Thursday, January 30, 2014

Not Perfect, Just Wonderful

Perfectionism sucks the joy out of life. When I was young, the standard to which I held myself was entirely unrealistic and inhumane. No one could possibly have attained the perfection I sought, yet I felt like a complete failure at age 16 because I. Was. Not. Perfect.

Back then, I beat myself up pretty badly. Why do we have such a hard time being kind to ourselves...even when we have no trouble at all being kind to others? Perhaps it has to do with backlash against the narcissists we all know. We may equate treating ourselves kindly with selfishness, self-centeredness, egotism. Who wants to be seen as having those qualities?

Perhaps it's from low self-esteem, feelings that we don't deserve to be treated with kindness. Perhaps we simply don't know how to be kind to ourselves, having grown up watching family members being unkind to themselves. Whatever the cause of our unkindness, I have a suggestion for overcoming it.

Be grateful.

Gratitude forces us to look on the positives. Too often, we see only the flaws, the mistakes, the screw-ups, the disasters, the failings. We dwell on the negatives until our perspective on ourselves is hopelessly warped.

I put off volunteering as a liturgist in church because of my perfectionism. I worried. There are hard words in the Bible! What if I read a difficult place name or personal name wrong? What if I lost my place? What if I moved out of turn? What if I messed up assisting with communion?

What if I were a human being?

I have no problem extending grace to others who serve as liturgist and stumble. Their mistakes barely register with me. Why could I not extend that grace to myself? Why?

Once I took the plunge, however, I realized how stupid that fear had been, how it arose from perfectionist tendencies still lurking in the shadows of my soul. But I have found that my gratitude for having the opportunity to serve--my gratitude for the blessing of service--trumps any sort of mistake I can make. Sure, I've stumbled a few times, and once I even goofed during communion. But those little mistakes are nothing compared to the joy I feel reading God's Word aloud in Christian community.

My word for January has been Wonderful. Last Sunday's worship service carried the strongest feelings of wonder I've felt all month...and that's saying something as my life is pretty wonderful all the way around!

How wonderful that I was there, in God's house, with God's people, sharing His Word on Sunday. How wonderful that I can give voice to and share my joy in that Word. How wonderful that God uses my reading and oratorical skills in His service. How wonderful that my mistakes are nothing--nothing!--compared to His grace. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me this opportunity.

Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.

We don't have to be perfect to be full of wonder.

We just need to open ourselves to gratitude for the good and open ourselves to grace for the mistakes. We just need to be kind to ourselves.

In what ways do you give into perfectionist tendencies? In what ways do you overcome them? Are you kind to yourself? Do you let yourself feel wonder even in the midst of imperfection? 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Gratitude Journal #223

Today, I am grateful for the paper crafting community. My stamping friend Lisa and her German shepherd Annie sent Daisy a bag of homemade dog treats that she loves. And I met another stamper, Leslie, for lunch on Friday for a nice, long conversation about stamping. It's so cool to have a new, real-life friend who is as into stamping as I am!

Today, I am grateful for yesterday's sermon about grace and for the privilege of serving as liturgist.

Today, I am grateful for our weather. So far, we've had uncomfortable weather...but nothing we can't handle, nothing dangerous. May it stay that way as temperatures plunge today. I'm also grateful for the pretty snow drifts outside my craft space.

Today, I am grateful for the good food my husband prepared this weekend.

Today, I am grateful for an on-time start at school this morning.

What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gratitude Journal #222

Today, I am grateful for Martin Luther King, Jr., and people who make a nonviolent stand for freedom and social change everywhere.

Today, I am grateful for these words from Dr. King: "We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies."

Today, I am grateful for a day spent with George, Nick, and Jack doing fun things and loving each other.

Today, I am grateful for another snow day, even if it does interfere with the start of a spiritual gifts study at church. We'll get to it eventually, and I'd rather everyone be safe.

Today, I am grateful for friends who came to dinner Sunday night and for good conversation and good food and well-behaved boys.

Today, I am grateful for bowling. Jack has started training for the Special Olympics bowling tournament, and we went bowling as a family yesterday to help him train.

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gratitude Journal #221

Today, I am grateful for Stephen Ministry, its quality training, and our wonderful SM group of people who want to help--and are helping--people. Filled. With. Gratitude.

Today, I am grateful that I didn't interrupt Pastor as she was working on her sermon at Starbucks last Thursday because her sermon was an awesome reminder that we should own our baptism. But it did feel weird not saying anything to someone I know and noticed in a public place. Honestly, I don't think I've ever managed that before.

Today, I am grateful for my children's extracurricular activities.

Today, I am grateful for laughter and silliness.

Today, I am grateful for getting a head-start on deep-cleaning and organizing my house, and for getting all the Christmas stuff put away...finally!

