Perfect…Just Perfect

IMG_6521A while ago I wrote a blog where I mentioned my expectations of perfection.  At the time it garnered a fair amount of conversation. Apparently, others see this propensity in me as well. And, although I now see it very clearly, I’m still unsure of how to change it because I’m not sure where to draw the line between reasonable and unreasonable expectations.

Because fairly often when one of my children is particularly difficult, I’m pretty sure I lose my marbles for a few minutes…or more. And my marbles can fly and hit other children with a ferocity that shocks me. In those moments, I think, “Well, you definitely aren’t striving for perfection today”…but then I have to ask, “What is the perfect response when things are crazy, chaotic, and overwhelming?  How do I act reasonable when I’m just plain ole worn out?  What is reasonable?”

I’m pretty confident that my words and facial expression and demeanor can seem by no means reasonable.  And I’m more than certain that I do some very imperfect things.

Okay, so I’m not perfect and my actions can be a big disappointment to me, what do I do now?  Because I think maybe this is one thing I need to consider.

When I fail – which is a reasonable expectation because I’m human and pretty tired – what next?  

Isaiah 30:15 For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.

I keep coming back to this verse so I’m camping here for a while.  I have the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers, let’s sit around the campfire and consider this because it’s rich and practical and inspiring.

Israel was always struggling with trusting God…with living well for and with Him. And thankfully for them and us, God always pursues His people. Israel continually put their trust in other nations rather than God.  Always straying off the path. Seeking the answer away from the Answer. Responding in fear and anxiousness.

They needed to let go of their fear and grab hold of faith.  (Did I say “they”?…)

Oh, how I need to hear this myself.  LET GO OF FEAR AND GRAB HOLD OF FAITH. It’s not possible to hold both fear and faith.  

It’s interesting to me how often God assures us there is no reason to fear, that He loves us perfectly, and that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and yet it can be such a challenge to accept this.

I can only speak for myself, but I, like Israel, am continually looking away from God for the thing that will “make everything better”…well, seem better.  And God is continually saying, “Just Me.  All you need is me!”

I want to find the perfect things, be the perfect woman so I can have the perfect life so I can raise the perfect children and be the perfect teacher and have perfect relationships in my perfect little world.  

Yeah…don’t ask how’s that working for me…because clearly it is not.

Isaiah 30:15 uses the word returning.  Returning is a deliberate act of going back to something.  Usually it would be referring to something physical.  What does that look like for me?  Returning to things that encourage me to walk more closely with Him.  Letting go of things that don’t. Saying yes to things that I’m called to do, not just saying yes because there is a need. Taking time to be with Him.

But another version uses repentance instead.  Repentance which means a change of mind…it is a conscious decision to change direction.  To look a different direction.  It is interesting to study word meanings – this one is a bit tricky.  People who know a lot more than me disagree on the actual meaning of this word.  Some say it has to do with regret and shame, some say it is a military term which means “about face”, and some say it has nothing to do with negative feelings, but simply means to rethink something.  It’s fascinating. (English teacher…)

Whatever the word origin, the idea is simply that we change direction and in our case…we turn to God.  It isn’t simply an act of regret…turning in shame.  It is an act of faith…turning in hope. Trusting that God can handle both my mess and my life.

There is certainly the element of rest in that as we turn to Him…allow Him to lead…we can let go of the burden.

When I consider rest, I think about being somewhere quiet, peaceful, and calm.  A place where I can lay myself down, close my eyes, and sleep.  If I can do that, there is no fear involved.  It is a place of safety too.  Resting well involves trusting.  For me, that’s believing that God can handle whatever is going on and I can close my eyes and relax. Trusting that I’m safe..that my children are safe.

