Quit Striving for Perfection, Start Thriving in Progression

 

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Have you ever stumbled over perfection? I do it all of the time. Here are a few ways striving for perfection makes me stumble…

  1. I get so caught up in the fact that I may not do it perfectly that I don’t do it at all. Nothing great was ever done because someone failed to try. Everything we attempt comes with the possibility of failure. But, failure is an event; not a person.
  2. Sometimes, when my end goal is perfection, my “in the game” performance is all I focus on.  When my thoughts circle on doing something perfectly, I often jump ahead and don’t spend enough time preparing and planning.  True success is often found in the calm times of preparation. At sporting events, you don’t get to see all of the practices, meetings, playbook and locker room chats. You just see the game. Months and months of planning, preparing and hard work for a few hours of play time.
  3. When I know I am coming up short of perfection, I tend to think of excuses. No one wants to hear them and they just make me look desperately inadequate. Excuses mean I quit trying and am looking for something or someone to blame other than myself.

Maybe you are like me and find that the thoughts and goals of perfection are actually causing you to stumble. Striving for excellence in all that we do is different than striving for perfection. When I am not striving for perfection, I can begin thriving in progress. Emotionally healthy people understand that there is a difference between perfection and progress. They know that we, as humans are fallible and incapable of perfection. People who think otherwise usually end up steeped in pride and a misguided sense of leadership.

So, what do we perfectionists do stop the on going search for perfection that causes us to stumble?

  1. Realize you have limitations. Understand that you may fail. Accept the possibility of that. Then, go after it with everything you have got. Recruit people to help you that can do the things you can not. A real sign of maturity is recognizing you need other people to succeed. If you fail, learn from your mistakes and try again. Don’t be so afraid of failure, that you never try. I can respect a person that always gets up when they fall. Go for making some progress, not being perfect.
  2. Prepare and plan. Educate yourself about what you are doing. So many times we believe the lie that something really good can happen quickly.  You have to put in the work if you want to make progress. There are some nights I open a jar of spaghetti sauce, and that is ok. But, there are some nights I dice, sauce, simmer, sip and smell. Nothing that comes in a jar compares to that rich and deliciously wonderful homemade sauce I make. Don’t get so ahead of yourself thinking about your end goal, that you forget to put in the effort.
  3. Excuse: an attempt to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offense); seek to defend or justify;a reason or explanation put forward to defend or justify a fault or offense.  Both of these definitions focus on a fault or offense. Neither of these definitions have anything to do with taking responsibility. I don’t like giving excuses and I don’t like getting them. Usually when I give them, it is a prideful attempt of trying to attach blame to the reason I didn’t meet the mark. I could just admit that I didn’t try hard enough, I didn’t seek to be educated, I didn’t ask for help, I didn’t prioritize, I didn’t follow up,  I didn’t think it through, I didn’t delegation, I didn’t investigate and I didn’t make any progress. Attempts to mask being imperfect with excuses always hinders progress.

Instead of focusing on being the best, focus on being your best. Thrive by seeking out progress. Bring value to whatever you do my taking responsibility for yourself. Don’t keep stumbling over pride and perfectionism. God has great plans for your life!!

Mustard Seed Faith

You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” – Matthew 17:20

A mustard seed is small you guys. I mean like teeny tiny. It almost seems like it should be easy to have that kind of faith. Mustard seed faith isn’t very big faith. Sometimes, when things don’t go the way I want, it feels like my faith starts shrinking. Much like when my clothes don’t fit and I try to blame it on the dryer shrinking them. Sometimes, I feel like the challenges I face are bigger than my faith. But, that is just the mindset that the enemy would love for us to have.

Jesus says if we have faith even the size of a mustard seed, it could move a mountain. Now, in comparison, that mustard seed is bazillions times smaller than a mountain. So, my faith to challenge ratio is not the problem. I don’t need bigger faith for a bigger challenge. The problem is not always that my faith shrinks, but most of the time my doubt grows. Since mustard seed faith is so small, it leaves no room for doubt. When I am staring at a huge mountain, the doubt starts to creep in. My mind goes crazy trying to figure out how things are going to get better, when things are going to change, what do I need to do, how do I need to fix this and what are we going to do now!! Those questions are doubt questions. Doubting that God will work all things together for my good, doubting that He speaks to me, doubting that He  sees me and doubting that He wants to fix it for me.

