Perfectionism’s downfall

Being a responsible first born and growing up in a family where success and ‘making a contribution’ were at the top of the importance list (which isn’t necessarily bad!), it’s no surprise to me that I’ve struggled all my life living under enormous pressure to be perfect.  Much of it I’ve heaped upon myself, all by myself.

Perfectionism is innately prideful, in my opinion, and says “I should be able to do all, and do ‘all’ well, all by myself”.  When I type it out it sounds utterly ridiculous.  But as it plays out and creeps up time and again in my life, it somehow holds tremendous weight.  I want to be independent, self-sufficient and capable enough to do the job right, whatever it may be.

Being a mother is ripping the grip of the facade of ‘perfect’ away, one painful piece at a time.  While I may have thought before I was rearing children that my life was fairly ideal and I had a pretty good grip on things, I certainly realize now that it isn’t and I don’t.

For me the great trap is believing that if I can’t do it perfect, I shouldn’t do it at all.

If I can’t work out 6 days a week at 6 AM then I shouldn’t even try.

Turns out doing a quick video workout at home is still better than nothing and my body thanks me for it.

If I can’t have a devoted and lengthy time of prayer and study then I should just forget the whole thing.

Well, to be honest I still feel like this sometimes but I’m coming to see that it’s actually a big cop-out.

If I can’t start the day with order and a somewhat clean home, then I should just forget cleaning entirely.

Despite the dread I feel waking up to a house disaster, I still am better off trying to get ahead throughout the day.

If I can’t eat foods that are more nourishing for me then I should just give up and eat cookies all day.

Turns out this mentality has kept me looking 5 months pregnant while my ‘baby’ is two years old, talk about flawed thought!

As a wise writer and speaker said so simply in January, “Work harder”.  No one else is going to exercise for me, make healthy food choices, hug my children for me, give honor to my husband or make more time for school/chores/cleaning/cooking.

Regardless of how great the mound of life is that is set before me, it is my life to live.  It is my responsibility, dare I say my privilege to live it out.  I may not feel like it today, or this month.  I may be in a bit of a funk.  I may be filled with doubt about things that I’ve always held to be true.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life it’s this:

Life isn’t all about me.

I can do everything in my power to make my children do something and sometimes they still won’t do it.  They are after all their own little persons.

I can try to impart the truths and values that are important to me and then listen as my son answers the question ‘What is Easter all about?’ tonight with these few words ‘I have no idea.’  I could have died I was so embarrassed.

Despite multiple lessons in modesty, somehow my almost 4 year old still welcomes the UPS man at the front door while wearing absolutely no clothes.

One would think with the daily dose of humility I am offered in this life with little ones that I would maybe arrive at some great place of ‘letting go’.  While I truly have let go of much, there is still so much I hold onto…and for what?  I don’t really know.

Random thoughts I know, but since I’ve been blog-quiet for so long, that’s all I have to share tonight…

Winter pruning

Last spring I had the treat of attending a day long gardening workshop with Christine Sine in Seattle.  She and her husband Tom work with Mustard Seed Associates (MSA) which is a community of Jesus’ followers all over the world striving to create the future one mustard seed at a time.  Christine also blogs regularly here.

As the kids and I spent last Thursday with dear friends who live an hour north of us, Kim opened the book we’d received at that garden workshop and reminded me of Christine’s words on pruning trees in the winter:

“Why, I wonder, do we prune our fruit trees in the winter when they seem so bare and vulnerable?  Or probably more to the point, why does God insist on pruning our lives during the difficult winters or suffering that we all endure?  Winter pruning, like autumn planting, encourages roots to go down deeper and strengthens the tree.  The harder we prune, the more vigorous the spring growth and the greater the harvest.

