Giving Myself Permission to Fail

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A few days ago, my 6 year old boy John came home from school ecstatic about the prizes he had won and all the candy in his Easter goodie bag from school. One of his favorites was a bouncy ball. He bounced it on our hard wood floors and on the ceiling and his sister was jumping off the walls in sync with it.

“John, take that outside please,” I tell him as I desperately wanted some peace and quiet.

He opens the door and heads outside and within 3 minutes, he’s yelling my name.

“MOM! You shouldn’t have told me to go outside! I bounced the ball and now it’s lost.”

Oh boy. There goes my quiet time.

I go outside to help him look for it and it’s nowhere to be found.

“I’m sorry John.”

“It’s your fault. You told me to go outside,” he says on the verge of tears.

I reason with him and share how he is still responsible for the ball. I let it be and let it go, but something inside me still felt like I failed him. I guess I didn’t suggest the best solution for play.

My feelings toward his lost bouncy ball reminded me of how I often feel in motherhood. Am I failing at this? I never feel like I quite have it down and as soon as I do, some other struggle and difficulty surfaces.

In her honest article, “My Pact to Become Good at Failure,” Mandy Arioto says,

“In a sense, motherhood offered me new eyes to see that failure can be the thing that saves us. This is what I’ve come to believe about failure: it’s good. Just like childbirth is good. And by good I mean incredibly painful. Failure hurts, but there is tremendous potential for goodness to be born through it.”

– (Hello, Darling MOPS Magazine Spring Issue, pg. 29)

I think she is right on. For so many years, I have looked at failure as a bad thing. Could it be though, that failure can be turned into a good and godly thing?

When a deeply invested friendship hasn’t turned out the way I thought, I’ve felt like a failure. When I can’t seem to balance all the needs of my children and love my husband well, I’ve felt like a failure. When I lash out and say words I would’ve never imagined saying to those I love, I’ve felt like a failure. When dinner is not what anyone wants to eat, yep… failure.

And then there are situations and circumstances in the past that haunt my heart today in light of failure: A hurtful word, an unacceptable grade, the inability to do what was expected, a damaged relationship, and more.

IMG_7096Regardless of the sin I’ve committed and the sin that’s been done to me, God still uses failure and all the pain and suffering attached to it. Maybe we don’t see the purposes now — that’s okay. God loves us in the midst of our deepest failures.

There is never a time when He is shaking his fists and yelling at us to get our act together; rather His arms are outstretched like a father to his child. He tells us to, “Come.”  He accepts us by grace through faith, not by any good works we have done. Even on our best day, we still fall short. That’s why we need Him. That is what we celebrate this Easter.

I will fail, but I am not defined by my failures because God redeems them. He forgives. He is gracious. He is patient. And pain, while it is so difficult, can be a wonderful tool for growth and change and Christ-likeness. If I gave myself permission to fail, and let God pick up the broken pieces for me, I’m pretty sure I would start to see things with a fresh pair of lenses where grace saturates the world around me. It is a daily battle to rely on these truths, but it’s possible.

Well, the bouncy ball incident hasn’t been talked about all weekend until yesterday when John stormed into the house and yelled:

“MOM! I found the ball. It was in front of the slide!” He threw his arms around my waist and almost knocked me down, to which I translated: Mom you’re still the best!

On Man’s Sinfulness & God’s Goodness

Since hearing the tragic news about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I have wanted to write out my thoughts because everything in my heart seems so jumbled.

Many bloggers, authors, journalists, newscasters, reporters and more have an opinion and a voice they want to bring to the table in light of such a tragedy. I think in some way, we all want to voice our feelings. But at the end of the day, more than anything, we want to know why? 

More specifically, why God?

I was flipping through Twitter on Friday morning and saw a tweet about praying for two people who had been shot in Colorado. I wasn’t sure what it was all about so I went to Fox News and that’s where I saw the story. My heart grieved and my mind instantly went back to my high school days when the Columbine shooting hit the news.

I can vividly remember my fears as a junior in high school. I remember the bomb threats our school had and being let out of school early because of those threats. Of course, the being let-out-of school part wasn’t so bad.

But here it was again in a different town. Darkness, evil, and sin exposed like no other. This time not in broad daylight but at midnight. In a movie theater of all places where people go to kick back and relax and have a good time. My heart raced as I read more details and it broke for the victims and the shooter.

As a follower of Christ who loves Jesus and strives to live by faith, I have struggled and wanted answers. I have wondered if God is still good in the midst of such horrific evil. I have questioned:

What in the world will God do in all of this? Is He concerned? In control? What about the victims who didn’t know Christ? Why do innocent people have to die? Will justice be done?

Then a few days ago I read a post that went viral by a woman named Marie who made it out of the theater with her two teenagers. Marie’s post didn’t answer all my questions, of course. Only God has most of those answers. But these words did strike a chord with me:

God is always good.

Man is not.

Don’t get the two confused.

