Thursday, December 30, 2010

Simpler Expectations

(Guess my Saint for 2011 in the combox and win a door prize---See bottom of post)

At the beginning of this three week vacation, I was exhausted. Didn't know it. Wouldn't admit it. But I was really exhausted.

On the eve of "welcome-to-life-in-2011" I'm realizing that no matter how much life has to offer and no matter how much of it is good and wonderful, there comes a time when you must step back.

I've realized within these three weeks that almost everything I do is done because other people expect it of me. It's not because I want to impress people. I don't. It's usually because if I don't do something, I will be labeled under several tags I don't care to be labeled under such as: lazy, useless, undisciplined, unmotivated, unproductive, etc.

Funny how that has been the motivation for me to "do". By "doing" I mean running in crazy spinning circles. I have fallen victim to the threat of the 21st century that tells me that I must have something planned every second-minute of every day.

Every year I say I will not do it. Every year I do it. I can blame no one else.

And yet, one good thing about keeping a blog is that it shows me that this is my life. After six years of blogging, I now know that this is my life and it isn't going to change...much.

And so, again, on the eve of "welcome-to-life-in-2011" I'm realizing that it isn't the doings that have me exhausted and weary but, rather, the expectations that come with this full life.

As of January 2011, I am giving up those expectations of myself.

Giving up expectations (of ourselves and others) is so hard, isn't it? We're told all our life to be somebody. To do this, we inevitably have to set high expectations of ourselves and those around us. Or we fail.

Why are we always failing?

I've struggled with it. I'm sure others have. For every negative thing I hear someone say about someone else, I am silently thinking, "Goodness, they could say the same thing about me."

That hurts.

We are always comparing ourselves, aren't we? To those around us. To those related to us. To those who work with us. To those we teach. To those kneeling next to us in church.

And we will always see someone as better than ourselves and someone as lesser than ourselves. And who are we to sit and judge?

We see things that God does not see and He sees things that we do not see. We don't need to look further than our own folded hands to know that we need the newborn Christ; neither do we need to look further than our loved ones' eyes to know that we have the Resurrected Christ.

And I've realized that I can never live up to everyone's expectations of me. I have been blessed beyond measure with the amount of family, friends, and associates God has entered into my life. Blessed abundantly! But, with blessings, comes expectations. I have realized that I am not up to the task of expectations.

Expectations drain me. Expectations cripple me. Expectations make me feel a failure.

I have recently heard myself giving out this advice in almost constant dialogue the past two months, "Set high expectations of yourself. Expect nothing from others, but accept graciously whatever they give. And count everything a blessing."

I've got it texted, twittered, and pinged within my brain.

In an awakening, I realized I have been sharing these words (which I'm sure are pieced together from most of my spiritual reading of the saints this past year) with my friends and family in hopes that they will let go of any expectations they have of me. Without knowing it, it has been my silent cry for mercy.

I want to be able to give, to ministry, to care for, to console, to write, to teach, and to retreat without having that presence in the background say, "But you haven't done enough for me." There is always someone there, you know, lurking in the corners, saying you haven't done enough, given enough time to, fed enough, forgiven enough, held enough...

When is our doing simply good enough?

We have to simply drop the expectations we have and that others have of us at the foot of the cross and have faith that He can purify and fulfill what is lacking in our offerings.

I now realize it isn't the activities or the job or the homeschooling or the family life or my writing that burden me. In looking back over six years of blogging, I realize that everything has been a call from God. Nothing is done without His plan, His purpose, His provision.

There were years of homeschooling mightily. There were years of writing intensely. There were years of crafting at the table wth little ones now grown older. There were even years prior to blogging when I was caring for an ailing father-in-law, years I thought would never end; now I see they were but a wink of time given from God to me.

It has not been the activities or the job or the homeschooling or the family life or my writing that burden me but, rather, the expectations that come with those positions.

Some people would disagree with me and say, "Well, you just need to stop doing all that if you don't want people to expect things from you." and my first reaction would be, will be, to give all up.

Because I can never live up to anyone else's expectations. If I am doing what I feel led to do each day of my life simply because I think people expect it of me, I just as well not do any of it.

If they can be thankful for what I do and accept it graciously without higher expectations from me, than I know that they see God, not me, navigating the ship.

I do what I do in service to my family, to my church, and to God.

He reaps what I sow. With Him, any little thing I do is good enough. Anything else I do becomes too burdensome, too wearisome. The expectations are too heavy to bear.

Probably my own expectations of myself have been the most burdensome.

I see now that Scripture is so right on...and, in it, I have found my Scripture for 2011:

Ecclesiastes (Chapter 3):

"There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
"A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
"A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
"A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
"A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.  
"A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
"A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.  
"A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
"What advantage has the worker from his toil?  

"I have considered the task which God has appointed for men to be busied about.
"He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men's ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. 
"I recognized that there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life.
"For every man, moreover, to eat and drink and enjoy the fruit of all his labor is a gift of God.

"I recognized that whatever God does will endure forever; there is no adding to it, or taking from it. Thus has God done that he may be revered.
"What now is has already been; what is to be, already is; and God restores what would otherwise be displaced.
"And still under the sun in the judgment place I saw wickedness, and in the seat of justice, iniquity.

"And I said to myself, both the just and the wicked God will judge, since there is a time for every affair and on every work a judgment.  
"I said to myself: As for the children of men, it is God's way of testing them and of showing that they are in themselves like beasts.

"For the lot of man and of beast is one lot; the one dies as well as the other. Both have the same life-breath, and man has no advantage over the beast; but all is vanity.
"Both go to the same place; both were made from the dust, and to the dust they both return.

