Category Archives: Idols

Just Like The Greatest Showman

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the night sky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
Never be enough
For me”

If you’ve seen the movie, “The Greatest Showman” these words from the song “Never Enough” will be familiar.  If you haven’t seen the movie, go! I loved learning about the history of the Barnum & Bailey Circus. The music was fantastic (been listening ever since on repeat) and the acting great. But it was PT Barnum’s self-discovery after chasing his dreams that stood out to me.

***Spoiler Alert***

Having grown up with very little, Phineas Taylor Barnum aspired to provide his family with the same lavish lifestyle of his wife’s upbringing. He didn’t want his daughters to lack anything in the way he had as a child. However as his dreams turned into reality, and his business began to enchant the masses, it only whetted his appetite.

When his circus performed for the Queen of England, he met famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind and signed her to tour with him. For Barnum the sky was the limit; the world at his fingertips. For his wife and girls, his presence and love all they wanted.

Though I’m uncertain if the movie’s portrayal of what happened next is factual, the scandalous onstage kiss Jenny gave Barnum as retribution for rejecting her advances is what led him to finally see his false gods. Money and fame ruled him. Despite all he was acquiring it was never enough. There was always more to be had. But never without great expense.

And aren’t we often just like him?

We look at others’ online feeds, stories and boards and determine what we have is not enough. We compare ourselves to those around us, and feel less than (or better than) based on what we have or don’t have. Just like Barnum we go chasing after what we think we need. What we think will bring everlasting happiness. What is it for you- Money? Fame? Appearance? Popularity? Comfort?

In our culture today it all seems attainable. With YouTube and Instagram, even fame is no longer limited to actors, singers and politicians. “Regular” people can become instant sensations, acquiring the following of masses, gaining contracts for product endorsement and earning thousands each month. Teenagers and adults alike, clamouring for “streaks” and “likes” and even buying “followers.” As if these numbers make us worthy.

Again like Barnum, we’ve lost focus of what truly matters. We’ve bought into the lie that “life” is found in something other than God. No matter how much success, accomplishments, recognition, extravagant trips, designer goods, bonuses, attention or followers, it’s never enough.

I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more…(From Now On)”

None of it will ever be enough because these things weren’t meant to satisfy. They can’t. They aren’t big enough or valuable enough to give us worth, and they lack the power to give us lasting love and happiness.

The only thing that can bring us true joy and peace cannot be acquired. The hole in our soul can only be filled in Christ.

And from now on
These eyes will not be blinded by the light
From now on
What’s waited till tomorrow starts tonight
It starts tonight
And let the promise in me start
Like an anthem in my heart
From now on…
And we will come back home…”

May we see the temptations and traps for what they are. And find true life in the One who beckons us to come and graces us with treasures that will never rot.

“Come home! come home!
Ye who are weary, come home!
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling,
Calling, O sinner, come home! (Softly and Tenderly)

The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree

Some of you saw my social media pic of our kitten up in the Christmas tree. I laughed when a friend commented that we’ld be lucky if the whole tree didn’t fall because it immediately transported me back to 2009: The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree.

That was our first year in our house we still live in, and I remember trying to decide the best place for the tree. I wasn’t thrilled with where we put it, but even more bothersome was the top of the tree was tilted. Every morning when I came into the living room it was not the pretty lights or the ornaments I saw (many of which had been wedding shower gifts), but only the imperfect tree.

I asked my husband to fix it. But without undecorating and starting completely over that was no easy feat. He did try; only it made it worse. I was not happy, and my whole family knew.

But it got worse…

As you can probably guess, the tree eventually fell. We were all home when it happened. And of course, the front of the tree – with all my most valuable and sentimental ornaments – is what hit the ground.

Apart from sweeping  up the shattered glass, it’s all a blur now. But what I’m left with is more than a funny Christmas story, but the story God has been writing in me that the crooked tree perhaps sparked.

You see, I wanted the perfect tree because I had made it a reflection of me. If it looked bad, I looked bad. Therefore, when anyone came into our home, I made it known that I was fully aware the tree was crooked before they could judge me. Ridiculous, huh? But even more than other’s opinions, it was my own standard with no room for failure that accused me of not measuring up. Is it any  wonder then I couldn’t enjoy the lights and decorations on the tree with imperfection glaring back at me?

This sounds crazy, but I was looking for my identity in a perfectly decorated tree! As if it could give me a secure worth! But we do this with all sorts of things – our home, our physical appearance, our performance, and that of our husband or kids.  They all become measuring sticks for how we are doing.

