Hello again! I have been meaning to do this Word Wednesday as a regular thing, but well, you know...life. And confinement. And wallpaper removal in the powder room (serenity now!). And if I am to be totally honest, a little bit of intimidation. Maybe a little bit of hiding some of my fear behind a facade of "trying to decide" what to do next with the blog. It is scary to expose this thought to paper (or, rather, keyboard).

The comparison trap is REAL. And it isn't good.

Even though I have recently encouraged you to NOT fall into this death-spiral of comparison, I have been doing it myself. Shame on me. And probably like you, it starts as just wanting to see what someone else (for me--another blogger or whatever) is doing, and how they are doing something. But it can descend into a dark place--more along the lines of looking at their blog and saying...Mine doesn't look that way, hers is better, Maybe I should try that, Maybe I should be doing ________, whatever it is that I am NOT doing, that they ARE doing. You can substitute any other thing for my _________. Like I should be on x-y-z schedule, or doing x-z-y sort of homeschooling, or virtual field trips or.... The list can go on and on.

It gives me such an icky feeling, but y'all, I have to admit that I compare sometimes. It is so hard not to compare ourselves. And we all know that usually we compare "up," not "down." Don't misunderstand, up and down is not a value judgement. It's just that we will typically compare ourselves to someone who has more than we do, or has more going on, or more success or more whatever it is that we think we want.

It happens, even though we all hate that feeling.

But it sucks.

It can be hard to pull out of that comparison death-spiral.

So in that moment when I feel so "less than," I needed to be reminded that my worth and value come from God. My worth does NOT come from my health, my abilities (or my lack), my talent (or lack of it), my faults, my mistakes, my problems, my blessings, my family, my work, my possessions, my profession, my children, my relationships, my level of education, my success, or my failures.

To break it down, your worth doesn't come from you. Or the people who surround you.

Your worth comes from God.

I hope this comes as a relief to you. It definitely does to me.

If our value depends on our own self-esteem, we are in trouble. Humans wildly fickle. We can be too proud of our accomplishments, or too quick to put ourselves down. Too quick to accept someone else's opinion of us, whether it is accurate--positive or negative--or not. Too quick to want to punish someone else for their momentary failure, and too easily forgive ourselves for our own. Or never want to forgive ourselves. Maybe all in the same day.

We almost never have the right-size view of our selves, or of the people around us. We look at ourselves as either too big our too small. Both of these are wrong headed. So what's a girl to do?

The best idea it to look to the unchanging, true standard. Culture will tell you have varied options that you can explore to come to your conclusion. I am going to boldly tell you that culture is wrong. You have to look to God to find out who you really are, because his view is not swayed by your day to day successes and failures.

It runs contrary to our natural inclinations.

He doesn't love you more when you behave in the most "perfectly religious" way you know how. Seriously, he doesn't. He doesn't love you less when you get angry and rant and rave at him and tell him you hate him, or question his existence. Really. He loves you most, even when we are most unloveable. He wants to give you his presence, so that you can build a relationship with him.

God is personal. He wants you to get to know Him, not just what you heard secondhand from from someone else.

Read this:

Yes, you are allowed to write notes in your Bible.

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;

I have called you by name, you are mine.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;

and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

When you walk through fire you shall not be burned,

and the flame shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,

The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.

I give Egypt as your ransom,

Cush and Seba in Exchange for you.

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you...." Isaiah 43:1b-4a

You are precious in his eyes. You are honored and deeply loved. You are redeemed. You are His.

When we believe what God tells us about ourselves, everything else changes. You can have security in your identity. You don't need to compare yourself to others to see where (or if) you rank.

What other people say about you becomes less important. You can hear the criticism but not be undone by it. You can accept the compliment but not be puffed up by it. It is enormously freeing to know for sure who you are, and how much you are valued. And it cannot rest on your own (or another human's) shifting opinion of you.

You are loved and honored and precious, and yet you will swim through deep waters, and walk through fires in life. That does not mean that you are not blessed by God. You will go through hard times, but if God is with you, those hard times will not consume or overwhelm you. Be reassured, and hold tight to this promise. He will go with you through the dark places.

When the comparison-bug starts to nip at you, or you are unsure where you stand, find comfort in knowing what the God of the Universe thinks of you. He knows you better than you know yourself. And he loves you immeasurably much. And he does not change his mind.

