I don’t know about you, but I love having guests in from out of town. I love having people stay with us — love making sure the guest bathroom is in order, love putting freshly washed sheets on a bed I know someone I love is going to sleep in soon.
I love having our house filled with people, love getting to share this Nashville life of mine with people who may not have gotten to be a part of it yet.
So I was over the moon when I heard my little sister was coming to stay with us for the weekend.
And I don’t know how your mind works, but as soon as I heard she was coming, I began to make plans.
But not just plans like, “Let’s take her to Pancake Pantry” deciding to brave the lines that are always around the block.
Instead I made plans for what this weekend was going to look like relationally — how we’d all be closer by the time she left, how she’d get to know her new brother-in-law better than ever before, and I pictured us setting a good example for her in relationships by showing her what our marriage looks like, up close and in action.
I pictured us being at our very best — light, and free, full of joy, and fully in love. And I pictured her going home to my parents with a glowing report and an encouraged heart, knowing what a true, wonderful, Godly marriage can look like.
But as you can imagine, that’s not exactly how things went down.
It wasn’t anyone’s fault — not hers, not ours — but she just caught us on a bad weekend.
I’d been out of town for a week leading up to when she arrived, so Carl and I hadn’t had time to reconnect in what felt like a decade. She was also landing on a particularly busy work week for both of us, and catching us at a time when adulting feels extra hard (tax time is approaching, logistics need to be sorted out, there are a thousand mounds of paperwork we’re supposed to sort through — you know… basic, totally un-fun, stressful adulting.)
So while we were thrilled to have her here, we were also totally preoccupied, worried about life and work. We were bickery, short-tempered, and totally on edge — a combination that made me feel like we were setting a poor example instead of a good one.
Because in my mind, we have to be at our best in order to make a positive impact.
Have you ever found yourself thinking that?
We think we have to be on our best behavior, fully rested, fully soaked in God’s word, dressed in our very favorite outfit, in order to be our best. And we have to be at our best if God’s going to use us. That’s how it works, right?
But this weekend, I learned that that’s not how it works. And the person who taught me that was my wise, wonderful little sister.
On Saturday night, as Carl was out running some late night errands, just trying to get things checked off of his ever-growing list, my sister and I sat snuggled up on the couch as I started to cry.
“I wanted to show you how great marriage is,” I told her through sniffles. “I wanted to show you how amazing our life is. I wanted you to think that we have a good life, and a good relationship, that we’re doing well! I wanted to set a good example for you!”
And as I cried, my sister leaned over and put her hand on my knee, reminding me yet again that she’s always been the smarter of the two of us — always comforting and counseling her older sister.
And with the most comforting look in her eyes, she told me exactly what I didn’t know I needed to hear.
She told me that it was okay, that she was happy she got to see another side of us and our lives this weekend. She was happy about it because it’s real, because it’s raw, and it’s normal.
She said what I totally didn’t expect for her to say, that we were actually setting an awesome example for her — showing her how to do life with someone when it isn’t perfect, and when it’s actually pretty hard.
And then she said something that just unwound my tangled, disappointed insides in a way I never could have imagined.
She said, “Steph, you guys are enough. Just as you are, right now, in good moments and in bad ones too, you guys are enough. You’re good enough. You don’t need to try to be anything else.”
As those words reached my performing, perfectionistic heart, I couldn’t even find a way to respond, I was just too grateful (and afraid of the sobs that would come out if I opened my mouth too far).
The thing is… I think I have this idea in life that I need to be pulled together, and shiny, and perfectly “On” in order to make a difference in the world. I know I don’t have to be perfect, but I feel like I need to be buttoned up, well-spoken, to have my thoughts perfectly articulated in a way that’s funny, insightful, and always thought through.
And for the past several weeks, God’s been speaking something entirely different to me about how we make a difference.
He’s been saying that just by showing up, and just by being us, and just by letting people see our hearts as we love Him, and our husbands, and our friends, and our family, and our work to the best of our ability — that’s all we need to do.
He’s been teaching me that we can make a bigger difference than we can even imagine just by showing up and letting people see us as we are — imperfect and doing the best we can.
So while this isn’t at all a lesson I have mastered, I wanted to pass along the little bit I understand to you.
You, as you are today, are enough to make a positive difference in the world. It’s not because you have your words perfectly chosen, or your outfit carefully selected. It’s not because you’re “On”, or at your best, or because you and your husband are at your most synchronized and charming. It’s because you’re you. You’re you, God is in you, and when we let people see us as we really are, God’s able to show them what He’s capable of in a heart and a life that’s surrendered to Him.
So that’s where I am today — totally imperfect, just trying to figure it out. And apparently — according to my sweet little sister, and according to God — that’s enough.
I just thought you might need to hear that today too.