Monday, March 31, 2014

On the Path to Perfect by Sandra Heska King {Comparison Series}


I'm so pleased to have Sandra Heska King here today as my guest in the "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. I had the pleasure of meeting Sandra last year at the Jumping Tandem Retreat...and, I'll admit, I was shocked she knew who I was before an introduction was made (and tickled pink.) Please take some time to visit her blog and welcome her here by leaving a comment. ~ Laura

Please, God, let my parents come and beat her up.

We’d had a sword fight with pencils, Patsi and I. And Mrs. Smith rapped my 8-year-old knuckles.

But not Patsi’s.

So I turned around and scribbled on Patsi’s picture.

And now I stood in the corner, lump in throat, cheeks aflame.

It didn’t occur to me that if my parents did come, I might be the one in trouble and not Mrs. Smith.

And certainly not Patsi.

She was practically perfect in every way, and I was always just about one step behind her.

If I got an A, she got an A+.

When I brought home a B, my mom asked, “What did Patsi get?”

The teacher divided our class into reading groups, and Patsi and I were a group of two. I still remember how she giggled when I pronounced the word, “the” as “thee.”

Patsi was valedictorian of our senior class. Well, co-valdictorian. I could have been (a) salutatorian—except there were four of us very close, and the school let us choose whether we wanted to share or let the one with the very highest grade take all the honors. We chose that route—which means I lost by about 200ths of a point.

Patsi became a nurse. But she had a four-year degree from a top school. I got a diploma from a hospital. (Until I was in my mid-40’s and got my own bachelor’s from a rival university.)

It’s hard to keep up with perfect. Exhausting, actually. And sometimes I wonder if I might have even tried a path other than nursing if I hadn’t been trotting so close to her.

Even now that I’ve found my own road, it’s hard to not compare my life with what might have been or what could be that can’t, my kids with other kids, my house with someone else’s, my depth of faith with Susie’s, my store of wisdom with Joanna’s, my makeup talent and sense of style with Mavis, my writing “success” with…well, you get the picture.

I want to be practically perfect in every way.

But here’s the thing.

I am.

Because I AM sees me that way.

Because He made me this way.

And He’s had His hand on each step of my journey, weaving every weed and broken stick and bee sting and crushed leaf along the way into a colorful wildflower life filled with fragrance and song. Even if my senses haven’t quite yet comprehended it all.

I’m pretty sure that by the time I reach the river, I’ll find I’ve been following His footsteps all along, even if sometimes they’ve seemed somewhat buried under life’s litter.

So today I’ll embrace the me He made me to be. I’ll kick comparison to the curb, and celebrate the you He created you to be. Because we’ve each been fashioned by the Father, handcrafted to honor Him and reflect His image in our own unique ways.

Oh, one more thing. I asked Jesus into my heart in grade school behind the gym when Patsi prayed with me. I guess you could say she’s the one who set me on the path to follow the only perfect One.

*****

Sandra Heska King lives in Michigan and writes from a 150-plus-year-old family farmhouse set on 60-something acres surrounded by corn or soybeans or sometimes wheat. She’s a recovering doer who’s learning to be and be still. She spends too much money on books and eats too many M&M’s, and she tries to live Mary Oliver’s words: “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.”

Sandra blogs at sandraheskaking.com and sometimes spills words in other places across the internet like The High Calling. She’s currently working on a memoir and a novel, and you can catch up with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Choosing For This Season

I have the pleasure today of being a guest writer at my friend Barbie's place - My Freshly Brewed Life, where I'm talking about the choices we sometimes have to make in life. They may only be for a season...but sometimes saying yes to one thing means saying no to something else, and we have to decide where our time is best spent.


It started as I drove to meet a friend for lunch one day last fall. I can’t tell you the exact words, but I sensed God telling me to spend more time focused at home and on my daughter. Honestly, I didn’t really get it. My life pretty much revolves around my family, home, and work, so I didn’t know what He was referring to, but it was clearly from Him.

I didn’t feel as if there was something specific I was supposed to do… that would have been easier—something I could check it off a list. No, instead, it was more of a feeling or reminder to let other things go and focus on the moment.

Oddly enough, I found that tension between television and the online world.

I’m not one to sit and watch television for hours. I have to be doing something else while I watch—reading, working on a jigsaw puzzle, working on a post or my blog, or surfing the Web.

I thought they were all the same, so what’s the difference if I’m online or flipping through a magazine?

The difference is…the online world takes you away from the world you’re currently sitting in.

