One of my favorite pastimes is looking through photos. Whether it’s a trip abroad, a benchmark birthday party, or a mountain vacation, pictures speak life into my heart. Especially when they capture experiences with people you love and cherish. But if I were to look through snapshots on my phone over the past couple months, I would see a lot of selfies, food/blog content, and nothing else.
No group photos. No concerts. No date nights.
No weddings. No jet-setting vacations.
Definitely not any makeup. Just a lot of vegging and introverting.
To be honest, my camera roll kinda makes me depressed. This time last year, I was settling into married life and preparing to move from Knoxville, TN to Myrtle Beach, SC. I had a lot of hope and excitement on the horizon. And when I compare that season to this season, I’m left feeling a lot of emptiness and frustration. But my camera roll isn’t a reflection of the personal growth that’s happened inside of me. No photo can capture heart change. My instagram feed doesn’t demonstrate the strides I’ve taken to be better and do better. And maybe that’s what this season is all about: learning to live without the constant need for approval. I don’t need to prove myself to anyone. Let me say that again, YOU DO NOT NEED TO PROVE YOURSELF TO ANYONE. I don’t need more likes or follows. I need more faith, more compassion, more grit, more humility, more grace, more determination, and more joy. Because perfection isn’t the goal, progress is!
It’s easy for me to base my happiness off of photos captured in time. “Instagram or it didn’t happen,” right?!?! But a photo is a moment, and change is constant. Change ebbs and flows. And sometimes change isn’t discernable in a picture. Change isn’t always linear either. One day you make make two steps forward and the next you may make one step back. And you may have nothing to show for those strides you took. That’s the brutiful part about heart change.
Above is a graph I created that I think simply demonstrates the trajectory of personal growth. We begin in the PRESENT, aka minding our own business. Then we move into a phase of DISCOVERY. DISCOVERY occurs when we are exposed to new information or are faced with new challenges/circumstances. INTEGRATION occurs when the new information becomes knowledge. We’re learning how to take this new knowledge and integrate it into our daily lives. PROGRESS happens when we use this new knowledge to conquer and adapt to our new circumstances. As you can see, where we started in the present and end up in the future leads to sustainable growth. However, sometimes when we’re in the midst of new challenges, it’s hard for us to see whether or not we’re growing, regressing, or just surviving. Growth is a great example of why it’s so important to consider the long-term! You may not see drastic change today, but growth is happening.
But when I think about where I’m at right now, I have a lot to be thankful for because I don’t have a lot going on. That may sound strange, but let me explain my reasoning. During this pandemic, I’m not currently planning a wedding OR walking through pregnancy OR starting a new relationship with someone OR moving to a new state OR homeschooling my nonexistent kids OR trudging through grad school OR battling significant health issues. I’m just learning how to be married, how to practice medicine as a Physician Assistant, and how to lean into God more and more. I don’t have a lot of responsibilities besides myself and my husband, and for whatever reason, that’s exactly how God intended it for me. So I may not have a lot pictures in my camera reel, but I have a lot of thankfulness in my heart.
I’m learning and unlearning.
And whether you believe it or not, so are you!
This is not how I foresaw 2020 playing out. I didn’t expect to move to a beach town and spend zero time at the beach for fear of contracting a virus. I didn’t expect to be away from my sister for almost a year now. I didn’t expect to feel so lonely and isolated. But just because my expectations haven’t been met, doesn’t mean that there isn’t goodness on this side of paradise. This season isn’t easy, but my attitude and perspective effect my ability to cope with it. Choose to celebrate the challenges.
Never forget that perfection shouldn’t be the standard or goal, slow and steady progress is. And that progress is gonna look different day-to-day, so don’t beat yourself. Learn to give yourself grace in this season, because we are walking through seasons and circumstances that are not normal. We need grace. A lot of it!