Gifts for Mom, Grandparents, Besties and YOU🎄 ➔

“That went well!” My husband says as we get in the car to head back home after our first small group meeting at church.

“Yeah, I guess . . .” My voice trails off as I think back on the meeting.

It was anything but fun in my book. My nerves had gotten the best of me (yet again) when we went around the room to introduce ourselves. I felt left out when all the other women seemed to share so much in common and instantly hit it off. And it was difficult as usual to listen to everyone share their introductory bios. Bios which all seemed to include years of service toward their life’s work whether it be teaching, nursing, or some other high calling God placed on their lives when they were just kids.

“You OK?” My husband breaks my train of thought.

I take a deep breath and try to answer without letting my emotions take over.

“Yeah, it’s just… really, really difficult… feeling like I’m always behind… Everyone seems to have their lives figured out, and I’m only just beginning to learn who I am. It’s just . . . hard . . . and exhausting. It’s so much more difficult learning things later in life… Especially when everyone else seems so far ahead.”

My voice cracks as the tears start streaming down my face. I turn toward the window and stare out into the night sky. My husband lets me cry as we drive home in silence.

It had been a tough week, an even tougher year.

We had moved across country, away from family, for my husband’s job relocation, just two years into our marriage. My own job in this new city was both a blessing and a curse. I strongly felt God’s favor just for being offered this role, as it was a major promotion for me in a recent career change. But almost immediately upon starting this dream job of mine, I was quickly reminded of what a newbie I was in this field.

Every day for the past year, I would start my days praying for strength to face whatever was thrown at me that day, only to leave the office feeling beaten down by the demands of my high-pressure job. Not to mention two more hours of work waiting for me at home.

So our little debut into our small group that evening had felt like a crushing defeat to the end of my already lousy day.

The thing is, I’ve always been a late bloomer. Most of my life has been marked with experiencing life’s milestones later than my peers. Everything from my labor-induced arrival into the world, learning to ride a bike, my first date, landing my dream job, acclimating to parenthood, and everything in between.

Being a late bloomer often makes life more difficult. When I was younger, it was always hard watching my peers pave the way before me while I struggled just to keep up. In school, I learned at a slower pace and was always one of the last to finish timed tests and assignments. My mind would process information slower, so anything where quick answers were rewarded made my mind fuzzy and my hands sweat.

Even though my awkward school days are long gone, I still feel like that same shy schoolgirl inside a grown woman’s postpartum body. I often feel like that same college student unknowingly struggling with depression while making vain attempts to discover what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

I may have graduated college over a decade ago, but I’m only just beginning to tap into the giftings and calling God has placed on me; something that causes this mid-30s wife and mom to believe the outrageous lie that my best days are behind me.

Attention fellow late bloomers: please believe me when I say your best days are not behind you. They are before you.

Like me, you may feel like everyone is further ahead in life whether socially, emotionally, or vocationally. You may feel like you wasted valuable years just figuring out who you are and your place in this world. Or like me, you may be learning how to speak up and share your passions with others for the first time in your life. For years, I viewed my introverted personality as something that needed to be “corrected” so I’m only just beginning to dust myself off from the shame I felt for too long.

Lastly, you may feel like you are now in a constant cycle of self-promotion just so people take you seriously in your newfound journey of pursuing your passions.

Stop!

Stop trying so hard. Stop feeling like you have to prove yourself. You are enough. Just as you are, in every way. And hear this, too, because this is just as important: your journey of self-discovery matters, no matter how late in life you discover your giftings and dreams. Your story matters! Because you matter!

Believe me, I have to remind myself these things often. Because it’s not easy being a late bloomer. It’s just not. And trying to sugarcoat or downplay it will not make it any easier. So it’s OK to feel bummed about it. But don’t let yourself stay in that somber frame of mind.

Remember, being a late bloomer does have its advantages, too. I have many friends and a sibling who are highly-driven individuals, and many of them have experienced burnout multiple times along their journeys. Late bloomers tend to be more methodical, following our dreams at a steady pace that allows for balance in life and family.

Not to say we can’t still experience burnout, but oftentimes it’s when we’re comparing our journey to others and trying to be someone we’re not or attempting to skip pivotal stages of our personal development. It’s when we’re trying to keep up with our go-getter friends when we realize we weren’t wired to juggle multiple projects simultaneously.