Doubt and faith can not co-exist. It is not about the quantity of our faith but the quality. Jesus said it is our job to speak to the mountain that is in our way because we believe Him. I want to be a believer, not a doubter! Faith and unbelief both come by what you are giving your time and attention to. I have a tendency to doubt more when I am giving my attention to negative people, the news, Facebook rants and so on. I tend to believe more when I am giving my attention to the Word of God, pastors I love and friends that encourage me.

Even Jesus was limited by an environment of unbelief. He couldn’t do miracles in His own home town because they didn’t believe. If you have something impossible and mountain moving you need to do; you need to surround yourself with believers and get the doubt out!

Establish an environment of faith in your life, quit focusing on how big your problem is and focus on believing Jesus!!

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Get Wisdom

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There is a huge difference between wisdom and knowledge!

“The wise man will seek to acquire the best possible knowledge about events, but always without becoming dependent upon his knowledge.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Knowledge: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Wisdom: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. The soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment.

I have known many people that had a lot of knowledge, but not very much wisdom. You know those people that even though what they are saying may be right; the way, time or fact that they said it at all is totally wrong!! Wisdom has much to do with knowing how and when to apply our knowledge. Sometimes, we think gaining knowledge is the answer to guiding us through careers, leadership and relationships. But wisdom, is what will navigate us. We spend lots of time and money gaining knowledge but we put very little effort into acquiring wisdom. Granted, some people seem to be born with an extra dose of wisdom; or maybe it is something they figured out could be acquired and have spent time doing so.

Maybe you have realized that though you have some knowledge you don’t always seem to have the wisdom to use it as wisely as you could.  Here are some steps that you can begin today to focus on getting wisdom.

1- Focus on God. Not only through reading the Word, Bible studies and prayer but also through acknowledging His continual presence in your life. Talk with Him and listen for His voice. Look for Him in everything you see and do.

2- Live Your Life. Education is great and valuable. But, there are some things you can only learn through experience. Life will teach you if you are willing to learn. So, get out there and experience things! Don’t be so afraid of failure that you never try anything.

3- Learn from Others. This hard for those that have become prideful based on their knowledge. But, you can acquire wisdom by gaining insight from others. Read, get a mentor, ask questions and listen to the criticism of others. Listen to listen and learn, rather than listening just so you can reply with your knowledge.  To get wisdom, we must learn to quit focusing on ourselves and focus on others.

4- Broaden Your Horizons. It is easy to get stuck from the view point of our own perspective. Acquiring wisdom will require you to gain the maturity to explore other view points and perspectives. Do your research, and even listen to opposing opinions. It can be tough but it helps you gain wisdom.

5- Be the Student. Always continue to learn and grow. Sometimes as we gain knowledge, we always want to be the teacher. We may even convince ourselves that we just want to help people, when in truth; we want to show people what we know. We get stuck in teacher mode. Be a life long student of the wise. People are more interested in who you are and why you care, than what you know.

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:6-7

The beginning of wisdom is to “get wisdom”, so get after it!

6 Ways to Keep Seeds from Turning into Weeds

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Recently, my husband said something that I didn’t quite like. It just kind of hit me wrong, but wasn’t a very big deal: so, I didn’t say anything. However, a seed had been planted. Later on, it began to bother me a little more. As I thought about that thing, it bothered me more. When I thought about that thing again, I was really bothered. That seed had grown into a weed that I had been watering and nurturing all day. Finally, in the bed that night I told him that I didn’t like what he had said earlier in the day and it really bothered me.

As we tend to do when trying to grow weeds, I had taken what he said very wrong. Once he explained it to me, I totally got what he was saying and what he had meant. Thankfully, that weed had not gotten so big that it was hard to dig up. I guess I wouldn’t be stealing the covers from him after all that night.

When a small seed is planted and not quickly uprooted it is not long before we start jumping to conclusions. We assume, we ponder, we accuse, we think negative thoughts and before you know it we are dealing with a giant weed. A weed that is sucking all of the nutrients from the good seeds that have been planted. A weed that is so big it is blocking our view, stopping us from seeing the right perspective. Oh how the enemy loves weed seeds. They wreck relationships of all kinds; loved ones, co-workers, bosses, employees, and friends. They also reek havoc on our emotions. Weeds cause anxiety, stress and keep us distracted from what we should be doing.

Some weed seeds are self inflicted. At times, we all listen to negative self talk or the the wrong voices. Some of the biggest weeds I have dealt with came out of my own negative inner voice.

What if we could throw out those negative seeds before they took root and started to grow? Here are some steps to help you get rid of that seed before it becomes a weed!!

