Chronicling 40: Day 101 of 365

Failure

I remember as a child, my mother only saw my grades twice per 9 weeks.  The first was the mid term progress report, the second was the end of term report card.  Other than that, unless a teacher called her for some reason, she had no idea what my grades looked like.  She had no clue if I had homework that night, nor if I had remembered to complete projects and turn them in on time.  Today, I can log onto my kids’ school site and pull up their grades in a matter of seconds.  I know every test score, every missed assignment, and even some of the ones coming down the road.

Because of this, it is nearly impossible for my kids to every fail a subject. If I was a parent who didn’t care, I could avoid looking at the site.  I could just let cards fall where they may.  As a parent who cares, I can now see the impending failure and begin negotiations.  Do we need to hire a tutor?  Should we ground our child from electronics until grades are up?  Shall I contact the teacher to create some sort of extra credit assignment to make up for missing grades, or find a way to turn in forgotten work even for partial credits?

As far back as I can recall, failure has not been cast in a positive light.  If our children fail at school, we ground them until they can become “more responsible” or hire in tutors to fill in education gaps.  If our children fail at a sport, we tell them to increase their practice times and dissect their plays to find out where improvements can be made.  We do things for them without even asking them to try because we determined what they can and can’t do.  And, we reward them for simply trying versus letting them feel the sting of defeat.

We tell kids when they fall to get back up and try again, focusing on continuing to work for success.  What about talking about what we learned from failure?  Why do we not allow our children to learn the consequences of failing a grade or subject?  Why do we take away the magnitude of lessons learned by making mistakes or failing to achieve their goal versus being content to walk away with a participation grade or trophy?

I have learned far more in the moments when I failed at something than when I hit gold right out the gate.  When I try something and it doesn’t work out, I must engage my critical thinking skills.  Why didn’t this work?  What was missing?  Did I make a mistake?  Was I using the wrong materials or did I miss a step in the process?  Or, is there simply a better way?  The more I engage my critical thinking skills the better off my next endeavors will turn out.  I’ll take those answers and apply them not just to the current project at hand but also in the future.

Don’t be afraid of failure, but learn from it.

When it comes to my children, I would much prefer their failures and mistakes to happen while they are in my home and I can help them grow from it.  Too many handle everything for their kids, send them off to college or out into the real world and they don’t understand how to cope with failure.  A failed class will result in teaching your children how to better prioritize their time.  A failing grade that pulls your child off of the team teaches them about consequences and how to be mindful of the requirements of participation.  A repeated grade teaches your children that mom and dad can’t fix everything, and sometimes they have to go through it to grow from it.   And, instead of coming to their rescue, it can help our children learn to navigate these issues on their own.  My asking the teacher for extra credit opportunities is a lot different than if my kids come up with the idea on their own.

In life failure teaches us what not to do again.  It teaches us processes and ways of thoughts that don’t work.  It helps us find our way to success.

If I am not failing, I’m not trying enough.

Failure can be a beautiful gift.

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#Write31Days – Post 16 – In the Word’s of Elsa, Mom… “Let It Go!”

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Confession Time:  I can be a bit of a perfectionist.  I once had a friend refuse to let me into her home because it was a mess.  She insisted on talking with me outside.  I never realized the pressure my perfectionist qualities could put upon other people.  For whatever reason, she assumed that because I was a bit of a perfectionist… that I required it of those who befriended me.  Let me assure you, that is far from the truth.

Confession Time #2:  Right now, my house is a complete and total disaster.  I don’t want to say that I am totally ok with it, because I am not.  At the same time, I am not as neurotic about it as I once was … many, many years ago.

People who are perfectionists, or who have OCD tendencies, can often live on a pendulum.  Either everything is 100% to their liking (no room for error) or they can swing the opposite way and not care at all.  It is the epitome of “my way or no way”.

