To get the grace.

Processed with VSCO with t2 preset If this was a job interview, and you asked me about my flaws and weaknesses, I would probably tell you about my penchant towards perfectionism, and that it often hinders me as a self-starter. I want to make the absolute best decision, and therefore need a lot of time to gather information on each option and investigate the pros and cons before taking the step. People talk about perfectionism like it is some amazing, virtuous way of living, but really, perfectionism is just fear that dressed up. And it's no surprise that perfectionism's ugly twin is shame. They're a couple of smooth talkers, and they look good on the outside, but make no mistake -- they will leave you cold in the middle of the night without the slightest bit of remorse. I can say that because I keep going back to them, like an addict to drink.

It has been said that wisdom is what we do with the knowledge we have. Perfectionism whispers, taunting that you'll never know enough to make the right move. But if you ever want to truly live the life of the beloved, you have to kick perfectionism to the curb. Vote perfectionism off the island. Don't give perfectionism the rose. In your best Gretchen Weiners voice, tell perfectionism straight up that she cannot sit with you.

And then, don't back down. Stand your ground like your life depends on it, because it actually does.

I took a tiny baby step forward today. I got outside and broke a sweat. Now, it is July in South Carolina and I was wearing skinny jeans and pushing a stroller (#nannylife) so it wasn't that hard, but I'm choosing to believe that that's beside the point. And as I walked around the neighborhood, I listened to an audio book on wisdom and making decisions today that will still be favorable tomorrow.

If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown about and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. — James 1:5-8

The bottom line is this: I need wisdom. I need it like I need oxygen and food. I have been a terrible decision maker. Or perhaps, more apt, a terrible promise keeper. I've set goals for myself and not taken the necessary steps to see them through. Like Paul, I do the exact opposite of what I set out to do.

I have begged for wisdom, but the truth is, I've been anything but single-minded. I look at my goals and only see what I've done to prevent myself from achieving them. You can't set out to lose weight and expect to do so by running through the drive-thru everyday on your way home from work. You can't reach your financial goals by purchasing things you don't need simply because they were on sale and someday you might use them. You cannot hope to become a great artist and then never sit down to hone your craft. You just can't.

Your actions are infinitely more revealing than your words will ever be.

So I ask God to make me single-minded, to make me so intent on looking just at him and what he's doing that everything else would fall by the wayside. I ask him to help me get out of my own way. I ask him for wisdom, and help for my unbelieving ways -- courage to take this small step and then the next and the next.

And I whisper truth over myself on repeat: start small, and be faithful where your feet are. All you have to do is be faithful in this moment to take the next step. 

Because the way of the beloved is always the way of redemption.

goals for the mid year, but really, goals for life.

midyeargoals My dad would warn me when I was a kid: when you're grown, the time will fly by. Unlike most kids who believe that their parents don't know anything, I always believed him. And it turns out, not surprisingly at all, that he was right. The days are long, but the years are short. Another lesson he taught by example was the importance of showing up. Of course, being mindful of these things is always much easier said than done.

Accountability is something I have always struggled with. Whenever I heard the term, my mind automatically drifted towards the notion that if you need accountability, you must be doing something wrong. I imagined accountability partners serving as magnifying glasses for imperfection. Naturally, this was never something I pursued. Why would I, having operated under this supposition for so long? It shocked me when my whole perspective shifted with one word: cheerleader. Of course, it shouldn't have shocked me, but I'm terrible at taking the inverse golden rule to heart; I don't show the same grace to myself that I show to others. Never in a million years could I even fathom of purposefully withholding grace from someone who trusted me with their brokenness, and yet, I am continually -- willfully harsh with myself. And I have a hard time believing that anyone else will show me grace, either.

It has been a long time since I've posted anything goal-oriented, but I want to get back in the swing of things. I want to fill in the trenches of current bad habits and negative thought patterns and build something new -- something good. And I've always been a fan of this time of year: the other day I was in the supermarket and was absolutely giddy to see aisles decked out in that perfect academic shade of yellow, packed to the brim with back-to-school supplies (as I write this, I find myself wishing Tom Hanks would send me a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils). There's an air of anticipation that I sense this time of year that overwhelms that of January 1. New Years has always seemed cliche to me -- so much so that when I decided to join a gym this year, I didn't show up until February so I could avoid feeling and looking like a yuppie.