  1. Seek Clarity! If you are confused by something, it rubs you the wrong way or you don’t quite understand; speak up!!! Get some clarity! It is on you if you are misunderstanding something and don’t speak up. This leaves lots of room for jumping to conclusions and that will quickly lead to a weed.
  2. Face Your Fears. A lot of stinking thinking seeds are planted out of fear. We are afraid of what people are thinking, we are afraid of failing or we are afraid of being rejected. We need to stop and evaluate the reason why we are feeling the way we are. If we are having these thoughts out of fear, we need to stop and ask God to make us more aware of His presence and who we are in Him.
  3. Prayer – I can’t express how important prayer is! Confessing our thoughts to God and asking Him to adjust our perspective is the quickest way to throw out a bad seed. Ask God to heal your thought process and give you wisdom!!
  4. Discipline – It make take time. A lot of us have trained our thoughts to be negative.  We must understand that we can’t always stop a thought, but we can change it if we are disciplined enough. For example, we may think, “what if this person doesn’t like me?”  We have to reroute that thought with, “I am going to be the best me I can be,  if this person doesn’t like me, I will be fine. God is on my side.”  Chasing away that negative thought with a positive one will quickly uproot a seed trying to become a weed. The more you replace negative thoughts with more positive ones, the more you will rewire your brain to respond that way. You are diluting the negative with positive. This will take discipline, but successful people are disciplined.
  5. Respond Instead of React: Understand that there will be conflict in your life. Instead of jumping to conclusions and reacting, choose to respond. Handling conflict well will help you avoid giant weeds of dissension!
  6. Above all...

“Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” Proverbs 3:6 (The Message)

What are some ways you keep seeds from turning into weeds?

More Attitude with that Action!

I try to actually do things, not just talk about doing things but I probably talk more than I actually do. We talk about people needing help but do we actually find a way to meet their needs? You know the saying, “A little less talk and a lot more action”, ok.. it is a song and it is probably not about helping people; but you get the point.

I have done much better in my journey lately to look for ways to bless people, however, if I am not careful, this generosity pursuit can become just another thing I check off of my list. It is about so much more than just doing something for someone. It seems that whatever Jesus challenges us to do, there is always some type of balance. You can’t have grace without faith, you can’t have true freedom without boundaries, you can’t have excellence without failure and you can’t have action without love.

You have to love people with your attitude, not just your actions. Our attitude speaks so much louder than our words. Yes, love needs action, but it also needs attitude. Who’d of thought I would be telling you to have more attitude?

Last week I had been shopping to help a local organization with a family in need and was headed to drop it off at the church. I had a list of things to get done and was in my mode of “get it done.” I imagine myself to be like Mary Poppins when I am in this mode, but I am fearful it comes across more like the boss lady in “The Devil Wears Prada”.  Anyway, I called my husband and asked him if he wanted to do lunch because I was going to be dropping by the office.

When I got there I was thinking about having to unload all of the gifts and how much time it was going to take. My husband pops out of his office and greets me with a hug and an enthusiastic, “ I am so glad you stopped by for lunch, this was unexpected and made my day.”

Now, this response made me stop in my tracks because there have been times when I showed up at his office for lunch and his attitude was somewhat less than enthusiastic. Now, I know it wasn’t personal, but in the moment that he greeted me with this enthusiastic attitude, I realized it made all of the difference in the world! Instead of feeling like a possible inconvenience, I felt like the queen of his world!

It made me begin to think; how often do I do a loving action for him without an attitude of love to back it up? When my action is paired with a loving attitude, it creates a true moment of love. I can’t be lazy with my love and just have a great attitude; there has to be action. On the other hand, I can’t be just be a doer without having an attuned attitude of love.

I don’t want to be generous begrudgingly. I don’t want to cook all of this amazing food for Christmas, then shove it at people because I did all of this work and want to be more appreciated. I want the light of Christ’s love to shine through in my actions and attitude. We all need an attitude adjustment from time to time. Watching Christians do something for someone, pretending to be generous while really manipulating or just doing it to make themselves look better, makes me want to hurl hymnals at people! However, there is a hope beyond the Pastor’s wife going to jail for assault by hymnal. We will find that hope when we start looking to Jesus instead of ourselves. He Himself came to serve and He did it with an attitude of love.

Lord, I pray that as I try to serve You by serving others, You help me to do it with an attitude of love.

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Conviction

Conviction; a word we hear a lot in the church world. However, it is not just some religious word. Conviction actually means a fixed or firm belief.

