Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday Afternoon Tea

If you expect perfection or nothing,
you will always end up with nothing.
Edith Schaeffer

Those who know me well, know this is my favorite quote. Not so much because I'm a perfectionist. While I do have certain leanings towards desiring excellence, having lived with two real perfectionists... I know those traits are not so strong in my own personality.

I must admit to teasing Stephanie about her perfectionism (what a terrible mother). Especially as it concerned her violin "career". In all honesty, her "less than great" violin skills were mostly from having moved to a part of the country where there was no violin teacher available to continue her lessons (yes, such places exist). But the fun in teasing her came purely from her frustrations as a perfectionist who was used to excelling rather than just being "good enough" :)

No, my frustrations are not so much in the doing perfectly as in the being... or rather, if life runs contrary to what I think it coulda', shoulda', or woulda' been... why go down that path at all? Which brings me in a full circle again to last week's Sunday Afternoon Tea... do we get annoyed with God when things don't go our way so much that we just stop?

Do we stop studying, or reading, or writing, or praying, or fixing up the house, or having people over to show hospitality, or being a friend, or... anything less than the full and complete scenario we desire?

I think of this often as each Holiday season arrives. Christmas was a huge holiday in our home. I loved the sights and the sounds and the scents and everything having to do with the Season. As much as I enjoyed Thanksgiving, I'd find myself putting away the autumnal decorations the day after, starting the Seasonal music, and bringing out the boxes labeled "Christmas"... all of them.

I loved Christmas Eve services, Christmas parties, and concerts, and having friends over, and the family being all together. I would Christmas "shop" all year round (especially for the small stocking stuffers). There were the traditions to be followed and new ones established.

The changes in our life did not come all at once. Most were gradual until that Christmas season came when I realized life was entirely different than it once was. Not that it was ever perfect, far from it... but it was good. For awhile, even the good became hard to find.

What I came to learn after those years was the acceptance of life as it is as opposed to what I'd like it to be and that life can be good even if it is... limited. Once again I decorated the house, even if it was just for the three of us. The Christmas menus were as festive as possible, a limited amount of baking was accomplished, and Christmas cards were sent to the elderly aunts (long gone were the informative letters of family life that year).

The lessons learned through the years at Christmas have been carried through to other seasons. The front porch is decorated and a seasonal centerpiece sits on the dining table... even if only seen by the three of us (and two of them men). Silver is polished and china carefully washed to add elegance to the rooms. I have learned to light a scented candle and brew a small pot of tea, served in a real china cup... even if just for myself as I read in the evening.

If I wait for the perfect, as Edith indicates in her quote... I will never have anything. However, if I do what I can with what I have... now... in this time and in this place... trusting God in all things... the good will return even if the best is always out of reach. As I tell my perfectionist family, good can be, well... good. :)

How did I come to accept good? By getting to know the One who is the Greatest of All. As I look into the Word, I know this world is not all there is and that true perfection will never be found in our daily life. If we stomp our feet and refuse to play until we get things our way... we miss out on all that is available outside of perfection.


Pear tree cottage! said...

Purrrfect afternoon tea dear blog friend I will be right over!! (smiles) I wish!! Imagine all the things we could talk about over tea, me heading towards a very hot summer and you enjoying your seasons, WHILE WE ENJOY! tea and scones!! yes!! I wish.


Raquel said...

Brenda, this is a very thought-provoking post. I think sometimes I am still in the process of learning that very same, very hard lesson. But I AM learning it! Example - last night I had promised DS and Honey some homemade pizza. I had to work, which meant i did not get home until 5 PM. So, to simplify, I made a no-yeast pizza dough. Not my idea of perfection, but it filled the empty tummies an hour quicker than my regular dough would have and enabled us to relax. Lesson learned! Much love - Raquel XO

matty said...


Wise words in these days of "gotta wanta needa havea" world! It reminds me of Emerson's concept of immance: "I become a transparent eyeball." In other words, stop now and be in the moment. Let everything else fall away and see the beauty of NOW. Thanks for the reminder!



Anonymous said...

This post really hit home with me this morning, Brenda. I am going to have to print it out and keep it close by to reread when my perspective gets skewed as it so often does. I so appreciate your transparency. You are such a wonderful encouragement to so many. Thank you!!

scrappy quilter said...

So much wisdom in this post. Thank you for sharing your heart once again. I really needed to read this today. Hugs..

Amy Jo said...

oh, how I needed to read this!!! *THANK YOU*

Anonymous said...

Lovely post. It reminds me of a Theodore Roosevelt quote: "Do the best you can where you are with what you've got."


Carol said...

Brenda, I learn alot from you. Thank you for explaining the tendency to stop when things are not perfect and encouraging us to keep moving toward the good. I really appreciate you. (MD)

Tracey McBride ~ Frugal Luxuries said...


Beautifully said, as always.

I love the Edith Schaeffer quote.

Thank you for this inspiring post.

Tracey xox

P.S. Let me just add that you deserve the scented candle, the pot of nice tea and the china cup each evening as you read.

Anonymous said...


A most PERFECT post for me to read right now - thank you! In my heart, I'm sitting with you "in spirit," having just arrived and bearing some Yorkshire Gold for afternoon tea.


Kay said...

I think it's a sign of maturity and wisdom when we learn this lesson. Most of our family lives far away. I could moan and sulk that our Christmas is not what I imagined it would be after the grandbabies came. OR I can embrace the joy that one of our children is still close and comes home for Thanksgiving and Christmas and likes to be here with the old folks.
The men may not act like they care about the fussiness of decorating & special foods and the traditions, but if I say I'm leaving something out of this year's celebration, they demand we have it.

Women make the holidays and the men feel loved through it.

Suze said...

Having just got back from a vacation with "perfect" family, I've been beating myself up ever since that I don't measure up. Even if true, it is a waste of time and energy. I just need a little mental tweak to get back into the proper way of thinking - and your blog post has come at just the right time. Thank you so much for the ministry you have. God uses you every day to bless others. Just want you to know how valuable you are - I don't know what I would do without your daily blog posts......

Anonymous said...

Making the most of what we have left is good...and I find that my FATHER above has helped me SOOOOOO much in making many things a "distant grief" now. Yes, I know the lack is there...but it is ok. There are other still wonderful things to enjoy about life. And this life is short...the next one is forever and things THERE will make all we have to go through here worth it, surely.

Good words, Brenda, and others here!

Anonymous said...

This is a wonderful post, Brenda. I have been living life "oh hold" for the last three years, because I didn't get what I wanted, actually, because I got way more than I wanted:) and I'm just beginning to let go of what was and see what the next chapter hard, but that is the way it is in this life. Thank you.

Connie said...

Your post is so true. As I get older I think it is easier to see perfection will never be attained here on earth. But our day is coming................

Marie said...

You always have a post that makes you think. Our Christmas last year was down to the two of us instead of eight. We determined to make it the best day we could together and be thankful. We did very little decorating--not the usual three trees. We thought about the real meaning of Christmas which so many have gotten away from.