Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

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First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Who Me? God has to be kidding…

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The Lord has a very weird sense of humor, when it comes to the ways He chooses to work through my life.  I also find that when I am at church and our Pastor issues some sort of a challenge…

… inevitably I am about to be moved out of my comfort zone.

The interesting thing to me, is that the more I look at what He is doing the more I realize that it is not something He was suddenly doing in my life.  Instead, the Lord was preparing for me it long before I even knew what IT was going to be.

But, I’m jumping ahead of myself.  Let’s start here….

My Pastor began a series called “If I Wasn’t Afraid” (you can watch each of the messages on vimeo from the link above).

In the course of the series, we were challenged to “Be Brave, Don’t Cave”and:

  1. Accomplish a personal adventure.
  2. Have a God honoring and needed conversation.
  3. Take a step (or leap) toward a God honoring commitment.
  4. Make a God honoring contribution.

Those who know me would hardly consider me as someone who is afraid.  For the most part, I’m not.  As you get to know me though you’ll realize there are many things I can do… there are many situations I’m bold in… there really isn’t a conversation that I won’t have.  I’m not afraid to share my opinions, to try new things, and to even have difficult conversations.

I am, however, terrified when it comes to talking about my personal life.  I can share about how I struggle in my walk as a Christian.  I can share my parenting difficulties and whatnot.  Yet, there is a line.  When we get too close to talking about it… I get uncomfortable.  I’ll change the subject.  I’ll make a joke.  I’ll find an excuse to duck out of the room.

This would be the exact subject that God would call me to conquer in the challenge our Pastor issued.  You see, this will be a personal adventure for me.  I’m about to enter a world that I am terrified of… that one area that has been off limits.  It is going to require me to have a God honoring conversation with myself, my husband, and with women just like me.  It is going to take a commitment to see this through to the end, no matter how many times I want to run and hide.  And, it is going to be a contribution that will hopefully help other women.

By now, I am sure you are all waiting with bated breath for the big reveal….

Ya’ll the Lord has called ME of all people to talk about S… E… X…

Sweet cheese and crackers.

So this week, I’m going to be reading the Song of Songs (aka Song of Solomon).  I can’t lie… this is the only book of the Bible I have avoided.  However if I am going to stand before anyone and claim the authority of the Word of God… that all parts of it are God breathed for instruction and correction… it must include Song of Songs.

All of it… every word… is important.  Whether I ever wanted to admit it or not, God cares about our sex life.  It is no wonder we live in a world of sexual brokenness… when we are afraid to talk about it’s holiness.

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At the beginning of this post I shared that I realized the Lord had been preparing me for this long before my Pastor issued the challenge.  Did you know that the Lord does this quite often.  In the book of Nehemiah, there was a lot of preparation going on between the time the Lord burdened Nehemiah’s heart and when the Lord actually said “GO”…

For me, this process started two years ago when a book called “Pulling Back the Shades” came across my lap.  It was a simple book review, that would have profound impact on me.  A book that would cast off some scales and force me to take a hard strong look at my own past and beliefs about sexuality.  That review would lead to me becoming a part of a launch team to promote the book as the 50 Shades movie was about to release.  Thus, establishing a relationship with @AuthenticIntimacy that would lead me to volunteering for a women’s conference, launch teams for two more books (25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask About Sex, Surprised by the Healer), another live event, and then a leaders training.  It would put me in touch with a network of women who have become amazing friends, and sisters in the battle to take back this ground.

I would find myself sharing with women things I never imaged I would share with another human being.  Then, the Lord pushing me out of my comfort zone, to the point that I would be leading a study on sex in marriage… IN MY CHURCH.  Having candid conversations with women in my church about how important this is (and how broken I am) and quite possibly the most awkward email I have ever sent to a Pastor… IN MY LIFE.  Why?   Because, my Pastor recognizes how important this subject is.  For our church.  For our community.

I am afraid, terrified of this subject.  I know that in short order this last hidden part of myself is about to become absolutely transparent to the women who attend the study.  The Lord has a lot to say about being afraid too.

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Isaiah 41:10

It is ok that I am afraid, that I am scared, that I am even terrified.  This means that I am going to be leaning and relying on the Lord more than ever.  Please pray for me, and the women who are going to be walking this journey with me.  Lord, bring healing. Redeem the broken.  Heal marriages.  Amen.

Unified in Our Brokenness

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This morning, I spent some time with a group of women who are leaders of women’s ministries, women’s discipleship, and other women’s organizations.   In January 2016, Authentic Intimacy will be holding a 1 day conference for women, related to what godly sexual intimacy looks like…. for married, and single, women.  This meeting was an informational meeting for women’s ministry & organization leaders to have a better understanding about Authentic Intimacy as a ministry, and ask questions about the conference.

