Perfectionism vs. Excellence

Y'all are the sweetest blog friends EVER! I loved reading all of your comments about Buddy. In fact, you've downright SPOILED me with your comments lately! I'm feeling very loved. THANK YOU!

My mind is swirling with thoughts on perfectionism vs. excellence as I enter into my busy season. One is a gift; the other, a curse. I'd love to flesh that out in writing, but with some beauty mixed in. And since it's card season, I'll just go ahead and sprinkle in some of my designs!

When I was new to town a few months ago, a sweet local blogger reached out and invited me to lunch. We sat for hours and covered a lot of ground, but what I remember most was her response to my struggle with perfectionism. {I'm pretty honest and open about it because I think speaking your struggle out loud is half the battle!}

I told her about the humorous ways God was exposing and loosening my grip on perfection....from the fleas to the fact that every single new thing I ordered for the house arrived broken, scratched, dented and imperfect. {No joke!} I told her that I longed to be free of perfectionism, but was scared of letting go because it serves me so well in my work. {A meticulous eye for detail + obsessive photo editing + endless tweaking = great cards, right? Isn't that why people pay me?}. Her response was something like this:
There's nothing wrong with your spirit of excellence. That's a gift from God. But the Enemy takes your spirit of excellence and twists it into perfectionism. 
Isn't that TRUE and GOOD? It means I don't have to toss the spirit of excellence out with perfectionism and start making sloppy cards. God has given me a detailed, meticulous eye for a reason. The key is to use it well {for things are worthy of excellence...things that glorify God, not myself} and to know when and where to draw the line.

The hard part for me is knowing where to draw the line. Because as a {recovering} perfectionist, the hardest thing in the world for me to do is lower the high expectations I have of myself. {You perfectionists know exactly what I mean, don't you!}

When I design a card, I have a hard time knowing when enough is enough. I sometimes work longer on a single design than it would take most of you to run to Texas and back! I enhance an image in Photoshop as if it were a piece of fine art. I tweak font colors ever so slightly, forgetting that most people can't even see such subtleties. I try countless font combinations...as if there's only one magic combo. And don't even get me started on spacing! Oh, the difference one click of the mouse makes! {Wink!}

In the nine years I've been designing Christmas cards, I've struggled with perfectionism and have called it "excellence." I know it started it out as a pursuit of excellence, but perfectionism whispers the lie that you need to do more. It's never satisfied.

So I'd start the tweaking process on an already well-tweaked design. Not because anyone else asked me to, and not because it needed tweaking, but because my perfectionistic desires could never be satisfied. {And there, my friends, is the trap of perfectionism.}

There's a fine line between the spirit of excellence and the spirit of perfectionism. They often mimic each other, but with very different consequences. One way to distinguish between the two is to take an honest look at your heart and your life.

What are the motives of your heart? {It's so often the approval of others for me...trying to get from many what I only need from One.} What is being sacrificed? Perfectionism is a demanding, never-satisfied boss, so something is always being sacrificed. {For me, it was my health, family and friendships...the most important things.}

When I surveyed my heart and life this week, I knew I had to send an honest email to my clients. It was risky. Here I was telling them after they had reserved a spot that I wasn't able to provide multiple rounds of proofs and designs from scratch as I had in years past. I was going to stick to the designs on my website and trust that the hours of creativity I had poured into each of them was excellent enough. I didn't know what the response would be. Maybe a massive fall out? I was prepared for that.

But you know what happened? Only three people withdrew their orders. All for very good reasons. I wasn't hurt a bit. Actually, I feel more FREE than I ever have...free to design beautiful cards, but with boundaries that will help me keep things in perspective.

Back to the motives of my heart. Something dawned on me while writing to my clients this week: when I lived in Houston, I was desperate for an escape from the crazy, busy vibe of the city...especially during the holiday season. Hiding out in my studio for 12 hours a day felt cozy and safe. My busy season gave me the perfect excuse to isolate and withdraw. It was my self-constructed coping mechanism.

But now that we live in the country, I don't feel a need to isolate and withdraw. Our life here is intentionally slow, so we don't need a retreat or an escape. If anything, I desire to reach out...to go to a Bible study where I don't know a soul, to have lunch with someone who might be a kindred spirit, to invite a family to dinner, to engage more fully in life. I want to be available.

Life is precious. We all know that, but how easily we forget. Funny, but I just might have to thank Buddy for the reminder. He's in no hurry for me to get to work and doesn't give a flip about how perfectly I design each card.

I head out to the barn each morning with intention of loving on him, walking the property with him, feeding him and saying goodbye so that I can get to work on cards. But one look from his puppy dog eyes, and I can't help but linger. Thanks to Buddy, I'm slowing way down. And I like it!

