Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Keeping Expectations in Check

We all have expectations.  We have expectations of ourselves, our spouse, our family and friends, our children, God, and the list goes on and on.  Have you ever stopped to notice how expectations affect our happiness?  When our expectations are met, life is fairly easy.  But when our expectations are not met, it can be a different story.  Expectations are not a bad thing, but we have to carefully manage how high we set our expectations or we end up feeling sad, angry, disappointed or those who don't meet our expectations can be left feeling unworthy and ashamed and our relationships suffer.

Being a mom brings a whole new world of expectations.  Along with expectations I have of my children, I also have more expectations of myself as their mother and teacher.  We share with our children what our expectations are of them.  This allows them to share their thoughts and feelings about the expectations and if we need to negotiate them, then we do that.  Obviously, some things are non-negotiable for us like honesty, kindness, etc.  We have no doubt our daughter works to the best of her ability in school.  She has made this evident to us.  But it's equally important to us that her character is displayed to the best of her ability as well.  So, every day I pick her up from school, I ask her "how were you a kind friend today?"  She knows I will ask her each and every day and I expect her to share with me how she was a kind friend.  I smile because now her younger sister asks her too :)  Once she starting asking, I told my almost 4-year-old daugher I was going to ask her the same question every day when I picked her up from preschool and I do!  We teach our children that this is what God expects of them as well and that's why it's so important.  As they get older, it's easy to raise our expectations.  I try to keep my expectations of my children in check so they don't ever feel like they disappoint us or feel unworthy.  It's a fine line, but they know we expect them to use their talents and gifts God has given them and do their personal best.  We know this will look different for all three of our children, but it never hurts to remind ourselves of this.

Those of us who are married have expectations of our spouses.  But how many times do we set expectations of them without sharing what they are?  It's likely those are the expectations that don't get met sometimes because our spouse may not even know we have those expectations!  Sometimes the expectations are very minor things, but if they aren't communicated, discussed and maybe even negotiated, it can negatively affect our marriage.  It's not always easy to negotiate, but we all know marriage must be a give and take in order to survive and even thrive.

I could write a whole blog just on expectations of family, but I'll keep it short :)  I personally think we set the highest (and many times unrealistic) expectations of family members and when they fall short of our expectations, it creates resentment and hostility and we can easily lose respect and trust.  I think we'd all agree that sometimes it's the hardest to share our expectations with family members.  We may be fearful of how they will react or what they will in turn expect from us.  Unfortunately, sometimes it's easier and in some cases better to just lower our expectations of certain people (especially family) and be content with their choices and actions.  I think it's fair to say that we all have had a time too when we didn't meet someone's expectation of us.  But we have to remember we are all human and only human.  Through prayer, I've found peace in the fact that I won't always meet others expectations, including those of family member's, and that's okay.  At the end of the day, the only expectations we need to focus on are God's.  When we hold each other to high expectations while never allowing one another to make mistakes and be human, we are forgetting we are all human! 

Whether we think about it much or not, we all have expectations of our friends as well.  I'm willing to bet if you think of your closest friends, a few words come to mind with your expectations of them...for me it's, laughter, food for the soul, dependability, etc.  These are all great things, but we have to remember since we are all human there will be a time when even our closest friends don't meet our expectations.  And here's where grace enters in.  Just as we want others to show us grace when we don't meet their expectations, we must be willing to extend grace.  Again, we need to change our expectations to be realistic.

It's easy for us to blame others for not meeting our expectations, but maybe we need to take a good hard look at the expectations we set for others.  I'm not suggesting we should always expect the worst and just hope for the best, but they must simply be realistic.  I encourage you to pray on this today and ask God to show you who you need to extend grace to and ask for his guidance in setting your expectations for them.  We also must remember that many times we fail to meet God's expectations of us and yet he continues to show us forgiveness, grace, love and he doesn't allow our human errors to ruin our relationship with Him.  He expects us to do the same for others.

God Bless!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

God had something to say and I listened

For the first time in my life, I intentionally sat down to listen for God's voice one day.  I've been a Catholic my whole life and go to church every week not because I have that "Catholic guilt" if I don't go, but because I truly want to be there, to give thanks, to worship and feel that connection with God that I experience when I'm on His 'turf'.  God has always been a big part of my life and has gotten me through some rough times, but until about a year ago, I had never sat and just listened to Him.  I regret not doing it sooner.

Despite growing up a christian, never did I stop to think about listening for God to speak.  Sure, I've always prayed, but that meant I was doing the talking and and mostly asking.  So, when I attended a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) leadership seminar last January, I heard an amazing lady share some of her conversations with God.  I sat there thinking, "Wow, this is incredile.  I want to hear God's voice too!"  The thing she said that had the most impact on me was with regards to her daughters.  She said, "If something were to happen to me, it's important for me to know that my four young daughters are able to hear and follow God's voice.  If they can do this, then I know that no matter what happens, they will be okay."  This really stuck with me and I decided that's what I want for my children too.  

