Friday, January 31, 2014

What Do You Hold Most Valuable?

Photo credit: Kelsey Rath 2013
What do you consider valuable in your life?

Is it objects or possessions? These may be the first things that come to mind because we are used to thinking of things in terms of monetary value. A new flat screen television is more valuable than an old black and white one.

Or maybe you value time—where you would rather spend your time, or how much time spent earning something you really wanted.

Whether we realize it or not, we place value on people, things, and ways of life, and those values may change over time.

As a new mother, I valued sleep over staying up late to watch a movie. While more recently, I’ve realized spending time hanging out with my family is more valuable to me than spending time online.

Over time, and as our lives change, we realize certain things hold greater or lesser importance to us than they may have before.

For Paul, his values changed when he came to know Christ.


And please join the conversation...How have your values changed as your faith has grown and as you’ve gone through different life stages?

In Christ,
Laura 

Monday, January 27, 2014

On Learning to Unwrap Ourselves by Amy Hunt {Comparison Series}


My guest today in our "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series is Amy Hunt. Amy and I "met" through Holley Gerth's God-sized Dream Team, and have been getting to know each other better over the past months. Amy's desire to live life As. It. Is. is inspiring to me - not trying to live as someone else, but just as ourselves - who God made us to be. Please make some time to visit Amy on her blog at A Rock for Him, and please welcome her here by leaving a comment ~ Laura

I picture a horse with side blinders on and wish I could have that kind of limited view. It can be too distracting to see around me—too suffocating and too depressing.

Some people are quicker on their feet, a skill I haven’t (yet) developed; for some this is a true gift. Others do cute crafty things, and do what they can to make life fun for their kids. And then there are those who seem to have the green light to pursue things that ache in their heart.

I’d be the one to not fit underneath even one of these categories if you lined four of us up. I’d stick out and be told: Don’t worry, you’re normal. What I’d hear is: You’re average . . . in academics, in looks, in athletics, in shoes and clothes . . .

I wasn’t born to a dignitary and nor will I (likely) inherit lots of wealth. I haven’t accomplished what so many others have, or even served in amazing places and ways. Honestly, I don’t even give remarkably much more than my blood.

Average has defined me because of how I (and they) have defined You.

I thought there was nothing particularly special about me. I thought that I just blend in. And I thought that if I hid no one would notice and nothing would be missed. 
Truth always wins out. And it’s bigger than we can ever be.
So when I was called to come out of all my cave hiding and Me avoiding, I realized that I am noticed. I’m not needed, per say; God can do so much more without me. I am wanted and purposed, and that’s no small thing.

You’re special because you are one of a kind. That’s truth, not just a cute thing to say. It’s not because you measure up in some way or that you’re better than they.
You’re important simply because you exist.
We base our thoughts and our feelings on comparison, constantly pining for a benchmark other than letting our heart have its own voice.

I wish we all would believe our very selves and lose the could’ve and would’ve kind of living, and the if only we were . . . kind of mourning.

Comparing my life with others has squelched dreams and most of all: Hope. I’ve let what you (and others) think, define what I think. (And most of the time I haven’t known for sure what you really even think.)

Energy has drained out of me as I’ve watched you being you and stepped up to my days as someone I’m not. I’ve told myself my dreams don’t matter and put a thumbtack in even caring about what I think.

The desire my heart has most is for us all to just Be – As. We. Are . . . to accept our life as it is . . . to live our passions versus dismiss them. 

I picture ourselves as a living magazine willing to be boldly splayed on the front cover, the beauty that we are.

I picture our uniqueness being what we treasure, and our focus being flip-flopped from comparing to something a little bit more caring.
It’s worship to live this way—to honor our true and Real selves.
We bring God an offering when we live as we are. He gifts us with another day and we gift Him by unwrapping it and receiving it with our full selves.

What excites me isn’t what excites you. I’m so glad for what I see from my uniquely created perspective. When I fail to embrace me, I’m neglecting the joy that was created specifically for me.
Your joy isn’t my joy and my joy isn’t yours, and that’s a Holy designed thing.
The Enemy tries to steal, kill, and destroy . . . and when we compare, we do the very same thing as he. We think we deserve different or most of all, should be different, when really . . . we were created with a deliberateness that we are dared to discover.

