As a perfectionist, I feel most satisfied at the end of the day when I feel like I did everything right. The day doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect, but as long as I do what I think is good in any given circumstance, I am happy and can sleep peacefully. In fact, at times, my desire to do what I feel is right has kept me from actually doing what is most important. I strive in my flesh to achieve greatness as a mother, wife, and as an individual, and that, at times, is the very thing that keeps me from achieving greatness in God’s eyes. God has been trying to teach me this my whole life… but now that I am a wife and mother, to me, my flaws have become 100% more evident.

Being a wife and mother to two (after only being married for three years) is really hard! I absolutely love it, but it is the most difficult thing I have ever done. My flesh has to die multiple times every day. I see, more and more, how deeply flawed I am… I cannot escape my flaws. They are there and love to flaunt how imperfect I am. I fail daily and it absolutely kills me.

If I respond impatiently with my son, I failed that day and am the worst mother in the world. If I am gracious and patient, my heart is happy and I feel like a “good” mother. If I maintain a clean house and I do everything I need to have an organized and neat home, then by the end of the day I will allow myself to rest. If not, I most likely will not be able to sleep until absolutely everything is clean and tidy. Sounds like so much fun, doesn’t it? If I eat one cookie then I absolutely failed and I might as well just eat ALL of them, because I already failed by eating that one and I will just restart tomorrow. Wow! Am I crazy, or what?! This has been my life. It is exhausting and makes me feel like I am going crazy. I can never seem to be “good enough.”

I greatly desire to be a woman of excellence, and this desire has the ability to make me act in ways that I don’t consider to be “excellent.” This creates a real frustration and disappointment in me. Recently I was sharing this struggle with my husband, and he responded to my dismay by saying,

“You should pursue discovering who you are, rather than how good you are.”

Those simple words really helped to open my eyes and helped me shift the way I think about my values. I am flawed indeed, but I am learning that when I strive for perfection in my own strength, I don’t get the results that I am looking for. I may be able to obtain the “perfect” body, but is it really beautiful if I do so by hating the body I currently have? I may be able to have several days where I don’t lash out at my children or husband, but if I do so from a heart motivated by self-hatred and the need to be “perfect” all of the time, is it truly beautiful? I may be able to maintain the cleanest, neatest house, but if I do so from a place of stress and anxiety, is it really beautiful? No. It is not.

I believe one of the greatest tricks of the enemy is to waste time. This is why the enemy tries so hard to get us to be religious. If he can sink our minds into habit, he will prevent our hearts from engaging God. I am tired of living that way. I am tired of the empty striving, and I don’t want to waste any more time. I want my life to be TRULY beautiful. TRULY meaningful.

image3So now, my goal isn’t just to do everything right, but to do everything from a place in my heart that reflects the person who God created me to be. My body may not be perfect, but my heart is happy and thankful for the body I was blessed with. I may not be the perfect mother, wife, daughter, friend, or woman, but I no longer have to live in a place of self-hatred over my faults. Instead, I can move forward by God’s grace and God’s love for me and GROW in it. I may not have the neatest house, but that’s ok. I can look at the mess and still take time to love on my family or friends without being anxious about it. And you know the best part? I am falling deeper in love with the Lord. With life. With my children and husband. I am finding joy where I never have before. My heart and mind are experiencing sweet rest and peace as I live in the truth instead of striving for perfection. We were never created to be perfect. We were created to be loved. 
God is good. God is perfect. And out of love He sent His Son (because He knew I couldn’t be perfect), to save me so that I don’t have to strive for perfection on my own. That’s a lot to be thankful for.

About the Author

image1My name is Abigail Smith. I am a wife to Landon Smith and a mother to two precious little boys, Elias (2 years old) and Josiah (6 months old). My days and greatest joys consist of running on coffee, surviving on Jesus, and running after my incredibly hyper and active (did I say hyper?) 2 year old while figuring out how to carry my baby at the same time. I love traveling and experiencing new cultures/meeting new people, walks with my family, reading, and running. I have experienced the transformational power of God’s grace and love and am passionate about seeing other women experience the freedom that walking in His truth brings.

Balancing Act

Finding fulfillment both at home and at work requires planning, grace and some perspective changes | By Bethany Mavis

“I really like my job. Is that bad?”

My husband and I were carpooling home from work a few months after I had gone back to working full-time post-baby #2. I was almost ashamed that I wasn’t feeling guilty about working again.

img_0291I’m not going to lie–our days are long. We both commute almost an hour each way, are working around specific daycare hours, spend more money per month on childcare than our mortgage payment, and then try to soak up every moment we do get with our girls on the weekdays in the couple of hours before they go to bed. We try to eat healthy, exercise regularly and maintain friendships. That all adds up to a messy house, piles of laundry every weekend and frequent illnesses.