This morning I was woken up by one of those sounds that I couldn’t figure out if it was part of a dream or reality.  Unfortunately, the dog woke too (which probably meant he made the sound).  So he and I had a very early morning together – checking doors and such.  He also got a very early walk about the neighborhood (without me…I’m not that brave).  Following our brief very early morning adventure, I decided to try to sleep a bit longer.  I still was a bit concerned for a few reasons…my outside lights wouldn’t come on, I still didn’t know the origin of the noise, and my dog was restless. I tried to rest but it was challenging.  Thoughts swirled through my head….maybe I need a security system, should I put curtains on all the windows so you can’t see in at all, should I get a more solid door in the back, should there be more lights in the backyard???  There was no rest because I didn’t feel entirely safe.

I was definitely feeling a bit restless, like my dog.

When he is restless…he wanders as if he doesn’t know what he needs, what to do, or where to go.  He whimpers a bit and even occasionally will let out a bark.  He can’t sit or lie down for even a moment…he can’t be still.

That’s how I feel I live my life sometimes. Searching for something to fix everything. Unsure of what to do.  Whimpering a bit about my predicament.  Sometimes letting out a bark of annoyance at all the challenges. Unable to be still.  Unable to rest.

The answer to my restlessness, is turning my focus to Jesus.

“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”  Isaiah 26:3

Repenting…turning to Him.

Resting…trusting Him.

My salvation in Him.

But God doesn’t leave me there. He says, “in quietness and trust is your strength.”

Quietness.  Oh that I was a quiet person.  I’m soft spoken (most of the time), but I’ve been told (by my children) I laugh too loud.  That’s probably just because almost everything I do is slightly or completely embarrassing to them…so laughing louder is now my goal LOL!  But I don’t believe that this quietness is the volume of our speaking or laughing, but the volume of our thinking…does that make sense?  Quietness means “undisturbed, calm”.  It is interesting because we use the word disturbed to refer to someone who is not thinking in a healthy way. Spiritually speaking, quietness is Christ-centered thinking.

When He is the center, everything else seems to calmly, gently fall into place.

Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.  Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.  1 Peter 3:3-4

My inner self needs to chill.  My restlessness needs to cease.  My spirit needs to quiet down.

Rest in Jesus.  Rest in the knowledge that He loves me completely, relentlessly.  Be quiet in Him.

It would be very difficult to be quiet in the Lord without trusting Him.  How could quietness be a defining feature of my life without trusting Him?  Simple answer…it can’t. If I don’t trust Him I will be continually trying to turn back around (un-repent), I will be restless in my pursuit of control, I will be disturbed in my thinking and spirit because I have lost my focus, my peace of mind…my peace.

That to me is a weak place to be.  A place where I’m easily wearied, easily frustrated, easily angered, easily hurt, easily confused, easily prone to negative emotions…that is not a healthy, undisturbed, restful place.  

There is no strength without trusting God…without resting quietly in Him.  Without turning my life around to follow after Him.

Following Him, trusting Him, and resting in Him give me the strength I need to live without regret…to believe that each day is a gift, that each burden can be a blessing, that each moment is an opportunity to choose Christ…choose His perfection rather than mine (which clearly isn’t perfect anyway).

Regardless of how I react or act, God still calls to me.  He still reaches across my messiness and pulls me close.  He still offers me rest…security…peace.

I know that I struggle with unreasonable expectations for myself.  I know that I tend to beat myself up…I have the bruises (and blogs) to prove it.  But I want to be different because I certainly don’t want to raise children who place unreasonable expectations on themselves (or others for that matter).  

Feeling like a failure has an element of fear involved.  And a big bit of perfectionism is a tragic attempt to control things that aren’t very controllable. Letting go of those things is hard, but I have hope in my Savior.  His love is relentless.  

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23

My propensity to seeking and expecting perfection cannot be satisfied in my own efforts.  It can only be satisfied in Christ, who is perfection.

His propensity to faithfulness, gentleness, and love is unending even when I fail…He doesn’t beat me up so maybe it’s time I stop too.

He is enough perfect for me.

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Be Encouraged

IMG_1866Everyone has something.

You know that thing. That thing that you feel will never go away. Never be easy. Never be uncomplicated. Never be what you want it to be. Never be overcome.

