Tag Archives: perfection

Only Jesus is Pinterest-Worthy

5 Jun

cross pinterestUnless you live under a rock, I’m sure you’ve heard more than one person bemoan Pinterest as a guilt-producing, confidence-shattering machine of impossible expectations. Perhaps that person has even been you.

For myself personally, I have to be very intentional about how much I use Pinterest. Or Facebook, or blogs, or TV, or magazines. It’s just so. easy. to fall into the trap of thinking that everyone else has it more together than I do. Their houses are decorated better and don’t look like a tornado touched down by 10 am. Their kids are doing crafts everyday that are both fun and educational. They not only get dressed every morning, they put on a cute outfit and do BOTH their hair and makeup. Then they enjoy a hot cup of coffee in silence while taking in a beautiful view.

Pinterest produces guilt and feelings of inferiority in us because it embodies perfection. Anyone who has ever taken family pictures, especially those involving young children, know that the picture-perfect moment only needs to last a split second to be caught on film. You just need one nano-second where everyone is looking at the camera with a smile for a good picture. Who cares that before that briefest of moments one kid was crying, another was trying to pull her hair out and the parents were clenching their teeth in frustration? The winning picture belies all of that, and thus dupes the onlooker into thinking that that family’s life is all roses and rainbows. That’s what Pinterest is. It’s the nano-second snapshot of unrealistic perfection.

Ok, so what? If we know that, why does it still bother us so much? Because every picture of perfection reminds us of the thing that so many people spend their lives trying to ignore — we know that deep down inside, there’s something wrong with us. Tim Keller says it much more eloquently in his sermon “Splitness” (an amazing sermon that I highly recommend), but we all recognize, in some form or another, that we aren’t all we were meant to be. If you’re tempted to disagree with me, I say look around at the self-help industry, blogs, magazines, TV shows, commercials. They are all selling improvements — ways to better yourself, your life, your relationships. Deep down, we know that we’re all missing the mark somewhere.

So are the people posting those snapshots of perfection on Pinterest. Sure, their 2-year-old’s birthday party had a cake that looked like an actual pirate ship, they all dressed in costume (no toddlers threw tantrums about wearing the eye patch?), and they even found pirate-themed wrapping paper for the 15 different presents they bought. But how many hours of sleep did they sacrifice with those efforts? How many hours of TV did their child watch while they prepared all of the necessary party decorations? We’ll never know, because the party pictures don’t tell us that.

That’s one reason why I’m committed to being an authentic blogger. When people portray their lives as perfect, we aren’t encouraged. We feel inferior, condemned, pathetic. But when we see someone who does some things well and other things… not so well, we see a real human being. And a real human being is someone who we can learn a thing or two from, who recognizes that life is both ups and downs, who understands what it’s like to have a cup of coffee get cold before you even take a sip, or have a toddler running around with a dirty diaper while you’re confined to a nursing chair, or losing your cool for the 100th time that day over something little because you’re operating *just that close* to your breaking point. We encourage authentic living by being authentic ourselves — and that means we share the ugly realities of life in addition to the Pinterest-worthy moments.

Jesus is the one exception. His whole life — every action, reaction, word, emotion — was Pinterest-worthy. But the amazing thing is, His model of perfection doesn’t overwhelm us with the guilt and shame of our shoddy attempts. That’s because His model of perfection was crowned with the ultimate sacrifice: His death on the cross. Jesus was perfect for us, on our behalf so that we don’t have to be perfect. The only way perfection can be an inspiration and not a downer is to find our example of perfection in Jesus Christ Himself, and to find our value and worth in being His. When we trust Christ for salvation, not only are we declared righteous (perfect!) in Him, God also gives us His Spirit to transform us into the people we were meant to be. And that’s way better than a how-to tutorial.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Setting the Record Straight

26 Jan

A little-known tidbit about me: I can’t read cooking blogs. The pictures are fun to look at and the recipes look delicious but they just make me overwhelmed. I even feel slightly intimidated by the cookbooks I own. Some people thrive on options; I do not. They just make me feel like there’s too much to do, and too little time.

