I love Sundays. After church I take my son down the street to our favorite farm. He throws on his boots, grabs his horse, and tacks her up. He knows exactly what he is doing and how to do it. He talks to her as he works, adoration in his eyes. Once she is all set, he takes her into the ring, hops on, and begins warming her up with a few laps. The barrels are set up, and he begins walking her through as he reminds her of the task at hand. He comes to a halt, and his instructor steps away and lets him have at it.
Sometimes there is frustration as he drops the wrong hand from the reins and steers her off course, or his horse just decides she doesn’t feel like participating. But even in the frustration at himself or at her, there is joy. “Pleeeeease come on, Tango. Let’s go. I promise next time I’ll bring you sweet tea … just GO!” Or, “Dang it! I keep dropping the wrong hand. Ugh. Let me try again, one more time?” Those little bits of conversation that I hear while I sit outside the ring among the chickens, dogs, and horses are my favorite. He’s not giving up.
I’m in awe of the luxury he has to pick something fun and try it. No expectations. No pressure. No coach mom. Just fun.
Later this week I’ll change locations and sit at the local ice rink to watch my youngest work on his crossovers and swizzles and hockey stops and be just as jealous.
Ice skating isn’t easy. The first time I took him, he spent more time on his butt than he did on his feet. For two hours he kept getting up. I was exhausted just watching him. When he came to me later and decided he wanted to learn how to play hockey, I was skeptical. It’s not your typical sport. You must have so many skating lessons followed by so many hockey lessons before you can even join a team. I was sure he would give up long before we got to the team part. And, did I mention, hockey is super expensive? But as he finishes up skating lessons and moves onto hockey lessons, I’m in awe of his tenacity. He is so proud of himself for getting past stage one.
All of this makes me wonder, when did we, as working women, wives, girlfriends, and mothers decide that we couldn’t do fun things like that for ourselves anymore? When did we decide that we weren’t worth it?
Who Am I?
As I approach my first birthday as a single woman, I find myself evaluating my life on so many levels. I always took great pride on being a caretaker. I put all of myself into being the most perfect wife, mother, and employee that I could be. When my husband died, I threw myself into the kids and my career. I planned for the future by going back to school so I could shift career lanes a bit in order to be more flexible and available to my kids. I took pride in juggling it all alone because, even though I didn’t have a choice, I was getting it done. Home-cooked meals and a near-spotless house while being a working mother in grad school was my measure of success. But who was I measuring up to?
When did we, as working women, wives, girlfriends, and mothers decide that we couldn’t do fun things like that for ourselves anymore? When did we decide that we weren’t worth it?
For a long time I never felt like I measured up. I tried and tried but never seemed to do enough to be deemed successful. What even is success? My late husband cheated, so clearly I failed as a wife. When I am ignored at work I feel like a failure. When I discovered that this degree I’m halfway through isn’t going to take me where I thought it would, I was ready to admit defeat.
For so long I have been told that what I wanted to do was a waste of time or wasn’t important, and I now I see how it is affecting my current choices. What was important was for me to be wife, mother, Navy spouse, teacher…but I forgot that it was okay to be more than those titles. Then, when my late husband passed away, some of those titles went away too, and I lost part of what defined me. But I’m coming to realize that those things don’t define who I am, they are simply things I do. They are a part of me, but not all of me. So now…who am I?
Recreating yourself is hard. I don’t know where to begin and I’m so afraid of failing. Sometimes I’m at the farm and I want nothing more than to hop on a horse and barrel race. But then I start thinking, “Really? You’re too old for that. What if you get bucked off and you get hurt?”
I’m fearful when I look at quitting my no-longer-useful degree program and shifting to the doctorate that I need to make my career goals come true. I’m so mad that I got it wrong in the first place that I’m convinced I won’t be able to do it. When I get on the ice for family night, I stay close to the wall so I don’t fall and make a fool of myself. When I think of going skiing over Christmas after not wearing skis since I was 12, I worry.
As I sit here and think of my kids trying and failing and trying something new again, I realize what a hypocrite I am. How dare I tell them to try new things when I am unwilling to try. How dare I tell my students that they will get better if they keep putting in the work, but yet I won’t even start the work.
So yes, I want a hobby. It’s time to figure out who I am again. I may hop on a horse and be a natural racer. Or I may crash and bruise. Either way, I know one thing: God already said who I am.
This Is Who God Says I Am:
1. He created me with a purpose. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
2. He says I am valuable. “For the spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” (Job 33:4)
3. He says I am strong. “You have given me your shield of victory. Your right hand supports me; your help has made me great.” (Psalm 18:35)
4. He says I am gifted. “God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10)
5. He says I am free. “Sin is no longer your master, for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Romans 6:14)
6. He says I am his masterpiece. “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)
Now…it’s just time I believe it. There is so much freedom in accepting who I am in Him. No more fear. No more titles. No more failure. I am who He says I am.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How Do I Know What Defines Me? – 078