Thursday, June 19, 2014

Letting Go of Expectations

We all have these expectations of life. They may be things like what a friendship is supposed to be like, how much money we should have, how we think someone else should treat us, how much time something should take, how are children should behave, what are social status should be, what our job should be, etc. The list could go on and on and on. So what is my point? Well, let me ask you a question, How many of your expectations you have created for life have been satisfied?

How many things have actually turned out the way you expected them to? Maybe your are fortunate enough to name a few. But I bet if we really thought long and hard about all the expectations we've created for our lives, we would all probably have to say very few, if any, have been satisfied in the way we expected them to be.

I'm beginning to learn to let go. This isn't easy, because it means I have to change my way of thinking about everything. And I do mean EVERYTHING.

 Not everything has to be done exactly the way I would have done it or the way I think is best. Other people can do it their way and you know what, it's ok. This became most evident to me in the area of cleaning the house. We have a lot of people who live in this house, so it's not easy to keep up on the mess around here. Even with help it's a struggle. But I realized I do need help, so my kids do a lot of cleaning. I teach them how, and of course I expect their best, but that's just it - THEIR best, not mine. The only way I can appreciate them helping is if I accept their best. I could try to control how well they clean, but really how effective will that be when they are still relatively young? I'm just glad I don't have to do it all. (By the way, this concept goes for my husband as well. Let's be real, he just doesn't see the mess the way I do.)

Relationships are just another area I've realized that having expectations sets me up for disappointment. I am not by any means suggesting that we become doormats to be trampled on, I am rather noting the fact that people are not perfect and that includes me. When I think about the issues I've had with friendships or in my marriage or even with my children, I realize that MOST of the time it was because I had set up these expectations of what I thought they should do in a given situation and they did not respond to that situation in the way I thought they would. I mean, I really don't know why because clearly I already had THE BEST scenario already planned out. All they had to do was just read my mind and follow the steps exactly as I was making them up as the situation played out. Couldn't be that hard, right? (Note sarcasm). Other issues have come from them expecting me to respond a certain way, and of course I didn't. So I quit. To some extent I have to hold certain standards, but I shouldn't expect people to live up to them all of the time, because that my friends is where the trouble begins. I need to let go of these ridiculous expectations of what I think my level of friendship with someone should be, or what that friendship should look like, or what exactly my husband should be like by now (Come on, it's been almost 12 yrs, you would think I would have figured that out by now).

Social status, money, living standard, whatever you want to call it, I've let go of where I think I should be at this point. Clearly, God has other plans for our family. I think about the fact that according to US standards, we are poor. I do not mean that in the exaggerated sense we hear people use all the time, I mean it in the we qualify for food stamps, medical, whatever other type of government assistance is available. While we do use some of this help, we do not take advantage of all these that we technically qualify for. Instead, we choose to sacrifice certain things we do not need, which comes as a huge shock for people, but trust me, you would be surprised to know what you can actually live without. We rely on hand me down and garage sale clothes and reuse most of our school supplies, but is this really poor? This country we live in considers us to be among the poor, yet I look around my house and I see the plenty. We live in a four bedroom house that is fully furnished. We have far more clothes than we actually NEED. I'm sitting here typing on a computer, my own computer, one of four in our house. There are two cars sitting outside in my driveway, not new, but still we have two, and my husband doesn't even have to drive to work. Maybe we don't drive brand new vehicles, subscribe to hundreds of cable channels, own expensive smart phones or buy hardly anything at full price, but we are a far cry from what poor is really. I'm not trying to put anyone on a guilt trip about how they talk about their finances, because I still make "we're poor" jokes and remarks from time to time, but I really had to change my perspective on the life I live if I wanted any chance at being content. Because being content in my situation is not about the situation I'm in, it's about my perspective on that situation. We could be a lot worse off, honestly. We still have a home to live in and we eat multiple times a day. That alone is enough for me to stop my whining at those times when I'm starting to not feel satisfied because we are not where I expected we would be at this point.

