Blessings and Comparisons

Okay, so all y’all should be used to my extremely sporadic posting by now. Sorry, but I don’t think that’s gonna change. But! I’m back with another post.

I  don’t know about you, but for a long time I’ve struggled with comparing myself to other Christians. There’s one group of girls in particular at my home church that I’ve struggled with comparisons. There’s three of them, two years ahead of me in school, and for so long I’ve looked at them and felt inferior. “They’re better Christians than me, better people than me. Look at how outgoing she is. Look at how people depend on her. Look at how nice and calm she is. Look at how popular she is.” We all know the tune, right? Someone who’s better at whatever we’re weak at. Well, I have a secret for you – most of the time, a weakness is just a strength taken too far.

For example. I am NOT a social person. I’ve gotten a LOT better since being at this residential high school, but I’ve always been the girl who sits outside the flow. I’m the one who is always alone, or if not, I’m certainly never part of a group. I’m the one always picked last in gym (still true, although I was picked not last a couple of weeks ago!), always the last to be chosen for group projects, and always sitting by herself for anything and everything if I could help it. And pushing people away when they tried to include me. I’ve always been scared of people, for no reason. For those who don’t know, I take after my dad a lot. I can’t say he’s ever been scared of people – I suspect maybe not – but he shared his introverted personality with me (I’m just more introverted). However, if you walked into our church and started talking with him, you’d never believe it. He seeks out people to talk to. He asks them how their day is going, how they are and how they feel. And they tell him. So many people tell him what is honestly going on because they know he cares. He makes sure they know. Now, this goes back to intentionality – I’ve written a lot about this, so go check out my other posts – but I think it would be fair to say that this is one of his strengths. He sees people, and not just the people in plain view. He sees the people who are hiding away, as well. I’m not as good at conversing with people (duh). But I know that I want to get to that point. I don’t have to be outgoing, just intentional. Because one day, I want to turn my weakness – how introverted I am – into a strength that allows me to see everyone, care with intentionality, and be a steady force and a steady person because these are skills I’ve had to learn.

On a similar note, one of many outgoing people’s weaknesses is seeing everyone and choosing to interact with everyone. This may seem counter-intuitive, but being on the opposite side of the spectrum, I’ve seen it in action. Outgoing people are so energetic, and they flit from person to person. While this means they do talk with a lot of people, often times they don’t even see the introvert in the corner. As someone who’s been so introverted she’d cry when forced to talk to someone for years, I developed my own little air about me. For some people (*ahem* extroverts), this draws the room’s attention to them. Some of it is because they have no problem talking and making noise, but some of it is because they just have this air that attracts attention. I, on the other hand, developed (fostered?) the exact opposite – an air that makes me invisible in many situations. I can be standing right by someone, off to the side, and they’ll ask “Where’s [my name]?” – or, if it’s someone I need something from, they might not even know I’m there unless I knock on their door or say something. I can be in a line or a crowded room and have people bump into me because my presence didn’t even register with them. This has (sadly) dispersed somewhat as I’ve grown more comfortable with people, but it still happens sometimes. And these are the people the extrovert does not see. They are so busy talking to everyone and moving on to the next person or activity or place, that they don’t see the people standing off to the side watching them and everyone else in the room. If they approach, they carry on a brief conversation and forget to come back once they’ve moved on. They don’t check to see if they need help, and even among their friends they are often so ready to move on that they miss when something is wrong and they need to slow down. As an extrovert, that is one of their weaknesses. As an introvert (with exceptions when I’m flustered from trying to socialize), that is one of my strengths. I’ve been that girl in the corner, so I see that girl in the corner.

