When You Need to Look a Little Closer

When You Need to Look a Little Closer | givinguponperfect.com

We have this rose bush in our backyard.

It’s been there since we moved in 12 years ago, and the most we’ve done to cultivate it is trimming dead branches every couple of years. It’s wild and unruly, like my daughter’s hair or a Dixie Chicks song come to life.

And every spring we wait for the day it blooms.

When You Need to Look a Little Closer | givinguponperfect.com

Last week, as I was changing Adrienne’s diaper, Annalyn screamed, “Mommy! LOOK!” I assumed she was bleeding or, perhaps, that the house was burning. But no, as it turns out, this was a happy scream. She’d noticed – out the window next to her sister’s changing table – that our bush was blooming.

We had roses, and she wanted to go look at them. Now. In typical mom fashion (or, at least, typical ME fashion) I put her off for a few days, but yesterday afternoon we finally braved our swampy backyard to check out our roses.

When You Need to Look a Little Closer | givinguponperfect.com

I’d been watching the tiny red buds grow to brilliant blossoms outside Adrienne’s window. Every time I changed her diaper or her outfit or her shoes, we peeked through the blinds to the flowers. They made me smile and think happy spring thoughts (as opposed to the ones about allergies and tornadoes…).

But looking at the roses through the window wasn’t the same as looking at them outside.

As we sloshed through the post-storm grass to get to the side of the house where the rose bush lives, I had one eye on the one-year-old and her now-dirty knees and one eye on the red flowers. Immediately Annalyn began picking the prettiest blossoms off the branches, and I began snapping photos of the ones left.

Even the ones not deemed perfect by a seven-year-old were gorgeous – and definitely ready for their close-ups.


It was only as I ran to pick up Adrienne as she attempted to escape through the gate that I noticed the dead branches tangled up in the bush. And as I stepped back a few feet and looked at the whole bush, I realized that it was kind of a mess.

Dull, brown branches full of thorns and no leaves.
Out of control shoots weighed down by the blossoms stubbornly blooming.
Crumpled petals and brown, curled leaves.

When I looked at the whole rose bush, sitting there on the side of my old, small house . . . it wasn’t nearly as beautiful. It wasn’t ugly, but it wasn’t pretty either. It was wild and messy and barely fit in my camera’s lens. It was out of control and overwhelming.

But when I moved closer again I got a better look . . .

When You Need to Look a Little Closer | givinguponperfect.com

Mondays are hard.

I woke up today feeling exhausted and grouchy, overwhelmed by a to-do list that cannot be contained with a single sheet of paper and ill-equipped to handle everything the week will bring.

If I look at my list – or, sometimes, my life – as a whole, it can be too much. It can feel discouraging to consider all the ways I am falling short and all the places I need to try harder. It can feel overwhelming to examine the big picture and to remember that I’m leaving a legacy and telling a story and ALL OF THE BIG THINGS.

So on days like this, when I really want to turn and run far away from my wild and unruly reality, I need to do the opposite. I need to look a little closer – to narrow my focus and slow my breathing and take it one branch, one blossom, one petal at a time. One set of towels to fold, one baby who wants to play blocks (again.), one email that needs to be sent, one post that begs to be written.

When I slow down and look closer, the beauty is easier to find. I’m not distracted by the mess, and I’m not overwhelmed by the chaos.

When You Need to Look a Little Closer | givinguponperfect.com

Maybe your Monday (or any day or every day) is hard, too. Maybe your to-do list gives you a headache and looking at the big picture makes you want to cry (or find chocolate). You’re not alone. Even a rose bush looks less than lovely with a perspective that’s too big.

If you’re struggling to get going again, if you’re convinced the week is already shot, if you’re not sure you can make it through another week or day or hour, come a little closer. Take it one task, one problem, one THING at a time. Find the perfect petals hidden behind the thorny branch.

When You Need to Look a Little Closer | givinguponperfect.com

And when you find that small piece of joy, hold on to it. The big picture is still there, and life is still complicated and chaotic. But if we look a little closer, we can see the beauty and find our focus again.

