Successful Failures

What happens when you’ve done great things for God, followed what He’s told you to do but in the world’s eyes (including the church) you look like a failure?

Have you ever felt like this?  Have you ever given one hundred percent, and more to God, only to have things tank?

It’s not something we, in the Christian community, like to speak about because it raises some questions, doubts. Why would God do that? It makes no sense to our mortal, small minds. Do I even want to serve a God who would do that? These are not thoughts we are quick to ease into conversations in the church foyer or even over coffee with a good friend. These are doubts we harbour deep inside, sometimes even afraid to whisper them to God, himself.

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No, we like to talk about the blessings that come from obedience and the success stories of following God’s will against all odds. The growing churches, the faith-filled mission trips and the walks of faith that defy all odds. But what if it seemed the odds were not in your favour? Are these stories still considered ones of success?

For the most part, I think many are dismissed as failures, even by those who live them out. We think to ourselves that the results speak for themselves. That our doubts about God and His ways, speaks volumes about failure and little about success.

We see the look people give us, the small shake of the head. “What did they do wrong?” or “What’s wrong with them?”

We begin to fall for those lies. We ask ourselves, “Is it me?”

I think this is a good question to ask ourselves sometimes. We need to do a heart check every once in a while. If, after examining our hearts and motives, asking God to reveal truth, if, after all that, we still would have done the same things because we knew that was what God was asking us to do, than we have an answer. No It’s not me.

Guess what? We are not alone in our successful failures.

I think there are some prophets in the Old Testament, some missionaries and their families and many other Jesus followers who defy the definition of success in today’s world. Jeremiah was thrown into a cistern because people didn’t like what he had to say in Jeremiah 38. He was put into the cistern and “sank into the mud.” Stuck in a pit, sunk in mud. That’s success for you, right? It doesn’t say how long he was down there but if I were Jeremiah, I’d probably be questioning God about my purpose right about then, wouldn’t you?

Was Jeremiah a failure? Not even close.

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We have heard stories of missionaries who have been murdered and we think to ourselves, “What was the point of that?” Does it make them a failure? No.

They were following God’s instructions and direction. It probably didn’t turn out they way they hoped or even prayed for. It wasn’t that they were sinning or disobedient. God had and has other plans. Divine plans that don’t fit with what we think of as success here on planet earth.

In God’s eyes, His servants did exactly what He asked of them. As long as we are obeying God, the outcomes are not our worry. God gave us free choice and so the outcomes lay in God’s hands not ours. All we need to do is keep our eyes on Jesus and follow where He leads us. Even into successful failures because wouldn’t we rather be deemed a failure by the world and be right in God’s will, than have all the success of the world and have sold our souls?

He Goes Before You, Mama

He was entering the great unknown of high school and I couldn’t hold his hand anymore like I did when he was a little boy. I felt like I was in over my head. All the worries, what ifs and question marks threatened to drown me.

I’m sharing over at Raising Generations Today this beautiful October day.  To read more click here.

What Have You Learned Lately?

“So many things were impossible, until they weren’t.”
Jennifer Donnelly, Sea Spell

This weekend I’m attending a workshop, hosted by a friend and one of the things she asked us to come prepared to talk about is learning a new skill. Negative Nelly that I am, I thought, “I have not learned anything new.”

Until I thought about it. Just this past weekend, I attended writing workshops at a conference to learn about writing fiction. Fiction has always been off-limits for me. I love to read but the idea of writing a story that I created out of my imagination was terrifying.

Who would read it? Nobody. It would be terrible. I just don’t have that kind of creative magic. This is what I told myself and I believed me.

Writing fiction was an impossibility, a fairy tale. Something I’d dream about as a child. It wasn’t going to happen even though I’ve wanted to tell stories since I can remember.

 

 

As my book, Whole, was published, I began to think about new projects. A little voice kept whispering, “Fiction.”

It was tempting.  As the summer waned, I decided to try. I looked around at creative writing courses but decided I couldn’t go back to school at this time. Then the writing workshops showed up in my email and I excitedly said yes! I felt like God was saying Yes to me, too.  I am cautiously optimistic. I have a lot to learn. Nothing may come of it except personal satisfaction but at least I will have tried.

Am I learning something new? You bet! Why did I sell myself short? Why do you?

Stepping out into the unknown can be scary. I have made every excuse not to get started. Procrastination was a front for fear. I was afraid I couldn’t do it. I was afraid I’d be awful at it. I’d fail. I’d look stupid. We’ve all been there as we set out on a new adventure or journey.