Late bloomers are like the tortoises in the tortoise and the hare story. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Another reminder for us late bloomers is allowing ourselves to make mistakes. Sure, it feels like we’re the only ones with missteps right now, but what about our peers 10 years ago? No doubt they were making lots of errors as they began their new careers after college. Don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard. Mistakes happen, especially when you first set out to explore your giftings.

The strategy that has helped me most as a late bloomer is taking time to celebrate my accomplishments, no matter how seemingly small they may be to the outside world. Because if it’s a big deal to you, then it’s a big deal. Period. Even if no one else notices or takes the time to congratulate you. Take time to celebrate YOU. Because you matter.

My husband pulls the car into the garage and turns off the engine. He lays his hand on top of mine. I turn to look at him, my tear-streaked face trying to brave a smile.

“At some point, you’re going to have to start believing in yourself.”

I nod my head in agreement and shrug my shoulders. I breathe in deeply, knowing I will need to give myself yet another pep talk before bed tonight.

My husband nods his head, gives me a kiss and heads inside. Before following him indoors, I take a step outside our garage and look up into the night sky.

“I don’t know what your plans are for me or how you’ll turn these ashes to beauty, but I’m ready, Lord. Please use me. Use my story to bring glory to You.”

As I take in the beauty of the stars twinkling in worship, I feel a peace and comfort wash over me. Like a faithful friend, I feel His presence reassuring me that my perseverance will build character, and character will bring hope. And hope does not disappoint.

I smile my first genuine smile all day, and whisper the word into the crisp, night air, “Hope.”

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available for pre-order now!

Pre-Order Now

Alaina V. Fletcher

Alaina is a midwestern girl, married to her one and only boyfriend who she met in her mid-twenties. Together they have a preschool son and 3 angel babies in Heaven. Alaina’s childhood love for reading and writing led her to earning a college degree in English. She’s a fair-weather runner and former dancer reliving her glory days in weekly Zumba class. She’s a writer, photography-lover, and work-at-home mom to an amazing little boy. Alaina writes about motherhood, miscarriage, depression & anxiety, “introvert life”, racial reconciliation, discovering your giftings & passions, and living a life of purpose & love. She’s been published by Her View From Home and TODAY Parenting Team. She’s the creator and writer of The Living Loved Movement at thelivinglovedmovement.com where she inspires others to live their lives through the lens of love. You can follow the movement on Facebook and Instagram.

Give Yourself Permission to Stop Acting Happy When You’re Not

In: Living
Woman sad looking out window

One thing I don’t do now nearly as much as I did as a kid is act. Act like I’m happy when I’m sad. Act like I’m fine when I’m mad. Act like something is normal when it’s not. Back then, acting was just a part of life. It was how I survived. I would rather act than deal with the complications that reality brought. I would do anything to avoid the uncomfortable. Even when the situation was dangerous. As the years passed, God began to deal with me—the real me. My high-wattage smile—the one that didn’t mean anything—began to...

Keep Reading

My Toxic Father Does Not Define Me

In: Grown Children, Living
Woman with hair blowing in wind

I don’t have a father, and it’s completely fine. It really, really is.  It’s taken me 40 years to say it because it just doesn’t sound right . . . but it is the honest truth and embracing it, finally, has been liberating.  No, he hasn’t passed away. No, I am not adopted. No, he did not abandon us—he was there all the time, unfortunately. Nevertheless, he was never a “father” to me in any positive form, and from the time I left for college, I effectively fled him and never turned back. Without going into too much upsetting detail, I...

Keep Reading

“Love Doesn’t Lessen With Loss.” Chevy’s Emotional Holiday Ad Has Us Feeling Weepy

In: Living
Chevy commercial showing older couple walking down steps to vintage car

‘Tis the season of good food, good movies, and good commercials.  One of the most memorable commercials from last year’s holiday season was Chevrolet’s “Holiday Ride,” which told the story of a widower and his grown daughter leaning on each other as they grieved their loss during the holidays.  The ad was a tough act to follow, but the auto company rose to the occasion this year with their brand new “The Holidays with Mrs. Hayes” commercial that released on Thanksgiving Day.  If you caught the commercial’s debut on national television during the Giants vs. Cowboys game, you saw the...

