Letting Go of Measuring Up

by | Oct 11, 2012 | Uncategorized

I furiously flit from room to room; collect hair ties, dirty socks, armfuls of shoes, pens and papers lying on the coffee table.  Frustration finds space up to my eyebrows over the time it takes to clear messes before the cleaning crew arrives. That’s when I know things are out of whack.

“What is wrong with you,” I say out loud to myself. “You should be thankful you have people to clean.”

And every time I enter another room, I see the sign visible only to my eyes that reads FAILURE.

Every closet fills with piles of I’ll get to that later and maybe we’ll just donate that now that the receipt dates three months ago. I’m wondering why I can’t seem to stay on top of things.

I answer the door of broom handles and buckets and she laughs at my bare face and wet hair. “Did you get your shower before we came,” she grins.  I tell her there aren’t any clean sheets for the beds. They are still in the laundry basket on the dryer, from when I stripped their beds two weeks ago.

Later, a man in a plaid flannel shirt and faded ball cap knocks on the screen door over the whir of vacuums.  He asks me about the dead tree in my front yard. Says he can cut it down, trim all my hedges and clean out my gutters too.  For a fee.

I peer around him to get a look at the washed out pickup idling on the curb with two others seated in the cab. I’m grateful he stopped by; I was planning to call someone. However, I’m seeing that sign nailed to the tree – FAILURE – over what I’ve let go, so wild and spindly in my front yard.

I want to tell him I’ve divorced gardening to marry writing, but instead, I tell him I do all the trimming myself, I’m just a bit behind. But the gutters grow tree sprigs and that skyscraper pine that sways in a light breeze, gnarly dead at the top, its waiting for a strong storm to do some damage. Like my emotions brewing inside.

The whole list of failures goes outside to my back porch, perched on a wicker chair, feet stretched out on another. I close my eyes and tell him, “Lord I don’t want my writing to be about productivity, my prayers to be about asking. I want to let go of all the ways I think I’m not measuring up. Of all the ways I find identity outside of you.”


My shoulders droop, legs melt into the chair and I hear the scratch of the squirrel on bark, woodpecker nailing into the tree, ducks squawking in the distance and the chirp of a cricket humming background melody.

And I realize, I never noticed the sound of crickets in the daylight hours before.

Do you measure your worth by what you do, instead of who you are like I do sometimes? Perhaps we can let go of measuring up together?

This is the eleventh post in the series 31 Days of Letting Go. You can read the collective here. If you are a writer, I invite you to link up any post you’ve written on the theme of letting go in the comments here on Friday. Subscribe to receive the series in your inbox or feed by adding your address in the side bar under Follow Redemptions Beauty.

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  1. altarofheaven

    I understand.

    When i read your quote, “I’m seeing that sign nailed to the tree – FAILURE”

    I heard, “remember the other tree that read ‘King of the Jews’ and the One that cried out, it is finished”

    Yes, I join you in resting in the finished work done on the cross remembering my identity is in Him not what I do or don’t do. I surrender to the love expressed on the Cross.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I love that imagery Arcelia. Beautiful and true.

  2. Kristin

    Oh my this resonates with where I am right now. I wonder what it would be like if we were measured by our fruitfulness instead of productivity? Or not measured at all! Thank you for your encouragement in this Letting Go series.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Glad to know I’m in good company Kristin. I wish I could sit for a minute and exhale over a cup of joe with you. It’s lonely over here.

  3. Lynn Morrissey

    OH boy can I relate to this, as I sit midst my paper-and-book-and-music piles upon piles, upon piling piles! Michael says the basement is sinking in sea of books. Why can’t I get a handle on things? I can’t seem to focus. I”m scattered to the wind. For crying out loud: I used to be the executive director of a big agency with 500 volunteers to supervise around the clock and a small staff and a board and yada-yada-YADA! And when I had a cleaning lady, I used to feel it necessary to clean before she arrived. (What does that tell you?) You know, Shelly, those squirrels and woodpeckers and ducks and crickets AND LILIES don’t toil or spin and yet…….and yet their heavenly Father cares for them. They don’t fret and stew over something they think that *they* should be caring for. They just take one skitter, one peck, one quack, one chirp at a time, and it is good. I need to let go of this fretting, take a step at a time, and trust that God will still love me no matter how ploddingly slow my steps seem to be. Tx so much for your honesty! Who hired you?! =] You’re wonderful.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      It just makes me happy, the way you get what I write in the same exact way I see it. And I really was just bowing my head and closing my eyes to pray when all of this came out and it was a lovely lesson right there on my back porch. You have had a quite a life. I keep learning more as your life unfolds in the comments and I can’t wait to sit with you in person in April.

  4. Celeste

    Hey Shelly, I’m still reading…and could not let this one go without saying my bit. As usual, two peas in a pod and I am guessing there are a few more like us out there. Things are going well with Bek but as I look here or there, I see the clothing that needs hemmed, the bathroom floor that needs cleaned, etc, etc. Today we were in the back yard racking leaves when he toppled over and hit his head just above thr right eye. There were tears as I held him and right there I knew that then and there was where I was meant to be, a mom. I no longer have time to write…..as you know but Ialso know you understand. Right there with you on this one.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      My hard drive crashed yesterday Celeste. I’m still waiting in hope that I haven’t lost my pictures (our England/Scotland trip was in there) because I hadn’t backed up my files in a while. It added to my list of failures but as my husband so kindly counseled me through tears, there is no such thing as perfect people. It’s why we need a Saviour, amen?

