5 steps to freedom from the comparison trap

It must be true because you saw it on Facebook; you officially have no real friends.  “They” all got together and you weren’t invited.  “They” took a picture together at the restaurant and you didn’t even know they were going.  “Their” kids all hang out and the parents are having a blast together.

But you weren’t invited.
Therefore you must not really have any friends.

Lies.
All lies.

The enemy would love for you to believe that you’re useless, that no one wants to be with you, that there’s something wrong with you, and that you’re not worth loving.  But in fact scripture says just the opposite.  Scripture says:

  • He has plans for you, including hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • He made you on purpose and you’re a BEAUTIFUL creation. (Psalm 139:13-16)
  • He gave His most prized and favorite person as a SACRIFICE for you because He loves you that much!  (John 3:16)
  • And quite possibly my favorite; we are to focus on our own ethics, morals and actions so that we don’t fall into the comparison trap.  Nothing good happens in the comparison trap. (Galatians 6:4-5)

Galatians 6:4-5

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

So who do you want to believe;  The enemy who loves to whisper lies to you?  Or your creator who knows the innermost workings of you and gives you grace upon grace as you sometimes soar and sometimes stumble through life?

Here are five simple steps to turn away from the gaping hole of comparison and focus forward:

  1. Positive affirmations: Find a scripture verse or verses that remind you of who you are in CHRIST.  Write it down and put it places you’re most likely to see it when you’re feeling down. (Car, desk at work, home screen on your phone, on your laptop, on your mirror, in your closet).
  2. Pick five:  Make a list of FIVE people with whom you want to grow deep into relationship.  Now go back through that list and take out the people who need you for something because they are in an unhealthy place right now.  Those are not your deep people right now. The people on your list should be people with whom you love to spend time and you genuinely enjoy their presence. You can and should still be there for the hurting – just remember these aren’t your deep people.
  3. Make your own plans. If you find you’re so focused on other people’s plans, it means you aren’t making your own.  Go make your own.
  4. Don’t tag people on Facebook. I know.  That’s hard. If you’re in the comparison trap already you would love to “show them” who you went out with and how much fun you had. Please listen closely — a) it’s not necessary to tag people in order to make memories b) if you are drawn to tagging people in your posts to make a point, you’re making your own plans for all the wrong reasons.
  5. You have nothing to prove. So stop trying to prove something.

My last piece of advice is this — research codependency and/or “people pleasing.” There are many churches who have free, anonymous programs to help you break the chains of codependency.  Here are two websites you can check out to see what’s close to you:

Celebrate Recovery

re:generation

You are loved.
You are needed.
You have the keys to make a change.

 

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change: the new normal

changeToday I was driving with my teenage son in the car.  This kid.  I love this kid.  He has faced some pretty tough situations the past year and a half.  The things he has faced have changed him.  And for a year and a half I think I’ve been trying to bring back a part of him that has changed.

Before his first run-in with major adversity, he was really outgoing.  His dad and I have always said, “he can literally make a friend ANYWHERE!”  He is an only child but that never kept him from finding someone to play with on the playground.  He easily made friends wherever he went.

But now?  After?  He’s not the same.

We took him to counseling and each time we went I found myself saying “he just isn’t the same.”  And now that I look back, I was hoping she could help us “fix him” and bring back his old self.

Fast forward to today in the car.  We had music on but we weren’t talking.  Not because we were upset with each other, but because this is his new normal.  He doesn’t talk much in the car.  For some reason I said, “Do you know the difference between an introvert and an extrovert?”  And he said, “Yeah, dad and I are introverts and you’re an extrovert.”

I almost forgot to breathe when he said that.   I was thinking “no honey, you’re an EXTROVERT.  Remember all those times on the playground? at the mall? in the store? in school?”  But no.  He self-identified as an introvert.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!

He’s not the same.
My extrovert is gone!

You know how the female brain works, right?  In the time it took to drive exactly one exit at approximately 70mph – I had a full-blown therapy session.  In my head.  Without saying a word.

I can’t believe he just said that!
Well, why is it so hard to believe?  He’s different now.
Yeah, but he was always the kid who could make a friend no matter what.
I can’t believe how much his struggles have changed him.
It makes me sad that he has changed so much.
But wait … remember when you got sick, Ann?  You changed, too.

And there it was.  There was the teachable moment the Lord was trying to show me.

Change.  It happens.
And honestly?  It’s normal.
And … it’s usually good.

I felt like the Lord was saying, “Ann, you are constantly playing tug-of-war with me.  I try to show you new things and you get excited – and then you tug and tug and want to go back to the way things were.  If you stay the same, I can’t use you in the ways I have planned.”

