Your Unique Ingredients

Imagine you are making cookies to be displayed publicly. First, you combine the ingredients required to make it your own recipe. You are now presented with two options: you may place a blob of uneven cookie-dough onto your baking sheet as is and bake it, possibly resulting in a less-than-aesthetically-pleasing, oversized-but-still-delicious cookie. Or, you could roll out your dough, take your favorite cookie cutter, place it in the center, press, and there you have it – perfection. You’d likely choose the second option and prefer to keep cutting out the maximum amount of cookies possible. But what if I told you, you now have to throw away the remaining dough you prepared? What if I told you, you were only allowed to make one cookie and, because it was unable to fit into the cookie cutter, the rest of the dough you put the effort into making would be considered nothing more than scraps? You’d probably feel pretty disappointed. Some of you would mush your dough back up into the blob it was before you rolled it out, bake it, and own it for the wonderfully-delicious mess it is. While others would either reluctantly, or some even without hesitation, discard the remaining dough, and bake their single, perfectly-presentable cookie.

As a mother and a woman, like so many, I am guilty of comparing myself to others. I observe my ingredients – what has made me who I am, picking myself apart, focusing mostly on what I see as my flaws. I wish to be more like the people who have it all together – a better mother, wife and homemaker, to have a positive self esteem, to have a healthier, more active lifestyle, to be an organized person who thrives under pressure, and then to make all of those things seem effortless. These unrealistic expectations have me trying to fit into the outline of what I’ve been convinced a mother and a woman should be. I am often left with the same choice you were given with the cookie – do I conform? Roll out my individuality, take the cookie cutter, press, and take on the facade of perfection while leaving the rest behind? Or do I own my God-given individuality for all it is, flaws included, and boldly be?

Something I have learned about myself is I am unable to present just a portion of myself, because not a single part exists that has been left untouched or unaffected by each contributing factor of my journey. Therefore, I would be presenting merely a shell. Much like removing a key ingredient from a recipe, it would be an injustice to mask parts of my life that greatly contribute to who I am. My successes and shortcomings, my strengths and weaknesses, every obstacle I've overcome, both simple and complex, all enrich my story and individuality.

One cannot live an abundant life without acknowledging the life they lead in its entirety – to rejoice equally in both the differences and the similarities of motherhood and womanhood.

The trials I've faced thus far in my life have contributed greatly to my individuality. I reflect on times when a certain struggle I’ve faced consumed me to my core, rendering me utterly distraught and unaware of how or even if I possessed the strength required to maneuver through it. There was a weighted darkness over me in those times and whether or not this storm would make or break me brought anxiousness. How could I live up to the demands motherhood required of me if I didn't come out standing tall? Past traumatic experiences have created deeply-rooted afflictions, which in turn, brought a low sense of self-worth, and a great deal of doubt in my ability to succeed in any aspect of my life.

I feel myself suffocating under the pressure to be all society makes us mothers and woman feel we are expected to be. I struggle with my availability; pulled in so many directions with the children, their schooling and extra-curricular activities, work and keeping up a household for the people who depend on me. Sometimes everything else seems to be left hanging, as if waiting for me to notice. The pressure results in me missing potential daily moments of joy. But in the midst of it all, I'm challenged to step back and look from the outside, to observe how the ones I love most view me in my entirety – oh how their view of me differs from my own! At the moment when doubt overwhelms me and my shortcomings are all I see, they see every effort, all of my abilities, and love me for all that I am.

Every struggle I have journeyed through thus far has made its mark, but not in the way it once did. I'm learning to appreciate every part of who I am, including the parts of me unable to fit into the perfect outline of the cookie cutter. It’s in the ingredients I possess, like a dash of courage, mustered from the deepest parts of me. It’s the search of my soul for a teaspoon of strength to conquer this trying period. It's a cup of faith in believing I am capable when doubt attempts to derail me. It’s everything combined, and then surrendered to The One who is far.

JOURNALIST: Emily Earle