a new standard of measurement

by | Dec 11, 2018 | Popular, Running a Business | 217 comments

It’s that time of year where we get our planners out and start to fill the pages with the goals and dreams and to-dos for next year.  And, as I’ve been pondering my own 2019 and all of the promise it holds, I’ve been thinking about the push for more that is so prevalent in our society and more specifically in the online creative community.

There is this trend, this idea that is being perpetuated in this world of “girl bosses” –  that you have to have big dreams and you were not “made to be small” or live a small life.

And, I have to admit that it all sounds good.

But, there is something that doesn’t sit quite right with me…

Who defines small? 

Small is relative.  A mouse is small compared to an elephant, but it’s enormous compared to a flea.  Something can really only be defined as big or small if it’s stacked against something else in comparison.

So, your life is small compared to who?  Compared to what? 

Is homeschooling your children a small life?  Is working a low paying, but fulfilling job a small life?  Is sacrificing your dreams to care for or support someone you love a small life?

Does a big life have to be lived in front of a big audience?  Does a big life have to involve travel and wealth and some amount of fame?  Does a big life have to be all about you and your wants?

I’m afraid what is being communicated in this message is that the stay-at-home mom is small until she becomes a diamond-level sales rep in the MLM brand of her choice.  The woman painting furniture and selling it out of a booth at an antique mall is small until she launches an online store and starts her own traveling antique market.  The blogger is small until she has 100,000 followers on Instagram and a book deal.

Does anyone else feel like this is the message that’s being sold and certainly bought?  And we’re all buying it.  I find myself buying it!  The push for more is never-ending.

Allow me to shift gears for a second…

Did you know that the measured size of an object changes depending on the unit of measurement you’re using?

It sounds crazy, but it’s true.  For example, if you measure the perimeter of a lake in miles, you’ll come up with one measurement.  If you measure it again in yards, the perimeter measurement will be larger, because that smaller unit of measurement won’t be skipping over all of the small inlets and other variations along the banks.  Then, imagine measuring it in inches or millimeters or a measurement that is even too small for the naked human eye to appreciate and the results are even larger.

This is called fractal dimension (and I can’t even believe I’m nerdy enough to mention it in a blog post, but it is relevant!)  The finer the measurement, the larger the item becomes.  It doesn’t actually grow, but you have a better, more accurate measurement of it.

I would propose that the same thing is true of our lives.

When you assess the life of a typical stay-at-home mom with the measuring stick of accomplishment and earning potential alone, that might seem like a small life.  But change the unit of measurement to intimately influencing and impacting the life of another and you start to see how large of a life that actually is.

I’m not trying to pick on people who are selling the “dream big” message.  I believe in dreaming big and I think there is a lot of value and encouragement in much of what they are saying.  But, I also think there is a danger that comes with this idea that one person’s life is big and another’s is small, especially because it’s typically based on professional accolades, acquired wealth and material possessions, social media following, moving in the right circles, and even physical appearance.

And the challenging thing in today’s world is that we can readily compare the “size of our lives” to millions of people just by the flick of our thumb through Instagram.  She has more followers, she’s traveling more, she’s creating more, she’s skinner, she dresses better, she’s funnier, she’s a better mom, she has it all together, she’s living my dream..

Suddenly, our life, that never looked small before, looks small.  It feels small.  We are the mouse trying to make our way through what feels like an entire world of elephants.  And we have to go buy a book or attend a conference to learn how to live a bigger life.

But big is never big enough because there is always someone or something bigger.

And that is a tail you can chase, but never catch.

Instead of trying to change our size, I believe we simply need to change our standard of measurement.


  1. Kim-Pacific Northwest

    Amen to this message. Frankly, I have decided to really narrow the people I follow on any social media platform and the first to go are the ones that constantly have to buy and re-do everything to have the latest, greatest in design decor of the moment.
    I live in reality and enjoy it very much and have no need to constantly compare my life to others. It is my very personal opinion that only those with a huge dose of restraint should venture into the social media world.
    What if we all spent more time helping others and less time comparing lives on social media???

    • Marian Parsons

      Very well said.

  2. Colleen A Tumulty

    Wow you can tell by so many comments this has been what so many of us feel. I have been doing day care for my grandson for a year now and it has been tough thinking of all I am missing but actually I am better off by far .I am not addicted to my phone or shopping anymore and I have lost 30 pd and in better shape because the physical aspect of caring for him and I am so attached to him and my time with him is precious so I am really better off. So I thank God for the blessing to be able to do it.

    • Marian Parsons

      Well, that sounds like valuable time well spent! 🙂

  3. Lisa M Ackley

    Thank You girl! I love living simply, but sometimes think I should be fitting in the facebook community or trying to ” make something “of my life. Truth is, this size fits me just right!

    • Marian Parsons

      Awesome! So glad this post was an encouragement for you.

  4. Heather Gaume

    Yes, Yes, and Yes! Thanks for voicing this.

  5. Caroline

    Absolutely marvelous and wise post, Marian. You continue to inspire in so many ways.

  6. Ellen Shook

    You are a smart cookie! Great post.

  7. Kim P.

    Amen and Bravo !
    Well said.

  8. holly

    Two weekends ago, I dropped my phone in a gallon of Shiplap paint, while painting my kitchen cabinets. I wondered if I would miss my phone, for many reasons. I truly did not! I enjoy a few Instagram accounts that inspire me, but the rest is just distracting and unnecessary. Thank you for your inspiration and tutorials, your knowledge has enriched my life.

