Anyone else out there a recovering perfectionist?
I am SO excited to introduce you to my new friend, Brandice, for our 6th offering in the “What Being Brave Looks Like” series. I met Brandice at my church in the Thursday morning WOW bible study group. She won my heart the first day I spoke with the group by being an eager front row participant; clearly engaging with the material as she nodded, took notes, asked questions, and listened intently. For a speaker, having even one person in the audience who you can see is TRULY listening makes all the difference! She further charmed me by pulling a PURPLE erasable marker out of her purse when I was struggling to find a working marker, so clearly we were meant to be best friends!! Brandice is bright, engaging and a deep thinker. With the opportunity to get to know Brandice better in a small group setting, I was struck by her vulnerability, authenticity and the ways her story paralleled my story and the stories of so many other women I know. Her brave struggles and relentless pursuit of God’s best for her family remind me of the many lessons God so gently, graciously and patiently taught me when I was at her point in my journey as a young mom. When she shared the story below with me, I KNEW I needed to share it here with you.
Please welcome my brave friend, Brandice!
A Recovering Perfectionist
Hi, my name is Brandice and I am a perfectionist. I struggle daily with the notion that it is worth doing something if I can not do it perfectly, completely, my best, THE best. I struggle to understand and assimilate how it is that God both accepts us as we are and constantly calls us higher. I struggle to accept my worth as inherent to the person that God created, and not a matter of my potential for good works. I could go on and on about how I got there, and what this looks like in my daily life, but I’m coming to realize that how I’m moving forward and learning to let go of it is a much more valuable and productive thing to spend my time and energy thinking and talking about. This is my testimony of how God used Kelly and some of the lessons in her Brave book to help me find the value and worth in doing “Small things with great love.” as Mother Teresa said.
My Bible study group recently had the privilege not only of studying Kelly’s new book Being Brave: A 40-Day Journey to the Life God Dreams for You, but also of getting to hear some teaching on its content directly from her each week of the study. One of the themes Kelly talked about about is the three things required to do the work God has given us to do (show up today, do the next right thing, and trust the process) and the three things we needed to let go of (cynicism, certainty, and control.) The thing that initially resonated with me the most was the release of control. I know that I struggle with control and it really is something I’m working on. But as her words and the material she’d written simmered in my brain and God drove it deeper into my heart through my scripture reading and journaling practice, I realized that I also struggle with what Kelly called cynicism. It took me awhile to realize that, because I would really not call myself a cynical person. For me, a better word to describe this tendency might be defeatism, or to say that it is another manifestation of my perfectionism. Kelly’s words about cynicism being lazy, an excuse not to try, really hit home for me.
In 2001 I was a freshman at Georgetown and my future husband Aaron and I had decided to look for a church together. There was a young woman attending our new church named Rachel whom God had given a real heart for those on the margins; particularly those experiencing homelessness, unemployment and underemployment. Through her example and that of others in our congregation, we as a Church community started to experiment with what it meant to serve those who are living on the margins in Washington DC.
A big part of this journey was realizing that as a small congregation we were never going to be able to meet all the needs of the people we served. Our best year, our Church’s operating budget barely broke one hundred thousand dollars. We were not even paying a living wage to our Church employees. But person after person came to us and embraced the meager gifts we could offer; welcome, a humble meal, conversation, being treated like they belonged, some simple clothing items and eventually sleeping bags.
We were at times overwhelmed by the scale of the problems that some of our friends faced. We were at times overwhelmed by our own inadequacy. We were at times overwhelmed by people falling back into the old habits that had gotten them where they were even after we’d helped them. But for 15 years, we kept doing the next right thing, until the next right thing that God led us to was to dissolve our community, to send each other out to bring all the things God had taught us to new communities. And then I didn’t know what the next right thing was. In a lot of ways I still don’t.
In some ways, attending church with people experiencing homelessness was easy; all I had to do was show up and be present, to do church. Without that church, I had no obvious way to serve the least of these that Jesus called us to serve.
And then one morning I woke up in a funk. I had gone to bed in a funk the night before and nothing had changed. I was filled with envy and resentment for my husband’s new woodworking hobby, which has been taking up a lot of his time, and even though he has made a point of thanking me for my support and understanding in pursuing something he’s really enjoying, that particular weekend I was not feeling it. We needed to go to Lowe’s for big sheets of wood. He needed my help because they are too big for one person, so we needed to load the girls into the car on Saturday morning and all go.
