One day this week, we loaded up for the water park after lunch instead of first thing in the morning. We needed to return library books at the school so we just decided to have a slow morning, eat some lunch, and then head out.
The dark clouds began rolling in about the time we were loading up in the car but its summer. In Texas. Any afternoon can look like a thunderstorm is about to burst wide open only for it to blow right on past without as much as a whisper. As we pulled into the parking lot, I noticed the tops of the slides were missing lifeguards. Not to mention people were pouring out of the doors.
We made the decision to go on in. After all, we could sit together, drink our free refills of soda, and wait it out. About twenty minutes later, some friends arrived and joined us. Moms under one umbrella. Kids huddled together under another. Eating popcorn and goldfish and cookies WHILE drinking their sodas.
Y’all, we sat there for over an hour. It never rained. The clouds had more bark than bite. While we waited, the kids played and talked and laughed like kids do. My friend and I just chatted like normal, stopping to answer a kid’s question every five minutes. And honestly, by the time the water park decided to call it a day, it really hadn’t seemed like we’d been there that long.
Friends have a way of making the time go by quickly.
But the kids were disappointed. One of them said, “But we didn’t even get to get wet!” And my friend and I both reminded them we have season passes. We’ll be back. And oh, by the way, we just spent five hours there on Monday.
The kids decided to play in the water hose when they got home which is exactly what they did.
And fun was had by all.
But it did get me thinking. Thinking about our expectations versus reality. And how our kiddos had let their expectations of swimming steal the joy of the reality of their snacks and laughter and all the Sprite they could drink. From my lounge chair, the kids had been fine. Anxious to swim but having a good time regardless. But from their perspective, what they’d expected to happen had not and therefore, the entire experience was worthless.
You had big dreams for this summer.
Maybe your summer is going about the same as our summer storm. Cloudy and loud but nothing horribly productive about it. Maybe you’d expected to have that room painted, or do spelling words every morning, or only watch a screen the recommended 30 minutes a day. You’d planned picnics and outdoor movies and snowcones but, the kids have complained about the heat more than they enjoyed what you planned.
Perhaps you expected to get completely caught up at work while your boss was on vacation. But oddly enough, lots of people are taking vacations and you’re doing more work to help out. So the red inbox number keeps going up while your frustration level rises like the heat. And you just want more hours in the day to do all the things you need to get done.
The summer devotional you bought has only been opened once. The board games for family game night became the victim of the toddler who ate most of the cards and possibly the thimble. You haven’t even looked at your Summer Fun Pinterest board since mid-June and the bucket list you had the kids make got thrown away with the mail sometime two weeks ago. It rained every day of your vacation and you all came home with a bad case of runny tummy. And the money you’d planned on spending for a quick Labor Day weekend away had to be used to replace all four tires. At once.
You expected more out of summer.
But I wonder if we’re missing the blessings of our reality because we’re too busy looking for the expectations of our dreams.
Maybe things aren’t going as planned but you turned that outdoor picnic into an indoor fort picnic while you watched a movie together. You’ve read every.single.page of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which your daughter loves so much, she reads it to herself every night after you tuck her in. And that room doesn’t need to be painted right now. It’ll be cooler to paint in November.
Work is completely kicking your tail but you are kicking back and taking names. You are the strong and steady in the office, giving relief to your co-workers for their rest. That red number doesn’t define you! It’s not a value statement of how necessary you are to the team. Most of its junk and what’s not, you know someone stopped by your office to discuss with you already. You don’t need more hours. You’re doing fine.
No devotional but that verse your friend posted, you had a nice talk with God about that verse while the kids swam. The kids are too young for Monopoly anyway and those Go Fish cards are in your treasure box. A Pinterest Board and Bucket Lists are suggestions. They’re not the boss of you. If you’re having fun, the kids will be too. Sure, the rain was no fun but man, did you nap LIKE A BOSS the entire time. And four tires is not a fun way to spend money but at least you had it. Plenty of people drive on unsafe tires because they have no other choice.
You might not have gotten what you expected but you got something good and valuable and worthy of your attention.
Everything we do in life can either be seen as a success or a failure.
Mostly, our view depends on how we manage our expectations.
If our exact expectations are not met, then was the entire event worthless? Or was the thing different but good regardless of what we expected?
Are we sad we didn’t get to swim? Or are we glad we got to visit with friends?
The one thing that can change how we view any situation, whether it meets our expectations or not, is gratitude.
Gratitude changes everything.
When we look at every moment of our lives, every gift, every sacrifice, every day spent on the sidelines of the pool watching dark clouds rolls in, when we see those through the worship of gratitude, the moments become holy.
Gratitude redeems what our expectations steal.
Kids are kids and they will undoubtedly continue to be disappointed when they can’t slide down the Tsunami slide six times in a row. But the people around them, parents, teachers, friends, aunts, godparents, we need to be gently guiding them away from the Thief of Expectations and back towards worshipful gratitude to Our Father.
Lord, we are grateful.