Have you ever thought, "When I do _________ then I'll be truly happy." Or if you've probably heard, "You know, when I reached thirty I really figured myself out." And, "When I turned forty, I completely stopped caring what other people thought; I became more secure in who I was."
Currently, the sun is setting, the breeze is blowing, our globe lights are lit on the deck, my sleeping grey cat is nestled next to me, and I just took a deep breathe.
I'm working through the marvelous book Wild and Free by two dear, Christian sisters. I've never been fond at writing in books because I've always thought, "What if I re-sell these or give them to someone else?" but recently I decided to highlight the ish out of whatever speaks to my heart. Talk about self-therapy! It's helped me process words and thoughts SO much more effectively. So on page 132 it says, "We weren't living our dream life, and we certainly weren't living anyone else's dream. But we were alive by the skin of our teeth. We were still together, still standing, and still calling on the name of the Lord." [highlight, highlight, highlight!!!]
Coming from someone who has always had the mindset: When and Then, that paragraph was a major conviction. I mean seriously, for the past few years while I've struggled immensely with finding contentment, my life kind of flashed before my eyes. Here I am, twenty-eight years old, a wife of almost eight years, a mother of two children and I have to stop and remind myself: "We are still together, we are still here, and we daily call on the Lord."
Not too long ago I wrote an article called, "Why I Stopped Telling My Son to be Big and Strong." There I shared a tidbit of how I've literally wished my entire life away and how I am trying to teach him how to be present. I always wanted a boyfriend and longed for independence; then I moved six hours away and now desperately miss my Michigan home. I dated and longed for marriage (well, only when I had met my husband because prior to him I didn't think I'd GET married.) Then babies. Then a teaching degree. Then a Masters. Then photography. And more photography. And to quit my day job and to stay home with my babies. I've wished for my dream home--ya'll know which one: the white farmhouse with the wrap around porch (that doesn't yet exist or in the very least, we can't find it...)--it has chickens and horses and barn cats and gorgeous green grass for miles on end.
My happiness can't, or shouldn't, depend on my circumstances. My life is not awaiting peace and complete astounding joy only WHEN I sit on that future (completely hypothetical) front porch. I don't want to "find myself" in two years when I turn thirty (omg..) I don't want to live in the When/Then state of mind anymore.
Sometimes I'm an emotional wreck over the fact that my kids are getting bigger. Newborns, a year, the two's and three's; all these years have been indescribable; they're wrapped in pure chaos but contagious laughter and sweet memories. I fear them getting older--will life be as sweet when they're five, six, ten, fifteen, thirty-five, fifty? All of you experienced moms to older children are reading this and saying, "Duh, Ashley. Don't be dumb." But this is only to show you that seriously, finding and resting in contentment is for ME, continuously challenging.
I hope that wherever you are in life, you can take a moment as you read and breathe deeply.
Do you have people in your life who love you? Do you KNOW that you are loved? That wherever you are, whatever you've done, you've accomplished some pretty great things? Life might not be going "as you planned." Your heart may long for something deeply; pregnancy, a baby, lots of babies, marriage, to be more fit, to be more secure, to find THE right guy or gal...
I don't know what you long for. But I have absolute faith that God does.
If you have Wild and Free, will you please turn to pages 135-139? I won't sit here and type out word for word what these ladies say, but there is something here that really meant a lot to me and that I think YOU too will benefit from hearing:
"Wild women are secure in their identity because their eyes are on the Lord...Wild women live at ease with all their weaknesses and strengths, sin and spiritual gifts, because they are inextricably rooted in a God who covers and uses it all...A wild woman doesn't have time or space to feel insecure, because her thoughts and affections are for Him and for how immeasurably great He is" (135).
Ya'll... I am a blessed woman. But I think you are too. As I sit out back, my kids are pulled up on the monitor via my phone and they are sound asleep. Crickets are chirping, birds are saying their good-nights. Tree frogs are croaking, my cat ditched me but my massive dogs lay beside me, helping me feel safe and protected. Right now there is no When/Then even remotely crossing my mind. Because for right now, God has met me here.
"For I know the plans I have for you...Plans to prosper you, not harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future"-Jeremiah 29:11
Hugs, Sisters and Friends. I love you all.