I know I’ve amassed a very, very small readership here, and I am grateful for this space to share my thoughts and feelings and to at times hear feedback that I am encouraging someone. With that, for a few weeks now I’ve felt the pressure to “check in,” and it’s a reminder why I do not believe I could or would want to blog on any sort of professional level. While I admire those who do it as a job, I could not live with that pressure to produce content, to update frequently to make sure readers didn’t grow bored of me or begin tuning out, or to update for the sake of updating. I have much to say; it’s not that. Ideas constantly swirl in my head, but I feel no guilt that these last couple of months have been more focused on serving others and less about a need to post to this blog just to say I did it. Thank you for grace and patience!
Friends and family will know that my mother was hospitalized three times over the course of a month starting in September. I don’t want to get too into it; the issues and diagnosis are not important in the sense that I only bring it up to state how there are profound experiences in one’s life that can shape and mold them into a new being. I also don’t want to go into what I went through; this paragraph isn’t meant to be a self-pity party. I simply was not prepared for what I would have to do and how taxing it would be to juggle caring for an ailing parent while still trying to take care of one’s own responsibilities. God’s grace was sufficient though. I look back to that month, and I’m not quite sure how I did it. All the running around, lack of sleep; emotional baggage I was carrying. God’s grace. Life surely walked up and smacked me straight across the face. We go through life thinking certain life experiences seem so far off. I sometimes still feel like that 15-year-old girl who lived feeling she had an abundance of years ahead of her. Only 18-years-later, life is passing rapidly and the notion of having so many less years than I do more (pending life goes as it’s “supposed” to) causes me to pause frequently. Wow, these last few sentences were all sorts of depressing.
With that little bit of an explanation, it’s funny how these experiences shape you. I am not yet quite sure if it’s for the better or worse. There’s something about surviving survival mode that illuminates what needs to be your priority and what’s just frill.
Take for example all the little extras in my life. One such extra is the work I do for my son’s school PTA of which I am the secretary. I love it. I do. I love being a parent who steps up and is active in her son’s school and does her part to help. I am committed to always having a role in each of the “major” areas of my life (i.e. doing at least one ministry at church at all times, school, etc.). But within that are so many smaller tasks. In the midst of recovering from mom’s week-long stay and subsequent care needed once home, I had to make choices. It boiled down to asking of each task I was being asked to complete, “Can I do this well?” Sometimes it didn’t matter what the answer was. It had to get done. Actually, as I’m writing this I am realizing one of my bigger issues of believing the lie that I have to do everything myself. I’m sure I could have reached out and found someone else to do the task, but I said I would do it–so I had to do it. Anyways…
The PTA does what we call an “Apple Picking Blessing” where we have the teachers write out a list of low-cost supplies needed for their classroom. We write these supplies on cut-out apples and hang it on a cut-out tree outside of their classroom. On the day of Parent and Teacher Conferences, parents “pick” an apple and purchase the item for their child’s teacher. It is a great way to say thank you (as it’s done during the Thanksgiving season) and alleviate the pressures teachers have to often supply these items out of their own pockets.
So that’s my job–cut out the apples. Write the supplies on it. Hang trees up. It’s the day before the “event” and I am pretty much completely unaware of this fact. Dates had been blurring; days flowing one into the other. Dates that seemed so far in advance were now staring me in the face. Whoops.
So I got to work. I didn’t look hard enough for the templates I used the previous year–apples perfectly drawn by my artistic husband. So I just started cutting. I did not take a picture, so trust me when I write this. The apples looked like lima beans. Or kidney beans. And some…well, I’m not quite sure I’ve ever seen apples with such jagged edges.
I looked at these ill-fated apples and I thought past what I was holding in my hands at that moment. The perfectionist in me was embarrassed. How can I hang these up? But as I wrestled with these thoughts, I had hope. Hope that parents trying to do something nice for their child’s teacher would not care what a tiny piece of paper looked like. I had the knowledge that these were papers that would be thrown away probably within a few days, if not sooner. It didn’t matter. It didn’t.
And that’s hard for me to write that, to say it, and even to think it. I strive for excellence. I breathe it. I can show employee reviews which would confirm that I’m not being prideful here–the work you put out IS noticed.
But excellence does not have to equal perfection. I don’t want to live in a world where people would care more about what something looks like and not about what it represents. And so, if I don’t want to live in that world I can’t partake in constantly re-doing, re-doing, re-doing to try to make things look the way I think they should. Whose standards am I trying to live up to anyway?
I recently began re-reading a favorite blog, Giving Up on Perfect. I read it years ago through Google Reader, and then evil Google deleted my account including my original ALWD blog, YouTube, Reader, etc.) and I kind of gave up on “following” blogs for a long period of time. When I decided to begin following worthwhile blogs via email, it took some time to come across some I had once loved. Mary speaks often to the notion of giving up on standards of perfection, hence her blog title’s name. And I can’t remember which post it was, that I stumbled upon right around the time of the lima bean-shaped apples, but it was a reminder to give up. In a good way.
And that’s, again, so hard to write. Because I think there are people, like I used to, who equate that to not wanting to do things well. How can you not want to do things perfectly?
Because I can’t. Because I never will. Because there was only One who ever could and I’m more concerned with emulating how he served people than I am on cutting an apple that is the perfect shape.
I only have so much time. I only have so much ability. It feels like a defeatist attitude, but there is only so much I can do. There are the priorities, even if they don’t seem important to other people–laundry, cooking, doing homework with my son. And there are what I call the secondaries. The things that, sure, would be lovely to do awesome-sauce things with. But they are not pivotal. They will not make or break me. In two years, two weeks, two days, two hours–it.will.not.matter. In eternity, perfectly drawn apples will not matter. Taking a meal to a hurting person…will.
I will always strive to do things well. But I will do it within the time and resources I have. I will be timely. I will try. I will pray. I will try to learn to delegate and ask for help. But I will not do it all.
Hear my heart; this isn’t a cop out. I’m writing and feeling like I can’t end this post yet because it feels like I’m applauding doing less than your best. I am not.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…Ecclesiastes 9:10
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…Colossians 3:23
Always do your best. But your best will not be perfect. And it should not be staying up late, taking time away from your family, getting mentally, emotionally, and physically fatigued for the sake of getting something done. I could have chosen to cut apples at home into the wee hours of the night. But you know what? Sleep was more important. Years ago I could not have thought that. But, now, I’m healthier for it.
I do it as if I’m doing it for the Lord. And the Lord will be pleased with my offering if I truly have done the best that I could in that moment. There is no condemnation in that. I do not strive to please man…
And now I think I can rest. Rest in the notions I’ve put forth in this post.
And be okay with not being perfect.