Expectations vs. Reality

I’m sure you’ve seen the memes (or maybe the show Nailed It!) where people show the Pinterest inspiration for the gorgeous cake or DIY project that inspired them side-by-side with their attempt, usually a less than Pinterest-worthy result. See Jonna’s example below!


Jenny’s cookies vs. Jonna’s cookies 


But have you ever felt this way about your life?


Several years ago I read a quote from Ann Voskamp that said, “What messes our life up most is the expectation of what our life is supposed to look like.” It’s a quote that has stuck with me all these years later because I found so much truth there. 


Recently, this quote came to mind again while I was in the shower. (Anyone else do their best thinking in the shower? Probably because it’s harder to hear your kids yelling over the sound of the water!) And it occurred to me that the reason we have such a difficult time accepting when our lives diverge from our picture-perfect expectations is because fundamentally we think that getting those things will make us happy.


We’ve all had different ideas of how we wanted our lives to turn out, haven’t we? Ideas of when we might get married, have kids, move into our dream jobs, etc.


When I was reflecting on this in the shower, I realized that for the most part of my life, it has turned out the way I’d planned. I could list off all kinds of things that “went right” in my life (according to my general idea of what my own life “should” look like): 


  • I got married right out of college. 
  • We were able to buy a house a few years later with a mortgage that was cheaper than renting. 
  • When we decided to try for a baby, we got pregnant right away. 


This isn’t to say that we never struggled with anything; it’s just that with a lot of the “big ticket items” on my list, I was on track. My kids are happy and healthy, my marriage good. My husband has a stable job, and I’m working on building my own business. 


And yet I wasn’t happy. I was overwhelmed by these children I love deeply but who require so much more of my energy than I have. I have felt frustrated by how long it was taking to get to the next season of our lives, and I needed to face up to the fact that I was struggling with some deep seeded discontentment.


As I was reflecting on all of this I thought, I need to write about this! (I love when God drops insights for me to write about to encourage other people. Little did I know he was actually preparing me for what was about to happen.)



Within a month or so of this insight, my life changed in a way I was completely unprepared for. There are things you always know could happen at any point, but you’re never ready for them when they actually do.


A diagnosis. A job loss. The death of a loved one. A surprise baby years after you thought you were done. A miscarriage or stillbirth.


All of these things have a way of changing the very fabric of your life. The trajectory you thought your life was on is gone and you have no idea what things will look like going forward. 


It felt like a bomb had gone off.


I found myself longing for the life I had known the day before, which suddenly seemed way less complicated and overwhelming. I wanted so badly to trust God with all of this change, but it was so far from what I expected my life to look like.


I didn’t want any of it. Hard pass, God.


I was angry. I felt like I’d been drowning over the last several months, begging God to throw me an anchor, and instead he’d thrown me a stone.


None of it made any sense. When I tried to untangle it, it seemed only to become more knotted. The only thing I could cling to is that I know God is a good Father. I repeated that to myself over and over. 


“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” I repeated Romans 8:28 to my broken heart. I swung wildly between these faith-filled declarations of who I knew God to be and complete despair over this seemingly impossible situation.


Then one morning I laid in bed and prayed that God would meet me in my desperation. I didn’t feel him speak right away. So after a while, I picked up my phone and scrolled through my Instagram feed.


Somewhere in between recipe pictures, Susie Larson blessings, and funny parenting memes, I heard God impress on my heart, “I’m showing you where your idols are.”


One thing I absolutely love about God is that even when he’s pointing out my sins to me, he does it so gently. He doesn’t condemn or berate. He just shines his light on my dark places and invites me to let him in. I hope that someday as a parent I can be so gentle when correcting my children!


I realized in that moment that when we get hung up on the expectations of what our life is “supposed” to look like, we create idols. My plans were an idol, which became clear when I completely fell apart the minute my plans did.


I’m still in the thick of it, friends. I’m still looking for the provision that only God can provide while only seeing how everything looks impossible from my earth-bound perspective. I am clinging to the promises I find in Scripture while still having moments where I just can’t find my faith. 


But I don’t want to live with these idols anymore. I want to live instead with the expectation that God’s plans are wildly better than my own. I don’t want my story to be about how competent I was in executing my own ideas. I want my story to be about how God took an impossible situation and turned it around for his glory and my good. 


Amber Krueger is a wife to her husband, Steve, and mom to her two children, Ethan and Stella. She grew up as a missionary kid in the Philippines and has a degree in literature from Bethel University. She writes about food and creative endeavors at By Amber’s Hands and Keto Cake Walk.