So, all that being said, I got myself an accountability partner. Meg over at That Hummingbird Life offered to play matchmaker and set me up with someone who had similar goals. We've been emailing and following and getting to know each other, and I am genuinely excited.  And now I'm back here, outlining some goals, Gretchen Rubin-style.

Goals:

+ Be myself, without apology. Lately, I've realized just how much I apologize for myself. I open or close most of my conversations with a question: is that bad? As in, is it bad that I don't feel quite ready for a baby yet, or that I didn't get a lot out of the sermon this week, or that I have never felt called to be a missionary in Africa, or that I secretly really like Taylor Swift, or that I prefer green mint chocolate chip over white? Does it make me shallow or high maintenance or juvenile or [insert negative adjective here] if I feel this way? No -- those are the things that make me human.

The overwhelming majority of my days are spent searching for a sign, a cosmic permission slip saying that it is okay to be who I am. It is okay that I watch an inordinate number of documentaries and have the uncanny ability to keep up with celebrity gossip without trying. It is okay that I'm not crafty. Its okay that I don't really care much about suntan maintenance or sports. It is okay that I need to keep some kind of planner in order to remember appointments and preserve some semblance of order in my life (this is something I never thought I would need, and I have actually felt guilty for needing it).

+ Show up. Be willing to do whatever work needs to be done, whether it be holding someone's hand, cooking or buying a meal, filling up someone's gas tank, cleaning a toilet, giving the talk, or whatever may be asked of me that is possible to accomplish within my parameters. Note: showing up for myself is absolutely essential. 

+ Look for opportunities to be inspired. Take delight in the little things that make me happy, and intentionally search for new and different ways to learn and grow. Stretch myself mentally, physically, spiritually. Refuse to live in the proverbial box.

+ Let go. Ride roller coasters, go zip lining, get a tattoo. Do the things that I'm afraid of, and things that make me feel the way I want to feel.

+ Be specific. Being vague has never helped anyone, and I tend to be incredibly vague. In everything from my prayers to my choice of what restaurant we eat at, and I've learned over the past couple months that my lack of specificity is just another form of settling for less than what I truly desire, who I could be, and what I could gain.

In an effort to be more specific, I have created these mini goals for the rest of July:

+ Clean up my apartment and office using this helpful tool. + Post more well-rounded content on this blog. + Have a weekly movie night with my man. + Finish reading this book. + Go back to the gym (it has been too long). + Cook at least five days a week. + Complete the stewardship study on my Bible app. + Brainstorm ideas for 31 Days, because hello, October will be here in like five minutes. + Spend one entire weekend unplugged.

+ Create space. On my smartphone, in the cabinet under the bathroom sink, in my relationships,  through my social networking posts. Because clutter in any form is stifling.

+ Cease striving. It isn't about having all the followers or retweets or pats on the back or gold stars. Happiness has nothing to do with quantity and everything to do with quality. Grace is sufficient when we fall short. 

It bears repeating: grace is sufficient when we fall short. That is, if we let it be.

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So talk to me, friends. How do you feel about accountability and goal-setting? What has been your experience with showing grace to yourself? How can I encourage and uplift you as you go? I want to hear from you.

Some goals for January + 2015.

januarygoals

“And so the meaning of our lives is not dependent upon what we make of it but of what he is making of us.” -- Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live

There are a lot of opinions and methodologies surrounding goals. Some focus on feelings, some focus on words, some swear by certain planners or spreadsheets. Honestly, I'm not a big New Years resolution person. In fact, I was reading an article the other day about how the Meyers Briggs types choose to make their goals every January. As an INFJ, I prefer to keep my goals to myself. If I share them, people will know when I come up short. And accountability always made me squeamish, so there's that.

