The Heavy Weight of Expectation 

I’ve been thinking lately about the burden and joy of expectation. This is just my thoughts as they come, so take them as you will. 😊 Feel free to comment. 

I said to my friend on the way to a fun event in London recently that I think I sometimes ruin things by setting my expectations too high. Like we are going to a gig, or it’s nearly my birthday, or I have a trip home of a holiday coming up and I get so excited and look forward to it and romanticise it so much that sometimes the real thing is a bit of a let down. I normally still enjoy the thing, but I have this thought in the back of my head that I imagined it better.  Or I am dreading it being over. 

Christmas is a classic example of this. Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE Christmas mostly because I have 2 whole weeks with my amazing family. But the build up is so long; shops have the decor in already and it’s only October, I feel like I should have got gifts already, tickets need to be booked and my the time it comes around I’m already getting sad it’s nearly over and I have to wait again. And if the food isn’t perfect, people don’t love my gifts or I’m too tired or full of cold to enjoy it as much then I feel sad. 
We have this running comment when I visit home – my mum says “You’re always going and never coming”. And I feel like it’s true. I get home and I’m counting down the days until I have to leave because the time is so precious. We’ve been looking forward to it for so long even at Christmas it doesn’t seem like long enough. Life goes so quickly and we are bombarded with things to do, things we should be doing, fun things others are doing and it’s so hard to live in the present, enjoy the moment and not get too caught up in expectation. 

I think media (social and otherwise) has a huge share in the blame for unrealistic expectations. I’ve seen a bunch of articles lately about how because of unrealistic portrayal of women in media, cyber bullying etc girls as young as 7 are feeling inadequate about how they look and feel more judged and stressed than ever before. I’m sure it’s true for guys too. It’s been said before, but social media shows the ‘highlight reel’ of someone’s life instead of the ‘behind the scenes’ and we try and aspire to that even though it’s impossible. Beauty and life bloggers 24hour stream their lives and it seems perfect and amazing and we forget it’s heavily edited, hugely subsidised by ads and only a fraction of their lives. And we get depressed because our lives seem messy and broken and flawed in comparison. 

But comparison is the thief of joy. And expectation that is unrealistic will cripple us. 

Expectation can kill relationships. Friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, new aquantances, family and even with God. When I’m getting to know someone (especially of the opposite gender) and I like them, it’s so hard not to expect too much too quickly. I can see all my own flaws, everything that’s wrong with me, all the ways in which my life in complex. But with them I want them to be perfect. I want them to never let me down, never hurt me, never mock me, never doubt me, never dislike me. I want them to never show they are “too perfect” as I feel rubbish in comparison. But I don’t want them to be judgemental, mean or odd or stupid or anything I don’t like, even though I can be all those things. I imagine it to be perfect like a Jane Austin novel ending and then I do something foolish or they say something harsh and I am crushed. I don’t want to do anything to ruin my expectation and I certainly don’t want to let down theirs so I try and do everything I can to be my best. Or better than my best. But it’s not always realistic. 

I’d rather have a beautifully flawed relationship than a flawed ‘beautiful’ one. 

Elizabeth Bennet had it right;

I guess the ‘world’ wants us to be perfect right away, to always get it right, look amazing, be hilarious, be skinny, be well educated, be a high achiever, be fearless, be flawless. And I am sure we all agree that that expectation is exhausting and it’s not achievable for anyone. 

I read the other day about a new club in LA that will only let “attractive people” in and my heart broke. So many people have so much more to offer than how they look. Or even how smart they are, how much they can do, how many achievements they have.  For me; how kind they are, how compassionate, how genuine and generous they are is far more important. 

God is perfect. He will never do the wrong thing, his grace is for all and his love never ends. But even of God we expect too much. We think that means will never allow us suffer (even though his disciples did duh). We think he will give us everything we desire even if it’s not best for us. We get disappointed in Him and start not to trust Him. But that’s the real test of our expectation. Do we trust God? Do we trust in His grace and mercy despite the pain and suffering we see or endure. Do we believe in his unending love? Or do choose sin instead of grace and wallow in the sadness? This is a question for myself and a challenge for myself too!! How much do I expect of God. I can expect Him to always love me, always forgive me and for mercies new each day. But that doesn’t mean I can expect life to be always be rosy. I can’t expect to do whatever I want with no consequence. I can’t expect to live in a fallen world and not see the suffering of humankind hating and hurting itself. 