I also felt overwhelmed yesterday while reading the blogs I regularly follow. Reading about productive weekends full of baking, cleaning, organizing, family time, long runs, Crossfit workouts, and fun dates instantly brings back an old familiar feeling: I’m not doing enough.

I’ve been thinking about this lately because a good (IRL) friend of mine who occasionally reads my blog remarked that I seem to have a lot of things going on in an effort to improve my life (like not eating sweets for a month, limiting my laziness, reading 25 books, and training for a marathon). I dismissed her comment saying, “It’s really not that much; it probably seems like more on the blog.”

I don’t really consider myself an ambitious person. In high school and college, I did what was required of me with excellence (I did graduate from both with honors) but I didn’t go above or beyond that.

Instead of being an overachiever, I guess I was just an achiever. I never had an internship. I never volunteered or got involved in any kind of club. In fact, I somehow graduated as a member of the National Honors Society in high school, even though I never attended a meeting and only did 2 volunteer hours (I think something like 30 were required?). In my defense, I tried to return my medal but they wouldn’t take it from me.

I’m fairly certain that I’ve gotten where I am in life by being anal, not ambitious. While fellow classmates in high school were reading Cliff’s Notes in lieu of The Scarlet Letter and The Grapes of Wrath, I read every single page of every single book, including the Foreword if there was one. Partly because I actually enjoyed reading and partly because I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I hadn’t actually read the book.

Until recently, I had to finish every book I started reading, even if it was crap, just because “it bothered me” to start and not finish. (Now I know that life is too short to read bad books.)

My house is clean and organized because my personality can’t stand clutter and mess.

I don’t stop in the middle of a project, even if it’s mindnumbingly tedious, because I am stubborn.

When we first moved into our apartment in Boulder, I refused to let Travis store stuff under our bed and futon because not storing stuff in an actual closet bothered me. After a couple hours trying to cram things into the 3 tiny closets of our apartment, I saw the folly of my ways. (Although, I have to admit that storing things under the bed still bothers me. If you’re wondering if I’m annoying to live with, my husband would say no, but really mean yes.)

So why am I explaining this to you?

Well, you’ve probably heard people discussing the effects of social media on relationships today. It’s easy to project this perfect image of your life, because you get to pick and choose what people see and what people don’t. I think the same thing goes for blogs. It’s easy to post only the positive, happy things that happen in your life in the name of “making your blog positive” because people “come there to be entertained.” I personally don’t agree with that philosophy but I think it can happen without our realizing. It’s human nature to want to share happy news with others, but shrink back with bad news. You don’t want to blog just to complain, or tell about pathetically boring your day was, or relay how you behaved in a way you’re ashamed of (like throwing something at your husband or eating an entire box of cereal in one sitting).

So I just want to set the record straight: I haven’t checked off an item on my daily To-Do list all week until today (and that only because I had an appointment to get a new passport), I’m feeling slightly sick and majorly lazy, I haven’t walked my dogs in a few days, last night I ate my way through the cupboard before eating dinner trying to fill the chocolate-shaped hole in my heart, I’m having a hard time adjusting to having actual work to do at work, and my big toe is sticking out of the sock I’m wearing. I’m not perfect. I don’t have it all together. I have lots of big ideas and want to live my life intentionally but sometimes (or perhaps, often), I just need a glass of wine, Desperate Housewives, and a night on the couch. And I’m pretty sure other bloggers do too.

Would you consider yourself ambitious? Do you tend to be productive or relaxed with your free time?

Life Is a Glorious Mess

13 Dec

For two or three weeks before my parents came out for Thanksgiving, I had gotten into a routine. Life was good. Predictable. Tidy. Organized.

But having out of town guests was just the thing that upset my routine and now 3 weeks later, I’m still not back on track. Too many nights of staying up late trying to get things done. Too many mornings of caring more about sleep than getting back on track. Too many days of trying to catch up on things that I bailed on in the name of relaxation (hello, house cleaning!).

