Expectancy vs. Expectations – A Different Way to Approach the Season

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Tomorrow is December 1st, which means I woke up in a panic, realizing how much I need to get done before Christmas and how little time I actually have to do it in. But honesty forced me to admit it’s not so much things I need to do as it is things I feel I “should” do. Sound familiar?

The expectation choir is belting out tunes in four-part harmony right now. If you celebrate a different holiday, the song may be different, but we know the verses, don’t we? “But we always bake/attend/make/watch/do…” or, “It won’t seem like Christmas/Hanukkah/holiday unless we…”

I took a deep breath and told myself to stop for a New York minute and figure out how to do this season differently. The awesome Mel Jolly suggested making a Joy List and being very deliberate about what goes on it—and what gets cut.

I love that, but my heart needed to go deeper. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent, which, for Christians, is about looking ahead to the birth of Christ. It also acknowledges the universal heart-longing for, “Immanuel, God with us.” That deliberate pause is something I need in my hurry-scurry world.

Heirloom advent wreath from my childhood

I want to be more intentional, to savor moments instead of checking things off a list. I’m listening to an audio book by Allen Arnold called, The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, & Create and it is currently changing my life, for real. He talks about the difference between EXPECTATIONS and EXPECTANCY and that distinction is making all the difference.

Instead of the closed-fisted need to control embodied in expectations, I want a joyous sense of expectancy, a childlike wonder about what comes next. Doesn’t that sound better than the whip of the “shoulds”?

I’m currently anticipating a trip I’ve longed to take since I spent six weeks in Manila (Philippines) as a college student. I left a huge piece of my heart with the street children there, delighted by their creativity and curiosity, but heartbroken by the abject poverty

Mealtime at the School in a Cart

Several years ago, I got to know fellow author Sara Goff, whose non-profit, Lift-the-Lid,supports a ministry to Manila’s street children called, The School in a Cart. They encourage and support the children’s efforts to not only stay in school, but to do well, so they can build a better life for themselves and break the poverty cycle.

My heart’s journey is about to come full circle. On December 16, my daughter Michele and I are flying to Manila, where we’ll meet up with Sara and her family and spend Christmas with the children! (We’ll also do a bit of sightseeing before and after)

Mother Daughter trip

Follow us on social media: #ChristmasinCubao or #Manila4Christmas

In conjunction with our trip, we’re helping raise funds for the School in a Cart, to support the work they do in Manila. I hope you’ll check out this article: Lift the Lid Celebrates CHRISTMAS IN CUBAOand meet some of the children. If you’d like to help, any gift, large or small, will make a big difference and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. (Lift-the-Lid is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, so gifts are tax deductible.)

Michele and I will be posting pictures and updates, so I hope you’ll follow our journey on Instagramor Facebook. We’ll be using the hashtags #ChristmasinCubao and #Manila4Christmas. Join us on our adventure! Prayers and good vibes for safety while we’re traveling also greatly appreciated.

I hope you’ll also join me in ditching expectations this year. None of our lives look like Hallmark movies or social media highlight reels, but I’ve learned that even during the really hard years, the gut-wrenching, disappointing, lonely or sad years, we can still approach the season with a glimmer of anticipation. There is always hope.

Immanuel, God with Us.

You are so very loved.

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    The Conversation

  1. Caro Carney says:

    We need more people like you with a BIG heart. God Bless you. Yes I love your books.

  2. Bebe says:

    I went to Manila in 1984. What year were you there? I think it’s so cool you get to go back with Michelle. I will be praying for you and looking forward to hearing about your adventures. God bless!

  3. Lori Byrd says:

    You are such an inspiration. Love this.

  4. Lejune Allen says:

    I think it’s wonderful that ya’ll are doing this!

  5. Tamara Shurling says:

    I definitely feel what you are talking about, even before Thanksgiving the messages sent from everywhere make my anxiety ramp up about getting everything done and having the perfect holidays! Going to check out the book and also will be following your journey on your trip. Hoping your trip goes well! Thank you for posting this!

    • Connie Mann says:

      I hope you were able to let some of the “perfect holiday pressure” go and have a wonderful Christmas season. Our trip was wonderful. Stay tuned for updates…

  6. Carol Deegan says:

    What a great thing you’re doing, as well as fulfilling your dream!

