Failure isn’t an End Game

Slamming my messenger bag across the room was probably not the most descreet thing I could have done.

“What’s going on,” my Dad asked as he entered the room.

“It’s over. I failed my algebra test. It’s just over,” I replied.

“So, you failed it. And?” My dad replied, rescuing my messenger bag from the corner of the room. My facial expressiin must have echoed my internal confusion as my Dad continued on, “Failure isn’t final, baby girl, unless you decide that it is”.

I knew then (& now), my Dad was right. Failure will and does happen.

We are, simply stated, flawed folks. We will and do fail.

However much we fail..however career ending, life-changing or day altering it may be, it does NOT have to end there. Failure does not have to be final.

I promise you this. I have worked over 10 jobs in my life, endured divorce twice, lost a child, and buried a beloved friend.. I am certainly top of class for failures. It wasn’t (and isn’t) final for me. It isn’t final for you, unless that is your choice.

Contending with The Past

Sorry for the delay in posts. WordPress issues and work have hindered my regular posts. This post was intended to be published on Sunday, July 16th

The Opponent 

As Superman fights Lex Luger or any good guy fights the bad guy,  I have my arch enemy. She is a strong, loud dragon whose fangs could pierce concrete. Her name: The Past.

She lurks in the shadows of the night or in the loneliness of the crowd and whispers, ‘you are failure’. Mind you, she doesn’t whisper that I have failed but that in fact my failures define me.

In the last 7 years, I have been divorced twice, went through five jobs, moved three times, and went through two cars. Come on, that screams FAILURE. Yes, I hear you.

In the last 7 years, I have developed one incredibly unhealthy self-image. Worthless. Insignificant. Unwanted. And Yes, she has been winning. In seven years, I have actually grown to hate myself.

You have messed up too much. You will never be any good. You will never______ (fill in the blank). 

She is fiercely strong, and well armed with nearly four decades worth of mistake after mistake.

The Fight, so far

Flanked by anxiety and an incredibly unhealthy dating relationship, The Past has battered me dawn till dawn until I am shaking, crying, pleading for some comfort.

I’ve tried to wield a general hope and faith, finding myself instead weaponless. Again, The Past, she is a fierce enemy.

But Then, comes GRACE

I didn’t know Him when he walked onto the battle field. Small in stature, Grace walked up and placed His firm arm around me just when I thought I had lost for good.

At the beginning of 2017, GOD had gotten my attention. I found myself at the alter of the church, asking GOD to remove the relationship I was in if it wasn’t what HE wanted. And.. GOD did.

I won’t say it was painless. I cared about the guy, though the relationship was highly unhealthy and I ended up with my heart feeling burnt and reburned.

I had to be broken. I am one incredibly stubborn person (Irish-German, what a combination). And it took being financially striped bare, emotionally striped bare and finding myself at an all time high for reasons to absolutely HATE myself.. it took all of that for GOD to get me to see and feel HIS GRACE.

I finally knew GOD’s GRACE was there Mother’s Day of this year. I found myself celebrating my very first Mother’s Day without my sons. My mom, who I have a rocky relationship with, didn’t want to see me.

I found myself sitting and watching the sun come up that Sunday morning, feeling defeated by The Past. Just as tangible as the words on the screen before you, I heard and felt something spoken over me. “THIS ISN’T HOW IT ENDS”.

Speak, LORD, for Your servant listens

One of my favorite Old Testament stories is in 1 Kings Chapter 19.

“So HE said, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD.”
And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 

After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire;
and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing.” (1 Kinds 19:11-12)

It’s a reminder that GOD doesn’t always use the big or showy things to get our attention. Sometimes, HE just whispers.

I can remember when I was eight, we lived in an area that was prone to tornado activity. On one particular occasion, a tornado struck incredibly close to where we were. I panicked. I began to shake and cry and froze where I was. My Daddy kept trying to give me instructions on what to do, but I was paralyzed in fear. My Daddy, in his loving nature, knelt down in front of me and cupped my face in both of his hands. He didn’t scream. He whispered. And I calmed down.

