"Big Four" Highlights


 

False Expectations

A newlywed’s wake-up call

By Ashley Kepper

Prior to marriage and children, I imagined my husband coming home each night from work, taking off his shoes, and calling, “Honey, I’m home.” I would wipe my hands on my apron as my husband took in the delicious smells of a home-cooked (and always moist) roast, freshly-baked bread, and numerous sides. In my fantasy, I would rush past a beautifully set table and give him a hug and a kiss, while our little ones would leap into his arms and yell, “Daddy, you’re home!” They would smell clean and sweet from bath time and joyfully share stories about their day. My husband would instantly put his cares from work aside as he walked into a dusted, clutter-free house to greet me, a wife who always looked her very best.

Others warned me against false expectations of what marriage would be like. I remember discussing expectations surrounding numerous topics throughout our marriage preparation. My future husband and I talked at length about the common problems that married couples face, and we were always on the same page. I understood his expectations of me and he understood my expectations of him. I did not realize at the time that my excessive expectations of myself would become one of my greatest challenges as a newlywed.

My husband grew to know my temperament, habits and heart throughout our courtship. He accepted my good and bad qualities. While he has always challenged and encouraged me to move closer to God and grow in virtue, his standards and expectations were always reasonable and consistent. I am not sure why, other than to chalk it up to both having a vivid imagination and being a self-proclaimed perfectionist, but I believed that once I said, “I do,” many of my faults and daily struggles would melt away. I suddenly would become the wife of my dreams – the one whom I believed my husband deserved.

Less than a month after our wedding, my husband and I found out that we were expecting a child. Pregnancy woke me from my grand delusions, and reality hit me hard. My visions of daily love notes in the lunchbox, homemade apple pies cooling on the windowsill, and hair that was always blow-dried and in place were short-lived. For three months, I was consistently sick, nauseated and exhausted. I’m pretty sure I left a permanent imprint of my lounging body on the couch, and getting dressed for the day usually meant changing from pajamas to yoga pants.

In my mind, I had already failed. I believed that I was disappointing God and my husband and that I had fallen short of what a virtuous and holy wife should be. As tough as this was to swallow at the time, I now see how vitally important this lesson in humility was for me both emotionally and spiritually.

My husband’s unconditional love and care for me during our first year of marriage helped me to let go of my false expectations. He loved me on my worst days as much as on my best. He helped me to loosen up and not take myself so seriously. Anytime I would express my disappointment of feeling unworthy as his wife, my husband would assure me that he loved me more every day, and pointed me to God. He taught me to focus more on what God requires of me, and less on what I require of me.

God opened my eyes to the grace of the imperfect. I leave it up to him to show me the areas in my life where I need to improve, which takes much of the pressure off of me. He blessed me with a daughter who inspires me to redirect my focus from my false expectations to my family. She has taught me to live in the moment. Reading books with her is more important than having the books organized neatly on the shelf, and a shirt with little chocolate fingerprints on it is a reminder of the fun afternoon baking together. I am grateful for her example of childlike faith and trust. I pray that she continues to lead me closer to heaven, just as I am called to lead her.

God does not expect us to be perfect in our vocations. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “God does not call us to be successful. He calls us to be faithful.” I have accepted that I am a work in progress. While the snooze button is typically pressed more times than I care to admit, the bed often goes unmade, and the day’s to-do list has very few check marks, I have peace knowing that I faithfully tried my very best. I pray that he will equip me with the knowledge of his will, and the perseverance and courage to follow it over my own. I will continue to strive toward the goal of being a great saint – and if God keeps my roast from burning or drying up, I will thank him for that unexpected blessing.

Ashley Kepper and her husband, Jimmy, live in St. Marys, Ga., with their 2-year-old daughter.