I thought about the historical event in the Garden of Eden when God gave man a choice to obey or disobey his commands. He didn’t force Adam and Eve to follow His ways but out of love, He gave them a choice. They could choose to eat from the forbidden fruit or abstain.

Tragically, they ate from it, choosing sin over God. And their sin ushered in death, brokenness, and pain for all mankind. For you and for me. No one would be exempt from such a consequence.

The bottom line is that left to himself, without God, man is not good. And does not choose good on his own.

But thankfully, God already had a plan in place to restore what had been lost. He had a plan to heal all brokenness and to help man choose good again, instead of evil. He sent his Son Jesus, in place of you and I, to die a horrific death on the cross to save us from ourselves.

Jesus’ death allows us to live. To know Him and live life to its fullest. But we have to accept His gift of grace into our life. We have to acknowledge that we are broken sinners and cannot make it in this life without Him. We have to allow Him to change us from the inside out.

This is the gospel story that you and I have heard countless times but we can’t allow it to get old. We must embed it in our hearts and remember God’s story isn’t over.

Thank goodness.

In the midst of trying to make sense out of such evil, God continues to welcome our questions, doubts, anger, and frustrations. And even though we may not receive the answers we want in our timing and even though some questions remain unanswered, that’s okay because God is still working and God is always good.

And that is enough to trust Him in our lives today.

Trust, Truth & Sexual Purity in Your Marriage

“What words come to your mind when you think of trust?” 

I asked my husband while we were driving down the road the other day. I told him how I wanted to write my next article on trust.

While he thought about the question for a little bit, I chimed in: “Because you know, marriages fail or succeed based on trust. What’s the point of being married if you can’t trust the other person?”…

Today, I’m talking honestly about sexual sin and healing in marriage. Continue reading over on StartMarriageRight.com and feel welcome to share your thoughts.

Why Your Failures Don’t Define You

Last week, I sat down on the couch to find something to watch with my three year old. The only station he would sit still to watch was the Alpine skiing championships.

As I watched each skier take off and head down the mountain, I was amazed by their speed, precision, and intensity to beat the clock no matter what.

Obviously, these skiers trained like crazy and had worked their way to the top. But what stood out to me the most was when one happened to fall or his foot would slip, he’d get back up and keep going. He would plan on making up for lost time further down the slope.

He didn’t let an unexpected fall interfere with his ultimate goal of crossing the finish line.

How true it is in our faith that we often let a stumbling block, failure or mistake keep us down on the ground. We focus so hard on the fact that we slipped, that we don’t shake the dust (or snow) off our shoes and move on. We forget what Scripture says:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Gal. 6:9

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. – James 1:2-3

God knows that we fall at times. He knows we want to give up in the battle against sin. He knows that we doubt if he will carry us through the really tough and testing times in our faith.

Maybe you set some New Year’s resolutions and you’ve already failed at them. Maybe you set some goals spiritually, physically, or in your relationships and marriage but you’ve fallen short. And you didn’t plan on that happening exactly. And you’re down because it’s only January!

The good news is that the next step for you is to get back up and keep pressing on.

But trust me. You will be tempted to let the failure define you or to let it replay in your mind over and over. Don’t let it.

Christ defines you. He is your identity. He is your hope in the fight against sin. He is the one who gives you the grace and strength to make it through.

So whatever it is that you’re struggling with, don’t lose heart. Because Christ has already promised if you do not give up, you will reap a harvest in due time. And your persevering will be totally worth it.

Do you ever struggle with allowing some kind of slip to define you?

 

 

Marriage: Finding Beautiful in the Messy

A few weeks ago, Jeremiah and I took the ENRICH relationship inventory. Last Wednesday, we went over our results with our mentor couple John and Pam. Our results astonished us, revealing that we were a vitalized couple. But the truth of the matter is those results wouldn’t have been that way 3 years ago.

Our marriage has needed some hard work done on it, a hard look into the deeper matters of our sinful hearts.

Some of it ties back to the day we sat down together about a year ago and read the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Gal. 5:22-23)

As two people who followed Christ, we knew that those fruits didn’t characterize us as much as they should. We began to pray, reflect, bring our struggles before those we do life with, and most of all humble ourselves to find change.

God began to shine his light on the sin that was taking small bites out of our marriage. For me, I had allowed anger to inch its way in. Impatience. Ungratefulness. Harsh words and tone. Bitterness. I didn’t always see the degree to how destructive it was. But God didn’t give up on me.

Over time, God’s word began to change me and heal me in those areas. I’ve become less angry, more grateful, more self-controlled with my words and tone and more quick to forgive. I haven’t arrived and never will, but in God’s strength, he is making me more like him.

God continues to do an awesome work in Jeremiah and I respect and love him with such a greater depth than when we said “I do.” I value our relationship so much more and we both know that our marriage is the greatest treasure God has given us.

I’m so thankful that God’s promises are true. He is truly a God who takes the messy, broken parts within us and makes them beautiful. He turns marriages around so that His image can be better reflected in the world. And he will continue to do that if we let him.

