from comparison to contentment

From Comparison to Contentment: a new blog series on The Pruim Life

Within the past two years I’ve been made aware of how much I’ve been stuck in a battle between pride and insecurity. Of vanity and a lack of self esteem. It’s a battle that I lose regardless of which side I land on. Because neither are where I want to be, or where I’m meant to be. I had a hard time grasping onto an understanding of how I can struggle with such opposing attributes. I couldn’t understand how to address my pride when on the other end of the spectrum I also needed to address my insecurities. And it wasn’t until more recently that I realized that my sin goes deeper. That it’s more complicated than simply being conceited or lacking confidence. It’s because of what I measure myself to. It’s because of a competition I’ve created between myself and the rest of the world. It’s because I compare everything I have, and everything I am, to everything else.

I’m not sure when it starts. When do we learn to try to “keep up with the Joneses”? Or do we even learn it? Is it a part of our human nature to look at what other people have in comparison to what we do? I sure feel that way sometimes. Maybe it’s just me. But maybe not.

Our appearance, our homes, our relationships, our experiences, our clothes, our stuff, our whole lives too often get rated in relation to someone else’s. Sometimes we “measure up” and have the better of the bunch. We’re above the rest. We’re encouraged because we’re coming out on top (Enter in the foothold for pride & vanity. Other times we miss the mark and what we have isn’t good enough. We feel like we’re losing (Enter in the foothold for insecurities and low self esteem).

From Comparison to Contentment: a new blog series on The Pruim Life

I don’t know about you, but comparison wrecks my heart. It either lessens the worth of me, my life, and all that I have been blessed with. Or it inflates my head into a pompous attitude. Either I’m not good enough, or I’m looking down on others because I let myself believe that what I’ve got is better. And both leave me frustrated, ugly, broken, and hurting. It’s the kind of broken that I’ve felt on those mornings when none of my clothes look good, my hair does everything that I don’t want it to, and my tired eyes can’t be covered up, so I’m led to tears because it feels like there’s no hope. Real tears, over what on the surface appears to be nonsense, but point to a much deeper heart matter that took me far too long to notice in my life.

The truth of the matter is this: I’m a sinner. We’re all sinners. Born into sin in a sinful world. Our natural human nature is flawed because of it. The human race fell short long ago. All because one devious snake convinced a woman to compare who she was with God. All because the first couple on the planet compared what they had with what they could have had. And as a result, thousands of years later, we’re still naturally inclined to look to others and want what they have. I find it too easy to look away from all of the ways that God has been at work in my life and poured out more blessings than I could ever deserve as I look to the ways that God is working in others’ lives and how he is pouring out blessings on them. But just because that may be our natural inclination, doesn’t mean it’s right. It doesn’t mean that’s what’s best for us.

Ever feel like your sin takes you over sometimes? That you feel like you’re in an identity crisis because you know that you know that you know that there are lies being whispered into your ears, yet they still sink in to your heart and affect how you see yourself and the world. My tendency to compare has brought out the worst in me – even if others don’t see it. I can think of moments that I’ve found it hard to rejoice with loved ones over exciting opportunities, simply because my opportunities don’t seem as great in comparison. I put on a face of support, yet I’m envying what they have. I can think of moments that I’ve felt a [ugly] tweak of happiness at someone’s downfall, because that means I’m coming out ahead of them. But am I really? I can think of moments that I’ve looked past other people’s hurts because I’m too preoccupied with my own life – my own self. I can think of moments that I’ve talked down about someone just because I don’t like that something is happening for them that I wish was happening for me. And I can think of moments that I’ve been angry with the people that get the things that I want – just like a child that gets upset when someone else gets the toy that they wanted. Yes, I’m like an immature child. Because all of this is wrong, wrong, wrong. & I know it.

You see, it’s a downward spiral of selfishness, vanity, envy, doubt, insecurity, pride, gossip – things that Scripture tells us to turn away from. I can praise God for the Holy Spirit and His work in me. Because of Him, these attributes do not have to define me. Because of that, these attributes come up in flares, rather than consume my everyday. But those days that they do fill me up, I just need more and more Jesus to push them out.

