Adjusting Expectations

Recently I was talking with a young man who is reaching what is probably the midpoint of his life, and is grappling with the fact that time is running out on accomplishing some of his dreams. He has a wife and family, a good (if sometimes stressful) job, and has recently met a major life goal. Perhaps it is the accomplishment of that goal that has prompted him to look at what he once dreamed his life would be, comparing it to what he can see of the life that he has left…and finding it wanting.

While I am considerably older than him, I remember well the feeling of time slipping too quickly by as life’s milestones came and went: getting married, having children, accomplishing career goals, seeing my children finish school and embark on careers of their own, their weddings, the birth of my first grandchild (and then seven more!)… With each passing milestone I became more and more aware of the transcience of life. Sometimes I was frightened by that, and sometimes saddened by it as I imagined that there were fewer and fewer adventures to look forward to. When my mom died two years ago, it really hit home that I am closer to the end of my life than to its beginning. It has been an interesting journey of acceptance!

I wanted desperately to reassure that young man that, though he can’t see them right now, life still holds many adventures, many rewards, many beautiful moments. But I know that to try and explain that is like trying to explain how a bumblebee flies. It looks impossible for a bumblebee to get off the ground with its short wingspan and plump body–and indeed is, according to the laws of aerodynamics–so you simply have to witness it to know that it’s possible.

For 25 years we lived in a home with a heavily shaded yard. I couldn’t grow vegetables, and any flowers I planted had to be shade-loving. But then something unforeseen happened that enabled us to move last year into a house with a sunny yard. So I planted a vegetable garden in the spring. I also planted a package of zinnia seeds in a sunny flower bed.  I never imagined the adventure it would be to watch vegetables and flowers sprout from seed, yielding food and beauty for my table! I had no idea that I would learn to make img_20190819_102027-1pesto from basil I grew myself, or that I would be able to walk out my door and pick a bouquet of bright beautiful zinnias that have sprung from the seed I planted and nurtured. I couldn’t see that even five years ago! But my circumstances changed, and that is my new reality.

I’ve recently discovered that bird watching is an incredibly satisfying experience…which came as a great surprise! The other day I watched two hummingbirds vying for supremacy at the birdfeeder, their fighting keeping either of them from actually feeding. And I sensed God reminding me that when Christians bicker and argue among themselves, those who are spiritually hungry rarely get fed. I would never have imagined that adding a couple of birdfeeders to the yard would bring fresh insights into God’s timeless truths!

Growing vegetables and flowers and watching birds doesn’t sound very adventurous. It  certainly doesn’t rank up there with falling in love for the first time or traveling to exotic lands! But I’ve learned that the key to satisfaction with this season of life is adjusting my expectations. Twenty years ago I couldn’t see what this season of my life would look like. I couldn’t foresee that I would view life differently, that I would have more patience and desire to wait and watch for the wondrous moments that heretofore went unnoticed. I didn’t anticipate that simpler would be better in that it affords me the opportunity to enter more deeply into an experience, to listen for the sweet whisper of the Holy Spirit so that I might see how and where He is at work.

Transitioning through the seasons of life is sometimes hard and painful. We can’t see what the next season holds, and it’s easy to fear that it will be less than what we think we want. Just as I couldn’t see 20 years ago what my life would be like today, I can’t see now what my life will look like in 20 years. But I am learning that the key to contentment lies in the ability to adjust my expectations while maintaining hopeful expectancy for whatever God has in store.

Today I’m so happy to say that life isn’t anywhere near done with me, nor I with it… Thanks be to God!