Category Archives: Perfection

The S Word

"The S Word" written on a lemon tree.by Lydia Floren

One of our favorite family phrases comes from the movie Aladdin.  The little parrot, Iago, gets all upset and starts venting to his boss, the evil Jafar.  Jafar’s response is simply this: “Paaaaatience, Iago. Paaaatience.”

What gets us so riled up, that we lose our patience with ourselves or others? For me, it is the S word.  No, not the four-letter S word….the six-letter one:  “should.”  When “should” creeps into my thoughts and makes its way into my conversations, patience goes out the window. Joy is replaced by restless discontent.  I start focusing on what is wrong instead of what is right.

“They should be doing this. I should be doing that.”

“They should fill all of these potholes.”  “I should get more respect.” “The computer system should always work perfectly.” “I should be able to manage my time better, or be a better person.”

Should is a toxic word. It poisons our peace and eats away at our patience. Shoulds stress us out and put stress on those around us.

Cure for the S word

The cool thing is, there is a cure for the S word–the “should” infection. It’s the T word: thanksgiving. The practice of giving thanks in all things stamps the shoulds right out of our life. Gratitude banishes discontent, restores our joy, and replenishes our patience.

“Thank you Father, that we have paved streets, and that these potholes will eventually be filled.”  “Thank you that You respect and value me, and are teaching me to respect and value myself.” “Thank you that the computer system works 99% of the time, and there is a great team of people working on keeping it that way.”

It doesn’t come easy.

Replacing the “S” word with the “T” word takes some practice. It doesn’t come easy.  In fact it can feel quite awkward and contrived, especially at first.  But, it is incredibly powerful at restoring our perspective and our joy.

“Thank You that every single one of us is imperfect and in process, and You love us right where we are.” “Thank You that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made.” “Thank You that I don’t need to do anything to earn your love, and there is nothing I can do that will change it.” “Thank you that You are always present and at work, and working things to good.”

“Thank you that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for.”

When we cultivate a grateful heart we quit “shoulding” all over ourselves and those around us. Our words and actions are motivated by love instead of driven by discontent.

How has the “S” word invaded your life?  What happens when you replace it with the “T” word?

"patience" on purple petunias

 

Stepping Back

stepping backStepping Back by Lydia Floren

There always seems to be a lot going on in my life. Yours too, probably. Until recently I was working on a book project (Beloved Adventure), blogging, practicing medicine, helping to lead a small group, and preparing for a major house renovation. But a few months ago, I felt God leading me to put a few of these projects on hold and take some time for deep healing from some things in my past.

This is not on my five-year plan. Anywhere.

Yes, I have a past. We all do. I’ve dealt with it, prayed over it, experienced healing from it.  I really don’t want to go there again. Ever. “Besides,” I grumbled to God, “I’m too old for this.”

But God kept tapping me on my shoulder saying “You need to go here. It is important. It is your next step forward, for growth and healing. There are things that linger there, that  now you have the strength and understanding to deal with.  Things that still affect you, that cause you to be anxious, to over react in certain situations, to distrust. I want to perform a deeper healing, to give you a new perspective, to bless you with increased joy and freedom.”

It took a few such “conversations,”  before I acquiesced.  I reluctantly set aside (for the third time) the kitchen/bathroom project, the work on Beloved Adventure and a few other things.  And I began cautiously following My Loving Father in a different direction.

It takes a lot more courage and energy for me to step back than it does to step forward. It’s scary. There is rejection and hurt and mistakes and regret back there. It is a place I only dare go with my Loving Father at my side. And He has stayed close, protecting, providing, encouraging.  He led me to counselor that I trust, and a couple of friends I can decompress with.  He has given me a husband who understands and friends who are praying.

So far, It’s been messy and revealing. And yes, freeing and healing. But it has not been easy.

We can always know that God’s way will be one of healing and growth, freedom and joy. But what’s hard to grasp is that, on occasion, His way may also take us in an unexpected direction, a retrospective—even painful—one.  But He knows that difficult past experiences can seep through and stain our current perspective, despite many coats of paint-years layered on top. So, there are times God may (and probably will) ask us to dig deep. Unearth unpleasant memories. Allow Him to reprocess them in the light of His love.

Are you willing, no matter what your age or stage in life, for God to lead you to take a step back?  To set aside some projects, so that you have the time and energy to follow Him there? Are you ready to trust Him to create a new frame of reference, one untainted by past hurts? Even if the healing process will be painful at times?

If/when you are, I think you will find that stepping back can be remarkably freeing.  As God heals damaged emotions from the past, He enables us to claim more fully His loving embrace in the present.

You might find, as I have, that sometimes the best way–maybe even the only way—to move forward is by stepping back.