So let’s each get back to our own thing. Let’s wholeheartedly live our very own story and not even kind of compare . . . we waste time when we do that, when we could have been waking to grace.

Let’s just Be. As we are.

this is our worship.

*****

A God-sized dreamy-ideas girl, Amy is passionate about seeing and declaring Real worship lived out. She lives in Central New York with her groom and their Boy-Man who are known to make her belly laugh most days. An early-morning riser, Amy is a sky-adorer and runs hills mostly just for the view. 

As a mess constantly in need of grace, Amy trusts all is purposed and all is grace, as she is learning to pursue hope in spite of the risk. Follow Amy on Twitter.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Me and Mini-Me

Photo credit: Stock Photo: Holding Hands
I'm thrilled to be contributing my first post at Next Level Mama today. J I hope you'll join me there.
My daughter and I are a lot alike, which I first learned when she was only 18 months old…thanks to my husband kindly pointing it out to me.
I don’t remember the situation, but I do remember standing in the kitchen “arguing” with my daughter, only to end with her marching off in a huff. As she left, my husband came in.
“She’s just like you, you know.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, not sure I wanted to hear the answer.
“She wants to have the last word. Just like you.”
I wanted to hang my head and sigh.
At that point I knew two things— it was going to be a long 18 years, and she was watching everything I did.

As a parent, when did you realize your child was watching everything you do? Join the conversation by leaving a comment here or at Next Level Mama. 

In Christ,
Laura 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beauty Comes from Within

Louise Brooks
A few weeks ago, the Golden Globe Awards were on television and simultaneously the “fashion experts” (and I use that term loosely) began critiquing every attendee and what they were wearing.

For days, the critiquing criticizing went on and on…and on. And on.

Endless commentary on every aspect of every dress, hairstyle, suit, and shoe. Often rude television personalities picking apart those on the red carpet…and telling viewers who looked beautiful and who did not.

Wait…

Who said the fashion world and its critics get to decide how beautiful is defined?

Not God.

He didn’t say If you look like this, you’re beautiful. And He didn’t choose a handful of people and assign them the task of determining who looks beautiful and who does not.

He didn’t create us all to fit a “this is how beautiful looks” mold. In fact, if He wanted us all to look the same, He would have just made us that way. Like little cookie-cutter people with no individuality.

But He didn’t. He made every one of us unique and beautiful in our own way. With our own looks and characteristics. Our own personalities and interests…talents and skills.

Our own selves we bring to the everyday world.

We may try to earn others’ approval with our looks, how we act, and what we do, but thankfully, that’s not how God works.

We can’t earn God’s love, and He’s not comparing us to each other. He created each of us just the way He wanted—in His own image.

In. His. Image.

I wonder what He thinks when we judge ourselves by what others say is beautiful, instead of what He calls beautiful?
Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty of fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should clothe yourselves instead with the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God. 1 Peter 3:3-4 NLT
The beauty that comes from within.

True beauty—inside and out—is from God. From His Spirit living within our hearts and His Light shining out for all the world to see.

What the world calls beautiful will fade. It will change with the next whim or fashion design.

But God’s beauty will never fade. It can only shine brighter.

And when His Light shines from within us? That is what makes us beautiful.

How do you define beauty?

In Christ,
Laura 


Monday, January 20, 2014

Never Better: When Truth Intervenes by Jessica Bolyard {Comparison Series}


My guest today in our "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series is Jessica Bolyard. Jessica and I met last year at the Jumping Tandem Retreat and we clicked right away. We found ourselves talking about things we wouldn't normally share with others, especially in the first hour of meeting. Please find time to visit Jessica's blog Adjusting To The World where she shares her heart for God and life, and please make her feel welcome here by leaving a comment. ~Laura

We were watching the video for the second time in a row when she said it.

"I just...I just feel like she sings better than I do."

When I turned my eyes from the screen, with its shaky images of preschoolers singing in their Christmas performance, the expression I saw on her face broke my heart. It was a look I'm sure I've worn at least a thousand times.

Disapproval. Shame. Disappointment. Inadequacy.

It was all written on her face as she continued to watch the video of herself and her friends singing.