What are you grateful for today?

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What a Wonderful World!

“Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?” Lucy M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

My firstborn son has recently begun googling questions about nature and then asking me if I know the answers. He expects to trip me up, and when I do know the answers, he acts surprised. This morning, he asked if I know how snowflakes form, and I replied that they form around dust particles in the atmosphere.

How does mom know this?!?!

"So, why do they form the shapes they do, Mom?" Surely she won't know this!

"Well, Nick, because of the shape of the water molecules."

He accused me of learning these facts on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) website, which is where he found them. I had to explain that I'd known about snow since before the Internet.

He didn't believe me. Clearly I stay up at night mining the Internet for science facts to stay one step ahead of my son because I didn't learn a thing when I was his age and was as eager as he is to learn the secrets of the universe.

I completely understand his amazement at learning the wonders of nature. I also understand his desire to share what he as learned as if he were the first to know. When we realize how some aspect of nature works, we should be amazed and want to spread the word.

George and I model this amazement for the boys whenever we can. We take our children to museums and exhibits and zoos, and neither of us hides our enthusiasm for learning something new. We both read science books and magazines right in front of our children and discuss the things we learn. And there is so very much more to learn. The universe is a thrillingly wonderful place.

And there's the rub.

Socrates said, "The more I know, the more I know that I know nothing."  Nick might be amazed that I know how snowflakes form, but as he grows in knowledge and maturity, I hope he learns to be even more amazed at how that tiny fact has enormous consequences for climatology...consequences I glimpse dimly but have never studied deeply enough to understand in any meaningful way.

Even if I studied climatology my whole life, I still wouldn't know all the answers...or even all the questions. There is always something more to know.

The more I know, the more I know that I know nothing. For some people, this awareness of the limits of our knowledge, of our eternal state of ignorance and ambiguity, is terrifying. Some people have to know the answers to all the questions, to limit and control knowledge the way Hitler tried to control Germany. What a dangerous thing!

I have studied with professors who "know" exactly what a piece of literature means. Those professors have solved the mystery of meaning, control that meaning, and flunk students who dare challenge their authority. They see Hamlet as a snowflake, a crystal of words formed around a dust mote, photographable and finite. Its importance stops there, at the limit of their knowledge and understanding. There can be nothing more to know, no further questions to ask.

I have read scientific breakthroughs--eggs are bad!--that a few years later other scientists failed to duplicate--eat all the eggs you want!

I have listened to talking heads on news media state categorically that such-and-such is true, only to have other talking heads say the opposite is true. Who, may I ask, is correct? Or, perhaps I should ask even better questions: what's in the middle between these two supposed truths? Might the truth reside there? Or might the truth be both, or neither? 

I know people who "know" what the Bible means. They've solved the mystery of God, they "know" what God wants, they have created a God in their own image who agrees with them in all things. They reject the mystery in favor of certainty and control. Yet Scripture has its own version of Socrates' wisdom when it tells us to lean not on our own understanding but to trust God in all things.

Trust the Mystery. 

When we demand answers be set in concrete, eternal and unchanging so we can know the truth, hold it in our hands, control it, we put ourselves in place of God...and we are dangerous fools.

We don't know squat, really, about climatology or the meaning of Hamlet or fiscal cliffs or the Bible or God. We see only dimly, through narrow eyes and with limited minds. But when we move through life in a state of wonder and amazement, of discovery and willingness to learn, of humility and grace, we are at our strongest and our best and our wisest.

We let ourselves be filled with wonder, and we grow in wisdom.

How amazing!

How do you cultivate your sense of wonder and amazement? Are there areas of your life that have ceased to be full of wonder? What can you do to revitalize your sense of wonder?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Gratitude Journal #220

Today, I am grateful for a New Year's Eve party at the Clark's home, for good food, good wine, and a little roulette!

Today, I am grateful for texting and how it allowed the boys to keep in touch with us through the night...especially when Nick cracked jokes. Kid's a comedian.

Today, I am grateful for George's culinary skills. He made several new dishes this past week, and all were delicious!

Today, I am grateful for wonder, for that state of awe that can take the smallest blessing and expand it to fill our hearts and minds with appreciation and love. It's a wonder-filled world.

Today, I am grateful for the hobby of stamping in general and for the One-Layer Simplicity Challenge design team specifically...for their support and encouragement and hard work launching our brand new blog and revised challenge. We're off to a great start!

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

January's Word

My word for January is Wonderful.

As in "full of wonder."

What pops into your mind when you hear the word wonderful? What wonderful moment have you had in the past few weeks?

Also, feel free to share your word for the month or for the year, or any resolutions you've made. It's always fun to hear what other people are thinking about as we start another year of our lives. Let's make it WONDERFUL!