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! 

embracing imperfection, part 2

In beginning to write about imperfection – about *embracing* it no doubt – I realize that I am going to need LOTS of practice in this arena. And so this is going to be the beginning of a semi-regular series where I open up with you about my imperfect life, in hopes that you will be inspired to courageously do the same in your life, where you live, with your people.


Last week brought ample opportunities to embrace imperfect. Could we start with the diagnosis of pneumonia of one of my daughters the same day I was hosting a baby shower for a dear friend that evening? To embrace imperfect last Tuesday meant saying “yes” to the offers of help. And so Jennifer brought over the fishing line I needed to hang the paper lanterns; Laura contributed a gorgeous hand-designed floral arrangement; Emily brought pimiento cheese sandwiches, and Liz came over early with Kelly to set up what we needed; and (thankfully) the Disney Movie Club orders arrived in the middle of the day. [Note: they are not paying me to promote them, but could I just tell you that this might be the best $12.95 you’ll ever spend while you have preschool kids who will be sick and the only way they’ll rest will be in front of the television?] And my husband took another one for the team by entertaining said sick children upstairs while the shower took place downstairs. Thank you, Seth. Once again.

Then in response to my desperate FB plea for prayer a few days later, Jenny showed up on my doorstep with a latte on Thursday morning and Bridget sent over a bag of goodies and Lynn dropped off homemade bread. My in-laws mailed “good-well” packages for the girls and sent a floral arrangement to me. And I don’t say this to say – look how deserving I am – but to say, wow! What a lovely “village” we are in! And it *does* take a village. But you don’t know that you need your village until you know how needy and imperfect you are and you’re willing to publicly embrace it. 

And now here I sit about a week later, and we had another doctor’s visit this morning for the other twin sister. She doesn’t have pneumonia, but couldn’t breathe well enough for the doctor to even be able to listen for the tell-tale “crackles” and so had to do a 10-minute in-office nebulizer treatment. We walked out with A. cleared of pneumonia and L. with preventative antibiotics as well as a renewed prescription for an inhaler. Oh my. Mommy fail perhaps? How did I not know my daughter wasn’t able to breathe well?!

My living room is littered with the typical kid clutter of scissors, small pieces of paper, stray Cheerios, a few raisins, half-full sippy cups, and four dying plants. [Plants come to our house to die, as a friend put it so well!] The kitchen around the corner is piled high with dirty dishes, and I’m just not sure I can/will deal with them tonight. The type-A part of me is rebelling, but I’m shutting it down.

My husband the pastor is at another evening meeting, and I faced bedtime alone [not as bad as it could have been] – and now instead of reading one of the books calling to me on my nightstand, I think I’m just going to unplug and watch “Parenthood” while sipping some wine. Before you judge me, come walk a week in my shoes. And I’ll try to do the same for you.

Where’s your imperfect today? This week? How can you boldly step out to embrace it – to admit its existence – to tell someone, anyone, that you can’t do it all and you’re tired of trying? Let’s help one another out … it’s a lovely village we live in … and there are friends just dying to know how to help.




embracing imperfection

Originally this post was going to be titled “practicing imperfection.” The problem is that practice implies that it’s something you have to intentionally do that you wouldn’t otherwise be doing. The laborious hours of piano practice from 4th grade through 12th grade come to mind (short fingernails, scales, metronome ticking). And the problem about “practicing imperfection” is that is would lead you me to believe that I am only imperfect when I am being purposeful about it. The truth is, imperfection shows up aplenty in my less-than-perfect, far-from-ideal day-to-day life under the sun

I just usually prefer to hide from it or run from it or pretend it isn’t there. Denial can be a very happy place to live. Until you awaken to reality. Like Dorothy’s discovery of the wizard of Oz, it feels shattering to lose all that we were hoping for in the blink of an eye. So, in the interest of living in light of reality, I want to consciously embrace imperfection. 

What this might mean is that I’m quicker to say I’m sorry when I’ve realized I hurt you (or when you tell me), or that I don’t try to scramble around like a crazy person to clean up the mess of a home that’s lived in because you’re coming to dinner and you don’t have kids yet, or that i don’t always do my hair and makeup to drop off my kids at preschool, or that when the small imperfections of life occur in my home/school/church/neighborhood – instead of judging and distancing, I lean in and accept. For this is what I hope from you when you notice my imperfections. Chances are, you will more often than I can. Sometimes I need to hear about them; other times I’d prefer that you cover it over with love and grace. I will try to do the same.

Have I done this? Do I do this? Those of you who know me in real life know that, well, sometimes I do. And sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I speak before I should. Sometimes I stay silent when I should speak up. I’m learning. And so are you.

Let’s breathe grace for one another. Let’s embrace imperfection. 

Two stories to illustrate, from the past 24 hours:

(1) A couple was over at our house last night for premarital counseling with my husband and I. They had just gotten settled into our couch (barely) when I heard cries erupt from our 3-year-old twin daughters’ room upstairs. I rolled my eyes and said, “Yeah – they haven’t really settled down very well tonight.” But the scene that greeted me when I opened the door was a far cry from this. Or, rather, the stench and the sight of one girl vomiting in the middle of the room and her sister crying out from the fear and shock of it all. Oh my. I don’t do vomit. At all. So I’m saying, “Seth, I can’t do this!” as I run down the stairs. The sweet couple quickly ushered themselves out the door, and I can only imagine that this session could be entitled, “reasons to wait a few more years before having kids.” Oh, yeah. #Embracing imperfection.

(2) This morning I had managed to wrangle the squirmy (but feeling much better) girls through an entire and very full wholesale store shopping trip. You know, the one where you’ve gotta get the deodorant and the tomatoes and the milk and the eggs and the pens and the Oxy-Clean – plus groceries for the week. And I was pretty worn out by the time we got to our car and I unloaded all of our assortment of items. I was rushing a bit because I wanted to get back to meet my friend for lunch. And then I realized that I had forgotten to get the main ingredient for our lunch together: the rotisserie chicken. The Heather-who-tries-to-hide-imperfection would have hightailed it back through the store TO THE VERY BACK where they keep the chicken, probably screaming and dragging my kids behind me, and I would have felt very frantic all around (more than I already did). Instead, I called my friend and asked her if she could bring chicken. Wouldn’t you know – she had one in her fridge already! What kindness in this embracing imperfection journey … what about you? I’d love to hear your stories.

What started me on this journey? I am deeply indebted to Emily Freeman’s Grace for the Good Girl and Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Books I plan to read and reread for the rest of my life … and hopefully write a chapter or two of my own to add to their conversations.