A Letter to 2018

Welcome, 2018.

2018, we all have big plans for you. We have resolutions, ideals, dreams, desires. We’re making our plans over here, like we run the world. Like we can delay or skip or fast forward any of your days and months. We’re racing the clock to see how many minutes we can save, in the name of time management. We’re trying to change our destinies, with every program we sign up for and every extra dollar we try to earn in each of your tiny squares. We all hope that the dawn of 2019 will reflect all the things we have accomplished.

We want you to be a good year for us. We want to say that you’ve been good to us. We have big expectations, for you, 2018. I thought it was only fair that you knew it.

Because how can you give what you don’t know we’re expecting? And truth be told, we make it all about ourselves when we focus on what we accomplished.

So you don’t need to be good to us, 2018, because we have a Father Who is. You don’t need to deliver health, wealth, and happiness. We can rest knowing God will decide which of those things He wants to give us. And even in unfortunate circumstances, God is still good. His character doesn’t sway according to the things He allows.

2018, nothing that you can throw at us amidst any of these page flips or numbered squares will change our destiny. We are children of God. Our accomplishments don’t define us. Our failures don’t condemn us. Only our Father can do that.

So just for you, 2018, I’m changing my expectation system. I’m going to stop expecting misfortune. I’m not going to cuddle up next to negativity. I’m not going to project those things onto you. I’m also not going to expect you to be flawless and fabulous. What I AM going to do is let go of the expectations I have of what my life should look like. I’m going to stop comparing myself to others and wishing I had what they have. I’m going to stop expecting that if I do all the right things, my life will be a bed of roses. I’m especially going to drop the expectations I have of people—friends, family, authorities, and not the least of all, myself.  Heaven knows I expect myself to be and produce and succeed more than is feasible for one human being. Maybe if I stop kicking myself for letting me down, I won’t be so disappointed with others when they do.

I don’t know what you hold for me, 2018, but I’m expectant. I’m expectant that God will do what He said He will do. That when I fail myself and don’t cross off my resolution list, He is still faithful. That when others let me down, He never does. That when tomorrow and the next day and the day after that throw me unexpected chaos, I can stop looking for someone to blame, and instead look for Someone to thank. Because all of your minutes and hours and days serve to increase my sanctification. I can look at the future squares on your calendar without dread or anxiety, because I know Who already resides in them.

So, 2018? You can breathe easy. You’re off the hook.

 

Psalm 62:5 “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from Him.”

Advertisements

Surviving Christmas: A Word about Self-Care

It’s been a little quiet around here recently. And by quiet, I don’t mean silent. (I have a one-year-old.) But I have been a little more unplugged, a little less prone to screen time, a little less-present on the interwebs. Due to finances, we cut our cable, and subsequently internet, about two months ago, and it’s been a welcome distraction gone. I was also getting a bad taste in my mouth for all the buzzes and beeps coming from my devices, so I turned off all notifications. I thought I would miss it. I don’t.

This time of year, I immerse myself in all the Ann Voskamp Advent books, as well as various other Advent studies. I am trying to simplify: clean out a closet I’ve always felt sure I needed, so that we can knock down a wall. Giving lots and lots and lots of things away. I’ve been more likely to meet up with friends for coffee. I’ve put the house aside and given my daughter a bit more hands-on attention. I’m working less than I ever have in my life (or so it seems), and yet I might be the happiest I’ve ever been with my house that will never keep up with the Joneses. Sure, there are things I want, things I think I need. Depending on the day, parenting is hard, or marriage is hard, or both. I am not even close to having life figured out, but I’m finally becoming okay with that.

I think about this community a lot. I want to connect here. I want to do ministry. I want to do what I love and write more. And there are seasons for that. But sometimes the Lord intentionally shelves all of those things for a while to draw me to Himself. To quiet my heart and remind me of what’s most important. I can get caught up in all the good things and miss the best thing.