{source}

I woke up yesterday morning wanting at least 4 more hours in bed. Instead, I got up to make coffee – an hour after my alarm went off the first time. The kitchen counters overflowed with dirty dishes; the table drowned in Christmas presents, mail, and other things used over the weekend but not put away. The cupboards were conspicuously bare from my lack of grocery shopping. The fridge held potatoes from our garden and spinach from the store, wilting and rotting before I could use them. The dogs wagged their tails in hope of a walk. A temperature of 63 degrees revealed that the furnace wasn’t working again.

I was frustrated. Mad. Why is life so hard?

I do better when life is organized. When things are in their place. When I’m on top of what I need to be on top of.

I could have been there this morning – except I chose to relax and watch Christmas movies last night instead of doing chores.

And I’ve realized that my affinity for order and perfection has a price tag – it costs me Life. Joy. Peace. Patience.

When I admire people in movies (like J. Lo in The Wedding Planner) who have every piece of their life in place with predictable schedules and unvaried routines, I fail to realize that they’re paying for that perfection – with human relationships. I mean, how often do those same perfect people have an intimate marriage, loving kids, and open their homes to others?

To truly embrace the presence of others in my life, I have to let go of perfection. Because a life filled with relationships is messy. As Emily Walker wrote in her post The Messy Table:

My table is not perfect, but it has done the job it was meant to do very well. Life has been lived at it. Lessons have been learned at it. Memories have been made for decades, right there at that table. It tells the story of lives being lived, not life missed out on in the name of perfection.

That. Exactly.

When I think about what kind of mother I want to be someday, do I want my kids to remember how well-kept our house was, elaborate our dinners were, and how we were always running around doing stuff?  Or do I want them to remember how I played with them in our backyard, dropped whatever I was doing to listen or laugh, and didn’t get mad when they trampled little dirty footprints all over the carpet? Obviously, I want to be the latter.

And here’s what I’m learning: I don’t become the peaceful, patient, loving woman I want to be by being perfect and on top of things. Rather, I grow to be that woman as I learn to let things go. If I expect the house to always be orderly, I get frustrated when something is out of place. If I map out my schedule for the day and a wrench gets thrown in, I’m mad.

People who exhibit the fruit of the Spirit aren’t isolated from problems and frustrations. They have just learned to embrace the messiness of life. Be content in chaos. See each moment for what it’s really worth – not a time for getting things done, but a time to connect with and serve others, and to be filled with the joy of knowing Christ. Instead of running around checking off my own to-do list, I need to walk through each day with God, trusting that His grace is sufficient – He will provide the energy and wisdom to work when I need to, and to rest when I need to.

A comforting idea I’ve had in my head for several weeks now is that God is more realistic about my abilities than I am. Like QuatroMama writes in this post, I tend to set up my own (perfectionist) standards and then beat myself up when I fall short.

But God is realistic. “For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” He doesn’t ask me to be Mega Woman. He understands that I only have so many minutes in a day and if I spend time doing this thing, I don’t have time for that thing. If I’m exhausted and want to veg instead of clean, He doesn’t accuse me of laziness and not being productive, like I do to myself. Unlike me, He is full of grace, understanding, and patience.

This is where the Gospel makes all the difference. The Gospel allows us to admit that we fall short of what we wish we were, but reassures us that we’re loved anyway. And God’s love for us isn’t despite how we’ve disappointed Him, or failed to live up to His standard. Because when He sees us in Christ, He sees perfect beings. We are completely and utterly righteous in His eyes. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgression from us.”

He doesn’t mutter “I love you” through gritted teeth while trying to not be mad over all the things we’ve done wrong. God’s love abounds for us. He lavishly pours out grace upon grace into our lives with delight.

In the words of John Piper, remind yourself, “I am holy and I am loved.” Even when life is messy.

Do you struggle with perfectionism? How do you remind yourself of God’s unfailing love?

Life on repeat

7 Oct

Does anyone else feel like they learn the same lessons over and over and over again? But at the same time, they never actually learn them?

That’s the way I’m feeling. Amazingly, instead of being discouraged, I’m actually encouraged that God is still around, still being patient and reteaching me something I thought I had mastered six months or a year ago.

