Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Painful Part of Feeling Exceptionally Average

Occasionally when I read through one of the myriad of blog resources for mommies who want to educate their children, I have a battle inside my head. It starts out with an innocent thought. “What a great idea! That is one creative mother who took the time to make this lesson for her child.”And sometimes I can leave it at that, pin the idea to the appropriate Pinterest board, and go on with my day happy and inspired.

Then there are the other days. The days where I allow my thoughts to obsess over these crafty, intelligent women’s ideas and wonder, “Why am I the only mother on the planet who doesn’t think up these insanely creative activities for my child? My son is being deprived of a quality education because of my flaws.”

When my now two-year-old son was quite a bit younger, I kept trying to create extravagant crafts or purchase as many resources as I could get my hands on so he could properly learn his shapes, colors, and other essential subjects.

One day I got a reality check. It wasn’t when he could care less about my activities. It wasn’t when I realized that practically no one with a child my age linked up to the weekly link-up parties because it was just too advanced for the average kid that age. It was when I sat him down several months later, having long since given up in frustration, because I was obviously not teaching him right, to color with a box of broken crayons.

There was nothing special about those crayons. They were obviously tattered with all kinds of wounds from age and use, but my son found them to be wonderful learning tools. I started to ask him where the blue crayon was, and he would pick up a crayon in a vibrant shade of blue. We kept this game up for ten minutes, and he identified nearly every color I asked him to.

I felt a mixture of excitement and shame. Excitement because he had been listening to what I’d been teaching him, and he did it in his own time. And shame for my selfish, proud motives in faltering in my attempts to create so many lessons that weren’t what he needed. I saw what these other women were doing, and instead of allowing them to inspire me, I allowed their labors of love for their children to become a source of jealousy in my heart. I wanted to be like them. I wanted my child to learn like their children. But I was not them, and my son was not their child.

This is one of the ways I’ve felt painfully average as a mother – exceptionally ordinary in a world of talented women. So dull that instead of blending in, I must be sticking out as sub-par. I share this intensely personal confession because I don’t believe that I’m the only soul to ever have struggled with these feelings. You may not have felt it in the same area that I have, but there are so many other ways we can make ourselves feel like we’re not measuring up.

The problem is, we’re trying to measure up to the incorrect standard. God has equipped each of us with a special skill set and personality. Trying to pose as something other than who we really are is only going to cause sinful thoughts and mediocre performance in our lives. It’s just not worth it! I promise.

How, then, do we get our focus on the right track and get over being miserable?

1. Start by being honest with God and repenting of the ways you’ve allowed sin to creep in.

2. Then plaster this verse everywhere you’ll be looking throughout the day, memorize it, and meditate on its revolutionary power.

Philippians 4:8, “…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

3. Apply the above verse to your situation. Focus on the facts, not the lies that your over-analyzing has convinced you are true. If you’re looking only at things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent, then you can’t bring self-promoting, unfair, tainted, hateful, shady, or evil thoughts or actions into the picture.

What I’ve had to do in the instance I shared with you is just stop looking at the blogs that bring on these feelings for a while. I need to get my focus back, and although these women have done nothing wrong with sharing their ideas, I want to be able to look at them with a pure heart that truly appreciates what they’ve done. I must remove myself from the source of my temptation and concentrate on God’s plan for my life.

4. Pray! Pray for strength to keep the right perspective. Pray for the women that make you feel inferior. Pray for the people you are hurting with your jealousy or insecurity. Pray for yourself, that you’ll seek out and accept what God has called you to do in this particular area.

5. Move on. It won’t happen instantly. Come on, we’re girls. It’s natural for us to want to hold onto it for much longer than we should, but we must fight through it and determine to be different on the other side. Be prepared because the feelings will come back. Satan knows your weaknesses, and he’s going to try to trip you up again. It seems to me that I have to fight through the same battles all the time. It’s not that I didn’t learn the first time; it’s just that I get comfortable with things and drop my guard. Don’t be discouraged when you’re tempted again. Jesus gave us a promise.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” ~1 Corinthians 10:13

My prayers are with you as you fight through whatever makes you feel exceptionally average in a painful way. Fight past it. You’ve got the Power.