In our group, we had a woman who was a missionary to Africa.   There were two women who work with pregnancy crisis centers in our area.  There was a woman who leads discipleship among women and speaks on Indian Reservations.  There were women who had their own experiences of sexual brokenness and those who are helping people heal their own.  It was a precious group of women, coming together because we see a need in our community & we want to support this conference.

What was interesting to me about this meeting is how united we are in our brokenness.  As the missionary shared the brokenness of the women in Africa, I could see those same stories in the faces of women that I personally know.  I know women who have been raped, and someone tried to blame them… being accused of doing something to encourage it.  Women who were sexually abused by their husband, doing their “wifely duty” against their will.  As I listened to the crisis pregnancy volunteers, I could see the faces of girls who were afraid to tell their parents they were pregnant.

I listened to story after story of dysfunction in relationships because the subject of sex has been too taboo to approach in homes and in the church.  Last year I served on a team of women who were responding to the Fifty Shades of Gray books, and many of the women shared that their Pastors and the Pastors wives didn’t think  it was “an issue in our church”.    We can’t stand in a place where simply saying “don’t do it” is the only correct response to sex, the only message we give our kids.

We need to be not only discussing what healthy Christians sexuality is NOT, but also what it IS.  We have children from broken homes getting married, who have no idea what a Christian marriage looks like.  They don’t have a resource of friends to speak to that can advise them of what healthy single life looks like either.

The enemy shames our women by mocking their choice of purity, making them embarrassed over the decision.  The world (including Christians) shames the ones who have not maintained their virginity.  We spend so much time telling girls to wait, that they are intimidated when they get married, and many are dealing with guilt because their purity has become an idol to them.  They are finding shame in even having sex with their husbands.  They have guilt over their past, uncomfortable with their present.

Yet, we brush it under the rug.  Because it’s not “an issue in our church”.  The church is more than the four walls we meet in each Sunday.  The body of believers is our church, and what affects others should affect us.

In her book For the Love, Jen Hatmaker states that if something we believe is not true for the single mom in impoverished Haiti… then it is not true.    Which means that if it is true for the single mom in impoverished Haiti, then it is true for us too.  Sex trafficking, rape, sexual abuse, marital sexual abuse, etc… it is true for women all over the globe, which makes it “an issue in our church”.

Church, let’s minister to the least of these….  because we are united in our brokenness.

#25QuestionsBook – Chapter 3

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October 6th, Dr. Juli Slattery’s newest book 25 Questions You’re Afraid to Ask about Love, Sex and Intimacy will be available for sale.

We all have questions, especially Christians on what is and isn’t ok or permissible.  The church as a whole hasn’t done the best job in answering those questions.  Talking sex in the sanctuary is still taboo in many churches.

That doesn’t stop the questions from entering our minds.  The internet makes a tempting place then to look for the answers.  But, what does God’s Word say on the subject.  Dr. Juli Slattery dives right into the top 25 questions she gets asked and answers them from a biblical standpoint.

This book is written for the single and the married woman alike.  A safe place to get sound counsel on those questions you may just be afraid to ask.

I’ll be sharing more about this book in the coming days!

25 Questions About Sex – A Long Overdue Book.

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I am really, really excited about this book.

The subject of sex is still pretty taboo in most churches.  Sure, it might be addressed by the youth Pastor… who reminds our kids NOT to do it yet.  It may even be addressed occasionally during a Women’s Conference or brunch,  where we are reminded we shouldn’t use it as a weapon.  Or, we may be instructed on how to get our grove back after kids.

But, is that really all we need to know?

NO!

There is so very much more, but we might be afraid to ask our Pastors.

They may be intimidated (or embarrassed) to bring it up on their own.

This leaves women (who make up 55-65% of our church bodies) in the dark about what a healthy sexual relationship is like, within the confines of a godly marriage.

Dr. Juli Slattery is going to dig right into 25 Questions that may be hard to ask, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be talking about them.

I am excited to be a part of a team of women who are going to be exploring this book, sharing our thoughts about it, and launching this book into the hands of women across the globe.

So, check back in soon… as we start this journey together.

“Our sexual questions shouldn’t be relegated to dark rooms and lonely nights. They need to be spoken and explored, holding up the Word of God as the standard of truth.”

#25QuestionsBook

If you need an excuse to go toward the beach in January…..

If you need an excuse to head toward the warm waters and sunny beaches of South Florida….  or you are already there….

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To register, click the photo or HERE.