Sorry, I’m Not Going to Compete With You

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I am an athlete – a natural-born leader and competitor.  When I played basketball, I would size up my competition, know their weaknesses, and exploit them as much as I could.  I didn’t want to show any mercy and if I could beat a team to the ground, then that’s what I would do.  I never wanted anyone to say that they worked harder than me.  I wanted to be the best.  I wanted to win.  I wanted to intimidate my competition; hence, the picture.

In sports, there is a clear winner and loser.  At the end of a game, you always know which team or competitor was the best.  In life, things are not that cut-and-dry.  Given my personality, it can be very difficult for me to turn off my competitive nature.  But in the game of life, especially motherhood, no one wins when we compete with each other.

I had been struggling with that good, old-fashioned ‘less-than-perfect’ feeling that creeps up much too often.  Whether or not this woman knew it, I was trying to compete with her and I was losing.  She had just completed yet another DIY project, her house was immaculate, she was always the first to volunteer to make a wonderful meal for someone, her kids always seemed to be well-behaved, and she was darn-near a size two.  Meanwhile, I am the least crafty woman I know, my house is clean but lived-in, I will send someone a gift card to a restaurant rather than cook, my kids are often well-behaved yet they are still completely unpredictable, and I can’t even find size two in the rear-view mirror.

To be honest, I was beyond frustrated.  I don’t know why I felt like I had to compete with her, I just did.  It got to the point that the sight of her or the mention of her name began to irritate me.  At one point, I said to my husband something along the lines of, “She just thinks she’s so perfect.  Gag me.”  A few days after I said that, a mutual friend had called and asked me to pray for this woman.  As it turned out, she was struggling with something very real and difficult – something I can’t imagine going through.  I don’t believe this was a coincidence.  God knew my heart and my attitude needed to change and he knew that praying for this woman – that I insisted on competing with – was the way to do that.

By praying for her I realized several things.  First of all, competing was useless.  I was comparing apples and oranges.  Our lives and situations were not even close to the same.  It wasn’t a level playing field, but it never is no matter who we may be competing with.  This is real life, and real life is much more unpredictable and messy than a basketball game.

Secondly, what was I trying to accomplish?  Did I want to make myself feel better?  Did I want to make her feel badly?  Like I said, odds are she had and still has no clue that I felt this way.  Regardless of what my goal was, I suddenly realized that either outcome was flawed.  There will always be women out there that I can make feel pretty bad about themselves.  Likewise, there are tons of women who can make me feel just as badly.  Why in the world would I want to make someone feel horrible?  Didn’t this whole thing start because I was feeling lousy about myself?

competition

Finally, it occurred to me that God has equipped me to deal with my own life.  I will never be perfect, because if I were it would take away my reliance on God.  All that time, I had been trying to fit myself into this mold that didn’t match my life – it matched her life.  I am never going to make a bunch of DIY projects around my house, that’s just not what I’m into.  I am also not likely to make a bunch of meals for people, it doesn’t mean that I am not helping them out just because I go the gift card route (although, I have to watch that I am giving for the right reason and not just for the attention).  Also, God has called me to be the mother to my kids for a reason.  I am the one who is most well-equipped to raise them, which is why they are mine.  God will give me the strength I need to handle my life, not someone else’s life.

So from now on, I’m done competing.  I’ve decided that the ball player must become the cheerleader.  My new goal is to encourage and respect other women at all times, rather than try to beat them at the game of life.  If you accomplish something, I need to be right there cheering you on and congratulating you, even if I could never do what you did.  Do I need to be best friends with every woman I meet?  No.  But I am called to lift others up rather than tear them down.  By practicing this, I have felt more joy in my friendships and more peace with myself than I ever expected.  I might never get another MVP award, but I’m shooting for Best Sportsmanship these days.

Linking up with Equipping Godly Women

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You Might Be Raising Boys If…

raisingboys

You might be raising boys if…

1. You have enough train track in your house to build a cross-country railway.

2. You now know the names of all the different kinds of trucks and tractors – backhoes, front-end loaders, combines, bulldozers, etc.

3. You have ever heard your child yell, “Mom, look what I found!” right before they plopped a dirt-covered worm in your hand.

4. You have balls everywhere.  Seriously.  Everywhere.

5. You now rate pain on a scale of 1 – stepping on a Lego in the dark.  Yes, it is more painful to step on Legos in the dark.  Don’t ask me why, it just is.