It’s also isolating at times—few women I know in North County have a work life that looks like mine. With our couple friends, I can sometimes relate more to the husband’s day-to-day life (working in a corporate environment, office drama) than the wife’s (homeschooling, maintaining the home).

bethany-2Despite all of that, it still feels worth it to me. Working is my act of “creative service,” and I feel called to where I am. I’m good at what I do, I enjoy my coworkers, I rarely dread going to work, and I’m building my career. And over the whopping three years I’ve gotten to attempt the working mom gig, I’ve learned some valuable lessons along the way.

  1. Plan everything. I don’t know when it started happening–I think it was somewhere around the third trimester of the second pregnancy, but things just started falling out of my brain. I now have lists everywhere. I have to-do lists at work, to-do lists at home and grocery lists, and I even have a list of all the things I have to bring with me every single morning (maybe a little extreme, but I haven’t forgotten my breast pump once!). I also do all of my grocery shopping for the week on Sunday to get both lunches to bring with me to work as well as all the dinners for the week. And I’m realistic–we can really only cook 1–2 meals per week after work with two young kids. We eat leftovers for a meal or two, and then we do simple frozen/easy-to-prepare meals for one night (Trader Joe’s is a life-saver). It may take a lot of extra work and commitment to spend a few hours every Sunday afternoon, but it frees up so much time during the week to avoid the grocery store, avoid take-out, and avoid stressing over what to have for dinner.
  1. Surround yourself with the right kind of people. At this stage of life, I simply do not have the capacity to keep up with friends every week and constantly meet up for kid-free girl dates. And I can’t have friends who make me feel guilty about not doing that. My closest, best friends are all women with whom I can easily pick up where we left off, guilt-free. They also understand squeezing time in together (“I have an hour to hang out. You’re at Ralph’s grocery shopping with your baby and mom? OK, be there in 5.”).
  1. Make the most of your “free” time. Looking at my daily schedule, you wouldn’t think I have any “free” time, but during my daily commute, my car has turned into a quiet sanctuary from my chaotic life. In the morning, it’s a time to pray, listen to sermons and music, and organize my thoughts. In the afternoon, it’s a time to catch up on the phone with family or friends. Finding the pockets of cal–and making good use of them for quieting my heart and min–has helped me keep from feeling overwhelmed.
  1. Be OK with saying no. We have such a “yes”-driven culture that you’re essentially guilted into going to every kid birthday party, bridal shower, and girls’ night. Our family has had to draw the line at one thing per day on the weekend–there’s no dragging two kids around town for six hours, skipping naps and screwing up feeding schedules. We’ve done it, and we’re so distracted by fussy kids by the second or third event of the day, we may as well not have even gone.
  1. Say yes to God. While our lives feel very full, last summer, we felt like we were going to be called to serve the church in a way other than financially. About a week later, we were asked to be the host home for an Immersion intern. It was something we hadn’t ever considered, given our busyness, but we were open to the idea, prayed about it, and decided to say yes. And it’s been such an awesome decision–we’ve been blessed immensely by having her in our home. She cooks dinner for us once a week and helps with babysitting and cleaning around the house. At this point, we can’t imagine how we would have survived this first year of having two kids and two jobs without her.

  2. Become a better giver. Having two incomes gives both of us the opportunity to give financially. For my husband, “giving” ranks high in his spiritual gifts, and I’ve learned a lot from him when it comes to giving (tithing on gross rather than net income, tithing after every paycheck, and giving generously on top of our tithes). Having two incomes (and being responsible for giving from my own), though, has forced me to become better at the discipline of giving.
  1. Let some things go. For the first time in seven years, I was unable to hand-make Christmas neighbor gifts last Christmas. And I was really OK with it. Three years ago, I would have been upset to not have been able to make them myself, but during this season of life, I’m learning to have grace for myself. And that goes for everything that gives the illusion of me being supermom (perfect family photos, homemade birthday party decorations, cupcakes made from scratch).

29326488-b2a7-4afb-a984-1f31bc924915A supportive, encouraging husband has (obviously) been key to my success, and while our lives and schedules are very full, we feel fulfilled and content.






About the Author

img_4614Bethany Mavis is wife to Steve, mom of two girls (Nera, 3, and Emery, almost 1), and the Managing Editor of Triathlete magazine. She grew up in Texas, studied journalism at Point Loma Nazarene University, and met her husband on a mission trip to South Africa. They enjoy traveling, running half-marathons and racing triathlons. She’s been at The Father’s House for eight years (Pastor Dan was Steve’s youth pastor), and she currently serves as an editor of the Daughters Blog and a (kid-friendly!) life group leader.