So I’ve been asking a deep question. What do I want my legacy to be, and are my daily actions proof that I believe this? Do I want to be known for knowing Jesus? YES. This is it. I want to be known for pursuing Jesus. And so when it comes down to it, my house doesn’t need to be perfect. (Said closet contents are currently taking over an entire couch in my living room, and it’s nothing short of a miracle that I’m sitting here typing instead of clearing that pile off.)  My value doesn’t lie in what I accomplish today, or in how much I weigh, or in how much money there is (or isn’t) in my checking account. I can’t neglect those things entirely, but what have I truly accomplished if I’ve tended to all those things but neglected the thing I’ve claimed to be most important in my life?

What if I gain the world (lose the weight, check all the lists off, have a spotless house, be financially secure) only to lose my own soul? I’m not speaking of heaven or hell here, although that is surely what the text means. But what if, in pursuit of all these things, I neglect my own soul? I neglect my relationship with the Lord? I fail to pass on my faith to my children? What have I really gained?

My friend texted me yesterday and said, “Would it be weird if my word for 2018 was self-care?” I looked up the definition of self-care: any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.

This concept has been taken to the extreme in our society, where we often speak of loving yourself and the quip “take care of yourself, because no one else will.” But why did Jesus tell the story of the Good Samaritan? Because He was asked the question: What is the greatest commandment in the law?” His response? “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself.” How can we love our neighbor like we love ourselves if we don’t love ourselves? How do we know how to care of others if we don’t take good care of ourselves? Tell me: do you think the Good Samaritan was overweight and in poor health, bad with money, or a person whose family and home were a wreck? I doubt it. He was able to stop and help the man on the side of the road because he had taken care of himself. He was physically able to stop and load him on his donkey. He was mentally able to fit in one more thing into his day. He was  spiritually-minded because he was looking for opportunities to give of himself. Only a healthy person could behave in this way.

This is Biblical in origin. Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it flows the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23). Glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:20). I discipline my body and keep it under control so that when I have preached to others, I myself should not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27). A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh (Proverbs 14:30). There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest (Hebrews 4:9-11).

Taking inventory of our heart and emotions, disciplining our body, establishing tranquility, and entering into rest. Going back to the definition of self-care, it is deliberate. Self-initiated. It is something we must be intentional about, something we must put into motion. Keeping ourselves fit and active by exercising, taking time to inventory what’s going on within us, and entering into rest in non-slumbering ways are all methods of self-care. I’ve written posts before on Sabbath, and will write more in the future, but there are many different ways to “Sabbath.” And each of our Sabbaths will look different, because each of us have different things that stir our affections for Jesus. We avoid the things that steal our joy and immerse ourselves in the things that allow us to focus on Jesus. For some, it may be taking a nature walk. For others, it may be taking a bath. The Sabbath is a built-in facet of Christianity; Jesus mandated it. Rest for our bodies, our hearts, our souls. So that we know that we can cease striving. So that we can remember what’s truly important. So that we have what we need to serve the body of Christ.

What does that look like for me in the middle of Christmas season? Saying no to things I actually really want to do because it will make my life hectic. Writing down my victories and losses from 2017, and jotting down goals and prayerful resolutions for the new year. Slowing down to take time to appreciate all that’s around me. Buying a dessert for the next gathering instead of trying to make a delightful Pinterest recipe that will likely turn into a fail (because we’re real here.) Taking my daughter to visit a widow. Meeting with my mentor and accountability partner. Spending drawn-out time in the Word and in prayer. Exercising. A bath here and there.

And, hopefully, a cheeseboard.

Because nothing stirs my affection for Jesus like cheese.

Toddler Tales

Before I had children, I asked about 8 people to pinky-promise me that if my child was ugly, they would be honest and tell me.

Either those 8 people are liars, or Eden hasn’t turned out so ugly after all. But do you know what I realized last week? When someone tells me that Eden is cute, they are just as much talking about her personality as they are her facial features. This compliment means even more to me than I ever thought it would. I mean, no one wants to have ugly kids, but it’s more important to me that my children have beautiful souls, not just a pretty face. We have enough of those.