But I've been thinking about ways to branch out here and there and be more well-rounded in this space -- so in that spirit, I thought I would share some goals for the month of January:

1. Host a group of women in my home for a night of fellowship. This is something I have been feeling called to do since back in October, when I was writing all about identity. When I take a small inventory of my resources, I have the space, the money, the time, and the desire to live openly and create a place for people to feel at home in my home. This goal is part of my larger goal for 2015, which is to bloom where I am planted.

2. Take more walks. I haven't tried the gym out yet. I thought it would be incredibly cliché of me to show up requesting a membership on New Years Day, so instead, I went on a three mile walk around town with our dog, and it was great! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to walk again because of extensive travelling over the past week, but I plan on getting back into it soon.

3. Read three books. Technically, finish one book and read the other two currently hanging out on my dresser. They are all about art and daring and desire and saying yes, which is what I want my 2015 to look like.

4. Abide by the cleaning schedule. I did it -- I made a cleaning schedule, with two to three chores per day. Our house was spic and span before the in-laws came up the week of Christmas, and we haven't quite recovered since they left. And besides just being nice, a clean house helps me to feel spacious.

5. Host a link up here. I'd like to start doing this monthly. I have some ideas floating around, so we will see where this goes. Ideally, the link up will be posted the last week of each month.

6. Plan a capsule wardrobe for the month of February. I love the idea of getting creative in the closet, and I think it will be a fun series to do here (side note: one of my yearly goals for this space, in particular, is to do more series).

7. Take more pictures. C got a wonderful deal on a fancy shmancy camera for us for a birthday/early Christmas gift. Because I've been horrendously busy with work and it has been so doggone cold outside, I haven't taken it out much, but I am so excited to play with it!

8. Sit down with C and set up the bank draft for tithing. More about this later.

9. Organize my kitchen. At this point, our entire home is a tribute to hand-me-downs, and since we've been married, a few things have been duplicated or simply given up the ghost (like our old toaster oven).

And perhaps some goals for all of 2015: 

1. Give myself and others the gift of connection, instead of vying in competition. I learned last year from Shauna Niequist that you can connect or compare, but you cannot do both. I will carry those words into 2015 in my family, in my office, in my church, and online.

2. Tithe. This is something I've been wanting to do for awhile, but in 2014, my thoughts on tithing shifted. I think a lot of people focus on tithing as something they have to do out of obligation, rather than something that they get to do in order to expand the Kingdom. And our church has an automated draft system for giving, so we don't have to worry about writing a check every week.

3. Write weekly. Do four series on the blog. This space has turned into such a beautiful online home for me and my words, and I want to steward it well by continuing to hone my craft.

4. Mentor a college student. We drive about half an hour to a church in Toccoa, and it is filled to the brim with students from TFC (where C and I both graduated from). I'm currently in a season of life where, despite how exhausted I have been, I feel like I have a lot to offer. Of course, this is something that I will continue to pray (and ask you to pray) for wisdom and direction.

5. Host more dinner parties. I love cooking and having people over, so this one is a no brainer.

6. Exercise three times a week. Lose 30 lbs. Yikes, this one is hard to talk about. I've always been one to say that the number on the tag doesn't matter, but inwardly, I cringe at the thought of picking up pants sized in the double digits. As I scrolled through the pictures taken over Christmas, I was taken aback by how heavy I look. I don't necessarily feel as heavy as I appeared, but my dad has faced some health issues recently due to his struggle with weight, and in November, I had my own little scare with high blood pressure. Honestly, the number 30 is kind of arbitrary, but you have to start somewhere, right?

7. Investigate masters programs and other avenues of certification for life coaching. Originally, I thought I would apply for a masters degree in marriage and family therapy, but last year, I really started to feel drawn to pursue life coaching. Nothing lights a fire in me like helping people identify and pursue their dreams, so it makes perfect sense for me to go that route.

8. Simplify. All of my spaces feel a bit crowded right now, and I'm finding more and more things that I (we) don't actually need. So in the spirit of spaciousness, I'm planning to clean house and live a bit more minimally.