6. You have ever purchased your child a pair of jeans in order for them to have huge holes in them two weeks later.

7. You realize that your kids instinctively know how to tackle each other like NFL defensive lineman.

8. You constantly have to remind them to look where they are peeing.

9. Your house is now decorated in a combo of John Deere and superhero memorabilia.

10. You never knew that a man so small could steal your heart instantaneously.

 

Linking up with Equipping Godly Women

 

Christmas Carols Give Me the Good Kind of Chills

There is something special that happens when I sing Christmas carols that gives me more joy than anything else during the Christmas season.  I feel a little like Buddy the Elf – “The quickest way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loudly for all to hear.”

I am not a particularly strong singer, but for whatever reasons, my sons don’t realize that.  Every night, we sing, and sing, and sing.  A few nights ago, I was rocking my son and singing Christmas carols to him.  He was almost asleep as I brushed the hair off of his forehead and kissed his cheek.  I continued singing as silent tears slid down my face – the words of those songs were so amazing that I couldn’t contain my emotions.  In that moment, I was focused on the truest meaning of Christmas and I couldn’t help but be moved.

Here are some of the songs and lyrics that grip my heart and don’t let go:

Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer

Just Kidding.

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

At one point in this song, there is a line that states, “God and sinners, reconciled.”  Sure, I had heard this line before, but I had never really paid much attention to it.  When I stopped to think about it, it is so powerful.  We often think of Christ’s death and resurrection as our reconciliation with God, but it truly started when God sent his son to the earth as a baby.  The process of reconciliation begins with the virgin birth.  There is no way that we as humans can fathom what it must have been like for Jesus to willingly leave the glory of Heaven knowing that he would live his life on earth as both God and man to one day die for all of our sins.

Silent Night, Holy Night

This whole song is calming and reminds me of the moment after my children were born when it was just me, my baby, and my husband in the room.  There was just this peace and sense of awe because the child that you had prayed for was finally here.  Your new reality was setting in and your life would never be the same.  I can’t help but wonder if Mary and Joseph felt the same way.marydidyouknow

O, Holy Night

This song is amazing. We sang it in church this past Sunday and the tears were a-flowin’. The words that stick out to me are as follows: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ’till he appeared and the soul felt it’s worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!”

I often get worked up over the state the world is in, but this reminds me that Christ came to conquer that. Our souls have always been worth it to Him and He came to earth to prove it. We have the thrill of hope because of what took place in Bethlehem and later on Calvary. Yes, we can feel weary, but we also have many reasons to rejoice.

Mary, Did You Know?

Regardless of Christmas, this is one of my all-time favorite songs. If you haven’t heard it, check out this chill-inducing rendition by Pentatonix.

So many thoughts run through my mind when I hear this song. I think of what it was like for me when I was pregnant for the first time. I was excited and scared – I had no idea the journey that was about to begin. I’m sure, like most women, Mary felt the same way. But, there are elements to Mary’s story that no one has ever experienced before. Whereas I was having a child that my husband and I created, Mary was about to give birth to a child that was placed in her womb by the Holy Spirit. Can you imagine what that must have been like? Mary and Joseph displayed incredible amounts of faith, but I would be willing to bet that few people believed that this was not Joseph’s child. Not only that, but when it came time for Mary to deliver, the only person with her was Joseph. Scripture tells us that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. That means that a man who had never physically known her had to deliver her baby – in a stable, surrounded by animals, in a town foreign to her. I don’t know about you, but that would make me feel so vulnerable and uncomfortable. When I gave birth, I had every amenity possible and I still felt extremely vulnerable and uncomfortable.

After she delivered, what was Mary thinking? Did she know who she was holding? Was she thinking about what it would be like to raise the King of Kings? One line in the song says, “Did you know that when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God?” Unbelievable. No other woman has ever or will ever be able to relate to that. That imagery is so powerful.

Did she know that Jesus would one day perform miracles, that he would walk on water, and save the world? Did she realize that this was Heaven’s perfect lamb, the Lord of all creation? Did she know that she would stand at the foot of the cross and watch her son die for her sins, and my sins, and your sins?

Just like I have no way of knowing what my children will become one day, I also think Mary did not fully grasp what was going to happen. While she was raising the Son of God, Mary was still fully human. Mary trusted God with everything she had and she knew that He was in control even if she didn’t understand all that was going on. Perhaps it was best that she didn’t know all that would occur during Jesus’ 33 years on earth. At the end of the day, she was a mother doing her best to raise her son to become a man.

To me, Christmas carols are some of the most well-written and powerful songs out there. Singing these songs honestly does give me chills. I think of all these things that I mentioned and so much more. Christmas is such a wonderful time to reflect on the gift of salvation. It will always be the greatest gift that I have ever received!

Linking up with Holly Gerth, Serving Joyfully

The Liebster Award

liebsteraward
Several weeks ago, Abi from Joy in my Kitchen, nominated Give Me Strength for the Liebster Award.  Needless to say, I was both shocked and floored!  Here is a description of what the award means:

Liebster is a German word that can mean sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, lovely, pleasant, valued, or welcome.  It is meant to encourage and promote other bloggers within the blogging community.