But as Eden has gotten older, it’s getting old that people keep telling me how well- behaved my child is. That her personality is so docile and perfect and that she is so sweet- natured and kind-tempered. You know why? Because while it may be true in public, she saves her real face for me.

I’m especially sad for all the moms who are in the middle of disciplining a full-fledged toddler fit, and who look at me and say, “You probably don’t have this happen, do you?” So, I have threatened to record one of these tantrums if people keep telling me they don’t believe me.

So, it happened last week. I asked, as I always do, how Eden was at preschool. One lady started chuckling and said, “I’ll let Deneise tell you about that. Let’s just say, they saw a side of Eden today they never saw before.” Uh-oh. As soon as I appeared at the door, both teachers looked at me with awe in their eyes and both started talking to me at once. They explained the fit she threw, the kicking and screaming and all-out temper tantrum. I told them that I hoped they disciplined her. They replied that it was kind of cute. Kind of cute? I don’t remember ever thinking that when I saw a fit in the mall.

I had her give the teachers love on out way out and then talked sternly to her all the way to the car. As soon as I strapped her in, I got a dose of what they had been talking about. And yes, I’m going to post this on Facebook under this blog post because it’s unfair for any parent to think that there is a child who doesn’t act this way.

But do you know why the teachers said it was cute? Because they knew her. They knew how out-of-character it was for her. They know that this is not her normal personality. But this IS her sin nature. Call it the terrible twos if you’d like, but it’s just her strong-will surfacing. And the Bible talks a whole lot about how important it is to submit our will to God’s will. If our children can’t submit their will to ours, how on earth will they ever learn to submit to God?

If it happened every day, I assure you it would get un-cute in a hot minute. I know this because it has happened to me every single day since. Not every child responds the same way to a certain form of discipline, so prayerfully consider what works best for your child. Always with the mission in mind of teaching them that they are not in control of their life– God is. They can control their choices, but very soon they will learn cause-and-effect, also known as consequences. We are putting them at a disadvantage if we let them grow up thinking they can control their circumstances. They don’t understand all of this yet, so it is crucial that we behave towards them as God does.

Parenting is darn tough. It has been no cake-walk for me, either. As parents, we have the HUGE responsibility to prayerfully consider how we are representing Jesus to our littles. This is no small task. This is HARD, and it requires dying to ourselves, and submitting ourselves to Him, just as we are trying to teach our children to do one day.

I’ve seen parents punish for every little thing. I see little grace in this. I’ve seen parents threaten and count themselves to death, and I see the need for a bit more reinforcement here. My friend Megan said something to me about this topic of the (exhausting) consistency required in parenting: “I think both sides of parenting are equally as lazy. One side lets the child do whatever they want because it’s too hard to tell them no. The other side only wants to beat them over and over for every offense because it’s too hard to discern a correct punishment.” So how in the world are we EVER going to find a happy medium here?

Lots of prayer. Humility. Unconditional love. Well-known expectations. The Holy Spirit.

This is our job. We’ve got one shot to raise these kids. So how do our children view God? The way they view us.

In which ways are we representing Him wrongly?? God doesn’t ignore bad behavior, not in the long run. He doesn’t threaten without following through. He is not a pushover. He never says something and forgets to act on it. Now, we give ourselves some grace, because we are forgetful and we are human. But overall, we want our children to learn that God expects a lot from us, because we have been given much (Luke 12:48.) And we want them to know what to expect from God. He does not let sin go unpunished. Our sin will find us out.

After over a decade of nannying, babysitting, teaching, and now parenting, I’ve learned that there is a secret to it: consistency. It doesn’t matter as much what you do, as long as you see results from what you’ve chosen and you do it consistently.

