If you know me at all, you know that I am a STRIVER. I have this inner drive that is half mental and half amazing. I always wish I could do more and if I'm honest, this desire makes me amazing and annoying at the same time.
Today on the way home from work I was listening to a book on tape- The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and I was so touched by her discussions on the scarcity mentality vs feeling of sufficiency. I recognize within myself a feeling of scarcity-- my house is never clean enough, my yard is never weeded enough, my kids are never well-behaved, modest, or helpful enough. I don't have enough time to serve. I don't have enough energy. I don't have enough self-discipline.
I wrote a comment on Facebook and I said "my life is not picture-perfect".
I am finishing up teaching early morning seminary and I told a student in an email, "there are so many goals that I had for this class that we didn't accomplish..."
And then, I began to scroll through my instagram account @mossmoments
Do you know what I found?
I found a picture-perfect life.
I found a mom who loves her children.
I found happy, smiling kids.
I found a house that looks lived in and lovely.
I found a yard that is green and beautiful.
I found goals that were accomplished.
I found a family that is thriving, serving, and trying.
The thing that makes me sad when I look at those pictures is not that my house is too messy or my yard has weeds. I don't even feel sad that I didn't serve another person in my church or that I'm very lazy about kneeling for prayer time. The thing that made me sad when I looked at those pictures is that I know, I KNOW, that even on the days when I posted the cutest pictures I went to bed feeling like I was failing.
And, the truth was, I WAS failing... at some things.
But, the truth also is, I am succeeding at many things.
I don't know. I'm only 42 and I'm still trying to figure out this thing called life.
I remember I learned a lesson when I was in the hospital with Ben.
I learned that people don't' just have FAITH. Meaning, when I was laying in my hospital bed very ill, I did not just FEEL certain that God was blessing me and helping me and that everything would be okay. I felt a lot of DOUBT. I felt scared. I felt forsaken. I felt sick and tired and grumpy and angry at God. AND I felt loved and blessed and so very lucky, and so close to the Lord. I felt BOTH at the same time.
I learned in the hospital that FAITH is not a feeling. It is a CHOICE. I really had to choose what feeling I focused on because if I focused on my doubt and self-pity I would quickly drown in misery and pain. If I focused on my blessings, my belief, my gratitude-- my faith would also grow and I would SEE more miracles in my life. I physically felt better when I chose to focus on the positive. Pollyanna understood this truth.
I think FAITH/DOUBT is similar to SCARCITY/SUFFICIENCY.
I think the truth is, we all are amazing at some things and we suck at others. I think our kids are good at some things and awful at others. I don't think it is "fake" to focus on the positive. I think focusing on the positive is actually the secret to success.
I don't think that I need to improve one whit to be good enough. I think, I just need to be able to SEE where I fall short and CHOOSE not to focus on that. I think my SCARCITY mentality will always be there, sitting on my shoulder. I will always see areas that I can improve. I just think I need to learn to SEE the mess and not focus on it.
What do you think?
Maybe some people are just naturally faithful and they really never doubt. Yay them. This isn't me.
Maybe some people aren't bothered if they have a messy bathroom sink or baskets of unfolded laundry hiding in their bedroom. This isn't me. I'm bothered by everything I wish I had figured out and I don't. I think I've spent too much time trying to not be bothered by this stuff or trying to be good enough to never have things that bother me. But, maybe I have had it all wrong. Maybe I can just accept that I have things that bother me... and not focus on them.
I have sufficient for my needs. I have sufficient for my family. I have sufficient time. I have sufficient skills. I have a sufficient home and sufficient order.
I'm not a superstar or a loser. I'm sufficient. I'm enough.
I have a confession to make to you. I think I already admitted this...
I taught an early morning scripture class this year and I had a few goals for our class.
1. I wanted to feel the Spirit in our lessons each day.
2. I wanted the kids to really gel, to have inspiring gospel conversations, and to build each other up.
3. I wanted to use our actual books of scripture, to mark them up, study them, and love them.
I can say, we felt the Spirit each day. I felt the Spirit. I learned. Our lessons were good. Okay.
But, I talked WAY too much. Honestly. I lectured. The kids didn't really discuss. They were quiet and tired and when they did talk it was about out-of-class stuff, not the lesson. They would answer questions and talk a little. But, we didn't achieve the classroom interaction that I wish we could have.
I blame myself. I didn't prepare enough for my lessons. I spent too much time on social media avoiding lesson prep and too little time prepping. I was insecure (teaching my own teenagers is tough). I didn't trust them to chat- I directed the lessons too much. I was nervous that I wasn't teaching well and I tried to get through each lesson instead of helping them discover the lessons. I could go on and on in my evaluation. This first year of teaching was rough. I have 100 things I wish I would have done differently. And, I'm right. These are real observations.
And, we didn't use our scriptures. WE USED OUR PHONES. bleh. I REALLY wanted the kids to mark and search paper scriptures. But, we just didn't do it. I don't think any of us REALLY loved our scriptures this year the way I loved my scriptures when I was in high school. It isn't just that we used our phones, it's that we never got INTO the scriptures like I know we could have if I were a better teacher. I taught the lessons but I didn't feel the feast that was there... I've been better before. This scarcity is real- I simply wasn't a great teacher.