Well after celebrating the good news of our ENRICH results, we agreed that there’s a temptation to get complacent in our relationship or even prideful. I’m sure we’ll have some kind of other “test” this week to make sure that doesn’t happen 🙂

Have you found anything “beautiful” in your marriage or other relationships lately?

On perfection, good works, and falling short

This particular morning Jeremiah and I were driving down the road on our way to get breakfast when we caught a glimpse of a church’s marquee to our right. In black letters it read: No Perfect People Allowed.

Out of all the crazy church marquee signs out there, this one was a breath of fresh air. I figured the church must have gotten the phrase from John Ortberg’s book.

Growing up in the church, there were times I felt I had to be perfect to be accepted. So much that I kept up a certain image inside the doors and another one on the outside. But I was totally missing the mark in my faith and in the gospel and here’s why:

Perfection or “good behavior” isn’t the goal of our faith. I fall short every time when it is. The goal is depending on God’s grace and love to work in our hearts and transform them. Any good works we produce are evidence of a life that has been changed by Christ. Behavior modification doesn’t mean life change has truly happened from the inside out. Anyone can look holy. And we can’t mistake this for the gospel.

These truths have lifted certain burdens like: If I could just follow that rule closer… If I could sin less in this area… if I could just appear to love that person, then.. This thinking is all about me and what I can do and not on God’s grace to ultimately change my heart and help me put sin to death.

On our drive back with a belly full of chocolate chip pancakes, I glanced at the sign again. While my good works won’t get me anywhere, I became more thankful that an absolute dependence on a perfect Savior to change my stubborn heart, always will.

Do you ever focus too much on good works instead of grace? Any church marquee signs catching your eye lately?

Thoughts on Jennifer Knapp’s Interview

There has been a lot going on in my heart since I read Christianity Today’s interview with Jennifer Knapp. I have felt sadness, compassion, anger, confusion, and disappointment. One thing that I can’t escape thinking about is a question that Matt Chandler asks in a lot of his interviews and sermons: “Where is the fight against sin?”

I think we often forget that we’re in a battle against our own flesh. Not just the world and culture, but the sinful lusts and desires that rage within us. Francis Chan has also spoken lately about the “middle road” that so many Christians have created, neglecting to follow the narrow road of Christ… “If I can just follow some of Jesus’ words, then I can do whatever else I want…”

As followers who love the Lord, we’re called to follow even the HARD words of Jesus like denying self and getting rid of the sin and filth within us (James 1:21). We can’t lie and say that his words are easy, and we don’t have the right to pick and choose what we want to follow.

Will we struggle with sin? As long as we’re breathing we will, but our desire won’t be to live in that sin as a continuing lifestyle void of confession, repentance, or “struggling well.”

There is so much to Jennifer’s story than I will ever know or need to know, but from what I do know that I did not see in her interview with Christianity Today, is a fight against that sin. There was an acceptance of it. And that makes me sad. I want to see her make war with it.

So I guess my next response in all this is to look in the mirror and make sure I’m really engaged in the daily battle against my flesh.

Did you read the article? What are your thoughts on the recent news?

Why brokenness is what I need

Well I want to thank you for your emails and comments of encouragement the past few weeks. I strive to be authentic on this blog, and sometimes it’s tempting to ignore the harsher realities of life and just write about well… prettier things!

But I want to be real with you.

The other day on my way home from a busy day at work, the words of an old worship song, Take My Life, randomly popped into my head:

Brokenness (Brokenness) is what I long for
Brokenness (Brokenness) is what I need
Brokenness (Brokenness) is what You want for me

Those words shot straight to the core of me. I need to be broken before God in order to be used by him. I need to be broken so that any pride that exists can slowly fade away. As I sang those words aloud as cars passed by me, I knew God was showing me that this is where he wants me. 

To be broken over the things that break his heart. To be broken over my sin and how it affects others. To allow Christ to break me so that I can better reflect his image to the world around me. To be broken enough so that I realize life is just not all about me (something I really struggle with).

I then started to sing the Chorus:

Take my Heart and mold it
Take my mind, transform it
Take my will, conform it
To Yours (to Yours) oh, Lord

I’m so thankful that I can give to him my heart, mind, and will so that he can do what he pleases in my life, even if that means quite a bit of brokenness.

10 things the Cross has saved me from

… continues to save me from:

anger, control, pride, fear, condemnation, envy, shame, bitterness, anxiety, lust.

The weight of my sin on the cross was great, but not greater than the One who took it upon his shoulders:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rFvMzDlsmig]

Amena Brown: Resurrection

This week, I’ll be taking a break from writing on my blog to post a few video clips that our Bluefish producers have created. I’m excited to spend this week taking a step back to reflect on all that our Savior has done for us and will continue to do.

I hope the videos posted this week will strengthen your faith and encourage you in whatever you’re facing today.

The voice behind this 2-minute video is spoken-word artist, Amena Brown.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nl40wVuCJUA]

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