Comparison is the Thief of Joy, Even on Mother’s Day

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Mother's Day / Mothering

I shared preaching with two pastors  (one my husband!) this Mother’s Day. Here’s what I said:

Comparison is the Thief of Joy image

Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparison is the thief of joy”, and he was a man who did not try to match up his life with other’s lives. But for us as women, and perhaps especially as mothers, our lives are often filled with the noise of comparison with others and an obsessive need to be perfect. How can we begin to cut through this noise?  This issue is right in the front of the brain of any woman or teenager, but it is a factor in the life of everyone who is human.

Comparison steals our joy and can rule our lives.

Why do we always feel we are not good enough?  We don’t think we are:

  • as good,
  • as organized,
  • as good-looking,
  • as good of a mother,
  • as good of a father,
  • as hard of a worker,
  • as nice,
  • as educated,
  • as smart,
  • as young,
  • as old,
  • as well dressed,
  • as rich,
  • as gifted,
  • as funny,
  • as popular……

you fill in the blank.

We all constantly compare ourselves to what we observe about other people. This information often has little to do with reality, but it is the tape that runs in our heads all the time.  And this tape forms how we feel about ourselves and how we evaluate our lives.

In our age of social media, we have even more opportunities for unfavorable comparisons.  Everyone’s life looks better than mine on Facebook and Instagram, right?

 We are all super aware of our own failings, and we see others appearing to succeed where we fail or fall short.

Putting aside outside appearance for a moment, the truth is we ARE constantly imperfect in our behavior and words and maybe most especially our thoughts towards others.  We know we are not good enough for other people, and we suspect we are not good enough for God either.

We can try to talk ourselves out of this with the comfort of, “You are good enough, and you are wonderful just as you are.” For me, nothing epitomizes this message better than the women’s magazines in the grocery checkout aisle.  Here’s how one woman describes it,

“I sit down and let myself sink into the glossy

comfort of my favorite magazine. With each turn of the page

I’m assured that I can have perfect skin,

that I do have the power to get any man I want,

that I if I overhaul my wardrobe I can overhaul my

life, that if I just commit 15 minutes a day to the

latest workout I can get the perfect beach body! 

Apparently I can have it all… So why do I feel… hopeless?”

Somehow this message does not work for most of us. We feel we are in a prison of comparison where we are always falling short.

The Bible actually offers a whole new pattern for living which answers this craving we have to be as good as others.  This new way of living is for us to create true community by being honest with each other about ourselves.  Being vulnerable and open about our struggles can begin to build intimacy.   And intimacy can replace this fear that we are not good enough which is the basis of comparison.

With honesty comes the realization that everyone else struggles just like we do.

Vulnerability, being open about what is hard for us, requires an atmosphere of trust and the assurance that we will be safely loved when we are honest.  Do you have honesty and acceptance in a trusted community?  What can you do to build this into your life?

The New Testament shows an example of community as the Christians lived together, sharing everything, helping those in need.  The sacrificial love mentioned in so many places in Paul’s letters comes from this love that was not jealous and self-promoting.

Maybe this sounds good to you, but you don’t know how to go about it.

As a mother, I can tell you I love each of my children beyond their understanding, and regardless of how or whether they deserve it.  If I love them this much, can you even imagine the love of God for us which is so many times more powerful?  We must begin with understanding deep in our own hearts the freeing vastness of God’s love for us.

When I think of the greatness of this great plan I fall on my knees before God the Father and I pray that out of the glorious richness of his resources he will enable you to know the strength of the spirit’s inner reinforcement—that Christ may actually live in your hearts by your faith. And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. May you be filled though all your being with God himself!  Ephesians 3:14-19, Phillips Version

When we have let this love sink in, we can really begin to understand God’s grace in our own lives.  Being loved melts our need to do more or appear better so we can get the admiration and acceptance of others.

Psalm 93:4 says, “Mightier than the waves of the sea is his love for you”

When we fix our eyes on God and let ourselves understand his complete approval of us, an approval and deep love not based on outward appearance or on behavior, then we can begin to offer grace to ourselves and to others.

That is my prayer for each of us today.

