Freedom in Imperfection

 Posted by on September 29, 2009  Add comments  Tagged with: ,
Sep 292009

I want to share part of an e-mail that I received recently from a new reader, in response to my “Real Life” post:

“For years I have been struggling with self condemnation because I felt I was not living up to what I thought I observed in other godly women I knew through church and Christian media. I am so thankful to see that a woman with standards of homemaking and childrearing similar to mine is a real woman and not perfect like what I imagine the godly women I respect to be. I know they aren’t perfect but I can’t help but feel that way. They seem so successful in their god-given roles and I feel so far from that. Thank you for exposing yourself. You have been such an encouragement to me.”

E-mails like this are exactly the reason why I wrote that post, and I’m so pleased and uplifted when I receive them. I sincerely wish that every wife and mother would give herself permission to be imperfect – including me sometimes.

I find that people make a lot of assumptions about me, and then I feel pressured to live up to their expectations. A year ago, a friend was buying some baby clothes from me at a garage sale, and she said, “I’m assuming that these are all freshly laundered, so I won’t need to do anything.” I replied that yes, everything had been laundered before I put it out for sale, and her response was, “I would expect nothing less from you Heather.”

If only she knew what my life is really like. I managed to wait until she left before I fell to the ground in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.

Often people read a post about how I made my kid’s birthday cake, or homemade party invitations, or some other cute project, and they assume that I must do things like that all the time. Or they read about how I make laundry detergent and cook from scratch, and they assume that I never take any short-cuts, or serve my family cereal for dinner, because I’m “perfectly organized.”

They’re wrong. No one is perfectly organized, and certainly no one is perfect. As Bee told one of her kindergarten classmates last year, “Nobody’s perfect except Jesus!” When I had only one child, I did keep a very orderly house, but even then it wasn’t perfect. An acquaintance who reads my blog said that she would like to come to my house and look in my closets, because she assumes that they’re pristine. I can only imagine how disappointed she’ll be if she actually comes here and finds that my yard is full of weeds, my flowerbeds are overgrown, the hall closet is a disaster area, Cakes has 10 pairs of panties laying in the hallway (she’s fixated on underpants right now, and tries on a different pair every hour) and I still haven’t wiped the table off from lunch.

I’ll tell her what I tell everyone…..I might not be caught up, but it doesn’t mean that I’m not in control.

The fact of the matter is, I have a school-age child, a toddler, and a baby on the way. My husband works from home, and I’m responsible for handling the money and bills for his business, as well as for our household. I can’t afford a maid, so I do all of the housework myself (with much help from my husband, thankfully). The business of life produces a lot of work, and I have learned, by necessity, that organization allows me to keep up with the work while still having time to enjoy my life. However, there must be a balance. In order to find that balance, we must all learn to let go of the non-essentials. For example, if I forget to give my kids vitamins every day, big deal! They’re healthy children, and missing a day of vitamins isn’t going to kill them. If I tell my kid to put on her shoes, and she chooses to wear flip-flops because all of her friends do, it’s really not my problem if her feet get cold and wet. I’ve warned her in the past about this, and she’s almost 7 years old. It’s time for her to learn smart decision-making, and I simply don’t have the time to micromanage her life.

I like for my home to be tidy and organized, but organized and meticulous are not the same thing. Our home is “clean enough to be healthy, and dirty enough to be happy.” We often have undone laundry, dirty floors, and windows that are finger-printy. We sometimes have messy closets and cluttered countertops. I have learned that it’s OK to live with a certain amount of mess, but when my house reaches the point when it no longer meets my standard of cleanliness, well….I clean it up. I do try to cook nourishing, balanced meals (from scratch), but sometimes life gets in the way and I don’t feel well, or I forget to defrost the chicken, or my kid has to go the doctor for stitches. When unexpected events occur we might have to go to Dairy Queen, or eat frozen pizza, and you know what? That’s OK.

The point I’m making here is this – please, please, please don’t compare yourself to others! No one expects you to be perfect, and even the most organized people sometimes make mistakes and fall behind. Some people have natural organizational ability and tons of energy, and some people don’t. God blesses us all in different ways. I too am guilty of comparing myself to women who can sew (because I can’t), or who live in big, brand-new houses (because I don’t), or who are slender and fit after having three children (because I’m not), but as my very wise pastor says, when we compare ourselves to others, we’re making a mockery of the genius of God in creating us. He made each of us special, with a unique set of blessings and challenges, and in life we must do the best we can with what we’re given.

Please remember that it’s very easy, when writing a blog, to present a selective picture of yourself and your life. It’s much harder to be honest and forthcoming about your mistakes and failures, but guess which blogs I like the best? The imperfect ones. The ones that present a true picture of a person’s life, so that I can identify and relate. The real ones.

Today, give yourself permission to be imperfect, and enjoy the freedom to just be who you are. And I’ll tell you what I tell my kids….

“You’re wonderful just as God made you.”