Last year was just full. Full of blessings, growth, emotional challenges and change.
Sitting down to write this a minute ago, I thought I would talk about how crazy this year has been for us. Then, I realized, it wasn’t that crazy. At least in the grand scheme of things: we’ve had at least one major life event, every year, for the past five years. So then I thought, “wow, we’re insane,” but then I realized just how many people I know who went through comparable changes last year. Really, the childbearing and rearing years are possibly the most transitional time in everyone’s life. As unexpected as it sounds, the word I picked for the year in January of 2013 was contentment. I think it actually fit pretty well and I now better understand the fullness of that word.
When I was little, I couldn’t wait to grow up. I eagerly awaited the day when I would be in charge of my own life and things would be “easier”. I would have my own money and make my own rules and no one would tell me what to do. I would have so many friends and no one would ever leave me out. I’d be a wife and a mommy and our family would never fight and always have so much fun together.
As funny as that all is to me now, isn’t that the picture we paint of ourselves online? I know that’s the picture I often paint, despite trying to live openly. I want others to see the person I want to be, rather than the person I am. I do my best to portray myself as a confident mom who has it all together, with only socially acceptable insecurities and problems. I grew up in a fairly private family and established somewhat rigid personal ideas of what’s okay to share and what isn’t. The thing is, it wasn’t until I stepped into the light and started sharing, that I really found community around me.
At the start of last year, I made an effort to be more transparent in my life. I mean, I started out the year sharing my weight. It doesn’t get much more transparent than that, right? Then, months later, when I felt myself getting caught up in my image again, I shared my desire to live more openly.
I spend a lot of time on social media and I am very aware that we all do. Tablets and smartphones have only made it easier to connect with people, and though that forges a lot of great connections, I think it also breeds feelings of, for lack of a better word, covetousness and even entitlement. I know, the “Trophy Generation” has been widely documented as thinking we’re special and deserve certain things because we all received trophies as children.
I’m not so sure that’s why or, even, if it’s only our generation. I think it might be more of a societal norm. As a society, the rules about what and how we share have been rewritten and we all feel a little bit special.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that Facebook makes me feel more significant. The likes and the comments let me know I’m not alone and that’s amazing, if I’m completely open about both the bad and the good. If I’m only sharing the best or worst of my life, though, I’m kind of misleading everyone and not really helping anyone.
I think our society as a whole has forgotten what life really looks like and what’s normal. I know that’s no major philosophical break through, yet it still shocks me how open-minded my grandmothers are about every subject we discuss. Life, as far as relationships and daily joys and struggles, is timeless. I know less was discussed in the “old days”, but I think there was a greater understanding that we’re all humans struggling with something and it’s all hard. People lived in communities where reputations weren’t easily lived down and, try as they might, a person’s image could only go so far. Our lives have become more transient and our sense of community has moved online where we can pick and choose what to share.
Despite all the change in our lives in 2013, contentment really was a big part of my year thanks to transparency. I grew in my walk with God and, to reference Paul, I learned to find contentment in all situations (Philippians 4:11). I learned that when I was willing to sacrifice all the false representations of security around me, I’d feel safer and more content than ever. I learned that when I had faith in people and shared what I was afraid to share, I made new friends who opened up with me and that brought so much joy.
It’s funny how my interpretation of a word was so far from what God had in store for me. When I selected “contentment” as my word, I was feeling discontent with so many things. I knew, deep down, I was the problem and needed to stop forcing change to fix things. Who would have thought letting go would mean more change than ever and would be the key to my contentment.
Today, I see how God helped me to grow by allowing all sorts of opposition to come my way. I’m so grateful for all the challenges because they set me on the right path. As I acknowledge that picking a word for my year brought hardship, I’m excited to see what my word for 2014 will bring. May 2014 be a year of “purpose”.