Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Grace Covers...Unfair Comparisons

Less than. Greater than.

Equal. Not equal.

When you're talking about math, comparisons are a must. As I walk my son through 4th grade Saxon math, comparisons are where we are. He already understands the concept, but as with all concepts, mastery improves with continued practice.

Photo credit to my daughter

All around me, different kinds of comparisons are raging. Judgments are flying. Comparisons based on color, ethnicity, religious belief, socioeconomic status, educational choice, politics, etc, etc., run rampant in our society.
It isn't really a compare & contrast situation like I learned in elementary school.
Not so much a "one of these things is not like the other," situation.
Not even "how are these things alike & how are they different?" It seems all we can see are differences & we don't often see them as good.

In the past, I remember discussion, disagreement, & debate being a good thing. Something to practice.
I can remember debating sides of an issue with friends over lunch in high school. We often disagreed. No one ever won, & no one ever lost. We remained friends even with different opinions on the same subject. 

Why is it in today's society, we constantly feel the need to compare? It's almost like we have to "one-up" everyone all the time.
"You think you had a bad day? Well let me tell you about mine!"
"You think you're busy? You won't believe my schedule!"

I think women, more so than men, tend to compare ourselves to other women.
"She has it all together."
"She & her husband look so happy together."
"Her kids are so well behaved! Why can't mine be like that?" 

Life has cautioned me a lot about comparisons lately. 

You see, I'd been feeling a little sorry for myself. 

In mid-June, at my annual physical, a sizable nodule was discovered on my thyroid. Additional blood tests were ordered to access my thyroid function, & I was referred for an ultrasound of my thyroid.
In early July, the ultrasound revealed I had not one, not two, not three, but at least 4 thyroid nodules spanning both lobes of my thyroid. As the endocrinologist explained later in July, my thyroid is enlarged to roughly twice the size it should be. A biopsy was ordered to rule out cancer & try to find out why my thyroid was so enlarged.
In the meantime, I repeated the thyroid bloodwork panel, twice.
All three panels showed all my thyroid numbers in normal range: T3, T4, TSH, TPO...all good; every time.

So I waited...a lot. It took 2+ weeks to get an appointment for the biopsy. Once I had it done (ouch!), it took 2 1/2 more weeks to get the results.
Patience is not my strength.

I made my husband go with me for the results. Thankfully, it was not cancer. In fact, I didn't even get the other possible diagnosis, Hashimoto's disease.
Because my thyroid appears to be functioning normally & my biopsy showed a clean pathology report, I can't actually get an official diagnosis. I can just say I have thyroid disease & I go back every 6 months for follow ups. 

All is not well, as I'm still experiencing cycles of extreme fatigue & lots of hair loss. I'm working on correcting these issues with natural supplements, real food, & dietary changes. Time will tell, I guess. Overall, I'm still feeling much better on all fronts - physical, emotional, spiritual - than I was 8-9 months ago. 


Unbeknownst to me, a dear friend had been going through a similar journey. During an MRI for a bulging disk in her neck, someone spotted a nodule on her thyroid. She went through an ultrasound, endocrinologist appointments, & a biopsy just like I did. On the same day I went for my biopsy results, August 21, she went for hers.

Because my results had gotten pushed back an extra 5 days (they weren't back from the lab on my original appointment day), I'd gotten worried that my results revealed cancer, or at least, were indeterminate (a whole other issue in itself).
My friend was pretty sure she was going to find out her results were benign. But she didn't. Instead, she got the shocking news that at 33 years old, she has thyroid cancer.
Her doctor gave her options, but together they arrived at the decision to remove her entire thyroid in September.
I haven't heard from her since then, but I'm praying there is no metastasis of the cancer and that the thyroidectomy is all that's needed for immediate treatment.

This situation taught me a lot.

First, don't lose touch with your girl friends. Not even for a few weeks or months. My friend had moved from an address 5 minutes away from mine, to an address 30+ minutes away. It sounds silly, but it definitely makes a difference not having her "right down the road."
Life goes on; life flies by.  We're both busy homeschooling Moms & the last time we actually talked or saw each other was in May. In just 2-3 short months, both our lives changed drastically and I had no idea until I got her text.
Because her surgery was coming quickly after her diagnosis, she apologized for the news by text, but sent it to me that way. That text prompted a phone call where we immediately caught up! I wish it hadn't taken such a big event for me to make that call. 

Secondly, you never know what someone is going through. You can't read the news on someone's forehead: 

  • I couldn't sleep last night because my marriage feels shaky.
  • I couldn't sleep last night because our debt is so high.
  • Not sure how we're going to pay the bills this month.
  • I just got devastating news from my doctor/my Mom's doctor/my husband's doctor, etc.

We forget so often that the person who just cut us off in traffic, is human too.  They might be having the worst day of their lives and instead of compassion being our first response, we only think of ourselves and how THEY just inconvenienced ME.

Lastly, don't OVER-estimate your own challenges.  I saw a quote one time that said if we all threw our worries and burdens in a pile, once we saw other people's challenges, we'd quickly grab our own back.  Because when it comes down to it, we don't ever know exactly what someone else is going through.  It's easy to be all "woe is me," until we see someone else is experiencing something far more difficult.  And what it boils down to is this: God can help us grow through life's challenges.  But the growth journey meant for me, isn't meant for my husband or my best girl friend.  My friend's journey, which might seem easier than mine, isn't meant for me. 

Yesterday, I had to remind my daughter (who's 13 now! How did that happen?), that comparing yourself to others doesn't make sense and it only serves to make you forget what you've accomplished.  She ran a Cross Country race with approximately 170 other middle school girls and could only see her NUMBER.  

Where she fell in line.  

How she compared to everyone else. 

She couldn't focus on her own pacing; the fact that it was crazy hot yesterday (almost 90 degrees); and the fact that the course was uphill for at least half the distance. 

She forgot that until June, she wasn't even a runner! She has come so far in a few short months, and is actually the fastest middle school girl on her team. 
She couldn't see any of that past the comparison she was making.
I'm learning about self-comparison too lately.  Sometimes comparing myself to myself isn't the best practice either. If I compare my current self to the person I was even 9 months ago, it's an unfair comparison, knowing what I know today.

I love the little lessons in grace that constantly come my way, and here recently, they've been very personal lessons.  Reminders to give myself grace and in turn bestow it on others.  I really hope I'm doing a good job of teaching that to my kids. Now that Sweetpea is a teenager, I'm noting the greater importance of setting realistic examples for her.  I so want to model grace for her as she grows!  Not grace (poise) the world recognizes on the outside, but the grace that comes from within.  The God-given grace we've been given and can hopefully then extend to others. 

Because GRACE is an amazing multiplier and we are all GREATER than the sum of our parts.  

Or our challenges.  
Or our flaws and shortcomings.  
Or our "issues."

"Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord."  2 Peter 1:2