Tuesday, February 25, 2014

When You Doubt What You’ve Done As a Mom


Attention germs, viruses, and bacteria: get out. You’ve invaded my home and our lives, and you’ve stayed too long. Get out.

I no longer think of the funny little Mucinex mucus guys (from the commercials) or envision you germs gathering to par-taaay in one of us. Get out.

There have been long days at home with little relief. Too many doctors’ appointments, prescriptions and over-the-counters. And now too many missed assignments and projects.

And you, enemy—don’t think I don’t know your part in this.

As a mom, I’ve done what I thought was best, and now I’m getting calls, questions, and looks. And I’m feeling sick wondering if I should have been tougher and meaner. If I should have ignored the rules and let illness attend school.

You’re making me question my mom instincts and think I should’ve done differently. The world is making me doubt myself as a mom—and I know who’s behind it—you—the enemy.

I’m on to you—taking advantage of tired moms everywhere, worn down by illness and winter—making us even more irritable and unsure of our worth as moms.

And we’ve had enough. Get out!

I’m taking a stand against you Satan. I refuse to believe you and your lies because God’s truth overrules you every time.

Anyone with me?

In Christ,
Laura

Monday, February 24, 2014

Freedom from Comparison by Denise J. Hughes {Comparison Series}


My guest today in our Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us series is Denise J. Hughes. In my early blogging days, I remember Denise was one of the first people I didn't know to comment on a post I wrote, and I was tickled pink. Last year, I had the pleasure of meeting her at the Jumping Tandem Retreat. Denise is the author of two books on writing and blogs at DeniseJHughes.com. Please welcome her here today by leaving a comment. ~ Laura

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I went to camp with the rest of my friends from youth group. And the first camp activity was an ice-breaker: Brunettes to one corner. Blondes to another corner. Black hair to a third corner. Redheads to the fourth.

Out of 200 teen campers, I stood alone in the redheaded corner. Different from everyone else.

As a teenager, I didn’t like being different. I wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be with my friends when they lounged by the pool slathered in coconut oil. I wanted to wear tank tops like my friends and not have to worry about my shoulders getting burned.

So I went to great lengths to defy my God-given design.

Back home, a commercial for Coppertone Sunless Tanning Cream caught my attention. This had to be the best invention known to man. Forget Thomas Edison and his light bulb. Coppertone promised the cure for all my problems. I couldn’t wait to try it.

I rode my bike to the local pharmacy and then rushed home with a bottle in a bag and a hope in my heart. This was the answer I’d been waiting for.

The directions said to leave the sunless tanning cream on my legs for no more than twenty minutes. But since I am really white, I figured that I better leave it on longer. So I carefully spread a towel across my bed, liberally applied the lotion from toe to head, and negligently proceeded to take a long nap instead.

(Mind you, this was the 1980s, so the formula was likely still in the “research and development” phase.)

When I woke up, I ran to the bathroom to discover a hideous discoloration overtaking me like some alien life-form. Beyond awful couldn’t begin to describe the reflection staring back at me. But the worst part? I had to go to school the next day.

Needless to say, Coppertone did not hold the cure I’d been longing for. I had to face the truth: No genie in a bottle could ever make me look like everyone else. I had to accept that I’m different.

Trying to be someone other than who God made me to be is futile. He didn’t design me to look like everyone else. So I might as well stop comparing my white legs to my friends’ tanned legs.

Comparison kills. Comparison tells us that we need to look like everyone else to fit in. Comparison says we need to be doing what everyone else is doing to be liked.

Comparison steals. Comparison takes the unique design we were given and measures us as less than. Comparison tears the fabric of our beings and shows us how we don’t match the fabric around us.

Comparison destroys. Comparison draws our attention to others and stirs our pride to want what they have. Comparison holds a distorted mirror in front of us and demolishes our hopes of belonging.

Comparison kills, steals, and destroys. Does that sound like anyone we know?

The more we try to be like those around us, the more we refuse to be who God created us to be.


