Disappointment Stings

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Have we not all been there, at one point or another, where disappointment strikes…. and it stings.   We feel the sting of disappointment in ourselves, because we failed to make the right decision.  Or, we may feel the sting of disappointment by others who failed us in some way or failed to live up to our expectations.  We may even feel the sting of disappointment when God doesn’t answer our prayers in a certain matter, despite feeling as if we are being faithful to His word and commands.   There are even times we are disappointed not in ourselves, other people, or God….  but just in the outcome.  Everyone may have done everything just right, but the outcome simply didn’t meet expectations.

When I was a child, I remember asking my mother for a clock radio for Christmas.  I had pointed out the one I wanted several times in store.  It was really cool, to a middle school aged child.  Classic 1980’s bright colors, digital screen, lots of buttons to do a lot of different things.  It was amazing.  This particularly year would be the only year in which I decided to sneak a peak at what my mom bought for Christmas presents.  I can’t recall if she hadn’t wrapped them yet or if I actually went through the process of unwrapping the package… but there it was… a clock radio.  However, it was not THE clock radio.  I was disappointed.  Not only was I disappointed, but I knew it was too late to get the one I wanted.  On Christmas morning, I opened that gift and set it aside.  I didn’t have the reaction my mother expected because I not only already knew what it was… I already knew I didn’t like it.  At that time, I couldn’t really grasp the struggles my mom faced trying to give us what we desired within the realm of what she afford.  I just knew I didn’t get what I asked for.

As a child, I didn’t understand limitations.  I believed you asked for things for Christmas, and you got them.  As we become adults, we must be able to let go of that child like expectation.

My mother did the best finding compromise between what I wanted and what she could afford.

Fast forward a few years, to my sixteenth birthday.  For the better part of the summer, I was working with my mom.  Every day we passed a used car dealership and I saw this beautiful car that I desperately wanted.  I have an affinity for classic cars, and this one was a beauty.  It was a 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback and it was in my favorite color… green.  I knew that my summer job wouldn’t pay for THAT car.  I didn’t expect anyone would buy that car for my birthday either, I knew it wasn’t a “cheap” car.  I did however have an understanding of how much money I would need, and was willing to work for it.  On my sixteenth birthday, I woke up to an empty house.  There was a card on the counter, when I opened it… it read… It is green.  It’s a horse.  It’s in the driveway.  Then tucked in the car was a key that had a Ford symbol on it.  It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out… and I ran out the door as fast as my feet could take me.

However, in the driveway there was NOT a 1967 Ford Mustang.  Instead, there was a 1976 Ford Pinto Station Wagon.  My expression changed, I turned around, went back to my bedroom and cried.   My grandmother called me ungrateful… but she didn’t know about the car I saw every day on the way to work with my mom.  It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the car I was given, or what it took for my mom to buy it for me. In fact, I had not expected a car in the first place.  I grew to LOVE that car.   However, the way the message was conveyed caused me to believe one thing… when something else was delivered.  So, yes, I was disappointed at the time.

Part of being a mature Christian, I believe, is the ability to see the best in others.   Most often others intentions were not to hurt me, but to bless me.

I can see now my mother’s good intentions and how much thought she put into it. She had no way of knowing that my mind would come to a different conclusion than she intended.  Truth is, it had never crossed her mind that I would expect something differently.

By my senior year of high school, I had interviewed and auditioned for a major scholarship.  I really wanted it, worked really hard to get it, and came in second place.  I was disappointed.

When I was nineteen, I auditioned for a pretty big deal that would have landed me a summer job doing what I loved.  I made a miscalculation that cost me the job.  I was disappointed.

Into adulthood, I’ve worked on cultivating friendships that have fizzled over stupid things… and I was disappointed.  I’ve asked for specific things, prayed for specific outcomes, tried everything in my might to work things out in my own strength… and I’ve been disappointed.

Do you know what happens, to people who constantly feel disappointed?  They make one of two choices.  They choose to believe the world is out to get them, that nothing ever good will come there way, and they simply give up and stop trying.  Or, a person can choose to go another route.  She will continue on with life, doing what she has always done, to the best of her ability, not allowing disappointment to keep her from moving forward.  She will learn to expect nothing, and eventually she stops being disappointed and moves into a place of being pleasantly surprised by what goes right in life … and not focused on what goes wrong.

That is who I have chosen to be, and how to live my life despite a sea of disappointment.  I choose not to give disappointment power over me because I know there are hundreds more things that are going right and working out for me (and I may not even realize it).

We can choose to become women who work in all things as if we are working for the Lord, not for men.

Colossians 3:22-24

Don’t work only while being watched, in order to please men, but work wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.  Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically,[h] as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.

