Refocusing

  
Blurs are often ended with the bluntness of a break. A single straw that interrupts the momentum long enough for sanity to creep in and remind me that I am more than this. 

In the quest for perfection, I lost sight of the adventure. In the race towards better, I steadily slipped into worse. In the pursuit of holiness, I forgot to trust in grace. Somewhere in between it all, I stopped breathing. I lost myself when I quit looking. 

Today, I’m thankful for the straw. Small fractals of light that shine through offense, wake me from my hypnotism. Freedom often comes when I least expect it. Thank you straw man! Lord, please block my path when I get stuck on auto-pilot. 

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Autopilot

eagle_flying_bird

Autopilot – when I go through the motions

Head down, resolved, ready to do whatever it takes to make it happen

And then I sometimes break as resistance pushes me to realize I’m not built to maintain; I’m built for greatness.

Not greatness I’ve built with the persistent efforts of my hands, but greatness that comes only when I let go of my ambitions and allow yours to take over.

I ask so often for you to take all of me and then I feel injured when it’s pointed out that I can’t do everything on my own.

Why I allow the stubborn me to crawl off the altar of sacrifice and proffer a vote, I’ll never understand.

So today, once again, take it ALL.

Take my rights, my self preservation, my emotions, my ambitions, my plans.

Make them yours and use them for your glory.

I will fix my eyes firmly where they should stay, on the prize of the high calling of Christ.

There my feet find wings and fly, above the clutter, into your presence.

There, I find peace.

Blue skies

Runny Noses and Wise Words

I’ve had a rough and wonderful week. The two are mutually exclusive I assure you. The beginning of the week brought good times with good friends followed by sick babies and endless to do lists. Mid-week brought a fabulous evening celebrating my anniversary with my love (and no babies…thank goodness for Nanas and babysitting). 

Then the babies shared, as thoughtful children so often do, and I caught the bug. Hooray! So I’ve spent the latter part of the week, attempting to maintain sanity and restore health to myself, my older kiddos and now the baby man, who incidentally has taken “runny nose” to be code for “bite mama hard every time she nurses you.” 

This morning, I’m up early, drinking coffee between coughs and bites and thinking. There is a certain amount of wisdom that soaks in to the porous mind of a woman in time. None of the wise things I’m thinking have much to do with illness and anniversaries but who can explain how the mind works?

  I’ve decided to share some things I’ve learned over the years with you. most of them, I’m sure you already know. Sometimes a reminder is all we need. 

 1. Feeling bad isn’t always a bad thing.

We have convinced ourselves that we should always feel great and that is a lie. Bad feelings about ones actions can serve to motivate change. The delusion that everything should always be rosy, we should always be happy and free and feel great about us, has caused many addicts and narcissists to remain stuck in a cycle of trying to feel better all the time. What if instead of seeking to feel better, we used the bad feelings to learn and grow and accepted our failings for what they are…part of life, things we will more than likely struggle with again and things that in time we will master if we give ourselves a break and stop trying to be perfect and feel great perpetually? It’s okay to feel bad, brush it off and move on. 

2. Achieving someone else’s standard of beauty will never make you feel beautiful. 

I’ve been there, the crazy eating habits, the excessive exercise. The constant worry that your rear section is too large while your top section is too small. The truth is, a woman’s body changes over the course of her life. Babies, marriage, job changes which bring schedule changes, stress, all of these things will cause body changes. Quit beating yourself up for every imperfection. The only beauty standard that matters is God’s standard. He asks us to take care of our bodies, but that doesn’t mean starve them or make them look like cookie cutter portrayals of what a woman “should” be. That standard will always change with the whim of cultural perception. If you’re seeking affirmation from a man, you won’t ever find beauty. 

3. Relax! 

The bills will get paid, the dishes will get done, the floor will get vacuumed, the kids will grow. You will manage to accomplish everything on that list eventually. In the meantime, chill out and enjoy the ride. 