What I’m starting to understand is I’d rather fail at something than regret not trying. It’s a lesson that’s been a long time learning.

I think as we get older we lose the muscle of trying new things. We are too afraid of failure or the consequences of even trying. We settle into our comfy couches and get complacent. How did this happen?

I look at my boys. The things they are passionate about, they act on. Shooting hoops relentlessly in the driveway. Writing and drawing just because they want to. Creating just because they can. Fear doesn’t seem to factor in or maybe it just isn’t allowed to dominate. As adults we need to start exercising those muscles of trying new things again. We need to say Yes! more and then get up and Do. Maybe if we let our desires and our passions have more sway, we’ll create more. We’ll be more content. We’ll learn not just a new skill or reinvigorate an old one but we’ll grow as people too.

We teach our kids these lessons but we stop applying them to ourselves. Why is that? Educating ourselves and creating beauty makes the world a better place. It makes a difference. When we try, it inspires others. I have friends who have gone back to school to get a teacher’s degree or a degree in a dream they put off. They make me want to try. It’s contagious.

What impossible dream sits in your heart, waiting to be released? To be attempted? What do you think you are too old to do? Or too young? What would you do if you had no limitations or obligations?

 

 

Maybe what seems an impossibility is really a matter of trying, of saying Yes! to God so He can say Yes! to you.

Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.” Matthew 19:26 NLT  

Do you believe it?

When You Feel Lost

I have been fascinated for the last while with the concept of being lost. I think we all feel that way at different times in our lives. It’s not usually a pleasant sensation. Being lost can trigger a host of emotions. Fear, exhilaration, sadness, depression, excitement.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing, being lost. Lessons learned while adrift sometimes stick more than others. For example, if you lose your way going someplace, chances are, once you correct your path, you won’t make the same mistake again. Right?

As I’ve mulled the concept of being lost, I stumbled on some quotes.  Just as there are many emotions involved in being lost, there are also a lot of different ways to think about what being lost means.

Here are a few I like:

Fireheart – why do you cry?
‘Because I am lost,’ she whispered… ‘And I do not know the way.’ ”
p. 281 Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire

Sometimes being lost happens because we’ve lost our way. We don’t know whether to go right or left or up or down. Direction is skewed. We may have taken our eyes off Jesus and in doing so, stumbled and lost our bearings. Circumstances aren’t helping matters. They are making things more confusing. Maybe we’ve had to rethink some things and now the ground is shaking beneath us. Our foundation was built on a lie. There are many ways to lose direction and become lost.

“He showed me how to get lost, and then I showed myself how to get found.” p. 367 Gayle Foreman, Just One Day

In this story, the traveller would go to a new city and find an area he did not know, go there and wander. He called it getting lost. At first his friend thought he was crazy but then she saw the miracle and the beauty of it. This is where getting lost is not bad. It’s an adventure. The terrain is new. Foreign. It may not be like we are used to but what’s wrong with that? It’s a chance to grow and open yourself up to new experiences, and expand your horizons. It’s a chance to explore. It’s a challenge and as you navigate your way to being found, you learn some things about yourself.

“ ‘I wasn’t lost. Just because you couldn’t find me doesn’t mean I was lost.’ ” p. 208  Kristen Heitzmann,  The Edge of Recall

There are times when other people think you are lost but you really aren’t. They may question your struggle or your direction. They may think you’re nuts. But you aren’t, you’ve just chosen a different path.

The thing I realized in all these scenarios and many others not mentioned is we are never truly, totally lost.

“Jesus can find you in the darkness.” P. 80 Dee Henderson, The Guardian

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Even when finding our way seems impossible to us, there is One who never loses sight of us. We are never lost to Him. Ever. No matter what we may have done or not done. No matter where we go. (Psalm 139)

There are many stories in the bible that talk about God seeking out that which is lost. A coin, a sheep and a son for starters. These stories mirror what God is actively doing. He relentlessly seeks us out when we are lost. In all three of the stories, the person who lost something, never gives up. They search until they find it. God will not give up. The price of the life of His Son means that God’s plan is always Search and Rescue.

He is also going to fight for us. If someone is searching for something, he will not be deterred. He will fight for the right to keep searching and he will fight for what he has lost. “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” NIV Exodus 14:14

This was the message to the Israelites as they escaped from Egypt but came up against the Red Sea. The chariots of the Egyptians were chasing them down from behind. But God fought for them.

Yeah, but then they wandered for forty years, you may be thinking. Were they lost? It might seem so but God knew precisely where they were and why there were there. We may not always understand God’s plan. God used those forty years to teach them about himself, what His plans were and that ultimately, He was in control. They were not lost. They were right where they were supposed to be.

