GREAT EXPECTATIONS VS REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS

It’s a couple days away from Valentine’s Day and I had the occasion to speak with one of my sister-friends who has Great Expectations for the day.  She is a hopeless romantic and therefore would like for her husband to pull out all the stops plus the ‘red carpet’, in celebrating her and the day.  She has one problem though.  They are mismatched in the romanticism department.   

In essence, this is what she told me.  “He is such a wonderful guy, and he is easy to please, but he does not have a romantic bone in his body.”  One of my responses to her was that you might have married someone who is not only romantic to you, but to every other woman he meets, so be grateful.  That aside, I think she is hoping he would surprise her by doing some of the things that she would like, but I could already hear in her voice that she was lowering her expectations. 

I listened to her and being that I’ve been married for almost three decades, I had a bit of advice to give and it went something like this.    I’m not sure who penned this quote, but it has been a guiding light for me in navigating my significant relationships.  It says, “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.”  In other words, if you don’t expect anything, you cannot be disappointed.  And I’m only referring to earthly relationships here.

Although, I agree with the quote, I believe that there are expectations that are reasonable to have.  For example, I expect my son to love me because I have been an exceptional mother to him.  He hasn’t disappointed me yet.  I expect that there will be mutual respect between my friends and I.  Up to this point, my tight circle has never disappointed me. I expect that my husband will take care of our family as he has been doing for the last three decades.  After all these years, he hasn’t disappointed me in that aspect of our lives either.  Reasonable expectations.

Make no mistake, even reasonable expectations can produce disappointment, but at least there is the experiential to support them.   And that is the difference between Great Expectations and Reasonable Expectations.    Sometimes we are expecting in a vacuum with neither experience nor assurances that the expectation will be met. And that’s when we get hurt. 

The Word of God is filled with references which assures us that our expectations of God will never end in disappointment. Even if we don’t have personal proof as yet that He never fails, all we have to do is research His word for historical proof of what we can expect from Him. Even those of us in New Testament times have experienced how God has kept His word through every changing season in our lives. This is the only person that we can have Great Expectations of because He will never fail to deliver on His promises.

Sometimes we look at a person’s age, education, religious persusaion or social orientation and we expect certain attitudes and behaviours from them, but I’ve learned that a person cannot give you what they do not have.   And the only way to determine what they have is to experience them over time.   You may get hurt but I’ve never known anything to grow without some discomfort and pain.  

This brings me to what I’ve learned especially within the bonds of marriage.  We have expectations of others based on our frame of reference.  And this frame of reference can be based on family of origin relationships or other relationships in general.  In our present relationships we come to expect certain things based on what we’ve experienced in the past in similar relationships. 

For example, when I got married, I expected my husband to play a more active role in domestic activities.  He, on the other hand, expected me to be satisfied just being at home.  Why?  Because that is what we both experienced in our family of origin.  These are the kinds of things that cause frustration in marital relationships because many times we don’t take the time to discuss our expectations of each other before we say ‘I Do’.

This happens a lot among those of us who are believers who feel that once someone is a Christian, and we ‘love’ one another, we’ll be able to work through our issues on the back end. Many of us have found that this is not true.  Many relationships are on the rocks or are barely hanging on by a thread because of this misconception.

Communication is one of the fundamentals that need to be established and maintained throughout the life of any relationship.  Honest and open communication is necessary so that each person knows where they stand especially before marriage, to determine whether they can deal with certain nuances, habits, mindsets for the long haul.

Our expectations of others should be moderate and reasonable. Communication tempered with understanding is the tool that will help us to formulate those moderate and reasonable expectations.    Instead of constantly being frustrated with each other, we will educate ourselves about our partners by 

  • Engaging in ongoing research – you don’t stop learning about your partner or their history after you get married.  Issues in the relationship will cause you to want to find out “where did this or that come from”.  Pay keen attention; look, listen, and learn.  Education is ongoing.
  • Talking about the hard-to-discuss issues.  My father-in-law used to say, lay everything out on the table. Even if the discussion becomes heated, at least you’ll know where you stand and what you are dealing with.  He was right.  Not talking about the pink elephant in the room does not mean that it does not exist.
  • Saying what we want, what we need, what we expect.  As much as we like to say we know someone, we don’t know what’s in their minds.  This kind of knowledge comes with years of growing together and even then…
  • Applying grace as you would want them to be gracious to you.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Being patient.  Growth takes time.  Becoming one takes time.  Understanding each other takes time.  

