Today I can’t do perfect, but I can do good

psalm 37-1

Shhhh…don’t tell my daughter, but I let her down last month.

She just doesn’t know it.

Five years ago, I committed to having lunch at the school with each of my daughters every single month.

Now that I have three girls in elementary school, that’s three lunches a month or 27 lunches a year, plus an occasional extra lunch thrown in for a birthday or other special occasion.

My kids are typically on top of this, too.  If I haven’t had lunch with my youngest daughter within the first week of a new month, she starts nudging.

Mom, you know you haven’t had lunch with me this month, right?  When are you coming?

The very first day my kids went back to school after winter break—the very first day!!!!!–she came home from school and asked when I was coming for lunch.

But January zipped right past me.  I made it up to the school for my  youngest daughter (or I’d never have heard the end of that failure!), but not to eat with my two older girls.  Every time I planned a day for school lunch-time, we had a snow day.

When they actually had school, I was in a mad rush to make up for everything I didn’t get done because of those same snow days.

My husband says—You’re eating lunch with them at home.  Doesn’t that count?

No.  That does not count.

Finally, on the last day of January I resigned myself to the truth:  I’d failed: A five year streak of faithfulness broken by winter weather and a packed calendar.

Funny thing is, the one daughter who I thought would be bruised and destroyed forever by my failure never even noticed.  She didn’t pressure me about it, didn’t nag or pester.

So, I’m not telling her I missed out on January’s cafeteria lunch.  It’ll be our little secret. I just went early in February and hoped for the best.

At the beginning of this year, I set some goals in four areas of my life:  Marriage, Parenting, Ministry, and Self-Care.

I’ve been replacing soda with water or green tea.

I’ve been exercising and listening to podcasts while packing my kids’ school lunches.

But there’s one that’s harder to do. It’s not a box to check off or a physical habit to create.

It’s this:  Choose to be gentle with myself.

It means not letting Mom Guilt terrorize my like the tyrant it is.

It means not listening to my self-criticizing internal dialogue.

It means putting a Lunchable in my kids’ lunch box every once in a while.

It means not beating myself up if I occasionally have to order pizza for dinner or go for the quick-fix like boxed macaroni and cheese.

It means laughing instead of berating myself if I forget, and cutting myself off from chores in the evenings so I can spend some time with a cup of hot tea and a book.

And yes.  The struggle is real to let go and choose grace.

I still have this nagging sense of guilt that I didn’t make it to the school for those lunches in January.  It’ll probably plague me for a long time.  Because I can’t go back and fix it. I can’t make it all perfect.

Then I read what the Psalmist said:

 

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
(Psalm 37:3-5 ESV).

Trust Him and do good. That’s what it says.

It seems I spend a whole lot of time and effort trying to “do perfect” or “do all.”

But that’s not what God asks of any of us.

God doesn’t expect perfection because He knows we’re imperfect.

He simply asks us to trust Him, “do good” and keep doing good.  Choose the right things.  Show up day after day.  Be faithful.

Even more than that, don’t try to figure it all out or make it all work.

He’s not going to give us the desires of our heart because we worked like mad-women to make them happen.

He gives us the desires of our heart when our greatest desire is for Him.

And after Jesus, what is it that my heart desires?  It’s to love my kids to Christ.  One missed lunch isn’t going to change that.

You cannot be perfect today.  Neither can I.

But we can trust God and do good and leave everything in His hands.

And we can choose to be a little gentle with ourselves today.

Shrug off some shame and step into some grace.

Let go of some expectations and cling to the freedom Christ offers.

 

 

The Parenting Magazine Crisis

1 chronicles

New Mom + Parenting Magazine Subscription = Monthly Mom Crisis.

When I was that fresh, idealistic young mom with that first chubby cheeked babe, I had big, big plans to get it all right.

Every month that magazine arrived.  I scanned it for creative ideas, ripped out yummy recipes, and dog-eared pages with fun activities.