God often plants us in places where winter is coming or prunes us during the frigid seasons of struggle and pain, when the branches seem bare and our souls feel most vulnerable.   If we really want to be fruitful during the seasons of harvest that God allows us, then we need to be willing to be pruned and shaped not during the times that life is good – when we can handle a little painful cutting – but during winter when we feel spring will never come again…

My mother has always reminded me that struggle and challenge in life produce character – and more than once I’ve told her “But I don’t want any more character, I think I’m done.”  It may sound prideful now, but at the time all I meant was this is too hard…I don’t see how I’ll make it through…it simply hurts too much. In Christine’s workbook (now an ebook), she includes this quote from Jean Vanier as she writes about winter:

We must go through winters of suffering, through times when prayer is hard and people no longer attract us, but spring is not far away.  A death in the family, a failure at work, a sickness which brings a new way of life, an unfaithful friend, all these are wounds to the heart that take us into a period of darkness.  The darkness is important.  We must learn to accept this winter as a gift from God and we will discover that the snow will melt and the flowers come up.

I needed that reminder.

Three years ago we walked through some serious darkness – a winter that seemed to last a couple of years.  And now since experiencing healing and restoration that only God is capable of, it has felt like a long season of promise and new growth.  No where near perfection.  But somewhere closer to grace.

The cold air of winter may be blowing on my face today.  My heart feels like it’s been taken apart at the moment.  But my head (and good friend) remind me what I know to be true.

God’s goodness and His unfailing love do not depend on the season we are walking in.

Under a mountain of sadness

A missed return home.

A wife’s worry.

A phone call.

An empty truck.

Dark, cold rain.

Hours on the road.


A son.


Not finding.



Searching again.


Without life.


Grief beyond measure.

They are only words and they are few at that.  It may not make sense to you but it’s my minds best way to process.  Process that which I cannot understand or fathom or explain.

A mountain of sadness and loss.

He read my blog every day.

Sometimes he told me it made him laugh.

That made me smile.

He gave life to the man who holds my heart.

He raised a boy whose name became mine.

“I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees” (Mat Kearney)

I guess we are.

In that instant I screamed.


Not happening.

Knees hit the floor.


It is real.

He is gone.

Prescription drug conspiracy

I realize conspiracy is a strong word.

But that’s the word I deemed appropriate last month when I filled several prescriptions as I fought a wicked bilateral kidney infection.

I am well aware that money drives the pharmaceutical industry in America and frankly that money drives most things in America.  But when the reality of it was staring me in the face I was mad.  Really, really mad.

My mom had sent me a Consumer Reports article last year about drug costs and the incredible mark ups.  I brushed it off, we hardly ever get prescriptions for anything.  I momentarily thought it unfair for the chronically ill and the aging population in our country and then forgot about it.

Fast forward to December when after an utterly incompetent doctor provided me with such inadequate care that I ended up in the ER in the wee hours of the morning and likely incurred notable damage to my kidneys (and a $2,000 ER bill despite having insurance!).

On the way to fill another round of antibiotics I remembered what I’d heard from my mom and other various places and had it called in to Costco instead.  This was the result:

7 days of generic CIPRO antibiotic from Walgreens $46

7 days of generic CIPRO antibiotic from Costco $6.50

How is that possible?  How could it vary that much? Don’t they care about the old people who need 10 different prescriptions daily to stay alive and live on small, fixed incomes?

Because prescriptions are the prime money maker for Walgreens, Bartells, Rite Aid and the like.  Everything else is fairly superfluous.  Costco has taken heat for their low prices and their unwillingness to stick it to the American drug consumers.  And because when you don’t feel good, going to Costco to get drugs is less appealing than the pharmacy on the corner in your neighborhood.

As if I didn’t love Costco enough already with their giant carts and humongous packs of toilet paper.

I know that there is so much more to this issue but just thought it might be helpful to pass on!

Hugs vs. Swats

The hugs should win every day right?


Even when mom is sick and feels like she is not possibly going to survive the day?

Even when everyone has been on their worst behavior ever…all at the same time?

Even when all you want is to go to the bathroom alone for once in your life?

Even when for the hundredth time you have asked someone to put their shoes away?

Yes, even then.