I had these darling teenagers EVERY MORNING for a whole school year and I didn't achieve my goals. In a way, I feel like I let myself down, the kids down, their parents down, and God down. I really feel that way. And, I think I'm right.
BUT... I also know that I'm loved. My Father in Heaven loves me fiercely. He called me to teach this class even though He knew I would fail to get the class to completely open up and expound deeply on gospel principles in class. He knew I would fail to help them mark and love their scriptures. And, it was OKAY. It was sufficient for Him, for them, and for me. My effort was enough. He took my offering EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ONLY ONE FISH AND ONE LOAF (not enough) and He made it sufficient. My failure is enough for His feast.
I think I'm in the habit of seeing my faults and using that as a springboard to self-improvement.
This lesson is different. It is more about pacing than perfection.
Can you see something in yourself that you know you could improve but feel okay that you haven't improved it yet? Can you give yourself grace BEFORE you have improved?
I'm working on that.
I need to go to bed now. I'm certain I'm rambling.
I have one more example of what I'm talking about that I have learned from work.
I used to get in trouble at work because I worked too many hours and I always forget to take lunch.
You see, in my mind, I had a job to do and it was EXTRA GOOD of me to forgo my lunch or work late to try to accomplish the task that I am supposed to accomplish.
In my mind, a "good enough" employee finished assignments, helped all her tenants/landlords to be happy, returned every email promptly, and answered every phone message ASAP. If this meant I didn't get lunch or had to work late (without getting paid more), I was willing to do that to be a "good employee".
Turns out, my boss had a different idea of what makes an employee great. In her mind, the list of tasks in my job would NEVER be finished. So, to her, a good employee practiced self-care and time-management. She wanted to see me take at least a 30-minute lunch every day and leave EXACTLY at the end of my day. To her, it was the ability to LIMIT my work that made me effective NOT the ability to devote myself to my job.
Understanding this paradigm difference, actually helped me to shift my way of thinking and to become a more responsible employee. My boss asked me one day, "Why can't you leave work on time?" I realized that to me, staying late to finish more was being a good employee. She explained that in her mind a good employee understood the boundaries of what they could accomplish in one day and was responsible enough to leave at the scheduled time. I was changed.
How does this relate to scarcity/sufficiency?
The Scarcity Mentality is me constantly trying to FINISH my job... working long hours and feeling great stress when I finally left because even though I worked an extra two hours without extra pay, I am still not DONE.
The Sufficient Mentality is me agreeing to work every day from 8:30 am to 4 pm with a 30-minute lunch break from 12 to 12:30. Sufficiency is understanding that I will give my best between those hours even though I KNOW that I will not be able to help all the people I am hired to help or return all the emails or finish all the reports. I do not have enough time or money or skills to actually help the people I work with the way I wish I could help them. It really isn't possible. But, my boss wants me to TRY. To work hard- for 7 hours, and then go home. She wants me to prioritize and to be calm and professional not stressed and over-achieving.
Stopping my day, every day at 3:30 pm has been an interesting life skill to learn. It is almost impossible for me. But, I try. I try to wind down my day at 3:30, to clean up my desk, to shut down my computer and to tell myself... the problems you see will still be here tomorrow. WELL DONE FOR TODAY.
I do have a picture-perfect life.
I have two loads of unfolded laundry in my bedroom and 10 loads of laundry that I washed/dried/folded and helped my kids put away.
We had a house full of friends all weekend long.
I help people.
I love my children.
My kids are normal/good kids.
My kids are healthy and happy and imperfect but full of joy.
My house is safe and sanitary and lovely and a little messy.
There is a gap between where I am and where I wish I was... but I'm headed in the right direction.
I don't think anyone expects me to FINISH today.
I think it's okay with God if I have two little manilla folders labeled "Talk Less/Get Your Class to Talk More" and "OPEN YOUR SCRIPTURES MORE" that I place in my active file cabinet drawer of "THINGS TO DO..." or projects I'm still working on.
I can have a successful day even when I still have things I know I need to improve on... I can rest. I can take a lunch break. I can tidy my desk and feel sufficiently successful even when there is a pile of things I COULD NOT DO. I can rest even with two laundry baskets of unfolded laundry at the foot of my bed. When I spend my hours doing good... I am enough, even when I still see so much I could be doing... Isn't that an interesting paradigm shift?
Oh God, help me to feel this peace.
Help me to be gentle with myself and gentle with others.
Help me not to shrink.
Help me not to puff myself up.
Help me to stand right here, before you, in my holy, naked, unfinished state.
Take my loaves and fishes and feed your sheep.
Take my 7 hours and help me to do thy work.
Remove from my soul a feeling of scarcity
OR shout loudly to my mind that You can make scarce things useful.
Bless my seminary class to learn to love thy word.
Bless me to become a better teacher/facilitator.
Help me to feast. Forgive me for numbing. Bless me with thy grace, thy mercy, thy rest, thy peace.
Help me feel thy peace and joy.
This life is good.