Sunday, September 30, 2018

Sunday Afternoon Tea - The Myth of All or Nothing

This past week found my kitchen counter a mess with potting soil needing swept off and a couple teeny tiny bugs brushed into the sink to meet their maker after jumping off the mother ship.  It was re-potting time at my house as the plants on the porch made their way inside before a very cold night was expected.

I don't decorate my porch nearly as much as I once did but I like the idea of hanging flower baskets on the two shepherd's rods in the front and some greenery to view as one walks onto the porch. The flowers are left outside until the frost takes them but I bring the plants inside to give them a chance of further life.  Some of them do well and others do not... but I always give it a try.

The cooler weather was also inspiration for bringing the Rubbermaid container in from the garage to add a few Autumnal objects here and there.  Once again, just tucking them in and around the objects that were already displayed.  Not the major seasonal decorating I once accomplished.

But that is okay... even though it took me awhile to accept that Truth.

I am not a perfectionist (we have enough of those in the family) but I do have a personality flaw that I've dealt with since childhood.  Much like Dorcas Lane in Larkrise to Candleford, it is my "one weakness"... always said with a bit of a wink.  I have long been an all or nothing person.

I know, one of my favorite quotes is Edith Schaeffer's "If you expect perfection or nothing, you will always end up with nothing".  I guess I always associated it with being a perfectionist but in reality it is much more about needing all or nothing.  My one weakness...

God has a way of allowing circumstances throughout life that chisel away at the marble of our weaknesses.  The Master Artist used a few chisels on me but developing a chronic illness was the big one, that which has probably been used most often in chipping away the "all or nothing" part of my character.

I think I first noticed it the most when we were homeschooling.  I would begin each school year with big plans and a stack of new books and my planner filled out with great expectation.  Then I would wake up feeling cruddy and hardly able to make breakfast, much less "do school" for an entire day.

There were times I thought of giving up but instead God provided wisdom.  I would have preferred healing and an injection of fresh energy but He saw it differently.  I would learn to do what I could given what I had to work with.  So we homeschooled quite imperfectly.

When I felt well enough, we did a whole lot more and when I felt intense weakness... we read more or Christopher spent more time on the computer or we watched numerous shows on The History Channel or The Discovery Channel.  We kept learning but in a different way than originally planned.

We were able to get through a lot more book learning than I had anticipated but in a different way from what had been written in my planner.  But it all worked out for good. So much better than if my ADHD son had continued failing in the public schools.  It turned out that he was pretty darn smart, unlike what his first grade teacher said about him.

He not only graduated from homeschooling but with a Computer Science degree from a major university.  Today he sits as a member of the Alumni Board for his school at the university.  Homeschooling done less than perfectly had excellent results.

As an aside... what about my daughter?  Well, she was born twelve years before him and graduated a year early from an academic high school.  She was brilliant and the poster child of the kind of student who excels in the classroom.  All I did was provide good books along the way.  She will tell you today that after five children, she is not brilliant.  ;)

I have had to learn this lesson in every area of life.  I can no longer cook numerous gourmet meals as I loved to do when I was younger but I can cook very good meals a few times a week.  I once thought of getting rid of my top of the line cookware and then realized that was the "all or nothing" part of me reasoning falsely that I deserve the good stuff only if I'm at the top of my game.

I can no longer spend a day in the kitchen baking as I once did but I keep everything I need handy so when I wake up feeling better than usual, I have what the recipe requires to whip up a favorite baked goody.  It is far better to bake when I can than get rid of my collection of baking pans and give up entirely.

I used to decorate everything that didn't move for Christmas.  Our two kitties that lived well into their elderly years learned to keep their distance the day after Thanksgiving or they would have ended up with red ribbons and perhaps a bell around their neck.  Neither would have been amused.

My husband noticed a couple years ago that it is far easier to put away the Rubbermaid style Christmas boxes on shelves than it had been.  That is because I have sent to charity a lot of stuff, those that I knew neither of the kids would want.  The things that I have kept are those items that I love and I continue to add an item or two each year to incorporate a different style of decorating I now prefer.

I wish I could say that change was easy but it was another hard lesson He taught me about "all or nothing".  I felt His wisdom, too, that just because I kept those items I love does not mean I have to display everything each Christmas.  There are some decorations that must be displayed or it isn't Christmas in our home but there are items that may or may not come out each Christmas.

I had come to realize that I dreaded decorating for Christmas because it took so much energy to set it all up and to take it all down.  The "all or nothing" cast a shadow over something I love to do... make the home festive for the Holidays.  So when I realized just because I owned something, didn't mean I had to display it each year... I began to relax and not feel guilty that part of my collections stayed in their storage boxes.

That was okay.  There were no Christmas police looking over my shoulder telling me to either get rid of it or use it.  That was a lie of the enemy and one of his worst lies is... "it is all or nothing".  I had sent to charity a lot which I liked but that I could easily live without... what is left is what I love, even if I do not use the item/s each year.

So the porch doesn't look quite as pretty as it once did in the warmer months but it looks much better than if I did nothing.  I don't decorate the porch at Christmas like I once did but there are two or three items and a wreath on the front door.  When you walk in my house at Christmas, it still provides the atmosphere I desire but in a much simpler manner.

The baking I give as gifts are simpler to make and the cards I create or not very elaborate.  I send cards to far fewer people than I once did and there have been years that none were sent at all. I do what I can, when I can, and I try not to compare myself to another person who may have good health.  God deals with each of us differently.