Because there is always going to be something in the way.  There is always something else that could capture your attention.  Something that competes for a mama’s embrace.  Something that steals your time and leaves you with not quite enough _______ (energy, patience, compassion) as a result.  Apparently in my home, the something else’s are winning.  This was the conversation that transpired today in the van:

Kyler:  “I not like it when you give fwats (swats) mama.  It makes me so sad.”

Caleb:  “I like hugs better.”

Mama:  “I like hugs too, do you like hugs Rylee?”

(pause) Rylee:  “You don’t hug us very much mama.  You could hug us a lot more.”

Mama (silent then quietly):  “Yes, I will work on that.”

How sobering to have the unabashed insight of my 6 year old.  How humbling to be reminded that I need to not forget the needs for plain old lovin’ in the midst of daily life that can so easily sweep me away with it.

When they are grown and gone I want them to remember what a soft, sweet mama hug that lasts longer than you expected feels like.  I don’t really care if they remember to put their shoes inside the shoe bench.  I want them to know my love for them is unwavering as they conquer the path that is before them.

As I type this-close to midnight-a sleepy and sad almost 40 pound three year old sits in my lap with his arms draped around my neck.  Just when I’d like 10 minutes to myself, he decided he needs a little more lovin’ tonight.  Of course I could take this chance to teach him boundaries and bedtime rules and such.  Or I could just enjoy the warmth of his breath on my neck and know that soon he won’t want to sit on my lap anymore.

I’ll go with the warm breath tonight in a heartbeat.

Being real hurts

I have been thinking a great deal about the hard stuff of life lately. Instead of waiting for the next shoe to drop, I am trying to keep walking forward with my chin up. In my younger years (can I say that only being 30?) I did a fairly adequate job of protecting my heart. Not getting too attached to people, places, things-life definitely hurts less that way. It seemed like a good idea.

In the last three years I have felt more pain than all the rest of my life combined. Pain from all sides, all parts of life. Things far too deep to list out here, but great pain. Along with the feeling of my heart being split to pieces many times, interestingly, I have encountered a capacity to love and to feel that I did not know existed.

**I found this old post unfinished in my ‘drafts’ this week.  Above is what I’d written in January of this year.  We had just moved on from pastoring at the church that was our home (mine for 20 years, Chris’ for 12 years).

In January my pain and broken heart was more raw.  Now its October and I am able to see so much more of the good that has come out of changes that were beyond our control.  God has brought peace and healing and freedom that are indescribable.

On the flip side, I’m also able to see the jaded, cynical attitude that masks itself as pride.  It is ugly.  I also see sprouts of bitterness that though I tell myself they aren’t there-and really don’t want them to exist-their presence in the soil that is my life is undeniable.

This summer as we lugged our kids to church after church, I found myself wondering many things.

Because of where we’d been had I set some kind of ideal in my mind that would be impossible to find? (probably yes)

How would I know when we’d found a community of people we wanted to be a part of? (I might not…)

Why can’t our kids be part of our worship experience on Sundays?  Why do they have to be sent away to ‘kid time’-at one church there is even a sign posted explaining children are not allowed in the main room? (I haven’t figured this out, I’ve only got more questions about it)

How could we possibly start over after being connected so deeply with so many amazing people in one place for so long?

That last one is where my heart has struggled to answer and still has so far to go.  The process of dealing with change is so SLOW sometimes!  In the many months that have passed since January when I started this post, I can say for certain that it’s hard to stay open and vulnerable for a long time.  Maintaining that raw, authentic, open-to-anything state of existing is really difficult.

It was good to read those words and to be reminded of what I want to aim for.  Bitter and jaded with witty cynicism  isn’t my goal.  Grace and gratitude with words of love is much more the direction I want to head.

At least I’ve got one thing straight (lately, I think this may be the ONLY thing I’ve got figured out)…I may not be able to manage that tall order but I know Someone who can.

And God is able to make ALL grace abound to you, so that in ALL things at ALL times, having ALL that you need, you will abound in every good work.

