearance.

I never used to understand when people said that Jesus wrecked their lives but now I get it. He definitely wrecked mine and turned it upside down in the best way. He took everything I thought I knew about control and addiction and swept me into His arms. He told me I was loved when I felt unlovable and that I was beautiful in His image. He gave me scandalous, beautiful, amazing, grace. Today, I have the joy of working with college students and because of that. I have an opportunity to show others, specifically these students, that kind of love and grace that is scandalous and unheard of and it is because of my story of grace and the work of the gospel in my life, that I am able to do just that.

I am not sure if you read this and want to scream or if you read this and are in tears. Either way, I would love to hear your story of brokenness and redemptive grace. Because when we share about the mess and the beauty of grace in our lives, that is when the gospel becomes real. My friend I pray you know there is hope in whatever situation you face. Buckle up, because if you are willing to jump, you are in for the ride of your life.

May you always know how loved you are,

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Present Over Perfect

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I’ve reorganized my desk. I’ve straightened my new short hair. I’ve done laundry. I’ve hung curtains. The list goes on, and I have done all of those things to avoid writing about what is on my heart… because what I have to say I am not good at. In fact, I am pretty bad at it most days. However, that’s why I started writing here because I believe that grace is bigger and perfection kills dreams and breaks heart. I spent too many years in the down spiral of perfection. So today. as a new wife, as a new neighbor as a new employee I remind myself of the truth I know that grace is bigger and that I have to continually choose it in order to live a life of present over perfect.

In the last two weeks, I became a wife and to say my dreams came true would be an understatement. I love being a wife to my handsome husband. I love serving him. I even love being able to spend time setting up our house. Even in the midst of hard marriage talks and fights, life is filled with joy… until I listen to the voices in my head, telling my decorations aren’t good enough. my dinners are gourmet enough, and heck I am not even good enough for my sweet husband. And when I sit down and listen to these voices, I realize what soul sucking lies they are. So this week I made a decision that I would choose present over perfect. I would choose to be in the moment, good and bad because I only have this life to live. As I sat down I realized that the more I chose the present over “being perfect” the more I was able to see the grace at work in my own life.

I’ve always been the biggest people pleaser. I want everyone to be okay with my choices and okay with who I am. If I am being honest it used to kill me when someone didn’t like me. But when I live my life dictated by the standard of perfection that I and other people set for me, I am even more of a mess. I am a stress case. I control, anything and everything in my life. I miss out on life. And I am the worst version of me. And the worst part is that I believe the lie that life is a story about me.

In my heart, I truly believe in grace. A grace so scandalous that it not only saved my soul but it truly took a wretch like me and used my story to bring glory to the One who wrote it. I believe that grace saved my life and saved me from destroying myself. When I lean towards perfection I don’t recognize grace and even more I don’t exercise. I believe that I can do it all on my own and frankly I don’t need any help. I am more selfish than ever. And I end up on the kitchen floor in tears because the room doesn’t look perfect, and I am exhausted and I haven’t eaten because I’ve been too focused on my selfishness. That is what perfection does, it wrecks me but grace it saves me.

So today, tomorrow, this week, and here after…I’m deciding to live in the present. I am choosing present over perfect. This is where I get to see grace at work.  My friend, life is hard but it is a million times harder when we let perfection rule it. So how about you choose present over perfect? How about you take some time to live in the present and see grace at work? It is worth it I promise

You are loved and you are worth it!

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