Of course, in and of themselves there is nothing wrong with wanting our house to look pretty, a cute outfit to wear, obedient kids or even a straight Christmas tree. But when these things become something we obsess over, can’t let go of,  have to have, find pride in, feel better than others for, or we think has to be fixed it is a sure tell sign these things are acting as our functional “gods.”

What’s even crazier is the perfection we strive for is already securely ours in Christ.  No matter how hard we try to build our own identity we can’t ever measure up to God’s standard. But the good news is, we don’t have to. Jesus did it for us!

When we are in Christ, we have his righteousness and God’s unwavering acceptance.  To look to anything else for merit, or identity, is to live as if what Jesus did was not enough.

There was beauty in my imperfect tree, I just couldn’t see it because I was focused on the wrong thing. Similar to how we do ourselves. We see what’s missing, where we fail to measure up and what we’ve done wrong. But when God’s grace crashes into our crooked lives we begin to see his beauty shines brighter in our brokenness.

That same year of the crooked Christmas tree, my daughter made a paper mache Christmas tree in her sixth grade art class. It too was crooked, not by design. (I should’ve seen the foreshadowing!)

That paper mache tree is what replaced my broken Radko ornament as one of my favorite Christmas treasures. When I look at it, and read back over the stories the kids wrote about “The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree,” I am reminded of my need for Jesus and his perfect love for me.

So as we deck our halls this season, may the lights and decor serve not as a means to adorn ourselves with any glory of perfection, but to draw our eyes to the One who hung on a tree so his perfection could be ours.

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Worth in the Wrinkles & Grace for the Grey

One night a couple weeks ago my husband and I were eating dinner. It was just the two of us that night. I don’t know what we were talking about but I do remember when he looked up and out of the blue asked, “Do you think you will grow old gracefully or fight it as long as you can?”

Had I not just seen for myself that very day the grey hairs framing my face I wouldn’t have known what he was referring to.  But as it was I instinctively knew he saw exactly what I had – all those wiry greys! It was as if he read my mind because since seeing how obvious they had become I had been thinking maybe it was time to add a little color.

Fast-forward a few days to when I was looking over the headshots a friend took for me.  My husband’s question floated back into the forefront of mind. This time it wasn’t so much the greys bothering me, but the wrinkles around my eyes. It would be so easy for my friend to smooth those out a bit in the pictures. (And to be honest, in one she did). But apart from a miracle cream I don’t know about it, those lines in real life aren’t ever going to totally disappear.

My insecurities over these visible signs of aging got me thinking about how alike we women are to our daughters. Here we worry about how they see themselves and the pressure to be perfect, but we are no different. Whether we admit it or not, we too look to our appearance as an identity.

By this I mean we base our worth on how we look. Our weight, the wrinkles, the grey, the sag or flab, it can consume us. Only made worse when we look around and compare how we stack up to others. So at any given moment – at a party, the gym or scrolling through Instagram – we have those same thoughts as our daughters. I’m not enough. I need to be better. Everyone else is perfect. And just like our daughters, we also exert alot of energy trying to make ourselves enough, better, perfect.

Now I’m not saying there is anything wrong with taking care of ourselves and wanting to feel and feel good. The problem is when our appearance becomes the measuring stick for determing our worth, and the worth of others too. What we turn to for our identity.  What we think if we attain or maintain will make us happy and give us life. And in its ruling over us, we will in direct and indirect ways communicate to our girls and others that appearance is where their value comes from too.

But if my true identity is found in Christ, then the extra pounds, the wrinkles, the grey hairs, my grey tooth (yes, it’s true I have one!) or whatever else it is that bothers you about yourself is not what defines us!

I’m writing this for myself, because what I saw in the mirror and reflecting back at me in the photos knocked me off this gospel truth. I didn’t want others to see the wrinkles or think I looked old because of them. But it takes a constant reorienting to remember who we are. One minute I know the truth and feel secure, and the next minute I’m looking to false sources to make me okay.

Because this is true of me, what better entry point to help our daughters see we are in the same boat. We understand her self-obsession because we too become self-consumed.  So what we both need is to see our false identities as the sin it is, and point each other back to who Christ is for us.

In Christ, I am perfect and perfectly loved. An his opinion, truly, is the only one that matters. If only I could always fix my eyes on this truth, maybe I could grow old gracefully (with colored hair or not)! By his grace. 

“Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed (Psalm 34:5).”

For more on this topic for teen girls, check out my book Face Time! Also be sure to subscribe for posts in your inbox, and follow me on Instagram!

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