Tuesday, August 1, 2017

I Was a Leg Trying to Be a Face
By Cortney Donelson

If you've been following Jesus for any length of time, you have likely read or even studied 1 Corinthians 12:14-26. Here it is in the ESV translation: 

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.
The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.
For the past four years, I've been trying to be a face. I'm not a face. God did not design me to be the spokesperson. I was not created with much capacity to ignore the lights, the stage, or the cameras and just seek Him. God did not knit me together to network, engage strangers, or excel at public relations. In fact, spokespeople and leaders (the faces and heads of the Body) should be comfortable with casual conversation about the mission and vision of their work. There is nothing casual about my ability to chat with people and quickly build relationships in order to influence others. It's down-right awkward. 
Yet, I've been trying to do just that. I had fallen into the enemy's trap, believing there are some parts of the Body more important than others. I believed I had to be the face (of my book, of the ministries I serve, etc.) in order to be successful. As Scripture says, God arranged us as parts of a whole Body, and if we aren't content in our part or focusing on our own purpose, the whole Body suffers. 
I was created as a leg. My greatest gifting is supporting the rest of the Body, giving each of the other parts the strength to stand on. As a leg, I'm versatile. I run with speed and accomplish tasks and goals quickly. (Just ask all the managers and co-workers I've had the honor of working with over the years.)  I can become powerfully active in an instant. I can and do flex my muscles when needed but am just as effective standing in one place, in a moment of time, and supporting the Body in it's current place. Then, I make the Body mobile again, moving the vision of the head and the message of the face forward through supporting their work. One former business owner described me as a "Catalyzing Organizer," meaning I can take information from all different areas and wrap it all together to create a final product that moves the company forward. When I'm being a leg, I'm uncomfortably comfortable. 
Even in difficult circumstances, I'm not one to sit around. As a leg, I'm tasked with either keeping the Body standing strong in the face of adversity or propelling it forward, moving It into new territory. I'm strong in my faith. Mobility and strength - those are my areas of expertise.
God definitely made me a leg and not a face. God also creates ears to hear, people who can listen with empathy to others' struggles and provide sound godly advice. God makes eyes to see the disparities of this world and do something to change them. God births full hearts to love the unloveable and reach the lost. God makes compassionate arms to show affection (that's you, you crazy hug-loving people). He makes strong shoulders to carry the burdens of the face and head, giving them support and connecting them to the mercy of the arms. God makes feet to provide the Body with the perfect balance of flexibility and stability, and to keep the legs (me!) from stumbling. God makes hands to heal, build, and create. Are you called to create (perhaps a musician or artist?)? God creates lungs to breath the Holy Spirit into the Body's endeavors. The brains are the spiritual intellects. Some of the most notable are C.S. Lewis, Dallas Willard, and Saint Augustine. Are you this generation's brain? God makes lips to speak truth when others are spreading lies. He makes knees; you are the prayer warriors of the Body. He designs fingers to do the fine work of spiritual surgery and to leave God's thumbprint on His work. He makes noses, those able to sniff out the good fruit from the bad. The noses' gift is discernment. Are you noses using it? Yes, God makes rear ends, too. They remind us of the Sabbath, to force the Body to sit, rest, and reflect.
What part of the Body has God created you to be and are you fulfilling your divine function? Or, like I, have you been dreaming of being another part - one that you have designated as "important," "prestigious," or even "fun," not realizing you're negatively affecting the whole? I was chasing things I had no business chasing. I was a leg running after a face rather than running after God's will for me. I'm learning to be content in all things ... including the part God designed me to be. 
If you ARE a face, please contact me. I'd like help promoting my story. HA HA!

Influenced by 1 Corinthians 12, Hebrews 13:5, my love and knowledge of the human bodymy story as told in the book Clay Jar, Cracked, and my prayer life.

©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.

Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly. 

Thursday, July 27, 2017

My Perfect Little Life, Exposed (Continued But Never Finished)
By Cortney Donelson

Photo Cred: Unknown

As I left off in my last blog post, my perfect little life had just fallen off its podium, crashing onto the cement below, causing a million well-hid, carefully compartmentalized, secretly controlled, marginally held-together cracks to bust wide open as one gaping fissure of failure for all to see.

If you are familiar with my story, you may assume that gaping fissure was my husband's betrayal and secret life of addiction. Well, that would be the wrong assumption. In my former life, that would be what I'd want you to think - to keep the focus off me. 

The tiny cracks that busted wide open when my perfect little life lost it's top position on the idol pedestal were the following:

1. My belief that life could be perfect all the time.
2. My belief that a perfect life could only be achieved by success and not that a really good life is only made complete by failures.
3. My belief that if I could achieve perfection, then others could (dare I confess, "should") strive to achieve it, too. 
4. My belief that I was in control of my life and sadly, everyone in it.
5. My belief that my husband could do no wrong.
6. My belief that achievement was the ultimate goal of this life.
7. My belief that I deserved a better life because of my own efforts and successes.
8. My belief that success was the appearance of happiness, significance, material gains, and power. 
9. My belief that I alone was responsible for holding my whole life together and making it look easy.
10. My belief that if (when!) I made poor choices, I should hide them to protect my perfect little life and reputation. 

These beliefs were the cracks that had snaked through my life, causing undetected spiritual and emotional damage. 

If my perfect little life hadn't taken that plunge off its superior position, I would never have discovered the full measure of God's grace. I would have not experienced the gift Jesus offers when He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." If my perfect little life had not spiraled out of control to crash and burn below, I would have never realized my utter need for a Savior. If I'm being honest, while playing the writer, director, producer, and lead actress in my perfect little life, I didn't truly understand the disconnection that "production" caused between God and me. I couldn't see how my perfection was a barrier. I was lost. 

