My Strengths: A Tale of Personality and Pancakes

Before marrying my husband I thought of myself as a fairly neat and organized person. Sure, I left the occasional pile but it was always neatly stacked and I tried to place them in inconspicuous, out-of-the-way places. Yes, my room got dirty just like any other kid growing up but when I cleaned it I would usually find great joy in re-organizing or situating my stuff.

Then I married John. I entered into a holy union with a man more fastidious than I thought possible. A man who would load the dishes in the dishwasher “just so” and wipe down the counters and sink as if we were planning on eating off of them later. Everything, right down to his bedtime routine, was purposeful, predictable, and tidy.  As you can imagine, my pile-making routine wasn’t going to cut it with Mr. Flosses-each-night.

During our first 2-3 years of marriage, John would sigh heavily when he saw one of my piles and ask me what it was doing there. To which I would look up at him, confused, and say, “It’s just sitting there. I don’t know what else to tell you.” Now he just walks by and looks at a pile and I’m all, “OK. FINE. GEEZ. Would you just TAKE IT EASY?! I’m moving it! I’m moving it!” before throwing it all into a drawer he’ll never open and going back to my business.

We’ve come a long way can’t you tell?

Bunny ears. A classic. 😉

I also learned quickly after getting married that my husband got his cleanliness and organizing prowess from his mom. One of the most generous, fun-loving women I know. She can cook, clean, organize, decorate, garden, host, and more — probably simultaneously while she flosses. It’s amazing. These people leave me speechless. And spotless.

Truth be told, my mother-in-law suuuuper intimidated me. If you made a comprehensive list of everything she is excellent at, it would almost line up verbatim with a list of things I’m just not excellent at. Early on in my new role as daughter-in-law I was terrified of being a disappointment to her. She raised my favorite person, her home is beautiful etc and all I felt I was bringing into the equation was “a great personality” and some mean banana pancakes.

She visited us last week, and something in me clicked about all of this “intimidation” nonsense. It was all coming from me. Never once has my mother-in-law looked at me and said, “I wish you were better at cooking. You’re house isn’t very clean, and don’t get me started on how you load the dishwasher.” She has been nothing but kind and helpful.

Dinner I helped make with my mom-in-law. It was delicious and simple and wonderful.

As we enjoyed her company last week, I realized that the only reason I was intimidated by her is because I was comparing myself to her. If you want a quick way to ruin any relationship — mix in a drop of comparison. I began to ask God for a genuine sense of appreciation for her and my husband and their cleaning/organizing impossible standards strengths. I was sick of throwing myself pity parties every time they were better at something than I was. My wounded ego was getting in the way of what could be really enjoyable learning opportunities.

So God, in His faithfulness, is taking me on this new journey of appreciation. It starts with being grateful for the strengths He’s given me — my sense of humor, gift of communication, scrapbooking swagger etc. And now it’s leading me to appreciate the people who used to intimidate me.

Comparison has no where to go in a relationship where two people appreciate each other. It sort of sulks in the corner, muttering empty lies about “being a disappointment” or “she’s so much prettier” or whatever. If you ignore those lies and replace them with the truth that we’re all created in the image of a creative God — differences become things that you celebrate instead of fear.

Isn't she lovely? :)

Isn’t she lovely? 🙂

This is a new thing for me. It’s not rocket science and I’m not the first to figure it out.  But just as I’m learning the power of gratitude, I’m teaching myself the discipline of appreciation for people who are strong where I am weak.

Is there a relationship in your life where comparison is hindering you from enjoyable companionship? Let’s walk out this new idea together and make the world a better place — be it through pancakes or organized dishwashers. It all counts.







The Trailblazer of Today

Breathing deep and pounding the pavement I listen to the rhythm of the waking world. My body responds with small streams of sweat winding their way along, only to be caught by eyelashes or dampened into the fabric of my clothes. I can feel my face adopt it’s favored tomato red, even in the stillness of dawn. Who needs a headlamp when your face turns into a stoplight after .25 miles?

I smile at passerbys, receiving a handful of nods and a whole bunch of nothings. I’m nonplussed at the stone-faced runners, it’s 6AM after all, the sun isn’t shining so why should they be? I’m just amazed I’m actually out here!

Wait, why am I out here again?

Practically speaking, I’m here because I’m training for a race and live in a hairdryer state that hits temps of 90+ by 9AM so I have to run early… or melt. But I also want to be accomplishing something along the way. As I run and my heart beats and my elbows drip with sweat, I want to look around and think confidently,”Yep. This is where I’m supposed to be.”