----------------------------

I had seen the same face before.

"She colors better than I do."

"She is prettier than I am."

"She has more friends than I do."

"She's smarter than me."

Over and over, from the mouth of a little girl who is barely five years old, come these bitter attacks on herself. She says those things, but the heartbreaking part is what she doesn't say but that I know she is thinking.

"I am not like her, so I am not good enough."

I know she's thinking it, because the same thought has worn a deep path into my own mind. They say that if you think or do something often enough, it digs a trench into your thinking. Like the weight of a tire on a muddy road, our thoughts sink so deeply into our minds that the trenches of past thoughts are the natural route for future ones.

Scientists call them neuropathways. I call it tragedy.

Because once those thoughts start - whether at age five or twelve or two or thirty-two - the pathway becomes increasingly worn. Every day becomes a battle, our journey complicated by the roughness of the road before us. The negative, self-berating thoughts begin to come more easily, and the true thoughts become harder and harder to think, much less to believe.

As her mama, it breaks my heart in a thousand ways to see her beginning down that rutted road. I search my own heart for words of reassurance. I repeat back to her the things that others have said to me. I tell her how beautiful...smart...talented she is. And I tell her how much I love her just the way she is.

But I know that words from mama don't always dig as deeply as hurtful ones, no matter the source. And I know, from my own experience, that her negative thoughts of comparison scream far more loudly than my words to her ever can.

It is because of that that I am thankful for my own struggle with comparison. I am thankful for my own discovery that human words cannot be relied upon to reverse the damage that negative thoughts can inflict. I am grateful that in those moments, when she is caught in the vortex of self-criticism, I am able to point her to a Truth that is bigger than my own opinions of her, and to a Love that far surpasses what I can ever express to her.

----------------------------

And so there, curled up on the couch together, I know what I have to do. She may not believe me today or tomorrow or even the next day. I know, though, that the only way for her to smooth the ruts of self-comparison is to see herself through the eyes of the One who created her.


So I turn her face to mine and get as close as I can to her. As her skeptical eyes search mine for approval, I speak Truth directly into her heart.

"Honey, let me tell you something. The Bible says that God knit you together, and that He made you who you are on purpose. You are a masterpiece......"

*****
Jessica Bolyard is a writer and speaker with a passion for seeing and experiencing Christ in everyday moments of life. Through her own relationship with the Lord, she has come to appreciate the subtle ways He lovingly pursues us and draws us into intimacy with Himself. Jessica longs to help others to live in awareness of God's presence in the easily overlooked moments of life by sharing her own experiences with transparency and authenticity. On the ideal Saturday afternoon, Jessica can be found curled up with a good book, a fuzzy blanket, and her ferociously purring cat.

Linking up with Sharing His Beauty and Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, January 17, 2014

For the Days You Want to Sing the Blues


There are days I feel sad and unmotivated. Maybe you can relate?

Life, and what’s going on, will contribute to my mood. But, my mood is just that—the way I feel today. And today won’t last forever.

The thing about moods is, they change…and often.

While one day I might feel like singing the blues, the next day I may be humming a different tune.

So, today, I’m sharing at 5 Minutes for Faith what gets me through the I-feel-sad-and-don’t-want-to-do-anything-days. Will you join me there?


In Christ,
Laura 

Photo credit: Stock photo: In the Window


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Unlovable, but Always Loved

Photo credit: Stock photo: Love 4
There are days I know I’m not all that likable.

I’m irritable and I snap at loved ones. I’m not particularly nice to neighbors and co-workers or others I encounter during the day. I go the opposite way of where God is leading—and it’s not pretty.

On those days, I don’t feel all that loveable, and on particularly down-right awful days, the enemy can get me questioning God’s love. Thankfully, during those worst times, I have friends who remind me that nothing can separate me from God’s love.

Have you been there? If you’re having one of those down-and-dirty days and questioning God’s love for you, can I be the friend who reminds you today?

Nothing can take away God’s love for you. Nothing.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39 NLT (emphasis mine)
Our actions and behavior may not be lovable, but God always loves us. It’s not in Him to stop loving us. He is love.

I know the thought, but this is really bad…He can’t love me after this.

