• Jess

Ideal vs. Real


This book changed my life. Rarely do I say that about a book, but this one did. Jess Connolly writes a convicting message of why YOU are designed on purpose for the work God has called you to do… for the life He has called you to live. She clearly lays this out by sharing how she walked this out with her own faith.

One of the journaling exercises she prompts you to write was describing your IDEAL self… and then who your REAL self is. This really intrigued me, and, not being one to EVER shy away from an opportunity to journal my thoughts and feelings, I jumped right in. But, like most journaling entries and exercises, it surprised me with the revelation I received at the end.

Here is my actual journal entry from 3/23/2020:

“Ideal Jess” is…

Never impatient. Fully present where her feet are. Witty on the spot. Insightful, sweet, and HOT. And she exercises and runs 5 days a week. She never yells at the boys, and she happily does all her husband bids. She eats really well, sends handwritten notes in the mail, leads small group once a week, and never messes up her YouVersion streak. She sips coffee in the morning, and then again in the afternoon… all the while reading her Bible and journaling prayers by the light of the moon. She does laundry and dishes and cleaning... without yawning, complaining, or screaming. She sells her handlettered art online, and her side hustle coaching-biz is coming along just fine. All in all, she’s kind of a dandy, and her life is sweet as candy!

Totally believable, right?

But that’s not REAL. That’s not the REAL, authentic Jess.

Real Jess doubts herself, makes it up as she goes along, TRIES HER VERY BEST, sometimes yells at the kids and has to apologize a lot, thinks too highly of things she says, isn’t present when she COULD be, doesn’t give Nic the undivided attention he deserves, and I sometimes put off time alone with the Lord. And sometimes I forget to pray for the people for whom I’d promised prayers :-( . My house usually isn’t clean or tidy. My desk is a mess. And I don’t know WHEN I last wore a ‘nighty’. My weight constantly waffles while I battle myself about working out or feeling awful. I don’t call my Mom, I don’t text my Dad, and when I don’t, it really makes me feel bad. I fall down; I get up. I make mistakes and sometimes I SUCK.

But Jesus says He makes me whole, takes my sin away, and restores my soul. So I decide to keep going, and I trust Him each day. That He’ll keep growing me better, that He’ll show me the way. I don’t have all the answers - but I don’t want them anyway! Because HE says He’ll do it, He will carry the weight. So I’ll do my part and show up, though it’s sometimes really hard. I’ll face down my demons because I know who plays the winning card. There’s no room left for fear when He’s conquered it all. I know I’m enough because I’ve answered His call. And He’ll give me what’s needed each step of the way. IT’S NOT UP TO ME TO CARRY WHAT THE CROSS HAS TAKEN AWAY! By grace I am living this life paved with gray; and His BLOOD bought my freedom - with this truth I stay. No longer in fear will I choose how to live, but I’ll trust and I’ll love Him with ALL I have to give. He has called, so I answer. It is time to obey. Open doors, open windows, God show me the way!


Revelation time.

I grew up being SO afraid. Afraid of messing up, not living up to expectations of loved ones, not doing things perfectly the first time I tried, not doing everything I needed to do in order to earn my salvation… I was CONSTANTLY anxious, stressed, and fearful I’d fall apart. That I wouldn’t make it to Heaven at the end of all this if I didn’t DO enough and STRIVE enough. (Whatever ‘enough’ means.)

Does this sound familiar to anyone else? Tell me I’m not alone in growing up with that mindset.

(For real, please email me and tell me about it!)

And, I’ll be honest, I didn’t really begin to walk in freedom from that mindset until this past year. Yep. I was 35 years old before I finally surrendered allllll of that fear and worry and panic and stress to my Savior. Granted, He had already taken that burden off me when He was nailed to the cross… but I refused to let Him carry it. Somehow, I’d convinced myself carrying all those expectations and performance and worries was my JOB as His good daughter.

Where in the Bible does it say THAT?

As I’m rereading the Bible right now, I’m constantly overwhelmed with how many times He repeats the phrase, ‘Be not afraid.’ He doesn’t want His children to walk in fear. Let me say that again. He doesn’t want us to live a life burdened by fear, obligation, guilt, and shame… NO. He just wants us to love Him! Pure and simple. And when we fully give ourselves over to loving Him - with every fiber of our being - obedience is a natural byproduct of that love.

Let’s break this down very simply.

Does a child pop out wanting to obey you all the time? Ummm, no! We allllll know that. (Have you met my threenager named Leo? ;-)) But as the child grows up and learns he can trust you, that love grows. Out of the abundance of that loving, trusting relationship, the child is overflowing with the desire to please and obey you. Not because it was forced upon him - NO. But because he consistently sees You lay down your life for his. You make sacrifices for him. You walk with him, listen to him, care for him, provide for him... all because you LOVE him.

And when your child knows he’s loved, he only wants to give that love and respect and obedience back to you.

Take a minute to read a really good illustration of what I’m trying to say:

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing.

So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.

But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

This story is commonly referred to as 'The Prodigal Son'... but what I hope you see after reading this passage from Luke 15:11-32 is 'The Love of the Father'.

The Father LOVES us. And because we know this undeniable FACT, we WANT to obey Him. It is not forced upon us. It is never shoved down our throats. We are always given the choice to love Him - with our WHOLE hearts - in return.

This is the type of love I didn’t understand until 2019. I was almost 36 years old before I could wrap my finite mind around this truth.

I CAN’T EARN MY SALVATION. He gives it as a free gift the moment I give my life to Him, baptized in His love and forgiveness. And out of this truth comes the freedom from the bondage of my sin and striving. I do not walk in fear, because His perfect love removes fear. I walk in freedom from the burden of striving to achieve and do and ‘look like I have it all together’, because I have Him. And I don’t worry about ANYTHING else. Walking in faith means I trust Him to show me the way, every single day. No more striving. No more achieving. I simply follow where He leads in obedience (just like Noah, Moses, Abraham, Hannah, Esther, Abigail, David, Mary, Peter, & Paul before me).

This same freedom exists for you, too. Don’t wait until you’re 35 years old to experience the freedom of the gospel. He exists to remove the chains of your sin. Walk in freedom - let Jesus take it all!

Email me and tell me what He’s laid on Your heart.


©2020 by Nic & Jess Gardner