Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Comparison Game

But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.”

So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: “Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. God knows people’s hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers[a] with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”
~Acts 15:5-11

It was easy to play the comparison game at the Relevant Conference. Put me in a room with 200 or so women dressed in their finest, with cute haircuts, beautiful makeup, fabulous nails--not to mention popular and successful blogs....
I felt I didn't measure up.
My "dinky" little blog in a sea of women who use their blogs for business and networking and ministry. (Mind you, they all were not like this, but it felt like it to me...)
Many who had written books, and started beautiful ministries.

I brought my "business card" with my simple logo and basic information...
I wore my flannel shirt and my moccasins and looked at all the cute put-together moms and thought: "I am not that mom."

I spotted Ann Voskamp the first night at dinner across the room. She is unmissable.

Angie Smith described her as "beautiful, gracious, elegant in an approachable "Audrey Hepburn" kind of way, but with the kind of laugh where you can see her back teeth (one of my favorite qualities in any person). She looks you in the eye, hugs you like an old friend, and whispers wisdom in the most unexpected moments."

That night in the "Beach House" gathering room, I looked for her. She seemed to be a kindred soul in a room full of women who I thought all knew each other.

You have to know that there were women waiting in line to say hi to her. She was the main attraction.
Miraculously, I was able to say hello.
She recognized me. Me? Little ole me? I immediately hugged her and the first words I had for her were, "I love you."
We talked briefly about Elise and Tonia (please, please read her latest post!) and Aimee and our mutual love for these women who have captured our hearts and souls. We wished they were here.
Ann confessed she didn't know why she was here. Like me, she felt lost in a world that seemed unfamiliar. However, I knew why she was there. And after she brought me to tears by telling me to "keep doing what I am doing" and that we "write from the heart", I hugged her again, loving this wondrous woman who was so intense, so gracious, so kind, so encouraging, so soul-connecting--so very like Jesus.
(Me? She couldn't believe she was meeting me?)

One of the things I came away with from the conference is that I want to be reading and thinking about things that bring me to Jesus.
Angie Smith said it well:
(my paraphrase)
"If what we are reading is not making us run to Jesus, then we probably shouldn't be reading it."
That homemaking blog? If it makes me want to go out and decorate my home better instead of run to Jesus? hmmm.
That home schooling blog whose life I covet? Does it make me want to do more with my children or teach more to my children.... or run to Jesus?
That cooking blog? I need to go and buy more local foods! Does it make me run to Jesus or the farmer's market?
That seemingly "perfect" family? Does it make me want to go nag my husband about what he needs to do?
Or does it make me go to Jesus?

The first night at the conference I felt lost. Where do I belong in this place?
But by the last day there, I realized where I needed to be. With Jesus. Running to Him.

*edited to add:
I think Kristen says some really good things that I am trying to say here. In the comments there were questions as to if this issue is really as black and white as I have presented it here....It's not. And that is not my purpose. I encourage you to read and think and go to Jesus about all of this. And let's keep talking about it! What are ways we can do this through our writing or blogging?

23 comments:

Amy Scott said...

Aw, that sounds like so much fun, Andrea. I'm glad to hear that you are recognizable by your picture. (I change my hair too much, I think, to be recognizable.)

How did you hear about this conference in order to know to go to it? Surely, the internet, but I only "heard" about it after it was over!

So glad you were encouraged, Andrea. And that is a good word--run to Jesus.

Rain said...

So many good thoughts to ponder here.
I too want to run to Jesus.
I've been thinking this way in terms of politics lately. Do we trust men more than Jesus to change things? Are we growing more angry and bitter or do we turn expectantly to the throne of God?
Blessings to you!

tonia said...

Ann was excited to meet you for the same reason I would be...you are a beautiful, true soul and you have shared that beauty with us every week for years. You are giving a precious testimony to the world with your work here, andrea.

I am enjoying your thoughtful recaps.

and can i just say how marvelous i think you are for wearing moccasins and flannel to a women's event? i hope you set a new trend. :)

denise said...

Good for you for being yourself. I too read Ann's blog. For awhile, it was too much for me... over my head. Now, I can't get enough of it. I love what you have wrote here. I have had blog envy many times - wanting what others want because they portray such a perfect life.

God was speaking to me last week about my blog. Using it for Him not me. Then Ann wrote about it yesterday - WOW! I couldn't believe it.

Dorit said...

Oh, you are so good, Andrea. The comparison game is scary, and your thoughts make me think about my life and my desires. Thanks for the challenge.

Dorit said...

and thank you for leading me back to Tonia, I thought she had disappeared :)

Stacy said...

Oh, Andrea. You are a kindred spirit! I would have felt *exactly* the same way about comparing and thinking me and my little blog are nowhere NEAR what others' are. Not to mention the whole "those women look so CUTE while I look... um, wow. Not so cute" game. Ugh.

