Present Over Perfect

This book transformed my marriage, my personal and professional life, and my outlook on the future.

This journey has been about love, about worth, about God, about what it means to know him and be loved by him in a way that grounds and reorders everything.

Years ago, a wise friend told me that no one ever changes until the pain level gets high enough.

I have left behind some ways of living that I once believed were necessary and right that I now know were toxic and damaging—among them pushing, proving, over-working, ignoring my body and my spirit, trusting my ability to hustle more than God’s ability to heal.

And in the same way, I’ve always given my best energy to things outside myself, believing that I’d be fine, that I was a workhorse, that I didn’t need special treatment or babying or, heaven help me, self-care.

Now I know that the best thing I can offer to this world is not my force or energy, but a well-tended spirit, a wise and brave soul.

How many moments of connection I missed—too busy, too tired, too frantic and strung out on the drug of efficiency.

What would happen, what would be lost, if I stopped, or if I slowed down to a pace that felt less like a high-speed chase all day, every day?

I don’t operate in later.

You can use whatever term you want: besetting sin, shadow side, strength and weakness. The very thing that makes you you, that makes you great, that makes you different from everyone else is also the thing that, unchecked, will ruin you. For me, it’s lust for life. It’s energy, curiosity, hunger.

I’ve spent a lifetime establishing my role as responsible party. What that means it that I take care of it. And by “it” I mean everything. I troubleshoot, multitask, strategize.

Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for resting your body and your soul. And part of being an adult is learning to meet your own needs, because when it comes down to it, with a few exceptions, no one else is going to do it for you.

Busyness is an illness of the spirit.

As I unravel the many things that brought me to this crisis point, one is undeniably my own belief that hard work can solve anything, that pushing through is always the right thing, that rest and slowness are for weak people, not for high-capacity people like me.

At the same time, I was more and more aware that I was miserable.

And I was so depleted I couldn’t even remember what whole felt like.

I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you are not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.

It had never occurred to us, in church-building or any other part of life, that someone would intentionally keep something small, or deliberately do something slow.

If I work in such a way that I don’t have enough energy to give to my marriage, I need to take down some chairs.

We decide where the time goes. There’s so much freedom in that, and so much responsibility.

was addicted to this chaos, but like any addiction, it was damaging to me.

My faith has not failed me, but I think maybe I have failed it.

In the same way that I didn’t allow myself to be taken care of by people, I didn’t know how to let myself be taken care of by God.

My crazy brain has always been my gift and my challenge,

a lifelong connoisseur of noise and motion and excessiveness of any kind.

The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you.

I’ve preferred to believe that I can be all things to all people, but when I’m honest about my life, in the past couple years I’ve been better from a distance than I have been in my own home—I’ve given more to strangers

Only love feeds us.

You will always regret something. You will always disappoint someone. But it isn’t going to be my husband and our boys.

In recent years, I started to sense that I was being run by something other than my own voice and calling, something other than God’s vision for my life.

Our home is becoming more an anchor and less a place to land for a hot minute between work trips.

Sometimes brave looks more like staying when you want to leave, telling the truth when all you want to do is change the subject. Brave is listening instead of talking. Brave is articulating my feelings, especially when the feelings are sad or scared or fragile instead of confident or happy or light.

How much more beautiful is our God when we free him from our own wounds and tired narratives.

The chaos is all me, as much as I don’t want to admit it. I create it, am drawn to it, kick it up when things get too quiet, because when I’m quiet I have to own up to the fact that quiet terrifies me,

The natural world is so breathtakingly beautiful. People are so weird and awesome and loving and life-giving. Why, then, did I try so hard for so long to get away without feeling or living deeply?

Mine had gotten away from me. In my blind need to be seen as hyper-capable, ultra-dependable, that girl who can handle anything, I’d built a life I could no longer handle.

My to-do list drove me like an unkind taskmaster.

I was longing for a life that felt light, right-sized for my strengths and limitations.

Friendship carries all this mess together, so that you don’t have to hide, so that you carry it together. Because that’s what we do: we carry the mess together. Your mess is mine.

I’m learning to silence the noise, around me and within me, and let myself be seen and loved, not for what I produce, but for the fact that I have been created by the hands of a holy God, like every other thing on this earth, equally loved, equally seen.

Just because you have the capacity to do something doesn’t mean you have to do it.

I was not well, but I was very, very productive. And it didn’t occur to me to stop.

And I’m reveling in the smallness of my capacity. This is it. This is who I am. This is all I have to give you.

but this is the promise I make to my God: I will never again be so careless, so cavalier with the body and soul you’ve given me.

Be careful how much of yourself you give away, even with the best of intentions.

I believed I was invincible, that my body would listen to my mind if I was forceful enough with it,

Some of what I’m leaving behind in this season is the need to please everyone. I want to respect all people. I want to learn from all people, most especially people who are different from me and who disagree with me, but pleasing, for me, is over.

These days I want to love deeply and well, and that’s really different from pleasing.

want the stuff in my life to be light, easily managed, simple, so that the best of my energy is free for people, dreams, creativity;

You were only meant, created, commanded to be who you are, weird and wonderful, imperfect and messy and lovely.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and look back and realize that the best thing about me was I was organized. That I executed well, that I ran a tight ship, that I never missed a detail.

I know some people think tattoos are insane or tacky or passé. But for me, these are the lines I’ve drawn in the sand—the daily, visual, tactile, with-me-all-the-time twin symbols for how I want to live, with great love and openness. These are the symbols of my future, of my calling, of my identity.

It’s from our souls that we love, that we feel, that we create, that we connect.

Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly. —Matthew 11: 28 − 30,

Because I was on a dangerous track, where I was giving the best of myself to people and things “out there,” while the tender inner core of my life and my home were increasingly stretched, pressurized, brittle.

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