    • Marian Parsons

      Okay, so funny that you dropped your phone in paint (but not really.) What a great lesson, though! Sometimes that forced time off is what we need to regain some perspective. (Hopefully, it was under a protection plan!) 🙂

  9. Maria

    So well said and appreciated – thank you!

  10. Annette

    So well written❤️ So true☀️
    Wish you a Merry Christmas🌲

    • Marian Parsons

      Merry Christmas to you, too!

  11. Lyssa

    What a great post! And so great for this time of year!! It’s so easy compare our holiday wardrobe/decorating,/gift buying/cookie making etc, etc, etc. to what we see on television and social media. We are bound to feel like we aren’t measuring up and we miss the true meaning of Christmas. What if we measure all of our lives with the only measurement that matters…..JESUS?!

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, so true.

  12. Lolly

    Oh yes! I think being mid 40’s….so much of my early adult life was NOT dealing with social media, that I don’t feel the comparison game as heavy as some of my younger friends? Idk. But early motherhood was so hard….I had been heavily involved in ministry for the years before, and God told me to stop. Everything. Just stop. I felt so small. And where we had previously lived in military communities in Europe and ALL the wives stayed at home….I was now a teeny tiny minority….and didn’t even have other friends for so long….cause everyone had jobs. I felt so insignificant. And the Christian books were so compelling to do all the things and find the big things, or be radical, or whatever….and my days were spent in our four walls with two babies and a dog and my husband…. I felt so alone. So un-radical. So insignificant. Yet my life felt so very big and overwhelming.

    It’s kinda funny now. My kids are 12 & 14, and JUST NOW we are able to go and do. We joined a new church that launched 3 months ago, and I told dh that this is the first time since before kids that we have been sooooo busy (and happy!) with a church. Sun, Mon, Wed, Fri….and often in between those days, lol! And funny, too, that while I just lived my days, went to church on sundays, had our teenies next to us in church, or just me and dh in sunday school….I’ve had people since who commented on how they liked how we did x or y, or enjoyed seeing how we did life with our kids, or saw how my dh and I interacted together….or whatever…. They saw small things that encouraged them and showed them a thing or two about marriage or about raising their kids or encouraged them to homeschool or whatever. Nothing we were trying to do….I mean, we were just trying to keep a 3 & 5 yr old kinda quiet in church, lol!

    When ours were little, we NEEDED to keep our focus more narrow….to teach and guide and train our kids to adore God and to follow hard after Him! And really, THEY have been more of a testament to what God has been doing in these quieter years. And now….we get to do bigger and be bigger….and so do our kids! It’s just so amazing.

    • Marian Parsons

      Very well said! We can be different sizes in different seasons of life and that’s okay.

  13. Nancy

    I felt that message started in the 70’s. I was a stay-at-home mom when woman were trying to “liberate” themselves. I felt it a privilege. As a pianist I was able to teach from home and have some outside accompanying jobs, as well as be a church pianist. I have no regrets.

  14. Kristyn

    Oh wow. This brought tears to my eyes! Yes I’ve been feeling this! I’m they stay home homeschool mom of six, living on a tight budget, but wanting the beautiful, farm style /antiques, “magazine perfect” home. That is impossible with six kids home all day! I feel like my love of the homeschool life, (it can get messy😉) and my love of home decor life, often clash. I’ve been trying to do the “girl boss” thing with my favorite brand MLM but life just got so crazy the past year, caring for my father who recently passed away from cancer. So I couldn’t keep up with everything and the stay home MLM job had to go. I’ve been feeling like a failure that I didn’t persevere through all the months of trial and somehow make the dreams come true with that job. Blaming myself that we can’t get financially ahead. Feeling like my life is small. So you nailed it and it warms my heart that you get it! I’ve followed your blog for years and have done my whole home diy following your tutorials. I can only say thank you for not only inspiring me to make my home as pretty and homey as I can, on a tight budget, but also for the truth and encouragement you’ve shared today with this post. Thank you! And Merry Christmas!

    • Marian Parsons

      Well, your comment brought tears to my eyes. Homeschooling SIX KIDS?! That’s a huge life!! Yes, you definitely need to get in and measure that carefully if you feel like it’s small. 🙂

    • Jenni

      I am a stay-at-home homeschooler of 4 kids and this is exactly how I feel too. We are on a very tight budget with trying to pay off law school loans, and there are so many times where I feel like what I am doing is considered weird or wrong, that I am missing out on a better life that I would have if I worked outside of the home. But the public schools are just not that good here, and we can’t afford private, so homeschooling is what I need to do right now. I too love beauty, and with 3 boys and a little 4 year-old daughter, even many of my DIY projects have suffered “real-life” marks, like me spending hours to recover an old sofa with drop-cloth only to find the very next day that one child had decided to practice his rotary-cutter skills along the top, or building a table only to find another child practicing his whittling skills with my vegetable peeler. I feel bad sometimes because doing too much overwhelms me – I need a quiet life, and it’s hard enough to find it when I have 4 kids at home all day, but I do appreciate your blog post.