Well. Back to the main point. Knowing that weaknesses are just strengths taken too far only helps so much, right? I mean, you can see that they have so many strengths, so they must be better at seeing and working on these things than you…not so. Here’s something that I realized recently, and it’s what really prompted me to write this. I am different from them. This seems so obvious, but it isn’t! I am different. I was looking at our personalities – she is more outgoing and I am more introverted, but hah! She sees her friend group and the other major groups, but she isn’t looking around. She sees what is put in front of her, but I look at what isn’t put in front of me! This, by the way is not 100% true – I’m sure she does look around sometimes, and I know that I don’t all the time, but I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that I am better at something. And then I looked at her and I looked at me and I saw that our upbringings were different – she with her ultra-involved mother and outgoing personality and childhood friends and clean sun-lit home and desire to try new things and involvement in so much, and me with my introverted but intentional father who made me try new things when I didn’t want to and was willing to help but didn’t necessarily want to lead but could if he had to and my special-needs brother that restricted where we could go and my distinct lack of friends for a long time and my introverted personality and I saw that we were different. I was different from her and she was different from me, so why was I comparing us? Our personalities are different. Our upbringings were and are different. Our parents are different. Our support is different. So, if we are so extremely different, why wouldn’t our strengths and weaknesses and growth be different to?

For the first time, I thought that we each had our own strengths – that her strengths that I saw were not my strengths and they weren’t supposed to be. I wasn’t – I’m NOT – supposed to grow into a carbon copy of her. I’m not supposed to have her strengths, I’m supposed to have my own! If I chase after her strengths, I won’t have time to focus on my own. When God uses me, he doesn’t want her strengths – if he did, he would use her! When God uses me, he wants MY strengths (and sometimes, MY weaknesses). When he uses me, he chose me for a reason. There are things that she can do that I can’t – talking to people, for example. BUT! There are just as many things that I can do that she can’t! And the best part is, I don’t even see all of them yet! I don’t know how I will develop in the future, but I know that I will be different from her (I say her because my ladder of comparison, if you will, went youth group -> group of three girls -> one girl in particular). Even my growth! It’s common knowledge that guys mature slower than girls – it’s why girls sprout up in middle school and guys sprout up in high school. They aren’t worse than girls, they just have different timing. Well, so de we! God’s timing for me, even my timing for me, is going to be different from her timing (ignore the fact that she is two years older than me, please). I’m going to sprout at a different time from her, and she’s going to sprout at a different time from me. And whatever that looks like, that’s okay! If it looks like she socializes better, that’s okay. I can go build up that girl in the corner who’s sad because no one is talking to her. She hangs out in a group, great! I can hang out with people one-on-one. It looks like she sprouted first, that’s fine. I didn’t need to sprout right then, I needed to sprout later. Think about, for example, a rose and a tulip – tulips bloom early in the spring, roses in the summer or fall. Does that mean either flower is better or worse? No! It just means God designed them with different timelines in mind.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it, but I recently found out about The Bagel Theory (from an email letter from Stephanie May Wilson, who’s letter series she wrote to her single younger self I signed up for, and she heard it from her friend Hanna). Here’s the excerpt that explains this:

“When I was in high school, a musical theater director of mine introduced me to his personal theory I like to call The Bagel Theory.

Hear me out.

All of us musical theater kids, we were all bagels. My friend Chloe was a chocolate chip bagel; My friend Anna was a sesame bagel; I was a blueberry bagel.  You get the idea.  We were all great bagels, but we were each a different kind of bagel.

When auditioning for a certain role, Chloe, Anna, and I could all be up for the same part.  We would all be uniquely great for the role, but at the end of the day, the casting director was looking for a certain type of bagel.  Chloe may get the gig because they were looking for a chocolate chip bagel.  It didn’t mean that Anna or I weren’t amazing bagels. We just weren’t the bagels they were looking for.

Suddenly, getting rejected for a part wasn’t a judgement of our talent or abilities, it was just a reflection of someone else’s preferences.”

These comparisons that I’ve been struggling with are the same thing! In one situation, God might be looking for a sweet bagel, and so he might choose her chocolate chip bagel-ness. That doesn’t mean I’m an inferior bagel. It just means he the sweet bagel was better for the situation than the sour one (I wanna be a cranberry bagel). But, by the same token, sometime later he might want a sour bagel – in which case I would fit the bill better than her. Not because I’m better, but because He needed a cranberry bagel. I could go on and on, but the basic fact is that we’re all different and we all need to be ourselves, because there will always be a task that only we can do or a strength that when needed only we have or even a weakness that is exclusively ours. It would be like comparing a squirrel and a stingray – why would you ever compare them? You don’t judge a stingray on it’s ability to climb trees, or a squirrel on it’s ability to glide smoothly through the water.

