The Comparison Trap

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

There is a beautiful man-made lake (not too many real ones, where I live) in the city where my church is located. There is a nice path around the lake that is frequented by walkers, runners, and bicyclists. I was walking at my usual snail’s pace around the lake when a little girl caught my eye. She could not have been more than 3 years old and she was riding her bicycle with no training wheels. People would stop and do a double take. Several different people asked her mother how old she was because they couldn’t believe she was able to ride a two-wheeled bicycle at her age.

I thought about how scared my husband and I were teach our child to ride a bicycle because we did not want her to get hurt. If I could have wrapped her in bubble wrap, I would have done so. She just turned 7 years old when she learned, not three years old. This was not my child’s fault for learning later on, but there I was comparing her to another child. I was thinking, I should have started sooner. Then, I had the funniest thought, would that even matter in 10 years? Would that three-year old boast someday about how she learned to ride a bike so young? Like many other milestones, would a person say in their future: I potty trained when I was 2, I learned to read at 4 years old, I was the first to drive a car! It just doesn’t matter.

I have compared myself, my husband, my child, against others. I even have watched popular court room television shows and thought how happy I was that I wasn’t that person. I was so wrong to do that. Maybe I thought it could motivate me or my family, but usually it ended up upsetting rather than motivating. Other examples are how we look at people’s social media accounts and usually see the good, not the bad. We look at: what people drive, where they live, how their kids do in school compared to our own, and what clothes others wear. It is exhausting. Blame this behavior on a failed human nature but it is wearing us down.

We do need to be motivated to be who God wanted us to be. It has to be by His standards, not of this world’s standards. The Bible gives plenty of direction, especially in the books of Psalms and Proverbs. I always pray Psalms 139:23-24, “Search me God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” It helps come back in alignment with what truly matters. I know I will fail at falling back into the comparison trap, but thankfully I can have God redeem my heart back to what truly matters, His will for me.

Lesson Learned: I know when I finally understand how much God loves me, it takes the pressure off to constantly compare.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, I thank you for the life you have given me. Search my heart and show me where I feel discontented or envy. Show me your ways Lord. Teach me what I need to carry our your will. When people may be have nicer things, more successful or better at something, let me be pleased and not envious. Remind me of all the times you have provided. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN!”

Seeing through the Fog

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Once in a while, I encounter fog when I am driving in the mornings. Fog is scary and creepy. One morning it was quite thick. I was beginning to panic because I couldn’t see a far distance, only about 10 feet in front of me. I decided to take it slow and be patient. I drove cautiously and finally passed through the fog bank. Then there was brilliant sunshine illuminating the rest of the way to my destination. It was a huge relief. Not too long ago, my husband and I experienced something where we felt the fog would never lift. Thankfully, we saw the victory.

My pregnancy was terrible to say the least: severe morning sickness, pre-term labor at 29 weeks, followed by 7 weeks of bed rest and a scary delivery (I ended up having a 45 minute surgery afterwards). Our lovely girl was born 3 weeks early. Thankfully, she did not have to be in the NICU. She was tiny, 5 pounds 11.5 ounces. I was already struggling with postpartum depression. Then we got the news that had me feeling socked in with fog. The newborn screening blood test revealed she may have a rare metabolic disorder. She tested positive again and had to get this blood test that would take 6 weeks to reveal the final results. Imagine, a 6 week old baby having to fast for 3 hours, to get blood work. We saw the specialist. I looked at the patients in his office and I started to cry. He told us, if she had this disorder, she would not be able to process protein and it would settle in her muscles or her head would be abnormally large. The life span with this disorder would be no more than 18 years. Our daughter was small but seemed okay. So, how could this be? Those were the longest 6 weeks of my life, so I prayed everyday.  Both sides of the family prayed. I listed a prayer request on every prayer chain I knew. I prayed over her, claiming healing and restoration. I blamed myself for not being healthier. I felt I let her down.

So after those 6 weeks, I received a phone call from the doctor’s nurse. She said, “She is all clear!” We were so happy. But due to some complications from the delivery, she started to have some new set of problems. So, another referred doctor wanted to do more crazy tests on our child. This doctor scared me more than the last episode. She had me thinking we were going to have a special needs child. We could not get a break. I could not enjoy the time with my daughter, because I was worrying so much. My husband said something that scared me but had me realize where I needed to have my thoughts. He said, “If this news is true, we need to stick together. So many parents divorce because of special needs children. Just know that if we are there for each other, we can be there for her. One day at a time.” I am so glad my husband is smarter than me. Just don’t tell him that. =0}

I felt a prompting from the Holy Spirit to get a second opinion. Sure enough, the new doctor put things in perspective. First, he asked who the doctor was that gave us this diagnosis. I told him her name. He chuckled and said, “I call her Dr. Doom and Gloom!” He said she is a great specialist for specific diseases, but she thinks everyone has a hint of the conditions. He advised me that by 15 months, my daughter needs to be doing the following things: walking and saying at least 5 words. If not, then we will look into therapy. Otherwise, she will have a nice life. Six months later we came in for the recheck at 15 months. She walked in to his office and told him “hi!” He smiled and asked her other words. She told him more than he needed. He said, “Well this was a nice way to close this case before I retire!” It was nice for my husband and I too.

