Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Year Resolutions: Selective Perfectionism?

I am a selective perfectionist. Not a pure perfectionist. If I were a pure perfectionist, I would be at my ideal weight. 

Here is an example of how my selective perfectionism plays out that has nothing to do with weight, which I do not want to talk about on the heels of Christmas cookie consumption. 

Other than when on vacation, I post on this blog Mondays and Thursdays . . . every Monday and Thursday. So it was disappointing to me when, yesterday—Monday, December 29, 2014, not that I am obsessing about it—I forgot. I didn’t only forget to post; I forgot to even write a draft. Sure, I was busy with freelance assignments I wanted to complete before the end of the year, and who isn’t a bit off routine during the holidays, even if not officially on vacation? But I was still disappointed. When I started this blog, I selected for perfect execution a commitment to write these posts regularly—whether or not they would be “any good”; whether or not anyone would read, like, comment on, or share them; whether or not I felt like writing. And then I “failed” at that selective perfectionism, and felt disappointed.

I know. Lame. But for some of us, the disappointment is real to one degree or another. And we can be especially susceptible to setting ourselves up for it this time of year. When we set specific New Year resolutions, most of us think—or at least hope—we can achieve the perfection we have selected to achieve. I call that selective perfectionism at its best—or worst. And maybe we can achieve perfection. Lots of people were not at their ideal weight on January 1, 2014, and now they are. Well, maybe not lots, but some.

But what if we resolve to lose ten pounds by the first of March 2015 and we lose only five pounds by then instead? What if we resolved to complete the first draft of that novel by June, but find ourselves only fifty thousand words in when summer rolls around? 

Perhaps selective perfectionism leads to not only feeling disappointment in ourselves but enough discouragement to make us want to give up altogether.  

Here is what I think we should do: Set some goals and resolve to do our best to get close to meeting them. Goals are good, but selecting progress rather than perfectionism might be the best thing we can do. So, let’s lose some weight. Get some exercise. Stop to smell the roses. 

Post a day late.

And if we are writers, write!

What encouragement can you share with those hoping to make changes in 2015? Share on a social media site or leave a comment here!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Remembering the Gift on Christmas Day

Yesterday was Christmas Eve and we had a condo full of family. Did I take photos? Movies? No. Sigh. I missed that amid all the hustle and bustle, so I will have to rely on memory.

Reading to grandchildren, seeing smiles on faces as they opened gifts we chose just for them, receiving cards and drawings decorated by little hands with a zillion Christmas stickers, hugs and kisses and “I love you!” declarations, a Skype visit with one who is far away and missed. All gifts I will remember and cherish.

But today, Christmas Day, this is what I don't want to miss—giving thanks for the Gift. Thanking the One who sent the Gift, the One who cares for us, the One who comforts those who are today lonely or lost or mourning. 

Thank you, God, for the Gift. Happy birthday, Jesus! And God bless us, every one.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hope for a Wonderful, Broken, Wonderful World

Does the world ever seem more wonderful than at Christmas? Then again, if we look closely, does the world ever seem more broken than at Christmas?
The shiny ornaments of Christmas are so lovely, but they reflect hurt, loneliness, and loss just as much as merry faces and warm hearts. And as we yearn for peace and joy, goodness and light, the world's brokenness—the hatred and cruelty—can seem especially overwhelming.

Where is the hope in one more atrocity, one more inhumane act, one more child's abuse, one more person's pain, one more war, one more displaced people, one more hungry family?

In the novel The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, May Boatwright is a woman who suffers so with others in their pain that she is constantly overwhelmed. When she can no longer function in the face of trouble and hurt, when she has taken upon herself all the pain she can handle, she withdraws to a special place she has created. There, alone, she wails. If you have read the book or seen the film, you know how completely that pain eventually overcomes her life.  

When I feel emotionally overwhelmed by the darkness in the world, I often think of Kidd's portrait of human sensitivity and frailty in May. Often, like May, I "wail" in the face of those situations I cannot personally change, the hurt that breaks my heart, the pain that is unspeakable. I feel an absence of hope.

In His Son, God painted a different portrait. Jesus, both God and man, bore every human sensitivity. Yet, faithful to His Father's plan, He purposefully, and with immense suffering, willingly took on unspeakable pain.

And before He did, He said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

Ah, there it is. Though pain and suffering must never be trivialized, though whatever we do to help alleviate another's suffering might seem like so little, we must grasp this truth:

Hope is not merely a word imprinted on Christmas cards to make us feel good. Hope is not merely a word we speak to those in pain, assuming they will feel so much better. Hope is Who God sent to this wonderful, broken, wonderful world. Hope is what we are expected to share as we are His hands and feet.

Hope expects us to take those times we feel overwhelmed, those times we want to wail, and instead to take heart.  

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Letting the Sleeping Santa Lie: A Christmas Memory

The Santa dish came to me before she died.

My mother's world was becoming smaller and smaller as she and Dad moved from a house to an apartment, then from an apartment to assisted living. Her physical, emotional, and mental capacities lessened as well, as the illness that eventually took her life exacted its toll. And as all this happened, most of the Christmas decorations she had collected over the years had less meaning for her. Most were given away.

But the Santa dish was not given to me; it was entrusted to me.

When my brother and I were kids, we lived next door to a woman who had hand-painted murals on her walls and hand-painted ceramics all over her house. She also had pet birds in cages (and some not in cages). I don't remember if she made her living as an artist or what her name was or why she loved birds so much, but occasionally she cared for my brother and me if Mom had to be somewhere else when we walked home from school for lunch. (Do kids still do that?) It was an interesting place for a kid to be, and she knew we liked Campbell's soup—chicken and noodle or tomato!

My mother cherished the hand-painted ceramic Santa dish this neighbor made just for her. The bottom is Santa's bed, and when you put on the lid, you can see him peacefully sleeping under a patchwork quilt with his cap on the bedpost. I have never decided if he is tired after his big night circling the globe or is resting up in preparation. (Mrs. Santa must know, but she seems to be elsewhere.) Mom usually put peanuts or cashews in that dish. Or sometimes mint pastel nonpareils. I can still picture their creamy pink, green, and yellow goodness—with white dots on top. I can still smell the sweetness.

As I recall, it was a Christmas tradition we could always count on, from the time Christmas tradition still delighted Mom. But by the last years of her life, Christmas joy seemed somehow lost to her. In fact, almost all joy seemed lost to her, which, the doctors later said could have been in part because of her illness.

We couldn't fix that. No one could. But I could keep the cherished dish safe.

And I have. In a box up and down the attic stairs—down in December, up in January. Right now it sits on top of our refrigerator, a safe place away from little hands, with only a chip or two to show for its travels. But it sits empty. I never think about filling it up. I never think about creating new memories with it.

Instead I let the sleeping Santa lie, where he's always been, keeping a Christmas memory from years past safe.

I hope no one minds.

Portions of this post first appeared in a former blog.

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