  5. Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

    Sometimes i have this nutsy thought… what if I die suddenly or don’t have time to get things in order and someone comes in here and finds this disorganized mess? What will they think of me? AAaach. I keep thinking the same thing about failing to keep up lately and it doesn’t make sense because there’s more time than I used to have when at full time work. But I’m overflowing with things I want to write – a lot I feel God leading and asking me to write and pray about as well. And wanting to spend more time in prayer and seeking Him. And by the time i do those things most of the day is gone and it’s time for some necessary chores or running errands or just plain trying to get a little walking exercise in… and something has to “suffer.” I’m so glad for those moments like you had on the porch… realizing what is important in His eyes. And giving it to Him…And looking into His eyes to find my worth. I want to try to do that more… not to be lazy, but to know that priorities sometimes mean other things get pushed back. And that is okay. All this week I’ve been frustrated because I feel like I should be doing this and this and this, but first I have to do this and want to do what I think He’s calling me to do…. and none of it has been as fast as I anticipated. But I feel Him telling me, don’t worry. You will complete this in the right time, and it will get sent in the right time and I will make it reach the heart you send to in the perfect time. Give it to me. Yes, Lord, yes.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Your first comment about having everything cleaned up reminds me of our friends who travelled with us to Rwanda. She got into cleaning up her attic because of that. In case something happened to her on the trip, she decided to go through everything so no one else would have to. Isn’t that funny. And I can relate to what you say her about writing and spending time in prayer and then wondering where the day went. That is my life – every day it seems.

      • Pam@Writing...Apples of Gold

        Yes, mine too… prayer and writing and the day is over. I just keep feeling an urgency for those two important things…

  6. Diana Trautwein

    Sign me up. Yeah, this is a biggee for most of us, I think. I hope I’m getting better at it but let’s face it. When I die, my kids or whomever they may hire to come in and shovel it all out, will have a heckuva lot of work to do. :>)

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Life if full isn’t it Diana? I’m trying my best to focus on what matters in the eternal.

  7. Jody Lee Collins

    ok, I plan to steal this line………”I want to tell him I’ve divorced gardening to marry writing.”
    but I will give you full credit….really.
    Shelly, I’m sure there’s a balance coming soon in this all. In the meantime, thank you for letting us in on the process.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      Steal away Jody! 🙂 I know you are right, the balance is tipping back even.

  8. Linda

    Boy does this ever hit home!! One of those things I’m not accomplishing is losing weight! Every morning I think “failure”. And I think….Father forgive me for those things that I have done, and those THINGS THAT I HAVE LEFT UNDONE. Thank you so much Shelly for being so honest – for putting into words things that I feel. It’s always comforting to know that I’m not alone. There are others of us experiencing the same feelings.

    • Redemption's Beauty

      I know what you mean Linda, it is important and comforting to know we are not alone in our difficulties and struggles. So glad you are reading along.

  9. Jillie

    I’d just like to join in with the masses who are identifying with your words today. I have these two rooms upstairs….well, you know the drill. I put it off, and put it off, and put it off some more. “Before Christmas” is the new deadline I have set for myself. I love the comment sent that spoke of remembering HE who was also nailed to a tree, and declared VICTORIOUS over death and the grave. HE is the One who declares us “forgiven!” Forgiven for all things we have done, and all things we have not done. What would we ever do without Him, amen?

    • Redemption's Beauty

      “Before Thanksgiving” is my mantra right now Jillie. Sometimes knowing guests are on their way gets my butt in gear. 🙂

  10. Laura

    lettting go – one of my many struggles….
    thank you for sharing – it helps

  11. Lynn Morrissey

    Shelly, I tried to post a direct reply, and it didn’t take, so I’ll try this. Yes, it makes me happy too to have these heart-connections. i so got what you are saying, and I love how God gives us those life-lessons, particularly when we just pause and pray…..that’s Sabbath–what you were talking about in another postt. You are teaching me so much. As for my past life, I was executive director for the world’s largest USO in ST. Louis. Perhaps you know it at Lambert? But I realize you haven’t lived here for awhile. In my “Letting Go” post on Tuesday, this was the job that was so fascinating and meaningful (serving America’s military and their families)–especially during Desert Storm–that I wrote about. I did NOT want to leave it and let go my professional life. But nothing was more meaningful for me, personally, than ultimately do so and coming home to raise Sheridan. She’s a blessing I truly hold dear. Thank you again for your lovely post today!

  12. Sherri

    When I began reading this, my first thought was “there truly is someone who thinks just like I do!” I could almost have told you what your reaction to the “tree-trimmer” was going to be – because that’s just what I would have said!! I am SO consumed with what I PERCEIVE to be important issues, that I fail to see things that REALLY ARE important issues…..and all the while, beating myself up for being a failure at all of them.

    Something I was reminded of lately is that God does not want you to change to come to Him, He justs wants you to come to Him, AS YOU ARE, and He will change you. Quite an uplifting thought, to me.

    Thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone in my thoughts and self-perception!


    • Redemption's Beauty

      And now I’m singing that song, just as I am without one plea . . . thank you for the encouragement from a kindred spirit. Such truth in your thoughts here.

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