Tag Archives: perfectionism

Confusing Righteousness With Perfection

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The other night I was praying over my kids as they slept. A passionate prayer for the growing and deepening of their faith, and for the protection of their eyes, ears, hearts and minds in this world so full of darkness and lies that sound like truth. When I finished, the second half of James 5:16 came to mind – “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” No sooner did I think of that verse then another thought replaced it, “Well, not that I’m righteous.” It was that voice that whispers, “Don’t get too big for your britches.” “Don’t be proud and think you’re so good you deserve to be labeled righteous.” “Maybe you’re not righteous enough for your prayers to be really powerful or effective.” Ah, that last one is the crux. And the gut level response… doubt. Thankfully at that moment a different voice spoke, and I felt the Spirit of God say, “That’s the lie you’re believing and it robs you of your power. You are righteous because the blood of Jesus has made you righteous.”

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I realized that I have been confusing righteousness with perfection, and believing that in order to be righteous, I must behave and perform perfectly. To acknowledge that I fall far short of perfection, not in a self-flogging kind of way, but in a realistic accepting-of-my-limitations kind of way, is humble. I am human and flawed and I accept that I am not perfect. My righteousness, however, does not hinge on my performance, but on my willingness to surrender my life to Christ and accept the atonement that He offers me through His blood. It’s actually HIS righteousness that covers me. One definition of righteousness according to Merriam-Webster is: acting in accord with divine or moral law: free from guilt or sin. Jesus is the only person to ever walk this earth who was free from guilt or sin, but the amazing thing is that He offers to wash away our guilt and sin with His blood so that we may be restored to righteousness.

The truth is that believing we are righteous is not pride. God wants us to stand in that power. His Son died so that we could be offered His power, authority, and righteousness. To look at that offered gift that cost Him so much, and say, “Oh no, I couldn’t.” isn’t humility, it’s actually a painful rejection of Him and what He did for us. I need to claim and own that I am righteous. It’s true that I’m not in and of myself and my own virtue. But by His grace I am righteous, and He doesn’t want me to shrink back from that. He wants me to go and to be powerful and effective.

 

Expectations: Thieves of Joy – Becoming a ‘No Regrets Mommy’

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The movie credits start rolling. It’s 30 minutes past their bedtime, so I tell the kids to get ready for bed quickly. I give them 10 minutes to get in bed, and then I’ll sing them each a song. I even simplify what “getting ready” entails by requiring only going potty and brushing teeth. They can sleep in their clothes if they want, and let the cavities grow between their teeth where only floss can reach. I finally feel a “good mommy” high, and I don’t want anything to spoil it. We just sat cuddled on the couch with pizza and popcorn, and watched the latest animated flick. I want these precious memories to be the only thing running through our minds as we drift off to sleep.

Now any of you out there who are parents of young children, or ever have been and haven’t yet blocked that reality out of your memory, probably know what happens next. Child #1 decides it takes 40 minutes to go to the bathroom, you know because she “had to poop,” and “No, she’s not finished yet.” This process by the way looks a lot like day dreaming and playing as much as one physically can play while sitting on the toilet. While I’m trying to remain patient with the marathon bathroomer, Child #2 is upstairs “getting ready.”  I decide to check on Child #2’s progress. Should be done and waiting angelically in bed to be tucked in and sung to by now. Of course, I actually find him sitting on the bathroom floor playing with one of the bath toys. As I get closer to the doorway, I can see that the counter is flooded with water and the mirror (that I just cleaned today) is covered in wet, swirled, hand prints.

“What. Are. You. Dooooing?!” I ask.

“I don’t know.”

“Have you gone potty?”

“No.”

“Have you brushed your teeth?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know. I’ll do it right now.”

“Where is your toothbrush?”

To this he points. My gaze follows the direction of his pointing finger. Then I see it. Ah, yes, of course, in the Q-Tip jar. Why wouldn’t someone put their toothbrush…loaded with toothpaste…in the Q-Tip jar?! My fingers massage my temples. Needless to say, neither of them earned their song, and both went to bed in tears.

