The Power of Imperfection

That part about not being enough? It’s true. I’m absolutely not enough. I can’t do it all. God intended it that way. He created me. He purposefully placed gaps, imperfections, in me so that he might come fill them, if I’d only let him.

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I’m a laid-back perfectionist. Seriously, it’s a thing. I am completely at peace going out in public looking like I just got electrocuted in the shower, fully clothed, while cutting my hair, but I won’t even attempt (fill-in-the-blank) if there’s a small chance of failure. I don’t know if that’s being a perfectionist or just a coward.

Being the type of person that has to excel at everything, while also being a stay-at-home-mom, while also being a terrible homemaker (i.e. the current state of my kitchen) is like putting lots of bad ingredients into a blender and turning it on without a lid. It didn’t take long for my s*** to splash everywhere.

When I got married, I realized very quickly that I wasn’t the perfect wife. It was shocking to no one but me. Much to my dismay, I wasn’t as good of a cook as I’d planned on being; I wasn’t as good of a hostess as I’d planned on being; I wasn’t as good of a decorator as I’d planned on being; I wasn’t as good of a housekeeper as I’d planned on being. Poor Clark. Heaven help that man if he pointed out a sock on the floor because STOP TELLING ME I’M A TERRIBLE WI-HI-HI-HIIIFE.

Then came kids, and all the grand ideas that would win me “Best Mom Ever” and my children “Best Raised Children Ever” started bubbling up within me. I just knew I’d craft the Holy Spirit right into them, install an incredibly spiritual and relaxing bedtime routine, and make whimsical memories, guys, every single day, all while maintaining an adorably immaculate home.

So when I never really got around to doing a daily craft and bedtime almost always ended with “GET. IN. BED. RIGHT. NOW.” through gritted teeth and all the most prominent memories seemed to involve tantrums or poop and my home was hardly adorable and never clean, the perfectionist in me (whom I lovingly refer to as Satan) started to whisper things…

Every other mom is doing more than you. And doing it better

They won’t turn out okay if you keep this up.

He couldn’t possibly love someone that can’t get their crap together.

You are ruining this.

You are SO not enough.

 

About a bajillion years ago, God chose Gideon to save the Israelites. In the story (Judges 6-8), Gideon is not so sure God chose the right person for the job and asks God to prove it… twice.

(Ahem. YES. That would be me. *hand raised* Another blog, another day.)

Once Gideon realizes that God’s not messin’ around, he gathers up as many men as he can find to go defeat the Midianites’ army of 135,000. He’s feeling a little meager at 32,000, but trusts that God is with him and heads out anyway.

He’s already an underdog. This is already destined to be a Cinderella story. Gideon’s army is like the Butler of the Bible.

But GUESS WHAT?? God sees that underdog army and tells him, “You have TOO MANY men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her…” get rid of some.

There are too many, he says. The victory might be mistaken for a triumph of your own strength, he says. GET RID OF SOME, he says.

You want to see me work? You want to know I’m here? You want to know how much I love you and am for you?

Get rid of some. Get them out of my way.

Gideon sheds 22,000 men. He is now down to 10,000 soldiers to battle the Midianites.

So get this. God says, BRO … “There are still too many men.” It is still possible that victory could mistakenly be attributed to your army. GET RID OF SOME MORE. So Gideon siphons them down to a mere three hundred.

God tells Gideon to take THREE HUNDRED men to battle against an army of ONE HUNDRED THIRTY-FIVE THOUSAND.

300 to 135,000.

As a former sixth-grade math teacher, I can reduce like a boss: that is ONE to every 450.

 

Sometimes, when I look at my three children and my husband, they seem like 135,000 Midianites, which would explain the mess in my living room. I feel the need to muster all my own strength, do more, try harder, power through.

I plan and plot ways to guarantee victory, guarantee perfection in my children, in my marriage,

but then the Lord gently reminds me,


Stop striving. Stop working so hard to do this all on your own.

Trust me to do my job. 

In the end, when this is all said and done,

I want you to be able to see MY glory. Not yours.

SO GET RID OF SOME. GET OUT OF MY WAY.

 

That part about not being enough? It’s true. I’m absolutely not enough. I can’t do it all. God intended it that way. He created me. He purposefully placed gaps, imperfections, in me so that he might come fill them, if I’d only let him.