"Who knows if the life-breath of the children of men goes upward and the life-breath of beasts goes earthward?
"And I saw that there is nothing better for a man than to rejoice in his work; for this is his lot. Who will let him see what is to come after him?"

* * * * *
I have looked over my 2011 planner and, even though I don't see where I can delete, I have promised myself not to add. I have promised myself that I will not be compulsive in attending every meeting, every gathering, and every other thing that is planned and considered good and worthwhile. If the girls and I feel up to going, we will go. Otherwise, I will stop in my tracks and let it go by without going on a major guilt-trip over it.

Because now I know, more than ever, that nothing happens outside of God's plan. More than ever I see the changing seasons in my life and how they revolve outside of my control but never outside of God's. Yes, God has given us free will and many choices. Yes, He has given us the brains and wisdom to discern and make decisions. And, yes, most the time, He gives us control over these decisions and choices. Sometimes, though---such as the illness of a parent or child---we are at God's mercy and everyone else's it seems.

These are tests of faith.
Other times---the times we are in control (seemingly or otherwise)---are gifts of faith.

In 2011, I will give up having so many expectations of myself. I ask my families and friends to do the same; not to have any expectations of me, just to kindly accept what I can give. And to pray for me and my family.

To kick off 2011, I am also reading:

My friend Marcie alerted me to this: My Simpler Life 2011 Organze and Declutter Calendar
I like it, especially the "My Simpler Life" part. I've had to realize that my life is not simple and never has been. That I cannot change. What I can change is whether I make it simpler or harder.

Over and over I have debated what my Word for 2011 will be. Over and over again the word Patience has sprung to mind...not joy, not silence, not prayer, not expectance or acceptance, not even simplify...just the word Patience, more with myself than with others...even to have Patience in knowing that most people (especially those closest to me) will continue to expect things from me when I am most weary and most discouraged.

Another novel little presence I think will be most helpful this new year will be to have a Patron Saint for 2011! What a nifty idea! This Saint's Name Generator is making its presence spun around in cyberspace so I thought, "Sounds fun! Good time to stay focused on a good role model and guide!" Guess what saint I got!?

Tell you all guess the saint I got for 2011 and we'll have a door prize. I think that's a great way to bring in the New Year. Don't you?

Just leave a comment in the combox guessing which saint you think I got for 2011 and the first person to guess it right wins! :-)

I'm putting a considerable amount of thought into what the door prize will be.

No expectations...right? :-)


  1. I'm so excited to just get Saint Bernadette as my "Saint of the Year". The Holy spirit was really involved is this to give me a saint who is patron of "illness, poverty, sick people and sickness"....I certainly know what help I will be asking Saint Bernadette for this coming year.

    I am guessing your saint was St. Therese of Lisieux. "The Little Way" is the kind of life I try to live. Since I have been sicker than usual lately, I have cut way back on what we do outside of the house and it has been wonderful. I have the "excuse" of illness to opt out of all the busyness that seems to so easily take over our lives and concentrate on my immediate family, making memories that will last for years to come.

    It was hard at first to step back, but once it is done it can bring many blessing into your life. It certainly has mine.

    God Bless you and your lovely family, Cay, and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
    Joann AKA TenKidsandaDog----tapped into daughter's google account ;-)

  2. Thank you for sharing your heart, Cay. I can read my story in your words. Between every line I can see the Lord saying to me, "Take heed."

    I don't know much about Saints, but I do know that the Lord will reward you for allowing Him to move in your life in 2011.

    Love you friend,

  3. Hmmm...St. Monica? St. Therese is an excellent guide in the areas you mentioned as well. Definitely praying for you through the year. You have been a true blessing to me and my family, Cay. Thank you.

  4. I was once told by a friend that she prayed for patience, but found out that understanding surpassed patience. My guess for the saint would be St. Ann...your patron saint...such a saint with both...patience and understanding...and definitely NO expectations but for being open to God's wish to bring into the world the child that would become his Son's mother.

  5. I was thinking st Therese of Lisieux - but that's what the first comment said....

    So my second choice is St Monica

  6. Thank you for sharing what was on your heart with us, Ms. Cay. What you wrote was beautiful and deeply touching...I think the expectations we have on ourselves are so very hard. We expect more of ourselves perhaps, then of our loved ones. You certainly won't have to worry about any expectations from my mom and I! We love you exactly how you are: every "willow-y/go-with-the-flow" part!

    St. Rose of Lima? :)

  7. Patricia's guess from FB: "Great article Cay! Tried to post but my phone wouldn't work. We love the yearly patron saint and virtue. My guess: St Mary of Mary and Martha, Lazarus sister. My second guess would be St Martha if same. Happy New Year!"

  8. I just recently realized that I'm a workaholic, and I'm trying to improve. Tonight I couldn't sleep because of a cold and found my way to your blog post. Thank you so much for sharing. I'm too tired to even guess what saint you might have gotten for the year, but I think I'll go get one for myself. :)

  9. Cay, I have been where I think you are. I send you my prayers and love. I'm guessing your saint is someone who had to completely let go of the expectations of others to pursue his vocation...St. Paul.

  10. All that patience talk has me thinking of Job but I don't know if he is an official saint or not! Hope you won't be needing any potsherds this coming year anyway!

  11. Thanks for being so open and articulating so well what so many of us deal with. I've always been afraid of letting other people down. At one point about a year and a half ago, I just had to let it go. It was scary at first, but then quite "freeing". I'll keep you in my prayers.

    My saint guess for you would be Saint Francis of Assisi.

  12. Thank you for your honest sharing, Cay. It is refreshing and reminds us all that we are not alone.

    St Giles?


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