More than "Mean Girls"

By Teri Capshaw

If you’re a fan of the “Little House” books by Laura Ingalls Wilder you probably remember Nellie Oleson— she was the snobby store owners’ daughter in the series. Later in the series, the situation changed and Laura’s family was better off. This side plot is relatable for so many readers because comparison has been creating drama in relationships since the beginning of time.

However, the damage caused by this natural tendency has become far more dangerous in the past 20 years. In this information age it’s easier than ever to find people who have more, do more, and seemingly are more than us. We are no longer comparing ourselves against the Olesons or the Joneses— we have the Kardashians , the Zuckerburgs, and countless others. Thanks to social media you also see highlights from the lives of every single person you’ve connected with over the past 10-15 years.

But perhaps the most dangerous comparison tool isn’t other people, but raw data. In these days when people are often viewed as “human resources” our children are constantly pushed to meet increasingly irrelevant standards in order to “compete” on a global level. And it’s a dangerous game.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, no child should die a victim of comparison. And yet that’s exactly what’s happening when academic pressure leads to suicide and when children are bullied (in person and online) for being different. As moms, grandmothers, aunts, and friends we need to help protect our children and encourage each other. As my dear friend Joan says, the best approach to growth is “competing against yourself.” When we choose to focus on building up ourselves and others we are breathing life into a suffering world.

When a Dog Leads the Way

My Maybelle Rose.

My Maybelle Rose.

By Joan L. Turley

This dog!

The other morning I was feeling so low—quite pitiful if you really want to know. I could not find my joy even though the sound of classical music filled the air and a candle on the old wooden tabled flickered here and there spilling warm gold everywhere. The sun was still in bed and the black outside matched the darkness in my head.

Wrapped in a blanket with a warm cup of coffee held between my hands I whispered, “ Wish I were happy, Wish I were eager to race with giddy-joy into Your presence. What's wrong with me? And by the way why do you seem so far away? With all my heart I really want to love you God but I don't know what to say. Teach me God, please?”

Then she (this dog!) comes bounding down the stairs. With unbridled joy she jumps into my arms with her tail just a waggin’ and her tongue just a lickin’ my neck and nose! She doesn't stop to ask permission. She just nestles in as close as she can get burying her head deep into my chest.

Then and only then, she raises her head and looks at me with such longing in her eyes … as if to say, “Where ya been? I'm been waiting for forever just to see you once again.”

This dog! She slays me with her “I can't get enough of you” adoration … even though she’s with me just about 24/7.

This dog is showing me the way to meet Him in the morning with unbridled joy!

The Art of Letting Go

Do sudden twists and turns in life ever knock you off your feet?

I’ll never forget one October day when my husband called on his way home from work, “So you know how we once talked about me possibly taking a job in Taiwan? Well, there’s an opening and it looks like they really need someone with my experience.”

My answer was immediate and decisive. It went something along the lines of, “Are you completely crazy? We have two little kids now!” And ended with something like, “That absolutely isn’t going to happen.”

After I hung up my mind echoed with one dangerous thought: “There’s no way I’m moving an inch. I have everything under control right here.

Alarm bells went off inside my head. Every time I think I have everything under my own control things are about to go horribly wrong.

The truth was that I had some big goals set for 2014-- and they had been broadcast to the world. It was going to be embarrassing to back down.

But I also know my God. He works in mysterious ways and they rarely have anything to do with my plans. And my husband deserved a fair hearing.

By January 10 I was living in Taiwan on the first of two international assignments my husband would accept, with my support, in four years.

Somehow all of my plans had disintegrated— and we were off on an adventure bigger and better than I could have imagined.

Can you relate? Have you ever fought to hold onto your own small vision even when God was calling you to so much more?

Living our days with intention and purpose, yet making space for God’s detours, is more of an art than science.

The Art of Planning course is a five-day experience designed to help us focus on what my friend, and partner, Joan L. Turley describes as “The Non-Negotiables.”

A year ago Joan and I started meeting on a weekly basis. Our focus? To create goal setting and time management material for “everyday Christian women” like ourselves.

We’ve both experienced the power of courses and resources that challenge us to push ourselves out of our comfort zones and accomplish some amazing goals. Yet, programs tailored to help busy executives left us wanting something more.

Yes, we want to strive to achieve amazing things. But even more importantly we need to ensure that those goals are aligned with what we believe God is calling us to do in our lives.

We hope that our first offering, The Art of Planning, will prove inspirational and helpful for busy Christian women.

A float in a religious parade in Chunghwa, Taiwan.

A float in a religious parade in Chunghwa, Taiwan.