Managing Expectations

Last year, we bought a new minivan while my daughters were away at summer camp.

We hauled all their luggage out to the parking lot on pickup day, and they stood there scanning the rows of vehicles wondering where in the world I parked.

Even when I opened the back door of our new van and told them to load up, they still didn’t understand. One of them asked if I had rented a van just to come pick them up.

It  was quite the surprise.

But now that one surprise has destroyed my kids’ abilities to gauge how excited they should be for any of my surprises.

Sometimes,  by “surprise” I just mean it’s National Doughnut Day and we’re going to Krispy Kreme for some hot doughnuts.  That’s a wonderful treat—-unless you’re expecting something more along the lines of a new car…or Disney World…or something like that

This year when I picked my girls up from  camp, my youngest daughter asked me if  I’d bought a new car again while they were away?  Or maybe a dog?

So, the ice cream cookie sandwiches I had actually bought didn’t quite measure up.

We’re not really a family that loves surprises of any kind.  (Actually, I hate surprises. So, why should I expect my kids to love them?)  But I am slowly learning that if we do have a surprise  we should package it with some expectation boundaries.

Something like:  Okay,  we have  a surprise for you.  It’s not a Disney World surprise, more like a local, nice surprise that you haven’t tried before and also it’s not  a puppy or a car.

We’re managing expectations with birthdays a bit, too.  It goes  like this:

Mom:  What would you like to  put on your birthday  wish list?

Child:  Well, there is one thing….

Mom:  Something that isn’t a dog.

Child:   Oh.  Right.  Well, how about a camera and some craft supplies?

Mom:  I’ll write those down.

I’m getting better at expectation management and expectation clarity with my kids.

Today, though, I was thinking about how my kids can slip into expecting so much, but I seem to slip into expecting so little of God.

I  read again today the account of Thomas the disciple, who needed to  see Jesus’s scars in order  to believe He was alive following t he crucifixion.

But there’s another moment  with Thomas in the Gospels that I love.  Before Jesus died,  just as tensions were rising and the disciples sensed the growing enmity of the religious leaders,  Jesus announced he was going to Judea again–right into the thick of the conflict and the trouble.

Lazarus had died,  and Jesus intended to be with the family.  The  disciples didn’t understand why Jesus would put himself  in danger, but we know why:  His purpose was resurrection for the glory of God.

So, Thomas  said to his fellow disciples: “Let’s go too so that we may die with him” (John 11:16 CSB).

I love how Thomas was ready to die for Jesus.

Beth Moore wrote,

“What a strange mix of loyalty and pessimism. Oddly enough, Thomas never doubted Christ would die. He doubted the most important part of all–that He would rise from the  dead and live again!” (Living Beyond Yourself).

Thomas expected Jesus to die.   He had no trouble expecting the worst.

But He didn’t expect Jesus’s resurrection.

Isn’t that me sometimes? 

In a season of loss, I can begin to expect more loss.  I expect to barely scrape through and survive the mess or the famine.

When there is bad news, I begin to expect more bad news.  More sadness.

Like Thomas, I have no trouble expecting the worst, but I so rarely expect and anticipate the resurrection Christ brings and that  is what needs  to change.  Instead of expecting the worst,  can I learn to  anticipate God’s glory?

I’m so deeply grateful that God is a God of abundance. he does so much more than meet my meager, miserly expectations.

I can never expect Jesus to  give me everything I want or ask for.  He loves me too much for that.

But I can expect this:

His goodness in all things.

His lovingkindness.

His sweetness in the midst of the best and worst of times.

His presence with me at all times.

His provision.

His strength.

His resurrection work, making things new, making things beautiful, filling the things that seem so dead with new life.

This resurrection work is what He is doing now, and it will be His ultimate work in creation,  building an eternal kingdom with no sin or death or pain, transforming all that is dead in this world into the perfection of eternal heaven.

Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.”  (Revelation 21:5 CSB).

