The Beauty of Imperfection and Grace

I sow grace for myself. To be where I am, to be who I am. Enough.

I reap grace for others, to excel at what God called them to do in all the excellent ways He’s gifted them. To allow others to own their gifts and calling without resenting being passed over. They are running their own races. No one can outpace me when my route is different. – Alia Joy

Did you catch that? “No one can outpace me when my route is different.” Yes, yes, amen. We’re done here.

Just kidding. But think about it. How often do we find ourselves stuck in the dangerous downward spiral of comparison? We know comparison is the thief of joy, but we let it in anyway.

We steal glances at the people running beside us, and we try to catch up to those ahead of us. We wear ourselves out trying to compete with others and the standards we set for ourselves.

We let comparison whisper lies to us, telling us that we don’t measure up. We believe the little voice that tells us we’re not enough if we don’t buy all the toys, drive the nice cars, have an impressive job, and live in a massive and beautiful home.

We let the world and its expectations tell us what to believe about ourselves and our worth. We allow others to dictate how we spend our money, our energy, and our lives. We try to fit into boxes we were never meant to fit inside.

We tell ourselves that our dreams are too small or too big. We think they need to be the same as everybody else’s. We rein them in and trade them in.

But no more.

We are not perfect, and we don’t have to pretend otherwise. We are not all the same, and that’s a good thing. We are each unique, each beautiful, each valued, and each worthy. We do not have to do anything to be enough. We already are enough. We don’t have to conform to the rules of somebody else’s game. We are free.

We are enough. You are enough. I am enough. Right where we are today. May we give ourselves enough grace to see that. We don’t have to strive for our worth. We already have it.

Part of living like love is learning to love ourselves in the here and now, not some far-off version of us. It’s learning to embrace both our strengths and our weaknesses, acknowledging the reality of where we are at in this moment, even when it’s miles away from where we want to be.

It’s believing in our dreams, choosing to pursue things that we love, things that are different from our neighbor’s, sister’s, and friend’s dreams. It’s leaning into what makes us us.

But it’s also gently pushing ourselves to greater heights. Not because it will make us more worthy, not because we’re not enough without greater achievements or more impressive lives, but because we know what we’re capable of. We are capable of great things. Let us reach toward them, believing we can reach them, knowing that it is because we are loved and valuable and free that we can achieve our dreams.

We are capable of great things. Let us reach toward them, believing we can reach them, knowing that it is because we are loved and valuable and free that we can achieve our dreams.

 

 

Further reading:

An Anthem of Imperfection by Alia Joy, (in)courage

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You Can’t Be Good at Everything

I have a bad habit of avoiding things I know I’m not good at, or strongly suspect I wouldn’t be good at. I don’t like to look foolish or feel incompetent. I enjoy doing things that I’m better at.

While I don’t think this tendency is uncommon, I’m not convinced it’s healthy.

I know I can’t realistically be good at everything, but I think I subconsciously want to be. I would love to be great at everything.

But that isn’t realistic. I don’t have the natural aptitude for some things (ahem, organized sports), or the time and effort required to hone other skills I might be otherwise able to pursue (speaking another language, playing piano).

I have limited time and energy. I can’t work hard enough or long enough to be good at everything. I have to pick and choose what I want to invest in, which means letting go of some things in order to pursue others.

And that’s okay. That’s what makes me, me.

And the things you’re good at are the things that make you, you.

Of course, we can work to gain new skills— and we should. There are things that would make doing our jobs easier or managing our families smoother or simply living life better. But we don’t have to do it all. We can choose which things we’re going to support and invest in, which ones we’re going to let others do for us, and which ones we’re going to let go.

But we don’t have to do it all. We can choose which things we’re going to support and invest in, which ones we’re going to let others do for us, and which ones we’re going to let go of completely.

There are tons of resources and services for things like meal planning, meal deliveries, mail-order prescriptions, subscription services for makeup, food, clothing, and more. If those aren’t things that you enjoy doing, or things that you’re not particularly good at, you can choose to let someone else take care of it for you.