  15. Debra

    Such a timely post! Being a “woman of a certain age” this theme smacks greatly of the 70’s- You can have it all message.
    You can, it’s true. Yet realistically not all at the same time! In the 70’s if you stayed at home to raise your children, you were made to feel less than. I mean come on! You can have it all!! And you choose to JUST stay home with children.
    I thought those days were over. I appreciate your thoughts on measurements.
    We are enough. Right now. Whatever we are choosing to do.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, I actually thought of that when I wrote this. There is a book/play called Working that was written in the 70’s and it features a song and monologue called “Just a Housewife”. In that song, she says, “Nowadays all the magazines make a bunch of beans out of family life. You’re a whiz if you go to work, but you’re just a jerk if you say you won’t. Women’s lib says they think it’s fine if the choice is mine, but you know they don’t. What I do, what I choose to do maybe dumb to you, but it’s not to me.”

      Anyway, I know this isn’t new, but it’s really in our faces now.

      • Stacy Smith

        I have begun to think that raising your own children and being present for them – whether that is Mom or Dad at home – is a form of activism.

        • Marian Parsons


  16. PK

    Wow this hit home today! Thank you! My life is the perfect size for me!

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, it is. 🙂

  17. Shirley Dykema

    Amen & amen! What ever happened to “learning to be content in whatever state I’m in”?(Apostle Paul) Thank you Marian for being brave enough to say this amidst all your blogger peers.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, so tough. Contentment is something I really need to fight for and, honestly, I surrender to that fight or ignore it altogether far too often. I’ve been really focusing on that lately, though.

  18. Charlotte

    As a retired 73-year-old grandmother thank you so much for your post. You have made my dark day much brighter by reading your wonderful words of wisdom.

    • Marian Parsons

      Oh, I’m so glad!

  19. Kim P.

    Also can I ask that you provide sources for you planner and the calendar and notebooks at the beginning and end of this post. They are so pretty ! Thank you

    • Marian Parsons

      Sure! The planner is the Day Designer from Target and it comes in a few different colors. I like that it has a month and week format, but it’s not huge. It also has a top three to-dos for each day, which fits with my “big three” approach to my work days. The calendar is from Rifle Paper Co.

  20. Julie Bennett

    Comparison is, indeed, the thief of joy. Your only competition is with yourself – to grow & be better than you were the day before. Period.

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, exactly! The kind of comparison that is healthy is when you’re comparing yourself to yourself. That is what can help you grow in the ways that matter.

  21. Mary

    Amen amen amen!

  22. Janet Griffith

    Thank you for this!

  23. Cecily

    Thank you for saying what so desperately needed to be said. I am enough, you are enough, and we are enough!

    • Marian Parsons

      Yes, we certainly are!

  24. Sheila

    Well said! A message we all need to hear! A great post!

  25. Michelle

    Yes, and Yes to this!!! My heart resonates with the truth & beauty in the thoughts you’ve expressed ♥️ Well said!

  26. Shelly

    Would love to see you do an online ministry for women! So many of us look up to you and respect you. You have a wonderful outlook, and obviously a lot of us have praised you for this post. Maybe a daily encouragement posting?Just a thought. ☺
    Merry Christmas!

  27. Denise

    ‘Small” can be quite mighty. I gave up a high paying job in Nursing and moved into Hospice Nursing. It has been the most fulfilling accomplishment of my 25 year career. There are positions that pay much better money, but never have I felt so pleased to wake up and embrace the morning, or receive the 2 am calls (after working 15 hours) to assist those on their end of life journies. The handwritten cards I receive from families and the hugs during their Celebrations of Life, have touched my heart and soul in unimaginable ways. While the work can be exhausting, what I receive in return makes it worth everything to me.

  28. Jan

    If I drive 50 minutes east I come to the devastation of Hurricane Michael. It is a horrific situation still today but you don’t hear about it on the news anymore. Hundreds and hundreds of homeless people who have nothing. They are living in tents in this cold wet weather. Surrounding community churches are the ones who are coming to their aide. No FEMA help. No where to go. It is so sad. If I don’t have a dime in my bank account I have so much more than they do. It really makes you take a long hard look at your life especially knowing that just a little bit more to the west and it could have been me and my town. My life is HUGE and small and I am so thankful for all I have. Praying for Hurricane Michael victims.

  29. Valeri Johnson

    I love your blog because it’s real. You’re a wise woman.

  30. Karen

    I enjoy scrolling through Instagram for inspiration, yet lately I have become increasingly aware of the tremendous push to accumulate things, as though spending and buying and constantly changing decor is the only way to be truely happy or content. I see posts being sponsored and therefore unrealistic in terms of an average gal possesing the ability to do the same. I’m becoming disenchanted and beginning to check myself in terms of being tempted to buy the latest item featured and not falling for the materialistic mindset. I realize this isn’t exactly what you’re writing about, but is in a sense the same, feeling inadequate or below the standard set forth on social media.

  31. ashlea

    Marian- posts like these ( and all of them really) is why you have always been my favorite blogger. You speak from the heart- and to the heart of so many. Oh man, your response to the homeschool mom ( I am one too!) had me crying. And she had me crying- life can be challenging, and so many of us carry such a weight- you have influenced many- and even if it was just one to love her home a little more, to follow your tutorials- that is a big life. I read your post to my husband. He is working on a documentary project all about
    “dreams” from the dreams we think we have, to the dreams God leads us too, so this pressure that seems to be coming up all around us is something we talk about often… I think that we have to continually be reminded to align our hearts to that of Christ- he will direct these dreams of ours- so that they don’t just become selfish pursuits that don’t ultimately serve or satisfy. Thank you for sharing your creativity, and journey as you pursue your dreams.