Bible Verses about God’s Goodness

  • 1 Chronicles 16:34 CSB
    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his faithful love endures forever.
  • Ezra 3:11 CSB
     They sang with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord: “For he is good; his faithful love to Israel endures forever.” Then all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s house had been laid.
  • Psalm 25:8 CSB
    The Lord is good and upright;
    therefore he shows sinners the way.
  • Psalm 27:13 NASB
    I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
    In the land of the living.
  • Psalm 31:19-20 CSB
    How great is your goodness
    that you have stored up for those who fear you
    and accomplished in the sight of everyone
    for those who take refuge in you.
    20 You hide them in the protection of your presence;
    you conceal them in a shelter
    from human schemes,
    from quarrelsome tongues.
  • Psalm 34:8 CSB
    Taste and see that the Lord is good.
    How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!
  • Psalm  100:5 NASB
    For the Lord is good;
    His lovingkindness is everlasting
    And His faithfulness to all generations.
  • Psalm 107:1 CSB
    Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
    his faithful love endures forever.
  • Psalm 119:68 CSB
    You are good, and you do what is good;
    teach me your statutes.
  • Psalm 145:5-7 NASB
    On the glorious splendor of Your majesty
    And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate.
    Men shall speak of the power of Your awesome acts,
    And I will tell of Your greatness.
    They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
    And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.
  • Psalm 145:9 CSB
    The Lord is good to everyone;
    his compassion rests on all he has made.
  • Nahum 1:7 CSB
    The Lord is good,
    a stronghold in a day of distress;
    he cares for those who take refuge in him.
  • Romans 2:4 CSB
    Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience,not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
  • 2 Peter 1:3 CSB
    His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.

Goodness on the good days, the best days, and the hard days too

“This is the bestest day  I’ve ever had.”

We took a day during spring break to visit the aquarium.  It took as an hour-and-a-half to get there, the tickets were expensive, and when we arrived, the line to get in stretched outside.

I almost left, just turned around and found some other place to visit for the day.

But we stuck it out and in the end, it was one of those days where everything turns out just right.  We stood at the otter exhibit just as a museum volunteer walked over and announced we could watch them feed the otters.  Later we walked by the huge shark exhibit just as another keeper told the crowd it was time for a “shark talk.” Sharks are my sons super-favorite.

So, when my son declared it was the “bestest day” ever in his entire four-year-old life, I figured he must have forgotten the trip to Disney, but yeah this was a pretty great day.

But then the next day was his bestest day ever, too.  We played mini-golf and ate scoops of ice cream, so I nodded knowingly . Yes, it was a good day.

Then came Monday morning and the end of spring break.  We rushed right back into school and activities, but that hadn’t changed his perspective.  That was “the bestest day” he had ever had also.

Cleaning and errands and hanging out at home?  This is the bestest day?

Now every day is the best day, whether he heads to preschool in the morning or stays home, whether we visit the post office or the library, whether we run errands or take a walk, whether it’s the weekend or a rushed and busy weekday.

“What makes the best day?”  I finally ask him.

“When people are nice to you,” he says.   A few nice words, a sweet smile, a pleasant encounter and that’s a great day.  Not just a great day, but the best day.

Of course, people aren’t always nice.  Sometimes we have hard days or even difficult seasons.  We know it’sure doesn’t feel like “the best day ever.”  Maybe instead it’s disappointing or long, rushed and breathless, stressful and tense or simply and deeply sad.

On those days, when crawling back into bed sounds like the way to go, we rely on something more.  It’s got to be more than trips to the aquarium or ice cream night or simply the kindness of a friend that helps us hold onto hope and trust in God’s love and His plans for us.

We believe in His goodness.  That He will not  abandon us.  That He is not out to harm us or to arbitrarily or  apathetically watch us suffer.  He is with us in the pain and in the hard days and He is helping us and holding us.

The Psalmist said:

Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind!  (Psalm 31:19 ESV).   

David wasn’t really having a great day.  He was tormented by enemies. In this same Psalm, he said,

Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress;
    my eyes grow weak with sorrow,
    my soul and body with grief.
10 My life is consumed by anguish
    and my years by groaning;
my strength fails because of my affliction,
    and my bones grow weak.

Sorrow, distress, grief, anguish, groaning, affliction, and weakness– and yet David declared the abundant goodness of God and trusted that God had a plan for his future.

I consider Abraham.  How God had promised him descendants that would outnumber the stars and, not jut that, but a land of promise, a place to call home.

But the very first time Abraham arrived in Canaan and set foot on the Promised Land,there was famine.  He had to head onto Egypt in order to survive.

And the very first land Abraham ever owned in Canaan was the burial plot he purchased for his wife, Sarah.

