Expectations are sneaky buggers. They are often so engrained into our ideas of normal that we forget we have them at all.
We walk into daily situations, especially holidays, with subconscious champagne and roses expectations thanks to Hallmark movies, and miss the better gifts reality can offer.
One year, I almost ruined my own birthday with my expectations. In the years since, I have seen how God has walked with me through feeling disappointed and invisible and reminds me He is the God who sees me.
In the weeks surrounding holidays like Mother’s Day and Valentines Day, I often see so many struggling relationships because they weren’t celebrated in the way they wanted to be. And hurting women let disappointment turn into a burr between themselves and their families.
I sadly remember all the Valentine’s Days, birthdays, trips, and anniversaries that turned into balls of hurt in my house because of my wrong expectations that didn’t offer any grace to the love of my life.
Somehow, I expected my husband to say the words that would make all the late nights, emotional exhaustion and struggles of being a wife and mother worth it. I wanted him to find the gift or flowers that would make me feel for just ONE day that he truly sees and appreciates me.
I was putting the pressure of my expectations on him instead of taking them to the Lord.
And with all the weight I was giving these particular calendar days, nothing was ever going to satisfy.
Now, I can see all the ways he shows me how much he appreciates me everyday. But I was missing it because I was so focused on my emotional needs.
The year I almost ruined my birthday changed everything. The day had been pretty low-key, a fine day, but I couldn’t get over my disappointment at not receiving any kind of gift.
After feeling a bit dejected and debating with myself about telling him how I felt, I decided not to say anything and be grateful for all the blessings I had.
Five minutes later, he came out from the bedroom with a jewelry set he had purchased months earlier. It was special hypoallergenic gold due to my bizarre metal allergy. I felt like such a jerk. My unmet expectations almost ruined his thoughtful surprise.
I almost missed a real expression of his love for me because I wanted to dictate what it should look like.
Most Mother’s Days, I don’t wake up to a perfect bouquet or breakfast in bed. But my days have been just right.
Why? What changed? Me.
First, I stopped placing my value and worth as a mother in the hands of my husband. I would love a moment of recognition from him, but I don’t need it.
My identity as a woman, mother, even wife is in Christ and the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:17-19 “So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith . . . and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
I have learned to let God’s love fill me so that I overflow with His fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Even though I still do those things imperfectly, I recognize I am growing in grace as I grow in Him.
So I set my expectations for holidays now on what I want for myself. On Mother’s Day, I want a day of being the mom I really want to be everyday: fun, patient, kind, joyful.
When I quit having expectations, I got to see more fully who my husband is, appreciating and loving the whole of him, and experiencing the joy of the day as it unfolds.
My first Mother’s Day of letting go of expectations, my husband didn’t make me breakfast in bed, because he wanted to wait to ask me what I would like to have. He didn’t buy me a gift, but researched a special place for me to choose exactly what I wanted. He spent his afternoon cleaning out the pool so I could have the first swim of the year.
His quiet thoughtfulness was more precious to me than any gift.
For years, I missed the real gifts because of my wrong expectations.
Sometimes we feel invisible and ignored. No one sees us up at midnight, straightening the living room or washing dishes. Laundry magically folds itself and finds its way back into drawers, or maybe you magically earn the paycheck that keeps your house from belonging to the bank.
One or two days a year doesn’t change who you are and won’t heal days you were taken for granted or ignored. But rest assured, God sees you. He sees your every moment.
The work and struggle of being a wife, mother, friend, sister is not invisible to Him. And I find so much joy when I remember that I’m serving Him through my earthly service.
Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
Don’t let the darkness steal true joy from your grasp. Even on this side of heaven, jewelry and flowers pale in comparison to the joy of the Lord in the ministry where He has placed you.
2 Corinthians 4:18 “As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Focus on the eternal blessings, and you might find greater joy than you expected in the first place.