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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Tattoos vs Real Fears

Written by Rhonda Alstott

Some moments are etched in your memory like they happened just yesterday.  One such memory for me is the day I found out that my oldest child had gotten a tattoo.  This story is hilarious to me at this point in my parenting, but it cut deep at the moment.  It was the beginning of some of my unraveling.  God just has to do that with us sometimes when He needs to show us just how far off base we have gotten.  I had 20 of my closest friends sitting in my living room set to play our monthly bunco games.  Ahnya, in her sophomore year at Indiana State, stopped by to eat and say hello and play with her little sister Mary.  My friends all asked how things were going and one innocently asked, “Got any tattoos yet?” 

 

The room grew silent.  See this mother had always said in the most authoritative way that any child of hers had to move out if they ever got a tattoo.  Why?  I had heard another church mom set this boundary and I had respect for this church mom and adopted the same boundary, never stopping to ask why. 

 

Ahnya says “ummmm yeah” and the room broke out in chuckles.  I was in total shock.  Ahnya went on to describe her tattoo.  I was speechless. 

 

Now my authority was in question and not only that, but my logic was coming into question.  My safe reality I had created was being chipped away as the conversation continued.  Some of my friends shared about their kids’ tattoos.  Some of my friends shared about their tattoos.  I was left speechless. 

 

I did not kick Ahnya out as I had always threatened and since then I’ve lost count of how many tattoos my adult children have.  Same with my friends.  I have learned though that most have very personal and meaningful stories behind them, some even spiritual.  What I had to look at is why I would have such a crazy rule to begin with.   Leviticus 19:28 is the only scripture that comes to mind about tattoos, but that’s the old covenant and I can’t even hang my hat on that.  I can only guess that I made the rule because no child of mine was gonna do anything that would make me look bad as a parent.  Pretty petty, and at this point in my life, I’m way past that as a parenting goal.  I’m more interested in how their heart and soul is.

 

I’ve been pretty transparent about a lot of my parenting decisions  being made out of fear.  It’s exhausting and I don’t believe it’s the yoke that Jesus ever wanted me to pick up, but nonetheless I did,  and despite my best attempts, it creeps in.  Mary and I shared a great lunch this week consisting of carry out  Chinese Food complete with fortune cookies.  My fortune read “Your greatest fear will soon become your greatest strength.” 

Mary asked “What’s your greatest fear mom?”

 

I could not answer her.  Not this week.  It’s been a week when fear, some founded, some unfounded, has crept into my heart. 

 

Dr. Karl Albrecht identified 5 fears that we all share, which he called feararchy:
Extinction- the fear of ceasing to exist.

Mutilation- the fear of losing any part of our bodily structure.

Loss of Autonomy- the fear of being immobilized.

Separation- the fear of abandonment, loss of connection.

Ego-death- the fear of humiliation/shame.                                      

 

I’ve shortened his definitions, but I find them relevant and true.  Most of our fears and anxieties can be rooted in this hierarchy of fear.  Our fears of spiders fall under the #2 Mutilation and those who struggle with claustrophobia are experiencing a fear under the #3 Loss of Autonomy.  I guess my fear of what will people think or say if my child has a tattoo fits into the #5 category of ego death.               

 

By the time you read this blog Election Day will have come and gone and at this point only God knows who will serve as our next president.  Both political parties have used their share of fear mongering to scare us into what our world will look like if their opponent wins.  Can I say that I’m not gonna fear?  I will be disappointed if my candidate does not win, but I’m not gonna fear.  Why?  I can say that no matter what, my relationship with Jesus and my faith can assure me that I will experience God’s presence and peace in the midst of every circumstance I find myself in.

 

It has been an extremely difficult week for Tony and me in ministry.  We have lost 3 people in our church family.  One of those losses was a 35 year old.  It doesn’t make sense. She was too young and she was a beautiful person inside and out.  My mother’s heart is devastated for her mom.  I know not from experience, but watching others walk this path, that losing a child is hardest hard.  It changes your life forever.  My friend asked me, “Rhonda, how am I supposed to do this?”   She is walking through my biggest fear and the biggest fear of many and the only answer I know is by God’s Grace.

