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.

 

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.

 

 

when worry steals adventure

I can’t do it.
I’m not strong enough.
She’s faster than I am.
They eat healthier than we do.
I have fibromyalgia.
My doctor said I shouldn’t.
It’s too hot.
It’s too windy.
It’s too muggy.
It will hurt.
I don’t have time.
I don’t have anything to wear for that.
I’ll have to wash my hair again if I do that.

All of the excuses above kept me from doing a LOT of things over the past several years.  You might resonnate with some of them, and with others you might just think I’m crazy.  That’s cool.  Sometimes I think you’re crazy. (said in my best 6 year old accusatory voice, because I’m mature like that sometimes)

My husband amazes me with his ability to “Just Do It” on many levels.  He can flip a switch in his head and say “this is what I’m doing” even if he has a list of excuses like mine.  His excuses don’t dictate what he will or will not do.  If I ever decide to grow up, this is a trait I would like to refine in myself.

Today I did something amazing.  I ran.  I also walked fast, but mostly I ran.  To most, this is not a big deal.  I have crazy friends who run marathons… in Texas heat.  #insanerunners  But for ME, this is a big deal.

A year ago today, I was recovering from a night out to see fireworks.  It wasn’t strenuous to watch fireworks, but the entire process of getting myself ready, out the door, to the field, and then sitting in the heat, staying up late, and so on —- that required a day of rest afterward.  My body couldn’t handle that much activity without a large period of rest the following day.

And today I ran.

I wish I could tell you that my “mind over matter” gear is finally un-stuck, and it is … partially, but that’s not what got me running.  I have fibromyalgia and I FINALLY found something that helps me feel good ALL the time, not just for an hour here or there. #workoutpoweredbyplexus  But here’s the interesting part — those excuses are still there when it comes to working out, but now they look like this:

I don’t have time.
Even if I shower after to get to work, I’ll still be sweating.
I’m too fat for my workout clothes (I know — you can laugh at me too)
She’s faster than I am.
They eat healthier than we do.
It’s too hot.
It’s too windy.
It’s too muggy.
I don’t have time.
I’ll have to wash my hair again if I do that.

Interesting isn’t it?  I feel SO great, yet I still have a list of excuses.  This morning I read this:

Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? ~ Luke 12:25

My list of excuses are worries.  All of them.  Here’s what I have to say about that:

1075

What is your list of worries?  We all have them.  I have a list for exercise, one for ministry, one for friendships, one for parenting, one for driving…  Sure, the lists can keep me from doing some stupid things – it would not have been WISE for me to run when my pain was at its worst – but I certainly didn’t even try often to go for walks.

The worry stole my adventure.  Today I created adventure and left my list at home.

7.5.14RUN

Go create your adventure today… build something, draw something, make something, call someone, meet a neighbor, exercise, pray for someone out loud. Get your adventure out of worry-jail and …

justdoit

why are you still spinning plates?

I’m 37 and I finally feel like I am DOING the things I have dreamed of doing in my life, and I feel like they are God’s dreams for me as well.  Now, I’m no Carrie Underwood, singing all across the world.  I’m no Michael Hyatt, writing and speaking all over the world.  But I’m Ann Skaehill, doing the things I’m meant to do in my little circle of the world.

In 6th grade, I remember doing some kind of “career project” wherein I had to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  My project was about being a writer.  Now, I wasn’t exactly sure what KIND of writer I wanted to be – and honestly even through my Sophomore year in college I thought I would work for Hallmark and write witty and sentimental sayings for their greeting cards.

Because I believe God pursues us and keeps dreams alive in us, He never let my dream to write slide by the wayside.  I have had other talents pop up that I jumped on and turned into money makers for my family all while God was putting new dreams in my heart.

When I felt called to work in ministry, I laughed.  Ok really, we ALL laughed.  I was the mom with the f-bomb problem – I had no business being in ministry!  And in fact there were things He wanted me to experience and learn so that He could call me out of ministry for a season where He cultivated those things within me.  Talk about confusing!

A few months ago my husband and I went for a walk and he said (in love), “I feel like you’re all over the map!  You are basically working 4 part-time jobs right now and you’re making me crazy!  So what IS your dream?  Or do you seriously have a bazillion of them?”

Good points.  After my initial defensiveness subsided, I realized he had some exceptionally good points.  God might call us to do new things, and in fact He might keep a dream alive in us for a long long time.  When it’s time to take action and follow your dream, you have to let something else go.  My best friend always says to me:

“Everytime you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.”  

Because I was essentially saying yes to 4 part-time jobs, I was saying no to my family and to God’s FULL calling for my life.  Again.  (I really hate it when I repeat this cycle!)

So it’s time.  I’m shutting down one of my spinning wheels.  It’s taking time to get through the work, but I have peace about it.  And as I get closer to completion, I feel my passion coming more alive in the areas of writing and ministry. Correction, I feel HIS passion coming alive in the areas of writing and ministry.  By continuing to say yes to this 4th thing, I was saying no to the big picture of how God wants to use me in these other areas.  I was doing something because I was good at it, not because I was called to it.