She has a group of friends.

I have a best friend who’s so close my whole family calls her my sister/their daughter/their granddaughter.

She’s called upon to lead a lot.

I know how to follow because if I led I’d probably mess up and actually don’t want the job at all.

She’s way ahead of you.

You need to be back further to help out someone else.

She’s smart.

You have a big heart.

She’s confident, but bossy.

You cringe but are careful not to hurt those around you.

In conclusion…sorry this took so long. That’s all, Bye.

 

Pshh! I’m kidding! Kinda. It’s easy to compare ourselves, but we all need to be different. We don’t want to equal up, because if we did we’d lose those specific strengths that we’ll need for where we’ll be. Don’t compare the squirrel to the stingray. It doesn’t work like that. Adios for real this time!

P.S. Go check out Stephanie May Wilson at http://stephaniemaywilson.com/ – she’s an amazing Christian writer who has lots of good stuff to say, and her emails feel like sitting down with a friend over a cup of coffee. Okay, ciao!

Kings and Queens 2

Okey dokey. Obviously, this is the promise continuation of my previous post. Quick review that’ll help with understanding my post today: “The Queen was in charge of the castle. She supported him and offered him wisdom and counsel when he needed it. If the King was away at war, SHE was the one who protected the castle. She was supposed to be just but strict. She raised their children (with help from the maids sometimes). And, perhaps most importantly, she submitted to her husband.”

Let’s translate that into today’s terms. A Queen is in charge of doing her part to keep the home looking good and functioning well. Does this mean a guy isn’t supposed to, say, do the dishes? Fold laundry? Cook? Not at all! But it also means that some days, when he is too tired or too busy, it is the job of the wife to do all of it. Yes, all of it. Sometimes, taking care of the house means doing the taxes or doing manual work. It means you work to keep it running smoothly and your husband will help because he loves you. And even if he doesn’t, ladies you are still responsible for YOUR actions, not his. Support and wisdom. Yep, that falls on the ladies too. Sometimes, your husband will not know what to do. Yeah, he’s supposed to lead the house, but he’s human too. There’ll be times when he feels absolutely overwhelmed. These are the times when the ladies – the Queens –are to speak wisdom into their husbands (or boyfriends – the responsibilities don’t begin when your married) lives. They are to be walking close to God themselves, so that when this happens they can speak God’s wisdom into their lives. Sometimes, this can be as simple as saying “There isn’t anything you can do. Remember that great and powerful God we serve? Yep, gotta leave it up to him.” (Sorry, those of you who like to problem-solve. Good luck). Sometimes it might just mean reminding him that you (or God) love(s) him. Sometimes, this is where you have to be walking close with God so that you can say what God is trying to tell him. Or maybe, if God is being silent, it’s just speaking Godly truth into his life.

Next! Defending the castle. Sometimes, in a kingdom’s history, there were wars. And sometimes this called for the King to go off to war. Sometimes this was to defend his own kingdom, and sometimes someone else’s – yes, boys, you are called to help defend other’s kingdoms as well as your own – but while he was gone, it was up to the Queen to defend the castle in his stead. If all went well, she wouldn’t need to. But as we all know, stuff goes wrong. Life isn’t perfect. And so, even if the Queen didn’t know how to fight (although knowing how to fight was always a bonus), she had to know how to lead. She had to sit in on meetings and participate in them. Where was the castle weakest? What where the enemies troops? Where did her people stand on supplies and manpower? What did they do with the village people? What equipment did both sides have? What was morale like? If they needed something, how could they get it? Maybe there was an unconventional idea that she had to push through. The Queen was in charge of this and so much more. Have you ever noticed that any of the queens you hear of in the distant past you hear of because they did something? Ladies, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that sometimes we  are underestimated. It irritates some of us. But personally, I like it! Let the enemy underestimate me! It’ll make it easier to kick them to the curb. As Queens (or future Queens), we are powerful. We’re not always called to show that power, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. The Queens are the ones to defend the castle when the King is away.