We can also expect these same tendencies from our spouse or children.  Which is funny to me, because we extend a lot more grace to those not related to us.  Perhaps it is because we have an expectation that those who share our DNA also share in our crazy.  Those expectations can cause us to be helicopter parents who are hovering over our children constantly expecting them to be just like us.  Organized. On time. Working ahead of schedule.  Clean/Tidy.   We tend to excel at so much that failure is just not part of our vocabulary.

However, children will challenge every bit of that thinking.

Mom just cleaned the house?  Awesome, let’s bring every toy we own out into the livingroom.

Project due for school?  No worries, I can tell mom about it at 9pm the night before it is due.

Failing Math?  It’s no big deal that I will get kicked from the team.  I’ll just run to mom in a panic three days before report cards come out.

These kids live in a whole other plane of thought.  As perfectionists we can’t deal in this plane… not at all.  We hollar at the kids to return the toys to their room.   We stay up working on the project for them because we can’t let their grade get docked for tardiness, nor can we let them turn in a project that is less than acceptable just to be on time.  We will implore the teacher to allow them to make up the missed work, spending ridiculous amounts of money on tutors to ensure the ace the exam.

Why?  Because deep down the perfectionist believes that their child’s choices reflect on us as their parent.  If they fail, we fail.  If they are late, we are late.  If they make a mess, we are a mess.  We try to control their behaviors because frankly we don’t want people to think less of us as parents.  Preventing their failure is more about saving our own face, than ensuring their success.

Let that sink in for just a second.

The thing is… we need to let them fail.  We need them to understand what accountability and consequence are BEFORE they are adults and the wages of those poor choices are much higher.  We need to teach them how to fail, how to process that, and how to get back on that horse.  Not only do WE need to do that for them, THEY need to learn it for themselves.  If we want our children to be successful as adults, we cannot come to their rescue.

We also have to accept that their choices belong to them, and are in no way a reflection on us as parents…. assuming we have done our best.  Plenty of children were raised in the “perfect home” and yet walked away and lived a contrary life.  Plenty of children were raised in less than idea environments and rose to the occasion, choosing to live a better life and being a positive contribution to society.

They are not us.

So mom, in the words of Elsa… LET IT GO.

I spoke to a friend who is older than I, and she shared about her perfectionist mother.  Every weekend, the entire family was cleaning the house.  Her mom was a collector of many different things, and it became the responsibility of the kids to help her maintain the cleanliness of her collection.

I wonder, how often I have burdened the kids with the responsibility of caring or tending to the unnecessary things I have chosen to bring into the house?  It reminded me of the turtle my husband brought home to the kids, that they didn’t ask for, but then he expected them to care for it’s needs.  Unfair responsibility.

I wonder, how often have I expected my children to have the same love of learning that I have?  Expecting their grades to be high, their projects to be done with excellence, and for them to have the same drive to start early as I have always had.  Then I reflect on the fact that I never actually TAUGHT my kids to be organized from an early age, I just assumed it would come naturally to them.  It did to me.  I wasn’t taught to be that way by my parents.  I just was.   Unfair expectation.

I wonder how many times my kids have missed out on fun or being children, because my priorities were different?  I wonder why I am not ok with a “passing grade” in a subject they hate.  I wonder how many times I pushed my own ideas on them, instead of allowing them to explore their own?  I wonder how many times I was controlling a child who wanted to be free to be there own selves?

It was time to stop.  It was time to let it go.

I’m not suggesting to throw caution to the wind and be a hands off parent.  Instead, I am suggesting that we stop trying to mold them into clones of ourselves.  Let them live, let them learn, let them grown.

So, I stopped hassling the kids about keeping their room to perfection.  They know the consequence is that no one comes over to play unless it is picked up.   That’s the consequence, and I stick to it.  I have found a compromise between what they think is clean, and what I think is clean.    I don’t get upset that they bring the toys out all over the house to play.  The consequence is that they know they need to clean it up, so don’t bring out more than you are willing to carry back.  I’m not helping you.

