I walked into the bathroom and found Norah putting change into a plastic container.
” What are you doing, Norah?”
“Putting money in here.”
“Why?” I ask.
“For the poor children.”
I felt kind of surprised. I wish I could say we are a very outward focused family – one that continually looks for outreach opportunities and not only talks about helping others, but actually does it. I really, really wish I could say that. But I can’t. Lately, especially in the space of time that Norah can actually remember, it seems like our lives have been focused on simply making it through the day. Getting my kids fed, bathed, clothed; refereeing, acting as doctor, and keeping them from smothering the baby is my (very full) everyday routine.
“What made you think of doing that, honey?”
She looked at me with a straight face, not one seeking approval or praise, and said, “Jesus told me.”
Oh my. I had noticed lately that when things started to heat up in her little life, she disappeared into her room for awhile. A couple of days ago, I overheard her say in a very agitated tone, “Jesus, thank you for my better attitude.” But I didn’t ever actually expect that Norah was having a real encounter with Jesus.
But why didn’t I? Why wouldn’t I include “Jesus meeting my daughter” in a daily list of expectations, instead of on an “I hope this happens someday” list of expectations? No matter that she doesn’t understand the difference between a Thankful prayer and a Request prayer. No matter that she doesn’t understand what being a poor child really looks like. Her having a spiritual encounter with God shouldn’t be so surprising to me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my expectations lately. More specifically how my daily expectations are not being met. Like how I should be able to clean something in my house and get my kids outside and read more and teach them how to read and get yesterday’s laundry out of the dryer and fold last week’s clean laundry to get it out of the laundry basket and make a meal plan. And somehow stop my kids from fighting and keep the noise level down and create a napping routine and try to remember how long it’s been since the last feeding/changing/bath and —
And Norah’s beautiful encounter shattered my expectations. I’ve been aiming so low. When I set my eyes and my expectations on what is below my shoulders – cleaning, laundry, perfection in myself, and my kids becoming “better people”, I find myself continually disappointed. I never arrive, so my expectations are never met, so I feel upset about life. There is always another dish to clean and load of laundry to do and squabble to work out and character issue to discuss. I’ve been trying to figure out why I make expectations out of these things. Sure, they have to be done, but why set my heart on them? Why not set my heart on what’s valuable: meeting Jesus daily and teaching my kids how to meet Him daily, investing in my kids, modeling character, and reaching out to others? Why not set my daily standard on those things, knowing that if I focus my energy on these, we will reap beautiful reward?
Lowering my expectations and raising my standard means I have new hope for the day. It means I can let go of controlling the noise level and feeling inconvenienced by the mud and stop counting the number of burp cloths we’ve gone through. By raising the standard, instead of just expecting to be doing the same old stuff, we invite life here. Because opening ourselves to the creativity and will of God means no more disappointment about not meeting my own imperfect expectations. It means that what I look for are the opportunities – to hear God speaking to me, to create an atmosphere for Him to speak to my kids, and to create a family culture where we act on what He says.
I can’t say I know exactly what this looks like in “real life.” But I know for sure that changing the tune in my own heart sets the stage for the rest of the family. Raising my eyes to Jesus throughout every day will cause my kids to want to see what I’m looking at. And that’s exactly where we are going to start.