Nairobi to Kilimanjaro to Olduvai

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Cross Cultural / Cross cultural ministry / Tanzania / Traveling


Next morning our taxi driver from the night before was there right on time at 6:30 am to catch our plane for our short flight to Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Unfortunately the famous mountain was completely clothed in clouds, so we missed the view.

Safely through customs, all bags arrived, we went to meet Amanda and Bill Batterson and their son Owen who were waiting just outside. They were very happy to have the suitcase full of supplies we brought for them. And we were almost as happy to be doing it for them. So many people have done so much for us over the years, it felt good to make a  difference for this young couple we had never previously met.

We kept waiting for our safari guide and finally called the office in Arusha who said they’d check on it. A few minutes later Isaya walked up and said he’d wondered if we were the ones, but it looked like we being met by someone already. Loaded up and headed out for a very long day of driving, heading through Arusha, across the massive plains dotted with cattle and Maasai tending them,  all the way to Olduvai, making a much anticipated stop  at the overlook to the Ngorongoro Crater National Park which  was magnificent.








We arrived in Olduvai Camp in time for the famous walk to Sunset Rock just behind the camp. Our Maasai guide named Laurencia (or Lora) was chatty and affable as we climbed up and enjoyed the view. Below us was a boma or Maasai village and lots of Maasai helping to herd the animals in for the night. Lora said they keep the bank (the animals) in the middle of the village, and keep a guard all night. He sat patiently talking and telling us stories for over an hour, including one about the time he killed a lion. I have an idea this was not a tall tale.


Our tent is lovely and comfortable, quite amazing out here in the middle of nowhere.
We are exhausted by dinner, but afterwards decided to sit by the campfire a few minutes with our Maasai friend who was waiting to walk us back to our tent. It was a beautiful, clear, dark night and I pulled out the sky guide app on my iPad to identify the stars and constellations. Laurenica was very interested in this and held it up to the stars, grinning like a kid. He loved seeing the constellations, many of which he could name.

The memory of this man who still lived as his ancestors have for hundreds of years looking with absolute delight at the night sky through this scrap of technology, this picture will stay with me.

Dubai airport: cultures collide

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Cross Cultural / Cross cultural ministry / Tanzania / Traveling

In 2015 my husband and I spent about a month in Tanzania, including transit via Dubai, UAE and Nairobi, Kenya. I am publishing today and in the following days parts of my travel journal which I think provide an interesting look at other worlds that coexist with my Western one in Northern California.

The sea of non-western humanity is remarkable to me. Many women in burkas, some of them in their formless anonymity also beasts of burden. A woman just walked by in this ultra modern airport in traditional hijab, barefoot, carrying her flip-flops in one hand and balancing an enormous stuffed plastic bag on her head with the other hand. Clearly she felt more comfortable bearing this load with her feet firmly planted instead of in the squishy instability of flip-flops.

A small boy in a white gown walks on the outside of the moving sidewalk, his hand in his father’s who has chosen to ride a brief way. They chat nonchalantly.

A group of Maasai women in matching red/black outfits ambles by, strikingly beautiful, like tall young trees. One of them is comfortably wrapped in a Maasai blanket over her outfit. Maybe they are a traveling sports or debate team? Yes, Kenya Pipeline Volleyball team.

Hijab clad woman with backpack and violin in case.
Paul, a French patisserie, has the longest line of any restaurant.
There is a children’s area with carpeted seats in front of a big screen Disney movie, apparently all children speak Disney. It is flanked by a popular Starbucks and a Winston smoking room, sealed and full.



Our flight is 2 hours late leaving Dubai, so we arrive Nairobi during rush hour=1 1/2 hour drive from the airport to our hotel. On the plus side, we get to see giraffes in an area near the airport. I wonder how they have managed to incorporate the airport noise into their reality?

Nairobi is a place I’ve always wanted to visit, especially to see Karen Blixen’s home and museum from Out of Africa. Another time. Tomorrow, on to Kilimanjaro to meet our safari guide as well as a young missionary family I befriended online and am taking a large suitcase of supplies to.


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Christmas / Cross Cultural / Singapore / Time

My house looks like a big party went down, the blessing of lots of family members willing to come and stay awhile.  But all good things do come to an end, and this is it. And someone gets to put things to rights, and that is mostly me.

