(Not) Exceeding Expectations

“It is our choices that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.” – Professor Dumbledore

The Harry Potter novels are full of wisdom and life lessons, usually found in the words of Albus Dumbledore. There is meaning in most everything in the novels, and many people, myself included, have examined these meanings and written about the themes present throughout the series. All my best learning seems to come from Harry Potter.

Perhaps that is why my favorite podcast has become Harry Potter and the Sacred Text. Although this podcast has been around for over a year, I have just started listening, and I started from the bottom (Book 1, Chapter 1). But one session in particular made an impact on me: “Expectations: The Journey from Platform 9 3/4.”

The quote the session began with is what hit me hard and got me thinking (and crying) in my car: “Expectations are resentments under construction” – Anne Lamott

And it really got me thinking about the expectations I have had in my (short) life.

I was told that I sometimes make people feel like they’re just part of some plan I have in life. That hurt to hear, but then I realized that maybe there is truth in that.

I romanticize just about everything. (Not necessarily intentionally, and not necessarily consciously either.) In my Creative Writing course in college, my instructor told me he loved my story concept, and that I should keep writing it, but that I may have to end it in a way I hadn’t anticipated: with an unhappy ending. I gave up the story immediately because I love happy endings. I couldn’t put my character through the struggle I knew I would have to write because I wouldn’t want to go through it. I had an expectation going into writing that could not be met as I developed the character and the story. So I got upset and never wrote another word on it. Because I knew there was no way the ending could turn out any other way.

Choices show what we are, so what does this choice say about me? That I wasn’t ready to face the expectations I knew couldn’t be met.

I create these expectations of situations and people around me that no one can ever live up to. When those expectations aren’t met, I can become frustrated and angry, which only hurts the other person, me, and whatever relationship was there. It creates resentment because I just think “how could this expectation not have been met? was it that difficult?” And, of course, all that does is grow into a tumor of resentment in the back of my head.

I always thought growing up meant making all these plans and packing up ideas in a box with a neat little bow on top and presenting it, saying, “here’s the solution!” That’s what I expected from everything in life: school, marriage, a career. And that tumor would just continue to grow. But I’ve recently realized that isn’t the case.

If I learned just one thing in the seven years I was participating in higher education (and the one year I’ve been out), it is this: college is not reality. Do not base your expectations for life on what you experienced in college. Because in school, everything is packaged neatly: you have specific classes you need to take (with a few of your own choices scattered here and there), you have deadlines for assignments and exams, there are office hours with professors, you have a plan to lead you to graduation… That is all well and good, but life does not mirror that one bit.

I thought having these types of expectations for a person showed I cared, but, in reality, they breed resentment (remember the aforementioned tumor?).

Why?

Because no one can live up to romanticized expectations that sound like they’re out of a storybook, and life isn’t “once upon a time…”

When someone doesn’t meet those expectations and I become upset, it makes it seem as if I am trying to change that person or fixing something to be the way I want it to be, even if that was not my intention. It makes them feel as if they are just a cog in my machine of a plan of life and not the player or partner in it they should be.

My mom has often give me this little nugget of advice: don’t expect someone to do something (or act in the same way) you would because they are not you. Even if they began as good-natured expectations, those types of expectations will always breed resentment. Because you are expecting someone to act in a way that may not be in their nature. It leads to implications that their nature, who they are, is an inconvenience to you.

I have heard that a few times: that because I had the expectation of a plan, I was making the other person feel like an inconvenience. So these expectations can not only make us resent others, but they can also make others resent us.

Since hearing this perspective-altering quote, I have decided to adjust my perspective, to change my expectations. Sometimes, it’s best not to have any.

If choices show what we truly are, what does this choice say about me? I hope it says I am willing to recognize my faults and weaknesses and make things right when needed.

Who knows. Maybe I’ll go back to writing that story…

What’s In It For Me?

One of my colleagues and I had breakfast this morning as a sort of “last meeting,” and, somehow, I don’t remember how, our conversation led to how people treat each other in relationships—romantic or otherwise. We agreed that, in some cases, it seemed that people are only in things for themselves anymore, that it’s no longer about give and take but what someone can do for “me.” This leads perfectly into today’s Scripture.

While I didn’t post yesterday, the Scriptures from yesterday and today are directly connected. In fact, today’s directly follows yesterday’s. Interestingly enough, they connect to how we should treat others.

 

Romans 12: 1-8

“I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what it is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he out to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Here, we are told that, like parts of our body, we are all important, but we all play different roles. The hand cannot do the same as the foot. (It’s “be the hands and feet of God” not “the hands or feet,” right?) Our service to God is to sacrifice ourselves to Him, whatever our gifts may be, so He can use them by His grace and for His good.

 

Romans 12:9-16

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.”

This passage is, in essence, teaching us how to follow Christ, how to be Christians. We are to love, we are to have hope, be patient, pray. We are to be hospitable, we are to celebrate but also grieve with others. We are not to think so highly of ourselves that we become all we see and not God.

 

The take away is…

These two Scriptures seem to say the same thing at least once. Look at Romans 12:3: “…not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think.” Now, look at Romans 12:16: “Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” The message here is simple: Do not think too highly of yourself; do not glorify yourself and your own mind and deeds; surround yourself with others who can help you stay humble.

I said my conversation with my colleague leads into these Scriptures, and it does. Here’s how.

Romans 12:1-8 tells us we all have a role to play in life and to submit to that role (“living sacrifice”). Romans 12:9-16 tells us we need to have compassion, be humble, be kind, and show brotherly (i.e. friendly) love to one another. As Christians, we cannot constantly go around asking “what’s in it for me?” when we bless someone else, or when we make a new connection, or when we partake in fellowship. Our actions have to be selfless, for the good of others, but, most importantly, for the glory of God.

Maybe some people have lost this concept and need to regain it. You totally can! It takes patience, practice, and, yes, prayer. But we must stop thinking we are the end-all-be-all of the world, that the world revolves around us. Because it doesn’t. There are much bigger things.

The part that speaks to me most here is Romans 12:9: “Let love be without hypocrisy.” I mean…wow. I think this sticks out the most because of what my husband and I are going through right now. I can’t say that I love him, and that I am doing this for us, if that isn’t true. (It is! Believe me. But you see my point?) Because that’s not love, it’s selfishness. But when I let the truth reign, wonderful things can happen.

Maybe you just need reminding that God has a role for every one of us and that your role is wonderful too. Maybe you need to find your God-given gift. Maybe you even need a little reminder on how to act during those days when you just can’t possibly love that annoying person. That’s okay. Don’t get caught in your head. Turn to God. His opinion of you and His gift for you and His role for you are the only things that matter.

So, what’s in it for you? Nothing. Except knowing God has a purpose for your life and that every relationship you make can impact you in ways you can’t even imagine.

Reflecting

I want to take today to talk about something else that has been put on my heart today: marriage.

I have been reading Team of Rivals. It’s very revealing about what life was like for those four men who hoped they would be chosen to be the next President of the United States of America. It talks about their political aspirations, their educational backgrounds, their upbringings, their family life, their marriages, their relationships with other politicians, and even how their political desires affected their lives and their relationships.

Today, though, I was struck by Seward’s relationship with his wife Frances. Seward loved his wife and his children dearly, but Goodwin explains “…the Sewards to a far greater extent than the Lincolns, spent much of their married life apart.” And I realized: I have it pretty good in comparison to these historic couples.

I am preparing to move, and this means being apart from my husband for quite a few months. But this is 2017. We have pen and paper, but we also have phones and computers and airplanes. Sure, we can write old fashion letters, which I love. But we can also call, text, and FaceTime. He can fly to visit me, or I can fly to visit him.

Seward and Frances, or Mary and Lincoln, couldn’t do that.

I value our marriage above everything else, but I also know I need to do my share in providing for my family. This job was the way I could do that.

I know it’s going to be rough, but I also know it will be worth it in the long run. Because at one point we will be on the same page, at the same point, in our careers. And this was the only way I felt that could eventually happen.

I am blessed beyond measure to be married to a man who understands my career needs, to love me regardless of a career choice, to be willing to let me take a job because he knows it is important, to always be my support.

Marriage isn’t easy, especially when you get married young. You learn to grow together, to grow up together, you learn about yourselves together. And we are still learning. But I have faith that this will create good growth for us and our marriage. I can just imagine telling our children one day all the things we went through, with the one message being: with the right person, nothing can tear you apart.

And what’s even more important: putting God first. When He is at the center of your marriage, there is nothing you cannot do.

And I am holding tight to that. I know the separation will be difficult. I know we will miss each other more than we know right now. But I also feel it will be eye opening for us.

I pray for strength, safety, and knowledge. Most of all, I pray for a long and happy marriage. Because I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else, and I wouldn’t want to.

Psalm 98:1-9 : Praising God

It took me some time to decide to write about today’s Scripture because I was trying to think about how to connect it to what’s going on and to the news I have to share.

Today’s Scripture was Psalm 98:1-9: “Oh, sing to the Lord a new song! For He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His hold arm have gained Him the victory. The Lord has made known His salvation; His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations. He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God. Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth; break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. Sing to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of a Psalm, with trumpets and the sound of a horn; shout joyfully before the Lord, the King. Let the sea roar, and all its fullness, the world and those who dwell in it; let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills be joyful together before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity.”

As you can see, this seems pretty long. But I hear God saying the same thing: “Rejoice. Give praise.” And I should, for everything. For me, what I learned here was straightforward: give praise to God, be joyful for Him.

And, believe me, I have plenty to be joyful for.

And that is why I said in the first two days of this that the Scriptures were so meaningful to me, because things are happening in my life.

Last month, as my husband and I were leaving for a relaxing vacation to Mexico for a week, I received an email with a job offer. After conversations of what this means, how this will work, how it will affect our relationship, how it impacts my husband’s career, and, of course, an official start date, I accepted the position. I start on January 30.

In 3 weeks, I (and our 3 animals) will be moving to Virginia. Without my husband. And I will be without him for about 6 months, possibly longer.

So what, you may ask, do I have to sing praises for?

The answer? Everything.

Yes, I will be away from my husband. And, yes, it’s going to be painful emotionally. I will miss him. But I am thankful that I have a husband who supports this career move for me. I am thankful that he knows what this means for me, for us, for our future. I am thankful for his strength and his faith.

I am thankful that I was offered a job so soon after receiving my master’s. In just 6 months. Many people wait much longer. I am thankful that an employer saw the potential in me that I know I have and am so eager to prove.

I am thankful that I have family who are willing to help me in any way they can as I embark on this adventure.

I am thankful for technology, which will make the distance between my husband and I that much easier.

So even through the difficulties, emotionally and financially, I will praise the Lord because nothing would be possible without Him. He has blessed me with what I have, and it all belongs to Him.

Today’s Scripture resonated with me a bit more than I thought it would when I initially wrote it down. And I hope it can make an impact in your life.

What should you sing praises for?

Be Thankful

When life gets tough, it can be difficult to find reasons to be thankful. But here’s the thing: life is rarely easy. That just means that sometimes we have to be conscious of what we are thankful for and repeat that to ourselves as a mantra, especially when we are feeling let down. So, in light of that and in honor of Thanksgiving, I want to share a few things I am very thankful for.

The first is a thing and a person: my husband and the relationship I have with him. Things around here have not been easy since he joined the National Guard. There can be a lot of frustration, confusion, and worry. And sometimes I feel like he is the one making a difference and doing something meaningful while I am stuck with another year of school. While the decision is a hard one to get over and learn to live with, it has made us take new steps in our marriage. My husband constantly reminds me that I do make a difference when I teach and that I will make a difference in the future. I just need my master’s to do it. Instead of giving up on us and just deciding I overreacted to his decision to join the Guard, he encouraged us to find someone to speak with. I am thankful that he works so hard to provide for us so I can continue my education and not have to pick up a second job. I am thankful for his kiss goodbye in the morning when he heads to work and his kiss hello when he comes home. I am thankful for his comforting embrace when I am stressed or just having a rough day with school. I am thankful for his encouragement and devotion. He challenges me to think harder and be better every day. I am thankful God allowed me to find him so early in life, allowing me to spend that much more of my life with him.

The second reason I am thankful is for such wonderful parents. Being an only child, I am a little spoiled, but they have worked so hard to provide for me, and they still help my husband and I now. They love my husband and never once doubted my feelings for him when we were dating; they knew it was only a matter of time before I would marry him. They supported me through a move out of state to college, when I changed my degree, when I got married, when I got accepted to graduate school. They have always supported my dreams and have encouraged me to go where God leads me and to listen to His plan for me. They let me know to take deep breaths when I feel like everything is caving in around me. They always let me know they love me and will always be there for me in everything they say and do.

Third, I am thankful for my Nana. My Nana, my mom’s mom, helped raise me, and I am forever grateful for the wisdom (and wonderful recipes) she has imparted to me over my 24 years. I know she loves me because, even though her and I butt heads sometimes, she is honest with me. Even in our spats, I know she loves me. Because if she didn’t, I don’t think we would have the same fights. I am blessed to have helped her mold me. She has also encouraged my husband and I on our journey, and I know she loves him, which means a lot to me. She took him in as her grandson-in-law (as she calls him), and spoils him like she always has spoiled me. She is a wonderful woman.

I am thankful for my close extended family for leading me to Christ. Without the trip to Passion, I don’t think I would ever be where I am or have gotten through my husband’s decision to join the Guard.

I am thankful to my extended family in general for raising two amazing people who turned out to be two amazing parents. You laid the foundation for my parents to raise me and have impacted me greatly.

I am thankful for my friends, old and new, for being people I can trust and be honest with. You have all showed me such different views and have given me so much to take in. I am so thankful that we can have the conversations we do and that I do not have to worry about being judged for who I am or what I believe.

More simply, I am thankful for my job because it means I have a paycheck. I am thankful for my instructors and my program because it means I have the ability to learn, improve, and change my world. I am thankful for having to clean our apartment because it means I have a place to call home. I am thankful for a church that challenges not only me but also my husband in our faith and encourages us to act.

I am thankful for so many things in my life, and these are just a few of them. Sometimes those simple things, like cleaning the apartment, are hard to be thankful for, but they always mean something. I encourage you to look for the deeper meaning in everything and see that God has given you so many wonderful opportunities to be thankful and so many things and people to be thankful for. The next time you are having a difficult day, write down one or two things you feel thankful for that day and see how it makes you feel. I bet it will improve your mood and perspective.

So, what are you thankful for?