Try and fail

Someone, flustered by disorganization and their scattered thoughts, told me “I’ll get my life together soon.” I just said “We never do. That’s a myth.”

Getting our lives together is a myth. When I was newly out of college (and still sometimes now!) I would get home and just say to myself “you’re doing it, Rebecca! You’re doing this adult thing.” I say that to myself because I realize I’m trying and failing sometimes. I’m playing the game. I’m in the ring. That means I’m doing this thing called life and, dare I say, doing it successfully.

“Adulting” successfully is not doing things perfectly, but rather giving it a go every morning. I’m convinced that sometimes it’s the attempt that matters. That is adulting, this is life, and no one ever actually “gets it together” or figures it out because, among other reasons, life is constantly changing.

In fact, if someone has it so “together” that they never seem to fail.. then I’m afraid they’re not really living life at all, they’re managing and controlling and doing what they can but not what they could.

Assured success: that’s my comfort zone. I want perfection and successful execution of whatever I set out to do, so I tend to pick things that I know I can do. Bad place to camp out. 

Can good habits be cultivated? Can success and excellence be pursued. Yes, and they should be and that’s what I strive toward. But the first step is often an attempt and maybe a fail, and lots of grace and kindness for yourself in the trying-failing-success process.

If you’re engaged and open and feeling and dreaming and trying and failing and crying, you’re doing it. Be brave enough to be vulnerable enough to try and fail.

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Quick to do good

Recently I set out on a secret helping mission — the kind where you surprise someone with something they need or secretly do something to help. Secret helping missions are fun.

But this time I was on the bus home, frustrated because my mission had failed. I had a great idea, set out to do it, and it just didn’t pan out. I texted another friend, expressing my frustration and she replied, “So what do you think about the adage ‘It’s the thought that counts’?”

I replied: “Not sure. I think it’s dumb I guess.”

person using smartphone(photo by Priscilla Du Preez)

Because it’s not really the thought that counts, is it? That day on the bus home it wasn’t my thought that counted because the idea in my head meant nothing to the friend I was trying to help.

I’ve said it plenty myself. “Oh well, it’s the thought that counts,” I say when I have a great idea, try to do it, and it just doesn’t work out. It’s the thought that counts.

Or is is the trying that counts?

Good thoughts that don’t turn into action don’t count for much. In the end all the good ideas in the world do nothing to bring comfort, to relieve pain, to encourage, to help, to build up.

Thoughts turned into actions are what count, even if the effort isn’t a perfect, raging success. The trying is what counts. The obedience to do the good thing is what counts. My heart is changed and filled and, if all goes well, the people around me are changed as well.

“Every day you can do one thing you you wish you could do for everyone. We will be known for our actual fruits, not the intentions of our imaginations.” – Ann Voskamp

person washing fork(photo by Catt Liu)

It’s about the trying, the showing up, the being there, the doing, the putting thoughts into actions, even if those attempts don’t have a 100% success rate. Sometimes helping is awkward. Sometimes we don’t know what to say. It’s okay. The showing up is what matters.

A few months ago I was thinking and praying a lot about what it would mean for me to be quick to do good. Quick to help. Quick to love. Quick to serve. So that if an idea pops into my head, I won’t spend time thinking about it, coming up with why it’s inconvenient, why I don’t have time, or why it would be awkward (and my selfish heart is very good at that!).

Instead, I want to learn how to jump into action, to get right to the good that God put in my mind to do. I want to learn how to let the love of Jesus quickly compel me into action. I want to be quick to be selfless. Quick to go on lots of fun, secret helping missions.

That’s what counts, isn’t it? Being ready to do good, quick to act, efficient at turning thoughts into actions. Quick to serve and make it fun, even if it’s a little messy.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4

 

 

Cheerleaders

A coworker gave me a gift. A fountain pen. Because I’d never had one before. Because I love pens. Because I write. With this gift and his words, he said, “I like what you write. Keep writing.” A simple gift turned into a huge encouragement.

Just like that we can communicate to another human: “I’m cheering you on.”

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What does it look like to be each other’s cheerleaders? To actually show them that we “believe in them”? To effectively and creatively communicate to them that we’re behind them, that we think they should go for it?

Cheering people on is much more than simply telling them that they can do it. It’s equipping them to do it, giving them the tools for their trade, providing them with the space and opportunities they need to develop, stretch, and grow.

Taste buds

One of my greatest pleasures in life is having good food experiences. I delight in it. I mean the whole shabang — delicious food, great company, excellent service, cool atmosphere. And obviously the yummy food and taste-bud-exciting flavors are the base of a great food experience.

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Have you every thought about the fact that we have the capacity to taste with our mouths? God could’ve just made our mouths to be the first step of digestion, crushing the food that we need. Or he could’ve made us like flowers that simply glean our nutrients from our surroundings. Efficient and miraculous, but not very enjoyable.

We are not robots that connect to a battery, nor are we flowers that spread their leaves toward the sun and extend their roots into the ground. We get our energy from food but it doesn’t stop there.

We’ve been gifted with the ability to taste! To relish the flavors of tart lemons and spicy peppers and summer peaches and juicy steaks.

