Self-Worth: The Question Every Woman Asks

Dear Woman Who Feels Unwanted_ (2)

The teenage girl stands in front of the vending machine, a frown on her face. She scans the snack selections uncertainly. Several minutes tick by. She is unaware that anyone is behind her. I am a few feet back and notice her thin shoulders.

She has lost a bit of weight in the last year. She has a new boyfriend on her arm. He is not with her now, but even though she smiles when she is with him, I notice something worried in her expression. I see a bit of a desperation in the way she clings to his hand, attaches herself to him in her every spare moment.

She surveys the snacks carefully one last time and selects a bag of chips. I get the impression that she is choosing carefully — that perhaps this one item will be all she eats today. Although what I am thinking is merely conjecture — I see myself in this girl. No, not in the selection of Doritos or the rapid weight loss — but in the fear. The desire written all over her face to be loved. The fear that maybe he’ll find out she’s not enough.

And I know he will — not because she doesn’t have enough to offer — but because she doesn’t believe that she does.

Another Story of Broken Self-Worth

I think back to 18-year-old me. I am excited. Cheeks flushed. I am packing to go on a trip. A trip to see a boy that expressly asked for me. But as I pack, I am also worried. He hasn’t seen me in a few months. Does my hair look all right? Do I look too thin?

I have never flown across the country alone before. I combat my nerves for seven straight hours with each dip of the airplane. I have written dozens of letters to this person, but I have never met his family. I haven’t been alone with him for more than a handful of hours. I want this trip to be amazing. I want everything to be perfect.

When I get off the plane, I look around expectantly, but I don’t see him. After waiting for some time (this is pre-cell phone era, people), I notice that no one is standing around.

I walk in the direction of the other people. I don’t know where I am supposed to meet him. I am not even sure I remember what he looks like. At last, just when I am getting a little panicked, I see him standing by a wall in a sweater I would never pick out. I go up and hug him, but things feel awkward and off right away. He tells me that his mom bought him the sweater. I decide that I don’t like it. I keep my opinion to myself. Tacky sweater or no, this boy is the boy of my dreams. I figure that we just need a little time to warm up to each other again.

But that doesn’t happen. In fact, the whole visit, it feels like he drifts further and further away from me, and I can’t get through to him. He is distracted, busy. He tells me he is going hunting with his friends. He has a doctor’s appointment. He doesn’t want to walk outside in the snow even though I ask. He beats me in checkers every time and laughs at the way I try to lift weights. I feel stupid. Inadequate. In the way.

At the end, when it is time to say good-bye, he hands me a letter. There is no explanation in it — just a “sorry” that is vague. He tells me that he won’t be riding with me to the airport. He is going to sleep in.

I call him twice more — once when I get to the airport and once more when I get home. I can tell he doesn’t want to talk. What did I do wrong? I obsess. Was it the way I dressed? Talked? Acted? When he doesn’t call again, I let him confirm what I was afraid of all along.

Moving On: Finding Self-Worth in the Wrong Places

I start college with high hopes of stepping out as a new person — in leaving behind the past, but I am immediately pursued by a boy I don’t even like. Initially, I go out with him just because I don’t know how to thwart his advances, and I am flattered by his attention.

We enter into a relationship. But he, too, helps to dig my self-esteem further down. He is critical of me. One day when I don on shorts (I was already self-conscious about my skinny legs), he squints and tells me he notices some cellulite forming on my thighs. (I laugh now when I write this because I definitely had nothing like cellulite on my legs at the time. Now might be a different story!)

He flirts openly with other girls on campus, and he discusses different features of attractive girls in my presence. I feel insecure and plain in comparison. I put an end to the relationship. I make the decision right then and there that I don’t care what happens to me. I don’t care if I just throw myself away.

Not too long after that, I meet a young marine. He pays attention to me. He is kind. He has money to pay for his bills. He doesn’t talk about other girls in my presence. He never makes fun of me, and I never worry that he wants someone else.

