Letting Go of Expectations

Letting Go of Expectations @ AVirtuousWoman.org

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Life is a series of choices. Each day we wake up and choose to do what we do. Okay, so sometimes not everything that happens is within our ability to choose. No one chooses to have a flat tire or an overflowed toilet.

For a long time I was frustrated – and I’m not sure frustrated is a strong enough word – that my life was out of my control. It often seems like our family – because of extenuating circumstances beyond our control – moves from crisis to crisis. It’s one thing after another, after another.

We have a large extended family who often need my help or my husband’s help. And when I say often – I’m talking on a near daily basis. My husband and I are stable and able to take care of ourselves and others. We have family members who have struggled financially, who aren’t able to drive, who have major health problems, and more. And everyone of them 14 people to be exact} relies on us for something – and all those somethings require the one thing that is most important – our time.

Up until last year my husband and I were the sole caretakers for his 88 year old MIL, his 88 year old step father, his 87 year old Uncle, and his 61 year old brother who was terminally and mentally ill. Not one of these precious people could drive a car and everyone of them had doctor’s appointments – often two hours away on almost a weekly basis.

And every time Uncle Kenneth is home alone I would have to go and sit with him – 2 to 3 times a week for anywhere between 4 – 8 hours a day because he can’t be left alone.

Add on top of that two grown and married kids who live close to us who have struggled to  make ends meet and only have one car each. I am often responsible for driving the wives to doctor’s appointments or helping with other needs including babysitting grand kids a few times a week.

Add on top of that, the crisis after crisis that some unnamed family members have gone through – sometimes because of just plain bad luck and other times because of just poor choices – which required either my husband or I to help in some way – sometimes on a weekly basis.

Add on top of that the three churches my husband pastors… and the fact that I am a homeschooling mom with three horses, three dogs, and two cats {and numerous other animals over the years}. Add onto all of that – I’m responsible for maintaining the household chores, laundry, cooking, and day to day cleaning.

And then there’s A Virtuous Woman which I’ve been running since 2001 – that alone is just about a full time job!

Not to mention the fact that all of the holidays and any other special occasion is held at my house… and I cook for 20 family members on a regular basis.

I don’t think any of that description of my life really does it justice! I’m telling you – I’ve been exhausted caring for so many people for so many years with no real relief in sight.

Mykal’s brother died two years ago. And last year his step father passed away. Things changed a little since then. I no longer have to take care of his brother Steve’s medication daily. And Mykal no longer has to drive the two of them to doctor’s appointments each week among other things – and we think about them everyday. We miss them! But we are still soooo busy caring for everyone else.

So… maybe you’re wondering where I’m going with all of this.

About a year ago I began telling people I could no longer do certain things. And I’ve learned to say no to a lot. Not because I don’t want to help or that I don’t care – but my plate has been too full for too long. I went through some serious burn out. And I lost my joy.

Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important when everything seems important.

One day last summer I got out my journal and I wrote down a list of boundaries. It was a detailed list. By writing that list I learned what was important to me and where I drew the line. You see, sometimes because I’m nice and I love people – I allow them to take advantage of me. It was a real problem.

I read an article last summer that changed my life. I can’t remember now where, but it said something to this effect:

People take advantage of us when we fail to tell the truth in love.

So for instance, maybe someone would ask me to do something, but I honestly did not have time, but because I’m nice and because I love these people, I would panic in my head, put a smile on my face, and agree.

What I should have done was lovingly explain that I honestly did not have time in my already overflowing schedule. Because by doing more and more and more – I just felt more stress and more unhappiness.

So, back to my point: Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s important when everything seems important.

So I had to make some decisions – what was really important to me. What was it God wanted me to do with my time?

I decided that my home, my husband, and my children were my top priorities. Everything else was secondary.

Now obviously, I still have a 89 year old MIL who has not been doing well at all over the last few months. I still have my husband’s uncle who needs care and I have to cook for everyday. And I still have grand kids who I have to babysit several times a week all day long so their parents can make some money – and they cannot afford a babysitter.

I still have kids I have to homeschool and a house I have to take care of. And really a million other things that come up on a weekly basis that need my attention.

But I say no when I need to. To whatever needs come up.

I give myself permission to have days where I do nothing more than snuggle in the bed with my kids or read a book when I feel I need rest. And I don’t feel guilty for resting.

And probably the biggest relief to me has been that I let go of my expectations. One of my biggest – and I mean this was HUGE – frustrations was that I homeschool and there was so much chaos – that I did not create – from other family members pulling on my time – that the last several years I could not have my kids on a schedule for school and we couldn’t get into a good routine.

I like routine. I really, really, like routine. It helps me plan and organize my day.

