Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Lessons (From The Summer of Stinky Socks and Smirky-Smiles)

Once in a while you meet a person who changes your life. For me this summer that was a chubby, freckle-faced little boy who I will call S. P. Sue (since he used that code name one day to solve a camp 'crime'). 

People often question why I choose to work with certain children. It’s exhausting – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s also frustrating and patience-draining. I found that even moreso this year. It’s actually been a pretty difficult summer. Ryan and I are in the beginning stages of a together-forever life, and it’s not the easiest transition. Exciting, but also really hard. For me it has been overwhelming to realize that we won’t be able to afford the things I have always been so familiar with. As a lover of Jesus and servant of Him, I’m called to be content in every situation. But how is that possible? I know that the only way I can be okay is with His strength, but what does that look like practically? 

Among all of my worried thoughts and overwhelming emotions, there was S.P.  So, picture the cutest, chubbiest, most freckle-faced, spikey-haired, smirky-smiling ten-year-old boy with a lasting sparkle in his eye. As cute and charming as he is, he doesn’t make things easy. He wants what he wants when he wants it, no sooner and no later. He wants my permanent presence (within close enough distance that I can come running if he calls) but often doesn’t want to actually know I’m there.  He wants people and attention, but it usually becomes too much for him. And when things become too much, he takes it out on the person closest to him. For the summer, that was me. There is a lot that I lost as a result of S. P., including my diamond necklace, some skin from my neck and nose, and a lot of my patience. 

Somebody recently asked me, again, why I would continue to spend my summer with someone so challenging. My first thought was “besides the fact that he completely stole my heart and wouldn’t let go?”

This guy is seriously the most empathetic ten-year-old I have ever met. He is always the first to notice any sign of worry or sadness. And if he ever is the cause of the worry or sadness, he will be the first to give you a hug and apologize (with as much sincerity as his sneaky-smirky-smile will allow), and he'll say "Get those tears out of your eyes. They make me sad."

He also lives by the motto of “When In Doubt, Tell A Joke … or Dance” How could a normal person not enjoy this? Nobody has ever made me laugh as much in one sitting as S.P.  His jokes are super clever (usually consisting of a pun related to his ability to make a ‘move’ on a lady) and his dance moves are 100% original (please just imagine Elvis’s hips crossed with a barn-yard folk dance and a touch of screamo).

He provided me with a new vocabulary as well. When no other word can express what you're feeling, why not create one yourself, right? For example, when a space is too small for you to stretch your legs out, just scream "SMOOKIE!" 3 times. Or 8 times. Whatever makes you feel the best. And when someone says something you don't like? You can smush their lips together and yell "SHOOKIE" until they get the point.

Seriously, I don't know how a person could not love this boy. Despite his brutally honest comments, his habit of wiping his snot on my sleeve, his stinky-blackened-white socks, and his death grip, he’s really the same as you or me. I truly believe that our earthly view of these atypical children is the way God sees us. Difficult, a little dirty, often rude and entirely scattered. 

S.P. knew he needed me. I’m confident of this because of the many times he would pull my arms around himself or lean heavily on my shoulder or look back to make sure I was behind him when he was walking. But sometimes he didn’t want me. Sometimes he wanted to keep his distance and he wanted his independence (don't we all?). In these moments, it wasn’t until he was totally lost that he would cry out my name. He knew he could call me because he knew I wouldn’t leave him. You know how you take out your feelings on the people closest to you, because you know they won't go anywhere? Well, S.P. is a perfect example of that. 

I don't think we are any different than him. We know we need our Saviour, but we don’t always want Him. We avoid, we make excuses, we go our own directions. Until we’re in a crisis. We know He doesn’t leave us so we justify our bad choices. With this in mind, how can we not love the difficult ones around us? Jesus so unconditionally loves us. Even when we don't want him. 

Now back to the question that has been ringing in my head all summer. How am I supposed to be content in every situation? How am I supposed to rely on Jesus’ strength? What does that look like?
Through a little freckle-faced blessing, I got my answer.

It looks like unconditional love given by the best of our ability. 

When our hearts doubt, we can reassure our hearts by loving through our actions and in truth.
For whenever our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts. 1 John 3:18-24

It looks like having wisdom, and keeping our lives focused on His grace. 

