It might feel that way… but you’re not alone

friendship

I have comparison on the brain.

And I know I’ll have it on my mind for at least the next month and then some (a little something to do with book marketing obligation/privilege.) But – apparently, I’m not the only one. And that’s good news. We never have to go this one alone.

One of the more wicked aspects of comparison is the sneaky way it makes people feel alone. As if they’re the only one … left out, or dressed in the wrong outfit, or staycationing, or struggling, or still single, or isolated in a tough marriage, or infertile, or parenting a kid that didn’t make the cut or losing the ever-elusive quest-to-be-fit challenge. No – we’re not alone. In fact – it’s just the opposite – we’re in the majority.

We all travel the road of comparison, every day. We compare ourselves to each other, to ideals, to magazine covers and social media posts. And, we compare ourselves to ourselves – our expectations, our hopes, our fears – even our former selves (as in – what I’d give to wear what I thought were fat-jeans in my twenties.) And we search for the exit ramp to Land of Contentment.  Contentment is here. It’s just hard to see in the mass array of should/would/& could billboards placed along our path by unhealthy comparison.

Such comparison plants words like “if only” and “wish” in our thoughts. Then it firmly secures glasses on our eyes that distort the world around us as we see through lenses of life-according-to-me. The results are almost always unsettling. Envy sprouts when wish-it-was-me whispers unfair’s. Pride plants dark weeds when glad-I’m-not-them’s judges deeds. And, with all sorts of iterations in between, our minds race barely pausing for a moment to take a breath and gain perspective.

Just this week, several writers offered commentary on our relationship with comparison and contentment.

Liz Curtis Higgs pulled back the curtain on the lie that this is a lonely road – just in case we’re tempted to think I’m the only one or something’s wrong with me:

I was a member of a professional association for just two weeks when I attended their national convention. Since my name badge didn’t sport a single special ribbon, people barely glanced at me.

Alone in my hotel room, I ended each day in tears, feeling inadequate and overwhelmed. I told myself I wasn’t envious. Simply, uh … discouraged.

Years passed, and doors began to swing open. Ribbons dangled from my name badge, and people smiled in my direction.

Soon I found myself dealing with a new set of feelings. How come she’s moving ahead faster than I am, Lord? Why did they honor her instead of me? I wasn’t jealous, of course. Merely, uh … competitive.

… When I reached out to my writing and speaking sisters — women who love and serve the Lord — I discovered they, too, wrestled with this issue.

What do they manage? Click to see Liz’s insight on The Cure for Envy at Proverbs 31 Ministry

So clearly we are NOT alone. And… there IS a way out.

Ellen McCarthy, author of The Real Thing and former wedding reporter offers insight on perspective. The topic of Ellen’s article is love, but it applies to almost anything trying to steal our contentment:

One of my wisest editors at The Post, a woman who lost her husband to cancer when her twin sons were still in grade school, told me that the lyrics of the Don Henley song “For My Wedding” reflect her hope for every young person getting married:

To want what I have

To take what I’m given with grace.

It’s hard to be happy with what you have when you’re busy wishing for something different. But no one knows how much time they’ll get with their perfectly imperfect partner. So focus on loving them, just as they are.

Click to read What I learned about love during my years reporting on weddings, Washinton Post.

And, the lovely Jennifer Dukes Lee in her article on Friday, “The Thrill of an Eighth Place Finish” reminds us:

Your race is your race. Your lane is your lane. Stay in it. Press on toward the finish. Don’t let that line get fogged by the cloud of comparison, otherwise it will be hard to see where you’re headed.

Our joy in life begins at the place where our comparison drops off. It’s the place where we are content living the life we’ve been given — where we no longer have to inspect ourselves, wondering whom we are better or worse than.

Click to connect to Jennifer Dukes Lee

See? We’re all in this together. We are far from alone. There’s tons hope and joy in the midst of our regular daily life. We just need each other to help us recognize and switch out comparison’s lenses and replace them with perspective.

The moral of the story? Never go it alone. Let’s run WITH, instead of against each other.

I’m thankful to each of you for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Joy in Ordinary

The Beginning of Good-bye

Driver's Education

I just enrolled my third child in a summer Driver’s Education class. Though she’s super excited, I can’t say it warmed my heart. For so many reasons.

First of all, I selfishly like a clear calendar in the summer. So, already scheduling something makes my beginning of Summer feel like May. And May – well we all know – it’s worse than December. Could anything else be packed into 31 days? It’s like the calendar-keepers know that summer and freedom is just around the corner, so they’re going take every opportunity to fill any blank space. (For disorganized, calendar-challenged and organizationally-impaired people like myself – this is a nightmare.)

Second, I really didn’t need a reminder that I will soon be sitting (once again!) on the passenger side of a very large vehicle, shielding my eyes and gasping for air as a well-meaning novice takes over the wheel. I’m not sure my head can hold any more gray hairs.

