Tag Archives: performance-driven behavior

Fighting for Grace

Can I let it all hang out?

My fight to breathe in grace?

Some people are recovering alcoholics; I’m a recovering perfectionist. Which means, at its root, I’m a recovering religious legalist.

My desperate desire is to please and follow God. I want to be sweet and love Him and be loved by Him.

But as much as I long for perfection in this, I just can’t be perfect.

Sometimes I’m salty, not sweet.

20140526_133259My kitchen floor issue is still not resolved. We’re pulling up boards trying to find all the water, trying to let things dry out. I’m struggling to manage kitchen duty (and we’re one of those families that rarely eat out, don’t use pre-packaged food, and consume LOTS, so kitchen duty is a big deal) in a difficult situation.

Yesterday I chose to bake banana cake, Seth’s favorite. He’s home from college and well, it’s one of our love languages. And there is never a reason around here to do a single recipe, so of course I doubled it.

I’m leaning over floor boards that have been pulled up and stepping into cracks of sub-floor to try to work without further damaging my beautiful boards. (There’s a point.)

I’m ready to put the bananas in the batter, but Stephen pulls out a spoon and has a taste, one of his favorite things since childhood. His face scrunches up in distaste. I scoop a little into my mouth. It’s terrible. We add more sugar. No improvement. I taste the sugar. It’s bitter. Salty. I have no idea what 20140526_134405happened, but it was good for nothing but to be thrown away.

And I can’t help but think of myself like that canister of sugar. I want to be sweet. I’m supposed to be sweet. But I’ve been salty.

And something as non-life-changing as a dishwasher leaking under my favorite floor is what is tipping me over the edge. (There’s plenty of more important stuff I’m navigating, and I seem to handle that. But my floor! My beautiful floor!!)

I was mostly salty at God. I said some nasty stuff about Him to a friend. I don’t like to talk bad about those I love, and it hurts that I did.

And sometimes when I’m a jerk I think I should be thrown out like I threw out that salt. If I’m not sweet, I’m not doing my job, so just toss me in the trash.

But I KNOW that is my old mindset creeping in. Legalism. Pride. I’ve never been sweet all through every moment, and I never will be. It’s not my goodness that makes me close to God, it’s HIS.

My behavior is not going to separate me from God because Jesus’s behavior when He offered Himself on the cross is what connected God and me in the first place. It’s what keeps me connected long-term.

But I felt that old self-censure creeping in. That inability to believe I was worthy of His love when I was so nasty. That secretly He was a God who would withhold His gifts because I wasn’t being a good daughter.

So I typed a plea to a safe circle of friends asking them to pray, to help me hold onto Truth and not give into the old thought patterns. I wrote, “I know know know that God’s blessings are not dependent upon my perfection. I know that He forgives freely . . . I have been really angry with Him and acting like an entitled jerk. I’m struggling to get over my anger and to also to believe what my head knows, that I was forgiven for the awful things I said to and about Him even as I said them.

I know if one of my kids talked that way to/about me I would have been really hurt, yet I expect God to just take it from me and still open the floodgates of heaven and help me. It seems wrong.

Then I wonder about grace and unconditional love, and I suspect the root of my struggle is actually about not opening my heart to this grace, to this forgiveness, that my self-censure is returning to old crap . . .”

And one of my friends replied with the Truth and grace I already knew but struggled to receive, “There is NOTHING you can say to Him that hasn’t already been said. NOTHING you can do that hasn’t already been done. Peter argued with the LORD all the time. Paul was a murderer. David was an adulterous AND murderer. Abraham was a coward. Moses had no faith. Joseph was prideful. Jacob wrestled with the LORD to the point he had to have his hip dislocated.

“Paula, there is NOTHING God sees but your heart. It is a human heart that struggles with everyday life, yet when push comes to shove still leans on its Creator. Your relationship is so close that you can be honest with your God. DO NOT look at the Father-child relationship you have in human terms. God’s love is NEVER performance driven. Think of all the heroes we read about in the Bible and they all messed up big time. But they had one thing that the LORD loved more than anything–honesty before their King. That, my dear, sweet Paula, is what you have. Don’t let the enemy tell you otherwise.”

