Friday, July 16, 2010

Life Is Not About Painting the Perfect Picture

My friend, Joan Webb, has helped a goal happen for me.  Well, a little step of a goal.  She has written a book for new moms that is going to the publisher.  Joan had asked for stories, thoughts, input for her book from moms.  So, two of my friends and I shared bits and pieces with her.  Well, she is using some of our thoughts in her new book!  So exciting!  Although our names will be changed, it still counts as being published, doesn't it?  {Smile!!}

How fun!  I will be sure to announce when her new book comes out ~ but in the meantime . . .

Each day, I get a sweet little reminder of relief from my friend, life coach, writing mentor, Joan C. Webb.  She is the author of one of my favorite books, The Relief of Imperfection ( ).  It is a message that I continue to need.  Her messages always help me to breathe, as Nancy Kennedy's quote says at the top of the book cover.  Breathing is good.

What I love about my copy is the ripped cover . . . so loved . . .so imperfect.  I ordered this book at a time in my life that I realized with clarity that I was trying to paint the perfect picture of my life.  I was preparing to write my Christmas letter in 2007, and just got angry about how I always felt pressured to make a list of our accomplishments for the year.  Now, one could argue that I must not have had any accomplishments that year, but that would not be true.  Erin had been born in March.  Big accomplishment.   More like this:   it was because I had treated my Christmas letter like a resume to prove my value, to sell myself, to market my life, yes, to others, but deep down . . . to myself. 

That year, in my Christmas letter, I wanted to express the fulfillment in day-to-day random, chaotic, sometimes-messy life apart from major accomplishments or milestones.  It was a turning point, a shift in belief, in heart, in philosophy.  A transformation in thinking was beginning to occur.  I realized that there were things I believed that I had allowed to "run my life".  One of those things that I believed was that my life must always be presented as "great".  And that every aspect of it should be "great" or I was guilty, at fault, a failure.  When, in truth, it is not always all great in all areas, and that is fine.  There was a pressure that my life should be a "picture perfect brochure", and anything less would hinder my career, spiritual, and family growth as well as the growth of other people in my life.  Another lie:  other people's career and spiritual growth is my responsibility.  Truth:  While I may have an influence on another's career or spiritual life, it is not my responsibility.  Another myth I believed was that, "She has it all together.  So what is wrong with me?"  The truth is that no woman has it all together, and there was not something wrong with me because I did (and do) not.

It was then that I wrote this in my journal:  "It is not about painting the perfect picture.  Life is not about that.  Your career is not.  Church is not.  Christmas is not.  Christmas~ the gifts, letter, decorations, meal, presents is not.  Your house is not.  Being a Christian is not.  Sharing your faith is not.  It is not about painting the perfect picture." 

Living to prove yourself to others and to yourself is exhausting.  That way of thinking and motivation left me tired.  Weary.  Empty.  But this new thought, of an imperfectly joyful life, was a relief.  It was freeing.  I realized that everything did not need to be the picture-perfect brochure to be fulfilling.  And, I did not have to belittle myself in my mind for not living up to a perfect, unattainable standard.  I could and would find relief in doing my best, even when it wasn't perfect, and that sometimes just barely good enough is enough.

Joan Webb reminds me often that "Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful." 

Why am I blogging this now, rather than at Christmas? 

Because I needed to be reminded.  Because it is not just at Christmas that I am still nagged a bit in my head, still tempted to resign to the worldly pressure to prove. 

I am not endorsing laziness, irresponsibility or sloppiness.  Just simply acknowledging the pressure to live up to a magazine opened up to a neat-tidy-orderly-perfectly-color-coordinated image of a house that has NO LIVES in it.  Have you ever noticed that those perfect magazine photos of a home have no people in the picture?  {I am not even addressing the perfect body issue!}  Truth is living life is messy.

I need to be reminded that it is ok for me to have limitations.  Limits are ok.  Interestingly, recognizing that I am limited is freeing.  A boundary is freeing?  Yes.  It is a relief. 

One of my favorite prayers in The Relief of Imperfection is this, "Lord God, All nature reports to You.  You can do anything.  On the other hand, I can't reach the sky.  It's a relief to admit.  I once grabbed for 'it all,' now I want only what You plan to give me.  I'm waiting expectantly."  Psalm 16 says, "The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places..."  and it also says, "You will show me the path of life; In Your presenece is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." That was a radical prayer and thought to me.  I could have boundaries, limitations, and at the same time have freedom, fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore at the hand of God.  At first, I felt like I should not admit that I felt limited.  Like it was un-American, un-positive thinking, un-Christian.  But there was relief and truth in recognizing my limits and God's limitlessness --that was there for me.  It is a freedom to run like I have already won the race.

Be real.  Be who you are.  Be your best self that you can be in this moment.  In this season.  It is a relief to know that I have company being an imperfect woman in an imperfect world.  It is relief that God's grace is there to make up the difference.  Where I am not enough, He is enough.  And that makes me enough.

copyright 2010 Jodene Shaw.
Quotes from The Relief of Imperfection by Joan C. Webb
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You can visit her blog at:
She is also the co-author with Carol Travilla of The Intentional Woman
The Intentional Woman Website:
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1 comment:

  1. Ahhhh, Jodi! Love this. So beautiful. I identify. Thank you. I love who you are.


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