Tuesday, October 11, 2016

11. Don't Wish Your Life Away Searching for Fulfillment

At my high school graduation open house, my Great Aunt Mary took me aside and said, "My advice for you is this: Don't spend your life wishing for the next step. Don't waste college wishing for marriage. Don't waste your newlywed years wishing for a baby. Don't wish away the years when your kids are little waiting for them to be out of the house. It all goes so fast. Enjoy it."

That was in 2003. 13 years later, now that I'm an old, haggard 31 year old, this life lesson is hitting hard. I think it all boils down to our quest for fulfillment. As a teenager, I thought getting married would fulfill me - that having a man who adores me would fill in all the cracks of insecurity and loneliness. So I got married young and felt a temporary fulfillment. But then I started to feel that itch for a baby and knew I'd never be complete without one. After my first miscarriage, I felt more empty than ever, and was sure a baby would fill that void. Again, it did for a while. Lucy was a great baby. I had a nice long maternity leave and had one of the best summers of my life after she was born. But slowly that contentment started to fade. I was burned out with working and decided becoming a stay-at-home mom would solve my problems. We added Lena to the mix and I quit my job. 3 years and one more baby later, I still feel guilty that being a SAHM doesn't fulfill me more. But I've been thinking about fulfillment and contentment and how they can become idols in our lives.

Look at this quote from an awesome book I just read:
Many of us have had it so good that we have started looking for heaven on earth. We have lost any sort of pilgrim attitude. It's all a matter of perspective. If you think that God has promised this world will be a five-star hotel, you will be miserable as you live through the normal struggles of life. But if you remember that God promised we would be pilgrims and this world may feel more like a desert or even a prison, you might find your life surprisingly happy (27). 
He goes on to explain that 200 years ago, no one stopped to ask themselves how fulfilled they were. They were too busy surviving. And even our grandparents' generation didn't fixate on fulfillment.
By and large, my grandparents' generation expected much less out of family life, a career, recreation, and marriage . . . But my generation is on the opposite end of the spectrum. When we marry, we expect great sex, an amazing family life, recreational adventure, cultural experiences, and personal fulfillment at work. It would be a good exercise to ask your grandparents sometimes if they felt fulfilled in their careers. They'll probably look at you as if you're speaking a different language, because you are. Fulfillment was not their goal. Food was, and faithfulness too (29). 
We have to remember that fulfillment on earth isn't possible. It's not even the goal. We're supposed to feel like something's missing, because it is. But that's not to say we have to walk around bemoaning our futile existence on the planet. It's just a warning against spending life searching for the next best thing. Do your best to enjoy each phase of life.

I know as moms, we hate hearing, "Cherish every moment!" Because seriously, not every moment is cherishable (see day 2 on puking). It's ok to be bored, frustrated, overwhelmed, and stressed, but don't let that be all there is. Remember this:

Sometimes I have moments where I think, "It will be so nice when they're all grown up. I'll be able to shower in peace, go places without carseats and diaper bags and working around nap schedules. I'll be able to drink my coffee in silence, read without interruptions, watch what I want on TV when I want to." But then I look at those little toes:

I think of the way he sleeps so sweetly on me:

Or of the dimply, crinkly-eye smiles that make the sleepless nights and endless puking all worth it:

I close my eyes and listen to Lena's soft little voice singing Jesus Loves Me. 

And think of her quirky fashion sense:

And remember how affectionate she is, how freely she says "I love you, Mommy!"

I look back on pictures of Lucy as a toddler and feel the sadness and loss that those times are gone forever.

And think about how much she loves quality time with me, is always asking me to snuggle and talk with her.

So when I'm frustrated and overwhelmed and tempted to wish it all away, I think these things:

1. They love me more now than they ever will again.

And . . .

2. You're going to miss this . . .

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