Learning to Lose

My kids have started learning how to play Chess at the library. They’ve gotten pretty good at playing too. It’s almost hard to believe that 3 months ago they didn’t know how to play.

Their Chess teacher sent them home with a board and pieces about a month ago. My older three play so much, that my younger children (who do not go to Chess) probably know how to play better than I do.

It’s fun to watch them play. It’s neat to see them develop strategy and get better.

But my kids are learning something else during all these friendly Chess matches between siblings. They are learning how to lose. Learning to lose well is quite a challenge for my kids. But let’s be real-it’s a challenge for everyone.

No one like to lose. Especially not my kids. It’s all fun and enjoyable until someone gets emotional. They get mad that they can’t break a rule. They get mad that the other person moved a certain way. They get mad that they never get to be white (because white always goes first in Chess.) Suddenly the game that brought them to the table with smiles is now horrible.

It’s hard to explain to an emotional child that when two people are playing a game, someone will win. This means that someone else will lose. Since no one wants to lose, whoever doesn’t win will not exactly like that. But we can lose well.

We can acknowledge that the other person made some good moves. We can say good game. And it’s ok to not be happy that we lost. However, it is NOT ok to act out of emotion and say or do things that make others feel bad.

So yes, I- mom- want them to lose. I want them to practice losing. And I want them to grow. I feel it’s important teach our kids it’s ok to lose, to lose well, and still celebrate the winner. I want them to experience disappointments but know how to control those emotions. I want to help build character. But I especially do not want them to be bad sports.

No one likes to lose. Not games. Not sporting events. Not bets. Not arguments.

But losing is part of life. We must learn to lose.

Sometimes you have to lose to win.

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But have you ever thought about losing to yourself…losing to your flesh… Let me explain. We are constantly at war with ourselves. Our flesh tells us to sin. “Go ahead tell that juicy story. Look at that man/women and wish you could be with them. No body is looking, so just take it you wont get caught.” BUT our Spirit is right there saying, “NO STOP!! THIS IS SIN AND AGAINST GOD!! DON’T DO IT!!”

This battle is a daily one, and it is necessary for us to grow to be more like Jesus. We call it the process of sanctification. We have to die to ourselves. We have to lose to our flesh so that our Spirit (which is what bears the image of God) can continue to get stronger and grow.

When I was younger, I listened to who the world said I was.

I was not the smartest kid in my class… I was just an average student.

I was not the prettiest girl in my school… I was just average.

I was creative, but not the best at art… I was crafty.

I was friendly but not necessarily popular… I was a good friend.

I was good at sports… I was an athlete.

I let my interest, talents, and relationships define who I was.

When I came to know Christ, I had built up MY identity. I chose who I was, how people perceived me, what I did for a living, who I hung out with, and who I let influence my identity.

As I started to grow in relationship with Christ, I slowly lost all of that. I had to die to myself so I could become who He intended for me to be.

I remember it as clear as day, the desire to quit working and stay at home with my kids. But it was more than just that. I now desired to have a large family and homeschool.

Guys, trust me when I say, I never wanted to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of six. But I am so glad this was God’s plan!!! I could not imagine it any other way.

I had to submit. I had to lose. I had to let go of the image, identity, that I let define me.

But in losing I really lost nothing. I gained. I gained peace. I gained comfort. I gained understanding. I gained a better relationship with the people in my life. I gained a new purpose.  I no longer put effort into things God did not call me to, but most importantly I gained a relationship with my Heavenly Father. I now realize just how much higher His ways are than mine and how much better His plans are than mine.

Our human instinct, desire, and our flesh wants to hold onto the things this world tells us should define us. But please hear me when I say lose to yourself.

You may be a teacher… but your job does not define you… you are a child of God.

You may be good at art…  but you are not just an artist… you are a child of God.

You may be a great at sports… but your hobbies do not define your worth… you are a child of God.

Lose to yourself. Lose to the world. Do not let your hobbies, job, interest, and talents tell you who you are. You are a child of God!

Practice losing because…YOU ARE A CHILD OF GOD!!

 

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

John 12:24-25

Intentional

A few days ago, my husband called for me to come to the computer. He opened up a video from 2010 of our oldest as a baby. The adorable little baby (that looked strikingly similar to our current baby) rolled back and forth on a jungle floor mat happily playing by himself. Then he rolled over and our old puppy came in and gave him kisses. It was so adorable.

“Aww!!! That’s so cute! Do we have any videos like that of our other kids?” I asked.

My husband shook his head, “not one.”

I know, I know. It’s the joke that only baby #1 has a completed baby book, perfect month by month pictures, and the like. But baby #2 has an almost blank baby book, thrown together pictures, and so on… Sadly, it’s funny because it’s true. We have sooooo many baby pictures and footprint/handprint art from our first child. He also is the only one of my children to have six “Baby’s first Christmas” ornaments. We were so intentional about documenting and recording his life events.

Then we had more kids. And more kids. And now poor baby #6. When someone ask me how old he is, I’m like, “Well he was born on November 1. You can do the math.” When someone asked me how old my oldest was, I was like, “3 months, 2 days, and 16 hours.”

 

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Intentional.

I wonder if I treat my relationship with God like my first child or my 6th child. Somedays I think it’s more like my 2nd child. He has a baby book. He has a ton of pictures. But not as detailed as the first. Not as intentional as the first.

There’s a reason God wants to be first in our lives. He wants us to be intentional about our relationship with him. He wants us to want to document our lives with Him. He wants us to want to grow deeper in faith, obedience, and trust.

