Hope Wissel, Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Procrastination And Perfectionism Go Hand-in-Hand

 

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Thank you Glynnis Whitwer and Proverbs 31.com for today’s message…

Years ago, I naively thought I was decent at decorating, until people started re-doing my efforts. Whether at church or work, if I was assigned the setup of a table of any kind—snacks, desserts, book sales—someone would come along behind me and re-arrange the items.

It happened so often, that I just stopped trying. I’d laugh it off, and ask to be assigned something else. It’s hard to face a weakness. And because I so desperately want to be good at decorating, it hurts.

When I take a step back, I can see that my standard for decorating is ridiculous. I’m comparing my home, my income, my resources and my style to others who are truly gifted in this area. Logically I should see those comparisons and my personal expectations aren’t fair, and give myself a break.

Only there’s this critical voice inside me that says admit defeat and give up. In a quiet little hiss it says things like, “You’ll never be happy with the results … someone will come along behind you and do it better … you aren’t artistic … if you can’t do it well, just forget it.”

That voice has a name: Perfectionist. And it’s not my friend.

One would think that the desire to do things well is an asset. And it is. But perfectionism isn’t the pursuit of excellence. It’s the pursuit of perfection.

Excellence is possible is some things; perfection is possible in nothing.

Excellence pushes us to do our best; perfectionism pushes us to be the best.

Perfectionism is the enemy of learning and growing and enjoying areas of life where we haven’t achieved mastery. And we procrastinate addressing those areas for fear of feeling unsatisfied, critical, and discouraged.

Procrastination and perfectionism go hand-in-hand for me. And one of my most memorable bouts with perfectionism was when I was writing a book on procrastination.

It was amazing what other tasks I chose to do rather than write. They were all things I’d procrastinated, but apparently dreaded less than writing that book.

I scheduled a medical screening I’d put off for years, made a copy of a car key that required a special locksmith with a special machine, and decided to start excising again.

But write? I was paralyzed by the thought of it. Seriously, why did I tackle a topic that only very intelligent people with lots of degrees and initials behind their name wrote on? I’m no expert!

The more I researched the topic, the more I became so consumed over what to include in the book, that I couldn’t start. Visions of people thinking they’d wasted their money just about made me sick.

Then it didn’t help that I’m friends with someone who has had three books hit the New York Times best-seller list. And although I know I shouldn’t compare my success with hers, the impossibility of writing a best seller made me want to call my publisher to quit multiple times.

Finally, I had to admit I wasn’t going to write a perfect book. And I’m not the perfect person to write on this subject. But I have been called by God to do it. So, since He is MUCH smarter than me, I decided I better sit down at the computer, ask for His help, and start writing, trusting God to lead me.

This was not a one-and-done conversation I had with myself. Each chapter, I had to face that same high expectation and those same fears. What if I left something important out? What if I quoted a study that was debunked a year later, only I didn’t know it? What if a psychologist reads this and posts an angry comment on Amazon?

The perfectionist bully taunted me with dire consequences throughout the entire process of writing this book.

So how did I actually get it done? I chose to trust God.

I know that sounds simple, but it’s really true. Years ago God challenged me to trust Him, not just say I trusted Him. What a difference it makes.

Perfectionism directed my focus on the end result. But when I took my eyes off the results and put them on God, perfectionism lots its grip on me.

No longer was the burden of the results squarely on my shoulders.

Just knowing God won’t let me down gave me courage to start. And He’ll do the same for you. Here is some truth from His Word:

Psalm 9:10, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Isaiah 42:16, “I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.”

When we are faced with a challenging assignment, one where we doubt our ability to do it perfectly, we can choose to trust God will not fail us. Assured of God’s faithfulness and His love, we can proceed with confidence, giving the work our best efforts.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Does Anyone Appreciate All I Do?  

Thank you Proverbs31 and GLYNNIS WHITWER for today’s blog.

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:6 (NIV)

After finishing a big project at work, I was pretty proud of myself. Although most of my part had been behind the scenes, I hoped someone had noticed. The next few days, I checked and rechecked my emails and texts, waiting for an “atta girl” or “well done” message. But none came.

While I was slightly disappointed, I didn’t make a big deal of it … that was until another person in the organization completed one small task as part of my bigger project and was praised effusively.

Although I joined my thanks in the responses, my heart became very sad when my name wasn’t mentioned.

The lack of notice hurt more than it should have. And over the next few weeks, my feelings got hurt with increased intensity, and I began to wonder if anyone appreciated all I do for them. It started at work but spread to home.

When my kids left shoes in the living room I’d just picked up, or my husband didn’t say thank you for dinner, the hurt grew.

When I finally broke down in tears one afternoon, I realized something had gotten mixed up. Why did my heart get bent out of shape when I didn’t get the praise and acknowledgement I thought I deserved?

As I took some time to think this through, it seemed like somewhere over the previous months, my desire to serve my Savior was overshadowed by a desire for approval from others.