“All of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming
of some magical rose garden over the horizon — instead of enjoying
the roses blooming outside our windows today.”
~ Dale Carnegie

If I Could Turn Back Time…

If I Could Turn Back Time... | givinguponperfect.com

When I saw an ad this winter for a new TV show called Hindsight, I was intrigued. The ad was colorful and fun, and the fact that it was on VH1 didn’t even register. Once I read the synopsis, though, the Nostalgia Channel ever made perfect sense as this show’s home. Also? After reading one little paragraph about the show, I was sold. I knew immediately that this show was for me.

Hindsight is about a woman in her late 30s about to get married for the second time. The night before her wedding she somehow is magically transported to the night before her first wedding. It’s there, in 1995, that she has the chance for a do-over. With 30 years of hindsight to guide her, she’s able to make better choices this time around.

Or so she thinks.

As it turns out, making better choices isn’t quite that easy. Life is messy and complicated and nobody really understands time travel or grandfather paradoxes or immutable timelines. So figuring out what needs to be different – and the effects such changes will bring – is a whole lot harder than learning to live without a smartphone and remembering how to walk in Doc Martens.


Several years ago I found myself in what I still consider The Worst Interview Ever. Not only did I have to battle a sinus infection and postpartum hormones, I also had to drive through a snowstorm. But I was an unemployed new mom who desperately needed a job, so I powered on through.

For all the good it did me.

The man who interviewed me was abrasive and awkward and spent the majority of our time together grilling me about every choice I’d made since high school. From the college I attended to the major I chose to the jobs I’d held, he demanded an explanation for each decision and then asked me, after each answer:

“Do you regret that choice?”

As a matter of fact I did not regret my choices that day! I had reasons for why my decisions were good ones or why the other available options weren’t any good at all. But looking back to that cold, annoying day, I wonder if I’d answer his questions differently today.

If I Could Turn Back Time... | givinguponperfect.com

I really don’t have a lot of regrets about my life so far, but as time goes on and I get older and, hopefully, a little wiser, I can certainly see immaturity or ignorance that played a part in many of the paths I’ve taken.

But to say I regret any of those things? Well, even now I wouldn’t really say that. Because the choices I’ve made – the good, the bad, and everything in between – have led me here. And those choices and that path have given me a story to tell and a testimony to share, about God’s grace and His goodness and His plans that don’t need my permission to play out.

Do I regret choosing a small state college over a bigger one with more options? Sometimes. But I wouldn’t give back the friends I made (or the degree I earned) during those four years for anything.

Do I regret getting married when I was only 20 years old? Maybe sometimes, in some ways. But not really, because I wouldn’t want to make any choice that resulted in me living my life without Mark.

Do I regret quitting that job or taking this one, joining that church or leaving that one? Nope. I might miss people I left behind or occasionally long for roads not taken, but I would never give up the relationships I’ve built and lessons I’ve learned on the roads I have walked.

Even the hard things don’t fall neatly under an umbrella of regret.

Two of my best friends from college haven’t spoken to me in years over misunderstandings and mistakes. My part in that loss is one of the things I regret most – but even then, I’m not sure I’d do it differently if I found myself traveling back to 1999.

Sometimes the pain of those broken relationships still makes my stomach hurt and my eyes sting, and I miss those two people fiercely. But I learned some really important things through the breaking of those bonds, and I’m not sure I’d trade those lessons for what would likely be a Facebook friendship today.

If I Could Turn Back Time... | givinguponperfect.com

And just recently I talked with friends about how I felt when I first read the book, Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. Honestly? I was mad. I was mad that Mark and I had wasted so many years simply because we didn’t understand this concept! I was mad that nobody taught us these things, that we came to our marriage not knowing the slightest thing about loving or respecting, that even if somebody did try to teach us, well, we didn’t hear them.

If only we could go back . . . !

Except, no. If we went back (again, to 1999 – a big year for me and decisions!), we might get it “right” this time around. But we might not. And no matter what, we wouldn’t have the story God has given us today.

I certainly wish my marriage had been all flowers and candelight and surprise weekend getaways, but because it hasn’t been, we have a testimony and a “me, too” that God uses to encourage others in challenging relationships. And because we’ve survived our love and respect ignorance and are choosing every day to be a little bit better, we have a story about God’s redemption that I pray will speak and minister to hearts fighting the same battle.