 

Paul, when asking God the how and why of a situation he was walking through, was told “My grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness”. (2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT). 

 

Lin-Manuel Miranda penned these words in his song “It’s Quiet Uptown” in his musical Hamilton at the point where Alexander and Eliza are walking through the loss of their son Philip:

 

There are moments that the words don’t reach There’s a grace too powerful to name We push away what we can never understand We push away the unimaginable…

 

So as I push away the unimaginable, I want to go back to my opening story of Ahnya’s tattoo and my undeniable unreasonableness as a parent.  Ahnya’s first tattoo is a heart with the word “Champion”  forming the right side of it.  It was gotten after we lost a precious little boy in our church family to cancer when he was only 5.  Ahnya had a special relationship with Colton as his children’s church leader and the love Colton showed Ahnya saw her through some of the darkest days in her personal journey.  Colton’s love was pure and nonjudgmental to my daughter during a time. I as a parent could not see anything but how her behavior threatened my ego-self, #5 on that feararchy chart.  Petty, as I said before.  Thank God, His amazing grace came through a little boy named Colton and inspired Ahnya to fight and keep the faith through a very dark time in her life. 

 

When we imagine the unimaginable, I can only say that God’s Grace will be there.   A grace too powerful to name.   We will feel His power and presence. He promises us that.  We want to hoard all of that up like it can be collected and stored for when we need it, but we cannot .  It’s like manna and is provided as we need it.  Unprecedented is the term used to describe the time we live in.  Unimaginable is what I’ve heard too.  May we as God’s people walk daily with this promise, His grace is sufficient for me.


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Those who live in the shelter of the Most High

Written by Becky Perkins

“Those who live in the shelter of the Most High (El Elyon) will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty (El Shaddai). This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him” Psalms 91:1-2 NLT

Over the years, I have taken many personality tests. I try hard to come up with a different result each time. But, needless to say, I am a hopeless Melancholic.  Melancholic’s motto is: “Let’s do it the right way”.  We are organized, set long-range goals, have high standards and ideals.   And we think and feel deeply.  Melancholics get depressed when life is out of order, when no one seems to care, and when standards are not met.

Making plans, organizing the plans, and implementing the plans is what I do best.  I am not a visionary, but give me the vision and I will get the job done.  I have worked very hard for many years in making budgets to get out of debt and reach our household goals, making meal plans and grocery lists to eat healthy,  making a daily schedule to be able to balance exercise, daily devotions, family time and office hours.  I work hard on planning when and how teams and events should happen at Wesley Chapel in Faith Development. Keeping “the plan” going is what I thrive on in ministry and daily life. 

At the beginning of 2020, the white board in my office was all planned out up through July 2020.   By March 2020, the Faith Development teams had already held 3 Child Protection Guidelines trainings, had held a teacher appreciation, had held a family luncheon to hear what parents were in need of most in their daily lives, had planned a luncheon for Special Needs families, had planned who, what, when, where VBS would be held, was in the middle of planning teachers and nursery servants for the next school year and was beginning the process for the Easter Egg Hunt and Puppet show. In July 2020, Wayne and I had planned and saved for a 2 week vacation trip for our 40th anniversary.  You see we do not take many trips and being gone 2 weeks was something we never had done in our lives. Then a worldwide Pandemic hit.   This totally ruined my plan and there was not anyway I could fix this situation.  Because, you see, making plans and keeping things going really is a way that Melancholic “fixes” things and take charge. 

God brought Psalm 91:1-2 to my awareness through study this summer.   In this verse, we see God referred to as two names, El-Elyon meaning the Lord Most High and El-Shaddai, meaning the all-sufficient one.  God enlightened me with two things from this verse.    

The first thing is that God is my all-sufficient one.  He is enough!  He is my all in all!  He is providing for me and my family in ways I would have never thought of on my own.  He is giving new life and vision to Faith Development teams and classes at Wesley Chapel that we would have never thought up without being forced into a Pandemic. 