Jesus taught on this very topic in Matthew 5 and 6. He gathered His disciples for a lesson on life in His Kingdom, which was radically different from the dusty streets of Galilee they knew. In this world, we do look to others for approval. But it’s very different in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus wanted His disciples to understand an important truth: God is always watching. Whether our work is on a public stage or done in the quietness of our homes, God sees. And when we do things with a heart to serve Him, He rewards us with His pleasure.

However, when we work with impure motives or just to gain others’ approval, that is our reward … temporary and superficial.

It seems our heart motive makes the difference. Jesus cut right to the core issue in Matthew 6:1: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven” (NIV).

The Jews were all about parading their righteousness in public hoping to be noticed, including praying with great spectacle. Jesus addressed that specific issue in our key verse, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

Jesus wasn’t saying don’t ever pray out loud; He was giving us the key to break our desperate need for approval. According to Jesus, we receive God’s approval in the secret places, when no one else knows what we’ve done.

As I looked back over that time when my feelings were hurt consistently, I realized I hadn’t spent much time in secret places with God. I hadn’t sought His approval.

I managed to read a few Bible verses before bed and whisper a few prayers during the day. But the truth was I’d neglected time with my Heavenly Father. I’d exchanged His whispers of approval for the inconsistent and fulfilling approval from people.

I needed to get alone with God, quiet the world’s feedback, so I could hear His voice.

And when I did, I realized that one word of approval from God is worth more than a hundred “atta-girl” comments.

The next time disappointment creeps up when I’m overlooked, or I think, “Why not me?” — I’ll see it as a little warning. It’s my reminder to go back to that secret place. To spend time with God alone.

That’s where I’ll get the acceptance my heart really wants.

 

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

The Only Thing Stopping Me is Me

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

For most areas of my life, the only thing holding me back from achieving my goals is me.

I know what I should do … what I could do … but when it comes right down to it, excuses slip in and override my good intentions:

 

  • I want to read my Bible every day, but I’m tired and the kids are so loud.
  • I could go to the gym, but I’m sure the elliptical machines will be taken by now.
  • I should start a diet … but this lasagna and garlic bread are calling my name! I’ll start tomorrow.

 

And so it goes. The Bible says the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Mark 14:38). I must be a super weakling, because self-discipline is as unnatural to me as exercise.

Recently, I heard today’s key verse read over the radio and it gave me a new perspective on self-discipline. It’s a familiar verse to me and I love the first part of it: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Some versions of the Bible say God did not give us a spirit of fear. I love the idea of not being afraid or timid. I cheer when I read that!

And He gives us “power” … woo hoo!

And “love” … YES, YES I want more of that.

I know this verse well. But when I heard it read aloud, for the first time that last word jumped out at me: “self-discipline.” Have you ever seen a cartoon character come to a screeching halt, with dust and pebbles flying?

I seriously wondered how someone snuck that word into my Bible without me noticing it before.

Apparently, God had been offering me the gift of self-discipline, and I’d been ignoring it. So I decided to give it a try the next week on something mundane that I really didn’t want to do.

I had ignored my ironing for a while, and decided to tackle the laundry baskets. After an hour, stopping sounded great. But I remembered the verse and asked the Lord for the self-discipline to continue. I kept going. I’m guessing you’ve never let your ironing pile up like this, but I ironed for three more hours until every last shirt was pressed. (Now I know there are lots of other issues surrounding this fact, like why I iron t-shirts, but the point is, God gave me the discipline to finish what I’d started.)

So often I ignore the gifts God wants to lavishly share with me, like power, love and self-discipline. I try to power through in my own strength, which simply isn’t enough for the best things in my life. And yes, even ironing qualifies as a “best” choice when my family needs work shirts.

Beyond the daily tasks of life, I long for the discipline to achieve long-time goals and dreams. I want to leave behind the disappointment in myself when I fail to achieve them yet again.

Having a natural bent away from self-discipline is an opportunity to discover God’s power, as I need to return to God often and ask for His help. Once a week just won’t cut it. It needs to be hourly and sometimes by the minute. Even though God wants to give me the gift of self-discipline, I still have a strong free will, which can reject it.

What more might God want to do in me and through me with this gift of help? I’m pretty sure God’s got a list for me, and with His help, I’ll be ready. It might even include saying no to lasagna.

Thank you Proverbs 31 and Glynnis Whitwer

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Have You Forgotten How to Dream? – sunday

“Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work.” Jeremiah 1:5a (NCV)

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“What God-inspired dreams do you have in your heart now?”

As a table leader for our church’s women’s event, I read the question aloud, then smiled expectantly at the small group of women surrounding me.

Eyes looked down, up and to the left. Fingers fiddled with pens. One woman sipped her coffee and focused on the rising steam. Seconds ticked by silently as I gave them time to think.

Surely someone will say something, I thought, as the silence turned awkward.

But no one said anything. Hmmm … I’ll try another approach. So I revised the question, “What would you do for God if you knew you wouldn’t fail?”