Recently, there was a moment where disappointment started to rear it’s ugly head and I was starting to feel that sting in my heart.  His Word burned in my heart, and I was reminded that whatever I am doing is for HIS glory and not my own.  Whatever the results are, they are the exact results HE needs for His plans … not my plans.

Even when…. my prayers are not answered the way I want.

Even when…. those you expect to come through don’t.

Even when…. the outcome looks totally different than you expected.

Even when…. I can point the finger of blame at myself, or others.

Even when…. I cry out to God because I don’t understand why….

Because I know that His ways are not my ways.  His understanding exceeds my understanding.  I may see the big picture, but He sees the Kingdom view.  And I can trust that His ways are good and beneficial, that He always holds true to His promises, and that He cares for me more than I could ever comprehend.

If we can hold on to these truths… disappointment doesn’t need to sting but instead open our hearts to knowing something bigger is in motion.

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#Write31Days Challenge – Post 30 – These Three Things

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As a stay at home mom, I felt like my only job was to keep the house immaculate & tend to the kids.  It was the least I could do for the husband who worked all day to provide.  Yet, it was something I failed at all of the time.  I would spend hours organizing a closet, tidying up one space or another, all while trying to take care of my kids.  In the days when the babies would take several naps in the course of the day, it was easier.  When they became mobile it was trying to brush your teeth with oreo cookies.

And despite my best efforts, it seemed like my husband was never happy.  This created a spirit of resentment in my heart, because I felt like I couldn’t ever do enough to please him.  He would complain about simple things while totally disregarding all the work that I had accomplished.  It was absolutely infuriating to me.

One day, I was trying to figure out a more effective cleaning plan for the house.  I had written down a list of every task in the house, categorizing them into daily, weekly, monthly, and seasonal chores.  For whatever reason, that day, I decided to ask my husband for his input.  I wanted to know what was most important to him in regards to the general state of the house.

I was shocked to find out that I had been wasting time working on “projects” that meant absolutely nothing to him, and I was skipping over the things that mattered most.   It wasn’t even an issue of “cleaning” either.  I was angry with my husband all this time for disregarding my work.  The truth was, we simply didn’t have clear communication about the subject. I assumed what a clean house would look like, and he had his own assumptions.

For example, something that many of us mothers will do, I would use the foyer area as a staging zone.  I would keep my purse, the diaper bag, stroller, etc  by the front door.  It was where I needed it, and it wasn’t strewn about.  As I began to volunteer at church for various things, I would often stage by the front door the things I would need to bring with me.  Neat and tidy, but yet all in the foyer area so that I would have everything ready to go.

To my husband, this was cluttered.  When coming home from a long day at work, the last thing he wanted to do was to maneuver around my staging area.

That makes total sense.  Yet, he had never expressed that to me.  The words he chose were ones that made me feel as if I wasn’t doing a good job cleaning.  Simple word choice made a huge difference.  At the same time, we had been married for many years… two children born… before I would even ask him about it.

He didn’t care if I vacuumed daily.  He liked the counter clear, so he could put his stuff away.  I was spending time organizing closets, and he would have preferred something entirely different.

Communication in marriage is HUGE and it shouldn’t be just over the big things.  I believe most of our biggest squabbles come from poor communication.

The second thing I assumed was that once I knew this about his preferences, that they wouldn’t change.  Many years passed by of my doing the same things, we moved into our current home.  It never really dawned on me that a new home might result in a change in his preferences.  It never dawned on me that as his job would change, that it would influence his perspective on what made his home comfortable.

Over time, I noticed he was complaining again, but that I had been keeping up on the things that mattered to him.  That would start breeding a familiar resentment.  This time I caught it, and we were able to communicate sooner.  It was through our conversations that I realized that his needs or priorities had changed.  What he really would have appreciated for that relaxed at home feeling had changed.

The foyer was no longer an issue for him.  Perhaps, because it is now a habit for the whole family… it’s never a mess or crowded.  It could also be that where he retreats as soon as he comes home from work has changed.   Before, he would put his stuff in the closet by the front door.  In our new home, he took it all the way to the bedroom.  Simple things like keeping the bedroom chair clear, so that he could have a place to sit and take his boots off … that was a blessing to him.   After working all day in environments he wasn’t always thrilled about, something as simple as having fresh clean towels and a clean pair of socks to change into were

One of the things I have always encouraged new wives to do, is to ask their husband what their expectations are of her (and vice versa).  In fact, it is better to do this BEFORE you get married.   Seventeen years later, I know that this is not a one time deal but an ongoing process.  I recommended revisiting it every time there is a major shift in the family (new child, quitting job to stay home, moving to a new house, etc).  If those things are staying pretty much status quo, make a point then to revisit the topic every 3-5 years.  Don’t assume things won’t change for him, or for you.