How do you know if you’re called to something or not?
Prayer.
Conversation.
Humility.

1. Write down EVERYTHING that you’re doing.  I mean everything.  This includes carpool, taking meals to people because they are sick, volunteering with a pet rescue place, your career… everything.  Then pray over that list.  Ask God to bring to the surface the things that He intends for you to have your hands in/on.  Ask Him to make it clear to you when it’s time to start saying no.  Don’t be “that guy” and walk into church Sunday and say “I can no longer serve because God’s not calling me to it.  Bye!”

2. Talk to your people.  I can’t shout this to you loud enough.  Your people know what you’re good at and what you clearly have no business doing.  It’s going to hurt, because you think you’re good at spinning all those plates. And frankly, you might even think you’re CALLED to spin all those plates.  Maybe you are.  But because you’re human, I’m positive you have at least one plate that needs to find a new home.

3. When you feel like God is calling you to something, you will simultaneously have this sense that it’s not about you.  Because He might even be calling you to something that you know NOTHING about.  Get your seatbelt on, because you’re in miracle territory.  He’s about to work wonders for HIS good, through you.  And when you walk away from a job well done, pride won’t be an issue because you won’t be able to stop praising GOD and all that He has done in this thing you knew nothing about.

If this three-step process isn’t enough for you, please go read Jennie Allen’s book: Restless.  She will lead you down this amazing road of self-discovery.  She will help you peel back the layers of your life so you can lay out the pieces and see your detailed map to God’s calling for your life.

Start thinking about what you need to say no to.
It’s time to stop spinning all those darn plates.

right bus, wrong seat

Can you answer these two questions?

  1. Are you on the right bus?
  2. Are you on the right seat of that bus?

Our church staff read a book written by Jim Collins and I can still see multiple correlations between the ideas presented and the issues that we face in ministry (and life in general).  If you haven’t read it, it’s worth your time – but please note – if you aren’t 100% business minded, you might need a dictionary close by.

goodtogreat

One of the chapters that I loved in this book, talked about having people in the right place within your business.  If you think of your business (or ministry) as a bus, everyone on that bus is bought-in to the mission and headed in the same direction.  However, often times we have people sitting in the wrong seats and they become Debbie-Downers.  They make the ride miserable for everyone else.  

You’re probably already nodding your head because you can think of someone immediately who is the fit-throwing child within your organization.  Collins recommends that we simply help them find the right seat on the bus and boom — they turn into a Fred Flintstone, picking that bus up and RUNNING toward the goal. (Why do I think in movie lines? Forrest Gump, anyone?)

running

I was quite shocked when God first led me into ministry.  I was the mom who struggled with the f-bomb.  What in the world was I doing in ministry???  The position that I ultimately landed in was about 50% the right seat and 50% the wrong seat.  I love people, their stories, and helping them find their right seat on the bus.  But keeping up with them and refining their skills turned out to be a real deal breaker for me.  Not because I didn’t want to, but because I wasn’t made to.

I believe that God gives us talents, dreams, desires, and even Spiritual Gifts that we are meant to use to do His business here on earth.   

1 Corinthians Chapter 12 RDT (Red Neck Translation <– that’s a joke, please don’t go looking for that translation) goes into all the details of how each of us is given something different than someone else – so that – we can work together to git’r done.  The Apostle Paul even says that we can’t have ALL the gifts because that would make it pointless to need other people.

If you think about a bus again, it needs things that appear similar to do very different jobs:

  • It needs wheels and tires.
  • It needs an engine and pistons.
  • It needs oil and gas.

If we could ALL dream big, nothing would ever get done.  If NONE of us could dream big, we would never invent anything new.  Different gifts for different roles.  (Did anyone else just sing the Different Strokes theme song?)

My ministry position only nailed 50% of the gifts I was given which meant I was the teeter-totter in our group.  I was fired up half the time and the other time I was dragging the anchor and whining.  Ultimately, an illness forced me to leave my position on staff, but I finally had the courage to start having conversations on my way out about how I didn’t feel like that job was the right fit for me.  No one argued with me on that, probably because they could see it too.

Because God is gracious and He pursues us, I have been added to the church staff a second time – and THIS time my role utilizes 90% of my gifts.  10% of my job is dealing with stuff I don’t feel gifted to do, but it’s necessary and it pushes me to think outside of the box – which is a good thing!

So what, Ann.  Yay you.  You have a job you love and I hate mine so …whatever.  I’m glad you found a job you like.

No.  Not “yay Ann” — YAY GOD for being smart enough to give us specific gifts.

Do yourself a favor.  Take a Spiritual Gifts Assessment.

