Many years ago, I was visiting my grandmother in the home where she was being taken care of for advanced-stage Alzheimer’s. By this time, she was withdrawn, had zero short term memory, and didn’t know who anyone was. At one point of the visit, our mostly one-sided conversation lulled and to fill empty space, I said with a sigh, “Well?” In an extremely rare ‘sharp as a tack’ moment, she stoically and cleverly replied, “Deep hole in the ground.” My eyes widened, I chuckled, and wondered how in the world that bubbled to the top for her.
Category Archives: brave
“Must be on the front row!” … My husband has said that phrase often over the years. He usually says it when someone is hogging the highway or he feels entitled in some way. It actually comes from a Bob Uecker/Miller Lite commercial. Haha! Probably a bit strange to use a beer commercial for an inspirational blog post, huh?
In putting this piece together on my favorite quotes, I thought, “This should be easy. I have SO many good quotes to choose from!” Then I thought, “This is going to be hard. I have SO many good quotes to choose from!!”
Your Saturday might be used for any number of things but here at EPFH, Saturday is for sharing.
I know this topic is not original among bloggers and authors out there. I’m not even going to tell you what you’ve probably already read a million times. I’ll just tell you what I think about this from my perspective, from my story, and hope it doesn’t add to the noise but rather that it enlightens someone who might need my words, my heart, to bring truth to your story as God is using it to bring truth to mine.
I’m reading Lysa TerKeurst’s book, The Best Yes. I’ve mentioned that in a previous post, I think. I’m also going through the study with about 70 women from our church. I arrived at the study this week, parked my car strategically for a hasty exit should I need one, and sat in the parking lot for about 10 minutes watching the women file in. Some alone. Some with friends. But pretty much all of them seemed happy to be there. Those 10 minutes for me were spent mustering up the courage to open my car door.
Maybe some of the other women did the same thing. Who knows. But because I’m a grown up and I know how to do grown up things, I put my big girl panties on and opened my door and walked into a building with about 70 other women all seeming happy to be there and chatting with one another. What holds me back more often than not is being found out. Someone figuring out what a mess I really am. Someone noticing that I am not perfect and worse, me facing the reality that I am not perfect. I don’t tell you this to feel sorry for me. I tell you this, all of this, as an emptying of myself in hopes that it will fill someone else, That in my telling, someone else might be able to muster the courage to put their big girl panties on their imperfect self, grab the door handle, breathe deep and go.
I’m not a newbie to large group bible studies. I’ve led them, participated in them, written them, taught them, you name it. But it seems like over the last several years fear has enveloped me in a way I couldn’t pin point each time I tried to get involved in a bible study group. The courage and sheer will of all I could muster would get me there but nothing could keep me there.
This past Tuesday at the study, I’ve actually made it 3 weeks in a row!, I sat on what I thought would be the back row of a grouping of round tables. Well, wouldn’t you know that the facilitator came and sat right. by. me. This means that all eyes would be on her and thus, all eyes would be on me unless they had zero peripheral vision. Ugh… I’m convinced God has a sick sense of humor. I say that in all reverence. haha! But isn’t it just like Him to know right where we are and do whatever it takes to not let us stay there?
Tuesday’s lesson was about “showing up to practice”. The way to be a wise woman is to practice being wise. One of the questions was about perfectionism. I don’t remember exactly how it was worded, but it made me think about my own history of perfectionism. Why did I feel this way. Why is perfectionism an issue for me? I have no clue why so much is written about perfectionism and we know well the lie that it is, but we continue to live in it. Perfectionism is unattainable. It sets us up for failure all. day. long. It is so unfair to expect perfection of ourselves or others, yet we do it all. day. long.
The question or statement up for discussion was something about hindrances that we face in practicing wisdom. I spoke up to the group, which is as rare a cold day in July. Actual words with sound came out of my mouth sharing that although some people don’t struggle with perfectionism, some of us were raised that way. Teachings in my church upbringing played a big role in my tendencies toward perfection. I mean, how often did I have the scripture “Be perfect as Jesus was perfect.” spoken over me with the weight of that 20 lb family bible that sits on the entry table? Matthew 5, The Beatitudes, is this whole long list of rules, we Southern Baptist folk love our rules. I don’t mean that in a bad way because rules are good. We need rules. Rules create order and a lot of us like order. Order is a good thing. But all too often in the church we are taught rules over grace. Legalism over love. Expectations over excellence. And all too often, the balance in these gets off kilter.
