Although my kitchen is now clutter free, I can still find plenty to feel insecure about. After sixteen years of marriage, my dishes are showing some wear, and our silverware has morphed into a hodgepodge of unrelated utensils. I have become proficient in the kitchen, but not exactly stellar.
It’s so easy to focus on all the things we want to make just a bit better before we invite anyone over for dinner. But this habit can lead so quickly to perfectionism: an unwillingness to do anything we can’t do just right.
Magic happens when people gather around a table to eat and chat together. If we fret about the details and try to cover up the shortcomings that are obvious to us, we’ll miss out on the beauty of communing.
Here are five reminders to help us kick perfectionism out of our kitchens:
Dinner is not a photo shoot for a magazine.
A cooking show isn’t filming in your kitchen as you cook.
A professional organizer will not be present to evaluate your progress in your clutter free journey.
Your food, service, and decor will not be rated by Zagat.
It’s all about the welcome, the hospitality, and the food.
Think about the around-the-table moments you treasure in your heart—moments threaded together with conversation while forks clinked on plates. You likely remember these snapshots because those occasions were special and you felt cared for. You don’t treasure these memories because you sat in the midst of perfection; you treasure them because despite imperfect people, the burned chicken, and a wobbly chair, you felt included. This is our aim when we welcome people into our kitchen: to make them feel like they belong.
If this is all true—if hospitality really isn’t about being perfect—then we are all capable of hosting a fantastic dinner party. We are all more than qualified to love on people by inviting them over for conversation and a bite to eat.
So be brave! Go ahead and invite friends over, despite the fact that imperfection resides in your kitchen. Don’t let the goal of perfection warp your idea of what it means to be hospitable: don’t allow it to taint the food you serve. Confidently invite friends and family into your home and decline to feel shame about the imperfect. (After all, every home has it.)
Show perfectionism the door, and make room to welcome people at your table.
Kick Perfectionism to the curb in every area of your life! Check out my book, The Cure for the Perfect Life, where we deal with the 4 P’s:
Embrace your imperfect self and go change the world!
Kathi: You and I have talked a lot about self grace. This is something you’ve really struggled with. When we first met, I thought, “That woman is harder on herself than anyone else I’ve ever known.”
Michele: You’re not the first person to tell me that.
Kathi: I’m not surprised.
Michele: I’ve pretty much heard that my entire life.
Kathi: Reading the chapter about your upset over the A- … if I’d come home from school with an A-, my parents would have thrown a party! But all you saw was the minus.
Michele: I only saw the minus. And isn’t this true about so many of us? We look at our lives and all we can see is the minus? We can’t see the “A”? That has been a theme in my life.
Kathi: I think a lot of people have pocket perfectionism. They’d be cool with an A-, but there’s other things they’d lose their mind over.
Michele: Not me. I’m pretty much across the board.
Kathi: So, speak to that. I feel like in the last couple of months, there’s been a lot more self grace. There’s been a shift.
Joy: You’ve had to ask for help. … I work with you every day. There’s stuff we’re doing that normally Michele would have handled, but she’s been handing over, saying, “Could you do this for me?”
Kathi: But her standards haven’t slipped.
Joy: Not at all! It’s still this high level of excellence. But it’s a reall sweet soft side of you. And I like watching God work in your life like that.
Traci: It’s what we get from you as your friends. You are very grace-full and very forgiving, and you see all of our As…
Traci: …but you don’t see yours. So it’s nice to see you give some of that back to yourself.
Kathi: That’s good. Because she is the biggest cheerleader in the world.
Kathi: What’s been the transition?
Michele: I’ve landed in a circumstances that have given me lots of practice. Where I have no ability to control all the errant details of my life. So I have to let go at some point. And it forces me to see that not everything is my fault. Not everything is within my control; some of it is just life. Just life.
I have to find my value in somebody other than myself and my performance.
I have to find my sense of worth and value in something other than myself and my performance. For 43 years of my life, I had find my value in my ability to perform well. To produce children who behave and listen. To have a marriage that looks spotless. To do everything with excellence.
And I have learned that’s very shaky sand.
Ultimately, the only sense of value I can find that will not move, that is unshakable, is the love of God for me.
The only thing that I know I can wake up to tomorrow that will not be different than today is the fact that God will still love me. He will still know my name. And He will not leave. Romans 8:35, 37-29. It’s the only thing I can stand on that will not change.
I have no idea what my children will do tomorrow. I have no idea what kind of kids they’re going to grow up to be. I don’t even know if my husband will be here tomorrow; we never know these things. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to speak once everything is done.
The only thing I can stand on for sure, in cement, is the love of God for me.