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone starts checking his e-mail and you watch his attention shift? No longer is he in the conversation at the table. He’s now in his e-mail world and you’re wondering if he’s coming back, or if you somehow missed the end of the meeting.

I realized that’s what I was doing at home...   

To read the rest of my post, please join me at Barbie's place - My Freshly Brewed Life. And tell me, what's been your experience...when have you found yourself at a time of having to choose what was right for the season you were in?

In Christ,
Laura

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Comparison Trap (3 Ways to Get Free) by Dawn Paoletta {Comparison Series}


Dawn Paoletta is my guest today in the "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. I can't remember when I first met Dawn online, but I've enjoyed getting to know her over the past couple of years. You can find her writing on her blog at Enthusiastically, Dawn, as well as 5 Minutes for Faith. Please make her feel welcome here today by leaving a comment. ~ Laura

The bus ride home was always the same. Mine was the last stop, but before my stop came hers. I never knew her name; she was a couple of years older than me. We never exchanged a word.

Every day, the bus stopped right in front of her large, 2-story home, with manicured lawn. She had long, straight, caramel colored hair and always dressed well.  I saw her big beautiful house and I imagined her in her perfect bedroom, in her perfect house with her perfect life…and I ached for all I didn't have.  

Sometimes I dreamed I was her. I wanted to be all that. What I thought was all that, anyway.

Then the bus came to my stop, one street over from the second story apartment where I lived with my mom and cat. I climbed the stairs, let myself in, turned on the TV and tuned out of the life that was mine.

That girl on the bus was forgotten until I was invited to write this post on Comparing Ourselves to Others. She was buried deep in my unconsciousness, like sleeping beauty, perfectly laid out in all her beautiful splendor, a memory awakened by the proper prompt.

I believed my life was a mistake—that I was a mistake, and my only hope was to have a new life, and a new self. All was magnified unrealistically as I began looking through my distorted lenses at others and seeing all of their perfection and all of my imperfection.

Broken family, donated clothes, an unavailable, but hardworking mom struggling to make ends meet, and one, lost little girl believing The Brady Bunch was an accurate portrayal of everyone else's family.

Soul wounds are hotbeds for breeding comparison, and they need healing from a supernatural source. You cannot fix that which is unfixable. Of course I realized this as an adult, after many years of trying to fix what can only be fixed by a Supernatural God.

I realized that the girl on the bus had shown up again while talking on the phone with my best friend...about this post. I asked her to pray for me because I was struggling with this topic of comparison. I told her I was intimidated by all the other really great writers who were participating, and I couldn't hear God clearly. As the words came out of my mouth I sensed the irony.

I was sitting on the bus in my Sears Roebuck plaid pants, while everyone else had Levi’s blue jeans. Again. Their perfectly published books, blogs, and lives, compared to my perceived insignificance.

But here's where it gets good!
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentation 3:24
I know what I think is not true—because God has given me something, too. Not plaid pants, but a perfect portion. Immeasurable grace and truth, in abundance.

He's given wonderful gifts to each of us—beautiful, significant, perfect-in-Christ portions that only we can share…if we dare.

I'd like to say I don't get caught in the comparison trap or that I’m above it. I think God allowed my words to remain stuck until I was willing to tell the truth—I do still get caught in it. But the difference now is, my Savior is on the bus with me, and He helps me to see clearly. He introduces me to the girl on the bus, and I discover we are not so different after all.

God is good, God is just, and God is faithful. He gives each of us exactly what we need, and all that touches our lives is filtered by His loving-kindness, mercy and grace.

Here are three things I do when I find myself ensnared by the comparison trap:

1. I wake up: Once I realize (hello, sometimes I am dense!) I am comparing, I take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5)

2. I smell the coffee: I focus my eyes on Him instead of others and myself. I consider His great love and sacrifice for me. (Psalm 107:43)

3. I swig and savor: We are armed with the Living Words of a Mighty Savior. So I take a big swig of that cup of goodness and drink it down into the crevices of my soul. I savor the Truth that is sweet, satisfying and soothing to my soul. I am strengthened and empowered. (Hebrews 4:12; Psalm 34:8; Ephesians 6:10-17)

When I do these things, I am not only free from the comparison trap, but I am able to see that in His Kingdom, none are insignificant, but all find significance in Him.  

There’s no need to compare. There's enough to go around, friends—more than enough in Christ.

*****

Dawn Paoletta is a writer who has finally come out of the closet and is following her dream to share her life lessons and insights through writing. Having worked as a Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor most of her adult life, she is a natural coach and encourager who can’t help sharing what she’s learned along the way. She likes to serve up spiritual lessons learned with authenticity, grace and truth. Join her at Enthusiastically, Dawn where she shares Poetry, Journal Keeping, Daily Inspiration and more, fresh from the Coast of Rhode Island. 


