a little encouragement


You know how when you learn a new word, suddenly you start seeing it in everything you read?  Or you buy a red Dodge Caravan, and suddenly everywhere you go you see another red Dodge Caravan.

In all likelihood that word or that type of car isn’t suddenly appearing more than before.  It’s just that your radar is up now, so you are noticing that thing when previously you would have passed it by unthinkingly.

Well, I have been coming across a plethora of encouragement in the area of giving myself grace for imperfection.  Surely it’s been there all this time, but I’m still surprised by all the inspiration I’ve found. I’m gathering the posts here because they complement each other so well, and so I can come back to them when I need them again (which I know I will).

My One Word: Imperfection (part 2)

I have written here before about being an all-or-none perfectionist.

(And actually, in re-reading that post I realized that all the issues I’m now dealing with I have already dealt with before — and seemingly already come to some pretty good conclusions.  Funny how we can think we’ve conquered something but it just keeps coming back…)

better plan

Anyway, all-or-none perfectionism: if I can’t get it all right, then I have a hard time getting motivated to do any part of it.  I also suffer from analysis paralysis (yes, it’s a real thing!) — being paralyzed by too many options and the need to figure out The Best One.

I realize I sound whiny and kind of ridiculous: “It’s just so hard to figure out the right way to meal plan!  I give up!”  I realize these are first-world problems.  (I also suffer from a need to over-explain.)

Why do I have this need to always make the best choice, do the most right thing?  Why am I so afraid of getting it wrong?  It will probably come as no shock to you that I am prone to self-reflection (which can be both super helpful and kind of awful), so I have asked myself this question.

And I have come to at least one conclusion:  it’s all about control.

Aside from just wanting to be seen as a competent, confident grown-up, someone who isn’t floundering around in her own helplessness, someone who’s dependable and put-together (and maybe just a little bit awesome) — aside from wanting to project that kind of image, I’ve realized that the reason I need to always do the best thing is that I want to be in control of my life.

(This book has been instrumental in helping me figure that out.)


I want my life to be good and happy and relatively pain-free.  So it’s important that I make the right decisions and do all the right things in the proper order, because then we will all be happy and healthy and everything should turn out ok . . . right?

But here’s the thing: life doesn’t actually work like that. (Shoot!)

I’m not in control.  I don’t run the universe (and really that’s a very good thing).  And in the grand scheme of things, it’s not actually imperative that my garden be weeded or my bed be made or that I buy the organic broccoli.  My world won’t actually collapse if my daughter goes to church without brushing her hair or if we eat a frozen pizza or if the laundry sits unfolded for one more day week.


(I’m not saying these things don’t matter.  I think it’s important to have a good work ethic, to finish what you start, to do a job well.  I believe that good, whole foods are important for the health of our bodies and our earth.  But.  I am only one small, broken person living in a broken world.  I won’t always get it right.  This is the lesson I’m trying to teach myself.)

But the good news is this:

We are not called to infinite achievement, we are called to love…  God wants us to rely on his Spirit, not on our own strength and achievements…  God is the only one who can handle everything.  – Shauna Niequist, Savor

And also this:

I love how this hymn [How Great Thou Art] helps me lift my eyes from my inadequacy to his sufficiency – from my not-enough to his always-enough.  It helps me to remember the wonderful works He has done (Psalm 145:5) and to meditate on those, rather than circling around and around all the things I’ve left undone. – Ellie Holcomb

Yes.  That.  I am going to fail, always.  But God is always enough.  His grace is sufficient to cover my shortcomings.

I just have to trust him.  Easier said than done, sure.  But these thoughts have been helping me to let go of the whole to-do list, to move on to the next right thing.  I am learning that most things in life are not all-or-none kind of things.  Sometimes it’s ok to do things halfway.  I’m trying to separate the urgent from the important.  I’m trying to embrace the fact that my life is not perfect, but it is the life I have been given, and I don’t want to waste it in futile attempts at winning all the blue ribbons and gold stars.  As Shauna says, I am not called to win… I am called to love.


There are several places that I’m finding inspiration for imperfectionism, including:

The blogs of Kara Anderson and  Melissa Camara Wilkins (These ladies are both inspiring and hilarious.)

Sarah Mackenzie’s Teaching from Rest

This post at Simple Homeschool

Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection

The music of Ellie Holcomb

This book by Sally Clarkson

Emily P Freeman

The Lazy Genius Collective (The tagline?  “Be a genius about the things that matter and lazy about the things that don’t.”  So great!)

