I stood in the school supply aisle, my head spinning. It was our third trip here and I couldn’t remember whether she needed the spiral notebook with the folders or a spiral notebook plus a separate folder. The list was so specific, and I had left it at home. Again.
I hated the busy, picked-over shopping experience. I hated coming back for a third time. I hated that I hadn’t finished this task.
Somehow the person who loved new pencils and crayons and folders had become overwhelmed with specifics and guidelines and shopping. Fall was pummeling me, and it wasn’t even officially fall.
I wanted so much to be ready. To have everything in order for each of my kids, for my house, for my life. It was all supposed to be tied in a neat bow so I could post my perfect apple picking photos and enjoy my pumpkin latte.
I was not supposed to be melting down in the school supply aisle. I was supposed to be enjoying the start of fall. The change of seasons. The change of mindset.
But I was stuck. I finally picked up a notebook with folders and one without plus a folder on the side figuring it would all get used eventually. I checked out and made it to the car. The kids knew I was upset, but none of us really knew why. It was only a notebook.
No one understood how much I needed that notebook. Not just any notebook, but the right notebook. I was supposed to have it right.
And that’s when I realized the trap I’d stepped into. The trap I was leading my kids into. It was one hidden under good intention and rule following. I’d fallen into the trap of expectation.
Each new season brings change, and somehow a list of unspoken supposed to’s that I had subscribed to. I’d probably even made a few up.
I’m supposed to have it all together.
I’m supposed to have a clean house with laundry put away and shoes neatly lined up in the mudroom I don’t have.
I’m supposed to decorate in warm autumn colors and have an apple-scented candle burning.
I’m supposed to have all the school supplies. Every single one.
I’m supposed to transition from summer clothes to fall boots without missing a step.
I’m supposed to know how to get it all done and still smile.
My list felt endless. Yet, for some reason, I felt the need to keep adding to it. To put more expectation on myself, more pressure to be the reflection I thought everyone was looking for.
It wasn’t until I stopped, still sitting in my car, notebooks in hand, that I realized I’d made it all up. No one put those expectations on me other than me.
I was spending all my time scanning what I saw around me to create a checklist of perfection that I was ignoring the only things that really mattered.
My kids don’t need a mom who has every piece of laundry done, they need one who goes to Jesus.
I don’t need to have the perfect fall outfit to be beautiful; I already am.
My family doesn’t need a mom who always smiles fake, but one who feels real and smiles big because she means it.
All of my supposed to’s were wrapped up in the desire to be known and loved. I had become like a dog chasing its own tail, never realizing I already have what I’m longing for.
As the seasons change, it’s easy to add to our list of things we think we need to do to be better. And the reality is there are things we need to do like laundry and even picking up school supplies. But they are no more than tasks. There is no task that can change God’s love for you.
You are fully known and fully loved right where you are.
Even if you buy the wrong notebook.