Measuring Up

Lately I’ve given a lot of thought to the term “measure.”

It begins before birth.  In utero, doctors declare the estimated weight of baby, comparing its size to various fruits and veggies in the produce department.  This week baby is the size of a pear, next month a squash.

As soon as baby takes his first breaths, he is suctioned and swaddled and plopped on the table to be measured.  Proud grandparents announce his arrival with a name, weight, and length.  This is just the beginning of years of well-child checkups that acquire the same information, charting his growth by percentiles.

In school, he is measured by attendance and grades.  Behavior marks in elementary school are replaced with tallies of tardiness in high school.  College and scholarship applications request GPAs and ACT scores, the supposed best measurement of academic aptitude.

As teachers, we are instructed that all objectives must be measurable.  Little Johnny can’t just “understand” the concept; he has to show mastery in a specific way and a specific rate of time.  Surprisingly, students beg for measurements.  Assign an essay and it’s guaranteed that at least one student will ask “how many words does this have to be?”  They crave order and structure, needing to know how many minutes between classes and how many chicken nuggets they’ll receive in the lunch line.

We use measurements everyday.  We wear Fitbits to track our steps and our heart rate.  Recipes are determined by teaspoons, tablespoons and cups of ingredients.  Our GPS provides the miles remaining and our ETA.

The ultimate measurement is our time.  Imagine a world without clocks and alarms and deadlines. We each get 24 hours.  Every minute, every second counts.

After all, it’s likely our tombstone will provide the date we entered this world and the day we exited.  Solid measurements, though the most valuable is the dash in between those dates.

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about these days — my dash, my life.  Not the beginning or the end, but the messy in between.

As the new year approaches, it’s only natural to reflect on the past and to plan for the future.  I wonder how I can do this better.  Be a better wife, mom, friend, sister.  I measure myself against who I was this time last year, and I think at least I’m healthier.  But if I start to do what we all tend to do, measure myself against others, I become insecure.

We live in a society in which we are constantly bombarded with images of people who seem to have it all together.  Click on Instagram and you’ll see photos of happy individuals, working out and looking fit.  Facebook shows beautiful families, always smiling.  Pinterest makes us all wonder why in the heck we didn’t think of that idea or that craft.

Social media can be a dangerous if we allow it to be a standard of measurement in our lives.  We’d be comparing ourselves to perceptions. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul, long before the infiltration of Facebook, criticized those trying to prove their goodness by comparing themselves with others, reminding listeners that they should “measure themselves with themselves and compare themselves with themselves.”

Most importantly, Paul reminds us that we should be continually asking how does my life measure up to what God wants?

And this is where I’m struggling.

How can I know how I’m measuring up if I don’t know for sure what God wants from my life?

I once thought I had it all figured out.  I had the life I’d always planned –the husband, three children, the home, right down to the Golden Retriever.  I was a senior English teacher, doing what I loved to do.

Then everything changed.  God surprised and blessed me with my Izzi, but the stress of four children and my devotion to those children and my job was more than my now ex-husband could handle.  Since Izzi’s birth, I’ve survived divorce and the sale of our home, the one I designed and thought I’d live in until I died.

Eventually, I remarried, and we began renovating my husband’s 105-year-old ancestral home.  We had about three happy months of marriage before I became deathly ill.  It’s been over a year since I stepped foot in my classroom, and even if I was physically able to return tomorrow, so much has changed there, it would be like starting over.  My fifteen years of tenure are irrelevant.

Now I question the direction I am supposed to be going.  It’s messy and unclear.

“But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of God’s gift.” — Ephesians 4:7

I know each of us has God-given abilities.  Your special ability may seem small or large, but it is yours to use in God’s service.  Perhaps writing is my gift, to share His love through my story.  I’m not sure.  Am I changing lives with this blog?  Do I belong back in the classroom?  Do I stay home and focus solely on my family and health?

I really wish God would just send me a memo.

But, sadly, faith cannot be measured with a tangible piece of paper.

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So I offer Him my broken pieces and allow Him to create a life even more than I could ever have planned.  I want to be His masterpiece, for even though I do not comprehend, I know He loves me.

Yes, He loves me even though I have Lyme disease.

He loves me even though I am unable to work right now.

He loves me even though I am broken and imperfect.

One of my favorite Bible verses explains the measure of God’s love.

“…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” — Ephesians 3:17-19

Paul tells us that God’s love is complete, total.  It is wide, covering the breadth of our own experiences and reaching out to the whole world.  It is high, rising to the heights of our celebration and joy, but it is also deep, reaching to the depths of our discouragement, despair, and even death.  It is long, continuing the length of our lives and beyond.

How amazing is that?  There is no measurement for love, especially His love.  So while we are constantly trying to determine how we measure up, this is one aspect of life we can take comfort in.  We are loved beyond measure and without an expiration date.

This is what inspired me to create growth chart rulers as Christmas gifts this year.  I wanted to give the little ones in my life a gift that could become a family heirloom, a part of their history.  I love that it will be marked with their age, height and weight for many years to come.  Maybe it will even be passed on to their own children someday.

But most importantly, I love the message.

You are loved beyond measure.

Growth is a tricky thing.  Physical growth is easy to track.  Scratch your height on a growth chart.  Step on a scale.  In 2015, I gained 40 pounds, then lost over fifty.  I gave away my size 4s and 6s and bought larger sizes of clothing.  Recently, I boxed up those large and XL items to make room for a few new outfits in a size 2.  Physically, Lyme has reeked havoc on my body and my closet.

But the most important growth –our love, our morality, our spirituality –are tough to measure. It is telling that the most important parts of who we are are immeasurable.

I will continue to pray for direction, to grow in faith and service, and to share His love through my story.  As 2016 quickly approaches, I will set a few measurable goals, but with the knowledge that the most important things in life are beyond measure.

Thank God.

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Note:  Interested in purchasing one of my hand-painted growth chart rulers?  If you’re local, contact me at jena.whiston@gmail.com for pricing, delivery, and personalization options.  I also ship to anywhere in the U.S. via my Etsy shop at  ABrokenCrayon store.  I’ll happily create one of these beautiful pieces for a little one in your life!

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One thought on “Measuring Up

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  1. Such an interesting topic you have shared with us, I love reading your blog and it helps me to put things in perspective with my life.

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