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.

Countdown to 2014: top 10 books read in 2013, part 3

If you’re just now joining in, this is the final part of my “top 10” countdown. Click on the links for part 1 and part 2.


#4 The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin (2011)

I blogged a good bit about this one already during the summer, so it will come as no surprise that this made my top 10 list. I found Rubin’s suggestions and reflections based on her “happiness research” to be intriguing to read about and formative to practicing happiness in daily life. She reminds us that happiness is found not in the all-inclusive week at a Caribbean island, but that it awaits us around each quite ordinary corner of our own homes. Happiness is a practice and a mentality more than it is a set of ideal circumstances. As one who can be overly critical of my own life, always waiting for “better” around the corner, I appreciated the push to stop and engage in looking for happiness here and now. One of the best take-aways was to begin blogging more regularly (daily at first in June), refusing to wait for “perfect” to attempt something I’ve wanted to do for awhile.


#3 The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown (2010)

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a few months will find this to be no surprise either. I am a huge Brene Brown fan. Her work has shaped and influenced other writers and bloggers I enjoy, notably Glennon (and her book I reviewed yesterday). I read Daring Greatly after this one, and I have to say that I prefer The Gifts of Imperfection for its concise and practical summary of all of her shame/vulnerability/empathy research. She condenses it into “10 practices of Wholehearted people,” and each chapter spells this out along with suggestions to put it into practice. The one that’s stayed with me the most is the need to cultivate creativity. Hence my desire to embrace the messiness that IS art with my preschoolers, like the 15 minute finger-painting session yesterday which left red, yellow, green, and blue paint everywhere. And, yes, it was only 15 minutes. Long enough to do about 4-5 “paintings” each and to empty each of their 4 jars of paint to 15% or less. Astounding …


#2 What It Is Is Beautiful by Sarah Dunning Park (2013)

I received an autographed copy from the author of these beautiful poems about motherhood, and she is one of those truly filled-with-beauty women whose poetry pours forth onto the page as a balm for the soul. My soul as a mother has often needed to stop and savor and read these poems which put words to my own experience of the tender and excruciating journey of motherhood. I cannot recommend her book highly enough, and I have given at least half a dozen (if not more?) copies to friends this year as gifts. Love these poems, love the author, love this book. It’s part of the beauty and creativity we need for our souls to thrive.

Drumroll, please?? And #1 book read in 2013 was … 

photo credit: thenester.com

Grace for the Good Girl by Emily Freeman (2011)

Have you ever read a book that’s your story, put into book form? This is it for me. I have my whole life been the quintessential “good girl” (with a few covert “rebellious” breaks that included slamming my door in high school after yelling at my parents and listening to Nirvana on full blast). My first deep encounter with grace the summer after my sophomore year in college transformed me – for I realized for the first time in my life how much I, Heather Elizabeth Davis, goody-two-shoes, needed grace. I couldn’t be good enough, no matter how many hour-long devotions I had or small groups I led or people I shared my faith with. In fact, some of these endeavors were actually in fact ways I sought to hide from my need for God. I would feel self-sufficient after a “good” quiet time and wouldn’t turn to him throughout the day. I would feel superior and self-righteous to others who weren’t as “holy” and judge them. For I was out of touch with my own neediness and I was blind to my own blindness. Even our goodness is worth nothing to God – no one can be good enough for a 100% holy God. Yikes. But he has made a way to bridge the gap. Jesus! Grace, mercy, clothed in Christ’s righteousness so that I can stop hiding behind my own attempts to be good. I can receive help from others instead of having to be the helper always. I can be honest about being hurt and weak and vulnerable and shame-filled. There is always grace. All is grace. Emily writes beautifully about these truths through the lens of her own story. What a good place to end for 2013, and what a good place to begin in 2014!