Freedom from comparison comes from the growing desire to be the person God wants us to be. And the more we embrace God’s design for us, the more we can celebrate the beauty, success, and talent of others.

More than ever, I just want to be like Jesus. And the closer I draw near to His heart, the more freedom I have from comparison.

How have you found freedom from comparison?


***** 

Denise believes in the power of a well-told story. A blogger since 2009, she appreciates the conversational quality of online writing and considers blogging an excellent medium for exploring and improving the craft. She holds an MA in English and teaches writing at Azusa Pacific University. 

Denise is the author of On Becoming a Writer: What Every Blogger Needs to Know and Passport to Prose: A Simple Editing Guide for Bloggers. She’s a Community Group Leader at (in)courage and a contributing writer at Allume, HelloMornings, Raising Generations Today, and Missional Women. You can find Denise at her website — www.denisejhughes.com — and on Facebook and Twitter.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

One-on-One With God

The Lord is with you when you are with him.
If you seek him, he will be found by you….
2 Chronicles 15:2 NIV

Join me over at Gloria Dei where I'm talking about spending time with God.

In Christ,
Laura



Friday, February 21, 2014

We Are Not Defined By Our Mistakes


In a recent conversation in the office, we were laughing that no matter how many times we proof a document, it seems a typo or error will be found just after the e-mail has been sent or 1,000 copies have been printed.

“I always wonder what mistake I’ll be remembered for,” someone remarked. Light-heartedly, I said, “We are not defined by our mistakes.”

But, as I walked away I kept thinking about it. Isn’t that something we all need to be reminded of?


To continue reading my post, will you join me over at 5 Minutes for Faith

The enemy will try to tell us are mistakes are who we are. But God trumps the enemy every time, and He says we are not defined by our mistakes.

Has there been a time you feared you would be remembered for a mistake you made? From the other side, do you remember others for the mistakes they make?

In Christ,
Laura

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Life God Has Ordained for You by Michelle DeRusha {Comparison Series}


My guest this week is Michelle DeRusha. I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle last year at the Jumping Tandem Retreat, and hearing her speak. She shares her journey in faith with honesty and in a way others can relate to...and I appreciate that. You can read her story on her blog and in her first book Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, which will be released in April of this year. Please join me in welcoming Michelle here and show her some comment love. ~Laura

We stood side-by-side in front of the case, the lunch crowd pressing loud and boisterous behind us. My friend bent down, hands on her knees, to admire the delicate chocolate confections arranged in perfect rows behind the glass. Her hair fell in gentle waves over her shoulders. I watched the man with the white apron tied around his waist watch my friend. Her eyes, blue like the Caribbean, settled on a dark chocolate truffle. His eyes settled on her.

“You like? You want to try, for free?” the man with the apron asked, sliding a truffle from the tray. He looked like an expectant puppy as he handed my friend the chocolate, waiting for her approval, her delight. My friend’s eyes darted toward mine before she took a dainty bite. The man with the white apron didn’t offer a free chocolate to me.

That was the way it always was with Rebecca. With her porcelain skin, startling eyes and petite physique, she attracted attention. I was the plain-Jane friend, and I envied her. The way people looked only at her when we crossed the street; the way her cardigan draped so perfectly over her slight frame; the way she got free dessert, just by showing up. I envied her at work, too – her status as a senior editor at the magazine; her article on pre-Raphaelite artists featured as the cover story. I wanted what Rebecca had: the piercing eyes, the cashmere cardigans, the cover-story status.

Nearly twenty years have passed since I worked at that New York magazine, but not all that much has changed. I’ve lost touch with Rebecca, but others have slid into her spot. I may not pine for free truffles or the admiring gaze of bakers wearing white aprons, but I still covet plum assignments, status and praise. I still yearn to be acknowledged and known. 

Not too long ago a guest post I submitted was rejected by an online magazine. This is standard, I realize, for the writing profession. Not every article, book and blog post will be accepted. But still, it hurts. Rejection always makes me doubt myself and my abilities. It always makes me feel less-than. And it always fuels the hot flames of comparison.

