Breathe

Written by Rachel Alstott

Inhale. Exhale.  The act itself seems simple enough.  Breathing. 
For my first tattoo, I wanted it to be something that was impactful; that told a story about me.  I was twenty-five.  I chose oxygen.  The atomic makeup of oxygen in fact.  I wanted something to remind me to do that simple act, to breathe.  When I picked it, I thought it told the story of my past, my struggles with suicide and depression, but it actually was foretelling of what I was to go through in the upcoming years.
 
 
I joined a cult when I was nineteen.  I was fresh in the college life and I was trying to figure out my place as a new adult who was away from family for the first time.  I don’t think any of us that were pulled in knew the journey that it would be.  It started out by us joining intramural sports team and as time progressed turned into something else.  It was religiously abusive.  It kept me away from family.  I rose in the ranks and became a student leader in it, pushing the agenda on anyone that would listen.  I still cringe as I think of the things I participated in, the shame I shoveled on others, trying to bury them so that they would see their need for the group.  What I didn’t realize is that I was being buried alive.  I was so restricted, I couldn’t breathe.  I believed so much in what I was fed that my life was one of shame.  I could tell you story after story of the abuse and trauma I went through, but it can be summed up in four words: there was no freedom. 

I met Betsey when I was twenty-two.  She was about my parents’ age and was new to the church that the cult fed into.  She felt a calling to start a young women’s Bible study.  The church would not allow her to do it since she was a woman and was not in the cult, but the calling was so strong that she opened up her home to some of us.  She fed us each week and we studied scripture.  When it started, I was the only one in the cult.  She slowly began to ask questions about the group I was a part of, subtly questioning if things I was being taught were actually biblical.  For three years she poured into me.  That Bible study became the only breath of fresh air for me throughout the week.  I began to invite other girls from the cult as well.  It became a lifeline from the abuse we were stuck in.

I was twenty-five when I got my first tattoo.  I was also twenty-five when I started to see that the group I was a part of was not for my good and maybe Betsey was right.  Maybe there was freedom in Christ and not just the chains that had been given to me. 

It took two years for me to leave the cult.  Two years of laying in the bathroom, tracing my tattoo and reminding myself to breathe.  Two years of self-harm and panic attacks as the “support” system I had surrounded myself with kept pulling me back.  I attempted suicide but interrupted myself, for reasons I can’t explain other than God’s grace.  I clawed my way out of the dirt and grime, trying desperately to once again breathe.  And finally, I tasted the air.

I had been trapped in a world of legalism and mental and emotional abuse, where I gave others the control of my life, a place God never intended for me to be.  He wanted control and it is His control that there is absolute freedom.

It has been three years since I was there.  There are still moments when I am reminded of those times and feel like the air is being sucked from me, but then I remember God.  Psalm 77, one of the chapters I continue to go back to, has a verse that states “I will zakar the deeds of the Lord.”  Zakar means to remember and it now joins my list of tattoos to remind myself who God is.  When I am in a place where I feel as if I can’t breathe, I zakar.  I remember the goodness of God.  I remember how he rescued me time and time again.  And I remember that if he has done all this in my life, he will continue to do so with my future.

The cult is still on the college campuses across the United States.  Betsey was able to help at least 10 girls to leave before she had to leave the church.  Two of those girls I still remain best friends with today.  And they know freedom as well.  Just so you know, I am in a good place now.  I am engaged to a man who loves God and me.  I didn’t know men could be good.  We’re getting married in October.  I work with youth in a group home as a Spiritual Development Leader where I get to teach them about their worth and freedom in Christ.  I went back to my family who never gave up on me.  And I haven’t self-harmed in one year.  God is good.  Remember to breathe and know that.


