Tag Archives: perfection

Mirrors and Wisdom by Lydia Floren

sunflowers reflected in a silver trayFor now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known.  1 Cor 13:12

Two thousand years ago, a mirror was a highly polished piece of metal, maybe bronze or silver.  Because it was hand-hammered and buffed, a person’s reflection in it would be imperfect – there would be distortions, and probably some dark spots. (Not that most of us really want total accuracy, when we look at a mirror, but that’s beside the point.)  In those days, if you wanted a more accurate idea of what you actually looked like, you would need to step into the brightest light you could find and view your reflection from several different angles.

When Paul said “now we see through a mirror dimly” he was comparing our limited understanding of life/the world/our situation with the distorted reflection that one saw when looking at piece of polished metal.

Here’s the Amplified version of 1 Corinthians 13:12:

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection of reality as in a riddle or enigma, but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly); but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. 

None of us have a clear picture of what is going on in the world – or even in our own lives. Our reflection is incomplete. There are blank spots and distortions.  In order to get the best possible understanding, we need to inspect our situations from a variety of viewpoints, and in the brightest light we can find – the light of God’s truth.

Even in the best of circumstances, our vision is limited.

But the great news is, God’s is not. He sees everything and, even better, He understands what it all means. He knows how it all connects. From His perspective, He can guide us along the wisest path forward.  All we have to do is ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.  James 1:5 NIV

pink dogwood tree with "Christ is wisdom and He is our deepest need.  -Margaret Botlome

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.

Escaping the Twilight Zone of Anxiety

Escaping the Twilight Zone of Anxietyby Lydia  Floren

In the holiday season, it is easy to get stressed.  Anxiety can slip up on you–or just slam you– but it always keeps you from enjoying life.  When we are anxious, we are fretful, not fruitful. We frown. We are easily annoyed. With all the activity and stress this time of year, it’s doubly important to recognize the signs that you may be entering the Twilight Zone of Anxiety.

 It starts with The Coulds.

I think we all have a little ADD; it’s hard not to get distracted, given the world we live in.  And any tendency our minds might have to wander, will kick into overdrive at the holidays.  We think about The Coulds.

There are so many things we COULD do.  We COULD entertain like Southern Living, decorate our homes like Architectural Digest, create gifts like Martha Stewart, dress like Vogue, bake cookies like Good Housekeeping.   We COULD attend the office party, the theatre production, the carol sing, the sleigh ride.   We COULD do all the things we didn’t do last year, that we promised ourselves we would do “next year, for sure.”  These “coulds” don’t order themselves into a neat list; they swirl around in our heads like a thick fog on a stormy night.

 Then come The Shoulds

Once The Coulds are established, The Shoulds creep in.  We SHOULD make this gift.  We SHOULD call so-and-so.  We SHOULD attend that event, buy this present, send that special card, call that person, volunteer for this cause. SHOULDS go very deep in our psychy.  Beneath the layer of things we SHOULD DO, is the even more corrosive layer of the things we SHOULD BE.  We SHOULD BE more loving, and patient, and thoughtful, and organized, and disciplined.  Between the Coulds and the Shoulds, everything in our heads becomes a muddled mess.

The Abyss of Never Enough

Eventually, we are forced to face the fact that we don’t have enoughof anything.  We don’t have enough time, or energy, or resources, or even compassion–to do what we think we SHOULD do, much less what we COULD do.  At first we might complain (whine) “if I just had more _______.”  Or we might try whipping those around us into action (usually less-than-enthusiastic family members), to help us get some of those Shoulds off our backs.   Finally we admit to ourselves: “There is never enough, and there is never going to be enough, of me to do all these Shoulds, no matter how hard I try.”

While this truth should be freeing, it is not. Not yet.  We aren’t finished sliding down into the pit, and we do this by saying to ourselves, “Somehow this is all my fault. I SHOULD have done this, I SHOULD have planned that.”  We get frustrated, depressed, and twice as stressed, beating ourselves up for every missed opportunity, every less-than-perfect outcome. When we reach the SHOULDS of REGRET, we have tumbled headlong into the Abyss of NEVER ENOUGH.  Here, we are truly at a standstill.

 Escaping the Twilight Zone of Anxiety

The way to freedom from all this anxiety and stress is 180 dgrees opposite the busy road we have been traveling.  Our freedom comes when we decide to quit focusing on ourselves, and our little corner of the universe, and turn our eyes to Jesus.   Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”   When we spend our efforts connecting with the Maker of the Universe we get to know Truth—in Person.  That Person also said “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.”

I find when I choose to make time with God my top priority, everything changes.  The fog clears. I start to see the world more from His perspective. The things I was worried about don’t seem as important. And other things—things that weren’t even on my radar before—take precedence. The hymnist Helen H. Lemmel expressed  it this way:

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.