This post at Sew Liberated

My One Word: Imperfection (part 1)

I suppose I should start by addressing my hiatus from blogging, which wasn’t so much a planned absence as an unintentional drifting away.  I became unable to justify the time and energy that blogging was taking, even though I did enjoy it very much.  I know, “You make time for what you love,” but also sometimes there are seasons of life in which you have to make sacrifices.  Blogging got cut from the list.  Also, there is Instagram which is, you know, more insta.

I don’t know if this post means I am going to return to blogging in any sort of regular way.  This is just something that’s been on my mind and I needed to write it out.  Then, because I recently read a book on forming habits and found out that I am an Obliger (i.e.,  more likely to follow through with something if I have someone on the outside to keep me accountable), I decided to share those thoughts with you, with the idea that I will be more likely to stick with this.  So thanks for listening!

flowerssSo, you know how people do that thing where instead of making a New Year’s resolution, they just pick One Word to kind of guide them through the year?  Well, I’m joining that bandwagon.  And my one word is: Imperfection.

Of course, One Word is a beautiful and simple thing, but really it’s kind of necessary to flesh it out and get some specifics, right?  So that One Word for me becomes these words:

Embrace imperfection.
Don’t let the ideal get in the way of the real.
(This is something Jake says to me.  Often.)

I am enough.
Trust Him; He’s got this; you are not in charge here.
Hey, Stupid, stop trying to be perfect all the time, no one is perfect and you are no exception to the rule so just get off your high horse.

(Ok, so that last one is not really in keeping with the tone of grace and forgiveness I’d like to be setting for myself this year, but once in a while we all need a kick in the pants.)


To sum it up (or perhaps just string things out a bit longer): I struggle with trying to do and be the best everything to everyone.  (I’m not alone here, right?)  I want to do things well, but in my effort to get it right I often fail to remember that there isn’t always one right way.  I sometimes get so wrapped up in trying to figure out The Right Thing To Do, that I fail to trust that God will sustain me no matter which path I go down.


Often people’s One Word is something they want to be more of: e.g., mindful, brave, generous, curious.  My goal here is not to get more imperfect this year (trust me, I’ve got that part down), but to accept myself, flaws and all. To stop always striving, imagining I can reach those lofty ideals I hold so dear, and not let those ideals paralyze me and prevent me from doing what is real and beautiful.  This is an attempt at acknowledging that I will get things wrong, and I will still be ok, still be me, still be loved.  This is me admitting that I cannot control every.little.thing. and having faith that God’s got this.


When I write it all out like that it makes me feel like kind of a moron (who’s she kidding, no one is perfect, why does she think she should be better than anyone else?).  But I guess part of this whole exercise is admitting that I AM sometimes a moron, that I get things wrong, and trying to be more honest about it and move past the shame.  And so I think I might actually hit that “Publish” button after all (even though it is already March and everyone is so over these One Word posts — see, imperfection!), and let the world become aware that I don’t have it all together.  (Sorry if this comes as a shock to any of you!)

seven. simple.

DSC_0131Adeline turned seven on Thanksgiving and this is the one and only photo I took of the event.  It was a wonderfully special time for her because it was on Thanksgiving (she loves a feast!) with her grandparents and cousins all around and her birthday candles in a piece of pumpkin pie.  She loved it.  And we love her.

this is some of the stuff that’s happened here

DSC_0007 DSC_0009 DSC_0024 DSC_0036 DSC_0037 DSC_0038 DSC_0042 DSC_0043 DSC_0045 DSC_0046 DSC_0050 DSC_0052 DSC_0053 DSC_0058 DSC_0065 DSC_0067 DSC_0072 DSC_0081 DSC_0082 DSC_0083 DSC_0109 DSC_0110Here is just a smattering of stuff that has happened since I last posted in September.  Blogging has taken a backseat to life at this point, which is as it should be, I suppose.

