Thursday, January 14, 2016
Expectations Versus Hope.
I fell in love with coffee my freshman year of college. I'm sure it was the fact that I was running on fumes from the schedule that barely kept my head above water and also the late night pining away of my heart for the love of my life who lived some 300 miles away and saved his long distance rewards points for nighttime calls to me. Like all 18 year olds, I found myself caught between high school and a career, fighting with all my might to prove my existence as a legal adult was legitimate. I was exhausted beyond measure, living on ramen noodles and 29 cent cheeseburgers from McDonalds, and for some reason, my advisor was nothing at all like my Christian school teachers and principal and never cared that I was a full time student working until deep into the evenings to pay my bills and fighting tooth and nail to stay awake and survive my classes and mentorship programs. The liquid life I would indulge on from Dunkin' Donuts came to represent comfort and salvation for me those long months of struggle. Every drop of its Heavenly brew a drop of therapy, encouraging me to keep on keeping on.
So keep on I did.
That was 1995. A lifetime ago. When my hair was its original color, I didn't have a stretch mark to my name, and I drove a candy apple red Dodge Neon because it was cool to do so. I felt like I could conquer anything as long as the coffee was strong and the music was loud enough. You know...before I was old enough to know that what I was expecting out of life was like trying to cram my size 12 body into my size 8 jeans after eating ten years of chocolate cake and white bread.
Now, here I am, closer to 40 than I care to admit and a little worn around the edges in so many ways.
I am sitting in my home office as I write this, yesterday's ponytail still on my head and it's 7:30 pm. I showered today, but I am still wearing yoga pants and a worn out sleep shirt that was cute when I bought it once upon a time, but the one my husband secretly hopes the washing machine will eat now. There's dirt on my arm from park time with my kids, I have heartburn brewing in the back of my throat, and I feel cramps encroaching because you-know-what is on its way.
Those days in 1995 when I was full of caffeine and promises, I thought that as I approached the big 4-0, I would have a whole lot of prestige and glamour attached to just the sound of my name. I knew I would be living in my perfect house (my current one is much too small) with my perfect husband (he IS pretty darn close), we would be singing lullabies to our Baby Gap children (um, try Walmart- meets-yard-sale) in their Pottery Barn bedrooms (no comment), and I would be packing my Louis Vutton briefcase (Publix bag) for an important meeting the next day (after a glass of $90 a bottle wine, of course). Instead, tonight, we had tacos with ingredients I bought from Walmart, one kid is in her room riding the waves of pubescent hormones with her iPod and the other is literally caked in mud on my couch with bedtime nowhere in sight. I am 90% sure that what I need to wear to work tomorrow is in the bathroom floor pile of dirty clothes. And the super sweet luxury car I was supposed to own by now is a Toyota Camry with feet marks on the back of my seat from my tiny car seat passenger using my back as a kick drum to "Uptown Funk."
This is not at all what I imagined.
From our first visit with the pediatrician, our brand new babies go for their first of many of life's tests they must pass. We hear words like, "On the charts, they are only in the 20th percentile," or, "He is putting on weight a little faster than we would like to see," and our dreams for our perfect infant humans are dashed. We begin right there in that moment realizing that what we expected is nothing like our reality and we are caught in a moment of decision that can change everything.
When is the last time you threw expectation out the window?
I am not talking about hope.
I am talking about expectation. Expectation means "a belief that someone should achieve something." Expectation is the thing that keeps us feeling like our shoelaces are tied together and everyone knew ahead of time, but we didn't know until we fell on our faces. It tells us our thighs should be thinner by now, that four years isn't carrying "baby weight" anymore, and that our Christmas party should have had more people than Jennifer's.
"I should have stayed in college."
"He should understand by now where I am coming from."
"I should have gotten so much more done today than I did."
"She should be reading so much better than this before kindergarten starts."
It's too much.
It's sucking the life out of you.
And it's not how you were meant to live.
The problem with earthly expectation is that it places the emphasis of its power on people and very temporary and fickle things. It's a very dangerous place to be. And in truth, it takes the focus off of WHO matters and puts very human restraints on territory that should only belong to the One who is able. And it straight up steals the joy from now.
I expected to get pregnant after our first anniversary.
I was blessed two times with children seven years in the making each.
I expected precious bedtime routines and storybook endings to my day.
I got a child who had colic and would only sleep with me in the recliner and is without a doubt the strongest willed child I know.
I expected to have my oldest child reading proficiently by kindergarten because after all, I was salutatorian of my graduating class.
I had a daughter who, in NO way could write her name by age 5, but has impeccable manners and people skills and has never ceased to bring honor to my name.
I expected to live in a grandiose, paid-for 8 bedroom mansion in the mountains (after all, all those junior high rounds of MASH told me that's what I would get).
I live in a rental house with a kitchen that is literally the size of the master bedroom closet I lived in before we left our lives to follow our dream in North Alabama.
As you read this list, don't feel sorry for me.
Those years of infertile aching and dreaming made me a more grateful mom who appreciates tiny things like dirty socks and hand prints on the windows I just cleaned.
The spicy child I am raising will change the world. You will literally know his name in your lifetime.
The graciousness of my once slow-reader causes her to be moved with great compassion on people who struggle.
The tiny kitchen I have fed us like manna from Heaven during the physically hardest years of our lives.
He knew all along what my heart would really want.
Because of that, I choose hope over expectation.
Hope that HE sees me and has a better plan.
Hope that HE is interested in what my heart wants and is more acquainted with it all than I ever could be.
Hope that HE looks beyond my cereal caked shoulder and recognizes that this balancing act of womanhood leaves me tired and angry many days, but He always sees my effort and even more than that, my heart.
Hope that HE sees my concern and my dreams for tomorrow-- even when my human conditions limit my pursuit of His best.
Hope that HE knows what I want and what I need.
Hope that HE sees me.
I see you, too, Momma.
You're not alone in your expectation.
This week, can we move from expectation to hope together?
I encourage you to pour a cup of Heaven's brew and sit a few times this week and examine your heart to find areas where you aren't enjoying the ride of motherhood because of your very human expectations. Ask God, in His kind and gentle nudges, to show you what His intention for your motherhood has been all along. Let Him remove the unrealistic expectations you've had and give you fresh eyes of hope for the areas where you need more, while seeing with eyes of gratitude what already belongs to you.
I am confident He will meet you at every golden drop.