  32. Kriss

    I so love this. It’s much too easy to compare ourselves and social media makes it even harder. I will never regret my years as a stay at home mom. We waited 17 years for our daughter and I wasn’t willing to give up one minute with her. We had little money, my car was older and we were happy to get hand me down clothes for her from friends. But I’ve never felt richer or more blessed than I did then. She’s 16 now and we often talk about those days and how much fun we had. I’m teaching again now and very blessed to have a good job. But I’d never trade the simple life we had then, it was heavenly.

  33. Shelia

    All I can say is “Amen Sister!!!” I couldn’t have said it any better myself! I’ll be so glad to see the day when women start building eac other up instead of trying to tear each other down. It’s just so sad to see. It breaks my heart. And being a stay at home mom is the toughest job any woman or man for that matter, will do. Thank you for that post Marian!

  34. Nicola

    Wonderful, timely and inspiring post. Thank you Marian, and for all the inspiration you’ve given us this year. Have a wonderful Christmas xx

  35. Alexis

    This is a lovely post and it makes me realize, yet again, why yours is the only blog I regularly read – actually, it’s the ONLY blog I read. It has always been so clear that you have a life that is more than paint or slipcovers. You have family that is dear to you and your measure there is immense.

    I played the role of the housewife in ‘Working’ many years ago and I played her as fierce and passionate. She gave me an inkling into another kind of life, one I never would have thought was as important as mine. I had the larger-than-life life. I traveled the world, worked with huge movie stars, was always the first invited to the party. Then I got sick – really sick. I had to stop it all. I was too stubborn to have done it for myself, so it was taken away from me.

    My measuring stick today is one that tells me how far I’ve come in all the small ways that add up to real health – physical, mental, and spiritual health. It tells me how much I have brought to others who are experiencing similar hardships. It’s been a long journey but I found out I was a writer, that there are people who love me deeply, and that it just has to be okay that I can’t get my tooth fixed or move to France. I feel more a part of the world and I have a compassion for the sick and the poor that I hadn’t before I experienced those struggles. Thank you so much for this post, for including us in your journey – both the struggles and the joys.

    I wish you a blessed Christmas and a glorious New Year,

  36. Cynthia

    Marian, your post is one of the best Christmas gifts I have ever received. So timely and so powerful. Thank you for sharing your wisdom, your talents and your open heart with us. Merry Christmas!

  37. Karen

    Very well said, Marian – and just what I needed to hear today. Thank you….and someone please pass the tissues…

  38. Eileen

    Your level of wisdom and insight goes way beyond your young years….and, yes, you are young. Thank you for probably one of the most thoughtful posts you have ever written….truly an inspiration for all ages.

  39. Edee

    Marian, I love what you wrote, and because of a recent move I realized how much “things” are a burden! Just trying to slow down and enjoy each and every day is and be more thankful. Happy Holidays 🙂

  40. meg

    Have followed you for years – never commented! Thank you for this post – what a superb reminder. I have many littles right now and I’m lucky if the kitchen gets swept let alone decorated or repainted…! I love seeing all the beauty you bring to your world but thank you for this timely reminder! Well said!!!!!

  41. Karen Bunch

    This is beautiful and so timely for me, thank you! I’m retiring from a job that I’ve enjoyed to give my husband more of my time as we are retirement age and he has recently had some health issues. It’s easy to get caught up on the highway of bigger better thanks to the internet. But what matters at the end of the day for many of us, is the quality of life, without comparison to someone else (often people you admire).
    Enjoy this beautiful season with your family and friends.

  42. Cindy

    Most of our good friends travel all over the world. We do not, as we prefer to be home or around home most of the time. Trouble is our friends don’t think our lives are enriched or happy enough without travel. They remind us frequently that travel will make our lives complete!

    It’s a little tough to stand our ground in the face of our friends not thinking our lives are complete. We begin to think…..are we missing something?

    Thank you for this article, it reaffirms that we will be just fine not keeping up with the Jones’.

  43. Barb B

    Thanks Marian ! For an extremely timely and insightful post. I have never replied as well but I was inspired immediately to reply because I agree with you wholeheartedly and wanted to thank you for writing this. Especially this tioof year when “more and more stuff” is the theme and pushed on us from every direction. In wanting to celebrate Christmas and shower those we love and are thankful for we have pushed aside our Thanksgiving Holiday (where we are grateful for all we have) and we have becgun accumulating and purchasing more and more in leu of being grateful. So by the time Christmas has come around we are exhausted and overwhelmed as a society. I havebeen reading through the replies as well and I see I am not the only one who knows you were right on target with your post.
    I attended a neighborhood function last night a few people want their fame as defined by their occupation to be superior to others who don’t have a “title” for all they do, they think they set the measurement of others. Who’s to say that the people old and young who are touched each by this person with no title are less valuable than the Corporate accounts on which someone else has spent their day working. When all we are truly asked to do, is be honest in using our God given talents and abilities for the good and betterment of others in our world, no matter how small that circle is. We all must remember we aren’t walking in others people’s shoes so we can not pretend to see what they see and do. But we must live our life to be our best selves, and be honest to ourselves and God. We all have responsibilities and we must not compare them for they are ours alone and we are meant to support each other not to waste precious time competing. Thank You Marian for this amazing and honest reflection.

