It’s about this time of year that social media threads begin to be filled with smiling happy people heading back or off to school. Pics of trips made, roommates hugging, dorm rooms decorated, fraternity & sorority choices announced … and in the younger years: teachers announced, carpools arranged, seats assigned, teams made — fill feeds. And it’s good and we celebrate and cheer as next steps in life are taken.

But not everyone’s picture looks like they had imagined it might. And, certain next-steps in life can be hard when they aren’t what you thought they would be.

Would’s, could’s and should’s start to loudly voice their opinion when mis-met or completely missed expectations decide to join in somewhere around the middle of the game

For some it could be major-bumps or a diagnosis or consequences or anxiety, maybe even depression, or … fill in the blank. For others Mom and Dad aren’t in the picture together. For a few, the picture can’t be captured as all future photos have been forever altered with someone who should be in it having already gone home.

Truth be told – hardship shifts the trajectory. And we do our best to lovingly walk alongside someone who fights to find footing as expectations (very regular ones) don’t quite match reality. It’s a road that can feel quite lonely. Either people don’t understand or don’t notice because they’re simply hanging on by a thread, bracing for the pain that comes when our reality doesn’t quite look like we thought it would.

BUT, in the midst of the hard – treasure can be found.

For myself, as I see the sweet and wonderful pics posting, I’m reminded of the treasures that come with the pain. I know them well from experiences in my own life, including the part I share with my kids (oh my goodness… years of teams not made, groups not invited, playground left-out, and several more significant than that.)

What are the treasures?

  • Being able to see life as a journey, not a moment.
  • The beautiful revelation that it’s people (not achievements, accolades, GPAs, teams, etc.) that matter – all with purpose and giftedness uniquely woven within them.
  • Freedom. When life’s A + B doesn’t quite add up to equal C or whatever else supposed-to-be promises, you can’t help but see behind the curtain of scripted outcomes. With fingers pried away, you have left go. And freedom from expectation enters the picture.
  • Experiencing provision – manna provision, which is God’s provision. Absolute perfect daily sustenance which is more than sufficient. The uncomfortable part (you can’t see it and it’s daily – no more, no less than a single day’s need) is actually a also treasure. Because it leads to…
  • Trust – the action point of faith. Which we just can’t do in our own effort since that’s far outside of anyone’s pay-grade. But it isn’t outside of the One who sees all, knows all and says don’t be afraid, I’m with you and of whom the apostle Paul said all thing are by him, for him and through him. Which leads to the best treasure…
  • Grace. And grace doesn’t (it can’t) involve performance. Grace, which comes with “peace in abundance”.

How can peace flourish in moments that feel everything but peaceful? I don’t know, but it does. Which is what I think has been the most significant aspect of recent “experiment” (The Heart Cleanse – not a fast, a feast) we’ve started in our house. Peace.

So, for today – I’m grateful for all the treasures available to us upon our journey. Grateful for the people walking alongside – friends & kids willing to play when I come up with weird ideas. One of the kids, one who has experienced more mis/un-met expectations in his few years on this earth than most people experience in a life-time, had written his day’s list of three things in English and in Latin – which made me smile. (Peace)

Today – in the midst of packing & mad-dashes, we will practice kindness by dropping off an orchid to someone whose picture was forever altered a few years ago. Photos of a dorm room, posing with roommates, paying college tuition, hugging each other goodbye, looking forward to holiday breaks – won’t be on their feed. We want the family to know she’s on our mind too. I only offer this, not as props, but to possibly prompt consideration of someone in your own life, or even standing by you in a line, who is experiencing detours, who could use an encouraging word or deed.

Today – I practice mercy by giving it to myself. When reality doesn’t meet reasonable expectations, I look back and fight to see and to know that we did the best we could with what we had to give. And in mercy, I refuse to give ground to “more” – as in we could have done more – or “enough” (brutal unattainable measurements that live in perpetual motion) and so many messages that fight for center stage when hard things occur. And then pray that we can fully live today, not distracted by worries of tomorrow or the happenings of yesterday, and love well.

The Heart Cleanse is like an adventure, wondering what is in store to learn each day – in a strangely safe and exciting way – even/especially when days don’t look like or go the way you thought they would.

This morning a friend texted me:

I woke up with the question, ‘What will mercy do today?’

Today, I choose to extend mercy to people in my past, to replace bitterness with kindness, and thank God for the feast.


I’m with her.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


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