Many times, we look at couples who have been married for many years and we admire how comfortable they seem with each other.  Newsflash!  Over time they engaged in everything that I outlined above and more to get to the place of peace that you are now witnessing.

I will close with another quote that, not even if I tried, could I have expressed it any better than Mr Rasheed Ogunlaru.

“Expectation has brought me disappointment.  Disappointment has brought me wisdom.  Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfillment.”

Again, it is okay to have reasonable expectations and even then you will experience disappointments, but what that quote expresses is where I’ve grown to and I am so grateful for the lessons learnt.  I pray that as you have read this, you will make that shift in your mindset that would eventually bring you to that place of joy and fulfilment in your relationship as far as expectations are concerned.

As far as your Valentine’s Day celebration goes, make the peace, joy, and love of your union your focus.   Make your partner your focus and not the things that he or she should do for you.  Why not decide among yourselves what you will do for each other on that day?  Never mind that it will not be a surprise.  Surprises are over-rated.  Your biggest concern should be that both of you feel special on that day.  That you create a memory that both of you can recount with warm feelings when you are old and grey. Who knows?  You may be surprised how that little conversation will spark something more than you expected. 

Save yourself and your relationship by keeping your expectations moderate and reasonable. Don’t let your Great Expectations overshadow the memories that you can create by having Reasonable Expectations for the day or for life. Enjoy the moment! Create memories for a lifetime.

My soul, wait thou only upon God; For my expectation is from Him. Psalm 62:5

LIFE IS SHORT…

Good Family and Friends are a Scarce Commodity

While living in the United States there were six months out of the year that I yearned to be in Anguilla.  They were the cold months and although I enjoyed the experience, there were many days when I imagined myself splashing in the warm, blue-tinged, crystal clear water of Rendezvous or Meads Bay.  Therefore, I told myself, whenever I returned to the islands, I will make good the privilege of living on an island and I will never, ever take sea-bathing for granted.  

For the past couple of weeks, I have kept that promise to myself and today, as I drove back into my yard after exercising and sea-soaking, the thought came to mind – “Life is short and good family and friends are a precious and scarce commodity”.

You see, I went to the beach alone and except for when I am home with my family, most of my time, if I were to take note of it, is spent by myself.  I have no family here but there’s more to it than that.  

I am a pastor’s kid and when we were growing up my mom had an experience that caused her to become overprotective.  My dad had migrated to another island and she of course joined him.  Therefore, she also did not have any family close by.  What she did was kept us very close so that we would not get hurt as she did, but the result of that was both positive and negative.  On one hand we did and still do not really need company to be happy; but on the other hand, when we did go out as teenagers and even young adults, we were socially inept.

Despite the negative, I have matured, and I am no longer socially inept, but I have also grown to appreciate that if I don’t have company, I am quite fine.  Also, in a community where, human beings can sometimes be quite mean for no apparent reason, being able to enjoy your own company is a gift.

Be that as it may, God has blessed me with some precious family and friends for whom I am so grateful.  So, here is what I have to say.

Life is short.  We have been given 70 years and by reason of strength, 80.  When you stack that up against time that has gone and the time that will be after you exit the scene, 70 to 80 years is a drop in the bucket.  Therefore, the moment that you have right now, is precious.

Good family and friends are precious and a scarce commodity.  If it were not for good family and friends that covered and supported me over the past two years, I don’t know where I would have been.  So, believe me when I say, I know the importance of having people in your life that get you and still love you.