Yes, He can. And He will. Because we were already at our worst when God sent His only Son, Jesus into the world to save us.
When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Romans 5:6-8 NLT (emphasis mine)
That’s right, we were already sinful when God showed how much He loves us…so, how could He not love us now?

Be assured—He does love us now.

He loved you yesterday. He loves you today. And He will love you tomorrow.

Even on your less-than-loveable days.

In Christ,
Laura   



Monday, January 13, 2014

How Comparison Almost Destroyed My Life by Barbie Swihart {Comparison Series}


Today, my guest in our "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us"  series is Barbie Swihart. I first "met" Barbie in 2011 when I submitted a guest post to 5 Minutes for Faith and she was the editor. Since then, I've considered her a dear online friend. Barbie blogs at My Freshly Brewed Life and recently released her first devotional book, Coffee Talk With Jesus. I had the privilege of reviewing an advance copy of her book which you can read here: Coffee Talk with Jesus {Book Review}. Please make some time to visit Barbie on her blog, and join me in welcoming her here. ~Laura

I am not exactly sure when it took root in my heart. It’s something that, for as long as I can remember, has always been a part of me.

When I was a little girl, I was flanked on both sides by those who were more beautiful and more talented than myself, or so it seemed. I did all I could to conform, to be like those who I admired. Perhaps if I made myself look like them I would be accepted. Even as a little girl I wanted to dress to look like her, or walk like she did, or dance like that one.

God came into my life shortly after I graduated from high school and for the first few years, I was on cloud nine. I loved the Lord, and He loved me and life was perfect, or so it seemed.

Marriage came, and motherhood followed and for a while I was doing okay. But no one knew the deep depression and anxiety I experienced about not measuring up, about how I hated my body, about how I felt I could do nothing right, and how, no matter whether I heard it from his lips or not, my husband could never truly love me.

My displeasure with myself manifested in poor attitudes, angry lash outs and in shutting out the people I loved the most. Deep inside I was crying out for attention, yet I would push away those I loved because I felt unworthy of their affection.

In a matter of months, it all was about to come crashing down. 

It was an innocent attraction. I was in a very low point of my life and although I carried myself as one who was secure and loved on the outside, I was empty, lonely and dissatisfied with my life on the inside. All of the comparing I had done through the years leading up to my marriage was finally manifesting in ways I never knew existed. Why was her husband more affectionate? Why was her husband more gifted? Why did her husband bring her gifts? Why did her husband call her just because? Why couldn’t my husband do those things?

I had internalized all of the places of lack in my soul and made myself believe I was unsatisfied with my marriage, when in fact my eyes were turned to what I thought everyone else had, and onto what I thought I lacked. My vision was blurred and I could not see the blessing that God had put right in front of me. There was nothing wrong with my marriage. But there was something wrong with me. I had taken my eyes off of the one I loved and went in search of something, anything to satisfy my weary heart.

And there he was. This friend, this married man. At a point in my life where I felt misunderstood and longed after the life that others had, he paid attention to me. He told me things I longed to hear about myself. He put me up on a pedestal and made me feel special. All of a sudden, it didn’t matter what I felt about myself. He saw me differently. This attraction turned into an almost daily email connection with this man. What I didn’t realize was that deep down I was unsatisfied with my marriage, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I was comparing it to what I saw, or appeared to see in the lives of other couples. I so desperately wanted more. This emotional affair lasted for about a year. Although I opened myself up in ways I should never have to this man emotionally, nothing physical ever happened. But the scary thing is, that it could have. I was so wrought with my own dissatisfaction in life that I almost turned my back on those I loved the most, for the momentary joy of gaining a life that I thought I wanted.

Comparison. It comes to kill, steal and destroy. It almost destroyed me.

During this time, I fell into a deep pit of despair. I was ridden with guilt and my vision of the real world was cloudy. I could not see the good in anything, especially myself. I remember one day driving across the bridge to go to work. I wondered, would anyone miss me if I drove the car off this bridge?” Anxiety and depression took over and I had to be put on medication for about a year just to function. In counseling, I realized that I was looking at a warped view of the world. “Things aren’t always what they appear to be, the counselor had told me. “You do not know what is going on behind the walls of those people you continue to measure yourself against.” 