Combine the teachings and upbringing in the church with being raised in a home environment of high expectations combined with a personality of insecurity and desperately wanting to measure up, to be enough… and you have on your hands a recipe for disaster. You have on your hands an almost 50 year old who knows more fear than freedom.
What I’ve come to discover is that perfectionism is at its core is fear. Perfectionism is performance-based. Perfectionism is a lie from the depths of hell.
and… drum roll please….
I am not perfect.
And I don’t have to be.
And neither do you!
Living in the freedom of not being perfect doesn’t give us excuses to disregard right living. We shouldn’t taunt and abuse grace. God treats us both lovingly and justly based on the posture of our heart. In realizing our inability to be perfect we can let go of the life of fear. We can let go of continually trying to achieve something that is humanly unattainable. Lysa T. teaches in her study that we need to release to receive. We simply cannot hold all of this at the same time. Some of it we simply should not be holding in the first place.
What about Matthew 5 you ask? “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48 Well, it turns out that it’s really not a list of rules. It’s a list of love. Jesus gives us this list to show us how to live well and to love well, not to be perfect. I’m not scholar but now when I read “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” I now read “Be perfect in love as your Heavenly Father is perfect in love.” And it’s not even that I have to be perfect in that because well, I am not God. I cannot be perfect. It is a human impossibility. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, but it does mean we should realize that we should let go of the misconception and unrealistic expectation that we can achieve it. Matthew 5:48 and others like it, like 1 Peter 1:15-16 which calls us “to be holy like I am holy”, tells us to be LIKE God, not to BE God. Did you just exhale relief with me? I sure hope so! There is such freedom in this!
Today, I choose to focus on progress over perfection. On love over legalism. On grace over rules. On excellence, not expectations.
Now I will go tell myself this like a broken record today because almost 50 years of mental and emotional perfectionism and fear-based scripts run deep. On this particular day, fear grips me. I started writing this post at 3:30am because I woke up in the grip of fear. I got up because staying in bed, in the darkness would set my mind into a pattern I know all too well. Fear of not being the perfect wife. Fear of not being the perfect mom. Fear of not being the perfect friend. Fear of not being the perfect writer. Fear of losing something that I’ve held firmly and can no longer hold on my own. Fear of letting go of my past and the pain and hurt (turned anger) that has become my constant companion for so long. And if I let that go, the fear of the unknown replacement. Fear of leaning into and embracing a not so perfect future. Fearful that even God may not be able to handle this. Yep, I just said that. I just said that I don’t trust God with some of this (I’m not proud of that, btw). Fear feeds me/us the lie that I have to be in control. That even God cannot be trusted. Goodness, think about Adam and Eve and that slippery serpent. Isn’t that why we’re so messed up in the first place??? Perfectionism, fear, control, performance-based living… none of that is real living. It’s all a lie that, like Ann Voskamp said, “will kill your soul” – will kill my soul and it’s done a pretty good job of that so far. I am intimately in touch with the feeling of an underwhelmed soul. While our bodies are finite, our soul is not. We only get one soul and it is eternal. Lysa T., in The Best Yes, talks about how we spend our souls. Lord, help me spend it well.
“If you think that something has to be perfect to be excellent, it’ll never happen. Perfectionism is an ideal. It doesn’t exist in the real world.” ~Michael Hyatt
PRACTICE DOES NOT MAKE PERFECT (whoever said that is a perfect idiot and I’d like to perfectly punch them in their perfect face). But practice does put us on the path to progress.
While practice doesn’t make perfect, it won’t hurt to try. Not trying is like dying. But I won’t be setting my bar for perfection, only progress. Today, I will show up to practice.
Here are some additional resources to encourage you on your quest for progress, not perfection.
This is the Church.
Forgive me for taking pictures during church but it was a sacred moment that I had to permanently capture. It needed to be more than a mental memory because those memories (at my age) are all too fleeting these days.
This is about a woman who was sitting in church alone… with tear-stained cheeks and a used up tissue.
This is about a woman who was alone. Until she wasn’t.
Please help me welcome our newest contributor, Kadi Stunz! She happens to be the only person who will ever hold the position of being my daughter in love which mean she’ll always be my favorite. 🙂 She has been the most recent addition to our family and we could not be happier about that. I’m actually jealous that our son is the only one who gets to live with her. She is wise beyond her years and inspires me daily with how she seeks God continually and loves and lives well and lives simply. I’m beyond thrilled for you to get to know her as she shares her heart with us here on EPFH. Read more about Kadi and our other contributors here.
