The winter had been long and the opportunities to catch my neighbors outside had been few, so I slowed down and rolled down the window when I saw her crossing our short street.

I wondered if Colt’s hand-me-downs had fit her grandson and if she’d heard from another neighbor who was traveling out West – and just in general, how she was doing.

Good, she said. Considering.

Considering her son, the one who mowed our yard for years and grew up before our eyes, has heart trouble. Considering it’s the kind that can’t be fixed. Considering it’s the kind that threatens his life.

I hadn’t known. All I knew was what I had seen from two doors down: A perfectly healthy-looking 23-year-old who was working toward becoming a firefighter.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

Still, too often I believe what I see and what I want to see. I see the woman with the high-powered career and think she never gets nervous or doubts herself the way I do. I drive past a beautifully manicured lawn and then look at the weeds blooming in mine and I feel discouraged. I forget that the property owner worked full-time until a disability took his career. I forget yard work fills his days and his self-esteem.

When you desperately want to be perfect, every picture points out your flaws – instead of pointing you to grace. And we’re a culture in love with perfection, in love with doing everything right on our own. Then, when we don’t measure up? Our own perfectionism holds us back, limits the risks we take and steals our joy.

We fall for the lie that if we just tried harder we’d be better at life, when the truth is that life is messy and we’re all broken and in need of God to make us whole and to make us holy. The truth is that none of us is good enough but there is mercy enough for all of us.

I know I’m not alone in my struggle with perfectionism. That’s why I’ve put together a free seven-day devotional for us. Each day features a column I’ve published in the past, a scripture and some questions designed to get us thinking about ways to grow and change.

If you’d like to download today’s devotion, just add your email address in the box on the lower left corner of this page and then click here :

Perfectionism – Day 1

Perfectionism – Day 2

Perfectionism -Day 3

Perfectionism – Day 4

Perfectionism – Day 5

Perfectionism – Day 6

Perfectionism – Day 7

You can also join the conversation on Facebook this week. Just search for the Simply Faithful page, and we can all learn together.

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I added a small bookshelf from the flea market, a rug from the dining room. I dusted and rearranged the chairs – all the while thinking that the front porch would be a welcoming place for my friends and I to sit and visit this summer.

A well-placed plant here. Vintage soda crates there, and the porch was open for business. But many of my friends are busy or live a little too far away for a leisurely breakfast on the weekend. So, they come when they can and we eat strawberries and catch up on work and family and craft projects.

And in between those visits? I notice a steady stream of neighborhood kids sitting in my chairs. They leave their scooters on the sidewalk and they wander in to grab the chalk or the bubbles or the badminton set, and before I know it, I’m putting down my book and answering questions about the tattered globe I’ve decorated with. The basket of seashells is dumped out on the floor and I’m offering an old paperback book on how to identify them.

There’s sweet tea and water fights and muddy footprints and talk of families and home states – and hints of some of the struggles they face. Those hints make me realize that although I decorated the porch for my friends, it’s dedicated to whomever God sends.

So, the snow-white rug might not have been the best choice for this summer, but I need to be open and willing to adjust my plans. It’s not just grown women who need a place to rest from the tough things we face and a place to feel welcome. We all do.

College graduate or kindergarten graduate. Six feet tall or still counting to six on our fingers.

Thankfully, God cares for us all.

Coming up: Next week I’ll be offering a free seven-day devotional on the topic of perfectionism. Just visit http://www.SimplyFaithful.com to download your copy. Then, join the discussion on Facebook by searching for the Simply Faithful page. I’ll be sharing articles and quotes all week to get us talking about perfectionism and how it relates to faith.

In need of a quick gift idea for this weekend? For one of mine I’m doing a nautical theme because the gift is an annual fishing license.

I picked up three rubber stamps — an anchor, sea dollar and star fish — for $1.50 each at Michael’s and made a little gift tag. My plan is to write Hebrews 6:19 on the tag: We have this hope as an anchor for the soul.
 
  
I added this bookmark, thanks to the ever-so-helpful people who make YouTube videos for the rest of us to learn new things! I found 10 ribbon crimp ends for $2.99 at Michael’s and charms here and there. (If you want to make several bookmarks I think it would be more economical to buy the ribbon crimps at Amazon. Plus they have more variety.)
   
 
Then, I used the bottom of a pair of jeans to make the gift bag. I only had to sew one simple seam.

   
 I hope this helps make your week easier! 

the cost of yes
the cost of yes
the cost of yesIt is surprisingly easy to fill a wagon with apples when you have three boys and a husband picking from the trees. Enjoyable, even.

It’s not like harvesting low-to-the-ground strawberries or itchy okra. The apples are beautiful and many are shoulder level, or at least they were the first time we visited an orchard to pick our own.

I think that’s why we accidentally picked more than 100 pounds of them.

Sure, I look back at the pictures now and it seems obvious that we had overdone it, but I really hadn’t noticed how heavy the load was, physically or financially, until we got to the counter to pay.

When we loaded the boys and the apples in the van, reality started to sink in. We stopped on the way home for a book on canning and if I remember correctly, some more jars. Then, the next day, we made one of the wisest decisions of our married life: We purchased an apple peeler.

I made apple pie, applesauce and cinnamon apple jelly, which we even gave as gifts that year at Christmas. And we ate a lot of apples.

Then, the next year we were more cautious when we visited the orchard because we didn’t want to overburden ourselves again. Each boy had a limit he could pick, and when that limit was reached, we stopped. If we needed more apples, we could always come back.

That simple principle worked, and I suspect it would work in lots of other cases where I get overloaded, where I add just a little here and there until my commitments and burdens are hard to carry by myself. The cases where Lysa Terkeurst, author of “The Best Yes,” says we don’t think about or admit our limitations, and “All the while the acid of overactivity eats holes in our souls.”

So often I keep piling things in the wagon without thinking about how it will weigh me down, without realizing the spiritual peace I’m giving up – because even the good things we say yes to come with a cost. But here’s to picking only the best, only the things that feed my soul, and leaving the rest.
the cost of yes

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On my best days, very little of my writing happens at the computer.

It happens while I’m walking through a park, or showering or hot gluing dictionary pages to form a wreath. It happens when I’m living.

And if I’m not doing enough living? My writing and my creativity suffer. I sit at the computer and stare out the window. I glance at other people’s lives on Facebook. I make lists but not progress.

I know all of this and still I cram my weekends full of projects that feel like work – and then creating starts to feel like work, too, because I haven’t taken time for a Sabbath or time to be still. The words become shy and sometimes even obstinate. They eek out onto the page and look more like me and less like God.

I was at that point a couple of weeks ago. I knew I needed a bit of margin, a bit of down time, but instead I compiled a long list of household tasks for me and for the rest of my family. I made a fast trip for a few supplies and I returned to flooding in our basement. We turned the water off and waited for the on-call plumber to fit us in.

It was an inconvenience. No water all afternoon for mopping or dishes or cleaning the bathroom. No water for anything on our lists. And we were fearful of the bill, especially with calling someone out on a weekend.

But there was plenty of sunshine and comfortable chairs on the porch. Plenty of kids who wanted to blow bubbles and play with trains in the front yard. Plenty of snacks and water shooters. Plenty of time to just enjoy one another.

When the tired plumber arrived that evening, he told us it was just a clog in the water main. Something he could easily take care of with the tools in his truck. Something our checking account could handle.

I breathed a sigh of relief and was grateful for the news and for the gift of a Sabbath.

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