I like the Spiritual Assessment tool at Lifeway.com.  You can download the PDF here.  It is easy to read, understand, and answer.  It has a simple scoring tool, AND it includes descriptions of all the gifts.  This is not an end-all, be-all test that will show you the path you must take.  This is a tool to help you assess why you’re dragging anchor.  It’s meant for you to use as a brainstorming tool to figure out how God has specifically gifted YOU.

Google your gifts, talk to your co-workers about them, talk to your family about them.  Maybe it’s time for you to have a courageous conversation with your boss.  Maybe it’s time for you to lead a ministry at your church.

Maybe it’s time for you to appreciate where you are planted because you’re gifted and meant to be there.

http://www.chairmeninc.com/index.html
http://www.chairmeninc.com/index.html

So back to the beginning we go.

  1. Are you on the right bus?
  2. Are you on the right seat of that bus?

If the answer to either question is “no” — then it’s time you do something about it, because Jeremiah 29:11 says that God knows the plans He has for you and if you know you’re on the wrong bus or even the wrong seat — God hasn’t been able to use you the way He needs to.

Git’r done.

 

to give or not to give?

Over the years my husband and I have learned to trust God with our income and finances.  I know — that sounds “holier than thou”,  but I promise it really isn’t.  We have learned to tithe off of our income and even when times got really tight financially, we didn’t allow ourselves to pull from that 10% in order to pay for this bill or that bill.  But MAN has it been tempting!!!

History Lesson:
I’ve been reading the Chronological Bible this year and I have learned an awful lot about how tithing started.  When Moses was leading the Israelites out of captivity/horrible conditions, God identified some key families/tribes.  He designated land for each of them – EXCEPT for the tribe of Levi, also known as the Levites.  {{{technically, Joshua let the Israelites into Canaan, but Moses got the low down just before they went in}}}  The Levites were basically what we would now consider pastors/priests/preachers.  God didn’t give them anything because he wanted the other tribes to give their first fruits or the best of their flocks or the first of their gold to the Levites as sacrifices in God’s name.

In an interesting turn of events, we don’t feel like we have “checked the giving box” and we are now off the hook.  In fact, just the opposite has happened.  We feel more compassion to those who are struggling with losing their homes, struggling to find employment, caring for their elderly parents and so on.  But here’s where I get stuck — constantly:

What if they don’t use the money we give them to pay for that bill or fix their car?

Many years ago, my husband’s parents gave us a really hefty check and said, “use it however you want.”  I didn’t know what to do!  I was paralyzed with wanting to honor them and their intentions for the gift, but also there were some “fun” things that we would have loved to spend that money on — like a vacation since we struggle each summer to come up with the money for a good family trip.  I think I drove my mother in-law bat-stir-crazy by asking her over and over how she would like us to spend the money.  She was (and still is) a cheerful giver.

Be a cheerful giver.

7 Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  2 Corinthians 9:7

And now we like to be cheerful givers.  There have been times in the past when we have chosen a grocery store gift card over cash because we couldn’t trust that the cash would be used wisely.  There have been times when we did anonymous grocery drops on people’s doorsteps (and our son LOVES to participate in those!).  My husband has been known to mow yards for active service members, or I help someone with transporting their kids from here to there.  But often times we have given cash anonymously because we feel God calling us to do so… no matter how we think the recipients will spend it.

No, we don’t hear voices.  We don’t have visions.  God doesn’t hang out in our old rickety recliner.  But we feel it in our hearts that He is telling us to do something for particular people.  Sometimes if one of us feels it and the other doesn’t, we give a small gift.  But when we both feel it, we give cheerfully and freely.

Be kind, but don’t be naive.

It’s not for us to say how those folks should spend their gifts, just like my mother in-law wouldn’t direct us.  Be kind when you give, but don’t be naive.  If giving a cash gift to someone is going to feed an existing addiction or a string of selfish behavior,  get creative and think of other ways to give, because adding fuel to a hot fire isn’t going to help anyone.  Sometimes the best gift can be time.  YOUR time.  It doesn’t have to be a monetary gift.

This isn’t about me… it’s about WE.

The hubs and I are not wealthy people.  I’m not sharing this for you to say “WOW!  WAY TO GO ANN!  We have old furniture and weeds in our yard, and we wear clothes until they fall apart.  But we always have something to give, and you do too.   This isn’t about me… it’s about WE.  How are WE called to help those around us? Psst!  That includes you!  You are part of this “we.”

The best anonymous gift I ever received was when I was recovering from a really rough throat surgery.  I found flowers and a wad of cash on my front porch.  I fell onto my knees and sobbed.  It wasn’t the size of the flowers (they were grocery store flowers), and it wasn’t the amount of money (prob $150-$200), it was the idea that someone cared enough about ME to take the time to bless me.  I knew people cared.  And honestly that was all I really needed.  Life struggles can be very lonely, even for extroverts like me.  I needed to know people cared.  Period.

I would love to hear about the BEST anonymous gift you have ever given or have ever received!!!!  (and yes, you can leave your comment anonymously – wink)