Posts Tagged ‘expectations’

28th September
written by Michelle



Proof of the red sweater set. (just the tank is pictured, thank goodness) This was taken the day we moved in.

Elena and I are flying back to California tomorrow for my 10-year college reunion. My parents graciously gifted us miles. I think partly so I could see some of my dearest college friends and so they could see their granddaughter. It’s a win, win if you ask me. I’ve been thinking a lot about my time in college. It’s been 14 years since I moved into Westmont on that hot, August morning and this is the letter I wish I would have read that day:


Dear Michelle,

Take a deep breath. You are excited and overwhelmed and probably the only freshman who brought an entire jar of quarters with you because you are worried doing laundry. What freshman comes to college worried about laundry? You also packed a cutting board, a knife and an orange peeler in your plastic containers because apparently you are worried about not being able to have apple slices for snacks and heaven forbid, you have to peel an orange with your fingers. You want to be prepared. I get that. But I think sometimes you use wanting to be prepared as a mask for wanting to feel in control. Preparing is good thing; you will always be a prepare-er and a planner. But you will eventually learn that even the most prepared people can’t actually control life.

You will probably feel insecure your first few months here. I am fairly certain wearing your red Ann Taylor sweater set and pedal pushers is not helping. You may call your mom on day three of orientation in tears because you feel like you don’t fit in. You will babble about how everyone wears brown flip-flops and Gap jeans and throws their hair-up in messy buns. You will sob through your tears, “I don’t even know how to do a messy-bun.” Your mom will listen and empathize and so dearly want to make it better. She will offer to come up one weekend and take you shopping. You have never owned anything from The Gap before, but you buy two pairs of jeans and some new flip-flops that everyone calls “Rainbows.” And you feel a little better, but you will soon learn that changing your outfit doesn’t automatically change your feelings.

Over the next four years you will learn to pay attention to how you’re feeling. You will learn to be honest with yourself first, and then with others. You will learn this is how meaningful friendships are formed, not from competition or comparing, but from the quiet “me too” moments shared sitting in the stairwell. You will be surprised the first time another girl from your dorm with the perfect messy-bun confides in you how overwhelming the DC (dinning commons) is and how her jeans also feel too tight from indulging in too much frozen yogurt. You will say, “me, too” and realize how comforting it is to know that you’re not the only freshman girl who worries about what food they will have in the dinning commons and who you will sit with and if you eat another brownie your cool Gap jeans may no longer fit. You never thought about these things much in high school, but everything now feels new and magnified, including how you’re your clothes do, or do not fit.

You will probably wonder if you are the only person who doesn’t play a musical instruments or wasn’t a homecoming princess or the student body president in high school. You will be envious and insecure and you may end up convincing your parents to buy you a guitar for Christmas because you signed-up for a beginning guitar class second semester. Because everyone at Westmont plays guitar, right? After 12 classes of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” you might decide that in fact you do not. And that’s ok.

College is as much about figuring our what you like, as what you don’t like.

And you don’t have to figure that all out right now, ok? Give yourself time and some grace. Other people will sound like they have their whole 4-years and their entire life planned out. And maybe they do. You probably think you do, too. But here’s the thing, there is so much to explore and learn. Fight off the pressure to have it all figured out right now. Develop a pat answer so when the 89th person asks “So, what’s your major?” you can respond confidently with “Well, I’m thinking about English, but I really like Sociology so I might take some classes in both.” Sure, it sounds nice when you can map out your next eight semesters clearly on paper, but life is not meant to be lived on paper. Life is dynamic, and changing and if you spend too much energy trying to plan it all out, you might miss the subtle way God is leading you to something new.

Some students probably need to be told to not sign up for too much or overextend themselves, but you Michelle, you need to be gently nudged to go ahead and take some risks. Don’t sign-up for the Speech and Debate Tournament and then cross your name off because you let your own fear and the other names on the list intimate you. Try it. Take the class that sounds super interesting even if it’s early in the morning or doesn’t give you any credits toward your major. Sometimes passion trumps practically. You will find as you grow-up the converse is often true. So take a risk and take the Cross-Cultural Communication class or the Human Nutrition class, those passions very well may shape who you are and where you end up one day. You don’t have to try everything, but at least try something. Find one thing to pour yourself into. It’s easy to focus on yourself and your grades and your plans for the next four years, but college and life are so much richer when you can focus on someone else as well.

