Book Report: Grace, Not Perfection

Grace, Not Perfection: Embracing Simplicity, Celebrating Joy by Emily Ley

Have you ever taken on more than you could handle? Like, way more than you could handle? As a young working mom driven by perfectionism and productivity, Emily found herself hurtling full-throttle toward burnout. The concept of grace caught her at the last second. She recalibrated her priorities, giving in to the beauty of the moment, and eventually designed a simplified planning system and wrote the most colorful books ever. (Seriously, this was just as fun to look at as it was to read.) With its impeccable photography, entire pages for answering prompts, and valuable advice on organizing everyday chaos, Grace, Not Perfection feels like part Instagram, part journal, and part life coach—all dressed up in a cute striped skirt.

Some of my favorite quotes include:

I believed the lie that perfect meant I was worthy. It turns out, grace was already there to deliver me from that emptiness.

When we multitask our way through the sweetest parts of life, we miss the tiniest joys hidden in the moments between the grand accomplishments.

It’s okay to be a quitter when you’re choosing what matters.

Whatever you can write, sing, or talk about for hours—that is the calling God’s leading you to. You were created to fulfill a very specific, colorful, robust destiny, one of great importance.

Sometimes there is greater gladness in the mess than if everything had gone “according to plan.”

I already have all the things I need to live a beautiful life.

Some joy comes when you least expect it. And some joy comes because you set yourself up for it.

This whole book reads like a giant permission slip, but what really stood out to me was Emily’s take on loving the current season. She argues that comparison—even if it’s stacking our reality up against our own ideals—crushes any pleasure we could take in this moment:

When we create fantasy images in our heads, we slay the beauty in our lives.

Whoa. Well, there you have it. I entered motherhood with visions of conquering the world with a baby on my hip (all with flawless style and fabulous hair). But here I am, rocking smashed Cheerios and sporadic workouts, in desperate need of three solid weeks of sleep. Grace, Not Perfection reminded me that there is so much to be thankful for in the chapter God has chosen for us right now. I need to be fully present, fully appreciative of this day, even if it comes with a worn-out pair of leggings smeared with toddler boogers. According to Emily, now is not the time to be the kind of beautiful I see on the glossy cover of a magazine:

Now is the time to be another kind of beautiful.

Ten journaling questions inspired by the text:

  • How am I… really?
  • Where is the Lord inviting me to be an includer?
  • When have I been bossed around by the assumption that a clean house equals a happy home?
  • Where do I need to say no to guilt?
  • How has chasing perfection been my way of searching for joy?
  • Where am I expending energy I could be saving?
  • What routines help me feel the most ready for the people in my life and the wild, wonderful, exasperating, and unpredictable things they bring?
  • Where have I been running on empty, even though I know better?
  • When has concern about someone’s response kept me from pouring love and encouragement into them?
  • What has been taking up valuable real estate in my home and heart?

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