I retreated to the couch and sunk down completely deflated. The evening felt totally spoiled. The bedtime fiasco somehow felt like it had canceled out all of the positives from the evening. Surely they would only remember the negative feelings from the very end of the night. As I sat there angry, sad, and demoralized I started to realize how crazy it was for me to believe that everything would always go perfectly, and that good experiences are pointless if they are punctuated with challenges. The more I reflected on the evening, and on motherhood in general, the more I realized that my expectations were keeping me from fully experiencing joy and contentment as a mom.

Toothpaste on Qtips

It’s everywhere, bombarding us everyday; the message that we’re not enjoying our children enough, that we’re not cherishing them enough. It may be a well-meaning empty nester at the grocery store reminding us to enjoy every moment because they grow up so fast. How about all of the catchy little signs and poems on Pinterest about how babies don’t keep, and how we should play more and clean less. I don’t know about you, but often instead of feeling inspired by these statements, I feel panicky and frantic. “I’m missing it!” “Did I enjoy this last year enough?” “I wish I had done XYZ better, and now I can’t get the time back!” I make resolute goals to be present in the moment and to enjoy my precious babies as much as possible each and every day. I carry weighty burdens of regret for childhood moments lost in the past of this fast track called life. And as I sat there on the couch wallowing in regret once again, it hit me – I haven’t missed it. I’ve been there everyday. It’s just that those days didn’t look how I thought they’d look, or how I thought they should look. Instead, they looked like real life, and the reality of “real life” left me wanting a do-over. Maybe on a second time around things would turn out the way I expected them to. Nope, they never would. Why? Because my children aren’t a photoshopped picture in a magazine; they are real, mini-human beings. And I’m not super mom, I’m just the best mom I can be, which unfortunately is a mom who is cranky sometimes, and who doesn’t get half her to-do list done most days, and who is too tired and overwhelmed to want to play Connect Four right now.

I feel like I’m failing or that another year has zipped on by, and I didn’t do half of the things I had intended to do. The truth is, I did do a lot of things I intended, they just didn’t play out the way I thought they would. All that fun I thought we’d have making cupcakes… they lost interest after cracking one egg and stirring the bowl three times. Mom ended up making the cupcakes alone while the kids scampered off to play. How about that first trip to the zoo? I was so excited to see their reaction to the lions and giraffes. Of course, the lions were sleeping where we couldn’t see them, and the kids couldn’t care less about the other animals I thought they’d love. “Look! A polar bear!” I’d say. They barely gave a sideways glance before focusing their attention on the giant rainbow lollipop they just had to have. Sticky hands, face, hair, legs, and stroller combined with heat, humidity, and exhausted, sweaty parents made the day feel like an epic failure. I’d thought we’d all leave smiling and refreshed from our day out, not all in desperate need of a nap and a bath! We accomplished the family trip to the zoo, but since it didn’t go how I had expected, it’s almost like it didn’t count. It’s still on the mental checklist until we “get it right”. No wonder I feel like I’m not doing all the things I want to do with my kids while they’re little!

It doesn’t matter what we do, or where we go, things rarely turn out the way I envision they will. Instead they turn out alarmingly…real. I don’t need a do-over, or to wallow in regret. What I need is to learn to release my expectations, and embrace reality. Reality doesn’t leave us feeling warm and fuzzy and completely satisfied all the time. Reality is potty training, messes, germs, disciplining the same behavior over and over, and never getting through a day without someone ending up in tears over some silly thing. Reality is that if I look back at what I was juggling in life with my health and the everyday trials of mothering, I see that I really did do my best, and enjoy the years that have passed as much as I possibly could. It’s not that my priorities were out of whack, or that the experiences we had weren’t valuable to their childhood. I just need to take off the glasses of unfulfilled expectations of perfection that I’ve been viewing everything through, and give myself and my kids a little grace.