Odds are, you won’t look back and think about the dishes you left in the sink till morning, but you will look back and think about whether or not you played Barbies with your daughters long enough or the times you could have danced around the living room or thrown a ball for ten minutes with your son. When you blink, they are 16, the Barbie dolls are long gone and you’ve missed the chance. Savor the moments now!

4. Anyone who demands perfection from you, isn’t worth your attention, even if it’s you. 

The bible say we press on toward the mark, the high calling. We are supposed to keep trying…to get back up when we fall down. Maybe we should try to do what Jesus did, and give grace to ourselves and others when we or they don’t get it right every time. 

5. The only way to fail is to quit trying.

 When we keep going, we get better. Practice makes perfect” or more realistically, “practice helps us improve exponentially based on the amount of effort we apply and our innate gifting a and abilities.” You can’t phone in a practice. You have to want it, and go for it. If you do, you will probably encounter a few epic speed bumps along the way. They may make you question yourself and whether you are capable. Get up! Keep trying. It will get better. Trust me. 

I’ve been singing for years. I’ve fallen off the stage. I’ve hit myself in the mouth with the microphone and bloodied my lip while performing. I’ve forgotten lyrics. I’ve forgotten the melody. I’ve started the band out at completely the wrong tempo and had to stop the song and restart it again. I once, accidentally, led an entire choir in a stirring rendition of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to the tune of “Deck the Halls”. Everybody went with it until we hit the “fa-la-la-la-la’s”. Does that make me a failure as an artist? No! I’m still up there going for it. And I’m not too shabby at it and I’m not playing the false humility game that would encourage me to denounce that realization. 

Keep trying at whatever it is. You are the best you there is. Give yourself a break and enjoy the journey. 

 

My Poor Inner Neat Freak

I am a neat freak who is hopelessly trapped inside a messy person’s body. I find myself overcome with the desire to have a beautiful, clutter free home but the ability to keep it in such a state eludes me. This split personality frustrates me more than any other attribute I possess.

In May, we found the perfect, cozy little nest to call our home. It’s in a great location. The yard is great for the kids to play. We love it here and it was a huge upgrade from the tiny apartment we were living in prior to our move! As an added benefit, we live next door to our pastor and his wife. I work for the church and our offices have been located in my pastor’s home while our church was transitioning to a new facility so I can walk across the yard everyday to go to the office. Bonus!

Yesterday, I found myself colliding with my inner perfectionist when my Pastor called and said he had a dining room table we could have to replace the rickety one we had which never did quite fit in our dining area. It was a huge blessing! However, my house was not quite “fit for company”. I worked all day and then went to pick up the kids and rushed home to straighten up only to find out he was on his way at that moment. There was no time. In my frazzled state, my husband made a profound statement that shook me. He said, “It is what it is, why hide how we really live?” I can’t say I was happy with his comment at the time, but the truth is, we do live this way.

I can so easily find myself in a rose-colored world of denial where I run around like a madwoman attempting to hide the things I’d rather not let anyone else see. I can so easily find myself becoming comfortable with the chaos rather than mustering up the motivation to fix it. I can so easily find myself shifting the blame for my mania to those around me with things that are fundamentally true but possessing inherent faulty logic: statements like, “the kids really need to do more to help me around here. I shouldn’t have to do it all myself” which may be true, but I forget to acknowledge that I am responsible for assigning them tasks. I can’t complain that the house isn’t magically clean when I’ve not told them to do anything and I’m fighting in my own strength to stay on top of it as if I were some super ninja of organization. I can so easily find myself making excuses for my negligence (I am so busy, I work, I take care of three children, I’m pregnant and tired etc.).

Even deeper than the dirt and clutter in my home, are the implications these tendencies have in the realm of the soul. Are there areas I don’t want exposed to the world? Are there things in my heart, I’d rather not bother cleaning out, so I stuff them away to be dealt with later? Are there things that come out from time to time that would make me wince when others see them? Do I hesitate at the thought that someone may see “how I really live”?