He is causing growth in leaders, teachers and students through Zoom meetings and classes.  He is causing families (including my own family) to find enjoyment in time together, taking pleasure in the little things that we do such as walking trails, things that do not cost money, take a lot of time, effort or stress.  He is creating pleasures in my life, not me creating my own pleasures. 

The second thing God taught me this summer is that I cannot walk in my own shadow very long and have success.  In fact, I cannot walk in my own shadow which ever direction I turn.  I can only walk in His shadow.   For me to walk in His shadow, I have to let Him walk in front of me and go before me to pave the path.  As my all-sufficient One, I follow His path and walk where He leads. He does not take me where I think I should go sometimes, but I trust Him.  “He alone is my refuge, my place of safety.  He alone is my God and I trust Him”.  That is pretty emphatic! It is not that I trust “in Him”, but that I do trust Him. When I trust Him, it is a personal day by day, moment by moment walk with him.  He is my all in all and He is enough. 


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Blessed Are Those Who Mourn

Written by Rhonda Alstott

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted…

 

The Alstott Household has had a pretty traumatic week. In the span of 5 days our most loving dog, Jack, was diagnosed with cancer and declined to the point he went blind, could not walk, and could not eat. We lovingly let him go on Wednesday late afternoon after being showered with affection by everyone all afternoon. My household has sobbed all week. In the background on the TV while we were loving him that Wednesday, the investigative findings and charges were being released in the local Breonna Taylor case. The protestor’s sobs synced with our own. It snapped Tony and me into the realization that grief over a dog pales in comparison to grief experienced over losing a child. In the quiet space of being alone that night we recounted how hard it has been to watch our friends and loved ones bury those that are so loved. It’s a hard part of ministry to do a funeral for a baby or a 5 year old. The losses we’ve experienced coupled with the losses we have witnessed remind us that all this pain and suffering is temporary, but excruciating nonetheless.

 

I am leading a ten week study on the Beatitudes right now and in my sometimes narcissistic view that a scripture was written with me in mind, I open my first lesson and Bible to Matthew 5…

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted”

Matthew 5:3-4

My mind was certain that God would heal my great sorrow by digging into these scriptures. But that is not where His Spirit led me.

 

So often we take pieces of scripture and use them to fit the narrative we want as the backdrop of our personal life. The method I use to study is called the inductive method. Context is important, original meaning is important and all the digging I do cannot lead me to fit these two verses to mean what I want them to mean…no amount of digging can lead me to feel comforted because these scriptures mean nothing of what I’ve always thought. The context isn’t death… the context is sin. The context is realizing your spiritual destitution (poor in spirit) and mourning about your sinful condition. This aligns with an Old Testament scripture I see quoted a lot these days:

 

“If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:13-14

 

My desire is to be comforted, my desire is healing. That’s what I want. I want my life to travel in a linear path at an upward trajectory with no bumps in the road. I have not considered the medicine God wants me to take:

 

God wants me, in humility, to recognize I’m spiritually bankrupt without Him. I’m poor in spirit because of this. I’m sick about this. I mourn about this and I take responsibility and repent for the sin in my life. Then I can be part of the kingdom of heaven. Then I am comforted.

 

We want the healing, but we don’t want to say we are sorry for our sin.

We lack humility when it comes to this.

 

Tony has preached on personal holiness a lot these past few weeks. He’s also preached on community holiness. Both are important. Both are the work of sanctification by the Holy Spirit and sadly both are lacking in so many of our personal and church lives. We tend to accept Christ for our salvation, but are not sure we want him to be Lord of our kingdom. But what if we did? What if we started asking the Spirit to show us the parts of our thoughts, motives and actions that we need to be repentant for? Maybe instead of looking down on others in our current political and social climate we could ask: “Jesus show me where I am failing to live out my faith and reflect the truth of the gospel. Show me where I fall short, show me where I need to think differently, show me where I need to put love into action…” How transformative could this be than judging from the sidelines?

