Dear Momma In The Mirror

miror

Dear Momma In The Mirror,

I see you. I see you sizing yourself up against others and yourself  before you brought a human into this world.
I see you poking and prodding a padded body that doesn’t resemble your former self. I see you eyeing stretched places and sagging parts that you thought you’d never have. I know you’re puzzling over them, crying over them and finding ways to hide.
I know the magazines and old clothes speak lies that you have let yourself go. That because you haven’t bounced back in “x” amount of days/weeks you are forever destined to be ugly.
I know you fear the worst. That this strange body of yours that no longer has a cute bump that gave you accolades and an excuse to look a certain way will warrant judgement and rejection from those that love you. From strangers. From yourself. The lie is what if I’m no longer beautiful?
I know it cringes at seeing photographs of yourself and stepping on scales at doctors offices. How did this happen? You know how it happened but it still hurts for some reason. I know you feel ashamed.
Your eyes judge as you pass every reflecting surface and you scramble to hide the changed parts every time you dress.
You see only what was lost or what you lack.
But, what about seeing you though what you have?
You have a body that housed another life and brought it into this world. Those widened hips are curvy, feminine. The softness that is left is perfect for a tiny life to snuggle into. Your body feeds this little life. Your arms are strong from rocking, carrying, snuggling and holding. Your body is stretched like the heart that expanded a thousand times to house the love of a tiny person. Each mark a battle scar. Perhaps a scar lays across your abdomen. You are marked, forever because of another life. Your body sacrificed for another miracle. Another life. Another person.  It’s love. Raw love symbolized in the undergone changes.
So momma, when you see those things that hurt your heart remember they are there because you gave another life.
The truth is you are beautiful. You let yourself love, grow and change. You have grown and changed as you stepped into a new role. Your body is amazing. It made life. Gives life. Each mark, roll, softness and sag is a reminder of this.
After all, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are more than a pant size, a number on a scale, and a figure the world says you have to have.
You are healthy, strong. You are a mom.
Love,
The beautiful Momma you really are

