This week I deconstructed a pantry in our 120 year old home.

I can’t call it remodeling because that implies building something and I am just not there yet. The contents of my 8×6 pantry are stacked precariously in every corner of the kitchen and dining room. The old mish-mash of shelves has been ripped out leaving chunks of plaster, various patches from previous repair jobs, and an uneven wall with at least eight layers of peeling wallpaper. The random ductwork that runs from the furnace below to an upper bedroom divided the room in a very awkward way so it had to be moved. I wrapped up the demolition last night just in time to tuck in the kids. As I locked the doors and shut off the lights, I was excited about starting to put things back together Saturday morning.

For those of you that don’t live in my head, I should interrupt this post and let you in on a little secret.

I am obsessed with completion and perfection. Having big projects partially done wears me out. The piles of pantry supplies stacked everywhere have stressed me out all week. I think it’s safe to say I enjoy the accomplishment of accomplishing things! It is an exhausiting way to live and not very sustainable. We are not designed to have everything completed and be perfect in every way(except Mary Poppins).

I’ve learned the hard way that when I push for perfection in one area of my life it lowers my impact somewhere else.

That can work in some cases if the things getting less energy really didn’t deserve it in the first place, but there is usually a moment where I realize that “somewhere else” needs more attention.

There is no way to live in balance and constantly push for perfection.

Knowing that about me, you will understand how this morning was a challenge for me. The sun was shining and I was the only grown up home with my two youngest children. They had helped with the demolition yesterday, but today the swingset was calling their names. So I had a choice to make. I couldn’t be in the pantry and supervise them at the same time, much less engage them in any sort of quality Mommy-Kiddo time. My initial response was to push through the work that needed to be done so that we could relax later as a family. Perhaps we could watch a movie together before bedtime, but at what cost?

I looked out the kitchen window and watched as they ran to the swings, and I wondered why the huge mess I had made mattered to me, but not to them?

In a flash of courage I decided today could be different. I closed the door to the pantry, walked outside, and was instantly rewarded with cries of “Mommy, are you going to play too?” and “Mom, watch this!” I still got some work done between pushing them and digging toys out of the shed and I even cut the grass during snack time while they looked down from their swingset fort. I hung some blankets on the line as they rode their bikes for the first time this season. After nap we walked downtown to pick out a snack from the store and looked for signs of the recent flooding. My goal for the day was to be their Mommy on purpose, not just fit them in as my other jobs allowed.

I wanted to have a presence in their day, but I found myself overwhelmed by the joy of their presence in mine.

Perhaps that is the greatest tragedy of always seeking perfection. When we waste our energy hopping from one huge need to another, we rob ourselves of a fulfilling peace that only comes from being satisfied with where we are at that moment. There is nothing wrong with self improvement and I hope I pass that desire on to my children. What I hope to show them is that improving our life is important, but it’s not the primary reason for life. God’s love is, and always will be, the reason we wake up everyday. Sometimes it shines brightest in the middle of our mess.

Think about it for a minute, if pausing in our mess is O.K. with Him, shouldn’t it be O.K. with us?

Are you like me and struggle with perfection? How do you make time to step away and be present in the moment? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to join the conversation over in our faith-led community, Christian Women Who Lead.

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