The Danger of Comparison

Woman in beige trenchcoat walking down Bedford Ave in Williamsburg.Recently I was sitting in the back of my mini-van with my 5 month-old after a 10-hour road trip. The truth is I wasn’t thinking about my unwashed hair or the spit up (and coffee) on my clothes or the fact that I honestly couldn’t remember if I had put makeup on that morning. That is, I wasn’t thinking about it until I saw my beautiful friend walking up to say hello. For a half a second I wondered how tinted our windows were and if I should throw myself on the floor-board out of sight. Then I decided I was actually very happy to see my friend and I chuckled at life and myself as I watched her walk up with her washed hair blowing in the wind. I told my comparisons to hush and enjoyed a chat with a dear friend.

Comparison is a subtle trap and may seem innocent enough. In pre-internet days, comparisons were limited to the people that life intersected with in real time and space. Now social media provides a black hole of opportunity for comparison. Who can scroll through their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook without facing the temptation for comparison?

Who can scroll through their Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook without facing the temptation for comparison?

The outgrowth of comparison is jealousy, insecurity, and discontentment. Then love, peace, and worship are choked out in the heart. Comparison, if allowed to flourish, will extinguish your worship to God.

Love instead of Jealousy: Jealousy is to isolate one characteristic or aspect of someone’s life and want it, without any of the hardship or struggle of the person’s journey.

Jealousy dethrones God’s sovereignty by feeling entitled to another person’s blessings in life. Jealousy makes everyone a thief of what you should have.

Jealousy makes everyone a thief of what you should have.

Love instead rejoices when others rejoice. Love does nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility love considers others more significant then themselves (Phil 2:3). Jealousy is greedy, reducing another person to the one dimension of the thing you want for yourself. Love gives and spends itself for others. 

Peace instead of Insecurity: “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot” (Proverbs 14:30).

Insecurity attacks relationships by crying ‘They are more and I am less!’ Insecurity constantly measures itself up to others, always viewing people and circumstances through the lens of self.

Peace that quits the gnawing of insecurity is achieved through faith that you are who God says that you are. We must not look for rejection or shelter in the eyes of man.

We must not look for rejection or shelter in the eyes of man.

Yes, we are flawed in big ways and small. But we are God’s, purchased by him through the blood of Christ. Therefore we are new, and have an eternal hope, and a present purpose through Christ. The gospel is our only shelter from our human frailty.

We are to approach our relationship with God in this confidence, allowing His perfect love to banish every fear. This gospel understanding escorts the incomprehensible peace of God in to settle over our weak flesh bringing strength and rest. We then do not have to approach others through the diseased lens of self obsessesion, but can instead offer ourselves freely and generously to others. Perhaps others can find some shade and rest from their own troubled hearts, as we love in this way.

Worship instead of discontentment: This comparison leading to jealousy is unsettling to the Christian soul, because jealousy operates according to a worldly mindset, and we do not belong to this world. Comparison searches for worth by the world’s measure. If you belong to the world the measure of worth is fame, beauty, money, acclaim, and power. Self is congratulated and self is worshipped for every achievement. You cannot serve both God and man in your heart simultaneously. One crowds out the other.

You cannot serve both God and man in your heart simultaneously. Once crowds out the other.

To allow comparisons in your heart may seem harmless at first, but it leads to a dark path indeed: “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” James 3:15-16

Do not allow the enemy to steal your worship of God by entrapping you in jealousy and selfish ambition. Stealing God’s worship is the enemies oldest and strongest desire, it is the aim of his every scheme.

The purpose of our breath is to be made into the likeness of Christ for God’s glory. Do not invite comparison in to comment on this sanctification and grossly degrade Christ’s worth in you.

Instead choose love. Choose peace. Choose to worship. Choose the Incomparable Christ.

Demand that the mindset of Christ be cultivated in the secret of your thoughts: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Phil 2:3-8

Born this Way

ultrasound picFamily stood by on Face Time, while we held our breath and stared at that ultrasound screen. “It’s a boy!” Everyone erupted into cheering. Not that the cheering would have been more or less for a girl, we were just ecstatic to learn something, anything about this long awaited little one.

I remember being struck with his newness. Untouched by sin, fear, and pain. So safe, as God’s deliberate hands knit him together.

Two weeks later with heavy hearts we stared at an ultrasound screen again. Knowing that our son’s feet were twisted with clubfoot, we waited to hear if any other commonly accompanying factors were present. I froze, wishing I could make sense of those little limbs swinging in and out of focus on the screen. “He’s healthy otherwise. No other concerns.” My fingers intertwined with my husbands, thawed, and relief washed over us.