I am not ready for marriage. I am too young, but I say “yes” when he asks. He is going to have to travel a lot, and he wants to move to Georgia when he gets out. I think about how wonderful it would be to run away from my problems and be loved for the rest of my life.

But I quickly find that my problems follow me. After marriage, I find myself homesick and depressed. My husband’s love isn’t enough to convince me of my worth. I keep striving and seeking. I remember getting a break-through one day at the altar when I go forward for prayer. God tells me to forgive the boy who hurt me all those years ago (and I conclude later that that includes the others who have hurt me as well) — and He tells me something else: Carol, it wasn’t your fault.

The Question Every Woman Asks Concerning Her Worth

In Your Captivating Heart: Discover How God’s Love Can Free a Woman’s Soul, Stasi Eldredge asserts that women go through life asking this question: “Am I lovely?” The problem is that they take this question to the wrong people. I took my question to the boy in another state, the boyfriend in college — and I let them answer it for me. And the answer I got back was this: No, you are not. You are defective. You can’t hold a man’s love. Other women have something you don’t. As Eldredge notes:

You see, every girl is asking one fundamental Question, a question that is core to her heart. Little boys have a core Question too. Little boys want to know, Do I have what it takes? All of that rough and tumble, all that daring and superhero dress-up, all of that is a boy seeking to prove that he does have what it takes … Little girls, on the other hand, want to know, Am I lovely? Do you see me? Am I worth fighting for? The twirling skirts, the dress-up, the longing to be pretty and seen — all of that is about seeking an answer to our Question.

What if, instead of taking our question to bosses or fathers or boyfriends, we take our question to God? What if we let Him answer it, and it is from that place of security that we are able to operate out of a stable identity?

Yes, I believe that God designed a woman to want to be noticed and pursued by a man, and it’s not wrong for us to want to be what Eldredge describes as “captivating” to that special person in our life. But what if we decide to see ourselves the way God sees us so it won’t completely derail us when someone doesn’t treat us the way we should be treated or offers an opinion about us that doesn’t line up with God’s?

As Eldredge asks in a book she co-wrote with her husband, Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul, what if the truly most unbeautiful parts of me or you aren’t the flaws others have pointed out in us or we have imagined in ourselves, but the belief in us that says we are not enough? What if the way we can be the most beautiful is to be us without trying to morph into a more polished, prettier, smarter version of us?

Because here’s the thing that I wish I had known as a young person, and I wish I could tell the girl at the vending machine and all of us desperate women unhappy with ourselves: that we have to risk sharing our beauty with others knowing that not everyone will affirm it or acknowledge it (Eldredge, Captivating).

But if we are firm in our identity and beauty because we are daughters of God, even if another person rejects us, they can’t convince us that we don’t possess beauty or worth. Because we are too convinced (based on the fact that One bigger and more important has already convinced us) — that we do.

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

More Posts

How I Gave up My Need to Perform for Approval

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (7)

For most of my life, I have been a people pleaser. Many times I have focused my day on winning the approval of others. I wanted to hear another person thank me for something I did or respond with praise over my effort.

This desire for people to notice me began as a teenager. Both my parents loved and accepted me, but that was not enough. Instead I sought out my friends’ approval. As a teenager, I “did church” just to be a part of a group, seeking the group’s approval and not God’s. I developed performance-for-approval habits as a teenager, and these became a way of life.

All through college and even my career in teaching, I used my performance to gain others’ admiration or affection. When I spent time with God, I shared my worldly wants and ambitions with Him, but not my emotional needs. I felt like I might exhaust God by asking Him each day to help me feel loved and worthy. So I didn’t ask.

The Cost of Seeking the Approval of Others

Unfortunately, my approval seeking began to take an emotional toll on me, particularly in my teaching career.