The Queen was also supposed to be just, but strict. I’m gonna add some stuff to this: the Queen was supposed to have grace and wisdom as well. Tall order, huh? In reality, the just and strict is usually applied to Kings. But Queens are also supposed to be just, and they do need to know when to draw the line. However, the Queens are ALSO supposed to sometimes give second chances. They are supposed to love. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the bible verse, but the Bible tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. This shows a key difference between guys and gals: guys run on respect. It’s important to them. They need to feel needed. It’s how God wired them. Gals, however, run on love. They need to feel cared for and respected. Not helpless – they aren’t – but cared for and protected. This also means that guys and girls have different strengths and weaknesses. Often, ladies find it easier to express love. They are often quicker to come together in a community for help and support. Guys (to many ladies’ exasperation ;P) have pride (ooooh, I said it). All joking aside, they are less likely to automatically go to someone else and instead often try to figure it out on their own. However, their protective instincts are (or at least should be) off the charts. Personally, I think if the guy isn’t 1) Ready to try and work things out first and 2)Ready to fight in a heartbeat if working things out is impossible, then he probably isn’t ready to be a King. If I ever get married, I want my husband to be the type of man that, if he sees a woman getting harassed or attacked on the street, jumps in ready to do whatever is necessary to protect her. Sometimes, though, that just might mean giving up his pride to avoid bullets flying and potentially hurting someone. And I hope that if I ever get married my husband will be ready to do that too, because priorities. So, to get back on track, Queens are supposed to extend love and grace. However, they are also supposed to know where to draw the line.

Raising the children. In actuality, this is supposed to be a job for both the King and the Queen. They are supposed to raise their children well, in a Godly manner. They are in charge of teaching their children how to be Kings and Queens when they grow up. This includes looking for a King or Queen as their partner when they’re old enough. Teaching patience, wisdom, hope, love…the list goes on and on.  Sometimes, they might need help. Like it or not (usually not), sometimes kids don’t listen to their parents. Sometimes, they just need to hear it from someone else. Here’s the thing. When you’re a King or Queen, you don’t just speak truth into the people right around you. If you aren’t ready to speak truth in unexpected situations with people you may or may not know [well], are you really speaking truth to those around you?

And last (at least for now), Queens are supposed to submit to their husbands. Some ladies might not like this. Don’t take it from me, take it from God. In the bible God sets the husband as head of the house. This means that, yes, the King’s decisions overrule the Queen’s. You can discuss things with him, of course. But if, ultimately, he decides on something else, he is the head of the house. What he says, goes. And now is where, Queens, you want to make sure you are looking for a King and not settling for anything less. If it is a partnership between a King and Queen, both partners will be listening to each other and to the Lord, and often they will come to be on the same page. And here’s something that I think often gets in the way when a Queen has to make the decision to follow her King even when he does something she doesn’t like or doesn’t follow her advise. It’s Faith. Queens are supposed to have faith in their Kings. It’s not comfortable – but then again, is following God comfortable? Marriage is the closest thing we have to the relationship between God and the church. It is supposed to mirror that. And so Queens are supposed to have faith in their husbands. Of course he will make mistakes. He isn’t perfect (surprise, surprise). You make mistakes too, and you are also not perfect. But will yelling at him and getting on his case make anything better? No. When this happens, I can guarantee you he knows that he messed up. You will BOTH benefit more from supporting each other than from tearing each other down.

And of course, your job is not only to look for a King or Queen as a partner. “Why are you waiting to be treated like a Queen when you don’t know how to treat him like a King”. YOUR job, ladies, is not only to look for a King (if he’s a King, he will treat you like a Queen), but to be a Queen. You are ultimately in charge of yourself.

So, I’m thinking of making this a series (possibly featuring a guest King to speak to any guys out there). Let me know what you guys think! I know my thoughts were kind of disjointed both this post and part 1, so I apologize for that. Feel free to offer suggestions or ask questions, too! Thanks for reading!