I thank God for the opportunity to travel and live away for a while.  It opened me up to the fact that although interacting with some people can make you gun-shy to socializing with others, there are still wonderful people in the world.  There are people who even though they have their flaws, they are about loving and caring for others.  And I have been privileged to meet persons like that all over the world and it has given me hope.

Life is short and good family and friends are a precious and scarce commodity.  You don’t know when your time will come to leave this place called planet earth. So cultivate those relationships with the time that you have left.  

Be there for your family and friends as they are for you.  You don’t have to call or text every day, but as often as possible let them know that you are thinking good thoughts about them.  After all, if we don’t have good family and friends, what do we have?  With the way that the world is right now, those relationships make life worth living.

Guess what?  I am going to take my own advice and hope you do too.  It could mean the difference between living a full and fulfilled life or one that is very lonely.  And being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely.  But for those of you who may be feeling lonely right now, I leave this food for thought with you. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Be blessed. Much love.

FRIEND OR FOE?

Once upon a time there was someone that I called my ‘best friend’, but I do not know if the feeling was mutual. Maybe in word, but judging from my experience, not heart.  My wakeup call came when I found out from someone else, what was her alleged life situation at the time.  It was something big.  Something life-changing and yet, as close as we were, I did not hear it from her.  I had to ask her about it, because that’s how I am with friends.  Of course when confronted she admitted it was so, but from that day my view of our friendship was altered, permanently.

After that experience, I have been very careful who I give the title of ‘friend’ to.  As a matter of fact, I have not endowed the title ‘best friend’ to anyone since then. From that time until now, I have formulated some critera that I use as markers to give me an idea of who I am dealing with, give or take a few.

  1. Is that person willing to share their life experiences, within reason, with me as I do with them?
  2. Are they willing to gently tell me the truth even if it hurts?
  3. If they ask me a question, and I respond, do they accept my answer, or do they try to change my mind in a way that seems pushy?
  4. Are they always argumentative no matter the subject being raised or discussed?
  5. Do I always feel like I need to justify everything I do or say?
  6. Are they always secretly competing with me?
  7. Do they give the appearance that life with them is perfect, while punching holes in mines and everyone else’s?
  8. Are they supportive of my dreams and aspirations or do they find cause to be critical?
  9. Do I feel comfortable being myself in their presence or do I always feel pressured to be someone else?
  10. Do they covertly try to make me feel inferior to them?
  11. Do they cover me in public while confronting my wrong in private, or do they expose my shame for the world to see.

As the Bible said, and I think it goes without saying that we should always endeavour to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. (Matthew 7:12)

So, here I am today at 51 and I choose my affiliations very carefully.  As a matter of fact, if after the ‘getting to know you phase’ I find that any two or three of the above markers are evident, I will go into self-preservation mode.  Life is too short to always be trying to justify yourself and your thoughts to others. It is certainly too short to always be struggling to make a friendship work.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  I try to maintain that peace as much as possible and that means choosing my friends wisely.  As a matter of fact, I let the God who knows every person’s heart, choose my friends for me.

And let us always bear this in mind as well, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Shalom!

IT’S TIME TO HUDDLE!

“When yuh see yuh neighbour house on fire wet yours”.  “Who have cocoa in the sun should look fuh de rain”.  These are sayings that my mom would repeat if we as children would come home with a story about someone else.  She was not one to encourage discussions (gossip) about other people, nor would she talk about others in the presence of her children.  

Now as an adult I understand what she was saying.  We all have our issues.  If it’s not one thing, it’s the next.  No life is perfect.  Every person struggles with something.  Every family wrangle with their own issues.  Therefore, the more time we spend looking at or talking about other people’s business, is the less time we have resolving our own issues.  If we spend our time looking at someone else’s pot, most likely our own pot will boil over or burn. 

This year I celebrated my birthday, Christmas and the dawning of a new decade and new year in beautiful Anguilla. I did so with family and friends – and it felt good. It felt right. I remember washing dishes on the last day of 2019 thinking about the changes that had taken place in my heart and life over the last eighteen months. And how at that moment I was happy that I had taken the time away to make the necessary adjustments to get to the place where I was comfortable in my own skin.