 

 

How Twelve Dollars Grew my Faith

Tears stung my eyes as I stared at the contents of today’s mail. I wasn’t really surprised at the numbers, but I was in awe. Starting this blog has been an intensely personal step of faith for me. God gave me a vision years ago, and not one day has passed since then that I doubted I’d work to fulfill it in the future, but my picture of the future was still years away. I do not jump into things without examining and over-analyzing every aspect I can imagine, so taking a step like this one, that is so far out of my comfort zone, has definitely been no exception.

I’ve balked at any possible hurdle I could find. Honestly, I’ve tried to create hurdles. What would I write about? How would I get started?

I’ll stop the endless list right there so you don’t get as worn out as I’ve made myself coming up with it. Each excuse I’ve made has been answered specifically and undeniably beyond coincidence. I know God is in this. When I start listing all of the what-ifs and I-don’t-know-hows, I can stop myself instantly now because I know He’s doing a work in my life right now.

And yet I had to test Him once again.

I’m at a point right now where I’ve been trying to decide whether or not to really put myself out there or just ease my way into it to see what happens. This exceptionally-average-when-it-comes-to-computer-knowledge-girl is really fond of the easing into it approach. If the two people who have taken time to read what little I’ve written so far continue to follow along, so be it. If more people decide to check it out, that’s fine, but I’d be content with just fulfilling the minimum requirements of this call to keep myself out of a miserable state with God.

But He’s not allowing it. He’s pushing me to go for it with everything I have. Since the focus of this blog is to embrace being who we’re called to be, I have to hold on for dear life and stand by it when it seems like an exceptional call beyond my capabilities.

I made another specific deal with God about the blog one week ago today. An online blogging class I’ve been taking (which was a free answer to another specific prayer I made to God) has been urging me to purchase my own domain name. I do not feel comfortable with putting money into something I’m not entirely sure has an audience yet, so I prayed. “Twelve dollars, LORD. It will cost me $12 per year, and while that’s not much, I will only believe this is completely from You if I don’t have to pay a dime upfront. So, give me $12 in some unexpected way within a week, and I’ll do it. I’ll buy a domain name, and go from there.” That was last Tuesday.

Fast forwarding to today, I knew I’d reached the end of my little deadline. Literally two hits have popped up on my stats for the past three days, and I had pretty much told myself I had my answer. I could cool it for a while and accept that this just isn’t the right time. No one had walked up to me and handed me twelve dollars. My answer was abundantly clear. Until I checked the mailbox on my way to the grocery store. Since I’d forgotten to check it yesterday, there was quite a pile. I did the usual flip through it. Utility bill (sigh), junk mail, junk mail, junk mail, what’s this? An envelope addressed to me from the bank that handles our mortgage. Hmm…I wonder what they want? As the contents spilled out, I noticed that it contained a check. Got to love those kinds of surprises! Then I looked at the amount: $12.51.

The tears started welling, my heart started pumping fast, and I reminded myself a few seconds later to exhale. God has spoken, and I will be humbling following His lead.  I do not know what His plans are for you, but know this – He has plans. Don’t resist them.

As I shared this story with a good friend of mine a while later, she read a verse she’d come across this morning that only confirmed more than ever that God is speaking specifically to me right this instant. In Isaiah 48:17, God says, “Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.'”

I pray that this testimony inspires you to persevere through whatever unknown you’re currently facing. God doesn’t always reveal the whole picture to us at once, but He will make known the next step you must take. Trust Him. He WILL lead you in the way you should go.

Could I be a Pioneer Woman?

