Finding peace with less than perfect

The weather was perfect. A balmy 79 degrees with a light southwest wind.

The timing was perfect. Friday afternoon with no evening plans and the whole weekend ahead of me.

I could think of no reason not to go for a bike ride. Tom was already riding up north and had left the car downtown. If we timed it right, we could meet up and usher in the weekend with dinner and drinks.

Before I pedaled up the driveway, I hit “Start” on my Cyclemeter and turned on my Spotify playlist. The first song that played set the tone.

You’re a good, good, Father...it’s who you are...

And I’m loved by you...it’s who I am...

'Cause you know just what we need before we say a word

You are perfect in all of your ways....to us.

(Chris Tomlin)

I was feeling blessed with a perfect afternoon.

Then I turned onto Redfield Road. Its shoulder was narrow to non-existent, with intermittent potholes. Add to that the five o’clock traffic that whizzed by me; drivers eager to get home and start their weekend with little regard to the “leave a three-foot distance” rule. After two miles of tense riding, I finally turned onto a quieter road.

Then came the hills. My legs burned as I pumped to the top of the first, only to see the second one looming even larger beyond.

My perfect conditions were not as perfect as I had hoped.

***

I’ll admit, I’m a procrastinator. I find countless distractions and excuses to delay starting a task or activity that I need to do (like washing windows), or I should do (like dieting), or I want to do (like biking or writing). I’m always waiting for perfect conditions.

“I can’t wash the windows. It’s too cold/cloudy/windy/* (*insert any other weather term).”

“I’ll start my diet on Monday. Oh wait, there are two grad parties next week. Make that next Monday.”

“I’m not feeling like biking today. I’m too tired/busy/sore from biking last week.” Or “It’s too windy/cold/hot. And I see rain on the radar 90 miles away.”

“I’ll write that blog post after I wash the windows, plan out a month’s worth of healthy meals, and go for a bike ride. Yes, then it will be the perfect time to write. Besides, I’m not feeling inspired.”

These thoughts crossed my mind as I reached the top of the second hill and turned onto Bertrand Road. There was one more short hill to climb. “Push, Linda, push. You can do it!” I cheered myself on. As I shifted into low gear, something caught my eye in the weeds.

One solitary, white iris stood along the side of the road. It was pure and beautiful, reaching upward with its lacy, angelic sleeves. But its conditions were less-than-perfect. No one had tended it or fertilized it. Unsightly weeds surrounded it. I’m not even sure how it got there.

But there it was. Making the best of its circumstances.

I reached the top of the hill and started my descent, realizing too late that I should have stopped to take a photo of that iris. “Oh well. I’m on the downward slope now, and there’s no way I’m turning back to go up another hill!” I was reaping the benefits of my earlier work as I coasted for nearly a half-mile. The wind in my face. My tired legs resting.

Seven miles in, I made it to the paved bike trail. Since it’s nearly flat, there was little coasting, but also no hills. I cruised along, finding my rhythm, and enjoying my playlist.

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And so I find my rhythm in life. Sometimes conditions are perfect for tackling my to-do lists. More often, they’re not. I remind myself that God’s ways are perfect. He takes my imperfect attempts, and less-than-perfect conditions, and brings out the good in me. And like the white iris growing in the weeds, I keep reaching for the heavens, attempting to share His goodness.

***

I didn’t get the windows washed, but I had gone for a bike ride and planned next week’s menus (which was pretty simple because, two grad parties). I also found my inspiration, so I sat down to write the story. The story of the perfect, yet not-perfect conditions, and the iris growing in the weeds. Sitting on the porch as I wrote, I could hear thunder rumbling off in the distance.

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“Why didn’t I take a picture of that iris? It would be perfect with this story!” The thunder was getting louder, and the clouds heavier. “I really want to get that pic, but now I need to beat the rain!”

I grabbed my camera and hopped in the car. It was only three miles away. As I left the house, the first raindrops hit the windshield. I whizzed down Redfield road and the drops became heavier. Then it began to pour in buckets. “You’ve got to be kidding!” I sighed. The conditions couldn’t get much worse for taking a photo.

But things did get worse. By the time I reached the spot where I had seen the iris, hail was pelting the car and bouncing like popcorn off the road.

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Laughing to myself at the irony of the situation, I snapped several photos of the hail. Then I thought of that poor iris, being bruised and beaten down by this unexpected turn of events. How would it survive? I recalled when life’s twists and turns had beaten me down; the pain of accidents, illnesses, and loved ones gone too soon. Times when it might have been hard to sing those words:

You’re a good, good, Father...it’s who you are...

And I’m loved by you...it’s who I am...

And yet, my Father knew just what I needed in those times. When I didn’t even know what to pray for, He provided the friends and support, the strength and wisdom I needed to get through. Again, I heard those words:

'Cause you know just what we need before we say a word

You are perfect in all of your ways....to us.

Within minutes, the sun broke through the clouds. I searched for and found my iris, but it had changed. Yesterday’s glorious flower was already wilting. But two new bunches of tightly wrapped petals were about to bloom. Being constantly transformed, it stood ready to thrive again; to share the beauty it was made to share.

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Note: I must confess, I decided to pluck that stem with its buds and bring it home with me. (I left the plant intact so it will bloom again.) The iris would have been largely ignored and unseen on the side of the road, but now it can share its beauty on my porch table and across the internet! Isn’t it perfect?

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