And I want to know the same is true of my life (that’s right, I’m takin it to the “next level”)

I want to live on purpose!

So let’s get real. What the heck does that mean? Surely I’m not the first person to feel this way?

As a follower of Christ, I know my purpose comes from Him but, if you follow Him too you know, He isn’t always “Mr. Obvious” when it comes to laying out the future.

Jesus is more of a trailblazer than a trailrunner:

“See that nice smooth pavement Rachel? Ok. So do you see the woods to the left of it? Let’s stomp through those woods together.”

So as I nervously step (er.. stomp?) into the unknown, my mind races with all of the possible ways and people and places and scenarios that could bring purpose to my life, or rather, that God could use to direct me towards His purpose. I wonder who or where or what I might come across around the next corner. My heart beats with anticipation!

And then it hits me…

Why am I looking for this purpose? As if it’s some elusive thing God hasn’t already laid before me, as if it’s something that isn’t happening right now?

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10

All of those people and places and scenarios do not become the means to finding my purpose, they are just threads knit into my purpose. God does not give me purpose for one season of my life and then leave me wandering helplessly for a few years until coming back and directing me again. But can I get an “AMEN” if you have ever felt like that?

Ah, but I can choose to wander, to stray to the “easy street”  or even to sit and pout in the middle of the woods. Meanwhile Jesus continues to blaze His trail of purpose, unflinching and unwavering. He prepared it before hand that I should walk in it. Will I?

As my goal distance ticks off and I slow to a walk, I think: It’s just today.

As much as I wish every inch of my purpose will be bathed in grandiose stories and adventures, it is rather constructed from thousands and thousands of “todays.” Some lay forgotten and discarded as I wrongly dismissed them as pointless, others still glow with my affections, or glisten with my tears, but all of them make up my purpose, His purpose for me.

I’m not supposed to be looking for my purpose, I’m supposed to be living it.

And while it certainly remains true that we are to seek the Lord for direction and discernment in our lives may we beware of neglecting or ignoring the life He has given us today.

It’s OK to think of tomorrow, today — It’s just not OK to live in tomorrow, today.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

– Jesus (Matthew 6:34)

So, I dare you, reader, to stomp in the woods and follow Jesus TODAY. In His footsteps alone will you be treading in your purpose. Oh, and if you happen to see me try and cut my own path, please stop me and point me back to Him. Because, Lord knows, I have a terrible sense of direction.

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. – 2 Corinthians 9:8

The Other Side of Yesterday

The smell of hairspray – brings an expectant beat in my heart as I am transported back into crowded dressing rooms and high school cafeterias. Sequined bows and tap shoes litter the floor as one group of dancers stretch in a corner and another counts “5-6-7-8” while rehearsing the same part for the thousandth time.

I blink as a camera flashes and little girls giggle excitedly. Recitals. Competitions. Performing to an audience of starry stage lights and bright red exit signs. I was always so thankful you couldn’t see all the faces.

I spot a gangly girl with glasses too big for her nose, and smile in recognition. She’s sitting off to the side by herself with bright red lipstick smudged up to her cheek (probably insisting to put it on herself 😉 ) Tracing her faraway gaze, I move beyond the “advanced” dancers warming up near her and follow her mind to a world of standing ovations and more awards than can be counted.

I long to walk up to her, hug her tight, and say,

“Just be yourself. You will never kick the highest, turn the fastest, or leap the farthest. But Rachel, you will always give it your best and like dad always told you, “Angels can do no more!” so dance like you mean it. Like you know God has put you here to bring His joy and show His grace through your gap-toothed grin and spindly limbs.

Because you see, at the end of the day, when people go home, they will remember your smile, not your pirouettes. They will replay in their minds that meaningful conversation they had with you… not the routine you just performed.

Love Jesus, Rachel, and He will show you how to love people and impress upon them in a way that goes beyond those awards and even beyond your wildest dreams! Oh how He loves you! And no, those coke-bottle glasses and bathmat feet weren’t a mistake. You’re beautiful you silly girl. If you’re confident that your Maker knows that then by golly you don’t have to prove that to anyone sitting out there!”

Nearby applause shakes me from my reverie as I watch my mom do some last minute touches to my fluffy tutu and line me up to head backstage.

The time has arrived! Oh wait.. one last spray for good measure. Solid as a rock… that bun isn’t going anywhere. 😉 Woops! Lets just clean up that creative lipstick/blush look we’ve got going on here (thanks mom). There. Now go dance for someone bigger than you and all your insecurities!

Good luck little ballerina! I’m cheering you on behind the curtain of my dusty memories, from the other side of yesterday.