I’ve also learned one other thing: if you question whether they are manipulating you, they probably are. We don’t give kids enough credit. They’re super smart. (Also, they can put on their own jacket and do their own breathing treatments much sooner than you think they can. Resume reading.) And just like all children, we are born with a will to rebel. God has granted us the huge privilege of identifying the areas where this rebellion exists and nurturing their hearts toward Jesus. All of life is about digging up more sin roots and surrendering our lives to Jesus, so why not give them a head-start now? Because it’s too hard? Because you’re tired? Because it’s embarrassing in public not to just buy them that candy bar? I hear you. And I know it is. But, oh, friend. It’s so worth it. Do the hard work now, and then the foundation will be laid when they become teenagers. You’ll make your job then and their lives so much easier.

The terrible twos turn into the terrifying threes if you don’t deal with the twos. And the terrifying threes turn into the ferocious fours if you don’t deal with the terrible twos. Read Proverbs and ask the Spirit for direction and wisdom with each parenting decision you make. Pray with your children. Fold them in your arms after you punish and tell them how much you love them, and how much God loves them. I don’t do this perfectly, and we mamas need to pray for each other! This is tough stuff. Right now, I am weary feeling that we may never escape this boundary-testing stage.

The day after the episode at preschool, Eden’s teacher sent me this picture. She said, “This beautiful and blue-eyed baby girl even on a rainy day is sunshine! Sweet, sweet, sweet, even when she is having a ‘moment’.” This is how God looks at us, friend.IMG_0402.JPG

He is waiting with open arms to receive us back into the fold again. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how cute their clothes are or how pretty their hair bow is. What matters is that they learn that when they see ugliness inside, Jesus can turn their ashes into beauty.

 

Oh, the Things You Could Do!

The most common thing that people assume I do for a living is teach. Apparently I have that air about me. I’ll start by telling you that my degree is in legal office administration. That being said, I have been a preschool teacher, a bookstore assistant manager, a hostess at a barbecue restaurant, a nanny, a housekeeper, a secretary, a writer, a Bible study facilitator, a professional organizer, and a social media manager. I have sold scrapbooks and photo preservation products, healthy skincare products, and Bible study resources. I have been approached about taking over an in-home preschool, managing a coffeeshop, and being a children’s minister, just to name a few.

I think I’m realizing that people mean well when they are sad that I don’t stay in one particular vocation because “you’re so good at that.” But I think what they want MORE than just “someone who is good at what they do” is someone that they can trust. Someone they can trust to be reliable, dependable, integrity-driven, etc. Someone who will make smart decisions on and off the clock. They want someone who loves God. They want someone who loves people.

And when someone fits those qualifications? Honestly, they could be good at anything in the world they wanted to do.

Sadly, I’m finding, there aren’t a lot of people like that out there. There are a lot of people who think they need another degree, or more experience, or more qualifications. And while those things are helpful, what people really want is someone who will do what they say they will do.

Realizing this helps me feel like I can take pressure off myself for not pleasing everyone. I’m not missing a calling. I’m actually LIVING my calling. By God’s grace and unmerited favor, I’ve been told that I am reliable, dependable, integrity-driven, a God-lover, and a people-lover. I take NO credit for this. My parents raised me to be a leader, holding me back a year so that I started kindergarten a year older than everyone else. The Lord gave me the title “first-born”, and all the amazing (and annoying) personality traits that come with it. I was homeschooled with top-of-the-line curriculum, giving me a chance to excel. I went to a wonderful academic college, that prepared me for real life experiences. But more than anything, the Lord made me who I am.

Because of this, I could be good at most anything (except needles or anything requiring math skills.) I am trained at being a legal office assistant, and yet do everything but work in a law office. But I cannot, and I’m not supposed to, do everything, not even all the things I might want to! Right now, anything that I even might want to do that makes me unhealthy at serving God or my family is not for me.