  7. Yvonne says:

    We tend to forget how blessed we are. People and connections as well as helping those less fortunate is what matters. Things come and go, but not those relationships.
    Blessings to you for taking the time, going to Manila. I suspect that in the end , you will feel you are the one being enriched by the locals

  8. We’re often told that the spirit of Christmas is giving. However, it’s not giving the latest tech toys or fashion trends. True joy comes in helping those in need through organizations like the ones you support, Samaritan’s Purse or Compassion International who provides chicks, bees, dental care, health services, and other items that are needs not wants. I get giddy being able to give those gifts!

    • Connie Mann says:

      I have to agree! Especially when our kids were young, we loved choosing chicks, or soccer balls or baby goats to give to those in need. A great way to make giving fun, too. And it makes a big difference. 🙂

  9. Sheryl Sens says:

    Your books are new to me. One thing I do always say, no matter what, There is always Hope

  10. Shelly Garnett says:

    Thank you for your help with the children. That is a great thing.

  11. Sounds like you and your daughter will have a very memorable Christmas!

  12. Mary Emery says:

    Awesome way to spend Christmas!

  13. Phyllis Whitaker says:

    We are so very fortunate here in America that we tend to take things for granted. In addition, we expect more, only to be disappointed and let down when things don’t go the way we expect them to. I have found that the more we do for others, with no expectation of getting something back, makes me happy. It’s the small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness that highlights my day. A hug to a hurting friend, a note for someone going through a rough patch, taking a friend out to lunch, and just being a listening ear. This Christmas give a gift of time, give yourself. It will become a memory that they won’t forget, and neither will you.

  14. Jeanne Dembenski says:

    What an inspiring and heartfelt Christmas season you will have bringing joy to those wonderful children and their families…..prayers for a wonderful blessed Christmas from Ocala to you and all involved in this wonderful mission

  15. Sunnie says:

    You are so wonderful to sacrifice your Christmas to do this for others. You are a blessing!

  16. Buddy Garrett says:

    I enjoyed your post. Like you I want to remember the reason for the season. May we in the new year strive to treat everyone as our neighbor and help the less fortunate. Merry Christmas.

  17. Virginia says:

    II hope your trip is full of happy memories. What a great way to spend Christmas. Thanks for spreading love to children who desperately need it. Safe travels and may God richly bless you.

  18. SandyG says:

    I think people need to spend less time with must dos and spend more time actually experiencing things during the holidays

  19. Christine Shaffer says:

    Dear Connie,
    It sounds like an experience of a lifetime. Looking forward to seeing your pics/post. Christine S

  20. Danielle McDonald says:

    I love this article you are amazing 🙂 cant wait to read more about your adventures

  21. Connie, thanks for the wonderful perspective on expectations and expectancy. I come from a big family with deeply ingrained traditions. Every year the entire family gathered on Christmas Eve at Mom & Dad’s house. Now we’re scattered all over, Mom & Dad in a nursing home, and my hubby stumbling into the early stages of Dementia. I feel like I’m losing not only the traditions I loved, but three of the most important people in my life are fading away, bit by bit. Thank you for acknowledging that all holidays are not as portrayed on the Hallmark channel. Some years are just downright tough. But we can refocus on the important stuff — treasuring the memories while being present in the moment with those we still have with us.

    Blessings to you and your daughter as you dare to break the mold and try something new this year. I look forward to hearing more about your trip.

    • Connie Mann says:

      Hi Linda, oh, my heart goes out to you. It’s very hard, when traditions and the people we hold dear both start to fade away, especially into dementia. We lost my Dad to Alzheimers, so I know how hard that journey is. I hope you were able to treasure the moments you had this year and can add them to the ones you’ve compiled over the decades to hold onto during the dark days. Know I’m standing with you. Sending hugs!

  22. Jamie Gillespie says:

    What a wonderful, intentional, thing to do. Thank you for caring and for carrying out our Lord’s work. Love your books, too.

  23. Kathleen Gardiner says:

    I hope you and yours have a blessed Christmas! It is much better to give of yourself than to give “things”.
    God bless you.

  24. Sally Scully says:

    I am appreciating all the little things this year! God bless you and your daughter for all of the help you give others!

  25. Karen Madigan says:

    My daughter went on a mission trip to Costa Rica. While there she helped repair and organize a library for the area children. She said it was one of the most rewarding things she has ever done. You and Michelle are giving so much to these children, but the rewards you receive in return far out measure. God Bless you for going on this journey and safe travels.

