I just want to preface this post by saying, y'all, I am a perfectionist TO THE CORE. I'm not even "Type A" - I'm type every-aspect-of-my-life-revolves-around-the-pursuit-of-perfection.
I also want to start this by announcing that perfection does NOT exist. You know this. I know this. Yet, I still seek it. I crave it. I pursue it. And I'm willing to bet that some of you do too.
If I've been with friends or strangers, in conversation or company, I replay the events and the dialogue in my head later, mining for error on my end.
If I find said "error", I will toss and turn all night, pining for resolution and redemption.
When I'm getting dressed for the day, you better believe I stand in my closet for fifteen minutes or so staring at all of my options, contemplating what pieces of fabric are going to create the perfect ensemble to portray my disposition for the day and the occasion. You also should know that I will most likely change the pieces of this ensemble several times before deciding on an acceptable combination.
When I'm putting on makeup, I will look at my face, and where other people see a normal face with eyes, a nose, and lips, I see wrinkles, freckles, sunspots, and blemishes.
When I write, I rewrite my sentences over and over (sometimes twenty times or more) in search of the PERFECT word choice and arrangement. It takes hours before I'm satisfied.
If I take a selfie, or even a picture of my art, words, food, child, a landscape - whatever - I don't just take one. I take two, or three, or fifteen, before I find one that is acceptable. Okay, fine. maybe fifty. And then I throw a filter on it, just in case.
After I post a blog, a photo, or a status update online, I reread it several times and often end up deleting it, if in it I find some flaw, or perhaps i discover that it reveals too much of my vulnerability.
I self-shame myself for not having a "perfect" body and then I will run miles in the heat, steering a heavy stroller on a sidewalk, trying to look like the young-somethings on the internet who have never birthed babies. Or, even worse, the ones who have and who still look amazing.
I don't miss appointments. I don't miss bill payments.
I've always been an honors student and a star employee. I'm not bragging here- I'm attributing these things to my deep, pleading desire to please. To impress. To portray perfection - despite conflict, with little effort, and dependably. If I make a mistake, a B, or anything along those lines, I internalize it. "You could have done better," I say. When I was working full time as a store manager, nursing an infant, and taking a full load of education coursework, I literally was mad at myself because I ended my post-baccalaureate program with a 3.9 GPA, instead of the 4.0 that was possible. I'm not kidding. I got promoted at my job, my son was healthy and growing, and I completed my degree and practicums ahead of the scheduled time. Yet, I was seriously annoyed at myself for not working hard enough in one class and earning that one B that brought my grade point average down.
Extending Grace was just not an option.
I'm not proud of this. I'm just being honest.
It's funny. I extend grace to EVERYONE about EVERYTHING. Ask anyone who knows me well. I will make excuse after excuse to forgive anyone of any mishaps or shortcomings. But as for myself, I cannot seem to do it.
I'm writing this today because, well, to be honest, I'm just TIRED. I'm not physically tired. I'm not even spiritually or mentally tired. I love my life, the people in it, and what I do. I'm simply tired of carrying around this filled-to-the-brim bucket of responsibility on a balance beam, trying not to let any of it splash out. And, I'm writing this because something tells me that maybe some of you are too.
Let's just get one thing straight here-
PERFECT IS AN ILLUSION.
It is not real. Got it? Yes, you can do some things perfectly, some of the time. Yes, you can be really talented at something. Yes, you can be careful, you can want to look nice, you can try to be a good person. But you and I cannot be all things, to all people, all of the time.
So, we have options. We can spend our lives and time exhausting ourselves, trying to fit all of the molds we think we belong in (don't even get me started on that subject!) and live without mistakes... or we can JUST LET GO.
We can just STOP. We can accept our flaws, our faults, or shortcomings for what they are- the things that make us human. We can allow ourselves to be so busy living and loving our lives freely that we forget about that appointment, skip our workout, or don't look twice in the mirror that day.
Obviously being responsible and taking care of yourself is still good to do. I'm not saying we shouldn't still be awesome (because y'all are awesome, don't ever stop being that!). I am simply suggesting that maybe we should be a little kinder to ourselves when we do need a little bit of grace.
