{Dad’s} Expectations – and Lessons from Meeting Them

Today, as my five year-old son was getting ready for school, he began to dance in a bit of a circle whining/crying, “I don’t want you to be mad, I don’t want you to be mad!

To which I responded, “Sweety… you are trying to get ready… so I’m not going to be mad, even if it’s not happening fast. It’s when you stop focusing and goof off instead  of getting ready that I get upset!”

I gave him a hug and helped him with the final details of his school readiness routine.

I realize how often I’ve done this with my own dad.

Out of my love, respect, fear of disappointment… I often begin to despair that I’m disappointing him. I cry, I sulk, I whine… at my own failure, inadequacies, insufficiencies… all the ways I must be a waste of human flesh. Not doing the right things, doing all the wrong things… knowing what’s right and still choosing wrong. Or I do it all right for a long time… scraping by on my own ability to do anything, hoping it pleases him… that I’m exhausted but good.

Good enough for all he’s done for me.

Which I can never be (confession).

Never.

There’s no way I can make myself worth the sacrifices my dad has experienced on my behalf.

Yet I try.

Then I fail. And as my brother said recently, want to shout at him, “Well, you’ll have to be okay with that! That’s all I’ve got!”

And he smiles.

Because he’s been my dad a long time.

And there’s nothing about me that ever surprises him.

Then he pulls me in and whispers sweet reminders in my ear… that he chose me (a definite perk of adoption 🙂 )

Chose me knowing that I’m an imperfect human… that I would need a daddy to lean on, to guide me, to teach me.

That in the same way the four little heads I’ve been given make me smile and fill my heart and teary eyes…

He smiles for me.

Smiles that daddy smile when I trip, jump up, and say, “I’m okay!”

Smiles when I get a failing grade… but have learned a greater lesson, albeit painful.

And yes, smiles that loving smile (although it carries tears) when I need a good loving Father’s discipline… because he loves me too much to leave me in my foolish ways… and knows just the perfect touch to bring me back to his side.

My favorite place.

And then I realize that the expectations in my life… are my own. And they are WAY higher than my dad’s.

Because I’m still learning to trust that he loves me. That I don’t have to earn his affection.

He’s walked life out.

He’s seen the challenges, the heart ache, the disappointment… how this whole world is performance-based… and he brought me into it. To be a shelter from the storm.

Just like I try to be for my own children.

Who break my heart when they fear so much of displeasing me that they miss the moments of enjoying me.

I don’t want to miss moments of enjoying my dad by cowering behind my own unmet expectations.

And instead, to curl up on the couch with a hot chocolate and my daddy… and know that I’m doing exactly what he expects… acting human. The human he loves desperately and deeply. The human that can never do anything so wrong that he will finally be surprised or find an end to his love for me.

Amazing grace.

If you don’t know my dad… I sure hope you get to.

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

To learn more about 31 Days in 2012 or view other 31 Dayers blogs, click here.

I’m spending 31 days writing about my confessions and the lessons {Dad} has taught me. This is day 11 of 31 Days in 2012.

Transformational Thanksgiving

I have been the child who yelled out the injustices of my upbringing to a closed door- half hoping my parents heard what I really had to say, and half mortified that they might actually hear what I had to say.

The tables have turned.

I am now the parent on the other side of that door with a ranting child, loudly sharing opinions on fairness and right-parenting, proclaiming small-person authority to make the world right… at least in their own mind.

Thus, this post.

A week or so ago, one of my children was found in the midst of some natural consequences spawned by poor choices. This was evident to all, including to my child. Knowing that this “suffering” was the result of personal decisions was not enough to prevent the rant. My child went to their room, closed the door, and loudly began to whine about the many years of injustice, “like that time that dad…” and “It’s just not fair that…”

Remember that mingled feeling of mortification and glee that your actual thoughts might be heard? They’d been heard.

I opened the door.

“Really? You’re in this situation because of ‘the time that Dad…’? Oh no. If you want to throw a fit, throw a fit that sounds like this: ‘AH Man! Why didn’t I listen to Mom this morning when she warned me about the choices I was making?! BLAST! Why did I rush through that chore and leave it a mess? I wouldn’t be here right now if I’d only…’ THAT’S the fit you should be throwing!”

Silence.

Mortification.

Glee?

I closed the door and stood outside silently.

This child began again. Softly. Not taking my advice on the responsibility-claiming fit that I’d suggested. I wanted to run in there, throw my own fit, and force this mind to grasp the concept! Take responsibility, learn from your mistakes, and MOVE ON! Don’t find ways to blame it on everyone else! But alas, I knew my approach would not help.

Then it struck me.

Gratitude.

I learned a year or so ago that your brain can not possibly be anxious and grateful at the same time. Those two emotions occur in opposite sides of our brain and fight each other for the oxygen they need to function. This is also true for worry and worship. Can’t do them at the same time. Essentially, when you choose to be grateful, you join the tug-of-war in your brain in a battle-winning kind of way. You help drag the oxygen away from the worrying part of your brain and being grateful becomes easier. Oh believe me, the first seconds are a serious challenge- but the more oxygen that arrives, the easier gratitude will be.

All of this information came rushing back to me as I thought of my child- a child stuck in the ugly part of the brain. The only way I could effectively help this one get un-stuck would be to get ’em thinking gratefully.

I walked back in.

“Okay… you haven’t taken my advice on the kind of fit you should throw, right?” Shakes head. “Then I have a new assignment for you. I want you to write a list of fifty reasons that you are grateful for your dad. Let me know when you are done.”

