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Is Perfect Possible? The Myth Called Perfection

Seeing Beauty

Perfection: Taking pains and giving them to others. – Unknown

The Myth Called Perfection

There was a time when I thought perfection was something to be attained, a must-do. Perfection was a box that had to be checked for everything.

I think engineering school had something to do with the belief. I know it had something to do with Purdue’s mandatory faded green grid paper for all engineering assignments. Every problem had an answer which had to fit within those faded green squares. Every problem in Calculus, Physics, Heat and Mass Transfer, Fluids, and Electronical Engineering Lab had a pat answer and could be solved a straightforward way. Either you got it right or it was wrong. Perfection or failure.

It did not take long after graduation from engineering school for me and my classmates to learn that there is no pat answer in real life. The screw threads designed to hold a massive weight eventually become fatigued and break. The perfect insulator, asbestos, is proclaimed a carcinogen. The perfect computer program can still crash with a power outage.

Is Perfect Possible?

Have you ever tried to write a perfect sentence? Or attempted to paint a perfect flower? How about a perfect face — have you ever seen one? Or photographed a perfect scene?

daisy with dew

In my job now, I often cross left-brain and right-brain worlds. I work on website and user logic as well as help to create visual brand assets. For some things, I am back designing to prevent failure on that faded green grid paper, and for others, I am in the no-right-or-wrong world of Photoshop.

Recently, I watched a person scrunch his nose and twist his mouth as he tried to think of a way to evaluate a new visual display. Nevermind this person had made nearly 20 revisions on the art before it was approved and became final. Nevermind that this large display had been done well and was visually attractive. Perhaps it did not even have a flaw on the whole piece — this person still evaluated it as if no thing could ever measure up.

His response made me think about perfection.

Happiness and Vibrant Living Do Not Happen Alongside Perfection

“Have no fear of perfection. You’ll never reach it.” – Salvador Dali

Do you often see true happiness in someone who expects perfection? Is a perfectionist able to let go and enjoy a moment for all it is worth?

I think it is rare. Happy, vibrant living does not happen alongside perfection. Why? Perhaps the perfectionist is so focused on the requirements for perfection that they cannot let go and enjoy and really live.

Somehow, it’s easy in our world, especially in black-and-white professions like accounting or engineering, to believe the illusion that perfection is attainable. And it is not only attainable, but it must be attained. But that’s not the way the world works. That’s not the way we are wired. Perfection is not a human possibility. Perfection is a myth.

Perfection takes pains and gives them to others.

I can say after years of peeling back the layers, I do not strive for perfection any longer. Instead, I hope to be a cushion — to soften the blows in a world which deals sharp blows too often, and to soak up the joy when it is present. And there is much beauty, grace, and joy to be found.

Instead of scrunching up my face in displeasure, I want to share a smile. Instead of taking pains and giving them to others, I want to share laughter and kindness.

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10 Favorite Quotes of Thanksgiving

Flowers, Thankfulness, and Grace

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. – Thornton Wilder

This week and holiday here in the US is my favorite of all, for it is a time to say thanks. We have so much. We have been given more than we need. Surely it is good to say thank you, to those who walk with us through life, to God who gives us life, to our family and friends who share our lives.

In times of hardship and when we suffer, when life seems senseless or too difficult to bear, it is in these times that thanks says and means so much. No matter what our circumstances, we can give thanks this Thanksgiving.

10 Favorite Quotes of Thanksgiving

Gratitude turns what we have into enough. – Author Unknown

Flowers, Thankfulness, and Grace

Gratitude is a quality similar to electricity: it must be produced and discharged and used up in order to exist at all. – William Faulkner

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, “thank you,” that would suffice. – Meister Eckhart
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. – G.K. Chesterton

Gratitude is the memory of the heart. – Jean Baptiste Massieu

An open home, an open heart, here grows a bountiful harvest. – Judy Hand

Thankfulness, Flowers, and Grace

Best of all, it is to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song. – Konrad von Gesner

Thanksgiving is a time of quiet reflection upon the past and an annual reminder that God has, again, been ever so faithful. The solid and simple things of life are brought into clear focus. – Charles R. Swindoll

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. – W.T. Purkiser

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. – Thornton Wilder

And now I want to say thank you to you. I am so grateful for you. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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“Hope is the Thing with Feathers …”

Fledgling Chickadee

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all …  -Emily Dickenson, poem entitled Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Fledgling Chickadee
Fledgling Chickadee

On the Spring morning when I took this photograph, my boys and I were going through the regular motions of getting them ready for the school bus in the US. But our dog, Jesse, was in active pursuit of something across and around the back yard. Since she was a Boxer, we always knew it was something alive and usually small. We had to rescue whatever it was.

This time, we discovered this little Chickadee, which had just taken its first flight from its nest in a bird house in our back yard. All around us came the reprimands of its parents, flying nervously from tree to tree, trying to show their babies where to go. But this poor guy– all he could do was fly to this chair and cling for his life. The very definition of Hope– of escaping our Boxer’s frothy jaws. Though he didn’t escape my camera …

To me, Emily Dickenson was right in her poignant metaphor for Hope … what do you think? Do you have a story to share?

