Tag Archives: perfection

The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree

Some of you saw my social media pic of our kitten up in the Christmas tree. I laughed when a friend commented that we’ld be lucky if the whole tree didn’t fall because it immediately transported me back to 2009: The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree.

That was our first year in our house we still live in, and I remember trying to decide the best place for the tree. I wasn’t thrilled with where we put it, but even more bothersome was the top of the tree was tilted. Every morning when I came into the living room it was not the pretty lights or the ornaments I saw (many of which had been wedding shower gifts), but only the imperfect tree.

I asked my husband to fix it. But without undecorating and starting completely over that was no easy feat. He did try; only it made it worse. I was not happy, and my whole family knew.

But it got worse…

As you can probably guess, the tree eventually fell. We were all home when it happened. And of course, the front of the tree – with all my most valuable and sentimental ornaments – is what hit the ground.

Apart from sweeping  up the shattered glass, it’s all a blur now. But what I’m left with is more than a funny Christmas story, but the story God has been writing in me that the crooked tree perhaps sparked.

You see, I wanted the perfect tree because I had made it a reflection of me. If it looked bad, I looked bad. Therefore, when anyone came into our home, I made it known that I was fully aware the tree was crooked before they could judge me. Ridiculous, huh? But even more than other’s opinions, it was my own standard with no room for failure that accused me of not measuring up. Is it any  wonder then I couldn’t enjoy the lights and decorations on the tree with imperfection glaring back at me?

This sounds crazy, but I was looking for my identity in a perfectly decorated tree! As if it could give me a secure worth! But we do this with all sorts of things – our home, our physical appearance, our performance, and that of our husband or kids.  They all become measuring sticks for how we are doing.

Of course, in and of themselves there is nothing wrong with wanting our house to look pretty, a cute outfit to wear, obedient kids or even a straight Christmas tree. But when these things become something we obsess over, can’t let go of,  have to have, find pride in, feel better than others for, or we think has to be fixed it is a sure tell sign these things are acting as our functional “gods.”

What’s even crazier is the perfection we strive for is already securely ours in Christ.  No matter how hard we try to build our own identity we can’t ever measure up to God’s standard. But the good news is, we don’t have to. Jesus did it for us!

When we are in Christ, we have his righteousness and God’s unwavering acceptance.  To look to anything else for merit, or identity, is to live as if what Jesus did was not enough.

There was beauty in my imperfect tree, I just couldn’t see it because I was focused on the wrong thing. Similar to how we do ourselves. We see what’s missing, where we fail to measure up and what we’ve done wrong. But when God’s grace crashes into our crooked lives we begin to see his beauty shines brighter in our brokenness.

That same year of the crooked Christmas tree, my daughter made a paper mache Christmas tree in her sixth grade art class. It too was crooked, not by design. (I should’ve seen the foreshadowing!)

That paper mache tree is what replaced my broken Radko ornament as one of my favorite Christmas treasures. When I look at it, and read back over the stories the kids wrote about “The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree,” I am reminded of my need for Jesus and his perfect love for me.

So as we deck our halls this season, may the lights and decor serve not as a means to adorn ourselves with any glory of perfection, but to draw our eyes to the One who hung on a tree so his perfection could be ours.

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Motherhood: When the Inside Doesn’t Match the Outside

I am excited to introduce my friend Holly Mackle as a guest blogger today. She is a new friend actually – we met at a conference this winter, but I feel like we’ve known each other far longer. She is the kind of friend I’ld call a “gospel friend” (as written recently HERE) because right from the get go masks came off. In her new book she speaks truth for new moms struggling to fake it ’til they make it. And while I know most of you, my readers, aren’t new moms I hope you will read what she has to say and consider how maybe you too need to let go of a facade, find a gospel friend and be pointed to Christ. Without further ado…

With Holly and my other new "gospel friend" Meg
With Holly and my other new “gospel friend” Meg

After my first daughter was born, friends came out of the woodwork to bring meals. My heart swelled each time at their thoughtfulness and generosity. I didn’t cook for weeks.

“Casserole season,” as a friend calls it, meant short visits in the midst of the relative revolving door of homemade goodness. But for me, as a first time mama casserole season meant a whole lot of firsts, a whole lot of insecurities, and even more oppressive fearfulness.

So I took a note from Eve and I hid.  Very few of those sweet friends who dropped by with a casserole saw beneath the veil of what was really going on in my heart, because I couldn’t lift it for them. I couldn’t risk showing them the constant fear and condemnation I was living under; I couldn’t let a tear slip. I had to be strong and pretend motherhood was bliss – the way it was supposed to be.

I didn’t show them what was really going on inside me, and as a result, they couldn’t point me to the truth of who Jesus is for me. If only I could have been brave…

Because of what I went through I want to help other mamas step out from under the stifling how-to’s of motherhood and the myth of perfection and step into transparency and the freedom found in Christ —it’s the whole reason I coauthored a new book, Engaging Motherhood, Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling

Each of the other six writers of this study are super smart, highly capable woman with great ideas, interesting opinions, godly character, and visible evidence of the Holy Spirit’s active work in their lives…and every one of them struggled, as I did, with the transition to motherhood.

I say this to remind me, us, that things are not always what they seem. And this especially applies to the inexpressibly joyful, raw, sleepless, delightfully nuanced days of having a young child. And it’s surprisingly easy to hide when the attention is on a new little one.

Church, don’t miss the opportunity to love on a new mama’s heart. Don’t be afraid to look her in the eye and ask if she’s drowning. Know how they say the scary thing about drowning is how silent it is? Yeah, that. That’s what it was like for me.