This was the Promised Land?  This was what he had journeyed for? Famine and mourning?

Still he trusted and still he praised, because God’s goodness never changes.  His loyal love for us remains steadfast.

We just keep looking up.

Abraham looked to God for fulfillment rather than in the promise itself.  David looked to God for strength when His enemies surrounded him.  We also can look up, seeking Jesus and His goodness.

It may not be the bestest day ever in our life, but the day of trouble does not change the goodness of God.  His goodness is our refuge., our safe place, every single day.

The Lord is good,
a stronghold in a day of distress;
he cares for those who take refuge in him (Nahum 1:7)

It Got Ugly

This is going to get ugly.

That’s what this momma was thinking when my oldest daughter was picked for a Sunday morning sermon illustration…and my middle girl wasn’t.

And it was ugly.  I prayed for most of the Sunday while she hunched in the pew, unresponsive to touch or kisses or comforting words.  And I prayed while she shuffled slowly with slumped shoulders down the hall to Children’s Church.  And I prayed as she stretched out on the floor face down while the other kids sang the songs and listened to the lesson.

What else to do but pray?

We’ve had these discussions relentlessly, trying to love on this girl and pull those roots of bitterness plain old out of her heart’s soil.

Telling her that she’s loved, totally loved, for who she is and how God made her.  How she doesn’t have to be like her sister or compete with her sister, not in any way, not in what she wins or earns or the recognition she receives or the hobbies she pursues.

Sending her out for time alone with her Daddy, giving her that attention and that feeling of special, unique and beloved.

Praising her for moments of triumph and leaning in close to look in those blue eyes so deep and say, “I love you.  I am proud of you.”

But it always comes down to absolutes with her.  She cries that her sister “always” and she “never.”  She keeps tallies and totals, and ongoing score sheets, and how does she remember all this anyway?

How many gift cards Victoria has received: A Million!!!!
How many gift cards I have received: Two.

How Victoria earned first place.
How I failed and lost….(translation: won second place). 

How unfair it is that Victoria got a trophy AND a medal
How I only got a trophy.

We try to reason it out, reminding her of truth and shutting down the lies, and so much of it is just lies Satan is dumping like refuse down on her heart and mind.  Trash load after trash load of lies.

So, we do our best, of course we do, loving, encouraging, speaking truth, building up.

How beautiful, though, that God loves our children with a heart bigger than ours and wisdom much greater.  Despite all I can give even when I am giving my all, still He gives more; He gives exactly right.

A few days after the Sunday morning disaster, it was my middle girl they called up to receive a prize at Awana for best behavior in her club that night–a gift card, of all things, more coveted than any 006trophy or medal.

And she beamed.

And I gasped, absolutely lost my breath sitting there on that wooden bench watching her run up for that prize.  I was all teary-eyed and I could have fallen down right there on that dirty gymnasium floor and lifted hands to God and just cried at His feet in thanks.

Didn’t He know best that she needed a moment to shine?

And didn’t He give her exactly what she needed, something I couldn’t really give on my own, something as a mom I desperately needed Him and only Him to do?

Yes, He worked in her heart that night.  But He also worked in mine.

He reminded me right there that He hears the prayers for my children and they are so safe in His hands.

And so am I.

Because I may not be a middle child, but surely I can act out with all that bitterness and envy and self-pity too much of the time.

Middle-child faith.  That’s what I have sometimes.

We all have things we covet: Someone else’s marriage, ministry, looks, relationships, money, possessions, whatever.  I surely have mine.

And when I’m all wrapped up in what someone else has or does, so focused on keeping some kind of tally or score, then I’m missing out on God’s goodness to me.

That’s what Harold Coffin said:

Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.

The Psalmist, Asaph, wrote:

No doubt about it! God is good— good to good people, good to the good-hearted.
But I nearly missed it,
missed seeing his goodness.
I was looking the other way,
looking up to the people at the top,
envying the wicked who have it made,
Who have nothing to worry about,
not a care in the whole wide world.  Psalm 73:1-5 MSG

No doubt about it: God is good.  Good to our children.  Good to us.

No doubt about it: I don’t want to miss seeing His goodness by looking the other way, looking at others and not at Him.

No doubt about it: I can trust Him to care for my family and for me.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King