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good life with meagan johnson

Part of cultivating a good life is to learn to replace expectations with hope.

About three years ago I was chatting with a friend about some of my life struggles. I can’t remember what it was at the moment . . . kids, moving, husband, weight, everyday disappointments. What I do remember, and what has rolled around in my head over and over since, is this phrase she shared with me: “Expectations are just premeditated resentment.” Boom! Huge topic, right? Well, I don’t intend to cover every nuance, but I wanted to share a few insights I have had as I look back on my life and realize the truth to this statement. 

So, most of my expectations are unbeknownst to me! I don’t sit down at the beginning of every event, day, relationship, or moment and sketch out my expectations. Anyone who has made an effort to express their expectations knows that they are rooted deep and are often hard to verbalize. Normally I don’t know what they are until I feel let down and then the work of weeding out the expectations begins! Here are three lessons I have learned in this process:

Expectations blind us from seeing the good in others.

After the first couple years of my marriage, I found myself thinking things like “Why am I the one who is constantly at the gas station filling our tanks?!” And then I resented my husband for not caring for our family in that way. (Sounds silly written out, but the feelings were very real.) Why would I resent him for something like that? Upon quick reflection, here is why. My mom rarely has to pump gas! Keeping her tank full is my dad’s way of showing his love for her and helping the family function. But that is just not how my husband expresses his love and concern for me. I had to recognize my deeply-rooted false expectations (which go far beyond the simplicity of a full gas tank), put on the gloves, get out the trowel, and go to work. 

Expectations can keep us from having meaningful relationships.

As a young mom there came a point where I had to let go of the child I thought I would have and embrace the one that was sent to me. My oldest son had a handful of hard issues at a young age. I was not only exhausted by him, but I also really resented him. Ugh!  Those are NOT fun feelings as a new mom. They actually scared me! When he was 5, it dawned on me that I was wrongly trying to fit him into a mold I had created for him far before his birth. How unfair to him?! Over time, and after lots of pruning and weeding, I started to let go of the child I expected to have and started loving my real boy for his own unique, amazing self. It changed the whole foundation of our once tenuous relationship. I found myself fully accepting of who he was and is, challenges and all. This process still continues today as I realize that there is NO SET MOLD that my children need to fit into for me to love them. As I have strived to live in the moment with them, let go of my preconceived notions, and love them for who they are, I find so much joy in our relationships, love for their uniqueness, and have bright hope for their future.

Expectations and entitlement usually go hand in hand.

This past Monday there was nothing on the calendar. My babysitter was going to be here most of the day, so I planned on spending a large amount of time in my craft room (because International Scrapbook Day, which really is a whole week. Hello fun!). Unexpectedly, a couple things came up in the morning that needed my attention. This snowballed and by the end of the day, despite my expectation, I never made it to my craft room. I found myself short with my kids and generally unhappy as I was getting them ready for bed. I felt robbed of my right to craft!

Of course, I quickly realized it was my own false expectation that as a stay-at-home mom of four kiddos, I could hide away for the day crafting to my heart’s delight. Did I deserve some creative time? Yes! But therein was the danger. I had linked my expectations with a feeling of entitlement and was only left with resentment and frustration. And then I took it out on my poor kiddos! I have made this same mistake before and I know I will make it again. Some of the roots of expectations run really deep. You can think you are done weeding, but those darn things pop up again and again. That’s just life! And am I learning to be okay with that process?

So does this mean I give up on planning and dreaming about the future? Heck no! Do I just let everyone walk all over me for the sake of not having resentments or disappointment? Nope! There is another way to get rid of the weeds. You don’t have to root out each one but can purposefully plant seeds of hope to crowd them out. I have learned that I need to replace the word “expect” with the word “hope.” The two words are very similar in their anticipation of the future, but one has a connotation of control and micromanagement while the other is more flexible and forgiving. We know that nothing lasting and fulfilling comes by force and no true joy can be based upon the actions of others. Stop trying to control the weeds and just cultivate seeds (so cheesy, right?). 

I can hope for a strong, loving relationship with my husband, but I know he will fail me at times (and I will fail him . . .like, all the time!). And that’s okay. I can hope that my children will grow to be successful happy adults, but I recognize that they have their freedom of choice and natural consequences can be painful. It will be hard to witness, but that’s okay. I can hope to get to my craft room more consistently one day off in the far distant future, but I know that crafting isn’t the only way I can find joy in my everyday life…and (mostly) that’s okay. Hope is the beautiful flower that may take a little more effort to nourish but will eventually squash out the roots of expectation. Over time my garden has become more full and beautiful as a result. 

Meagan is a part of our Creative Team using the Project Life® App. She currently resides in Minnesota and her family consists of her wonderful husband, three boys Isaac (16), Luke (13), and Jasper (7) and one sweet little baby girl named Frances (born July 2017).  

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5 Responses

  1. Amanda says:

    This reminds me of my life, and I easily could have written this. It is a blessing to have such an example of motherhood, womanhood, and love in my family.

    I wasn’t taught to believe I deserved anything. It made it easy to let go of expectation. My husband furthered that concept when he decided we ought to make the word “should” a cuss word in our home. His reasoning was profoundly intelligent and intuitive, and it obliterated the enemy that is expectation and….comparison. I see so many of my friends and family compare themselves to something else sometime, and I see it hurting them. The truth is there is only ONE of all of them, they are vital, unique, and could never be imitated or replaced. I try to remind them they’ve got no one to please in this world or anyone’s expectations to meet but the Lord’s. Even HE is flexible on that score. He wants us to have JOY….my children want more than one thing on any given day, so our Father in Heaven only having the one hope and plan for us makes it easy for me to keep myself turned to Him and block out the noise of the world.

    Meagan, you are such a talented, loving, intelligent, compassionate, and wise (not the same as being intelligent….wisdom is application of knowledge which we gain from intelligence and effort to learn…). Thank you for these words and for sharing your heart and wisdom from experience. You’re and inspiration and you possess a heart and capacity to love that is surpassed by no one. Keep hoping!!!….it is a worthwhile practice and habit; one habit we all need to endeavor to develop and turn to out of instinct long before the NEED to turn to it presents itself.

    Hugs n love from your cousin in corn country!

  2. Megan says:

    Thank you so much for this perspective. What a great way to live life…hope, not expectations. Loved this post Meagan! A a side note, I have 4 boys and then we got a baby girl…super fun, right? :)

  3. Pam says:

    Wow, thanks so much for your honest sharing. I found that so helpful regarding the children we are sent not being what we think they should be but embrace who they are.

  4. Tari Larson says:

    What a beautiful journey this is! Thoughtfully and honestly written…I will remember that description of expectations!