As my heart processed in the following weeks I wrestled with the pain, discomfort, and many doctor’s appointments that would claim a piece of my baby’s infant-hood. Still, I realized in many parts of the world, with less access to medical care, my son would have known a life-long crippling.

This brought me comfort yet; even a life-long crippling would not be the end. For God’s goodness and sovereignty will always loosen the bone chilling fingers of fear that threaten to strangle our peace and praise.

But as my heart clawed it’s way towards the Solid Rock, I was struck with the reality of sin.

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. – Psalm 51:5

Our son was not untouched by the effects of sin on this world. Something else was present there in his first months. Even the womb is not a sanctuary from sin. There is only one haven from sin and He is Christ.

Before sin and death reigned, creation was perfect. There was no heartache, no violence in nature, and no disease. Everything existed in perfect harmony with God. When Adam and Eve turned from God in mistrust and pride they represented humanity. For through this one man sin entered the world, and death came through sin, and so sin spread to all men (Rom 5:12).

Every departure from God’s perfect creation is the result of sin. My son’s feet are only a more obvious expression of the reality of his heart. The reality that will threaten to crush my heart and keep me fervent in prayer every day until it is untrue, he is an object of God’s wrath.

In all the chubby glory of his toothless grin and dimpled cheeks he desperately needs Jesus to save him. If not those beautiful feet can only run him perilously away from God.

But, the cross ravaged sin’s final win. Christ died for us, becoming a child of wrath in our place. He absorbed our full punishment of wrath and death once and for all. Christ shut up death’s boast through the cross as “he rendered powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Hebrews 2:14).

Now we groan along with creation as we await the final deliverance when Christ comes to make all things new. We will stand as witnesses as sin loses its violent hold on creation.

Yes, we were born into this fate of sin. But we were reborn as sons and daughters of God through Christ. This is the strength of our soul in a world filled with the maddening effects of sin, He is making all things new!

Wherever these words find you, I pray that he is your comfort in the bitter face of disease. That he will ready your hands for war as you battle the unsettling desires in your heart that threaten to drag you away into temptation. I pray he will remind you that all he does is perfect and good. I pray that as you wait to meet him face to face you will be assured with David that we shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of living.

And may we persevere until “the saying that is written will come true ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’” And all the sons and daughters of God will cry in unison, “Where O death, is your victory? Where O death is your sting?”

Mothering Unto Christ

10922715_10152612794965894_3778358468976255158_nSix years ago in a booth at Pizza Hut, my husband and I decided we were ready to have children. We had been married for almost four years and were giddy as we dreamed of the chubby cheeked version of ourselves that would be.

We had a plan. We would have two or three biological children and then foster to adopt our youngest. Yet the months came and went and turned into years. Five years to be exact. For five years we waited on God.

What was our move? Do we keep waiting? Do we pursue fostering? We begged God to build our family his way, in his time. But there were nights when I thought the pain of waiting would crush the life out of my heart. The enemy would come and speak doubts and fears. But Christ’s strength held us and led us on.

In February 2013 on a day of fasting and praying at our church God spoke to Joshua and I separately that the time was now. We had freedom to pursue fostering. I remember driving home full of expectation wondering if my child was out there looking at that same moon. We began the paper work journey. We prayed that God would keep us on the time frame of the child he had for us. Over a year later, in March 2014 with home visits, trainings, case studies, and a move to Kansas City to mark the way, our license was finalized.

It felt strange reading those emails of children who needed homes. Every email represented a real heart and soul in a desperate situation. “O God, help us. Direct us.” The day our license was finalized was the first day our Trisha came up in need for placement. We read her email on a Monday morning and plans were made for her to move in the following week. I watched her get out of her case-workers car, with all her earthly belongings in the back. I will never know the strength it took to walk up to our front door, knowing she was at the mercy of whoever was on the other side. I will never understand it, but I loved that adorable 14 year-old the moment I set eyes on her. God confirmed over time that she was the first-born we had been waiting for.

A year ago today, less than two months after getting Trisha, I absent mindedly took a pregnancy test knowing that my doctor would have wanted me to rule it out before going in for an appointment. I had spent so much money on digital tests; this one was from Dollar Tree. As I waited, I straightened the bathroom half forgetting I had taken it, thinking about what I was going to cook for dinner. But there they were. Two clear pink lines. It was the yes that I had longed for an uncountable amount of times. In a shaky voice I called to Josh who didn’t even know I had taken a test.  I was speechless, leaning over, propped against the wall when he came in. All I could do was point to the counter. He looked at me with wild eyes, and said, “What? No! Wait! What?! Are you sure?!”. We hugged and cried over that stick with two lines.