The time in America’s history that most fascinates me are those years where pioneers forged paths across unknown territories to a place that promised so many unknowns. Fighting off wild animals, succumbing to disease and natural disasters, traveling on uncomfortable modes of transportation – each of these challenges leave me amazed that people willingly lived that life.

And for what? Arriving at a place that looked promising to the dreamer husband while the wife, who had left every comfort she’d ever known behind, sat by his side and put on a happy face. Did she really put on a happy face? She’d most likely had to dump the few precious memories she carried from home somewhere in the wilderness when the horses could no longer bear the burden of weight. Perhaps she had buried one or more precious babies somewhere in the prairie, never able to go visit the grave. What shred of physical beauty she had to hold onto had most likely been burned away by the glaring sun or other extreme weather conditions.

And yet here she was. Sitting on her new homestead with no home to fix up and organize. All she had to look forward to was more work while continuing to live out of her beat-up wagon. Exhausted because she hadn’t slept comfortably in months. Emotional because she missed her mama and had no way of hearing her voice ever again. Trying to entertain her restless children while wishing she could give them a proper bath. Forcing back the tendency to compare what she used to call home to this desolate place that would someday contain her sod house with as many rooms as she sheets to hang for dividers.

These women seem so much different from me. I admire their bravery. I aspire to have the perspective they would have had to have gained through surviving what they did. Yet I can’t help but realize that they weren’t completely different from me. They were women. They had insecurities, mom guilt, a need for friendships, a marriage that required constant love and attention.

At the same time, we have innumerable conveniences that make our current way of life distant beyond compare to what the pioneers experienced. In spite of all of this history, from time to time, I, along with many of America’s current residents, have to fight off believing that our generation has it tougher than those who lived in a time when life was slower and without countless deadlines. God foils that way of thinking in a passage that intrigues me. Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 say this, “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, ‘See, this is new’? It has been already in the ages before us. There is no remembrance of former things,nor will there be any remembrance of later things yet to be among those who come after.” So really, it’s all the same tough reality of life in different-looking packages.

No, I do not encounter a fraction of the challenges pioneer women faced, but I cannot downplay that there are so many challenges that come with living in the twenty-first century. These women battled through hardships I can’t fully comprehend, but they had to process them with the same human qualities women today possess. I know and love so many women who are facing heartbreaking challenges at this very moment. Nearly every day, God brings to my attention a serious scrimmage that I must pray a friend through with vigilance. If those around me seem to be getting a break, I’m in the thick of fighting through an attack against myself.

Christian women are a different kind of pioneer women. We’re on a journey to the Promised Land, but the days and years that it takes until we arrive will age us. They will either embitter us or help us gain a healthy perspective of life. We can’t take a day off anymore than those bonnet-clad women could. The battle is constant and requires training, love, and ultimately, a relationship with God if we plan to win.

Help me out if you will. I’m listing several ways we’re modern-day pioneer women and plan to do a series about it. What are some topics you think would be of value for me to explore and share with others on this blog? I would so appreciate your ideas by leaving a comment or sending me an email.

In the meantime, journey on, my fellow pioneers!

Being an Exception Isn’t Always Easy – A Fun Bit of History

Coming from a conservative Christian family hidden away in a remote rural area, feeling like an exception is a way of life I embraced early on. While my peers talked on the phone for hours about their adventures in the “big city,” I quietly read a book in my tree house. Not that I didn’t love talking to other people, but I really didn’t have the option.

It’s hard to remember a time before cell phones, but less than twenty years ago, they were quite rare. Not only did we not have a cell phone, we didn’t have our own phone line. In our truly secluded neck of the woods, party lines were a way of life. I remember awkwardly explaining to everyone else that I knew what a party line was. In case you weren’t into frontier fiction where they described such things, party lines are where multiple neighboring houses share the same phone line.

