‘Tis the season for high expectations. But what happens when those expectations don’t match reality? What happens when the doll you wanted is not the doll you got or the education you worked so hard to complete doesn’t end up providing the life, career, or stability you expected? Are we grateful for what we have? Do we count our blessings? Or do we focus on the negative?
How do we “manage our expectations” without giving up hope? How do you maintain high expectations without suffering the crushing loss of a failure to deliver on those expectations?
When the kids were tiny, I desperately wanted a full, lush Christmas tree. I had to settle for a $14.99 pop-up artificial tree from Kmart. When the tree-topper star knocked the tree over, I quickly realized that the branches were too flimsy to hold up any of the ornaments. Not wanting to have an ornamentless tree, I gathered together some old craft supplies, paints, and a bucket of Christmas foam shapes I’d found on sale. The children and I used green ornament wire and various styrofoam balls and foam shapes to create a multitude of ultra-lightweight ornaments for the tree. I created the Angel from a foam cone and ball, black yarn, cardboard, and some old lace and white eyelet cotton. A photograph of my baby girl’s face hot glued to the tiny ball on top & flowing black yarn all-around for hair made the angel complete.
What the tree lacked – we filled with love. We were grateful to have a tree at all. The kids were excited about the ornaments they made, so to them, it looked perfect.
Years after we could afford a real tree and heavy ornaments – we still kept our handmade angel and ornaments as a testament to our blessings. The tradition of creating Christmas gifts and decorations continued year to year while the children were small, as did our dollar store excursions. The first few years, I would set aside twenty or so dollars to buy as many presents at the dollar store as I could, then wrap them up, so the kids had the excitement of opening gifts and stocking stuffers. The tradition continued, and while we are blessed enough now to relegate dollar store items to the stockings only, it is an excellent reminder of how the important things in life aren’t things.
We are about to decorate our tree together in a little while, and I know what will invariably happen. The shiny glass ornaments will be placed next to ornaments made of foam, Qtips, light wood, and popsicle sticks. Someone will ask if we can fix the now-broken angel and place it on top of the tree again instead of the shiny gold-taped cardboard star created to take its place so many years ago. They will sing, smile, and laugh as they lovingly hold each of the ornaments they made over the years. They will talk about how much they love the smell of the real tree and happily analyze its height and girth.
I can also tell you what won’t happen. They won’t get upset about dollar store stocking stuffers. They won’t complain that the tree doesn’t measure up, and they won’t ask for more gifts than we can afford to give them.
For them – expectations are grounded in reality. The reality is that they are loved, have always been loved, and even when there were little material gifts to give, we gave them piles and piles of the kind of love that appreciates chapstick, bedtime stories, a comb, hugs when you’re sad, hairbands, a cheering spectator at the game, soap, card games with family, bath bombs, movie night on the couch, and dollar store candy as much as those name brand sneakers or cell phone.
Expectations In The Right Place
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:13
The pastor’s sermon on Sunday was all about how Christ brings us through the storm. I can do ALL things through Christ. I can do the lean years, the wealthy years, the good times, the bad times, the big trees, and the scrawny ones because God has promised never to leave us or forsake us, and my expectations are on Him.