 

Maybe my mourning over the loss of my dog should take a back seat to the loss of all life. Maybe I haven’t cared about the sacredness and gift of life more. Maybe I should mourn for the unborn more. Maybe I should mourn for the addict losing their battle with drugs more and yes, maybe I should mourn about the life taken of a 26 year old shot in her apartment in Louisville more. Have I cared too little about life because my life has been unaffected? Maybe I should care more about what God says in the Bible than a news network. Maybe it’s your Spirit I should listen to instead of an author who aligns with my political party. After all, the gospel isn’t for one or the other political parties, it’s for all people in all nations. And maybe, just maybe, I should care more about pointing someone to you, our true King and Savior, instead of trying to persuade them to vote how I think they should vote. And maybe I should put aside my self-interest for the interest of your kingdom, your ways and your glory. And maybe, just maybe, others will join me in caring more and being sorry for our personal and community sins…

Maybe then you will hear and heal our land.

Healing will not happen without repentance.

Come Lord Jesus


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The Life of the Wesley Chapel Guatemalan Missionaries During COVID19-Part 3

Written by Pam English

In USA

 

“ For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:11-12

 

Very known verse! Very new meaning these days. Maybe you are tired of hearing these words these days. DON’T BE. Love them. Embrace them. Believe them. Trust them.

 

Before Covid-19 Steve and I already had plans to come to the US in May for a short visit. We did postpone those plans a bit and then had a canceled flight but finally arriving to the US on May 26 expecting to return to Guatemala mid-June, which was not the case. Those who know us, know we are different missionaries who have not come to the States repetitively. In fact, the longest span of time was 22 days in 2019. As I write this, we are quickly approaching 100 days. (And note: we came with one carry on each and five days of clothes and doing just fine!!)

 

However, we were in for a surprise to not return. Everything is good, however. There have been inexplicable times of ministry in the US with people here as we continue to minister via WhatsApp, Facetime, FaceBook Live, and Zoom every single day to Guatemala!!!! Things have not stopped in our lives, especially with the capability and availability of ministering to and with people that would not have been if we were not here.

 

Normal things stopped in our lives like our largest yearly fundraiser, classes, and “normal” life. But super things have developed like an unexpected match grant, ministry to lost here and a “new normal life.” We cling to Hebrews 13:5 “…be content with such things as you have. For He has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor forsake you.’”


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The Life of the Wesley Chapel Guatemalan Missionaries During GOVID19 – Part 2

Written by Pam English

In Guatemala

 

Times were extremely tough in Guatemala as restrictions were unbelievably enforced overnight. Curfews from 4:00 pm through 4:00 am were enforced.  In additions there was a curfew from Friday 2:00 pm through Monday 4:00 am. Said curfews were not suggestions but orders to not leave your house.  All people over the age of 60 were prohibited to leave their residences. Leaving in these conditions could result in fines starting at US$20,000 or extensive jail times. Masks were not optional, even riding in a vehicle alone or walking alone on a street. As a person would leave his or her house, he or she had to wear a mask at all times in all places.  The three airports were closed, which meant nobody could get in the country and nobody could get out of the country. Of course, churches, schools, and restaurants were closed. Grocery stores were allowed to remain open for minimal hours.  

 

On a personal note, we actually had an airline ticket to come to the US on a repatriation flight. On the other hand, as we were switching our light off to sleep, the cell phone beeped with an announcement from United saying that our 7:00 am flight was canceled.

 

One other vital means was closed: public transportation. The majority of Guatemalans use “chicken buses” to get from point A to point B daily.   Since public transportation was halted, essential jobs were as well. “Common” people could not get to jobs, doctors, etc.   Therefore, hunger and violence increased.  Very disheartening and concerning. Even private vehicles could only get out every other day and one could not drive between counties. 

 

We are in belief that God is in total control through it all. Isaiah 41: 10, “I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  And Proverbs 16:9 encourages, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” As we cannot/could not fathom why overnight the country was put under strict restrictions, God remains in control. 


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