Present Not Perfect

by Susannah Baker

This past school year, I started a new thing with my three oldest girls. I got them each a devotional book and a journal and set up a place in the house for them to have their own time with the Lord in the mornings. I love reading the Bible and praying with my girls for morning devotions, but let’s face it, with four kids, four breakfasts to fix, four lunches to make, and four heads of hair to brush, morning devotions can be more idealistic than realistic when we are running behind (which was practically every Monday and Wednesday morning when the girls went to their on-campus school days).

A couple of weeks before school was out, my oldest, responsible, ruler-follower kind of daughter came in the kitchen and said, very seriously, “Mom, there is something you need to know. Caroline has NOT been having her quiet time in the mornings. Instead of looking at her Bible and drawing a picture about Jesus, she is drawing pictures of herself talking on a cell phone, and she is drawing pictures of hands she says are Jesus’ hands, but they’re not, mom. They are her hands and they have lots of rings and bracelets all over them.”

I am not sure what kind of reaction Lillian was expecting to get out of me (she was so darn serious), but I can assure you she was surprised when I started laughing – so hard, in fact, I started to cry.

And sure enough, I went into the living room where Caroline was sitting, and there she was, coloring a picture of herself talking on a cell phone. Does it count that she had on a cross necklace in the picture?? As I flipped through her journal, I saw picture after picture of hands modeling every kind or ring or bracelet or necklace you could imagine, and lots of self-portraits…all with a cell phone.

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So it looks like, once again, I get mom-of-the-year award: 1) for asking my five year old WHO CANNOT READ to lead herself through her own devotional time and 2) for not checking on her progress or even giving her instructions through the entire school year. Too bad I got this information in early May.

But I couldn’t exactly point the finger too far or be too upset with Caroline. Number one, Caroline is just so Caroline. She does what all of us wish we could do deep down on the inside and then looks at you like you are crazy if you ask her why she did it.

And number two, I can so relate. Talking on my cell phone when I should be focused and doing things that actually count. Listening and hearing God’s voice instead of thinking about what new jewelry I would like to wear or shoes I would like to buy. Creating and staring at my self-portrait when God’s portrait is the only one that will bring any significant, lasting, or necessary changes in my life.

Like we’ve talked about before, summer is a great time to add a little extra margin to your day-to-day schedule. When you and I actually have time to sit down and breathe for a moment, choose to do things that are actually helpful and restful. Choose to make a plan and execute it for taking time to be in God’s Word. Choose to think through your prayer life (or lack thereof) and be intentional about connecting with God and creating the time and space to do so. Choose to take a day or two and go away to retreat and rest with the Lord, thinking through the past school year, what you would do differently for this next year, and what you would keep the same. But whatever you are doing, however you are choosing to connect with the Lord, take a lesson from Caroline and learn to BE ALL THERE.

Focus on fixing your thoughts. Fight to resist all distractions. Because nothing, nothing in this world will help you or point you towards connection with the Lord or being fully present in the moments you have given Him. Everything pulls us away from the very thing and the only thing that gives us the life and peace and joy that we really need.

A friend of mine told me about a sign she saw in someone’s house. It read, “Be Present, Not Perfect.” That has become a mantra for me, a motto I think about frequently.

Present Not Perfect

No one expects perfection from myself except myself – but what my husband, my children, my parents, my friends, and especially my God desire is for me to be all in, all there, all present, whatever moments we have together.

Instead of working on being perfect people, let’s work on being present people. Present moms. Presents wives. Present daughters. Present friends. Present women to a very present God.

Caroline included.

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