Thankfully, with God’s help and the love of my family, I was freed from the pit of despair. 

The enemy comes to kill, steal and destroy. But God’s desire is that we would live a rich and satisfying life, free of comparison. God is the only one who can satisfy the ache in our hearts.

Do you ache to be loved?
Do you ache to be accepted?
Do you ache to be known?

Will you pray and ask God to come and fill the ache that lies deep inside your heart? You are one of a kind, my friend. There is no one like you. You need not compare yourself or your life to others. The God of the universe sees you and leans over the balcony of heaven just to hear your voice. Turn your eyes to Him and allow Him to give you the rich and satisfying life that you desire.

*****
Barbie resides in Northern California with her husband of 25 years and four children. She works full time while juggling faith, family, ministry and writing. She enjoys a good cup of coffee, reading, painting and spending time with her family and friends. Barbie is the author of Coffee Talk With Jesus: Intimate Chats With The Savior and blogs at My Freshly Brewed Life, where she shares glimpses of His love and sprinkles of His grace for everyday living.   

Linking up with Sharing His Beauty and Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Grafted to the Source of Life


I have never tried to graft a rose. Although I have roses in my garden, and it looks like a challenge I would take on just to see if I could do it, it looks tedious.

Grafting is a process that takes continued nurturing to make sure the bud cut from one rose fuses to the stem of the plant you want it to grow from. If the bud is cut wrong, it will wilt and die. If the stem of the main plant is cut too deep, the bud won’t get the nutrients it needs to grow. If the bud is not attached correctly, the two will not fuse.

Everything has to be just right for the tiny little bud to attach and become part of the main plant.

We, as Gentiles, have been adopted into God’s family—grafted to Him—the source of life.

Everything had to be just right for this to happen, and God is the Only One who could—and would—do it.


In Christ,
Laura  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Encouraging Words Your Heart Needs to Hear

Last year, I had the privilege of being on Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dream Team. What a journey it was, but better yet, what a great team of encouraging women—a team that continues supporting, encouraging, and uplifting each other today.

This year, Holley is hosting Coffee for Your Heart: 2014 Encouragement Challenge, where she’s asking each of us (yes, you too) to encourage others and show a little love with our words.

Whether you write, tweet, post on FB, interact with your children, email a friend, or talk to your neighbor or co-worker, we can all share some encouragement with others, can’t we?

Holley’s prompt this week is…
What encouraging words do you want the people you care about to hear as they begin a new year?
My friends, I want you to know God made you who you are to be you, not someone else.

We compare ourselves to others in every way possible, and instead of encouraging us to make positive changes, it usually brings us down.

Down to disappointment in ourselves and envy of others.

Down to jealously that can destroy relationships.

Down to feelings of coveting and thinking what God has blessed us with is not enough.

God doesn’t compare us to His other children.

We do it to ourselves…and the enemy loves it.

My encouragement for you (and for me) is that we live to be who God made us to be—unique and special—each in our own way.

Whoever you might be measuring yourself against today—stop it. Your identity is not in how you compare to someone else.

Your identity is found in Christ. The One who came to save and redeem us—so that we can be the children of God He created us to be.

What encouragement can you share with others today?

In Christ,
Laura 

Don’t miss the new comparisons series right here every Monday!




Monday, January 6, 2014

When You Stop Comparing, and Start Living Your One Beautiful Life by Jennifer Dukes Lee {Comparison Series}


I’m so excited to begin our “Comparing Ourselves to Others…and what it does to us” series with my first guest—Jennifer Dukes Lee. I had the privilege of meeting Jennifer at the Jumping Tandem Retreat I attended last year, and I’ve enjoyed keeping in touch with her since then. If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit Jennifer’s blog, please make sure you do. I always feel so welcome there, and I know you will too. ~Laura

I was twelve years old, sitting on the curb with my friend. It was so hot that the road’s tar bubbled up around our flip-flopped feet.

I don’t remember what had made me so sad that day, to prompt this curbside meeting. But I do remember how bad it hurt on my insides, like my heart was going to burst. My ears and throat burned the way they do sometimes, in that moment immediately before your tears spill over. I wiped my cheek with the back of my hand, and started to tell my friend about whatever was troubling me that day.

