I thought of something this morning as I put my toddler down for a rare (but obviously needed) morning nap.
Mothering has absolutely nothing to do with pretty. It has nothing to do with things like Pinterest (and if you don't know about Pinterest, well, it's essentially everything beautiful, organized, clever and basically better than anything you are possibly doing right now, all in one mind-boggling space). And I'm gleefully addicted to the crafts and the sweater combinations and the perfect paint colors for that someday dream home. But if you're not careful, it can cut into your heart and make you feel that everything around you is too simple and everything you do is too base and everything you feel is too novel.
The past few mornings I have awakened early. I had originally set my alarm and then about thirty minutes before it's set to go off, I turn it off. I figure I'll wake up when I'm ready. Well, I have noticed a trend this week: God has let me know when He's ready for me to be up. And thankfully I have been able to control my body and not allow it to sink back into the cozy confines of my bed. I have had showers before anyone in my house even knew a new day was upon them. I've had quiet time while it was dark and calm out, before the school bus even arrived next door. I've had coffee and iced chai. I've sat on my couch and I've sat on the floor at my coffee table. I've read. I've written. I've begun my day.
It all has felt very Proverbs 31 of me and I've been a little proud of the steps I've taken that have me looking anything like a wife, a mother, who has it all together. Like the way I'm "supposed" to be.
Today started off promising, but even though I was up before 6:15 a.m. today, with my devotionals in my lap and my journal and pen at the ready, my toddler decided to pull an early morning wake-up. And refused to go back to sleep. I was thankful that he quieted and whined the least little bit that allowed me to still have some semblance of focused alone time with the Lord, but then our day started at 7 a.m. That's not what I had planned. Plus, I have a fairly detailed to-do list for today and it did not include a two-nap day. I had planned it around a one-nap day, post-lunch. But a two-nap day for my son is what he needs.
And as I tucked him in just before 8:30 a.m. and turned on the sound machine, closed the door and went to start a load of laundry, I felt peaceful. And I thought, you know, gaining patience has nothing to do with praying for it. People will joke, "Don't pray for patience!" because the assumption is that if you ask for patience, you will only get trials. But if you really want to learn patience, then you are, in a way, going to want trials. Not that any of us want harried days or hardships or broken hearts... but it's how we grow. And either we're sincere about wanting to grow up and be better - or we're really only saying we want "patience" because that's what a perfect woman, wife, mother, Christian would do. Pretty on the outside, ugly on the inside.
And when I prayed with my toddler over his NutriGrain Bar breakfast while he stared at me and pointed at the TV, it wasn't perfect, but it was right. And when I pulled him on my lap for a morning devotion, I read calmly and patiently even though he was eagerly looking for pictures on the next page. It wasn't perfect, but it was right. And when I admitted my impatient attitude and my inward seething disappointment of how the day was beginning, it wasn't pretty at all, but it was right. There's no perfection in making mistakes, right?
When I was younger, in my teens, I used to joke, "Imperfection IS perfection." And I wanted desperately for someone to agree with me, not just laugh because they thought I was silly. I wanted someone to say, "Yes! You are exactly right! Boo to the expectations and gloss!" But no one did. And so it made me feel like I was only looking for a way out. An excuse to not try harder, stretch taller, get up earlier, do more, be more.
Could beauty really be seen in the imperfect? Could I be loved if I wasn't a supermodel look alike? Could I be a good writer even if I didn't go to college? Could I be a capable wife someday even though I felt so lacking and small and so unnoticeable? Throw me into my early thirties and motherhood is only terrifying when? When I allow my expectations - those ideals of perfection and clean bliss - to override reality. It's all stress inducing and full of anxiety when you're convinced you're suppose to do it all (and in skinny jeans!) and you just can't. You admit you can't but then you see everyone else who seemingly can and where does that leave you? Shipped off to the Island of Misfit Toys. Scared to death someone will notice that you're not doing it all and so painfully, scarily convinced you're supposed to.
If I show up in a sweater to a Christmas party, it's okay. I'm not Barbie. (Maybe pregnant Barbie?!) If I can't make cookies from scratch for that Christmas get-together, that's okay. I can buy some. If I can't get my house spotless before we leave for the weekend, it's not the end of the world. If there's dust in a corner that I just couldn't find the time for because I was too busy reading and coloring and playing Play-Doh with my toddler - that's more than fine. And even though it feels like the easy road - is it not a better way? Is it not more important for me to spend my time, my heart on the human beings right in front of me? It may not be magazine pretty to be in my flannel pants all morning, but if it makes it easier to crawl on the floor and chase and wrestle with my son - is that okay? Isn't that pretty, too? Why do we feel we need permission to do what's right? Why are we so afraid that someone is going to peer in and take note of what isn't done and somehow ignore the sincerity and love that is?
I could people-please myself into the grave. There have been seasons when I very nearly have. When I've been so burdened by just trying to make someone happy. Make it work. Keep it together. Heck, I even nearly wrecked my own health trying to be skinnier than God intended and no one thought, "You look so healthy!" They asked me if I was okay. Perfection is cunning and tricky and a lie. You think you're aiming towards a noble goal but all you're grasping for is the shorter straw. You're going to come up empty and not understand why.
You get to choose things like patience. And joy.
Yesterday when my son refused to let me go, I chose him. I chose his happiness and didn't leave him to cry or worry where Mommy had gone. I took a deep breath and prayed our shopping trip wouldn't be a disaster. And I may have not found gifts for everyone on my list, but my son and I had a good time together. And it wasn't because he was an angel baby or because I was perfectly poised. My not-long-enough bangs still fell into my eyes. I still had lint on my shirt. The blankie still got dropped on the dirty store tile. But I chose to not allow the crashed and burned expectations I'd held ruin what God had given. Things didn't go as planned, but were they still blessed? Was there still joy to be had? Were there still ways to say, "Thank you", to realize how loved and seen by a Holy God I truly am?
Even if no one ever agrees that imperfect is perfect and lovely, I can hold fast to the truth that it is. That God didn't make us to be perfect, plastic people. He made us human with the ability to walk into a wall, stub our toes, fall down the stairs and say things we should bite our tongue in half to prevent from saying. We have to let go of what is fashionable and trendy and appealing sometimes to see what is tangible and heart-wrenching and makes you ache deep down in your soul because it's so basic and it's so pretty in it's own way.
That being loved when you know you're imperfect makes you feel more loved than anyone has probably ever felt. That being accepted when you know you're unacceptable and depended on when you know you've failed and trusted when you know you've been untrustworthy... That's grace. Overarching, overachieving, blanketing everything and bundling you tight: Grace. Grace forever, grace for right now, grace for what just happened that shouldn't have.
And we have the choice to say, "Yes." to it without fear of condemnation. There's no necessity to try harder. There's no better or more efficient lists. It's just a simple, "Okay." An acceptance of what has been given - and an open hand to take it in for what it is and to give thanks for it. Because it's what has been chosen for now by Someone who knows better than you.
Grace turns the imperfect into the perfect, into the blessed, every time.
"Great is Thy faithfulness," O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.
Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and
bright hope for tomorrow,
BLESSINGS all MINE,
with ten thousand beside!"
~ Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Traditional Hymn