Turned out, though, the rejection itself wasn’t the real problem. The real issue, I realized, was that I wanted to belong. I wanted to part of the “in crowd,” the group of contributors who regularly wrote for the online magazine.

Twenty years ago I wanted what Rebecca had; now I wanted what these writers had: status, recognition, a place in the “in crowd.”  

Recently I sat in the audience at a conference and listened as my friend Deidra reminded us of an important truth, a truth that so often gets crowded out in my own mind by comparison, envy and coveting. 

“No one is going to live the life God has ordained for you,” Deidra said. “When God creates us and redeems us, he gives us a unique purpose for the here and now.”

I forget that so often and so easily. I forget that God has given me a holy, unique purpose –a life unlike any other single person’s life on earth. Rebecca has her own unique purpose, as do the members of every in-crowd, as do you and I.

I’d been so busy looking outward, I’d forgotten that I have God-given value and worth. I’d forgotten that I have something to contribute, too, whether I am part of the “in crowd” or not. I’d forgotten that God has ordained a purpose and a life that is just exactly right and perfect for me. 

*****
A Massachusetts native, Michelle DeRusha moved to Nebraska in 2001, where she discovered the Great Plains, grasshoppers the size of Cornish hens...and God. Michelle writes about finding and keeping faith in the everyday at michellederusha.com, as well as for the Lincoln Journal Star, Prodigal Magazine and The High Calling. 

She's mom to two bug-loving boys, Noah and Rowan, and is married to Brad, an English professor who reads Moby Dick for fun. Her first book, Spiritual Misfit: A Memoir of Uneasy Faith, will be published in April 2014.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Searching for Importance

Friends, I’m so excited to have my first guest post over at (in)courage today! Will you join me there? I’m talking about an unexpected moment when God whispered truth into my heart. 

Here’s a preview of my post…


I sat in worship service that night, happy to hear one of my favorite songs begin to play.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!

Not thinking of anything but the song, I began to sing.

You want them to think you’re important.

Stunned, I stared at the overhead screen, but no longer saw the words. The congregation continued to sing around me, but I couldn’t catch my breath, much less sing.

God had chosen that moment to open my eyes…

To continue reading, follow me over to (in)courage...

Has there been a time in your life when you realized you were searching for importance in something or someone other than God?

In Christ,
Laura 

Photo credit: Stock photo: Jaque II
Song lyrics: Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone) by Chris Tomlin

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dare Not to Compare by Sharita Knobloch {Comparison Series}


I just love my guest today in our "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us." series. She is Sharita Knobloch, and you can find her at 7 Days Time, where she encourages everyone to find Jesus in the everyday. I can't even remember when Sharita and I first connected because it feels like we've always been online friends...hopefully to meet in real life soon. (Yay!) Please make her feel welcome here by leaving a comment and be sure to visit her at 7 Days Time. ~ Laura

It happens in the blink of an eye.

Before I can stop myself, I am looking at her up and down, and thoughts zip through my mind.

“Look at that long, blond hair. I bet she dyes it.”

“Ug. I will NEVER let my kids behave that way.”

“Sigh. I wish I was as skinny as she is…”

While I totally hate these ugly roots of mine (I mean in my heart, not my hair) it is a very real experience for me. Honestly, God has been working on me for some time in this comparison dilemma.  I have come a long way but it is still… so… stinking… hard.

Nowhere in God’s loving heart or holy plan did he say, “I shall design people with different characteristics so they can compare their attributes against one another to fuel jealousy and doubt my character.”

Yeah, no.

He did, however, give us His Word in the Bible that speaks against comparing ourselves to others.
“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” ~Proverbs 14:30
“Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” ~Galatians 6:5 MSG
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” ~1 Corinthians 13:4
As these verses show us, comparison can been the root of envy, pride, conceit, and discontentment. When we compare, we are essentially questioning God’s goodness and faithfulness. We aren’t trusting Him with His plans, His gifts, His design for our lives. Ouch.  