I wasn’t created to do it all because I wasn’t created to get all the glory. 

My imperfection magnifies his perfection.

My incompleteness points to his completeness.

My insufficiencies create space for him to work.

I can use them as a megaphone to shout,

“My God covers it all, fills it all, does it all, because I tried and I can’t. ANYTHING good that happens here, that was not me, that was Him.” 

my-imperfections-magnify

 

Mamas, if you’re floundering and flailing, if you’re gasping for air, stop trying to fill your own gaps by doing more and trying harder. You can’t. You won’t fit. Just get out of his way and make space for Him.

Then, he can display his power.

Then, you can find his peace.

 

Raising a family, one that makes it to the other side loving the Lord and liking each other, that would take much more than a clean house and a perfect mom. That would take a miracle.

A miracle. Like if an army of 300 defeated 135,000. Something like that.

 

 

 

To the Mom Whose Hands Are Full

If I had a nickel for every time I heard, “Man, you’ve got your hands full,” I could guiltlessly go to Target a lot more often. I hear it pretty much every time I go to the grocery store, every football game we attend, or just anytime I venture out into the world with all three in tow. You would think I had a go-to witty remark tucked into my back pocket, but instead I just laugh and say something like, “Yep. Sure do. They’re pretty sweet, though.” Lame.

Yes, my hands are full. I am usually holding at least one child and holding the hands of the other two (it’s just as awkward as it sounds). I usually have a backpack or a diaper bag or a baby doll or a half eaten granola bar, a paci, a blankie, perhaps a stuffed animal. On really great days, all of the above. There’s a good chance that no one has had their hair brushed, that one child is missing an article of clothing (usually pants), or that another is dressed like a superhero princess. There’s an excellent chance that one is crying, probably two, sometimes three, and even perhaps the whole lot of us, me included. We are a disheveled mess of a bunch. No wonder they think my hands are full.

It’s easy for me to only recognize the difficulty in having full hands, the inconveniences and challenges, the discomfort of it. It’s easy for me to see it as a negative: ugh, my hands are SO FULL. 

But the other day someone shouted to “GET TOGETHER! LET’S TAKE A PICTURE!” My kids were running around or had been scooped up by someone else and I froze. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. They were empty. I felt like holding up my bare palms to stare at them like, WHAT ARE THESE THINGS? WHAT ARE THEY CALLED? As the photographer counted “1, 2, …” I panicked. What do I do with these? Where do I put them? Do I do the chicken wing thing or stick them in my pockets (nope. definitely a bad choice.) or let them hang limply by my sides? WHY ARE ARMS SO DADGUM LONG?

I realized, I have found comfort in full hands. Children and the accessories of motherhood have become so much a part of my normal that empty hands feels more like emptiness.

And then it hit me: pretty soon, my hands will be empty. What am I going to do?

I am not a sentimental person. I’m not great at soaking things up, not because I hate my present stage but because I get so lost in my everyday. But man, as I was looking at that picture of myself later I couldn’t help but stare at my empty hands just … hanging there, kidless. And I got so emotional.

Our lives are defined by seasons. As sure as the mama bear comes out of hibernation, we mamas are going to reemerge from these caves we’ve been cooped up in for what feels like forever.

But it’s not forever. It’s a very short season.

We are so close to returning to civilization, our hands totally free. They will no longer be filled with a tiny hand as you cross the street or with that squishy little body in the rocking chair; we won’t have to use them to spoon-feed a mouth or turn the pages of a book; we won’t use them to haul around a bag full of 18,000 essentials or to clean up twice as many messes. Someday, we will be able to leave the house without tying everyone’s shoes, brushing everyone’s hair (optional*), and buckling everyone’s seatbelt. Just like all seasons do, this one will end.

 

Then what? What will we do with our hands?

Pray.

We will pray that we didn’t totally jack them up, that the foundation we laid was solid. We will pray that they acquire equal parts selflessness and boldness. We we will pray for their safety because this world is terrifying sometimes, and then cry out for God to take that fear away because it is not from him.

Raise them high.

We will praise him that he picked us for this job. We will thank him for helping us survive that crap shoot. We will reach high, hoping to feel his grace pour over us and cover all the many doubts we have about how well we did, and then let him remind us of all the things we did SO well.