Door closed.

This is what I got. (Click to enlarge)

No more ranting. No more raving. A heart changed. Gifts listed that my child is able to claim and name. Suddenly memories of a childhood not exclusively unjust (according to them) but fun trips, special outings, gifts, moments in time worth recapturing. And my child truly is grateful. SO grateful, that the paper is turned over and words are written that I wanted to hear from the beginning.

Gratitude.

It changes hearts. It changes minds. It changes lives.

Are there areas in your life that seem entirely bleak? Or other areas that cause in you the kind of worry and anxiety that lead to health or emotional disruptions?

Choose thankfulness.

And get your kids to choose thankfulness too!

*For a great book on how gratitude can change your life, read Ann Voskamp’s “1000 Gifts.”

The Value of Pain (Feelings From a Thinker’s Perspective Part 2)

(Read Part 1 here.)

I’ve been thinking about my last post and how it relates to my purpose of providing inspiration and encouragement to my readers.

It’s always good to hear how another person views a particular subject… especially if it’s different from your own. I know I personally love to have conversations filled with depth and rationale and understanding one another. My purpose for righting about feelings from a “Thinker” perspective was to give voice to the many of us who can only be validated in our feelings by having someone understand how concretely we view them. On the flip side, we Thinkers have to be keenly aware of weight feelings carry for our “Feeler” friends and how unnecessary an explanation is. 🙂 I know that I have personally (and unintentionally) wounded friends by being so rational and logical about feelings instead of just accepting them regardless. Equally, I’ve been hurt by people wanting to talk about my feelings with no consideration of how I wound up with them!

May we each strive to love and accept the differences among ourselves- to cherish them in such a way that we are willing to learn the other “language” for the sake of friendship and the kinship of our humanity.

Speaking of hurt, I wanted to process some thoughts I’ve had regarding pain.

A friend was sharing in my Bible Study the other day and said something to the effects of “Pain is only valuable if God is allowed to use it for His and our own good.” Now, even if you don’t believe in God, I’m sure that as you read along, you will still be able to appreciate the way that pain can drive us toward betterment if we allow it.

Let’s consider the Flu. Or any cold. Unpleasant. Uncomfortable. Normally doesn’t kill you. The flu is actually a sort of a natural cleanse. It cleans your body of all of the nasties that have built up, albeit through some orifices you’d have rather left alone. Not only does the flu clean out your system, but it sends your immunity to bootcamp. An untrained immunity will be a weak enemy for real battle (i.e. much larger diseases and illnesses). Your body’s response to the flu virus is also a way of altering you to a foreign adversary is on the premise and works to rid your land of it. So, you can choose to see sickness as a horrible attack on your system or see it as an opportunity for you body to strengthen, prepare, and clean, though uncomfortably.

How true this is of emotional pain too! Feelings of hurt or anger or sadness are all indicators that something is not well within us. A red-flag that danger to our psyche is at bay. It would be easy to simply wallow in those feelings believing that they in and of themselves are the end-all/be-all. But really, feelings and emotions are so often just a reflection of the true issue at hand.

My husband, a person like so many who is very familiar with pain, reminded me of a quote: “Pain is the acid that cuts through the walls of denial.” Pain can get to parts of us that no one else can. It can speak to us on levels that nothing else can reach. The acid could destroy us if we didn’t know how to use it.

So how do we use pain? If you believe in God… this is a little easier. You trust His Word which says that His plans for you are to work all things out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). To give His creations a hope and a future and not to harm them (Jeremiah 29:11). To trust that God is allowing pain in order to “glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:3-5). C.S. Lewis said, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” It’s in our pain, when we are desperate to end our suffering, that we are finally willing to listen, to be changed. It’s not God’s mean way of making us something different than we are. Instead, it is God’s kind way of directing us away from those things that would harm and destroy us and ushering into a land filled with choice milk and honey. The way a Shepherd gently guides the sheep along the path… allowing them pain if it will teach them to stay the course and flee from cliffs, wolves, and thorns. This God, in His great love for us, allows us to trip, get poked, and encounter “the wild beasts” of the field to teach us the hard lessons that only experience can teach us.

If you don’t believe in a God who loves you, protects you, and ushers you, then your path looks a little different. It becomes a task greater than trusting God…but of trusting in yourself. In your ability to step outside of the pain and see it objectively- as the tool that it is. As we are imperfect and completely unable to be completely objective of our own life journeys, this is a daunting task. You must reframe your pain and choose to use it as something that improves you. Instead of swearing off all men because one man deeply hurt you… decide to learn the lesson of heartache and promise to be as honest and genuine with others as you can be to spare them what you have felt. Or challenge yourself to experience the satisfaction of being the “better” person and continue to “love” that person with kindness, patience, forgiveness, and peace. They, too, are learning on the curves of life and, unfortunately, you were an instrument in their own growth as well. See it as such and don’t let pain destroy you. Rather, let it build you. Better yet, choose to believe that there is a God who loves you and wants the best for you- and follow Him.

This concludes part 2 of how a Thinker views Feelings… in light of pain. I hope that whatever your life experience, today you can choose to look at the pain you’ve experienced and see how it has made you something better than you were… more mature, more kind, more compassionate or understanding. Perhaps you’ve let it tear you down a little…and make you cold or hard or distant from those who love you. My hope and prayer is that you will be able to find it within you to look at how you’ve let pain influence your life… and choose to use it for the better… and not the worse.

Blessings in your endeavors!


Share