embracing imperfection, part 3 (or, how imperfection frees me to create)

One of the first assignments was to draw a self-portrait. In crayon, no doubt. Sounds simple, childish even. And is that what paralyzed me in front of the box of 64 Crayolas? I would dare to take one crayon out, only to have to put it back because it didn’t seem quite right. Do I start with the eyes? or the nose? Or the outline of the face?

Trying to create art paralyzes me sometimes. And it’s my drive for perfection, to be perfect and produce perfection that often holds me back. Nestled underneath that desire is a fear of imperfect, of failure, of disapproval and messing up. When the art I’m working on is visual colors on a page, it can be easier to jump over that hurdle of fear mixed with desire – but when the art is words capturing ideas on a screen. Aahh. That can stop me in my tracks. I can honestly say that most times I begin to craft a blog post, I start with beating down the doubts inside of, “you have nothing to say … what new thing can you add to this topic that hasn’t already been written well [better] by someone else …?”

But I am called to show up and to offer myself, my story, my words, my heart. All of those are imperfect. The more you know any of me, the more you’ll see my imperfection. Yet I don’t want that to paralyze me, just like I don’t want that to hold you back from offering yourself either. In fact, when you (my friend, sibling, parent, husband, pastor) admit your imperfection, it frees me to acknowledge mine. And also to find strength not to allow my own imperfection hold me back from my offering. 

Emily Freeman is teaching me through her book A Million Little Ways. I read this yesterday, and inside I said “yes!”

Knowing we can’t fully live the words we call others to live can keep us from ever saying the words at all. … Just because you can’t fully live your life the way you so long to live it doesn’t mean you don’t fully believe it’s possible with all your heart. And it doesn’t mean you are forbidden to share what you’re learning unless you are living it perfectly. Christ is in you and wants to come out through you in a million little ways – through your strength and also your weakness, your abilities and also your lack. … God calls us his poem. And the job of the poem is to inspire. To sing. To express the full spectrum of the human experience – both the bright hope that comes with victory and the profound loss that accompanies defeat. We must make art, even in our weakness.

So what’s your poetry? Your imperfect poem you’re being asked to write today? For me, it’s a poorly rhymed poem expressing thanks to the preschool teachers my girls have learned from and loved this year, their first year of preschool that ends today (sad!). I offer it here, not because I think it’s beautiful art but because it’s imperfect art. Not my best poem and certainly won’t be published anywhere, but here’s to hoping that it will bring big smiles to the two women who have certainly brought big smiles to my three-year-old daughters in their first school experience.

You have taught us our letters,
And now we can count much better;
We know how to spell our names,
And follow the rules of a game.
We have learned to share
Under your tutelage and care.
We stand in line and wait
And can look at a calendar to find the date.
You’ve introduced us to school,
And how to follow its rules.
You’ve welcomed us with love
Reminding us of God above.
For all of this we say THANK YOU –
And that next year we will miss you! 


On my bookshelf

20140227-134653.jpgIt’s been awhile since I’ve written about what’s on my bookshelf, and as I have picked up two books recently which I absolutely love, I thought that today’s a good time to pick up the “on my bookshelf” series. Without further ado …

1. Extravagant Grace by Barbara Duguid is one I haven’t yet started. But I have heard so many raving reviews about it, both on Amazon and through friends, that I am featuring it in faith that I’ll also love it. Another reason I’m confident that I’ll love this book is because the author was one of my distance-ed students through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. The class was no easy one – “Counseling and Physiology,” taught by Dr. Mike Emlet, exploring the connection between soul and body through a variety of counseling situations including bipolar disorder, OCD, and depression. Her papers were the top of the class – beautiful writing, grace-infused, thoughtful and our emails back and forth were characterized by the same gracious quality. I cannot wait to read an entire book by her. Want to join me? Leave a comment – and/or send me your thoughts/review for a future post (counselinginhope[at]gmail[dot]com).

2. A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman is no surprise to those of you who have been following my blog for at least the past year. I loved Grace for the Good Girl (it was my #1 for favorite books read in 2013), and this one is following suit. Her honest writing and poetic invitation to “uncover the art you were made to live” is compelling and finds me (yet again) right where I am in life. It’s in the category of “books I wish I had written but someone beat me to it.” I hardly know where to begin, so here are a few of my favorite quotes so far:

Perhaps those who make art in the ways we traditionally think of art give the rest of us a framework from which to live our lives. They offer a gift of knowing what life could look like if it were handled more like a mysterious piece of art rather than a task-oriented list. We may not all have the same skill or training as do the painters or the musicians, but we all bear the image of a creative God.

…being an artist has something to do with being brave enough to move toward what makes you come alive. … Art is what happens when you dare to be who you really are.

For me right now in this season, I’m seeing that nurturing my art and moving toward what makes me come alive has hundreds of applications including:

  • being brave enough to say “yes” to speaking at a women’s retreat or teaching a difficult passage of Romans at our women’s Bible study
  • being brave enough to say “no” to what isn’t my art or to distractions from the art of living
  • blogging even when I doubt I have anything new to say
  • taking time and space to BE with my family and friends and listen to their stories and help them make sense of them, or at least let them know I want to be with them there in the midst of the confusion or the joy or the sorrow
  • stopping the tendency to schedule-to-the-brink-of-every-hour so that I can have an afternoon where I enjoy my children, laughing at their preschool jokes and delighting in their imaginative play and reading stories with silly voices

3. The New Strong-Willed Child by Dr. James Dobson. The title truly says it all. I love my daughters dearly, but parenting them has been one of the biggest challenges of my adult life. I think simply being three-years-old and being twins qualifies them for strong-willed, because that’s how it feels when they conspire on some new “project” that results in a mess (like using diaper cream to “paint” their nursery or writing their “signature” on every item of white furniture using red marker – thankfully the washable type). They’re spirited; they’re stubbornly independent; they want their way all the time. Kind of like me. In the first few chapters I’ve read, I think there will be many good nuggets of how-to’s as well as insight and understanding into what to expect of them and what makes them the way that they are. If you live locally and want to read along, let me know! I mentioned this book to another friend, so we may end up doing a one-shot book club in a few months …

Ok, back to reading!