Those who wait for the lord will gain new strength…” Isaiah 40:31

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-34

sometimes stepping back is the best way to move forward.

Right Now

love God and love others

Right Now

by Lydia Floren

For some time, I have been focusing on learning to receive the love of God. I am convinced that in order to obey what Jesus said was the most important commandment—to love God, and love my neighbor as myself—I must first receive God’s love for me. In fact, I believe it is impossible to obey this command without first being filled up and living as one who is beloved. The question is how. How do I live in the love of God? How do I learn to embrace God’s love for me personally? How do I accept this love every day, and fill up with it? Answers to these questions have been coming to me in pieces rather than all together. Today I have been given another piece:

Have you ever been in a “mood”? A state of mind where nothing is good or right or positive about the world, the people you encounter, God, and especially yourself? I was in such a state this morning, and after lingering there for a while, this thought came to mind:

“I love you right now.”

“Now, God? Now is not a good time to be loving me. I am crabby, having a pity party, mad at the world, frustrated with myself. This is not a good time to be loving me. ”

“Now. Now is the best time to love you.”

He is right, of course, much as I don’t want to acknowledge it. There is no better time for Him to love me and for me to accept His love than right now, because it is as I am. And because now, when I know myself to be a crabby, sorry individual is when I need His love the most. Now is when His love really does the most good, has the most transforming power. But now is also the hardest time to receive His love. I am ugly and I know it. My heart is spewing forth negativity, anger, condemnation, self-righteousness, pride, selfishness, self-loathing.

And yet He calls to me:

“Come on child, climb out of the pit of your pity party—your hopelessness. Receive my transforming love. Let go of your shoulds and oughts for yourself and those around you, and just be loved. I’ve got this. And I’ve got you. You are safe, and you are free. Simply follow me in the next step, and watch me work! “

Now.

I am not hopeless. And I am not helpless. He knows me and loves me just like I am. And He wants me to live in that love.

Now.

I do have a choice. Do I accept His knowing and loving and forgiving? Do I accept His grace? His embrace? When I do, I am letting go of the lie that I can live in joy without Him. Or that I would want to. I choose to believe He is safe. His love is there always, even (and especially) when I am at my worst.

Even now.

He loved me first.

He loves me now.

We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NAS)

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1 NAS)

Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8a NAS)

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

Waking Up With a Smile

8:4:16 Waking up

by Lydia Floren

“Father in heaven, when the thought of Thee wakes our hearts, let it not awaken like a  frightened bird that flies about in dismay, but like a child waking from its sleep with a heavenly smile.”  –Soren Kierkegaard

Our Heavenly Father loves us unconditionally. When we turn to God, we always have a warm welcome.  His arms are open wide. We can run into His embrace, and unburden our cares and worries, leaving them at His feet. Once we are settled and at peace, He’ll give us a big hug, tousle our head, and send us on our way with a smile.

Being in God’s presence reassures us that He is with us, and will guide us through whatever difficulty we face.

We can always turn to God with complete trust and confidence.

       When I awake, I am still with You.  Psalm 139:18

8:4:16 When I Awake

8:4:16 Every Smile

Focus

7:30:16 Focusby Lydia Floren

“O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see?”

These are the first lines of a great old hymn. Even though Helen Lemmel wrote these questions decades ago, they are relevant today, aren’t they?  Here’s what she says next:

“There’s a light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

We all feel overwhelmed at times. Lemmel simply reminds us, when we get discouraged, to take some time to focus on something—Someone—else.  As we shift our attention to Jesus, our troubles don’t disappear. They just settle into a different perspective.

Turn your eyes away from your troubles, and look at Jesus.

Listen, as He says:

I love you in the mess of your life, and day by day I’m redeeming it and setting it right. It is beautiful now, and it is becoming more beautiful. You don’t have to fix anything. You just have to rest, and follow and let me work.

Live in the present, aware of God’s loving presence. The past is redeemed. The future is secure. The present is really all you have at any given time.

Perfect love drives out fear.”  1 John 4:18

Don’t Rush. Just Rest.

7:15:16 Don't Rushby Lydia Floren

You know, Jesus had a pretty big “to do” list to accomplish in his 33 years of life:

  1. Grow up (and never do anything wrong).
  2. Take 12 random guys (some of whom can’t read or write), and, in 3 years, shape them into world leaders.
  3. Be tortured and killed, in spite of what you want to do, and defeat the greatest enemy the world has ever known.

Yeah, Jesus had a lot on his plate. But think about it.  Can you imagine Jesus rushing around – interrupting folks and cutting people off in traffic so he could get His “important stuff” done?  Of course not.

Jesus was never in a hurry.