When our minds are set fully on Jesus, we can't go wrong.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:13-15
Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have. For he has said "I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5

It looks like taking a little snot on our sweaters, smiling through hurtful comments, carrying around stinky white socks, and bearing scratches on our necks. After all, Jesus bared nails through His hands. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Engaged, Changed, and Rearranged

I've had a lot of emotions in the past three months. Some feelings were expected, others were not. The excitement and the exhilaration were obvious engagement emotions. The fear and the frustration, not as much.

What nobody told me is that it's actually all really overwhelming. The wedding talk gets old. The headintheclouds sensation wears off, and at one point all that's left may be the stark cold reality that everything is going to change. There's no going back. Plans need to be made. Budgets are real things. Money needs to be saved yet somehow also needs to be spent. In truckloads. You are going to be stuck with the same person for the rest of your life. And yes, that can actually be a terrifying thought. The 'I want to be with you forever [insert heart-eye emoji]' feeling is still there, but it can easily become drowned by the fear that comes with creating an entirely new life.

It's not that being engaged isn't romantic and wonderful. It really is. But it quickly becomes not all cliche.

From Mine to Ours

I've realized I am a very selfish person. Somehow I managed to fall back into my four-year-old ways where every item that I cherished in some minuscule way was "MINE." Except now it's more about the figurative money and not the physical items. My life savings are no longer entirely my own. The commitment I made means that my life will now be shared with someone else. I can't make decisions based on my own 'wants.' The things that used to be mine now become ours

Wedding Talk Gets Old 

If you're anything like me, you might actually get tired of talking about weddings. I mean, this is the thing you've been dreaming about all your life, but when the 18th person asks you how the wedding plans are going, it might seem like that's the only thing people are interested in. Am I not more than a wedding planner?!  Plus, wedding planning is actually not the most relaxing thing. Somehow looking at the tally of all the prices of all the things you need takes a little fun out of it.

The Unintentional Distance 

Something I never realized was that deciding to be the first of my friends to get married meant creating distance. Suddenly I don't have as much in common with the people around me as I thought I did. I'm stuck in an awkward in-between stage of having all the newly-weds and engaged people being older than me, and all of my own friends being at completely different life-stages. And it's surprisingly unsettling when you have the option of hanging out with people in their mid-to-late twenties who have their own tight-knit group already, or hanging out with people your age who you can't relate to as much as you used to.

Our Family?

Creating a family isn't the easiest thing either. It's sort of brought me back to my teenage days of silent rebellion, when all I wanted was to get out of my family and start my own life. Now here we are, and I don't really want that anymore. I'm torn between building a home with the love of my life, and curling up on the couch between my mom and dad and never leaving. And the whole thing where people say you marry into the family? Well. Yeah. That's a thing.

Now that I've probably made everyone feel like getting married is the worst thing ever, let me just say, weddings are wonderful. Being engaged is wonderful. Being in love is wonderful. Planning for the future is wonderful. Gaining extra siblings is wonderful.

But, it's also terrifying. Stressful. Scary. Emotional. Overwhelming. [insert any other negative emotion]. Nobody ever warned me of that. I mean people said "It's going to be hard." But you know, life is just hard in general. So "hard" doesn't really encompass much.

Let me also say that the terrifying-stressful-scary-emotional-overhwhelmingness of this time in our(mine+Ryan's) lives has one hundred percent been God's way of drawing us nearer to Him.

I think that amidst the planning and excitement we so easily forget who brought us and our loves together in the first place. It's so easy to forget because planning in itself is so naturally under our control. Planning is a really dangerous thing if you think about it. Checkmark after checkmark you can push yourself farther and farther from Him. No wonder fear can so easily overtake.

4 Reminders For The Engaged 

(and everyone else) 

From Isaiah 41:10-14

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand... I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you...  Do not be afraid... do not fear, for I myself will help you," 

You are not alone. 

You have strength.

He will help you. 

He will hold you up. 

So do not be afraid. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Confessions Of My Wandering Heart

I've written so much this year about being in a long distance relationship, but I think that's because this relationship has revealed to me so many of my own imperfections.

I am not good at communicating out loud. I freeze, words don't flow, my thoughts start racing and I can't figure out what sentence to say first.

I can be overly sensitive and emotional. When things are going my way it's easy to smile. But when my plans get changed being happy gets a lot harder.