  44. Sondra Foust

    Thank you so much for this timely post. I recently (this past June) decided to close my business. I had worked hard and sacrificed so much in the past 6 1/2 years to build my business. I loved what I did and got much joy from it, (re-purposing furniture and buying and selling home decor). I expanded my business from my home to a store front and doubled my size twice during that time. However, what I once loved doing, soon became “work”. I (if I’m going to be honest with myself here) got caught up in the whole bigger is better idea. Everything in my life from my husband, family, friends, church, etc. got put on the back burner to my “job”. After finally realizing that I couldn’t keep going at the pace I was and the stress level, I made the decision to close. I knew that I had to take a step back and get my priorities straight again. However, it has also left me with the feeling at times that I “gave up” or that I didn’t succeed. Your words helped me see the bigger picture here. I did succeed. I did what I always dreamed of doing! So why believe the lies that others put out there. I’ve even dealt with some depression as to “now what? and who am I now”. But guess what? I’m the same person I was before. My season in life has changed but I’m still that creative person. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. It’s time for a new chapter. I’m in control now and not my past “job”. Everyone of us have different seasons in life and we should embrace them and celebrate them. I’ve been the stay at home mom, I’ve worked for other people, and I’ve owned my own business. Now it’s time to be OK with who I am now. Thank you so much for your words……

  45. KJ

    I especially loved reading your message this morning. As an older gal, I have experienced all of what you refer to at one time or another, at different times and levels. Looking back over careers highs and lows, the ups and downs of raising children, building a home and home life, it is all the tapestry of my life. Your message is so important to the young women of today and those in the “middle” of life. We all have a built in “thing” where we measure ourselves against others as we go. We need to be reminded to be kind to ourselves as well as others. I was and am my own worst critic. Encouragement for our Sisters, is the best and you provided some of that today. We forget to just be in the moment sometimes. Have no self imposed deadlines, no schedules, no judgement….just play and have fun or relax with those we love. When we look back on the times of our lives, those memories will be the BEST ones……I promise.

  46. Cheryl

    Tears. 😭 Yes! Thank you. I’ve pulled way back on my blog the last 9 months to be more “present” with my family and my life in general. In the end it’s about being faithful with what we’re given. Many blessings on you, Marian. (Yours is still my favorite blog. ) I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.

  47. Wendy

    I also say Amen to this message. This is great.

  48. p

    Oh boy! Yes, you are wise and smart…I learned about fractals just now!

    Some of these pull on your heartstrings, too, to have you purchase the DAILY released new thing which is always the most comfortable thing they’ve ever worn and it has become their “uniform” because they wear it so much Haha 😀 The next day as they lament a sad thing in their life and get you to connect, darn if there isn’t a new sweater and some throw pillows restocked 😀 And don’t get me started on presets!!! I’m not digging the apricot tinted shade of so many feeds… I miss the true colors of things.
    I wonder if Jesus has a diamond level…

  49. Cheryl

    Well said!! Thank you.

  50. Krista

    Thank you, Marian, for this post! Your message really spoke to me…and obviously, many others as well. I’m in my late 50’s, work from home handling all the office work for my husband’s construction business. I would love to be able to pursue my own interests and arts and crafts on a small business level, but one business to run is enough, and I love what I do. I do feel that social media of all types puts so much pressure on women nowadays to be perfect and have everything “Pinterest-worthy”. I used to read quite a few blogs, but I’m down to just a couple because it was very time-consuming, and I started to feel inadequate about myself. The blogs all started to look the same, and every blogger appears to have the perfect life…they were the perfect Christian, with a perfect husband, perfect home-schooled children, gorgeous home and yard, successful business, book deals, products, and all the women were stunningly beautiful. I realized it was not healthy for me to be following all these bloggers, so I cut way back. I’m happy with my little life in my little town…it’s a far from a perfect life, but ‘less’ have definitely become ‘more’ for me.

  51. shena caston

    You have summed up a lot here Marian. Thank you. I too immediately thought of Roosevelt’s statement ‘comparison is the thief of joy’ and will add my own mantra: the future is local not global. In the 80s I read ‘Having It All’ but was not convinced. Now as a proper grown-up I value the simple things more and more.

  52. Sarah

    Amen!!!!! I could say so much, but pretty sure everyone has already said it better than me. Just want to add my support!

  53. Addie

    On the subject of social media comparison : Let’s try to remember, the pregnant mom of two girls, Shan’ann Watts.
    She posted many glowing pictures of a a perfect husband and perfect family life. All wearing the right clothes, living in the right neighborhood, driving the right car and declaring in writing, “He is the Best Daddy and husband”….all said with smiles and matching t-shirts too. She was living with a psychopath .
    PLEASE, please people get over the comparing!!! Live within your means. Find great joy in the simple. Enjoy the here and now…..it goes all too quickly. Cars, clothes, keeping up and having many followers are not true happiness.

