January’s Happy Habit and Dealing with Perfectionism

I’ve never thought of myself as a perfectionist. After all, I seem to be physically incapable of following precise instructions or recipes and I am quite haphazard in my housekeeping. How could I be a perfectionist if I can’t stand ironing or if I don’t even fold the laundry?

Perhaps, however, the reason I don’t iron or fold the laundry is that I can’t do it perfectly and it doesn’t stay folded or crease-free, so I’m unwilling to do it at all.

My “Happy Home” habit for January has been to read my Bible and pray before breakfast. Of my three habits, it’s (not surprisingly, unfortunately) the one I’m flunking.

First, I was trying to be sneaky and strategic with myself. Much more is wrapped up here than simply aligning myself in the mornings. “Before breakfast,” I added, telling myself this meant it was priority, it was first thing, as it should be. But, here I am not only in newborn time but also in “stagnant air advisory” mid January where there is no sun or even any signs of the sky all day. Getting up before the kids just rarely happens. And, if I sleep in later than the kids, then already I have to sort out breakfast emergencies or arguments or disasters, change multiple diapers, check my email (right? I have to!), and pester and nag the older two to get a move on with their morning things already. I often don’t get my breakfast until after I’ve gone around putting out fires, nursing the baby, and generally being harried for an hour or even two. In the midst of that I’m supposed to shut myself away for even 15 minutes of quiet and peace? Not likely.

But in the midst of that harried dashing, I quite easily get irritated, distracted, and demoralized by that subjective, nagging sense of being “behind.”

When we find ourselves frantic and frustrated, harried and harassed and “hassled,” it’s a sign that we are running on our own schedule, not God’s. — Elisabeth Elliot in Discipline: The Glad Surrender

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Last week my friend mentioned that she’s been trying to remember to have her phone with her while nursing so she can read her Bible while she nurses in the morning. It struck me that I had not even thought of that possibility. My first reaction was wondering if that was “good enough” to “count”? Count? What’s the point here? Perfect execution or actually reading my Bible at all?

I have this ideal in mind of a morning time in the word, a composite picture of all the times where I felt I was doing it “right,” and I want those times reinstituted, whole and complete, immediately. Although I agree with Elisabeth Elliot’s statement that “Offering to God the first hour of the day is a token consecration of all our time,” that is still only a good idea and not a biblical mandate. In the spirit of the year’s resolve to be content with baby steps and small successes instead of a perfect implementation of everything all at once and complete, I decided to give myself more options than “first thing” prayer time:

  • While nursing, read a chapter on my iPod and breath and pray.
  • If there is a quiet time, take a few minutes to read my Bible and pray at my desk with the happy light on.
  • While folding laundry or washing dishes, listen to the Bible on audio on my iPod.
  • Be more mindful during Circle Time and Bible, not absentmindedly keeping things going, but paying attention to the Scripture we’re reciting.

Rather than thinking, even unconsciously, that I had to do it this one right way or not at all, I need to change my attitude and focus to that of being happy to turn to the Word in the moments given to me. Perhaps then I could spent that time refreshing myself rather than berating myself for how awful the house is – and, my extension, how awful I am. I need to read Truth instead of whispering discouragement to myself.

God’s Word is the foundation of a truly, deeply happy home, carried along by God rather than by my own feelings.

Do you have ways to sneak in Bible reading when reserving early morning time is not feasible?

5 Responses

  1. Sarah
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    You are so real, Mystie. It’s why I love reading your posts and feel encouraged to just. keep. going.

    It’s not exactly Bible reading, but it’s close enough to qualify as sneaking in God’s Word. I decided to follow Ann Voskamp’s Romans Project this year, memorizing Romans 1, 8, and 12. I made a booklet based on hers, using a 3″ by 5″ sized moleskin-type notebook, two verses on each page. This booklet comes into the bathroom with me every morning so that while I blow-dry my hair, I can review and memorize verses.

    She writes of tying memorization to daily duties, “knotting reciting to routines.” Having done this action for most of January now, I missed my booklet right away yesterday when I pulled out my hairdryer and didn’t have my verses.

    One of the first things my husband said about my Kindle when I received it two years ago: “Too bad you didn’t have that while you were nursing babies.” Oh, he was so right! For reasons I won’t explain here, nursing was a two handed job for me, so holding a book was impossible. But a Kindle would have made reading the Bible possible, day or night, with its handy lighted cover.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      I haven’t gone over to read Ann lately. That type of memory sounds like a good thing to do!

  2. Betty
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    I enjoy using the audio Bible readings on YouVersion.com. I have listened in the car, while ironing, cooking, etc……..I have been through seasons of rising before the kids and staying up late to have my study time in the Word.

  3. Willa
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    I can tell you are a perfectionist from the way you write and plan, Mystie! :-)

    I think Elisabeth Elliot’s quote is good, but for people with babies a solid hour is probably more than you can count on EVER. My babies and toddlers always woke up right after I did no matter when that was.
    Spiritual writers of past centuries
    have recommended a simple consecration of each day as soon as you wake up. Another recommendation which I like is to plan your morning’s meditation before you go to sleep the night before. That way you have sort of a continuity through the night and night is usually more peaceful than morning.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Thanks, Willa! I did a “simple consecration” this morning before leaving my room, then read a couple NT chapters on my iPod while nursing the baby a couple hours later.

      Man. I don’t want to own being a perfectionist, but perhaps that’s actually at the bottom of a lot of my issues. :) As always, you’ve got me thinking.