When I desired to move from the classroom to the role of an elementary principal, I was encouraged to take leadership classes that prepared me for the job. In my classes I was informed that I needed to dress for success. I observed the leaders who taught the class and realized that I would have to wear high heels and professional suits, plus get my nails done.

All of these requirements stretched me because I was a play-in-the-dirt kind of girl. My hands didn’t like princess nails. I placed a lot of pressure on myself not only in my job, but as a mom. I felt the success of my children was another way I could show my success as a person.

As a result of the demands I put on myself and accepted from others, insomnia began to settle into my nighttime routine. During those sleepless moments, I woke up angry and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t feel like I dressed like my superiors wanted me to, parented well enough, or met the needs of those closest to me. I stayed awake planning ways I could do better at work and at home.

Hours would tick by without a feeling of peace. I tried all the strategies I learned in church: quoting Scripture, praying, or singing my favorite worship song.

However, where was God in all of this? Far away! I didn’t allow the Holy Spirit to direct my path in relationships because I was determined to meet my needs for love and acceptance on my own: I would buy a new pair of high heel shoes, get my nails done — or bake someone their favorite treat, call them, or take them to lunch.

All these ideas for trying to please or impress others seemed harmless, but my heart was not a godly heart. I was seeking a human love that could not measure up to God’s love, and I was not demonstrating an unconditional love toward others. I was offering my performance in exchange for something in return.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (8)

How I Gave Up My Need for People’s Approval

Several years ago, when I retired from education, I began to really dig into God’s Word. I joined a young moms’ Bible study at my church. I accidentally found myself in this class because I liked the topic of the Bible study. On the first day, I realized that there were two older people in the class, and I was one of them. The moms made me feel welcome, but when I left, I was not sure I should return.

The next week I returned to the class. I chose to stay because these young moms had amazing energy, a strong desire to learn about God’s word, and a wish to connect with other moms who understood the challenges of being a mother. It was during a study called The Best Yes, by Lysa Terkeurst, that I realized I was driven by my need to live life in a stellar performance mode to win others’ approval. I was convicted by a verse included in the study that jumped out at me with these words:

Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. (Matthew 6:1, MSG)

In our study, Terkeurst referred to author and pastor Dallas Willard, who wrote The Divine Conspiracy. He says,

When we want human approval and esteem, and do what we do for the sake of it, God courteously stands aside because, by our wish, it does not concern him… . When our aim is to impress human beings … he lets us do that… . On the other hand, if we live unto God alone, he responds to our expectations — which are of him alone.

I had one of those oh-my-gosh moments when I read that. I took a deep look into my past and discovered all these years I was living my life out-of-sync with God. What Williard says about how God “courteously stands aside” while we aim to impress was true in my life.

God was standing aside since my pride created a distance between us. After this moment in the study, however, my quiet moments with God became a time to examine my deep desire to be loved by others and why I felt I needed to work so hard to make people accept me. The solution to my problem was not to earn my family and friends’ love, but to live my life for God and trust Him to meet my need for approval.

It was a freeing moment! A weight had been lifted because I didn’t have to try to win people’s approval. I could let go of my own unrealistic expectations for myself and performance-based system of living. How freeing is that — awesomely so! God created us to worship Him and to celebrate how He created us. My moments with God now begin with praise because He so wonderfully made me the way He wanted to and not the way I think He should have made me.

Now when I wake to the old voices of fear and worry telling me that I have to perform, I pray to my Father, acknowledging how He loves me for me, and I praise Him for making me “me.” I think about 1 Thessalonians 2:4 (NLT), which says, “Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts.”

I ask God to search my heart to direct me when I am concerned about my relationships with others. When I do that, I am able to let go of my anxiety about what I have or have not done that day; I meditate on how He loves me, and when I do, all is well with my soul and sleep returns.

Prayer: Father, may we praise You for the breath that You created in us. May we know that this day, You have given to each one of us a desire to celebrate living life for You. As we live today, continue to search our hearts and draw us near so we will not leave Your presence to seek what we think we should accomplish. Help us to be mindful that our performance is to bring You great joy because You are the center of our life. We trust You to walk with us and direct our actions. May all the glory be Yours. 

