When Expectations Destroy…

” Don’t mistake Gods patience for His absence. His timing is perfect, and his presence is constant. ” – Unknown.

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Expectations.

Choices.

Lets face it. We all have them. 

      They go hand in hand as we make the conscious decision to sacrifice our own happiness and beliefs to please others or if we are going to choose to stand up and be our own selves with no fear of what others may think or say.

I’m guilty.

       I have allowed expectations of others, along with my own for myself to wear down, cause me to question, and destroy my joy. I’ve allowed expectations of parents to cause doubt in my ability as a mother. I have enabled societies expectations of my body size to break down my self confidence as a person……as if my body size impacts who I am and whether or not I am enough or deserving of love, friendship, and success. I have let myself become disappointed and crushed in spirit when I have failed to live up to my own dreams of where I should be.

      To say I have been struggling with all of these things in the past few weeks would be an understatement….because the truth is I have felt more of a mess, and more of a hypocrite then I had ever felt before…

      I began to watch myself take one step closer and ten steps back as I allowed myself to blame God for the short comings in my life….for the not-lived-up to expectations. As I seen my dreams and what I thought of as my success crumble around me I began to be frustrated with God for not giving me my “deserved gold star”…..my reward for fighting the fight. When the reality of it is he owes me nothing……

       Faced with a a huge disappointment, family health scares, and a marriage ready to give way under the stress of it all I was forced to realize that maybe my happiness wasn’t the result of others opinions about who I was or the ability to live up to their expectations, but was because of my God….that the one who matters most knows who I am even better than I know myself.  That my joy was not dependent on someone else meeting my expectations for them or for our relationship, but only on me and where I was with my relationship with God.

      My expectations for others and for my life was another attempt at controlling my own life…my own outcomes. This past week I fell completely apart as if the build up from Audreys death, stress, and chaos had finally caught up with me. I felt not good enough, lost, and afraid as I began to lose what I had worked so hard to accomplish. My perspective wasn’t able to change until I realized that not only was God not to blame, but that just because I believed… didn’t mean I got the easy way through this life. 

      Last night I made the conscious decision to let go.

      I opened the door to my car and stepped on to the wet cold sand with a paper in my hand. I visited the place that is like a second home. The place where I feel closest to my sweet Audrey, the place where I can scream and yell and cry out over the water and no one can hear me….the place where I often find peace. Oh how I needed it. It was dark…pitch black, and the cold November wind stung my face with each step I took closer to the sound of the crashing waves. I realized that even though my life felt dark at that moment that it did not mean the beauty wasn’t there. That I may not be able to see it right now, but that when the darkness turned into day those same crashing waves….that same beauty of the ocean that I loved so much would still be there. It was constant.

      When I reached the freezing water I placed  that paper right down in to it. A paper that read one word.

Expectations.

     I watched as the waves began to crash over it on the sand and the word started to fade. Maybe, just maybe living my best life had nothing to do with having the best things. Living your best life meant having a heart of love for others, it meant offering that “gold star”….. that encouragement to others while expecting nothing in return. It meant offering the same grace and forgiveness in relationships that may not be offered back. My worth had nothing to do with my material possessions or my physical appearance, but has everything to do with who I am as a person. With who I am as a woman of God.

     As I breathed in a long deep breath of sea salty air, I’ll never forget that feeling of some thing washing over me….beating away the sense of failure and leaving behind a sense of peace. 

Just like that.

Expectations behind me, and life before me. 

A life lighter…a life fuller but freer.

    This morning…..I am replacing expectations with encouragement. I am choosing  to not dwell on my failures but on my success. Today I am choosing to choose joy.

Because I am worthy.

Because I am loved.

Because when I am lacking faith and joy, I am unable to offer it wholly to anyone else.

Because this….this is me, trying to live my best life.

Isn’t that what we are all trying to do?

 

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A Broken Kind Of Beautiful.

“God wastes nothing and he heals two broken hearts with one story – the reader and the writer.” – Ann Voskamp

   The last four months have been so hard. Disappointing in some ways as I watched myself take step by step back from the things that I had clung so tightly to for the first year after Audreys death. My writing, my reading, my time with God..all lifesavers…..all of it began to feel so distant as the anniversary of Audreys death passed and the true brutality of the situation revealed itself.

