7/17/2013

Trouble with Expectations

Sometimes we can be so powerful with our expectations that people actually strive to meet them, however unrealistic or impossible. Children are notorious for trying to meet their parents' expectations. If they fail, which they often do, it's their parents' response which can make or break them. Do they stand forgiven or rejected?

Even as an adult there are many expectations placed on me. Society expects that I take care of my part of living in it while people closest to me may know where I fail in that area and expect less. The closer a person is, the more tailor-made the expectations should be. However, friends and loved ones still surprise and disappoint. People change and become unpredictable. I've decided it's best to leave expectations sitting on an open palm where even a gentle breeze can remove them. It's less disappointing that way.

I had high expectations for my future when I was younger. I was going to be on stage as a "rockstar" touring the world and blowing kisses to fans. In my mind I was meant to have a voice for goodness and rightness as I strutted my talent across a well-lit platform. People would see that I was a solid example for their kids and an indispensable asset to their moral cause. I began singing and performing as much as I could and took many risky steps toward this dream of mine. I expected God would put pavers before me like a floating bridge till I reached the heights of success. Blessed going and blessed coming! I spent tons of money, theirs and mine. Soon I found myself disheartened, disillusioned, and disappointed.

But were those really my own expectations or those a powerful few had for me? I've always been sensitive to peoples' feelings toward me. I suppose that comes from being a performer; I wanted to know how my audience was feeling so I could cater to them accordingly and get that coveted applause. If I didn't meet their expectations then they would remove their love, encouragement, and belief in me. It's almost as though they only saw my potential and not me. Potential is all in the eye of the beholder, I came to discover. Depending on the strength in me that people most related to or enjoyed, that was the potential they focused on and hoped for me. Many people felt they knew me well enough to see my true potential. Therefore they built their expectations around that and I listened to them.

If only everyone held onto their expectations as lightly as I've learned to. We would discover so much more potential than is seen at first. God sees my truest potential. His goals and ambitions for me are perfect and perfectly in line with His story of redemption for the world. I'm still not sure where He's taking me or where I'll end up, but I know His expectations are the most realistic and doable of anyone's I'll ever know. I want to listen to those expectations.

However, it is a common habit for me to put words in Gods mouth. I sometimes start my morning journaling with "What shall I do today, Lord?" God has broadened my mind to hear Him say, "Who said I was going to ask you to DO anything?" He just expects me to acknowledge His presence, abide in Him, and adore Him for it. The DOing part seems to just happen. It's when I try to meet God's expectations that I lose my hold on His hand. It's unfortunate when a recovering know-it-all like me thinks I see where God is going with something. "Oh! I see where You're taking me. I can totally do this! I got this!" Then I turn around to wave good-bye to Jesus and fall backwards into a pothole. Ouch. God gently pulls me up, dusts me off, and I limp a little slower beside Him, talking about the pain and how sorry I am. He smiles at me all the time. God is a super smiley guy, ya know? He gets a kick out of me.

The paradox of God's expectations is that He knows everything that will happen but we don't. He expected that I would let go and fall into the pothole because He knew it would happen. He made sure that some angels came in advance and cleared away any sharp objects so I would be too badly injured. Of course, pain helps us learn so He didn't fill the thing in. He knows how stubborn I can be. It's very reassuring to be taken care of and even disciplined by God who knows all. I've always been His and I've always been protected thanks to my praying parents. That's some pretty sweet Failure Insurance. My kids have it, too.

One dangerous thing about having kids is that it's fun to write peoples' future in our minds. It's fun like playing with dolls and toy soldiers. We are in control over that person's fate, or though it seems. When they are young and we are powerful they may even try to follow our plan and we can watch our mighty influence at work for a while. When my kids finally get a clue as teenagers that I was trying to play God with their lives they will show me who's boss. There's nothing like the human will to do battle for it's own freedom. No one can control it but the human to whom it belongs. God gave that to us and He has let us use our wills however we choose to, even if it means we don't choose Him.