I am tragically selfish. Some people call my generation the entitled generation, and as much as I try to deny it, there is a lot of truth in that claim for me. I think I deserve so much. I often tell myself that I deserve Ryan's attention. And if he ever changes plans or picks anything over me, I want to make him feel bad about it. I want him to realize that it bothers me, remorsefully apologize, and change the situation (aka: pick me instead).

I like to assign blame when things go wrong. That's probably rooted in my strong sense of justice. When there are reasons for things - when people are held responsible - life becomes easier to handle.

I like to have control. I hold onto life with a white-knuckle kind of grasp. I like to do things my own way because there are things I believe I'm best at. The truth is, I don't enjoy blaming people. I would rather be the one responsible for things going wrong, because then I know how to put the delicate pieces back together.

This is one of the hardest realities that has hit me this year.

I am entirely, completely imperfect.

Sin is my tragic flaw. 

[Tragic Flaw: A trait that will lead to downfall] 

The most memorable tragic flaw to me was King Lear's love of appearances. He was always interested in the showy kinds of love - the big declarations and flowery words. His attraction to appearances resulted in his blindess to sincerity, and this blindess led to his death. 

As hard as I may try to weave my way through the words of my own story, the reality is that my sin will lead to my death.

So who am I to think I deserve anything?

First of all, my life is not about me. Yes, I play a part. I do my best to take care of myself and make the right choices. But I am not in any way the most important part of my life. Secondly, God created me to glorify Him. I am not meant to radiate a product of my own goodness, I am meant to radiate a product of God's character (His love). In what way does my sense of entitlement or selfishness radiate His love?

My life is not about me. What a realization.

I read last week about a young wife's realizations from her new marriage and there is one thing that I think she explained so well. Relationships are really not about compromise. 

I was always taught that compromising was the best option (like when you're in grade four and you have a friend over and you can't decide what to play, or when you're fourteen and you and your parents are trying to come up with a reasonable curfew). But this writer proposed the idea that compromise doesn't work in romantic relationships because then neither person walks away satisfied.

Instead, relationships are about giving. When one person gives, then the other can be entirely satisfied - experiencing the utmost happiness.

Thankfully Ryan is a man after God's own heart. Despite my unfortunate failures, he generously extends grace. He freely gives. He practices patience beyond the circumstances. He unconditionally lavishes love. He stretches himself thin, yet still finds more to sacrifice. Always more.

Isn't that what Christ did for us?

He gave it all, so that we could overcome our tragic failures. Without this Overcoming, we would have no way to experience joy in full.

He made it all about us and our freedom. Now it's our turn to make it all about Him.

- Kayla

Read about an Always More kind of love

Monday, April 6, 2015

Lessons From 20 Days Of Being Twenty

For years we dream of being older. From the first time the firemen come to our kindergarten class we long to be able to have real grown-up jobs. From the first time we watch Cinderella we long for true love. From the first time we see a newborn baby we long to be mothers.

We live for the day. We dream about the day. We long for the day. The day that is beyond where we are at now. The day where we will have everything we have ever dreamed of.

Dreams are a wonderful thing because they are simply that. Dreams. What everybody tried to tell me (and what I never actually believed) is that the present years are the years to be embraced. We are free to dream, definitely. But we need to be careful to also recognize the past dreams that are being fulfilled at present.

I was reading James 5 this morning and there are three things that stood out to me, probably because they sum up the lessons I have been learning this year and the reality of life (so far) in my twenties.


"Be patient, then, brothers [and sisters]" (8) 

Things will not just come to you (and if they ever do, it will not be a regular thing). Work is real.

You will not be rich. In fact, you will probably be the poorest you will be throughout the course of your life. And your parents will not continue to pay for everything. Budgets are real.

Your boyfriend/fiance/husband will be experiencing the same stresses as you. The teenage 'on top of the world' mantra will not last forever. He will not be perfect. His flaws are real.

You will not be the best at everything anymore. You will realize that even though you got the music award, the sportsmanship award, the math award, the science award, the english award, and the french award in highschool you physically cannot be the best at all of those things anymore.

You will have to learn to be patient with the people around you when they try to tell you these things, even though you know you can only learn for yourself. You will have to be patient with your parents as they try to navigate their roles in their young adults' lives. You will have to be patient with your boyfriend/fiance/husband as he tries to make it through this time in your lives as well. And you will have to be patient with yourself as you make mistakes and take some wrong turns on the second-decade-road.