So, we would do school whenever we could find time during the day – often in the evenings. And it drove me crazy because in my mind that’s not what our homeschool {our life} was supposed to look like.

I wanted the perfect life and none of this stuff that was beyond my control fit into that ideal image.

Since I let go of my expectations – I’ve learned to live. Live fully in the moment. Embracing imperfection. Finding joy in the moment instead of the culminations of days, weeks, months, and years. I’ve been set free.

I’ve let go of the stress. Really, I’ve stopped trying to control things. I don’t stress over when we do school. We get it done – just not in a traditional way. I don’t stress over the house cleaning schedule because it eventually gets done – just to need doing again tomorrow. I don’t stress over grumpy days. I don’t stress over busy days.

At least most of the time.

I only have this one life. ONE LIFE. I don’t get a do over! So it’s my choice to live THIS LIFE full of joy in the moment.

Do you need to let go of expectations?

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Embracing Imperfection {Day 30}

Embracing Imperfection @ AVirtuousWoman.org --- Why would I expect not short of perfection from myself?

31 Days of Calm in My Chaos

I’ve never been what I would consider a perfectionist. And yet, expectations were ruining my life.

After years of striving to be better, do better, live better, be the best mom, best wife, best friend, best pastor’s wife, best church member, best everything I could possibly be and never measuring up to that invisible stick… I eventually began to crack under the pressure.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to do your very best. I tell my kids to do their best. But I also tell them that mistakes are okay. I don’t expect them to be perfect. I don’t really expect anyone to be perfect. So why would I place that tremendous pressure on my own shoulders?

Why would I expect nothing short of perfection from myself?

I’m sure you’ve known someone – or read someone’s blog – and thought, “Wow, she has the perfect life.” or “She’s got it all together.” or “I wish I had some of her awesomeness.” or “I wish I was that amazing.”

What I’ve come to realize over the last few years – and especially over this past year – is that everyone has struggles. Everyone.

Everyone struggles with something. Maybe your something is different from my something – that’s okay. You cannot live in this world for very long before you realize that life isn’t fair. Bad things happen – a lot. Each one of us is a broken person in need of a Savior.

You see, we live in a sinful fallen world. This world is not perfect – obviously. No one is perfect. The only perfect human beings were Adam and Eve and they still messed that up. Jesus, is the only one who has ever lived here on Earth that can claim perfection.

He was perfect so that I don’t have to be.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV

I’ve never believed I could “work” my way to heaven, but for some reason… I still often feel the need to be able to do it all and do it well. Idealistic expectations of what my life should look like overwhelmed my soul. I looked at my failures as proof that I was not worthy of love.

I can never be good enough to earn my own salvation. That’s why I need Jesus. He loved me enough to die for me. He died so that I could have eternal life. Because He loves me.

He would have died on that cross if I was the only one to ever sin. He loves me that much. He loves you that much too.

It’s not that we shouldn’t live our best, make good choices, and walk in His footsteps each day – those things come naturally when you fall in love with Jesus! The Bible says that faith without works is dead. But when you love Jesus with all of your heart, mind, and soul, it’s easy to do what He asks!

A couple of weeks ago I heard a church elder use this illustration:

A mother raises a son and tells him over and over to brush his teeth, comb his hair, and put on clean clothes. Her son does the very minimum – always doing just enough so that he doesn’t get in trouble – but not more. Sometimes the mom wonders if her son will ever grow up to be a gentleman – or if he’ll always act like a Neanderthal.

And then one day, the son meets a girl and he’s in love. And suddenly he wants to comb his hair, put on nice clothes and he’s careful to brush his teeth really well so that when he kisses this girl, he doesn’t have bad breath.

Now, he’s still doing all those things his mother had told him to do – but the difference is he’s no longer just doing the minimum because he feels like he has to. He’s doing all those things with a willing heart – and cheerfully no less – because he’s in love.

I’m not sure I gave this story justice – Elder van Zyl told it much better – but I hope you got the idea. When we’re in love – it’s easy to please the one we’re in love with. We want to please the one we love.

I’ve loved God for a lot of years now. No matter what trials I’ve faced I’ve never stopped believing in God or professing love for Him. But what has changed? I’ve finally realized that it’s okay to not be perfect.

And the truth sets you free.

And I am free. I am free from the bondage of unreasonable expectations. It’s okay to not be perfect. And even more than that – my life doesn’t have to be perfect for me to still have an amazing life. My day doesn’t have to be perfect for me to still experience joy.

That was a problem for me. I can’t count the holidays or other days where I had high expectations and wanted everything to be “just so.” And when things went wrong I felt like somehow life was unfair or people were unfair. Why couldn’t things just be perfect? I felt like everything was ruined.

