Your Success is Not My Failure

It was the summer Anika was five, and she still didn’t know how to ride a bike.

Her little friend next door was a year younger than Anika, and had already learned how to bike the summer before. As a first-time, up-tight, over-achiever kind of mom, I was stressed.

Her little friend also learned how to swim earlier than Anika did, so pretty much, I was worried about her future. Suddenly, biking and swimming were no longer fun activities for her to take part in that summer – this was serious, and she needed to learn fast. We were falling behind. How would she grow into a well-functioning adult if she was behind on basic life skills and athletic abilities?I was pretty sure this was a sign that we were failing as parents, and I was passing on a nonathletic curse so strong that Ben’s athletic genes could not overpower it.

But one day, I went next door to visit our friends, and was waiting in their hallway for some reason I can’t remember. As I stood there, I suddenly noticed something hanging on the wall that I had never paid attention to before.  It was a rack full of medals – medals for bike competitions of some sort. A huge wave of realization swept over me – our friend was hugely into biking. He was incredibly passionate about it, and it was a hobby he spent a lot of time enjoying and perfecting. As a family, they took biking very seriously, and they had spent a lot of time teaching their daughter to ride a bike.

As I thought about these friends, I suddenly remembered that she was a lifeguard. Swimming was something she was passionate about, and she had also spent a lot of time helping her daughter learn how to swim.

If I could pick two activities that defined our friends, it would most definitely be swimming and biking.

This made me curious – what were Ben and I passionate about? It didn’t take me long to identify what was most important to us – reading and music. These were both hobbies that Ben and I enjoyed, and as I thought about it, I could see the ways in which we were passing on these joys to Anika, in the same way our friends were focusing on swimming and biking.

I read to Anika for hours and hours each day. She learned to read at a young age, and at five, she had the vocabulary of a 10-year-old. And Ben would often pull out his guitar and sing with her. I had taught piano lessons for years, and I loved seeing how Anika was becoming a very natural pianist, catching on quickly and playing confidently.

We had chosen to put our time, energy, and passion into the activities we enjoyed, and wanted to share with our daughter. It made no sense to assume that because someone else was naturally good at something, and had put in the time to increase their skill, we needed to do the same, and expect the same results, without the same amount of passion or practice.

I had been comparing my weakness to another person’s strength.

The comparison game never makes anyone a winner, but that day I realized how completely unfair I’d been with myself, and even with Anika. No one can be good at everything, and there isn’t enough time in a day to be passionate about too many things.

At that point, we were fortunate enough to have Anika share our love for books and music, but this would not necessarily always be the case. We could pass on our hobbies, but we also needed to allow room for the things she wanted to pursue, without that being a reflection of our skill as parents.

She did learn to swim and bike that summer, and now it doesn’t seem important anymore. I had to think very hard to figure out how old she was the summer she learned to bike, because it doesn’t matter anymore when it happened. She spends hours a day writing fantasy books, and is signed up for Musical Theatre classes this fall, and we love watching her enjoy things we enjoy.

And I often think about that rack full of medals, and how each family is unique, free to develop their own passions and interests, and even the culture in their own home. This is right and good – something to celebrate, actually.

The strength and success of another person does not take anything away from me. Why is that so hard to remember sometimes?

Anika once said to me, “Just because my friend is very pretty doesn’t mean that I’m not pretty.” I’ve made lots of mistakes as a parent, but if she’s figured this truth out at the ripe old age of 13, I think she’ll be okay.

I wasn’t planning on ending this post with a collection of quotes, but when I went looking for a suitable thought to share, there were so many fantastic quotes that I couldn’t pick just one. Here’s a bit of inspiration to hang on to next time we start feeling the temptation to compare:

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The Size of a Life

Hey, Everybody, it’s “Retreat Week” around here! That means this is my last week to prepare for spending an awesome weekend with the ladies of St. Vital EMC at Winkler Bible Camp. In order to devote my attention entirely to preparing, I’m going to be doing some re-posting around here – some favorite posts from the past which I hope you can enjoy! I’ll catch up with you next week to let you know how the weekend went!

Anika and I have been reading the Bible story of Esther. I don’t know what it is that’s got me seeing it in a new light – if it’s the combination of thoughts in my head right now, or if it’s stopping to explain and trying to put ideas into words Anika will understand.

Whatever it is, I’m loving Esther right now.

I had never, ever thought about the fact that she was forced to go to the king’s palace.

The Bible says, “…Many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa…”(Esther 2:8). As I read that chapter to Anika, it suddenly hit me what it will have meant for Esther to have been chosen as one of the beautiful virgins brought before the king.

It would mean leaving her family, and never living with them again. She would have to spend the rest of her life living in the palace with the rest of the king’s concubines.

She would never be able to get married and have her own family, her own home, her own life.

And she was Jewish, living according to her people’s laws and customs, so I’m sure spending a night with the king was not an appealing prospect.

But she didn’t have a choice, so she went, and spent her first 12 months in the palace with the kind of attitude that “won the favor” of the people around her.

In our culture, winning a beauty pageant and chosen to become royalty would be seen as desirable and successful, but I doubt Esther will have felt the same when she was chosen to be queen. (I often find myself wishing the Bible included more details on the emotions people experienced in these stories we now read!)

So there she was, living the life of a queen, and God gave her the chance to save her people. She was scared to do it. She was human, she experienced fear, and she did not jump at the chance to be a hero.

But her cousin Mordecai said to her,

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

So she had her brave and shining moment, and she saved her people. She was amazing.

