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I add another box of books to the pile in my bedroom and look around at the mess. There’s no where else for these to go, and our bedroom is slowly being buried with things that have to be kept out of the baby’s reach. We recently moved him into his own little bedroom, where our office was before. That meant a total rearranging of the apartment, and our beloved tiny home is starting to feel a little cramped now.

I’m the sort of person who likes everything just so. I had a little workspace with my sewing machine set up, in the small bedroom where we kept our office. I could work there while baby played near me, an arrangement we both quite liked. The desk doubled as a place to write, where I could leave projects out to return to again and again. Now I use the large kitchen table, and stop work many times a day to move everything around. It’s not ideal. As everything is changing in my life, I find I keep saying that — It’s not ideal!

But real life is so seldom ideal, is it? Real life is seldom just so. Picture-perfect, we find, is staged and cropped and filtered; image 12 of 23 bad snaps. In real life, we don’t have just the right tool or just the right setting, but we have so many dreams and plans.

I am running several businesses from home while I stay home with my little boy. At the same time, my husband is working for a crazy number of construction clients while he remodels a house and builds two apartment buildings on his own. We’re both stretched to our capacity, and beyond. We are not in the ideal place for any of it, really. Ideally, we would have more education, more resources, more sleep, and a lot more free time. But if we waited for those circumstances, we would miss out on a lot of growth. In the stretching, we’re being sharpened, and we’re learning how to grow and adapt to meet the demand. We don’t do it all perfectly; we drop a lot of balls. But we learn best by doing. We learn what works, and what doesn’t. We learn systems that help us get the most done and above all, we keep our purpose and values in mind to help us make decisions.

Please, don’t hear me saying you should be crazy busy like us. At this time in our lives, it’s a necessary evil but I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. The point I’m making is that you can’t wait for life to be perfect in order to do the important work of your life. Remember Joseph? He was in a less-than-ideal place for many years: prison. Even there, however, he lived his purpose. The scripture says that Adonai prospered everything Joseph did. There was a purpose for his life — we often say “a calling.” And just because circumstances worked out poorly, God didn’t stop using Joseph’s gifts for good.

The work of our lives to build the house of our emotional wellbeing, our families and our community is work that can’t wait until everything is ideal. It’s the work that happens in the day to day, underpinning everything else. Often, especially in times of waiting and uncertainty, it’s difficult to know that our lives have impact. But in these times, important things are being built.

There’s no list I can give you of ideal things that will help you build your house. I can’t write a formula that gives you measurable results. I can’t tell you to have someone over for dinner once a week, or to spend twenty minutes of quality time with each of your children a day, or to start a Bible study group. There’s no formula because our houses aren’t supposed to all look the same.

No matter where you find yourself in life, you can start building with what you have. You can take ownership of your life and start making it beautiful. You can construct walls and boundaries, furnish with beautiful thoughts, and lay out a welcome mat of vulnerability and trust. You can light a candle of hope, look into someone’s eyes as they speak, send a card with words of encouragement and wisdom.

No matter what your particular gift is — be encouraged. You’re in the right place to use it. It doesn’t have to look perfect. You don’t have to have a string of credentials behind your name to be who you’re supposed to be. If you’re an encourager, you’re going to find ways to encourage. If you’re a worshipper, you don’t need a stage to worship. If you’re a prophet, you’re going to see the need to speak out. If you’re a pastor, you’re going to take care of people.

Don’t second-guess the calling God has on your life. I’ve been in seasons where I confuse someone else’s calling for my own, trying to fit into a mold that doesn’t work. It’s only recently that I’ve realized the things I’ve done all my life that come naturally to me are what I’m made to do. (Writing is one!)

For a long time I was afraid of doing it imperfectly; saying it wrong, being awkward, getting rejected. For a perfectionist like me, it’s hard not to be polished and put together and to know all the answers. But the only way to learn is to do, even if that means we make mistakes.

So don’t wait until everything is just so. Get ready, then aim, then fire — on your mark, get set, go.

Start now.