Monday, December 28, 2015

New Year Love.

I love the New Year. I love thinking about it, I love looking forward to it, I love planning for it!

What are you setting your heart on for 2016? Do you love the New Year? Hate it? Plan January to a T and then go back to regular life in February?

I hadn't given the coming year much thought until just the other day... I've been so busy lately, so I told my brain "Wait until after Christmas, then enjoy your week thinking & planning for it." And hey, it worked! So now, I'm thinking about it and I am excited about it.

One thing I've been working on in multiple areas of my life is perfectionism. And no, I'm not working on BEING a perfectionist... I'm working on NOT being one. There is a big difference between expecting things to be done well, and being a perfectionist about it. We'll just call the perfectionist a perfectionist, and the person who does things well the "well-doer."

The perfectionist says "My way, that is what is best." The well-doer says "I'll do my best and make sure it's great." The perfectionist says "Load the dishwasher my way, or else the dishes won't be (my idea of) perfectly clean." The well-doer says "Please load the dishwasher, and do your best job." The perfectionist says "Give me that, I'll take care of it." The well-doer says "Thanks for helping me, let me finish that for you." A perfectionist goes back & fixes a job done by a 6 yr old with frustration. A well-doer thanks their 6 yr old and finishes up the job without criticism, happy to have received help.

Yes, there are times for teaching and times for making a child do a job a better way, but most times it's enough to instruct with happiness. A perfectionist is greatly displeased with anything less than perfect, which is not really in the skill-set of a 6 yr old, right? So why are we like this? What is wrong in us that causes so much anger with less than our idea of perfect? Why do so many of us have so much frustration with happy effort, and cheerful attempts?

I often feel a stifling fear of what might happen if things don't go my way. I know that sounds silly put so simply, and it's not like I am literally cowering in fear every day because of my children, but truthfully, fear is driving this frustration ship. I feel this insane pressure to get done with grocery shopping in a  decent amount of time, get dinner done at a certain time, get the house cleaned up a certain way, have things put away at a decent speed, get my list of to-do's done in a certain manner and the list goes on. This pressure is always self-inflicted, driven by a fear of "not." Not being accomplished, not doing the best job, not getting my to-do list done, not being who I want to be. Sadly (and thankfully), none of these things are pertinent to living a life that honors God.

The perfectionist in me wants everything done in a way that produces the best outcome. However, in God's world, we don't see what is best for our lives each second of each day. I can't see the storm ahead and prepare adequately. I can't see an accident we avoided by being late. I can't see how my children only having put half the toys away within my 10 minute time-frame will enable me to spend quality time with them, teaching them good habits. The perfectionist constantly misses out on good things while being upset that the "best" things didn't work out. What's really sad, is that the perfectionist's idea of best, is hardly ever actually best. Even when "best" happens, there's usually still a feeling of something missing. And usually, what we think is best, and our fear of "not best" is completely irrational. Like, what's the worst case scenario of 10 dishes getting less than perfectly clean in the dishwasher? Getting our idea of "best" is rarely all it's cracked up to be.

Don't get me wrong, I've had lots of great days where everything went my way, where my kids were amazing & I was a lovely mother ;) Those days are awesome. And rare! And it's totally fine to enjoy those days and revel in how awesome it is when your plans just happened to be the Lord's plans too. The problem lies in what we do the other 355 days of the year. Proverbs 16:2 says "All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the spirit." We think we are planning good things, but God knows our hearts. He knows when those intentions are pure, and when they are full of selfishness. He knows when we have a plan because it really is good or whether we just selfishly want our lives to be as easy as possible.

This is what I am going to be working on this year. I want to challenge myself to look at all my frustrations & see where they are rooted. I am going to look closely to see if my demands upon my family are reasonable, or based in my desire to have things my way. When my plans go awry, will I get mad or will I ask God what he is doing? Will I be willing to concede with joy, or at least without bitterness? Will I look at daily detours as interruptions or as revelations of God's plan for that day? Are these opportunities to see God actively changing my day to work his redemptive magic? Do I want my way, or do I really want God's?

As Christians, these are some of the biggest and best questions we can ask. They are questions we can ask every day and find conviction, determination, greater faith & hope for a stronger will to follow him. This is going to be my #1 resolution, and not just for this year. In my life, in my homeschooling, in my husband-loving, in my advice-giving, in my advice-seeking, in my laundry duties, in my tutoring, in my searching the Word, in everything, I want to ask these types of questions and answer "I want God's plans." There have been many days where my initial answer has been "no thanks" or "not really" but I praise God for turning my heart to understand how staying in a hardened place is never an option. It leads down a dark road of bitterness which is ever so difficult to come back from.

What beautiful things is your perfectionism killing? What areas of your life can stand to be "less perfect" and more pleasant? What things can you chill out about and experience the world not actually falling apart? Find these simple places & be less than perfect. See how nice is feels to accomplish things with a joyful spirit instead of the hard-hearted determination of a perfectionist. Set your determination toward being pleasant with those around you. Enjoy the opportunities to train & teach your children in whatever setting that is.

I think we'll all be happy to see how much more of life can be more enjoyable when we let go of keeping our plans and instead, aim for keeping a joyful, flexible, teachable heart. I feel like I can almost see this, like I can sense it just around the corner for me. All the times I've actually grasped it are just more motivation to live this way more often. Tell all that perfectionism in your heart "You are a lie!" Getting things done perfectly will never trump doing things in a way that leads to love, redemption and trust in the relationships that are most important in your life. And living with abundant love is the best way to show others the life-changing grace available to anyone seeking the Lord.