Can we talk about dating real quickly? Just let whatever ideas you have of dating go for the time being. You will probably have more DC crushes* that you can count and you will most likely talk to exactly none of them. You will do awkward things like send a thank you note to the attractive upperclassmen who kindly helps you open your mail box. One day when you tell your future husband this story he will laugh and affirm that indeed that was weird. Some of your friends may meet and start dating their future spouse and they will be the cutest couple on campus. But the majority of people don’t actually meet their spouse while at college. I think if you let that expectation go now, you will enjoy these next four years a bit more. Sometimes expectations can lock you into an idea, and take away the opportunity right in front of you to grow and learn. In fact, you may find that you have to let go of many expectations before you actually meet the wonderful man you will one day marry.

(*a “DC crush” is the person you silently stalk and only see from afar in the dining commons, but you may plan out entire conversations in your head with afore mentioned person. This was before the days of Facebook. I guess now, you could silently stalk your DC crush on Facebook as well. Goodness I am glad that Facebook wasn’t around 14 years ago.)

Speaking of marriage, when Mark the RD shares at your first dorm event that having a roommate is the best preparation for marriage don’t scoff at how ridiculous that sounds as you Ashley look at each other and giggle, because there is SO much truth there. Sharing a room with another human being forces you to pay attention to how you live. And you might actually realize that not everyone lives like you. You will learn that apparently not everyone gargles with salt water or puts lotion on their feet and then sleeps with plastic bags covering them. When you share a light bulb and a door and bathroom with 8 other girls you learn a lot very quickly. And I bet one day your future husband will thank your previous roommates for teaching you to not slam your drawers shut in the morning or slurp your water too loudly. Your roommates have the potential to be your best friends or your most frustrating enemies. Make them the former. Learn how to bring up things that annoy you and how to respond with grace and love when they do the same. Those lessons will carry you through a lifetime.

The classes you take will ultimately give you credits to graduate, but I would argue it’s the professors you have that will give you wisdom for life. Hang on to their words and ideas because they may shape the way you approach questions of faith, science and literature for years to come. In ten years when you write something or read a well-thought out article you will always hear your favorite English professor’s voice ask, in the kindest, most profound way, “So, what?” So what does this mean for me? For my community? For our world? She will ask you this about your own writing and about the books you are reading in class, and you will find yourself asking this same question about your life. You may forget the details of what you learned 10 years later, but you will not forget the people who taught you. Get to know them. Ask them questions. Observe their life. And if they give you an invitation into theirs, take it. Westmont’s professors are truly some of the richest part of what makes Westmont College unique.

Can I make one more request? Please, fight the complacency to complain. It’s normal and can often be an easy way to connect. No one will disagree for a second that college classes are hard. There are lots of essays to write and tons of reading to do and it can all feel a bit overwhelming when you’re in it. But try really hard to choose to see it has a privilege; a privilege that only 3% of the people in the world get access to. You may not belive me now, but in ten years you may actually miss those spiral notebooks and textbooks and being in an environment where you are scribbling notes and soaking up knowledge every day. When you have to do something it feels like a burden, and it’s easy to complain about it. But don’t see Westmont as something you have to do. See it has a choice; something you get to do. You will probably still complain mostly about going to chapel because somehow you feel like it’s not a choice. But it is a choice. You have a choice in how you choose to view it. And 10 years later you might still be able to hear Ben Patterson’s voice reciting, “Murchison Gym, Santa Barbara, California, United States, North America, western hemisphere, planet earth…Universe, mind of God.” Even if those words may not mean much when you are sitting on those hard wooden bleachers, just hold on to them and tuck them away because one day when you feel far away and live in a different culture and country those words will surprisingly comeback to you and remind you of where you came from and who you are.

Michelle, you came to college with your life packed in the back of your parents mini-van and a heart full of lists and expectations. But I am going to let you in on a little secret. Life cannot always be labeled and organized and fit nice and neatly into plastic containers. You will learn that over and over during these next four years. You will learn how to make room for un-answered questions and trust a God who is more in control than you are. You will learn how to live closely with people who will become lifeline friends and in that process you will learn how to love better and how to listen well. You will learn how to think deeply and critically on a range of issues and also how to disagree civilly with people whose view is very different from your own. I will argue that these four years more than any other, will shape the way you think and how you choose to do life. Westmont will give you the skills for whatever kind of career or calling you choose to pursue, but even more so, it will shape your character for the kind of person you will become.

