Previously posted in January 2015 on “The Hogbloggers” site…
Before you get to thinking this is about learning to love your life-scarred body, let me be clear. I am not that woman…at all. I’m all for embracing whatever “beautiful” means to you. As for me, I aim to correct the train wreck that was left behind after weaning my sweet little angels. I know plenty of women who wear their stretch marks and saggy breasts as badges of honor and see them as a different kind of beautiful. I applaud those women and their husbands. I really do, but that’s not where we are going here.
No, this is a different kind of stretch mark I want to celebrate. Let me share a little bit of the back story.
In January of 2014, my girlfriends and I went to the beach for “Wife Camp.” It was a rainy, blustery kind of cold while we were there and, with much time spent indoors, Lisa decided it would be fun to lead us through a goal-setting exercise. We had a beautiful time of sharing and bonding on a deeper level. At the end of the session she instructed us to choose a word for 2014.
Through this whole experience I came to realize that every decision I make in life has safety, security and comfort as the end goal. Why then have I been struggling with paralyzing fear and anxiety? In my attempt to self-protect, I had done just the opposite. I decided my word for 2014 would be “stretch”. I knew I needed to stretch beyond my comfort zone and live life differently. Here is a sampling of what I have learned:
Dwelling in my comfort zone only led me to a place of fear and anxiety.
What an epiphany! When your goal in life is comfort and safety, anything that challenges that will send you into a tail spin. I have had to learn to look at these challenges as opportunities for growth. These are opportunities to live, to look beyond my circumstance and make a difference in the world around me. If anything, it took “me” out of the equation and forced me to be more focused on others. It brings to mind this video from one of my favorite authors, Francis Chan. I am still working on this one. Anxiety is a difficult thing to overcome.
Sometimes it’s okay not to plan every second of your day.
I have ADHD and my old-school, paper calendar is my very best friend. It keeps me from chasing rabbits all day and allows me to manage my time effectively. However, I had become so scheduled that I could not entertain the thought of an impromptu lunch date with a friend and circumstances outside of my control interrupting my plans would wreck my whole day. I have learned that just because something is written on my calendar for Tuesday, doesn’t mean it can’t be pushed to Wednesday if something more important (or more fun) comes up.
Working on “me” isn’t selfish.
After being married for 17 years and having 2 kids, I struggled to prioritize anything that didn’t benefit the whole family. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of those women who let herself go and only wears mom jeans, a stained sweater and no makeup. I did sacrifice things that were once important to me because they now seemed frivolous or selfish. I decided to make it a priority to pick one thing every month that was just for me, even if it was expensive. I have prioritized more time with friends and I jealously guard my alone time. I still feel guilty sometimes, but I’m getting better.
It is not my job to make my kids happy.
We all know the helicopter parent who hovers and makes sure her kids never feel pain, are never sad and have the latest everything. I have friends who are that parent and I found myself trying to keep up. As my son began 6th grade I was forced to back off and watch the train wreck in slow motion. What a rude awakening! Yes, we need to protect our kids. Yes, their basic needs should be met. But, omg, I cannot make them happy all the time. Life is hard. It is ok to fail. Choices have consequences. If my son leaves his Latin homework on the kitchen table, it is not in his best interest for me to rush it to school to keep him from getting in trouble and feeling sad. Who will do that for him when he is in college?
Less really is more.
After Wife Camp 2014 I went back to my big, beautiful home in the suburbs and began packing boxes.
We were selling our house. We had built that house from the ground up and had only lived there 2 years. I had carefully selected every color, drawer pull and fixture in that house. Our friends thought we had lost our minds. My husband and I had come to the realization that a house, no matter how beautiful, is not a home. We never felt settled. The ceilings were too high. The rooms were too big. We are simple folk. We sold with no place to go (not really, I had found a rental home just in the nick of time)…Ok, with no place to settle. The planner in me was freaking out. The “yogi” in me was saying, “Feel the stretch.”Our family regrouped and we set new priorities based on who we are and what we want for our family; what God wants for our family. We took our time and found a wonderful home in town. It is not new. It is not big. But it is home.
God is faithful.
I already knew this, but as I have struggled with stretching beyond my comfort zone, God has reminded me of his presence every step of the way. It is not his desire to see me comfortable. It is his desire for me to trust him when I am uncomfortable. Trust that his plans for me are good plans. They are plans to prosper me and not to harm. His plans are hope-filled plans that have God’s perfect design written into them. The bonus in all of this is God’s gentle reminder that his plans for my family are even better than what I can try to schedule into my paper calendar. So I can chill out and rest in the promises that come from The One who is able to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine. He is faithful.
So these very personal “stretch marks” that have become a part of me, are like the rings in the trunk of a tree. Without significant growth, they don’t exist. They are a thing of beauty and I plan to add more to this old tree in the years to come. I do, however, plan to choose my word for 2015 very carefully.
I hope you will take a minute to think about how you have been stretched in meaningful ways. Sometimes it is by choice and sometimes life pulls and tugs us whether we like it or not.
©Elizabeth Smith 2015