On Reading

Things I’m Not Good At (or Why I Decorate With Books)

        “So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.” Romans 12:5, The Message Bible

* * * *

My sister Elle got all the creative genes in our family. She can watch a how-to show on HGTV and then shop at Home Depot for plywood, staples and vinyl covering, go home and 5 hours later, voila–she’s got a way cool headboard for her bedroom. She was a do-it-yourselfer before DIY was part of our current vocabulary.

I’ve seen her re-fashion fabric pieces into throw pillows, make a shower curtain out of a bedspread, design, sand and paint a picture frame, recover chairs. The list goes on.

Me, I decorate with things that make me happy--books, photos in small frames, fresh flowers from our yard, rocks I collect from the beach. There is no ‘decorating’ scheme in my home, simply moving things around in the seasons. Oh, and candles. I do like candles.

But imagining something out of almost-thin air then creating it to go in my home? Not me.

So not me.


There is a great deal of freedom in knowing what things you don’t do, what you’re not good at. Being aware of what you can say “no” to so that you can say “yes” to the truest part of who you are.

I’m in a small book study group at our church, going through Shauna Niequist’s Bittersweet-thoughts on change, grace and learning the hard way. (Zondervan, 2010). I don’t need anything extra to read at this time in my life, but frankly, the content is perfectly timed.

In particular, the affirmation that it is okay to not be awesome at everything, because we aren’t meant to do everything.

It’s often easy to buy into the lie that says we should be like all those “other people” who have remarkable gardens, super-original clothes, the ones that knit or cook, bake, sew, decorate, craft, fill-in-the-blank. The enemy of our souls would like us to think we should be able to do it all, whatever that all is.

If we buy into that argument, then the “this” that we should be doing, which is often the one thing we were made to do, gets lost.

We’re spread too thin trying to be something we’re not, trying to fit in where we shouldn’t be, trying to look like everyone else.

May I suggest that you do what Niequiest challenged us to do? Make a list of “Things I Don’t Do.” Her list included things like gardening, scouring flea markets, baking, making scrapbooks–definitely not in her DNA, although they are all the “right” mom things to do.

Niequist also added something intangible that she doesn’t do,
“I don’t spend time with people who routinely make me feel like less than I am, or who spend most of their time talking about what’s wrong with everyone else and what’s wrong with the world…”

* * * * *

Life is a constant decision to redefine our boundaries again and again, making them tighter and smaller, not so that we can live in a hidey-hole kind of place, ignoring the world and staying safe, but so that we can live in the freedom of being who we were created to be, where we are, doing what we have been gifted to do.

As the writer of Romans declares in the opening quote, “let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be.”

Maybe you’re a remarkable photographer that captures a world that some of us miss, adding to our lives by showing us what you see. But you definitely don’t do windows.

Maybe you like to run. For fun. Because you sense God’s presence when it’s just you and He together, pounding the pavement. But cooking is so not your thing.

Maybe you enjoy setting a beautiful table, creating a welcoming piece of art for others to enjoy while their souls and bodies are fed. But you haven’t weeded your garden for 6 months. And you’re probably not going to.

Lean into your list. Write down “The Things I Don’t Do” and then listen to what you hear in the spaces.

What are you free to do? What have you been created to do? Live into that.

And be ready to make a new list when the time comes.

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  • Dawnwings

    Thanks for the permission & opportunity! Well, I don’t like to live way down the road of a well-planned calendar. Truth is, I’ve tried & failed enough now to realize that ‘it’s just not me’. I know there are benefits to living that way, but now accept that they are benefits I need to relinquish for others more important for me today — sort of opportunity cost! Glad for a chance to think that through, Jody. Fondly,

  • Nancy Ruegg

    For starters: I don’t worry about dust bunnies until I have to, don’t cook (because my husband is way better at it than I am–and he LIKES it!), don’t knit, don’t particularly care for long phone conversations, don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook. Funny, reading Laurie’s list above I noted she doesn’t do nursery volunteering. Steve and I do, and love interacting with the toddlers. On the other hand, I remember how Laurie transformed the color scheme of her family room to include a blue recliner, with just a few creative changes. You’d think she had started from scratch at Home Goods! I COULDN’T do that!! You are so right, Jody. We need to live into who God created us to be. That’s where freedom, satisfaction, fulfillment and joy can be found.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Oh, Nancy, I’m with you on the dust bunnies. And lucky you in the cooking department! I have a feeling you prefer face-to-face conversations with people instead of those long phone calls, eh? I remember your gracious smile when we had time together and that is definitely one of your gifts–your graciousness.

      • Nancy Ruegg

        Yes, I much prefer face-to-face conversation! Your comment about graciousness made me smile for two reasons: 1) Praise God that’s what you remember, and 2) Nancy means “grace,” as does my middle name, Ann. So I am Grace Grace. 🙂 Now grace-FULL I don’t do. Can’t! But grac-IOUS I CAN do, when I depend on my gracious God. In fact, he gives me great joy in being gracious!

    • Laurie Klein, Scribe

      Nancy, YES! I mean NO, to dust bunnies. And daily dog hair too. I’m with the “Fur is an accessory” folks.

      Thank you for your kind words about my decor. 🙂

  • Laurie Klein, Scribe

    What a freeing idea. I’m glad you shared this with us. The No-Can-Do Llst will be a first for me, and a timely one, Jody. But then, most everything you write here proves relevant—no wonder I keep coming back.

    Off the top: I don’t do appliance research, dog kennel drop-offs, Thanksgiving turkeys, car washes, dead mouse removal, taxes, home repairs, trip planning, or nursery volunteering.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Ah, Laurie, I’m glad you find my posts timely and speak to your heart. (Your table setting is the work of art I had in mind, by the way.) Such a gift you have.
      Thank you for your support.

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