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Conceived in Love

Written by Rhonda Alstott

I was born into a family heritage of several persons serving in ministry. On my mother’s side, she was blessed to have a maternal uncle and three paternal cousins that answered a calling to be pastors. On my father’s side my uncle felt a calling to the priesthood until his calling to be a husband and father was greater and ended his seminary. He lived out his new calling with faithfulness to God and his family. I grew up in my early years on a pew in a holiness church surrounded by my great grandmother and grandmother, both of whom I dearly adored and loved. They loved me as well, but sadly, when I think of that time, I did not feel loved by God or the church and if I did, those moments were far and few between. The godly heritage of my family that should have been celebrated was always overshadowed by the fact I had unbelieving parents that did not attend church. I remember one morning when a well-intentioned Sunday school teacher told me that God uses bad things to bring people to Christ. More specifically, God could have something bad happen to me or my siblings to turn my parents toward God and they would come to church. If there was ever such a term as spiritual anxiety I had it after that lesson and would cry and plead with God to spare me and my siblings lives every night in bed. What a burden placed on me… the weight of my nine year old world was all contingent upon the faith of my parents, both of which I had zero control over. I did not want to die. I followed God out of fear and a resolution that He had to be better than the alternative, hell. If I were honest, I didn’t love Him, I only feared Him, like He was up in the clouds waiting to catch me being bad and ready to hand out punishment to me. I lived in fear that I would be the sacrifice to turn my parents to Jesus. What a heavy convoluted faith I had. The sign hanging above the door at the back of the sanctuary said “For the Wages of Sin is Death”. I read that sign three times a week as I exited the sanctuary.

 

At the invitation of a childhood friend, I left my family church, but thankfully never left my faith. I became a member of a United Methodist Church. My faith grew in my new church with the influence of loving and faithful saints to mentor me. My confirmation teacher bought me a study Bible. What a gift…I had always had a Bible, but one with a very small print that even my eagle eye could not read well.  I could read and take notes in my new Bible and it had a concordance. Wow! An entire new universe was at my hands. I remember my astonishment when I read Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The context of that plaque became more real to me.  Punishment for my sin was earned, but there was some good news. I had been given a gift through Jesus and that was eternal life. I didn’t even have to pay the wages of my unbelieving parent’s sin; Jesus took care of that too. I would not have to be a sacrificial child after all. Things were looking up. Spiritual abuse is a real thing and just like any other abuse, I had to have recovery and healing from it. Things began to click as I read more of my new Bible. God loved this world so much that He gave us Jesus so we could believe in Him and have eternal life (John 3:16). Love has always been God’s motivation, even when those entrusted with my childhood faith were only able to instill the fear of the Lord in me. Learning all about God’s love for me is where my love for Jesus gained traction and I was able to grow a relationship with Him that has carried me for 55 years now. In those early days I had to constantly fight for the truth that God really did love me and that He did not want to hurt me. That He not only loved me, but He also loved my parents that didn’t acknowledge Him. He wasn’t a God in the heavens ready to shoot the gun of “bad things” at me when I messed up. His love for me was unconditional. I did not need to be perfect for Him to love me. God cares for me (Psalm 139:16-17, Matthew 10:29-31). The song really is true, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so…”

 

Last week, Tony’s Christmas message included scripture from Luke where Mary the mother of Jesus has an encounter with the angel Gabriel telling her about her role in bringing the Messiah to humanity. Mary, a young teenager, responds with “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” She displays such spiritual maturity in her answer. She seems to understand that this is part of God’s plan to love humankind. There was so much at stake on a personal level here for Mary. My heart would immediately have turned to the realization that being an unwed mother could cost me my life at the most and my reputation at the least, but not Mary. She commits to God’s plan and seems to have an understanding that she is part of something great involving love. We see her present at the wedding in Cana in John chapter 2, where Jesus performs his first public miracle by turning the water into wine.  Mary tells the servants present to “Do whatever He tells you”…

 

Do whatever He tells you…we as His servants today can assuredly do this as well because we know He is going to tell us things to do, each and every one of those things conceived in love, because that is Christ’s nature. I can trust that whatever situation comes my way, He is with me and will show me His way of love. My mother passed away in 2016. She had a hard life and spent the last 20 years of it under my care. Tony was able to deliver her eulogy knowing that she was with Jesus. She had a personal relationship with Jesus that came many years after my childhood and her life was full of heartache and pain. I can look back now at those hard times as we cared for her through the years where God pushed me to love better, be more sacrificial and have compassion for others I did not understand. He not only did this for me, but for my five children as well.  Helping care for their grandmother has made them some of the most compassionate young adults I know. 

 

Jesus shared with us His way of love in the New Testament and even summed it up so we could easily understand. Love God and love others. In theory it sounds so simple, but in practice can be so hard, even elusive. Sometimes I let my experiences and expectations get the most of me and cloud what that is, but God has given me His Spirit and Words to guide me. The spiritual condition of my own heart is the greatest effector of my ability to love God and love others. What I’ve discovered through the years is that it has a lot more to do with how I treat people. I’ve also realized that as a mother and a teacher, I never want to leave a child or a student with a picture of an unloving and uncaring God. God is Love is a Biblical Truth we can build a foundation on (1John 4:8 I have listed this verse, but read 1 John 4 for some fantastic words about God, us and love). 

