Tuesday, February 16, 2016

It Doesn't Have to be Beautiful to be Perfect

Two Christmases ago, Cory and I were gifted a fifty dollar bill. It fell at a time where a fifty dollar bill seemed like an extravagance. When we married, barely into our twenties, we thought we knew some things about life, one of which was this: you start with nothing and you build from there. Up and up; you're doing fine if each year ends better than the last.

Well. Last year was our fifteenth year, and that cold fifty felt every bit as lucky as it had twenty years before, when my uncle slipped one into my high school graduation card.

We talked about splitting it down the middle, but twenty-five apiece lacked a certain chutzpah. We could put it back, but that was just boring. We could go out to eat, but we did that all the time.

We weren't poor and we weren't as rich as we'd been before.
We were somewhere right in the middle, in no-man's land, where all it takes to stoke a dream is an unexpected fifty dollar bill.

In the end, we bought a little rug off the shelf at Target.

We put out an open call for free couches and began collecting them in our basement - the in-laws' love-seat, the "come and get it" 1980's Chesterfield-wannabe, the curvy-legged floral found aging better than I could hope to at her age. For two long nights we shoved cardboard boxes filled with dusty books and Christmas decorations against one wall, plastic tubs of vintage fabric against another (I have a fabric problem.) We stacked quirky chairs in the corner and pretended it was architectural sculpture. Cory created a make-shift gallery wall with my out-of-rotation art and, it seems, I also have a chair problem. And an art problem.

There were choices to be made and trust to be dealt, and if I say authenticity is important to me, well, it was time. Inviting people into my kitchen had never been hard. Inviting them into the dark corners of my extremely unfinished, unheated basement in the eye of Snowpocalypse was a whole other thing. But I was land-locked and longing. A bit lost at sea. I could keep it cute or I could keep it real, but I couldn't do both.

So, we set out to invite new friends and a few near-strangers into our literal mess, the place in our home where all the junk is shoved before company arrives then bolted behind a closed door. Ever aware of the risks this posed, I did what any reasonable woman would do. I dug out the two boxes of Kroger strand lights and strung them overhead.

For three years we had talked about opening our home in some way, cobbling together a community of misfits like us. We imagined platters of sloppy Joes and sheet cakes, wild kids, and the space to be known. It was never long into the conversation before we circled back around and squashed our own dream. We don't have enough room. We have too many kids. Our neighbors aren't ready for us. Our friends aren't ready for our neighbors. No. No.

In the end, our craving won.

We dared to believe we were free from overthinking a good thing.
Staring Ulysses S. Grant in the face, we found the guts to try, even to fail.
If it was all going to go down, we were going down with it.



The rug wasn't large enough for the ground it had to cover. But it helped. It warmed our toes, or at least half of them.

The kids ran wild circles overhead, they ran down and interrupted us twenty times.
We went back for seconds. We sat across from each other in the dim, cold basement, and I tried not to worry that all of my junk and every problem was on glaring display.

Over time, I stopped caring. I pulled more up from under the dust and made room for it in our circle.

We confessed old grudges and waded through a few that were just setting to a boil.
We laughed sometimes, but we also shared the burden of the anguished and uncertain.
We spoke with the salty tongues of men and we wondered about angels. 

It looked nothing the way I'd imagined it might. Everything was mismatched, there still wasn't enough room and the ones we hoped for hardest didn't stay.

But somewhere down there in the dark, light was seeping through.We sprung for our little rug's twin. We shoved them together, piece-mealing something better, something necessary, from what had been lacking on its own.

The ground between us narrowed again.
I saw myself in different faces - misfits to the end, each of us.
We were starting to get warm.



*The title of this post goes out to my homegirl, the Nester, who keeps teaching us, "It doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful." It's true and important, no matter which we you spin it.

54 comments:

  1. Often what I view as perfection actually makes people feel unwelcome but inviting one into the impercections of my heart and home can have the opposite effect. You are such an encourager to do just that - and do it now.

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    1. Yes!!! I'm seeing the same thing, over and over. What we think of as welcoming CAN have the opposite effect. Being willing to share the ugly is where it's at!