And that allows me to first of all grace myself, because it’s not dependant on me any more. It’s not about me getting up and working really hard to talk well. It’s not about me reading a bunch of parenting books and being the best mom and winning some kind of parenting awared.
It’s about the fact that nothing is going to change the wide, high, long, deep love of God for me.
And somehow, that helps us make peace with our unexpected lives and undone selves.
Joy: Because that never gets undone.
Who can change the mind of God?
His love for your is already established.
It will never change.
(You can view the entire conversation here: https://youtu.be/TBi3-0TLWpg … the portion shared above starts around 26:35 and runs through 34:55. Begin at 26:10 for a bit of fun banter!)
I’ve come to believe we can endure just about anything as long as we know we’re not alone.
Problem is, too often we feel alone. Utterly and completely.
In spite of the emails and messages and well-wishes, our crises isolate us, creating a divide too wide to bridge. It makes us feel “other,” separating us from those who seem to carry on unhindered in their ordinary, pain-free lives.
But here’s the thing: I think pain-free is a fantasy. I don’t know anyone who’s living the life they always imagined. I know more than a few people who are pretending to. But behind their well-crafted charade sits a schism of struggle they’re too afraid to expose. Thus we trudge on—both the pretenders and the strugglers—each of us swallowed up in our aloneness and fear.
But what if …
What if someone went first?
What if someone dared to create a safe place for the complicated questions and conversations?
And then, what if you and I could find a way to laugh and cry and be undone together?
I think there is.
That’s why Monday, February 22, I’m launching Undone Life Together: A 5-week Conversation About the Unexpected Life. Picture it like a giant family room with a bunch of fluffy pillows and chairs. There’s a seat for you there; me, too. And we’ll circle up and unpack the tough questions we bump against every single day. Only, this time we won’t do it alone. We’ll do it together.
Daily emails designed to create conversation around your biggest questions.
Dedicated Facebook group conversation around the days themes.
Weekly videos where I dive a bit deeper into the most complicated topics.
We won’t come up with all the answers nor will we resolve all of life’s unknowns. But we’ll open the doors for an honest conversation. I believe, in the process, we will discover a God who is faithful, a peace that is unshakeable and a community of fellow strugglers who will walk with us in this Undone Life Together.
Like cold water in the driest of deserts, my friend.
It begins February 22 and ends March 25. Even better, it’s absolutely FREE. That means you can participate as much or as little as you like. You can even lurk in the background for the entire five weeks if that’s the most you can do. Believe me, I get it.
I can’t wait to get started. And, honestly, my heart is aching for you to join us. I may not know all the details of your story, but I know what it feels like to be alone, drowning in questions without answers. And I know the One who holds the key to staying afloat.
Friends – this is Kathi, and I’m so thrilled that we are getting a head start on the holidays this year. No – I’m not asking you to push up your Black Friday shopping by a month – I want us all to have an opportunity to prepare our hearts – not just our homes. So I’ve joined forces this week with several of my friends who have similar hearts – Let the holidays come! – but let our hearts be in a place where we can truly experience the best that the season has to give us! My first friend who is sharing is Amy Carroll.
I have long admired Amy from a far, but today we get to hang out with her up-close-and-personal. Amy is the author of Breaking Up with Perfect, and I know that most of us are going to need a lot of that as the holiday’s approach.
Be sure to head over to her blog to win a copy of her book!
The further I read into the editorial the shorter my breath grew, and I felt the heat of stress radiating from my constricted heart. “At my house, the bustle stops when we gather with our daughters to trim the tree,” Gayle Butler, editor of Better Homes and Gardens, gushed.
Then she went on to describe her family’s lovely evening complete with traditional music, story-telling, and eggnog. She ended by saying, “By the time our quiet evening concludes, we’re energized and ready to try something new.”
Wow. That sounds just like my family. (Insert sarcastic tone here.)
My case of hives from the article came from memories of the previous year’s tree trimming at my house.
We all started well–hubs, the boys and me–matching up with the perfect pictures of Christmas preparations in my mind. It was just like BH & G. Amy Grant crooned Christmas carols in the background. Egg nog was poured into the red glass tea cups I had snagged at a tag sale, and boxes of decorations from the attic lined the walls.
However, it all started downhill over the lights for the tree.
Squabbles erupted over tangled strings of bulbs. Somebody turned on the football game, and the sound of the TV clashed with the music from the stereo. Instead of telling lovely stories of the ornaments’ histories as we hung each one, my boys began to make fun of the 70s-style bobbles from my childhood. It all fell apart faster than you can say, “Mama’s in a snit.”
Maybe they just got distracted, or maybe it was the maternal growls and snarls that drove them away, but suddenly I found myself sitting alone on the floor in front of the tree. The rest of my family had abandoned the traditional decorating of the tree.
