that all too familiar struggle

The thoughts of insecurity came flooding in; the thoughts about all the things I don’t like about myself, the thoughts about all the things I wonder if people think about me, the thoughts about all the things I wish I was better at. The thoughts of comparison quickly followed; the thoughts of wishing I looked more like _____, the thoughts of wishing I was as creative or as well-spoken or as witty as ______, the thoughts of wishing I had someone else’s opportunities. It was a rollercoaster of thoughts, full of loops and hard turns and sharp jerks to the side. All those thoughts hit me like a ton of bricks, seemingly out of nowhere.

I knew that wasn’t true, though. I knew all those thoughts sprang from a place where they had found roots somewhere in my heart. The circumstances of the social settings or the form of the picture that was taken or the conversation that took place may have been different than before, but the thoughts themselves were nothing new. I knew those thoughts very well. All the familiar thoughts, the well-known lies that I was tempted to believe, were back in full force and it was awful.

It had been a while since I had struggled this intensely and, frankly, that was one of the hardest parts. I was so discouraged by the constant barrage of thoughts, the minute by minute battle to get outside of myself, the tears that would insist on falling. I was tired of this. I was over every bit of hearing those same thoughts circle around in my head. I was weary of this path I had walked many times beforehand because I knew where it lead, I knew the emptiness of it, and I knew what was so much better.


That last phrase there is where the shift happened. It happened because of the better thing. It happened because the better thing, the better Being shed light on the roots of this all too familiar struggle and reminded me again of what truly defines me. He showed me Himself. This struggle is what He died to save me from; the struggle of being absolutely gripped by the lies of sin. It doesn’t define me anymore. The constant barrage of thoughts doesn’t have to be where I stay, the minute by minute battle has been ultimately conquered by Him, the tears can truly turn into joy when I remember what is truest about me.

God is so kind to meet us in those low places, to open our eyes to the truth that is so beautiful and so good. On one day last week when this struggle was especially painful I left my Bible open on the kitchen island all day. It was opened to the Psalm I had read that morning, Psalm 116, and the verses that I read multiple times that day were 5-7:

“Gracious is the LORD, and righteous; our God is merciful. The LORD preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the LORD has dealt bountifully with you.”

That last sentence, verse 7, was on repeat in my mind and out of my mouth that day; it was the prayer I prayed all day long. I wanted to know that rest again, the kind that rests because of what He has done, because of who He is, because of who I am in Him. He HAD dealt bountifully with me! I knew it to be fully true! Speaking those words of truth to myself, reminding myself of the evidences of His grace and goodness that truly abound in my life, began the shift of pulling my gaze off myself to something so much greater and more lovely. And then when I remembered that that greater and more lovely One made me His and that is the very definition of my worth!? That shatters every single lie that would say something different.

Trying to find my security in a picture, or a conversation, or someone else’s thoughts about me will always leave me wanting. No matter if the picture is a good one, or the joke well-timed, or the compliment is received, I will always always want more. It doesn’t satisfy and I have to keep reminding myself of this. Those insecure thoughts will return, ready to fight another day, but their roots in my heart have loosened some more, with healthier ones taking their place.

C.J. Mahaney writes, “Humility isn’t thinking less of ourselves, but thinking about ourselves less.” As I’m sitting here typing this my AK is listening to a song and the line that just played was, “Lift your eyes! We are His radiant bride!” That’s a rather beautiful picture, and that’s what we are. We are prized and treasured by our God. He doesn’t call us to think less of the very ones He created to be His clearest imitators, but He calls us to do that very thing: to imitate Him. To make much of Him and less of ourselves. I want that to be the truest thing about me.

comparison. I'm sick of it.

Truer words, Teddy. Truer words.

Comparison has been beating like a kettle drum in my head lately. Not my favorite tune to play. I was texting with my sister the other day and ended my "how I was doing" update with: "why does comparison have to be such a struggle!?" And she echoed my sentiment with: "Oh goodness isn't it a big one?" It is one of those struggles that seeps into us all, in some way, shape or form. It's like the gopher arcade game; it pops up constantly and, seemingly at times, out of nowhere. And, truly, I don't know if any other sinful struggle of mine has exhausted me and robbed me of joy the way this one does.

In that text conversation with my sweet sister, Megan, she asked me where I struggle with comparison the most. I needed that question. I needed to stop and actually, really, deeply consider what areas of life are breeding grounds for comparison for me. I've been asking that same question over and over again to myself the past several days because it is the very first step to starting to get rid of this nasty, life-sucking struggle. Call me dramatic for describing the struggle this way if you will, but that is exactly how it feels for me. No other struggle shuts my systems down, makes me hole up and pull back, and go into hardcore self-centered mode as this struggle. I WANT IT GONE.