Enjoy these next four years, relax a little and give up on the messy bun. It just doesn’t work well with curly hair.

Much Love,


Fourteen years later, living a life so much different (and better) than I ever expected, and so grateful for the role Westmont has played in that.

19th February
written by Michelle


Sometimes it’s hard to write about things when you’re in the middle of it, like with marriage. I haven’t written much about our marriage recently because well…one, it’s not just my story to tell. Even though I am more of an open book and will gladly share what I’ve been learning with just about anyone, I know my husband, Gerber may not want to share those same things or at least not in such a public place like my blog. And I respect that. I think, secondly, it’s because we’ve been pretty invested the past year and a half in re-figuring out our marriage. You know, how to be mom & dad and wife & husband; how to love and serve each other well as partners in the home and at work. It’s an ongoing dynamic and dance that has been a quite an adjustment for us. Maybe it is for all couples?

. . .

I remember when we did some pre-martial counseling, we talked about expectations and values. We did one of those online inventories and congratulated ourselves that our scores were so high. On paper the our values and preferences lined up so well. We marched into marriage confident of who we were and excited for what was ahead. Perhaps that’s how all marriages should start. With an extra dose of love and gumption for the journey ahead.

 I think anyone who is married knows it is a journey. A daily, moment-by-moment, journey choosing service over selfishness and deciding whose turn it is to do the dishes or change the baby’s diaper. And somewhere on that journey you start doing the hard work of unpacking hundreds of expectations that you didn’t even realize you’ve been carrying with you all along.

Expectations are sneaky like that, because often you don’t even know you have them, until one is not being met.

. . .

The first time Gerber took me to the beach in Guatemala I cried. Not tears of joy, but of disappointment. It was not what I had expected. The sand was black and hot, too hot to walk on. It was humid and sticky and the waves were rough. There was a steep hill leading to the water’s edge and that hill was not conducive to throwing down my striped towel for sun bathing. The waves washed up over my feet and the tears rolled down my face. This was not like the beaches in Santa Barbara.

I had been in Guatemala for 6 months and hadn’t seen the ocean, or really any body of water. I missed the ocean breeze and the feel of the sand and looking out over the horizon. Gerber had suggested a beach day. I was ecstatic. And now here he was holding my hand, glancing at me from the corner of his sunglasses, utterly confused why his girlfriend who loved he beach was crying.

. . .

We have had lots of moments like this, and the thing is usually we can’t name the expectation until after it hasn’t been met. Be it about cleaning the kitchen, or letting the baby cry, about time together or time apart, or about deciding what we do or do not spend our money on for holiday celebrations.

This has been a lot of my inner work the past year, asking myself, what are my expectations? And not analyzing, are they fair or why I do have them. But just starting by admitting, these are my expectations. The thing is expectations are rarely, right or wrong. They just are. But nothing is worse for a marriage than unspoken expectations. Unspoken expectations fuel disappointment and later, resentment.

Together Gerber and I learning to name our expectations, or at least acknowledge when we feel the this-is-different-than-I-expected moments. And surprisingly that in and of itself has been such a unifying focus. Just the fact that we’re both living and doing life differently than we expected often brings us together.

. . .

I used to think cross-cultural couples had slightly more things to work through in marriage, than couples who marry people with the same first language and passport country. Maybe it’s true. However, friends in all kinds of marriages have shared similar struggles of having different expectations. I think what is true, is that when you bring together any two people, you will naturally also have bring together different expectations. Because regardless of your passport country, people are people, with unique personalities, preferences and priorities.

I sometimes imagine my expectations like an ice cube, rigid, cold and solid. And there is nothing very flexible or creative about an ice cube. But when I acknowledge my expectations, holding them in the palm of my hands, not hidden deep inside, the rigidness and coldness begin to melt away. And you know what forms when an ice cube melts? Water. Water, like love, is fluid and life-giving and fills up. And that is what I imagine happens when we let expectations melt away. They’re still there, but they just take on new form.


. . .