"consider blessed those who have persevered." (11)

Some days you will feel like you're not going to get anywhere. Like when that job you were counting on doesn't work out, when your bank account becomes a couple digits less than you need it to be, when your relationship seems to be teetering on a rock, or when you don't do as well as you were hoping to on your final exam. 

What I've been reminding myself - correction: what God has been reminding me - is that life won't be like this forever

This is only a short time in our lives. We are not always going to be broke and confused and searching for our place in this world (at least to the degree we are now) forever. 

But even though it's a short time, it's also an important time. It's a time where we are entirely shaped and moulded into who we are going to be - the individual people who will go out into the world and (hopefully) follow the paths that God has planned. In order to become those people, we need to persevere (perseverance must finish its work so that we may be mature - James 1:4) 


"Again he prayed," (18) 

I've been trying to start a new pattern. When I become frustrated or overwhelmed with life or start thinking negatively about a situation, I pray instead.

It sounds so simple, but it is so powerful. Because prayer changes your perspective on everything. It takes the grief out of your own hands, and places it in the hands of the One who can transform anything into joy. And rather than attempting life on your own strength (this has never worked well for me) you then have His strength to carry you.

The other thing about prayer is that it is the key ingredient in your relationship with Him.

Communication is probably the most important part of any relationship. Prayer is communication with the most important One in your life. Prayer brings peace. Prayer brings power.

Prayer brings patience and perseverance and all the other things you need. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Things Nobody Tells You About Long-Distance-Loving

I used to think I knew what it meant to love. The world told me that love is Passion. Butterflies. Excitement. Roses. Tears. Chocolate. The people around me have said that Love is patient. Love is not self-seeking. Love always forgives.

I've always thought that the best way to show love is to do my best to make everyone else happy and comfortable. I've always been the kind of person who has a hard time saying no because I want other people to be okay, who will stay up for hours listening to life problems, who will go out of my way just to make things easier for someone else. I'm not saying this to make myself sound good. This is just genuinely how I live my life. And if I'm doing my best to make everyone else happy, then I'll be happy too - and even more than that, God will be happy with me. Jesus first + Others second + You last = JOY ... right?

I'm realizing now that there is a lot more to love than that. Of course, I am still just inexperienced, unmarried, and new to the second decade of life, but this is what I know:

1. No matter the distance between you and the one you love, you will feel the impact of their choices. 

For the majority of the past ten months, Ryan and I have been 100 miles apart. 

He is in Bible college, and I stay at home while going to university. In September I thought it was all going to be just fine. I had it in my head that we were simply two people who were living their post-secondary lives and who also happened to be in a relationship. He could do his thing, and I could do mine, and whenever we ended up seeing each other would be fine with me. I didn't really think it would matter what he did while he was at school or what I did while he was gone. I mean not that it was some 21st century-style open relationship, but if I worked some days or if he went out a couple nights a week it wouldn't matter. 
My ideas were very wrong. 

Every choice I make, and every choice he makes, has an effect. When I have classes all day, and then he chooses to go out at night... well, that means we probably won't be talking that day. And when I don't charge my phone on a Monday morning before going to work... well, that cuts off that form of communication. If I decide to go out on the once-a-month night he comes home? No quality time that weekend.

These things may all seem small, but they matter. The momentary choices really are significant. Because moments accumulate to minutes, to hours, to days... to months. Moments translate through the love-saturated air that connects two people, whether they are 100 seconds apart or 100 miles. 

2. He won't always be good at loving long-distance, but you won't always be either. 

Being recently engaged, I've received a lot of those 'I'm going to give you my life advice in one word' kind of comments. The most common one has been (can you guess??): communicate. 

A lot of people think that the whole '5 Love Languages' thing is overrated, and in some ways I agree. But I also think there is so much truth in it. Everyone really does communicate love in different ways, and everyone really does receive love best in different ways.

The problem with long-distance is that it really limits the ways you can show love. And if your 'love language' is physical touch or quality time? That really becomes a challenge. You're pretty much limited to 'words of affirmation' when you're 100 miles apart. Maybe gifts are an option if you don't mind mailing things, and maybe a revised-version of quality time can happen if Skype ever decides to work (note: Skype will probably never reach best-friend-level in your life). But you really are limited. And even if you are a 'words of affirmation' person, after a while it's going to get pretty dull when that's the only way you can show/receive love. And if the other person isn't good with words or doesn't receive love best through words? There's a whole other hurdle to jump over.

