Sometimes life isn’t what we expect. I had dreams as a child. I wanted to work at Sea World and be a marine biologist who got to work with Shamu and the dolphins (super glad I didn’t go that route). I had dreams as a teenager and as I moved into young adulthood. I dreamed of being a pilot and taking the Gospel into remote villages of South America or Africa. While that dream didn’t pan out either, for soooooo many reasons….one did. I became a mom.
For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to have my own children, to teach them, to play with them, to love them. I was a nanny for a few years after college and absolutely loved it! We made tin foil rivers for ice cube boats, had backyard picnics, went to the park as often as we could, fed the ducks and geese with our leftover bread from lunch (don’t judge), caught leprechauns, and had movie days when they were under the weather.
Real life as a mom doesn’t exactly look like that. I mean…for me… Yeah, I see those moms on social media, on Pinterest. And there are SO many days that I compare myself to them and fall so, so short of what I see. But, for one, it isn’t real life. I don’t see the imperfect of their lives because social media allows us to filter all of that out. And, second, life looks different as an adult than it does through the eyes of a child. Being a mom seemed glamorous and fun.
The reality? There will always be dishes and laundry. It is literally never ending. In fact, there is a stack of clothes on the couch waiting to be folded and an ever growing pile of dishes next to the sink because I SERIOUSLY HATE DOING DISHES! Meals need planned, groceries need bought, the house won’t clean itself, appointments have to be made and canceled and rescheduled, and so. much. more.
21-year-old-me, newly married and hopefully expectant, expects today-me to also plan daily crafts (obviously found on Pinterest), cook organic food, make my own cleaners, create awesome memories that they will never forget, homeschool, volunteer on the PTA (for homeschool kids?!?), take them to sports, volunteer in a ministry, and a million things I’m sure I’m forgetting that I wanted to do…
And let’s be honest – on a good week – not all of that is possible! Or healthy! Why did I think it was?!?! But life threw me another curve ball called chronic illness. I have good days and I have bad. But those bad days mean that more has to be crammed into the good days. I barely have time to do the necessary things let alone all of the “extras.” I spent almost a full year in therapy dealing with this. And I came out on the other side with a much better grasp of reality. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t hard. When I have a really great day, I trick myself into thinking that maybe, just maybe, I’m getting better and the next day, and the next, and the next will also be good.
But then something as simple as a blood draw cripples me to the couch. Yes, a blood draw. For a routine check-up. Well, it was a blood draw where I had to be poked 3 times because I have awful veins….but still only one or two vials. That was at 2pm….I wasn’t back to the land of the living until the next afternoon. And the world keeps turning. We still have to get homeschooling done, there is still laundry waiting to be washed, dried, or folded. And that insane pile of dishes isn’t going to wash itself.
Today we got a doozy of snow storm. At least a foot in daylight hours. Justin is away on a work trip. I talked to him about hiring someone to deal with the driveway, but we both thought I should try – after all, exercise is something I’m lacking and need to add to my wide-open schedule (ha!). So while the kids were out building snow forts and collecting icicles, I put on as many layers as possible and trudged out into the snow. An hour later I was 1/3 of the way done and could barely stand. I paid for it the rest of the day. We didn’t finish school and we had cereal and waffles for dinner because I was not going to cook.
As I looked outside at the sadly shoveled driveway (now covered with a new inch or two of snow) and watched my kids eat cereal while watching the 2nd movie of the day….I felt like a failure. Who am I kidding? I still feel like a failure. I still have to figure out how to get our driveway taken care of before tomorrow evening so Justin can even get into it, I have to catch up on school tomorrow, I still have dishes to wash and clothes to fold, and I can already tell my body won’t like me tomorrow. And in the back of my head all I can hear are the words to “Surface Pressure” from Encanto: “I’m pretty sure I’m worthless if I can’t be of service.”
Worthless. I look back at the mom I thought I would be and the mom I actually am and I don’t measure up. At all. 18-year-old-Bri would be highly disappointed in me. For not pushing through. For not having it all together. For not having a spotless house. For not being able to shovel the driveway when my husband isn’t home. I am fragments of what I wanted to be.
Every day. Well, every bad day, I have to remind myself from one moment to the next, that my worth is not found in what I do. It isn’t found in footprint art that I’ve never done with my own kids, or in coming up with creative activities every day. It isn’t found in my physical ability to withstand a blood draw or a driveway shoveling. And, past-self, it isn’t found in your grades, accolades, or rewards…
My worth comes in the fact that I am loved by God. He created me, He formed me, He fashioned me, and He loves me more than I know. Everything that I struggle with on a daily basis is already on His heart. I am lovely, I am worthy, because He loves me. There is freedom in that. Freedom from disappointment and expectation.
I’m not writing this to say I have it figured out and the weight of expectation (from self and others) doesn’t bother me. I’m writing this to get out of a funk, to overcome the negative inner thoughts, and focus on the Truth. I’m writing this as a reminder that I am who God says I am. I am not defined by a diagnosis or bloodwork. I’m not defined by social media or Pinterest. And I am *not* defined by what’s checked off on my to-do list at the end of the day.
So tonight I will go to bed wrestling between the overwhelming freedom of Love that Christ has given me and the grief and disappointment of unmet expectations. But where do those thoughts come from? The enemy. For he has come to “steal, kill, and destroy.” He wants to steal my joy, kill my hope, and destroy any sense of freedom I have found. On many days, he wins. On occasion, he wins the battle, and I wallow in self-pity or self-hate. BUT, and this is the a BIG but – we already know, he already knows, that he is defeated in the end. He WILL NOT win the war.
So, friend, keep fighting with me. I’ll fight harder on your bad days and vice versa. Let’s stand strong, no matter what sort of battle we are facing. Know, KNOW, that you are loved, you are worthy, and you are never alone. Keep reminding others of that too. They need it.