It started when I posted this picture on Facebook.

I like this picture because it’s all sweet and cozy.  But it bugs me.

It bugs me because there are only three stockings there.  And it killed me to think that someone would see it and think I was leaving Annie out.

So I moved her stocking from the living room, tied it up with the others and took another picture later.  Then I didn’t post it since I couldn’t come up with a good one-liner to pair with it.

The truth was that her stocking is filled with our Jesse Tree ornaments, and we gather at night to get a new ornament out so that we can reflect on the way that Jesus has been leading us to Him.  I wasn’t leaving it out of the picture– it was serving a purpose somewhere else.  And by the way, did anyone even care besides me?  Probably not.

It’s never easy to grieve.  Still, three and a half years later, I’m second guessing myself.  I don’t have it all figured out and it’s a struggle to know just how to work through this stuff.  And I probably won’t sort it all out in this lifetime.

 I shared this week with a group of ladies about how my high expectations for myself tend to get in the way, especially in my grieving.

I remembered sitting in the hospital room, the fresh news that the baby in my arms would not travel life with us washing over me.  I had a two year old and a four year old and I fully realized (and am still realizing) that their very first memories of life are going to be those horrific moments of death.  At that point, I remember resolving to grieve in a way that would lead them (and me) into a closer, deeper relationship with Christ.  I was determined that if Jesus was going to ask me to travel this road, by golly, I would do it right.  I would prove to Him that He could trust me with this.

It may have been an okay resolution, but in the classic Sarah way, I put a lot of pressure on myself to get it perfect.  After a few years of feeling the intensity in my heart, I just couldn’t keep it up.  It was at that point that I finally heard God telling me to rest.  To let up on myself.  To quit feeling the guilt and to allow Him to heal me with His favor.

It’s working.  Slowly.  Just as we struggle to know how to be the right parents to our children who run through our lives each day, I struggle to know how to be a parent of my sweet girl who is safe in the lap of Jesus.

We all get caught up in the guilt and expectation, don’t we?  Honestly, there’s no end to the things that I could do better.  Some of them are easy for me to let go of.  Others not so much, especially the things I hold so close in my heart.

But Jesus doesn’t ask us to prove anything to Him.  He doesn’t throw something our way and then stand back with His arms crossed, waiting to see how well we can take it.

Instead, He hears the desires of the afflicted, He encourages us, and listens to our cry (Psalm 10:17).  And before we know it, our strength is renewed, He gives us a new hope and power.  We remember what it is like to run and not grow weary, to walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:29-31).

Whatever it is in your life– don’t let your own expectations get in the way of God’s favor for you.