Water Taxi to Little Bay, Anguilla

It took time.  It required me to mind my own business.  It required me to do my own personal work which brings me to the title of this blog.  I believe that this year God is calling us to ‘huddle’.  Huddle is a term used in American football where the players all come off the field, form somewhat of a circle and literally put their heads together.  They do that to

  1. Motivate one another
  2. Take a break from the game to recover 
  3. Strategize for the next play
  4. Regroup personally and collectively
  5. Establish unity in purpose

I think that we can benefit much from this practice both personally and relationally.  Too many persons are talking of ‘burn out’.  Too many families are disintegrating because our focus is off.  Instead of trying to impress our loved ones, we are ‘running down’ life to impress the public who really don’t care.  Instead of ‘bringing the game home’, we take it to the streets.  Instead of internalizing our efforts, we externalize, all the while investing our time and energies in things and people that do not add value to our lives.

I’ve come to realize that anything worth having is worth fighting for and at the end of the day the family we are a part of is not a mistake.  Our family is all we have, and that same family is what agitates us to become who we need to be.  Iron sharpens iron.  The rocks closest to the surf are the smoothest because of the constant bashing of the waves on them and against each other. We collect them because they are beautiful, not realising what they went through to become as attractive as they are.

For this new year, why not take the time to determine what’s really important to you.  Many of us don’t give our partners the credit for holding us down.  We don’t realize that if they were not ‘having our backs’, making sacrifices and supporting us, we couldn’t do or be who we are in public.  Why not give yourself and your relationships the necessary attention by calling for a ‘huddle’?  Why not take the time to mind what is important to you, if in fact it is important to you?  

In essence, call your players off the field and huddle for a bit.  The outcome of the game depends on your commitment to coming up with winning plays.  The success of the game depends on your desire to win.   And may I suggest that a commitment to success would quite frankly and without apology sound something like this.

  • Adults:  Mind yourself.  Mind your significant other if you have one.  Mind your own marriage.  Mind your own business.  Mind your own purpose (reason for breathing) and most of all, mind your relationship with God.
  • Youth and children:  Mind yourself.  Mind your parents or guardians – in most cases they want what’s best for you.  Mind your education.  Mind your talents and giftings.  Mind your future.  Most of all, mind your relationship with God.

In 2020, bring it home.  A winner at home is a winner in the marketplace and you can take that to the bank.  

It’s-time-to-huddllle!

I’M NOT GIVING UP!

“It is not over ‘til the fat lady sings” – Unknown


My version of that saying is that ‘it is not over until God says it’s over’.   To be honest, holding on to anything (a marriage, family, friendships, dreams and expectations) can be excruciating especially when everything that you see (sense) signals that it’s not worth it.  IT being the energy, the stress, the good wishes and even prayer.  Yet we keep on pushing. 

Why?  Because we tell ourselves, once there is life there is hope and even a glimmer of ‘good’ spurs us to think that there may be better days ahead.   So, we hold on.  But wait a minute!  Aren’t believers called to endure because there is salvation or a prize at the end (Matthew 10:22; Philippians 3:14)?  But how do we do that without losing our joy?  How do we, like Paul in Romans 5:3-5, glory in tribulation?

In this post I want to address ‘not giving up’ in relationships that look like they are in trouble.  How do you keep pushing through in a relationship that by all accounts looks like it’s on its last leg?  Do you make decisions based on what you are experiencing or based on a promise that you were given?

Relationships are the backdrop of our lives and when they are good, we feel productive, energized and alive with hope for the future.  When they are challenging, they drain us mentally, physically and emotionally.  They even drain us to the point where we wonder if investing spiritually makes sense.  I’ve been there and I’m still in the trenches, so I know whereof I speak.  

Giving up after a battle (long or short) is easy because you can calculate what you have invested against what you have gained or lost.  If there is little or nothing to show for your investment, you have all rights to cut your losses and close shop.   No one will fault you for that.  “At least I tried”, is what you tell yourself.  It helps you make it through the day without feeling like a failure.