What Jesus accomplished on the cross covered these sins of ours (as well as all the rest). His death and resurrection have given us the opportunity to conquer these sins; to put them to death and never have to look back. Becoming more aware of these sinful tendencies of mine has been hard. It’s been overwhelming and exhausting to address a tangled web of sins that have infected my life for longer than I even realize. Like weeds that have taken root and hurt to pull up. But it’s been so worth it to endure. Because Jesus is so worth it. And finding contentment in Him brings my heart, mind, and soul the peace, rest, and satisfaction it aches for. It’s the only kind of satisfaction I will ever need. And one day, I hope to be able to confidently say that without any inch of reservation. Without looking back to the things of this world that try to steal my joy. Because that’s what comparison does. It is the thief of joy. It steals my attention away from the God that sacrificed everything for my freedom. And typing that last sentence out just makes me shake my head at myself as that truth saturates itself into my heart. Because what could be better than that kind of all consuming love? I’ll give you a hint: nothing.

From Comparison to Contentment: a new blog series on The Pruim Life

These struggles, these thoughts, these heartaches have been at the core of my being for years. Sometimes without me even knowing it. But more recently, they have been the inspiration for me to make changes – to turn to Jesus and find true contentment and satisfaction in who He is. And as a result, my heart longs to share the truths I have learned, am learning, and have yet to learn, with you. Because I KNOW that I am not alone in this. I know that this internal sin is one that in some way, shape, or form, attempts to infect us all. This is the topic that I’ve been brainstorming about since October. This is the series that I’ve wanted to introduce to you all for so long, but have been seeking for the right words to say. I’m all kinds of excited/nervous/anxious to finally be getting it out in the open. I’ve almost felt unworthy of speaking on such topics, because in no way, shape, or form have I mastered this. But that’s the beauty of it, isn’t it? That in Christ’s redemption of my heart I can share my struggles, my failures, my triumphs, my hurts, and my joys alongside of you all as we can come together to find true everlasting contentment in the One who gives us more than enough, and who is more than enough. So trust me when I say that there is so much more to come. This is only the beginning.

Will you join me in turning away from comparison, and running towards Jesus, and as a result, running towards contentment?

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worth the read // vol. 2

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We’ve been getting snow on cold on snow on cold on snow these past weeks – yes, that much of it. Winter is nowhere near gone in North Dakota. Thankfully we have a vacation to Mexico coming up soon. This week has been slow & fast all at the same time. So to send you off into the weekend, here’s some of the more thought-provoking or quality finds I’ve come across on the internet the past two weeks:

Harry Potter fanatics, if you haven’t seen this yet, be prepared to experience ALL the feels.

Social media has taken over our lives, whether we like it or not.

An intriguing idea for expanding the reach of the church

All the single ladies, please let this truth soak into your whole being.

The Gospel & romance

More reasons to love the Blackhawks, & Jonathon Toews.

& I thought this song was my jam. But this guy took it to the next level.

Have a great weekend friends!

when good intentions aren’t good enough // part two

when good intentions aren't good enough // part two

A few months ago I spilled my heart out on how I had been having the best of intentions in my pursuit of God & my investment in my relationship with Him, but my actions did nothing to reflect that. I wasn’t actually doing anything to set the longings of my heart into motion. We all can fall victim to letting our thoughts be enough, and as a result our lives stop matching up with our words or thoughts. Therefore it is a commitment to keep pursuing God each day. It’s a choice every morning to turn away from our selfish desires and look towards Him. It’s a choice to love Him. Just like it’s a choice to love our spouses. Just like it’s a choice to love our friends. And that’s where I want to pick up this topic today: loving our friends.

A little while back I read a short article by Shauna Niequist called “Why it doesn’t matter how you feel about your friends.” It wasn’t what I was expecting when I first clicked a link to it, so go ahead & give it a quick read for yourself. For me, it shed some light on something that was already resonating in my heart. Because the truth is, we can feel all we want about someone, but if we never do anything to communicate it, how is that person going to know? Too often in my life I’ve gotten caught up in believing that certain friends don’t care about me, because I rarely, if ever, hear from them. Mix in the fact that the majority of my relationships are now long distance and it gets even harder. I can get stuck in thinking that I don’t matter that much to these friends. That I’m not important to them. & that hurts deep. It’s hard to swallow.