“Oo-OOOO-ooo,”  she interrupted me. “Sounds like trouble in paradise. It’s about time.”

I remember how she rolled her eyes, and how her blonde ponytail jiggled when she shook her head back and forth.

I stopped talking.

Comparison had swooped in like a vulture, and snatched my voice. I went home with my tears and my shame and with double the pain, and I wondered what paradise was anyway? Because the burn in my throat still seared when I buried my head in my pillow.

My friend saw only the outside of my life, only the parts that looked like some version of paradise. The truth is I did grow up in the biggest house in our town of 350 souls; it was an old three-story house built in 1902. My mom stayed home with us kids, and Dad had a good-paying job. We dressed nice, went to church every Sunday.  We gathered around the same dinner table almost every night, just after the 6 o’clock whistle blew from the top of the water tower. It wasn’t perfect, but to my friend, it looked like it.

She lived on the other side of the tracks, in a single-parent home. School was difficult for her, and her big brother was often in trouble with the law.

My friend often held her life up next to mine, and saw a trash heap next to a gold mine. And I can’t say for sure, but I walked away from the curb that day, believing that somewhere deep inside her, she felt a little bit better because I was hurting so badly.

* * * * *
I see curbs.

I see curbs on Facebook and at the city park. I sit on the curb of Facebook and the blogosphere and in churches and school gymnasiums and playdates in the park. It gets hot out there, where people’s envy bubbles up like tar. We’re comparing our waist sizes, square-footage, IQs, kids’ reports cards, approval ratings. Oh, it’s subtle, but it’s there.

Comparison is a quiet vulture, swooping in to eat our joy and our camaraderie and our witness to the world.

We compare our trash-heaps days, to someone’s paradisaical Facebook statuses. We might be tempted to roll our eyes at the precocious comments that some preschool mama quoted. Somewhere inside of us, we might be turning green with envy at another writer’s bestselling book,  a former colleague’s success in a new business venture, another couple’s second trip to the beach in a year.

When we compare and contrast, two people get hurt: the Compare-er and the Compare-ee.

1 – The Compar-er.

It’s easy for any of us to see how, in the end, comparison hurts our very own selves. Comparison is one of the biggest joy robbers and dream shredders in our own lives.

We can unzip our own hearts to see the residue of our own envy. We see how it can crush our own wilted identities. The Comparison Monster could force its ugly self smack-dab between us and whatever God is calling us to do: start a blog, write a song, lead a Bible study, apply for the promotion. Nothing will kill a dream faster than looking at the life of someone who’s already living your dream, then believing it’s too good for you.

If you can’t do it like her, why try?

Can’t blog like her? Forget it.

Can’t make a difference like your friend does? Throw in the towel.

How sad for you, and how sad for us. You are the only “you” the world gets. We need you to be you, in this one life you’ve been given. 

I’m not proud to admit that I’ve compared, and let dreams slide through my fingers. Comparison whispers that our efforts are worthless and our dreams are pointless. And it will suck the life right out of us.

2 — The Compare-ee.

Someone else always gets hurt when we compare, even if we think it’s a secret battle we’re having on the inside. It hurts the person who’s sitting on the other side of our envy. It creates an us-versus-them mentality that can rob the Body of Christ of its unity and fellowship. And it can open up doorways to petty criticisms of the person we believe is “living in paradise.”

This morning, I read in Psychology Today that when we feel inadequate, we  might try to protect our own self-worth by diminishing the work of the ones we envy. “You are engaged in devaluing when you have belittling thoughts about another person, such as petty criticisms.”


Cheap shots are delivered. Snickering ensues. We might get annoyed at the Facebook posts of the person who ran another ten miles, lost another ten pounds, gained another ten followers. And when they’re not looking? We might try to knock them down about ten notches.

People: We’ve got to stop this. Life is not a competition. We’re actually all on the same team, and it’s called the Body of Christ. And no one is living in paradise, and we’re all living in a world where Jesus said it plain: “You will have trouble.” Jesus did not footnote any exceptions in the fine print. 

What if we started celebrating other’s victories, instead of trampling on their parades? What if we started living out God’s call on our lives, without worrying if we’ll measure up to some invisible standard? What if we picked up some pom-poms and cheered on our friends, instead of picking up sticks or stones?

