Monday, March 30, 2009

I could see the tears forming in her eyes. Kayley had expected to be first in the race; she finished fifth. The other girls were bigger and faster, and no matter how hard she ran, she just couldn't compete.

My heart broke for my daughter as she sat next to me and cried. I tried to be encouraging, but she didn't want to hear it. All she wanted at that moment was to be told she was the winner. And she was, in her own way. But there was another truth I had to share with her that I knew she wouldn't want to hear. No matter how hard you try, there will always be someone out there who is just a little bit better, a little bit faster, a little bit more talented than you; but that's what keeps you pushing harder, and trying harder to be your best. An ugly truth, but a truth nonetheless.

I was worried that this discouraging episode would cause her to give up and quit, but she didn't. I was getting her confused with me because that's what I would have done. Thankfully, this is one area that my children have not followed in my footsteps. But I think God used this experience to teach me a valuable lesson.

I have struggled lately comparing myself to other writers. As I read other blogs or magazine articles, I think to myself, "There is no way I could ever write like this." That thinking only starts a domino effect of condemning thoughts that grip me to the point of defeat. At that point I just want to quit and give up. I figure if I'm not able to "compete" and win, why bother? But I'm looking at it from the wrong perspective. Following my own advice, I need to use other's talents, gifts, and abilities to push me to do my best at what I know I'm called to do. I may never be a Noble prize writer, but I think I may be a good writer whose words may one day grace the pages of a magazine.

There may for all of us, someone who is better, stronger, more talented, or better equipped for the tasks we are called to do. Rejoice that you have someone to spur you on, to challenge you to do your best. As I always tell my girls, Do your best and let God take care of the rest.

At the start of her second race, Kayley walked onto the track with sheer determination. My heart felt like it was going to pump out of my body, I was so nervous for her. As the gun went off and she rounded the corner, I saw that she was giving it her best, despite the girls that surrounded her. And as she crossed the finish line ahead of all the rest, I knew that she had turned an ugly truth into a winning reward.

"...I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:14

German lessons

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A new country means a new language, which I'm not all that excited about learning. But I've realized that in order to adapt and fit in, a grasp of the local dialect is indispensable. So I've started taking German lessons.

To date, I've had four classes. My tutor, Floria, is nice, patient and has a unique teaching style that has helped this non-proficient language student. She also has this strange idea that I enjoy this learning and has no problem loading me down with stacks of flashcards to learn each week -- I think I'm up to 100 new verbs in just the last 2 lessons! I wish I could say I was a studious person when it comes to German, but I'm not. Most of the time I can be found "cramming" the few hours before she arrives at my house, or the night before. For now, that's been as good as it gets.

However, as my homework pile grows, this cramming style of study is not going to cut it; my study habits are in desperate need of a kick start. So on Saturday I decided to start studying on Sunday for class on Wednesday. Granted, it's not much time, but it's better than what I was doing before, right? Plus, I thought to myself, it's not like I'm paying for the class anyway; that's been paid for by the company. As only God can, He immediately whispered to me, "Your life was also paid with a price. Are you living it in the same way?"

The thought jolted me.

The Bible declares that I "was bought at a price...redeemed from the empty way of life with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Cor 6:20;1 Peter 1:18-19). If my life has been paid for in this way, then I have to regard it above "just getting by". Too often, however, I don't. I am usually willing to settle for mediocrity rather than the abundant life Jesus offers (John 10:10), or I will offer myself until the pain threshold becomes more than I feel comfortable with. As with poor study habits, this kind of life yields weak results.

If I want to have the life Jesus died for me to have, or be all that God wants me to be, then like my German studies, I have to change some of my habits. For me, God has shown me that I need to be a child that truly believes and sets no limits on what He can do; to recognize the Power that is within me; to cleanse myself from the ignoble so that I can be an instrument for noble purposes; and to give myself wholly to the gifts He has given me. When God shows you how to live beyond "just enough", He's calling you to an act of obedience. Will I answer the call? Will you?

As unenthusiastic as I am about taking German lessons, I'm grateful for the way God has used them to touch my heart. I want all God has for me in this life and I know now that "just getting by" doesn't get me there. I'm going to have to give a little more than what I would like, but I know that there will be great reward when my journey is complete. It's a journey that's been paid for us all. How are you living it?