I have been doing the 1,000 gifts since I read the book and currently on about 1700. It’s so great to remind myself to be thankful for the really small things because it helps to put things in perspective and thank God for even the things I don’t feel like being thankful for. It reminds me to be grateful in all circumstances, which helps keep my expectations slightly more real. It’s so hard though. 

I want to have realistic expectations of myself. I pray for that today. To see myself as God does but not as the picture perfect world expects me to be. 

I want to have realistic expectations of my day to day and life. I pray for that today. To know it can be beautiful and blessed and amazing but also can be tricky and hard and messy. 

I want to have realistic expectations of my family, friends and people I’m getting to know. I pray for that today. To know that people can be amazing, they can love me, surprise me, do wonderful things, but also they can make mistakes, let me down and be human. 

I want to have realistic expectations of God. I pray for that today. To know he is perfect, always good, always loving and gives grace and mercy. But that He is also Just, omniscient and omnipotent. That if life doesn’t go as planned or I feel let down by God its that my expectations were unrealistic and the world is fallen, not that God has let me down. 

I pray those things for you too today. I pray we are thankful for all the good things we have, all the love God and others have given us, and that we level our expectations but also allow ourselves to be surprised if they are exceeded. 

Advertisements

#goals Speak Life Over Me; Revival

Even if my 2015 and all the years before were terrible and full of mistakes, I am still enough. I am still loved. I am still precious. I need to do away with the lies that tell me otherwise. I need to let go of fears that are holding me back. Funnily enough these are some of my ‘resolutions’ or #goals for 2016.

 

 Old, Alone, Fat, Ugly, Loser, Failure, Hopeless, Under-achiever, Broke, Un-Sexy, Talentless

Not good enough, not pretty enough, not smart enough, not Christian enough, not fit enough, not impacting enough, not whole enough, not worth enough.  Not enough.  Not enough.  Not enough

 

The world is quick to bombard us with messages that we need to ‘do better’ ‘look better’ and ‘be better’.

#squadgoals #lifegoals #relationshipgoals #eyebrowgoals #baegoals #hairgoals #goals #goals #goals

 

Each and every January gyms, dating websites, slimming worlds and travel agents, beauticians, clothes shops, language DVDs, and book sellers all cash in on this idea that we need to improve, to do better and to be better, each new year.

This notion in itself is not terrible and one I strive for when making my ‘resolutions’ each year.  I like the challenge and accountability of having things to strive for.  There’s something really great about wanting to better ourselves and push ourselves, but I just think that it shouldn’t be at the cost of dismissing all we have done before, or trashing ourselves for what we have not (or worse cannot) be or achieve.

I can never be someone I am not.  There are some things I am not capable of or called to do.  And that’s ok!

 

Even if my 2015 and all the years before were terrible and full of mistakes, I am still enough.  I am still loved.  I am still precious.  I need to do away with the lies that tell me otherwise.  I need to let go of fears that are holding me back.  Funnily enough these are some of my ‘resolutions’ or #goals for 2016.

 

I have this amazing 2016 planner by Horacio Printing and it begins with a ‘Bucket List’ (Dream, Listen, Plan, Pray).  Mine looks something like this:

  • REVIVAL; Physical, Spiritual, Emotional, Financial. Healthy and debt free. 

Whilst the last couple of years I believe God has spoken to me about Hope and Fortitude (overcoming) this year I really believe He is speaking life over me- Revival.  And I need to speak life over myself, not letting the ‘not good enough’ in. 

  • Rely more on Him, less on me. (Perhaps you can relate?  Can I get an Amen!)
  • Seeing the gifts in everything.
  • Develop my creativity and broaden my reading and mind.
  • Step further into my calling.
  • Travel
  • Invest in relationships!
  • Ethical purchasing.
  • Pray for world issues.
  • Love more freely. Forgive more often.
  • Seek freedom from the past.
  • Commit to a local Church
  • Blog and share my voice.
  • Journal and pray.

 

This amazing planner goes further than just a bucket list however, in setting goals, but also big dreams and refocusing for 2016.  Not just setting resolutions, but asking what are my passions and focuses, and what distractions are getting in the way?  This has been a game changer for me.