He said,  “Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

When we come to Him, in the middle of our busyness, he gives us rest.  We find “rest for our souls.”  And we can go about our day, packed as it may be, settled and at peace in that “zone of rest,” knowing He is with us and within us, guiding and leading us to do what is most important.

There is plenty of time to do each day what God would have us do without rushing.

Don’t rush. Just rest.

Hanging Out

6:24:16 hanging out

Hanging Out

by Daniel Floren

Dad took me to Chicago for Spring Break. It was an incredible trip full of hilarious improv, great food, and cool culture spots.

One day, I really wanted to go to a particular pizza place and check it out. I took it upon myself to figure out all of the transportation details, feeling quite accomplished as the ’son’ directing/leading ‘dad’. We got to the address, and saw nothing but high rise buildings. It was the Corporate Headquarters for this pizza spot – no where close to the actual restaurant. I was soooo mad. I spent the next hour trying to walk off my frustration. “I totally screwed it up,” I thought to myself.

The next day, after the Shed Aquarium, we had about a 4-5 hour gap with nothing to do. I turned to Dad as we looked out at Lake Michigan, and I asked him with some urgency, “Dad, what do you want to do? I don’t know what comes next, I’m out of plans, I didn’t plan well enough. I’m sorry, but we have some free time. How can we redeem it to make the trip worth the money? What do you want to do?” He looked at me and just kind of half-smiled in amazement, shaking his head. He took a second. “Daniel. This. This is all I want. Just spending time with you.”

In that moment, a number of curious things clicked into place. I looked at Dad’s shirt. It was the TKA Elementary School shirt from when he was my soccer coach. Yesterday he wore my high school football shirt, and the day before that a TCU polo. The point was always to spend time with his son. All of the gifts and adventures of Chicago were just a nice backdrop for hang-out time.

I have always come to God asking, “What do you want to do?” With my life, my marriage, my job, my friends, my day, the groceries, this very second…

Strangely enough, I think the answer has always been, “We’re doing it!” Christ wants to hang out and commune with me and love me! By the very nature of turning to God and asking, “What do you want to do?” we’re there! We are now talking and hanging out! Before I take another step toward anything, I’ve got to first realize that that is the most beautiful thing. We’re just there already. His Grace met us there and his love keeps us there. All of our purposes and plans must be in context of just hanging out with the Lord. Then, without any pressure, we can go grab pizza.

Patience

Perfectionists are  a restless lot. As a perfectionist-in-recovery, I am no expert on patience.  Impatience?   Now that is something I know well.

Much of my life I have lived in the world of impatience.  I am impatient for a project to be done, for people to hurry up and catch up, for the house to be perfect, my kids to be perfect, my husband to be perfect., and– most of all– for ME to be perfect.

Every perfectionist is really hard on themselves, and I am no exception.  I try-I really do-to correct all my imperfections, to achieve the elusive status of “perfect,” for once in my life.  (I wonder what that might feel like?)  Occasionally I get close, and have the momentary sense of satisfaction before the all-too-familiar restlessness returns.

I am learning that perfection is such a hopeless goal, and it is so unnecessary:.  The truth is, I am already perfect.  God through Christ has made me that way.  My  job is to claim perfection for myself, not to create “perfection” in myself.

Patience grows in the soil of contentment, watered by thanksgiving. From belovedlove.org

Patience takes root when I quit focusing on self-improvement.  In fact, it really flourishes when I quit focusing on myself altogether, and

  • I give thanks for God – His character, wisdom, kindness, honesty, integrity, and
  • I give thanks to God, for His enormous love for me and every other person on the planet.

Patience thrives when I am thankful to God for His infinite patience with me, and for teaching me – slowly and surely – to be patient with myself.

Patience grows in the soil of contentment, watered by thanksgiving.  And as I turn my face toward the warmth  of God’s Love, that patience blossoms with Joy.

Catch & Release

4:21:16 SM Catch & ReleaseCatch and Release

by Lydia Floren

My friend Derek is really good at catching fish. He actually enters fishing contests (I didn’t even know there was such a thing) and wins. One time he won a truck—a new truck, mind you. In a fishing contest. Amazing. Now me? Not so much. I can literally count on one hand the number of fish I have caught in my whole life. (And not for lack of trying.)

Catch and Release

So frankly I have never quite understood the reason for catch and release rules – where you actually catch a fish and then throw it back in the water. This makes no sense. If I manage to hook a fish, by goodness I ought to be able to do whatever I want with it. (Not that I really know what to do with one when I catch it!) But apparently there are lots of people (like Derek) out there who actually catch enough fish that someone had to enact this “catch and release” rule, just to keep the fish population at a healthy level, so all of us other poor shmo’s might have a fighting chance of hooking our third or fourth lifetime fish.