Looking back through the year’s photos, I realized that snapshots of our life made it look pretty idyllic. If I just posted all of these to Facebook, it certainly looks like we’re living the fairy tale life and loving our cupcake making and trips to the zoo. One smiling photo doesn’t capture the full experience though – the good with the bad and the ugly. What I’m saying is don’t be fooled into thinking that everyone is doing it better than you just because their Facebook albums look so perfect. You’re not failing. You’ve just found yourself in the midst of a real life. A real life that is uniquely yours and your family’s, and that doesn’t look exactly like anyone else’s. How cool is that?

Feeling regret about the past can only make it more difficult for us to be truly present and joyful in our current stage of life. Each stage has its joys and challenges. Life is a balance. Part of that balance is the business of life like cleaning and grocery shopping and cooking dinner. Moms know death and taxes are not the only certain things in life; add never ending laundry and dishes to that list! We can’t edit out the mundane, and the time and energy draining aspects of life, and somehow spend every waking hour truly enjoying playing with our kids. Perpetuating the idea that such a reality exists is a huge disservice to moms everywhere. The true reality is that we juggle and we work for balance the best we can, and some days are better than others. It’s normal and ok to get a little misty-eyed when remembering our favorite moments from past stages. I do miss rocking my babies, but I’m also happy to have moved on from dirty diapers and sleepless nights. I love how much more independent my kids are at this stage. It actually makes them more fun! I don’t need to pine for the past. I can move forward with each new stage and enjoy it’s highs, and be happy when its lows pass as time moves forward. I can also realize that those good intentioned empty nesters are simply remembering the sweet, misty-eyed moments, and making friendly conversation by eluding to all of the joys hidden in the messiness of mothering. They are simply offering a loving reminder that while this journey is fraught with trials, when it’s all said and done we can look back with a heart full of imperfect, yet precious memories.

I’m sure I’ll never be perfect at letting go of all mommy guilt and anxiety. That’s just another expectation of perfection that I need to relinquish. But I can keep on reminding myself when I get caught in the trap that it’s unrealistic expectations that really have me down. I can remember to look for the beauty in reality and learn to enjoy this journey despite its flaws. Flaws don’t make it a failure, they just make it authentic.

Remember my family’s “ruined” movie night? The next morning I heard my kids talking about how great our pizza and movie night was. No mention of going to bed in tears.  Oh, and they ask to go to zoo all the time because they love it so much. See, they really are making great memories! The trials don’t nullify the good. Perfection may be easily ruined, but this real, messy life of ours is beautiful in its authenticity. No regrets. Just grace.

All I Need

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We all have excuses for why we feel we can’t be or do everything we would like. For me, this excuse has often been the fact that I have a chronic illness. In times when my illness is flared, I feel like it prevents me from doing anything well. It is true that sometimes I am so ill I can barely do anything at all, but other times I am just more tired, and in general more drained. I find it difficult to be patient with my children, and I don’t engage with them the way I wish I did. The house is perpetually a disaster because I don’t have the energy to keep up. I’m leery about volunteering to participate in any activities not already on my calendar because I’m not sure I’ll be feeling up for it by the time the date comes around.

God recently gave me a very simple revelation. I was in a time of flare with my illness, and very frustrated with my condition. I was talking to God about my frustration, and my general thought process was this, “I don’t understand why You haven’t healed me. I can’t be the mother, the wife, or the woman I’m supposed to be when I am not well. If I were healthy I could do such a better job. I need You to take this away, so I can be who You want me to be.” I thought it was a pretty convincing argument. I have all of these roles to play that God has given me, and in order to fill these roles in a manner worthy of the One who has called me to them, I must perform with excellence. Sometimes I don’t feel like I have the energy for excellence, just mediocrity.

Needless to say, I was surprised by the answer I heard Him whispering back. “I have given you everything you need to be all that I have called you to be. If you don’t have health, you don’t need it. You might want it, but you don’t need it. You can be everything I require of you right now, with what you have right now.”