We aren’t even simple animals that eat and prefer one taste over another. We are humans that define tastes and experiment with textures. We are beings that create, combining tastes and textures to make edible works of art. To create food that is meant not only to provide us with the energy we need but that’s also meant to be savored, enjoyed, and delighted in.

I am a tasting creature with the capacity to enjoy — that is no small gift.

I need people

Too much or not enough for other people, that’s what we are, or at least that’s what the little inside voice tells us.

“Tone it down, they think you’re too much,” and later I hear, “Get it together, they think you’re not enough.”

And out of self-protection, we fight that inner-conversation with “No, it doesn’t matter what other people think of me!” That’s partly true, but we’ve made a virtue of not caring about other peoples opinions when the truth is that it does matter what people think and say to us. It’s both-and. It doesn’t matter and it does.

My true identity is not based on another person’s opinion of me. I am who I am — beloved of God, free, secure, and redeemed in Jesus Christ — despite a person’s judgment of me. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what they think of me and it shouldn’t matter. My deep identity, peace, and joy should never be shaken by someone’s opinion of me.

But precisely because my identity is sure, I am free to allow myself to let people speak into my life. If I’m sure of my identity, I can simultaneously heed what other people say to me but not be wholly dependent on their opinions. My secure identity frees me up to calmly and gratefully listen to a dear friend who tells me that I’m in the wrong.

If my identity is secure, the opinions of other people will never wreck me, and their words will be valuable to me.

In fact, I need people whose words do matter to me, I need people who can speak into my life, and I need people to have some kind of authority over me. It matters that I listen to the people I trust. It matters that I show all of myself to a few chosen, close, trusted friends or family, and trust them with some authority in my life.

woman wearing gray jacket
(Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash)

I have to stop being an authority-hog in my own life. So often I live as the queen of my own life — a kingdom in which I make the rules and what I want matters most. We create our own guidelines, based on nothing other than what we want or feel at the moment. No wonder we have fights and abuse and wars.

I need to be changed – deeply, from my guts to my skin, and I need God to do it in me. I need something outside of myself, something objective that I return to and listen to even if, at times, it contradicts my desires and flighty feelings. Otherwise I’m just living as the self-enthroned queen of my own life where I make the rules and standards of right and wrong and change them whenever I want.

I don’t want to be the queen of my own life. I don’t want to because I want to be selfless, I want to love people, and I don’t want to steal glory from my Jesus Christ.

If I don’t want to be queen of my own life, I need other people. Other people will never define me, but I do desperately need them.

I need trustworthy people in my life who are brave enough to speak to me when I’m straying, who remind me of my true identity, who know how to encourage me, and who love me enough to speak truth to me even if it’s hard. I will give them the right to confront me when I err, to cheer me on, to hold me accountable, and to ask me the hard questions.

And only because I rest in my unshakable identity, the things people say are no longer earthquakes that wreck the foundation of my soul. Instead, the words I hear from people will either be life-saving and life-changing or simple opinions that don’t even ruffle my feathers.

When I don’t care what people think, I lose my capacity for connection.
When I don’t care what people think, I miss out on valuable wisdom.
When I am defined by what people think, I lose my willingness to be vulnerable.
When I am defined by what people think, I will never know who I am in Christ.

“If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed. It’s a tight rope, shame-resilience is the balance bar, and the safety net below is the one or two people in our lives who can help us reality check the criticism and cynicism.” Brene brown

bravery to feel sad

No one really talks about the bravery and strength required to be sad. Probably because we feel ashamed of tears and we’ve been taught to carry on and hurry-away from all the “negative” emotions. 

A few months ago, tired of the same emotions surprising me in my heart, I purposed to process, write, and let myself cry if need be. I told a friend that I gave myself an evening to just feel the sad feelings that I knew were there and she said, “Feeling things sucks, and I am so glad that you always choose the hard and brave way.” 

Sometimes the best thing a friend can do is walk you through the appropriate emotions for what you’re dealing with – not to hit you right away with a rallying cry to get back up on your feet, but instead to validate where you are, cry with you in your pain, then later encourage you onward to health and joy regardless of mountains or valleys.

Resilience doesn’t necessarily mean immediately getting back on our feet. Resilience is not hardness. Resilience is a perfect combination of strength and tenderness. Resilience does mean standing up.. after we’ve walked wisely through the valley and summoned the strength and bravery to feel our hearts break. 

If we aren’t truly feeling grief, anger, heartbreak, joy, and gladness at their appropriate times, we aren’t truly identifying the bad in life as bad and the good in life as good. Call bad bad and good good. Be brave. Be sad when you need to.

We are rich

It struck us — our aliveness, the grand adventure and our small part in it.

“We are so rich,” I said, somewhere between a whisper and a declaration.

Sitting down for lunch in Caceres, the soft spring sun sifting through the leafy roof above, my toes tapping a rhythm in my warm shoes. I listened to the birds and the humans nearby, chattering and singing, and heard our own conversation, full of kindness, truth, and laughter. The privilege of making hard decisions, the richness of loving even if it means heartache. People who care with their good questions and their arms that hold.

I bent my neck to see the flowers painted on a stunning blue background — real life artwork that waves in the breeze. We filled our bellies with food and our minds with words.

We are so rich. You mean I get Jesus Christ AND all this too?

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