Let me digress here just for a moment.  This is what I’ve learned.  Winning or losing has much to do with our perspective – qualitative or quantitative.  And some wins take the scenic route.  It might be worth your while to hold on for the ride, as rough as it may seem.  There is so much to gain/learn even when it seems like you have lost.  

Even identical twins have distinguishig features

Take a smile break here with me. Now back to our regular scheduled programming.

Here it is.  It’s the ‘hanging in there’ that takes work.  It’s the ‘hanging in there’ that takes a tenacity and a gumption that is super-human.  For goodness’ sake, it takes crazy faith, but sometimes even while we are faithing it our focus is shifted from the prize to the pain and we begin to lose heart.  Here comes my favorite phrase, “after all, we are only humans, right?  

What makes it worst is that we sometimes allow what others think or say to dictate our response to what we are going through.  And some people mean well, but I’ve heard that even in a birthing room, empathizing with or feeling for the mother in labour holds up the birthing process.  What helps is encouraging her to PUSH and giving her a picture of what awaits at the end of all the hard work and pain.  That’s what I’m here for.  To give you that PUSH.

My friends, sisters and brothers, there are so many examples in the Word about crazy faith and tenacity in the face of pain and what looked like impossible situations. But what comes to mind as I ponder the resolution of “I’m Not Giving Up” are questions like:

What if the children of Israel had stopped on the 6th day of their prescribed 7-day march and said, well we don’t see any indication of this Jericho wall cracking and falling, so let us just pack it up and go back to our tents? (Joshua 6)

Or, what if Jesus on that pre-crucifixion night had given up in the garden of Gethsemane as he agonized in prayer for the world? (Matthew 26:36-42)

And what about our mothers?  Women were created to endure 9 months of discomfort, some at high risks to themselves and their precious cargo.  But what if they give/gave up in the middle of labour pangs and decide(d) not to push anymore?  Do you get the picture?

As I count down to my year of Grace 5.1, I am compelled to be more honest with myself.  I’ve been called determined and until I heard it articulated, I had never looked at myself that way.  But truth be told, I am tenacious when I believe in or for something, especially if my cue is coming from my Heavenly Father.

So, I’m standing in the kitchen and I’m thinking about my legacy – what seeds will I sow into my son’s life to the third and fourth generation?  What past, present or future strongholds will I break or enforce in his bloodline (DNA) because of a decision I make today.  And I heard myself say out loud, “I’m not giving up!”  And I can hear you saying, “Why not, Susan?”  “You have all the reasons in the world to give up”, …or so you think.

Do you know what else I heard?  I heard that

  1. God is God (Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent)
  2. He knows my end from my beginning (Isaiah 46:9-10)
  3. He remains faithful (2 Timothy 2:13)
  4. He is well-able to sustain me in any storm

Therefore, if we say that we are children of the King and we follow His lead, then we should allow God to make the pronouncements in our lives, even when the obvious is staring us in our faces.  We should allow Him to pronounce the “Yeah” and “Amen” in any situation, because until He does, we aren’t really sure we’ve made the right decision.

Our job is to continue to pray unceasingly for the salvation and deliverance of our spouses, children, families, etc.  To listen intently to the voice of God, and to speak words of life against all odds. This may require you to step away from a trying situation for a while to work on yourself and to get a fresh perspective.  If you can, nothing is wrong with that.  It may require you to say to your partner or family member, we need the help of a professional to sort through our mess, but whatever the case, giving up is not an option.

Don’t get me wrong, there are extreme cases where persons need to just call it quits.  I am not talking about those.  I am talking about cases where you may have started wrong, but God is able to take what ‘is’, and work it out for your good.  Cases where right in the middle of things going right someone may have gotten distracted and lost their way.  Don’t give up.  Give God scope to work His ‘exceeding abundantly’ miracle.