Here’s another problem with this comparison game. It drives a wedge between us and other people, be it friends, families or strangers. When we fill our heart with the “If onlys” or the “I wish I had” or “Why can’t I,” it becomes a playground for Satan. He starts working overtime to make those comparisons deep-seeded enough to impact our relationship with God. (See previous paragraph.)

It’s an ugly, vicious cycle.

Oh. And we can’t forget social media’s role in this cycle. While platforms like Facebook can be a great tool to witness, it can also be a source of heartache.

Example: You log onto Facebook or Twitter and see something like this: “What a great day! Hubby got promoted, I cleaned my entire house in 18 minutes, completed 33 new Pinterest projects, the kids were angels and the puppy potty-trained himself. Oh, and we are expecting a baby!”

We then compare their wonderful, glamorous life to our day filled with poopy diapers, a car that wouldn’t start, a dog that puked on the carpet (again) and more bills to pay. Remember, sweet friends: when we compare our lives to others, oftentimes we are comparing their best moments with our worst.

And that’s not a very level playing field if you ask me.

Can you imagine what our world would be like if we would stop comparing ourselves to others and compare ourselves to Christ? After all—HE is the One we are following.

Instead of being smug with how well our kids behave compared to those “other parents,” why don’t we extend love and mercy? We don’t know their story.

Instead of feeling jealous or defeated when someone else has more Facebook page likes or Twitter followers, we should be happy for them… And maybe even seek to learn from them.

Instead of comparing our physical attributes to our neighbor or friend or stranger, why can’t we simply be thankful that God made us, fearfully and wonderfully, physical limitations and all?

Take some time to pray and ask God to show you the comparative parts of your heart. Seek to live in Him, reaching for the standards He has set for us, not what our flesh or the world tells us.

Be bold. Dig deep. Take this dare not to compare… Because God loves you just the way you are, complete with those grumpy kids, frizzy hair, Cheerios-ground-in-the-carpet and all. 

*****

Sharita Knobloch describes herself as a Jesus-loving, enthusiastically creative minister, writer, and Spiritual Leadership Coach. She loves encouraging others to find Jesus in the everyday and live in His light through blogging and coaching at 7 Days Time Ministry

She adores her family, specifically her Beloved army infantry husband Brandon, their sweet daughter Charis and goofy little dog Justus. Sharita enjoys exploring her current “home” state of Washington, breaking in new journals with inky pens, and eating square(s) of dark chocolate in the bathtub.

Connect with Sharita on her website, Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Me I Wanted To Be by Christine Wright {Comparison Series}


My guest today in our "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series is Christine Wright. Christine and I "met" last year on Holley Gerth's God-sized Dream Team and let me tell you, she is one inspiring woman. She lives her favorite Scripture verse Joel 2:25, "I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten..." and shines as an example and a reminder that God does indeed have plans for us - for today and for the future. Please join me in welcoming Christine here today, and be sure to visit her at Living Joel 2:25. ~ Laura

I saw her again yesterday. The mom I've known for over a decade now. Actually, I don't know her...I just know of her. We smile and nod, having seen each other in various settings for years, but never meeting, much beyond a short hello.

I do know a few things though.

She's good. As in really good. At life. At mothering. At just being her.

She's delightful. Absolutely delightful.

Three kids - who behave because they want to (who does that??), an uncomplicated marriage, and a sense of style that just works, if you know what I mean.

Here’s the thing, I almost wish she'd be good in a slightly annoying way...but she's not even that. Even her way of being delightfully good, is well, delightfully good.

And here's where it gets worse. I have a difficult time after seeing her, and I can’t stand that.

I prayed over it one morning, saddened I felt that way. She's only human and surely has flaws, so why am I upset after I run into her? I took it to God and confessed these feelings I'd been having.

In return, God said something I wasn't expecting, "She's who you always wanted to be." I knew instantly what He was talking about though.

For someone who flies by the seat of her pants, I sure had the rest of my life planned out by the time I was in high school. Complete with a white picket fence {slightly embarrassing, but true}.  