Three Ways to Manage Expectation

Expectation Management
My husband and I have been blessed with a strong marriage from the beginning. For that I am very thankful. We know couples who really struggle the first year of marriage. That was not our story; we have faced a large variety of other trials that came with their own set of great difficulty. I tend to think that each challenge is hard, painful and comes with its own forms of deep grief caused by a set of expectations. In this current season of walking down an unexpected road of a major career change that demands more of my husband than anything ever has in his life, we have faced new challenges in our marriage. We have to ask ourselves often how do we prioritize our marriage when school demands 12-16 hour days every day of the week? Part of prioritizing our marriage comes with what I call expectation management.
We each approach every situation with a set of preconceived expectations of how something “should be.” These are formed by a variety of things. Culture, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, friends, family, our upbringing, world view and socioeconomic position, to name a few, form expectations. In some ways, expectations are not inherently bad. We wouldn’t accomplish things if we didn’t push ourselves in certain situations to meet expectations. Or we would maybe compromise for something that wasn’t God’s best if we didn’t have expectations. But expectations have a dark side. Particularly in relationship.
During this season where Chad puts an enormous amount of energy in learning a new skill set in a school environment that makes grad school look like middle school, I have taken on a support role. I am completely powerless most days to help him as he wrestles through content I know nothing about. This is new for us since we studied in seminary side by side. We no longer have a common language around something that takes most of his time. I am no longer the sounding board I expected to be as a wife. I can listen, but rarely can contribute thoughtfully on the topic. This is different than what life was like when we were vocationally pursuing ministry together. Coding is like a foreign language to me. And while my vocabulary on the subject is expanding daily, I know about as much as the size of an ice cube compared to an iceburg.
On top of that, we are becoming parents. As a woman, I am learning that there are a lot of secret expectations that I didn’t even know I had surrounding this life event. I have had to lay down expectations and dreams of what being pregnant together in this season would look like. Visions of shopping leisurely together for tiny baby things, preparation for baby at home, birthing classes, long conversations about names and parenting plans are all luxuries that haven’t been afforded to us in the last few months. It has been a huge internal battle of frustration and grief that we would be in such an intense season of schooling while leaping into parenthood.
Not only have those expectations had to die, so have the amount of time to we have to connect. The love language that outweighs the rest for me is quality time. I emotionally have to connect with people in my life through time that is intentional and rooted in conversation to feel loved. My poor husband wants so badly to meet this need but also feels immense responsibility to do his absolute best to prepare for our future in order to provide for us. At times I know he feels like these two things are completely at odds with each other.  I confess that my husband has done everything in his power to manage the many demands competing for his attention. He is a disciplined student, devoted husband and passionate father. But there certainly has been sacrifice on expectations and hopes all around. It’s hard to see the grief in his eyes when I know he wants to emotionally meet me in my need to connect on a deep level, but exhaustion is so overwhelming that sleep is about to usher in at any moment. I also may never forget the look on his face the night before he missed his first ultrasound during our pregnancy. He wanted so badly to be there to see his daughter swimming around, but he couldn’t miss school to come.
Each of these area’s have underlying expectations for both of us that we are learning to navigate. Some of them are harder to tease out the roots of, but each of them have to be managed in order to not allow the dark side of expectation to sabotage our marriage. I am learning that this is a form of guarding our marriage from the enemy who would love to take us out. Let me share with you what I am currently wresting through regarding expectation management.
1. Expectations are dangerous and corrode relationships when they are unreasonable.
So often expectations become roots of discontentment when they are unmet. When we hold expectations, reasonable or not, we likely will be faced with disappointment if they don’t come to fruition. Disappointment can lead to bitterness if not dealt with properly.  Also, expectations are not always reasonable. I find myself asking often, is this expectation reasonable to have of my husband/relationship? Is this something that is important to further the strength of our marriage? If it is unreasonable and does not further the strength of my marriage nor meet a need of mine that is a non-negotiable, I need to let it go. Instead of taking it immediately to Chad, I spend time praying through the expectation to discover whether or not it is legitimate and where it originated. For example, does this expectation come from a cultural expectation that is far from realistic, like waltzing through Babies R’ Us in total bliss and scanning adorable baby items for hours?  Then as God speaks to my heart, I allow him to loosen my grip on the expectation so that I can be free from it. The root of the baby registry fantasy is really the idea that without properly preparing with stuff, thoughtfully scanning each item we need, we will fail as parents to care for our daughter. The dangerous root is that if my husband can’t spend hours with me shopping for baby items that he doesn’t care about our daughter. This is a fat lie that if not identified could create a big root of bitterness later.  As I allow the Holy Spirit to enlighten my heart, my heart and my relationship are freed from discontent and unnecessary resentment and allows reasonable expectations to become the focus.
2. Communicating our expectations to one another is the most important thing.
Once I determine what my expectation is and pray through it, it is important for me to communicate my struggle with the expectation with my husband. This allows Chad to shed truth on a situation and know my heart. So often the expectation I have can be completely mitigated as soon as I invite him into the struggle. For example, he is able to remind me that being a good parent is not rooted in material possessions or time spent in a baby store. In this season, loving our daughter looks like preparing for our future in school. The hours he takes to thoughtfully code is his way of loving her. He wants to provide the very best for his girls. He also can gently remind me if I haven’t already navigated the root of the expectation, where it possibly originated. Most of all, it cultivates intimacy. The beautiful thing about having a conversation about expectation is that occasionally it is a reasonable expectation that the other person now knows about. He can meet the need if he knows. So sometimes Chad says to me, I want to meet this expectation because I can tell it really matters to you and I love you. He couldn’t do that if I never vocalized it. This takes humility and trust with one another and an enormous measure of grace to gently approach an expectation together. I cannot expect that just because Chad knows about my expectation that he will run to meet it. It could be the furthest thing from reasonable or even possible. But getting it out on the table avoids the root of resentment from springing up and makes it possible to work through.
3. Flexibility and allowing unreasonable expectations to die is a necessity.
Finally, I have to have a flexible malleable heart that the Holy Spirit can root out expectations. I have to be willing to lay down expectations that are not helpful for my heart or marriage. It is never helpful if I set my heart on an expectation and am then unwilling to compromise or evaluate it’s validity. I do not want to hold expectations over Chad’s head and imprison him. This is manipulative. Not only does this harm him, it harms me. My heart hardens as I set my hope on the expectation and ultimately Chad instead of Jesus and the hope I have in Him. By being flexible, I allow the space for necessary pruning of expectations so that I can be free in Christ. This also frees my heart to enjoy my marriage and the ways my husband is loving me. So often unmet expectations block our ability to see the blessings in our relationship. If I am so fixated on an area where something is unmet, I am not able to see and be thankful for the ways that my husband is loving me. I’d much rather be flexible and willing to allow things that cause death in relationship to die so that I can truly enjoy the gift God gave me in a husband.
This is a huge work in progress for me. It’s a weekly battle as I am constantly bombarded by new unrealized expectations rooted in my heart around becoming a mother. This week it’s around birth classes. Chad and I are going to take a class this weekend! But I am constantly battling the tension of expecting to be really prepared through these classes and the reality that if she comes early I have no clue what I am doing. This particular expectation is one I have with myself. I have to remind myself that I am not a bad mother, nor will my daughter’s birth be a disaster because I didn’t make it to a birthing class. Many women do this every day around the world with minimal resources comparatively. And so I remind myself to be gracious and gentle and do a little expectation management.