What if we ditched the lists?

Any of us can look back on our childhood lives and remember the lists that shaped us: honor rolls published in the local paper, school-play casting calls, homecoming courts, birthday party invitations, and more. When we grow up, the lists grow up with us: the Fortune 500, the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World, the Top 100 Bloggers, the richest, the sexiest, the most relevant. Even Christian leaders have come up with online lists to tell us which authors are the most influential.

In a world of list makers, how can we begin to live only for the Maker’s list? 

What if we all linked hands and elbows, and sat on the curb of life, and brushed away each other’s tears, and squeezed each other’s hands, and cheered wildly when it went well, and cried a hot mess when it all fell apart, when there was “trouble in paradise.” What if we did that?

What if we sat at the curb, and we curbed our comparing? 

How much of our best selves do we leave for the vultures? We could spend our whole lives wishing for something different… and then turn around to realize that we missed the “something different” we were created to live.

What if we kept our eyes on the incomparable God, our hearts in His inexhaustible love, and our feet rooted in His unfathomable grace?

I want me some of that — some incomparable joy. In the Now.

I am so in. I’m writing this because I’ll need to remember it. And maybe you do too?

There’s a spot on the curb right beside me. I pledge this to you: I’ll never compare your beautiful life to mine, and I’ll never cut you down when you’re not looking.

“But in all this comparing and grading and competing, they quite miss the point.” ~ 2 Corinthians 10:12

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Let’s not trample what we’ve been given in order to get to what we wish we’d got.  ~Lisa-Jo Baker

“When the Lord makes it clear you’re to follow Him in this new direction, focus fully on Him and refuse to be distracted by comparisons with others.” ~ Chuck Swindoll

“The problem with comparison is that you always feel either better than someone else or worthless compared to someone else.” ~ Dillon Burroughs

“Follow me.” ~ Jesus Christ

This post first appeared on Jennifer Dukes Lee’s blog on August 30, 2013, and is posted here with Jennifer’s permission.

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Jennifer Dukes Lee used to cover crime, politics, and natural disasters as an award-winning news journalist in Iowa. Now, she uses her reporting skills to chase after the biggest news in history: the redemptive story of Christ.

She blogs about grace and God’s glory at www.JenniferDukesLee.com, and is a contributing editor at www.TheHighCalling.org. She and her husband live on the Lee family farm in Iowa with their two daughters.

Jennifer is the author of Love Idol: Letting Go of Your Need for Approval – and Seeing Yourself through God’s Eyes (Tyndale Momentum, April 2014.) She invites you to connect with her on Twitter @dukeslee, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JenniferDukesLee.


Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria and Winsome Wednesday

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Let go – My One Word 2014


Let go.

This is my One Word for 2014. I guess it’s more of a phrase, but whatever. This is what God gave me.

I prayed. I asked Him what He wanted me to focus on this year. And one morning, as I stared out the window, it was a clear thought—let go. I wasn’t sure if it was His answer, or something I was thinking, and I wanted to be sure. So, I kept praying and asking.

Over the next couple of days, it was always on my mind, and I knew this is what God was leading me to.

Let go.

It scared me. It wasn’t the word (or phrase) I wanted. I think I mentioned that to Him, but instead of giving me a different word, He gave me time to get used to it.

Fear turned to acceptance. If this was His answer, I knew there was a reason. He has a purpose for it.

I considered using the word Release so it really would be one word. It seems like the same meaning, but Let go is different, and now I like it. It’s personal. Like a gift chosen just for me.

I imagine Him whispering, “Let go” when I’m clinging too tightly to something.

Or softly saying, “Let me have it” when I’m struggling to remember God has it all under control.

Let go.

His tender encouragement and guidance.

His gentle instruction, and sometimes, a reprimand.

Let go…my One Word for 2014.

Do you have a One Word for this year? Maybe it’s two words or a phrase. Will you share it in the comments—what’s your one focus for 2014?

In Christ,
Laura  



Thursday, January 2, 2014

Used by God to Accomplish Extraordinary Things

This week, we complete our online study on The Women of Christmas by Liz Curtis Higgs, with Chapter 8 “Joy of Every Longing Heart.” I hope it has been an opportunity for you to grow closer to our Lord, and that you have enjoyed the study as much as I have.


Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna were ordinary women blessed by God because of his goodness and used by God to accomplish extraordinary things. –Liz Curtis Higgs, The Women of Christmas pg. 192 (emphasis mine)
If that sentence didn’t stop you in your tracks, please read it again.

What do you feel when you read it? I feel hope. I feel freedom. I feel joy.
Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna were ordinary women
Ordinary women—like you and me. God chose them not because of their experience, but because of their faith.

By our standards, they weren’t the perfect ages, but in God’s plan and for His purpose, they were just the right ages. Age doesn’t matter. Faith does.
blessed by God because of his goodness
Because of HIS goodness—not mine.

God isn’t waiting to see if I can be good enough to be useful in His plan because He already knows (and so do I) that I can never be good enough. I can never be perfect. And that’s okay. Because God IS perfection. And He chooses us because of His goodness—not ours.

That, my friends, is freeing! And it moves me to tears. Anyone else?
…and used by God to accomplish extraordinary things.
Elizabeth…Mary…Anna…

Ordinary women who were used by God to accomplish extraordinary things.

You (insert your name here)…and me…                       

Ordinary women who will be used by God to accomplish extraordinary things.

Don’t believe it? Take another look at Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna.

Or read about the woman at the well who took the Good News of Jesus back to her town. (John 4:1-42)

Or Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus first appeared at the empty tomb. (John 20:1-18)

God can and will use you…if you let Him.

God’s choice…God’s purpose…God’s goodness…God’s plans.

The question is…

When God calls, how will you answer?

In Christ,
Laura  

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Comparing Ourselves to Others…and what it does to us

Have you ever seen a picture on Facebook, or another social media site, and before you knew it, you were comparing your life to that one posted moment?

A few months ago, I realized three things…

One, I was doing it. I was comparing my life to what I thought I saw in photos – better vacations, happy families, things that looked more fun than what I was doing.  

Two, I didn’t like that I was doing it. I didn’t like that I was comparing my life to one moment someone else posted to share with others. And I didn’t like that it led to jealously and discontentment.

Three, it had to stop. Comparing my life to someone’s posted moment leads to false assumptions. It leads to looking at what God has blessed me with and thinking it’s not enough. It leads to feeling like less.

And, It. Had. To. Stop.

I don’t want to let seeing someone’s picture ruin my day. And, I don’t want someone to look at a photo I post and let it ruin their day!

Think about this for a minute. We usually share our best pictures with others, but how often do they really tell the whole story?

Behind the perfect family photo may be an hour of arguing and trying to get everyone to smile at the same time.

Behind the beautiful vacation snapshot may be the week of pouring down rain or the less than pleasant hotel experience.

Behind the lovely faces in the Christmas pictures may be the pain of the past year and uncertainty that the next year will be any better.

My friends, I am not suggesting we start sharing the worst parts of our lives. But, I am encouraging you, and myself to…

Stop comparing our lives to what we see and think is someone else’s life.

The comparisons are killing us. And the enemy loves it! We do his work for him when we compare ourselves to others and let it bring us down.

We compare looks, careers, how our kids behave, our pasts, our futures, level of education, and so much more.

And it must stop.

After my personal realization, I spent a lot of time thinking about how we compare ourselves to others, and what it does to us. I took a chance and asked a few online, and in real life, friends what they thought of a blog series about this issue. The response was overwhelming—yes, do it!

So, I’m excited (and nervous) to introduce you to a new series…


I’ve asked fellow writers to join me in this series, and every Monday, beginning January 6, I’ll be hosting a guest post on the issue of comparing ourselves to others. (This will not be a how-to series, but rather personal experiences and what God has called us to write about.)

Please visit here each Monday, and also stop by my guests’ personal blogs. I also encourage you to leave a comment whenever you feel led to do so.

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You might be wondering what I did about comparing my life to someone’s posted moment on Facebook…first, I stayed off of Facebook for a while. Sometimes it’s necessary to take a step back from the online world we live in.

Second, realizing that one posted moment does not tell the whole story helped me a lot. And admitting the problem is the first step to changing behavior. Right?

See you Monday!

In Christ,
Laura