When I was a kid, I knew the 10 Commandments. I knew the commandment said, “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Great! I’ll just keep a list of my loves. As long as God is on top, I am ok, right? WRONG!!! When God said this, he did not mean like a check list. He meant, no other gods in my presence.

He wants to be around nothing else that consumes your heart. But in our human minds we can justify our choosing to have other gods.

Well, I’m a wife/mom, my role there is the most important… Be careful not to make your family or your role a god.

Well, I’m their parent, they have to honor me above all else… Be careful not to make yourself their god.

Well, doesn’t God want me to be happy? He will overlook this desire that is pulling me away from His light. First, this is not true. I cringe every time I hear a Christian tell me this. This is the world justifying your sin, not God’s desire for you. Don’t make your secret (or not so secret) sin your god.

Please hear me here- it’s a trap! No one and no thing should ever have more importance in your life than God! Your role as a wife, parent, friend, and (you fill in the blank here) is important. But our primary reason for existence is to bring glory to God! If you have a role that is taking away from God, you need to reevaluate your heart.

If you have been expecting your spouse or children to make you happy, you are in for a sad and rude awakening. They are not God. Nothing you do for them. Nothing they do for you will satisfy that longing in your heart. There is only one that can satisfy. And that is Jesus. Your spouse and your kids were never meant to take the place of Jesus. Remember first and foremost, He took their place. They are gifts from God to point you to Him.

If you are a Christian, you must be intentional about making God part of your daily life. Church should be the dessert to the rest of your week, not the main course. Many times, we do not take advantage of the fullness of the cross. Jesus died so we can have salvation, but also so that we can be in direct communication with God! Are we being intentional at taking full advantage of what we have been given through Christ? Or are we checking the box and giving God our wish list?  Prayer, mediation, devotional life, and fellowships are just a few things we can do to be intentional with our relationship with God and grow towards Him.

If you are a Christian but your walk is not as strong as you would like it to be, you are not alone! Walking with Christ is an absolute blessing, but its not easy. It takes time. It takes practice. You will mess up. He will take you right back. Surround yourself with people and things that point to him. Spend time in prayer. Look for the blessings around you. Be intentional about making God part of every aspect of your life.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”

1 John 1:7

Guarded

While at the library Thursday, my daughter checked out a bunch of books. Since she forgot her library bag, the librarian gave her a plastic grocery bag to carry her books. As she was walking out of the library, the bag ripped, and her books fell all over the ground. She scrambled to pick them up, but since they were all different shapes and scattered, it was no easy task. Her brother went over to help her, but she quickly covered her books and said, “These are my books.”

“I know,” he said. “Would you like me to help you and carry some out to the car for you?”

Immediately her expression changed from anger to relief.

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Oh, what a perfect image of how I must be when people are trying to help me. I’m so overwhelmed by the problem at hand, that an act of help has me responding poorly.

For whatever reason I’m guarded. I’m prideful. I don’t even realize they’re trying to help.

My poor, poor husband. As I am typing this, I can recall so many instances where he offers me help, but I hover over my scattered books and say, “Leave me alone. I’ve got this.”

In my defense, no one likes being told your wrong. Even if that’s not exactly what is said, that’s how I internalize it.

Internalizing messages has been a major heart ache in my life. I learned from a young age to “read people,” but not based on their words. More like their emotions, facial expressions, and body language. Sadly, I thought there were two conversations being had. The one that was being spoken and the one that was meant.

It took me a long time to realize, most people say what they mean and mean what they say. You don’t have to read between the lines. But I still do it.

I still try to find the hidden message in what’s being said. And it causes my heart so much agony.

I suddenly think people don’t like me, when they barely engaged in conversation with me.  Now I am wondering what I did wrong, when maybe they just had a bad day, a headache, a problem, or lacked the time to actually talk to me.

When I’m running late, I start the negative talk wondering why I can’t ever be on time. When I say something dumb, I feel dumb. When someone makes a joke and it takes me a minute to get it, I feel stupid. If I make a Pinterest dinner flop, I think I’m a horrible cook. When I fail, I tell myself I am a failure.

It has taken me some time to realize that I internalize things because I place other people’s opinions higher than my own. I place other people’s opinions higher than God’s.

I need to see myself as God sees me. “Perfectly and wonderfully made.” I need to recognize the good work that He has started in me and know that He is faithful to carry it out to completion.

Yes, we are going to mess up, but we are not a mess. Yes, we will fail, that doesn’t mean we are failures.

We are daughters and sons of the God! Our creator! Our Lord. He cares for us. He knows us by name. He has a plan for our lives! Once we can wrap our heads around all that, we can begin to see ourselves as image bearers of God. After all that is the way God sees us. The good news is that we do not have to see ourselves that way before we can begin a relationship with Him through His son Jesus Christ.

Let me take a bit of burden off of you for a moment and tell you something that maybe you haven’t heard before. Your worth and your identity is not in your marital status, family achievements, occupation, accomplishments, or any other worldly things. Your worth is in Christ! You were bought with a price. Christ paid that ransom. God loves you so much and he knows what you are worth and that is exactly why He was willing to die for you personally. As you go on with your life, I want to encourage you to remember that Jesus died once and for all. There is no need to stick Him back on the cross to die a second time. Once was enough.

Let down your guard. Accept help from those offering it. And look up. Thank God for what He has done in your life. Walk in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Embrace your identity in Christ!

“The Father has loved us so much that we are called children of God. And we really are his children. The reason the people in the world do not know us is that they have not known him.”  1 John 3:1