Females Today, Part 1

I know what you’re thinking. Maybe. Oh joy, some more stuff about females. Wonderful. However, I’d appreciate it if you just read for a little bit. There are two things I want to discuss in this post series: society’s view of females and females’ view of females. I’ll start with the latter.

I am female. I am a teenaged girl and, as snarky and possibly stuck-up as it sounds, I am different. I only have one social media – Facebook – and I don’t want anymore. I just learned how to put on eyeshadow and blush this past summer, and it wasn’t because my parents were trying to keep me away from it. I have purposely avoided learning make up until then, and it was actually my mom who wanted me to learn this past summer. I would’ve been content either never learning it or waiting. I’m not a naturally pretty girl – some days I’ll look pretty depending on what I’m wearing and how I do my hair. I have very strong features. I say this factually – I don’t have a low self-esteem about my looks; it’s a fact and I think it would be more dangerous to lie to myself. My looks don’t matter anyway and if somebody doesn’t like them they can go jump in a lake. So now let me tell you why I avoided makeup. Throughout my life, my dad has told me this super irritating refrain whenever I say “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to.”. He would respond with “But did you mean not to?” He wanted me to get this idea of purpose – not just passively sitting by but actively moving for a purpose. And unknowingly, I applied this idea to makeup.

The other day I heard someone tell a friend “I wouldn’t feel pretty today without it” speaking of makeup. That just sounded so extremely sad to me. That somebody – a young female teen around my own age – felt she needed makeup in order to look pretty, even for just one day. That she would feel ugly without it. I saw a meme or something on Facebook a few minutes ago that spoke to guys and told them if they wanted to be in a relationship they’d have to accept that there were going to be days their girlfriend would have a bad attitude because her eyeliner didn’t turn out right. What!? But the thing is, this idea is all over the place. This idea that all girls wear makeup and all girls are dependent on their makeup and all girls care about their makeup. But why? I purposely avoided learning makeup because I didn’t want to be one of those girls. I didn’t want to rely on makeup to feel good about myself and feel pretty. And I don’t. Makeup is like a bubblebath to me; it’s something to wear when I feel like putting a little extra into myself that day. Or sometimes I just like to play with the colors. But everywhere around me there are girls who care so so much. They use face masks and hair products and everything under the sun. Why? Even Christian girls. God says that we are beautiful. My friend was talking to me about dying her hair one time because she didn’t like it’s color and my dad overheard. He told her “I don’t think you should do it. You know why? Because I think dying your hair because you don’t like it’s color is telling God you think he made a mistake.” That’s stuck with me. It wasn’t the action itself he had a problem with, it was the thought behind it. I don’t like my hair color; I would look better with x color hair. You know better than God? It’s similar with makeup – you don’t think you look pretty without makeup? News flash: if God thought we would be better with makeup on, he would have made us that way. Makeup does not define our worth. Going without makeup has it’s problems in today’s society, but let me tell you something else: I walk around more confidently when I’m not wearing makeup than when I am. I am comfortable in my own skin. I have acne and big eyebrows and strong features and a nose that might even be described as slightly bulbous, but I love myself.

So I have a challenge for you females reading this: For 1-2 months, go without makeup. Not completely – allow yourself makeup one day a week. And during those 1-2 months, surround yourself with friends and do fun stuff. Laugh and forget you don’t have makeup on. And when you go into the bathroom and see yourself without makeup, smile at the mirror – even if it’s forced – and focus on your eyes. Think about the fun times you’ve had and watch your eyes light up and see yourself without makeup. You can even pull in a friend to do it with you! (Please, please don’t do this without a good, supportive friend!) While you do this, read your bible every day and ask God to show you your beauty and ask him to use it to help someone else.

Taking action on your own starts the process, taking action with someone else keeps you accountable, and taking action for someone else takes the focus off of you.

One more thought: Whenever you get married – or if you are married – your husband will/does wake up next to you when you don’t have makeup on. He will not/does not love you for how you look with makeup on! If he does, then he needs to get something right with God.