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

I realize I’ve been away from this space for longer than usual. A few good reasons: vacation with extended family in South Carolina, and finishing the first draft of my book (Unashamed: healing our brokenness and finding freedom from shame, Crossway – to be published next June 2016). So I am reposting a favorite from last year in May. It was part of an ongoing series of “embracing perfection.” You can read the others here: part 1, part 2, part 4, and “July edition.”


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! 

Five Minute Friday: release

It’s Friday. Hallelujah! It’s been a good, important, hard week. It’s been the best of times – news of two close friends having babies (Shelby’s #4 and Katherine’s #3); my most shared blog post ever over at The Gospel Coalition Blog; and then some intense ministry and life pressures and stressors that are inevitable when married to a pastor and working as a counselor, all while parenting two beautiful and strong-willed three-year-old princesses.

So I come here to this page thankful to be able to write and join in again with Lisa-Jo’s “Five Minute Friday” community. Five minutes of unedited free-writing on a different topic each week.


firefly image


Release. What could it mean to release my art, my words, my love freely into the world? It’s an image of the fireflies we captured earlier this week and put in jars flying into the wild blue yonder again. They didn’t light up in captivity (much to our disappointment). What made them beautiful is the art they made when they were free. When we tried to capture them, to own them for ourselves, the art died (but they did not). Art can only be free when I am released from the cage of my expectations and my perception of yours. 

What would I do if I were released (which I am)? Released to create – to dabble again in painting for the sake of painting, to play the piano just for fun, to write words because I want to and I need to but not because I am expected to or need to get a certain number of stats to prove my worth.

Couldn’t I then in my freedom release those around me from the suffocating pressure I exert? To know I am released by one who was chained to a cross – the worst suffering imaginable – who was enslaved to death and chose not to be released – this makes my soul sing. This makes your soul free. I don’t need your applause for my identity and self-worth and writing. I simply need to release Jesus through my words and my art and my laughter and my relationships. And so do you. Jesus imprisoned that my soul would be set free. That ushers me into true release of the best kind – release from slavery to self’s corrosive power on my heart. 

Five Minute Friday: “mess”

Ah, the irony of writing about “mess” as I’m in my favorite coffee shop, surrounded by happy chatter and no mess except that of my own creation … which right now, is nothing. But here goes. Jumping into Five Minute Friday for my favorite of blog activities. It’s been a long week, one where I didn’t recover from last weekend’s illness till Thursday really. One of feeling drained, exhausted, “just making it.” I don’t like weeks like this, yet they seem inevitable to living in this cracked-jar world. Meaning I’m a cracked-jar of humanity whose weaknesses show up even when I try to glaze them over, and yet whose glory shines through in the midst of those places. There’s a verse about that in one of Paul’s letters (2 Corinthians chapter 4, verses 6-7) …

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. …

Ok – on to five minutes about “mess.”


Many days I feel like that’s all I am – a manager of mess.

“Clean up the toys! Put those shoes in the basket! Take your plate to the sink! Where do the Legos belong? How many times do I have to tell you not to throw your food on the floor?!”

But, really, what’s wrong with mess? Yes, orderliness breeds peace and calm. Clean creates mental space. A messy home for me is visual chaos (and thus mental as well).

photo credit: homestrong.net

But what’s wrong with mess, if mess is evidence of life lived fully and creatively? If mess is evidence of life? For, true, our home pre-kids certainly had less uncontainable mess. I’m sure my husband’s rooms pre-me were much more organized, picked up, neat. His car certainly was clutter-free before I came along.

And my desk, when rarely used, is immaculate.

Life requires mess though. Art requires mess. Life is living out the art of who we are, therefore it’s inevitable that life will be/look/feel messy. And I haven’t begun talking about the relational mess all of us create and contribute to when seeking to love and be loved. That will be for another post … or maybe another retreat … or my next counseling session?


Five Minute “Friday”: paint

Another week of catching my breath while juggling preschool drop-offs and pick-ups with a busy counseling schedule, and not one but two kids’ Easter parties, and hosting a small appetizer & dessert thank-you for the missions team at our church last night, and in the midst of it all, seeking to create time and space for soul-art. How fitting that this week’s word is “paint”!


Paint is just too messy. This has been proven over and over again in the short 3.5 years I’ve had with my twin daughters. The handful of times I’ve allowed us to “take the plunge” over the precipice into paint, we have all come out quite colorful. And usually that includes my language (inside my head), with notes to self pasted across my brain like post-its of “why it’s NEVER worth it to paint with twins,” “better NOT to be creative in this way,” “reasons why to keep the painting at preschool with the experts,” etc etc. Can you relate? So in reality, our house rule is that we’ll be creative with anything but paint. When it comes to my kids.

my little artists

my little artists


But how ironic! For I still love to have a paint brush in my hands, whether to repaint a room or to dabble with words and color on a canvas. Art was always a favorite subject, and it was an elective of mine through high school. Somewhere along the way, I learned that art is too messy; that it’s inefficient; that mine isn’t as good as ____. And how those lies squelch the creativity of a creative being! 

We are all artists. I am learning that anew through A Million Little Ways and The Gifts of Imperfection e-course and my own soul when I take time to step off the treadmill of performance and simply be.

I am a creative being. And so are you. Even if paint isn’t your medium, what is? Paint the art of who you are across the canvas of your life today. Without shame. With abandon. Regardless of the mess. Maybe, just maybe, I might have the courage to do the same for my preschoolers!