This morning, the first morning after everyone has left, there is tired Christmas deco, some of it just barely hanging on, fragrant pine needles that seem to have sifted everywhere, and balls of tissue and paper still lurking in corners. The 8 children and 7 extra adults that have spent most of the week here have also meant lots of food prep and eating, there are dishes and food crumbs galore.  I feel like I would like to stop cooking and doing dishes for about a month. My husband playfully asked me before we went to bed last night, “What’s for breakfast?” He got a pillow thrown to the head.

So this morning I am thinking  of Aminah, my Malay amah (helper) in Singapore some years back, a wise woman in all ways.  The summer we moved there with our 2, 4 and 6 year old children, our container arrived from the States about 8 weeks after we did. (How we survived the 8 weeks is another story.) The movers said they had to unpack everything themselves in order for any breakage to be covered by insurance. So all the contents of all the boxes: toys, dishes, kitchen stuff, clothes, books, bedding, everything we guessed we might need in our new life on the other side of the planet (and actually far more than we did need) was spread over every surface in my equatorial house. Even the mosquitoes and cicaks (geckos) were a bit intimidated. I actually wept it was so overwhelming. And amazingly, today I found this picture I took of one of the rooms.  Four year old Allison was “helping”.

Singapore movers arrive 8-82But Aminah patted my shoulder. “Slowly, slowly,” she said. And then she began to help bring order, slowly, slowly.  It took days, but we did it. And I always think of this simple advice, free of frustration, to proceed slowly, slowly, and at some point it will be done.

I gave my youngest son a print for Christmas by the artist Ruth Chou Simons ( of the Latin motto “Festina Lente”, make haste slowly. This classical adage has been used through the years by people as diverse as Roman emperors to Shakespeare.  It is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms, which I love the idea of because I think we are such contradictory creatures. As you hurry, slow down.

Festina Lente SM.jpg

Architectural students in Sarajevo, Bosnia have built an intriguing structure in front of the Academy of Fine Arts that they call the Festina Lente Bridge. The looped gateway from one direction to another across the bridge provides a pause in the journey.

Festina Lente by Adnan Alagić, Bojan Kanlić and Amila HrustićFestina Lente by Adnan Alagić, Bojan Kanlić and Amila Hrustić

Today and always, I want to move through my life slowly, slowly. I don’t want to rush, to miss things, to miss my own life because I am in such a hurry to accomplish, finish, move on to something else.  I want to pursue peace. And this, the last day of 2015,  seems like a good time to think on these things.

The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace. Psalm 29:11

The Lunch that Ate the Day

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Cross Cultural / Food / Grandparenting / Traveling

Monday in Paris was a very French day, at least the eating part. The children were tired, so Allie let them rest all morning. We met one of Allie’s students, Paula, and her husband Dave for lunch around 12:30 at Chez Gladines, a Basque restaurant in our little village of Butte aux Cailles that they wanted to try. All of these places are tiny, so moving 8 of us into a table with an infant is quite a production. Then we spent awhile trying to figure out the menu, and checking out other patrons’ food to see what looked good. Food was finally ordered and received, (lots of deep fried potato slices, ham, duck, cheese and salads) plates traded, more wine brought, children got dessert, adults got cafe, and lot of talking and laughing later, we left at 3 pm. According to Allie this is a typical French lunch. I am not sure when these folks work, but this may help explain why the cafes are full of people eating dinner at 10 pm on weeknights. IMG_3068 IMG_3069

With our goal as Notre Dame’s tower, we made our way across the city until we were ambushed by the bouquinistes (booksellers along the Seine), which really are quite picturesque and fascinating. Stan and I looked longingly across the river at Notre Dame as the minutes ticked by with Allie and kids in full shopping mode with books galore, plus vintage posters, magazines, and newspaper pages.

At 4:30 we reached the line to the tower which had closed 15 minutes before. On our way to the other line to get into the Cathedral we took pictures, fed pigeons, and lost and found Daylen (age 9) a couple of times.

Inside is awesome, one of the few times in life that word is appropriate. While the rest of us wandered around, Allie fed Lani. Churches are great places to nurse babies: quiet, good seating, semi-dark, and everyone minding their own business.IMG_2228
Time for another cafe stop, which is pretty much the only place you get to use the bathroom in Paris. Mulled wine, cafe creme, hot chocolate, gateau and sandwiches for the kids fortified us for the trek to Sacre Coeur.
We loved the funicular ride up the hill and wonderful views up there. The church is made of travertine marble and absolutely glows on its hilltop perch. The interior is equally beautiful with dozens of huge gorgeous mosaics.