We may be awesome at a million things. But we can’t do a million things. And we aren’t supposed to. We are supposed to do only two things: Love God and love our neighbor. Which can really be wrapped up into one large concept: We are supposed to seek first the Kingdom of God— loving Him and loving His people. 

Just seek His Kingdom. And He will do the math.

He will add all the things to us that we need.

He will subtract from our lives what shouldn’t be there.

He will divide our responsibilities until they are manageable, with His help.

He will multiply our efforts and reach more people than we ever could on our own.

He will multiply our time so that there is enough time to do everything that needs to be done.

He will multiply our strength so we can rise with wings as eagles.

Maybe you have far too much on your plate. You wear too many hats. You continue to be volunteered for things. A friend of mine and I were discussing this when she was handed 26 students this year. It was an extraordinary number of kids for one teacher and an assistant to manage, to keep safe, and to succeed with increasing each of the children’s personal abilities. There just weren’t enough hours in the day. There weren’t enough hands to guide. And there were way too many mouths talking.

As we brainstormed how to make the impossible possible, I kept thinking of the boy with five loaves and two fishes. It was a laughable gesture, presenting his lunch to Jesus. It was barely worth offering. The sacrifice was meager. But God takes delight in using our weaknesses and less-thans to bring Himself glory. At the end of that day, there were so many loaves and fishes that there were TWELVE BASKETS. Not twelve baskets to feed the 5,000 people. Twelve baskets leftover, after every single mouth was fed and every belly was full. When God shows up, He doesn’t mess around. He doesn’t just fill our cup halfway. He flat-out OVERFLOWS it.

Maybe that’s the miracle He is trying to write in my friend, in her lack. Maybe the fact that the administration thought she could perform well with 26 kids was because she WAS living her calling. She was reliable, they could depend on her,  and they could trust her to teach well and love those kids well.

When things get hard, let’s not immediately back out. Let’s pray and ask for wisdom to know if God is asking us to step away. But let’s also be willing to stick it out and see what He will do with it. And sometimes, living our calling will require giving up something we love, something we cherish.

Living your calling isn’t always going to be easy. But it’s always worth it in the end.

That’s the miracle He wants to write in you, too.

Bring the little time and energy and ability you have to Jesus, and just watch what He will do with it.

Christmas Brings Thanksgiving

As long as I can ever remember, I have never been good at living in the moment. I am sad that we have come to the place where time flies by so fast and we so over-commercialize that people dread Christmas. (I understand if you dread your own birthday. But dreading someone else’s? That’s taking it to a new level.)

Three years ago, I decided I couldn’t have Christmas. We were not able to travel to see my family up north, and I was a real Scrooge about it. (Turns out, retail at Christmas will kill you if you don’t have any holiday cheer.) Two years ago, I was nine months pregnant and willing the child with everything in me not to come until after the new year. Last year, I was ready for Christmas to come, and found myself seeing Christmas through a child’s eyes. It was beautiful, but also spent running around so that everyone could see Eden and we could deliver Christmas gifts. By Christmas Eve, I was exhausted! So, it’s been a good long time since I’ve just savored the season. I’m eager this year, and 75% of me wants to put up my tree and put on Bing Crosby. (If you’ve already made the leap, I’m with you!)

But something the Lord is teaching me as I get older is to learn to live in the moment. I don’t want to miss what’s happening right now because I’m looking to the next thing. It has struck me more this year than ever before that people have complained all year about the weather. Too hot and then too cold. I’m just so thankful that I live in a place where there are seasons and we actually get a change in climate. Summer held on a little longer this year, and so fall is now in full swing. For once, I don’t want it to be summer and I don’t want to be winter. I want it to be fall. I want to light my pumpkin spice candle and decorate my porch with gourds. I want to stare at the changing leaves and go on hayrides.