 

In Luke 2:10 the angel appears to the shepherds and says to them “I am bringing you Good News of great joy for all people.” My prayer for you this week is that as you gather to celebrate Christmas, you remember that the Good News is the best news and that all people includes you and all those around you…and that you can trust that God loves and cares for each of you, and because of that, you can have joy.


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Joy

Written by Bill Sabala

So how’s your 2020 going? 
 
Just asking the question probably caused some of you to scoff, roll your eyes, and say “Yeah, right.” Let’s face it, unless you’re a toilet paper or mask manufacturer, 2020 has been a year you’d just as soon forget. So your “joy index” must be going through the roof, right?  I mean with all the quarantines, virtual school, and cancelled vacations, it’s a shame we’re wearing masks because it’s hiding our ear-to-ear smiles.
 
The funny thing is that, according to James, this should be the most joy-filled year of our lives. Now you’re saying, “Bill has lost his mind.” Have I? In James 1:2-4 the Bible says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” This may sound a bit far-fetched to many. After all, are we really supposed to count it all joy? Are we really supposed to count it joy when we lose our job because of down-sizing? How about when our loved one gets COVID-19 and is in the hospital on a ventilator? Does James really mean to count it joy when my mother/father/aunt/uncle/… dies? What kind of twisted dude was James?
 
The truth is, he’s not twisted at all. You see, James understood that the difficulties we go through help build our faith. Seriously, without faith, how could we get through all of these difficulties (trials) AND keep our sanity? Our faith in Jesus is how we do it. Our faith in Him gives us the ability to have joy; even though our circumstance seems dire. So let’s listen to Paul who writes in Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Let’s remember Jesus is the reason we celebrate, and He enables us to have joy through every situation.  

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Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Written by Rhonda Alstott

I’ve heard myself say a few times in 2020 that I’ve never had so much time, with so little on my calendar to do, and still unable to accomplish anything with all this  “free” time. I think it is fair to say that none of us could have anticipated that on January 1, 2020 our lives would look so different in December due to a worldwide pandemic. I know for Tony and I personally, as the year marched on, so did our list of friends that battled COVID-19 and sadly, so did our list of friends that died of the deadly virus. And as if the virus wasn’t enough, it seems like we have a growing list of friends and loved ones that are raging other battles. Wildfires, job loss, suicide, relapse, metastasized cancer, addiction… the list grows as we close in on the end of 2020. It seems like the one thing we share in all of this is a collective trauma that comes from suffering or watching those we care about suffer. So much brokenness… a world longing for reconciliation on so many different fronts. I have also often heard myself exclaim the centuries old request “Come, Lord Jesus.” This longing I have, along with all of creation, to have all things made right again with the Creator seems like a beautiful solution to the mess 2020 has been.  Ironically, it’s what God’s people always longed for… a Messiah before Christ’s birth and a deliverer thereafter.  Humankind has always longed for this.

 

It’s the second day in Advent, a time where I try my best to make time and space for Jesus.  This year it seems hard.  Everything seems hard in COVID. We have decorated our home… and it’s ready but preparing our home for Christmas is not the same as preparing our hearts for Jesus. 

 

Our household is busy and excitingly buying and wrapping gifts for one another, but I know that all of this will bring only momentary happiness. What we all really need is more space… more space for Jesus, and the peace and joy only He can bring. That’s the true gift in all the hard this Christmas season of COVID 2020.

 

My favorite tree in the house is my Jesse tree. It’s a concept born out of Isaiah 11:1-11 where a promise is made that a new root will grow out of the stump of Jesse and bring salvation.  The ornaments are symbolic of several stories from scripture that remind me that God had a plan for us all along from the very beginning when He, His son Jesus, along with His Spirit, created this space I call home for a brief moment in the span of eternity.  Each story reminds me how people can make a real mess out of their lives when their priorities get misaligned with God and His kingdom.  These Bible heroes and their families struggled in the same ways my family does, just a different period of time.  History tells me my family is not alone in this.  It’s part of the human condition.  Lives and kingdoms fall apart when God isn’t the center.  We have a holiday to honor Christ’s birth where we ironically seem to create a perfect storm for messing up this order where we make Jesus our priority. Finding a PlayStation 5 this season is time consuming, inviting me to steer my attention from the only true gift that will leave us with contentment. That’s just one example. I could insert many examples in the PlayStation’s place. How do I get myself and those I love to value Jesus above all else, to see Him as the real gift? How do I get all of us to make space for Him? The Star Wars LEGO advent calendar and the Aldi Wine Advent Calendar, although fun and entertaining, will not help me or my family make this space for Jesus.