The psalmist David said it another way:

…I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God… Isaiah 40:1-3

What ways has God freed you?  We’d love to hear from you!

For more reflections about the holidays, check out  Perfect Holidays, Shine your Heart, or   Crunch Time.

Rest for My Soul

heavy load

Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden

We fail. We mess up.  We make bad decisions, and many times the heavy load we carry is the result of those choices.  When we recognize this, we pile on self-condemnation—guilt and shame.  Not God, our Loving Father.  He opens His arms wide, and says:

Child come here.  Put down that heavy load, and climb up in My lap and tell Me all about it.  Receive the grace, the forgiveness I so want to give you, and let me release you from your worry.  Quit accepting shame, and embrace the freedom-joy of My love once again.  Just leave it to Me.  I will help you know what to do as you move forward from here.

Take my yoke upon you and learn of me

I will not only show you what to do now, but I will help you learn from this.  I can teach you to be free of your compulsions, to see more of the world from My perspective, so you don’t make this same mistake twice.  If you choose, My Holy Spirit will do this deep healing in your spirit. 

For my load is easy and my burden is light and you shall find rest for your souls

It is so much easier–and more enjoyable–to follow Me when you aren’t carrying unnecessary burdens.  The load I give you is quite simple: stay connected with Me.  Don’t let anything get in the way of this connection, especially not your mistakes. Don’t let anything keep you from embracing the identity, value, belonging and calling I have given you.

When you stay connected with Me, you will be able to hear my voice and follow where I am leading you to go.

I will show you the next step from here.

Do not anxiously look about you for I am your GodReaching forward to what lies ahead I press on to the upward call of God in Christ JesusCast all your cares upon Him for He cares for you

What helps you stay connected to God, even in the midst of failure?

come to me all who are weary and heavy laden

By Lydia Floren

Image by woodleywonderworks

Crunch Time

busy at the holidays

It’s crunch time. The week before Christmas, and for us Event-Planners (see The Perfect Holidays) there are thousand details to attend to before The Holidays. There are Christmas presents to wrap, groceries to buy, a house to clean, food to cook, relatives to see (or feel guilty about not seeing), Christmas tree to decorate, school programs to attend, teacher presents to send, cookies to bake, cards to address, and –in our house anyway–football to watch (how ‘bout them Packers?).

All those thoughts of peace and joy at the holiday have vanished as we round the curve for The Final Stretch. We are a jockey riding a horse named Holiday Expectations, high in the stirrups on the straightaway, whipping up momentum to carry us through to the finish. (And frankly at this point we don’t really care about winning, we just want to cross the line in one piece.)

And the last thing on our mind is quiet reflection.

Quiet reflection. [sigh]

An oasis. [ Big Sigh ]

A calm in the middle of the storm. [Big Sigh x 2]

A pipedream? [blink]

Our heart says:
Quiet reflection. Yes, this is what you need. This is what will set things right.

Our mind shouts:
This is not happening. Are you crazy? There is no time for this. There is way too much to do.

OK mind, HEAR THIS TRUTH:
You are too busy not to pray.

Now–In our busiest time– it is doubly important to stay committed to 30+ minutes a day connecting with God in solitude and silence.

God knows. (hellooooo. He IS GOD. He knows Everything.) He knows all the things on your to do list, and even some you forgot to write down. [Now don’t stop reading to start thinking about what these might be.] He knows what you expect of yourself and why, and what others (you think) expect of you. And He definitely knows your energy level and your limits usually MUCH better than you do.

God wants more for you and less from you this holiday season

He wants more for you, and less from you–less activity anyway. He wants different things. What he expects of you—what He is guiding you to do– is doable; it is less stressful, and way more fun. Jesus said

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

[Rest—doesn’t that sound wonderful?]

“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NASB)

Take a minute and just breathe in those words:

“Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” 

Remind yourself: There is plenty of time to do in this day what He would have me do, without rushing.

Try THIS:
1. Find your to do list. Put everything you can think of on it.
2. Set it down (turn it over so you won’t keep glancing back at it), and pray:

Father I leave this list at Your feet. Please direct this day, and help me to know what you would have me do, what are the most important things. Direct this day. Thank you that you are within me, and will guide me in each step, including all the unexpected things that this day holds.

3. Get out a fresh page, and number it one to five. (No cheating – you can’t put for #2 “do everything on my other to do list.”)

TO DO:
1. 30+ minutes a day in God’s presence, soaking in His love, remembering His wisdom, seeking His guidance.
2. ____________
3. ____________
4. ____________
5. ____________

Pray:

Father, thank You that there is plenty of time to do in this day what You would have me do.