Reach out and serve.

God uses our current seasons to prepare us for our next. If there is anything motherhood prepares you for, it’s laying down your wants to serve the needs of others. We have honed valuable skills, one being finding a way to love people that prove themselves very unloveable at times. That, my friends, is essential in the real world.

 

Yes, my hands are full. Your hands are probably full, too. But they will only be full for so long. So as we bend over to pick up another pair of dirty underwear off the floor, another toy that stabbed the bottom of our foot, another crying baby out of the crib, let us cherish that load they carry now.

 

 

When Your Family is Your Idol

Are we giving our kids any opportunity to actually SEE GOD WORK? In all of our protecting and in all of our keeping them separate what if we are not only protecting them from all the bad but we are preventing them from ever seeing God DO ANYTHING GOOD. They never experience any moments that make them say, “HOLY CRAP. Did you just see that? This God is AMAZING. Heck yes I believe!”

A couple of years ago, I was driving to my parents’ house down a neighborhood street. Charlee and Hattie were in the backseat, whining I’m sure. As we approached my parents’ street, I noticed a dark-skinned elderly woman, probably in her 80’s, walking down the street the same direction as us. In each arm, she toted a grocery bag, presumably from the convenient store a couple of blocks back. She was noticeably exhausted, walking with a limp, pausing ever few feet to catch her breath.

Since we were going pretty slow, I had a good 30 seconds to make a decision. She clearly needed a ride. Buuut I had my 3-year-old and 1-year-old in the car with me. What if she’s dangerous? What if that’s not really milk in her bag but a bomb? What if she’s pretending to walk with a limp but she’s actually a 25-year-old man in disguise? I have kids in the car. My kids’ safety always come first.

And I passed her. You guys. I passed an 80-year-old woman with a limp carrying two bags of groceries. Because of my kids.

Thankfully, God grabbed me by the neck and screamed, “ARE YOU SERIOUS??? Turn around, woman. She is 80 years old. Turn. This. Car. A. Round.”

I ashamedly swung a U and invited her into the passenger seat. She was so grateful and so precious. I took her about a half-mile down the road to a little shack, couldn’t have been much bigger than my living room, the grass taller than my kids. She gushed her thank-yous and crept to the door.

That was the first time I realized I loved my kids more than I loved Jesus. More than I loved bringing his Kingdom down to this Earth.

That was the first (but not last) time I realized my family was my idol.

 

 

Isn’t the gospel the story of a man who lived in the middle of an affluent neighborhood and hung out with mostly Jews? I mean, he was still pretty nice to the Gentiles, but wouldn’t have pursued a deep relationship with them. Isn’t it about how he REALLY loved all the religious people who went to church all the time? They were his faves. And I’m pretty sure he tried not to associate with too many people who would “ruin his witness”?

Or is it about a man who that calls for us to SELL OUT. Sell everything. Leave our family. To LOVE HIM MORE than our mother, father, sister, brother. More than our FAMILIES. To not let anything get in the way of spreading this incredibly GOOD news. To make fishers of all men, not just our own men.

What does it mean to raise children, to grow a family, in light of THAT kind of gospel?  When my instincts scream, “COME HERE LITTLE FAMILY! EVERYONE JUST HUDDLE TOGETHER SO THAT WE CAN BE SAFE FROM ALL THE BAD, SCARY THINGS!!” and I just want to tuck them under my wing and protect them from the whole world.

 

Should I protect them from all the outsiders, the no-gooders, the “least of these”? Should I shield them from the destitute, the addicted, the desperate? Should I just surround them with “Christian” people who listen to “Christian” music and send them to “Christian” camps?

Raising children can be terrifying, not only because this world is scary and the responsibility is HUGE but because at some point in the last couple of decades, Christian parents got the formula wrong. Kids aren’t buying it anymore. Why are young adults leaving the church in droves? What did we miss?

Maybe, they realized they couldn’t believe in something they’ve never seen. And maybe, just maybe, they’ve never seen God. Sure, they’ve seen church. They’ve seen praise bands. They’ve seen Bible Bowls. They’ve seen preachers. But they’ve never actually seen God. How could they? They’ve been tucked under our wing the whole time.