I don't know what your particular struggles are, but if perfectionism is one of them, join the club. It's not all bad. We can embrace our spirit of excellence and use it for good things! But first, let's get honest with ourselves. It's risky at first, but here's the deal: people see your perfectionism even if you don't. So don't worry about making them think less of you. The truth is, they will likely love you all the more for being honest about your struggles. And remember: grace abounds!

Happy Friday, sweet friends! 
P.S. If perfectionism is the furthest thing from your mind as you assess your heart, you might enjoy what another local blog friend of mine has to say here. I'd never peg her for a perfectionist, but I loved her take on it.

P.P.S. Tonight I'm going to my 15th reunion at Vanderbilt. I never would've imagined that I'd actually live here 15 years after graduation. Houston was going to be my forever hometown, remember? Dreaming big will make crazy things happen! Can't wait to hear the stories of others' lives. I'm sure most of them are filled with the unexpected.


Our New Buddy

I'm in love...

...with our new farm dog, Buddy.

He's a seven-month old Anatolian Shepherd
who couldn't be any sweeter if he tried.

He's a gentle giant.
{Hard to believe he'll double in size!}

He's calm, laid back...and looks right at home in our barn!

I've always believed that people are happiest
when they're doing what God created them to do.

I think the same is true for dogs.

Anatolian Shepherds have a 6,000-year history as livestock guardians.
We're hoping to give Buddy a chance to use his natural instincts real soon.
{Egg laying hens have always been part of our country dream.}

I wasn't sure how I'd feel about a dog in the family, 
but it only took Buddy one second to steal my heart!

All of a sudden, I'm spending hours in the barn just to be with him!

A little back story: My oldest daughter has been begging for a dog since she was old enough to say the word. I used every excuse in the book...the primary one being we didn't have much of a yard in the city, and I didn't want to walk around town with a plastic bag picking up dog poop. She swore she wouldn't mind doing it, but hello?!?! She's in school all day. All you homemamas know who takes care of the dog! I'll be honest, I didn't want that job.

But when we started dreaming about Franklin and a small farm, my excuses no longer held water. I knew a dog was in our future whether I wanted one or not.

My plan was to get settled, make repairs, finish unpacking, wait until card season was over, wait for warmer springtime weather, get some chickens, then start talking about a dog. But I should know by now, His ways are not my ways; they are better than my ways! {Isaiah 55:8-9}

While talking with the breeder about buying a puppy from a future litter, she said she had the perfect fit for our family right now. {She was planning to keep him until we came along.} We were blown away by his good looks in the photos and liked her description of his personality, but I still wasn't convinced.

Just out of curiosity, I asked his name. When she said, "I call him Buddy," something in my spirit said, "Yes! I need a buddy!" So while I was away at a four-day retreat last weekend, my husband and girls drove several hours to pick up our first-ever dog. And the breeder was absolutely right:

Buddy is PERFECT for our family!

I know Buddy is just a dog, but he feels more like a Godsend.
I'm off to the barn to hang out with him!

Happy Monday!
P.S. The cable is a temporary training tool.
Don't worry, he won't need it soon!

P.P.S. A sweet friend in Houston just shared this with me.
Anatolians and cheetahs together at the Houston Zoo! 


Choosing Beauty

My heart has been on quite a journey over the last two weeks. Thanks to your incredible words of encouragement {I've never felt so loved by words in my life!} along with much-needed refreshment at Captivating {a retreat in Colorado}, my heart has moved from brokenness and hiding...to freedom, forgiveness and a renewed passion to share beauty, words and life.

And yet, every time I sit down at my computer and attempt to share my renewed passion, my heart freezes up. It's as if I'm choking on the words...paralyzed by fear. How quickly the thief comes to steal and destroy {John 10:10}.

To get out from under the fear, I've asked a few people to pray for me. And I've come out to the barn on a glorious day, hoping that the beauty I see around me will stir my heart, connecting it back to God as beauty always does.

The glorious sky above our farm.

I've decided to write by faith today...faith that words and beauty are part of my calling and purpose; faith that life and goodness will come out of what I share here; faith that if God has words He wants me to share with you, He'll let them flow.

I've been thinking a lot about fear...what causes it, why it's so suffocating, and what to do about it.

So many things can cause fear in our hearts, but as it relates to this blog, my greatest fear is being misunderstood. {This happens when I make too much of what others think and too little of what God says is true about me...wanting people to know me deeply and forgetting that God does.} I wish I could write only for the Lord, trusting that He knows my heart and is honored by what I write here.