On the other hand, I’m also guilty of being the person that doesn’t pursue contact with people too. Most days I’ll think of friends. I’m reminded of memories I’ve shared with others and think about how much I appreciate them. But then I move on with my day. I can fail to reach out to that friend and let them know that I’m thinking of them. Or I can fail to take out the time to make plans with them. They don’t hear about how I feel about them. They don’t hear anything at all. Simply because I let other matters weigh more important. & by all means, we all have important things going on in our lives. But we also have plenty of not-as-imperative things going on in our lives that we make out to be important (i.e. social media, cleaning the house, focusing on ourselves). Is it really that hard of a sacrifice to give some of our words, time, or attention to someone we say we love?

Shauna’s article mentioned this quality parenting advice: “It doesn’t matter how much you love your kids. What matters is communicating that love in a way that they can understand and feel that love.” (I’m definitely storing that one in the vault). But she so perfectly connects that to our everyday relationships. It doesn’t matter how much you love your friends (or spouse, or family, or whoever). What matters is communicating that love in a way that they can understand and feel that love.

When others don’t communicate they’re love for me, I start to doubt them and their care for me. When I don’t communicate my love for others, I open up the room for them to doubt whether I care about them at all. “The things we feel about one another so often go unexpressed, because we’re busy or thoughtless, assuming they know, assuming it’s more than clear.” Our intentions don’t mean a thing if we don’t ACT on them.

For me, my heart lights up when an old friend finally does make contact, and I’m reminded that they do think of me. My world changes when I make contact with a friend and we chat for an hour and everything goes back to the way it was before. I’m reminded that they do care. What if we could avoid the moments of doubt by filling in the gaps with moments of love?

I’m reminded of a life long lesson for me: We will all fail others. We will all let others down. We will all fall short of fulfilling the needs that our friends have. Only Jesus can be that tried & true friend and lover. & there is grace in our imperfections. But what we CAN do is learn to love the people in our lives well. We can let someone know when we randomly think of them. We can go out of our way to express our gratitude of someone by picking up the phone and telling them. Or by doing something to show them. We can spend some of our time hanging out with them. Don’t just settle for good intentions. Give the ones you love your best efforts, your constant efforts. Because if they are worth it, then they should know.

What are some ways that you could start communicating more love to your friends?

worth the read

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Since hopping onto the blog train this past year, and actually well before it, I’ve discovered the joy I find in reading blogs and connecting with the content that they share. There is so much that gets shared on the internet in this media age and I am thrilled to be able to focus more on the quality substance that gets shared rather than the not-so-valuable crap. Because of that, I want to be able to share with you all some of the thought-provoking and exciting stuff I come across on the internet. Because it’s the kind of stuff that I just can’t keep to myself.

An alternative approach to Valentine’s Day.

Some heartfelt thoughts on choosing contentment.

Time well spent.

I will NOT be going to see 50 Shades of Gray, and here’s just a few reasons why.

All the more reason to love the Marvel universe.

 

Have a great weekend friends!

why the books are always better than the movies

Disclaimer: For those of you who have never read or seen Harry Potter, I apologize for how much I may potentially geek out about my favorite novel series ever, but I promise there is still something worth reading in this for you too. & for those of you who have watched the movies, but have never read the books, do yourself a favor & change that, because you will not regret it. Also, I am not so secretly judging you for your lack of commitment to the story. But alas, I’ll forgive you. 😉

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Towards the end of last year, I spent a couple month’s worth of my free time re-reading the Harry Potter series for the fourth time in my life. Yes, you read that right. I said fourth. Guys, it’s just that good. & let me tell you, it was just as entertaining as ever. I grew an even greater appreciation for the spectacular imagination and mind that J.K. Rowling has for not only coming up with such an entertaining and enthralling story, but for also planning it out and putting it together so cleverly.

Throughout my reading I also re-solidified my appreciation of how much better I think the books are than the movies. This probably applies to most books-turned-movies, but seeing as this one is near and dear to me, it’s easiest for me to paint this picture in light of the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Here’s the deal: when you choose the movie over the book, you’re passing up SO many details. & the details are what tie a story together. Some may be more of the background pieces of the puzzle, but they still fit into the big picture to make it is what it is. They string everything together to help it all make sense in the way the author intended. Movies oftentimes have to leave out those details to fit as much into a 2-3 hour time frame as they can. Movies oftentimes even have to tweak those details to make what they do include make sense (ergo changing the original story). Not only that, but they do it to make the movie more entertaining and appealing to the audiences. For example, prior to the Half Blood Prince movie coming out, I remember reading an article that said the movie would be emphasizing a lot on the romantic relationships within the story to draw towards a greater audience. This frustrated me then, and it still frustrates me now (you probably shouldn’t bring this up around me unless you want me to rant for at least ten minutes), because the movie makers missed the point. They focused on the wrong details. While there are relationships that spring up in the storyline, they are far from being the focal point of the story as a whole. Therefore, in order to focus on what they wanted, they left out some of the key pieces of the Harry Potter puzzle. When a book becomes a movie, there’s always the risk that what is produced will taint what has already been created to be a masterpiece.