Friday, March 21, 2014

Life in His Word


I recently had the pleasure of reading an advance copy of Jennifer Hand’s 31 Days to Coming Alive. Written as a daily devotional, her words captured my attention, and really got me thinking…and going deeper.
God could have made one common animal, but Genesis describes how He made varieties of animals, plants, ecosystems, environments, even the land and the sea. The powerful part of God? He spoke all of creation into being with His words. Jennifer Hand, 31 Days to Coming Alive (bold mine)
I couldn’t help but stop here and ponder. God spoke all of creation into being—with His words.

His powerful words…which are given to us in the Bible.

His God-breathed words of life.

It wasn’t just at the time of creation that God breathed life with His words. His words give life every time we open the Bible and start reading.

Jesus confirmed it when He was being tempted by Satan... Continue reading...

To continue reading, please join me at 5 Minutes for Faith.

Jennifer Hand's eBook, 31 days to Coming Alive, is now available on Amazon. Click here for more info: Coming Alive Ministries.

In Christ,

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Cancer I Walked Away From by Melanie Moore {Comparison Series}


It's a pleasure to have Melanie Moore as my guest today in the "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. Melanie writes from her heart, encouraging and equipping others in their faith walk at Only A BreathPlease make time to visit her there and make her feel welcome here today by leaving a comment. ~Laura

At first, I called it curiosity. After all, I had always secretly wanted to be a private investigator after reading one too many mystery novels. Looking up certain people on Facebook, I even reasoned to myself, was done out of my concern for them.

However, this curiosity soon made a dangerous turn down a path leading to the comparison trap. Facebook photos of perfect white smiles, exotic vacations, an amazing wardrobe, and flawless skin made me cringe. Suddenly, my "innocent curiosity" turned into the overwhelming need to compete with this perfect face on Facebook. I am ashamed to admit that, sadly, it became a habit for me to look at her page in order for me to tally our current score.

If her skin was flawless and mine was not, I obviously lost that battle and the self-loathing began.

If her wardrobe was amazing, suddenly mine looked terrible, and again I had to give that point to her.

If she gained a couple pounds, I secretly rejoiced because I finally found a weakness I could exploit in our imaginary competition. Score one for me.

Curiosity and concern suddenly turned into fierce competition and comparison where no one could win... except Satan himself.

"A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body;
    jealousy is like cancer in the bones."
Proverbs 14:30

This competition became an addiction, perhaps fueled by my need for approval. Even though I knew how unhealthy it was for me to play this dangerous game of comparison, I could not stop. I always felt the need to check on the competition to see how "I" was doing.

One day I realized that comparison was eating away at me like cancer in the bones, turning me into someone I didn't want to be, and someone God doesn't want me to be.

The girl on Facebook is not the enemy—Satan is the enemy, and I was totally and completely buying into his lies. When Satan, the father of lies, whispered that I am not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, or popular enough—I believed him.

God gripped my attention and brought me to my knees before Him. I realized that when I compare myself to someone else, I am drowning out His voicethe only One who can ever give me approval. I came to realize that the person I am comparing myself to is one of only two choices: she is either a sister in Christ or she is a lost soul in need of a Savior.

I wept silently as the magnitude of my sin of comparison washed over me.

As a Christian, was I really rejoicing over the fact that a sister in Christ has less money, or has gained weight, or is struggling in her relationships?! On the other hand, could I have been rejoicing over the fact that a lost soul in need of a Savior has fewer friends, or less blog traffic, or crooked teeth?!

God help me and forgive me.

I want to be who God wants me to be. I don't want to believe Satan's lies. I want to build up the body of Christ, not tear it down. I want to minister to lost souls in need, not rejoice in their weakness.

Since I have confessed my sins of comparison, I feel that God is working in my heart and showing me who He has designed me to be, and that is the only path I am capable to walk.

"Guard your heart above all else,
for it determines the course of your life."
~ Proverbs 4:23

If you have also struggled with comparison, I want you to know two things—things are not always as perfect as they appear online (for any of us) and God is able to replace the lies of Satan with His truth. Walk away from the comparison trap. God is able to give you the approval you most desire. He is able to forgive your sins and to lead you on the road he has prepared for you.

Walk the path He has for you, sweet friend. If I can pray with you, please contact me, and I will be happy to do so confidentially.

