Every once in a while, you come across a blogger/writer that has an amazing, unique story to tell. Lady Jennie does, for sure. She writes at A Lady In France, and is working on her memoir, Life In The Trenches, publishing it in chapters on her blog in hopes of sharing her incredible life story and publishing it in novel form when it’s finished. Start at the beginning to read her story of love, faith, family, and adventure, through America, Africa, and France. You can also find gluten free recipes and her views on life and religion (even if they aren’t always popular) on her blog.
I’ve come to call Lady Jennie my friend, and I’m so glad that she’s sharing with you all here today.
The Double-Edged Sword
A Lady in France
I’ve always seen myself as the type of person who is filled with plenty of hope, but zero expectation. After all, expectation requires something more than hope – it requires faith. And though I have faith regarding all sorts of things, it doesn’t seem to extend to the domain of expectation.
Let me give you an example. When it was time to enroll in a 401k plan at work, I only joined for the principal of the thing – not because I actually thought I would live long enough to enjoy my retirement. There was nothing in my stunted expectations about the blessings to come that could have been defined as “great.”
But hopes! Oh, those I’ve had from my earliest childhood. Great hopes.
I hoped that I would be given a prince of a husband, and that our marriage would be filled with love and humor. I hoped that I would have a large, healthy family, with perhaps two biological and two adopted children. And I hoped that my words and actions would make a difference in the world, so that my life and death would not be in vain.
In many ways, my hopes were all realized, and sometimes as literally as a dream come true. When I was eighteen, my dream of marrying a French man, set me off to study in Avignon in hopes of meeting him. When the semester was over, I forgot about the dream (except for a three-year hiccup with a French man who would not have done for me at all), only to stumble into the arms of a man who wanted to marry me … one who happened to be French.
But I didn’t expect to be living in glamorous France as an overweight, middle-aged mom, so that my children’s classmates make fun of me, and I have trouble finding clothes outside of the supermarket. (I’m a size sixteen to eighteen). No, I expected that I would be as elegant as the dream evoked – the tight jean, tiny Gucci belt-wearing maman with strappy black sandals and hair pulled back in a loose chignon. (My hair came out after my babies did).
I didn’t expect that I’d still be on anti-depressants after all these years. I didn’t expect that I’d be unable to drink all the fine wines because of a past drinking problem, or that I’d have to forego the delicious croissants, pastries and baguettes because of a gluten intolerance. I hoped for the prince of a husband and I got him.
I hoped for the French dream and I got it as well. But in return, I was handed much I didn’t expect.
My hopes of having a large family were also realized as I gave birth to a beautiful daughter – a confident, talented, athletic girl whose thought process reminds me of my own girlhood. And my middle son, the spitting image of his handsome father with his gorgeous blue eyes, has inherited his dad’s meticulous attention to detail instead of my continual state of distracted overwhelm.
Even my youngest son, who I felt so guilty for having instead of adopting because I was afraid of overpopulating the world, has proven to be Affection Incarnate. At four years of age he already knows how to make the ladies swoon, taking my face tenderly in his chubby hands, as he looks me in the eyes and says, “T’es belle maman,” before leaning over to kiss me.
I had already been given my large, happy family. So I didn’t expect to have a surprise fourth pregnancy, one I would have felt too guilty to plan, but which I embraced as a blessing from heaven – only to find myself on my hands and knees in the shower at three o’clock in the morning, the entire room turning white as I stared at the mass of blood, the little head and spinal cord, the tiny legs and arms in their restful fetus position, and the small eyes that would never open. I didn’t expect that.
I’ve come to realize that expectation is a double-edged sword. On one hand, expectation can come as a demand, like, “Okay God – I expect you to give me this. I deserve it. Why shouldn’t I have it?”
I’ve never been very good at that kind of expectation. I’m more the type of person who will say that about sorrow. “It must happen to someone, so why shouldn’t it happen to me?” As far as blessings go, the most expectation I can summon is something meager, along the lines of, “God, I would really like this thing to come my way, but only if you think it best.”
Maybe in a way, I’m afraid to expect things because I will only set myself up for disappointment. I don’t know – that seems like a cheap way out. It kind of says to me that God is not good and he doesn’t know how to give good gifts so I better not shoot for the stars. But if I’m going to have faith in God at all, that is definitely not the kind of faith I want to have – a wimpy, half-hearted, “I’ll bury my talent in the ground” type of faith.
On the flip side, expectation can also come in the form of assumption. I might think I’ve submitted to the overall “better plan, grand scheme of things,” only to realize I have a very precise expectation about the conditions that surround the blessings I’m given. Like woah – I said I wanted this, but I totally thought I would get the whole package to go along with it. You know, like the classy French-looking woman to go along with the dream French husband, or the four perfect pregnancies to go along with the big happy family ideal.
To expect is to climb another rung up the ladder of hope because you believe you are actually going somewhere. To expect is to still hang on to that ladder with one hand, when life steps on your other one, crushing a part of your dream and tossing it to the ground.
Expectation is a double-edged sword that would be better served in pushing me to believe, and even demand, while letting go of my tight grip on assumption. It’s to hold on to the belief of good things to come as I set aside for retirement, hug my prince of a husband who loves me as is, and look upon my three surviving children who do, indeed, constitute a large healthy family. It’s to continue to have faith in the good things to come, even when it makes me afraid to do so.
After all, the definition of faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.
And that sounds an awful lot like great expectations to me.