Yesterday my daughter’s 1st Grade class took a field trip to a Pumpkin Patch. She had been looking forward to this for weeks, literally counting down the days. Being 7 is amazing!!! There are such simple pleasures, like getting a day away from the classroom to take a school bus across town with all her friends.
Just look at this girl!
The experience was everything she had hoped for, she was SO PROUD of and SO PLEASED with the pumpkin she picked out (there was NO green on this one, mama!) and even prouder that she could carry it by herself and got to go on a hayride with it.
Of course her younger brother’s class didn’t get this same field trip so after school we ran to a local pop up style ‘pumpkin patch’ set up down the road where he could pick one, too.
This boy has me wrapped around his finger. Big time.
As I set the pumpkins next to each other on our fireplace hearth when we got home, it was clear that Zachary’s was perfectly smooth and blemish-free all around, however Evangeline’s pumpkin had some scratches, dents, and a noticeable gauge on one side.
I held my breath, knowing it was only a matter of moments before my daughter noticed this, too.
And so began the crying.
In between sobs I managed to discern some words about how Zachary’s pumpkin was so much better and perfect than hers. I could see in her eyes, clear as day, the contempt she now held for that poor scratched-up pumpkin from the Marana pumpkin patch.
This is nothing new in my world. The kids always seem to be wanting what the other one has (the purple plate, the bigger Lego set, the better stick found outside, and on and on it goes) . Many fights and tears and conversations have taken place around this issue. It honestly makes me want to tear my hair out.
But this time I was struck in a new way. I was sad. My girl had had SO MUCH joy over her pumpkin – and now in an instant it was all gone. And I was not okay with that, I grieved for her and her heart. Something had been stolen from her and I wanted to get it back.
So I sat down, pulled her lanky body into my lap and told her a story. A story about how mommy LOVES leading bible studies and teaching God’s word. It brings me joy, it brings me pleasure, it brings me purpose. I love the men and women I have gotten to serve through this act and the ways God has ministered to them through it. But one time (okay more than one time, but I didn’t tell Evie that!) I started noticing another woman – another woman who also was a writer and teacher and leader -who seemed to do everything better than me. More creatively, more powerfully and in cuter clothes than me. When glancing down at my own work, all of a sudden what was in my hands appeared dull and hollow and small in comparison. Like dents on a pumpkin.
I painted a picture for my daughter of how Comparison, dressed all in black to be an extra sneaky burglar, broke into my heart and stole something from me.
He stole my joy and the love that I had for my work and my people. My work hadn’t changed. I hadn’t changed. The only thing that had changed was the presence of comparison. And that changed everything.
Remember how much fun your field trip was, Evangeline? Remember the hard work of traipsing through a field? Remember how there were lots of pumpkins to choose from, but you picked just the right one? Remember how you carried it around with your classmates? Remember how excited you were to show it to me when I picked you up from school? Girl, that is YOUR pumpkin!
She remembered, I could see it in her eyes (I love when my parenting talks actually work!)
Zachary’s pumpkin doesn’t change ANY of that. Don’t let comparison steal your joy.
She sprang up from my lap toward the fireplace, knelt down and draped her arms dramatically around her pumpkin, looking as if she never wanted to be separated from that thing ever again.
She remembered her first love. Well, her first pumpkin, anyways.
Whether it is my work, my abilities, my kids, my appearances, my car, my home, my bank account – why is that I can be perfectly satisfied and grateful….until my eyes wander over and see an image presented of someone else’s work, ability, kids, appearance, car, home or bank account? I swear I have been tempted to trade in my own personality for someone else’s. And I begin to feel contempt for what I have and what I have to offer.
So measly and meager and dull my life becomes in just a moment! I have to quiet my racing mind and allow Holy Spirit to speak to me, just like an encouraging Mama after a hard day at school.
Remember how much you love your life, Kirsten? Remember how I filled you and satisfied you in that work? Remember the triumph of arriving here after that long and winding road? Remember the provision and blessing I have given you? Remember when I equipped you mightily? Remember those people who love you? Remember that I love you? Remember the beauty and the pride and the fun and the uniqueness of your life? Don’t let comparison steal your joy.
I know that for a long time whenever comparison is threatening to rob me blind, I will remember the innocent joy and pride on Evangeline’s face when I picked her up from school yesterday, holding her flawed but beautiful pumpkin.
I also want to remember the way she repentantly embraced that precious pumpkin on the fireplace. Lord, help me to declare with joy that while what I have may be different from what someone else has, it is mine. It is what I chose, or what God has chosen on my behalf. It is mine to use and to treasure and to enjoy. I too want to hold these things close, draping my arms around them just as dramatically as my daughter, filled with thanksgiving.