As Christians, we constantly live in the tension between the “already” & the “not yet”, as commentators call it. Christ has come, yet we wait for Him still. Christmas has come to my heart this year, and I’m so ready for it. And yet, I slow down enough to enjoy The Right Now. I’m learning that it’s possible to do both at the same time. I was honored to co-write an Advent devotional with my sweet friend Kristin Schmucker, and it sold out in less than a week. You know why? Because we are all desperate for Jesus to make this season meaningful again. We all need more of Jesus. More of Him in our Thanksgiving, more of Him in our holiday, more of Him in our Christmas. When we see more of Jesus, we will marvel at the Thanksgiving that Christmas has brought to our hearts.

IMG_1862.jpeg*You can sign up to receive a free reading plan in your inbox for the Advent devotional here.

Whose Hands are You Holding?

We were privileged to spend a gorgeous weekend outdoors at Windy Gap, NC. This is the home of a Young Life camp, complete with ziplines, farm-feel ampitheater, pool tables, huge pool slide, hot tub, snack bar, and giant swing. But it wasn’t any of those things that brought me the most joy, or that I will remember the most. It will be the love for Jesus that was so contagious there. I felt like my chest would burst with renewed hope for the younger generation (it took me a while to write that, the whole younger generation part.) I was so grateful to see people speak the name Jesus in the same sentence with cheeseburger. Not out of disrespect, but in an as-natural-as-breathing kind of way. It was so cool to see people praying over the staff, and to hear heart-felt prayers from people who didn’t want to stop talking to Him.

The greatest part of the weekend was getting to hear our friend Jonathan speak to the kids. He is genuine, and fun, and serious about sharing the Gospel. One of the things that I am still mulling over in my head is when he gave his definition for sin. He told a story about his little boy, David, and how he would hold out his hand as he tried to go down a flight of stairs. He was waiting for Jonathan to grab it and help him down. But one time this summer, Jonathan reached down first to take David’s hand, and he clasped his hands tightly together and said, “No, Daddy. I hold my own hands.”

Jonathan said that this was the definition of sin… trying to take life into our own hands. I had never considered this before, and wondered if this was an accurate definition of it. He astounded the young people by saying that if they expected to come to camp and hear him say that drugs and sex and alcohol are wrong, they wouldn’t hear it from him. Because sin was more than a specific. Sin was a matter of the heart. A matter of motives. Sin was rebellion. Sin was trying to do life on our own. 

And you know what? This is a higher standard for sin than just to box everything in and say what is sin and what isn’t sin. Yes, the Bible is clear that there are some specific things that are always sin. You don’t have to look much farther than Exodus 20 to find a nice little list. But this matter of sin… it requires daily soul-searching. It requires constant communication with the Father, asking for an attitude change, asking for His help and confessing where we have gone off on our own. Now, I’m not advocating illegal drugs or premarital sex. The Bible has a firm stand on your body being saved for one person that you pledge your life to. (And the word illegal should speak for itself.) But what I AM advocating is that this Christian life we live, under the grace dispensation, requires so much more than the ten commandments. This new standard requires asking not if something is sin or not, or how close we can get to the line without crossing it. It requires asking if something will draw us closer to God. If it would please Him, in this moment, with this motive. Let me explain.

Would I shock you if I said that perhaps none of us are qualified to slap a label on some things as sin or not sin? Because God holds power that we don’t have… He sees the heart. He sees the motive behind the action. He declares that to be the crux of the matter. And because of that, His deliberations are not always the same.

In the Old Testament, He commanded the children of Israel not to take spoils from Jericho. He wanted them to see that this battle was His, and the spoils were His, and also to teach them the principle of first fruits. But the very next battle, Ai, He told them to take the spoils.

He condemned the Pharisees for praying, because He knew their motivation was to be seen by men, and not to be heard by God. He rewarded Rahab for lying to the government officials of Jericho about the spies she was hiding, because her motivation was to protect the men of the One True God.  It’s not as clear-cut as we think.