Live in true devotion to one another, loving each other as sisters and brothers. Be first to honor others by putting them first. Romans 12:10 (The Voice)
I’ve gotten it backwards for a whole lotta years. Not on purpose but out of just not knowing how to do it right. Not being taught. I do selfish very well. Too well. Don’t we all? I’m just shy of 50 years old and I think God may finally be getting through to me and helping me understand how this whole friend thing works.
First, you have to be a friend. Then you get to have a friend.
Ahhhhh….. soooo….. Well, I’ve been trying that out and guess what? It’s working!
But it’s not easy for this control freak.
I’m putting myself out there more and with a different outlook. I’m trying new things. I’m risking. That’s the hardest part. Risk. Being vulnerable. Knowing that if I truly let myself be a friend to have a friend it might hurt at some point. Knowing that it will most definitely hurt at some point. I don’t like that part. The hardest part for me in all of this relationship business is being willing to hurt. Because it will happen. Even by those who aren’t supposed to hurt me. They aren’t God. God is the only “person” who will never disappoint me.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ~C.S. Lewis
Somewhere along the way I decided that risking heart exposure wasn’t worth the pain. What I’m finally learning is that risk is not always worth it but it is sometimes worth it. Love is costly but anything of value costs. Being willing to be broken is also being willing to accept redemption.
If I let myself be a friend and have a friend then it might just might turn out okay or even better than okay. It might actually be great!
The thing with friendship is that we can have a lot of them but not all of them have to be bff’s. If we follow the model of Jesus, he had a three “bff’s” in his inner circle. Three that he went all in with. Three that he shared his guts with. Then his circles broadened. As his circles broadened so did the amount of information he shared with them. Not because he didn’t want to but because those he would be sharing with couldn’t handle it or wouldn’t receive it.
I am coming to realize that those who can’t handle me don’t deserve me. That may sound harsh but this control freak has to have some boundaries. I can still love and share Jesus and share my life with everyone but I don’t have to share my guts with everyone. We’ve told our kids countless times that you don’t have to be friends with everyone but you do have to be friendly. I’ve got friendly down. I’m working on being a friend. Got trust issues? I do! My trust issues include trusting God enough to put people in my life whom I can trust. Then, the onus is on me that once he does that to not squander it. I have to trust and try. Once the loneliness gets lonely enough, we’ll either choose to move out of it or resolve to stay in it. I’m finally in the place where I’m choosing to move out of it.
Relationships are messy and what I’m coming to learn (not having arrived just yet but learning) is that messy = living and living = messy. I’ve gone far too long without really living and then getting all upset because no one else was helping me live it. Ridiculous, right? But it’s true and ridiculous and I’m tired of not living. Life is so much better when it’s lived.
“In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).
There will be strong and unfriendly winds that will make a mess of our lives. On those blustery days, the kindness, prayers, and simple-but-profound ministry of the presence of dear friends will be the anchor to our unraveling, the rescue to our storm. ~Dr. Leslie Parrott
Those kinds of friends are few and far between. I have a few of those and they know my mess and love me anyway and come to my rescue. Some have known my mess and chosen not to love me and that hurts but there’s nothing I can do about that now. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that people were just supposed to know when I was hurting and miraculously come to my rescue. What I’m realizing now is that I have to let them in. I have to take the risk. The power of the lies of thinking I need control and not trusting because it hurts are a relationship killer. Somewhere along the way I got in my head that if I shared too much or exposed myself they wouldn’t stick around. But now I know that if they don’t stick around then one of us still has work to do. I can’t fix them but I can work on fixing me. I need to be careful and have some boundaries but isolation is not where it’s at.
Remember we were meant to be in community. Don’t isolate yourself. Insulate your heart but don’t isolate your body. ~Patsy Clairmont
God has been faithful to show me the way. I’ve forced myself to become more involved in a few things at church – which really is not bad at all once I’m there. I’m purposely asking old friends and new friends to lunch or coffee and just letting whatever happens happen. It’s mostly been wonderful. Not easy and not without some anxiety and heart palpitations but wonderful. I also signed up to get some email tips from (in)Courage on “how to be the friend you wished you had”. God is lovingly but clearly telling me that I need to figure out how to be a friend before I can have a friend. I’m getting it. Slowly, but I am.
So in all of this, I’m still learning. I’m still growing. I have not arrived. I’m trying to be brave. I’m willing to risk. I think…
God help me. Amen.
“I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn.” ~Maya Angelou