recovering perfectionist

Recognizing Perfect Amid Chaos

Is it possible?

Can you really find “perfect” in the midst of chaos I wondered?

I’d dreamed of relaxing Christmas holidays with plenty of time for reading books, playing with the kids, napping, you know just generally being unhurried and nothing to do.

I don’t know about you but the last time that happened for me during the Christmas holidays was probably when I was a teenager.

So why I even dreamt about it now as a harried mom of three is a great question. It’s not like I expected it to be peace and R&R all the way through but how about fifty percent of the time? Ten percent? One?

Despite the motherly intuition that told me the reality would likely look very, very different, the desire for rest and calm remained. 

However, I recognized – even acknowledged – that my dream wasn’t realistic. Still, wasn’t there a way to find peace and not just the pandemonium that seemed to my life these days?

A week or two prior to Christmas, I confided in a friend that I wanted to just enjoy the holidays without being constantly overwhelmed by the grossness of my house, the piles and feeling of filth and the dead mouse smell in the wall behind the drier, etc. (In other words, find contentment, shed anxiety and overwhelm, forget any notion of clean/organized/on time, throw up my hands in surrender and fully enjoy the moment, choosing to focus only on the good. Aw, such lofty, wonderful goals we aspire to!) 

Previous experience warned me that I would be at most one step ahead every single day of the holidays.

While I knew the truth was that I would spend most of my waking moments wrapping gifts, throwing food together or scrambling to have clean clothes to wear, I longed to just sit back and relax and enjoy the family that would be visiting.

And I wanted to know, to learn, how to be okay with this kind of holiday – the real kind, not the fictional version. 

As it turned out, once again life showed me how it works and God graciously helped me learn the needed lessons along the way. 

Now I see better that instead of wanting perfect I should simply plan to enjoy beautiful moments. 

Because beautiful moments do happen. Perfect, on the other hand, rarely shows up.

See, we are not promised perfect in this life. In fact we are promised trials, the very opposite of perfect.

But we are promised grace and joy and love and peace when we embrace God’s promises.

The catch is we think we deserve these all at once. Or we seem to expect them all at once.

But if we keep waiting for all the peaceful, beautiful, joyful moments to show up at the same time, we may wait a lifetime for our perfect to jive. 

We need to go out and seize hold of the individual promises instead of waiting for them to collectively arrive. 

That’s what these holidays taught me. 

Maybe a peaceful moment comes with a decidedly non-beautiful setting such as when I choose to settle in beside a giant load of laundry on the couch and read The Gingerbread Baby to my littles. 

Joy might arrive packaged up in a tickle fight while Christmas clutter and dirty dishes are my seasonal decor instead of the fresh/clean/crisp feeling I was hoping for.

My dreams of a cozy (definitely clean and uncluttered) living room with peacefully playing children and mom curled up with a hot mug, fluffy blanket and good book during the Christmas holidays? 

They did not materialize.

Same with the visions of a pile of beautifully wrapped gifts, shopping done on time, making Christmas cookies with my mom and sisters and the little cousins, and so on.

In fact, my reasonable expectations of a white Christmas barely happened even in the middle of the Canadian prairie. 

In spite of it all however, there were moments of beauty that showed up and struck me with their unexpected, unplanned simplicity and – dare I say – perfection. 

There was the day I took my two little boys to the city for a baby check-up and Christmas shopping. 

To my delight we were able to stop at more places than I planned to, I found unexpected gifts, and we went out for Chinese food spur-of-the-moment. As a little icing-on-the-cake, my son was also offered free chocolate in the chocolatier shop where we purchased gift cards just after I’d told him I couldn’t buy him any.

I could never have planned such a shopping trip. Rarely if ever have I managed such an over-achieving shopping run. Had I planned it, the ludicrousness of such a full day in the city with two little boys would’ve overwhelmed me even though I am a notorious over-scheduler.

I think God just loves to give us crazy wonderful times like this that we least expect! Just like the mom who can’t help herself from throwing in an extra gift or two at Christmas because it’s so much fun to surprise loved ones, I think He delights in giving His children outrageous surprises. 

And isn’t He the master gift giver and the best surprise planner ever? I know He’s been the one behind the best surprises in my life. 🙂 

Of course those surprises on my shopping day weren’t the only moments of unexpected perfection I had these holidays. 

There was the time we made cut-out gingerbread cookies one afternoon and my six-year-old cut most of them out by herself, big helper that she is. 

Then there was the day we made Christmas whoopie pie cookies spur-of-the-moment. After a string of especially stressful days, I seized the opportunity to make cookies with the children one Sunday afternoon while Kev napped. (Did I actually think it would be relaxing? I can’t imagine!)

There were a few hiccups in the cookie-making process. 

For one, we had to run to the neighbors for eggs as I didn’t realize we were too low on them until I’d already started. For another, after the dough was made I was afraid it was way too thin. 

A simple thing that was supposed to take half an hour took over two hours with all the interruptions. We’d just finished the cookies and sat down for supper when the Christmas carolers arrived.

It turned out to be a great example of perfect showing up amid chaos! Despite piles and clutter and unfinished to-do lists, short tempers, and being short of ingredients, we had freshly baked cookies to share with the carolers and one of the children confided to me later that they’d been wanting to make Christmas cookies and then we did! 

Perfectly imperfect! I didn’t pre-plan the cookie-making episode at all. I think it went from brain-fart to action in exactly five point three seconds. It’s almost certain I’d have abandoned the idea altogether if I’d foreseen any one of the difficulties we ran into. As it turned out, that’s one of my favorite Christmas memories this year! 

It’s true; much of our lives are filled with imperfect things. Something will always be too empty, too full, too expensive, too cheap, too cluttered, too sparse, too something… too anything

But it’s never too late to begin celebrating and recognizing the beautiful amid the chaos. 

Because beautiful moments do happen. We just have to quit waiting for Perfect and seize the beauty that’s already here. 


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