And so for the past two days I’ve told myself what I already know: God’s love is never performance-driven.

God’s love is never performance-driven.

God’s love is never performance-driven.

Always God’s love is mine, given freely, spilling all over me without measure. I don’t have to be a perfect child to access it. Even when I blow it He loves me.

He loves me.

He loves me.

He loves me.

And instead of casting me aside when I’m salty, he patiently remakes me into His image.

20140526_134248I baked those cakes over again, using good, sweet sugar. And they were the blessing I hoped they would be.

The blessing I want to be and often fall short of.

But GLORY-BE (southern roots showing here) like cakes I, too, can be remade.

Say a prayer for me, my friends . . .

Until next time,

paula cropped

Epiphany #5 ~ A Graduation of Grace

IMAG2574Epiphany #5 ended up being good, but it took a lot of tears to figure it out. Here’s the thing. This whole new world of being a business woman was harder than I expected.

For the first time in a long time I was thrust into something very new. I’d worked past the early years of feeling utterly inadequate as a classroom teacher, then as a homeschool mom. I’d even gotten past the panic of having to say the words, “I am a writer.” Now I can even say, “I am an author” without batting an eye.

But after 22 years of homeschooling and 12 years of writing toward publication (and seeing it happen!) I had exactly 3 weeks of taking my role as a Life Force Business Woman seriously.

I pushed hard, making lots of phone calls and setting high goals for myself.

I met about half those goals. Instead of being pleased, I was pretty much mad at the world and drowning in exhaustion and inadequacy.

Enter Ben Mueller. Twice he called at exactly the right time (when I was at the point of tears) and twice he said exactly the right thing.

The second call was when Epiphany #5 kicked in.

See, much of my early years as a homeschool mom were about letting go of perfectionism and performance-driven behavior. Nothing like 4 children under the age of six to help a gal figure out there was no way she could be a perfect mom and live up to her own expectations of motherhood. Then there was the constant interruption, lack of validation, and serving in obscurity without a paycheck. Went a long way toward digging out the vestiges of performance-driven behavior.

Then throw in the God-factor. While I wallowed in guilt over my feelings of failure in motherhood, and trembled in fear over all my inadequacies, He showed up and healed me. I learned to keep my eyes on HIM instead of on my failures. I learned to forgive myself for my lack of perfection. I learned to lean on Him for the strength to move forward and to rest in His plan and purposes instead of living in a constant state of striving.

I mean I learned all of that until He called me to be a business woman.

Talk about miserable!

How dare God call me to a career that made me so unhappy? I mean, He wouldn’t, would He? Doesn’t Scripture promise that His yoke is easy and His burden light? In Matthew 11 He even said, “Are you tired? Worn out? . . .  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.” (The Message)

Well this whole business woman thing was ill-fitting if anything ever was. There was nothing free or light about it.

Or was there?

Ben’s call helped me understand. The first thing he told me was what a great job I was doing–that I’d done what 70% of people in the business never do. (After I cried a little, I felt better.) Then he asked if I was a perfectionist.

Ouch.

As we talked I realized I’d done it again, slipped into perfectionism and performance-driven behavior. No wonder the role didn’t fit! I wasn’t doing this business woman thing the way God planned. I was falling into old thought patterns and habits I thought I’d conquered years ago.

By the time Ben bid me good-bye hope sprang forth!

Epiphany #5 is that I’ve graduated! God trusts me with a career where performance is the name of the game. Evidently He thinks I’ve learned enough about looking to Him instead of my own inadequacies and letting go of perfectionism and performance-driven behavior that I can do this thing without falling apart.

He’s peeling back another layer of my dysfunction and healing me.

As I let Him teach me how to be a business woman I will discover how to be in this career in a way that is uniquely me. There will be no ill-fitting burdens, only a new learning curve in the unforced rhythms of grace.