Posts Tagged ‘expectations’

Gifts are a part of many celebrations at this time of year.images

Retailers are counting on us to spend, spend, spend towards their financial success (and our financial decline, which will eventually put them into decline as well … but, I digress). The signs are everywhere;

The gifts we give are … well … expected.

And that expectation of receiving a gift from someone can devalue that gift.

Let me explain …

When we are dating, a gift, at any time, from that special someone, can melt our hearts! Even if it is not an exciting gift, we are able to receive it with such thanks, such delight, such surprise … because we were not expecting it. After years, and years, and years (speaking personally) in a marriage can mean that expectations are attached with gift giving. The giver might give expecting a certain response, and the receiver might receive expecting something that is not hidden under the outer wrappings.

Recently, my hubby received a gift. He has been coaching a group of boys on a football team, HE has been the GIVER all season … that was his role in the relationship with the boys. But at the recent year end banquet, the boys had a gift for him (as well as a number of individual gifts). This gift was and is so very meaningful to hubby, and he will cherish and keep it always. The gift came from an expected giver … it was unexpected, and it was delighted in by the receiver.

At Christmas time we celebrate the birth of the Christ-child. We sing:

“Come, thou long expected Jesus …”

Long expected …

I wonder if one of the reasons He was not well-received was that expectations had been built up to the point where the gift could not be received with the delight that the Giver had given?


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Back to school arrived last week, for me.

The first week back, after summer vacation, is always a difficult week at work for me, for a few reasons.

One is that summer is over (it really does not matter what the weather is, or what the calendar says about the end of summer being a month later, summer ends when school begins, period).

Secondly I work in a school … with students, and before Labor Day weekend, there are no students at school. Work without students is … boring!

Another reason is that, in my line of work, every year can mean a completely new assignment, with completely different students, in completely different classes and grades, working with completely different teachers. Everything, and I mean everything that I was confident in just two months ago is gone, and is replaced by something new.

And, finally, people ask how I feel about being back, and well, considering the above mentioned reasons for the first week being difficult, that is an answer that I really do not want to give … because it makes me sound terribly negative, and feel terribly depressed.

Once I get to work, on this first day back, I am (along with my colleges) given our schedules, with the reminder that we should not write down anything, except in pencil (things can still change for the first couple of weeks of school). It is then that full panic mode begins.

For the past few years when I receive that initial schedule for the year, I really start to feel panicky because I feel as though I am so inadequate to do the job that has been handed to me. And then, from that moment until the first day of school, I get increasingly panicked.

I often consider resigning, saying no, running away. Anything that will allow me to put distance between my job assignment and me. At this point, I am convinced those little butterflies in my stomach have changed into buzzards, and they have come home to roost inside of my innards.

As I was driving to school the final day of the week I was drawn in by the lyrics of a song that was playing on the radio …

“A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace”
Oh man, how did God know that it was fear of my own failure that was making me anxious?
“Your will above all else,
my purpose remains

The art of losing myself
in bringing you praise”
Oh ya! This job, this life, it’s not about me, it is about me decreasing so that He would increase.
“My heart and my soul, I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise, become my embrace
To love You from the inside out”
Oh, how I needed embrace right then. And He met me where I was was at, and the reminder that in giving Him control, justice and praise would fill me from the inside out.
“Everlasting, Your light will shine when all else fades
Never ending, Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out, O my soul cries out.”
I get it. I remember now. I will praise You, from the inside out, and leave the anxious, fearful thoughts of my job assignment to You, because You are everlasting and faithful to me.

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It all started with a fortune cookie …

What followed were days of deep contemplation.

As I read it now, I hold back from placing the big ‘L’ for loser sign on my forehead. Of course desires that are not extravagant will be granted! The reality of every fortune cookie (or fortune itself) is that there is enough truth in what it says to make a person believe it as their own special, hand-picked message.

How do we define ‘extravagant’ desires?

For me an extravagant desire might be a pedicure, but for another person, living in another context, three meals a day might be an extravagant desire (and I would suppose that a fortune cookie would not be part of their life).

It is easy to sit in our cozy latte drinking, computer-owning, name brand life, and talk about our non-extravagant desires being granted. But, what is it that makes us think that we should receive what much of our fellow human beings do not?

While away on vacation the two of our three kids, who were with us, had great freedom. We allowed them the freedom to go to the beach, hang out with friends, and be out much later than if we were home. The curfew had been set at 10pm, for a couple of nights. Then, one evening our son requested that he be allowed to stay out later. So, after considering why he made his request, we allowed him another half hour. And, we were thrilled that he honored us, by being back by the time we requested.

The next evening when our son came to check in, telling us of the plans for the evening, he requested 10:30 as a time to return to our room. When we said no to his request he was irate!

“But you let me stay out that late last night!” Was his rebuttal.

With the blessing of one ‘extravagant’ desire granted, it became a ‘not extravagant desire’ for our son. To put it another way, once the gift was given once, it became ‘normal’ and expected.

That was NOT our intent, as parents! We simply intended to provide an evening of exception, whereas he interpreted it as a new expectation.

Our son is no different from ourselves as parents, as adults. Like our son, the blessing of one extravagant desire can become for us a new expectation.

Once we have the exception of a tropical vacation, it becomes an expectation. Once we eat at the high end restaurant, it becomes expectation. Once we get that pedicure as a gift, it becomes the expectation. Once we get a summer off from work, it becomes the expectation of summers to come. Once we experience the blessing of full health coverage, it becomes the expectation in our next job. Once we experience the gift of good health, it becomes the expectation.

These ‘non-extravagant’ desires can go on and on and on.

The problem comes when we stop seeing that which is extravagant, as expectation … when we stop seeing each blessing as the gift it is.

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Abbott and Costello made that one question an entire comedy sketch, that has lasted, and been retold, for about sixty-seven years. It is one which can make just about anyone laugh. It is a comedy sketch told to give people a giggle, about how easy it is to misunderstand what others are trying to communicate.

The main question that is being asked, throughout the sketch, is “who’s on first?”

That question is a good one to also ask ourselves in relations to life, and priorities.

Who’s on first in our life?

As a Christian, I would say that God is on first, but, in reality, I do not always live as though that is my reality.

There are those who say, look to where you spend your money, and you will see what you put first in your life. Or where you spend your time, is the indicator of greatest priority. Or what you think most often about.

Exodus 20:3 says that God comes first. In different translations and versions, it is communicated with different words, but the meaning is the same … God’s on first.

I have said before that one of my biggest struggles, in marriage, has been in confusing the expectations I have of my God and my hubby. Now, don’t get me wrong, there has never been a time when I have bowed down, sacrificed burnt offerings and worshiped hubby (although I did put his socks on for him, once, when he was sick). Nonetheless, I have still struggled with not expecting God-like results from his very human person.

There are things that I think we often look for in others that, when they don’t (can’t) follow through and provide for us, we feel greatly let down.

I can only speak for myself, but I have often looked to my hubby as the provider of my security, of my future. That is a terribly big expectation to heap upon a mere mortal. And, of course, the disappointment that happens when hubby is not able to live up to that expectation I have had on him, is immense. He is no more able to control my future than I am.

It is only God who should hold on to that expectation.

Jeremiah 29:11 says, “for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

God, and only God, can provide the security of the future. And, it is only when we make the decision to put Him first, that the security of our future, both now and for all eternity, is truly secure.


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