I don’t hover over their grades online every single day… but I check in.  They know the consequences of getting poor grades.  I no longer loose my mind over a “C” on the report card.  We reward good grades.  Consequences for poor ones.  I allow them to make the choice of how much effort they are willing to put in, and they know they will contend with the consequences if they drop the ball.  I have learned to accept their best, even when that best is a C- in math.

Doing their best is not being perfect.

My middle schooler is a very limited excelled program for Middle School.  If her grades drop, not only will she be removed from the program… she will have to go to another school.  She chose to be in the program and she’s knows that her longevity in that program is entirely up to her.  She can lose that spot, and I’m not going to rescue her if she drops the ball.  She knows that her ADHD is not an excuse either.

What I want is a child that grows into an adulthood who:

  • understands that her choices will impact her future, no one else is to blame.
  • is not an excuse maker.  there are no excuses in life, except the ones you make for yourself. 
  • understands they choose their consequences, becuase every choice has a consequence, good or bad.
  • believes doing your best is always good enough, even if it isn’t perfect, but who never underestimates their ability & is willing to be challenged.
  • can make mistakes, learn from them, and move forward.  there is always time to become more, become better.
  • will let go of the things that don’t really matter, and focus on what is important.

I do this by being an example of this for them.  Which means that today, when my 8 year old asks me to play with her at the dining room table… the dishes can wait.  When my 16 year old wants to watch a movie with me tonight, the mopping can wait.  When my 12 year old wants to go to the book store, my errands can wait.

My house will not look like a museum, but a home with a family of people who live there instead of existing there.  It will be clean and pest free, but you may find a pile of toys in the foyer.   I will happily spend an hour snuggling on the couch over scrubbing the kitchen.  My children will see me put friends and family above chores and to-do lists.

When you come over, things won’t look perfect anymore.  But, the cups are clean and the coffee is hot.

Being a perfectionist comes with a cost, and it is one I do not want my children to pay.

 

#Write31Days – Post 2 – Fall of Faith

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When I was a small child, we would go to the beach often.  I was holding on to a raft, talking with an older woman.  We had been chatting for quite some time but I hadn’t realized we had been drifting.  I was called back to shore, and realizing it would take too long to swim back on the raft, I decided to walk back through the water pulling the raft behind me.  But there was something I didn’t know…

The woman was treading water.  I thought she was standing.  I took a leap of faith and I nearly drowned.  That event has had a major influence in regard to how I view the ocean.  It made me untrusting of the sea.  That doesn’t mean that I stopped going to the beach, or that I wouldn’t get in the water.  I still loved boat rides and splashing along the shore.  However, I learned the hard way to respect the dangers that ocean presents.  I take precautions when I am in the ocean, such as checking the rip current reports or the weather before we head out.  I no longer assume that it’s safe to let go of the raft.

Recently I was posed with the question:

How do I begin to trust God again, when I took that leap of faith and it failed?

What I have learned since the day, is that the ocean is not the one who was untrustworthy.  The ocean is, as the ocean is.  It doesn’t really change, the dangers are always present.  I was untrustworthy with the ocean.  I made assumptions.  I didn’t look at the environment around me and make a educated decision.  I didn’t ask the woman next to me how deep the water was.  I just jumped, recklessly into the water.

God is trustworthy.  He is unchanging, all knowing, and perfection.  He is worthy of our trust.  If a leap of faith fails, I believe it is the person who was untrustworthy.  A leap of faith is never done recklessly.

If God puts it on your heart to walk across the street and hand a stranger $100 bill, you should take the leap of faith.  Do what God is asking of you, despite not knowing the person or the reason why.  However, that doesn’t mean you cross the street without looking both ways.  That would be reckless, you could get hit by a car.

Leaps of faith are not reckless, they are bold.  When God asks us to take a leap of faith, it is going to be a bold step and potentially will make us feel uncomfortable.  Yet, we don’t make that leap blindly.  We must get the full picture of what that means, so that we make no assumptions and we are not caught off guard.

