{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Plus Some Honest Words About Comparison)

~Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life, as inspired by the women at Like Mother, Like Daughter~

Happy New Year, friends! I hope the dawn of 2018 finds you well.

I intended to have this post published last Thursday, but the {real} section – in which I confess my tendency to compare myself to others – required some extra processing time. Thus, last week’s small moments. Late, but still heartfelt.

{Pretty}

“Mama, mama, come quick!” she said, bursting into the living room one morning as I was finishing up my morning time alone. “Come look at the pretty, pretty sky!”

{Happy}

In recent weeks, Katie’s been spreading her wings a bit more. Perhaps it has something to do with a major growth spurt (between the end of October and the middle of December, she grew a solid inch!), or perhaps our encouragement has helped her realize she’s more capable than she realizes, or perhaps it’s just a natural part of growing up, but this week, she both rode her bike without prompting and climbed up onto the tire swing on her own. The tire swing, especially, was a big step; a few weeks ago, she was intimidated by the thought of even sitting atop it without being held.

I’m grateful to live where we do: we’re near a great number of great relatives (though there are other great relatives that should move closer. Hint, hint). After celebrating with my side of the family last week, we attended Christmas Eve morning services with Jonathan’s parents, then enjoyed brunch and gifts at their home. We had a quiet Christmas morning, perfect with just the four of us (plus enough sticky buns to feed a great deal more – good thing they freeze well!). During naps, I straightened up the house a bit and put WAY. MORE. HAM. than we needed in the oven in preparation for dinner, (Seriously. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I bought hams. We ate about 3/8 of what I bought). We were then joined by family and friends (seventeen of them, in fact – eight of whom were children) for a joyous potluck dinner celebration. (Alas, I did not capture a single photo of the event, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.)

{Funny}

One of Katie’s gifts was a pair of sparkly winter gloves. Later, she told Jonathan, “And I got GLOVES for Christmas, so now I can help you and Mama move wood!”

{Side note: I love this girl’s heart and her sweet spirit, that the first thing she thought of was how she could use her gift to help.}

In the past several weeks, Abby has become a proficient little walker, handling our uneven driveway with relative ease. One morning this week, she discovered this flag in the garage. She was most pleased with the discovery. She paraded around the yard, waving it above her head and babbling excitedly. And, of course, Sheep came along for the festivities.

{Real}

Others may share lovely family photos, taken to commemorate the holidays. They might post shots of kids and parents arrayed before a tree in new Christmas pajamas, or pictures taken at a candlelit service, everyone looking their best, or selfies taken in a moment of joy, two or three faces pressed together to squeeze into the frame. They might share images that were taken with intention.

This snapshot, though – taken between church and brunch on Christmas Eve, when I, apparently, didn’t have it in me to give a real smile – this is what I have to offer.

I’d have liked to have a photo of all of us together, but we didn’t take one. Partly because we were busy doing other things but also because I simply didn’t think about it, at least not in the moments when we might have done it. I look at this photo of me and then those of my friends, smiling and lovely, with their spouses or their kids or their extended families, and a small, ugly voice whispers I should be more like them.

The same voice hisses in my ear when I consider Advent and the things I’d hoped to do versus what we actually did, when I think of how I wanted to teach my girls (and myself) what it means to wait for the coming of the Light, when I see the ways others have established beautiful, meaningful traditions. It shows up far more often than it is welcome, that voice, pointing out all the things I could be doing, all the things I should be doing, all the ways others are better at parenting, at writing, at life.

I know comparison does me no favors. I know it destroys joy and poisons relationships. And yet, so often, I choose it anyway. The very thing I hate is what I keep on doing. I see the calls to run my own race, to love those in front of me well without considering the beautifully curated social media feeds of others, and I nod in agreement even as I wish it were only so simple.

But it isn’t simple. Not only because of my insecurities, my tendency toward this particular vice, but also because we are created for growth, for community, for the telling of stories and the sharing of lessons learned. We are supposed to spur one another on to love and good deeds, to encourage each other as we become more like Christ. I am meant to run my own race, yes, but I am not meant to run it alone, on my own wisdom. Left to my own devices, I’m all too likely to settle into complacency.

I’m not good at this. I don’t know how to hold these two things simultaneously, how to resolve the tension between choosing contentment and pressing on toward the goal, between being a “good enough” parent/wife/person and seeking to grow and to improve in places where I’m weak. Though I try to keep my mind centered on what is true and noble and right and pure, I don’t easily look at the worthwhile things others are doing and think, “Good for them,” or even, “I’d like to incorporate those practices into my own life, to emulate that aspect of their walk” but, instead, “I’m failing.”

I’m not completely sure why I’m sharing all this with you now, except that I’ve noticed I’ve been falling into comparison and out of contentment more often lately. As I was journaling about it earlier this week, confessing and praying, the thought came that, perhaps, I’m not alone in this particular sin, that maybe others would benefit somehow from me writing about it.

To that end, I wish I had a pretty way of wrapping this up, of telling you what I’ve done to combat this tendency in me. I don’t, really. I pray. I seek grace, and the help of the Holy Spirit, and I ask for the faith to believe He will respond. I spent some time yesterday with my bible and my journal and my planner, thinking about my core values, about the specific ways my personality and my abilities play themselves out in the Kingdom, about who God has created me to be and what He is calling me to do. All of this helps, but comparison still rears its head, still tries to add unnecessary burdens to my load.

And yet, His grace is sufficient.

(Grace, which sometimes expresses itself in the mouths of small children, for Katie, when she came trotting down the hall after nap and saw this photo on my screen, exclaimed, “Mama! I LIKE this picture, Mama!”)

Family and Parenting, This Thing Called Life

Tags: , , , , , ,

2 Responses to {Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real} – It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas (Plus Some Honest Words About Comparison)

  1. jywatkins says:

    I especially relate to the part about balancing a desire to be better with contentment for who I am. Its tough to give ourselves space to be us while also seeing all the ways we could be better people.

Leave a Reply