2015-12-16 23.06.33-1

 

It asks what do I need to let go of, who do I need to forgive and what fears are holding me back, at the start of each season.

What would you answer?  I found it liberating.

 

Rather than just a bucket list, goals, or resolutions on a tick list; what matters to you?  What do you want to see God change in your life?  What are you making more time for and what can you leave behind?  What word are you speaking over your life? Are you putting on pressure to live up to standards, or are you stepping into amazing plans and purposes?

 

I read a blog at the New Year from one of my favourite authors and activists Jamie Tworkowski who founded TWLOHA.  It is amazing and you should read it all but here’s a snippet (emphasis in bold mine)…

If you’re reading this, if there’s air in your lungs, then you’re alive today tonight right now.
And who can know how long we have here…
And is it a gift? Was it ever a gift? Did that ever feel true or could that one day feel true?
Are there things to fight to live for?
Moments and people. Weddings and children and all your different dreams.
Love.
Is your life more than just your own?
And are there broken things you were made to fight to fix?
Broken families, broken friends… Injustice.
Will you move for things that matter?

Wouldn’t it be nice if change took just a moment?
Wouldn’t it be nice if it were that easy?
Midnight and we’re new. Midnight and the past erased. Midnight and we’re free.

 

 

Isn’t that beautiful?!  It had a # on Twitter #welcometomidnight and people shared what they were leaving behind in 2015 and hoped to find in 2016.

 

Reading the # made me weep as it was so uplifting.  ‘Midnight and we’re new’…

 

I want to leave behind fear, guilt and doubt.  I want to fight for justice and ‘move for the things that matter’.  That’s what it’s all about.

 

Now 2015 was filled with some incredible times, precious moments with family and friends, trips, amazing events, great books, milestones at work, crafts, fun.  But as with every year there was some heartbreak, some tough times, some lessons learnt, some days not to be repeated and some struggles to overcome.  But I want to leave some of those things in 2015, leave behind the lie I am not enough and let God speak life over me; revival.

#justicegoals #lovegoals #givinggoals #gratitudegoals #mercygoals #revivalgoals #Godgoals

“When life gives you dirt- grow flowers”.

Those times, events or even years that were so filthy you couldn’t see beyond it. Perhaps you felt like you were being buried alive; unable to breathe as soil filled your lungs. I certainly know that feeling. Moments where you don’t think you can take another breath because the utter filth of the world, the circumstance, the person, the sin or the pain is crushing your chest cavity.

2014-03-12 12.31.21

Sometimes Often, life gives us dirt; a little pot of stinky mud, or a huge clump of soil thrown in your face.  A missed opportunity.  A crushing blow.  A devastating loss.  A life changing event.  A huge disappointment.  Pain, sickness, fear, debt, loneliness, loss, or death.

I feel like (without trying to engage in self-pity) that parts of my life have been full to the brim of dirt.  I’m certain that every single person reading this is thinking of their ‘dirt season’.

Those times, events or even years that were so filthy you couldn’t see beyond it.  Perhaps you felt like you were being buried alive; unable to breathe as soil filled your lungs.  I certainly know that feeling.  Moments where you don’t think you can take another breath because the utter filth of the world, the circumstance, the person, the sin or the pain is crushing your chest cavity.

Maybe for you it’s more just a thin layer of grime?  Something that has always, as long as you can remember just blurred your view and you have never been able to wash clean?

I can think of a lot of those moments.  Some from when I was very young, some more recent.  Times when I couldn’t seem to grasp the beauty of the world or see any good, grace, light or truth because all I could see was the dirt.  Times when people hurt me deeply, or life just let me down.  Times when death came calling; fear was overwhelming.  Times when loneliness was crippling.  More recently, times when sickness and weakness would not subside.

BUT, I adore the title quote.  I’m not sure who first said it, but I often cling to it, and hope you can too.  It’s a difficult and costly concept, but one that surely will bring joy?  When life gives you dirt- grow some flowers.

