This week, as we continue in the season of Advent, we focus on “expecting well” throughout the many seasons of life.
By: Carla Galdo, Guest Contributor
The ringing, buzzing dance of the alarm on my phone demands a response, despite the lack of daylight at this early morning hour. I stumble out of bed, pacify the alarm, and pray that none of the sleeping children wake up before I can make my way through my standard morning routine of coffee, prayer and daily goal-setting. I haven’t always set daily goals, but the many optimize-your-life folks cheerleading their way through my inbox suggest it. “Live your best life,” they crow; “Write down your top priorities; and then, “What are you waiting for? Get going!” My Type-A, list-loving, control-needing self eats it up, and I outline my ideal Saturday.
Mix bread dough.
Have kids do chores.
Read books to littles.
Take big boys to baseball.
Read for book club.
Go to bed on time.
If the gal on my Facebook feed says she can do it all, so can I!
The only problem is that around 11:25 a.m., my expectations from the day are far from being met, through no fault of my own. I didn’t leave space for diaper changes, peacemaking between squabbling siblings, sweeping up broken glass, or my husband’s spontaneous trip to the hardware store. My little universe comes crashing down when I realize that there’s no way I can get through this list, not to mention get it all done well. So my children and my husband bear the brunt of my frustration. I bluster about looking not so much like my cheerful online Christian-mama-life-coach and a lot more like the Grinch on a bad day. I know it, and I spiral further downward in misery and despair. My listed expectations have failed to inspire me. Instead they taunt me, pursue me and crow that in the midst of this mess that is my life, I’ll never be good enough. I know I need to invite God into the morass of my muddled plans, yet how to do it remains the challenge.
This downward plunge of deflated expectations, frustration and regret has happened to me more than once. One day after a particularly rough time, I discovered some better-than-a-life-coach wisdom from Saint Josemaria Escriva, in his book Friends of God, He writes:
We are continually experiencing our personal inadequacies. Moreover, there are times when it seems as if all our failings come together, as if wanting to show themselves more clearly, to make us realize just how little we are worth. When that happens, what are we to do? Expecta Dominum, hope in the Lord. Live by hope, full of faith and love, the Church says to us.
–Friends of God, Ch. 94
Hope in the Lord is the key, the antidote to be appropriately applied when I am in the middle of the whirlwind of attempted, accomplished and left-behind “to do’s.” Hope and expectation are woven so closely together in our linguistic tapestry that in Latin, hope becomes expectare and expectation becomes less an act of bulldozing one’s way through a list of self-appointed tasks and more an active awaiting of what the day will hold, while all the while attending to the duties of one’s vocation. The problem with my list, perhaps, was the way I approached it. I was doing a whole lot more of expecta meum instead of expecta Dominum. I hoped only in myself and the way I could wrestle everything and everyone through my prescribed plans for the day, rather than hoping in God and allowing room for his plans.
Hopeful expectations must have a different character than anxious, plow-ahead-to-get-my-things-done expectations. Hope waits. It is more gentle. It is more sensitive. It allows for space, flexibility and joy in smallness rather than simply in accomplishment. Do I live with my expectations flavored with hope? Now that I can see I need to, I try. My family can tell you my failures are frequent and my confessions are many.
One recent Saturday, I set out with a truncated list of daily goals. Pray. Clean kitchen. Run 5k. Three items – only three expectations for what should happen and a whole lot more space for hope in the Lord. It ended up that day, that in the midst of my tasks, my husband and I needed to confer about a serious situation; my 7-year-old wanted to accompany me on my 5k, and my toddler passionately requested to scoop flour for bread dough with me. In shortening my list, I made a small and simple act of hope in God. I made more room for the spontaneous needs that God placed in my path and for the growth He had in store for me that day.
Rather than reading for book club, the evening of my short-list day found me snuggling in the dark with a 4-year-old who just couldn’t get to sleep. My heart was peaceful, buoyed above its typical mire of anxious worry that I hadn’t accomplished enough, and ready to receive the grace to get one more very good thing done. I offered prayers for the little son in my arms, and for the many others in my life and in this world who are suffering. In conscious gratitude, I praised God for my blessings.
Carla Galdo, a graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, is a parishioner of St. Francis de Sales Church in Purcellville.
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