Sometimes the shake-up of going astray gives us the jolt we need to awaken to our surroundings.  We are so distracted we need that sharp intake of breath and narrowed focus that realizing we are lost, brings. Jesus knows where we are, but do we? Do we even realize we are lost? Honestly, we don’t.

Ultimately, being lost means that at some point, we have to let go of our pride and accept help. Acknowledging being lost is acknowledging that we are not in control. That in the dark, in the confusion, in the fear, in the challenge of being lost, we need a guide who can find us in the dark and take us to the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Are More Than Your Motherhood

There are days and seasons when I forget who I am.

We get wrapped up in the needs of our spouses, our children and every other person who enters our world.  We have a To Do list that is longer than we could ever accomplish.

On those days, when we are overwhelmed, we need to step back and remember who we are.

You can read more over at Raising Generations Today by clicking here.

 

The Middle Space

“There has to be a middle. Without it, nothing can ever truly be a whole. Because it is not just a space between, but also what holds everything together.”
                                                                           – Sarah Dessen,  Just Listen

There’s a prevalent lie today in Christian circles that we have to be “okay.” That we can’t doubt God or question him. That we can’t be mad at him. We can struggle, yes, ask a few whys but it should never get to a fist-shaking and faith-rattling brawl with God.

I tend to disagree. Some of us need to go through that fight as part of our journey. In fact it’s integral to it. It’s working out our faith and relationship with God.

Paul writes to the church in Philippians 2:12:
[ Do Everything Without Grumbling ] Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling

Wrestling with God is one way to work out your salvation.

Journeys have a beginning and an ending. Usually, we are in a hurry to begin, to get going on the adventure. Equally so with the arrival at our destination. No one really likes the middle part, after a bit.

It starts out okay but then someone has to go to the bathroom, gets car sick or lost. Tempers start to flare as boredom or anxiety sets in. “Are we there yet? How much more time?” It’s accompanied by a whine. This is the middle part of a journey. It’s ugly and messy and painful. I know you’ve been there in your mini-van which has started to feel like a clown car with one too many clowns in it. It’s getting uncomfortable. Who hasn’t been there?

Our spiritual journeys aren’t much different for some of us. We go through bursts of enthusiasm and vision at the start, only to stumble through the middle part. The waiting. The boredom. The fear and frustration. The feeling lost and directionless. The anger. We struggle with the suffocation of questions and doubts. The feeling that we can’t take One.More.Thing.

We’re spoiling for a fight. We start to wrestle with God.

Sometimes the church and followers of Jesus have a hard time with those of us who fight with God. There’s a slight air of disapproval. A purse of the lips. That’s a human perspective. I believe God can handle our grappling with Him. There’s nothing we throw at Him that He hasn’t already seen coming. He is our safest “opponent.”

Jeremiah certainly doesn’t make any bones about his complaint with God in Jeremiah 15:18.
Why then does my suffering continue?
    Why is my wound so incurable?
Your help seems as uncertain as a seasonal brook,
    like a spring that has gone dry.”

He echoes my own lament. He’s not the only one.

In Genesis chapter 32, starting at verse 22, Jacob physically wrestled all night with God. He came away from that fight with a blessing and a limp. And a new identity. No longer Jacob, but Israel, which means “God fights”. Interesting that, isn’t it?

I’ve always felt like I was less of a Christian because I was a fighter. Feisty. Not sure I would have survived if I hadn’t been. I have battled with God. Many times. I understand where these guys are coming from and I’m thankful their matches are right there in ink on the pages of the Bible.

If you find yourself locking horns with God today, don’t back down. He has the answers and He is truth. There are times we struggle with God and who He is to figure out the truth – about Him, about ourselves. It might take all night but don’t give up because someone gave you a disapproving “hrumph”. Seriously.

Jacob came away from that night better than he was before it. He met God face to face. We do too when we engage in combat with God. You can’t fight blindfolded or if you are hiding. For some of us, it’s the only way we let Him in close enough that He can grab hold of us.

Struggle, wrestle, fight, call it whatever, but it’s a part of our middle.
Not the entirety. The journey is full of ups and downs and good and bad. All those things combined, including the wrestling, make us who we are. Moulds us into the whole. It is the middle part that strengthens and deepens our relationship with God. James says it in his book in the first chapter.

Dear brothers and sisters,[a] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. James 1:2-4 NLT

So when testing and trials come and you find yourself wrestling with God, remember you are in good company. Don’t pretend it’s not happening or you’re too spiritual for that kind of thing. God can take it. He’ll see you through.

