Always Failing at Something

Do you have that One Thing that is always ready to jump out of the corner and condemn you? Like, you’re walking along, thinking that you are actually an Ok human being. You are handling life pretty good. In fact, you might even be doing well. And then that One Thing jumps out with it’s jeering face and says, Oh yeah? What about this??? And you hang your head in shame. Oh yeah. I forgot about that. I guess I’m not really doing that great. 

For me it tends to be a messy house. I’ll be assessing how the day is going. Ok, lets see. We homeschooled today, that went well. I’ve cooked all the meals. Had some good quality time reading aloud to the kids. I made a lunch for my husband. I’ve eaten healthy today. Got in my workout. Had my devotions. Yep. I’m doing ok. Then here comes the voice. 

Oh yeah? Have you looked at your house?? It’s a mess! You’re behind with the laundry! Those pots have been “soaking” for a really long time. The kids can’t find anything on their school shelf, it’s such a cluttered mess. We won’t even bring up subjects like mopping and dusting! 

And my little ego deflates. Oh yeah. I actually kinda suck. 

Of course, this is a glimpse into just how performance-oriented my self-esteem is. If I am doing good things then I must be good and have worth. If I am failing in any area then I must be bad. Not really worthy at all. 

And unfortunately, there is always something or some area where I am failing. And this means that my default attitude towards myself tends to be rather negative. 

It makes me think about my spiritual walk. Jesus is all about grace. But my default position, when I think about God, is that he is all about law. If you fail these commandments, this is the list of punishments you will get. If you aren’t careful, you will be burned up in God’s wrath. 

I have heard the sermons, I’ve read the scriptures. I know, in my head, that I am forgiven. That Jesus’ goodness covers over all my badness and cancels it out. I know that the Holy Spirit is living inside of me, slowly changing my heart to be more like Jesus. I know that he sees me through eyes of love and grace. But I still wrestle. My default is still law and punishment. Condemnation. 

I’m a work in progress. I have to constantly remind myself that I am loved, forgiven, a daughter of the King. 

So, today, as my brain started beating me up about what a horrible housekeeper I am, I tried to exercise some grace. Yes. The house is rather messy right now. So what? There’s a lot of good reasons why it’s in that state. Is the world going to end if it doesn’t get cleaned today? Nope. Does a messy house mean I am a horrible person? Not really. Are you ever going to get your house clean? Sure, I’m planning on getting it done this weekend! Ok. Then you are fine. You have permission to ignore the mean voice whispering in your ear. 

Romans 3: 20-24

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Not Aiming for Perfection

Today I saw a light-hearted comment on FB. Someone was wondering why a character in a very popular book series was not treated with more kindness, even though he was a mean person.  I was a little puzzled. From my limited knowledge of the book, it seemed that it would have been stepping out of character for the people in the book to treat the man with kindness. They weren’t kind because that didn’t line up with their temperament.  

 

I was puzzling over this in my head as I began the day. Today was going to be Decorate the House for Christmas Day. This is supposed to be a happy day. Family united. Everyone buoyant with good cheer. 

 

The day started off cheerfully enough. The two year old had climbed into our bed sometime around 4 am and he woke up later with a big smile on his face. The happiness lasted about twenty minutes and then things went downhill quickly. He didn’t want to get dressed even though the house is chilly and he was walking around in a diaper. He didn’t want to eat breakfast. Even though I was letting the kids eat leftover pie for breakfast. Eggs, toast, oatmeal, and fruit were also suggested, but he didn’t want any of that either. Then he became clingy and didn’t want me to put him down. For about two hours. The six year old did not wake up with a smile. She woke up whining. And then quickly got into a fight with her older sister. The boys had a friend over who had spent the night and the energy in the house was on HIGH. I was very quickly losing my patience. And feeling guilty about it. Leave it to kids to kill the mood. 

 

At the same time I was thinking about that FB post and then I had my Light Bulb Moment. Why on earth am I expecting my children to act like perfect little angels? That’s not what they are. They are human. They have a sin nature. They get irritated and tired. We’ve already had two days of holiday, everyone gets tired of celebrating after a while, plus we’ve had sickness going through the house. In fact, why was I expecting myself to be perfect? I also am human and have lots of flaws. Being perfect has never been on my list of abilities. I was in effect expecting a certain outcome from people who were incapable of producing that outcome. 

 

I have continued to come back to that little light bulb throughout the day. Like when I’m expecting my husband to be enthusiastic about Christmas Decorating and throw himself into it gungho. Yeah. Decorating is a lot more my thing than his. And he was tired today, his mind on a lot of other things. 

 

Then, when my son announced that he had just spilled all my leftover turkey, ham, and mashed potatoes out of the fridge and onto the floor (the leftovers we were going to have for supper tonight)…and I felt a ball of rage boiling up, followed by a ball of guilt for getting so upset over an accident…I remembered that I was human. Having your supper thrown on the floor is upsetting. It’s ok that I got angry. And it was a really good time to take a quick trip to the store and just get a little space from the situation. And by the time I got back from the store I was calm again and had mostly forgotten the incident. 

 

The day has turned out pleasant. The house got decorated. Christmas music played nonstop. Everyone enjoyed the new cozy atmosphere. Yes, we had fights and arguments to sort out. Lots of messes and accidents. Absolutely nothing perfect about the day. But it was good. 

 

As the Christmas season kicks into high gear, this is my goal. To remember that we are not aiming for perfection, that’s not who we are. We are aiming to be quick to forgive, count to ten when it’s necessary, get up and leave the house if needed, but above all, have grace for each other as we live our imperfect lives. 