 Broken.

 That small six letter, yet complex word was what I would use to describe me. The numbness was gone. Every ounce of it had weathered and worn away. Ashers advancing milestones left me face to face with the ones my precious Audrey didn’t get to meet….would never get to meet. My now empty womb reminded me that it was all over.That Asher was here…that Audrey was gone. Each month after her death age left me fully exposed to the harshness and rawness of all of my emotions that I had never fully dealt with but had just hid away. I began to pull away.

  Maybe because I felt the world was tired of hearing it…..

  Maybe because I felt that I should be better…..healed in some way…

  A diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and anxitey left me feeling defeated…embarrassed. I felt like a failure. Like a hypocrite. Like everything I had found…and then tried to share had been a lie. How could I say that I trusted God, yet spend every single day fearing him….fearing life…..fearing death, and everything in between. All of a sudden It became easier….safer… to accept what I had lost, then to hope for anything that may not be. 

  I battled back and forth with this for months, until last night I was standing at my kitchen island. Tired from a day of unexpected appointments and wrestling children. By this time of the day I had a headache, I was cranky, and my sweet but nagging nine year old was not helping with either of those things.

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  Supper was in the oven, and I managed to muster up the last bit of oomph I had to make a quick dessert of baked apples for my family. Five apples….five apples was all I had left, and as I began coring them one by one I thought this would be a good “cooking lesson” and special moment I could spend with my persistently bored oldest. She began to stir the ingredients for the center of our apples in our mixing bowl when I did it. When I broke the fifth and final apple completely in half.

 On a normal day this would have seemed like nothing….but on this day…..on this yucky, cranky, wishing it was over day I was completely annoyed. Being there were no more apples to replace it with I began to brainstorm all the ways I could somehow fix it. Abi watched silently as I played with the apple like a puzzle, trying to toothpick it back together just as it had been before. Desperate to save this broken useless piece of fruit because it was either the broken apple or none at all.  

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 When nothing worked I simply stood the apple in the pan and pressed it back together. It stood there. Cracks barely visible. The apple appeared to be as the rest….that was until I began to pour the brown sugar into each one of their centers causing the broken one to collapse.

  There it was. I sighed as I stared at the damaged messy apple lying there in pieces amongst all the other whole ones. I was out of time. My husband was now home, my children were hungry. There was no fixing it. Even if I managed to stick it back together once again it was never going to be as it was before. 

 That is when Abigail tapped me on my shoulder and spoke these words; ” Mom, that’s okay. I’ll eat the broken one. You know…that broken one could be the best one to eat because all the good stuff will be on the outside too.”

 Tears filled my eyes as I got it.

 She was right.

  In that moment my Abigail thought she was talking to me about apples, but she was really teaching me about my life….about myself.

  Audreys death has left me feeling exactly like a broken apple. Damaged, irreparable, and unusable. I too have wasted so much precious time trying to convince myself and the world around me that I could eventually stick myself back together in to the person I was before. To enable me to become whole again. 

  But just maybe I have been striving for the wrong thing. 

   You see, what if I am not broken? What if I don’t need to be restored back to my preexisting self? What if I am damaged, but in a way that allows me to be used differently….or better than I had been before?

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   My life has been an ooey gooey sticky mess. Life circumstances has oozed its way through all of my cracks….sometimes leaving such a disaster that it has been obvious to the world around me……….but it has also been a beautiful one. 

  Because of it I am more humble.

I am more grateful.

I am more sweeter. 

Our weakness, mistakes, and struggles are what helps us relate to others…to reach others. It strips us of our pride, and our better than you attitudes. 

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Maybe I have had no choice but to face the heat of the boiling water and the messiness of this crazy beautiful life.

…….but maybe that same stickiness has covered me…changed me into a sweeter better me. A me that emphasizes and feels others pain. A me that appreciates the gift of time and cherished memories.

A me that loves a God who doesn’t make broken….but heals it.

A me that is an grateful, blessed, and unbroken kind of beautiful. 

  Isn’t that our purpose anyways?

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