I furiously gave the tree a yank to position it for another ornament, and… TIMBER! It fell on me, driving the metal rod of one of the artificial branches into my arm.
That’s when it happened. Out of my mouth popped some of the overflow of a disgruntled perfectionist’s heart—a big, fat, four-letter word.
That brought the family back into the room.
“Mom! Did you just say #*!@?!”
To this day, there is one favorite Christmas story at my house. It’s not The Gift of the Magi or The Polar Express. Not even How the Grinch Stole Christmas makes the cut. Our family’s favorite story is The Day Mom Cussed When the Christmas Tree Fell on Her.
So much for the perfect family Christmas. Ours might be rated R.
It’s hard to give up the pictures of perfection in our heads–especially during the holidays. It seems to be the time that Perfect takes a strangle hold with visions of the perfect pumpkin pie, the perfectly peaceful Thanksgiving dinner, and the perfect gift.
But surely there’s a better way to do the holidays. Surely there’s more joy to be had.
I’ve spent about a decade now breaking up with Perfect, and I’ve learned a few things we can all do as the holidays approach that will usher in the elements we all want this time of year—joy, peace, and a Jesus-focused heart. They’re all centered on relationships—with yourself, God, and others.
Surrender to Your Truest Self.
God created you, and there is no other that can take your place. In a world that’s dying to see real women living a real faith, God created you uniquely, so be unique!
Anna Quindlen says it this way, “Perfection is static, even boring. Imitations are redundant. Your true unvarnished self is what is wanted.” Love that.
I’d go a step further, though, and say that your true unvarnished self is what God wants and what most glorifies Him. When you take off the façade of perfection, Jesus’ light shines brightly through you and draws others to Himself!
So what does that look like in the holidays? If deep in your heart you have a passion for pink flamingoes, then go crazy with pink feathers instead of red and green plaid ribbon! If you’d love to have quinoa and kale instead of turkey and dressing, make it! Create new traditions around the things you love instead of just comparing and imitating. You’ll find fresh delight as you do, and others will be attracted to your joy.
Savor each person, each moment, and most importantly, savor time each day with God. Linger in the candlelight of early morning. Let music of praise wash over you. Center your mind and heart on Him.
For me, it’s particularly hard to savor my relationship with Jesus from November through December. I know that’s horrible to confess, but it’s true. My lists lengthen in my mind in any quiet moment, so this is the season when I need some great devotional books to keep my thoughts focused. Here are a couple I’ve got close at hand for this season:
The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp
The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs
Keep It Simple
Don’t drive yourself this season, and for heaven’s sake, don’t drive others either (a lesson I’ve learned the hard way). Keep a family calendar and preserve some white space. For each opportunity, ask yourself what should NOT go on your calendar.
Have a discussion with friends and family about what is important to each person, and then let the rest go. I shake my head in sadness when I think of all the years I drove myself and everyone else crazy with all the things I thought had to be done… that nobody enjoyed anyway.
One of my least favorite tasks in life is cooking, so I’m ending with a simple recipe from my friend Sharon Sloan, author of SerenDIPity, that even the least domestic of us can make for a holiday party. Let’s all commit to surrender, savor and keep it simple!
The Now-Famous Cherry Cheesecake Dip by Lisa Lohwasser – SerenDIPity 2011
1 Box of Jell-O No Bake Cheesecake Mix
1 8-ounce tub of Cool Whip
1 21-ounce can of cherry pie filling
(or use any other canned fruit or fresh fruit you desire)
Prepare Jell-O Cheesecake Mix according to directions on box. Stir in the Cool Whip. Place cheesecake mixture on desired serving tray and pour cherry pie filling on top of cheesecake mixture. Chill until ready to serve. Serve with graham crackers or another dipper of your choice.
Looking for encouragement to help you recover from that pesky problem of perfectionism? Today’s featured book is Breaking Up with Perfect.
You can enter to win a signed copy by leaving a comment directly on Amy’s blog.
PLUS, you’ll also be entered into the grand prize drawing for the Wrapped In Grace gift package: signed copies of all five of our books, a $100 Visa gift card, and a bunch of other fun goodies. All winners will be announced Saturday, October 24th at http://www.WrappedInGrace.info.
Amy Carroll’s passion is leading women to deeper delight through the matchless pleasure of rich relationship with God and others. Amy is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries’ speaker team, the author of Breaking Up with Perfect, and the blissful director of Next Step Speaker Services. She lives in NC with her 3 favorite guys and a little, red dachshund. You can find her on any given day typing at her computer, reading a book or trying to figure out one more alternative to cooking dinner. Visit Amy at her blog to join her in a journey toward more joy.
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