An Invitation to Imperfect Progress
Emotions aren't bad. But try telling that to my brain at 2:08 a.m. when
I should be sleeping instead of mentally beating myself up.
Why had I become completely unglued about bathroom towels? Towels, for
heaven's sake. Towels!
The master bathroom is the favorite bathroom in our house. Although my
three girls share a small bathroom upstairs, they much prefer our more
spacious bathroom downstairs. As a result, our bath towels are
frequently hijacked. I'll hop out of the tub and reach for the freshly
laundered towel I hung on the rack the day before only to discover it
isn't there. Ugh. So, I wind up using a hand towel. (A hand towel. Can
you feel my pain?) And while using said hand towel, I am muttering under
my breath, "I'm banning the girls from our bathroom." Then, of course, I
never do anything to make the situation better. And the same scene
repeats itself time and time again.
I'd been dealing with the bath towel, or lack thereof, situation for
quite a while before Art got involved. Up to this point, he had somehow
managed to escape the woes of using a hand towel. But not this day. And
his happiness did not abound upon discovering nothing but air where the
towel should have been.
Since I happened to be nearby, he asked if I might please go get him a
towel. I marched upstairs, convinced I'd find every towel we own strewn
randomly about in my girls' rooms. I was preparing a little scolding
speech as I marched, marched, marched up the stairs. With each step I
felt more and more stern. But when I went from room to room, there were
no towels. None. How could this be? Completely baffled, I then went into
the laundry room. Nope, no towels there either. What in the world?
Meanwhile, I felt a tightening knot of tension in my neck as Art again
called out for a towel.
"I'm coming, for heaven's sake," I snapped back as I walked to the linen
closet where the beach towels are kept.
"You'll just have to use one of these," I said, tossing a large Barbie
beach towel over the shower door.
"What?" he asked, "Isn't this the towel the dogs sleep on?"
"Oh good gracious, it was clean and folded in the linen closet. I
wouldn't give you a towel the dogs had been on!" Now my voice came out
high-pitched, and it was clear I was really annoyed.
"Uggghhhh. Is it too much to ask for a clean towel?" Art was asking a
question, but to me it was more like a statement. A judgment. Of me.
"Why do you always do that?!" I screamed. "You take simple mistakes and
turn them into slams against me! Did I take the towels and hide them
who-knows-where? No! Did I let the dogs sleep on the Barbie
towel? No! And furthermore, that isn't the Barbie towel the dogs
were sleeping on. We have three Barbie towels—so there! Now
you have the dadgum 4-1-1 on the towel issue. And none of this is my
I headed upstairs in a huff to give the girls a piece of my mind.
"Never! Ever! Ever! You are not allowed to use the towels in our
bathroom ever, ever, ever again! Do you understand me?!" The
girls just looked at me, dumbfounded that I was getting this upset over
towels, and then started profusely declaring that they didn't have said
Back downstairs, I grabbed my purse, slammed the door, and screeched the
tires as I angrily peeled out of the driveway on my way to a meeting. A
meeting for which I was now late and in no mood to participate. It was
probably some meeting about being kind to your family. I wouldn't know.
My mind was a blur the rest of the day.
And now it's 2:08 a.m. and I can't sleep.
I'm sad because of the way I acted today. I'm disappointed in my lack of
self-control. I'm sad that I accused my girls when later I found the
towels in my son's room. Go figure. And the more I relive my towel
tirade, the more my brain refuses sleep.
I have to figure this out. What is my problem? Why can't I seem to
control my reactions? I stuff. I explode. And I don't know how to get a
handle on this. But God help me if I don't get a handle on this. I will
destroy the relationships I value most and weave into my life permanent
threads of short-temperedness, shame, fear, and frustration. Is that
what I really want? Do I want my headstone to read, "Well, on the days
she was nice she was really nice. But on the days she wasn't, rest
assured, hell hath no fury like the woman who lies beneath the ground
No. That's not what I want. Not at all. I don't want the script of my
life to be written that way. So, at 2:08 a.m., I vow to do better
tomorrow. But better proves illusive, and my vow wears thin in the face
of daily annoyances and other unpleasant realities. Tears slip and I'm
worn out from trying. Always trying.
So who says emotions aren't bad? I feel like mine are. I feel broken.
Unglued, actually. I have vowed to do better at 2:08 a.m. and 8:14 a.m.
and 3:37 p.m. and 9:49 p.m. and many other minutes in between. I know
what it's like to praise God one minute and in the next minute yell and
scream at my child—and then to feel both the burden of my
destructive behavior and the shame of my powerlessness to stop it.