If I ever actually had the chance to call someone when I was growing up, it was a big deal. Everybody except my grandparents who lived up the road was long distance to call, so we couldn’t afford for anybody to spend much time on the phone. There were so many times when I picked up the phone in anticipation only to feel annoyed. Instead of the classic dial tone every other teenager I knew heard upon picking up their phone to dial, I heard the neighbor lady gossiping away to some mystery person. I was at her mercy. She could talk as long as she wanted, and I couldn’t communicate with anyone besides my family until she was done. To add insult to injury, when I finally did get a few minutes to chat, I could hear that dear old busybody pick up the phone to listen in on my conversation.

This is why I usually chose a book instead of talking on the phone. I remember laughing with my family on many an occasion about how fun it would be to explain this unique way of life to my children someday. Now that land lines are practically obsolete and I continue to fight against the norm by only having a plain cell phone (with a keyboard, thank you very much)  instead of a smart phone, I smile and realize I’ll always be a step behind when it comes to the average American’s means of communication.

I didn’t realize how much this oddity would help me cope with future experiences where I was not mixing well with the norm. It’s funny how God works in even the smallest ways to shape us into what He wants us to be. So thanks, neighbor lady, for  being nosy and long-winded when all I wanted to do was use the phone. You really were helping me without me realizing it.

It Is Time

I remember the day vividly. After a sitting through at a lady’s Bible conference with a friend, I sat bawling in my seat knowing God had given me a job to do that day. I wasn’t exactly sure what the requirements were for the job, but I knew I would do it. All I knew was that somehow I would write to in some way reach women. From the moment God spoke to me about reaching out to others about His divinely freeing truths, I have felt such an array of emotions.

Excitement. I knew I had a mission. I knew it was from God. Let’s just do it already! So I’d start trying to write out what I felt God doing in my life. And then I moved on to the next emotion.

Frustration. Nothing would come out. I’d write a word, a sentence, then a paragraph. Then I’d go back and read it, and it made no sense. I’d pray and ask God to give me the words; then I’d get to work again. Still nothing. So, I tried out the praying thing again, and when I stopped trying to conjure up a coherent sentence on paper, I heard a clear answer. “Wait. You’re not ready.” Then it was time for some peace.

Peace. God started making some things clear to me. He made me feel perfectly content to wait. I realized I had a lot of life to live before I could be anywhere near ready to move on to the next phase of this unidentified call from Him. Meanwhile, He got to work preparing me. It was time to move on to the really hard feelings.

Pain. I had to know what it really felt like to hurt. To have an ache in my heart so heavy that I could not possibly overcome it on my own. God has required me to walk through some challenging and excruciating experiences so I could better understand His love, faithfulness, hope, and, I also believe, some perspective into the lives of others. Nothing can more efficiently humble and break a person than going through painful seasons in life. So, I’d survive one, go through a sweet time where I could breathe easy, and move on to another area that brought on different levels of hurting.

I’ve discovered some revolutionary things through my painful experiences.

  • No matter what, I’ve got it good compared to someone else.
  • Situations that would have devastated me before don’t bother me so much anymore. I’ve learned how to have victory every single time.
  • God has me alive and in this place for a purpose. I can’t deny that no matter how much I try.
  • I have hope. When things get tough, people, money, and health can – and have – let me down. God has somehow gotten me through the things that seemed impossible. If He’s done it for me every single time before, He’s given me a million reasons to believe He’ll come through every single time in the future.

Love. I’ve had a lot to learn about love, and I’m still a work in process, but in this time of waiting, God has taught me a lot about loving. I never really gave much thought before to loving people I didn’t even know, but now, I strive for it. I had a lot to learn about loving myself in a healthy way. Whew. I’ll save that for a dozen or so other posts.  Most recently, I’ve been learning a ton about loving God, and what that looks like. More importantly, I’ve begun comprehending how much He loves me.

Now He seems to be telling me “it is time.” Time to reach out beyond my comfort zone of ministering to those I already know. Time to take one post at a time as He shows me what to share with whomever may choose to take the time to read this blog. I invite you to journey with me as we figure this whole thing called balancing life, accepting our unique qualities, and learning to really love Jesus.