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  2. This reminds me of a post I wrote a while ago called come as you are. Often times we care WAY more than others do about the condition of ours homes. People just want the invitation and I am so glad you gave it to them. I am excited to continue to open up our home full of projects, dust, half painted walls, junk rooms etc to others. You speak my language friend from states away and I love it! The world is so big but so small at the same time <3

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  3. "When we make a regular practice os sharing our lives with each other, we move toward them and create space of them to move toward us. Shame hates this. Revealing our lives requires great perseverance...When I see my friend's face, hear his voice, sense his empathy for my plight in real time and space, I am given the opportunity to imagine a different way of telling the story of what has been only shame, isolation and stasis."

    Thought of these parts of this book I'm reading and so thankful that you have stepped out to create just this kind of place for you and your people. It's risky but always worth it. Love you friend.

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    1. You know we all want the scoop on that book now. Title? Author?

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    2. "The Soul of Shame, Retelling the stories we believe about ourselves" by Curt Thompson. The amount of things I underlined, starred, marked, etc...is a little ridiculous. I think it's a game changer.

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  4. Okay, seriously, you've just killed me with this post. We've done this before in our sad little cinder block basement, and then, then, THE STUFF, it took over again, but no more! We're going down into the abyss and we will conquer once more! Thanks for the kick in the rear!

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  5. I love it! It looks cozy. I wish we could use our basement. Ours is only about 6 feet tall so we have to walk stooped over. It's only a storage area. It's the only thing I don't like about our house.

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  6. What a wonderful idea and I think it looks cozy and inviting.

    God's continued blessings on you and yours ~ FlowerLady

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  7. Great post, thanks for the encouragement!

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  8. This is the perfect description of authentic hospitality. I love that you are modeling for us all the beauty that can be found in our mess.

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  9. Simplify and prioritize....it's what you and Cory have done and what a legacy that I'm guessing your kiddos will continue. May you keep loving well!!!!!!

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  10. the first thing that comes to mind after reading this is Annie Downs' saying: Let's ALL be brave. thanks for leading the way and alleviating all the NOs. here's hoping for a space heater.

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  11. I love this. :) I have a practical question that I struggle with... any tips on how to move the conversation from the "weather" chit chat or the same ol' small talk that always happens, to real conversation? As an introvert, I much prefer 1-on-1 conversations because there is much less "small talk"... :)

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    1. Yes! How? Teach us, FPFG! Did you use a study, a book?

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  12. I love this and it is perfect AND beautiful. Sometimes it seems like we talk about why we should think or act a certain way and we spend so much time talking and thinking that we neglect the doing. We put off the doing because of whatever we think isn't "perfect". Thanks for the inspiration to just do it. (wait, that sounds familiar). God bless you!!

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  13. This post made me weep,it is so raw and honest. You are an inspiration. I love Nester's quote and it really changed the way I view my home. Now you have put a different spin on it and also makes me open my mind to a new way of thinking! Thank you both.

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  14. Gah! It seems the more I read of you (since 2011!) I keep finding similarities between us and I REALLY want to meet you :) I, too, have a chair problem. We don't have a basement, but we do have an upstairs playroom...that is overrun with free chairs I have obtained over the years. Seriously, I'm in Fort Wayne - we're so close! :)

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  15. Also, it doesn't need to be perfect to be BEAUTIFUL!

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  16. Love this!!! it convicted me on so many levels. Wishing you lived closer I would invite you over every.single. day for coffee, chocolate, and let our wild crazy kids live and love the mess along the way!!! Thanks again new sweet friend for encouraging me today!!!
    Blessings,
    Dawn

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  17. For what it's worth, my 3 year old peeked over my shoulder as I read your post and told me he'd want to play there and that it looks like a "bacation house." You've created something that is beautiful to the heart.

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  18. Oh I just love this post! I have read you and the nester since about as long as forever! :) What a fun take on IDHTBBTBP! God shines through our holes, so we shouldn't cover them up! Perfect! Also, you have a knack for happy! All of your things in your basement shout love, happiness, and joy! :) Thanks as always for sharing!

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  19. That sounds like a community group in the making! Loved this! Thank you!!

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  20. I love this. The mismatched and not perfect makes me feel safe to settle in. Yes to real, yes to this!

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  21. All the hearts, Shannan! Fifty well spent. Letting go of perfection in favor of connection.

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  22. I think Howard makes everything beautiful!!

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  23. Love this! I have a 70's basement I've been reluctant to entertain in...what nonsense! Thanks for the inspiration and courage.

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  24. This was so great! Wonderful encouragement.

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