Afterwards we headed down the hill on foot through Montmartre. This is usually very busy, but now it is well after 8 pm, so the tourists are gone and it’s pretty quiet. Allie and I manage to find a place just closing that still has hot mulled wine to go. The alcohol content is very low.


We are on a quest to find the Moulin Rouge at the bottom of the hill, Emma has a recent crush on the movie. Pics are taken from a distance since it is now pretty much a Las Vegas type show with plenty of inappropriateness for children, and actually adults too.

Beyond exhausted, we make our way back home, and Allie, Stan and kids head up to their place. I have not eaten since lunch, so I cross the street to the local creperie and order one to take home to my little apartment for a late dinner. I am ordering and frequently conversing all in French this trip, and so proud of myself. C’est bon!

Music, Medieval Castles and Noel

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Christmas / Traveling

Left about 11 am with sun shining and dry feet, though bundled to the hilt against the close to freezing winds, and made it to St Sulpice in time for the end of mass and the magnificent organ concert. The music was particularly uplifting given the grandeur of the surroundings and the memory of what happened last weekend. We were all spellbound by the soaring and triumphant music.

Found a tiny cafe which was willing to accommodate all of us for a lovely lunch of champignons gratin, a duck dish, and soup. Delicieux! We took our time like good French people do, then headed out to a medieval castle right on the eastern edge of Paris originally built as a hunting lodge, Chateaux Vincennes. Lots of interesting history here (with two historians for parents, these kids are doomed), a beautiful (other) Sainte Chappelle and amazing “keep”.

Lani is remarkably flexible through all this, snug in her stroller most of the time, napping when she needs to, and we stop from time to time for Allie to feed her.

What a baby!
Back into the center of Paris on the Champs Elysee for the Christmas market (Les Villages de Noel) which cannot be adequately explained: lights, food, things to buy, lots of people. Amazing. We had a blast, including three of us on the trampolines! (Stan, Lani and I declined). We had vin chaud (hot mulled wine), sausages, crepes with nutella, waffles with cookie butter, hot chocolate, macaroons, and candy. Yes, we are celebrating!

This last picture is blurry due to bad lighting and my lack of skill, but I thought the government building lit like a flag typified the spirit of the French people  who seem undaunted and brave. Vive La France!

Paris on a whim

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Grandparenting / Traveling

The short story is that I got conscripted with a couple of weeks’ notice to escort two of my grandchildren (Emma, 13 and Daylen 9) to Paris where their parents are teaching in a study abroad program for a month.  The kids were spending the last week of November with them in Paris, but my daughter discovered at the last minute that they could not travel alone. Alas the duties of a Nana!

I have in recent years on suggestion by  son Jonathan been using Day One to travel journal. Thought I’d just include my journaling here in my blog.

We arrived in Paris without incident on Saturday morning, November 21 

though a bit of worry on my part about close connections in Toronto, baggage, etc. Got a lovely Uber driver right away for a mere 50 E right to Allie and Stan’s door.
After checking their place out, (6th floor walk-up)Stan and I walked down the street to meet Ben my airbnb host. Lift out of order here too (!), so more walking to the 4th floor. He is so nice, and I am very happy in my wee abode.
After much ado and putting together of clothing etc, we set out with the 3 kids, 1 in stroller, 2 jet lagged, and 1 jet lagged Nana to go to Sainte Chappelle. I got a bit accosted on the Metro, a man I sat near was apparently harrassing me for money, quite drunk. I told him politely I did not speak French and could not understand him, and this seemed to inflame his anger. A man nearby came to my rescue telling him to stop yelling! Then Allie pulled me into another seat.
The weather was close to freezing, raining hard, and windy. Perfect to knock out that jet lag! I soon had very wet feet, which I kept the rest of the day.:(
When three adults, two kids and a large raincoat covered stroller blew in the door of the tiny security office for Sainte Chappelle, cold and wet to the bone, the kind man took one look at us, and ushered me and the three children straight through with a smile..“ Not terroriste, not terroriste!” Haha, we loved it.
Ste Chappelle is worth as many visits as you can get in a lifetime. It never fails to awe completely. It was lost only on Daylen, who found an ancient bench and promptly went to sleep sitting up.
Afterward we headed to a nearby cafe for chocolat chaud and ended up with a croque monsieur and some escargots! We are surely in Paris.

