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Monday, January 23, 2017

I'd Be So Much Happier If I Had What She Had

It started a few years ago.

We sat together at a folding table, metal chairs pulled up to its brim in a borrowed church basement. Our Bibles were unfolded to some innocuous chapter in Mark or Matthew, the pastor's wife of our growing church plant led the discussion.

Then, like most conversations with a group of women do, our subject diverged into complaints about husbands and dishwashers and children and mounds of laundry that no one else in their household seemed to notice.

I bristled within the boundaries of my own loneliness. Silently wishing for a husband. Silently aching at the thought of what I wanted in life and how far out of reach and my control it seemed.

These women had everything I wanted: they had community, a sense of belonging, a place where people were happy to see them. They had a life outside of earning a paycheck and binge drinking with acquaintances.

And all they seemed capable of was to complain about it all.

The pain of hearing a group of women disclosing embarrassing details of their husbands was too heartbreaking for me -- a girl who was still single, still searching for a man who wouldn't break her heart or spirit, and couldn't understand why.

It was in that moment, in that metal chair that I remember thinking: I'd be a much better steward, if only I had what they had.

Now I'm one of these women.

Not the kind that complains incessantly about her life or unfolded laundry (hopefully). But, perhaps, someone with a better understanding for these women who I tried and failed to have community with years ago. I'm living within the grooves of exactly where I wanted to be.

Most of the time I am present enough to be thankful in every moment. Most of the time I remember how petty the complaints we passed to each other sounded. Most of the time I stop myself before I get too carried away when pressures of my job mount, or there never seems like there's enough time in the day to be the woman I want to be: a dream-chaser, a communicator, a fun-loving friend and a devoted wife.

Or just someone at the very least who keeps the popcorn kernels off her living room rug and has a reasonable arsenal of clean underwear. (Just saying).

But in my weak moments, of which there are many, I'm tempted to fall into dissatisfaction. I'm tempted to become a woman who forgets where she started. I'm tempted to write off the blessings in my life, the things I wished and hoped for, in search of bigger and better.

I'm tempted to want more, more, more on top of what I've already been granted.

Sometimes our blessings become disguised as our mere realities. And sometimes even the best-case scenarios of our lives become just another plateau we mount to strive ever-upward.

A long time ago, I knew a woman who wanted to have a baby more than anything.

For years and years she struggled with fertility. Every prayer request, every aching, vulnerable moment we had together was about her struggle. Her longing.

And then she became pregnant.

Joy. Disbelief. Contagious wonder. Until about 25 weeks in. When the tiredness and the backaches became a hurdle. When the world told her to "sleep while she could," but the baby's punches and jabs in her ribs kept her wide awake at 3 a.m.

Anxiety crept into her thoughts. She couldn't seem to crawl out from under depression. The reality of pregnancy, no matter how much she'd wished for it, was hard.

And she was honest about it.

Her friends noticed this as she began to settle into her nine-month journey preparing her for motherhood. Women who longed for babies of their own. The conversations swirled around, landing on comments along the lines of:

"If I were pregnant after wanting it for so long, you wouldn't hear me complain."

In other words, if I had what she had, I'd be better at it. I'd be more thankful. I'd be able to handle it. I wouldn't utter one complaint. Not even in the interest of being open with her friends about how I am really doing.

What I've learned is this: we need grace for the parts of our past, the pieces of ourselves that didn't know any better. The versions of ourselves who wished and waited. Who have arrived in some ways and still feel like we're waiting in others.

We need permission to be honest. To, of course, watch what we say and keep our nit-picking at bay. To become women of resilience.

But to realize with gentleness that dreaming for one season doesn't cancel out the challenges in another. To always strive to be content in our current seasons. And to remember when they were the ones we reached for.

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