Redefining Success

I woke up this morning feeling like a miserable failure.

I tripped over a pair of boots as soon as I got up, and before I ever made it to the bathroom, I saw a pile of clothes I hadn’t remembered to put away last night and that our cat had seen as a perfect sleeping spot during the night. Walking into the kitchen, I saw a sink full of dishes – some of which needed to be washed immediately to pack my daughter’s lunch, and papers from her school were strewn all over the counter.

We’ve had so much going on every single night, between church meetings and baseball practice and community group, and I haven’t had time to clean up from one meal before cooking the next one….haven’t had time to sort through one batch of papers until it’s time to pull the next one from her backpack. I stared at the mess and all I could think was how this week was an epic, abysmal failure on my part. How I hadn’t done anything, really, that needed to be done and how now, on Friday, I would have to pay the price by trying to catch up when I should be rejoicing in the weekend to come.

Yeah. I’m good at beating myself up, all right.

After I dealt with the immediate needs and got my daughter to school, I sat down for my Bible study. I patted myself on the back a little, if I’m honest, because I’ve settled into that little routine over the past week or so. My little quiet time after the hustle and bustle of the morning has become a special part of my day.

I finished my study and – the sink full of dishes and the counter all disheveled – went for a walk. It’s been so beautiful here, and even though it was drizzling a little as I walked this morning, the sunlight shone through the raindrops like little drops of gold as they fell. I prayed as I walked, lifting up my husband and his work struggles and our daughter and recent troubles we’ve had with her and my business and my hopes for this month.

And as I came up the last hill approaching our house, I remembered my attack on myself this morning and thought, “Wait a minute. Who gets to decide that I am a failure?”

Is it the strangely perfect pictures of other people’s lives on Facebook? Is that what gets to grade me as inferior? Is it the ideas I have in my head of how I “should” be, as a mama and a wife and a housekeeper? What actually gets to decide that I am failing? What is it that gets to say I am not succeeding?

Because here’s the thing: Yes, my kitchen is a catastrophe and a half. (Yes, I have even had thoughts that it is trying to kill me.) Yes, I really, really need to change all of our sheets, and our bathrooms are in need of a really good scrubbing. No, this week has not proven me to be a champion at housekeeping, but this week, I can say this: I have been faithful.

No, I haven’t kept up with the dishes, and I’d be mortified if anyone stopped by unexpectedly. But this week, I have felt extremely close to God. I’ve spent time in daily Bible study, and I’ve taken care of myself by exercising. I have been faithful to write every day, as I believe that this ability is something God has given me and it’s important to use it. I have held my tongue in difficult moments when we’ve all been tired and cranky, and I’ve looked to God for wisdom and strength to get through it all.

Have I been perfect? No. But neither is the world, and I’m doing my best to make it through this broken, disheveled, chaotic life. I cannot be flawless. Life will simply not allow that. But I can be faithful, and I think that more than makes up for a sink full of dirty dishes.


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