Then I grumped around the house for a day or two.

I cried occasionally.

Because, according to the magazine, good moms don’t ever serve their kids macaroni and cheese.  If said mac and cheese happens to be from a box, good gracious, you are one of “THOSE” moms.  You know—-the Bad Moms.

Also, Good Moms have Good Kids who always choose the steamed vegetables and rice pilaf when dining out.  These perfect children never order the pizza and chicken fingers on the menu.

Limit screen time.  Join play groups.  Teach kids to share.  Teach them to care.

Involve them in service projects and ideally live abroad so you can expand their vision of the world.

Teach them sign language and then a foreign language.

Make all your dinners a month in advance and freeze them.

Kids must have an allowance and a weekly chore chart or they will end up lazy, unemployed and bankrupt.

Discipline this way.  Play with them that way.

Work outside the home.

Don’t work outside the home.

And never, ever, ever expect your kids to play on their own or entertain themselves with siblings or friends without your intense and continual involvement.  You must play cars, dolls, and blocks with them for hours.  Good moms never get bored building towers and are never too busy to color.

I finally asserted myself and cancelled the subscription.  Who needs to pay for a monthly self-esteem destroyer?

The truth is, I do some of those Good Mom things, but no one can do all of them.

When we try to do everything, we won’t do anything well.

We end up weighed down by overwhelming expectations and impossible demands.

How much better to celebrate victories, to keep a balanced perspective, and to choose what’s most important right here and right now?

How much better to lean in close to God day after daily day and ask Him, “What do you have for me, Lord?  Right here.  Right now.  Show me what’s next.”

The world is full of opinions about who we need to be and what we need to be doing.  It’s a noisy place and everyone has something to say.

And we need to know what is right and true and what is guilt-loading nonsense.

It means saying no to being like everyone else, to trying to be perfect, to trying to do everything, to keeping up with every great idea on Pinterest, Facebook, and mommy blogs.

It means no longer being paralyzed by everything, so I can do the right things well.

King David placed a weighty task on the shoulders of his son, Solomon.  He handed over the plans for the temple with instructions on dividing the labor among the Levites, how much gold to use for the lampstands and the cherubim, and the available supplies.

This was the right thing, the God-thing, that God had designed, purposed and planned for Solomon to do.

And it still could have felt like too much.  How could Solomon even begin?

David told his son:

Be strong and do the work (1 Chronicles 28:10 NIV)

and again:

Then David continued, Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Don’t be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. He will see to it that all the work related to the Temple of the Lord is finished correctly (1 Chronicles 28:20 NLT)

Be strong.

Don’t be afraid.

God is with you.

So, do the work.

Pick up right where you are and begin.  One step at one time.

You don’t need to do everything.

You just need to begin with this one thing.

And God is with you.  He will not fail or forsake you.

When we lean our weary and overwhelmed souls onto Him, He shoulders the load.  He makes sure the work is done well.

Maybe that’s the lesson Solomon needed so that when God told him, “Ask me for anything….” Solomon knew what to say:

Give me the wisdom and knowledge to lead them properly, for who could possibly govern this great people of yours?” (2 Chronicles 1:10 NLT).

Help me do the work.  That’s what Solomon said.  Show me how to fulfill this calling.

And isn’t this my heart, too?

Lord, show me how to do this well.

Let that be our prayer, our constant heart’s desire.

Originally posted August 15, 2014

Mom Guilt, Part II

Mom Guilt had me hanging Christmas lights on the outside of our house for the first time ever.  You can read about that in Mom Guilt, Part I here.

But I’m a sucker for Mom Guilt in any variety.

“Mom, you haven’t been to school to have lunch with us in FOREVER.”  Hence, I was brown-bagging it in the school cafeteria the next day.

Something about the way they say “Mom” when they are about to pour on the Mom Guilt turns it into two syllables.

“Mawww—ahhhhm, our friends have such pretty rooms and ours is just plain old yucky white.”