Somewhere in that five year waiting room God gave me this scripture;

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing. Is 40:26

In the darkness of my waiting, Christ reminded me to look up to the heavens and think on his might. He reminded me to think on his care and attention for each star, so many that my human mind cannot know the number. He will not overlook or forget one. He whispered to my heart that by the same power and might that he keeps the heavens he attends to the details of his will for my life. If he knows the stars and calls them forth by name each night, he knows my children and would bring them into our family at the exact moment he had determined.

This is my second Mother’s Day. I think of the what the scriptures say about Mary, But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

You cannot be prepared for the love that comes. Whether it’s a treasured after school chat or a crooked toothless grin I am stunned at God’s goodness. I pray for help to not idolize my two little miracles. I want to remember that in the darkness yet again Christ was there. I want to remember when the waiting felt cruel; the Faithful One never forgot me but was working out his plan for good. I want to remember His strength that gave us hope on the emptiest days. I want the love, affection, and awe I feel for my children to always point me to my greater love.

Whether you are in the darkness and need to lift your eyes to the night sky as you remember God’s mightiness and attention to your every detail. Or whether you are rejoicing in hopes fulfilled this Mother’s day, I hope you remember Him who is eternal. The One that this is all for. The gut wrenching journey of mothering, waiting, growing, loving, and living…it’s all for Him. So on this Mother’s Day as our loved ones remember us, we will remember Christ. We will rejoice in the one that fills our mothering with eternal purpose.

May our mothering be unto you, Christ Jesus.

“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

Repurposed Pain

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAs my husband held down my three-month old son I buckled the braces in place and locked in the bar. Asa had given up looking at me with those pleading eyes, and had resigned to screaming; maybe someone else would come to help.

If I’m not careful I could hate those braces. Hate them for making my son look at me with those confused, scared, and frustrated eyes. I could hate them because they make me feel helpless to stop the tears. I could hate the casts that had come before, that had held him from thigh to toes since he was six days old.

I work as fast as my hands will go and then I pick him up, and we cry together.

I wish I could snatch them away and burn them where they land. Demonstrating the certain fate of anything that hurts my child. But these are the moments that I have forgotten that by the pain will come the joy. Endurance now, means the joy of walking, running, and playing without a lifelong disability.

But these are the moments that I have forgotten that by the pain will come the joy.

Pain is a funny thing. How I wish I could shield my baby from it all. But that would not be love.

In the world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world. John 16:33

Love sees the future. Love knows what is required. Love marks a sure course so that we may arrive safely home. This is what God did when he determined before the foundations of the earth that he would send his Son to die. Christ died on the cross taking on himself the punishment of sin and on the third day he rose from the dead defeating death, so that the sons and daughters of man might become the sons and daughters of God.

Love sees the future. Love knows what is required. Love marks a sure course so that we may arrive safely home.

And I hope by thy good pleasure safely to arrive at home. –Come Thou Fount

Christ’s war cry is redemption. In Christ every sorrow, every failing, every agony can be repurposed by his power for his names sake…and also for our own sake.

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Rom 5:3-5

When the world asks us “Where does your help come from?” We will answer with a resounding “only Jesus”. And our suffering will be the stage where the faithfulness and truth of God play out.

And our suffering will be the stage where the faithfulness and truth of God play out.

So sisters, I wish I could know the stories behind your tears. I wish I could know the fears that swarm at your door today. But remember Christ. Remember hope. Remember Him who died so that our brokenness could light up the darkness with the truth of the gospel.

So for the next two and half years as I buckle those shoes I will let them remind me that every pain in this world can be repurposed by the power of God.

Confrontation, Speaking the Truth in Love, and Unity

Recently I disappointed a friend. We have all been there for a hundred different reasons. She was hurting and needed time, the one thing I didn’t have to give. I could later in the day or the next, but couldn’t come to her aid right then. Her need was real, but I couldn’t meet it in the way she had hoped. From her response I knew that it frustrated and disappointed her.

My heart ached, because I had hoped to grow closer with this new friend. Though I knew that our friendship could not progress under such expectation. So when this happened I instinctively shrunk inwardly from this relationship. I responded apologetically and made an internal decision to distance myself.

The same week I was reading through Ephesians 4, and brushed passed the call to unity as something that I was good on. Besides, I try hard to control my words and thoughts against critical attitudes towards the church. I am very familiar with the feeling of conviction when my heart and mind crosses the line and trespasses against Christ’s beloved in this way. It is a sickening feeling that I prefer to avoid. So at first glance I thought, “‘eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’..yes, okay what’s next Paul.”