I have a few somethings.

Some things I can’t figure out what to do about. Some things that baffle me. Some things that trip me up continually. Some things that I can’t figure out how to overcome.

Sometimes I feel like the somethings are not some things but rather my whole life.

Sometimes I feel like it is all one hopeless mess and there is simply no way to get on the other side.

And sometimes the other side scares me too. What if the other side is even more complicated and challenging? This side, albeit not always fun, is comfortable in a weird, familiar slightly twisted sort of way.

It sure is easy to get comfortable in uncomfortableness…why is that?

I’m not talking about content in my circumstances, I’m talking about comfortable in challenging, tempting, and maybe even sinful situations. It can feel like it is easier just to stay…easier to just hunker down in my unhealthiness. It’s hard to be strong.

Recently I found myself saying to a friend, “What does it mean to be strong in the Lord? What does that look like? What is my responsibility in that? Clearly I need to be doing something because nothing is happening right now that looks anything like me living in the strength of the Lord.”

That’s me being a bit of a petulant child and feeling a little hopeless.

That was Friday.

On Sunday, God answered me.

1 John 2:14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

I know that I am neither a father nor a young man, but I am a mother (who sometimes needs to be the father) and I am a relatively young woman (LOL!) so I’m thinking that God had John write that verse for such a time as this, for me.

It reminded me that there is strength in remembering what God has done for me. How He has stepped into my world in ways I couldn’t imagine. Even saying that He stepped in doesn’t do it justice, because that implies that He wasn’t there from the start. He has always been with me. But occasionally His presence is so real and comforting I’m in awe of His love for me.

Strength and comfort come from remembering…from thankfulness and praise for His faithfulness in the past and the understanding that that faithfulness never ends.

And then there are John’s comforting words to the young men (and women),

1. You are strong.

2. The word of God abides in you

3. You have overcome the evil one.

It seems the key to strength lies in His word. In continually abiding in it and it in you. There are a few verses in the Bible that are testimonies to this truth…that the Word of God is power and strength and hope. Things I really would like to have when dealing with some things…well, every thing.

John 8:31-32  If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

2 Timothy 2:15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

Psalm 119:11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119: 28 My soul melts away for sorrow, strengthen me according to your word.

Psalm 119:92 If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.

Psalm 119:165 Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.

“Nothing can make them stumble.”

Nothing.

How lovely, comforting, strengthening.

There are other verses about peace that God brings me to a bunch…

Isaiah 26:3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.

I love those verses. How comforting it is to read the Word of God. To see the layers, the depth, the thoughtfulness of God in His word. To know that God loves me so much…that His mercy is beyond simply a judge offering mercy to an offender…it is the tender mercy of a Father offered to his child. A child who justly deserves no mercy, but receives it every time.

Every single time I come to God asking a questions…every single time…His answer is the gospel.

And every single time He uses His word to remind me.

I am strong.

I am strong because I have the Word of God and I have overcome evil because of Jesus…because of the Gospel.

(So this is the English teacher in me – but it is so cool!)  That sentence in 1 John 2:14 is written in the perfect indicative which means that these things have already happened and that’s a fact. That there is assurance that these are not just things that could happen, but that they are facts, that they have already been accomplished.

So you and I are strong already.

The word of God abides in us already.

We have overcome the evil one already.

And not because of any great accomplishment or strength on our part, but because of the great accomplishment of Christ on the cross and because of the strength of the Lord in our lives.

Jesus is the Overcomer so that I can overcome.

John 16:33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.

There is the assurance of trouble BUT there is also the assurance of peace and overcoming. Yup. That’s pretty much what I need to hear… Trouble will come…don’t be surprised or disheartened by it. Instead, turn to Him who is your peace and be encouraged.

Be encouraged that no matter how crazy this world may be, He has got it.

Be encouraged that no matter how much you struggle and fail, He loves you and He’s got you.

Be encouraged that no matter how hopeless it might seem, He loves you and He’s got a plan.