2 Corinthians 9:8

America and the ‘1.3 child family’

If you’ve read our blog very long you already know how we feel about children.  They are a gift – one to be received as such with no exceptions.  The disintegration of the American family can be chalked up to a myriad of reasons but I believe one of those core reasons to be our perspective on children.  Our nation as a whole has embraced, especially since the 60’s, a mentality that says:  “Children are a liability.  They are a burden to bear.  They are an obligation.  They are an expense.  They are an inconvenience…and so on”.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m not at all, never will, saying that all families should have a multitude of children.  That is an intensely personal and spiritual decision.  I am however saying that the way we respond to the small people in our life (be them our own or others) should leave them feeling cherished, valuable and significant.

Not just because it sounds good – but because they truly are.

Tonight when I watched Rylee and a new friend on her soccer team chatting it up, I was happy watching them together and wondered what they were talking about with such expression.  After practice was over and we were playing at the park, I asked her what they’d been talking about so much.  She said “Mom, she just kept saying the SAME thing over and over and over!”

I empathized with her obvious frustration and reminded her of her own persistence at times.

Then I asked what the girl had said.  Her answer blew me away and instant tears welled up in my eyes.

Rylee explained what the girl had been saying:

“Well Mama, she kept saying ‘Your mom has too many kids, your mom has too many kids, your mom has too many kids’!  I asked her to stop again and again and she kept saying the same thing.  She told me ‘Your mom has so many kids she really should sell you.  She should sell at least two of you.  My mom has 2 kids and that’s enough.’  It made me really sad Mama.”

Just typing the words makes my heart hurt.  I realize everyone has their own ideas and opinions on the matter.  Which is fine.  But when they imprint those ideas on the hearts of their children who in turn share those words with my children….I don’t know what to say.

My children are used to people saying “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!”  or “You can always duct tape them to the walls and leave them at home” or “You must be crazy, four kids?”.  But to hear those sentiments from a peer had a whole different impact.


Off to snuggle wet heads and read bedtime stories.  Just with a little heavier heart than usual.

Beauty in a movie and a book

As always, there is good and bad in every day.  Yesterday just as we pulled in to the driveway, Rylee threw up all over the car as she was getting out of her seat  (the bad).  I had a mini-meltdown, including tears, at our OT’s office due to a scheduling error on their part (bad).  I almost broke my mom’s finger trying to get my new stroller open, we both nearly cried (very bad).

But in the midst, with a new organization plan in place for our daily life and some better boundaries for me on my time, I still decided to finish a book and watch a movie last night (both very good).  Those two helped off-set the rest of my day in just the right way.

Yesterday afternoon while everyone here rested and I completely gave up attempting to clean the van, I finished The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Tears blurred my ability to read the words yesterday as I read the last 50 pages.  It was a long, 500+ page book.  I’ve been reading it for over a week.  It was beautifully, uniquely written.  If you want to dive into something deep and lovely, it would be a great choice.  ‘Death’ wrote the book and as such paints a remarkable picture of humanity.  As he ushers souls into eternity, a story catches his attention in the middle of Nazi Germany.  It is a story of courage, of love, of hope and of the incredible strength of a little girl.  He writes one particularly miserable afternoon in June of 1943, when I believe the first gas chambers were used at Auschwitz.

Please believe me when I tell you that I picked up each soul that day as if it were newly born.  I even kissed a few weary, poisoned cheeks.  I listened to their last, gasping cries.  Their vanishing words.  I watched their love visions and freed them from fear.

I took them all away, and if ever there was a time I needed distraction, this was it.  In complete desolation, I looked at the world above.  I watched the sky as it turned from silver to gray to the color of rain.  Even the clouds were trying to get away.

Sometimes I imagined how everything looked above those clouds, knowing without question that the sun was blond and the endless atmosphere was a giant, blue eye.

They were French, they were Jews, and they were you.   (from page 350)

I also watched the movie The Soloist after bedtime.  It was particularly interesting to me that it’s the guy from the church messes everything up in his pious, well-intentioned acts.  And it is the regular, everday man whose life is profoundly impacted by the life of a mentally ill, homeless man who posseses surreal musical talent.  Again, it was a story of beauty and depravity and the coming together of the two.