    • Connie Mann says:

      I think every teen should experience a trip to a developing country, if possible. It will change their perspective forever. It definitely did for our kids. Glad your daughter had that opportunity, too! 🙂

  26. Ruby Dykstra says:

    What your doing is so have such a giving heart ..I love this …I always try to help someone in need at Christmas and all year long in anyway I can … love your books ! Enjoy your trip …and Merry Christmas to you and yours !

  27. Jessica says:

    Thank you for all that you do. God bless

  28. Lynn says:

    I think the world needs more people like you and your daughter! Please have a wonderful and safe trip!

  29. Pamela Thomas says:

    Thanks for all you do! Our church supports may missionaries and a couple s in the
    Phillippines! I am thoroughly celebration Advent with a friend who posts to fb every day. We are all reading Luke each day. I am so happy that I can read books by an author who shares my faith! May God bless all your work and keep you safe! Merriest of Christmases!

  30. Carol says:

    If we all could only celebrate the season and concentrate only on the real reason for the season. God bless you in everything you do.

  31. Crystal says:

    Giving, Kindness and Love is such a great gift all year round especially at Christmas time. May God Bless You for what you do and Good Luck on your journey.

  32. Mary Preston says:

    Makes me want to do more. Thank you for the inspiration.

  33. Tracy Cruey says:

    Prayers for your trip and those precious children.

  34. Lois Watson says:

    Your trip sounds wonderful and to do it with your daughter makes it even better!! My prayers will be with both of you as you travel and your time with the children. You have inspired me to check out Arnold’s book! But first, your new book is calling me!!! Thanks Connie for sharing your talent of writing with those of us whose talent is reading!!!

  35. SARAH TAYLOR says:

    God Bless You Connie Will be looking forward to hearing about your journey!

  36. Caryl Kane says:

    May the Lord continue to bless you as you shine His light!

  37. Nancy Luebke says:

    45 years ago, I had a stopover on my way to join my hubby in Bangkok. That was few years before Vietnam fell. There are so many poor, it is hard to decide which to help while wanting to help more.Much success for your project.

    • Connie Mann says:

      The need and poverty are overwhelming, no question. We’re doing what we can with the School in a Cart, and praying God will send others to other places and other people in need.

  38. Tashia M Jennings says:

    Wow. Absolutely wonderful.

  39. Ola Norman says:

    Sounds like an amazing trip. Hope it was all you anticipated.

  40. Jan Tomalis says:

    This sounds like a wonderful mission! I haven’t heard of this before and I am looking forward to your updates! It is fantastic to share it with your daughter!

  41. Gladys Paradowski says:

    Your visit with the children seems like such a heart-warming experience. God bless you and Merry Christmas!

  42. Kayleigh Woods says:

    “Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God as well? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and she will call Him Immanuel…(which means, “God with us”).” Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23.

    Merry Christmas! <3 <3

  43. Deborah D says:

    I’ve never been out of the United States. To be truthful I’ve never left the east coast. The farthest I’ve been is North Carolina which was fun. What a great charity you have. Please keep up the great work.

  44. Sheila Lee says:

    My husband and I sponsor a young girl in Ghana through Compassion International. We lost a daughter at the age of 15 to cystic fibrosis. We chose this young girl because she shares a birthday with our daughter. Our monthly contribution helps feed, cloth and educate our young girl plus we make a large yearly donation to her family at Christmas. We also send her a birthday gift. The best gift we get are letters we exchange.
    Connecting with children struggling in poverty is such a wonderful opportunity to share the joy and gifts that we have in abundance. God bless you!

    • Connie Mann says:

      Sheila, what a beautiful thing you do and what a wonderful way to honor your daughter’s memory. May blessings be poured out on you and your family for your love for those in need.

  45. Peggy Clayton says:

    I have never followed an author that has so much love for other people. You make us who do things like little as you are the best. Wish you much love and a safe return and please post more pics when you get home. Look at the love you are sending to them and when you leave you will be in their hearts for years.

  46. Maryann Pacek says:

    This is such an amazing and awesome thing you do. God bless and safe travels. Have a wonderful Christmas sharing it with all those special children. Keeping all of you in our prayers here.

  47. Cherie J. says:

    Wonderful post! I think I am also guilty of getting caught up in the feeling that I must do this or that to make Christmas perfect instead of focusing on the joy of expectancy. Thank you! I truly needed to hear that. May you have a blessed Christmas!

  48. Young M says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. Hope you had a good trip 🙂

  49. Brenda Witt says:

    What awesome work you do.
    God bless and Merry Christmas.
    Praying for a safe return home.