 

Jesus is Enough

This has been an unsettling week for me. A week where God confronted me about my online content: this is not pleasing, uplifting, edifying nor is it drawing you closer to God. Uggh. But it’s fun and entertaining. Everyone else does it. And a whole list of excuses, and this time I felt like God was just looking at me with a raised eyebrow. It’s your choice, are you going to listen to me? And so grumpily I walked away, looking over my shoulder with a bit of longing. I walked away because I know it doesn’t have to do with following a set of rules, it has to do with drawing closer to God, and I knew that my online activity was setting up a barrier between me and God that was getting harder and harder to climb over.

There was also the evening when my children’s bad behavior just felt overwhelmingly like me failing as a parent. I ended up sobbing on my husband’s chest, feeling like my kids were all going to hell in a handbasket and were probably going to end up homeless on the streets because I haven’t made Bible Time enough of a priority… And how on earth do I give ten kids the one-on-one time that they need to be well-adjusted citizens??

Then I got in a discussion about church practices with a blogger online. I didn’t agree with his position, but at the same time I didn’t feel like I had an answer to the fundamental question he was trying to address…How do we show Jesus to the lost?

Then I started thinking about politics and church and race and economic differences in the world and I felt like I just had this giant question mark floating around my head. No concrete answers. No concrete conclusions. Everything felt like a foggy haze.

It didn’t help that this past week I’ve undertaken a diet that consists of only fruits, vegetables and nuts. It’s an attempt to deal with several health issues, weight actually being at the bottom of that list. My body has been in shock. WHAT’S GOING ON??? WHERE’S THE BREAD?? WHERE’S THE MEAT??? More brain fog as I try to adjust to this very different routine.

In the midst of all this haze, I started a new book, “Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving and Finding the Church” by Rachel Held Evans. She’s a blogger. I don’t read her blog. I’m pretty sure it’s a lot more liberal than I am comfortable with. I don’t unreservedly recommend her as a theologian or someone to model your life after, but there is something in her writing that feeds a hungry place in me. I think what draws me to her is that she is honest about her life. She is honest about her doubts and failures. She asks questions that I tend to skirt around. In the book it feels like she is rediscovering her walk with God, rediscovering Jesus.

As I’ve been reading her book I have felt something relax inside of me. I have been reminded that this walk with Jesus, this life we’ve been given is not a three step process. Our Christian walk isn’t about walking in absolute perfection every single day, and if we mess up, then it’s all over. It isn’t about having the answer to every single difficult question. It’s a lot more about stumbling along in all our imperfections and ignorance and continually turning back to Jesus, asking for help, asking for forgiveness, asking for strength to get up and try again. Asking for wisdom when we don’t know what to do. Seeking God’s face on Sunday, messing up on Monday, and then Tuesday, seeking God’s face again. A little bit wiser, a little bit stronger, hopeful that this time we won’t stumble into the same pit.

And through all our floundering around, Jesus is enough. His Word is enough. His Grace is Enough. His Love is enough. I long for solid answers, concrete paths, rigid systems to follow. A certain future that is all laid out for me. That’s not what this life is about. In fact, the only solid thing I have to hang on to is Jesus. He knows everything, but he only likes to tell me what I need to know on a moment by moment basis.

The fog clears a bit and one thing comes into sharp clear focus. I’ve got Jesus, he’s got me. It’s enough.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 10 If At First You Don’t Succeed…

Here we are in week 10. I’ve had my first real setback this week. I haven’t exercised in two days, I came off of 9 days without sugar and blew it with pancakes and syrup yesterday and then donuts this morning. I’m finding that my setbacks are really tied to my bouts of depression. I hit a real low this week and I find that trying to keep myself moving and keep doing the right thing is really difficult when I’m feeling so low I don’t want to move.

Frankly, I’m getting pretty tired of this depression. A while back I went through about two years of deep depression. Now it’s every month I just have a couple days when it’s hard to cope. The problem is that while I’m in the midst of it, I feel like it’s all my fault. I am a horrible person. I’m a failure. I’m lazy. And then slowly the fog lifts and I get back to normal and I realize that I had been fighting off depression like it was a giant cloud that had settled around my body. This seems to be a cyclic thing. Some new, bizarre form of PMS? I don’t know. I think I’m going to start keeping a simple diary and see if I can track a pattern of which days I feel depressed, see if if there is any rhyme or reason to it.

I am at the point where I’m ready to start researching diets that lift depression. Right now if someone told me that eating a Keto diet (my personal version of hell) would take away my depression, I would be like, OK, sign me up.

So, here I am. I’ve been doing really well these past 10 weeks. Exercising, being more thoughtful about what I eat, trying to significantly reduce sugar. And then I fall off the wagon. This is where the real challenge lies. What am I going to do about it? Am I going to shrug my shoulders and think, Well, I’ve never been able to do anything long-term, might as well just give up and have a nice binge. Or am I going to accept the fact that this is how life works. It’s impossible to be “good” all the time. You mess up. Acknowledge it and then get back to work. Start exercising again. Cut back on the sugar again. Try to be mindful of what and why you are eating again.

I need to give myself this pep talk. You are not perfect Esther. No one expects you to be perfect all the time. One mistake does not make you a failure. You can do this. Have grace for yourself.  Don’t give up. Try again.

So, this is the plan for this week. Research diet and depression. Stop beating myself up for falling off the wagon. Climb back up onto the wagon. Keep going. And remember to be kind to myself.

Here’s to Trying Again.