  54. Rhonda

    I love this! You have received lots of positive comments from others and I am so glad to see it. Like you said small can be applied to many areas of our lives. But small in one area of your life can affect the other areas of your life positively too…for example…I went for small 3 years ago and enjoy my simple life in my 600 SF cabin overlooking the most beautiful mountains and into Glacier National Park. When things are small ,whatever it is, you can manage them, and clean them, and decorate them and everything else to them because they are small. You can cut back on work. And then you have lots of time to do what you want to do…freely….teach your children, garden, read, cook or whatever. I started growing lavender-a life long dream I am now able to do. And you can pay off your mortgage and quit the job that you don’t really like and go do the one you really want and not worry about the money. Or retire early…freedom. That’s what we all want…freedom to live out our lives with meaning. All the stuff in the world clutters us up. Christmas has gotten to be so big….we need to take it back to simple and small and meaningful, not race around trying to have the most perfect Facebook kind of celebration. Make our own meaningful traditions. What are we celebrating at Christmas? Think about it. But many go through the roller coster motions to keep up with the…..Jones….I think that’s old school for Facebook/Instagram??!! Who cares what the Jones are doing anyway? All that said, small and simple is relative to each person…so each one has to decide what that means for them. No judgment here. Someone else may go nuts in 6OO SF or have a large family and have other needs or dreams.
    Oh..and for the lady who dropped her cell phone in the paint…….go back to a flip phone…it will simplify your life. A super geek person I met said flip phones are making a comeback…..could it be some of us are getting it…we want our lives simpler and smaller and for the world to stay outside until invited in?
    I hope every one of your readers has a smaller, cozier, simpler ,more meaningful Christmas season and….a thoughtful, more meaningful 2019 that includes a big space for some small! God Bless you all.

  55. Sherry

    Marion you are so awesome! Love this post today and loved all your followers comments! I too have cut back on all these blogs I have followed except yours. You are so honest and real and a truel inspiration. Thank you and Merry Christmas to you and all your followers!

  56. Natalie

    thank you for writing this blog post it is such a breath of fresh air. i’ve been on instagram almost a year and have been seeing this measument game played out and feeling totally disheartened by it all in the process. personally, i feel like a mouse next to a big elephant with a giant dollar sign on its head watching as the other mice are smiling in awe and meanwhile i’m cringing in horror.

  57. Candy

    When I use the “finest instrument” I know, which is God’s Word, to measure any part of my life I get a proper perspective on how big or small different areas of my life should be at any given time. I’ve been through lots of seasons and that is truly the only way I manage to stay the “size” I need to be. There have been years to dream big and other years (with young children) when some people might have thought I was living a small life. Actually, those were my “big” and rich years in that I was loving and serving three little people day in and day out. Thank you for your thoughtful post! Also, could we start using the term “full time mom” instead of “stay at home mom”? Heard that somewhere and loved it!

  58. Kathryn from Virginia

    Your blog is always a meeting with a kindred spirit – whether it inspires me to paint furniture, create beauty in my home, slipcover a chair with a dropcloth, or live thoughtfully on a budget. But this blog makes me consider using “small” as my word of the year.

    My children are launching, my home business is small, and my life is lived on the corner of ordinary and kind. Mother Teresa said “Do small things with great love” and I suspect that will be my inspiration for 2019. It is freeing to live a small life with gratitude.

    I hope you read all these posts, dear Marian. You are using social media to promote something good. I am grateful for you embracing your gifts and callings!

  59. Kristi

    This really spoke to me. I’m a homeschooling Mom. I’m also a portrait artist. I wrestle everyday with the realization that my artwork really cannot be first if I’ve chosen to homeschool my kids. Many times I feel my life is small because this is ALL I do – stay home with my children and teach them. It’s hard to produce work after a loooooooong day of teaching, caring, cleaning, driving, cooking. I rarely, if ever, can get uninterrupted work time. But I do recognize that it’s a huge important job teaching & loving up on these little people. Thanks for putting the perspective on the “big” and “small” life. It’s a reminder to me as to why I’m doing what I’m doing. And that NOT selling and producing artwork and homeschooling at the same time shouldn’t be seen as a fail or smaller life somehow. Thanks for mentioning these thoughts!

  60. Desiree

    I can’t tell you how badly I needed to hear this today! I love doing what I do and creating. But, lately I see the monster side of social media. The comparison game. For myself, I would rather stay small than turn into someone fake just to appear big. You’re always so spot on and have HAD many accomplishments, yet never come off as better then! ❤️

  61. Lauren

    Oh Marian, I just wanted to thank you so much for this post. It brought tears to my eyes and was lovely to read. I am 35 and a mom of 6 and am homeschooling my four school aged children. My life is very small. All I do is my take care of my husband, children, and home and help at church when I can. I am not even on Facebook and don’t post anything to Instagram. I don’t run any business or website. But I do try to make our home and life as beautiful and joyful as I can. I have been discouraged a bit lately as my parents are disappointed with my life choices. I love my life but it just feels discouraging when you know you have upset others by not being successful. I realize that their definition of success is different than mine but it still makes me sad. You reminded me that I need to look to Christ and listen to my wonderful husband who is so encouraging. Thank you so much for the encouraging words and the fresh reminder to listen to the right voices.

  62. Kelle Sawers

    And this is mostly why I follow you! Your quiet honesty and creativity are a gentle reminder that we can all try things and that the joy is in trying – it is the attempting that is the thing that can bring the most satisfaction. I think you help people embrace the possible with out hitting them over the head with “do this”, “buy this” or “believe this”. I have gotten a lot of concrete ideas from you (right now I’m doing Little watercolors of family houses for Christmas presents), but I also love “hanging out” with you just because of your overall message – Give it a try. Explore what value a possession or creation or relationship really has for you. You can do it. Don’t worry about being perfect. Feel free to let something or activity go if you’re sick of it or it’s too stressful or if you are just on to something else. Love you for being there!!

