I recently read the book ‘Present Over Perfect’ and wanted to practice writing my thoughts from books in order for the messages to sink deeper, a place to reference in the future, and to share my favorite takeaways from the book with you!
To give a quick summary of the book, here is part of the book’s description on Amazon:
“In a culture that values speed, efficiency, image, and busyness, some of us are aching for another way to live: more intentional, more connected. Simpler, slower, richer. Many of us have believed the myth that achievement and success bring us contentment, only to find it’s actually things like connection and meaning, not success and achievement, that provide true peace and genuine happiness. “
Blank Calendar and Full Bank Account
In the book, she asked the question, “if someone gave you a completely blank calendar and a bank account as full as you wanted, what would you do?” and I think it’s a great one to ask yourself.
For me, if I had all the money and time I wanted, I would spend it learning and teaching my children. Teaching them morals and values, about Jesus. About everything I think they should know to become good citizens of this earth and disciples of Christ. When I stopped and answered this question, it was the first step towards me deciding to “retire” my business so I can focus more of my energy on my children. True, I could work during this last 1.5 years we have left in orthodontic residency, but I believe I will find more happiness diving head-first into the hard depths motherhood than trying to balance both. It will still be a balance but this question made me realize that if I had all the time in the world, I wouldn’t be using it to build websites.
She says, “Loving one’s work is a gift. And loving one’s work makes it really easy to neglect other parts of life.” I didn’t want to “miss the actual fabric of the interior of my life and the beautiful children growing up right this second in my own home because I’m working to please people somewhere out there.”
And when things are hard and painful and barbed at home, what a lovely thing it is to be loved at your work, right? What a lovely and dangerous thing. What an easy escape, into people who think you’re great and work that makes you feel valuable. I can master my laptop in a way that I cannot master parenting. I can control my publishing schedule and my deadlines in a way that I cannot control our marriage.
I want to make sure I keep my priorities in check and remember that God and family are first. Always.
Extrinsic versus Intrinsic Motivation
I can definitely relate to the author in many ways. She mentions is that she is the kind of person “who depends very heavily on meeting people’s expectations”. I feel I am very similar to that, and I have been working on not letting other people’s expectations or their opinion of me dictate my actions and my opinion of myself.
She asked herself, “Why do I think managing our possessions is a meaningful way of spending my time? Why do I think clean countertops mean anything at all?” and that one stopped me for a second. Why do we hold so much value in managing and cleaning our possessions? Why does it matter if our kitchen is spotless and our place is perfectly organized? True, a clutter-free home frees the mind of clutter, but I think it’s important to make sure your motivation is not extrinsic and because you don’t want to be judged by others.
Vinegar and Oil
If I put down every highlight I made in the Vinegar and Oil chapter, it would essentially be every sentence. I actually wrote about it here because I loved this concept so much. Definitely read that post because it was a chapter that stood out above the rest to me in terms of her book.
I’m learning, though, that the God who loves me isn’t just looking for apologies and report cards. He wants me to bring the vinegar so that I can taste the oil. He has all the time in the world to sit with me and sift through my fears and feelings and failings. That’s what prayer is. That’s what love is.
Busyness versus Stillness
Oh, the quiet moments alone with God I sacrificed in order to cross a few things off the to-do list I worshiped.
You’re ready to truly know Jesus in a deeper way. Start with being. Start with silence.” She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Be not afraid, my dear one. He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ Be still and know. Be still. Be. It starts with ‘be.’ Just be, dear one.”
…twisted-up versions of a purer thing. Christians want to make a difference. So we do, and we do, and we do, and then we find ourselves exhausted.
How we live matters, and what you choose to own will shape your life, whether you choose to admit it or not. Let’s live lightly, freely, courageously, surrounded only by what brings joy, simplicity, and beauty.
The journey of these years have been toward quiet—toward creating quiet around me, but more than that, toward creating quiet within me, which is much more difficult, and much more profound.
Walking on Water
The author brings up the story of Peter walking on water, failing, and Jesus coming to help him. Unlike the author, I have always seen the tenderness of this story and rescue, but I do love the way she relates it here to parenting:
Rescue. Even the word moves me. And then the question: why did you doubt? Not: what’s wrong with you? Not the frustrated and rhetorical, “Why on earth did you do that?” that a parent asks a child after he knocks something off a counter. But a question, an invitation into conversation, a way of saying, “I’m here and I care, and let’s solve this together.”
I want to be this type of parent and the perfect example of that is Jesus. One of my favorite photos is this one below that depicts this story so well.
Broken and Beautiful
This quote reminds me of what I wrote about in my miscarriage story and the lesson I learned that even when we are broken, we are still beautiful.
to the idea that our lives are not blank slates, but they’re beautiful nonetheless. No. They’re beautiful because of that, because they’ve been created over time, in love and sickness and moments of courage and moments of terror.
Start our Days in God’s Love
Something I wrote in my May Art of Journaling Prompt was an ideal morning routine. This quote reminded me that we need to sit still and say this to ourselves every morning:
Before the day begins—kids, coffee, toast, little socks, little shoes, deadlines and decisions—before all that, I close my eyes, and I picture that red heart, and I remind myself what is true: that God loves me, and that there’s nothing I can do in this new day to earn more love—nothing. And also that there’s nothing I can do in this new day to ruin or break that love—nothing. I can’t imagine anything more life-changing for an earner like me. That love is secure no matter what, no matter what, no matter what. No matter what I do or don’t do, no matter whether I succeed or fail, no matter if I perform well or fall apart.
You Find what you Seek
This quote below struck me because it’s something I have been thinking a lot about during this crazy year we’ve had:
We twist the sacred words to tell our own stories. We do it with Scripture; we do it in conversation. Whatever you’re looking for, you’ll find. If you’re looking for stories to affirm your deep belief in the goodness of humanity, you’ll find them. If you’re only seeking stories that say the world is nothing but evil, you’ll find them. And if every story you hear, every song you sing, every tale you tell is really a story about shame and about not being good enough, you’ll find it.
You can find the good and bad in anything. The world, the politics, the people around you. I especially try to remember this in my marriage. I can find the worst and the best qualities in my spouse, literally everyone can. So if I focus on the weeds instead of watering the flowers, as the saying goes, I will only see the negative. This General Conference talk about marriage is a great one to read more about this concept! One of my favorites.
A few of my favorite quotes:
This journey has been about love, about worth, about God, about what it means to know him and be loved by him in a way that grounds and reorders everything.
You were made by hand with great love by the God of the universe, and he planted deep inside of you a set of loves and dreams and idiosyncrasies, and you can ignore them as long as you want, but they will at some point start yelling. Worse than that, if you ignore them long enough, they will go silent, and that’s the real tragedy.
Christians, or some anyway, are raised to ignore their own bodies, their own pain, their own screaming souls, on behalf of the other, the kingdom, the church. It has been tremendously helpful to think of myself as a part of the kingdom, a part of the church. I am not building the kingdom if that work is destroying this member of that kingdom.
These days I want to love deeply and well, and that’s really different from pleasing. Love is often quieter, and it’s never connected to that anxious proving and tap-dancing that so many of us have learned to keep people happy.
Let’s “believe in the power of silliness and memory-making and laughter”.
It is only when you understand God’s truly unconditional love that you begin to understand the worth of your own soul—not because of anything you’ve done, but because every soul is worthy, every one of us is worthy of love, having been created by and in the image of the God of love. It was there all along, that thing I’ve been aching for, that deep sense of worthiness and love. It was there all along, for all of us.