Now, when something goes wrong – which I don’t know if you can relate but it happens A LOT – I don’t take it personally. If a member of my family has a bad day – it’s okay. My life is not ruined by one day or one moment. I can still smile.

I am incredibly blessed! Why would I focus on one thing that was not as expected?

It’s hard to describe this feeling of freedom in Christ. I still believe I have a responsibility as a follower of Christ to seek after him, to obey him, to daily align my will with His. But the day to day need to measure up to an impossible goal is no longer there.

I don’t have to be perfect. And I’m not really even talking about just spiritual stuff here. I don’t have to always have a spotless house to be an amazing wife and mom – {but tidy is good}. I don’t have to do everything. Remember how I told you that just because something is good doesn’t mean God wants me to do it? It’s true!

I’m enjoying my life more and that was really my goal. To live life abundantly.

God knows your weary heart and he wants to give you peace. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 NIV.

It’s okay to not be perfect. Repeat after me. IT’S OKAY TO NOT BE PERFECT.

Do you struggle with unrealistic expectations? Do you measure yourself against perfection?

The Truth will set you Free | A Virtuous Woman

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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Who are they and what does it mean? @ AVirtuousWoman.org #prophecy #biblestudy

Photo Credit: Rembert Oldenboom

You’ve probably heard of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Most people have. You may have even read over the verses in Revelation 6 and wondered what the four horsemen symbolized. Let’s take a look at the verses in question:

Revelation 6:1-8 says:

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword.

When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.

The book of Revelation is mysterious and offers what some would say is a frightening picture of the future. But Revelation doesn’t have to remain a mystery for you! The Bible always explains itself and God doesn’t want us wandering around in the dark. That’s why He gave us the Bible – it’s a lamp unto our feet!

Who are The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

Who are the four horsemen? Remember the Bible always interprets itself – God doesn’t leave us wondering! We just have to look for the answer.

Zechariah 6:1-7 says:

“I looked up again, and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second black, the third white, and the fourth dappled—all of them powerful. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these, my lord?”

The angel answered me, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.”

When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, “Go throughout the earth!” So they went throughout the earth.

So, the four horsemen are spirits or angels {Hebrews 1:13,14} sent from God.

What does it mean?

Here’s a handy chart you can download and print.

The four horsemen correspond to or represent the time periods found in the first four of the Seven Churches of Revelation. These four churches are:

You can read more about the Seven Churches and these time periods here.

The First Horse

“And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he went forth conquering, and to conquer.” Revelation 6:2

The white horse represents the first century. God’s church during this time was pure and unadulterated. This horse also corresponds to the church of Ephesus.

  • White symbolized purity. Psalm 51:7, Isaiah 1:18
  • A Crown symbolizes victory. James 1:12, 1 Corinthians 9:25
  • The Bow symbolizes success in battle against evil. Psalm 7:11,12

The Second Horse

“And there went out another horse that was red: and power was given to him that sat thereon to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another: and there was given unto him a great sword.” Revelation 6:4

The second horse in Revelation 6 is the color red which is a fitting symbol for the bloody persecution of God’s people during the 2nd, 3rd, and first part of the 4th centuries. This horse corresponds with the church of Smyrna.

  • The Sword represents war and bloodshed. Isaiah 3:25

The Third Horse

“When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”” Revelation 6:5,6

Here we see a rider on a black horse. Black or darkness represents death, sin, apostasy, and error. It is the opposite of light. Christians are to be a light unto the world and the Word of God is a lamp.

The symbol of darkness or blackness fits the period of 4th, 5th, and first half of the 6th centuries quite well. During this time Christianity became a state religion. This horse corresponds with the church of Pergamos.

  • Oil represents the Holy Spirit. Zechariah 4:2-6
  • Wine symbolizes Jesus’ blood. Matthew 26: 27-29

The Fourth Horse

“And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.” Revelation 6:8

The pale horse with the rider named Death who is followed close behind by Hell or Hades represents the terrible persecution of God’s people during the second half of the 6th century through the 15th centuries. This horse corresponds with the church of Thyatira. This is the period we call the Dark Ages when the church persecuted millions of believers.

These martyrs will be given white robes symbolizing victory in Jesus.

“Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been.” Revelation 6:11 NIV

  • Pale symbolizes death.
  • Hell or Hades symbolizes the grave.

The Seven Seals of Revelation

Did you know that six of the Seven Seals of Revelation have been opened? It’s true! I’ve written a detailed and in depth Bible study about the Seven Seals of Revelation. This is a fascinating study!

We are living in the last days! It won’t be long before Jesus returns to take His people home to heaven. It’s time for us to get ready.

 Are you ready for Jesus’ return?

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