  63. Cassandra E

    Sorry this is so long! You struck a chord! As usual…
    I’ve been sitting on this since I read it the evening you posted. It is one of the many reasons you are my favorite. I stumbled on home making blogs many years ago. The thing that appealed to me was working with what you have. This post is especially timely in that it’s Christmas blog hop time and I’ve perused many blogs I wouldn’t ordinarily. What I saw over and over are women who have very large homes and an income to spend. I did not see a lot of working with what was on hand. When I did occasionally see the keeping it simple blogger, even that felt not so simple as the simple was against a back drop of lovely architecture and furniture. I saw a lot of links to go put money in their account by imitating them and buying the latest trend. One woman said as much that we should use her link and not go to the store and buy or else she would not be compensated. Ugh. I don’t begrudge anyone to make a living….but it was so far from where I’d started in blog land.
    And, I keep your journey in mind, you began with so little and have made it into so much. I think had I not understood your beginnings and come to your blog story unknown, I would see another big house. Even so….your story shines through, and your lovely personality and particular-ness shines through. I love that you have an established style…it evolves in a natural way. If I found you today, I’d still appreciate how true to yourself you remain. And though you have sponsored posts, I never ever feel manipulated, or that your dollars are in mind. And I appreciate that.
    I perused some of the comments, and am struck by the one who mentioned they will limit their social media time and stop following the trendy ones as it’s been on my heart too.
    I believe in reducing, reusing and recycling. I think there is a time and place to buy new. Like the copper pot you bought in Italy that you will use for years. I love that you dreamed of the pot, and were you sought out an education on copper and spoke to someone and found just the right pot. It was more than a pot, it was a journey, literally and figuratively.
    And here is me who has not even been gifted with the honor of living a large life raising children. I cannot even use that as a measurement. Motherhood is everything, but push that too hard and those of us who were overlooked for that gift will feel light as a feather on the scales of measurement. Homeschooling moms are amazing, and should never feel less than for not also being a savvy business woman. Some savvy business women can also be amazing moms.
    I sometimes wonder if there will ever be a place in blog land for my unconventional life living in a 2 room home that was once only a game room on a ranch. A home that does not boast children in matching jammies or precious girls with ribbons in their hair sipping hot cocoa.
    All I can lean into is that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Sometimes, that is all I have.

  64. Teresa

    Having turned 60 this year, it really made me start to put things in perspective. Just this year alone, we had 2 deaths in our family in addition to several close friends. You start to measure your life a little different and realize what’s important and what’s not. I often remember the saying “Don’t let your key to success be in someone else’s pocket”.

    I choose to limit my time on social media and keep things in perspective especially this time of year when the true meaning of Christmas often takes a back seat to materialism and consumerism. I love going on many of the bloggers Christmas tours but personally I don’t need to see another sponsored post for a high end Christmas tree that I have already seen on three other bloggers sites. However, that doesn’t mean someone else might not enjoy it or purchase it. I am just at a different point in my life where I don’t measure my needs by someone else’s.

  65. Thelma

    This post was awesome. I have followed you for so long and am inspired by so much that you share.

    Thank you!

    Merry Christmas!

  66. JC at the uncommon pearl

    Amen, Amen, and Amen! Nothing is small in God’s eyes so why should it be in ours?

  67. loretta

    Thank you! This certainly does need to be said.
    Women criticize their lives at all levels, and primary, it’s based on comparison. Life draining. Joy draining.

  68. B Folk

    Marian, another great, timely post!

    Like Alexis, I played “The Housewife” in Studs Terkel’s “Working”. I sometimes have that song running through my head when I feel slighted by yet another woman saying, “I worked for umpety-ump years”, as if women who stay home to be full-time moms don’t work? I hate to say, I was one of those “working” women with the condescending attitude. Now, as an older, wiser, and (by choice) unemployed SAHW, I resent those comments. My heart hurts for the women who are “just” moms/housewives.

    My heart also hurts for women who feel less-than because they work outside the home, at a job for a paycheck, and don’t want to. They may want to be SAH moms or wives, but need the paycheck. Heck, my heart just hurts for women who compare themselves to others, whether they feel smaller or bigger than everybody else. I love how you put it, Marian, that our standard of measurement needs to change.

    To all of you, your life is “big” because you were made in the image of a big God. You have value and worth because you are a human being and one of God’s beloved creatures. God came to earth, Himself, when Jesus was born. For the love of us! That’s what we need to remember on Christmas and every day of the year.

  69. Bonnie

    Thanks so much for taking the time to share this post. It’s so applicable for the world for the world that we live in and I know it will be a huge encouragement to all uf us who don’t feel like we make a big difference in this world although we have family and friends who love us and that we love as well.

  70. Barbara

    Interestingly, I heard a prominent radio host recently say exactly what you wrote about. It’s good to know that being a wife and mother is still a viable profession in many women’s eyes! That you for writing so perceptively about this subject. I’m planning to forward your email to my friends and relatives!

  71. Megan

    This was so good, Marian. I needed to read it. Thanks for posting! ❤️

  72. Diane

    Wow…that was really well said!!! Merry Christmas

  73. Gina

    The smaller my life, the happier I am!