These Three Things

Begin by writing down everything that is a chore or task that must get done, starting with your daily duties.  Sit down with each other, and put a star next to the three things that are the MOST IMPORTANT (chores/tasks) to each of you.   These are the three big deal items that you like to have done daily/regularly that make you feel relaxed and comfortable in your home.  You now have a daily task list of just six things that are your MUST do items for the day, or at least on a regular basis.

Go through this list and talk about each item, do you LOVE this chore… or do you HATE it.  What about your spouse?   For example, my husband finds sweeping cathartic.   I actually like cleaning off and wiping down tables.  I hate sweeping and mopping, because as a mom… I know that it is going to be dirty with in seconds of the kids coming home.

This simple task will help you identify what is important to each other.  These six things need to become the priority in your daily to-do list, at the same time you are also identifying WHO will complete the task.  If you hate it, but your husband loves it… then let him do it!  And if you love doing it (or even don’t mind)…  then take that one for yourself.

Both hate it?  Take turns.  Both love it?  Do it together.

After you have established your daily must do list, go through the rest of your list of chores/tasks.   Skip choosing priorities, and instead identify your love or hate for the chore.  Put a heart next to what you love, and an X next to the chores you just hate doing.  If you don’t care, leave it blank.

Then begin to evenly distribute those chores between the two of you.  If you are both working, this is equitable. If one of you is staying home with kids, the load should accommodate for their schedule.  We can’t expect our spouse to accomplish a task that can only be done during their working hours.  The list may not be evenly split in the end, but it will still be a fair list.

The great news about this process?  As you have kids, you can renegotiate the distribution as they reach milestone ages where chores become age appropriate.

It is a great process to start the communication between spouses about expectations, eliminating assumptions.   When I know what is important to my spouse, that becomes my priority.  The rest can wait.

Some other things to consider, outside of household chores include:

  • Repair/ Maintenance Appointments for the Car (If you hate dealing with the mechanics, sales people, etc. this could be a great one to hand off to your spouse.)
  • Attendance to Family Events (You could find that Easter is more important to his family, and Christmas is more important to yours.  This info eliminates trying to fit everyone in on a single day.)
  • Planning Vacations (Perhaps you are limited to one vacation per year, list your three bucket list destinations, and your spouse does the same. Alternate year to year on the destination from that list.)
  • Major Purchases/Decisions (When buying a home, selecting a school, etc. you can each list the three things that are most important to you.  Use that list as your buying guide or litmus for making the decision against.)

These are just a few other ways the “Three Things” process can help you communicate better with your spouse. Clear communication of clear expectations puts everyone on the same page, dissolves assumptions, and sets any couple up for success.

#Write31Days – Post 16 – In the Word’s of Elsa, Mom… “Let It Go!”

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Confession Time:  I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  I once had a friend refuse to let me into her home because it was a mess.  She insisted on talking with me outside.  I never realized the pressure my perfectionist qualities could put upon other people.  For whatever reason, she assumed that because I was a bit of a perfectionist… that I required it of those who befriended me.  Let me assure you, that is far from the truth.

Confession Time #2:  Right now, my house is a complete and total disaster.  I don’t want to say that I am totally ok with it, because I am not.  At the same time, I am not as neurotic about it as I once was … many, many years ago.

People who are perfectionists, or who have OCD tendencies, can often live on a pendulum.  Either everything is 100% to their liking (no room for error) or they can swing the opposite way and not care at all.  It is the epitome of “my way or no way”.

We can also expect these same tendencies from our spouse or children.  Which is funny to me, because we extend a lot more grace to those not related to us.  Perhaps it is because we have an expectation that those who share our DNA also share in our crazy.  Those expectations can cause us to be helicopter parents who are hovering over our children constantly expecting them to be just like us.  Organized. On time. Working ahead of schedule.  Clean/Tidy.   We tend to excel at so much that failure is just not part of our vocabulary.

However, children will challenge every bit of that thinking.

Mom just cleaned the house?  Awesome, let’s bring every toy we own out into the livingroom.

Project due for school?  No worries, I can tell mom about it at 9pm the night before it is due.

Failing Math?  It’s no big deal that I will get kicked from the team.  I’ll just run to mom in a panic three days before report cards come out.

These kids live in a whole other plane of thought.  As perfectionists we can’t deal in this plane… not at all.  We hollar at the kids to return the toys to their room.   We stay up working on the project for them because we can’t let their grade get docked for tardiness, nor can we let them turn in a project that is less than acceptable just to be on time.  We will implore the teacher to allow them to make up the missed work, spending ridiculous amounts of money on tutors to ensure the ace the exam.