However, the Holy Spirit shook me from my nonchalance.

Am I eager and passionate about pursuing unity? If I was eager for unity would I have so casually made the decision to distance myself from this sister? Or would I have instead been burdened with a desire to speak the truth in love. I realized that many times I have contributed to disunity not because of what I did, but because of what I didn’t do. Fear and selfishness have held me back from speaking the truth in love.

I realized that many times I have contributed to disunity not because of what I did, but because of what I didn’t do.

There are three deviations from speaking the truth in love: avoidance, hinting through passive aggression, and lashing out in aggressive confrontation. All of these have our selves as the center.

The enemy delights in hijacking relational complications for his purpose of disunity. As Christians, unity is our shocking, other- worldly light that shines very brightly in a world that gets daily doses of hatred, criticism, fraud, and phony interactions. It’s evidence of a love that is not from this earth, that is not human, and that conquerors all.

The enemy delights in hijacking relational complications for his purpose of disunity.

If we are to be eager for unity we have to be willing to do the relational and personal work. I have often heard it said, “I’m not good at confrontation.” I would say that when emotions and friendship are involved many shrink from the highest call of love and unity. I know I have and can.

Laboring for unity looks like taking it to our Father first, processing our hurt feelings or another’s offense towards us with Him. God may reveal that it is our heart alone that needed altering in the matter. Growing in unity will sometimes be about us privately growing and learning before God, so that we are free to forgive and extend grace as we walk in unity with others.

When we seek God in the matter he will, at times, compel us to vulnerably approach an issue for the sake of unity. Relationships may require this vulnerability to be able to move forward in authenticity and intimacy. Speaking the truth in love puts aside cowardice, insecurity, and selfish gain for the sake of real love between family members. A family that is meant to reflect the same unity the Father has with the Son and Spirit.

We chase unity because we believe we have been unified through Christ.

We chase unity because we believe we have been unified through Christ. In Ephesians 2 we see that the walls of hostility have been broken down through the power of the gospel. The church is unified, therefore we can confidently pursue unity knowing that the very power of Christ meets to help us and has already accomplished what we pursue.

Four Disciplines for a Healthy Identity

I originally wrote this post for the blog at Flourish. I would encourage you to take some time and browse their website. It is an incredible ministry for women.

I pray that this post blesses you.

It was like ice water to the face, I became a pastor’s wife at 22 years old. I was not prepared for the onslaught of busyness, spiritual warfare, and expectation. I had no coping plan. The brunt force of my own idealistic expectations and other’s real and perceived expectations hijacked my identity.

‘Pastor’s wife’ became foundational to my identity instead of solely my calling. These impossible expectations personified into a false inner coach who barked orders and criticized when demands where unmet. This inner voice was my constant companion choking out truth.

The ability to meet these demands became the measure of my value. I gobbled down man’s affirmation, seeking fleeting moments of peace only to burnout and become discouraged when the opinions of others flat-lined or when my self-expectations proved unattainable.

Through our self-talk we are always assigning ourselves an identity. Questions of self-doubt will always come. “Is who I am enough? Am I strong enough? Faith filled enough? Godly enough?”

I have often shopped for these answers horizontally in people’s opinion of me or from my ability to perform, plunging myself into a frenzied cycle of busyness and perfectionism. This cycle can mobilize an attack of discouragement, burnout, depression, or anxiety.

I remember a breaking point I had during the beginning days of our first church plant. I had been running hard on the hamster wheel of perfectionism, trying hard to meet every expectation. One Sunday morning I found my self-fueled endurance depleted and I dragged myself out of bed feeling like a zombie. I felt an inner panic as I got ready that morning, trying to gather my scattered thoughts and emotions. It felt impossible, even unbearable, to walk into those two doors and be “on”. I wanted to hide from the world, from people, and from my weakness. I looked in the mirror and saw a failure. How did I get to this place? How do I get out? And how do I protect myself from returning again?

If I could sit across a living room from you, I would tell you that four disciplines have helped as I continually ward off this battle.

Preach truth to yourself.

Be proactive with your self-talk. When the questions “Am I enough?” or “Can I do this?” come, may the truth of Christ and who He has made you to be, be your ready answer.

God calls me by name and I am His. I am his workmanship created for good works that he has prepared in advance for me. He gives me everything I need for life and godliness. I am called a daughter and a friend of God. I am free from sin. I have peace with God through Christ. I can come boldly into his presence and find help in my neediness. My life is hidden in Christ. His love, patience, and strength are unfailing.