Sheila Michael

Sheila Michael

Sheila is a retired elementary school principal and educator. She spent over thirty years in education and has a specialist degree in educational leadership. She is also a wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother of 12 amazing kiddos. Sheila enjoys cooking and teaching her grandchildren how to cook. Family gatherings are essential to the Michael “herd,” as they gather to share life with each other. Residing in Georgia, Sheila calls herself a “Southern belle with a twist,” since her husband is from Iowa. Sheila’s personal journey with God has created in her a desire to write and share the “God moments” she has experienced in her life. She loves mentoring young women in their walk with Christ and encouraging families to serve and love the Lord and each other as they navigate through life’s challenges.

More Posts

Seeking Forgiveness When You Unintentionally Hurt a Friend

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (5)One of my best friends and I were working out at the gym together this past summer. We are both teachers, so summertime is the perfect time catch up on things we aren’t able to do during the school year. As we were both on the elliptical one day, we found ourselves in a conversation about friendship, specifically, when friendship doesn’t seem to go right.

We discussed our friend wounds. The times when we expected someone to invite us to an event, to reach out and give us a call, or simply to show that they cared more. The times when those things didn’t happen and we were left hurt. Then I began to think of all the people I have missed the mark with as well. And it hit me. We all have unintentionally hurt other people.

As our conversation continued, one specific instance where I had made a previous mistake with my friend Lauren came to mind. She was one of my dearest friends in middle school and high school. I have always enjoyed her company and gentle spirit. We did cheerleading together and had many sleepovers. We have had a close sisters-in-Christ kind of relationship, and she even asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. It was such an honor!

And then life happened. She was enjoying time as a newlywed, and I was focused on college and my boyfriend. Our friendship sadly faded into the background.

My boyfriend proposed, and we began planning the details of our wedding. (OK, maybe I did more of the planning!) One of the big tasks was to create our guest list. My initial list was around 175 people. As we looked at our budget, we realized we needed to cut down the guest list to 130 people. I went through the list several times and reluctantly removed several people. You guessed it: Lauren was one of them. And it has haunted me ever since.

As I headed home that day from the gym after the conversation with my friend, Lauren was the first person I thought about. I was heavy with regret and began to pray. I felt that I needed to reach out and apologize to her. I had thought of doing this several times before, but for some reason couldn’t find the courage. Well, not this time. I decided I was going to contact her.

We still kept in touch mainly on Facebook, liking each other’s pictures and occasionally leaving comments, so I decided to write her a message there. I finally apologized to her for not inviting her to my wedding, and told her how thoughtless that was of me. Thankfully, she graciously said I had already been forgiven. I’m so glad God worked that out! Even though we may not see each other very often, she is still someone close to my heart, and I would never want to hurt her.

Whether it’s on purpose, or a mindless mistake, we all hurt each other sometimes. We are a fallen, broken people apart from God. We need Him. None of us is excluded in this. He alone is perfect love, and He knows the way for us to be in right relationship with each other. Therefore, it’s important that we give our relationships to Him, the broken ones and all. He will mend them as needed. Here are a few things we can do in order to surrender our relationships to Him.

1. Ask God to open our eyes.

Ask God to show you where you have sinned against someone, whether you meant to or not. Take time to examine your relationships according to His Word. Did you say something that you shouldn’t have? Or maybe something you did was taken the wrong way? Or maybe, like my story, you hurt someone out of ignorance? Instead of casting the blame on someone else or making excuses, search your own heart and actions. Open your eyes to what has happened.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (6)

If the hurt happened on both sides, don’t focus on their actions; focus on your own. Matthew 7:3-5 tells us, “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

2. Take the first step and reach out.

Once your eyes have been opened to a relationship that needs healing, take the steps to reach out and make it right. Pick up the phone, write a letter (or Facebook message), or make plans to get together. Apologize from a sincere heart. Show the person that you care enough about the relationship to take a step of faith, even if it feels uncomfortable.

