Expectations, True Joy & Green Grass

 One of our okra plants in our raised garden. Our little homestead is lush and green because it gets lots of attention.

One of our okra plants in our raised garden. Our little homestead is lush and green because it gets lots of attention.

On December 6, 2010 I embarked on an unknown journey. I was 24 years old, hopelessly in love, seeking happiness and a sense of belonging. I had expectations for my life up until that point and things hadn't gone quite the way I had imagined. I thought for sure I'd marry my high school sweetheart, be married by 21 and have my first kid by 23, the same age my mom was when she had me. Instead, I hopped between states, in and out of an unhealthy relationship, finally forced myself to finish school while also working at night. By the summer of 2010, I had long gotten out of the bad relationship I was in, dated other people and finally found what I felt was real love (or really, it found me), I had a 2 year college degree, a good job and was living completely on my own, supporting myself. Things were great but my new found love was long distance and I didn't want to wait for whatever the future held. I wanted us to be together right then so on that early morning in December, I left the south, my only real sense of home and stability, and took a chance on love. Even then, flying by the seat of my pants, I had underlying expectations. I was leaving "home" but I expected we'd move to New York for a few years and then start our family down south. I expected he'd propose shortly after I moved especially since I was leaving my life behind and starting a new one with him. I expected so many things but I quickly realized as much as I felt like I wanted to control and dictate how my life was going to play out, it just didn't happen that way. What I thought was going to be a year or two here in New York, turned into five and now I'm going on eight years of living on Long Island. We got engaged 6 months after I relocated here, got married 11 months after that, and what started out as my rant of, "I will not have kids here!" has now turned into us welcoming two beautiful, healthy children at the same hospital here on Long Island and bringing them home to our humble but quaint house.

My expectations were high, even of that real love I found in Rob. I have my own theories of why I became the way I was with guys, love and a sense of acceptance but that's for another day. The bottom line is, I was longing for someone to want me and be enthralled by me but also be the "perfect" guy in terms of character, looks, spiritual life, etc. I kept seeking love and happiness, only finding disappointment after disappointment, falling on my face, and earning regret which only left me feeling even more empty than I already felt, like something was missing. When I met Rob, it started out the same as any relationship I had before except I really felt we connected on a deeper level. There was a real friendship aspect that sparked it all but there was always something there that I could not quite figure out. Once I moved here to Long Island that deep connection was still there but my deep sense insecurity crept up. I was suspicious of things, I never felt like I was good enough for him and in turn, the first few years of our relationship had some major rocky points. Part of my insecurities proved to be true after digging, which then screwed up my whole view of my expectations of Rob that led me on the road to finding true joy. I remember one night, after having a long discussion with him about some things that we were dealing with, he proclaimed something to the effect of, "you have me on this pedestal and have these expectations of me but I'm human and I'm going to fail...it's a lot of pressure to have on someone." It hit me like a ton of bricks in that moment that he was so right. My whole life I've had expectations of people, probably because I have so many expectations of myself and have always been very hard on myself. Needless to say, because I've had expectations on myself and others, I've been disappointed and let down a lot. People are not perfect, people can be good but they are not perfect. Sitting in our room that night after that painful realization, I looked at life a lot differently. It didn't happen overnight and it's something I still struggle with at times, but especially with Rob, I force myself to remember that he is human. He is man and man is fallible. That includes me too. I'm not perfect, far from it actually. I have the best of intentions sometimes but at the end of the day, I mess up just as much as the next person and I have learned, more so in the last 7+ years that true joy, hope and peace lie only in one place and that's a relationship with Christ. A man can't meet my expectations or give me true joy, a career can't do it, kids can't do it, hobbies and passions can't either. Those things can make me happy but as it's been told time and time again, happiness is fleeting. Happiness depends on your happenings, joy is eternal.

Rob and I had a lot of issues because of my expectations of him. The biggest elephant in the room was the fact that I developed resentment because I had expected that we wouldn't be on Long Island for as long as we were (and have been). I also still struggle with this from time-to-time and it creeps up but I recognize it's the devil trying to shake things up. Once I really grasped the fact that I can't depend on Rob to make me happy or my kids, or my work, and that I needed to depend on God for that, I began to loosen my grip and thoughts of what was going to me happy. At the end of the day, I knew I had to trust that my (now) husband was looking to God for guidance and trusting Him, coupled with the fact that God is GOD and what He says, goes. All this time I've had my husband in the seat of God, looking to my husband to fill my needs and depending on him to get me "home" when really God has a mission for me here and when that mission is completed, maybe, if it's in His will for me and my little family, He'll open doors for us elsewhere.

I'll admit there were times in the beginning of our relationship when things weren't going my way and my expectations weren't being met, I contemplated what life would be like if I left and went back south. I went through some dark times as well as times of doubt. Was he really worth staying here? I felt lied to and duped at times but I remember someone once saying, "the grass is greener on the side that is watered." Talk about a slap in the face! How true is that?! So many people can only see what's right in front of them--their kids are a mess, their marriage is a mess, their finances are a mess, the list goes on and on--and they think if they could have what so-and-so, has they'll be happier...the grass would be greener on the other side. I may be only 32 years old but I'm here to tell you, I've learned a lot from other people's mistakes as well as my own and the grass is not greener on the other side. It's an illusion. Like the illusion of water you see in a desert...it's non-existent. Think of how harmonious everyone's lives would be if we expected nothing from eachother, looked to our Creator for fulfillment and joy and stopped comparing our lives to others. Imagine if we stopped wishing for what was on "the other side" and began nurturing and tending to what we do have, what our marriages would look like, our kids, our work, our life as a whole. Life would be pretty sweet and a whole lot less complicated.

I challenge you, whoever you are who may have stumbled across my little corner of the world wide web, to examine yourself. What are your expectations? Where does your happiness lie? Do you even know the feeling of joy? Have you found yourself wishing for someone else's life, wanting the perfect husband? The perfectly groomed kids? The cookie cutter life? The greener "other side"? I challenge you to start watering the grass you're standing on as you read this. Is it wilted? Is it nothing but weeds? Start watering by asking God to help you see the good in what you have. Instead of looking at all the negativity (because trust me, friend, you can find negativity in anything these days!), ask God to show you one single, solitary good in each area of your life. You'll be amazed at where you'll be led when you surrender your expectations and look to the One true source of joy to help you see that lush, green grass.