It’s a task that in some cases is far easier than others.  It’s one that in the past few months I’ve really been trying to put into practice.  Sickness has stripped me of some opportunities, and caused me to feel lacking.  So what do I do?  Do I drown in it?  Roll around in the dirt and know I can’t become clean again?  Or do I take that dirt and try and grow something beautiful in it?  I try to find seedlings to put in the dirt; more time to spend with God, more chances to take delight in much smaller joys, more time to relax and look to the future.  Of course some days I just wallow in it.  I can’t see how the dirt can possibly ever be anything other than darkness.  But occasionally, I really invest in trying to turn things around; I plant my seeds and in time I see buds, then flowers beginning to bloom.

Over the years I have seen flowers grown from what I could only before see as pure filth.  Life events that I once thought would be the end of me, particularly losses and a huge upheaval age 15, have blossomed into beautiful things.  My mess has become my message.  My tests have become my testimony.  I now can describe things that once brought me immediately to tears, with a real conviction that good has actually eventually come from it.

But what about the times you are deep in it.  What about ‘those things’ that you think could never be redeemed? …

… Grace

… Grace upon Grace


“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3

We can’t do this.  We can’t cause the seedlings in the dirt to flower.  We can’t pluck the seeds from thin air.  But with God’s grace things can be restored, renewed and re born.

I’m currently reading Ann Voskamp’s ‘One Thousand Gifts’.  It is full of life affirming truth.  She asks the questions I ask myself daily “What in a world of certain loss, is grace?”

“God is always good and I am always loved. All is grace only because all can transfigure.”

-Everything is grace because everything has the potential to be transformed.  Isn’t that amazing?

You may still not believe that any flowers can come from your dirt.  That the shame, loss, grief, or agony is just too much.  That if people really knew how bad it was they could never see flowers in it.  I know many times I’ve felt that way.  I don’t believe for one second that God gives us these things as a test of our faith, or that the darkness comes from Him.  But I do believe in beauty from ashes, in flowers from dirt.  I do believe in grace.  That He can take anything and turn it to a thing that can bring hope and redemption.

When you’re still stuck in the mud and you see no way out, I recommend 2 things from my reading and own experience.  When you’ve planted your seeds but there isn’t a flower in sight:

Gratitude and Worship

Being grateful for even the rubbish things or the tiny insignificant things, or the things that pass us by can open us up to so much joy.  I’ve blogged about this before, how simply the attitude of gratitude can change your heart.  If nothing else we can be grateful that we have been allowed to live another day!

2015-05-26 20.56.03-1

2015-03-23 22.56.07

Worshipping God for who He is, and for all He has done in the past, and for nothing else than the assurance of your salvation, that one day there will be no more tears; in the midst of your darkest times, is an extremely powerful thing.

As Ann Voskamp says “…isn’t my internal circuitry wired to seek out something worthy of worship?  Every moment that I live, I live bowed to something.  And if I don’t see God, I’ll bow down before something else.”

Don’t bow to the dirt.

Any beauty, good, love, truth, and joy in the world is all a mere reflection of God.  When we cannot see that through the dirt, still it strengthens our hearts to worship and praise Him for it until we do.  Until the miracle comes.

“Even when it makes no sense to sing; louder then I’ll sing Your praise” (Even when it Hurts Hillsong United, Empires)

Every Day is a Blessing

“Happy moments – those moments when you feel fully alive – certainly exist.  They swim by us every day like shining silver fish waiting to be caught”.  – Alice Steinback

So, it’s 2015 already which I find a little terrifying.  I haven’t posted a blog for well over a year for many reasons, but the New Year seems a good day to check in and reflect on all that’s been happening.

As always, a little naively perhaps I enter into the New Year with a new sense of optimism and gratitude for all that has happened.

I love sharing the highlights of the year gone by, sharing my ‘Resolutions’ and goals for 2015, and as always hope that this year I will blog a little more.

So here are some of the highlights from 2014.  Whilst in some ways it has been a difficult year health, finance wise or sometimes personally, I yet again still find I have so so much to be thankful for!!!