Is it really morning?

I got away for an hour or so last night.  I spent some time reading one of my favorite parenting books and some time texting my friend Kristin who just moved away.  Between tears and texts I didn’t read much but felt like I needed a little primer on sacrifice so I skipped ahead to that chapter.  Here is an excerpt:

God calls us as parents to lay down a blanket of sacrifice on behalf of the next generation.  This is the way of Jesus.  In many ways, sacrifice defines love.  It was one thing for Jesus to tell the world, ‘I love you’.  It was another thing entirely when he demonstrated his love by dying on our behalf….Without sacrifice, love becomes mere words and empty sentiment.”                          -Gary Thomas Sacred Parenting

So this being fresh in my mind, with a very sore throat and a cold coming on I went to bed early….you know where this is going if you read this post two weeks ago.

It took me an hour to fall asleep because of the severe throat pain, every swallow made me want to cry.

12:30 AM – I wake to Caleb sobbing in his bed, I run in, he is waving his hands everywhere and crying about his trucks, “They are gone, someone stole them, it was Kyler, it was Daddy, they are not here, I put them right here”.  I rummage around in the dark to find his bag of cars.  Crisis solved.  Tuck both boys in as Kyler woke up in the mayhem.

1 AM-Still can’t get back to sleep because of the throat, get up and take some pain medication.  Lay in bed 30 minutes waiting for it to work.  It does.

2 AM-Kyler standing 4 inches from my face “Read a book?”.  Me-are you kidding me, I just fell asleep-“No, come into bed with me and snuggle, it’s nightime.”  He spends 20 minutes trying to get comfortable then wiggles out of bed.  I take him to his bed, tuck him in there.

2:30 AM-Just fell asleep again.  Audrey wakes up, I feed her.  While she’s nursing, I hear noises.  Then more noises.  I am hyperventilating, sure someone is in our house.  I am too tired to think clearly.  I lay Audrey down and creep out to the living room.

Kyler, no burglar.  Just Kyler.  Playing with daddy’s lighter that was left on the floor.  Taking the contents of daddy’s wallet out and lining them up on the floor.  Playing with daddy’s leatherman tool.  Taking out his work papers.  He asks for a snack.  We put all daddy’s stuff back where it was.  I let him blow the lighter out a few times and praise God he didn’t light the carpet on fire while he was out there alone.   I give him some milk and put him in bed again.  Lay with him.  Tuck him in.

4 AM-I wake to the sound of Kyler on top of me  and something sticky dripping on my face.  I smell peppermint.  He tries to talk to me.  I can’t understand anything he says.  He is drooling all over my head and pillow.  Finally I realized he’s chewing most of a pack of gum.  No idea where from or how long he’s been up.  I ask him to spit out the gum.  He’s happy to oblige.

I’m about done with this fun.  I finally wake up Christopher and ask him to deal with Kyler.  5 seconds later Audrey wakes up.  Only she doesn’t go right back to sleep like usual.  She’s up for the day.  So now it’s 6:30 and she just went down for her first nap of the day.  Somewhere in there before 5:30  Christopher left for work too.  And you do the math, how much did I sleep?  Yeah, I don’t even want to know.

Sacrifice indeed.  The phrase that I’ve read so many times in the Bible about Jesus laying His life down for us has never been so real to me as it is right now.  I’ve said it before to friends but it’s taken a few kids to bring me to my knees in so many ways (good, hard ways).  I could fake it, keep it together, act like things were under control and generally keep up with life with one child, two kids and even three surprised me.  But I can’t anymore.

My desperation for God to carry me through the day, to sustain me in ways that are truly beyond comprehension are a daily reality in this life with four.   There are many, many days that by all signs should be in the toilet from lack of sleep, sickness, etc.  But I believe with all my heart that God hears my quiet prayers and He is faithful to answer them.  Not always my way, but He always comes through.  I can feel it.  I know He’s here.  I know He’s placing one foot in front of the next and tenderly leading me through the day.  I could not survive a day without that.  He is more than able and I am SO not able, especially on days like today.