Thank you so much, Abi, for considering Give Me Strength to fall into this definition!  It means so much to me.

There are a few simple rules that accompany the Liebster Award:

  • Acknowledge the blog who nominated you.
  • Answer 11 questions the blogger gives you.
  • Give 11 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 11 other blogs (with less than 200 followers).
  • Let them know you nominated them.
  • Give them 11 questions to answer.

Here are the questions that Abi has asked me to answer:

1. What state or country do you live in?

I live in Pennsylvania.

2. How long have you been blogging?

I started this blog in August 2014, so only five months.

3. Give us a link to the post you most enjoyed writing.

This post was one of my most popular posts.  I believe it is due to the fact that it’s a very real account that many people can relate to in some shape or form. Comparison Kills Contentment.

4. Do you have children and how old are they?

I have two sons, ages 3 and 1. They keep me on my toes!

5. Which meal is your least favorite to prepare?

All of them! I don’t like to cook because it just doesn’t come naturally to me.  I can cook, but I have to follow the recipe step-by-step.  I am getting better, though!

6. What do you like to do in your free time?

I love to read, but haven’t been able to enjoy a good book in a while.

7. Do you have any heirloom recipes?

Not really.  My mom is an amazing cook, but she does most of it from memory.  She has shared many things with me, but I can never seem to get them to turn out the way they do when she cooks them.  I promise to keep trying!

8. Name someone who inspires you and why?

My sons inspire me on a daily basis.  I want to be my best and do my best for them.  They are constantly cracking me up with their antics, which you can read about on my blog. They are a blessing in every way and I love them so much.

9. What blog do you most enjoy reading?

There are so many! I enjoy Abi’s blog, and of course, all of my nominees. I have really been loving Sasha’s posts from Mom Life Now, and Abby’s work on Fearfully Made Mom.

10. What social media platform do you prefer and why?

I prefer Facebook because I am most familiar with it. I would love to learn how to use Instagram and Pinterest to grow my blog. So, if anyone has any suggestions, please share!

11. What is the most valuable thing you have learned from blogging?

When I decided to start blogging, I told myself that I would need to have thick skin and be prepared for mean comments and general nastiness. So far, I have only had one instance of negativity. What has surprised me is how much bloggers band together. I have been overwhelmed with the encouragement and positive comments I have received from other bloggers – people I have never met before. In fact, almost all of my followers on WordPress are bloggers rather than friends and family (they follow more on Facebook). Honestly, if I would have realized how much fun blogging can be, I would have started Give Me Strength a long time ago.

Here are 11 random facts about myself:

  • I am athletically ambidextrous. For example, when playing basketball, I am able to shoot with both my left and my right hands.
  • A goal of mine is to run a marathon. I should probably find the time to start running again.
  • I am neither a morning person nor a night owl.
  • I love to sit on our deck and read.
  • Sometimes I get just as excited about John Deere tractors as my boys do.
  • I hate to wear pantyhose or tights. Leggings are where it’s at.
  • I try to make someone laugh each day.
  • There are times when I’m excited to wake up in the morning just because I know I get to have a cup of coffee.
  • My favorite color is green.
  • Watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ is my guilty pleasure. Ironically, I usually enjoy the show while eating the least healthy thing I can find in the house.
  • The boys and I like to have random dance parties. “Show us your moves, Mom!”

The questions I have prepared for the blogs I nominated are:

1. What is the one thing that you want most to accomplish this year?

2. What is your favorite quality about yourself?

3. What is something that is guaranteed to make you laugh?

4. When you want/need to relax, what do you do?

5. How did you come up with the name of your blog?

6. What or who inspired you to begin blogging?

7. Name your guilty pleasure.

8. What is your least favorite household chore?

9. Do you utilize social media as a blogger? If so, how?

10. To date, what would you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?

11. Where is your favorite place to shop?

Finally, my nominees for the Liebster Award:

Unmanicured Mama
Chelsea Shepherd at The Play Lady
Wendy Zook at ZeeFamilyDotCom
Teresa McCoy at Motherhood: Journey of a New Mom
Rachael Neville at Life is a Beautiful Mess
Stories of an Introverted Mama
Stephanie at The Encouraged Heart
Tarissa at Introverted Mama
Haley Lillibridge at Grace, Purpose, & Pearls
Because Nice Matters
Christina Prathaban at Godly Indian Mom

These amazing women have made me laugh, made me cry, made me think, encouraged me, and challenged me with their writing. Some of them work behind the scenes (which is why their names are not known), and some have been blogging for a little while. My favorite part about the Liebster Award is the opportunity to pass it on. As I said earlier, the encouragement that goes on in the blogging community has caught me off guard in the best way possible. Congratulations to these wonderful bloggers – you deserve it!