To sum it up, it would be delightful. Dare I say, I’d be delightful.

Complete with kids who behave just because they want to, a simple marriage, and a sense of style that just works.

I guess I don't need to say much more beyond life happened to those plans. A divorce, years of wilderness walking, and a sense of style that is just barely beginning to find it’s way back from the drudgery of “faded jeans, black shirt.”  

{And no white picket fence in sight.}

Who did you want to be? What were the plans of your heart? Does life feel miles from where you thought it would be at this point?

Here's what I just love. God uses it. He honors it.

God takes who we are today. With the kids who are arguing in the backseat over who gets the headphones. With us in the same black tee shirt as yesterday (or worse, yet, a brand new black tee, with the tags still attached and hanging out of the back - looking so pitiful the nice man collecting the Goodwill donations has to help you…don’t ask me how I know this...), and puts it to use for His Kingdom.  

He takes the me who's now remarried and working desperately to learn from past mistakes, and helps me when I stumble again.  

And again.

And no matter how far off course our life has gotten from our original plan, we are delightful to Him! His plans for us are good! And every single thing in our life, the good, the bad, the times we fall, the times we’re delightful, the times we walk around with the price tag hanging out of our shirt, He can use for good!  

And now when I run into her around town, I no longer feel crushed. God has shown me how He’s taken those old plans and used me in ways I never could have imagined. It might not have been a perfect walk, but He’s redeemed and turned them it good. Every single {now delightful} step.

The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior Who saves. He will take great delight in you; in His love He will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails.

*****


Christine Wright, founder of God-sized Dreams.com, lives to inspire others to take bold leaps of faith and trust Jesus with everything. Joel 2:25 is her favorite verse, “I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten…” and she knows He can restore everything. 

Christine is married to Mr. Wright and has four kids, ages 17, 15, 8, and 4, who keep her laughing and scrambling for more coffee.  She writes for Christian Women's Voice Magazine and is a contributor for Believe.com. You can find her blogging at Living Joel 2:25.

Photo Credit

Linking up with Sharing His Beauty, Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Living Intentionally in the Small Things


Sometimes, living intentionally means living in obedience to God in the small things He gives, when your heart dreams of doing something bigger.

I’ve felt it—maybe you have to—that nudge from God to focus on what’s at hand, instead of what you hope to be.

For me, it was a feeling—a whisper from God—while I was driving to meet a friend for lunch. His message? To focus more at home and with my family.

I didn’t quite understand it. I mean, I’m not exactly a social butterfly. But, it was real, and I knew it was from Him. If I wasn’t sure or thought I imagined it, I wouldn’t have brought it up at lunch only minutes after it happened. But, I knew, so I talked about it.

And in the months since, I understood a few times why He was pulling me home, and I’m glad I followed.

But sometimes, there are still those moments. Moments when I think, Is this it, God? This blog and the others I write for regularly, is this enough? Because I don’t feel like I’m doing much.

I don’t worry about page views, or lack thereof. I know God will use it as He sees fit. But I get tired and I wonder if it matters. I dream of doing something bigger—more important…and then….

Then, God sends a reminder that this is what He's called me to for right now. A thank you from someone unexpected. Someone who has been on the receiving end of God’s work—through a reader who shared my words.

A message from God, in the form of a thank you, reminding me that what I think are the small things aren’t small at all when He uses them.

I read a post yesterday by Jennifer Dukes Lee about living intentionally, and I thought about how I have to intentionally focus on what God has called me to right here, right now. Because the truth is, I dream of something bigger, and bigger makes today’s small seem not so important.

I think about the parable of the three servants in the Book of Matthew, chapter 25.
“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together! Matthew 25:21
And I’m reminded that small is good. Small is important. Small prepares me for what else God may have planned for me.

And God says, Let’s celebrate together!

In Christ,
Laura  

This post led to a second post. Click here to read Part 2: Obedience in the Small Things.


*****


This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m happy to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions. Grab your copy here.