Expect the Unexpected

Both Alice and I have joined the craze of adult coloring books. Alice is quite a bit more dedicated to it than I am. I took two coloring pages along on our cross country trip and didn’t crack open a single marker during those six weeks.

Alice, on the other hand, used an entire! pencil box filled to the brim with colored pencils and spent large portions of many days happily coloring. Fueled by receiving a plethora of coloring paraphernalia for her birthday in August, this passion continued once we returned home. More coloring supplies are at the top of her Christmas list as four months later she is once again running low on pens and pencils.

I think Alice is an amazing color-er; she takes her time and picks out colors that compliment each other well. She has an eye for it. So as a way to connect with her, I decided to buy an Advent coloring book for us to share. I planned to call it the “Family Coloring Book.” However, Ian and Daniel don’t usually bother with coloring, so “Family” was just an alias to cover up my motive.

Instead, I pictured Alice and myself tag-teaming our way through the book, with me coloring early in the day and Alice adding to it when she got home from school or on weekends. The end product would be a beautiful shared experience that we would treasure for years. It would be ours, just hers and mine, mother and daughter.

On my deathbed, she will probably whisper to me, “Remember the Christmas we spent coloring our Advent book? It was one of the best things we ever did together.”

On Tuesday, December first, I spent some of the morning happily coloring a portion of the first page while I pondered the idea of “waiting well.” I was completely satisfied with my own color choices, which rarely happens, and was eager for Alice to add to it.

It was the next morning before I had the chance to share the book with Alice. Ian happened to be in hearing range as I explained the Family Coloring Book. Much to my surprise, Ian wanted to color too.



Really? (said with a twang of whining disbelief)

Now Ian is not quite as patient with staying in the lines or as adept at choosing complimentary colors as Alice is. He also likes to take quite a bit of artistic freedom while he colors. So my knee-jerk response to his excitement was to tell him that I needed to amend my earlier statement of “Family Coloring Book” to “Mother-Daughter Coloring Book;” my mother-daughter keepsake did not include Ian.

But I kept my mouth shut, even as I watched the kids color through almost three pages over the course of the morning; Ian sporting varying degrees of care and artistic flare. Or as he forcefully stated to one of my objections in his choice of additions to a picture, “Let me color my imagination.”

Seriously? Who can argue with that?

Still, it took me the entire three pages to adjust to my idea of a beautiful work of art becoming… a different beautiful work of art, but one that I will treasure just the same.


Change is hard for me. Very hard. Sometimes it takes years for me to adjust to a new idea or a changing tradition. I wish I were more adaptable. It’s something I’m becoming more aware of and thus am hoping I am on the road to less inflexibility.

But I don’t think I’m the only one who has trouble with change. The Jews in Jesus’s time were expecting a king, one seriously rich and fierce dude who would conquer the Roman Empire and rule the earth. Instead, they got a poor, helpless baby, a cosmic Christmas shift. Just like many of that time, I’m sure I would not have been the first one to jump on the This-Baby-is-the-Foretold-Messiah boat.

What else do I miss because of my rigid expectations? Because I am expecting one thing and miss the joy and awe of the unexpected.

The beauty of blue birds, watching my son and daughter accomplish projects independently, the simplicity of less shopping, the creation of a new work of art, the wonder of God’s plan… all totally different from my own expectations.

Maybe it’s time to expect the unexpected.

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