Okay, fine, but what about the one thing in my life that causes me distress every single day? No, I’m not talking about the “cute” “starter” house we bought TWELVE YEARS AGO, even though YES, maybe there’s some regret there (EXCEPT NOT REALLY because we might not have gone to our old church if we didn’t live in this neighborhood and there’s no WAY I’d trade all that has given us for a sewer that doesn’t stop working and windows that don’t get stuck).

What about my weight? If I could go back, wouldn’t I do things differently there? SIGHHHHHHHH. Yes. Oh yes, I would. In a heartbeat. I would take care of this body and set myself up for success. I would love myself, inside and out, and treat myself accordingly. I would!

Except . . . would I?

Even if I went back a decade or two with the knowledge I have today — the mental pictures of what my mirror shows me, the feeling of trying on one more pair of pants that don’t fit even though they’re THAT size, the humiliation of being tagged on Facebook in a photo I didn’t realize someone took — would I really dredge up the effort to put down the Little Debbie cakes and go work out?

I’m not sure I would. As much as I hate to admit it (you know, in case you actually have a time travel device handy and were going to offer it to me right now?), I think this awful lesson might be one I had to learn the hard way.

If I Could Turn Back Time... | givinguponperfect.com

It turns out turning back time isn’t as appealing as it seems. I might have regrets — people I’ve hurt, cookies I’ve eaten, money I’ve spent — but even though they sadden me greatly, I’m thankful for what those decisions have taught me and the place they’ve led me to.

This life God has given me and the person He’s making me are worth the pain of being fallible, of having less-than-perfect vision, of not knowing what I’ll understand tomorrow.

If I could turn back time, I don’t think I would.

If you could turn back time, would you?

Photos by David Santaolalla, Phillip Pessar, iMorpheus, and me.

Choosing Joy & Savoring Moments

Choose Joy & Savor Moments | via givinguponperfect.com

This has not been my favorite week.

I haven’t felt well. My weekly weigh-in was discouraging. I’ve been grouchy and tired. My family has been irritating. It’s just not been a great week.

Right now I’m sitting on the couch, next to a pile of stuff – papers and forms and STUFF that needs to be dealt with. I’m looking at the floor, covered in toys and Goldfish crumbs, debating picking it up or just ignoring it. I’m reminding myself that if I don’t change laundry at least once tonight I’ll have to do it tomorrow, and I’m wishing my baby girl would quit crying and GO TO SLEEP already. Because I’m sorry she’s sad and I wish I knew why she’s awake and upset, but I also can still feel the bite on the inside of my arm that she gave me at bedtime.

But I’m also watching Dirty Dancing, and it’s hard to stay too upset when you’re watching Dirty Dancing.

Smitty loves movies. We joke all the time that she needs to keep a list of all the movies I haven’t seen, because it’s not unusual at all for a movie to come up in conversation, me to admit I haven’t seen it, and Smitty to gasp in shock at my movie ignorance.

Still, even if I haven’t seen all her movies, I know that Smitty loves movie moments. Not the big moments everyone remembers and quotes and turns into GIFs or YouTube favorites. No, she notices and remembers tiny little moments that speak to her, that are special to her.

Choosing Joy & Savoring Moments

Dirty Dancing is one movie that we’ve both seen dozens of times. And while we can quote practically the whole movie, there’s one special moment we both love. (It’s when Johnny sings a line of, “I’ve Had the Time of My Life” to Baby in the final dance scene, if you’re wondering.) That moment cancels out all the dumb parts of the movie (yes, I can admit there are a few, mostly when Baby speaks) and is what comes to mind every single time someone mentions the movie.

I’ve written before about how I learned about moments from sports talk radio when I heard a football commentator say a team only has to win enough moments (not all four quarters) of a game. In essence, he said, life is hard but as long as you can find enough winning moments, you’re doing all right.

My friend (and co-author!) Sara loved moments, too. She said, in a post about surrendering rather than adapting to her illness and limitations:

I see every moment of my life now, both the difficult and the joyful, as moments to be embraced. Because I know that God is in the middle of all of them. He is in the center of my storms and my blessings. He sees it all with eyes that know and understand and foresee the purpose of my situation. And I want what He wants.