I personally like grocery shopping and cooking, and I highly value having a clean home. But I’m choosing to not worry about the fact that I don’t know how to do home improvement tasks or car repairs myself or the fact that I don’t use Twitter. Those things just aren’t me. And that’s okay.

There are things that I would like to eventually learn (like watercoloring and better bicycling skills), but I’m giving myself permission to not stress about them. Maybe one day I’ll get there. Maybe I won’t. Either way, it’s not the end of the world.

For now, I’ll stick to things that I really enjoy, whether I’m good at them or not. And I won’t waste my time trying to be anything I’m not. I’ll let others be good at what they’re good at and do my best to squash the voice of comparison telling me I have to compete to be the best at everything.

 

What things do you love doing? What things are you choosing to not do? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

 

Image source: Steinar Engeland, https://unsplash.com

What I Learned: February 2017 Edition

I’ve been wanting to take part in Emily P. Freeman’s What I Learned community link-up for a while, but never made note of it early enough to get the jump-start on the writing that I need.

But I wanted to share with you what I’ve been learning because I wanted to spread the link-up to you and see what you’ve been learning, too!

I learned that living like love includes loving myself. Self-care, giving myself grace, resting, taking breaks, listening to my body’s need for rest days, exercise, good food, imageand balancing social commitments with solo time. I’m starting to get a handle on balancing my social calendar with my introverted need to recharge alone, knowing that it’s 100% okay (and even necessary) to spend time basically doing nothing, at least from a standard productivity perspective (like reading, coloring, or watching a few episodes of a show).

I learned more about writing for the right audience and creating a more cohesive voice through the Hope*Writers podcast and a webinar they did called “Why No One Reads Your Blog and How to Fix That.” I’ve also been getting advice from Chandler Bolt and Jeff Goins lately, so it’s been information overload at times, but truly good material and encouragement!

I’m realizing that my body is trying to communicate to me, and I should really start paying attention. Aches and pains, minor injuries, fullness and hunger cues… I haven’t been good at listening to them, but they’ve reached a fever pitch lately, so I’m starting to tune into them, and I think it’s going to make a world of difference.

I’m reading Joining Jesus on His Mission: How to Be an Everyday Missionary with my community group, and together we’re learning about what it means to live life on mission with God. I like the contrast the author, Greg Finke, drew between working for 4164727oxxl-_sx326_bo1204203200_God and working with God. I need to remember that He’s already moving (whether I can see it or not), and it’s not my job to strive to do good things for Him, but to humbly seek opportunities to join Him in what He’s already up to.

My eyes are slowly being opened to the fact that when spent correctly, I have time to do all the things I consider to be important. If I’m not paying attention, I can spend way more time than I am even aware of watching back-to-back episodes of shows on Netflix, calling it “down time” or a break between tasks, when I could (and probably should) cap it at one or two and move on to something more productive or more fulfilling. This weekend I was more conscious of how I spent my time, and while I did still watch several episodes of my current shows, I didn’t plan the rest of my weekend around them, and I turned them off when I needed to get other, more constructive things accomplished.

There are some things that are just worth investing more money in. I’m a naturally frugal person, so it’s sometimes almost physically painful to hand over a large sum of money for something (whether it’s objectively a large amount or just large for whatever I’m paying for in return). But I’m learning that there are instances in which I need to be able to see the value in paying more for higher-quality items that will last instead of going for cheaper options that will wear out or not be exactly what I was looking for.

The spiralizer might just be my new favorite kitchen gadget. It’s so easy and so muchunnamed-2 fun! I’ve made zucchini noodles, sweet potato noodles, and sweet potato fries so far, and I look forward to using it to make more delicious concoctions. I love how fast it is, because as much as I LOVE cooking, I’ve been looking for ways to speed up the process because it sometimes feels like I spend all my time in the kitchen.

I’m working on improving my Instagram photos (in terms of taking better ones and playing more with the settings) and posting more regularly. I really like Instagram, but always felt like I just wasn’t a good photographer. But after reading some tips and downloading the VSCO app for my phone (to use instead of the normal camera app), I feel like I’m making some progress!