My personal catch and release rule

But I have my own personal “catch and release” rule, that makes infinitely more sense to me. Here’s my logic: if I catch a fish, and I just leave it lying around – I don’t either cook it and eat it or put it in the freezer – pretty soon the whole house will start to stink. There are very few smells worse than the stench of rotting fish. My catch and release rule is very pragmatic:

If by some miracle you catch a fish, and aren’t going to do something with it, you better release it, so it doesn’t stink up the house.

Catching sin, releasing guilt

Lots of times, when I “catch” the truth that I have sinned, I let it hang around, stinking up my life with guilt and shame. Why? Maybe

  • Pride. I can’t believe that I could do – or did do – something like that. So I deny it.
  • Self-punishment. By some warped thought process, I think if I keep it around, and beat myself up enough, maybe that will make it OK.
  • Control. I am trying to fix it myself. I worry over it, trying to figure out how to make it go away. Instead of fixing it, it just sits there. Stinking.

God wants us to catch, and then release our sin – to be free of it – every day.

Today, ask God to show you where you have sinned, and then catch it:  Admit it to yourself and to Him. Choose to receive His forgiveness. Let Him take it – and you – off the hook.

And then release it. Let it go. Let go of guilt and shame, of regrets and should-have’s. Let go of the idea that you can make this right on your own. Let go of control, and let God lead you in how to be permanently rid of this sin-habit, so it doesn’t stink up your life.

God is faithful and reliable. If we confess our sins, he forgives them and cleanses us from everything we’ve done wrong. 1 John 1:9

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Overcoming Fear

3:16:16 Overcoming Fearby Lydia Floren

I have discovered that I can carry a lot of fear around with me. I have a fear of failure, fear of being rejected or disrespected. I am afraid of loneliness. Sometimes I am afraid that I don’t have what it takes to make and keep heartwarming, life renewing relationships. I am afraid that I am “not enough” (whatever that means), and I am afraid that I can’t fake it well enough to keep others from finding out. My fears can alter my reality, and change the way I respond to people and situations. Here’s how:

I beg
And I can act on my fears, by trying to be good enough. I try to

  • please people
  • grab attention
  • compete
  • do the best I can to be lovable

I beg for the love and acceptance I need so desperately. I am like a little kid whining for a treat.
But the few crumbs I get from others don’t satisfy my gnawing hunger.

I steal.
When my fears overwhelm me I start believing the worst: no one could ever really love me. And desperation sets in. My response?

  • Escape: I immerse myself in a project, or eat lots of chocolate, or withdraw into a book.
  • Retaliate. I get-angry-and-get-even by manipulating, or just snapping someone’s head off.
  • Complain. I steal other people’s joy by criticizing or complaining.

I steal peace and joy where I think I can find it.
But the glitter is not gold.

I hide.
When I am afraid, I tend to focus on myself: I try to

  • Protect myself so I can’t be rejected or hurt in the future.
  • Insulate myself with popularity or position or competence.
  • I keep others at arm’s length so they cannot know my weaknesses and hurt me with that knowledge.

But my hiding place is not safe, or secret.

There is a better way.

Overcoming Fear
There is a better way to be validated, and free from fear. It requires that I do something counterintuitive. I have to choose to quit looking at myself, and instead choose to look up.

When I take my eyes off my situation and start focusing on God, it changes everything. God is the most scary-smart [He makes MENSA look like preschool], wealthy, important, powerful person in the universe. And He loves ME. He cherishes ME. He considered me highly valuable, worth paying the price of His son’s life. He has adopted ME into His royal family. His secret service protects me 24-7.

There is nothing to fear.

My identity, value, belonging, and calling are secure. Nothing and no one can change these – not even me. Nothing anyone else does or says can alter this inner person that I am in any way. I am a precious, unique individual. I am loved. I belong in God’s family. I have a calling: to encourage and love others in my own unique way.

When I am not afraid, the world looks totally different, and I respond differently.

I quit begging for others to validate me with their attention, respect, admiration. I come out of hiding, because I am 100% safe. I stop trying to grab a cheap imitation for joy wherever I can find it, because I have already received the real joy of being completely known and loved.

I start serving. I just want to help others to see their unique precious identity, value, belonging and calling. I want them to know the safety of living life under the protection of the God of the Universe, who loves them much more than I ever could. I am aware of God with me, and want nothing more than for Him to lead me, and empower me to love those that cross my path.

Once I am deeply and completely satisfied  in the waters of God’s love, I can really live. My cup overflows.

Let the joy begin!

Surely goodness and loving kindness shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23:6