Fire your inner coach.

May the inner voice assigning your identity, be Truth.

Extend Grace to Yourself.

How I have belittled God’s grace by refusing to extend it to myself. If we passionately teach and advocate for God’s grace everywhere else but our own hearts, the hypocrisy of our perfectionism and self-sufficiency empties our message. I even made a sign to hang in my office to daily remind me of this discipline. The sign simply read, “Extend grace to yourself today”.

Give yourself permission to be needy in Christ.

I hate the idea of being a needy woman. I would rather a southern bell “Bless my heart” about pretty much anything else. “Bless her heart she hasn’t lost her pregnancy weight.” “Bless her heart she is just plain tacky.” “Bless her heart she can’t cook worth a lick.” These would all be welcome if I could just not be NEEDY! But we must put our aversion aside in humility and be needy before Christ. We are and will forever be in desperate need of his strength and help. May we not be afraid of our weaknesses, but may they be what compel us to run to the feet of our Jesus.

Embrace your design.

What a waste to spend our valuable energy on being sorry for what we aren’t. Our enemy seeks to entrap us in jealousy and insecurity through comparison. All the while we scoff at our own design in discontentment and approach our God assignments with a sense of self-defeat. A mighty woman is one who chooses to embrace her design. This woman’s fearsome boldness translates into great kingdom influence.

Shake it off, cause baby you’re a firework?

strong womanNo one likes the idea of being weak. What comes to mind when you think of pop culture’s idea of strength in women? I have a 15 year old daughter so I think of Taylor Swift who says, ” The players gonna play play play play play. Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate. Heart breakers gonna break break break break break. Just shake it off, shake it off.”

Katy Perry says you are a firework. “You just gotta ignite your light and let it shine. Own the night like the 4th of July. Cause baby you’re a firework cmon show’em what you’re worth make em go ah, ah, ah as you shoot across the sky-y-y.” Katy we are not even really sure what you mean by “make em go ah, ah, ah”?

Or we could be like Beyonce who is not afraid to tell you like it is. “To the left, to the left. Everything you own in a box to the left. Yes, In the closet that’s my stuff yes if I bought it please don’t touch…You must not know bout me, you must not know bout me..”

  • Does strength mean independence? Not needing anyone? Not caring what people say or think? The one who shakes off the hurt and pain. Is this the strong woman?
  • Or is it the woman who seems to have it all together? You are pretty sure Proverbs 31 is a biographical sketch of her life and her household is pinterest.com. Her ceiling fans are dusted, her paleo dinner is in the oven, and her kids never disobey. Is this what strength looks like?
  • Or is it the woman who is experiencing hurt that would suffocate anyone else, but she sucks it up and puts on smiles and determination. Is this strong? Is it strong to hide and stuff your pain?
  • Or is it the tough girl who doesn’t take anything from anyone and will tell you exactly how she sees it. You better not cross her or you’ll be sorry? And life’s too short to sugar coat and to pretend, so you better develop a tougher skin.

Proverbs 31:17 & 25 says that strength is a godly woman’s clothing, that she actually dresses herself with strength. Are we to dress our self with independence, the pursuit of perfection, the skills of how to hide and stuff our pain, and toughness? Is this strength?

Let me bring to your mind the story of a very strong girl.

An angel appeared to Mary and told her that though she was a virgin she would conceive a child, and he would be the Messiah, the Most High God. Mary believed whole-heartedly when the angel said, “For nothing is impossible with God.”

In Mary’s culture adultery was punishable by public stoning, yet in the midst of possible death and certain public ridicule she trusts God. She boldly declares before angels and God,“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38). After this angelic visit, it says that Mary leaves in a hurry to visit her cousin Elizabeth

When Mary arrives at her cousins she does not collapse into Elizabeth’s arms to cry in fear and despair. No, she sings praise to God, because she trusts in him. “Oh how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!” Luke 1:46-47

Mary believed and trusted in the midst of the trials. It was this trust that was her strength. This is the strength that enabled her to praise God instead of fall to pieces. She believed God would come through for her. She hoped in God’s promises and his faithfulness instead of focusing on the unknown.

She hoped in God’s promises and his faithfulness instead of focusing on the unknown.

Mary is what a woman clothed in strength looks like. What unknowns are you facing right now? What hurts? What trials? What ridicule? Will you trust God and speak his praises, clothing yourself in strength?

May it be said of us as it was said of Abraham, “Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.” Rom 4:20-21