Occasionally, it may be God’s intention that your leap fails, but understand that failure is only YOUR perspective.  From God’s perspective there was a purpose and a lesson in that failure for you.  It may be a stepping stone to get you prepared for a bigger task ahead, to point you in the right direction, or help refine your call.    If it is a true God ordained failure, that leap will be redeemed somewhere.  It won’t happen just to make you miserable, lose everything, and be a total waste.  It will serve a purpose and you will see it eventually.

If you take  a leap of faith, and it turns into a fall… unredeemable, no purpose, no lesson… you took a reckless leap.  How was it reckless?

  • Your Timing, Not His –  There are times when we can see the destination God is taking us to, we recognize it as a leap of faith, but we want it so badly NOW that we rush God’s blessing.  We try to do it in our own timing and not His.  Then it doesn’t work out, and our faith is tested.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His timing.
  • Your Strength, Not His – When a person has a goal or a dream, they are by nature do-ers.  They want to make it happen, and they will put in a LOT of hard work and effort into it.  They will continue to dump time, energy, and money into whatever it is.  Then it fails.  But it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting in His provision.
  • Your Desires, Not His Calling – Sometimes a leap of faith, is really a fall into our own desires.  We want something so badly (even godly things) to happen, that we justify it in our minds as what God wants.  We jump right into the deep end without affirmation , and then everything falls apart.  But, it wasn’t God who was untrustworthy, it was us by not trusting His counsel.

If you examine the scriptures, there is not a single piece of evidence that God is reckless with His people.  Bold?  Yes.  Asking them to do the impossible?  Absolutely!

BUT….

God always goes ahead, preparing the way.

God always is with them, providing for their needs.

God always comes behind, protecting and securing their journey.

Every single time that calamity comes upon His people, it is NOT because God failed them.  It is a result of His people losing faith and trust in Him, trying to do things in their own way, in their own timing, and making reckless decisions.  They took their eyes off of God, and looked only at themselves.

A God ordained leap of faith will never fail in HIS purposes, in HIS strength, and in HIS timing.

If you truly believe you took a leap of faith, that failed, I would challenge you to carefully and prayerfully examine that leap.

  1. Was this God’s desire for me?  Or my own?
  2. Did I rush God’s blessing?  Was I impatient?
  3. Did I try to make it happen on my own?  Did I not trust?
  4. Was I discontent during the process?
  5. Did I make reckless decisions?  Did I seek God’s counsel?
  6. Were there any affirmations outside of myself to confirm this calling?
  7.  Was I faithful in prayer and obedient to His word, during the process?
  8. Did I doubt God’s protection and provision during the journey?
  9. Is there a lesson I was being taught that I might have missed?

Pray that God would reveal the truths to you about that leap that became a fall.  As we begin to see truth, our trust is restored in God.   We also begin to recognize how untrustworthy we truly are when left to our own devices, and learn the hard lesson to fully rely on God.

Peter took a leap of faith, when he stepped out of the boat.  Not because of what he thought HE could do, but because he believed Jesus.  He didn’t trust his own ability, He trusted Jesus’ power.  It was only when he looked at himself that he began to doubt, and started to sink.

You may think that your Leap of Faith turned into a Fall.  But, God’s work in you may not be completed yet.  He’s reaching out his hand to you, to pull you back up onto your feet, and step out onto the waters of trust.

For the Love of Peace….

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This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

For the Love of Peace

If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (HCSB)

The pressures of life are surmounting.   The pressures on women are driving us to anxiety and depression.  Once upon a time, the only expectations upon us were to be image bearers, good wives, good mothers, good stewards, and good students of the word.  Over the course of history, to modern day, those expectations grew.

A perfect home.

Perfect children.

The perfect wife.

Then we added to those pressures as women entered the work force.   Now not only did we have to be perfect in every way at home, but also at work.  As more women entered the work force, the expectations upon them grew to become a super woman.