Be encouraged that no matter how weak you feel, He can handle your life for you. He’s got your strength…it’s there for you.

Be encouraged dear one.

The God who offers his tender mercies to you, the God who calls you his precious child, the God who assures you that you are his treasured possession, bought at great price and dearly loved…this all powerful, all loving, all hope-filled, all merciful, all faithful, all everything God…this Father of ours…He loves you.

He loves you. You…in your messiness, your hopelessness, your weakness, your sinfulness, your doubt, your fear, your anxious thoughts… He loves you.

He. Loves. YOU.

He isn’t waiting for you to do some great, noble, brave task to earn his peace, or his strength, or his love. He just loves you.

1 John 3:1 See what kind of love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.

1 John 3:10; 19 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love because he first loved us.

Psalm 103:8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

I keep looking for ways to overcome, to change, to fix, to redo this life of mine. I keep looking for ways to be comforted, to be strengthened, to be assured…and I’ve very often not looked to the right place. God reminded me today.

This place in His word…this is the place I want to stay. This is the place where my strength is renewed and my hope is restored.

Changing Me

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What if something could change so that I wasn’t so very overwhelmed?

What would it be?

I’m not talking about the things that would make life easier like not having to work, having a nanny and a cook, or receiving a ton of money.  I’m talking about the realistic things.  The things that could actually happen.

Yesterday was one of those days when I wondered if I will ever get to a place where I don’t feel as though my head or my heart could explode at any minute.  My mind swirls and my heart pounds and I just want to get past it all.  I just want to get to a different place.  A peaceful place.

I don’t want to get rid of children, move (Ugh – no more moving!), or significantly change my life…I want to change myself.

I’m wondering if it is possible for me to change myself.  I mean really change myself.  I can make some changes to get healthier, set a better schedule, get organized, and make better choices in other areas…but can I really and truly change who I am?

My circumstances have impacted the woman I am.  After my husband left I became a more focused, peaceful woman even in the midst of the chaos that was my life.  Then I became a stressed-out single working mom.  I waffle between those two a lot.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve finally caught that perfect peace only to find that it has escaped my grasp again.  Once again I’m a jaw-clenching crazy woman .

This past weekend there was a difficult moment with one of my children (who will not be named).  I was angry, frustrated, and tired.  My middle son said, “Momma, your jaw is clenched.  You need to stop doing that.  It isn’t good for you.”

He was right.

It was clenched.

He is right.

It isn’t good for me.  Or anyone else in my vicinity.

It means I’ve let go of peace and grabbed hold of overwhelmed.

Why do I go there?  How do I not?  I honestly don’t know.  Well, I do know why I go there…I’m tired and for the life of me I can’t figure out how to get five things crossed off my to-do list before ten more things are added.

I keep saying, “This is the day!  This is the day I get all these things done!”

Inevitably, something comes up to ruin my plan.  Why, Lord?  Why can’t one day be SUPER productive?

Just. One. Day.

But there are other people in my mix…other people who have and need things…soccer practice, summer school, fitness training, job interviews, school preparations, dentists, doctors, chiropractors, ophthalmologists, house repairs, errands (I. Hate. Errands.), and enumerable other little things that disrupt my well-planned day.

But it really isn’t just about not getting things done.  It’s about me.  It’s about how I respond to disappointments and disappointing others.

Oh how I can’t stand to disappoint people…to let someone down…to make someone angry.  I know we would probably all like to avoid disappointing or angering others, but I wonder if this is way too big an issue for me.

Every dirty look from one of my teenagers makes my heart hurt.

I have friends who I have disappointed because I can’t find time to visit or I’m not doing things the way they think I should…and I hear their disappointment and frustration with me.  Sometimes I understand it, sometimes I don’t.  It almost makes me feel worse when I don’t.

I feel frantic to understand what I did wrong…because often I don’t even know.  I feel like I’m running in circles to please, take care of, and love on everyone…but it never seems to be enough.