Why?  Because deep down the perfectionist believes that their child’s choices reflect on us as their parent.  If they fail, we fail.  If they are late, we are late.  If they make a mess, we are a mess.  We try to control their behaviors because frankly we don’t want people to think less of us as parents.  Preventing their failure is more about saving our own face, than ensuring their success.

Let that sink in for just a second.

The thing is… we need to let them fail.  We need them to understand what accountability and consequence are BEFORE they are adults and the wages of those poor choices are much higher.  We need to teach them how to fail, how to process that, and how to get back on that horse.  Not only do WE need to do that for them, THEY need to learn it for themselves.  If we want our children to be successful as adults, we cannot come to their rescue.

We also have to accept that their choices belong to them, and are in no way a reflection on us as parents…. assuming we have done our best.  Plenty of children were raised in the “perfect home” and yet walked away and lived a contrary life.  Plenty of children were raised in less than idea environments and rose to the occasion, choosing to live a better life and being a positive contribution to society.

They are not us.

So mom, in the words of Elsa… LET IT GO.

I spoke to a friend who is older than I, and she shared about her perfectionist mother.  Every weekend, the entire family was cleaning the house.  Her mom was a collector of many different things, and it became the responsibility of the kids to help her maintain the cleanliness of her collection.

I wonder, how often I have burdened the kids with the responsibility of caring or tending to the unnecessary things I have chosen to bring into the house?  It reminded me of the turtle my husband brought home to the kids, that they didn’t ask for, but then he expected them to care for it’s needs.  Unfair responsibility.

I wonder, how often have I expected my children to have the same love of learning that I have?  Expecting their grades to be high, their projects to be done with excellence, and for them to have the same drive to start early as I have always had.  Then I reflect on the fact that I never actually TAUGHT my kids to be organized from an early age, I just assumed it would come naturally to them.  It did to me.  I wasn’t taught to be that way by my parents.  I just was.   Unfair expectation.

I wonder how many times my kids have missed out on fun or being children, because my priorities were different?  I wonder why I am not ok with a “passing grade” in a subject they hate.  I wonder how many times I pushed my own ideas on them, instead of allowing them to explore their own?  I wonder how many times I was controlling a child who wanted to be free to be there own selves?

It was time to stop.  It was time to let it go.

I’m not suggesting to throw caution to the wind and be a hands off parent.  Instead, I am suggesting that we stop trying to mold them into clones of ourselves.  Let them live, let them learn, let them grown.

So, I stopped hassling the kids about keeping their room to perfection.  They know the consequence is that no one comes over to play unless it is picked up.   That’s the consequence, and I stick to it.  I have found a compromise between what they think is clean, and what I think is clean.    I don’t get upset that they bring the toys out all over the house to play.  The consequence is that they know they need to clean it up, so don’t bring out more than you are willing to carry back.  I’m not helping you.

I don’t hover over their grades online every single day… but I check in.  They know the consequences of getting poor grades.  I no longer loose my mind over a “C” on the report card.  We reward good grades.  Consequences for poor ones.  I allow them to make the choice of how much effort they are willing to put in, and they know they will contend with the consequences if they drop the ball.  I have learned to accept their best, even when that best is a C- in math.

Doing their best is not being perfect.

My middle schooler is a very limited excelled program for Middle School.  If her grades drop, not only will she be removed from the program… she will have to go to another school.  She chose to be in the program and she’s knows that her longevity in that program is entirely up to her.  She can lose that spot, and I’m not going to rescue her if she drops the ball.  She knows that her ADHD is not an excuse either.

What I want is a child that grows into an adulthood who:

  • understands that her choices will impact her future, no one else is to blame.
  • is not an excuse maker.  there are no excuses in life, except the ones you make for yourself. 
  • understands they choose their consequences, becuase every choice has a consequence, good or bad.
  • believes doing your best is always good enough, even if it isn’t perfect, but who never underestimates their ability & is willing to be challenged.
  • can make mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.  there is always time to become more, become better.
  • will let go of the things that don’t really matter, and focus on what is important.

I do this by being an example of this for them.  Which means that today, when my 8 year old asks me to play with her at the dining room table… the dishes can wait.  When my 16 year old wants to watch a movie with me tonight, the mopping can wait.  When my 12 year old wants to go to the book store, my errands can wait.

My house will not look like a museum, but a home with a family of people who live there instead of existing there.  It will be clean and pest free, but you may find a pile of toys in the foyer.   I will happily spend an hour snuggling on the couch over scrubbing the kitchen.  My children will see me put friends and family above chores and to-do lists.

When you come over, things won’t look perfect anymore.  But, the cups are clean and the coffee is hot.

Being a perfectionist comes with a cost, and it is one I do not want my children to pay.