A Gathering Under the Trees

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I have this character flaw that sometimes can be a blessing.  I am a perfectionist, at least in some areas of my life.  In college, I had panic attacks frequently and wouldn’t settle for anything less than an A.  This characteristic turns from being useful to being a flaw when I simply don’t do something because I can’t do it perfectly.

Every year I want to have a picnic on or around June 21st to celebrate the longest days of the year.  Every year we don’t do it because in my mind, our picnic must be perfect.  I need a beautiful tablecloth, my Longaberger picnic basket filled with cloth napkins, beautifully packaged gourmet food, real silverware, candles and perfectly dressed attendees.  Sound ridiculous?

Sadly, this kind of perfectionism keeps me from doing so many things in my life.  Some days I leave my house messy because I don’t have three hours to make it perfect.  I don’t start a book if I know I won’t finish it within a few days.  I want to learn more about photography, but don’t consider myself artistic enough to ever be a professional.  I don’t cook a meal because I know it won’t be as good as the meals Jimmie makes.  On and on it goes.

Last Thursday I came face to face with this character flaw.  Ava was leaving the following morning for a 9-day trip with my mom.  I told her we would go on a picnic that night so we could spend some quality time together.  As usual, life happened and I didn’t get to pack the perfect picnic basket.  So, instead of postponing like I normally would have, we went to Marsh, picked up a bunch of random food, and headed to Forest Park with an old blanket, grocery sacks, and paper plates.

It was divine.

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We had Pringles, stuffed peppers and garlic mushrooms from the Olive bar, summer sausage with cheese and crackers, baked potato salad from the deli, and iced tea and coconut water. Weird? Yes. But we ate to our heart’s content.

Ava talked about what she was looking forward to most on her trip. She played at the playground while I read under the giant evergreen. In those moments, it didn’t matter that I didn’t have my beautiful tablecloth or gourmet food. All that mattered was that we were with our little girl.

As I snapped a few photos, I realized that I have learned something from my new camera. I used to think there were certain moments that were photo-worthy…. birthdays, special outings, holidays and momentous occasions. My camera has taught me that special moments take place in the mundane events of my everyday life. It didn’t matter to me that the picnic wasn’t something that wasn’t magazine worthy. I wanted to capture it anyway. My standards of perfection too frequently limit me from embracing each and every moment as a gift from God. Instead of waiting for perfection, I instead want to find the beauty in my everyday life. I want to be quick to say, “YES!” when an opportunity comes my way, not worrying about living up to some unrealistic standard that no-one holds me to except for myself.

I will be quick to see the beauty when sitting under a tree, leaned against my husband, reading a book. I will relish in the joyous laughter of my daughter on the monkey bars. I will pause and notice the way the evening light streams through the trees. I will see God in it all and I will be thankful.

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Do you struggle with the need to be perfect?  Does it keep you from living your life to the fullest?  What are some of the most mundane details of your life that you find inspiring or beautiful?

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