Choosing Joy & Savoring Moments

Sara wrote in another post that moments are her favorite things. And I’d have to say that I feel the same way. It’s why I used to scrapbook. It’s why I blog about my family and adore Facebook. It’s why I try to remember our family gratitude journal.

And it’s why, despite the clutter and the crying and the biting and the bickering that has made up so many moments of my week (and my RIGHT NOW, *sigh*), I can say it’s still been a good week. Maybe not my favorite, but good enough. Good enough, because I’ve had enough great moments:

  • Learning to make queso blanco
  • Listening to Annalyn play her piano recital song that finally sounds like a song
  • Watching Adrienne realize that the stuffed animal in her toybox and the red monster on TV is the same “M’Elmo”
  • Laughing hysterically with my three favorite people at dinner
  • Getting an hour to talk to Mark without interruptions
  • Going to see The Avengers in the theater
  • Writing a color-coordinated to-do list in a new notebook
  • Choosing a salad instead of a burrito
  • Having a clean house for at least seven minutes straight
  • Hearing “I Can’t Dance” by Genesis on the radio and remembering how much I loved that song
  • Reading a note from Annalyn’s teacher about my “smart cookie” of a daughter

And so many more. Now that I think about it, I could list another 10 beautiful moments from the past week in a snap. Even though my house is still a mess. And my baby is still crying. And my neck is still sore and my summer clothes still don’t fit and my laundry still isn’t done.

Choosing Joy & Savoring Moments

The big picture of my life – messy as it might be – is still one of beauty because the big picture is made of so many moments of joy.

This hasn’t been my favorite week. But I am still grateful for this life and determined to find the joy that’s all around. Even if that means pulling my cranky baby out of her crib to rock her back to sleep, again – and then watching Johnny pull his Baby out of the corner for the final dance of the season.

What moment are you savoring this week?

When You Realize How Small Baby Steps Are

Taking Baby Steps Toward a Big Goal

So you set a goal. You knew it was big, that it would take a lot of hard work and perseverance. Maybe it would even take a long time to get there. You knew that going in.

So you jumped right in, giving it your all, doing your very best. Working hard, praying hard. Getting accountability and support where you could find it. Trying new things so this time would be different.

And for a while, you were making progress. Little by little, you began inching toward that goal. This isn’t going to be so hard, you thought. I can DO this thing! you shouted.

You were psyched, pumped up, ready to take on the world!

And then . . . something changed.

Maybe you slipped up, made a misstep or miscalculation. Maybe you just got tired. Or maybe you kept doing all those same awesome things but, for some reason, that goal of your stopped getting closer. Maybe it even moved a little bit in the opposite direction.

And that’s when it hit you: Taking baby steps toward a big goal takes a REALLY LONG TIME.

Today I weighed in at Weight Watchers and despite choosing SALAD on date night (at a Mexican restaurant, my favorite!) and VEGGIES at small group (when someone had brought warm chocolate chip cookies, are you kidding me?) — I had not lost a single ounce.

I also hadn’t gained an ounce. And making those choices felt really good. So, there they are: BABY STEPS.

But I don’t want to take baby steps! When reaching my goal weight is already going to take at least a year, I don’t want to spend a single week spinning my wheels. But I know my goal is more than a number on a scale. It’s new habits and tastes and cravings and all the good choices outweighing (ugh. no pun intended.) the not-so-good ones.

So, baby steps it is.

Some of you have shared that you’re on the same weight-loss or health-related journey I am. But many of you are on completely different journeys, taking tiny steps toward different goals. Tiny, determined, strong, motivated, AMAZING steps toward important goals like…

…writing that book.
…starting that business.
…running that marathon.
…planning those meals.
…cleaning that house.
…raising those kids.
…building that orphanage.
…adopting that child.
…helping those people.
…making that difference.

If it seems like you’ll never get there, like any progress you make is occurring at a glacial pace, take heart. You can DO this thing! You can! WE can. It might take longer than you’d like, but keep at it. We can do it together.

Adrienne has been taking her first solo steps the past couple of weeks. Everything about it is SLOW.