When we settle for just the highlights in the movies, we can lose sight of the whole story – the true story. I’ve read the books four times now, and I’ve seen the movies more times than I can count. Yet as I was turning the pages, I still found myself going, “oh yeah, that’s how it happened” or “I don’t remember it being like that because the movie showed it a different way.”

And this got me to thinking…how often do I settle for the highlights rather than focus on the details? Especially in regards to the Gospel. That’s right. For all of the folks in the world that think Harry Potter is sacrilegious, I’m turning the tables on you and explaining how it led me to in-depth thoughts on my faith. I started to think about how often we share a watered down version of the Gospel to appeal to the type of person we’re sharing it with.

As we share the Gospel overtime in our words, and in our actions, are we really sharing the full life-giving story? Or are we only talking about the hot topic matters? Are we only discussing it in light of popular debates? Are we only talking about the feel good details that make us feel warm and fuzzy? Because while those are PART of the story, by themselves they are not the whole story. They are not the whole truth. We risk leaving out the harder to grasp and harder to swallow details that are a part of the whole story. We risk sacrificing some life giving details just to try to attract someone to the incomplete truth.

I write this not to condemn anyone for misrepresenting the Gospel. There are probably plenty of loopholes in my thinking here, but I believe they are thoughts worth thinking. Really I write this as a call to myself, and to anyone, to be more aware of the Good News that we are sharing. I want to aim to live my life in a way that represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God. & while I’m going to fail at it because of my incomplete understanding of the complexity of the big picture, there is grace. While it’s going to be a lifelong process of getting it right, there is grace. But I at least want my intentions to be aimed at honoring God by honoring the truth of who He is.

Deep thoughts from a novel series, huh? This definitely wasn’t what I was expecting to get out of this entertaining read. Don’t get me wrong though, regardless of how much I will always love (and prefer) the books, the movies are still great pieces of work worth watching.

So what do you think? How do you feel about the book vs. movie debate? Do you think the Gospel is misrepresented when we withhold some of the details?

goals with grace

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Happy Monday, Happy February, and Happy Groundhog Day (man, that’s a lot of happy wishes there) to you all! As an attempt to stay proactive with the decisions I’ve made for myself for 2015, I’ve decided to join in with Hayley at The Tiny Twig and other women across the blog scene for the Goals With Grace link up. Basically, I’ll be posting some of my goals that I’d like to accomplish this month, and then come March I’ll be able to share how I did, but I’m aiming to complete them with a mindset of giving myself grace. It’s a good thing to set goals for ourselves, but we just have to be careful not to take them so seriously that they rule over our hearts and minds. That “grace” word is one that keeps drilling it’s truth into my heart, and I’m happy to share the overflow of that with you all in a new way. So without further ado, here’s what I’m hoping to accomplish in the next 28 days:

  1. Read 4 chapters of Systematic Theology. To make steady progress on one of my year goals, I want to aim to read at least a chapter a week.
  2. Start using an envelope budget. This way we can start paying more attention to our spending habits, and start investing more into our saving habits.
  3. Finally introduce a series on The Pruim Life that I’ve been dwelling on for months. Seriously, months. It’s something near and dear to my heart, and I want it to be just right, but if I don’t get it out there and make a move on it soon, it may just never happen.
  4. Continue on in the job search process. I’ve been updating my resume, creating a federal resume (that was a doosy), and utilizing all of the resources for military spouses on base. The next step is to start applying, applying, applying!
  5. Establish a habit of going to the gym at least 3-4 times a week. I don’t want to just wait until the day of to decide if I’m going to the gym or not. I want to keep myself accountable by starting a routine.
  6. Complete the gallery wall in our living room. We have a giant white wall that needs filling in our living room, and I already have pieces to include. I’d like to finish up a few other pieces to add in, and then actually put it together and hang it up. Then I will feel like our living room is finished (at least for now).

What goals could you set for yourself this month?