I love that picture of you and Ann, and my favorite part? Your sweet smile and your flannel shirt! So cozy and comfy and... *you*. LOVE it.

And-- personally? I'd choose your blog over a flashy, networking blog ANY day! :)

Love to you,
~Stacy

Stacy said...

Shoot.

I forgot to say that I love your take-away about "does it make you run to Jesus". Really, really good.

I'll be thinking on that for a long time.

contented sparrow said...

ah, andrea, smiling here.....YOU are soul beautiful whether dressed to impress or dressed for REAL. good for you! and, as for ann, i'm so glad you were able to look into her eyes and connect and feel her overflowing love!

like tonia, i've also so enjoyed reading about your experience there. i know mine would have been much the same (i'm somewhat introverted, my blog is a tiny creative space for me).

blessed to be on this journey of running towards Christ with you, megan

Aimee said...

girl, we would have been in our flannel together :) :) :) You know that I would have been my li'l makeup, plain hair, and simple clothing self...that whole networking/business thing would have thrown me for a bit of a loop...I was just going to be there to see a few women that I deeply love and hug their sweet necks :)

LOVE this post...yes, running to Jesus!! But I do think it's not all or nothing...we can bring him glory through our farmer's market runs (blessing those dear workers in Jesus name!), bringing His brightness and comfort and light to our homes through sprucing up a corner, or when we feel alone in homeschooling, finding a mama that shouts, "keep going, you're okay". God has different bloggers sharing different creative messages...and as His children I hope we use all that variety for HIS glory and OUR good.

That photo of your meeting Ann is priceless...tears in my eyes at both of you being so authentic and loving. You both always point me to Jesus, day in and day out. THANK YOU ANDREA!!!!!!!!!!!

Andrea said...

Aimee,
Thanks for pointing that out. I didn't mean for this to be an "all or nothing, black or white" issue. I thought about that after I wrote it. Of *course* all of those things glorify HIM and sometimes point us to Him. It is just good and wise to continue to ask ourselves....."is this ultimately pointing me to Jesus? am I asking Him first if He would have me pursue this?" We cannot lose that focus, and I see (in my own life) where blogging can do that...
Aimee, you point me to Him. You radiate Him. thank YOU!

Ann Kroeker said...

When I read your post, I thought of some words from Mother Teresa that I came across again just last night. She said:

"The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within--words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness."

(the source is Malcolm Muggeridge's biography of Mother Teresa, Something Beautiful for God.)

Andrea, do you think we can write about some of those topics--home education, for example, or even homemaking--in a way that God can speak through us and the words give the light of Christ (without imitating Ann Voskamp :)?

Can we write from the heart about everyday matters without expressly writing about Jesus Himself and still be offering the light of Christ?

I'm wondering how we do this with honesty and integrity. Is it okay that sometimes I write about making soup and don't talk about Jesus? Or should I abandon soup posts? Or do you think that there is a fresh and new way to write about soup that points to Jesus, too?

I'm just thinking out loud with you. I respect your opinion and how you're processing through this.

Love to you!
Ann K.

Ann Kroeker said...

Oh, I see your response to Aimee, too; a similar question and answer! We are thinking this through together...they are important questions for us to ponder!

Andrea said...

Can we write from the heart about everyday matters without expressly writing about Jesus Himself and still be offering the light of Christ?

Yes! Again, I am no "Ann Voskamp". =) And I am not trying to be.....
It's just I see that sometimes by reading other people's lives on blogs, then we start the "comparison game"...
We start to compare or be discontented because we are not doing a certain thing that another person is doing,,,,etc, etc.
I think that when we go back and all of our thoughts and writings are from a place that tries to glorify the Lord...
That our purposes are in that...
Then we stop playing that comparison game...
Or stop *striving* to be a certain way or act a certain way because we see it working for another woman....
Ultimately, I want *everything* I do, say and be to reflect Jesus.
I realize that will not always happen.
But. I came away from this conference with a new perspective. Instead of getting *my* ideas out there, so i can see what others think or say or do with my ideas... I want to make sure that I am also pointing others to Jesus in the process...that they run to Him, and ask Him, and search Him instead of filling up their lives with things they think might bring them to Him....
does that make sense?
Ann I thank you for your input. And I appreciate the dialogue.

Sandi said...

Andrea,

I so love your heart and passion to love Jesus with all you've got. That came thorugh this post loud and clear.

These are things I have pondered many times my self. I have come close to shutting things down for many reasons. Mine has never been a "popular" blog and I have been blogging for years (2006 I think).

I want to glorify God (run to Him) in all I do keeping the essential things primary like my family and relationships.