Third, and most important, I also don’t need a reminder that yet another one of these people I love SO much is growing older and will soon no longer ride next to me.

Driver’s Ed is the beginning of good-bye.

And I’m learning in the very hardest way, that I don’t like goodbyes. I especially don’t like goodbyes of the long-term variety.

Thursday night this week, I sat next to my friend Jen at a small but lively gathering and we talked about a looming goodbye. Her looming good-bye. Which is weird. It’s strange to talk to someone whose body is being ravaged from the inside out with cancer. It’s like she’s going on a trip, but just doesn’t know when she’s leaving. So until the plane is ready to board, she’s making the very most of every moment – all while fighting to stay alive. And none of us want her to leave.

I loved our chat – the brutal honesty – that she can be brutally honest. I loved watching her sink into all the goodness of time with friends. (I was so thankful to get to meet several of her sister-friends that until yesterday I only knew their names.) And I loved watching the Lord tenderly carry this faithful daughter through the most challenging of roads in the loveliest way.

Several of Jen’s friends were in town to support each other – Jen and specifically Melanie who came to Dallas for a Barnes & Noble Book signing. If you don’t know Jen’s friend Melanie, you should – because she’s terrific. She has a delightful talent of leaving behind her a wake of encouragement and inspiration through writing and speaking. Her new book, Nobody’s Cuter Than You is about friendship.

I watched them laugh and reminisce and simply enjoy being together – since most of the them live apart, like we all do from many friends throughout the different stages of our lives – all while one in their rank is very sick. But no one was letting that cast a shadow on anything. Because the beauty is in the friendships and relationships.

And I thought about good-byes while watching everyone. Why are good-byes so hard? Why do they hurt? Why does it feel like a part of ourselves is being stripped away when those we love say good-bye?

The truth is, I don’t think we were made for good-byes. I think pretty much just the opposite. We are made for together.

In the book I’ve been reading, Surprised by Oxford, Carolyn Weber recounts a dinner at the esteemed University where she sat next to a renowned heart surgeon from the U.S. named Dr. Inchbald. Being that the physician’s field pits him in countless life and death situations, he was asked by another guest about his view on God, science and life. A portion of his response, an ah-ha moment he had while literally holding someone’s heart, resonated with me:

“Well, as I was standing there, all the uncertainty of my life, the absurdity of all this death, and all our attempts to ward it off, came down to a pinprick of light – like the glint off the scalpel in my hand. As I looked down I realized my hand was shaking, the ultimate downfall for any surgeon, but especially a heart surgeon. I panicked and felt as if I was being swallowed up in , well” – he looked over at Dr. Sterling – “a black hole.”

Dr. Sterling chuckled.

“When all of a sudden, I heard it. A ping.”

“A what?” the provost opened his eyes wide with confusion.

“A ping. Like a, well, high-pitched ping. Like the sound that the machine that cost over a million pounds makes in the delivery room in the opening birth sequence to Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. You’re British; you should know,” he leveled at the provost. “The machine that goes ping!”

… “This ping marked something that finally went off in my head, in my heart, in my hand – steadying all three by what I can only call a miracle.

“Do explain!” Dr. Sterling urged.

Dr. Inchbald tried his best to comply. “I’ve come to the conclusion that God is sovereign, even over science and that I cannot pretend to fully know His ways. They really are mysterious, as the saying goes. And they are not of the mind of men, no matter how hard we try to wrap our minds about these ways.

… “But to cut to the chase,” Dr. Inchbald stated… “when I see death, I know it is wrong.”

“Obviously.” Dr. Rieland snickered.

“But really, really wrong. In-my-gut wrong,” Dr. Inchbald almost pleaded. “It was not meant to be. It was not meant for us. We were not built for it. Everything in my body, at a cellular level, let alone a metaphysical one, twists against it. Not just my death, but the death of every living thing.”

I think he has a point.

Of late, I’ve had more than enough illness and looming long-term separation surrounding me and my friends’ lives. Each case causes me pause – sometimes debilitating pause. And, I’ve thought about his “wrong” comment. And I think back to the beginning when the words, “It is not good for man to be alone” were said. Man is created in God’s image – the Trinity, the epitome of relationship. Creation itself points to our innate need for relationship, together. Maybe that’s why separation hurts so bad.

Maybe that’s why good-byes are so hard.

For today, I’m thankful that Driver’s Ed represents only temporary good-byes. But, I guess all of them are temporary, actually – because one day we will no longer say them. … Now that will be a good day.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

[sidenote: Please let me know if I can pray for and with you as you grapple with similar issues over your friends and family dealing with illness and long-term good-byes. I know there are so many. I think I could fill a page with the folks in my life. Not just Jen, but Greg and Samantha and Nancy and Maribeth’s daughter and the Bryans and Le’Shai and the Ervins and … I really could go on. Always grateful that we never have to travel the road alone.