Last week, Gerber knew I had been missing sunny California beach days. He suggested a beach trip for the three of us. I, being the planner in our relationship, realized that would be Valentine’s weekend. Perfect, I thought, Valentine’s Day at the beach with my two favorite people. We went to the same beach he took me to almost 5 years ago. This time with a baby, a few extra bags and pool toys in tow.

I now know that the beach is actually not my husband’s favorite spot to relax. He prefers places that are cool and have shade and preferably a TV. But I also know that he would do anything, even sacrifice his own preferences and comfort to see me happy. So last Saturday, just before the sun was setting, we walked out onto the sand. With my daughter on my hip and my husband at my side, I put my toes in the water and smiled. The beach hasn’t changed in Guatemala. The sand is still unbelievably hot. The waves our rough and the air is sticky. But we have changed. I have changed. 

I am firm believer that marriage changes us for the better.


P.S. What Love is  and  Why is Valentine’s Day a Big Deal?


11th April
written by Michelle

Dear Mija-

You’re 9 months old. You love giving slobbery open mouth kisses and big smiles showcasing your two front teeth. You like grabbing zippers and pulling necklaces and turning the lights on and off. You’ve got peek-a-boo mastered, your favorite foods are black beans and apples and you can babble dah, dah, dah all day long.

As you get older, you’re probably going to realize that I struggle with control. Meaning, I like to feel in control. And the truth is right now there a lot of things I can control about your little life. For the most part, I control what you wear and where we go. I can usually make sure that you at hormone free chicken and organic eggs and that the only beverage, besides breast milk that touches your lips, is water. But deep down, I know there is so, so little I actually control.

Maybe that’s the first myth of motherhood: Admitting that I, in fact, am not in control.

Elena, there are so many factors about your life that I can’t control.

I think by nature mamas want to keep their kiddos close, like a mother duck who tucks all her ducklings under her wings. I sometimes want to scoop you up and keep you next to me forever. Which I realize sounds silly and absurd. Because I know one day, I will have to let go. That’s probably one of hardest things moms have to do. It goes against every ounce of our being.

A lot of this may not make any sense to you, at least not yet anyway. It didn’t make sense to me until I became a mom, and it was then that I realized what your Nana, my mom, must have felt.

Let me explain.

You see I think as parents we have expectations for our kids. Expectations are a funny thing. They often they lay hidden under years of prayers and piles of unspoken hopes and dreams. And sometimes you don’t even know you have them until something happens that is different than you expected.


I know for Nana, it was a bit of surprise when I told her and your Grandpa, that I wanted to take a leave of absence from work and come to Guatemala for a year. We sat around the oval table on Christmas Day when I announced my decision. They were supportive, but it was probably a little different than they were expecting.

Then half a year later when I told them I was falling in love with your Daddy, they listened, asked questions and welcomed him into our home and family. But I know it was different than they were expecting.

And then your Daddy and I got married, and your Nana and Papa were so happy for us. But I was making my home in a country and culture and language so different from theirs.

I know it was different than they expected.

Then one evening over a sushi dinner a little more than a year ago, your daddy and I told them that I was pregnant with you. They were going to become grandparents! And they were so excited, but I could sense there was also a twinge of sadness. They were going to become grandparents, but their first grand-baby was going to live far away.

Your Nana, is really wise women and she was sharing this story one weekend at church. She preached a message about how sometimes as parents we have these expectations for our kids. She shared how she realized that she had certain expectations as a mom. She naturally assumed that one day she would be a grandma. She imagined herself coming over to take you to the park and stopping by for birthdays parties and dinners together. In her expectations she imagined us maybe being a drive away, but at least a drive in the same state. I am pretty sure she never imagined me, her daughter, living in another country, another language and culture, and raising her grandchild here.

It’s different than she expected.

And you know what?

I know how your Daddy and I are choosing to live is also very different for your Mama Hilla (ee-ya). We may live in the same country, but I know for them it feels like we’re far away. Traditionally in your daddy’s town the youngest son would living with his parents and when he gets married he would bring his wife to live with them, too. You see, I’m pretty sure your abuela imagined playing with her grandkids and preparing lunch over the open fire with her son’s wife. She has never directly told me that, but your daddy has explained it to me. She probably had an expectation, and how we’re doing life is different than she expected. Sure, we go over to visit and stay and eat lunch, but when the rest of the family lives within walking distance, the fact that we get in our car to drive away only magnifies the miles.