So a few days after this, it was a Wednesday and I was sitting out on my deck while my children were napping and I thought I'd sit and listen and see if God was ready to speak to me (little did I know, it was more a question of am I ready to listen, than is he ready to speak!).  First, I prayed that I would hear the words He wanted me to and that I would know that it was His voice and not just thoughts and words I was putting in my head!  I sat there for a little bit and then from nowhere I heard "feed the hungry" and I have to tell you, I starting laughing!  This wasn't quite what I had envisioned God had to say to me!  I thought, "umm, I feed little mouths three meals and a couple snacks everyday!"  But I figured I'd be patient and see what He meant and where it would lead.  I was just so thrilled that I was pretty sure it was God speaking to me (if it had been me putting words in my head, I don't think I would've chosen the words I heard)!  That Sunday in church, four days after hearing "feed the hungry", the priest was reading the announcements at the end of mass and he said, "The Sister Carmen Food Bank is in need of food, so be sure and grab a bag on your way out to fill and return!"  I about fell over.  I knew when he said this that God had truly spoke to me.  You better believe I took a bag with me!  I even took all three kiddos along to the grocery store (you moms know what a challenge that is) to get what was needed and deliver it to the Sister Carmen Food Bank.  It was my joy to be able to help others, to follow God's direction and to also teach my children about helping others in need and being selfless.

I now take the time to listen to God regularly.  I don't always sit in complete silence (very rarely do I get complete silence unless it's when I ready to fall into bed at night!) and wait for Him to speak.  Instead, I pause to listen for his voice when I'm driving down the road or when I'm in the shower or even when my house feels like a three ring circus!  But every time I pause to listen, He gives me the words I need to hear in that moment.  It may not always be what I want to hear, but I know God knows it's what I need to hear.  It may only be a word or two, but I know it's His voice and knowing He sees what I'm going through brings a sense of peace and comfort.

Sometimes I just sit and write down my thoughts, fears, joys, prayers, etc in a journal.  One day I decided to let the words I was about to write, be the words of Jesus and just see what would result.  First, I wrote my note to Jesus and then I paused for a moment and asked Him to share his thoughts with me.  I wrote the letter to myself as if it was coming right from Jesus.  I sat there writing and writing without a pause and sometimes smiling at the things I was writing, knowing it was not my words.  After I was done, I went back through the 10 pages or so and I was truly moved by what I was reading.  Some things brought me comfort, some things challenged me.  Some things didn't seem real relevant for that moment.  There were things He had told me to let go of that I had been holding on to.  I was simply amazed.  When I sat down a few weeks later, I reread what Jesus had written to me the first time and I couldn't believe how the things that didn't have much relevance the first time, were exactly what I need to hear the second time I sat to read them. 

In my second letter, he mentioned a friendship of mine and how He brought her into my life to draw me closer to him and vice versa.  I just smiled at this because I know she has already done that for me in many ways!  This was another example of His perfect timing as I feel like our friendship began at just the perfect time for both of us.  God knew we needed each other and it's awesome to see Him working on our behalf for our good.  If you have never done this, try it.  It feels a little awkward at first, writing a letter to yourself from Jesus, but when you ask him to give you the words to write you'll be amazed at what He has to tell you!

If you were like I was and haven't sat and just listened for God to speak to you, I encourage you to start today.  Even if you have only five minutes, it's worth it!  We have to be open and ready for it because He won't force himself on us.  He's ready when you are!

God Bless :)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Becoming Better

Happy 2013!  I have not forgotten about this blog, believe me, it's been on my "wish list" of things to do so I'm making it a priority again.  I have been thinking about so many topics so I'm excited to get busy writing again!

I would like to start this post by thanking you for reading my blog!  It's fun to see I now have over 1200 page views since I started this, but at the end of the day, I don't mind if I only have one.  What I really love is to see from your comments or emails is that you can relate to my posts or they have inspired you or impacted you in a positive way.  I have truly believed from the first post I wrote that these are not my words, but words of the Holy Spirit using me a vessel to reach others seeking God's word.  Before I start writing, I sit and pray and ask God to send the Holy Spirit to speak through me, words that someone needs to read and has been waiting to hear for whatever reason.  So, if this happens to you, I'd love to hear about it!  I love to see how God is working among us and through us.

With the start of a new year I think it's natural to do a little analyzing of our lives and see what we like, what we don't, what we want to change and what we want to keep doing.  I thought I'd share a few things I've decided to do. 

1)  I'm keeping a journal on my night stand and every night before I go to bed, I write down at least 3 things (people, events, moments, challenges, unanswered prayers, etc) I'm thankful for or that have brought me true joy.  As a busy mom, it's easy to focus on the frustration, lack of time, chores left undone, etc that we experience every day.  I'm going to challenge myself to find things to be thankful for each and every day.  I'm excited to look back in a few months and see the ways God is working in my life that I haven't even realized before!

2)  I'm going to finish reading the book The Five Love Languages of Children (that I started a few months ago!).  I have read The Five Love Languages and I recommend it to everyone!  It's especially helpful for married couples.  I want to really understand what makes my children feel loved.  To assume all children feel loved in the same way is not fair.  I might be doing things that I think make my children feel loved, but I may be missing the mark!  The next step I'm committed to is doing more of those things to make my children feel completely loved at all times, even through discipline.  They hear me say I love you all the time, but I want to make sure they are feeling it too.

3)  When God puts someone on my heart to pray for, I'm going to let them know.  I don't need to know what's going on in their life that needs prayer, but I am going to let them know that I'm praying for them because God has asked me to.  This happened this past year a couple times and I didn't tell the people, I just prayed for them.  With one person I was praying for, a couple days later, they had to put their dog to sleep.  God knows who needs our prayers so just ask him!

These are just a few things I'm focusing on in the next year that I hope will make me a better mom, wife, friend and a more thankful servant of God's.  I'm sure more things will come up that I want to do, but I'll start here.  The great thing is we don't have to wait a whole year to start something new.  We can start new with each new day.  God has given us the gift of a fresh start, every 24 hours, so let's take advantage of it!

God Bless!