She Makes It Look Easy
by Marybeth Whalen
She was beautiful, thin, smart and could cook too. I, on the other hand, knew next to nothing about cooking and couldn't seem to lose the baby weight. She never seemed to doubt what she was doing as a mom. I worried all the time about it. We were quite a pair, but that didn't stop me from being around her every chance I had ... hoping some of whatever she had would rub off on me.
Sometimes we would double date with our husbands. I liked going out with them because I thought our marriage would morph into theirs if we were around them enough. One night we took our children and the wait at the restaurant was especially long. Feeling equipped and qualified for once, I produced my pièce de résistance for our whiny squirming toddlers: a bag of M&Ms, kept for "emergencies" such as these. Internally I beamed as the children quieted and munched happily. I had saved the day. For once, it was me with the answers, me with the plans.
After dinner we got in the car and my husband said, "I don't think she liked that very much, you giving her daughter M&Ms."
I got defensive. "Why would she mind?" I countered. "I got us through dinner without either of them having meltdowns!" I could feel my resolve and goodwill begin to melt like chocolate candy held in a toddler's warm hands too long. Frantically I scanned my brain for some evidence that he was wrong.
Was my friend unhappy when I gave her child chocolate? I thought of all the times she'd insisted on fruit and not fries, how she wanted her daughter to have water and not juice. It made sense that she wouldn't want her to have chocolate. How had I missed the polite signals?
I rode the rest of the way home in silence, feeling like I had fallen off my self-constructed pedestal. There was no chance I could ever get back up, much less make it to the top where my friend sat. How I had wanted to impress her! Yet in my quest to look capable, I had managed to mess up.
I often think back with vivid clarity on that moment. For me, it was one of several defining moments as I learned to stop looking at other women as my gauge for perfection. I was consistently putting other women on pedestals, convinced that one had a better marriage, another had a better house, one had a better body, and yet another had better-behaved children. In playing this bitter comparison game, I always came up short. Comparison, as they say, is the death of contentment.
And then something started happening to the women I admired. There was the woman who seemed to have it all together ... until her husband lost his job and they were dragged through an awful court case. Still want her life? I heard God whisper as I prayed for her. There was the woman who had shown me the beautiful plans for her gorgeous new home ... months before her husband left her for another woman. Still want that house? God challenged. There was the woman who had six children and managed it all so beautifully, while staying thin. I've watched her mount countless hurdles in the past few years. And God has reminded me each time that her life is no more perfect than mine.
There is something in each of us, something that harkens back to Eve and the Garden of Eden. We have so much, we are so blessed, and yet our souls are restless, looking for more. Our eyes scan the landscape, searching for something to light on, something we don't have. We see thinner, richer, prettier, better and we want it. We reach and we strive and ... like I did, fall. Sometimes the fall is horrible, humiliating and harsh. Sometimes it is quiet and we are the only ones who know it happened.
I once heard a story about a group of people who were asked to write all their problems down and lay them in the center of the room. Then they were invited to go and pick up any problem they wanted instead. After much pondering and picking through the problems, each person went back and chose their very own. You see, they realized they were uniquely qualified to handle their own issues.
God knows that. And slowly, with practice, I do too. I don't want to be like the elusive "her" anymore. I want to be like me. She might make it look easy - but it's not. For anyone.
Knowing that truth, I can grab tightly onto God's hand and embrace the wild adventure He has for me. Personally, I am going to pack some M&Ms for my journey.
Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children. The family lives outside Charlotte, North Carolina. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries writing team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. Her first novel, "The Mailbox," was released last year. Her next novel, "She Makes It Look Easy," has been recently released. Additionally, she serves as director of She Reads, Proverbs 31 Ministries' fiction division. You can find her online at www.marybethwhalen.com
**Reprinted with permission from the author.**