I didn’t want to go, I wanted a hobby of my own, and I hated myself for being so selfish. But on the way back home, the girls and I passed a man out in the 28 degree cold with a cardboard sign reading “please help, God Bless.” All I had in the car to give him was a Cliff bar, and the girls and I drove away frustrated that in our plenty and excess we didn’t have more to give. We turned around and went back to see if we could buy him something hot, but he told us that someone else had just done so, and thanked us profusely, even though in my perception we hadn’t done anything. But God used both him and our frustration as catalysts for an idea.
Years previously, one of the ways we used to invite people to come to our church was to make what we called Manna packs. We would go out into the streets of Georgetown and give these to the people who were asking for help and invite them to join us for our community dinners which followed services each week.
The girls and I decided to spend our day shopping for and then filling Manna packs. I do not have words to describe how God used that encounter and decision to turn my outlook around. We had a purpose and a direction. We were excited. We invited some of the girls’ friends to join us. We had a wonderful day. We filled probably 40 or 50 gallon bags with a variety of items that we thought could bless someone. And it got me out of my own head. I stopped thinking about myself. I got excited that next time someone asked, I would have something to give.
I emailed some old friends from the church asking what we used to put in them, and one of the responses I got indicated that another old friend from the church had also done this with her kids and was calling them “better-day bags” I LOVE that name. It is an explicit acknowledgement that I can not solve anyone’s problems. But I can give someone a better day, and a better day is a gift worth giving, as I can attest from my experience that Saturday.But I can give someone a better day, and a better day is a gift worth giving- Brandice Roberts Click To Tweet
So I went to my Church women’s group with a small offering. I told my friends that If they would like to have a Better Day bag to give someone the next time someone asked them for help, I had some there to share. There were not enough to go around to everyone there, but I embraced the imperfection and brought what I had. The bags will not fix the life of anyone we give them to. But they may give someone a better day.
Hope means believing that a better day can turn into a better week which might be able to give someone the energy to pursue something new and thereby find healing. I am embracing hope. Hebrews 11:1 reads “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” Jim Wallis’s corollary to this passage is “Hope is believing in spite of the evidence, and then watching the evidence change.”
I am believing in spite of evidence that Jesus came to heal the world and that Jesus came to heal me. I am believing in spite of a preponderance of evidence that I CAN be resilient, and the funny thing is, the evidence is changing right in front of my eyes.
Love broke through that day, and that, I think, is what “work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12-13) means. It means that it is not just grace alone that saved me from my bad attitude that day, nor was it me trying my hardest and doing my best. It was God, in his grace and mercy breaking through my resentment and envy with his love AND me responding. It was me finding motivation to care about the day of someone I didn’t know, BUT I am only able to care about those I do not know because I know that they are Jesus, and when I love them I love Jesus.
So get out there and do the next right thing. Make some bags, if you’re inspired to. In the weeks since I gave this devotional, several women from my group have come up to me to share their stories of how God used those bags that I brought that day. It has been such an encouragement to hear that my imperfect offering made a difference in someone’s day. So get out there and do the next right thing. Click To Tweet
Maybe for you the next right thing could making some bags and then keeping your eyes open for Jesus when he’s right in front of you, hungry or cold, and then knowing that you can help make his day a better one.
Better Day Bags
Below are some ideas of what you could put into your own “Better Day Bags”
- Hand/foot warmers (a hat or gloves in winter would also be appreciated)
- Non-perishable food items, the more nutrient dense the better. We used Cliff bars, nuts, peanut butter crackers, applesauce cups and cereal bars.
- Pocket pack of tissues
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Soap and a facecloth- I folded the facecloths and put each one in a smaller ziplock inside the bag so they would have somewhere to put it when it was wet
- Other toiletries such as a razor and shaving cream, deodorant, or lotion
- Small first aid kit and/or bandaids
- A bottle of water (this would be even more critical in summer, I think) I thought about reusable water bottles, which would increase the cost of each bag by a lot, but might be worth it.
- Cough drops or hard candy
- Sanitary pads
- $6 Subway gift cards
- The phone number for hypothermia/emergency shelters in the area you are passing them out.
- A handmade card/note of encouragement
Brandice is a recovering perfectionist who loves learning new things. She is wife to Aaron (for almost all of our adult lives; 13 years!) and proud homeschooling Mama of Autumn (10) Sophie (7) and Zoë (3). Her favorite things are being outside (with or without her Girl Scouts), learning unexpected things about the cool features of other languages, explaining things in ways that really help people understand them, and experimenting with traditional cooking methods like sourdough. She has never balked at sharing any part of her story with anyone who seemed inclined to listen, and is excited to have been given the opportunity to do so here. This is her very first piece of (internet or otherwise) published writing ever!