I don’t know about you, but I am not allowed to give up on my marriage, my family (immediate or extended).  I’m not allowed to give up on the people that God has placed in my community.  I believe that God has given me a particular kind of grace to endure, so I can only speak for myself.  However, if I experience an ‘end’ or a ‘the fat lady has sung’ moment in any relationship, it wouldn’t be because I gave up.  It would be because I concede to the All-knowing One, that says, “Susan, this is an Omega moment”.

I always say that my life is not my own, so I don’t have the choice to do whatever I feel because I may have the right to do so.  And what people think really does not matter in the bigger scheme of things.  I’ll not be guided by my emotions especially if they are contrary to what God says about me. I may look like a fool or sound like a greater fool but I’m subscribing to an institution that God Himself created and sanctions even today.  His promises contain the ability to sustain me even in difficult times, so I allow Him to hold me.

And as I wait for His verdict, I will continue to persevere in prayer. I will continue to self-improve – live, love, laugh and grow. I will continue to hope. My holding on or giving up, my fighting or retreating depends on my counsel from and my confidence in a God who is well “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we (I) ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us (me)”(Ephesians 3:20). He IS the Alpha and the Omega of everything, so it is in my BEST interest to be party to what He is doing, right now and in the future. Otherwise, I don’t have a clue, and it shows. Wouldn’t you join me in repeating this mantra? I’m Not Giving Up!

So, here’s to not giving up!

LOVE? I’LL TRY

Welcome!  This tour will take some sharp twists and turns, but I urge you to sit back and pay keen attention.  There may be something that you can relate to or learn as you traverse through the musings of my mind on the subject of Love.

Loving you is not easy because it goes against my natural reaction to your natural actions toward me. I want to revile again as you have reviled me. I want to treat you as you deserve, because that is the fair thing to do. I strain to do the opposite. Yet I am compelled by something greater than myself to be the bigger person. And it hurts. It’s not fair. I deserve better because I am ‘good’.

Ahhhhhh!  Why can’t I be like everyone else?  Why do I have to take the high road?  Don’t I have the right to fully express myself?  To feel and revel in my emotions for just a little bit…before I hear you saying, “You know better than that, so do better”?  Or “Your feelings will wreck you if you don’t check them”?

Am I not allowed to be human…for once?  No!  You are not only human!  You are a spirit, with a soul housed in a body.  You are empowered to go against the grain and live above what’s natural.  You are endued with power to do the supernatural.  You are graced with a super-human strength to love the unlovable.  “My grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 paraphrased).

Okay.  So, it is a new day.  I have a new determination…again.  I am going to take a deep breath and once again patiently be good to you.  I am going to support you even when you find it difficult to support me.  I will gladly give you your props, rejoicing with you at every victory and letting the world know how awesome you are.  I believe the best about you, covering you in your times of weakness, all the while keeping it real and one hundred behind closed doors.  (1 Corinthians 13)

I groan under the weight of such a mandate, but I am encouraged because it was heavy for you too.   You followed through on your commitment.   You didn’t shift blame nor complained to your Father when the pain got unbearable. You toughed it out and pushed through even when you felt forsaken and alone.  You persevered because there was a ‘cause’.  I am persuaded to do the same and find comfort because I know you understand. 

Feelings?  What feelings.  I am dead and my life is hidden with Christ in God.  My affections are set on things above – not on the beggarly elements of this world.  I am a new person and my mind is renewed every day based on the knowledge of Him who created me.  I am not malicious, nor do I blaspheme.  I may get angry, but I do not sin.  Swearing?  What is that? (Colossians 3; Ephesians 4:26)  

Today I put on this beautiful dress. It is heavy because of all the rare jewels that were painstakingly acquired and sewn onto the fabric. Gems such as mercy, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Peacefully and with much gratitude I walk through my day forgiving those who hurt me because it is the best thing to do. Love is the foundation garment that I wear. It smooths out all my bumps and holds me accountable to the greatest love of all, Jesus Christ.

And He makes me shine.  He puts me on display making all other efforts obsolete and unnecessary.   His love for me trumps all.  I love Him and aim to please Him which makes it possible for me to love you.  I love you!

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:11KJV)