EL ROI, OUR GOD WHO SEES, could have spoken to me on Mother’s Day in many ways. But HE knows HIS daughter full well. So HE whispered.

I’ve probably heard people say that it wasn’t over for me before that Sunday morning. But What GOD spoke over my heart that morning was slightly different. “THIS is not how it ends”.

GRACE and I versus The PAST

I wish I could say that every day since Mother’s day has been easy of that I have won my battle with the guilt and shame and worthlessness that The Past flings at me. I can’t, though. There are still days, or multiple moments through out a day that those thoughts might over come me.

And then there are days, that I grab GOD’s GRACE firmly in my hand and I walk in the victory I have in CHRIST JESUS.

There will likely be more hard days, but I pray daily (and sometimes hourly) for GOD to remind me that I fight not alone.

“for the LORD your GOD is the one who goes with you,
to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.” (Deuteronomy 20:4, NASB)

 

 

 

 

Out of the Dust

We are birthed to be dreamers. We play Princess and Pirate. We climb trees and crawl under fences. As children, the realm of what we could be someday seems borderless.

As we grow, someone or something shakes us from our sleep. Things tell us that we can’t overcome this or that we will never have that. Someone tells us that YOU CAN’T. Our dreams crumble, falling into ruts of complacency.

Or Perhaps, the waking happened to you as it did me. The Dream shone bright about you one day and the next, it is gone. All the normal unravels and the tangle remaining doesn’t resemble what we had before. 

I grabbed the dream and smashed it against the wall. The shards still embedded, I wander why I was so irresponsible. I also know that the why is irrelevant: what was is not.

Over the course of the last 4 years, I have hobbled around on those embedded dream shards and feeling more self-despise than is probably healthy. Days & weeks have trickled by. I have lived defined by my shatter moment. 

I prayed. Yes, How I prayed. I dipped my wounds into God’s Word, and yet remained wounded. I watched as Faith healed others as I limped along.

And Yes, I repented. O’re and O’re. I have worn alters bare with my pleads for forgiveness. 

In all my efforts and all my hobbling, there is one thing I haven’t done yet. let go.

How had I missed that? Nearly 1500 days of coping with the pain and I hadn’t done the easiest step of letting go.

The exit sign flickered on for me this week. The song, Beautiful Things, by Gungor was playing. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1spkhp41ig4). “You make Beautiful Things out of Dust”, the lyrics read.

Dust is a curious thing. We don’t give much thought to it, most days. Most days, it is the gray stuff behind our couch or laced on our ceiling fan. But get this- dust is alive. 

Look it up, google it, or youtube it. Dust is full of little things called Mites. In what seems worthless is life.

It won’t be easy as I remove the fragments of what was. Pain will surely come, but after that will begin healing. In my healing, I can  begin to gather the shiny remains and toss them. I’ll wipe off the shelf, smiling at the dust mites, and begin place new dreams. The simple fact that I ruined the before doesn’t mean I can’t have something just as beautiful or perhaps, even more amazing than what I had before. 

So, here I go. It’s time. 

Growing Where I’m Planted, Part I

Childhood is teeming with dreams. I’ll be a fireman, or I’ll marry Prince Charming. All to quickly, the reality of life empties our dreams and refills us with Reality.

I wanted so much more for my life. I suppose I am the age that many women (or people for that matter) come to that realization. I had disillusions of a successful life. A more significant life. I wanted Happily-ever-after and independence and beauty.

I have writhed with this conflict for nearly three years now. The regrets become self-destructive laziness which ferments into feelings of anxiety which in turn transforms into depression.

Church folk don’t care for that word: Depression. It has been Hollywood-ized and turned into some demonic thing. I do not have the professional accolades to say that Depression cannot be somewhat contributed to sin. I can only speak for myself: My depression is real. As real as my faith in Jesus Christ is.

So what is a middle-aged Appalachian-American Woman to do? Rut around forever in these dark, gloppy feelings of worthlessness? No. There is no gain in such behavior. I can choose to grow where I am planted.

Which.. is not as easy as it sounds.