3. Trust God to bring healing.

Whether the restoration happens immediately or takes a while, trust God. Pray about it. Surrender the broken and the tainted things to Him. He is faithful, and His Word will not return void. He wants us to be in right relationship with each other, and “this is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14).

I know there are other instances where I have wronged those around me. I’m praying that God helps me to do these three things as I continue to pursue needed healing. I fully believe that “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16).

Let that be me and you.

Rachel Howard

Rachel Howard

With a degree in music education, Rachel Howard is a middle grades chorus instructor who has a passion for teaching students about her love for music. In addition to inspiring adolescents in the public school system, Rachel is currently taking piano lessons and also enjoys photography, scrapbooking and Francine Rivers novels. A small-group leader at her church, Rachel leads worship on occasion and is currently enrolled in a women’s mentoring program through Broken Chains International (a Christian organization that provides Christian counseling and life coaching to individuals). In addition to these roles, Rachel is a wife and new mom to a 9-month-old, Isaac. Rachel has recently begun writing here at Beulah Girl about what God is teaching her through her struggles –- as a way to bring healing to herself and others. Rachel currently resides in Georgia with her husband and son.

More Posts

Upcoming Book Study: The Blessings of Brokenness

THE BLESSINGS OF BROKENNESS (5)Ever wonder why God has allowed hard times to come into your life? Even though you may not have enjoyed the trials or may be walking through them now, have you considered that God has a great blessing for you in the midst or aftermath of your brokenness?

Friends, I would like to tell you about a book study opportunity that will run for five weeks June 10 through July 8 over Charles Stanley’s The Blessings of Brokenness: Why God Allows Us to Go Through Hard Times. I stumbled across this book in the library a few months ago, and I loved how simply it delved into the very hard questions that all of us ask at one point or another: God, why is this happening? Why did you allow this?

As I have shared in other places of my blog, I have had to confront the truth in my own life that God allows brokenness at times in my life for a specific reason. In a simple, eye-opening way, Stanley unpacks the possible reasons for hardship and brokenness in our lives in his book — and then shows us how we can confront that brokenness and find blessing in it, rather than just suffering.

There are several ways you can participate with us in the book study. I have written five posts that correspond with the chapters in the book, and we will also have some live chats on the weekly reading with other writers on the blog. You can receive the posts and links to the chats by following us on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ (if you are not already following us).

I would highly encourage you to get the book and read it along with the study. However, it is also possible to join us in the study without purchasing the book, and you can get something from the study just by reading the weekly posts. (Click here if you would like to preview or buy the book.)

To get a sample of the format of the study, I’ve included a preview of my first post for chapters 1 & 2. I encourage you to read it and look at the book study schedule below! Blessings!

Sample Book Study Post: Response to Chapters 1 & 2

A few years ago, I sat in a small prayer service at my church. While the people around me had upraised hands and cheerful expressions on their faces, I stewed on my pew.

I was angry at God. During the worship and prayer, two continual questions played like a tape recorder in my head, over and over: Why is this happening? Why are you letting me go through this, God? I had never been so confused or doubtful in my Christian walk. Whereas a few months before I had joyfully left my job to follow down a new path at His leading, I had no idea that it would lead to what felt like such chaos and suffering.

Our money had dried up. God hadn’t directed me to a way to replace the income we had lost when I had quit. All of the part-time work I looked into didn’t pay what I needed or would demand too much of my time.

My marriage was hanging by a thread. My husband and I were constantly fighting over finances and this “new direction” I felt I was to go.

My newborn son was difficult and colicky. He cried all the time and added to the tension of our already tension-filled household.

The area I had felt God ask me to step into wasn’t opening up like I wanted. I kept coming up against walls in relationships and opportunities. I made adjustments, worked on my skills, practiced in any spare second I could — but none of that made any difference.