Communication is hard. And when you put distance between people, it gets harder. I don't think that anybody is inherently an expert at knowing how to communicate their love from far away. I also don't think anybody is good at loving 'in all the languages.' It takes practice. It takes making mistakes. It takes arguments and apologies and accidental-accusations. It takes some tears on both sides. Because when you aren't 'feeling loved,' he probably isn't either.

3. Love is not picture perfect, but it has a perfect purpose. 

Love has this 'fantastical' sense about it. Like when you imagine two people who have recently written their own romance and the air above their heads seems to be showering glitter and butterflies are fluttering from their eyes and they don't have a care in the world.

I admit, I've had those head-in-the-clouds moments. But in reality that is not how I would describe love. And, to be honest, that is not the kind of love that I desire. (I also realized that I am not an expert author when it comes to romance - that should be up to the Real Romance Writer.)

Real love is not always rainbows and heart-shaped-doodles. Real love is messy because it goes beneath the surface. It knows that sticking around is going to be worth it. It sees past the current phase. It knows that life is not always going to be happy. It also knows that it's not always going to be hard. Love knows where it's going, and it wants to do all that it can to get there - no matter what that means.

Real love might means having bags under your eyes because you stayed up late on the phone to help him finish an almost-overdue paper. It might mean going across the street at 2 in the morning so you can call your panic-prone girlfriend even though you have an early class. Real love might mean facing an argument instead of turning away because you want to work it out. It might mean taking on extra hours at work or sacrificing your love for Starbucks so that you can save money for the future. It might mean worry-wrinkles. It might mean writing down his to-do list so you can help him remember everything he needs to get done. It might mean sitting at the doctor's office with him, surrounded by coughing-sneezing-germy people on your birthday. It might mean sitting in silence when she's trying to process her thoughts, or holding ice on her mango-sized injured chin when her hands get too cold.

Love has purpose. Love knows there will be an end, but it chooses to last.

4. Love is an everyday choice, but it is also an irresistible, captivating power 

Have you ever had the moment when you hear a new song, and it just draws you in? You don't really hear the words and you're not even consciously thinking about it, but suddenly you're humming along, moving your head from side to side, tapping your foot, closing your eyes. You just can't resist the quiet, gentle power of the melody mixed with the harmony, the rhythm, the tone of the artist's voice.

I heard that analogy the other day and I think it perfectly describes the power of love.

One moment you're sitting back and quietly observing the people around you. The next moment you are being drawn into his slate-blue eyes and realizing that your life is never going to be the same again and you can't do a thing about it. There is no way you could possibly resist. And every time you look back into his eyes you fall in love all over again.

Another word for that kind of drawing-captivating sensation is infatuation. The difference is that infatuation only involves feeling. Love that is centered on Jesus does not depend on feelings. It has the same captivating effect, without the selfishness. Love lasts because it sometimes involves a choice that goes against our feelings.

5. Loving means being vulnerable. 

The thing about living apart means that a lot of times unpredictable circumstances come between you. Maybe your roommate comes back sooner than expected. Maybe a snowstorm cancels your weekend plans. Maybe Skype cuts out for the 52nd time that month (okay, not so unpredictable, but equally as frustrating). 

As a result of never knowing when these things will ruin your plans, you will be willing to drop everything whenever you have the opportunity to be together. 

You will be willing to drive for 2 hours just for 2 seconds in his arms.

You will be willing to sit and do nothing for hours while she does homework just so you can be beside her.

You will be willing to stay up until 3am talking on the phone, because it's the only time he can get a moment alone.

You will also realize that saying goodbye will never get easier, and only having brief moments to talk makes saying goodbye that much more impossible. But you wouldn't trade those moments for anything.

And putting yourself out there - doing these out-of-the-ordinary things - make you vulnerable.

Sacrificing your time for someone else is like placing your un-wrapped heart in their hands. And it's hard. It makes you vulnerable. Because now you really hope they'll give you their un-wrapped heart too. But what if they don't? What if they never sacrifice back? What if they go back to 100 miles away and forget that they're holding your heart in their hands?

That's the thing about love. To love is to be vulnerable. There's no way around that.