 

What have you been learning lately?

 

Joining Jesus on His Mission image source: https://www.amazon.com/Joining-Jesus-His-Mission-Missionary/dp/193884002X

Let’s Share What We Learned This Winter by Emily P. Freeman

7 Ways to Read More

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Nothing compares to books when it comes to opening our eyes to new perspectives, new information, learning new skills, and escaping to other worlds.

But in the busyness of life it’s easy to think that we just don’t have time to read.

I’ve been working to read more, and I’ve found some helpful tips for getting more reading into my daily life.

Check books out from the library. One deterrent to reading more can be the cost of books. Even if they’re not individually expensive, the total adds up quickly. But books, audiobooks, and ebooks can be checked out from the library to lighten the load on our wallets.

Listen to audiobooks when you can’t otherwise be reading. If you have a long enough commute or find yourself doing household chores for a while, adding an audiobook can be a good way to get more books in during your normal routine. They typically take longer to get through than reading the printed book would, so I suggest listening to them when you can’t read a print book.

Mix up the medium. I love a good old hardcover book, or even a paperback. There’s nothing like flipping through the pages and holding the book in your hand. But sometimes it’s not the most practical option, especially if you’re traveling. Reading some ebooks can be more convenient, and even if you don’t have an e-reader, you can add the Kindle app to your smartphone or device of choice.

Read more than one book at a time. This can either work really well or not at all, depending on your reading style and the types of books you choose. I recommend choosing books that are dramatically different from one another so you don’t start confusing them. You can pick different time periods, subject matter, genres, and mix nonfiction with fiction. Then if you hit a wall with one, you can switch to the other for a break.

Read in the little moments. Carry a book or Kindle (or device with the Kindle app) with you so you can pick it up when you have a few minutes to kill waiting in line or before your next appointment. The small amounts of time add up, and you’d be surprised how much it can contribute to reading more books!

Be okay with giving up on books that aren’t right for you. If you get stuck reading a book you’re not very invested in, it will likely cause you to put off reading that book or any other. If you read more things that interest you, you’re more likely to keep reading.

Track your reading to know what types of books you like and get recommendations. I use Goodreads to keep track of what I’m reading, what I’ve read, and what I want to read. It’s a good way for me to keep tabs on books falling into these categories, and I like that I can write a review to remember why I did or didn’t like a particular book. I also like that Goodreads gives recommendations based on what I’m interested in. Between that and Modern Mrs. Darcy’s podcast and blog, my to-read list is truly never going to end!

 

Are you an avid reader? What do you do to get more reading in? Do you have any book suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

Keep Your Eye On Your Why

img_0544“Keep your eye on your why.” It was the second-to-last step in a set of helpful tidbits for people looking to minimize, but it was the one that stuck with me the most. Maybe because it rhymed, so I found it catchy. Maybe because it’s something I struggle with.

In pursuing my goals, both big and small, I sometimes forget what motivated me to start in the first place. And if I’m not careful, this lack of self-awareness will allow me to give up. I wonder if something is even worth my time and effort if I don’t remember why I started doing it in the first place.

Probably not.

If I want to stay motivated enough to see something through to the end, I have to remember why I’m doing it. I have to buy into the idea hook, line, and sinker. I can’t be one foot in and one foot out. It’s go big or go home, baby.

In other words, I need to keep my eye on my “why.”

Why am I pursuing the things that I’m pursuing?

Why am I saying “no” to some things and “yes” to others?

I can’t do it all. I have to say “yes” to some things and “no” to others in order to maintain some shred of my sanity and make sure I get some sleep. There are many, many things I could choose to pour my time and energy into, but only so many of them are good uses of those limited resources. Only a small fraction of them bring me joy and benefit the world around me.

And those are the things I want to pursue. That’s how I make my decisions. I ask what’s most important to me, what I really want to define my life.

I want to be known for my love.