  74. Marsha

    Marion, Out of all the bloggers I have followed, I have followed you the longest and it’s messages like this that is the reason I love your blog. From all the comments, you intuitively knew that this message needed to be put out there. I think with social media, the comparison game is more out of control than ever. I have self doubt all the time about my ‘small’ business, ‘small’ social media accounts and it makes me feel worthless to the point, I think about throwing in the towel. I am a stay at home mom and I homeschool so thank you for mentioning us in this post. Keep doing what you are doing because people like me need to be reminded that ‘small’ is ok.

  75. Darla DeMorrow

    Lovely post, and close to my heart. I have long said that your small business can be valuable if you respect it and treat it as a legitimate business, whatever the size. Did you know that the IRS does not define a dollar amount for a legitimate business? It only defines processes (that you keep the books, pay your taxes, follow laws). In fact, a profitable small business can change the trajectory of an entire family, and can have tax benefits and opportunity costs that far outweigh what you see on the bottom line of your P&L statement. But of course, this is also true of the other decisions that you mention in your article; choosing to homeschool or care for a dependent, for example. I love the term, “living the dream,” because it leaves room for your dream and my dream and her dream and his dream, and thank God they are all different dreams!

  76. Brenda

    Marian, your words have inspired me this Sunday morning…when I finally have been able to take a moment to breathe. You’ve inspired me and brought tears to my eyes. My life is soo FULL of doing for others that Christmas is only 9 days away and I can’t seem to fit in getting a Christmas tree up and decorated at “my” house. Yesterday that was bringing me down …but after reading your post, I’m taking a different attitude and I’M SO GRATEFUL TO GOD for HIS blessings and the people He’s places in my life!!! Thank you for reminding me of TRUE measurement!!!

  77. Sharon Comly

    Oh my Marian, I love this! We need to speak this truth far and wide! A touch, a smile, time spent, these are precious gifts that change people’s lives and can make a huge impact. Life is full of seemingly small moments that require us to slow down and savor each other and the beauty all around. There is no way to measure the value of loving another person, and that takes a lot of time. Thank you for the bright light you are Marian, and for spreading this beautiful message.

  78. Julie S

    I love you for this today! This is such a wonderful perspective. I have a small life staying home with my two little ones since starting our family, and beginning homeschool this year with my 5 year old DD. I tend to get cranky when I see/hear the produce more, be more, do more mantras of the design & SAHM world and disengage, rather than get cast down with comparison. My boundaries about what I do are prickly! Others so often don’t get it. I see so much more value in my life, heeding loving challenges to develop a more Godly character, living life on life with those I care about most, and grace available for my low energy and shortcomings than I ever did working in an office. (I discovered pretty quickly after college that though I had been an excellent and interested student I was not at all ambitious in the Real Business World.) I did do a small scale handcrafted goods business for a couple years but life changes – we had a big move and began homeschooling , and there was no time or headspace for it anymore! Honestly I didn’t mind too much as I was able to find other creative outlets for myself which was the main point for me, not validation through earning, though the loss of so much fun money took some getting used to 🙂

  79. Maggie Judi

    Marian Parsons I freaking adore you.

  80. Susan

    i love this message, brilliant.
    i’m with maggie.. i freaking adore you too. i plan on sending this post to all my
    friends who are striving for the “bigger and better”… but we are already good enough.

    have a wonderful holiday – and an awesome new year.


    This message, like Susan, said above, is brilliant. Especially in this season where buying and spending are often confused with giving it rings totally true. As I role into the new year, I have every intention of keeping this post close to my heart.

    Have a wonderful holiday – Your the best.

  82. Karen

    Wow! A beautiful post from a beautiful heart! And exactly why you are and always will be my favorite blogger! I’ve been unable to keep up with blog reading aver the holidays, but took time today to catch up on yours! Love this so very much!

  83. Heather

    Thank you for sharing your heart and perspective. It is a breath of fresh air! Thank you for all you do. I greatly appreciate your arts.

  84. Maureen deBruyn

    I’m 67 this year, I remembered a poem my mother taught me when I was 5 while I read your post. My mom is 94 now and she still encourages me in my endeavors.

    I met a little elf man once,
    Down where the lilies blow.
    I asked him why he was so small,
    And why he did not grow.
    He slightly frowned and with his eye
    He looked me through and through.
    ” l’m quite as big for me ” said he,
    “As you are big for you” .

  85. Mary Lou Puller

    Hi Marion, You are so smart beyond your years. Truly a girl of God. I’m 63 years old and still trying to figure it out. I know I’ve done a lot of good things for a lot of people in my life, but I know there is still more that God wants me to do. I try to just be still and listen to his plans, his direction for my life as the world swirls around me. Sometimes, I do feel so small, but like you said, “In comparison to what?”. Thanks for such meaningful words of advice.

  86. Joelle

    Good evening Marian,
    Thank you for writing this post. I hope people truly listen to your argument and remember it when they have envious thoughts of other people’s lives, or more accurately, their perception of other people’s lives. I am a veterinarian that chose to quit practice and stay at home to raise my three children. This was a decision that my husband and I both made before we had children. We live very conservatively and don’t spend money on an extravagant home or vacations. We have friends that have different priorities; yes, they have more “things” and seem to have exciting lives, but they also have problems. Their children are not well-adjusted and happy, but instead spoiled and constantly acting out to get attention from their distracted and over-scheduled parents. People forget that there is always a tradeoff in the decisions they make. Although I sometimes think about the personal professional development I sacrificed to stay at home and raise my children, it was more than worth it to see what wonderful, giving, productive people my children are growing up to become.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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