I strongly suggest you take the time to visit these bloggers – I know you’ll be blessed by what they share!

A Christmas Interrogation

interrogationroom

It doesn’t take long to realize how little you know when a child begins rapid-fire questioning you.  My oldest son is very inquisitive and is notorious for asking those hard-hitting questions which usually make me feel like I am a criminal in the middle of a tense interrogation.  The topic of Christmas is no exception.

My husband and I are very clear with our sons that Jesus is the reason for the season – the reason for every season.  But, it’s a little difficult to shield a child from Santa and all that he entails.  We never really discussed how we would handle the Santa Claus scenario, but we knew that we didn’t want to push it any more than necessary.  Both of us grew up with Santa and his reindeer as figures of Christmas, while knowing that he was not what Christmas is all about.

After our first son was born, we would mention Santa and take him to get his picture taken, but we pretty much left it at that.  We tried and continue to try to find the balance between the ‘in the world, but not of the world’ concept when it comes to the holidays and just with life in general.  However, it didn’t take our son long to catch on to Santa Claus.

Last year, he thought that everything he got came from Santa Claus.  We don’t want him to think this.  First of all, we want to instill within our children an attitude of gratefulness.  We want him to know that people worked hard and sacrificed in order to give those gifts to him and to others.  If he thinks that gifts from Santa are automatic, how will he develop a grateful heart?  Secondly, we want him to be thankful.  Closely related to gratefulness, but we want him to be thankful to those who took the time to pick out or make him something.  Lastly, we want him to be giving.  If everything comes from Santa, what need would he have to set aside his time and money to give to others?  Christ is the ultimate example of what it means to give, not Santa.

This year, our oldest is asking a ton of questions when it comes to Santa Claus.  He is trying to fit the pieces together. We have a chimney running from our basement up through the middle of our house.  The bricks are only visible in our living room and are surrounded by bookshelves.  The other day, my son came into our living room and put his hand on the bricks.  He looked at me and said, “Is this the chimney?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Santa comes down chimneys.”

I hesitate. “Yes.”

“How will he get out?”

“I guess he’ll get out in the basement and then walk up the stairs.”

“That won’t work – we have an oil tank.”

“You’re right.”

“So, what will Santa do?”

“Maybe we can just leave him a note and tell him just to use the front door.”

“That’s boring, but at least he won’t burn up. What about the cookies and milk?”

“We’ll set them by the tree.”

“What if we set them out too early and the milk goes bad?”

“Dad will take care of it.”  Literally, he’ll take care of it by eating the cookies and drinking the milk two seconds after the boys go to bed.

I’m not going to lie – I get uncomfortable with all the questions.  It is a big made-up story.  My son is punished when he makes up stories; it’s unreal how elaborate the tales he tells can be.  So, why is it okay for us to take this Santa thing and run with it?

“How do the reindeer fly?”

“I don’t know.”

“Is it magic?”

“I don’t know.  I think only Santa knows how they fly.”

Lies!  All lies, I tell ya!

After seeing a commercial with Santa, my son asks if this is the same Santa that he saw at the mall.  I told him that Santa has people who help him because he can’t be in different places at the same time.  Some people help him by dressing like him to take pictures and greet people in the stores.

Each night, I sing to my kids when I tuck them into bed.  This time of year, they request Christmas songs.  Usually, I sing the same songs we sing in church, but not always.  After singing, ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ I was asked:

“Mom, does Santa really watch me while I’m sleeping?”

“I don’t know – that’s what the song says.”

“That’s creepy.”

Yep, it is.  Very creepy.

I am weaving quite the little web of deceitful creepiness!  If we combined that with Elf on the Shelf, my kid’s head might explode.  Honestly, for only being three-years-old, he is catching on much earlier than I anticipated.  I don’t think he is going to buy into the Santa Claus thing much longer.  And if he doesn’t accept it, he’s going to tell his younger brother that it’s bogus.

At the end of the day, my husband and I always make sure that our children know the Biblical account of Christmas.  We constantly circle back to that and are sure to stress that the Bible is not a story, but the truth.  Santa Claus and Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer are stories – fictional stories.  I encourage our sons to have healthy imaginations, and that is the main reason why I try not to get too worked up about the Santa Claus situation.  It takes an imagination to enjoy the whimsy of Santa.  Also, I know that the concept of a man dressed in a red suit and flying around the world in one night will be short-lived.  However, I pray that they will come to their own personal faith in Christ, which is something that they will never outgrow.

 

Linked to Serving Joyfully