On that topic… Here’s a link to Melanie’s book. Really sweet take on friendship that will warm your heart. Plus, Jen’s in the book :)]

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Easter – A Fairy Tale Come True

Before I realized I enjoyed writing, my Uncle Brock – on some sort of whim –  asked me to try my hand at an Easter op-ed piece for my home-town’s newspaper, The Wichita Falls Times & Record News. Who knew writing could be so much fun?! Having really enjoyed the task, I’ve kept it up since then. So, when asked again this year if I’d like to be included in their Easter op-ed line-up – I quickly said yes. I love that the paper does this and was humbled to get to participate. If you’re interested, here’s what I shared with their readers.

Thanks Times and Record News … and thanks for walking the road with me. Happy Easter :)

-Kay

castle

Easter – A Fairy Tale Come True

Fairy tales, even the most familiar, rarely fail to capture our attention. They just feel good. And make us smile. And dream.

Put the tale on a two-story, surround-sound cinema screen and everyone’s happy – the audience and Hollywood alike. According to Box Office Mojo, Cinderella topped the chart for March 2015 in total gross income and has a good chance to do the same for April.

Children young and old dream of being or having a Prince Charming. Together, we despise the narcissistic, evil Step Mother and cheer the glass slipper perfect-fit as Good triumphs over Evil. Then, we cheer true love, the most noble of causes, according to Inigo Montoya in another fairy tale, The Princess Bride. And we wistfully watch Wesley and Princess Buttercup riding off on their white steads with the film fading to black focused on the romantic kiss, secretly wishing to be them.

Truly loved.

Completed.

Fully accepted.

But truth be told – we can be. Because there actually exists such a tale where we are loved, completed and fully accepted. But, unlike a fairy tale (“any farfetched story or tall tale… that not only is not true, but could not possibly be true”[1]) it is true. And, we celebrate it at Easter.

This story, arguably the foundation for all great love stories, began thousands of years ago in a Garden. Tragedy struck as the narcissistic, wicked villain blinded the Cherished causing them to be locked away, banished and cast out. He told them lies and made them believe that the King no longer cared, leaving them looking to themselves to find meaning and acceptance in life. But the striving never was and could never be enough.

The Cherished failed to understand that the hole, ever-present in their hearts, could only be filled by THE Prince – the One through whom true love resides.

Years and years passed as the Cherished languished, waiting for someone to save them. They thought all was lost. Until one day, THE Prince came to remind the Cherished of his indescribable love, a love so “wide and long and high and deep”[2] that it can barely be grasped.

But THE Prince didn’t arrive in the manner they expected. He came in the most unlikely and un-royal of ways. He came as a carpenter. And, he spent time with shepherds and sinners and all the peripheral people no one sees.

So, the Cherished failed to see him. Not only did they miss recognizing Him, they mocked and scoffed and brought him before the rulers of the day to brutally crucify him.

While close to death, truuuuuu … looooove crossed his lips in the form of “Forgive them” as he willingly surrendered his life to save the Cherished. An act of love, full of mercy and grace, that wasn’t a temporary fix. It was and is forever. “It is finished.”

But, the story didn’t and couldn’t end there.

Rising early “on the first day of the week” to bring spices for Jesus’ body, two women came upon men in gleaming clothes at the tomb. They saw an opening where the stone had been rolled away. And they were told, “He is not here; he has risen!” Then the key, “Remember how he told you…” [3]

Because Jesus, the Carpenter, had told them. On many occasions. He had taught “them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected … and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.”[4] Why? Because he loves us. Because thousands of years earlier, he revealed the path to redemption.

His act of True-Love literally changed the course of time (B.C. to A.D.) An act of love that is often as quickly overlooked as was THE Prince himself. An act love that spans the ages so all might live happily-ever-after.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairy_tale; [2] Ephesians 3:18; [3] Luke 24:1-8; [4] Mark 8: 31

Another Great Acceptance Speech

justin-timberlake-acceptance-speech-iheartradio-music-awards-2015

I didn’t watch this live, but sure do appreciate the things Justin Timberlake had to say while accepting the Innovator Award at the I Heart Radio Awards. (Pardon one of the words he uses if you watch the entire speech imbedded below) – but hear the rest. I especially loved his quoting one of my all time favs Teddy Roosevelt. In fact, it was a TR quote that inspired me to start this blog. Fun that TR still inspires folks toward the greatness to which he tirelessly aspired.

Quotes from JT that just might be worth sharing with your kids:

“Growing up in school no one called me anything close to an innovator. They called me different. They called me weird. And a couple other things that I can’t say on t.v. Thankfully my mother taught me that being different was a good thing; that being different meant you could actually make a difference.”

He went on to talk about what inspired him along the way like a Steve Jobs quote about staying hungry and dreaming. Then, he lauded not only hard work, but hard work with excellence and never giving up.

“When I was a teenager, I read some words that I found extremely powerful that I’ve been carrying with me ever since, and those words were from Theodore Roosevelt, the 25th President of the United States:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

(Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910)

Good stuff.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

-Kay

Here’s a video of JT’s speech: