Are you ever amazed at the way the Lord blindsides you with a lesson when you're least expecting it? Last week was one of those times for me. Travis was in Indianapolis for a business trip, the first time we have ever been apart for an entire week in our married life. Leading up to that week, I found myself trying to give myself pep-talks like, "you'll be fine, you can do this, God will be with you, He will provide all you need..." My mom gave me a pearl of wisdom before the week started by sharing with me how she dealt with times when my dad was away, either hunting or working long hours during tax season. She said something to the effect, "I just knew I was it, just got into single mom mode and then I was fine". So that's what I did, got into single mom mode and we did our week. A couple days into the week, something dawned on me, I could do a lot more than I thought I could... and I could keep a positive attitude about it to boot! God was giving me what I needed and then some as I relied on Him. And at the end of each day, when I sunk into our recliner with a sigh, ready to curl up with a book, it was a sigh of satisfaction. I had accomplished, with strength from above, all the work of the day, meals, clean-up, bedtime routines and lived to tell about it. I was begging the Lord for patience and kindness towards the kids each day as I feared that the extra tiredness and stress of being alone would take its toll in those departments. I was abiding in the Vine, I kept my Bible open on the counter at all times so I would be sure to read in it each day, praying throughout the day.
Was it a perfect week? No. Did I stumble? Yes. But God was whispering something to me as the week moved on, wisdom that was for more than just that week. He was teaching me that my expectations are in direct correlation to my attitude and the way I interact with Travis and the kids. When I wasn't expecting Travis's help, I wasn't disappointed when it wasn't there, after all it couldn't be right, he was gone. But that's where God gave me the challenge, what if my misplaced expectations are the root of bitterness and "grumpiness" on a regular basis? What if I was truly able to release some of my expectations, or at least change them, of Travis and the kids in our daily lives? What if I learned what it is to rely only on the Lord to meet my needs instead of being needy and self-focused with Travis? Could it be that he is often feeling burdened by my never-relenting expectations of him? Does he feel like he can never measure up? Do I lay guilt trips, knowingly and unknowingly, when he doesn't meet some unspoken or spoken expectation? Do I play the "woe-is-me" card a lot? Does he feel wrongfully responsible for my happiness? Yuck! I don't want to do those things! Now I have to be careful here. At first glance, it could sound like I'm picking on Travis, that he's not doing much around the house. Quite to the contrary! He is SO incredibly helpful and serving, I often brag about him being my night time hero as he often lets me sleep while he addresses the kid's night time needs. We are partners! But the sad thing is, I think we can often get into the mindset that what our men do is never enough, or we can nitpick the small things while forgetting the huge things they do and are every single day. I often have to ask myself, "how would you feel if Travis was thinking these things about you?" Again, YUCK! But the bottom line lesson I heard last week is that the only way to be truly selfless (and NOT in the pathetic martyr way) is to be filled. And the only one who can fill me is the Savior of my soul, my Creator and Father, Jesus Christ. When He talks about abundant life, I think part of what He means is a life that isn't lacking, that inner soul satisfaction that transcends circumstances or the successes and failures, strengths and weaknesses of another person or ourselves. It is being in a place where we don't expect perfect equality in our relationships, where we're not keeping score so to speak. When we are so filled by His presence and His spirit, when we are bathed in His Word, and when we are infused by a life-giving relationship with Him, only then can we overflow into the lives of those around us and be a blessing rather than that proverbial dripping faucet, only then can we stop being needy and expecting others to make our lives better or easier or more fulfilled. Did I not know this beautiful truth before last week? Well, let's just say head knowledge is different than heart knowledge.
Oh friends, if only it was as easy as one little lesson. Even today, so close to new learning, I have struggled with my expectations. But talking to you all has helped remind me, so thank you for listening. I am praying that God will continue to show me where my expectations need health, that He would continue to call me to Himself each day as I long to abide in the Vine, that He would light the ear candle regularly so I can clearly hear his voice! And even, yes even, that He would continue to bring challenges onto my path so that I am forced to grow. I want to be an overflowing cup! I want to let go of expectations and be a bigger blessing to those I love.
I would love to hear from each of you about how you've struggled and grown in this area of expectations, particularly in your marriages. Keepin it real sisters, trying my best to keep it real! Let's grow together:).