“Releasing Expectations to Embrace God’s Plan.” – Helen Elizabeth
Over the last year, I’ve been building up the courage to chase wholeheartedly after my dream of being a writer and speaker. After making the decision to go all in, I then began trying to define what the core of my ministry would be. After lots of reflection on different aspects of my life, I finally decided on the mission statement above because I believe it encompasses what I desire for myself and for you – the people I encourage.
Releasing Expectations is a tricky concept because they come in two forms:
- Expectations we place on God, people (or relationships) and ourselves.
- Expectations people place on us.
As I’ve mentioned before, not all expectations are bad. My parents, for example, expected me to make good grades and treat people kindly. No, we’re not talking about those. I’m talking about unwarranted expectations. In my last post, I wrote about releasing expectations I shouldn’t have placed on God. Today, I’ll be focusing on releasing unwarranted expectations we allow people to place on us.
This is where I pick back up with the story…
Releasing the Expectations of Widowhood
December 27, 2017, marked the second anniversary of Craig’s passing. As I drove to the cemetery to meet Randy and Julie, I found myself reflecting on the past two years…How my life had changed, and how I wondered when [and if] it would ever be different. During my time as a widow, I worked really hard to not let expectations I had for my life dictate my happiness. But I realize now that with all that effort directed within, I wasn’t seeing how I was allowing other people’s expectations for widows dictate my actions.
As I stood with Randy and Julie under the Cedar tree next to Craig’s resting place, I was overcome with the greatest sense of gratitude for Craig’s family. I never wanted to go through this experience, but since I had to, I’m thankful I had a family by my side who loved God and who loved me.
After a while, we went back to the car and Julie prompted a conversation that would lift a weight off my shoulders that I didn’t even realize I was carrying. In this conversation, she told me about a letter that her late husband’s family wrote to her. A letter explaining that they wanted her to be happy. After telling me the contents of the letter, she went on to say, “Well Helen, we don’t have a letter, but we want you to know that we want you to be happy too. You don’t need our permission, but if you were waiting for it, we want to tell you to move forward with your life. You’re so young, you don’t need to be alone. Not marrying isn’t proving that you love Craig more, and getting married doesn’t mean you love him less.”
Needless to say, many tears were shed as I drove away that evening. The selflessness of both Julie and Randy amazed me.
I’ll be transparent here and say that this point of widowhood is confusing. The feeling of being ready to move forward, but also hurting because that means life is moving forward without your late husband is hard for your brain to grasp. It leaves you wondering how you could feel both feelings at once; and if that wasn’t enough, you’re subconsciously fearful of the few people who will judge you for moving forward.
But those aren’t the expectations God, or the people who truly know my heart have for me. I was holding fast to expectations that people created and that God never meant for me. Deep down I knew this, so that night I asked God to give me the strength to release those expectations and embrace His plan.
Little did I know, God was already at work.
Third Times the Charm
I’m a firm believer in God’s use of the number three. The most obvious being The Trinity (Father. Son. Holy Spirit.)…and the less obvious [and more humorous] being the number of times it took for Andrew and me to finally get. it. together.
(Seriously people, I used to be a hot mess.)
One night when I was insanely bored, I decided to clean my back room and happened to find my dad’s old video camera. Obviously, I stopped cleaning at once and turned on the camera to see what kind of home video gold I had just uncovered. I fast forwarded through an old cheer competition until someone on the screen caught my eye. I couldn’t help but laugh as I watched a 17-year-old version of Andrew and myself making faces at each other across the table at a dinner with our friends.
After rewatching that a few hundred times, I then fast-forwarded to a scene from football season. There I was, waiting to tumble across the field in front of all the football players, and there was Andrew [full upper body painted with a “P” across his chest for the dual purpose of representing NPHS and his last name, Peters] doing his best to distract me by popping me with a rally rag. I literally laugh out loud as I sat alone in my house as I watched a baby version of myself trying to grab the rag from Andrew as he darted back to the other chest painted guys getting ready to run out with the team.
I replayed this video several times in a row before I allowed the thought to enter my mind. Should I text him? What if he doesn’t want to talk to me? What would I say? I decided on the grand idea of sending him a facebook message of a recording of the video I just watched and tell him how funny it was. Ya…that seems like a good idea.
Let me just share with you how the rest of the night went down…
As soon as I hit send I started freaking out. What if he didn’t see it? What if he thought it was weird? Or worse! What if he had a girlfriend?! [30 Facebook stalking minutes later] – Alright, we’re good. I was almost 98% certain he didn’t have a girlfriend. But wait, it had been 30 minutes, why hadn’t he messaged back? I should text him instead. What should I say? “Hey! Is this still Andrew?” Ya…that seems like a good idea.
And again, freak out commences. Seriously, Helen? “Is this still Andrew?” Great choice. Just call it a night, Helen…Unless that was just him who texted! Oh no, just a bed bath and beyond email. Ok, just call it a night.
Yep. I got tons of sleep that night. (No I didn’t.)
Two Times before the Third
After dating all Senior year of high school, Andrew and I broke up before we left for college. Ya, I know, typical. We then proceeded to be that on-again-off-again couple before finally trying to date seriously our Senior year of college. We lasted until February, and you guessed it, we broke up right before Valentine’s Day…again, typical.