A few weeks later, their room was a purple paradise complete with hanging glittery butterflies and flower decorations.

Much of my mom life is spent trying to keep my kids off of some psychiatrist’s couch in their adulthood, spilling out the horrors of their childhood.

“My mom didn’t pack my favorite foods in my lunch box.
My mom wouldn’t hang Christmas lights on our house.
My mom never painted our bedroom.
My mom didn’t buy me Go-Go the walking dog for Christmas.
We just never got over that disappointment in her.”

Disappointment.

That’s the power that Mom Guilt has over us.  Fear of disappointing people.

Fear that we’ll fall short of perfection.  Fear that we’ll be caught with our capes off one day and everyone will realize we aren’t Super Woman after all.

But here’s the ugly truth.  I’m going to give it to you straight.

We’re bound to disappoint someone eventually.
We’re not perfect.
We’re not superheroes.

There now, don’t you feel better getting that out in the open?

My kids, my husband, my friends, my Bible study girls and my blog readers may all be disappointed in me at times.  They will all have reason upon reason to grow impatient with me.  They will sometimes need to pester me out of forgetfulness and distraction when I fail to deliver on a promise.

Mom Guilt works on me because I want to be something I’m not–perfect.

Oh, we might be able to hold together the facade of perfection for a while and we might even fool the occasional outsider who glances our way.

There’s Someone, though, who has known the truth all along.  God knows what we’re made of.

He knows we’re formed from dust.

So, pragmatic as He is, He doesn’t expect perfection out of imperfect beings.  When we mess up, He’s full of grace, not accusation.  When we forget, He reminds us with mercy and gentleness.  Because we’re dust after all.

He doesn’t give us what creatures of dust deserve either.  He rescues, forgives, restores, saves, leads, and blesses us because “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love . . . He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”

Why?

Because “as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him  . . .the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:8-14).

Don’t think for a moment that when “He remembers that we are dust,” it’s the gloating power-hungry pride that an all-powerful God could have for weak creatures like ourselves.

No, but He does show compassion to those “who fear Him” and we do that by being in awe of His greatness and humbled by our own weakness.

The Psalmist emphasizes God’s compassion, mercy, and love here.  Psalm 78 likewise declares that God “was merciful; He forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them . . . He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return” (Psalm 78:38-39).

God takes pity on us, mistake-prone as are.  He enacted a plan of salvation from the beginning of sin in this world just because He knew none of us could attain perfection in our own merit.

This also means that He doesn’t grow impatient with us when we once again ask for wisdom in a difficult situation.  James writes , “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

Did you feel the chains of condemnation flying off your ankles and wrists with that verse?  When you throw yourself down at His throne and confess that you just don’t know what to do or maybe when you cry out in desperation because of the mess you’ve gotten yourself into, God isn’t finding fault with you.

He’s not lecturing you on the five mis-steps that brought you to this place of confusion or failure.

He gives wisdom, generously pours it out, simply because we ask.  He forgives with abundant grace simply because we repent.  He renews and restores time and time again with compassion.  He’s slow to anger.  God doesn’t blow His top when you stumble.

Somehow the Kansas song, “Dust in the wind” makes it all sound so hopeless. “Dust in the wind.  All we are is dust in the wind . . . Just a drop of water in the endless sea.  All we do crumbles to the ground.”

Sure we’re dust.  Sure we’re not on this planet forever.  But we’re not hopeless dust.

Our hope is in Him.

It’s humbling to realize that we’re not the superhuman Moms, Wives, Sisters, Daughters and Friends that we’ve tried to be.

But, it’s also wondrously freeing to realize that God knew that all along and loved us anyway—dusty creatures that we are.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Mom Guilt, Part I

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
(Matthew 7:11)

Mom Guilt.

