A Lesson in Comparison

This post originally appeared on The COURAGEOUS & KIND Project blog.

As I was scrolling through social media a couple months ago, I came upon a super cute announcement of good news from a distant friend. I thought to myself— She is so lucky! I would love to be in her shoes —as I was doing a mindless mental assessment of everything going on in my life.

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I “liked” her post and a quick comparison of our lives flew  across my radar as I was onto the next one. I even said a quick silent prayer of gratitude thanking God for everyone and everything in my life.

And, that’s how the sneakiness of comparison, discontentment, and dissatisfaction can be. It begins slithering into our hearts and lives without even realizing it! We scroll, we look, we want, we assess, and without  really knowing it, we’re chipping away at our own hearts.

By all standards (my own and the world’s!) I have an incredibly blessed and abundantly overflowing life. I’ll be the first to tell you that anytime of the day.

The problems begin to arise when I’m scrolling. Swipe by swipe, like by like, that narrative can begin to change fairly fast. All of a sudden, my cute new shoes aren’t as cute without the new purse to go with it. My amazing vacation to the mountains wasn’t quite enough after seeing the white sandy beaches. My volunteer position isn’t quite as great as her executive spot. My recently remodeled house now needs new subway tile, my thighs need to be slimmer, and my hair blonder. It’s maddening! And, we’re willingly doing it to ourselves!

What I’ve learned most from social media is that we can’t take everything for face value on Facebook, Instagram, or even Pinterest. (Remind me to tell you about the time I learned that Martha Stewart had a whole team to help her bake that beautifully perfect bake and make those incredibly designed party decorations!) There’s so much more to the story.

God has uniquely written each of our individual stories. He’s handcrafted us to be each our own and display His glory like no one else can. Simply put, no one can live your life story, but you! When we try to live someone else’s narrative, we’re only committing treason against ourselves. We will fall short with disappointment every time because we weren’t made for her story.

The gifts, time, treasures, resources, and talents that she may have also come with great responsibility. Responsibility that we’re not always equipped to have. When we want someone else’s good, we also have to take the bad too.

That distant friend had later posted about something tragic and unexpected destroying her once good news. Did I still want what she had? No! Of course not. She was enduring an uncontrollable and unexplained loss.

The conviction of the Holy Spirit got my attention real fast.

That still small voice inside my heart prompted me to pause and ask the Lord to forgive me for wanting what she had. The discontentment of half-truths and the envy of better blessings had stolen a piece of my heart in the sneakiest of ways. Had I not seen her updated post, I would have marched on with life and gave a piece of my heart away without hesitation.

Why was it that I only wanted her good? Why did the bad never cross my mind?

Call it optimism or confident thinking, but at the heart of it, it was envy.

Envy created discontentment and dissatisfaction. Discontentment stole a piece of my heart. Dissatisfaction took my gift of full gratefulness. Two things we can’t stand to keep around if we’re committed to living out God’s best for our lives.

If you are the friend enduring the hurt, God has written your story too. Whether the bad was caused by you or caused to you, our heavenly Father still has a great narrative for your life (Romans 8:28). He created you to share His love and bring Him glory. He is a God who heals, helps, restores, revives, forgives, and loves deeply. Ask Him to reveal His heart and help for you in this season through the truths of scripture. The Bible has lots to say on healing, hurt, and restoration; as it does on envy, greed, and discontentment.

Next time that friends gets a blessing, let her keep it. Praise God for it! Praise God for her and the story He’s written for you both. The Lord has something unique in store for all of us. He’s an abundant God who can’t ever run out of the good gifts of love, joy, peace, healing, hope and forgiveness. Let’s commit to “liking” the great narrative that God has written for us.

We’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have boundaries to help prevent discontentment or dissatisfaction creep into your heart? How do you count your blessings? How can you be a friend to the one hurting?

Xoxo
Jes

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15 (NIV)

“But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.” 1 Timothy 6:6-7 (NIV)

“A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

When Words Fail Us

This post originally appeared on The COURAGEOUS & KIND Project blog.

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“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.”
James 5:16b

A friend of mine recently went through a hard season of loss and grief. There weren’t words to comfort her heartache and the feelings of disappointment with the Lord. What was a season of joy, happiness, and excitement quickly became a season of loss, disappointment, and grief. What do you say to that? How can we possibly find the right words?

Everything I thought to say suddenly felt impersonal. I knew she needed words of faith and encouragement, but it was hard to find the right ones. I knew God was good. I knew He had been good to me during my deepest and darkest hurts and I wanted to share that with her. I knew she was going to make it through this and that God would be her answer.

I was sure of His promises in the Bible and I had the Scripture, God’s own Words, to back it up. I had [have] faith in God and had experienced everything I wanted to say. God had been so faithful to heal my broken heart. He had been the Source of my comfort, hope, healing, peace, and forgiveness as the days went on. But how do I tell her that?

For right now, God felt impersonal to her. Why, God? Why would you allow her joy to turn into such heartache? Why would you take away a gift that you so greatly gave her? Why, Lord? How could you?

Our attempts at making sense of it all left us emptier than when we started. Pseudo-comforting phrases like time heals all wounds, everything happens for a reason,  they’re looking down from heaven, and God doesn’t give you more than you can handle stung. Of course they were said with well meaning, but felt impersonal and almost harsh.