 

My burning bush ornament reminds me how God’s people desired a deliverer.  God gave them their temporary deliverer Moses.  My six-pointed Star of David ornament reminds me that God’s people desired a King. God gave them a temporary King in David. God knew all the temporary provisions He gave them were part of their story, but none would satisfy what was needed so He gave them, and all of mankind, Jesus.

 

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus (Charles Wesley 1744) is one of my favorite Christmas hymns.

 

    Come, thou long expected Jesus

    Born to set Thy people free.

    From our fears and sins release us,

    Let us find our rest in Thee.

    Israel’s strength and consolation,

    Hope of all the earth Thou art.

    Dear desire of every nation,

    Joy of every longing heart.

 

These words are prophetic to me this 2020. A year where freedom as we know it has been changed. A year where our fears have sometimes driven us to not be the people God created us to be. A year where our environments have exposed our sins and made them more obvious… a year we have cried out “Lord Jesus Come!”

 

This hymn so rich in theology gives us answers… for those of us needing rest, He is our rest. Strength and consolation are found in Him. Hope. Enough for everyone. He is our Hope. He is the dearest desire each of us really want this Christmas. Joy for all of us that long for Him.

Jesus has come.  God knew Moses, David and all the other giants of the faith we read about would not give us those things we really want. God knew the others could not secure our eternity. 

 

PlayStation 5’s look to be elusive this year. Discontentment is not. A few years ago, when our Christmas traditions were going to be different due to jobs and marriages, my family came up with a remedy to squelch our growing discontentment at the year being different. We baked 50 homemade muffins and boiled 50 hard-boiled eggs as the star attraction for our 50 paper sacks we filled with fruit, candy and other edibles. That and a carafe of hot coffee and cups were loaded, and we drove to the local homeless camps and offered them up for Christmas breakfast. We did this Christmas morning instead of unwrapping gifts.   The memory of one lady handing me her apple and explaining she could not eat it because she had no teeth and would I please regift this to someone else still warms my heart today.  Someone looking after her neighbor within a community I consider to be the “least of these” on Jesus’ list. Maybe this is how we help our families make space for Jesus. We make space for those he made space for and love Him by serving others. With all this great suffering comes so much need.  Maybe we don’t need a newer PlayStation after all.  

 

Hope has come, Joy has come…we only need to make space and time for Him.  May we all remember to anticipate Christ this last month of 2020.  The kind of Jesus we long and expect for may determine the kind of Christmas we get.


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Hope

Written by Becky Perkins

“Don’t Hang Your Harp on the Willow Tree and Sit and Cry About It”

 

“When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. ‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope’.” 

Jeremiah 29:10 and 11 (NISB)

When I was in my forties, I was at IUS working on my second degree. There were certain courses outside your field of study that were required for you to take to earn your degree. I took Economics as one of my requirements. I learned things in Economics that I wish I had learned in my early twenties. Things which were helpful to everyday living. I learned about making decisions on purchases in terms of needs and wants, learning how to figure the projected dates of pay-offs with interest on credit cards, and practical ways to invest. We were required to read the “Wall Street Journal” and watch the stock markets. I was always intrigued by what drove the stock market. 

Most of the time it is the confidence or the lack of confidence of consumer spending that drives the markets. If there is just a hope of something good happening in the world, the markets soar and increase, but if something happens that is not so good, the markets drop. Just this week, as I write this devotional, the news reported that ‘with the hope of a Covid-19 vaccine coming out that is 90% effective’ the markets increased.  What a great hope for our world. The pharmaceutical company with this vaccine has received the hopeful attention of millions of people.