(Note: My advice? Make sure that Jesus is mediating the heart-exchange. That way you can't go wrong. {1 John 4:18}


See, love is more than a self-satisfying sacrifice. Love has nothing to do with me or you. I am not a good person because I love. And I cannot love simply because it makes other people happy.

I will never be able to love perfectly, and yet I am called to be love. Not for me. Not for others. But for Him.

When love is for Him, it makes long-distance-loving less burdensome. He can take our human love and transform it into Powerful love which spans all distance - because He is the Creator of Love.

His love lasts beyond the end of a phone call, beyond the missing-you-tears, and beyond the make-up-kisses. His love is the only love that can fill the space of 100 miles and remain equally as strong.

This is love. 

- Kayla 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sweet Serendipity

Oh how God works in crazy ways. 

Last week, the man of my dreams asked me to marry him. It was the best night of my life and I wish that I could relive it over and over again - the suspense, the surprise, the secret scheming of my best friends. But never in a million years would I have ever imagined that this would happen at this point in my life.

Nine months ago I was ready to pack up everything and leave for Africa, become a nun(such a ridiculous thought), sign away my life to med school, or whatever other wild life-changing thing was plausible. After many teenage years of boy-crazy days, longing for the perfect love story, I decided that I didn't want to get married or fall in love anymore. I wanted to do something 'crazy' ... 'for God' (whatever that meant?)  

Ironically, within a month after my new life decision, God dropped someone in front of me - or more like shone a light on him since he had been in my life for the past six years - and pretty much shouted (kindly, but clearly) "Here you go, Kayla!"

I first learned that this word existed when I was in grade 11. My teacher had a pretty-looking poster on the wall with the word decorated in a fancy way. I had no idea what it meant, but I thought it sounded interesting. Last semester I finally found the definition in my statistics textbook: "finding one thing when you are looking for something else." Personally I think that's too beautiful of a definition for a research book.

God is the King of serendipity. 

I was looking for adventure, and instead God brought me love - an adventure in itself. 

I wanted to feel the thrill of freedom. God wanted me to feel a physical representation of His love - in which I would find the greatest thrill and the greatest freedom. 

I think this happens more often than we realize. We go looking for something we think we want, and God surprises us with something else. 

"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps."  Proverbs 16:9 

Sometimes we think of this verse as comfort, and we preach it to ourselves when we realize we've become control-freaks. Other times we become extremely frustrated when our plans don't work out and we secretly wish that this verse didn't exist. I am the ultimate plan-maker. Seriously. I really like my plans. I like to know what I'm going to find ahead of me. I like to be prepared. And I'm generally not a fan of surprises. But I've been learning that we should always try to find excitement in the unexpected things, because they most often bring the most joy - and joy goes beyond the circumstances.

There are so many big uncertainties ahead. (How is a wedding going to fall into place? How am I going to afford life as a student? What if nobody thinks we're doing the right thing? What if everything falls apart? What if... what if... what if...) 

Slowly, I'm learning how to find freedom and joy in the parts of my life that I'm not sure about. I'm being reminded that God is holding us in the palm of his hand, and I'm learning that the poster in my grade 11 classroom was there for a reason. I'm learning that we might think we are some certain place for one purpose, when really God has us in that place for another, greater purpose.

I'm also learning that everyone is going to have opinions - but ultimately, only God knows.

Only God knows the reason for us being wherever we are.

Only God can lead us in the right direction.

Only God can give us beautifully unexpected changes in direction that are in our best interest.

Only God can compose sweet songs of serendipity, that soothe our wandering, love-longing souls. 

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pride and Perfectionism

Whenever I make a mistake I get this horrible sickening, heart-dropping feeling somewhere right between my lungs and my stomach. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s my mom calling my name because I forgot to wipe the counter or if it's the distant flashing lights of a police car causing me to double check if I am speeding, my mind spins and my heart races when I anticipate the fact that I might have made a mistake. 

