No Longer Competing

I’ve seen posts, read memes, and watched lessons from women, to women, about not competing with other women. It resonated with me and I often felt like “I got it” – as in the message overall.

I got it, that is, until I felt like I was put in competition with another woman. Through choices not my own, and secrets I discovered unexpectedly, I was at odds with a woman I didn’t even know. At the moment I was most consumed, I wanted to be just like her. At the moment I was fighting the hardest, I wanted to be exactly the opposite of her. Regardless, I wanted the attention she was receiving, because to me it was supposed to be the attention I was receiving.

On top of my own over thinking mind to combat, I was also a little more than half way through my final pregnancy – just pregnant enough to not feel the glow, teetering on the point where I was starting to feel down on myself about the reflection in the mirror.

It’s hard to compete with someone you don’t even know. If you’re an over thinker like me, you might even make them someone they are not.

Through unconventional methods, I learned more about who she was, at least on some level. But the more I learned, the more I felt like she was someone I would call a friend. Imagine my shock the more I learned, the more I liked, the more I thought of her as someone I’d like to really know – without being hidden behind a weird veil.

I had to come clean, and I did. I expected the worse, and that’s not what I got. There is a level of weirdness that I cannot deny, but she accepted me even after I admitted being absolutely nuts. I was able to see that she wasn’t who I made her up in my mind to be.

And in a moment where I found myself lending a hand at her request, I really got it, for the first time. I’m competing with no one but myself. I want to be better than I was yesterday and yesteryear. But I’m not really trying to be better than her, or her, or her, or her. This newfound awareness of who I’m playing against has changed the narrative for me all week. I look at other women differently than I ever have before.

The comparisons I created are silenced quickly when I remind myself that I’m only trying to learn and do better today than I did yesterday. I have found a freedom to say hello, to be warm, to be welcoming. I have found freedom to offer myself honestly, to answer questions less guarded. I have found new freedom in my writing, my living, my parenting, my being.

Thank you for accepting me when it seemed least likely you would. Thank you for choosing kindness when another choice would have made sense. Thank you for showing me a better way. Thank you for the freedom you helped me to find.

This War

I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
 Romans 7:19 NLT

I’ve always kind of gotten this verse. I cannot count the number of times I did the opposite of what I should have, or didn’t do something when I should have, and I get it. It’s hard to do the right thing all of the time, and it’s hard to NOT do the wrong thing so often.

Hence the reason I fired off a hurtful text to my husband when we were in the middle of a disagreement. I didn’t take captive my thoughts, and I didn’t guard my heart, and the enemy whispered his lies and his doubt, and I became the very weapon he could use against my husband. I don’t want to be a weapon against the people in my life. I want to surrender my words and actions to God, so that I can bring healing and life into my relationships.

God has very tenderly drawn me in close to Him and started unfolding the story line that is my life. As He’s walked me through events that have deeply affected me – both good and bad – He’s begun showing me where the enemy used human error to weave a web of lies. Lies about who I am. About what I was made for (or not made for), lies about whether or not I was cut out for the work before me.

Satan is a deceiver, through and through. In fact, that may be the best way he drives wedges, and separates us from our God who loves us. Lies and more lies.

I struggle with worthlessness. Not in the I’m a sinner and fall short of the glory kind of way that makes me cry out all the more for Jesus. I struggle with worthlessness that breeds despair that makes it hard to connect and build real relationships. For so much of my life I woke up almost dreading the day, anticipating my failures, and walking on eggshells, desperately hoping I didn’t let anyone down in the span of time from the sun rising to the sun setting. Just let me do okay.

The depth of these feelings increased last summer when I faced some challenges with my husband. There are hardly words to explain how consuming my sense of failure was, and how many reminders came to mind of the times I’ve failed in the past. I felt like I was sinking. I was desperate for real, unadulterated love, acceptance, and connection. But suddenly I felt very self protective. I’m usually fairly open, I absolutely hate secrets, and I think hiding breeds shame even where there shouldn’t be any. I will tell anyone I meet the good, bad, and ugly about me. But this hurt changed that for a bit. I found myself ignoring phone calls I usually welcomed, and hiding.