The last couple of years have revealed two important things about me:

1) I am a perfectionist to the core.

2) I am a pessimist.

It’s not really that surprising that those two things go hand in hand, since things have to be perfect for a perfectionist to be happy. And how often are things perfect?

My point exactly.

I completed Morning #2 of writing (2 for 2!) today and have already encountered a challenge: how to make my “life on repeat” or cyclical problems interesting to readers and not bore them into screaming, “She’s still struggling with that?!?!? I can’t take this anymore!” while they throw my book across the room (or delete it off their Kindle, which would be very less dramatic).

So it is with some risk that I repeat these words from previous blog posts, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take because I seriously am struggling with the same thing again: expecting to be perfect and despairing when I’m not. The reminder is beneficial to me, and I hope, to you.

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From No such thing as perfect 8/24/09

My life will never be perfect. I will never feel like I’m on top of the world and am doing good at this whole Christian thing–at least, I shouldn’t feel that way and I definitely shouldn’t make it my aim to stay there.

Instead of letting my failures and insufficiency cripple me, I should let them humble me and lead me to the cross. Lead me to the One who is sufficient, so I don’t have to be. Lead me to the One who is perfect in my place. Lead me to the place where I can lay my burdens down and remember that “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Feeling like a failure doesn’t have to be a bad thing!! In fact, it can be one of the greatest blessings…because it reminds me that I am nothing without Christ.

Like Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10, “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

I can be content with a messy house, piles of laundry and dirty dishes, a long and old TO-DO list, nails that need repainting, eyebrows that need plucking, plants that need watering, cars that need cleaning, books that haven’t been read, lessons that haven’t been learned, and pounds that haven’t been lost. I can be content with everything that makes my life a mess. I can be content with “my” schedule being “derailed” and God’s schedule being followed. I can be content with not being able to see how God is using me, knowing that surely He is doing whatever He pleases with my chaotic, unpredictable, so-not-a-routine kind of life.

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From Imperfect is good enough 12/9/10

{Holiday season is just around the corner!}

I need to let go of this idea that everything has to be perfect. My Christmas decorations can have a quirky doesn’t-quite-go-together kind of feel. I can do the exercises at the gym that I know how to do instead of following the newest “Bikini Body in 28 Days!” routine that involves twisting, pulling, jumping, and screaming (that might just be my version). I can read a few pages of a book before falling asleep at night. I can let the dishes pile up in the sink and do them tomorrow.

At the core of all of this is a belief that God is the one who has everything under control. He is the one who makes it all happen, not me. It is also believing that these things I have decided that I “have to do” don’t add or subtract anything to His love for me. He loves me the most He ever will right now, because He loves me with the same love with which He loves His Son, Jesus. Did you know that it actually says that in the Bible? John 17:23 says …”that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” That’s amazing.

It is Christ’s perfection that frees us to be imperfect, to be human, to not have it all together. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to do our best. It means we don’t get discouraged by failure or depressed by overwhelming odds. But we should walk through this victorious, knowing that “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” How I need so desperately to believe that truth in this season of my life! It is so easy to let these slight and momentary afflictions take my eyes off God and His sovereign goodness. But I mustn’t. I must keep looking to Him, trusting in Him, resting in Him. “I lift my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

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My last (planned) race of the season is this Sunday! I am excited to not have any more races (which means more free weekends) and I’m also excited to start another training plan (which is good because I’m in for the long haul now). And then, drumroll please… only one more weekend with something planned (elk hunting) and it’s free weekends from then on! Woohoo!

Better yet, we might get out of going back to Minnesota for Thanksgiving and Christmas (although we might go early December instead for Matthew’s Eagle scout ceremony). I mean, love going back to see family but it is exhausting. It takes me weeks to recover from those trips. So I will only be slightly sad if we don’t go back. Plus, I really enjoyed celebrating Christmas just me and Travis last year. Right now, anything relaxing sounds like heaven.

Imperfect is good enough.

