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It sits, unnoticed, forgotten, in a corner of the farmhouse bedroom.  Empty gift boxes, picture frames and other miscellaneous objects perch precariously atop the old desk.  Upon pulling its square wooden knob, one of the desk drawers sticks, stubbornly hiding the contents.

When they bring it to me, this forlorn desk, it looks sadder than I remember.  Large unsightly patches of bare wood stare from beneath the chipping paint.

I am the grateful recipient of a variety of unclaimed pieces of furniture from my grandmother’s farmhouse.  A chair with a broken arm and sagging cushions, two rusty iron twin beds, a sideboard needing a gentle facelift, and now this simple little desk which belonged to my mom as a young girl.  Until now, the desk took up residence in her mother-in-law’s farmhouse years ago.  While some might see these items as broken and worthless, I envision the beauty lying underneath, the usefulness waiting to be resurrected.

Garage door open for fresh air and light, we work side by side, Mom, Dad and I, scraping and sanding layers of aged paint from desk top,  drawers, and a random spindle-backed chair, painted to match the desk once upon a time.  In between the scraping, we take turns slathering generous amounts of Formby’s over each surface, eagerly waiting for paint bubbles to rise, signaling its readiness to be scraped, one more time. Together, we labor to reveal that which is hidden beneath layers.

Some areas strip easily.  Others resist this scouring, this removing of what is no longer beautiful.  And the chair, when applied with the pink gloppy mixture, morphs in color.  From antique white to green to brown to purple…Just how many different layers of color did this chair wear over the years?

As the day progresses, our persistence is rewarded.  We bear witness to the wood’s natural beauty, brought to light with the removal of each coating.   As the layers are stripped away, I notice the unique indentations along the desk’s edges, evidence of deliberate handiwork.  A mark of the craftsman.  And the chair.  Underneath the layers of muddied green and purple,  we discover several types of wood fitted together to make a whole.  Some wood chosen for strength.  Others for malleability.  That’s how furniture was made back then I am told.  Where I do not see perfection, I find character.

It is a process, this refinishing of wood.  In the slathering, the waiting, and scraping, I consider the ways that God works to remove the layers that hide my true self, the spirit that He sees beautiful, all bare and natural.  How many coats of perfectionism have I painted over my soul in an effort to protect myself from the disapproval of others?

I chip away at the layers and keep finding more lies.  “You are not as talented as __________.”    “Just stick to your comfort zone.”  “Play it safe.”  Lately, though, the layers of perfectionism seem to bubble-up from somewhere deep inside me, pushing their way to the surface.  I sense God whispering to my heart, “Scrape away the last of those lies and reveal yourself.  Let my light shine through you.”

I no longer want to wear perfection.  But character, that natural spirit beauty only of God?  That  is the look that I want.  What about you?

I have struggled with perfectionism in one form or another for as long as I can remember.  Just when I think I have conquered this need to be and do everything “perfectly,” I find myself staring perfectionism square in the face, once again.  Now, perfectionism in itself is not all bad.  Certain aspects of this drive have actually served me well.  With perfectionism, comes a great attention to the details;  if you ask me to organize your closet, create a display or write a paper, I can produce a pretty nice product.  The problem comes, though, when perfectionism steals the joy from the process of creating or, in my case right now,  keeps me from creating at all.

While I am making a conscious attempt to try and keep things simple this Christmas, the additional holiday “to-do” lists keep running across my mind,  along with writing ideas which remain in my head as disjointed thoughts instead of making their way to the page.  I could place all the blame for my lack of focus on the Season and the many  distractions that come with it;  however, I know perfectionism all too well, and I can see it needling its way into my blog writing.  What if this post is not as well-written as the last one?  What if people lose interest in my writing?  What if I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said?

After sharing the frustration over my “writer’s block” with a dear friend this morning, she then posed the question, “What if you just sit-down and write?”  With the exception of my own private journaling,  writing spontaneously without carefully crafting and measuring my words, for someone else to read, is a bit scary for my perfection-seeking self.  At the same time, if I start expecting every piece of my writing to be beyond compare, I end-up paralyzing myself with the fear of failure.

This drive towards perfectionism, this fear of failure, is really me seeking approval and it is in this place of fear that I am reminded of my reason for writing.  I am writing because God has given me a gift and He wants me to use it for His glory, not mine.   So, once again, I turn my words over to God in the hopes that even if they are not written perfectly, He will still be able to use them for His purpose.

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.   -1 Timothy 4:10

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

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