There's nothing like the disapproval of others to break your heart wide open and expose what's inside. Whether it comes through an email from someone you don't know or an off-the-cuff comment from someone you do know, my natural instinct when I have not pleased someone is to either try harder, which I've learned doesn't work, or to run and hide. {Isn't that what Adam and Eve did with their fig leaves in the Garden of Eden?} Hiding is an age-old response to shame. 

Two weeks ago, I was ready to strap on my fig leaves and run for the hills. I was ashamed of my love of beauty, fearful of writing heartfelt words and frustrated by the misunderstandings that blogging has brought my way. And it wasn't just the hurtful email, though that about snapped my heart in two.

A new friend in Franklin, who feels like a kindred spirit already, said this recently: "Had I seen your blog before we met, we might not be friends." Why? Because it's too perfect. Did she read my words? No. She just scanned the photos and made a judgement. At least she was honest.

[I'm thinking: Do I need to photograph the dirt that gets tracked through my house on a daily basis to prove I'm not perfect? Photograph mile-high piles of laundry I dread tackling? Show you the boxes I have no desire to unpack? Sorry friends, but that doesn't make my heart come alive. If the Lord urges me, I'll show it, but it's beauty that makes my soul sing.]

In a refreshing moment of authenticity, my new friend confessed her discomfort was more her issue than mine. That was a relief, but I've also had a long-time friend confess that the images I've shared of my home have led to envy and insecurity about her own home. Ugh. My spirit groans. That's the last thing I want my blog to trigger. What happened to beauty that brings LIFE? {Again, how quickly the thief comes to steal and destroy.}

Using my iPhone to capture beauty in Colorado over the weekend:

When I was at the retreat in Colorado, surrounded by flaming Aspens, snow-capped mountains and low-hanging clouds pierced by rays of sunshine, the Lord spoke loud and clear to my heart. He reminded me that beauty is His love language here on earth. His creation pours forth speech {Psalm 19:1-4}!

I was reminded of my first encounter with the living God: a stunning view from a mountain top overlooking peaceful valleys below. It took my breath away and quickened my heart. I was only 12 years old, but I knew in that moment that there someone who made all of this and wanted me to enjoy it! To this day, my heart still pitter-patters whenever I see beauty. I look for beauty everywhere and strain to capture and recreate it...just to feel closer to the heart of God.

Beauty is an extravagant, ongoing gift. It woos our hearts and unveils glimpses of glory in everyday life. It's almost as if beauty makes what is mysterious and invisible {God's glory}, visible and tangible. Without beauty, this world would be lifeless. But God chooses to lavish beauty upon us every single day so that we might enjoy life to the FULLEST!

No wonder the Enemy loves to twist and pervert beauty...to use it as a weapon that leaves us feeling ashamed, insecure, fearful, envious and inadequate. The ultimate goal of the Enemy is to steal the life God has for us {back to John 10:10}, so if beauty awakens our hearts to LIFE, it makes sense that the Enemy would twist it. Dostoevsky was onto something when he wrote these words in The Brothers Karamazov:

There's a great mystery to beauty. It awakens something in our souls that no man can adequately capture or describe. It has the potential to arouse both blessing and curse, all depending on who's voice we listen to as we take in the beauty before us.

We were MADE for beauty. Can't you feel it? To deny my love of beauty, to resist capturing, imitating and sharing it, is to resist the life that it brings. And I've decided I want LIFE. So I choose beauty! 

Even if you don't read a single word I write, I love that beauty draws you in. Feel free to skip the words and just enjoy the photographs. Your love of beauty means your heart is ALIVE! Whether you find beauty in a sunset, fall leaves, a newborn baby, your best friend, a song or a thoughtfully designed home doesn't matter. It's that you keep your eyes and heart wide open that matters!

Beauty I captured down the road: 

Everything is in focus.

The front of the field is in focus.

One reed is in focus.
{Same image as above, but with a significant shift in perspective.}
I love this shot. Just what my heart needed today!

Sweet friends, I've done a lot of talking here today. It feels good to let the words out, but one thing I learned from all of your emails and comments following my last post is that I love reading the words of your heart. I love knowing who's on the other side of this computer screen. So when you feel inspired, do the risky thing and leave a word. Lord knows I've left more than my fair share here! Do you need something to say? I'd love to know what kind of beauty makes your heart come alive!

Wishing you blessings and beauty,

P.S. Once again, the process of writing has worked the kinks out of my heart. I always pray that the words I share here will bring blessing, but even I'm the only one who is blessed here today, it was worth taking the leap of faith to share my heart again.