9 Dec

Like many women, I struggle with an all-or-nothing mentality. Especially around this time of year when I feel like there is so much to do and so little time! Add to that a job I hate and a beach vacation the first week of January (who’s in bikini shape right after Christmas!?!?) and you’ve got a recipe for stress and many woe-is-me days.

I’ve been slightly on an emotional edge the past few days… ok, the past week… ok, the past month… ok, really since I knew I wanted to quit my job but couldn’t (which has been since the end of October). And I disliked my job long before that. Maybe I’m being a big baby, maybe I’m concentrating too much on the negatives, maybe I just need to buck up and stop complaining. I’m pretty sure all of those things are true. But the reality of the situation has not gone away – I have a really hard time being happy when I have a job I hate. And when I say hate, I mean that the very thought of doing any kind of work even remotely related to my job makes me cringe inside. I mean that I clock 3-4 hours a day by sheer grit and willpower, not because there’s even an inkling of enjoyment in it for me. I mean that I can be happy about something, smiling and skipping down the street, then I remember my job and dark rain clouds roll over my joy.

Anyway, take that whole situation and add in trying to care about my job just even a little, trusting God with getting a new job, making dinner for friends, wrapping presents, writing Christmas cards, mailing presents, decorating the house, being a hostess for a Christmas tea at church, getting in biking shape and all the other things I think I “should” be doing (like reading more, baking Christmas cookies, chitchatting with our neighbors, posting stuff to sell on ebay, and the other 25 things on my to-do list). Just a tad bit overwhelming.

I’m not writing all this to show how much more I do than anyone else. In fact, I’m pretty sure that most women out there are busier than I am. But I think we all have this tendency to think that we have to do it all perfectly, or we might as well do none of it. At least that’s my temptation. If I allow myself to get so overwhelmed that I can see there’s even the possibility of failure, I want to collapse in a heap on the floor and weep. “Why is life so hard?” I ask myself.

Well, because I’m making it that way. Instead of making these unrealistic standards, like I have to have Christmas decorations that look like they’re straight from Martha Stewart, or I need to healthy all day long and I’m never going to eat chocolate again, or I need to read a book a week, or I can never watch TV because that is wasting time that could be spent doing some productive, I need to remind myself that imperfection is good enough.

Instead of looking at the entire mountain of things to do and feeling completely paralyzed or depressed, I need to just take one thing, one manageable thing that I can do right then and do it. It may be as small as putting away a book. It could be doing the dishes, or accomplishing one step of Christmas cards, or reading just a couple verses from the Bible. And I’ve found that once I’ve gotten over the initial panic of “I can’t do all this!”, I get into the groove and accomplish more than I expected.

I also need to let go of this idea that everything has to be perfect. My Christmas decorations can have a quirky doesn’t-quite-go-together kind of feel. I can do the exercises at the gym that I know how to do instead of following the newest “Bikini Body in 28 Days!” routine that involves twisting, pulling, jumping, and screaming (that might just be my version). I can read a few pages of a book before falling asleep at night. I can let the dishes pile up in the sink and do them tomorrow.

At the core of all of this is a belief that God is the one who has everything under control. He is the one who makes it all happen, not me. It is also believing that these things I have decided that I “have to do” don’t add or subtract anything to His love for me. He loves me the most He ever will right now, because He loves me with the same love with which He loves His Son, Jesus. Did you know that it actually says that in the Bible? John 17:23 says …”that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” That’s amazing.

It is Christ’s perfection that frees us to be imperfect, to be human, to not have it all together. That doesn’t mean we don’t try to do our best. It means we don’t get discouraged by failure or depressed by overwhelming odds. We should walk through this victorious, knowing that “steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord.” How I need so desperately to believe that truth in this season of my life! It is so easy to let these slight and momentary afflictions take my eyes off God and His sovereign goodness. But I mustn’t. I must keep looking to Him, trusting in Him, resting in Him. “I lift my eyes to the hills; where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, of the things you feel weighing you down with their urgency and importance, look to Christ and his perfection. Be content with your own unique human imperfection, remembering that “our sufficiency is from God.”