 


Do you have resolutions and/or goals for January and beyond? I'd love to encourage and pray for you as you pursue them.

{Linking up with Hayley from The Tiny Twig today.}

 

On the truth and beauty of creating myself.

300647_10150394733595821_1916455019_n (1) I rise early because C and I are a one car couple, and he has to be at work before the sun comes up. The morning mist rests blurry on the windshield as I return home, and all I want to do is crawl back into bed. I hit snooze at least three times this morning, not wanting to leave the safety and peace of that space, warm from my body's extended rest. I don't feel prepared to face another Monday, having forgotten or neglected most of the things I had intended to accomplish over the weekend: finish the book I'm reading, organize the junk room, buy groceries for the next two weeks. And the to do list that awaits at the office can, on any given day, be summed up in two words: colossal and exhausting.

In the cool of the morning, I sense some peace beginning to creep into the crevices of my heart. The knowledge that Summer's heat always gives way to Autumn's cool offers assurance that this season of my life will not last forever, that in spite of the deceiving nature of flighty and admittedly irrational feelings, these angst-ridden days come to pass. But having this knowledge does not give me permission to sit idly by and fester. The wilderness was made for walking, made for movement, made to reveal His strength in light of my weakness. It is maddening, at times, to realize that God designed this life in such a way that the crosses we bear force us to daily rely on His grace alone.

Because at the end of the day, the pervasive truth of it all is that the person staring back at me from the mirror is weak. What's more, she is endlessly self-involved, spending much of the time laying around like the paralytic on his smelly mat, making excuses. And then, out of the blue, Jesus stops and asks if I really want to get well. I'd like to get well, but there is no one to carry me into the pool. Like the song says, this is the real world, and I am on my own. I squirm, embarrassed by the thought of being zeroed in on by the Lord in such a way. He's not looking around at anyone else. His eyes are meeting mine, and he is asking if want to get well. He can speak the words of healing, but I still bear the responsibility of getting up, of moving forward in faith. He makes the first move, but in the end, its really up to me.

I have to stand up and take the first step and the next and the next, putting my flesh in its place and living in relentless pursuit of abundant life. Not the go more and do more and be more life that the world says I have to strive to attain, but the breathe more and rest more and live out my purpose more kind of life. What I'm learning is that each of those takes intention, and mine needs to be refocused. Because the world will tell you its all about more followers and fans and all those adoring likes and favorites and me me me, please. But the honest to goodness truth is that I'm sick and tired of myself -- and I have this suspicious feeling that this is the starting line of it all. Walking, fearless and determined, into abundant life requires a lot of letting go of ourselves: our plans, our ideas, our intentions. But the catch is, walking fearless and determined into abundant life requires a lot of planning, consideration, and intention.

So I must ask myself, what do I want? What dreams has the Lord woven into the fabric of my being? Perhaps the most freeing realization of all is that this journey of creating myself is really a journey of co-creating. It is me stewarding who I was created to be: a temple house for glory, intimately known since before the dawn of time. 

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My friend NJ has started publishing goals on her blog in order to have accountability. The idea of accountability is always uncomfortable for me, since this skin is so prone to take two steps forward and one step back, and to do that in public just leaves me an itchy mess. But in a spirit of vulnerability, here is what I have come up with for the month of September (better late than never?):

Goals for Life: make breakfast and coffee for C and I more often, look for a gym membership, stick to the cleaning schedule on the fridge, finish the books on the night stand, get my name changed on my social security card, apply to grad school (maybe that list seems ambitious, but when I look at it with the intention of living refocused, I see that I'm not in need of more time to do these things -- I just have to better steward the time I already have).

Goals for Friendship: invite friends for a girls night at my house, go to lunch with Lindsey, go to dinner with Victoria, tell four friends I haven't seen or talked to in awhile that I miss them.

Goals for Writing: post three times a week, remember that it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful, write for Five Minute Friday.

Goals for Work: sit down with a calendar and plan all the visits for the month of September, prayerfully consider searching for another job.

 

walk