If your best friend said she felt ugly today, you would laugh at her silly faux-loathing and tell her she looked amazing.
If your child got a B in a class, you would reward them for earning a score that was above average.
Why don't we (I) extend that same kind of grace to ourselves (myself)?
I want to live a life that is beautiful in all of its messiness. I don't want a life that just looks pretty on paper. I don't want GPAs, or employee evaluations, or credit scores to define me. I don't want to be so obsessed with having a sparkling clean kitchen that I'm afraid to make a mess creating something wonderful in it. I don't want the most important events of my life to revolve around what I wear to them.
I just want to throw my hands up and say, "Hey girl, it's okay!".
So, here I am today. Resolving to just let go a little.
Go to the beach, eat the cake, have a little fun. play.
I'm resolving to live a life marked by GRACE.
: when my attitude contradicts my message and one whisper from the Holy one turns it all around
On January 26th of this year, God stirred up something that was concurrently old and new in my soul.
Ever since I can remember, I've had the desire in my heart to write a book. Seriously. Even as a child, when I thought about what I wanted to be when I grew up, I couldn't really put my finger on a specific career. I just knew that I wanted to connect with people, I wanted to help people, and I wanted to write books. However, over the years, I pretty much dropped it into my bucket of life "to dos" and left it alone.
I had an abundance of excuses. I didn't know what to write about. I didn't (and still don't!) have a fine arts degree in creative writing! Who am I to think I'm qualified to write a book? So, when God whispered on my heart this past winter to write a book about Humility, my spirit overflowed with eagerness and determination. Humility! This was it! An unqualified writer whose messy life's redemption could only be explained by extravagant grace, writing a book about how God uses the "least of these" for His Kingdom work and glory. Irony, humor, and truth. I reveled in it. For months to follow that initially conceived idea, inspiration continued to pour out unto me and into the pages of my journals and word documents.
After a series of "signs" and "confirmations" that prompted me to write the book Humble, I felt led to register for the 2016 She Speaks conference. She Speaks is an annual conference hosted by Proverbs 31 Ministries that intends to provide direction, practical advice, and networking opportunities for women who feel called to serve God through writing or speaking. They also provide attendees with scheduled meetings with publishers in the industry to pitch their book ideas and to ask questions.
Over the past six months, I have been fully engaged on this writing journey. I have LOVED going fervently after God, asking Him to teach me what it means to be humble, and waiting for Him to give me the words to write. God has not failed me. Pages upon pages flood my notebooks about humility, grace, and our identities in Christ. I have seen the lessons He has been teaching me through His word being reflected in my own life. He has opened my eyes to the honest need for a resurrection of humility and selflessness in the self-seeking culture of modern society. His grace and love have oozed from every corner of this journey. It has all been absolutely, mesmerizingly beautiful and encouraging.
But then, a looming deadline started approaching. The past couple of weeks or so have been hovered over by a sense of restlessness, urgency, and to be honest, anguish - all over preparing this book proposal. Even with all of the thoughts that are swarming in my mind and the tender notes and the lingering inspiration that has been surrounding me, I have been fully unable to just sit and compile all of this into something that resembles an actual book proposal (which in reality looks kind of like a business plan with bits and pieces of good writing thrown in.) I have felt a pressure to spend more time focusing on the business aspects of writing, which includes learning everything I can about book proposals, concept pitches, self-marketing, and the publishing industry. What if they don't like my idea? What if my platform is too weak? What if I meet with these professionals and they think my writing is garbage, or that it is utterly unoriginal? What if this is my only chance and I blow it?
So here I am, the night before the long anticipated conference. I have no book proposal prepared, I just packed my son up for a weekend at his dad's, and I have literally been running around my house trying to catch up on laundry, get every room sparkling clean, and finish any remaining unpacking from our move that might be lingering in corners or closets. Basically anything to avoid actually confronting the actual task at hand.
I had just finished sprawling out three carefully chosen, casual, yet sophisticated outfits across my bed next to an empty suitcase and locating the two fresh boxes of beautifully designed networking cards I had printed especially for this event, when it suddenly occurred to me that my soul, mind, and body were suffering.
And then, there it was. The gentle whisper of the Spirit.
"Have I not commanded you?