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12/21/12: Today’s advice to my beautiful daughters ~ Don’t let your expectations steal your Joy

As seen in the posts of the past few days (here and here and here), this is one of those lessons that I had to learn the hard way…and then some.

And although I am still learning and struggling, today, I have a greater sense of understanding about how our expectations about where we SHOULD be, how we SHOULD feel, how the world SHOULD line up for us gets in the way of where we are.

Joy is not happiness.

Joy is the peace that comes from the knowledge that we are where we are supposed to be. In this moment.  Now.  Even if we don’t like it.  Joy is the deep knowledge of God’s grace.  Joy is finding the opportunity in the place where your hope and fear and happiness and pain intersect.  It sets aside what we want and what we expect and makes space for who we are meant to be.

Your opportunity in the place you are right now is not a mistake.  It might not feel good or comfortable, but it is not a mistake.  The real opportunity for you, the real joy, comes from how you respond to where you are, and is born from the acceptance that everything that has led you to this place and has prepared you.  It has prepared you to be exactly who you are right now.  The pain has prepared your heart for compassion.  The challenges have prepared you to overcome.  The loneliness has prepared you to reach out.  The roadblocks have prepared you to persevere.

Life is full of a mixture of pain and happiness, loneliness and contentment, peace and turmoil.  God uses all of those things to make you the person that He wants you to be.

Your expectations can make you miss it.  If you are too busy looking for what you want, what you expect, what you think you deserve, you may just miss the JOY that comes from the now, from this place, from the reality that combines all that you have been with all that you can be,  if you can just stop expecting and start accepting.  The you that is unencumbered by all the pressure of expectations is so much greater than the you who might miss it all.

Grace.  Joy.  You.

Don’t let your expectations steal any of them.

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I hate Christmas????

On Saturday, when my family was finally decorating our tree, I couldn’t shake the questions that I asked at the end of my last post.  I even found myself thinking, “I hate Christmas” at the very moment when I was in the middle of stringing the lights.  Immediately, I started to think about what that meant and I realized something.  I realized that it isn’t Christmas that I hate.  In fact, when I listed all the things that Christmas means to me, I ended up with quite a list of things that I love:

  • The miracle of my Savior’s birth.
  • Buying presents for my daughters…the one time of year that I truly spoil them.
  • Christmas lights.
  • Traditional foods (HELLO Christmas cookies!!!)
  • Christmas music
  • All the beautiful decorations
  • The excitement that my kids feel (they are never too old to want to wake up early with excited smiles)
  • Christmas dinner
  • Giving
  • Special ornaments, especially the ones that were made by my daughters, nieces and nephews, and all the ones that remind me of the special times in their lives
  • Marveling at  the first Christmas pictures of my beautiful girls…how much they looked alike and how different they have grown up to be…and the true amazement that time has gone so fast
  • Receiving all the Christmas cards including pictures of all those beautiful kiddos (even though I suck and never send any of my own…thanks for keeping me on your list!)
  • The feeling of gratefulness for the incredible abundance in my life
  • Family time, including the gatherings of extended family
  • And the list goes on…

So what is the deal??  If I love all these things about Christmas, what it is that I hate?  Somewhere along the way, a light bulb went off.  I realized that it isn’t Christmas that I hate.  Instead, I hate how I feel at Christmas.  And when I dig deeper into that, I realize that I hate to remember painful things.  I hate feeling inadequate.  I hate the frustration I feel because I don’t feel the “right” emotions and excitement that I think everyone else must be feeling (even when I know that isn’t true).   In that moment, I didn’t get much further than that.  I tried to get caught up in the traditional light unwinding ritual with Becca, the happy memories associated with all the ornaments, the humor of the annual ritual of the leaning Andrews tree (surely one of these years we will put a tree up without the threat of it crashing down by the next day!)  For this day, the realization of all the things that I enjoy about Christmas was enough.

What's not to love about THIS?

What’s not to love about THIS?

And this?  Notice the mandatory "Andrews Tree Lean"??

And this? Notice the mandatory “Andrews Tree Lean”??

Tomorrow…my Sunday morning epiphany.

5/4/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Gratitude

Never stop being grateful.  Sometimes even the things in life that drive you crazy, hurt your heart and just generally suck, are the things that produce the most fruit in your life. 

It is easy to be grateful for the good stuff…a new outfit, a privilege earned, good times with friends.  But what about the things that are hard?  How easy is it to be grateful for the mistake that you made because the consequences taught you something?  How about the fight you had with a friend that eventually drew you closer to them?  How long will it take for you to be grateful for some of the lessons I have taught you, especially the ones that cramp your style and make things tricky? 

I am grateful for the bad bosses I have had, because I learned what kind of boss I wanted to be.  I’m grateful for the fights that we have had when you told me that I hurt your feelings, because knowing makes it easier for me to avoid doing it again.  I’m grateful for the rules my mom imposed on me as a teenager because I know now that she was trying to keep me safe while she prepared me for life. 

This one is hard to even type, but as much as it hurts you and me still, I’m grateful for my divorce because the pain of my mistakes has made me a better person now.  Almost all that I know about relationships, I learned from that time.  And despite all that pain, I’m grateful for your dad because he never turned bitterness into a battle, and we have been able to co-parent you peacefully, cooperatively and with the love that we both feel for you.

Most of all, I’m grateful for you.  I’m grateful for every childhood tantrum and free expression of emotion.  I’m grateful for all you have taught me about being a mom.  I’m SO grateful that even when I drive you crazy, you still like to hang out and you haven’t shut me out of your life.  I’m grateful for all that you have become and that you have weathered my mistakes so well.  I’m grateful that you make being your mom the most complete joy of  my life, even the bad parts.

This post was inspired by this Elastamom’s Excerpts post.