Wednesday, May 25, 2011

On Being Perfect

There was a time when you seeing my house like this would have nearly killed me.
If you showed up at my door unexpectedly, I would not want to let you in.
I would be mortified.
Because the truth would be out.
I, my kids, my home, my life are not perfect.

Being perfect is a heavy load to carry.
At least now it is.
It didn't use to feel that way.
But I am learning that the bigger my life gets, the harder it is to achieve perfection.
This revelation has not been easy to accept.
At times I still fight it.
But I am learning to let go.
And if you showed up unexpectedly at my front door now, I would probably apologize for the mess, I would be kind of embarrassed that I was napping in the middle of the day or that I hadn't showered yet, and then, I would move on.
Because I'm not perfect.
And I don't want to be.

When it was just me, I could live my life the way I wanted.
Eat in breakfast in bed.
Stay up late reading.
Spend my money how I saw fit.
I wasn't accountable to anybody.
I could keep my car clean, eat when I wanted, arrange my schedule just so and maintain my perfect, little life.

But then I got married and life became a little more complicated and a little bigger.
Now there were 2 of us deciding on how to decorate our little house.
I needed to make a dinner that both of us liked.
But it still wasn't that bad.
There were, after all, only 2 of us.

Keeping my house clean was a breeze.  
It might not have been decorated perfectly (it definitely wasn't) but at least it was clean.
Really clean.
When you live in a 600 square foot house, it is easy to keep it clean.
I cleaned the whole house 2 times a week.  
Vacuumed, swept and washed floors, wiped all counters, and stove, scrubbed the tub and bathroom, dusted, and changed the sheets.  It took less than 2 hours to do the whole house.
I was slightly insane about it. Slightly. (control freeeeeeak!)
But I felt better when things were "perfectly" clean.

Even after we had James, I still kept the same cleaning schedule.
With only 1 kid it wasn't that hard.

It was easy, too, to have a perfect kid.
It was easy to be the kind of parent who fed her kid the right stuff, never let him watch tv and made sure he never missed a nap and kept a perfect schedule.
I'm sure I was really annoying to a lot of people.
His face was always washed.
He always had on a cute outfit.
I never took him out with his hair unbrushed.
He was the most compliant, easy kid ever.
He did what I wanted.
He never had temper tantrums.  (i am not making that up.  temper tantrums were not his style)
When we said "stay in bed and go to sleep", he did.  Without a fight.
I looked like the perfect parent.  I was proud.
It felt good.

Then we had another baby.
Things got a little harder. 
But not a lot.
I was still on top of my game, even with 2.
William was another easy baby.
The boys shared a room without a problem.
They napped every day.  Religiously.
We still lived in our tiny house and I still kept it "perfectly" clean.
Oh there were moments, like this one, when I realized that things were not going as perfectly as I'd like.
And I tried not to let it get to me or be too embarrassed.  
I tried to listen to what God was telling me.
But most of the time, I still tried very hard to keep things perfect. 
I liked everything being JUST SO.

Then William turned 2 and figured out how to climb out of his crib.
We had our 3rd baby.
There were more of them than us.
Aaron got a lot more busy at work.
We moved to a bigger house.
And things started falling apart.

Just getting the kids to bed became a battle.  Well, really only getting William to bed.
Suddenly this problem we had never had before, (because we were the parents who had it all together and our kids were so good) became a nightly nightmare.
Those were long days and nights.
But we persevered.
And we learned a lot.  And it was worth it.

But it was still hard.  
All of it.
It is much harder to keep a house clean when you have more room, more stuff and especially, more kids.
I still had the same expectations, and was driving myself and the kids insane trying to maintain them.  Sometimes I let it rule my days.
It was not uncommon for me to arrive somewhere and realize I had not brushed the boys hair and they looked unkempt.
Faces were often unwashed,
What kind of mother lets her kids get in the car with unwashed faces?
Yeah.  That would be me.
We bought a house that needed lots of fixing.
Time and money became something we had a lot less of.
We experienced our first miscarriage.
We were having problems in our marriage.
Life was not at all perfect.
And a lot of it sucked.