Keep Reading

Festive Cranberry Pineapple Salad is Our Holiday Tradition

In: Living
Bowl of cranberry salad, color photo

Amid the hustle and bustle of setting the table for Thanksgiving, my son glances around the table and notices a missing key dish. He runs to the basement fridge to retrieve his favorite side dish. He slowly walks back upstairs and carefully holds the Mikasa crystal bowl with two hands and places it gingerly on the table. The light from the dining room fixture catches the cut glass edges on the bowl, and it practically sparkles. Dinner may now be served. About 20 years ago, I saw a recipe for a cranberry Jell-O in a magazine advertisement for Thanksgiving. The...

Keep Reading

Blake Lively’s Tribute to Ryan Reynolds Has Us in Tears: “Daddy Always Comes Home”

In: Living, Marriage, News

Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds are Hollywood couple #goals, and over the years, we’ve delighted in watching their fun, light-hearted, and endearing romance play out. What makes them so likable is that they genuinely seem to adore each other, but they’re not above trolling each other publicly and on social media, which almost always results in some hilarious antics. (P.S. Remember Reynolds’ hysterical ad that paid tribute to the dumpster fire that was 2020?) The couple has gone back and forth on Instagram and Twitter with jabs at each other’s acting roles . . . View this post on Instagram...

Keep Reading

Viral Video of a Chimpanzee and Her Baby Shows Us the Power of a Mother’s Love

In: Motherhood, News
a mama chimpanzee cuddles her baby after being separated

A mother’s love is one of the most powerful forces on Earth, and we don’t have to look any further than a sweet chimpanzee named Mahale for proof. The Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita, Kansas shared a now-viral video of a mama chimp’s emotional reunion with her baby after being separated after birth, and the world has fallen in love. If you haven’t seen it yet, go ahead and grab a box of tissues because if you’re anything like me, you’ll be bawling by the end. View this post on Instagram A post shared by Sedgwick County Zoo (@sedgwickcountyzoo) I...

Keep Reading

Grandma’s Christmas Tree Teepee is Pure Holiday Magic

In: Living
Christmas teepee with lights and garland in corner of living room

Every December, my kids and I have a Christmas cookie decorating and crafting day at my grandma’s house. She cuts sugar cookies into every festive shape and size, buys allllllll the sprinkles and decorating icings, and lets the kids go to town. There are overflowing mugs of hot cocoa (with extra whipped cream, of course), endless treats, and Christmas music playing in the background. It’s a day we look forward to every single year—and it’s made all the more special because every second of it is filled with Grandma’s love and care. Here’s the thing. Moms are the magic-makers of...

Keep Reading

I Truly Believed My Children Would Be Better off without Me

In: Living
Woman holding baby with feet showing

Trigger warning: This post contains suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is thinking about harming themself, please call the 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 You are not alone ❤   The doctor told me that none of this was my fault, that there was nothing I could have done to change the outcome, that there was immense hope for his living twin, and that my husband and I were a true inspiration. He also told me to call him anytime I wanted to talk or had any questions. I have to be honest and maybe come off...

Keep Reading

Publix Holiday Ad Nails It: You Never Outgrow Needing Your Mom

In: Grown Children, Living, Motherhood
Publix ad showing daughter on video call with her mom

The first time I ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner on my own, my mom was several hundred miles away. I was a brand new wife, preparing turkey and all the trimmings for my in-laws in a tiny one-bedroom apartment (what was I thinking?!)—and I must have called my mom a dozen times that day.  How many hours does this bird need to thaw? Are yams and sweet potatoes the same thing? What on earth is a roux?  RELATED: What the Thanksgiving Dish You’re Bringing This Year Says About You Even as a twentysomething, full-grown, married woman, I needed my mom.  The...

Keep Reading

Freedom at 40

In: Living
Woman holding balloons, color photo

I used to think 40 was so old. This thought wasn’t just limited to when I was a kid either—I thought so in my 20s and 30s too. But as I neared 40, my thought process shifted. I realized I had spent so much time in my 20s and 30s always striving to be better, always tired, often frustrated, disappointed, and annoyed. My 20s and 30s were spent having babies, raising littles to pre-teens, struggling to make ends meet financially and emotionally, trying to find time to be a wife and not just a mom. My 20s and 30s were...

Keep Reading