Every year at Halloween visions of cohesive, family-themed costumes dance through my head.

In our most shining moment (Halloween 2007, if you’d like to know), Michael became the tin man in a costume fashioned with dryer ducts and a funnel hat covered in tin foil. Sici dressed as a positively darling Dorothy in small ruby slippers with gingham hair bows to match her replica dress. J-Bug was our cowardly lion, mane tickling round toddler cheeks. And I played the scarecrow, clumps of raffia fanning from every overalls pocket.

We rocked it that year.

I wanted another “Wizard of Oz.” So we started the conversation early. OK, this summer. It just seems our dressing up as a family days are nearing their end too quickly, so we’ve got to make each year count. You know what I’m saying?

Our conversation plays out something like this:

“How about jungle animals?!”

“Oh yeah, we could use the lion costume again!”

“Or we could be the characters from ‘Little House on the Prairie!’ ”

“I want to be Laura!” all three girls shout in unison.

“How about things on the road? One of us could be a stop sign, one of us could be a yield, some of us could be cars…”

“Or pedestrians!”

“I don’t want to be a pedestrian! That’s scary!” a little voice shouts.

“I really want to be a stop sign!”

“I really want to be a fairy!”

“I want to be a fairy stop sign!” the littlest voice shouts.

“Alright girls, really creative ideas. Let’s come back to this in a few weeks,” I say.

At this point, mama wheels set to spinning, thinking there might still be a way to pull off thematic perfection.

October came, and the conversation resumed again. I hoped they’d forgotten our earlier costume talk:

“Oh girls, we could be circus performers! Or how about trees and woodland creatures? Or school supplies? Or…? Any ideas?”

Faces shining, they call out,

“I want to be a stop sign!”

“I want to be a fairy! A cowgirl fairy!”

“I’ll be a fairy police man!” littlest one declares.

Inwardly, I hang my head in defeat. It was finally clear that this was the costumed hand we were being dealt.

Not so different from life, really. Reality not matching up with my vision.

In real life, I find my thoughts drifting to other people and the lives they appear to have sewed up and coordinated in all the ways I don’t, and won’t. The gifts they’ve been given — to speak before people with eloquence, sing like a golden river, coordinate efforts I only dream of — make me feel small. I hang my head.

And while my head hangs low, I talk to myself. Inner monologues over the years have gone something like this:

“How does she find time to make her kids’ clothes and grow their family’s vegetables?”

“I would love to be able to host a party like they do.”

“How nice to be that effortlessly beautiful.”

“I’d love to have my masters degree.”

“Their kids always seem so polite.”

“They’re so romantic with each other.”

“If I could only write like that.”

“She seems so comfortable in her own skin. Things just don’t seem to affect her like they do me.”

“They are doing such meaningful work for the Kingdom.”

These one-sided conversations leave me brooding, foul-tempered, stuck right where I am, focusing on my own less-than status. Feeling inadequate. Searching for a way to become more like that person I am elevating.

Only when I lay down my dreams of perfection and the lie that the best is far away from me can I breathe the goodness of what is. 

I, like each of you, am a reflection of our Creator in a way distinct to me, revealing a facet of Him that only I can.

Each of us a mix of unique gifts lovingly deposited inside us by the true Gift Giver.

I must remind myself: we are all created to glorify our Maker in the unique stew of these gifts’ expression, our passions, our vision, with the desire for His Kingdom come. And when we do — what joy.

So Monday night, oldest daughter wears a hand-crafted stop sign over her head, adorable 9-year-old face peeking through the letter “O.” Two younger daughters twirl their own takes on fairy — one in a pink cowgirl hat, the other in a purple wreath of flowers.

Michael and I dress as fairy crossing guards, of course. He wears a reflective yellow jacket, a rainbow wig and a hardhat covered with fairy stickers. I wear a lavender tutu and bright pink jewelry. We both carry “Fairy Crossing” signs covered in glitter and written in swirly cursive.

The hand we were dealt, as it turns out, made me smile big, filled with its own blessed mix of glitter and cardboard corners, red paint and reflective tape, toulle and petals.

Looking back, I couldn’t have loved how it turned out any more.

Creativity let loose without usual dividing lines between street signs and the realm of sprites.

A completely unique expression of little lights put inside shining with freedom.

I’d love to hear from you if you want to share: How have you struggled to embrace your own uniqueness and the places you don’t fall within usual categories? How has comparison to others kept you from enjoying the gifts God has chosen to give you? 

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