I don't handle my mistakes well, and that is probably a result of my highschool experience. I graduated highschool with an average in the high 90s, and to this day I am still convinced that is really the only reason why I was acknowledged as a person during my teenage years. I was the one who edited, explained, and met everybody's expectations. And as a result, my personal grading scale became a little warped:

100 - perfect! you should be so proud of yourself
97-99 - you did an amazing job
94-96 - really good! just a few things you did wrong
90-93 - you could have a done better, but you didn't do a bad job
87-89 - not awful
84-86 - you should have studied harder
80-83 - were you not paying attention to anything in class?
less than 79 - you failed
*disclaimer: I do not believe that 70s or 80s are bad marks for anyone to receive. In fact, I think that they are incredible marks and reflect extremely hard work. This 'marking scale' is simply what I have come to expect of myself* 

Being someone who cares a lot about my grades in school, I also attribute all of my real-world mistakes to percentages: 
Forgetting to put my bowl in the dishwasher would be about a 94% - not the end of the world but still could have done better.
Letting my emotions get the best of me would probably be around an 83% - so close, but I just couldn’t do it.
A possible speeding ticket would probably be somewhere around a 10% - those flashing lights would mean I have nearly done everything wrong.
And forgetting to hand in a paper because I was stressed about a midterm? - well, complete and utter failure. 


I hate that word. 

It has become such an adjective. A way of describing people. A way of describing the things that we do and the results of our actions - whether our mistakes were intentional or not. And sometimes, as hard as we try not to fail - it still happens. And then that happening ends up defining us because that moment of failure is what stands out to the world. So frustrating. 

Adjectives entirely define things. The afternoon sky is defined by it’s blue colour. Apples are defined by their crunchy sound. Drinking water is defined by its pristine clarity. Winter is defined by the cold air, and summer by its warmth. 

We should not defined by failure. 

Perfectionism has always been (and probably always will be) a battle for me. I have been told almost every day for the entirety of my life that I "don't have to be perfect" and that there is "more to me than my average in school" and that "marks don't define me" and that "it's okay to make mistakes" and when I don't do as well as I want to "God has a plan" and I "just need to breathe." And I am thankful for everyone who has ever reminded me of that. But I have to say that as much as I recognize the truth in those statements, the words have become white noise. I mean, it's pretty easy to say those things when you're not the one in the situation (when you don't have expectations and averages and $25000 scholarships hanging over your head). 

On top of all that advice, I have read so many books about grace and being a girl and how I shouldn't try so hard to be perfect (note: I highly recommend Graceful by Emily P. Freeman to every girl who has ever doubted herself). I have learned all about the freedom we have in Jesus and I have been reminded multiple times that He loves us no matter how well we do or don't do. I have been reminded that we can't reach perfection because of sin, and I have been reminded of the value we have because of His love. I 'know' all of the things that I'm supposed to. Yet for some reason that knowledge hasn't been overly useful.

- - - 

A couple weeks ago I was having a conversation with one of my friends about how much I hate making mistakes. At first she was sympathetic and encouraging like any friend would be. But then she said something so humbling: 

"Kayla, maybe it's not about you." 

My initial reaction was to defend myself ("Of course it's about me, I'm the one who makes the mistakes! And I'm the one who suffers from my mistakes!"). But after a moment her words made sense, and I realized why all of that stuff that I 'knew' hadn't made a difference. It really isn't about me. 

Pride leads us to believe that our human-ness (whatever we do or don't do) matters most. We end up focusing on our mistakes, our shortcomings, or whatever we see as failure. We focus on the percentages on marked essays, the number of times we are reprimanded, and the way we handle our emotions. Of course, our mistakes are our own and we need to take responsibility for the fact that we are human, and we are sinful. But that’s not where it ends. 

We have been chosen. We have been given the opportunity to be made free. We have been invited by our First Love to live under Grace for all of eternity. We are not under the law anymore. We are not constrained by this world and its sin. 

“Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead you live under the freedom of God's grace.” 
Romans 6:14 

We are defined by the Grace that was bought for us on the cross. We live under this Grace. This Grace allows us to breathe. To love. To live. To make mistakes. And even more than that - to learn and grow from our mistakes. It’s not the end if we fail an exam or let our emotions get the better of us or forget something important. Because Jesus died. 

For you. For me. For us. 
So that paper that you didn't do well on? It’s at the cross.
That day that everything went wrong and you took it out on your family? It’s at the cross.
That time you overslept and ended up being late? It’s at the cross. 
That speeding ticket? It's at the cross. 

Jesus took it all. We don’t have to be perfect, because He is. We simply need to sit at His feet and be willing to learn, in the presence of His Refreshing, Healing, Redeeming Love. 

We are free. 

- Kayla 

Katie Cottrell Photography