Expectations: (pl.noun) A strong belief that something will happen; a belief that someone should achieve something

I feel two sizes smaller the second I open the mailbox. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. I mean, it’s not completely unexpected. Living “out” as they put it, my mailbox is down the road. It’s not a bad deal, though, because watching the cows in the field across the way is so peaceful. As I drive home, the discontent begins to stir. “I hate feeling this way,” I think . “Just when I think I’ve gotten past all the insecurities, it seems like I get reminders…literally in the form of mail.” The doubts keep coming at me like darts.

As I place the mail on the counter, I look at the addresses on the Christmas cards. Yep. I’m not surprised. The senders always have their acts together. Sure enough, the envelopes from the two different families contain festive Christmas cards with professional poses and meaningful Bible verses in beautiful fonts. My heart sinks. I tried. I did. Our college son was home during Thanksgiving. A relative took our family picture with her phone. She did fine, but either there was a shadow on our faces from the trees or the sun was in our eyes. I chose not to use a professional photographer because my husband was still not back at work after having surgery. Oh, well… maybe next year.

My mother-in-law comes over later to watch the baby so I can attend a work Christmas party. As I drive up to my co-worker’s house, I see her wreaths and lights outside. My wreath still isn’t up yet and we don’t normally put lights outside because we live “out” (as I said before). Goodness… I wish my porch was more festive. As we all visit, I’m struck by how outgoing everyone is and many of my co-workers have lots in common. They live fairly close to each other. Many attend the same church. Several have daughters that take dance together, as well. I try to make conversation without feeling like I’m intruding. However, I’m afraid if I’m too quiet I will seem aloof….. “Boy, can’t I do anything right?”

After the evening routine of baths and goodnight hugs, I lie in bed feeling the typical exhaustion that comes with being both a momma and teacher this time of year. This is my time to think every night. Everyone else is asleep. It’s about the only quiet time of day. I think of a word that God has put in my heart this week.

Expectation. Christmas is definitely a time of expectation. As Christians, the expectation during this season is palpable as we light Advent candles and sing Christmas hymns. As parents, we see the expectations in our children as they await Christmas morning and its many surprises. Sometimes the word has a negative connotation as the expectations we set on ourselves far exceeds what we can or should do this time of year.

What are my expectations of myself? Of others? Of this Advent season? My Christmas cards didn’t get made because I’m blessed to have a son attending a college where he can get a first-rate education and live his dream of playing college ball. He’s not always home to take a picture. Also, I was trying to be responsible with our finances. My wreath isn’t on the door because the door is too tall for me to hang it. My husband went back to work and hasn’t had time to hang the wreath, but he is providing well for our family. I have wonderful co-workers who just so happen to be outgoing. God made us all unique, and that includes my propensity for being more introverted.

When we don’t even realize it, our blessings far exceed any expectations we may have of ourselves, of others, and of our Creator. I will finish my decorating, my true friends will like me for who I am, and my Heavenly Father will provide. And that far exceeds any expectations I could ever have.

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