My goal for this week is to examine myself both inside and out. I know better than to overwhelm myself with trying to conquer all my giants in less than 24 hours. I also know that starting where I am, in all my shortcomings, without beating myself up when I don’t perform up to my own standards, is better than remaining stuck beating my head against the same wall day after day. So today, I will accept where I am and take a step forward. My house won’t be spotless tomorrow and I probably won’t be posing for a write-up in Better Homes and Gardens any time soon. I doubt I’ll be receiving calls from the saints gone on before to tell me what a model of faith and holiness I am, but when all is said and done, no one will be able to say of me, that I didn’t try. That is enough to make me smile and I believe it pleases my Father as well.

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” Colossians 3:23

 

The Correction Connection

I hate that I hate criticism!  I’ve always struggled with this. The smallest of critiques can make my brain shake. I know in my heart it’s ridiculous. I know the truth is that, “Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 12:1. My head & heart have run laps around this mountain for years, but still I sit here in my office fuming over accusations that are trivial in proper proportion, but just the fact that my proficiency has been questioned makes me crazy. The fact of the matter is that I was not created to be fully proficient at everything anyway. Again, I know that, but this awareness does little to still the maddening quakes of my pride.

I’m not proud of this fact, in fact I’m questioning whether or not I’ll actually allow this post to exit my computer & enter the world of the living. I hate that I am proud. I hate that I have flaws; I want to be perfect after all. The sad truth is that the very desire of my heart to be perfect may be one of the most imperfect things about me. I remember being in the fifth grade & crying myself to sleep every night for two weeks because I got a “B” in Science on my report card. I kept that report card for years. There, lost in the middle of the monument to my “smartness” was a lonely little “B”. I realized a few months ago when I came across it in a drawer that I must be crazy for keeping it for 25 years but more so that I must be crazy that instead of taking pride in the accomplishments evidenced by all of the “A’s” staring back at me, I was ashamed of the lonely “B”. I kept this for all those years as a tribute to my perfectionism. Now I seek to kill my perfectionism & start a new desire for excellence without condemnation. With that, I threw the report card in the garbage can.

Why not start memorializing things that I’m actually proud of? No one really cares about what I got on my 5th grade report card anyway. To be honest, what people think about me doesn’t really matter. Whatever good I do, I should be doing for the Lord and not for men to praise me.

Matthew 6:3 “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

Colossians 3:23 “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men”

My greatest accomplishments are the simplest of things, the way I serve the Lord and my family as a wife & a mother, the way I abandon myself in worship and the moments spent in prayer that no one sees. The biggest mystery of all is that the best things are always born from the times I allow myself to decrease. Upon the death of my pride & my selfish nature, I can begin to live and accomplish great things. So why do I let myself get caught up in the criticism of others when I really desire to change from who I am and be changed into the likeness of Christ? 

I can almost see myself, lying down on the altar ready to present myself as a living sacrifice Romans 12 style, then someone questions my Budget calculations and I start kicking and screaming & hurl myself down from the wood and flames ready to fight and defend my math to prove to everyone that I am capable while God sighs, shakes His head and says “I guess we’ll be revisiting this lesson again”. I’m so glad He’s patient with me. It really is laughable that I waste so much time and energy trying to defend myself, when I have the greatest defender whose only requirement is that I do everything unto Him. He will gladly do the rest.

Lord, help me to acknowledge when my pride is trying to rise up & overthrow the village of my soul. Help me to deal with it quickly and stay right where I’m supposed to be, surrendered on the altar of your grace. There is no better way to live. Let me see that correction makes me better. Let me embrace it with an open heart & a willing Spirit. Help me to discern when it is true & I need to change or when it is silly and I need to ignore it, shake it off and move on. God, let me be so focused on YOU that everything else I do and say will be filtered by Your Spirit, then I won’t blow it.