The past year has been the most difficult in my life.
I have been angry, sad, hurt and lonely.
But I have also learned more and grown more than ever before.
Sometimes when we are at our worst, our lowest, our weakest, is when God can do the most in our lives.
I realized that I have a lot of pride.
I realized that I wanted to look like I have it all together.
I wanted my life to look perfect.

Well, who doesn't love it when someone says to you, "I just don't know how you do it?"
And you give that little laugh, and smile and say, "oh really, it's nothing."
But inside you feel like a million bucks.
It would be much more honest to say, "oh really?  Well, I don't either.  Because right now I want to strangle my husband and my kids and if I have to wash one more dirty hand print off a window I might just punch my fist right through it."
But that would not sound so good.

When my house is in perfect order, my kids all have on ironed dresses and button up shirts, their hair is brushed, my husband and I are not hiding resentment or bitterness, the kids do just as we say, no one has watched a Bob the Builder video in weeks, no one is begging for candy, heck they don't even know what candy is (james didn't until he was almost 3 because I was a perfect mom) then our whole life looks pretty darn good.

The weekend I had my miscarriage, my parents came up to take the kids for a few days.
My mom walked in the house and said, "wow, I know you are really having a rough time because this is the first time I have ever seen your house messy."
She wasn't trying to be mean.  
She was saying she understood how badly I felt and how much I was struggling.
(because if anyone understands the importance one can put on keeping a house clean, it's my mom.  she gets me)
I was not showered, the kids were a dressed in whatever was clean and everything  felt in complete disarray.
And believe me, I was embarrassed for her to see it that way.
My own mom!  While I was dealing with the loss of my baby.
I think of it now as such a sad statement about my priorities.
I tried so hard, for so long to look perfect.

But I'm not.  
It is all just a show.

Remember when Jesus called the pharisees "whited sepulchers"? (matthew 23:27)
Do you know what He meant?
He meant they were white and clean on the outside, but on the inside, they were graves. They were full of rotting, decayed flesh and dried up bones.

I don't want to be that way anymore.

Oh don't worry.  I'm  not just giving up.
All these pictures are from an afternoon when I had a rip roaring headache and laid down.
The kids watched a video.
They ate bananas in the living room.
They poured themselves orange juice.  In the living room.  (cardinal sin --they aren't even supposed to drink orange juice in there)
When Lil and Wil asked for a popsicle, I said, "whatever.  But don't eat in the living room."
So they stood in the window and ate popsicles instead.
They didn't want to miss the movie.

I took pictures of it all because I wanted to remember.
I wanted to look back and laugh.
I wanted to realize that none of those things really matter.
They are all things that seem to matter.  On the outside.
But here is the thing:
"Man looks at the outward appearance.  But God looks at the heart." (I samuel 16:7)

And so, I am working on the things that really matter.
I am working on my own heart.
I am working on the heart of my marriage,
I am working on the hearts of my kids.
I am learning to let go of pride and false pretenses.
I am learning that I have a long way to go.

I am learning the truth of this verse:
"You do not delight in sacrifice or I would bring it.
You do not take pleasure in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart.
O God, you will not despise."
Psalm 51: 16-17

And sometimes, lots of times, there are piles of laundry on the living room chair.
And it's OK.
I get to it eventually.

It is my great hope that by being more open, and more real, I can reach out to more people.  
I can say, "hey, I know just how you're feeling because I have been there too."
Jesus didn't hang out with the Pharisees.  
He ate with the prostitutes and the tax collectors.
Because they needed Him.
And He was willing to love them right where they were.
The Pharisees thought they were perfect, and who needs Jesus if you're perfect?
I'm not perfect, and boy do I need Jesus.
And He loves me right where I'm at.

Love from,

PS. If you'd like to, I'd love your support of this blog.  You can vote for me here.  
Thank you so much!


mygirl said...

thanks greta, often times i feel we are on the same page. i can relate to so much of what you write. thank you again for your honesty and encouragement. xo, christina

Phyllis said...

