Tuesday, January 1, 2013


My mom wrote the following for a Christmas Tea at a church in Colorado Springs, but I thought it was appropriate as a first thought for the New Year. Thanks, Mom!

by Teri Faulkner
This year I’ve been thinking a lot about expectations. And Christmas brings lots of expectations. One of our favorite traditions is cranberry ice and I expect to eat it at every family gathering. I expect to listen to lots of Christmas music. I expect we’ll watch a dozen or more Christmas movies. I think my favorites are “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Elf,” and how many of you have seen the one with Marie Osmond, “The Gift of Love?” There are so many Christmas movies out there. There are a lot of expectations that come with Christmas. We’re programmed to believe “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” and it can be, but a lot of times it isn’t. And it isn’t just on Christmas that we have expectations, we have expectations EVERY DAY!!! What kind of expectations do you have? Did you expect your life to turn out like it has? I’m pretty sure if we went around the room today, we would each have a story from our lives where something didn’t go quite as expected. From something little to something big. Here’s a silly one for me . . . I remember when I was pregnant with Katy and I asked Dan one day, “Do I look pregnant?” And he paused and stared at me and I know what he was thinking. "What is she expecting me to say….does she want to hear 'yes, you look great' or 'no, not at all?'" I wanted him to know what I was feeling and he better respond in the “right” way. Yes, I wanted to look pregnant but I was barely showing so when he said no… I was so disappointed. I wanted to look pregnant. You can’t help but have expectations but when things don’t turn out quite like you had hoped or had planned . . . those expectations turn into disappointments. Most of our disappointments come from unfulfilled expectations . . . a lot of those include some kind of pain — either physical or emotional. We have expectations of circumstances, like how Christmas should happen, how our lives should play out, and we have expectations of people. How they should treat us or respond to what we’re feeling. When I think about Christmas and the story of Mary and Joseph and how she was expecting a child. The long awaited Messiah!!!! Mary had to have a lot of expectations! If you had been told you were going to have the Son of God, would you expect to have your baby in a barn? Or would you expect to be so misunderstood by people around you? And Joseph, do you think he expected to marry someone who was already pregnant? So many events of Christ’s birth and life were unexpected. God did not and often does not act in the way we expect Him to. In the book, “One Thousand Gifts” Ann Voskamp talks about learning to be thankful, and as we learn to give thanks we begin to see all that God has blessed us with and it gives us a different perspective on life…how to live a fuller life because of being thankful. That’s kind of the book in a nutshell.
Ann writes about her brother-in-law who buried two sons in less than 18 months. Both had been born with the same genetic disease. One lived to be a year and ½ the other only 5 months. And she tells him in the hospital when the second son is dying, “If it was up to me, I’d write this story differently.” Isn’t there a part of your story that you wish you could write differently? Later he comes by their farm and I this is his response . . .
"Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop. And when you are farming . . . you are faced with it every day. You control so little. Really. It's God who decides it all. Not us." He slips his big Dutch hands into frayed pockets, smiles easily. "It's all good." . . . I catch his eyes and I know I have to ask. Tentatively, eyes fixed on his, I venture back into that place I rarely go. "How do you know that, John? Deep down, how do you know that it really is all good? That God is good? That you can say yes - to whatever He gives?" I know the story of the man I am asking, and he knows mine. His eyes linger. I knowhe's remembering the story too. New Year's Day. He asks us to come. Only if we want. I don't want to think why, but we know. "Already?" I search my husband's face. "Today?" He takes my hand and doesn't let go. Not when we slide into the truck, not when we drive the back roads, not when we climb the empty stairwell to the hospital room lit only by a dim lamp. John meets us at the door. He nods. His eyes smile brave. The singular tear that slips down his cheek carves something out of me. "Tiff just onoticed Dietrich had started breathing a bit heavier this afternoon. And yeah, when we brought him in, they said his lung had collapsed. It will just be a matter of hours. Like it was at the end for Austin." His firstborn, Austin, had died of the same genetic disease only eighteen months prior. He was about to bury his second son in less than two years. . . . "You know . . . " John's voice breaks into my memory and his gaze lingers, then turns again toward the waving wheat field. "Well, even with our boys . . . I don't know why that all happened." He shrugs again. "But do I have to? . . . Who knows? I don't mention it often, but sometimes I think of that story in the Old Testament. can't remember what book, but you know - when God gave King Hezekiah fifteen more years of life? Because he prayed for it? But if Hezekiah had died when God first intended, Manasseh would never have been born. And what does the Bible say about Manasseh? Something to the effect that Manasseh had led the Israelites to do even more evil than all the heathen nations around Israel. Think of all the evil that would have been avoided if Hezekiah had died earlier, before Manasseh was born. I am not saying anything, either way, about anything. . . . Just that maybe . . . maybe you don't want to change the story, because you don't know what a different ending holds."
How do we live in a world of blessings and sorrows? Where expectations aren’t met? How can we have the hope and contentment that John had, because really expectations are hopes, what we hope for, what we want to give meaning to this life. We need to place our hope in what doesn’t disappoint. Is that really possible? It’s the reason Jesus came as a baby that Christmas morning. God came as a man to give us that hope. The hope that there is someone who knows my story, who knows the beginning from the end. He knows the beginning from the end because He had no beginning and He has no end. God is over all this from eternity past to . . . infinity and beyond!!! His understanding is so far above ours. A lot has happened in our little human section of time. From a pure, holy, no evil existence to creation and sin entering the world, which is the source of all our pain. Did God expect us to not sin? Did it take Him by surprise . . . no. But because of that sin we were separated from God . . . but He knew Christmas was coming!!!! That’s why we sing “JOY TO THE WORLD, THE LORD HAS COME!!!!” If someone doesn’t meet your expectations . . . how do you respond? With love and grace, or with anger and disappointment? I am so glad that God did not respond to my sin in the way I would expect Him too. Here’s how He has responded to us:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” I John 3:1
His plan was Christ coming to this earth . . . to be born a man . . . and to die for our sins. Romans 6:23 says “For the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And we get to choose if we want that gift.
Why do we have to go through this life of pain and suffering to get to that life? That I don’t know . . . It wouldn’t be a life of faith if I did know. But I am pretty sure this life is going to count for something. There is reason for the pain and not just in all the lessons we learn from experiencing a hard thing.
Here’s the thing though, it’s in this life that you get to choose where you will spend that part of your life.
The Bible teaches that we choose in this life where we will spend that part of our life. When we choose God’s gift of eternal life…this life starts to take on a different feel. If this was all there was, it would be quite disappointing. When I can keep that perspective of eternity in my focus, to look forward to eternity of a new life because of my faith in Jesus Christ it makes those unmet expectations seem a little smaller. Romans 8:18 says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” So if you haven’t made that choice yet, I hope you will today.
Jesus won’t disappoint you!

I hope you have had a wonderful holiday season, and I pray that you will have a fabulous 2013! His, P.S. - Isn't my mom awesome?!?!?