When I was a little girl, 7 I think, I saw a commercial about lemons. I think it may have actually been trying to sell me some kind of lemon-lime soda or maybe a particular grocery store, but regardless, it sold me lemons. The commercial was a kaleidoscope of bright fresh lemons dancing around the screen with the perfectly summery shades of flamingo pink and lime green in there too. Every so often there would be a spritz of sparkly lemon-juice that would happen exactly to the rhythm of the island music in the background and I remember it made me really thirsty. After I saw it for the first time I rushed to the living room to declare some really good news, “Mom! Lemons are my favorite fruit!” My mom is so cute and I remember her laughing and sweetly attempting to tell me that she didn’t actually think lemons were my favorite. In fact she made what I thought to be preposterous claims about the fruit, she told me that they were sour and that they made me cringe. She even said I had tried them before and really not liked them. But after seeing that commercial I knew she must be crazy because there was no way I would cringe at the sparkling refreshing taste of a dancing lemon. I mean come on. So I guess I wouldn’t let down because my mama decided that the best way to show me would be to let me take a bite of a lemon myself. She had tried to protect me from the experience but I insisted that I wanted it. Mom found me a lemon from the fridge and let me dig in. I didn’t dig for long... in fact I don’t think I dug past the first lick... immediately my face folded up, nose squished, my tongue was trying to escape the sour trauma I had forced her into, my eyes jammed tightly shut, and I squeaked out something like, “I was wrong mom... I think strawberries are my favorite.”
26 year old Jessica is really not so different from 7 year old Jessica.
You know the plastic frames around license plates that give you a glimpse into the life of the driver? Sometime they just say the name of the dealership where the car was purchased. Other times they tell you where the driver graduated from. Sometimes they are covered in rhinestones and tell you that the driver was probably Prom Queen or a cheerleader or dancer, or maybe wished she was those things but instead just settled for the sparkly frame. Anyway, I don’t get too enamored by the rhinestones or the dealership ones, but those alumni ones sure dance around my mind like the lemons did. I see them and think things like, “Wow what an incredible feeling it must have been to go to that school, or graduate from that university. They must have an incredible life. She must feel so satisfied.”
Today I pulled up to Trader Joe’s at the same time as a UCLA grad who was clearly a few years older than me. I felt awkwardly compelled to linger near her and interview her about her life. What job did she get? Did she get married? How much money does she make? Does it feel good? Is her husband handsome? Is he affectionate? Is she a stay-at-home-mom or a doctor? Is she happy? Thankfully I kept my stalker questions to myself but I still wondered... and envied a little bit. Not because I want to go to UCLA, I’d actually prefer Pepperdine or Azusa since we are on the topic, but because there’s a part of me that thinks if I just had that degree then maybe I’d feel better sometimes. I have more times than I’d like to admit where I look back and think about what would have happened if I had chosen university over missions. Who would I have married then? Where would I live? What would we do?
It makes me sad to acknowledge that truth because I live such a wonderful life with an undoubtedly dreamy husband, but I’d be lying to deny it. I know I’m not the only one who feels it.
It may not be about education or a different spouse, but we all have “lemons”. Things we crave and think we love and things we claim to need in order to fulfill us. Things we think would refresh us but will ultimately make us cringe. Things that our heavenly Father, and probably our sweet Moms too, would gently remind us we don’t actually need right now or aren’t actually missing out on. Things like a degree, better career, smaller pant-size, different relationship status, new baby, new ring, new home or new car, these things can become a kaleidoscope of temptation offering up refreshment that they likely won’t bring. End even if acquiring these things could ultimately enhance our lives, the heartache of envying people who already have them, is far more agonizing than my 7-year-old lemon encounter.
I have friends who long to have babies or be engaged so this particular time of year makes it extra painful to be on Facebook when every other post on our feed is a newborn or new ring. One friend longs to be thin and is inwardly tormented by the idea that life would be better if her pant size was smaller. Another friend, a beautiful and successful working professional with a body that girls envy and an adorable home, spends most of her day wrestling with her desire to be married and having babies already. Married friends long to travel, missionary friends long for a place to call “home”, friends from home long to make more money and nail down their dream job... its an ongoing list of people and their “lemons”.
I don’t know what lemons are dancing around your brain today but I just wanted you to know that you probably aren’t missing much. You have done a great job getting yourself to this point in your life, and even if it looks vastly different than you expected, I pray that you will take your eyes off the ‘lemons’ you wish you had, and focus on the gifts right in front of you. What blessings are staring you in the face? What did you work hard to achieve, but have since forgotten about because of your zeal to move forward to the bigger and better? Who is in your life who could use your presence, your words, your listening ears?
We all have so much to be thankful for.
We all have so much to be thankful for.
You are a treasure and your life is abounding with blessings. They may be harder to find in this season of your life, but I promise they are there. As you practice gratitude for what you already have, you will discover new strength to pursue the things you really want. I’m learning that even if we do decide we actually want something, like an education or a smaller pant size, we will have a far more wonderful journey pursuing it if we are operating from a place of contentment rather than a place of greed or envy.
Don’t let those dancing lemons fool you.
"Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength." (Phil. 4:11-13)
This week I am thankful for last week's Montana memories with my sweet nieces.