Expectations

Cracked, Flawed, and Broken

I've been listening a lot lately. Listening to recorded books while I endlessly drive all over the county, listening to conversations at the next table, listening to my teens in my kitchen. 

Characters in books, adult women, teens - we all have this in common: we like to talk about each other. This isn't news, is it? 

If I'm being honest with myself, I can confess to anyone that I am cracked, flawed, and broken without the hope of fixing any of my flaws all by myself. To be sure, there are many tools I've used over the years to help heal the areas of my life that have seen damage, but ultimately, as a woman who puts her hope in Jesus Christ's finished redemption, I believe that God is the only true healer here.

I also compensate for my overly-nerdy, introverted, "gifted", think-too-deeply, live-inside-my-head tendencies by talking far, far too much. Dead conversational space makes me physically queasy, and I cope by talking. By saying what could be said in 5 words with 105. Only the most patient of friends put up with me (and that's like two). 

In all the recent listening, I'm learning about other women what I have missed in a thousand conversations I've listened to before. We are all cracked, flawed, and broken.

That uppity woman who needs for all the other women to know how much money she makes or that she writes her thank you notes on Crane stationery and bought her boots at Bergdorfs? She's probably wildly insecure.

That teen who heartlessly puts down all the other teens around her and surrounds herself with a friend or two who giggle at her insults and snide remarks under her breath? This is an obvious one, isn't it? She's so insecure in who she is becoming that she's creating a wall no one else can penetrate. She'll have to spend the rest of her life tearing it down, brick by brick. 

That overly-chatty friend who seems to talk endlessly about the things going on in her world in profuse abundance and droll detail? Well, that would be me, and I'm trying to compensate for my own social ineptitude. 

How does it change us, as women, to realize that the woman sitting next to us at the swim team parent meeting is just as cracked, flawed, and broken as we are? How does it alter our view to realize that she is compensating, too: for a failing marriage, for a lack of love growing up, for her personality that isn't endearing or funny or "winning"? 

Here's the charge: Let's love each other well. Let's be the brave women who smile tenderly and openly at the woman chattering incessantly next to us. Let's be the generous hearts who see past the exaggerated accomplishment stories and bragging about children, who reach out and say, "I'm cracked, flawed and broken, but I can be your friend."

There is a time for boundaries, you know? Sometimes cracks, flaws, and brokenness lend themselves to lashing out and hurting others. I'll write more about that next time. 


Why Mother's Day Cards Are the Worst

I ran into the grocery store this morning to pick up some fancy gluten free frozen pizza for dinner because sometimes that's what I can get on the table at the end of a day filled with homeschooling kids and a special needs son who forgot his lunch and a tire that had a bolt in it and needed patching and tennis lessons. The tennis lessons aren't difficult, but they fall right at dinner time. So, frozen pizza for the win.

I was hurrying past the greeting card section when it occurred to me that this coming Sunday is Mother's Day, probably my least favorite day of the year. If it fell on a weekday and I had a mammogram scheduled the same day, that might make it slightly worse, but only slightly. Mother's Day is a lousy substitute for real life joy.

In case you want to link-hop, I've written a bit on the topic of lowering our expectations, and suffice it to say that in terms of expectations, Mother's Day is the, well, Queen Mother of unmet expectations.

And the pressure! Holy smokes. If you want a snapshot of the pressure placed on mothers to be beacons of light and glory to their children, just take a look at Mother's Day cards:

Seriously??? If I'm the glue that holds this family together, we are in BIG trouble, people. On any given day I could be a dried up glue stick in the corner of the floor under the table or Gorilla Glue, and there's no telling which days will be which. I don't want to be the glue. I'll let God be the glue.

Really? REALLY??? A thousand things are passing through my head as I write this, but let's just default to actual theology and say that yes, indeed, God can be everywhere. Sheesh.

No comment.

The picture's blurry but I think you can see why I took it. $9. NINE DOLLARS. I love you, kids, but that's nine dollars that's eventually going to end up in my office trash can.

I almost peed my pants when I saw this one. At least now we're being truthful.