The New Testament holds us to a higher standard of behavior… and no longer can we simply claim something black and white. If the action is laudable, but the motivation is for self, or personal benefit, then the good deed doesn’t count. If the action is questionable, but the motive is to further the Kingdom of God, then God sees it as holy.

The two commands that sum up them ALL? Love the Lord your God with ALL your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself. So, if you were to question whether your motive for doing something was pure or not, you could line it up next to these two guideposts and do a simple check.

This is tough, because the first-born in me wants to draw lines in the sand. I want you to just tell me what to do and what NOT to do so that I don’t screw up. I want to cast the first stone at the lady caught in adultery. I don’t know why she was in bed with that man… she may have been blackmailed, forced, or possibly she coerced him. But whatever the case, Jesus saw in her heart something He wanted to pardon. And so, with gratefulness in my heart, I ask the Lord to make my motivations pure. I beg Him to direct my heart after His Kingdom. And then, I think I can wring my hands less about what is sin and what is not.

Because an undivided heart will seek more opportunities to hold God’s Hand than to hold its own hands.

Jelly? Get a Pedi.

In January of 2015, four brave souls set out on a journey toward deeper discipleship. We met with a mix of excitement and trepidation for the first time in a little livingroom as we took the plunge.

As part of this routine (www.mydgroup.org), we have weekly challenges. This is something, usually based on what we have been studying in the Word, that helps us think outside the box and align our desires with what the Lord is trying to change in us. In the last 3 years, we have begun our own groups and split the team, but we love to discuss weekly challenges. This is often a topic of conversation between the original four of us that began in a livingroom nearly 3 years ago.

During pedicures last month, I was chatting with one of the four musketeers in between the grimacing of pumice stones on our callouses (not because it hurt, mind you, but due to the fact that it tickled). I asked her how the weekly challenge had gone for her the week before. This challenge was two-fold: we were to prayerfully ask the Lord who in our life might be jealous of us, and reach out to them in some way with a gift: either materially, or verbally, or simply a gift of our time or prayer. Then we were to reach out to someone that we were jealous of, with a similar gift. She told me of a person that she had reached out to, and it made perfect sense to me that the person she mentioned might be a bit jealous of her. I wouldn’t have thought of that person, but then again, it’s a bit backward to think of someone who might be jealous of us. (Especially if that person has never said so.) But what she said next stunned me most of all.

“And here we are, doing this. So this is the fulfillment of my second part of the challenge.”

Wait… 

“Are you saying you’re jealous of me?!” I could not have been more shocked if she told me I was adopted.

“WHY?! Why on earth would you be jealous of me??”

The reasons she stated blurred together as I honestly reeled from the shock. I vaguely remember something about my ministry with others, my freedom and flexibility to serve in various ways, my writing, and I missed anything else she said.

I was thinking to myself how often I had been jealous of her… debt-free, with so much time and desire to help others, the way every single person on the planet loves her. The way that people can corner her for an hour and never know that she didn’t want to be in that conversation. The way her face doesn’t give away her feelings. The way she truly genuinely cares about every single person. The way she seeks out those who are hurting, or lonely, or forgotten. The way she takes charge of any situation, and how trustworthy she is in everything.  The way she puts aside her own desires and preferences to cater to others.

I realized something that day. All of us have people we admire. All of us want to be someone else at some point in our lives. But it’s quite possible that others see the beauty in us that we cannot see in ourselves. I was jealous of her traits and all the while she was jealous of mine. Thankfully, our mutual jealousy hasn’t pushed us away from each other, but instead, together. In the church pew, in the Abuelo’s booth, in the nail salon. We sing well together, we laugh better together, and we allow our differences to compliment one another. Our different personalities, careers, and family tree all play a part in the communities we influence, the positions we sign up for, the areas we allow ourselves to spend time.

What if we spent less time coveting someone else’s body, skills, gifts, and personalities, and spent that time thanking God for the things He has equipped us with? Not because we are awesome sauce. But because He has given us these things to then give away to others. For His glory, His Kingdom, His agenda.