*****

Melanie is a wife and mom who loves to belly-laugh and savor each moment of this precious life. She writes to encourage others and share the hope of God's unfailing love. Stop by and say howdy at her blog, Facebook, or Twitter.

Linking up with The Weekend BrewSharing His Beauty, Winsome Wednesday, Soli Deo Gloria, WholeHearted Wednesdays

Monday, March 10, 2014

Can Comparisons Be Good? by Kacey Bess {Comparison Series}


I'm so happy to have Kacey Bess as my guest today in our "Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us" series. I first "met" Kacey last year through Holley Gerth's God-sized Dream Team before meeting her in person at the Jumping Tandem Retreat. Please welcome Kacey here by leaving a comment and visit her blog Next Level Mama. ~Laura

If theres one thing that has hindered me and hurt me over the years, it has been the comparison game. Whether comparing myself to the cool kids in junior high or the Betty Crocker moms at my childs school, this game of comparing has left me feeling inadequate more times than Id care to admit.

Up until a few weeks ago, Id planned to share about one of those moments, but then something happeneda moment that caused me to see comparisons as a good thing.

You see, a couple of weeks ago I attended the funeral of a high school class mate. Diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrigs Disease) about two years ago, life for my friend, his wife and two small boys would be forever changed. He went from a sprightly, athletic guy, to a man who had to depend on others for just about everything.

The beautiful thing is during this time, his joy never wavered. Even as his body deteriorated, he still proclaimed the goodness of God.

His wife told the story of how on one of their visits to an ALS Clinic, she urged her husband to declare the unfairness of their situation. She wanted him to unload his frustrations and disappointments at the cards theyd been dealt. And while no one would have begrudged him of this moment, he refused. He refused to let a disease get the best of his attitude or his life.

As his wife stood at the front of the sanctuary, beaming with joy and pride in her husbands unrelenting faith and standing strong in her own faith, I sank into the pew and began to stack my faith up against theirs.

I reminisced over the times in my life, Id been like a fair-weather fan, proclaiming how great God was during the good times but drawing away from him during the bad. I thought of the many times, when life hadnt turned out the way I wanted, Id shouted angrily at God

Where are you?

How could you let this be?

Do you even care about me?

In that moment of comparison, I saw my faith for what it had been at timesweak and questionable.

But in looking at this couple, I also saw my faith for what it could becomestrong and unshakeable like a mighty tree.

I left the sanctuary that day inspired and challenged to go deeper in my relationship with God.

And you know what, I imagine this type of comparison is what draws many of us to Christ (aside from Gods gentle nudging). We see something in others that we wantsomething we may not even be able to pinpoint or verbalize. Maybe its their joy in the midst of trying circumstances, a constant pep in their step, unexplainable favor over their lives or their unselfish giving to others. Whatever it is, comparing ourselves in this way shows us what is possible. It shows us theres still room to become a better person.

And when it comes to these kind of comparisons, I dont think theres anything wrong with that at all.


*****

By day, Kacey Bess is a budget analyst for a city; but after quitting time, youll find her wrangling three energetic busy bodies. She loves her kids to pieces and the many ways theyre refining her into a better personat least on most days. 

She picked up the blogging bug in 2011, and now writes about motherhood and parenting at Next Level Mama. This die-hard Texas girl is most comfortable when curled up in a big comfy chair with an iPad full of books and a plate full of desserts. You can find her tweeting away at @nextlevelmama.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Obedience in the Small Things


Last month, I wrote about living intentionally in the small things. I was thinking about my everyday life and the parable of the three servants in the Book of Matthew. And I was comforted to know that when I’m obedient in what God calls me too right now—no matter how small it seems to me—He says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

But there was more to what I realized that day, and it starts with a confession. You see, in the parable of the three servants, I’ve never understood why the master was so harsh with the third servant.

The first two servants used the money the master entrusted to them and earned more; the third servant was afraid he’d lose the money so he hid it in the ground and then returned the master’s full amount. The master was furious.

“Then the servant with the one bag of silver came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’

“But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’

 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” Matthew 25:24-30 NLT

I’ve always thought isn’t it better that the servant returned the full amount of money rather than losing the money and returning nothing?

I don’t remember ever hearing that part explained, so I never told anyone I didn’t get it because I thought it must be obvious to everyone else.

But last month, as I thought about this parable and wrote my post, God caught my attention with this verse:

…why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it. Matthew 25:27

And something clicked.

If I’m not obedient in the small things because I think they’re too small and not important, am I in reality taking what God has entrusted to me and hiding it in the ground?