Beautiful, heart-felt post. Yes, we are all there with you, feeling the same way and doing the same things.

Pam... said...

good reminders about giving ourselves grace, about choosing the humble way, about following Jesus. thanks!!

I get stressed and upset because, you see, i have pride problems. this happens often :(.
when i look at it square in the face, it is very unattractive and i wonder how this family puts up with me. I so want to change that habit; to continuously choose humility. i hope God will help me. i know he is able.

katie said...

We are so similar. You speak to my heart and I'm so blessed. I feel like you just wrote the story of my life. I love you writing and I keep on voting for you. Many hugs to you, friend.

Laurel said...

Beautifully written! I once spent 2 days meticulously cleaning my house so the women from church could come over for a christmas party. When it was time for the party I realized that I had been impatient with my family, ignored my kids, and was completely exhausted all so that my house could look like no one lived in it.
I will never forget that. I don't like big families with perfect houses; to me it means someone's needs weren't met while mom was busy looking perfect. When peoploe come over and the house is chaotic my usual response is, "We live here." Bravo on this post.

Sherry said...

Great post! I can relate and right now I've be so humbled. We have 3 kiddos that are 6, 4, and 2 and they share a room like yours (although much smaller than yours). We have 900 square feet right now after selling our 4 bedroom 2 1/2 bath house. It's been a test and I'm trying to learn. It's lovely to see others in truth, because who we are on the outside is not necessarily descriptive of our insides. Thanks Greta! I love your honesty, creativity and love for your family.

Betsi* said...

I love you so much! The more transparent you are, the more I adore you.
I've been in the process of learning this lesson too! Gotta love how God uses our kids, more than anyone else, to refine us and mold us closer to the image of His son. We can either go down in flames, kicking and screaming or give into Him and find the peace that passes all understanding.

Adrian said...

I really needed to read this today. I have a million other things I should be doing right now but I think God put me in front of the computer to read your words. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I am laughing. I am crying. Your post is so beautifully written. It has touched me on so many levels.

On a funny note, the shot of the banana peels is absolutely gorgeous. How come your mess looks so stylish, and mine just looks like, well, a mess?!?

Thanks so much for putting in writing what so many of us are feeling!

JDzJane said...

I just found your blog today. And this post really got to me. This seems to be where I am right now. And I'm glad I'm not alone. Thank you for being so honest and letting people "see right in".

Lisa said...

Your blog was sent to me - and after crying and laughing reading through your births, seeing you go out pregnant and with new baby - been there and hear you loud and clear. Well after reading this about the house. I also no longer say anything if it is a mess(on going mess). The head ache part, and your children serving themselves in the living room I really think I wrote that for you because I am pretty sure that was me on your couch!

Anonymous said...


Right now Im sitting at the computer cos I cant sleep cos Im 'upset' with my beloved hubby because he doesnt apologise for hhis mistakes, and thinking about what a lousy mum I am too, cos I wana be perfect!!!!! ........and then Lo and behold, I come across your labour of Love post and this one........I felt as if I was the one writing those posts - only to myself and God of course - because noone else is allowed to know!

"There was a time when you seeing my house like this would have nearly killed me.
If you showed up at my door unexpectedly, I would not want to let you in.
I would be mortified.
Because the truth would be out.
I, my kids, my home, my life are not perfect."....Im still doing it!
It happened to me too, it was a cold winter, we had the heating on, the water had run out of our tank, we couldnt flush the loos, I couldnt wash up, I was feeling miserable and then my daughter had a convulsion!!!! I thought she was dying we had to call our friends to take the other kids while we just rushed her to hospital! All I could think of was "OMG theyve seen my house in a state!!!'

Things are getting SO intense and its cos I cannot let go of being perfect even with half a dozen kids. It is pride and it is so AWFUL to think that I am proud.

But as soon as I can admit it, I can set my self free. I love your honesty.. I pray that God can help me too to be honest

Thanks Greta