That’s what had me standing in the Christmas lights aisle at Wal-Mart two days after Thanksgiving.  I squinted and stared at the options before me.  Icicle lights.  Blue, green, or red lights.  Sparkly, flashing lights with 12 different settings.  Heavy duty lights.  Mini lights.

Then there were clips and clasps of every variety to attach the perfect lights to your house.  Did I need these things?  Wasn’t there a way to hang lights sans gadgets and gizmos?

I grabbed plain white mini lights from the shelf, thinking my first attempt at decorating the outside of our home should be simple.  “Start small,” I thought.

For years, my oldest daughter had begged me to decorate the outside of our home for Christmas.  This year, her pleading had reached a new level of intensity.

She took one look at the homes with Christmas lights already gleaming in mid-November (insert looks of disgust here!!!) and whined from the back of our minivan, “Mom . . . . . . . .Everyone’s house is so beautiful for Christmas and ours is just DULL.”

I threw angry glances at the decorated houses as we sped by.  Even if they didn’t know I was mad at them, at least I felt better getting the feeling off my chest.

Still, I get it.  I remember being a kid and pestering my dad to hang Christmas lights on our home for years.  I remember taking the lights tour in the family van and oohing and aahing over the decorations and thinking it’d be great to add a little Christmas flare to the outside of our house.

So, there I was buying lights from Wal-Mart.  And there I was starting simple, stringing them up the steps to my home and around the door frame.  And there was my daughter exclaiming how beautiful it was.

She actually had asked for one of those giant blow-up Snow Globes for the front yard along with a massive Frosty the Snowman and maybe some lighted reindeer figurines.

But there are limits.  Mom guilt only gets you so far.

When I’m praying, I wonder how many of my requests to God make it to His throne room sounding like the high-pitched whine of pouring on “God guilt.”

“God, all my friends have their careers all set and know what they want to do with their lives, but I’m floundering around waiting for some direction here!”

“God, You thought everyone else deserved a husband to love them and tell them they’re beautiful.  What’s the deal with me still being single?”

“God, how come everybody else is financially secure and has a savings plan and we’re struggling paycheck to paycheck and never truly making it?”

Lesson One: God’s Gifts Always Show His Love

God doesn’t bless us or rescue us out of guilt, though.  Not now.  Not in the past.  Not ever.  He’s not guilted into love and He wasn’t guilted into the cross.

Deep down, me stringing lights across the front steps of my house wasn’t truly about guilt either.  It was about love.

My daughter had made a request.  Not a ridiculous one, all motivated by greed or pride or selfishness.  It was the simple desire of a child’s heart.

And I love her.

So, I gave in.  I spent less than $10 for some lights and garland and took a tiny piece of my time and gave her the desire of her heart.

I can’t always give her everything she wants.  She can’t have every toy or outfit or trip her friends have.  She can’t do every activity she wants to do.  Nor would that be good for her anyway.

Still, I give her what I can when I can because I love this beautiful daughter of mine.  I love to see her react with joy, love to see her know she’s loved, love to show her that I listen to what she says.

God loves you.

He loves to see you react with joy.  He loves to see you when you know you’re loved.  He loves to show you that He listens to what you say.

God’s intention is always relational, though.  He isn’t just dishing out answers to prayer requests like some sort of holy vending machine.

The Psalmist tells us, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

Take delight in your relationship with Him.  Linger in His presence.  Make Him your first priority.  Allow Him to re-arrange the furniture of your heart and match your desires with His.

And when you begin to feel the frantic panic of need, remember that God tells you “do not worry about your life.”  Not about having food or drink.  Not about having clothes to wear.  He watches over the birds of the air and the flowers in the field and He values us so much more than them.  He surely can handle our every need.

So, keep your focus relational.  “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).

Then when He pours out blessing on you, when He loads your arms full of good gifts, when He grants the simplest petitions of your heart—even the whimsical longings you are too embarrassed to actually ask for—accept it as a reminder of His love.  He wasn’t coerced or guilted into giving you amazing grace.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King