I felt stuck. I knew this was where God wanted me. But why did He want me here? Although I would never admit it out loud to anyone, there was a voice inside that said, “This isn’t working. You should give up.” I wanted to run away. I didn’t want to follow God anymore if He continued to lead me  down this path.

As I wrestled inside with these questions that I am sure everyone around me would find so shocking, there was also part of me that wasn’t completely void of hope. Part of me that knew that I didn’t have any other options. And because I didn’t know what else to do, I walked up at the end of the service to the altar call. There were hardly any people standing at the front of the church. I felt really foolish and silly standing there.

My bad mood hadn’t completely left. I really didn’t think anything would happen in that moment. But as I stood there, I heard the pastor say, “Don’t turn away. Don’t turn away.”

He was on the stage. He wasn’t talking directly to me, but I knew that God had put those words in his head for me. And, who knows?, maybe there was someone else sitting in the congregation — even in the midst of all those people with saintly expressions — who needed to hear that too.

Don’t. Turn. Away.

And that was it. That was enough. I felt the searing heat of God’s presence in my soul. I still didn’t understand what He wanted from me. I didn’t understand why He was letting me walk through such hardship, but I did understand this in that moment: He knew what I was going through, and He wanted me to stay with Him in the process. He wanted me to stick it out.

I didn’t get any other answers in the service that day. God didn’t reveal to me the reasons I was going through what I was — but I got the reassurance that God had me on a journey. And that there was a purpose for me in what felt like utter agony and disorder.

The reality is this. As Charles Stanley notes in The Blessings of Brokenness, “Brokenness is not something to be shunned and avoided at all cost. Rather it is something to be faced with faith” (12).

To be continued … read the rest of my post starting June 10.

Here’s How You Can Join in:

1. Read two chapters a week, starting June 10 and ending July 8. (Again, reading the book is optional but will help to bring clarity to the weekly posts.)

2. Read the weekly posts starting June 10 and write comments underneath in response to what I wrote and add your own reflections and insights. You can write comments in response to just my post (if you haven’t read the chapters), or you can write comments based on what you are reading in the book.

3. Each Monday starting June 13 (with the exception of the week of July 4), writers here on the site will lead a Blab chat on the two chapters for that week. You can look for the link for the chat on Facebook, Twitter or Google + and submit questions or comments in response to the chats — or listen in on them later during the replay if you are unable to make it to the chat.

A Breakdown of the Schedule:

June 10: Chapters 1 & 2

*Blab Chat: June 13 @ 9 p.m. EST

June 17: Chapters 3 & 4

*Blab Chat: June 20 @ 9 p.m. EST

June 24: Chapters 5 & 6

*Blab Chat: June 27 @ 9 p.m. EST

July 1: Chapters 7 & 8

*Blab Chat: July 5 @ 9 p.m. EST (Note, this chat takes place on a Tuesday night to account for the July 4 holiday.)

July 8: Chapters 9, 10 & Epilogue

*Blab Chat: July 11 @ 9 p.m. EST

We hope you will join in!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

More Posts

The Thing That Surprised Me the Most About Having Children

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (3)

Having kids proved to me that God has a sense of humor.

I had always suspected that He did (after all, He gave us the ability to laugh, and we’re made in His image), but having children confirmed it for me.

Here’s how: nearly every expectation or preconceived notion I had about having children was irrevocably wrong.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I was convinced that I was having a boy. Convinced because I thought I wanted a boy. I told my husband that I didn’t even need to go to the ultrasound — I was 100 percent sure I was having a boy. My husband was convinced of the opposite, and he was right.

I was having a girl. And when plans of my “Keegan” boy name and the sports nursery I had already planned in my head were turned upside down with one matter-of-fact announcement from the ultrasound technician, I was horribly upset. But after I got over the shock, I went out and bought the pinkest, frilliest nursery set I could find and embraced the girl thing with open arms.