Webster’s Dictionary records the definition of hope as trust, reliance; a desire accompanied by expectation of, or belief in fulfillment of someone or something. We are trusting and believing that there is a team of scientists and healthcare professionals working on a vaccine that will be brought to our world to help with this deadly virus that we have endured over the last 9 months. As a Christian, I have been praying for the team of scientists that will come up with the vaccine; therefore, I am actually trusting and believing God to bring this hope to our world. Hope is the driving force behind faith. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 

Without hope, we become depressed, live in fear, become lazy, give up doing our daily routines, and basically quit living the life that God has given us. When this happens to a person, or even more deadly, to a generation of people, we can stop sharing the love of God with those who are in desperate need of a savior. 

In Jeremiah 29, Jeremiah is writing three or four letters to exiles in Babylon after their deportation in 597 BC, warning and encouraging them while living in Babylon.  In verses 1 – 14, Jeremiah is writing a letter of encouragement to the exiles to live a life that would please God while in captivity.  He is encouraging them to be good Jews even though they are separated from their temple in Jerusalem and away from their worship services together in the temple.  These exiles had lost everything, except their lives and a few possessions.  They had lost their freedom, lost their means of making a living, they were separated from their family and friends in Jerusalem, and some had lost their relatives and friends on the journey from Jerusalem to Babylon. No matter what the situation, it looked hopeless. Jeremiah reminded them that “it does no good to hang our harps on the willow trees and sit around and weep” (Psalms 137:1-4). Jeremiah encouraged the people to accept their situation courageously and put themselves into God’s hands by faith.  He reminded them that God does not make mistakes and He does keep his promises.   

In verse 6-9, Jeremiah is writing about a false prophet, Shemaiah. Shemaiah, had the people convinced that this time in Babylon would be only a couple years. People who believed this false prophet wanted to sit around and just wait it out until they could go back to Jerusalem. Jeremiah reminded the people that God said it would be 70 years in captivity. So again, Jeremiah encouraged the people to get busy, build their houses, plant their crops, learn how to live in a pagan society, keep earning a living in this foreign land, and above all, keep sharing about God and who He was with this pagan society. Jeremiah told them to remember that the hope of the future generation was in their hands. This small remnant of people would bring about the hope of a savior to a dying world. There is a gracious promise from God that He was bringing a deliverer and a hope for their future. These promises reach beyond these exiles in Babylon and include all of Israel for generations to come. Hope came many generations after these exiles as a baby born in a manger. The hope for all of the world, not only the Jew, but for everyone who believed (Romans 1:16) by faith in God’s one and only son, Jesus.   

As I have meditated over this study in Jeremiah, I realize that I am living in an unstable world, with a Pandemic, racial tensions, political unrest, and the list goes on and on. I sometimes feel like we are held captive by the events of the world, especially Covid-19. I keep hoping for this situation to be over. Then, I think how people in years past have lived through some very hard situations for more then a year or two, definitely more than 9 months. These people have shown great courage, faith and hope in these situations. People like Corrie Ten Boom, Anne Frank, our senior citizens who lived through the Great Depression, those who have served in WW I and WW II, and other wars, those who have suffered through injustices and heart ache, and those who have suffered losses during this Pandemic. Should I give up, hang my harp on the willow tree, and weep? God keeps telling me that He is walking through this time in life with me. He gives me a hope that I don’t understand or am able to see right now. I think I need to just put “my big girl pants on” and get busy doing the work of Jesus Christ in this unstable world, pray for Jesus to help me deny myself, focus on others, seek wisdom for every situation – whether it means wearing a mask and go to worship or God telling me I just need to stay home – and look for the hope in the world around me. It is out there if we look. Christmas is coming!  What a wonderful time to look around and see Jesus and know we have a future hope even beyond this world. I am so thankful to live on this side of the cross, knowing and seeing the death and resurrection of a Savior to this unstable world.

Friends, enjoy the Advent and Christmas season with the hope that this is not all there is – there is more to come. 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit”  Romans 15:13 (NIV)

 

References:

The New Inductive Study Bible

The New International Bible

The Wiersbe Bible Commentary

Jeremiah, Daring to Hope in an Unstable World, Melissa Spoelstra  


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Why Your Expectations Sneak Up On You

A Blog from Prepare/Enrich

Expectations are like a measuring stick that we hold our reality up against. If they’re too high, you’re going to feel pretty disappointed in the state of things. Too low, and you might be settling for less than you should.
 

