practicing the imperfect

It’s all just practice.

None of this is performance, this work of parenting. Despite my dark moments of self-defeating thoughts to the contrary, no one is watching me with a clipboard, making sure I don’t screw up or that my kids turn out according to someone’s standard of perfect.

blog-008It’s all just practice.

And practice takes time. Years. Sweat. Tears. Those crucible moments when you’re so tired and frustrated you want to scream and give up.

But you don’t. You keep practicing. And things slowly change over time.

The instrument becomes easier to play – and becomes part of you.

The sport changes your body in powerful ways – and becomes part of you.

The play allows you to understand your own life as you act – and becomes part of you.

Every day I wake up and start practicing parenting again: caring and forgiving and teaching and serving. Over time it becomes part of me.

Practice changes us, if we stick with it.

This morning I’m guest posting over at Practicing Families. On practicing a life of faith with kids, and all the messiness and faltering and second-guessing it entails:

The old adage wags its finger at me that “practice makes perfect.” Just like the line from Matthew’s Gospel—“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”—that makes me cringe at the ideals that fall far short of my life’s messy reality. But I know there’s deeper truth to the good of practice. It makes our muscles strong. It trains our thinking. It strengthens our resolve.

For this family, practice will always be imperfect. We will show up to church five minutes late. We will not always pay attention. We will sometimes skip out after communion when the kids are just too cranky. But next Sunday we will try all over again.

We’re practicing.

Click over to Practicing Families to read the rest…

The Christian life is about practice, not performance – and thank God for that, because we’d all come up short. But the practice that matters is receiving grace in ordinary moments and sharing love in return.

What are you practicing today? What part of parenting is finally starting to feel easier, and what part is more challenging than ever?


September 2012 021

The boys and I have been playing lots of piano lately. (Or I should say: I play while one bounces on my lap and the other bangs on the bass or slams on the treble, depending on his inspired accompaniment.)

During the day we play all the old favorites, the childhood standbys: This Old Man, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, every tune Woody Guthrie ever dreamed up. The toe-tapping, hand-clapping, doesn’t-matter-if-mama-messes-up-that-key-change-we’re-rolling music that I always dreamed would come when we had a piano in the house.

But at night, after the winter sky sinks dark and the boys are wrapped in bed, I’ve been sneaking down to play alone.

Foot pressed down on the damper pedal so I don’t wake them, I settle into my own old favorites: the Beethoven and Mozart of high school, the Rachmaninoff and Chopin of college. A practice equal parts delightful and frustrating; nothing so humbling as seeing how quickly skill slips away without careful attention.

If I want to sit down and race through a piece without thinking, I’m stuck back around 9th grade for now. To tackle anything I touched in college, I have to take a deep breath and go slow, no matter the marking. Lentissimo.

And if I do slow my rhythm down, slow way down, painfully slower than my normal pace, then and only then do my fingers relax into what they can handle. My mind relaxes, too, slipping back into the deep memory of what these fingers still know: the tricky passages, the troublesome chords. My hands, my feet, my whole body can remember how to play, but only if I slow way down. Lentissimo.

What do I bring to Lent this time around? What do I crave, what do I need? Where is God’s call to go deeper, draw closer?

What might I find if I slow way down into the space set apart, step out of life’s ever-tempting swirls of more-more-more and remember how often I encounter God when I do less?

What would happen if I go lentissimo into Lent this year, simply slow down and let my mind, body, spirit and soul re-remember their way in this world?

It’s aggravating work, this deliberate halting, this restraint of a racing mind and antsy fingers. Lent is aggravating, too, when done right. Why not just binge on chocolate and gorge on Facebook and neglect prayer and forget about justice and ignore the nagging thought of millions of millions who will not settle into such a peaceful sleep as mine tonight?

Lent is humbling, hard work. I need to go slowly and deliberately into these forty days, if I go at all. Lentissimo.