And you know what? I love having a girl and a first-born girl at that. She is my number-one helper around the house. She is so responsible and pleasant and hilarious. I can’t imagine her not being my child.

Similarly, I had other expectations when I was pregnant with my son. I did think I was having a boy (and was accurate the second time around), but when I got the boy I couldn’t wait to have, I was surprised by just how much of a boy he was. I didn’t anticipate that he would enjoy hanging off the blinds like a trapeze artist (until all of the supports snapped in half), or bring all of the rough-and-tumble and grime of the outdoors in my house. All the time.

And yet — I love my son dearly, and I have learned to let go of my cherished possessions and take it in stride when a lamp (or two or three) breaks.

And I feel pretty sure God laughs. Not in a malicious way, but just at how silly I must appear with my plans and ideas that I am so sure of. Then He unveils His plans and ideas, and they are nothing like mine!

A few other things I have found surprising:

1. My children have pieces of me.

I know this probably seems like an extremely narcissistic way to start this conversation, but I am most amazed by the fact that my children have some of me in them. Sure, I assumed they would somewhat look like me and perhaps display some of my traits, but I didn’t really think about what this would look like in reality.

My daughter has the same taste in movies as me. We love to watch Disney Princess Diaries together, and I have already introduced her to some of my other Disney favorites when I was a child: Parent Trap, Pollyanna, etc. She loves to write stories, and she took off with reading three months into her kindergarten year. Now, as a first grader, she has stacks of chapter books on her nightstand, and I catch her reading every free second she has.

I assumed that my love of all things reading wouldn’t transfer to my son. He didn’t speak in full sentences until he was three, so I thought that he might be slightly delayed with reading or not have an interest in it at all. But I was wrong. He pesters me all day about how to spell words (Mom, how do you spell?) and reads small words on signs and on book covers at the age of four.

Each night he won’t let me leave the room unless the light is on and he has at least 20 children’s tales littering the bottom half of his bed. As I go downstairs to clean the kitchen and tidy up the family room, I hear him reading out loud to himself in his childish voice.

I am reminded of all the nights I read late into the night as a young person, and I am astounded by this love for words that my children share with me. It makes me proud! I bet God looks down and smiles when we display traits of His — and feels that same parental pride.

2. How different my children are from me.

Not only did it surprise me that my children would have some of the same interests as me, I was equally surprised by their uniqueness as individuals. Even though I suspected that they would be different than me, I sometimes feel that these differences are shocking. Sometimes I am not sure if I am dealing with my own children or aliens.

The fact that they have opinions and want their own thing — A LOT — makes it hard for me to always relate to them. My daughter, for instance, is very caring and loves animals. I have never been much of an animal lover, so when she cuddles up to some of the smelly goats and calves at the petting zoo or talks to me about the traits of a particular four-legged friend, I have to feign interest.

It’s a stretch for me when she gets in caring animal mode. It’s just not something I relate to. However, I don’t want to take that away from her because I know how important animals are to her. So we go to farms and zoos and buy kitty fact books and collect stuffed animals from the Five and Below store. I definitely want to be her biggest support, but I have to work at it when that includes orchestrating activities that take me out of my comfort zone.

3. That my children would bring me pain.

When I was pregnant with my daughter, I envisioned rosy moments of cradling an infant in my arms — and yes, I had those — but I didn’t realize that infant would also bring me hurt at times. All of those corny things you hear about your children being your hearts walking around are completely true. I feel the hurts that my children feel.

For instance, when my daughter came home and reported a few incidents where a certain girl excluded her in kindergarten, I felt like I had been mortally wounded. I wanted to go and take care of it right then and there (I know, super mature), but I had to instead talk to Elsbeth about her worth and her value whether other people noticed it or not. When she tells me about a girl not being nice to her, I feel like a stake is piercing straight through me. There has been this lurking fear that she will turn out just like me. And I don’t want that for her.