Y’all, I could have wrecked our truck right then and there.  Or at least pulled over and breathed deeply into a paper bag.

I often read books about improving myself and changing – but often times, I just don’t want to.  Change is hard.  Sometimes it’s too hard.

But it’s true, I’ve changed.  I’m not the same person I was 5 years ago, and truthfully I can see signs of change from even just 3 months ago.  Some of the changes that have happened within me took so much work.  I worked hard to change:

  • thoughts that reeked with negativity
  • poor self-care habits
  • zero personal schedule boundaries
  • a mouth that loved gossip because it made me feel better about myself
  • a weak private life with the Lord
  • complaints about my husband

Why would I be sad about changing those things?  I shouldn’t be!  I should be celebrating a change in every single one of those things.  But the vehicle that brought me to those changes was a chronic illness.  My son’s vehicle has been physical pain and mental anguish.  And one of his changes is that he’s now an introvert.

I don’t know what your vehicle is or what change is on the horizon, but my encouragement to you is to embrace it.   Change is normal and it will happen again and again in our lives.  Aren’t you glad you’re not your 13-year-old self?  Or even your 20-year-old self?

I have learned solid leadership skills from some incredible leaders around me – but putting them into action required change.  I have lost weight and I exercise my body – but getting into a rhythm of good habits required change.  I have grown in my personal relationship with the Lord – but setting aside time to be in the Word required change.

Even though change has become my new normal, it was hard for me to accept the change that has happened within my son. And isn’t it interesting that HE has made peace with it but I hadn’t?

When I dropped him off I hugged him a little too tight.  “Ugh, mom!  You’re hurting my cheek!” he fussed.  Someday (when he’s not a teenager and he again values my thoughts and opinions) I will tell him about the time his words helped me appreciate the changes the Lord allowed within him – just like I’ve grown to appreciate the changes the Lord has allowed in me.

I love the story the Lord is writing in him.  And I love that I can learn from anyone, even a teenager.

… but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. – Romans 5:3-4

he called ME the church lady?

Tonight my son was working on homework (yes, on a Saturday) and my husband read it out loud.  I can’t recall it verbatim but I distinctly recall the paragraph boasting about “hiking and doing cool things with my dad … oh and my mom works for our church, and she makes quilts.”

I don’t know why I got sad when he read that. Because it’s all true.  Dad takes the boy on really cool outings, as it should be with a dad and his boy.  Mom … well, she works for our church and she makes quilts.

So what’s the problem?
Well, apparently I’m the church lady.

When did that happen?  I don’t feel like the church lady.  Sometimes I don’t even act like the church lady.

I am officially the girl who doesn’t have fun at clubs or bars. I don’t really want to get roaring drunk. I don’t want to constantly be complaining about things in my life.

This whole thing really baffles me.  Because I love Jesus and I still struggle with cussing and laziness and greed.  See, I’m not the church lady … or am I? Now that I take an inventory I notice that I am more comfortable living a life similar to the one that Jesus tells us to live than I am saying “oh well – we are all bleeping sinners!”  And I have no idea when I crossed that line!

When I get stressed, over-tired, or hit my shins on bed rails I struggle with the F-bomb (I know, the LEAST church-lady-like word of them all!), I struggle with anger, and I struggle with not thinking the best of people.  I struggle with thanking God for my blessings – like the boy toilet that I would never use, for example.  And this is real.  This is me.  Just as much as the church lady is me.

Yet, I am at a place where I can SEE my worldly self and not feel so great about who she is.  Before? Before I just didn’t care.  I actually called a friend a Bible-thumper several years ago, and she prayed for my salvation anyway because she “got it” and I didn’t.  She was on the other side of the line, the same side on which I now find comfort.  I now pray/say things like:

  • “God help me love her like you do.”
  • “OH MY GOSH I’m gonna blow a gasket and I NEED you, Father.”
  • “Dude, I can’t do this on my own – shower me with your wisdom!” (yes, I say dude in my prayers – perhaps that’s another line I need to cross at some point?)

Do I have bad days? Um, you can ask my “church lady” coworkers, my sisters, my husband, and my crafty friends … they will say YES!

Am I willing to give up certain behaviors to live more like Jesus? … well … yeah, I am. Some of them I keep picking back up, but I’m making progress. I need Jesus and His forgiveness just as much as the next Jo… Ann.

So what’s on the other side of the line? Growth
And that’s not a bad thing. I’m not claiming perfection and touting that I’m batting 1.000 is simply not true. I’m still human and I will still make mistakes. And will still hit my shins on bed rails.

How many lines are there to cross? This side of heaven? An infinite number.