And lately I feel like no matter how hard I try, I always have someone irritated, angry, or disappointed with me.

It’s exhausting.

People-pleasing is a bummer.

I want to be a God-pleaser.

I don’t want to worry about what other people think of me…and I don’t want to worry about other people leaving me…and I don’t want to worry about making everyone under the sun happy.

In the process of all that worry and work, I’m losing myself…wrecking myself.  Last night, I got all weird in the head and started worring that I might actually make myself pretty sick from all this craziness.

It can’t be good for my health…all this worry and anxiety.

So what is the thing or things that are going to change?  How am I going to become the woman of peace I want to be?

“He will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD himself, is the Rock eternal.”  Isaiah 26:3-4

I come back to this verse a lot.  I believe God wants me to make it my life verse.

The Recipe for Peace:

A mind focused on Christ

Trust

A God who is my eternal Rock of refuge

A focused mind.  God continually reminds me that my eyes need to be fixed on Him.  How often I’m like Peter walking on the water…eyes on Jesus…then the lightening crashes and the thunder booms and a wave crashes over my toes and my eyes dart to the storm clouds…I look back to the boat and wonder how fast I can run back before I sink…

All the while, RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME, is the answer to my fear…the answer to my need.

Jesus.

He is there.  His eyes never leave me.  He never turns His gaze away from me.

I doubt life will calm down anytime soon – if it does, that’d be awesome! – but, again, doubtful.

Looking to and at Him seems to be the answer to all the questions.

Me changing me?  Probably not going to happen without my focus changing from anxious, overwhelmed, fussy me looking at all the things and people in my life to calm, peaceful, content me looking at Jesus.

Do not be anxious about anything but in everything through prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

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Snoozing Times Four

Get Up

Today I pushed snooze 4 times and then took a 2 hour nap in the afternoon.  I woke with a throbbing headache.  Not a stellar day…

On top of that I’ve been trying to give up my coca-cola addiction and I completely fell off the bandwagon.  Ugh. 

Although I do have to say, I completely enjoyed my ice cold Coke!  Yummy!

I think life is catching up with me.  I’m soooo tired…even the caffeine from my soda fix did not relieve the exhaustion! Or the headache.

Sometimes thoughts can cause so much pressure in my head.  I believe that is the source of my headache…too many thoughts.

I’ve often said that I overthink things…I don’t believe I’m overthinking at this point.  I think there are too many thoughts in my head to overthink them…I can’t even begin to address them all. 
How do I effectively deal with all I need to deal with when my head is in such tumult?

The verse that has come to mind most often lately is:

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.  Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD God is an everlasting rock.  Isaiah 26:3-4

I just love these verses!  Perfect peace – how could I not want that? 

Perfect?  I can’t even wrap my brain around that…one of my favorite verses is:

The fear of the LORD leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble.  Proverbs 19:23

I do not believe that God is saying that we will have a life without trouble because He tells us in John 16:33

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

I do believe that regardless of the trouble we encounter in our lives, we will be untouched at our core. I will have peace because I trust Him despite and through the storm.

We will have a life of peace…perfect peace…despite the trouble because we have the Lord. 

If my focus is on Jesus not my circumstances my life is so much better.  If my mind is stayed on Him I am not overwhelmed by difficulties. 

It reminds me of Peter walking on the water…as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus he was actually walking on the water.  It was only when he took his eyes away and looked at the waves that he began to sink. 

I want to keep my mind stayed on Jesus.  I want to keep my focus on Him mentally, emotionally and spiritually with a laser-like focus…I want to settle down and be with Him.  I want to reside in His presence not just visit for a moment.  I want to dwell with Him. 

With Him, is peace.  With Him, is rest.  With Him, is hope for today and hope for tomorrow.

My hope for tomorrow is that I don’t hit that blasted snooze button so many times and that it is a headache-free day! 

But I’m choosing to focus on Him anyway so snooze or no snooze, I’m looking forward to tomorrow.