Don’t give up and believe the lies that keep you from the truth. That takes the fight right out of you before the battle begins. It’s what the enemy wants. For you to give up. So don’t. Fight. Fight to get to the other side. Fight for the truth and fight for your relationship with God.

When we get to our eternal destination, it’s our middle that holds the beginning and the end together and it has God’s fingerprints all over it, glueing it together, creating our whole.

Why I Send My Kids to Summer Camp

Let me just get this off my chest. I am not a camper. My family did not camp. The couple of camping experiences I had were rainy. Very. Rainy.

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The church and girl guide camps I went to didn’t endear me either. I am not particularly fond of the great outdoors. I hate playing games of any kind. I got homesick.

Perhaps I gave up too soon. So why then, did I encourage my kids to go to summer camp?

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1. Strangely, I still like the idea of camp. Stories taking place at camp and boarding schools were some of my favourites. Maybe the idea of no parents was intriguing. I also noticed that many kids who went away to camp and liked it, were campers for life. Somewhere there was a grain of truth to camp being a good thing and I wanted to find it for my kids.

2. Camp is very different from when I went to camp, many eons ago. Adventure awaits, not crafts. Well there are crafts for those who want them but when I went, it seemed to this non-crafty person, a main feature. As mentioned, I am not outdoorsy partly due to the fact I am allergic to trees, grass, dust, animals, etc. That pretty much makes up a lot of the outdoors. Also as previously stated, NOT a gamer.
But today’s camp? Adventures to test your mettle await. It might scare you silly but who cares? Rock climbing walls, high ropes, and all kinds of other challenging things for kids to try that they don’t necessarily get to do at home. Maybe that’s what I was looking for as a kid. I wanted to prove myself. Today’s campers get to do that if they so choose. (And maybe I just went to the wrong camps!)

3. Kids learn to get along. There is always someone in the cabin who rubs you the wrong way. It’s Murphy’s Law. The cabins are tight quarters so you learn very quickly, to put up with them or work it out. This is a skill that our kids will take with them into adulthood and use many times. More adults should go to camp and learn this skill.

4. Kids learn independence. My kids suddenly learned skills they didn’t (and I didn’t) know they could do like wash dishes! They had to learn to keep track of their stuff and pack it all up to go home. They learned that they could work through homesickness and have a feeling of pride that they made it to the end of the week. This in turn, lets them know they have what it takes to endure, and persevere.

5. Even though I don’t like the outdoors all that much, I want my kids to. Camp provides them with a beautiful setting and lets them see and appreciate nature and God’s creation. They learn to respect it and how to live in it. They see the beauty and the danger. It creates a sense of wonder and awe, even if it’s momentary.

6. In today’s tech age, camp provides a reprieve from it all; Instragram, Facebook, Twitter and whatever else kids are on these days. Camp pries the phone from their fingers and puts it in Time Out. They get the chance to look up, breathe and actually see their surroundings. They have to talk to someone face-to-face at camp. They get to laugh and clown around with other kids, without a phone in their hand to take a selfie.

7. Camp gives kids a chance to discover their own personality. Without parental eyes looking over their shoulders, they have a chance to loosen up and try new things and test out behaviours. (Sorry counsellors!)

8. Finally camp opens up a new world. They meet new people from different cities. They learn about their new friends’ worlds. They try new things and foods. They learn about leadership and take away a few lessons of their own. We’ve had many discussions about what they like in a leader and what they don’t. What they might emulate when they are in a leadership position. Camp shows them that there is a bigger world out there and endless possibilities.

So that’s why I send my kids to camp. I want them to be campers. Call me crazy. That being said, we chose the camp our kids go to very carefully. As parents we are trusting our children into the care of these people. You want to make sure they are going to be safe because stuff happens. It’s a good idea to talk to people who went to the camp as campers or their parents. I was familiar with the camp as it was near a cottage we rent.

It’s also a good idea to review with your kids about what is appropriate and what is not. Secrets are not okay. Hopefully, they vet the workers but why not be preventative? Some things to think about if you are considering sending your kids to camp.  We all want it to be a positive experience, right?

I prayed hard before and while they were at camp.  They may not be an arm’s length away from me but they are never out of their Father’s hands.

Finally, I do want to thank all the people who volunteer and work at camps. This is a calling and I, for one, am thankful for those who are called because I am not. The cabin leaders and other volunteers can make a difference in a life.  You have much influence.  So thank you.

Until next year…