What if you slide back down the hill a little? Dude, that’s what your people are for!  If you don’t have people, find some. Get in a group at your church, get to know your neighbors, meet other moms at school — find people.  We will ALL slide back down a little, thus the beauty of the word grace.

It’s a pretty big deal for this sinner to be called a church lady by her own son who sees the worst of the worst. Even he can see that I’ve crossed some lines. I’m still weirded out a little that I’m the church lady, but I’m celebrating progress. I don’t know if you’ve been burned by church before but I will tell you this: churches are being run by broken people who are going to make sinful mistakes. Accountability is a must so I urge you to find a church that keeps things real. That’s where growth happens, in transparent places.

Bless your hearts,
The Church Lady

what she said

There are very few topics that get me so riled up that I should be placed in a padded room until I can calm down.  But this topic… this is one of them.  This is a hot button for me.  This topic is our local police.

I get very frustrated with people who think ALL police are bad because 1% of the police population are corrupt.  It makes me clench my teeth as I type this.  My husband hasn’t ever asked me to stop freaking out about this topic because he knows I’m passionate about it., but he did send me a link to this well written blog post.  I would love for you to read it.

I don’t care which side of the blue line you are on, please read what is in my heart that this woman has written so well.

Just a Cop

My prayer is that it will open your eyes to the things officers see and do that many of us would never dream of doing, nor sign up to do.  I don’t expect you to write a thank you letter to your local police department (tho that would completely rock), I don’t expect you to put them on a pedestal, and I don’t expect you to understand what it’s like to be in their shoes (because even I don’t understand that fully).  I would just hope that it would broaden your understanding of what our precious United States might be like without them.

And Father forgive me for my outrage yesterday.  I pray that MY heart is open to seeing both sides to every story before I form my opinions – in every situation.  I welcome your comments – no matter on which side of the blue line you stand.

Santa is a stalker

It’s that’s time of year again —

Middle School Carpool

#middleschoolcarpool
 

Kid 1: Sometimes when I fart my mom says it sounds wet — but it really ISN’T — it just SOUNDS that way.

Kid 2: That song, “Let It Go” is really about someone who has to go to the bathroom really bad!

(three kids break out in song and laughter)

Kid 1: I think Santa is a stalker.  I mean think about it “he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good….” I mean really … that’s CREEPY!

ROARING laughter over Santa being a stalker. R-O-A-R-I-N-G, I tell you.

But the good news for me is that it was only a 1-window afternoon.  Just a tiny bit of stink.  That’s miracle territory considering it was 97 degrees when I picked them up. Thank you Jesus that we didn’t have to experience a “wet fart.”  God help me.

Disclaimer: Contrary to popular belief, the wet fart kid was not mine.

she was desperate for healing

In the book of Matthew we get a whopping two lines about a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years  and she basically sneaks up behind Jesus to touch His cloak, saying to herself that she knew she would be healed if she could just touch that darn cloak!

20 Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. 21 She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Matthew 9:20-21
If you do your homework, you will find that this was a HUGE no-no in this day and time.  Leviticus Chapter 15 tells us that she was considered to be ceremonially unclean because she had been bleeding.  This would be like our kids smelling up the bathroom and then coming to the dinner table without washing their hands – but times 100!  It was shocking!  It was outrageous!  It was despicable!

 

Not only that, but in Mark 5:26 we find out that she had literally sold all she had to go to physicians to be healed and yet she was still bleeding.  And not only did she not get better, she actually grew worse. She was DESPERATE, y’all.  Desperate. For. Healing.

 

I’ve been there.  I’ve been to see this doctor and that doctor and rearranged some savings to try this therapy or that therapy.  I wasn’t a societal outcast like this woman though.  I wonder what would be our modern-day equivalent — maybe someone with AIDs or herpes?  A cancer patient who tries chemo but only gets worse and starts to lose control of their bodily functions?

 

If we keep reading in Mark 5:26, we see that she even came up behind Him, like she was scared of Him or ashamed for Him to see her.

 

Then she does it.
She touches his garment.
Now it’s time to flee!

 

But instead, at that very instant He knows and she knows that something has changed. Some kind of exchange has happened.

 

Can you imagine?  Think of your absolute worst day.  You don’t want anyone to see you, but you’re desperate for healing.  You hear that Jesus is coming and you think to yourself “this is my chance, if only I can TOUCH HIS CLOTHES I know that He can heal me!”  So you sneak up behind him, crouching down because you don’t want anyone to see you.  You reach out and you do it.  You actually touch his garment!  And then you know — you can feel it.  YOU ARE HEALED!  But then… the unspeakable happens.  He knows too.  He knows that you touched Him AND He knows that He healed you.  Your cover is blown.