I also know what it's like to be on the receiving end of unglued
behavior and to experience that painful sting of disrespect that makes
me want to hurt the one who hurt me.
And the emotional demands keep on coming. Unrelenting insecurity.
Wondering if anyone appreciates me. Feeling tired, stressed, hormonal.
Feeling unglued is really all I've ever known. And I'm starting to
wonder if maybe it's all I'll ever be.
Those were the defeating thoughts I couldn't escape. Maybe you can
relate. If you relate to my hurt, I pray you will also relate to my
The Hope of Imperfect Progress
What kept me from making changes was the feeling that I wouldn't do it
perfectly. I knew I'd still mess up and the changes wouldn't come
instantly. Sometimes we girls think if we don't make instant progress,
then real change isn't coming. But that's not so. There is a beautiful
reality called imperfect progress. The day I realized the
glorious hope of this kind of imperfect change is the day I gave myself
permission to believe I really could be different.
Imperfect changes are slow steps of progress wrapped in grace ...
imperfect progress. And good heavens, I need lots of that. So, I dared
to write this in my journal:
Progress. Just make progress. It's okay to have setbacks and the need
for do-overs. It's okay to draw a line in the sand and start over
again—and again. Just make sure you're moving the line forward.
Move forward. Take baby steps, but at least take steps that keep you
from being stuck. Then change will come. And it will be good.
These honest words enabled me to begin rewriting my story. Not that I
erased what came before, but I stopped rehashing it and turned the page
afresh. Eventually, I started blogging about my raw emotions and
imperfect changes. In response, I got comments whispering, "Me too."
"Being unglued, for me, comes from a combination of anger and fear,"
wrote Kathy. "I think part of it is learned behavior. This is how my
father was." Courtney honestly admitted, "I come unglued when I feel out
of control because my kids are screaming or fighting or whining or
negotiating and won't listen. I like silence, calm, obedience, and
control. When it's not going `my way,' I come unglued and freak out and
it goes quiet. And then the regret comes."
And the comments kept coming, all of them expressing the exact same
struggle, the same frustration, and the same need for hope. Women with
kids and women without kids. Women caring for aging parents and women
struggling with being the aging parent. Women working in the home and
outside the home. So many women whose daily circumstances differed but
whose core issues were the same.
I realized then that maybe other women could make some imperfect
progress too. And this book was born from that simple realization. But I
had to laugh at the irony of it. I had just published a book called
Made to Crave that dealt with what goes into my mouth. Now I was
writing a book called Unglued to deal with what comes out of my
Unglued is about my imperfect progress—a rewrite for the
ongoing script of my life and a do-over of sorts for my raw emotions.
It's an honest admission that this struggle of reining in how I react
has been hard for me. But hard doesn't mean impossible.
How hard something is often depends on your vantage point. For example,
consider the shell of an egg. Looking at it from the outside, we know an
eggshell is easily broken. But if you're looking at that same shell from
the inside, it seems an impenetrable fortress. It's impossible for the
raw white and tender yolk to penetrate the hardness of the eggshell. But
given time and the proper incubation, the white and yolk develop into a
new life that breaks through the shell and shakes itself free. And in
the end, we can see that the hard work of cracking the shell was good
for the new baby chick. The shell actually provided a place for new life
to grow, and then enabled the chick to break forth in strength.
Might the same be true for our hard places? Might all this
struggle with our raw emotions and unglued feelings have the exact same
potential for new life and new strength?
I think so. I know so. I've seen so.
Indeed, emotions aren't bad.
The Promise of Progress
God gave us emotions. Emotions allow us to feel as we experience life.
Because we feel, we connect. We share laughter and know the gift of
empathy. Our emotions are what enable us to drink deeply from love and
treasure it. And yes, we also experience difficult emotions such as
sadness, fear, shame, and anger. But might these be important as well?
Just as touching a hot stove signals our hand to pull back, might our
hot emotions be alerting us to potential danger?
Yes, but I must remember God gave me emotions so I could experience
life, not destroy it. There is a gentle discipline to it all. One I'm
So, in the midst of my struggle and from the deep places of my heart, I
scrawled out simple words about lessons learned, strategies discovered,
Scriptures applied, imperfections understood, and grace embraced. I
wrote about peace found, peace misplaced, flaws admitted, and
forgiveness remembered. I celebrated progress made.
And that's the promise of this book. Progress. Nothing more. Nothing
less. We won't seek instant change or quick fixes. We'll seek progress.
Progress that will last long after the last page is turned.