Then, there was a shift.  Women began staying home with their children again.  However, this added to the pressures of the perfect home life because she no longer had to balance outside work and housework.  We thrust upon her the notion that children’s birthday parties had to be grand, we needed to scrapbook every day of our children’s lives, and that we had to not only be the super mom… but also the super wife.  Proverbs 31 Woman became a piece of scripture that women were clinging to in order to become the super Christian woman, as well.

The pressure was mounting.

And then, it happened… social media exploded and took women along for the ride.

We had Pinterest to help us make the perfect meals, hand craft decorations for our homes, and upping the children’s birthday party to epic levels.

Facebook tossed in our faces, daily, the women who were winning at life.  Working out every day to maintain her perfect body.  Her perfect weekend crafting with her kids.  Date night, once a week, with her perfect husband.  The flowers he sends her, the gifts he gives her, the attention he showers her with.

Instagram became a revealing window to how much fun others were having, without us.  We saw their “girls weekend getaway” that we were not invited to.   We commented on the fifty hand made invitations for her Women’s Ministry luncheon.  We loved her outfit of the day photo, while we sat in the jeans we bought six years ago that are holding on by threads.

The pressure kept growing… and growing….

Before we could even realize it was happening, the green eyed monster of envy was rearing it’s ugly head.  To see it, we just had to look in the mirror.

We were jealous of her doting husband.

We felt left out of the fun.

We didn’t think we could compete with her talent.

We were no longer content with our homes, or their decor.

We lamented over our lack of funds to go on vacations or buy new clothes.

We began to hate our own bodies.

We became jealous over the opportunities their children have.

And that is when it happened, the pressure became too much.. and we blew up.

On the inside.

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  When these things happen, when the pressure grows to the point where we are going to blow…  someone is inevitably going to get caught in the wake of the explosion.

We will hate our selves, for the areas we failed.

We will hate our families, for what they are not.

We will hate others, for what they have … and we don’t.

Jealousy will poison our souls to the point that it will destroy us from the inside out, if we don’t spiritually check ourselves.

When these pressures surmount like this, we have only two ways to respond after we blow our tops.

  1.  We pull up our big girl panties, set our minds right, and find peace with the blessings that God has given us.

—-  OR —-

2. We begin to elevate ourselves, by tearing down others.

There are so many scriptures that point us toward peaceful living.  Blessed are the peacemakers (Matt 5:9),  Seek and Pursue Peace (Psalm 34:14), There is Future for those in Peace (Psalm 34:34), Live at Peace with Others (Romans 12:18)… these are just a few.  God wants us to be at PEACE in our lives, not fear… not anxiousness… not jealousy or discontent.   God wants us to LOVE in our lives, not hate… not condemn… not hurt or divide.  In fact, God’s word says that we will be KNOWN BY OUR LOVE (John 13:35).  When we LOVE, we not only have peace in our own lives, but we GIVE PEACE TO OTHERS.

God wants us to live in peace, and yet more often than not…  we go the other route.

Whether it is rooted in jealousy or a lack of confidence in ourselves (and our decisions or abilities), we begin to lash out.    It starts with the thoughts in our heads, begins to fall out of our mouths in our words, and then eventually felt in our actions and deeds.

We create competition, where there is none.  We become critical of their decisions and opportunities, instead of embracing our own unique blessings.  We try and bring others to our side, by gossiping about the person.  We try and force our opinions on others, not because we desire to see change in them for the better, but really to affirm that we are right.  Our thoughts become so self centered, that we can no longer see that person(s) in a positive light.   If we are not careful, it can begin to consume us.

If we are not at peace, we are at war… within our own heart and mind.  War is messy, and it has many casualties.  It will cost you happiness, contentment, and relationships.

 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 (HCSB)

Do not be conformed to this world, choose to live in peace.  Be known for your love.