It is not just a belief, but a fixed or firm belief. It is something we strongly believe that can not easily be swayed or changed. To live with conviction means that we live in accordance with our strong beliefs.

Convictions can be good or evil. Some of the people that started the biggest movements in the world were not necessarily the smartest, wealthiest, highest educated or even most popular. They just had very strong convictions. Think about Lincoln, Martin Luther, Ghandi, Mother Theresa and even… Hitler. Whoa, that is scary! Think about believing in something so strongly that you cause mass destruction. Conviction is powerful.

I believe the old saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” However, I don’t believe we need to stand for everything all of the time.

Have you ever caught yourself trying to convince someone of something? Boy, I have! I can remember being in a conversation once that I had strong convictions about. I was stating my case, presenting the facts, passionate, excited, and I had the experience to back up my stance. At some point towards the end of the conversation I kind of cracked myself up. I mean, the best cookware brand is kind of a weak issue to be so intense about. It is no secret that I am a bit of a cookware snob. Even though I own several different kinds, nothing holds a candle to my red Le’Crueset. However, the world will not be changed by converting everyone over to using Le’Crueset.

It is ok to have strong convictions about weak issues like cookware, hairstyles, football teams, wall colors and so on. The problem is that we tend to have weak convictions about strong issues.

What is our stance on the truth of God’s Word, church, right verses wrong, and other things that could be deemed politically incorrect?

We will fight and argue over the silliest things but we become silent when it is time to stand up for what is right. To live by convictions would be to stand up for our firm beliefs, not just the weak issues but the strong ones as well. Maybe we should also think about toning down our strong convictions about weak issues so we can be taken more seriously when it really matters. (Just a thought!) Everyone has the right to their opinion, but everyone else has the right not to listen. 😉

In a world where someone changes what they believe all of the time because of the way they feel, I hope that I always have enough faith and strength to hold tight to what God says; no matter how I feel. I want to be a woman that God can trust with His treasures because He knows I am not going to be swayed by my feelings or the opinions of man. I still struggle with being a people pleaser but I want to only be a God pleaser! I want the convictions I live by to be a part of God’s plan; not the enemy’s or even my own selfish plans.

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A Very “Mary” Christmas

I have always been intrigued by Mary, the Mother of Jesus. I mean, what was it about this young girl that God picked her to deliver to the earth the most important child ever born? I have always liked to think it was because she was such a “good” girl. I was inclined to picture her as gentle, mild and meek. I have come to realize that there was much more to Mary than just those things.

Yes, we know she was a virgin, because the Bible tells us so. So, I know she was committed to her faith. This is one of the reasons God picked her. She was pure, but that is not the only reason. God knew she would be committed no matter what. As soon as Mary accepted Gabriel’s assignment, she was putting her life in danger. She was signing up for gossip, slander, criticism and even potentially being stoned. She said yes to God anyway. She consecrated herself to be the Lord’s servant no matter what. Without knowing all of the details, she was all in!  That is commitment!

Mary was also undaunted!! She was very brave. She didn’t let the fear of Herod slow her down, she didn’t mind getting on to her Savior child in the temple, she had no problem asking Jesus to fix the wine shortage problem and she followed Him all the way to the cross. Mary was much fierce than I ever realized. God knew she could handle all of the turmoil she would face being the Savior’s mother.  She was a woman of high convictions and stood up for what she believed in.

Just look at how Mary responded right after the angel left her..

46 Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.
47 How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!
48 For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed.
49 For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me.
50 He shows mercy from generation to generation
to all who fear him.
51 His mighty arm has done tremendous things!
He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.
52 He has brought down princes from their thrones
and exalted the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away with empty hands.
54 He has helped his servant Israel
and remembered to be merciful.
55 For he made this promise to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his children forever.” (Luke 1:46-55)

She was excited about God ushering in justice. This woman was talking about overthrowing governments and dealing with corruption. She was not concerned about being politically correct. She was undaunted and committed.

I think we should learn from her. After all, God trusted her with the most valuable thing that He had, His Son. I want Him to trust me with His plans and purposes as well.

I am challenging myself to have a “Mary” Christmas by truly giving myself to the Lord as His servant; no matter what. Even when I don’t know all of the details, I want to say “YES LORD,”.  I  also want to be undaunted in living out His purpose for my life. I don’t want to be afraid of the criticism, gossip or rejection that comes when trusting and believing the truth of God’s word. I hope you will take the challenge with me!

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