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Sarah Latimer: Unrealized Expectations – Part 1

A simple reach to touch and squeeze my hand, followed by a slight smile in the corners of what are usually distant eyes that at that moment were deeply focused on mine, brought me to tears. Last week, after my husband had prepared a sandwich lunch for his mother and me and I had fed her, done her hair, and given her a manicure, I prayed with her. I just gently touched her arm with one hand and went to our Heavenly Father with praises, intercession, and petitions in our Savior’s name. “Mom” is on hospice care and in the final stages of one of those horrific, neurodegenerative diseases. (You know, it’s one of those– dementia, Alzheimer’s, and such that takes the mind and the body slowly.) We haven’t heard any real words from her in almost a year, nor had even a laugh or smile or indication that she knows what is going on around her. She makes little movement and cannot walk or feed herself. So, the act of her lifting her hand to reach for mine and squeeze it was a big deal. Even her focus into my eyes was significant. At that moment, I had been praying and giving thanks for her son, Hugh, and all he does and for the joy that we have as wives and mothers of godly men. I can’t, of course, know what was going on in her mind, but I do believe that she was joining me in this prayer and letting me it when she reached for my hand and squeezed it. I think there was also more to it than just that. After she squeezed my hand and I realized I had her attention, I talked with her about her husband and how blessed she was to have his care and that they had just celebrated more than 50 years of marriage. With that, there was an immediate change in her appearance. A sadness came over her. I think I know what that was about I believe it was the disappointment that she could not celebrate her anniversary in the manner she would like. Knowing her and how she loved to bake cakes, decorate them, and gather family together for festive celebrations, I believe she was feeling some level of frustration over unrealized expectations. We have all known how this feels. There is nothing she can do to change her circumstances. It breaks my heart. I hate this disease and will continue to do everything I can to give her comfort and care through the remainder of her life.

We all make plans and have expectations. It’s part of what makes us women. We are always in thought and thinking. (I still struggle with the concept that men can actually think of “nothing”, but I trust them when they tell me it is true. I do not know that “nothingness”. My thoughts may be distant and somewhat meaningless or fantastic at a given point in time, but I’m thinking from the time I wake up until the time I go to sleep. I even have dreams that rival Ridley Scott movies.) Oh, I’m getting off subject here. Well, we are thinkers, planners, and we most certainly have expectations. However, most of us are not at all in Mom’s shoes. We have abilities and choices to make.

It’s almost spring, and we’ve made it through the holiday season and a time of the year where there is a noticeably disproportionate number of weddings and anniversaries celebrated, at least in my circle. I wonder if there are many of you, who have suffered some disappointment in your relationships or circumstances recently. Did you have expectations of a significant tax refund that would pay for romantic getaway that didn’t happen? Did you hope for a relationship to blossom that didn’t? Or did you hope that your husband would remember your anniversary this year, but he didn’t…again!?! Maybe with the economy the way that it is, you’ve decided that you need to be more practical and invest in items that will see you and your family through for the future instead of just some short-term luxury, but the lack of this item or event has left you feeling a little short-changed. Right now, with what’s going on in our world, we are all (man and woman) reasonably feeling short-changed. We have to deal with disappointment and sometimes those disappointments, when dwelled on, can lead to depression and bitterness. I have a suggestion for something better. Hang with me for a bit.

Let me ask you something. Who is responsible for your happiness? Think about that for a minute. When you got married, did you think that you were saying “I do” to a fairy tale relationship with Prince Charming, who would make your every dream come true and you’d never have any hardships, needs, disagreements, or disappointments? Some of us did think that, and we then had a rude awakening. What I’ve come to find is that there are no perfect human beings and life is full of wonder and blessings, but if I set expectations that are not realistic and out of my control then I am setting myself up for disappointment; I also realize that there is little that I can control. So, how do I find happiness, especially when there are many disappointments and others don’t fulfill my expectations?

There are several things, I do:

  1. I remember that God is trustworthy and loves me, so I will let Him be in control of all of the big stuff (and the little stuff, too) and I’ll trust Him to determine whether I really need something or not. Some things I just can’t control. I either have to accept living without or trusting that, if I need them, the LORD will provide what is needed for me to have it in His way. Many times I have had a plan to achieve a good outcome that didn’t pan out, but the goal was still achieved, just in a very different way and through different means than I had pursued/planned. I’ve learned that I don’t have to have my way, because my way is always far inferior to God’s way. Remember the bible story of Ruth? It started out as a very sad story. The daughters-in-law were all instructed to go back to their families after all of Naomi’s sons had died, but Ruth would not leave Naomi and insisted “your people shall be my people and your God shall be my God”. She devoted herself to Naomi. She worked hard to support herself and also Naomi, and she followed some instructions that seemed very strange and odd to her. However, she did as she was instructed in big things (moving to another country and culture) and in small things (lying at Boaz’s feet and covering herself with his tunic). In the meantime, she worked hard at menial chores that provided for what was needed– gathering grain from the fields that was left for the widows and orphans, where she gathered for both her and Naomi. In the end of the story, she became the wife of well-respected Boaz and also became a mother. She ultimately was the great grandmother of beloved King David and is a woman honored throughout history! If you have time this week, read the book of Ruth. There is much to be learned from this story. If you are trusted in His Son, repented, and made the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob your God, then you are the daughter of the King of kings and Lord of lords! Ask Him to put His desires in your heart and to show you how to fulfill them. If your desires don’t come to fruition right away, be patient and trust that if it is God’s will, He will provide. Just don’t let the not having something make you feel bitter, angry, or anything less than loved.
  2. Don’t rely on other people to do “sweet” things for me or provide things for my happiness. If I really want or need something, I do my best to figure out a way to provide it for myself. You can, too. Here are a few examples of things that make me feel good (even pampered) that I have found I can provide for myself when I want them (and I can do them in a remote location):