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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Love, Rest, and Sickness…In No Particular Order

IMG_2900Today is my first sick day for me in a few years.

I’ve done sick days for children and sick days for parents, but not for me.

I slept a lot and sat a lot…well, actually I was more lying down a lot.

And all the stillness…it was glorious.

I haven’t been still for….for forever.

Even this past Saturday when this whole illness thing began, I couldn’t seem to sit still except for a few minutes to regain some strength before I began another task.

I knew I should rest…had I rested I probably wouldn’t be lying here right now.  Who knows?

My room is a tad messy…actually my house is tad messy.  And my nightstand is littered with tissues, tea cups, glasses of water, an ibuprofen bottle, cold medicine bottles, and the usual pens, journals, and piles of books.

That’s quite an impressive list considering it isn’t that big a nightstand!

Although it was supposed to be a rainy day, the sun is shining through the clouds and into my bedroom.  I love it.

My classroom has no windows and I miss the sky so much during the day.

This is a beautiful treat.

I just wish I had some energy.

This is a weird sick for me.  Usually I can push through and still accomplish things…not happily or quickly, but nonetheless I’m still checking things off the list.

This thing…ugh.  This one has hit me like a truck…loaded with bricks…and maybe a few cinderblocks.

I guess it isn’t a shock.  I’ve been going at warp speed for so long – fuel is bound to run out at some point.

I keep thinking tomorrow I’ll feel better.  Tomorrow is the day when my head clears and my energy starts returning.

Yeah nope.

So what is God’s plan for me right now?  This day?

I’m always wondering that.

God, what do you want me to do right here?

Other than sleep.

Which I am happy to do by the way.

But I have only a few more minutes before my little minions arrive and all the quiet is gone and the activity begins whether I want it to or not.

I guess…maybe this is the opportunity I’ve wanted… to just be still with my people.

As much as I plan on that, I don’t ever EVER make the time for it.

I’ll sit down for like 5 minutes but then I’m jumping back up again for something…goodness knows what!

Today, I got nothing to jump up for.  In fact, I think I might just request a meal delivery and sit on the sofa with my littles.

Oh…I say that but it is going to be difficult.

Why is it so very difficult to rest?  Why is it so difficult to be still?

I think I have an issue with control.

I want things to be orderly, organized, peaceful, and controlled…by me.

Those are the words that trip me up …. By me

I’m pretty sure those aren’t the words I’m supposed to be relying on.

I just want things to be beautiful for us…you know?

Why can’t I just get things beautiful…for more than a few minutes?

I’m reading a book about idols in our lives…ugh.  I really like it, but ugh.

I mean I like that I feel like it is dealing with some serious stuff that I need to face…but ugh…the serious stuff is idols.

I hate idols.

One of mine is control.  A sweet young lady was sharing with me about how God has revealed her idols of comfort and control and I thought, “This woman is awesome!  I’m like 40-something 😊 and I’m still trying to figure out what makes me tick and tock and fall.”

I prayed fervently before my phone call with this dear one that I’d be an encouragement to her…and God turned it around and had her encourage me.

Not in the way that I imagined.  It’s never awesome to have idols revealed…but actually maybe it is…

It is why I’m reading this book.  To figure out what in the world I’m worshiping in my life other than God.

To figure out why I struggle with what I struggle with…you know?

And God in his infinite kindness has confirmed what he has been revealing slowly to me….I want comfort and I want control.

I want the comfort of others, the comfort of a peaceful, orderly space, and the comfort of knowing I have control of it all.

And unfortunately I can be a mean, grumpy sinner in the process of pursing those idols.

I can also occasionally despair of ever overcoming.

One of my dearest friends wants to discuss the difference between victory and obedience.

I do understand that I’m called to a life of obedience, but I really do want victory…just saying.

I’m tired of the struggles.  I want to move on already.

Then there is a little part of me that wonders if the next thing I struggle with will be worse and I get all freaked out…I’m a mess.

Do I believe God is good or not?  I keep having to ask myself that when I get those crazy thoughts.

I do believe He is good.  And I do believe that He calls me to obedience.

He also calls me to repentance and rest.

I love this verse.

In returning and rest you shall be saved,

in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. 

Isaiah 30:15

Returning

Rest

Quietness

Trust

Returning…have I gone away and need to come back?  Yes.  Daily.

Daily I turn to my own thing, my own issues, my own solutions, and my own stress.

I’m the little girl who packed up her bags and stomped out the door ready to run away from papa and find a better life, only to see the darkness coming and the shadows lengthening.   I’m that same little girl hightailing it home to the welcoming arms of my loving father.

I’ve been the parent in that scenario…I’ve watched one of my sweet little babies pack a backpack and head out into the night – only to make it to the bottom of the driveway before running back home.   And how I longed for that embrace even though it was such a short trip down the driveway.