And, considering that, I think about how to make decisions that reflect my purpose. I choose things that support that goal and align with my personality and gifts. In order to make the most of my time and efforts, it only seems logical to choose things I’m interested in, have an aptitude for, and things that will support my larger ambitions. I don’t want to waste my time doing things I’m going to give up on for lack of interest, get burned out doing because I wasn’t the right fit, or doing things that keep me stagnant.

Having the right motivation is key. If we don’t know why we’re getting up early to workout, we’re more likely to hit the snooze button instead of throwing off the covers and breaking a sweat. If we forget why we’re pinching pennies and budgeting, we’ll probably be less committed and find ourselves still impulse buying.

We need to remember why we do what we do.

I’ve found that having reminders around me is extremely necessary to living a life of purpose. I painted a sign over the summer with the word “beloved” on it that serves as a reminder in my house. I also have a beautiful necklace from my friend’s company She of Noble Character that says “beloved” on it and allows me to walk around with a constant reminder of who I am and how I’m called to live.

Remembering that I am loved and am called to be love in the world is my why. And I’m trying really hard to keep my eye on it.

 

Why are you doing what you’re doing? Do you have a big, overarching goal for your life that you filter decisions through? How do you remind yourself what your purpose is? I’d love to hear from you!

 

Further reading:

A Guide to Let Go of Your Perfectly Good Things by Zoë Kim, featured on Becoming Minimalist

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While I’m Waiting

It’s hard to feel like you’re on the cusp of something, just shy of having arrived, and stuck there. You’re so very close to where you want to be, and yet you’re not quite there yet. You can see it, but your fingers keep coming up a just a little short of reaching it.

This is how I’ve felt when trying to figure out what I want to invest my life in. I have vague dreams for the future, but nothing concrete, and lately have found myself wondering whether even these ethereal ideas are the same as they were even six months ago.

I’m indecisive by nature, and I hate change. I began to be restless when reading about living a life of purpose a while back, and I started dreaming about what my skills and talents might be put to use for– how I might be able to use the gifts God has given me to serve Him and further His kingdom.

Some days, I feel good about where I am, knowing that without an idea of where I want to go or what I want to do from here, I should make the most of my current situation, trusting that I am here for a reason. I focus those days on trying to be fully present and invested in the now– the people I currently work with, recreate with, celebrate with, communicate with, and otherwise interact with. I strive to be a light in my everyday life, hoping to be faithful in everything I do.

But there are days when I feel dissatisfied, convinced that I was made for more. I don’t know yet what more looks like. I am beginning to recognize what kinds of gifts I have been given, but I have yet to find opportunities to use them in anything resembling a career path or vocation. These days, I pray for a clearer vision for my life, knowing that if I try to manufacture opportunities on my own, they will fall flat; I need to wait on the Lord and His strength.

There might never be a day when I feel like I have finally arrived, finally become everything I’ve always wanted to become. But what would I then have to strive for, to aim for? What would that even look like? I don’t think I will ever get there, and that’s a good thing. I can always grow in one area or another (or ten), and having a little voice of dissatisfaction at times is what prompts me to change when I might otherwise grow complacent.

I may not know where I’m headed, but that uncertainty keeps me grounded. It reminds me that I can’t do this alone. While so many things about the future are up in the air, I know the process of trusting God and following Him one step at a time is growing my character, and at the end of the day, that is far more valuable than attaining any of my own goals.

[I]t is a comforting reminder that no matter what happens to me, no matter what I lose or what I gain, what I have left at the end of the day is the person I am becoming. Change is not easy. It is slow and steady and arduous and painful most of the time, but real change—inside change—is lasting. – Allison Fallon

I know that the in between time of life is a time of character development. The Lord is working in my heart and in my life, forming me into a woman after His own heart, preparing me for what lies ahead. If I were to receive what He has in store for me now, I likely wouldn’t be ready to take it. As much as I can be incredibly impatient with God’s timing, I’m learning that He truly knows best. He created me, knows my heart most intimately, and has a great plan for my part in His kingdom. My job is to be patient in the meantime, faithful in the “little” things, and to keep my eyes open for ways He is working even know.