I have to stay at home a lot more than I would have liked but that is okay, God has provided a home that I love.  I can't read small print these days and I can no longer hike like I once did and my children do not live as close as I would like... but that is fine.

The enemy of our souls would say in accepting the limitations that come with illness, financial setbacks, space and time, etc., we are giving in and not fighting the good fight of faith.  That is not true.  It is as much a myth... and I would say a lie from the father of lies... as saying everything we do has to be all or nothing.

I expect God will continue to teach us Truth until that day we go to live with Him.  But that is good... He must love us a lot to keep making us into His work of Beauty.  In the meantime, I am enjoying the few Autumnal items I have displayed and I plan to purchase one or two pretty pots of Mums this week.

I will make another two loaves of pumpkin bread and if I feel well enough, perhaps our favorite pumpkin cookie recipe.  If not... just the pumpkin bread with a hot cup of coffee for breakfast will be more than good enough.


Anonymous said...

In ways, I have been all or nothing too...still struggling to accomplish better than it is...though a lot of my time and energy has to go to helping out my daughter and her children nearby. I do feel it is important that I get some things written down that will one day be in my children's hands. Things I might share if there was time or opportunity. I have found great solace and joy in the letters etc that I have kept from my dear mom and her mom, etc. One has to find what is most important and try to finish that...not an easy thing to decide sometimes. What you share is so right...esp. for those of us with less than perfect health.

Anonymous said...

Love this post! Ican identify with doing less decorating, and it's OK. And thank you for saying it's OK also. Blessings, Sharon D....,

Kay said...

Until I read this I had not realised that I too am like that and how it can cause unhappiness. Thank you for a very thought provoking post. I need to learn to live in an easier way of life, for my family as well as for myself. x

Vee said...

Zing! I imagine there are a lot of us all or nothing types out here. I know that I qualify. It’s the reason why I procrastinate so much. Talk about a lightbulb moment! Thanks. I think. 🙃

Anonymous said...

I love this, my friend! I think it would be called giving yourself grace. ;0) Pam (SD)

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I am in a season of change after being home for fifteen years next spring and homeschooling for almost a decade. I'm not sure fully what the nature of the change will be yet, but as an all-or-nothing person, too, I appreciate your encouraging perspective.

Sandi said...

Wise words...

"So we homeschooled quite imperfectly."

Big smile. :)

The Journey said...

It certainly is a learning process. I have learned just a little bit will do. Scaling back is a good thing. I am still working on the down sizing.

Anonymous said...

Brenda, I would say this is my favourite post of yours but then I say this of so many of them! Thanks for the inspiration and also affirmation of what makes sense to me.
It may get tiresome hearing how energetic we 'should' be (false expectations of our stamina) from folk half our ages. These people may have watched us seemingly energetically gardening one day and can't understand why we are more lethargic the next. But bless, God knows! Mairin :)

Mary said...

I am an immigrant and until I came to America I did not know people decorated for the seasons. I come from a country where there are no four distinct seasons. Instead it is Summer and Rainy reason. It necessitated sweeping the house, dusting furniture and ornaments every single day. Most of the ornaments lived in a shelf behind glass where it was less likely to get dusty and needed less cleaning.

Now I decorate with the seasons since I live here. The first year I came here, I decorated like Christmas threw up in my house. Multiple trees, ribbons, bows, multiple cribs, lights galore and even those mechanical things that moved and sang. But over the years I have learned my style and less is more.

What I am trying to say is, America is one of the prettiest countries I have ever seen at Christmas. Not many people around the world light up their houses like Americans do. It's like a fairyland for me even after all these years, each house I am privileged to visit during Christmas both inside and outside. So whatever you do, I want to assure you, it is more than much of the world. So please continue decorating as you can and may it give you much happiness. I think you may make other people you invite into your home happy too because I am sure it is prettier than you think it is even in it's stripped down version.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

I've always loved that Edith Schaeffer quote. And I'm pretty sure I first heard it from you...Yes, I have always, I think, struggled with this all or nothing mentality. And when one approaches their mid-seventies it really is crucial to realize when that it happening and not go there......I also remember my mother often saying, "Something is better than nothing." Thank you, Brenda!

Little Penpen said...

This post is so much "me".... I used to love to decorate for the holidays. Now they seem to come around so quickly, I think "didn't I just do that?" I have scaled down tremendously too. I put a fall wreath on the door and will put out a few small pumpkins in my regular decor. Done!!!

Deanna Rabe - Creekside Cottage Blog said...

You are so right, Brenda! It doesn't have to be all or nothing. Something is good, too!

Melissa said...

Do what you can with the strength you have for each day. Lovely thoughts, and the comment from Mary was so sweet!

Cheryl said...

Somehow, I missed reading this post, so I am late to the party BUT . . . I am going to go ahead and comment a week later because I love this so much!

Amen! I have a feeling that there are a lot of us "all or nothing" people around, and your insight is appreciated. "Something" is so much better than nothing. In fact, it is often better! I think the important thing is to do the thing(s) that inspires us . . . what we can, when we can.

I am thinking of all kinds of areas where the "all or nothing" mentality interferes. Decorating, cooking, eating, exercise, homeschooling, blogging . . .

Debi said...

Oh how I loved this post! I am slowly scaling back as I get older and don't have the energy to do all the things I used to. You are so right... something is better than nothing at all!