In the context of relationships, expectations play a huge role in how happy and satisfied you feel. But the process of learning how to manage them in a healthy way can come with its own set of growing pains. Why? What makes it so hard? Well, one reason is that oftentimes we don’t even realize we have them, or if we do, we don’t understand where they came from.

 

For example, let’s say you’re spending your first fall together as newlyweds and homeowners. Halloween is coming up, and your spouse just came home with what appears to be an entire store’s worth of decorations (including lawn ornaments!). Suddenly you’re in an argument. You’re mad you weren’t consulted about the decorations, and your spouse is hurt that you don’t want to participate in their favorite holiday. You both might be asking yourselves, “Why am I getting so upset about this? It’s not that big of a deal.”

This misunderstanding could be chalked up to some unacknowledged expectations – your partner’s around how you’ll celebrate Halloween and yours around the decision-making related to the celebration. Understanding where our expectations come from and how we develop them can help us gain insight into why we find ourselves feeling all the things when we least expect it. Let’s take a closer look at the main sources of our expectations.

Family of origin
Perhaps the most influential, and yet hardest to understand, are the expectations that are ingrained in us through our family of origin. As kids, we observed the way our parents and grandparents navigated the dynamics of marriage and relationships, and we thought, “This is the way it is.” For example, you might expect that finances will be handled a certain way in your marriage because that’s what you saw growing up. If your spouse experienced a very different arrangement, that will probably be something you’ll need to discuss.

As we get older, we learn that we do in fact have choices when it comes to what we expect in our own relationships, but even then, our awareness of the unspoken expectations we carry with us can vary. Once we become attuned to the fact that our most basic assumptions about marriage and relationships might very well be expectations we’ve carried with us from our family of origin, we can develop a better understanding of ourselves and our partner.

Societal and cultural influences
Today’s society and culture have a lot to say about, well, everything. From our physical appearance, to how we parent our children, to the way our relationships are formed and structured, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t held an expectation based on what society tells them is “normal.” Some of these might be perfectly realistic, such as expecting that you’ll someday get married or be a homeowner. However, even if they are realistic, you might not hold them for yourself. Perhaps it’s not something you’re striving for or it doesn’t align with your values, and that’s totally okay!

In the context of your relationship, you might find yourself holding certain expectations that, while culturally popular, are actually not a good fit for you and your partner. Take the expectation of having children. If neither you or your partner have felt the desire to have children, holding yourselves to that expectation can be a heavy burden to carry. By recognizing how these expectations originate, you can hopefully feel a sense of freedom in letting them go.

Social media
Never before has there been a time when it was easier to compare ourselves to millions of other people. It’s not always healthy because more often than not, we’re seeing a curated version of others and their relationship, no matter how “real” they say they are. Through hours of scrolling and endless images of beautifully decorated homes, smile-filled vacation photos, matching holiday pajamas, and perfectly-plated meals, we start feeling like our reality is a tad less-than. A tiny seed of subconscious expectation has been planted, even if we know better than to fully internalize it. It’s hard to not feel a bit inadequate sometimes, like we could be a little better, or be doing a little more. At the end of the day, don’t let random “influencers” have a negative influence on your relationship.

Personal desires and perceptions
Sometimes you have certain expectations simply because that’s what you want or what you perceive to be ideal. One could argue that these should be the easiest expectations to adjust or temper, but that’s not always the case. For example, if you’re someone with a high achieving or perfectionist personality, you might hold very high expectations for yourself and others, even if they’re sometimes unreasonable. Or maybe you always envisioned one of you being able to stay home with the kids, but financially that hasn’t been an option. Some of these expectations may fall away on their own or change over time as your reality and desires change. If you’re able to recognize when you’re feeling upset or disappointed due to expectations you’ve created within yourself, it can help you gain some perspective on the situation.

So what?
Expectations shape our perception – of ourselves, our partner, and our relationship. When we experience conflict, dissatisfaction, or miscommunications related to expectations it can feel frustrating and hard to pin down. Gaining an understanding of where our relationship expectations come from, whether they are unspoken, ingrained, or more explicitly decided upon, can help you figure out – individually and as a couple – whether they are worth living up to.

If you and your partner are struggling to get on the same page when it comes to expectations, examining your values and what’s most important to you is a good place to start. Remember, expectations will change along with your relationship and season of life, so it’s important to keep communicating about them. Our Discussion Guide for Couples includes a section on expectations and will give you a solid foundation for an intentional conversation.


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