“Let’s lay down our junk, our wonky junk that messes up relationships and community and togetherness. We won’t let our own crazy stop us from affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters.” – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

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Learn more about Jen Hatmaker’s new book “For the Love” at:  http://forthelovebook.com/

I FEEL LIKE I HAVE FAILED YOU

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It’s been just one week since my nephew got married.  I’ve attended quite a few weddings in my life, but to be honest, this was probably one of the most God centered.  It was as if Jesus himself was sitting in the first row, smiling upon this holy union, a covenant made in His authority and for the glory of God.

It was a simple wedding, with delicate touches.  And, as I reflect upon it, I think that simplicity helped not detract our attention from who this marriage was really about.  It was about God.  In the beginning God created man, and felt man should not be alone.  From man’s rib he created woman.  He breathed life into them.  Joining them in the first marriage, a holy covenant not just between man and woman… but GOD, man and woman.

His importance in their lives and in this wedding was evident from the vows (which included biblical submission, the correct full version)… to the couple’s decision to celebrate holy communion together…. and even into the reception as they bound a cord of three threads.  It was felt in the very air around them, God was present.  He wasn’t just on the guest list… he was the guest of honor.  In fact, God had planned this wedding before a ring was on her finger, before they first time they spoke the words “hello”, even before bride and groom were taking their first steps holding onto their parents hands.

When they were engaged, my sister had shared with me that she has always prayed for her children’s future spouses.  Since they were babies, this was part of my sisters prayer life.  Little did she know the plans God had in store for her son, joining our family to one that not only amazing…. but as I have said numerous time, a family that feels like they have been here all along.  We just couldn’t see them yet.  Like distant relatives, you have been waiting your whole life in anticipation to meet.

When the hustle and bustle of wedding day was over, when the family had recuperated from the festivities… I began to feel pretty down.  Not about the wedding or this fantastic couple, but instead it was a conviction in my heart about my own family.  I sat in awe of this beautiful godly woman.  I knew in my heart that a large part of who she is was rooted in the parents who raised her.  As I looked to my own children, I felt like a failure.

I wondered, would God be such an important part of my own daughter’s wedding?  Had I dropped the ball on stressing the importance of that.  Then I felt conviction over every Sunday that I allowed her to stay home from church because she was tired, or I was tired of fighting to get everyone out of the house on time.  I felt conviction that I hadn’t stressed more the importance of finding not just a man who believes in God, but a strong believer who would lead the family.  My sister had definitely accomplished that with her son.

One evening, several days after the wedding, I was having a conversation with my eldest daughter.  First, I want to acknowledge that I am very grateful for the relationship I have with my daughter.  We speak about things that can, at times, be uncomfortable.  However, her candidness and honesty speaks volumes to the amount of trust she has in me.  You see, there is a very special guy in her life.  They speak of their future together.  His grandmother already refers to her as her granddaughter.   They are making plans, having conversations about marriage.  When to get engaged.  When to get married.  When to start having kids.  What they want to do between those steps.

Since my husband was unable to attend the wedding with us, her boyfriend came in his stead.  Which of course, brought wedding thoughts to her head.  So, we began talking.  I was asking her questions about the wedding,  specifically about what details she really liked.  I replied with a few things that caught my attention.  Then, I got quiet.  I turned away from her, I quietly said “I feel like I have failed you”.

This of course caught her off guard, and she asked me to repeat myself.  I turned back toward her, and said it again.  “I feel like I have failed you.”  She looked puzzled.  I explained all of my thoughts.  My conviction about letting her skip out on church.  My conviction that I hadn’t infused God into her life more.  I told her that I knew as a mom, my job was to shape my daughters to love God and make him central in their lives…. just like this beautiful bride.

She looked me in the face, with a big smile beaming and said … “Mom, I”m only fifteen.”

Yes, you dear sweet child, you are only fifteen.

My life mantra is that each day is a new chance to be better, to do better, to get it right.

In such few words, she expressed a lot.  There was wisdom and hope in those words.  There was no lack of rebellion or disinterest.  There was love and compassion.

There is hope for me yet.