What I learned in September

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I am reading a book by Emily P. Freeman called Simply Tuesday.  Emily has a blog,, that I also read and she has suggested it is a good thing to STOP every once in while and think about what you are learning.  Such a good idea, I am finally doing it.  I  like Emily and feel like she is a friend and a real person, maybe that’s what the “P” stands for.

So here’s the small and large things from September:

1.To release fear and self-pity. I learn this weekly, daily, hourly. But this month it struck me while singing, “Let go my soul and trust in him, the waves and wind still know his name.”  All the things I fear for and worry about are in his hands.  Simple as that.

2. It’s OK to be a detail person.  I am a noticer and sometimes feel that burden.  Carolyn Watts in Hearing the Heartbeat said,  “Our hearts are made to need details-that why God tells us so often to remember. ”

3.That I like salad with only olive oil, but preferably a really good one. There is a local oil from olives that grow near my house that is delicious and grassy. And I have to admit it pleases me that I drive by the olive trees regularly.  It is called Ascolano, by Lodi Olive Oil.

4.That I benefit from doing yoga more often.  I have been going 2-3 times a week in September rather than my usual 2-3 times a month, and it is therapeutic to my aging body. Sometimes I mentally resist and silently mock the persistent “yoga speak” of some of my instructors, but then it’s a good time to practice my forbearance, and sense of humor.  Namaste.

5. That sunsets are a gift.  They serve no useful purpose, and are pure beauty and grace, like the Giver.

The view from the top

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From high on this hill,  the town of Kigoma Tanzania looks idyllic and beautiful.  I can see the calm blue lake, shining in the sun, adorable little boats beginning to make their way out into the water for their nightly fishing expedition.  The abundant rain has caused everything to grow with glowing greenness, covering the hill below.  In fact, most of the buildings below my perch are covered, disguising the fact that many of them don’t have roofs since the owners ran out of money before they finished construction.

From here I can’t see the deeply rutted mud roads or the dirty children wandering around alone. The little shack-like dukas where small piles of fruit and sundries are sold to keep body and soul together are hidden.  The garbage, the beggars, the plaintive faces, none of them are visible from here.

What is still with me even on top of this hill is my sense of helplessness in the face of the knowledge of these massive needs of every kind.  The few little chips I have made in this mountain of desperation seem pointless.

The thought of leaving is compelling, just to be away from this oppressive weight.  The knowledge that there are thousands of places in the world like this, and millions of souls with longing begins to crush my soul too.

But I would rather find a way to live with this tension, seeing the realities, doing what I can, appreciating beauty when it is given, and putting all at the feet of Jesus so I am not paralyzed. What kind of a world would it be if we did nothing because we cannot do everything?

Religion that is pure and genuine in the sight of God the Father will show itself by such things as visiting orphans and widows in their distress …  James 1:27  JB Phillips translation

Lani’s birthday

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Today is the birthday of my tenth grandchild, my seventh granddaughter.  But we are waiting for the party to begin and have not met little Lani yet. She is already deeply loved here on Earth by doting parents, a brother and sister, grandparents on both sides and many other friends and family.

She has been woven in secret mystery inside her mother, my own eldest daughter, by a God who loves her deeply too. We are asking Him for a safe delivery, and that Lani would enjoy perfect health.

But we don’t know her yet.  We don’t know what she looks like in spite of 3D ultrasounds, and much conjecture on everyone’s part as to who she will take after.  We don’t know what her temperment will be either.  Last night we discussed all the varieties of persons in our growing family so far.  As a baby, will she need constant attention or be relatively mellow?  We all relived our past experiences with our babies, and enjoyed the planning and wondering.

Preparing the last few days we have washed and folded, cooked and canned, rested and massaged the weary mama. And today the object and purpose  of all this activity will make her much anticipated appearance.

And she will be unlike anyone we have ever known, because she will be herself.  Lani.