  • Continuing to manage my health and work situation. I’m so blessed to have a job I really love.
  • This year I have read lots more than I have for a few years. I’ve also been practicing my Ukulele.
  • I kept a journal all 2014, which was really rewarding and a discipline.
  • My family life continues to grow and amaze me and I am so thankful to have such an incredible and loving family.
  • Things with ‘Restored for such a time as this’ continue to develop and I am excited for what the future holds with it. http://www.restoredfor.org.uk/
  • I am so thankful for every day small blessings. Those lovely ‘silver fish’.
  • My small involvement in the ‘Home for Good’ campaign especially at the beginning of the year in admin/ social media was a real blessing to me and it’s amazing to see it become a charity and watch God working through them.
  • Feb 9th– Seeing Taylor Swift at the O2 with my bestie was awesome.
  • My 27th Birthday celebrations were really fun with friends and games at home.
  • 18th March- My trip home to see my amazing family was brilliant including seeing my family grow and celebrating a birthday.
  • Doing the ‘100 Happy Days’ challenge on Instagram even when I wasn’t having the best day really helped me to focus on the good.
  • 12th April- A trip to Chester to see some incredible friends and their amazing babies was so awesome!
  • 14th April was another amazing time at home with tons of fun including baby Ducks!
  • 1st-3rd May Getting to go to Colour Conference after being blessed with a ticket and train fair was incredible! I had the best time and really learnt lots and grew close to God.
  • 23-25th may ‘Glamping’ at Big Church Weekend was amazing. We experienced worship, sunshine, rain, and fellowship.
  • Starting my Pilates class was fab and a great way to help with a former ‘resolution’ of trying to get more fit.
  • My holiday home in June was brilliant especially seeing my family’s business grow.
  • Giving away my ‘Giving Key’ and all that it involved including seeing it passed on to someone at IJM was really amazing!  http://www.thegivingkeys.com/blogs/news/15666580-fuel-others-faith
  • Quality time with amazing friends.
  • Watching Hillsong Conference online and the preach at G-Live ❤
  • Watching lots of brilliant TV.
  • My lovely friends Hen Party and their incredible wedding which was such a joy.
  • A trip home in August which involved games, an ice cream parlour, a new baby donkey, shopping and lots of fun.
  • Sept 6th a lovely 3 course meal and entertainment at a hotel with my bestie.
  • Reading loads of amazing books including ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ The Hunger Games series again and more.
  • In October winning tickets to a pre-release fan screening of the new Nicholas Sparks film. We got goodies and James Marsden showed up which was cool.
  • Sharing about Restored at the A21 A-Teams gathering was a real blessing in October.
  • Celebrating Compassion UK’s 15 year anniversary, seeing us reach 95,000 children sponsored, our ‘Vision Day’ and the work Christmas party were all highlights.
  • Taking part on the A21 Campaign ‘Walk for Freedom’ across London was amazing!!
  • Another trip home in November was great!
  • 4th December collecting 6 bags full of toiletries for A21 girls and UK shelters, praying and writing Christmas cards was a special day for me.
  • Christmas at home 2014, with parties, food, games, church, family, friends, animals, snow, mince pies and an amazing NYE Tudor Mystery party was an incredible time!!

 

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder” -G.K Chesterton.

 

2015-01-04 17.52.13

 

I have always many ‘Resolutions’ for the New Year.  So many of them I don’t come close to achieving, but I like to set the goals anyway and see how far I’ve come.  These are some of my hopes for 2015:

  • To love my body and help it heal and be healthy.  (I am starting a new Pilates class closer to home which may help).
  • To read even more including all of the Jane Austin novels and the Bible in a year.
  • To be grateful and try and cherish every moment, even the hard ones and they make me thankful for the good.
  • To try and be more creative, practice my Ukulele more and develop my creativity.
  • To work hard and dedicate myself to my calling at my workplace.
  • To manage my finances better.
  • To invest more in my relationships including giving more time, more of myself, and visiting friends more.
  • To be more ethical in my purchases and lifestyle where possible. Continue to expand Fair Trade purchases.
  • To be more aware in current affairs and world issues and more active in praying/ helping.
  • To focus on a develop my passions and callings.
  • Learn more.
  • Love more!

I think it’s so easy to feel like we are never doing enough or being the best that we can be.  I certainly feel that daily.  But I am so grateful for all that I have, the opportunities and spheres of influence, the passions and talents I have, and above all the amazing God I love and serve who has given me a heart for justice.

I aim to make 2015 count.  To be thankful.  To be loving.  To fight for justice.  Or if nothing else to fail trying to make the world a better place for 2016.