Are we giving our kids any opportunity to actually SEE GOD WORK? In all of our protecting and in all of our keeping them separate what if we are not only protecting them from all the bad but we are preventing them from ever seeing God DO ANYTHING GOOD. They never experience any moments that make them say, “HOLY CRAP. Did you just see that? This God is AMAZING. Heck yes I believe in Him!”

 

On our way to my parents’ house that day, Charlee rattled off question after question about that sweet old woman. Who was she? Why did we pick her up? What was wrong with her? Why didn’t she have a car?

I got to explain to her that this is what people do when they follow Jesus. Sure, we’d read bible stories about it. We had talked about taking care of people who needed help. But that was the first time she got it. That was the first time it meant something to her.

And I’d almost let it pass me by. For her. Because I’d rather her be safe than saved.

To the Mom Who Feels Underappreciated

But in my pouting about DOING EVERYTHING (even though, I do very short of everything) I missed the Lord whispering Look around you. This is your earthly reward. Is this not enough?

I like compliments.

I really wish I didn’t. I wish I was so confident that I didn’t need others’ praise. I wish I was so filled by the spirit that I was wholly dependent on the approval of the Lord rather than that of others. But, honestly, it feels good when someone tells me I’m doing a good job, that I’m really good at what I do.

Back in the day, I was a good teacher. I had coworkers and principals and supervisors and athletes and students that showed me gratitude and appreciation daily, that encouraged me and high-fived me, that told me I was good. I felt good about being good. It was easy to be proud. It was easy to feel fulfilled and successful.

This. This staying at home gig. This is not quite like that.

Today I started my day with a four-year-old all up in my pillow. I made three kids breakfast (and by made, I mean poured cereal). I comforted three crying children at different, yet multiple times throughout the day. I folded two loads of laundry. I stripped sheets (which have yet to be replaced with clean ones). I cooked dinner. I swept. Twice. I read books. I sang songs. I pretended to be a cat. I broke up 18,000 fights, pried baby fists loose from 2 screaming girls’ hair, and wiped 359 bottoms. I heard my name shouted post-bedtime 18 times. I went in to hear “I can’t remember” exactly 2 times.

And DON’T YOU KNOW? Tomorrow will be the exact. same. thing.

Day in and day out.

And sadly, most days end with a heaviness. I plop down on the couch with less of a feeling of accomplishment and more of a feeling of irritation. I couldn’t ever put my finger on exactly what it was that had a grip around me, suffocating me. What was it that stripped me from joy day in and day out? Why was I so bitter?

Then it hit me. Entitlement. I am an entitled mom.

I have completely lost sight of my blessings around me because I AM SO FOCUSED ON WHAT I’VE DONE. 

But I cooked.

And I cleaned.

And I wiped bottoms.

DON’T I DESERVE SOMETHING FOR ALL THIS?

Where is my reward? Where is the gratitude? Where is my rest?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though working for the Lord and not for man, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

But I bathed all three kids.

I swept the floor. TWICE!

WHAT DO I GET for all the things I’ve done?

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though working for the Lord and not for man, since you know you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.

I like being rewarded. I like getting pats on the back and feeling my ego stroked.

But in my pouting about DOING EVERYTHING (even though, I do very short of everything) I missed the Lord whispering Look around you. This is your earthly reward. Is this not enough?

You have three precious mouths to feed.

You have three precious bodies to bathe.

You have a husband that works incredibly hard to provide for you.

You have a beautiful home with floors to sweep and dishes to clean.

Is this not enough? 

Why do I need more than them? More from them?

Yes, this job is hard. It is the hardest job I have ever had. It is hard to feel good at it. It is hard to feel accomplished. It is hard to be fulfilled.

But my Heavenly Father knew I needed this. He knew I needed to serve without receiving a “Good job” or a “Thank you so much.” I needed to perform without someone to impress. Without expectation of a compliment. He wanted me to learn to serve just for the sake of serving others and serving him, not self-serving.

Staying at home for your kids is good, but I am not doing this job for my kids. I am not doing this job for my husband. I cannot expect my family to fulfill me. That’s putting WAY too much pressure on a three-year-old. In every dish I wash and diaper I change, I am working for the Lord, not for man. 

And even if I hadn’t already been rewarded (which I have been, a thousand times over), I can rest assured that my reward is coming, and it will be so much better than any compliment anyone on this earth has to offer.