Now we know this, but it absolutely bears reminding, that there's not going to be life-changing, joy-abounding true change outside of Jesus. Believe me, I've tried. Oh how I've tried to wage this war on my own and, well, look at me now. Still fighting. I don't, I know, that I have never really faced this struggle head-on and given it over to Jesus to do His righteous work in it and show me the yucky depths of my sin, yet quickly follow that with, "you are forgiven and you are free." I want to know freedom from this, you guys. I'm so over it!

So here it is. Some of the very thoughts that have swirled around in my head.......

"Well that must be nice to have your dream house. I'd like to have mine. We'll probably be in an apartment forever."

"They get to travel all the time. How is that?"

"Well they obviously make a lot of money and can do anything they want to do."

"No one ever tells me I look pretty, but they always tell her. I guess I'm not."

"A lot of people comment on her blog. So many people are better at this than me. I just probably shouldn't even do it."

"I'll probably never get the cool opportunities that she does."

"Well if my life included _______, I could probably do that too."

What is wrong with these statements? Oh let me count the ways. Hello pride and self-pity and vanity and selfishness and jealousy! And do you know one of the things that makes me so sad about this list?? It's so self-absorbed that I completely lose out on being able to celebrate with those women, being one of the biggest, and truest, encouragements for them, being able to recognize the ways the Lord has blessed them and is using them. Being an encourager is one of the things I treasure most and I want to be doing that from the corners and tiny spaces of my heart.

One of the best talks I've ever heard was a talk by Carolyn Mahaney called "The Snare of Compare." It is so good. She bases her talk off John 21: 15-22 and, very specifically, verses 21-22: "When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, "Lord, what about this man?" Jesus said to him, "If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!" What is that to you? I need this tattooed on my forearm. What is that to me that the Lord has fill-in-the-blank plans for you, for her, for him, for them, for anybody? That isn't mine to know, it isn't mine to base my life off of, it isn't mine to try to scrape together some kind of existence trying to be like them. It is the Lord's for them. And He gives me mine for me, and ours for us. My task, my biggest and most profound task, the thing that is to be my life's very definition is to follow Him. That's where my day to day springs from, that's where all my needs are provided, that is where my value is found......Him. Always, always, always Him.

I want comparison to stop defining me. I want my joy to stop being robbed by it. I want to live fully the beautiful days the Lord has chosen and formed and designed for me, and to love them and choose gratitude for what they hold.

These words are a few of what's been percolating in my heart and soul as of late. There's more to come. But for now, let's fight this good fight, lovely ones. Let's ask the Lord to purge the very depths of our struggles with comparison and reveal the nitty-gritty so that we can take those first steps to loving HIS way for us, to knowing how precious and loved we are by Him, and to be able to scroll through social media and say, "Thanks, Lord, for Your creativity, Your plans, and for letting me have a front row seat to all the stories Your weaving and working."

So much freedom waits for us there.

"let it go, learn to grow"

So here I wait in hope of you

All my soul's longing through and through

Dayspring from on high be near

Day Star in my heart appear

~ Christy Nockels, The Advent Hymn


Back at the beginning of November I was in Georgia visiting some of our dearest ones. During the trip my friend, Liz, and I had many conversations about how the Lord was teaching both of us about to let things go; to ask ourselves, "okay, what's most important here?" and to make the most out of the things that He does, and realize the freedom that is found when all the other stuff stops being the big stuff. Because it was 11 o'clock at night and because we are moms of 5 year olds we "cleverly" came up with the line, inspired by Elsa, "let it go, learn to grow." So this has become our mantra, and though it was inspired by exhausted mama syndrome, it has sparked a lot of heart thoughts in me.

On my drive home from Georgia that week I mulled over that little phrase and started praying, "Lord, help me let those things go.....the ones I know and the ones I don't quite yet." And oh! what a swift and thorough answer He has given to that prayer, in just a matter of weeks. He has unearthed so many places where my fingers have held way to tightly to things, and so many of these things are places in life have been things that have nothing whatsoever to do with what the most important things are. It's a humbling road, my friends, when you finally see how obsessive over the minutiae of life you can get.....BUT....(you know I'll always have the but)....has it ever been freeing!

And the part that I have loved, loved, loved about this is the timing of it. It's Christmas time, the beautiful season of advent. The hope of this season, the mystery of the babe becoming man, the resounding joy knowing that our Savior was born and He lives, all of this has been the weightiest part of this December for me, in a way that it hasn't ever been before. It's held more weight because He has helped me "let go" of the things that matter far less than Him.

He's reshaped my vision to focus on savoring the anticipation of His coming and with that all the extra stuff has fallen into place. It's not about me this year. That's the difference. It's not the controlling, selfish, "but I want our home to look THIS WAY" attitude. It's seeing this season for what it is, what's it's meant to be. And every piece of it, imperfect and not-pinterest-worthy though they made be, has been treasured this year.

The paths that our God takes us down start from the oddest places sometimes, don't they? I love that about Him. And I can't wait to look back on the memories of this Christmas because I think they are going to be some of my most favorite yet.