And I have similar pains (for different reasons) when my son throws exhausting fits and makes me wonder if I am doing anything right. Recently, my son went into a phase when we put him into preschool — a hitting Mommy phase — where many afternoons after I picked him up he would throw large-scale tantrums when I didn’t give him the snack he wanted or told him to turn off the video game.

He would come up and give me a defiant punch in the arm or kick in the shin. I know little boys are supposed to be physical, but I figured that would be with other little boys rather than his own mother.

But this little boy whom I rocked to sleep through long nights of colic when he was first born; the same one who wanted only his mother for three straight years (much to the disappointment of his father); the one who bounced into his classroom the first day of preschool holding onto my hand, proud to be sporting a brand-new Mario backpack — yes, this same one also has a temper that rears up against me.

Though he is pulling out of the phase now, there have been moments when I have cringed as I have pulled up in the preschool carpool line — afraid that his teachers will lean in the car and report that my son had gone bezerk during school hours, and they couldn’t control him. But they usually just smile and tell me he was very quiet in school.

Apparently, he reserves this behavior just for me.

No one told me the ache I would feel — loving a child who has such adorable qualities but yet can be so challenging to manage on certain days.

4. That my children would teach me things.

I grew up in the 80s where parents were strict disciplinarians (the ones I observed, anyway). They laid down the law and children were just children. The parents I knew were busy making all of the rules and the kids’ job was to follow them.

Don’t get me wrong. I certainly don’t believe kids should call the shots or make the rules in a household, but I have found since having children of my own that I really do learn valuable things from listening to them. They have, in many ways, helped me learn how to parent them and relate to them in more ways than I imagined.

Armed with parenting books when my daughter arrived, I was careful to follow the advice of the experts and psychologists. But I quickly learned that my daughter didn’t need all of the three-step plans for getting her sleeping through the night or weaning her from her pacifier. She was a very easy, compliant baby and needed very little coaxing to do the things we wanted her to.

She never tried to climb out of her crib or escape from her bed when we introduced her to a “big girl bed.” She helped me calm down as a mom, and I realized that she was more resilient than I thought she would be. She had to weather a few of my blunders — like when I washed her bottles for two straight weeks without realizing that I needed to separate the nipple parts to ensure their cleanliness, or tried a boot camp approach to potty-training.

However, she survived both of those mama fails and didn’t seem to notice or care when I finally figured out how to use the bottle dishwasher container I had received at my baby shower and got into a groove with potty-training.

5. That my children would reveal more of God to me.

Although I know and believe my children were made in God’s image, I wasn’t prepared for how much my children would heighten my awareness of who God is and His special plan for each of us — one conceived before we were even born.

With both of my children, I struggled to come up with names because my husband and I had such vastly different ideas concerning names, and nothing sounded right. So I prayed about what to name them, and God delivered.

I dreamed of my daughter’s name, and my son’s name just popped in my head one day when my husband and I were at an impasse as to what to call him. And these names fit both perfectly. I know and see that God knew my children before He formed them.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb … My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all of the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16).

Therefore, the most surprising thing of all, the thing that I wasn’t expecting is that my kids reveal more of God to me: they reveal how much He loves us, how much care He took to create us.

Beulah Girl April May 2016 (4)

Though I laugh at how my children didn’t (and don’t) fit my own ideas of who they would be  — those silly ideas I had revealed how little I understood about what a mother does or who she is.

My job as a mother isn’t to put my children or myself on display through my children — though they share some of my traits. My job is to continually point my children to their Maker, understanding that as my children grow in their walks with Jesus and get to know Him better, the Person that will shine the brightest through them is Him.

That though I already see His creative fingerprints all over them, the noblest task of motherhood is this: to know that the greatest plan for my children is to reflect God’s glory. To encourage them to continue to become, as the writer of Ephesians says, God’s masterpiece or poema — not mine.

 

 

 

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to write music lyrics (that no one has ever seen) and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and two children.

More Posts