My womb is another area I've really had to let go of my expectations. Aside from the fact that I have been wrong about the gender of baby we were expecting in the past, the fact that we are pregnant now is so far from what I expected. So those of you who know that we do not prevent pregnancies in any way are probably scratching your heads wondering how I didn't expect this. The truth is, I truly believed that after I had Gideon (my first son), that through a crazy remark that came out of nowhere God was telling me we were only going to have six and specifically three girls and three boys which is what we have currently. After that came true, I expected to be done. Our pregnancy with Nehemiah actually was a surprise, but I was almost not really surprised to find out we lost him, because of this. I know this sounds crazy. It sounds crazy to me too, just so you realize I am not that far off from normal, but I can't just ignore the fact that came out in that crazy remark actually did happen, and I don't believe in coincidences. That brings us to our current pregnancy. When I found out I was pregnant, for weeks I was kind of expecting to miscarry again. Even though all is going well in the pregnancy so far, I still don't know what will happen, but that's the point. How can I have an expectation either way at this point? In the 9 times I have been pregnant (including this time), we have had six healthy babies and two miscarriage. This one is still yet to be determined. So far, it is looking like another healthy baby will be born, so I am preparing for that. Yet, after losing a child, when all was going well, I also realize that I have to remain prepared for the possible.

Letting go of expectations may seem like I'm just becoming a hippy or something, or maybe that I've lost my mind. Maybe I have lost my mind, but I've found peace in fully trusting God. When I create all these expectations for my life, I put God in this box and say, "You need to work out these situations in exactly this way, because I've already figured out what would be best for me." How can I possibly even know what would be best for me? I do not gain the wisdom until I have lived through it, and even then I'm often a little slow on the uptake.

Besides, I'm tired of being stressed out living a dissatisfied life because things aren't going my way. It's frustrating. Even as I write this I think about how this first week of summer break is definitely not meeting my expectation of what I thought our summer break would be like - I'm pretty sure I said this isn't really an easy lesson to learn and I'm still learning to let go. I always have loved to learn, so I welcome the lessons.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Almost Half-Way Review

It's about half way into the year and I think it's time to review how I've been doing with the goals I've made.

The word I chose for this year is PRAYER. I've never been one to do well with prayer lists. Mainly, because I start to get bored praying for the same things over and over again. Well, I knew when I started out this year with word being PRAYER that I was really going to be challenged in how I pray. This was so true when it came to a prayer list. Not that I think everyone needs to make a list and pray through it each day, but it was something I needed to be challenged to do. There has been times when boredom has definitely set in and the prayer becomes, "God you know what's written here and what the needs are, but quite honestly, I'm too tired to go through them one by one." After a few days of that, God gently reminds me that this is why I needed to be challenged in this area. I am so thankful for those reminders that help me get back on track.

Another way I have been challenged this year through PRAYER is to pray for a specific person, every day for a week, and then write them a note letting them know they have been prayed for including a little card with the Scripture God leads me to pray for them. Sometimes I don't know the person. Sometimes, I don't know how to pray for them. So I really have to be listening to God and allowing Him to guide me how to pray. This has actually been kind of fun, because God knows exactly what prayers that person needs, and sometimes after they have received their card they tell me that's just what they needed. It's so cool to see God work in that way!

So far, God has shown me how to keep in constant communication with Him, and how to refocus when my brain wants to get off-track when I set aside a time dedicated to prayer. I really need this brain-training.

I also made some other goals for this year, like being healthier. I have been doing great eating much better, but not so great with the exercising until recently. I seem to have no trouble getting out and walking and doing stuff when the weather is nice, but those winter months seem to suck out every ounce of energy I have. So at least the exercising is going better now that the weather is better. I'll take it, even if it did take me almost half the year. 

Trying to decide how I've been doing on the projects. I think I've been doing better about not starting something new unless I know I can finish it. But I've been really tired for a while, so I haven't been starting too many projects. 

Which brings me to some news: We are pregnant again! 

Obviously after last year, this comes with a smorgasboard of thoughts and emotions, but I think back to how God has worked in my life, over and over again, and I know I do not need to worry about anything. 

I am going to continue on in the second half of this year making a commitment to memorize more Scripture. So many reasons to do so, but for me, I was challenged to have more God's Word hidden in my heart, lest one day our freedom of worship be taken away. Also, it has been so cool to pray Scripture over so many people this year, that I want to have more stored up in my mind for when God wants to me to use it for prayer or to speak to others or to remind me of what He says or for whatever other reason.