As I begged God for words to say, nothing came. I found a faint whisper of the Holy Spirit in my heart say, “Not why, but who.” Tears rolled down my cheeks as reality quickly surfaced: the “why” may never get answered. We may never ever know why this happened to my friend. We may never understand or even begin to make sense of why God allowed something so tragic.

The Lord has taught me over and over again throughout my heartaches, trials, and disappointments that He is a faithful God and He is who He claims to be in the Bible. He is our ultimate Source of comfort and hope (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). He promises eternal life (John 3:16-17). He will work everything out for good according to His purpose(Romans 8:28). God hears our prayers (Jeremiah 29:12).  His ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). God has our best at heart (Jeremiah 29:11).

When our words don’t measure up, I think we pray.  We don’t always need to have words to say. Sometimes we simply need to be there. We need to acknowledge the pain and mourn. We don’t need to try to make it better. We simply need to use our gift of prayer as Christians.

Through the Holy Spirit, prayer is our direct access to God where we can be honest with Him. (Jesus Christ gave us this access to the Lord when He died on the cross (Hebrews 10:19-22)). God is the Creator of the Universe and the Source of all comfort in hope and healing. God can handle our biggest upsets, painful hurts, and deepest disappointments. He is big enough and strong enough to hear how unfair or mean He may feel. He is our heavenly Father who loves us and cares for us, just as He loves and cares for my friend in her hurt.

So what did I do? I prayed for her. I sent her some 3x5 cards with scriptures that were comforting to me when my heart ached with grief. I checked on her and asked if there was anything I could do.

Was it enough? I sure hope so. I wanted to gently and kindly share God’s love by encouraging and loving her as a friend could. I couldn’t change things, nor could I make them better, but I could be a listening ear and a dose of gentle compassion and love.

What about you? What things have been most comforting during your time of loss? Please share as we work to build a community of God’s love.

xoxo
Jes

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:19-23 (NLT)

“The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16b (NLT)




Lessons in Building Bookshelves

Hey, look! Check out what we did! My Dad and I built these bookshelves.

Those have been my welcoming words to anyone that has stopped by our house lately. When my Dad visited last month, we built (I got to help do everything, but use the hand saw!) a big set of bookshelves for our home office. Not the Ikea bookshelves, but the saw-the-plywood-from-scratch kind of bookcases. It was an incredible labor of love as it was the last few days of Dad's summer break and he chose to spend it with us!

Three years ago, our family had a big life change as my mom died unexpectedly as a result of a car accident. Within that moment, our world was turned upside down and our lives changed forever. Later that summer my dad was offered a job at our local high school to help launch the school's new student media and broadcasting center.  One of the perks to this new job was a "summer break".

Dad's summers are filled with projects around the house, traveling, camping and fishing, floating the river, and spending time with us kids. (Just ask him about meeting Captain America and Spider-Man last summer!) He loves it and we do too. 

As a family, we've learned that when life throws you a curve ball (or doesn't turn out like you have planned or wanted!) you have a couple options: 1) Be mad and miserable. 2) Be hopeful and make the most of it.

We chose number two. We chose hope. We made the decision to put our hope in the promises of Jesus Christ. It's taken our family a lot to lean into this new normal of life without Mom, but even after the worst of circumstances, we still believe God is good.

The old adage is true: "We can't always control our circumstances, but we can control how we react to them and what we do with them."  Our choice was to believe that God still had good plans for our lives and that we would make the most of life while we still had breath. And, that's what we're trying to do! As we spent the last of Dad's summer vacation building bookcases, I want to share with you a few lessons I learned.

Lessons Learned from Building Bookshelves with Dad

  1. Have a plan. Before starting a big project, take time to properly prepare for it. Make sure you have what you need to start and finish the task.
  2. Find the right tools. When you have the right tools and strong support from others, it makes a difference. If you don't have what you need to get a job done, ask for help from someone who does.
  3. Measure twice, cut once. If you don't take your time to do it right the first time, you'll end up having to do it over again. Patience > Hastiness
  4. Time is of the essence. Time is something you can never get back. It is a gift; make the most of it.
  5. Put down the phone. Texts, emails, photos, videos, and Instagram can wait. Be present and pay attention to the work at hand. It's important not to miss what's right in front of you.
  6. Make some room. Sometimes you need to clear out some space to make room for something new.
  7. Take a break. When you're tired and worn out or beginning to get frustrated, it's time to take a break. Walk away, rest, and figure it out later. The work will still be there when you come back to it.
  8. Two are better than one. A team can balance the workload. You don't have to do it all by yourself, all the time. Find someone who can cheer you on or help carry the burden.  
  9. Don't throw it away yet. Scraps can be repurposed into something new, helpful, and really cool. Nowadays, it's called upcycle. Sometimes the scraps in your life need to be "upcycled".  
  10. Finish what you started. There's value in completing a task. Whether it's a promise to yourself or to another, do what you say you would do.
  11. Celebrate success. Take time to celebrate your success and the hard work it took to get there. It's worth your time to reflect on what when well, lessons learned, and enjoy the accomplishment.

Although my dad never said any of this to me or gave me a list of tips, he demonstrated these things through his actions and love. What about you? What's your favorite lesson learned? Does anything in your life need to be "upcycled"?

xoxo
Jes

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us establish the work of our hands for us— yes, establish the work of our hands." Psalm 90:17

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you." Jeremiah 29:11-12

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up." Ecclesiastes 4:9a