I found myself trying to make creative posts or Suzy homemaker post at times to have something to practically offer. I was spending more time documenting life then I was living it. When I write I want to write to process and document His work in me and hopefully in some small way encourage someone else to do the same. And I will throw a few pics of my kids in there just because they are cute :o)

Thank you for your heart and mind. Blessed by both!

Linda said...

Oh Andrea, my heart is so full. There is so much here, so much of what I feel and know to be true.
I got to spend a few hours with Ann last month. It was a gift.
You are a gift. We must pray for one another - that we will write with our hearts tuned to Him. Whatever He places on our hearts to write - if we do it as unto Him, it will minister.

Stacy said...

I love Ann K's question back to you:

Do you think we can write about some of those topics--home education, for example, or even homemaking--in a way that God can speak through us and the words give the light of Christ?

Can we write from the heart about everyday matters without expressly writing about Jesus Himself and still be offering the light of Christ?


That's where my thoughts went today, too, after reading this post. I've been thinking about all the posts I've written that don't say "Jesus".

Does every post I write need to have it spelled out?

I believe that it glorifies God when I love my husband and my children (and an expression of those things would be homeschooling/homemaking).

Then: does me writing a post about those things lead to another's feeling of discontent?

Hmm. I so don't want that.

What I want is to bring glory to God through my words.

I don't have the answers. Just thinking "out loud" here, too.

But I'm gonna keep thinking and praying and searching His Word...

Love this dialogue.

Miriam said...

Hmm... so many thoughts and feelings a-brewing. Running to Jesus with the envious feelings. :) So glad you got to attend the conference - you *do* belong - and so glad you saw Jesus in the midst of it all. Thank you for being one of the ones who shows us His heart.

sally clarkson said...

Sweet one,
I love this post. I have been pondering, too, about writing a post about being ourselves, being content to be who God made us, being faithful to steward His work in our hearts--and never, never comparing. I think sometimes, even as grown women, there is still this tendency to jump on band wagons just like in high school, while it is the faithful, lover of God, that is making Him smile--not the successful one or the one with most numbers, but the one loving and serving Him with a grateful heart. Keep writing. Blessings and love to you.

Sandi said...

I have been thinking about Ann K and Stacy's thoughts alot. My last post was written in haste...seems to be my state of being in this particular season.

For what it's worth....all things in life can glorify God. All of life is meant to glorify God...he gave it to us and sustains us and it...therefore it can glorify him. For me I tended to post about cooking, cleaning, decorating, etc because I felt like I needed to do that to keep peoples interest in my blog. I have sense come to realize the foolishness of that. I think it really is about our heart attitude and motive of why we say/do the things we do. Recipes, decorating, crafting etc can glorify God in that He created it and gave it to us for our pleasure....yet I think when we do it for glory for us it's a different story. I tend to avoid blogs solely on cooking or decorating because "I" get distracted from the real priorities in my life when I read AND I can then feel less than at times compared to someone who cooks well (a real struggle for me). So for "me" avoiding those places serves my walk with God where as it may be no problem for you. And it doesn`t make their blog wrong.

The places I visit regularly on the web are places where I am pushed toward Him. I have little time on my hands right now and to glorify Him in my life means being very focused in my visits.

Then there are those that blog as a business which is totally different in my eyes. You visit to receive a service.

I ask my self if what I am posting is Cross/Christ centered and for the building up of others? Recipes can fall in that category especially for cook impaired people like me who want to care for their families better in this area. But to much of that is not good for me. that`s why I am drawn to quiet places of meditation with a few recipes thrown in :o)

I constantly battle with feeling I what I have to say isn't important and honestly it's not in many ways. But we are built together as a body and that is one brick at a time...one life and story at a time. The sharing of life (God at work in us) is the beauty of community and God glorifying.

Anyway, this is so on my own mind too, so thought I'd actually take the time to enter the topic. Please forgive my typos..life calls :o)

Ann Kroeker said...

Yes, I do think your reply makes a lot of sense, Andrea.

And I'm enjoying the ongoing discussion from you and others here, as well. You've got so many of us chewing on this, and it's a very good thing to chew on.

We wouldn't be responding in such depth, I don't think, if we weren't yearning to be women after God's own heart, writing words that reflect, point to, and please our Lord Jesus Christ.

Thank you, Andrea, for getting us all to think deeply about Jesus and how our work and words relate to Him!

Kendra said...

For me, the question is:
Does it bring me anxiety or peace and joy?
Am I anxious to measure up? Or do I rejoice over the peace that comes from this new thought or idea?

Kim Hyland said...

Andrea, I haven't read the thread, but I want you to know I think this line reflects the truth of how many if not most of the women probably felt: "The first night at the conference I felt lost. Where do I belong in this place?" I told a friend it felt like the first day at a new school . . scared and lonely. Like you, God met me through the talks, but even more through the generous spirits of some ladies. Including you! Thank you for introducing yourself to me.

Love,
Kim