Your grandparents on both sides love you dearly, but I know sometimes it’s hard.

The way that were doing life, where we have chosen to live and how we are choosing to raise you may look different than they expected. But maybe what I appreciate most is that they could have tried to control and manipulate us, but instead they chose to let go and trust us.

There is a lot of love involved when you really trust someone. And I think they were both able to do this because they can trust in a God who is bigger than language and culture and location.

Elena, when I hold you at night and your sweaty head rests in my arms and your little legs curl up on my lap, my heart just stops. I know you’re going to grow up. And I realize as your mom, I probably have a whole host of expectations for you. I have hopes and dreams and ideas about what school you’ll go to and who your friends will be. I probably have expectations about where you’ll live or where you’ll go to college or what career you will pursue. And then sometimes I imagine one day you’ll want to get married and you’ll become a wife and mom and I’ll become a grandmother…and then I realize I ned to stop.

These are all my expectations. I need to let go.

Sometimes I imagine what my mom must have felt like. I try to imagine how will I respond if one day you grow up and meet someone, let’s just say, from Korea or Turkey, or some foreign place where I have never been and don’t know the language. How will I support you? How will I respond if one day you fall in love and become a wife and mom far away from me? What if you life turns out different than I expect?

I swallow hard. And my heart hurts just a little.

But I try to remember that I will choose trust, over control.

And ultimately I trust a God who loves you so much more than I do.

I think part of trusting involves letting go. And I’m pretty sure it’s the hardest thing I will have to do one day.

So, sweet girl. I am sure one day I will learn how to let you go. But for now, I pray that I get to hold you tight for awhile longer.

I love you, mija!

All my love,


P.S. I may need to re-read this letter to myself in about 18 years.   


21st June
written by Michelle


Being 39 weeks pregnant gives me a new understanding of waiting.

For most of my life I have had a negative association with waiting.

Waiting at the bank, waiting for the doctor to call back, waiting for a flight, waiting for a new job, waiting for a letter of acceptance or denial, waiting to see if he feels the same way. All have left me wondering, worried and impatiently, waiting.

But waiting for a baby to come is exciting. Waiting to hold her little body against my chest and watch her tiny fingers wrap around mine as I whisper “hi, I am your mommy.” That is worth waiting for.

If you’ve been around here for awhile you know I’ve written about waiting before, in this post and this one. I feel like a large part of my 20s were filled with elements of waiting. And not the exciting kind of waiting. No, the kinda of waiting that is marked by unknowns and fear. The kind of waiting that makes you doubt God and yourself and why life is not going the way you planned. And if you’re not careful it’s the kind of waiting that can paralyze you with worry.

But learning Spanish over the past 4 years  has given me a new understanding of the word “to wait.

Esperar: actually means to wait, to hope and to expect.

Maybe you’re thinking hey, those are three separate words how can they all mean the same thing? Stay with me. In Spanish they just do. And you can usually only tell by the context which meaning it is.

Take for instance:

Espero que todo salga bien (I hope everything goes well.)

Esta no fue lo que yo estaba esperaba (This is not what I was expecting)

Estamos esperando por el bus. (We’re are waiting for the bus.)

They say when you begin to learn a new language you also develop a new way of thinking about certain ideas and words. A new way to understand an unfamiliar culture, and perhaps a new way to think about your own.

The differences and meaning in Spanish are slight. Because you could say “Estamos esperando nuestro primer bebe” and mean “We are expecting our first baby” or “We are waiting for our first baby.” See, they both work.

Reading the bible in Spanish has also given me a new (dare I say it) appreciation for the idea of waiting.

In the English NIV translation, this verse reads:

Be still before the Lord
and wait patiently for him;

Psalm 37:7

Now how does the meaning change when I read this verse in Spanish?

7 Guarda silencio ante el Señor,
y espera en él con paciencia;

Salmo 37:7

Is it Wait? or Hope? or Expect?

Do I wait in the Lord with patience? Do I hope in the Lord with patience? Or do I place my expectations in Him? Maybe the answer is yes. All three.

Do you feel like waiting, hoping and and expecting are connected? Do our English definitions sometimes disconnect those words?