A Letter: Facing God’s No

Facing Disappointment

Dear Friend,

I know this “no” hurt. It’s hard not to let the voice of rejection ring loud in your heart after you prayed and sought God for his very best. From your vantage point, this looked like the best. It rang true with the very desire of your heart. And then for some reason, He said this wasn’t it. The door closed, the relationship ended, the dream died. Silence followed and all that you could hear was the breaking of your own heart.

I know you cried out from the depths of your heart. You thought you laid your desires out at his feet and believed that he would grant them. You ask, “Doesn’t he want to grant the desire of my heart? Doesn’t he see this need or want for what it is? Isn’t there a chance that he is the one that placed it there?” If the answers to these questions are “yes” then why did he come back with a no?

The truth is he does want to fulfill the desires of our heart. The desires he placed there. Not all desires we have sadly, are from him. We have a deceitful heart (Jeremiah 17:9), that seeks to satisfy our own selfishness and flesh (Galatians 5:17). Our motives are not always pure nor are they always in alignment with him (Jeremiah 17:10). Even when it seems like they are, he searches the far reaches of our heart for the true motive. Maybe we aren’t even conscious of what this is yet.  Sometimes the no is the very thing that exposes our true heart and demands a part of our flesh to die so we can walk in life.

I know this “no” feels like hope deferred and heart sickness (Proverbs 13:12). As the waves of sadness come, it seems that all is lost. Maybe even a part of you feels like you are dying. But is it possible that he is about to raise you to life?

Our Father is kind. Is it possible that this very no is his kindness stretched out? Our emotions are fickle. They are like the waves of the ocean, tossing us about.  They are not truth which we can stand on. They are real, yes, and worthy to acknowledge at his feet and definitely a part of how he created us. We should not feel ashamed of our heart and emotion. But they are not trustworthy. They do not proclaim truth about a situation to us without the proper footing on the Rock which we can stand. This is where we need his Word, his voice echoing in the midst of our emotion. We need to hang onto him.

You see, our Father sees what we cannot around the bend of that “yes” we so desired. He can see the outcome had he met that request with a yes. Imagine for a moment that if he said yes to this particular thing that it would lead you down a road away from his heart? What if this form of granting the desire of your heart meant giving you away to the world? What if you missed knowing his heart or the fullness of his love? Maybe it meant you bypassed the very reason you were created, or were left to a spiritual demise that devastated him.

God doesn’t promise an easy road without disappointment and valleys of suffering and despair (1 Peter 1:6). He doesn’t promise to meet our desires and needs in our way on our time table (Isaiah 55:8). He will not leave us wanting (Isaiah 58:11). He will provide for us (Matthew 6:26-27). He will not forsake us or abandon us, ever (Romans 8:38-39). But he also is faithfully committed to love us and complete the work He began in us (Philippians 1:6). What work is that you ask? The work of making us like his son, Jesus. This means a death, a dying of self to be raised to life again. This also means providing for us in his way, his timing. It doesn’t usually look like what we thought and certainly often contrast the world. It demands our trust, even when it isn’t easy to give.

And so because He loves you, he said no. He said I will not give you away. When you asked him for his will, his way, his best, he lovingly said no I have better.

In his time, in his way he will lead you to his best. In the meantime, lean into the comfort of his arms. Let him shelter you under his wings (Psalm 91:1). He is close to the brokenhearted (Matthew 5:4). Let him expose his love for you and heal your broken heart. Likely, he is just waiting for you to discover more of him. He is longing for you to know him more and anxiously awaiting your companionship. Don’t hide. Don’t reject him. He is the very thing you need.