Grace Not Perfection

Derek and I are so grateful that we were able to go back to China this year. We took 20 high school students along with 2 other amazing adults and spent 10 days in a place that is close to both of our hearts. Derek has been going to Shepherd’s Field Children’s Village outside of Beijing for 10 years, and it is was my 4th trip. It’s hard to explain how beautiful this special needs orphanage is to us and so many others. We love the way they love and show Jesus to the world. The second reason that this trip was so good for me was that I was able to really pour into the high school students that came with us. I loved getting to be 100% focused on them. I love the way God has provided a ministry for Derek and I in this season with 3 little ones. We absolutely love that our house is open to students frequently to just come and play and talk and hang out. That’s what we have always dreamed of. When SLO is running around though, I am constantly switching between focusing on the kids and students. In China, I loved just getting to focus on those amazing 20 students that we brought with us! We had so many great conversations about life and Jesus and how to love ourselves and others and how to make Jesus come alive in the everyday. The third reason that China was so life giving to me was that I was able to eat 3 meals a day while sitting (the food in China is the BEST!!), and I got to read! I haven’t had much time lately to read (shocker right?!) so getting to pour over some good books was really refreshing to me.

I was very intentional about choosing books that would help me in my quest to find peace in my imperfections since this is something that I desperately need. The two books that I chose were Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown. 

Grace Not Perfection was good and practical and spoke truth into many of the things that I am currently doing. I already live a pretty organized life. I get rid of clutter. I make time for things that bring me life — like good conversations with girls that I mentor, writing, working out, quiet time in the morning. I get good sleep (surprising, right?). I ask for help. I still have date nights with Derek. I have given up on the picture perfect house and clothes and babies and have enjoyed and found contentment in our own beautiful circus (cue Greatest Showman music – my new favorite album). We have a house cleaner and aren’t ashamed of asking for help. We have good community and family that pour into us constantly. We also seek it out and are intentional with surrounding ourselves with people that love us and love our kids well.

Even though most of Grace Not Perfection was just re-iterating these things that I already believed and practiced, the last section was really good for me. I want to share a little excerpt. First though, let me put this into perspective. I am writing this morning with 2 sick kids at home and the 3rd will probably get sick in the morning. I’m talking 104.7 high fevers for 4 days each kid (not at the same time so it lasts forever). We have had our fair share of sickness lately. Sick babies and being trapped inside takes a toll on me. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. One baby is hard, triplets are really hard, sick triplets are near impossible. Derek and I had planned on me having a day to work on writing and AP Statistics this week, so I decided to try and go today. I spent the first hour of my time sitting in the parking lot of the coffee shop crying hysterically in my car, stressing about the kids being sick, stressed about Derek trying to be super dad (which he actually is super dad) and not calling me if it gets too hard, mad that they are always sick, and mad at myself for not being able to let go of everything. On top of that, my AP Statistics online class didn’t work out, so I’m mad and upset that I don’t have stat to work on. Mostly though I’m angry that my kids are always sick. That when my kids get sick, all 3 get sick and it takes 3 times longer for them to get better and so few people really understand what that’s like. I’m angry that the summer is more than half over, and we have only had a couple days at home with 3 healthy kids. I’m angry that I can’t just sit and hold my sick baby(ies) because there are always 2 others to chase. I’m mad that instead of enjoying my morning off, I’m worried about the kids and unable to shut my brain off and let go. So in that frame of mind, I read this from Emily Ley’s Grace Not Perfection:

“This isn’t how it’s supposed to look… Stop right there. How is it supposed to look? When we create fantasy images in our heads, we slay the beauty in our lives. Comparison truly is the thief of joy. And we’ve established that standard of perfection in our work and our families based on what? Social media highlight reels? Perfect people? (Im telling you — they’re like unicorns. They don’t exist.) Being a woman with many loves and responsibilities will test your patience, stretch your will, and make you love more fiercely than you ever thought possible – because time is your most precious commodity. Remember, though, that this part of life — this busy, crazy, circus-like place you’re in — is but a season. It will come and go just like all the others. Let some things slide. It’s ok if you don’t wash your hair for a week at a time during this phase. (That’s what dry shampoo and top knots are for!) There will be plenty of other times to be that kind of beautiful. Now is the time to be another kind of beautiful. Now is the time for patience, gracefulness, four books before bed, thoughtful communication, adventures, and being a master at Candy Land.”

So today instead of dwelling in the land of self-pity and self-hatred, I will seek to love where I am and who I am. I will do my best to spend a few extra minutes laughing at the crazy and a few less minutes on my phone. I will steal all the hugs and sick snuggles that I can get, even if they are fewer than most. I will cut myself some slack and give myself and my friends and my husband and my kids grace, grace, and more grace. And then I will give myself a little more grace. I am hardest on myself. Many years ago, before I was even married, I sat with a 10th grade student that is now one of my dearest kindred spirits. She shared with me about her struggles with anxiety. She gave me a quote that was her phone’s screensaver and has sense been my screensaver off and on for a long time. It said, “I will hold myself to a standard of Grace not Perfection.”

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This has been my screensaver off and on for several years.

Since then, we have both been through many ups and downs, and we both come back to that phrase often. It’s not something that you learn once and move on. It’s a constant daily battle. But today, and then again tomorrow, and then the next day, I will strive to hold myself to a standard of grace not perfection. In the next post, I’ll share with you about how Brene Brown and her book really opened my eyes as to why this is so hard and how to start to try to fumble into letting grace become my reality.

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