I want to love my kids and everyone around me the way God loves. Love provides a safe place for people to change and grow and discover who they are. Love lets go of expectations and allows the person to blossom into a completely different and better version of themselves. Love forgives and forgets risks that failed and sins that crippled and betrayals that hurt. God has let me zig-zag into His perfect plan and now that I'm here I'm staying in it. By God's grace I'm staying His course. 

7/11/2013

A Pregnant Brainstorm

Pregnancy always makes me slow down. "It's not necessarily always a good thing," said the fifty extra baby pounds I put on since the last one. I'm really good at gaining weight and not so good at losing it. But I like slowing down. Maybe it's the nausea or maybe it's the scary pounding that my heart does at the top of the stairs when it's pumping for two. I find that sitting and vegging comes so easily when I'm pregnant. My brain slows down enough for me to enjoy mind-numbing cell phone and internet games. I hardly ever play them unless I'm pregnant. I wonder what it all means?

My daughter is going to be a Kindergartener in September. I'm homeschooling but that doesn't make it any less stressful. Instead of school supplies I need to buy curriculum and instead of separation anxiety I need to think of ways to make learning fun. I feel like it's all right on the tip of my tongue and yet I am powerless to grasp it. There are so many factors and variables. This is where I often find myself, pregnant or not. Stuck between fifty and a hundred choices.

I like to stand in front of the products in the grocery store and just marvel at the choices. All the deceptive packaging and pricing; the way they discount an item to the same price Walmart would charge just by adding two extra bucks to the "original price". Also, if they'll charge me fifteen extra bucks for it "elsewhere" then it must be a smokin' deal, right Grocery Outlet? Too bad "elsewhere" means as imported goods in a far off country. You can't fool me, unless you're selling something I know nothing about or that I love too much. Hearts of palm are a weakness of mine. I know, like, what are those? They are yum. Buy me lots of them.

Choices are so hard to make. They change everything. I used to read those "Choose your own adventure" books when I was a kid. I was usually filled with regret at my first choice and went back and read the other outcomes and kicked myself more times than not. I loved those books, though. But I think they helped perpetuate my anxiety over consequences. If only I could get it through my head that not choosing is also a choice: a choice to do nothing. That can have the most regrettable consequences of all. Living out scenarios in my head doesn't seem to be working out. It's definitely not working my body out, just ask my thighs. Or ask the dog hair that never quits and haunts my ankles in every room. Or ask the dog! She gets out of the house maybe once a week these days. But what if my heart stops because of baby, and walking, and hot sun!? Too many variables. Can't do it, pooch.

Everyone has their addictions. Mine is apparently thinking myself into a sedentary state of being. I can reason myself into bed any time of the day, especially first trimester pregnant. This is not a good or flattering thing about myself. But it is a nuisance. I can't take much more of it to tell you the truth. I need to use my imagination to my own benefit, but how? How do I harness the trains of thought in my mind to go where they need to go? I need to build tracks that will take them there. Preparation, but not planning. Planning is sitting, deliberating and writing lists. Too dangerous. I need to physically prepare for the future of my thinking. If I know I will sabotage any physical activity then I need to make it easy for myself at first. Don't plan to wear sandals if the house needs cleaning. Get out the work tennies and plan to beat feet! Don't leave the music off just to induce relaxation and coma. Turn on the dance craze and get to scrubbing! Don't neglect the kids so that they bug me out of my work. Prepare busy-boxes in advance to keep them stimulated (t.v. makes me feel guilty enough to stop working and play with them).

There are some things I'm buried under and some things outside my control. Grace will come swooping down like a beautiful eagle to give me time, energy, and mercy to get myself dug out. I remember when I quit one of the fiercest-gripping addictions known to man: cigarettes. I prepared the family for what was to come and I set aside a weekend for the worst of it, a month in advance! When the time came I did everything I could think of and I was all prayed-up. Success! After dozens of tries, the key was preparation. I need to learn to love preparation. It's boring but it's effective.