God longs for us to return to his embrace and rest there.  Rest in the arms of our Father.   It is quiet there.  We can trust His care.

Oh how I need that visual right now.  What a blessed reminder to me of the safety of His care.

Especially as I lie here feeling very weak, tired, and sick.

In each day, God has a plan.  It might be a plan for great productivity.  It might be a plan for rest.  It might be a plan just to be where He has me without complaint or concern or control.

My prayer is that wherever God has me, I’m resting in the knowledge that He loves me.

He loves me.

Me.

Sometimes that just hits me.  I say it a lot, but sometimes….sometimes it rocks my world.

It just did as I typed that.

He loves ME.

Me…with all my flaws, failures, faithlessness, frustrations, and fears.

Me…with all my control, complaints, crisis, and cares.

Me…just me.

No matter what…no matter where I am…no matter what I’m doing or not doing…no matter how I feel…no matter what I accomplish or don’t accomplish…no matter my successes or my failures…no matter how I love him back.

He loves me.

Thank you God…I needed that.

I need that.

I need to understand that deeper than I have in a long while.

How deep the Father’s love for us, how vast beyond all measure

that He should give His only Son to make a wretch His treasure.”

(Stuart Townend)

The Most Important

trampoline picAs I’ve been preparing for my talk at the MomLife Bootcamp this weekend, I was once again reminded that my life is not conducive to completing projects in a timely and organized manner.

I used to be an organized person…or at least I used to be able to appear like an organized person.

In my pre-mommy life I was a conference planner, but that was before 5 other people could mess with my schedule, my to-do list, and my sanity.

I really am a planner at heart. I really want to be that organized, put together, getterdone, check things off my list kinda gal. But I always seem to be waylaid.

I’d like to be able to accomplish SOMETHING! Anything!!!

There is always something that sneaks up and changes the dynamics of my day. I’ve said before that I feel like I’m always flying by the seat of my pants because my best-laid plans are for naught most days.

Spontaneity is great for a night out but not as a way of life.

I’m wondering if maybe putting a little bit less on my to-do list would be helpful…then maybe I could end the day without feeling disappointed.
I have a friend who says, “Do a little, do it well.” I think I’m more “Do a lot, do it okay.” Or “Try to do a lot. Find you can’t. Then beat yourself up about it.”

Yeah that’s me.

My kids want me…just me. Not me and a perfect house…you can’t have any fun in a perfect house anyway.

There are a lot of sayings about a messy house being a happy home. I get the idea to a point but a little order is good…right? I think the key is finding balance, understanding my priorities, relaxing.

Maybe relaxing some of our expectations…the reasonable ones and the unreasonable ones.

Honestly, we all probably need to relax in general. I know…show me how, when and where and I’m there.

As much as I wish relaxing was a glass of sweet tea, a good book and a hammock…mine is more sitting on the grass watching my son’s soccer game, putting aside my work to enjoy my daughters riding bikes in the culdesac, or sharing the sofa with 3 or more children to watch a movie.

In some ways maybe it’s an attitude.

Choosing not to stress about the stuff we can’t fix and maybe even the stuff we can.

Now that’s a God-sized task to be sure! But I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Phil 4:13) There is also this lovely verse, ‘In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” (Isaiah 30:15)

I think it’s okay to be still and quiet and rest.

Okay, so how are we gonna do this rest thing?

I’ve been trying to figure it out for days, months…years.

When was the last time I felt rested, calm, and strong? Actually I do remember a time.

It was right after my husband announced he wanted to leave. Those months of anguish were also months of profound peace and calm. I believe it was solely because I was saturated with Scripture. I also had a clarity about what was important. And it wasn’t accomplishing great things nor was it a clean house or work completed. It was and always will be my children.

Tonight my children asked if they could all go jump on the trampoline. It was close to bedtime, but I wanted to work a little bit longer on my talk, so I said, “Ok, just 10 minutes.” As I sat near the window listening to my children laughing and playing, I couldn’t stop thinking that I wanted to be out there with them. I just had to put my stuff aside.

When I walked out barefoot ready to jump, my kids all asked, rather incredulously, “Momma, are you going to jump with us?” I cannot tell you how thankful I was that God had prompted me to put aside the important for the most important.

I guess it’s rather simple, isn’t it? Soaking up the scripture and pouring into our children. That’s not too much to organize! I might be able to do that!
I know that there is much more to it than that…living this single parent life is so difficult and overwhelming at times. But maybe we need to take our eyes off of all the craziness and focus on Christ and put aside the to-do list and focus on the people in our lives. Maybe we can stop trying so hard to do so much and we can just be for a bit.

Be in prayer. Be in the Word. Be with our people.

God’s got this. He’s got our. He’s got us.

He’s even got this silly talk I can’t seem to get my head around. I’m so thankful.

Still not organized…but thankful.