God gave us motherhood in his good plan. He desired to reveal and represent his tender nature through us as women, pouring out what feels like every last drop we have in sacrifice for another. And if it sounds like the task requires everything, it’s because it does. It has certainly required more of me than I would have ever been able to give on my own, and my own two barely reach my hip. I don’t know how women do it unless they are walking hand in hand with the One True King.

Knowing deep down we stand before God on Christ’s record and not ours is a non-option. It’s the only way to get through the long days and short years. The sufficiency of our Savior is what we, as the writers of this new moms study, want to point to.

We want to point because evil wants to get in and have its way with this very tender, emotional, and often-trying time in a woman’s life. We want to tell them they are enough because he is enough.

New mamas are often begging for affirmation, but the cry is deeply covered by the scary newness of it all. As a result, many focus on figuring out the how-to’s instead of seeking answers to the deep questions at the core of what they’re really asking.

So if you know a new mama don’t miss the opportunity to love and squeeze on the precious new little life, and then look that mama in the eye, ask a hard question and point her to who Christ is for her. And if you are a struggling new mama my prayer is you will be able to lift the veil to let others in who will point you to the One who cups your face in his hands and says, “Focus, beloved. Fix your eyes on me!”

To order a copy of Holly’s book for you or as a great gift for a new mom, click HERE. 

Join Holly and the other contributing authors for an evening of authentic conversation, encouragement and giveaways on the Engaging Motherhood Facebook page July 28th from 8-9pm CST.

Holly Mackle bio picHolly writes and gardens in Birmingham, Alabama. She is wife to David and mama of two flower-sneaking bitties. Alongside some dear friends, she is an author of the new moms study Engaging Motherhood: Heart Preparation for a Holy Calling (2016). Holly blogs life and tomatoes at diggingsuburbia.com and will be a regular contributor to the upcoming joegardener.com.

New Years Nesting Leaves No Room for Perfection

I don’t know about you but something about ushering in the New Year makes me want to clean out and freshen up. I get busy going through drawers and cabinets and files and closets- reorganizing, filing, shredding and purging.

UnknownThe first few days of this year has been just that, only a lot of rearranging going on too. You see, I just read Myquillyn Smith’s, a.k.a The Nester, book The Nesting Place and cannot stop “shopping my own house” as she calls it.

I’m obsessed now and can’t believe, considering her 40,000+ Instagram followers, that until my sweet friend gave me this book she was unfamiliar to me! Turns out I even read her sister’s blog, Chatting at the Sky, and promote the grace-in-all-things lifestyle they each write about.

Well, better late than never, I’m glad to have been introduced and this is why:

Her motto: “It Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Beautiful”

We are called to holiness, not perfection. Thank the Lord since we can never attain it!  Most of us though tend to think they are one in the same. Therefore, we strive for perfection and feel like failures when we miss the mark. Instead of our inadequacies leading us deeper to dependence on Him, we try to hide our imperfections and sin from others while secretly beating ourselves up and resolving to try harder.

As I’ve written before basing your standing and worth on a million things other than Christ is a relentless treadmill hard to step off of. But, oh, how freeing when you do!

It will affect you in every way – even in how you see your house – which I am getting back to:). But first you must see how what you believe and the depth it reaches your heart matters in every day moments.

When your identity rests securely in Christ, the opinions of others matters less. No longer will you endlessly strive to meet their approval. No longer will you stress over what someone might think. No longer will you base your worth on how you look or compare to others.

You will be free! Free to stop thinking so much about yourself, which frees you up to love others better.

This freedom plays out in our homes too. When you are free to not be perfect, your house does not have to be perfect either. As The Nester says and I agree, the most beautiful houses are truly lived and loved in homes.  They are not necessarily the ones most perfectly decorated, but the ones that invite you in as a place of hospitality, safety and rest.

Funny though how we hesitate to invite guests over because ‘Oh no’ they might see how we really live or because a certain room isn’t finished yet or we think it’s not big enough or as pretty as someone elses. Guess why this is?

Fear.

Fear of what others think and of not measuring up. Fear that robs us of contentment and joy. Fear which is the opposite of freedom. Freedom we are not finding in Christ, but an identity we are trying to secure though something else.

Back to my own freshly inspired decorating: I realized the piano no one regularly plays, taking up wall space in our living room, was the ideal spot for another couple chairs and table. Considering how frequently large groups are over for Bible studies, teenage hangouts and dinner gatherings, it dawned on me having the extra seating makes more sense.

Where the piano was. I know with the cute puppy and even cute boy its secondary to the picture:)
Where the piano was. I know with the cute puppy and even cuter boy, the piano is really secondary to this picture:)
My newly created space with not one new purchase!
My newly created space with not one new purchase!

Of course, moving that area led to another and before my family knew it I had brought items from upstairs oblivion to new prominent table space for us to enjoy. Space as conducive to sipping coffee and reading as entertaining, like we did earlier this week for a bowl game and New Years Eve.

Right there with its back exposed for all guests to see when they walk in the door!
Right there with its back exposed for all guests to see when they walk in the door!

Even though I still haven’t solved the problem of the poorly positioned piano off the entryway (which was my grandfathers and won’t be parted with) being free from the standard of perfection allowed me to be okay with it there even with guests coming.

And you know what?  That piano there, squished by the dining table, didn’t take away one bit of fun or laughter we shared.

Oh, the beauty that comes when we let go of perfection… and the joy found in an imperfect loved home with imperfect, but deeply loved people!