But Esther was still human. She did not seek out the opportunity for greatness.

She simply lived her life, and did what she needed to do, when opportunities or expectations presented themselves.

That’s also very different from our culture. There is such a pressure to do great things, to build a platform for ourselves, to get noticed, and be great, influential people.

And those things can all be fantastic…if the opportunity presents itself.

How much do we pursue it? How much do we long for it?

And when we long for it, do we do so in a way that doesn’t breed discontentment for all of the simple, small acts of faith done on a daily basis, because we desire something big and more “significant”?

What about Ruth? Her great move was being loving and faithful to her mother-in-law. She left her home and family to go with Naomi, and showed amazing loyalty and kindness. But her big finale? She got married. And had a baby. And then turned out to be in Jesus’ family tree, but she never knew that while she was alive.

She was just living her simple, small life.

I live my simple, small life. I love my husband and our girls, and I look for joy in all the little things.

But I also dream of greatness, even though I know being a wife and mom is important, but sometimes I dream of different things – “bigger” things, that don’t involve quite as much laundry, or cleaning scrambled eggs off the floor.

What is my big, important, noble purpose, besides being a mom? Why am I here? How is God going to do huge, amazing things through me?

What will I do with this life of mine?

Well… I’m doing it. I’m living it every day, and maybe it doesn’t need to be great and glorious. I don’t think it’s wrong to dream about the future, but I do wonder if we put too much pressure on ourselves to want more than what we were meant to want.

Ecclesiastes says we should love our spouse, and work hard. And if we’re faithful in the small things, God will take care of the rest, right?

He makes some to be like Esther, well-known and in a position of power. And He makes some to be like Ruth, living a quiet life with family.

Both women powerfully impacted the world.

One knew it, the other didn’t.

Do I really need to know my purpose, or my impact? It might be revealed later…if at all.

God knows – is that enough for me?

Oh, to find joy in whatever circumstances come my way. To find contentment in the small, simple things, while always being prepared for the moments of courage He brings to me, whatever size they might be.

The Size of a Life

Anika and I have been reading the Bible story of Esther. I don’t know what it is that’s got me seeing it in a new light – if it’s the combination of thoughts in my head right now, or if it’s stopping to explain and trying to put ideas into words Anika will understand.

Whatever it is, I’m loving Esther right now.

I had never, ever thought about the fact that she was forced to go to the king’s palace.

The Bible says, “…Many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa…”(Esther 2:8). As I read that chapter to Anika, it suddenly hit me what it will have meant for Esther to have been chosen as one of the beautiful virgins brought before the king.

It would mean leaving her family, and never living with them again. She would have to spend the rest of her life living in the palace with the rest of the king’s concubines.

She would never be able to get married and have her own family, her own home, her own life.

And she was Jewish, living according to her people’s laws and customs, so I’m sure spending a night with the king was not an appealing prospect.

But she didn’t have a choice, so she went, and spent her first 12 months in the palace with the kind of attitude that “won the favor” of the people around her.

In our culture, winning a beauty pageant and chosen to become royalty would be seen as desirable and successful, but I doubt Esther will have felt the same when she was chosen to be queen. (I often find myself wishing the Bible included more details on the emotions people experienced in these stories we now read!)

So there she was, living the life of a queen, and God gave her the chance to save her people. She was scared to do it. She was human, she experienced fear, and she did not jump at the chance to be a hero.

But her cousin Mordecai said to her,

“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:13-14)

So she had her brave and shining moment, and she saved her people. She was amazing.

But Esther was still human. She did not seek out the opportunity for greatness.

She simply lived her life, and did what she needed to do, when opportunities or expectations presented themselves.

That’s also very different from our culture. There is such a pressure to do great things, to build a platform for ourselves, to get noticed, and be great, influential people.

And those things can all be fantastic…if the opportunity presents itself.

How much do we pursue it? How much do we long for it?

And when we long for it, do we do so in a way that doesn’t breed discontentment for all of the simple, small acts of faith done on a daily basis, because we desire something big and more “significant”?

What about Ruth? Her great move was being loving and faithful to her mother-in-law. She left her home and family to go with Naomi, and showed amazing loyalty and kindness. But her big finale? She got married. And had a baby. And then turned out to be in Jesus’ family tree, but she never knew that while she was alive.

She was just living her simple, small life.

I live my simple, small life. I love my husband and our girls, and I look for joy in all the little things.

But I also dream of greatness, even though I know being a wife and mom is important, but sometimes I dream of different things – “bigger” things, that don’t involve quite as much laundry, or cleaning scrambled eggs off the floor.

What is my big, important, noble purpose, besides being a mom? Why am I here? How is God going to do huge, amazing things through me?

What will I do with this life of mine?

Well… I’m doing it. I’m living it every day, and maybe it doesn’t need to be great and glorious. I don’t think it’s wrong to dream about the future, but I do wonder if we put too much pressure on ourselves to want more than what we were meant to want.

Ecclesiastes says we should love our spouse, and work hard. And if we’re faithful in the small things, God will take care of the rest, right?

He makes some to be like Esther, well-known and in a position of power. And He makes some to be like Ruth, living a quiet life with family.

Both women powerfully impacted the world.

One knew it, the other didn’t.

Do I really need to know my purpose, or my impact? It might be revealed later…if at all.

God knows – is that enough for me?

Oh, to find joy in whatever circumstances come my way. To find contentment in the small, simple things, while always being prepared for the moments of courage He brings to me, whatever size they might be.