 

Luke 8:45: “WHO TOUCHED ME?,” Jesus asked.
Awwwww man!  Seriously?!?!  This isn’t a drive-thru healing?

 

After each of the disciples all say “not it”, and Peter tries to tell Jesus he is nuts because they are in a CROWD and of course people are touching Him…. she does it.  She finds the courage to tell Him it was her, and she literally does it in front of God and country.

 

Is your heart beating fast?  Mine is.

 

Jesus then assures her that it wasn’t even her touch that healed her.  There was no magic there.  Her faith is what healed her.

 

And so Jesus says in Luke 8:48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
This woman went from unclean and outcast to trembling before Christ to declare her actions in-front of a CROWD of strangers. And then she was healed.  And not only that, but He told her to “go in peace.”

 

What He did for her right then and there, He did for ALL of us when He was on that cross.  While we might not experience drastic and immediate healing physically like she did, we most certainly can experience spiritual healing.  I do.  Every time I call on His name.  And on some days, that is my entire prayer.  “Jesus.”

what the heck are we doing?

 

I should be more like ____, because she is obviously making a difference in people’s lives.

Ever thought that to yourself?
It’s hard NOT to when we have some impressive Christian women opening our eyes to MAJOR world issues and PS: it’s all over Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s what I know about myself:

  • The ministry role I am in at our church is EXACTLY where I’m supposed to be and I am crazy under-qualified (is that a word?) for this role.
  • I’m spending time with my family and making memories.
  • I’m stretching myself with theology books that are WAY over my head.
  • I have scheduled exercise days so that the week doesn’t fly by without some sweat (I mean on-purpose sweat … not Texas sweat) and often times I am out for a bike ride with my husband, talking while we sweat.
  • My son is DIGGING his role on the kids worship team at church.
  • I’m quilting when I can squeeze it in.

My list sucks compared to _______’s list.
Why do we feel like we need a “next big thing” when clearly God is at work with some pretty big things already.  Why do we compare ourselves to others who are called to DIFFERENT things than we are?  Have I gotten so used to rushing from one thing to the next that I have forgotten how to find joy in all the things I AM ACTUALLY DOING?

God has called me to:

  1. Be a wife … check, doing that and screwing it up sometimes with my mouth… and apparently I have a “face” that I make. Crap, I just made the face while I thought about the face.
  2. Be a mom … check, doing that and watching my kid grow out of one stage and dance his way into another (literally — if I could attach a video from Instagram here, I would)
  3. Be in ministry... check, doing that and I cannot believe He would choose me to serve in this way – WOAH Nelly.
  4. GROW in my faith … check, doing that through a summer class that continues to kick me around while I’m on the ground with my dictionary and a flashlight moaning “I have no idea what that word means!!!!”
  5. Be creative … check, doing that through quilting both alone and with my mom.
  6. Treat my body well … check, doing that except for when my coworkers tell me there is amazing CAKE in the fridge at church.  (You know who you are and I know where you live) 
  7. Laugh/Love… check, doing that so often that I’m aging my face with laugh lines.
  8. Pray… check, can’t STOP doing this!
  9. Worship… check, my favorite place to be.  I would listen to all three services if I had the time and if it wouldn’t make my family make “the face.”
  10. Experience hardship … check, not my favorite thing by far but I am constantly learning from the things in my not-so-distant-past that either I screwed up or were outside my control.

So what the heck am I doing?

  • I’m not on a plane to Africa.
  • I’m not opening my home to people who can’t get their feet under themselves.
  • I’m not handing out my lunch to the homeless each day.
  • I’m not doing all these “amazing” things you hear about on Facebook.

But don’t be mistaken, just because I’m not on a place to Africa it doesn’t mean He hasn’t called me to do things that are BIG, to do things I don’t understand, and ask me to walk in faith to follow Him.  And for the record, I also have a list of things I feel Him calling me to – and I’m trying to find the courage to JUMP into His will through faith in Him alone.  But that’s a whole other blog post.

(PS: I’m secretly terrified that He will call me to Uganda, because holy-hand-sanitizer I have first world OCD issues.)

I am doing the AMAZING and TERRIFYING things He has called me to do. I don’t have to be like _______.  I was never meant to be like her anyway.  I was given my own scavenger hunt, my own terrifying task list that require 100% faith and 100% obedience.

You weren’t meant to be like her either.  You were wonderfully and beautifully made in God’s image.  Noah and Abraham were called to two VERY different things.  Mary and Eve?  Different things.  You and me?  Different things.

Be happy for _______ for following God’s prompting in her life.
And get fired up about the things He has called YOU to do!

THAT…. THAT is what we are doing.
Startiiiiing….. now.