My first thought: "Yesterday, when we had an early release day, I didn't take time to decorate sugar cookies--my kids watched Christmas movies while I packed. What's wrong with me? Why don't I make memories like this with my children? Why am I so busy all the time? What kind of experiences will my children remember from childhood?"
And then, I glanced over and met the big green eyes of my excited ten-year-old daughter, Maryn. She grinned and wiggled her shoulders in excitement, and then looked back down at the book she was reading.
Where were we? Sitting in an airplane on the tarmac, waiting for our flight to Phoenix to take off.
And I wanted to hit myself upside the head for falling into yet another comparison trap.
I was in an airplane. On my way to Arizona. With my daughter. Making a memory she would carry with her for the rest of her life. My husband and I had made a conscious decision to spend the extra money to give her an experience most children her age aren't getting.
Because this is our life. These are our experiences. We are making the most of our resources and time and giving our children what we believe is best for them. I'm a writer and my friend was releasing her debut novel in Arizona. We were going to help her celebrate this awesome achievement. How many children can say they've had that experience?
No. I'm not a baker (the thought of gathering my children around the table to decorate cookies makes me squirm). I'm a writer who lives and breathes books. I love history. I'm passionate about homeschooling. I love my community. I'm a Christ-follower. I have a large extended family. We live on the Mississippi River and love to spend time with close friends. What does that mean for my children's experiences? It means I read to them, dedicate books to them, write them into the characters on my pages. I take them to cool historic sites and museums all over the state and country. I spend hours and hours with my children while we do schoolwork. We volunteer in our community, go to local shops, spend time at the library, play in the parks, take historic walking tours. We go to church, where we fellowship with like-minded believers and where my children are being brought up in the ways of our faith. We spend hours and hours on the Mississippi in the summer months and we host lots of family parties at our house throughout the year.
I may not be a baker, and my children might not have memories of sitting around the table decorating cookies, but they will have memories. Ones specially-tailored to our unique life.
But that's the trouble with the comparison trap. Instead of focusing on what we're doing right, and what God created us to do, we're beating ourselves up when we see others doing things we "think" we should be doing. Maybe we even want to do them, but our lives aren't conducive to what they're doing. It stresses us out and makes us feel guilty, adding more and more to our already full plate. Instead of doing some things well, we're doing all things half-hearted. It saps our energy and we're not able to do what God has called us to do with the strength the job requires.
Comparison is a tricky, deceptive thing. It causes us to give ourselves a hard time for not doing enough. Doing too much. Spending too much. Not spending enough. Working too hard. Not working hard enough. Playing too much. Not playing enough. Traveling too much. Not traveling enough. The list goes on and on.
So I say STOP! Stop comparing yourself. Stop looking at your friends (or acquaintances) and finding yourself lacking. You are a one-of-a-kind person. Specifically-tailored by God for the purpose He has decided.
If you're a baker, bake! If you're a writer, write! If you're a teacher, teach! And appreciate what you have to offer to your children, your spouse, your friends, and the world because of what you do and who you are.
Don't you dare compare yourself to my list, either. Make your own list and realize you're doing amazing things with your life. Yes, we all have areas we need to improve--but give yourself a break and realize all of us fall into the comparison trap from time to time.
As 2017 begins, I challenge you to make a list of all that you do. Sit down, pull out your laptop or a pad of paper, and write away. I guarantee you'll be amazed--and maybe a little tired--when you realize you're already doing a lot of awesome things. I've found people are quick to share their faults and shortcomings, but they hesitate when you ask them to share their strengths and what they like about themselves. Don't hesitate. Start appreciating what you are doing and then relax. You're awesome just the way you are.
I'd love to hear what you do well. Come on, don't be shy! I'm not asking you to boast, but to be honest with yourself and see that what you're doing is amazing.
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