The pain draped around her story like a heavy, tattered coat. There was confusion and hurt and a desire to please. In the midst of these moments I began to realize how so many of us enter our adult lives with unrealistic expectations – ideals of what being loved looks like and expectations of a life perfectly wrapped in happiness and beauty. Once upon a time her story was my story; I am healing. When I was a child, adults would talk about keeping up with the Jones, meaning the neighbors next door; now we are trying to keep up with just about everyone on social media. I have begun asking myself why fitting in with people I don’t know well, or at all, matters? Why care if any of these social media folks are pleased with me?
In the end, don’t you think all we really want is to belong, to have a tribe of people with whom we experience meaningful connection? When it comes down to it, don’t we care more about being known and loved by those taking this journey with us than whether or not they are invested in meeting all our ideals? It is stressful for everyone when perfection is where we hang our values; friendships are no longer real or meaningful when we strive for or expect perfectionism. Healthy relationships have boundaries of respect wrapped up in grace. Wouldn’t you much rather have people enjoy being in relationship with you than perfectly please you?
Sometimes, like many of you, I focus on what is missing – that elusive, perfect life. I find embracing the life I’ve been given increases contentment, peace and joy. As I take steps toward embracing my life – one that doesn’t live up to all my expectations – I find more of what I truly need. Embrace is a word that has captured me in the past couple of months. A question I came across in a book study my sister and I did together was, “What do you want more of?” I knew instantly I wanted more meaningful interaction with the people who matter most to me, like my sister. I want to make it a priority to prioritize the people I love and long to know better.
The realization began growing, like a snowball rolling down hill, as one situation after another presented itself with opportunities to connect. But first I had to ask God: What is this life you have given me? I sought to discover what He wanted me to embrace and where He wanted me to invest my time. And then I found He led using the desires He had given me. He invited me to look at what’s available, not what is lacking. It began with spending time with my sister.
From there God gave my husband and I a wonderful opportunity to hike with my nephew, his fiancee and their baby. We met early in the cool of the day. They had packed a picnic and drove us to a canyon where we enjoyed surprises like an old cowboy dugout, wild turkeys strolling with a road runner, and genuine fellowship. Upon our return home from the visit with family in Texas my friend, Crystal, came to spend a weekend with us; saying she needed time with me. I had not been aware of my own need to be with her, but our visit left me filled and overflowing as we prayed together before she left.
In May I began reading Bonnie Gray’s book, Whispers of Rest, and knew I wanted to take this 40-day journey of rest with others. I opened my home and invited women from my church, as well as a new friend, to join me in experiencing more intimacy with God and deeper acceptance of His love for us. It has been a sweet time of heartfelt sharing and genuine connection. As I attempt to live life where I’ve been placed, God is teaching me to embrace what He has given, and I am experiencing more contentment. There is a place inside of me bursting forth into full bloom as I endeavor to embrace this life here on my street, with these people and in this community. I can’t fully explain it but I feel myself opening up and expanding.
Have you ever found yourself trying to adjust to a place and not quite figuring it out? Have you struggled with unrealistic expectations? How have you embraced the space in which God has placed you? I would love to hear about your experience.
Early summer reading:
What are you reading?