School: We’ve been squeezing the more academic bits of school into the spaces of the day when Will sleeps or when we’re gathered together anyway (specifically mealtimes and bedtime).   I find it especially helpful to associate certain things with mealtimes.  We do morning prayers after breakfast, poetry at lunch, and bedtime math (using the iPhone app) with supper.  We just finished up our study of Henri Matisse (we especially like the books Matisse: the King of Color, When Pigasso Met Mootisse, and Henri’s Scissors).  Bea was particularly taken with Matisse’s colorful cut-out shapes and was inspired to try her hand at it on a couple different occasions.  Adeline has been using Xtra Math for extra practice, which we both like.  We recently watched Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit and The Nightmare Before Christmas, and now the girls have taken a fancy to stop motion animation.  We’ve attempted a couple little videos of their Lego people using our Nikon.  Fun!  But it sure is a time-consuming process!

Halloween: We had a monarch butterfly, a bumblebee (for the 2nd year in a row), and a tiny raccoon.  When I asked Bea what she was going to be for Halloween, she said, “My bumble costume that’s my Halloween costume.”  As though it is customary to wear the same costume every year.  Actually, I rather like that idea…

Weather:  Those mums and everything else in the garden is dead, thanks to the dip in temperature to 1 degree last week.  Now we’ve got snow and grayness.  The sun, when there is any, has begun to slant in across the living room floor and illuminate all the dust bunnies under the couch.

Other stuff:  Jake built us a table!  The baby is crawling!  Adeline is about to turn seven!  The girls are slowly taking over responsibility of their laundry!!!  (Note which of those announcements rates three exclamation points.)  And so much more that I’d like to share, but alas, time is not on my side.  If I don’t hit publish now, this post is likely to linger til after Christmas, when none of this would really seem relevant anymore.  So here it is, half-finished (like many of the projects in my life right now – mine and my family’s – most of which are piled on the kitchen counter).

by the book

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I saw this great mud pie recipe book here and then here, and I thought it might be just what the girls needed to get them excited about being outside again — they enjoy being outside but are kind of in that end-of-summer we’ve-done-everything-there-is-to-do-outside place.  Sure enough, it’s been inspiring a great deal of fun and encouraging them to do such things as thread twenty blades of grass through twenty buttons and grinding up sticks of chalk and such like.  Here their dolls are being treated to a meal including boiled buttons, chalk shakes, and molded moss salad.  As a bonus, Adeline can now read and pronounce the words hors d’oeuvres.

Since Bea can’t read, she doesn’t get the same satisfaction Adeline does from following a recipe.  She’s more inclined to improvise.  When she suggested adding some mushrooms she’d found to the button soup, Adeline exclaimed, “No, Bea, the book doesn’t say to add those!”  And that, I think, sums up their personalities fairly well.

young naturalists

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“One way to neutralize [a child’s] fascination with the natural world is to cordon it off in parks and zoos, and then to act as if only the parks and zoos were worth seeing.  Persuade a child that a giraffe he sees once every couple of years is really impressive, but the wren on the fence post is only a drab little bird- though he warbles out a love song in the morning, cocking his stubby tail, and is in general one of the bravest and most cheerful of birds. Persuade the child that the Grand Canyon is worth seeing, or Yellowstone National Park, or Mount Rushmore, or the breakers of the ocean on the Florida coast. But ignore the variations of hill and valley, river and pond, bare rock and rich bottom soil, in your own neighborhood.”

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child  by Anthony Esolen

One thing I hope for my children is that they grow to love the world around them — and I mean “around them” quite literally.  I want them to know what a rhinoceros is and be able to identify New Guinea on a map and to imagine what it might be like to live in the rain forest.  But even more important, I want them to know, really know, the place they live in — and to know that this place on the prairie is just as full of fascinating and wonderful creatures as any tropical rain forest or African savanna.

And so this summer we’ve been working on identifying the trees, bugs, birds, flowers, weeds, and all manner of things that we find in our own backyard, or down the street, or at the lake.  We’ve been using two wonderful books as inspiration: The Nature Connection and We Love Nature.  We’ve observed the life stages of boxelder bugs and watched a black swallowtail caterpillar make a chrysalis on the backdoor frame.  We now know more birds than ever (still using our favorite trusty bird guide) and are learning to identify some by their songs using this (so handy to have the Kindle edition on my phone!).  My six year old can tell the difference between a honey locust, an American basswood, and a Russian olive tree (which is something I couldn’t do as a twenty-six year old).  We are all learning together, and I’m just as fascinated by all this new knowledge as the girls.  And nothing makes my heart swell like Adeline saying, “Mom, I heard a cardinal in the tree and then I saw two red admiral butterflies!  What a lucky day!”