One thing I’ve always loved about Andrew was how straightforward he was. I didn’t love his timing on that particular day, but I loved that he always told me the truth. I didn’t realize, however, that on this particular day, his truthfulness would prompt a drastic change within me. A change that would eventually lead me to believing I could do something like pageants, as well as make me the kind of woman Craig was going to need several years later.
When most guys break up with you they say something like, “It’s not you babe, it’s me.” But not Andrew. Instead, he told me this: “Helen, I’m really not trying to be mean when I say this but…you’re kind of selfish.”
WHAT?! Well, you can imagine how that conversation went.
“Whatever Andrew! I am the most giving person ever! I would give you the shirt off my back!” To which he responded, “Yes Helen you would, but you wouldn’t pause to ask me why I needed your shirt in the first place.”
He then went on to ask me if I knew what was going on in my best friends’ lives and then to tell me (as nicely as he could) that I tended to make life about myself. [Splendid.] Finally, he ended with, “But to be fully honest, I’m also wanting to grow in my relationship with God right now and I think you do too…and in order to do that I think we need to be alone.”
Initially, I left that conversation angry, but after letting it all sink in, I realized he was right. I had been self-focused and never even realized it. That same day I bought my first prayer journal and started talking to God again, not for Andrew, but to get back in touch with my Heavenly Father. I started contacting my friends and asking more questions than I gave answers. I began to see my relationships improve, and I saw the first glimpses of the girl I was meant to be.
One Final Try
After reconnecting, Andrew proved to still be straightforward when sent me a text that read, “Helen, what are you wanting from this?” I answered with a simple, “I’d like to get to know you again.” To which he responded, “I’d like that too.” (Which he later admitted was sent after several silent fist pumps alone in his room. Lol.)
Then one night when we first started talking again, Andrew brought up his concerns about not wanting to rush things by talking every day so we wouldn’t get hurt if it didn’t work out. I appreciated his concern but knew it was rooted in his fear that, hidden away somewhere, I might still be that needy girl desperate for a guy to make me happy. In response to his caution, I smiled and said, “Andrew, I’ve gone through things I never imagined I would have to go through. I’ve faced my worst fear and I’ve survived. I’m stronger than I ever knew. And I mean this in the kindest way possible, but I don’t need you. I’d love to be with you, but I don’t need you. If this didn’t work out, I’d be ok. If I were to never date seriously or get married again, I’d be alright. God is with me and I no longer look to you or anyone else to be my source of happiness.” To that, he said, “Wow. You really are different. That’s all I needed to hear.”
We decided that I would come home for a weekend (he lives in the city right next to our hometown) and we would get to know each other again as friends…just to make sure before moving forward. At the end of the weekend, I remember telling my mom as we ate breakfast together that I knew God had orchestrated all of this. He brought Andrew into my life such a long time ago for this moment. I told her I believe God connects all the pieces of our life, and he knew Andrew would be strong enough to love a widow.
Soon after Andrew asked my dad for my hand in marriage, and I asked for Randy and Julie’s blessing. Andrew and I decided as two 29-year-olds who’ve known each other for 12 years, we didn’t want to wait months to prep for a huge wedding, and decided to get married on our own. No distractions. No comparisons. No publicity. Just God, each other, and the love of our families. We then decided to hold a big reception honoring our marriage as an alternative for an untraditional bride, and to celebrate what a great miracle God had done in our lives.
I know a lot of people questioned my reasoning as to why I didn’t post anything or even introduce Andrew into my social media until after the wedding. I know that probably made the announcement seem sudden, or even questionable. But to tell you the truth, it took me this long to release the fear of what the world might say. I knew for sure that this was the path I wanted to take, but I wanted everyone on board with me. I wanted all of you to know that I have so many things I want to share and truth I want to speak that isn’t based on my decision to remarry. I didn’t want to be judged harshly for taking a step into a new chapter of life. And so here I want to pause for a moment and say thank you. Thank you to all those who have reached out and congratulated me. Thank you for encouraging me to keep writing, keep speaking. Your love and affirmation have made my heart so full.
Sometimes things don’t go the way we expect [and most of the time they won’t], but even so, we can still be sure of these three things:
- Releasing unwarranted expectations for others, as well as unwarranted expectations people have for us allows our hearts to experience true freedom.
- Embrace expectations that cultivate personal growth within you, but also give yourself the freedom to reject ones that don’t.
- We can trust that God knows what He’s doing and His timing is always perfect.
My prayer for you today is that whatever you’re experiencing, have experienced, or will experience, you’ll be able to trust God through the process. I want my story to show you that even when my life didn’t go as expected and things went terribly wrong, God still had a plan for my provision already mapped out. I promise He loves you the same and will do the same for you. Learn to love Him with all you’ve got, no matter what, and I promise He’ll show up.
I hope my story has touched your heart and lifted your spirits. I CANNOT WAIT for next week to share the last blog in the series!! I’ll be taking a backseat and letting a special guest share their story and the lessons they’ve learned. Can you guess who it is??
Believe me, you won’t want to miss it!
Love you all so much, thank you for your support and encouragement as I share my personal stories. Prayers going up for you today and always.
Love in Christ,
[Enjoy the pictures below!!]