Monday, February 20, 2017

Growing Into Me

When I was 15 I was just a fraction of who I am today; I had so much more to grow–I hopefully still do. I appreciate seeing how far I've come and my own journey has helped me to keep perspective as I see my own kids deal with egocentricity. I thought I knew everything. I thought life was all about what happened up to the age of 19, and who really cared about anything beyond that. People over 19 were old and boring. My two goals were the following: Do really well in school to get into sciences at university and get the attention of boys. What this attention looked like didn't really matter– I just wanted to feel beautiful and desirable which I believed would come from boys wanting to ask me out.  I don't know why I didn't care about life beyond my teenage years; I came from a great home, had a church that I was part of, a faith that sort of mattered, was at a good school and had some solid friends. If these were my thoughts at that point, with a pretty decent foundation, what are teens thinking these days with the addition of social media and all the struggles they may have in their own homes and social circles?



I am sad that I believed my worth came from my grade on a test or if a boy wanted to kiss me. Nothing about loving others or showing kindness or desiring growth or deepening my faith. I'm not saying I was a mean person or a bad one, I believe I was nice enough socially and respectable in class. I just feel like my heart was...empty. I was focused on achieving and being perceived as beautiful–in the complete external sense.  There was not a lot of depth of character but there was pain.

Living in that state was empty, lonely, and depressing. One comment from someone on my looks and I believed I would be alone forever–the ultimate sign of failure at that time. Slowly over time, with natural biological maturation and some solid friendships, the real Louise started to emerge and I started to see life beyond myself. I could lead. I could organize. I could connect with others through my conversation skills. Other people were interesting and had stories to tell.  The world was so much bigger than where I went to school and lived.

In university, I really grew outside of my comfort zone. I had to ask myself what was a priority as I no longer lived at home; I had to figure out what mattered to me. In those five years, I successfully got my Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education and I was part of various sports and activities on campus. I made new friends and tried new things both good and bad (sushi was a great one!). The greatest struggle for me throughout those years was having two different long-term relationships end. It brought up the feelings that I think many people have: Will I always be alone? What's wrong with me? Is this the right decision as I had invested so much time/energy/heart into it? At that time I don't think I was ever comfortable or confident as an independent young woman–isn't that sad?  It was not something I had learned at home as my parents always told us we can do anything a boy could do and possibly better.

Once I was out in the "real" adult world not only did I have to adjust to my new role as a teacher but I became comfortable with the idea that I didn't need anyone else–I was confident in who I was. However, there was more growth as life happened. Like, scary things that you hear about but may have never touched your life personally. My mom was diagnosed with cancer. Over the next five years she would go through chemotherapy, radiation, remission, relapse, and finally, it would take her life. Now that is when the REAL questions get asked. That is where you can't just rely on "I believe in God" without delving into the questions of purpose, trust, faith, and suffering. Over that time, I also travelled to a village in Kenya where I lived for half of a year. Wow. So, there is this whole other (beautiful, amazing) side to this world where education is so sought after and yet so difficult to get. A place where a village might have one car. Where the Internet didn't exist. Where corruption exists so openly. Where you bring a gift to each home you visit. Where you greet everyone you meet. Where people want to touch you just because of your skin colour. This led to questioning what I believed was important in my life, especially in the realm of money and materialism.

Life continued to allow for growth. Through marriage, then becoming parents three times over (with a miscarriage and trying to adopt in there), we grew–how can you not? So many times we had to question where we were at. Why did I lose the baby? Why didn't someone choose us? Was our profile not fun enough or did I just include way too much information? Also there was an autoimmune disease which humbled me and made me see that my body couldn't sustain the stress that I was putting it under. I could not do it all. I needed to re-evaluate, again, what was important in my life and what my priorities were; family, faith, and health. Work was put to the side. We would make it work with less.

Finally, in present day, this past year has continued to stretch me. I wouldn't mind a break as this growth comes with pain and questioning with a little depression and anxiety thrown in there. We became foster parents and it has opened our eyes to more stories around us. It has shown us the reality of trauma and attachment. It broke us and grew us. As our biological kids get older we can see that they have unique needs that warrant some tools beyond ourselves.  Life goes on. With being open to more opportunities, needs, and stories around us, we continue to break our hearts and mind and then rebuild with a new understanding. I am so thankful my life has moved far beyond a desire for achieving academic and professional goals alongside physical beauty. However, I'm glad I went through it because that's how I got to where I am and allows me to be patient with my own kid's growth.

I hope that young people feeling like the pain and loneliness they are currently in may never end will recognize that this is not where they will remain. I hope they will see beyond the age of 19. I hope they truly believe that although there is a life with pain ahead, there is also great joy and fullness to be experienced. My heart is full. Glennon Melton (author of Love Warrior) talks about the reason she laughs and cries so much is because she is paying attention–I am paying attention.


Did you grow up similarly?  If you had a greater independent, confident spirit at a younger age, what do you attribute that to?

Love,
Louise

7 comments:

  1. I feel like in some ways we all go through the basic stages of life and understanding, but the factors are so variable and vast everyone's story looks different from the outside. Be it you were the first child in your family, the last or somewhere in between. For myself, being the last of 4 children, for the longest time I thought my parents were so tired after raising 3 other strong willed children that I was trusted too much and left free to discover the world on my own. In some ways this may be true, but in other ways my parent's also trusted me because from the outside I was making good choices. I was going to Church, had an OK group of friends (that was ever changing) and was going to school. I think my biggest downfall in high school was never sticking with one group of friends. Since I wasn't sporty I couldn't hangout with the Volleyball Players, since I wasn't musical I couldn't hangout with the Band people. So there in the middle, I switched from the Drama kids, to the Sports kids, to the Band kids, never really finding a place I truly felt part of. Also moving on from my friends at the Church I grew up at to a new group of "Pentecostals" and then into the Larger Church I found my footing in for a time, I could never make up my mind. And at the end of the day I think every teen is just looking to belong, and if we can help or guild our kids to a steady group or team they will find the confidence I so badly wanted.

    God also had a plan to move me out of my comfort zone and into the World of International Missions, which also ever changed me. For my kids I see so much of me in them, its is crazy, and scary. I have to focus on being aware and involved in their lives, but also know that God is speaking to them too and I have to trust He knows the ultimate plan for their lives. I am just their guild for this time, as I am also still growing and learning from Him to trust He will continue His plan in my life.

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    1. My hope and prayer is that my kids find and maintain a good group of friends (or even just one really good one!) It is so true that we can only do so much and He's got the rest.

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  2. The Lord continues to break your hearts with the things that break His heart, and that's amazing!! And, you are modelling to your kids what it looks like to seek the Lord for wisdom through it all. That's what they will remember!

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  3. I definitely grew up thinking similarly! I find looking back at what I once thought was important rather embarrassing now. (Even though I know I'm still young and lots remains to be learned yet!)thank you for sharing your story. I became a mother before I finished university (and I still have yet to finish) and that has definitely been an incredible learning curve, but I've loved all of it, even if it was hard.

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    1. I can't imagine university + motherhood--way to go!

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  4. Thank goodness we grow; thank goodness for God's grace! I definitely see how I"ve grown and I, too, think I was fairly grounded as a kid/teen/young adult. But life experience brings maturity, and I think that's why they say life just keeps getting better. I keep joking that I'm like a fine wine...I just keep getting better as I age ;)

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    1. Grace. Yes. I'd like to think I'm like fine wine too :) I wonder why some people are so grounded, I don't know why I was so willing to just try things and not figure out what I stood for, believed in etc. Oh well, it's led me to here and I'm happy where I am and where I am going!

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