25stories: Melanie

At 25 Melanie was a mom of two and a wife with a husband whose job kept him on the road 20-25 days a month. She was struggling to figure out how to parent her kids alone and understand what it meant to be a wife to a man who was hardly ever around. Melanie was grappling with her picture of the future she'd assumed she'd have. A husband who works a 9-5 job, owning a home, not worrying about how to pay the bills every month, taking regular vacations--the stuff suburban America says defines a successful life. As she looked at her own life, she didn't see those things. The white picket fence she'd dreamed of seemed to be disappearing behind a cloud of loneliness and depression. At that moment Melanie's goal was simply survival.

What stood in the way of that survival were her own expectations. Expectations of how she should react to her circumstances, of what a normal life had to look like. As someone whose faith was extremely important to her, she struggled with equating God's love for her with her performance as a Christian. Melanie internalized these struggles and they, in turn, fostered bitterness. She knew she was standing at a crossroad. She could embrace the brokenness. Or she could lay it down, focus on what she had to be thankful for, and build a life filled with more joy than any white picket fence could hold. She chose the later.

Melanie rejected the idea that material possessions dictate success, that God kept score, and that suburbia's idea of normalcy was the only way to happiness. With her hands now free from the burden of so much expectation, she was able embrace the beautiful parts of her life. She began resting in Christ's unconditional love and turning to Him for strength. She drew her children and husband closer, and learned the value in family never giving up on each other. With each step forward she learned how strong she truly was.

Now, two more children, countless moves, and a number of years later Melanie can look back and see that life is about seasons. Something may seem too big and impossible to overcome, but it will pass. It may not happen in the way hoped for, but things will get better. Though things haven't turned out how she imagined they would, she sees the incomparable beauty in the life she does have. She's raised a family that loves God, taught her children that life isn't always pretty and that's OK, and become best friends with her husband. All the twists and turns have taught her to hold loosely to her expectations and to be grateful for the journey.

As someone who has very rigid ideas about how things should look, this lesson is hugely important to me. Life will not turn out exactly like we imagined. Even if we get everything we hoped for, they will be different in reality than they were in our dreams. There's so much in life that we can't understand until we walk through it. The emptiness left  by death, the fear that accompanies illness, the heart shattering love of parenthood. These are things, good and bad alike, that we can't be prepared for. All we can do is give ourselves the room to bend as they wash over us.

Happiness, heartbreak, joy, and depression are all messy. It's these areas, the messy ones, that teach us the most. It's only by embracing the uncertainty, appreciating the value of the unknown, that we can grow. If we wrap ourselves too tightly in our idea of a perfect life, we will be shattered by our own expectation. The blessing is that we don't have to have it all figured out, we don't have to build a perfect life. It's not about how well we follow a certain path, it's about how much we enjoy the one we're on.

In my 25th year I will be thankful for every day, even the messy ones.

25stories is a series I'm writing as I prepare to turn 25. I'll be talking with twenty-five women and then sharing their stories. I don't have much figured out about life, but I know that I learn some of the best lessons by listening to the stories of those around me. See more here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for allowing me to be a part of your project. You are a talented writer. -Mel