Again, crickets.

As I looked at those precious women, all ages and stages of life, my heart ached. I knew from the ice-breaker question their days were laden with concerns. Although they weren’t complaining, real challenges slipped into their answers: jobs, demanding schoolwork, caring for children with developmental needs, serious health issues and more.

The idea of a God-given dream must seem impossible when your 2-year-old isn’t walking and your savings are dwindling. In fact, getting through the day without falling apart was the only “dream” shared that night by one sweet lady when the quiet was just too much.

The very lack of dreams then became the discussion as we realized we’d forgotten to dream for ourselves.

We knew how to dream years ago; children have no problem dreaming big dreams. Yet as life responsibilities piled up, it was easy to forget to dream. In fact, sometimes a dream even felt selfish when there were so many great needs.

Yet when God gives us a dream, it’s not for selfish reasons, it’s for Kingdom reasons. And He has uniquely wired us to be able to fulfill that dream with His help.

Scripture tells us God chose us and set us apart for a special purpose: “Before I made you in your mother’s womb, I chose you. Before you were born, I set you apart for a special work” (Jeremiah 1:5a).

It’s one thing to read those words on the page and understand them intellectually. It’s another thing altogether to believe them with my heart. Especially when inner doubts find their way to the surface:
… How could God choose me for anything important when I can’t even go to Target with my kids without a meltdown?
… How could I be set apart when there’s nothing special about me?
… And a “special work”? That’s for people much more important than I am.

But here’s what I know about God: He crafted each of us with such great love and intentionality that the dream He wants to give us is what we were created to do.

He knows our potential because He placed it there. Inside each of us, He deposited seeds of talent. He appointed our personalities. He established our strengths. And all lay in wait for His Spirit to empower us to pursue our God-given dreams.

Because we serve a loving God, many times the “special work” He assigns comes in the form of a dream that will bring us joy. I’ve met women who dream of caring for foster children, bringing fresh water to a village, writing a book or teaching Bible study from a stage.

These dreams can feel selfish because we want them so much. But we can know they are God-given when they are aligned to His Word, and we want God to get all the glory and take none of it for ourselves.

Dreams are never easy to accomplish. In fact, sometimes they seem downright impossible. And yet, Scripture tells us in Matthew 19:26 that with God, all things are possible.

Perhaps this is the greatest reason we stop dreaming God-dreams. We let people and percentages, facts and figures determine the probability of achieving our dreams.

But what would happen if we took the “impossible” label off our dreams? What if we declared God’s power to fulfill every dream He plants in our hearts? Wouldn’t it be amazing?

Today, let’s rip that “impossible” label off, scrunch it up and toss it in the garbage. And then, like a child, let’s remember to dream again.

Thank you Glynnis Whitwer for today’s devotional.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Hope Wissel, Relax, Reflect, Recharge

I Am Not Fancy

Reflect, Relax and Recharge today… A post from Glynnis Whitwer  entitled I Don’t Do Fancy in Proverbs31.org made me stop and think.  I am not a fancy person. My preferred attire is a pair of jeans, a sweater or tee and boot/flip flops or clogs.  If I could wear that EVERYWHERE, I would be in the height of my glory.

I know, some of you are wondering – “Why can’t you?”.  A people pleaser for almost all of my life has changed my perception of things.  I often think that I need to look a certain way, act a certain way, have certain things in my home and overall be able to hold it all together.  When I don’t meet my expectations in one of these areas, I feel like a failure.   WRONG!  Okay, so maybe it wasn’t the most creative birthday party or I wasn’t dressed in the best clothes but that is not what I (or others) remember about certain events.  They remember feeling loved, Remembered, Noticed and Valued.

We need to remove the self-imposed unrealistic expectations. Maybe we need to focus more on showing love rather than having the PERFECT anything .  I am learning that it’s often the little things that speak love to my friends and family.  My goal is to show love to my friends and family WITHOUT placing expectations on them. I may not always accomplish that goal with perfection, but I can come closer to it with God’s help.

Renee Swope blog on “Accepting Ourselves” falls right into this..  She started off with asking a very basic question: When you look in the mirror, do you like what you see?  Ummm, sometimes?? 

She shared this story that is almost MY story: A friend of mine lived most of her life with a gap between her two front teeth.  And she was convinced that it was the first thing people saw when they met her. A few years ago, someone gave her the opportunity to have the gap fixed and she was thrilled! The surprising thing was that it took a while for her friends and family to notice the difference.

I like many others spend so much time focusing on my flaws that I think everyone else is doing the same thing.  The truth is that they are probably so focused on their own flaws that they hardly even notice ours.  So, if you’re criticizing yourself today, remember that other people see all of you, not just your flaws.  Besides, the Bible says you are fearfully and wonderfully made.  Perfect?  No, but definitely wonderful!

God created us with a heart and soul to receive His love, so we could share it with others. In fact, loving God and each other is our highest calling. The Bible says it this way, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 John 4:7).

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!