My sister Michelle sent us this picture in a group text last night. Like an old song playing on the radio, it instantly brought back a flood of memories. My mom, sisters and I, were hosting a baby shower for Kim, who was expecting her first daughter, Sophia. (Who turned 16 yesterday!) We were all SO young. Mom was still living in Louisiana. Heather had just graduated from college. Michelle already had her own family of three kids and had moved to Florida. It was just a few months before I met Scott. That dining room we were standing in, was my very first house, furnished with garage sale purchases, hand-me-downs and a lovely set of bunny ears on my TV set, just in case someone wanted to come over to watch TV.
Looking at this picture feels like an entire lifetime ago.
I was working hard at all the things, and I was having a blast doing it. I was still a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines and flipping these little houses as a side gig. I thought I knew hard work. I tore out sheet rock and tiled floors. I sawed, chiseled, hammered, and painted, well into the night. I dug out old bushes and planted landscape during the day. Then, I hired contractors to fix my messes. I thought I was so strong, and independent. I truly believed that with my faith and my strong will, nothing could stop me.
I had NO idea how hard “real life” would be.
Real life surprised me in ways I never anticipated. I thought I’d seen struggle, and I had. The only problem is, it had never really been mine. I expected my “fairytale” marriage to be hard, I had seen my parents work hard at their marriage. But when we came out fighting, the first year out of the gate, I was a little unsteady. I expected parenting to be a little hard, but when a family crisis rocked our entire world during my first pregnancy, I suddenly lost the joy I was expecting.
When Oaks came along sixteen months later, I really thought things would be better.
I’ll never forget standing at the changing table with my mom, that second night home from the hospital, when she got a phone call. I listened to a shocked and somewhat panicked conversation unfold. When she hung up, she looked up at me with sad eyes and said, “I’m so sorry. I have to go.” Another family crisis unfolded that none of us had ever seen coming. The next six months were mostly a blur of doctors appointments, lactation consultants, pumping constantly and sleepless nights, all while no one could tell me why my boy was screaming round the clock. Until the day one blessed doctor sent us for a swallow study, revealing that my baby had been in astonishing pain, aspirating the entire first six months of his life.
That was only years 1-3.
I know you may have struggles that could top mine with whipped cream and a cherry. We’ve all struggled in a million different ways. Comparison is not the point. The point is, life is hard. And for some reason when we’re young, we don’t expect it to be. If we’re not careful, even as we get older, we keep hoping, expecting, and dreaming that somewhere just over the horizon, there is this restful, easy place where we will catch our breath and live in peaceful harmony. Of course, I believe there is, but not on this side of The Rainbow Bridge.
If there’s anything I wish I could get through my thick skull, it’s to stop expecting life to be easy.
I’m the farthest thing from a “Debbie-downer”, so this is hard for me. In fact, I’ve been cunningly called “Pollyanna”, even this past year. But when I look at this picture, I could tell you story after story of the struggles we’ve each been through since that day, ALL the ways life didn’t turn out the way we planned. So if there’s anything I could encourage you with today, it’s this shift of mindset:
Don’t expect the road to be easy.
Anticipating the struggle, steals its power to wound.
Expecting struggle to arrive, shores up your strength to overcome it.
It won’t make life’s challenges easier, but it prepares your heart for the journey.
The road is hard.
You are strong.
to more love,