God knows exactly what steps are best to take in our journey. He provides the right people, the right thoughts to have, when we trust Him. However, still I want to know what is going to happen every minute, especially when it is a nerve wrecking journey. But I have to trust God. Just like driving in the fog, I can only deal with what I can see at the present moment. God knows exactly what is waiting for me in the end and usually, it is as wonderful as the sunshine on the other side of the fog bank.

Lesson Learned: He knows the outcome and it is okay if we don’t know right away. It will be revealed. Learn to trust in Him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for carrying me through life’s difficult situations. Quell the fears I have when I am going through dark times. Remind me that your glory will come. Protect our hearts and minds. Thank you for sharing your victory with me. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN!”

I don’t seem to have time for the Lord

In all your ways, submit to Him and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6

I was encountering some struggles in my parenting. The struggle was, I feel I know nothing! I asked the very wise man who leads the pastoral care ministry at my church if he had a good book to recommend. He lent me a book about parenting by Charles Swindoll called “You and Your Child”. There are some many valuable lessons in the book. The one that struck a cord with me was that a parent must get to know their child, because you cannot love something you do not know. Isn’t that the truth with anything in life!

I wanted to get to know the Lord more, so I decided to read through the entire Bible in one year. It only took me 30 years to commit and make it through the Bible. I used the “You Version” bible app. It gave me 5-6 sections to read each day. My goal was to read the chapters first thing in the morning, where I would be uninterrupted. I read through them and begun my day. Some days, I could barely understand what I read. Other days, it felt like a chore. I just wanted to get the little check mark that showed I read it. I may not have known what I read, but I read it. One day, I was struggling through some old testament section and I was whining to myself. I didn’t know what I was reading. I was looking at the clock and seeing I had to wake my daughter up soon, so I began skimming, not reading at this point. Then I heard the Lord and it stopped me in my tracks. He said, “My word is not some burden. Spending time with me is not some chore to get out-of-the-way.” Those words went right through my heart.

I seem to have the time to waste on Pinterest or Netflix. I clean and organize my house over and over. Yet, I can’t seem to put the time into this most important relationship. How can I love the Lord and understand to trust Him without getting to know him? He is not a chore. He fulfills our life, if we let Him.

Lesson Learned: Putting God first will put your life in order and lead you to where He has destined you to go.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, forgive me for not putting you first. I want to get to know you. Clear my mind from distractions. Thank you for loving me and help me to remember just how much you do. I choose to live my life for you. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN!”

Why am I even doing that?

Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.” Matthew 6:1

I want God to use me through writing. I do desire that. I also desire that I get discovered by a publisher and write a bunch of best selling books and get lots of attention. I admit it now, because God convicted me. I wanted to be the next Ann Voskamp or Sarah Young. I couldn’t hold a candle to them, not just in the ability to write but in how hard they work at being a writer. How could I go from asking God to use me, to I wanting to make a bunch of money and being famous? Easy, living in the current state of social media: how many likes, views and followers do you have-the more the better and that equals success.

My husband ruined The Oscars for me. I used to love watching them. Now, I watch the highlights the next morning in hiding. (I was happy this year for Leonardo di Caprio though.) Early in our marriage, I was watching the show and my husband asked why I wanted to watch a popularity contest. He said how Hollywood loves to reward themselves and in doing so, make large amounts of undeserved money. Thanks honey for ripping the veil on that one! He is right. I believe we all want appreciation. I do want to be told I am doing a great job. Encouragement and appreciation are necessary. But my goal should be to do things for the glory of God, not mine.

Recently, I started picking up trash in our neighborhood because some people think the ground is their trash can. I also began putting a roll of dog poop bags in certain people’s mailboxes, where I know they do not pick up after their dogs, so they will get the hint. I was complaining about the situation but doing nothing about it. I really do not want to pick up trash, but I was trying to be helpful. A few neighbors saw me doing that and thanked me. I got all full of myself again. A quick conviction came over me. I thought, “great, I am doing it again-wanting to be noticed.” I decided if I can’t stop thinking selfishly about this, I better start praying for the neighborhood, so I don’t need to pick up trash every week.

All of these situations were examples of how being recognized for the wrong reasons will get one no where. We will keep striving for more fame and notoriety. I do hope I can write for a living someday, but until then, I write no matter how small my readership is presently. I will use this opportunity to glorify God and be a light to this world. I will observe and listen to people. I will encourage. I will be real. Most importantly, I will listen to the Lord.

Lesson Learned: If I am thanked for my service, I glorify God and look for my contentment in Him.

Prayer:

Dear Heavenly Father, please remove the desire to be noticed and applauded. When it comes to serving you, fill me with your love when I am craving appreciation. Let my desire to be to serve you wholeheartedly. In Jesus’ Name. AMEN!”