Photo by:  LadyDragonflyCC->;<

Photo by: LadyDragonflyCC->;<

I can’t tell you the impact this revelation has had on my perspective. I always assumed that since God is perfect, nothing less than perfection could ever be truly acceptable to offer Him. Well, I can tell you, hearing Him tell me I can be the mother I am supposed to be with what I have meant that, even to God, there is such a thing as “good enough”. If I stop making excuses and do the best I can do with the energy I have, at the end of the day, it will be good enough, and God’s grace will take all of my shortcomings and failings and somehow work them together for good. He will fill in the cracks and gaps where I fall short. He might use other people and their strengths. He might simply use those shortcomings and gaps to build the character that He wants into my children, and prepare them to live their own callings in an imperfect world. Bottom line, not all of our blunders have to be failures. In our weakness, His power is made perfect.

What is your excuse? Do you not have enough energy, money, health, or time? God promises that He will provide for all of our needs. So often, we confuse needs and wants. We have a tendency to be the type of people who pack two suitcases and four pairs of shoes for a weekend trip. We like being overly prepared. God wants us to rely on Him, yet we want the reassurance that we are fully equipped and prepared before stepping out in doing anything. So my encouragement to you is, if you feel God calling you to something, step out. You may not feel like you have everything you need, but you do, or at least you will, when you need it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

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Making Peace With Cycles

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Everything in life is cyclical. In fact, God seems to have designed almost everything this way from the cycles of day and night, to the waxing and waning of the moon, tides, seasons, and the list goes on. Did you ever think that there couldn’t be mountains if there were not also valleys? Ups and downs, ebbs and flows are the nature that He created.

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© Maxironwas, Stock Free Images

When it comes to my life, my mood, and my strength, I often forget that cycles are a part of almost every aspect of my life as well. I’ve found myself surprised by, and frankly, disappointed by my cyclical habits. I toggle between hope and despair, beating the pavement one week and utterly weary the next, fully trusting and then suddenly doubting, contentment and discontentment, patience and impatience.

The problem, I find, is that I expect myself to be able to reach the highest standard on a consistent and unwavering basis. (Yes, this is also called perfectionism.) I feel justified, however, in my harsh condemnation of myself because aren’t the negative sides of all of those cycles somehow un-Biblical? As a Christian, I should NEVER depair, be weary, doubt, be discontent, or be impatient. I can easily provide several scripture verses to support how through faith and the Holy Spirit we are to rise above those things. Yet tried I have, in vain. Prayed and studied and prayed some more… The cycles still remain.

What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stay on top of my game? Why can’t I muster enough faith, enough energy, enough patience, enough (fill in the blank)? Why do I always inevitably have days where I feel completely defeated and downtrodden? Why? ….Because that’s life. And life is real. We don’t want it to be. We want it to be like a perfectly crafted story; a dream we can envision in our mind’s eye. We want Eden. But that is not our world and that is not our broken, human selves. Life is real, and real is hard.

So what now? Do we cash in the dream? Well, yes and no. I do believe the Bible is completely true, and that God molds and refines us and makes us more like His image. But if God is pure gold then we are mud pies that He is shaping to look more like Himself. The rain comes, we get soggy and messy and He needs to push and knead us back into shape. No matter how good we look, we are still mud, and He knows we are mud. Maybe that’s why His grace for us is so abounding. The problem is that we believe we are fully capable of being gold ourselves and, therefore, we don’t give ourselves grace, and often we won’t even receive it from Him. We hate our muddy selves, and we think He must be terribly disappointed in us also.

I’ve started to think, that maybe, just maybe, God can handle my weakness. He can take it when doubt creeps in and when I lose my cool. He has compassion on my despair and my weariness. He knows I need Him.

I will not stop trying to be worthy of the calling and adoption He has given me, and I will forever hope that my life displays the fruits of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). What I will try to change is my unrealistic expectation that I will succeed in those attempts every day and every hour of my life. I will give myself grace knowing that I’m mud striving to imitate gold. I’ll try to make peace with the fact that I’m broken, and instead of whipping myself for being weak, I’ll say it’s okay because I’ve got a God who’s strong enough to compensate, and I’ll just lean a little more into Him.

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