And then I hung my head and shook it when I saw this one, until I opened it . . .

. . . and then I bought it. Yes I did.

Look, no matter if you get a card at all for Mother's Day, no matter if it's hand-drawn on construction paper or cost someone $9 (NINE DOLLARS!!!), remember that your worth and value as a mother has absolutely nothing to do with that card or the giver of that card. The day is not a success or failure based on what someone did or didn't do for you.

And that's exactly why Mother's Day cards can be the worst. There's so much at stake if we let there be. Don't. Wake up on Sunday knowing Whose you are and what He did for you, and let all the rest go. It will be the best Mother's Day ever.


The Power and Freedom of Realistic Expectations

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I spend a lot of time with young moms. Heck, with 8 kids, I was a young mom until last year. Or so. When they tell me their deeply felt frustrations with the day-to-day management of children, the squeeze of time to maintain a healthy relationship with husband, and the things they want to do, I get it. Really, I do. 

They also tenderly tell me about the conflict in their marriages, with their sisters, with their toddlers, with their mothers-in-law. They share their hurt feelings, their frustrations, and their desire that things could have gone differently than they did.

"It was my birthday, for cryin' out loud! Why didn't he think to get a babysitter?"

"She knows how important clean eating is to our family. Why would she feed the kids cookies from a box and let them drink soda, to boot?"

"I had planned a day at the park but it all got taken away when he told me he needed the van. Why couldn't he have remembered to tell me sooner?"

I'm going to say something here that might not be very popular:  

I think we all need to lower our expectations.

Are any of the above statements unreasonable? No. Do those moms have a right to feel disappointed? Sure. And yet, how could their contentment with what God had crafted for them in those moments be unshaken if their expectations were at ground level?

At 45, I'm still slowly learning that God's ways are best. I could say it to anyone around me, "Oh, trust God, friend! His ways are best!" but when it comes right down to me, I doubt him faster than I can even gather my thoughts on the subject.

22 years into cleaning up after other people, wiping noses, clipping little boy fingernails, and dubious character training (that's the child-rearing stuff) plus relationship bungles, family tension, writing-related disappointments, and financial hurdles (that's the life stuff) and I can say that I have learned one thing, and only one thing, well: keep your expectations low.

Know what happens when you do? Everything is a bonus! Everything is fabulous! Everything feels like a gift! 

Let's go back and reframe the disappointments in the context of low (or no) expectations of others and what they can do for us:

"It's my birthday! Even if no one else remembers, I know that God does and I'll celebrate with him. In fact, I'll make myself a bowl of ice cream right now!"

"I'm so glad we've chosen to eat such healthy foods. Now when the kids are at her house, it's not like we eat that kind of junk food every day. They'll enjoy it once and then we can move on."

"Wow, I'm so disappointed that I couldn't take the kids to the park. I need to tell him that I'd really appreciate it if he could remember to let me know sooner next time, but for today, I'm going to turn lemons into lemonade. Literally. Hey kids! Let's make lemonade!"

You know, that first one isn't too far from my own story. As a summer birthday girl, my day was never celebrated by my classmates or youth group friends because it was summer break. As an adult, of course, life doesn't stop on our birthdays, either. Most people forget unless Facebook prompts them. 

It made me grumpy to wake up to demanding kids on my birthday, wanting to know what's for breakfast or asking if I would do any number of things for them that day. MY day. My birthday, for cryin' out loud!

And then one year an older friend of mine invited us all over for breakfast ice cream sundaes on her birthday and I thought, YES. I adore ice cream. I could live on ice cream. So why not start a tradition of ice cream sundaes for breakfast on my birthday every year? Not just ice cream sundaes, the best of the best ice cream, toppings, and fresh whipped cream, too. 

I changed my expectations for the day, took charge over what I thought other people "should" be doing for me, and turned around to create a breakfast birthday party that we all look forward to every July. I learned that expecting others to think of me first invites self pity. I learned that there is power in not being a victim. I learned that having realistic expectations frees me to love others well. How can you do the same?