Identity Crisis

Who am I?

Before you notify my next of kin to have me committed, hear me out: Who am I, really?

I have long scoffed at hearing people talk about midlife crisis. I have thought, ‘how can a person become so confused about who they are’? I remain skeptical about the behaviors that some attribute to midlife crisis, but I do know what it is to be confused about who I am.

Little Lost Girl

Though ribbons of shimmering light wove through my childhood, most of my preteen years were filled with sooty ashes. Secret shames I carried, plastered over by silly showy behavior. I was all too entirely lost. As I shifted into puberty and the gates of High School enveloped me, I felt swallowed whole by a life that I didn’t truly want to live yet lived anyways. I stumbled into college with dreams of escaping the life I had lived until that point. College was miles away from those who might see the shame laced in my smile or might stumble upon some stash revealing my guilt.

China Doll

Perfect. Or at least, as perfect as I could get. I aspired to be the perfect student and person and for so long, that is what I thought I became. Yet there was a part of me that knew others who were closest to me could see the blackness of my heart through soot in my tears. I tossed myself into the workforce and church activities, hoping that if I kept on doing the right thing that somehow I would fix myself.

The Day the Wall Crashed: March 12, 2009

I kept up appearances. I got just close enough to people to not be lonely, yet far enough away from them so they couldn’t smell my heart rotting inside me. Deep into anxiety & depression I fell – even with medicine, yet I painted the good girl smile on & to everyone else, all seemed fine. Fine & dandy, indeed.

Until. THAT day.

March 12, 2009 holds little significance to most. As I laid in the big city hospital that morning, the doctor chanted to the the specifics of what would happen next. For that morning, I would look at my daughter, Delani Rose, for the last time. Her heart had stopped.

The next morning, I would go through the process to help remove her remains from my body. The china doll I had been for 12 yrs walked into that hospital & came out a corpse.

Alive & Yet Dead

Existed. That is what I did. My desire to pretend scrapped away, and the ashy existence I had always been shone through.

I wish I could say that I did all the right things following Delani’s death, but I can’t say that with honesty. I knew I needed to reenter counseling, but I just didn’t care about getting better.

People began to see the ugly pain that they couldn’t understand as some sort of rebellion against what I was suppose to be. 18 months of living with the living dead ended my first marriage, & I found myself where I didn’t want to be yet needed to be: ALONE.

Construction Zone

With help from my divorce, I found myself isolated from the earthly family I still had left. All the text books would flag such an occurrence as dangerous, yet it was what I needed – emotionally. Three weeks into the exile, I found Him. I found who I needed.

His name is JESUS.

Now that you have rolled your eyes & scoffed at me, let me share what happened.

When I began my new existence, I had a deep gut knowledge that I needed to be in a church. Church was an all-to-familiar thing to me having grown up as a PK (Preachers Kid), but I didn’t just want to find an ordinary church. I hungered to find something authentic.

I found so many white washed tombs filled with the zombies of legality, that I wondered if authentic church actually existed. A colleague suggested a young church startup in a neighboring town, so I decided to visit. It was there I found an authentic church.

There were no expectations of perfection. There was no pretense that all of life is flowers & teddy bears. It was a church that taught GOD’s Word straight up & talked openly about how when JESUS saves us, sometimes the process to being made whole doesn’t happen it an instant but is rather a process that will bring Glory to GOD & draw others to Christ.

So, on the three month anniversary of me being alone, I stepped into the waters & pronounced to the world that I was ready to find what GOD intended for me to be.

It has been 19 months since I first set foot into that church.

And now, I am ready. I needed time after Christ reclaimed me from the darkness to heal my wounds & to resolve many questions that I had about faith & love. Though my scars remain, I know I have waited long enough & it is time to find who I truly am. In Christ.

I still fight often with my past guilt & regrets, but I must trust them into the hands of Savior who will crumble them & reshape them into something useful in my life. There can be no more pretending for anyone. There can be no more redistributing my load so I can carry more regrets and shame. It is time to delve into greatest adventure of my life: finding out who I am (in Christ) & living that out in a flagrant way.