Not Sure Where To Go From Here

Sweet blog friends, I would love to wish you a happy Friday and share a pretty picture with you, but my heart is heavy and broken today.

Just as I was feeling peace about moving forward with blogging, I have been accused of hurtful things by someone who has read my struggles shared here on the blog and misinterpreted them.

I know the truth about who I am as a child of God. I know that I am not mean-spirited, vindictive and cruel, but it still hurts to read or hear those things. {The enemy knows right where it hurts, doesn't he? But so does God. And He will have victory in my heart!}

Hurtful accusations combined with a recent mailbox smashing leave me feeling vulnerable. Blogging just doesn't feel safe right now. So as much as I feel blessed by those of you who have been kind, encouraging and faithful, I may need to go into blog hiding for a bit. Pray for me if you think of it. I don't want to stay in hiding forever, but for now, it feels needed.

My prayer for you as I am away: LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE! {I met several of you through that post!} You don't need a blog to do that. Just let it shine in everyday life. You were MADE for that!


P.S. Thank you for your swift, encouraging response to this post. After reading a few of your comments and emails, I feel like I should clarify that this isn't a result of some random blog hater. I've been blessed not to have any of those. This is closer to home. My desire is not to malign that person; I just felt the need to speak up about why I'm taking a little break or why I might not be as vulnerable. I've always tried to be honest about my heart here...wanting to bring God glory through it. Praying He'll use all of this for good!


Three Years Later

Well, friends, it's been three years since I started this little blog, and despite my occasional moodiness and last year's long break, I'm still here! And unbelievably, so are you! I've never celebrated a blog anniversary with any fanfare, but I do love to reflect, so after three years of blogging, here's what I've got to say about it:
  • I love to INSPIRE and BE INSPIRED. It's why I wrote my first post and why I'm writing this one. Just when I think I'm done with blogging, inspiration strikes, and I can't help but share! It comes from the most unexpected places at the most unexpected times {remember the lampshade story?}, which is why I never have a plan when it comes to blogging. I just follow my heart.
  • I LOVE BEAUTY. Whether it's found in nature, a person, interior design, a card design or the real mess of life, beauty gives me glimpses of glory in everyday life. It keeps me straining heavenward...longing for the day when I'll see beauty more fully than I can imagine. Ultimately, beauty points my heart back to God. I think that's why I love capturing it and recreating it. Beauty makes my heart sing!

  • I LOVE PHOTOGRAPHY. I feel present and peaceful with a camera in my hands. My eyes are drawn to beauty like magnets, and I love that a camera gives me a way to capture it. I especially love to capture the little things in life...details that otherwise might go unnoticed. {My favorite lens is the 50mm f/1.8. Inexpensive, simple and old school.} I think my love of photography is a huge reason I keep coming back to the blog. What else would I do with all this beauty I've captured? Maybe I'll make a photo book someday! 

  • I LOVE TO WRITE. From the journals I've kept since 3rd grade, to the English papers I wrote at Vanderbilt, to the business writing I cranked out at Enron, words have always been like the air I breathe. I've learned to write even when I don't feel like writing, because I know how therapeutic it is in the end. If I'm not writing, I'm not fully alive. As long as the Lord gives me something to say, I'll keep writing somewhere. {I've always thought there might be a book in me, but I have no clue what it is! Maybe something with photos?}

  • I LOVE PEOPLE. I'm an introvert at heart {meaning I need lots of alone time}, but I'm very aware that God created me for relationship. People are the only things on earth that last for eternity. They are worth my time. When I started blogging, the only people I was thinking about were my clients. I had no clue friendship with strangers would develop! Nor did I ever imagine that God would use ME to inspire you, and YOU to inspire me! 
{From Theirs Is The Kingdom by Robert D. Lupton}

{I'd love to know you. Feel free to introduce yourself here.}

So there you have it, friends. As it turns out, I think this post was more for me than for you...especially during this season of wanting to walk away from the blog. Making this list helps me see why on earth I'm sitting here at a computer when I could be doing so many other things! If the Lord shows me another way to use my love of inspiration, beauty, photography, writing and people, I'm there. But for now, this little blog feels like a good place to use the gifts I've been given. 

Blessings to you, sweet friends!
P.S. I've been pondering the idea of a new blog or at least a new blog name. LLH Designs felt natural when I started because this was meant to be an extension of my business. But as it turns out, I rarely blog about my business and am not much of a design blogger. Maybe my tagline is enough: glimpses of glory in everyday life. Any thoughts or opinions? Does the name even matter? Maybe I'm over-thinking it...or just looking for a change. {Shocking for a girl who doesn't like change! Look what chasing a dream has done to me!}
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...