I didn’t want to talk about our struggle because it made it more real, more painful, and revealed my worthlessness. While there is value in not blabbing to everyone and burying us in the opinions of others, absolute silence allows Satan to whisper lies unhindered. My husband isn’t a man of many words, so in the absence of him speaking and without talking to anyone else, Satan is free to continue telling me just how awful I am. I was so beat down by it all that I couldn’t even pray.

And I’m not here to say that in the blink of an eye, the war was won. But God faithfully showed up in the middle of my pain. He drew me in close to Him and He is winning battles for me. And I am realizing that He is super focused on my heart and motivation and thoughts. He is teaching me how to live in victory. He is showing me that I am valuable to Him.

Victory has to be practiced, especially if you’re used to living in defeat, especially if we’re talking internal victory. So God is walking me through the process of learning to take each thought captive, of learning to turn my thoughts to Him, confess the ugly thoughts (even if they are just ugly toward myself) and to hear Him speak. I don’t feel like I’m starving anymore. I don’t feel like no one really sees me anymore. I don’t feel so worthless anymore. I am learning to repeat my Words to Live By more often. I’m replacing the negative self talk with reminders of who God created me to be.

But God hasn’t stopped there. He continues to do a healing work on wounds that are from long ago. As He is helping me face so many yucky things from my past, He is showing me where human error was a door for Satan to waltz in and tell me awful things. In fact, Satan has been working hard at this since I was a young girl. I can’t help but think that he should look at all the stories of redemption and healing and recognize that wreckage may not be his best weapon in his war against God.

I would have never picked painful events as a catalyst for change or growth in my life. However, I can’t help but see how faithful my God has been through this season. He showed up time and time again and carried me when I needed Him most. He has renewed my hope, He has helped me see a vision for my marriage that honors Him, and He has revealed His love to me.

Is there a time when God carried you through a painful time in life? Tell me in the comments about that time.

Unrealistic Expectations

Expectations – we all have them. From how a single day may go, to an event, or even large portions of our life. We expect people to behave in ways consistent with their role (like how the cashier acts when ringing up your items, or the plumber, or those closest to us like spouses and children). Some of these expectations are healthy and help us gauge whether or not to continue to do business with an establishment, or they help us guide our children. Some expectations even help us recognize when we aren’t being treated correctly by a spouse, sibling, or friend.

Unrealistic expectations, however, make us feel like we’re being wronged when we aren’t. They change how we interact with people, often times in ways that make us hard to live with. I most often think of expectations in terms of my parental role. Some expectations encourage my kids to participate in our family life, and help me guide them onward and upward. But those expectations can often become too rigid, and too much to bear. The more I expect of my kids, and the more I point out that they are failing my expectations, the less they try. Then I become more frustrated and point out more failures, then they try less. It can be an ugly & vicious cycle. In this cycle, I recognize my kids cringe when I walk into a room. Instead of seeing me and wanting to run up and tell me all about their most recent discovery or adventure, they just want to avoid me. This isn’t how I want my kids to see me or grow up. While I am always their parent first, I’ve come to recognize that relationship doesn’t have to include an iron fist 24/7.

I would never advocate for dropping all expectations as a parent. Having no expectations to meet would likely leave them wandering around lost, with little to do. My kids all have expected contributions to running the home (otherwise known as chores). But I find myself sometimes expecting them to the chores the same way I would, or to the level I would expect of a professional. The fact is, they are kids. They won’t do it the same as I, or even my way half the time. And I will never walk in and find that they’ve cleaned a room like a professional maid may have. But most of the time they try really hard to do a good job. They don’t see the mess the same way I do, so they don’t clean it the same way. But I have to admit that when they are done, it looks much better when they started most of the time – I would say 9 out of 10 times it looks better than when they started.

So I’m going to slow down, reevaluate, and try to recognize where my expectations are becoming unrealistic. Where I’ve gotten a little too uptight, I’m going to apologize. I’m going to try to give my kids the room to do things their own way, even if that means they make mistakes. And I’m not going to carry on about their mistakes as if it makes their contributions null & void. A simple re-do and move on – after all, in most of my adult responsibilities a simple re-do fixes a large portion of my mistakes. I’m going to lighten up. I want them to be excited when I walk into a room. I want them to know they I recognize their efforts and their attempts, and that I recognize their humanity – they are no more capable of perfection than I am, and even in the middle of the messes, that is beautiful to me.

 

(I was inspired to write about expectations by the writing prompt over at Write. Blog. Connect.)