Are you lost? Do you believe you have it all together all the time? Can you readily admit that you have weaknesses and flaws? Do you hide your mistakes? Do you rely on your reputation, or do you work for the world rather than for God? As someone who understands the desire - the need? - to feel important, successful, and in control, I am urging you to open your eyes to the fact that our perfect little lives shield us from the glory of God's power, mercy, and even purposes for us. No one is perfect. 

I wake up every day and do a self-check. I prayerfully take note of and repent for my perfectionist tendencies. This will likely be ongoing, until the day I say goodbye to this life and enter my home. 

I hope to break any generational cycles related to this, too. I'm determined to teach my children this truth - that no one is perfect (aside from Jesus) and we should not strive to be such. If we are wrapped in shame because we're not meeting our own unrealistic expectations and therefore covering up our sin, we will never learn to take ownership of our "stuff." We won't have integrity. We'll never be able to remove the barrier and allow God's redemptive power to take over. That's true freedom - having the vulnerability and transparency to admit we aren't perfect in order to discover and live out God's perfect purpose for our very existence. 

If you'd like to learn more or discuss perfectionism with me, check out the icuTalks Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina on September 9, 2017. I'll be facilitating the interactive workshop titled, "I Get to Be Imperfect." 

Influenced by Matthew 11:28, 2 Corinthians 12:10, Matthew 26:41, 1 Corinthians 1:27my story as told in the book Clay Jar, Cracked, and my prayer life.

©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.

Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

My Perfect Little Life, Exposed
By Cortney Donelson

Photo Cred: www.getorganizedwizard.com

I am a recovering perfectionist.

I don't use that term lightly or flippantly. I'm not making a naive joke or an uneducated parallel between the compulsion to create straight lines and neatly outlined, color-coded lists and the struggles found in the pit of an addiction with drugs, alcohol, food, or sex. My husband is a recovering addict, so I know (quite directly) the significance of my statement. I have lived through the deepest lows, the hurling hurts, and the intermittent peaks of victory found in the life with an addict who has not yet relented to God's direction and purpose for his or her life.

Perfectionism is and does many things: It paints a deceptively pretty picture. It illustrates high levels of organization. It's the illusion of maintaining utter control.

Perfectionism is also disobedience, spiritual narcissism, practical atheism, and idolatry. It can become an addiction, too.

To simplify a complicated definition, an addiction is the condition of being enslaved to a practice, thought-process, or drug that can be psychologically or physically habit-forming (or both) to such an extent that it causes harm or disruptions to daily life.

As a kid, a ruler was one of my closest friends and this was not because I liked to measure things. It's actually the gold standard for creating straight edges for note-taking. As a teenager, my neat and tidy bedroom was my safe haven. I followed all the rules. Every. Single. One. I studied to my heart's content and worked my mediocre tennis-playing rear end up to the #1 spot by my senior year in high school. I twitched in the presence of clutter, and when I became a mom, my stomach tumbled when my kids colored outside the lines or didn't follow school rules. If perfection was my goal, achievements and rule-following were my means to get there. 

In my perfection, I learned all the Biblical commandments. I promised to love God, love my enemies, turn the other cheek, give away my possessions, and confront difficult situations and people in love and truth. I learned to speak the "church language" and memorize Scripture. I led Bible studies and small groups. On paper, I was the perfect Christian. So, how did my rigorous meticulousness  - my pretty little life - usher in any disobedience at all? If anyone dug more than two centimeters down into my soul, they would have balked at the hypocrisy. Mind you, I did. I didn't know it was there either.

I didn't realize that in my perfect little world, I actually couldn't love my enemies because I was judging them. In my perfect little world, I wasn't able to turn the other cheek because I felt far too much betrayal when others didn't treat me like I thought I deserved to be treated. See, perfectionists take a lot of things personally. In my perfect little world, I couldn't give away everything because I felt I had to hoard my successes and achievements to prove I was worthy of the reputation I had gained.

Then, came the spiritual narcissism... In my perfect little world, I couldn't meet others in love because there was an overabundance of truth, and I came across as a critic. Little miss perfect couldn't even comprehend others' struggles because I was so busy hiding, compartmentalizing, and denying my own.

The next step to my downward spiral was practical atheism. In essence, I was doing everything "right" and by the Book (literally). I became all too independent and self-sufficient. My quiet times with God became less frequent. After all, I had figured out this thing called life, and at times, made it look easier than it truthfully was. I was so involved in reaching my own personal goals and dreams that I forgot to ask God what His plan for me was. I guess you could say I forgot God altogether. And, that's when the idolatry began.

My perfect little world leaped onto the top of the podium, knocking the Lord right off from the spot He rightfully owns. My perfectionism had crossed the line. It was adversely affecting my life, specifically my relationship with God and by ability to love others. 

Then, my perfect little world took a misstep, one for which even I had not planned. It tripped and fell off the top of that podium to crack wide open on the pavement below...

(Stay Tuned for Part 2)

Influenced by my May 16th talk at icuTalks (click for video), 1 John 1:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9-10, Luke 6:37, Matthew 7:1, my struggles with perfectionism, my life as an adoptive mom, my story as told in the book Clay Jar, Cracked, and my prayer life.

©2012-2017 Cortney Donelson. All rights reserved.

Cortney's book, Clay Jar, Cracked: When We're Broken But Not Shattered is available now on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, and other retailers, as well as at www.cortneydonelson.com! Visit www.cortneydonelson.com for more information and to learn about the "I'm a Clay Jar" Encourager Class for groups! To schedule speaking engagements, please email Cortney directly.