We will walk through our progress together. You're not alone. Neither am
I. Isn't that good to know? Isn't it good to have this little space and
time together where it's okay to be vulnerable with what we've stuffed
and to be honest about what we've spewed?
There will be tender mercies for the raw emotions. No need to bend under
the weight of past mistakes. That kind of bending breaks us. And there
has already been enough brokenness here. No, we won't bend from the
weight of our past, but we will bow to the One who holds out hope for a
better future. It's a truth-filled future in which God reveals how
emotions can work for us instead of against us.
Our progress is birthed in this truth, wrapped in the understanding that
our emotions can work for us instead of against us. And then we get to
cultivate that progress, nurture it, and watch it grow. Eventually,
others will begin to see it and take notice. That's progress, lovely
progress. Imperfect progress, but progress nonetheless.
Oh dear friend, there is a reason you are reading these words. There is
a hurt we share. But might we also drink deeply from God's cup of hope
and grace and peace as well? The fresh page is here for the turning. A
new script is waiting to be written. And together we will be courageous
women gathering up our unglued experiences and exchanging them for
something new. New ways. New perspectives. New me. New you. And it will
be good to make this imperfect progress together.
I'm Not a Freak-out Woman
Sheer panic had me banging on the control, alt, and delete buttons
simultaneously. "Please! No, no, no, no, no, no, no!" I turned
off the computer, rebooted, and hoped beyond all reason that this little
glitch was in fact little.
"Please work," I urgently whispered, hoping to appeal to the tender side
of this machine I didn't have a clue how to fix.
My daughter had wanted to show me something really cool on the computer,
so we snuggled up and waited for the website to load. Suddenly, a black
warning box flashed up instead, covering most of my screen. You know
it's not a good sign when your computer screen demands that you send
$49.95 via your credit card to the Internet Security Program because you
have been infected with something only they can fix. I knew it was a
But I also knew whoever was behind it had no concern for me, the project
due this Friday that was now locked inside this computer, or my suddenly
raw and tangled emotions. Some evil computer masterminds with too much
time on their hands and brains bent toward crime were holding my
computer hostage. Everything I did to try to stop the virus just made it
I picked up the phone to call my computer guy only to discover something
had also messed with my phone. My entire contact list had been erased.
What? I didn't even have my phone near the computer! How could both my
phone and my computer go haywire at the same time?
My pulse raced. "You. Have. Got. To. Be. Kidding. Me!" I yelled while
banging the side of my phone into my hand. Surely a little sideways jolt
would reconnect whatever had gotten disconnected inside. Surely.
Then things got inexplicably worse. I suddenly felt like I was living
out the lyrics of a bad country song when, in addition to all things
technical going wrong, my dog started getting sick all over my bedroom
carpet. Of course, it had to be the carpet. Ninety percent of the
flooring downstairs is either wood or tile, which makes cleanup easy.
But easy just wouldn't do in this moment.
Surely one of my children would be eager to help me. But whining was the
only response I got to my command for someone else to clean up after the
dog so I could put an end to my technological Armageddon.
It was too much. Coming too fast. The perfect storm. And though I'd
promised myself over and over and over I wouldn't explode, I did.
"Never, never, never will a child in this house ever be allowed to touch
my computer! And if this dog throw-up isn't cleaned up by the time I
walk back into my room, I'm giving the dog away!"
There would be no Proverbs 31-ish award given to me that night.
No kids to rise and call me blessed.
No husband bragging about me at the city gates.
No laughing at the days to come.
Indeed, nothing but tears and regret. Big, huge piles of regret. And dog
throw-up. And a broken computer. And a psychotic cell phone.
I went to bed feeling like a cloud of yuck had wrapped itself around my
head. There was no tidy ending to that day. No redeeming moment. No
epiphany that rushed into my conscience and showed me how to fix it all.
Just more stuff on my already overwhelming to-do list.
The next day I went to see one of those really smart computer guys,
hoping to hear he could push one simple button and all would be well
with my computer, my phone, and my dog. Call me Pollyanna.
In the end, he knew nothing about cell phones or dogs, and there would
be no such thing as a one-button fix for my computer. The entire
operating system on my laptop had been corrupted. However, he was able
to retrieve most of what was stored on the hard drive. He downloaded it
to an external hard drive, which he then copied over to a new computer.
A new computer that cost me money I hadn't planned on spending.
I was relieved to have a working computer again but annoyed that all of
this had happened in the first place. Until ...
One month later my new computer was stolen. I know. Hard to believe, but
oh so painfully true.
Excerpted from "Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions" by Lysa TerKeurst. Copyright © 0 by Lysa TerKeurst. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.