I have a new understanding for what it means to be waiting, to be hoping and to be joyfully expecting the arrival of our little girl.

Baby girl, we’re ready for you. Any day now is just fine.

{ photo credit }

12th May
written by Michelle

{ phone credit: }


To: The women for whom Mother’s Day means something else-

There are many things I don’t yet know about motherhood. But I do know some of you have been trying for years to get pregnant and can’t. There are no answers, no explanations, just frustrating trips to the doctor followed by peeing on pregnancy strips, hoping for a + to appear. Each month the aching grows deeper;  the endless google searching for explanations continuesI can only imagine the sadness, longing and frustration that eats up your insides, wondering…why? I know for you, whose deepest desire is to be a mom, Mother’s Day can be a reminder of what you are not.

And then there are others of you, who were pregnant. You know the joy of seeing a tiny blur on the screen and hearing the subtle heartbeat of the little one inside. But you also know the secret, lonely loss of losing the baby. We call it a miscarriage, but maybe for you it felt more like a death. I’ve heard it said that a “woman becomes a mother at conception, and a man becomes a father at birth.I wonder if on Mother’s Day you grieve for what you had and feel the pain that any mother would feel when something happens to one of her children.

I read this week that a 31-year old professor from my old university died in surgery complications and left behind a beloved wife, expecting their first baby in July. Things like that shouldn’t happen. And maybe you know what that’s like. Maybe you’re a mom whose life didn’t go as expected. You know the tragic loss of having to bury your own child. I don’t think it matters if your child was 18 months or 18 years. The pain seems unbearable and unfair. Or maybe like the wife of the professor, you lost your first love. The man you dreamed of being a father to your children now will not. I am sure Mother’s Day is a swirl of emotions. You may remember the joy your children or grandchildren bring, but you cannot deny the gaping hole longing for the other child or the spouse who is no longer here.

You may be a mom who is not grieving the death of a child, but perhaps is longing for a restored relationship, or any relationship with your son or daughter. All you want is to be a part of their life or meet your grandchild, but maybe there is so much history and hurt in your relationship, that they have shut you out.  And maybe Mother’s Day is a reminder of your attempts to bring healing and forgiveness, but you still live the painful reality that you’re not as close to your kids as you’d like.

Or maybe you’re a single women and this Mother’s Day feels hard for a different reason. Something inside is ticking and with each passing year your desire to be a mom grows. Seeing a woman walking down the street with her baby bump or a baby snuggled in a stroller is enough to make you cry a little on the inside. You ask why it seems like other people get to live the life you’ve always wanted. You go to baby showers, and listen to friends talk about breast feeding and birthing plans, inside secretly wondering when you’ll get to contribute to the conversation. You so deeply want to be a mom, but you also want to be married first. And waiting for two significant things that feel very much outside of your control is hard. And Mother’s Day reminds you not just of what you don’t have, but of you what you had hoped would have already happened by now.

And then there are some of you who have lost your mom. It may have been a few months ago or decades ago, but Mother’s Day reminds you of her. Maybe she died when you were younger, but now that you’re a mom, you find  yourself longing for and missing her in ways you didn’t know. Maybe your mom’s life was robbed unexpectedly from cancer or a car accident. And you are angry that she wasn’t there for you growing up. Or maybe your mom lived a long and happy life, but your last memories of her- weak, frail and suffering- bring you sadness. Perhaps this Mother’s Day you to chose to remember and honor the mom who is no longer with you.

I don’t know where you will be this Mother’s Day. But I pray that when you gather with family or friends, at church or around dinner tables, in backyards or living rooms, that you would be able to just be. And that there would be room to celebrate new life, grieve the lives that are gone, acknowledge crushed dreams and hold on to hope for those that can longer dream for themselves.

I sincerely hope we can re-define this Hallmark holiday and write and speak about all that Mother’s Day encompasses.

From a woman hoping to one-day be a mother,


P.S. What does Mother’s day mean for you this year?



18th May
written by Michelle

The thing is I have them. Lots of them and sometimes I find they bring more  disappointment and discouragement than I care to admit. If you’ve followed my blog you probably know that I’ve written about expectations before. For better or worse, it’s kind of been this recurring theme during this season of my life.

So, my friend and author, Paul let me guest post again on his blog All Groan Up. You can check it out here.