  • Thank you that you know my limitations of time and energy and endurance, even if/when I forget them.
  • Thank You that You will lead me to do the most important things, and lay aside those that are less crucial (although they may seem most urgent right now.)
  • Thank You that You accomplish what concerns me. That as I restore my soul in You, and fill up with Your presence, I fill up with Your peace and purpose and joy as well. I reclaim life, and reject worry and stress.
  • Thank You that I only have one person to please in life—You–and what you want is simple: my love and trust.
  • Thank You that You really do know what is best, and I can trust Your presence within me as You guide me this day.
  • Thank You that I am protected by You, even from my own compulsions. Help me to remember to live in Your care, to dwell in the shelter of the Most High.

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1 NASB)

The Perfect Holidays

Stuffed bear with Burger King crown

The Perfect Holidays

by Lydia Floren

“Hon, how bout I take care of Thanksgiving dinner this year?”,  Andrew asked me a couple of weeks before this year’s holiday.   I gave him “the look,” – the “are you crazy?” look. I know what his question meant.  If he “takes care” of Thanksgiving dinner it means we will go out, very likely to Burger King, his (I’m not lying) favorite restaurant.  And then I smiled, because I knew that underneath his question – and he was quite sincere in his offer, BTW – what he was really asking me was to remember not to stress out over the fast-approaching holidays.

Being a mom, especially at the holidays, is hard.

You are the producer for the “biggest show on earth”, creating “memories for a lifetime”.  And you also happen to be the director, writer, actor, stagehand, caterer, props person, sound and lighting tech, cameraman, set maker, stylist, promoter, event planner, waitress, cook…  and of course, custodian.   You have expectations, and standards – your own and Martha Stewart’s – for what “success” at the holidays must look like.  And year after year, you throw yourself into the fray, trying yet again to achieve the elusive “perfect memory.”

I have chased perfection many holidays:  ribbon-decorated baskets filled with homemade treats for neighbors, wrapped gifts mailed to 20 (count ‘em) different relatives, Christmas cards – complete with letter, personal note and family picture – sent to 100 of our closest friends and family, two dressed turkeys with all the trimmings, matching sweaters for the Christmas Eve service, a personally cut tree piled high with gifts, a lovely party for the office and another for a few friends, the school play and the church musical. Unfortunately I also know the cost of such “perfection”:  stress, anxiety, exhaustion, short tempers.

Perfection is an ever-changing specter

It vanishes just when you close your hand around it.   The irony is, when you chase after it, you are certain not to achieve it.  What happens (and believe me, I know from many years of experience) is that you will miss joy altogether.

I suspect that what you really want this holiday, as I do and as I am sure your family does, is not really perfection, it is joy. Don’t make the mistake of chasing perfection to try to achieve joy.  The two are in completely opposite directions.   As you neglect everything else in your drive for perfection, you stress yourself out, and stress out the people around you.  Somewhere in your head, you reason that those you love must see how important the “perfect holiday” is, and must do everything in their power to help you accomplish it.  It is for them, after all.  But is it? For them?  Or for you, so that you can feel good about yourself for one brief moment in time?

In your drive to “succeed” you are choosing to fail in what you really want most, and certainly what your family wants most:  joy, fun, contentment, peace, for your family and yourself.

If you are not careful, the holidays will become something they dread (as you often do) instead of something they look forward to.  What you dread is the never-ending to do list, the nagging sense of not ever doing enough, or doing it right.  What they dread is the tension, the crabbiness, the rush to finish and do and go and see.

The Perfect HolidaysSo change your goal this season.

 Change your goal of what “the perfect holiday” is.   And then change your plans.  It won’t be easy. If you thought trying to achieve perfection was hard work, try the work of changing your expectations.  It takes intention to reprogram after years of input from Southern Living, Real Simple [boy is that an oxymoron of a magazine], and every TV commercial from October through December.  But this is effort that truly pays dividends.

Remember that a “joyful holiday” is not perfect.  It is the lopsided tree you got from the lot this year,that someone forgot to water so it turned brown before Christmas.  It’s the turkey that looks great on the outside, but is hard as a rock, still frozen, when you tried to slice it. It is the sweet potato casserole lighting on fire.  It is homemade presents, and paper chains on the tree. It is ordering takeout on Christmas Eve. It is everyone going to church in whatever outfit they happen to have on.  It is the Christmas letter mailed out in January (if it gets mailed out at all). It is gifts from the thrift store, a puzzle with a missing piece, planning meals around football games. Inviting someone new to dinner.  Or going out.  For dinner.  (At least considering the idea.)  It is a mom who is relaxed and laughing and having fun. Because just as “when momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy” the converse is also true:  When momma is happy, everyone else tends to be happy, too.

Burger King for Thanksgiving?  No, it didn’t happen this year.  Not quite there yet. But I am getting closer.