Isn’t sharing what Jesus has done in my life with one person, whether that’s my daughter or one reader, better than not sharing it at all?

I could hear the parable of the three servants told a little differently…

The first servant returned the master’s money with a full return on his investment…he shared the Good News with everyone he met. And the Lord changed many hearts because they learned of Jesus.

The second servant earned a partial return on the investment…he shared his faith with some he knew. And the Lord changed those hearts because they heard of Jesus.

The third servant hid the money and returned the full amount…he kept what he knew about Jesus hidden because he wasn’t called to do something he thought was great. And those around him never heard the name of Jesus.

How much better is it to share what Jesus has done for me with one than with no one? (<==Tweet this.)

It’s not my job to debate with God what’s worthwhile and what’s not. If He calls me to write a post that only one person will ever read, then that’s important work—because I'm working for Him.

And no matter how small it seems to me—it will be huge when God works through it.

God certainly doesn’t need me to reach people before He can change hearts. But He invites me to be a part of His work—and that’s an opportunity I don’t want to miss because I judge it as “too small.”

It’s my obedience that matters, not the size of the job...and someday, I want to hear…

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 NLT)

How about you? Has God called you to something that seems small and unimportant?

In Christ,
Laura 



Monday, March 3, 2014

There's Only One You by Holley Gerth {Comparison Series}


It's a thrill to have author Holley Gerth as my guest today in our Comparing Ourselves to Others...and what it does to us series. I had the privilege of being on Holley's God-sized Dream Team last year and the pleasure of meeting her in person at the Jumping Tandem Retreat. You can visit her at HolleyGerth.com and at (in)courage. Please welcome Holley here today by leaving a comment. ~ Laura

It’s so easy to look at the woman across the room, across the sanctuary, across the World Wide Web and think, “I should be more like her.” We compare clothes, talents, how many friends we have on Facebook. We crave validation, and surely if we can be like the people we admire, then we will have it.

Yet God doesn’t compare you to anyone else. Not that friend whose house looks like a spread in a magazine. Not the woman in your church who knows how to make everyone laugh at just the right moment. Not even the leader who seems to have a direct line to Jesus while you feel like you’re dialing the wrong number half the time. Not to any of them—or any other woman who has ever been or ever will be. When you gave your life to Jesus you became a “new creation.” Listen closely: it doesn’t say “a new human being.” A new creation.

In other words, God made you into something the world has never seen before and never will again. We talked about this before, but I think it’s important enough to say again because women struggle so much with comparison.

You are a one-of-a-kind masterpiece, a custom design, a work of art.

And when there is only one of something, it’s impossible to compare it.

That means since there’s only one of you, you can’t be compared either. When God looks at you, he sees his handiwork and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. That’s it. The only standard he ever asked you to meet is the one Jesus met in your place. So you are free from being compared.

What do you do instead? Be the you he has created, called, and redeemed you to be. Develop your strengths. Discover your gifts. Do whatever you can to serve those around you with what you have. Display his glory by living fully alive, by beautifully reflecting the part of his image he has crafted into you.

Give yourself permission to stop comparing. And instead start celebrating who you are and the God who made you that way. Then let your heart feel his response…

His incomparable joy.

*****

Holley Gerth is the best-selling author of You’re Already Amazing, You’re Made for a God-sized Dream and several other books. She’s also the cofounder of (in)courage and a life coach. Holley has been married to Mark for thirteen years, lives in the South and would love to have coffee with you at HolleyGerth.com.

Linking up with Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Exploring God’s Word


When I was a kid, I remember receiving a new Bible in Sunday school class. We promptly put paper dust covers on them for protection and learned how to look up a verse.

I never, ever wrote in my Bible—I’m pretty sure that was a rule—a rule that was deeply ingrained in me. I know this because it was painful when a few years ago I decided it was time to start making notes and underlining verses in my Bible.

What’s taught to us is hard to overcome because I had to restrain myself when I watched my daughter highlight a page in her brand new Bible. I may have quietly hyperventilated, but I wasn’t going to squash her excitement.

She was in her Bible, highlighting as she read—and she was reading more than a few verses. She read one book after another and told me why she chose each one, and which one was next.

She was exploring God’s word and sharing with me the verses that captured her attention. My heart swelled, and at the same time…I wish I had been like that at her age.

I wish I had been encouraged to read and ask questions, but I think times are different now.

Continue reading... 

To continue reading, please join me at Gloria Dei where I'm talking about my experience of wanting more of Him.

What's been your experience - do you find that searching for more and asking questions is now more acceptable than maybe it once was?

In Christ,
Laura