Do you ever notice a theme in your life? Like, everything you read or things that people say to you all go back to one thing? Well, I'm noticing a theme. Actually, I'm noticing two and they seem to be merging. At least I think they are. I'm gonna try to explain what I"m talking about here.
The first thing I feel like God has been dealing with me about is uniqueness. Last week I was reading a Hermie book to Kate and it is all about realizing that God makes everyone unique. It actually uses the word "unique" and Kate asked what it means. By that point all 3 of my kids were gathered around me and it became a very teachable moment. We talked about the physical ways we are unique. That made me think about the day that Kate was looking at a family picture we had made before she was born. She asked where she was and it was hard to explain to her. I told her God was still making her. She asked, "And my curly hair?" "Yep", I told her. Eli responded with, "God has a curling iron????" Ha! That still cracks me up. We also talked about the other ways we are unique. But even as I explained "unique" to my kids, it is still something I struggle to grasp. I mean, to really understand and appreciate that we are all unique.
Deep down I am a conformist. I strive for "normal", "acceptable", and "okay". I will never forget (for many reasons :) my first "girl exam". I had a nice, but goofy nurse practitioner and upon examination she very quickly told me, "Don't worry. You're normal." *sigh of relief* :) Apparently she had met plenty of young women who needed to be assured that they were, indeed, "normal". Let's face it, nobody wants to be on a dr's examining table and hear, "Well that's different." You know what I mean? So, anyway, back to the whole normal thing. We often talk about being special, or unique or other such things, but deep down, I think most of us just want to fit in. I say most, but I know not all. I absolutely stand in awe of people who are different and are okay with it. They rock my world. There is a middle school girl I've worked with who is so okay with herself. In middle school y'all! Can you think of a harder time to be different? And by different I mean, she looks different, wears her hair different. She's into different things. The other day I was watching a guy watch her and I thought, 'I think he gets her.' And it occurred to me that I wish I realized at that age that instead of investing every spare moment of my life trying to become who I thought people wanted me to be, that I would have just waited for people who "got me". My friend Lori commented on this post where I asked what you would tell your 16 year old self if you could go back. She said, "It's okay to be different. It's good to be different. God can make different beautiful." I LOVE that! I love that Lori is the one who said it because she is someone who I admire so much for being herself and being okay with who she is. And she is fabulous!
So, that brings me to the next theme in my life. One that I'm sure you've noticed, if you've read many of my blogs, runs rampant in my life: People pleasing. French fries and people pleasing = my kryptonite. It's a lifelong struggle of mine. I've overanalyzed it, psychoanalyzed it, prayed about, discussed it, claimed to get better, blah, blah, blah. And here I am. Teaching my kids that we are all made unique and that it is a good thing, but I don't seem capable of believing it. Deep down I'd really prefer that I just be exactly whatever it is people would like me to be. I would like to always say the right things, do the right things and look the right way. I don't always know what "right" is, but I usually come to the conclusion that it is what other people think, want, feel, as opposed to what I think, want, feel. Any of you struggle with that? The thing is, for years now I've known that the enemy has used it to discourage me. And I mean, Discourage, with a capital D. Is there anything harder than trying to be everybody but yourself? Or trying to constantly figure out what people want or expect from you? It's pretty tough, even if you are a seasoned professional like myself. Well, within 2 days last week I had two different people who live in 2 different states and have no knowledge of the other's existence bring this issue of mine to life. The first was a church member. We were talking about some things on a Wednesday night and I was asking her how she felt about some things and I must have gone into my epic paranoia of what so and so and so and so would think and she said, "You sure are worrying about what a lot of people are thinking." Wow. It wasn't said in a mean way at all, just an honest statement of the facts. And all of a sudden, a lightbulb went off for me. And it was the realization that IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of people who walk all over others and could care less how other people think or feel. But at the same time, just because people may think differently about something than I do doesn't mean that it changes anything. I know, most of you probably came to understand this when you were 4 and you didn't care what people thought of your polka dot leggings and out of season sweater. Apparently, I missed this part of human development.
Just two days later, my uncle shared a quote with me on my FB page. It says, "Instead of seeking purpose by comparing ourselves with others, we can discover God's purpose for our lives in the pages of the revealed Word." Kenneth Boa. Wow, again. Again, I needed to hear this. Me? Compare myself to others? NEVER! The truth is, there isn't a person I haven't compared myself to. If I could just be as talented as that person. As spiritual. As pretty. As smart. As organized. As good of a parent. As preacher wife . Yes, I have thought that. A lot. For those of you who really know me, do you get what it is like for me? I'm a preacher's wife and a dance teacher and I don't feel particularly qualified to be either. On a good day I'm a bundle of insecurity questioning most of the decisions I've made in life. How exactly did I end up here, and how many people are wondering THE EXACT SAME THING???
After reading that quote on Friday I made it a new mission to work on the comparing thing. Again. And Sunday night wouldn't you know that a former pastor and pastor's wife from our church showed up? After a marathon of Fall Festivals this weekend and a turn in the nursery Sunday morning, I was hanging by a thread Sunday night. I can't tell you how close I came to just skipping. See? I'm so not spiritual enough. Anyway, I was totally in jeans and FLIP FLOPS and my hair appeared as though I hadn't brushed it in a few days. And these sweet people come and I think, 'She just LOOKS like a preacher's wife.' They sit behind me and as we are singing I think, 'He SOUNDS like a preacher.' Insecurity overtakes me until I flip through our praise book and see "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus" and I can almost hear Him ask me, "Who are you here for?"
And, that brings me to the icing on the cake of "Here's Your Sign" moments in relation to my people pleasing/comparing myself to others. A quote in a devotional that brings to my attention that this is more than a personal "issue" or one of my many idiosyncrasies. This is a SIN. Like a big one. Like a number one on the Ten Commandments kind.
"Beware of seeing yourself through other people's eyes There are several dangers to this practice. First of all, it is nearly impossible to discern what others actually think of you. Moreover, their views of you are variable: subject to each viewer's spiritual, emotional, and physical condition. The major problem with letting others define you is that it borders on idolatry. Your concern to please others dampens your desire to please Me, your Creator."
~Jesus Calling, Sarah Young p. 299
So, what is God trying to teach this insecure, people pleasing, mess of a girl. He made me unique. Some people may prefer to describe me as "weird", "strange" or something like that, but I'm going to choose not to care. :) He is teaching me that things about me that I wish were more like someone else, are there for a reason. I get really down on myself for being a night owl instead of an early riser. I just feel like there has to be something spiritually wrong with me because I don't wake up singing "This is the Day the Lord Hath Made". There must be something wrong with me that I can't go to sleep before midnight, right? And yet today, I realized how many times I've had late night counseling sessions with brothers and sisters in Christ who couldn't sleep either. So, I'm deciding to look at my night owlness as more of a shift work thing in the Family of God. :) I also can't stand the fact that I'm not a super neat freak and that my house and car look a little lived in. Okay, a lot lived in. But it dawned on me that if I were a total neat freak I probably wouldn't be very open to the herds of neighborhood children who come traipsing through my disaster of a house everyday. And, I don't play the piano and I 'm not a phone person. That's kind of a big deal when you're a preacher's wife. I don't know how to fix that, but I will tap dance and FB you all day long. :) What can I say? I'm different. And God can make different beautiful.