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Rising Up Again

the grand beauty of Amaryllis

“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it.” -Helen Keller

the grand beauty of Amaryllis
the grand beauty of Amaryllis

Have you ever seen an amaryllis bulb? It seems to be one of the largest of the traditional garden bulbs– so big that it fills my hand when I hold one. Usually, a dormant amaryllis bulb is flaky and brown, sometimes spotted with what looks like rot or disease, and from the rounded bottom, what looks like dried and dead earthworms poke out. It’s really not a pretty site.

But what amazes me every time is when given the right conditions–sunlight, the right amount of water, and warmth–that dead-looking bulb begins something new. After a few days or a week, signs of new life are visible. A green sprout from the top. New white roots spreading from the bottom. And within a few weeks, the grand amaryllis flower makes her debut. And, oh– it is beautiful!

For the past several days, most of the world has been watching the ultimate devastation of a noble country: Japan. Certainly, it feels hopeless. I can’t imagine how desperate the people there feel. But there, in the bleakest-seeming place, courage and hope can and will rise up. Like Helen Keller so eloquently said, the human spirit will overcome even the deepest suffering.

To Japan and all of her bravery: GAMBARU, which in Japanese means never, ever give up.

Japan, you will be beautiful again, soon.

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Finding Sanity in a Mom’s Chaos

Me, the Mom in a purple wig! with my three little Jedis

One of the most marked-up books in our home library is a book that changed my life. Years ago, several years into the Mom journey, I bumped into a book called Tender Mercy for a Mother’s Soul by Angela Thomas. With a title like that, and knowing how little mercy I felt in my role as a mom, I knew I had to read it. I didn’t read it just once, but many times, highlighting and taking notes as I went. Somehow, Angela’s words touched me and changed my life forever.

Me, the Mom in a purple wig! with my three little Jedis
Me, the Mom in a purple wig! with my three little Jedis

Specifically hard-hitting for me was a section on Grace, something I knew very little about (and am still learning more of everyday). Angela talks about a Woman of Grace and writes out a humorous but true List of Rules every mom thinks she should abide by. She writes, “We believe there is a list of rules out there, and if we can just find the list and keep all the rules, then life will be happy and good.” And so starts her top ten list of things every “good mother should do.” (1. A good mother should prepare homemade, well-balanced meals…) It is too easy to believe that if somehow we can just keep the rules, then we’ll find “happiness.”

Every area of life has a list to abide by, but Angela writes “grace has the power to free me from all the unwritten lists that want to steal my joy and run my life. Thanks be to God, grace makes life more than a list of rules to keep.” Grace, she says, frees us from bondage to enjoy the blessings in our life.

I remember also one of the stand-out stories for me—Angela recalls a friend’s biggest personal news to share was fixing the screen on her sliding patio door. The woman’s life, she writes, completely revolved around her children. How easy it is to procrastinate taking care of our own souls, as moms, and say things like, “When the baby is out of diapers … or when the kids are out of school …” etc, then we’ll start to think about cultivating ourselves. Until we can take care of ourselves and invest in what also makes us tick, our lives can be just about as fulfilling as fixing the screen door.

From my own experience, I’ve watched parents pour everything into their kids without thinking a thing for what they are doing—pushing their children onto a pedestal and putting them into a role that they certainly cannot fulfill. Our children are not made to be our everything. They are made to be loved. And out of love for our children, we as moms have to invest in ourselves as well. Our families cannot be it. They cannot complete the hole in our hearts that can only be filled by God, and pursuing also that for which he created us to be. For when our children leave home, and they will, we need to have something other than their absence to dwell on, and something more than falling to pieces to do with ourselves.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts we could give our spouse and children comes by investing in ourselves—even just a smidge every day—so that when our children grow up we still have something of ourselves intact and healthy. It’s important to find sanity as a mom—three basics I think help tremendously:

1. Live:
I heard one of the best pieces of advice for moms from a pediatrician, who recommended a guilt-free “prescription” for Me time for every new mom—minimum one hour each week. However it happens, every human being needs a block of time to remember who they are, separate from the endless demands of work and / or motherhood. Time to go out to lunch with a friend, to take a run through the park, to find the perfect flowers to plant in the Spring garden—time to be.

2. Learn:
Invest in yourself, learn a new skill—read a new book, take a new class, learn a new language, travel to a new place. We need the opportunity to continue becoming our very best—to continue to learn even while we are moms.

3. Love:
The First Book of Corinthians, chapter 13 speaks on Love, and says Love is to guide all we do. When we take some time each day to be still, pray, and let God take the edges off our hearts, He refills us with love and grace for our lives and for our families. We don’t even have to try to do it all ourselves.

The Result is to Thrive: To Thrive is the picture of health and vigor, growing naturally and allowing the life from within to take root. Like a beautiful flower, dazzling with dew in the sun, we can thrive, let our lives shine, and let love take root to grow and bloom with healthy lives.

I count my husband and children as some of my greatest blessings. Each day is truly a gift. I want to enjoy these days, this short time I have to be with them until they are on their own. But it can’t be done by smothering them, by hovering over their every move, or by making them the center of my universe. It can only be done by starting with myself …

To grace, and health, and all things new during this season of rebirth and Spring and Lent,

Jennifer

PS. A friend of mine, TJ Wilson, blogged about being a mom, and a book that helped in her life: click here for the link to her post on She’s Gonna Blow!

Starting the conversation (click below to leave a comment): Is there a book, or mentor, or other help in your life that has helped you become a healthier human being? What pieces of your life can you count as investing in you?