Her decision to finally start walking? Slow. (Why bother walking when it’s hard and, HELLO!, she can crawl crazy fast?!?)

Her steps while holding my finger in a death grip? So slow.

Her progress from walking-with-help to walking-on-her-own? So stinking slow!

But she’ll get there. She is so very busy (too busy to learn to walk, apparently) and climbs like a monkey. Obviously walking is not far behind. It’s just going to take longer than I’d like – and probably longer than she’d like, too. After all, she’s a busy baby. She does not have TIME for this! She’ll walk, though – and then run and then run me ragged. But that’s another post.

Those goals we’ve set? We can meet them. We can do it. One little step at a time. (Baby steps work for me.)

What are you taking small steps toward?

Photo source

Works for Me Wednesday :: Giving Up on Perfect

It’s time for Works for Me Wednesday. I’m looking forward to your tips, tricks, ideas and inspiration! If this is your first time linking up with WFMW here, PLEASE read the guidelines I shared in this post. Highlights include linking your specific post, not the front page of your blog, and making sure to include a link back to this site in your WFMW. Thank you!!

When You Feel Overlooked or Forgotten

When You Feel Overlooked

My neighborhood is bursting with color right now. Our next door neighbor has a gorgeous dogwood tree full of pink and white flowers, one that delights me each spring with its blossoms (and disappoints me when they inevitably fall to the ground). The rose bush outside Adrienne’s bedroom window has tiny buds and shoots all over its branches, and barrels of tulips and daffodils can be seen on front porches up and down the street.

As winter has begun fading away, I’ve started wishing I knew more about plants. The beautiful, often unruly yellow flowering bushes I love so much are called forsythia – but I only know that after some serious googling. And I can identify those tulips and daffodils like a pro, but the other blooming plants around here are a mystery.

It doesn’t take a green thumb to appreciate God’s artwork, though. Broad strokes of fuschia and fuzzy dots of white against dark branches reaching toward the turquoise sky line the roads we take to Annalyn’s school each morning. On our short commute I point out to Annalyn my favorite blossoms and blooms, and we’ve had friendly debates about the prettiest ones.

But a few days ago, my little drama queen got herself all worked up because all the lovely plants we’ve been admiring are situated firmly in other people’s yards. “I wish WE had a pretty tree! It’s not fair! It’s like . . . like . . . we were SKIPPED!”

I laughed at her melodrama, but the truth is I’ve felt like that, too.

Many times I’ve looked around and noticed the blooms in other people’s yards and wondered, “When is going to be my turn? Why don’t I have any flowers? God? Did you . . . did you . . . skip me?”

Maybe you’ve felt that way, too?

When you’re waiting for a promotion or a second interview, when you’re praying for a baby or a spouse, when you’re hoping that this showing, this conversation, this application or this audition will be the one.

Maybe you’ve looked around at your neighborhood, your family or your small group, your classmates or your co-workers, your book club or your aerobics class or your ministry team – and wondered, “Am I the only one left? Will it ever be my turn? . . . Why does everyone else get [fill in the blank] except me?”

I don’t know what you’re waiting for today. What dreams seem to come true for everyone else for you, what hopes are harder to hold onto every day that passes. I don’t know exactly how it feels for you to wonder if you’ve been overlooked, forgotten, skipped.

But I do know this: God has not forgotten you, and He will not skip you.

The Bible says God has written your name on the palms of His hands, that He would never forget you. Jesus said, “What is the price of five sparrows — two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

And well before that, Moses told the people of Israel that God will not leave nor forsake you, that He won’t fail or abandon you. In other words? He won’t skip you.

I don’t say that in the hang in there, kitten poster sort of way. And I don’t say that in a comfortable, all my dreams have come true way.

I say this with the hard-won confidence and faith of someone who has been left behind and felt overlooked, someone who has felt hope slipping out of her fingers more than once, someone who will certainly feel that way again. But I’m also someone who has been surprised to find a previously plain [metaphorical] plant blossoming in her front yard.

If you’re feeling overlooked today, like you’ve been skipped when the blossoms or blessings were handed out, don’t lose hope. Your wait may be longer, your path may be curvier, but He has not forgotten you.

He has not skipped you or overlooked you.

Your spring is coming.