Find security in this truth. Take refuge in God's promise that you are more valuable to him than you can fully comprehend, take a breath and keep on going. And memorize this verse so you have it handy whenever you need the reminder.

xo, Ann Marie

I always looked forward to Good Friday as a kid. We didn't have school. I didn't come from a district that had a spring break, so this was a truly good Friday in my mind growing up, because I knew we had a long weekend, with Easter Monday off as well.

That was enough to make a simple kid like me look forward to the holiday. That, and the promise of wearing a pretty Easter dress to church. Not a frilly one, mind you, like my little friends wore, because my mom's austere taste was too refined for the gaudy, ruffly dresses (that I was not-so-secretly dying for). Anyway--

I did always wonder what made it a "good" Friday.

The question was never answered sufficiently until I was older and interested in faith on my own. It's hard to internalize matters of faith until you actually, well, internalize them. You can't get by and deal with the troubles in life leaning on your parents' and grandparents' faith. It has to become yours, or it can never bear any weight. The smallest trouble blow it away like a dandelion seed on the wind, unless you have made faith part of your own life. We both know that to be true.

So when life got hard, I had to come to grips with faith. And then when that faith became my own, I was finally interested in the answers to a lot of questions I had been holding in my heart.

This was one of them.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:45-46

Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God." Mark 15:37-39

Good Friday doesn't look all that good when you look clearly at the details.

But that does not mean that God isn't using it for good. For yours, and mine. For the future, and for all time. And that is what makes it good.

Follow with me here.

Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."

"You believe at last!" Jesus answered. "But a time is coming and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:29-32

Jesus clearly states that we have peace in him, and we will be scattered to our own homes. Hmmm, I notice relevance here....

But take heart, He says.

Years after this, Paul will state that we are all more than conquerors because of Jesus Christ. But in this moment, on that particular Friday, the situation looks grim. Jesus doesn't look like a conqueror, he looks pitiful--beaten and bloody and hanging to die on a cross, in a shameful (there was a curse that followed being hung on a tree) manner, fitting for the worst criminals of the Roman empire.

In that moment, Jesus doesn't look like an overcomer.

But before the pain of betrayal from a friend, before the up-all-night-sweating-blood anxiety; before the pain and humiliation of being mocked, jeered at; the agony of the flogging and crucifixion, there was a humble servant. And he was abandoned. Fully man and fully God (Lord, help us comprehend the mystery) who was So SURE that his Father was in control that he KNEW in advance that he was a conqueror. In spite of his personal feelings at that moment.

He just had to follow the plan God had already given him.

And no matter what befell him, Jesus trusted his Father.

Even when he was scared.

Even when the soldiers were putting the nails into his hands and feet.

Jesus wanted the situation to be different. He prayed, "Father if you are willing, take this cup from me..." (Luke 22.:42) meaning--God if there is ANY other way, do that instead! Jesus had fear. He was so upset he sweated blood that night in Gethsemane (which science later confirmed was a real THING under severe duress), but he kept trusting.

It is nearly impossible for modern persons like ourselves to really imagine.

What we need to see here is this: The worst possible day ever--when God himself lays down hist life to die at the hand of man--turns out to be only way we can be saved.

The worst day in the history of man, turns out to be our only hope.

Baffling, and strangely beautiful.

We don't see the good in the pain. We don't.

We don't know how pain in the moment can look like victory in the final. We just cannot think like that. But that is what Easter is all about.

That first Easter, Friday night and Saturday, Jesus friends (by this time, he had very few followers, since he looked like any old criminal hung on a cross) were walking through immense pain and sadness.

They had no idea victory was coming.

Friends, we need to live our lives like we know the end of the story--that we recognize the victory is ours. Because it is.

Don't let the circumstances in this world bring you down. Yes, there is much to fear. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is sadness. Yes, there is virus and boredom and quarantine and illness. And we are supposed to help in whatever way we can to make lives better, when we can.

But don't get stuck in "Saturday" mode.

Sunday morning comes, and the stone rolls away, and the grave is empty.

Death and defeat do not win.

Darkness doesn't not win.

Mourning doesn't win.

Jesus wins.

We have a Savior who LIVES. And this Savior lives in us, and for us, and through us. It was a good Friday because of what comes after. Resurrection is right around the corner.

Keep hope, my friends. Take heart! And don't let go.

Have the most joyful Easter celebration ever. It was never about baskets and eggs and bunnies, but about forgiveness and rebirth and new beginnings in Christ.

Amen. So be it.

xo, Ann Marie