Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Four Steps to Facing Failure

woman-dropped-fail-failure

In my life time, I have heard many quotes on facing failure and learning from mistakes. Just listen to the wisdom of some people who have been successful. They can be quite inspiring.

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett (novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet)

“When we give ourselves permission to fail, we, at the same time, give ourselves permission to excel.”
– Eloise Ristad (musician and author)

“Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”
– Robert T. Kiyosaki (businessman and founder of Rich Dad Company)

On the other hand, sayings like these can be very discouraging to someone who has just experienced the sting of failure. Their simplicity seems to delegitimize the pain of failing.

Can I be honest about this? It hurts to fail. I don’t want to put time, energy, and resources into planning and reaching a goal only to fail.

I’m certainly not successful like the people featured above, but I just have to say this. It’s okay not to like failing. Really.

Maybe you made a plan, put in lots of effort, and didn’t meet a goal. Maybe you studied hard and didn’t pass a test. Maybe you thoroughly researched an idea and it didn’t produce results. Maybe you made a commitment to a relationship and it didn’t last. It’s okay to be upset. It’s okay to grieve. Failure is a type of loss, and loss is painful.

Eventually though, when you’ve properly experienced the loss, you need to get back up, learn from the mistakes, and try again. How can you face failure in a healthy way?

  1. Take time to experience the loss. I know I already said this, however, don’t skip over this step. Each situation will be different, but it is important not to minimize your emotions.
  2. Identify what you did well. All is not lost. Celebrate the positive elements and accomplishments. Ask others for their feedback. Their perspective is valuable.
  3. Examine what you need to improve. Think about how you could do things differently, and then determine to make the necessary changes. Again, ask for input from others. They may see things that you missed.
  4. Above all, remember that you are dearly loved by your heavenly Father. Your worth is not determined by your failures or your successes. He loves you. Period.

So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you (Deuteronomy 31:6, NLT).

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love (Romans 5:3-5).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that my worth is not based on my accomplishments. Help me to answer Your call, give my all, and learn from my mistakes. Be my strength and encouragement. Be my teacher and guide. Please remind me that failure is never final when I keep my eyes on You and refuse to give up. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

What If Today Were Your Last Day?

calendar-82578Six months ago two masked men invaded my home and I was held at gunpoint. Through the Lord’s gracious work of healing and help from a wonderful counselor, anxiety and flashbacks have gradually lessened in intensity and frequency. One thing that hasn’t faded over time, though, is my awareness that life is precious.

I am incredibly grateful for each day, knowing that it is a gift. Life is short. None of us knows when we will take our last breath, and yet it is all too easy to live as if we are guaranteed tomorrow. Because of my encounter, the realization of life’s temporary nature here on this earth has been engraved in my awareness. Throughout each day I ponder the effects of my actions. Do they honor God? Will they lead, even in some small way, to make someone’s life better? I am mindful that I am here on purpose and I desire to make a difference.

My commitment to make each day count for God’s Kingdom powerfully influences the way I live.

As I imagine that today could be my last day (or that my next breath could be my last breath), it motivates me to…

Deal with difficult situations courageously.
I don’t like conflict, and talking about offenses is uncomfortable. However, life is too short to allow hard feeling to simmer under the surface. It is also too short to avoid asking someone hard questions, because it seems awkward or painful. I rely on the Lord for bravery and, as much as it depends on me, try not to leave issues unresolved.

Choose my words carefully.
I want to be remembered for speaking words of kindness and encouragement. I want my words to build others up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a stranger, co-worker, friend, loved one, or my husband, I want the words I speak (and write) to help make their day better. Life is too short to tear others down and unleash pain. At any given moment, may my words be life-giving, because they could be my last words.

Focus on what really matters.
I have often heard it said that when people are on their deathbed, they don’t wish that they had made more money or had become famous. Their greatest regrets relate to their most significant relationships, not spending enough time together, not sharing how much they loved them, not reaching out to mend the hurts inflicted. When the barrel of a gun was held inches from my head, my only thought as I prepared myself to meet Jesus was, “Lord, please take care of my family.” Thankfully my husband rescued me, and I have had one more day 182 times to love my family and influence others in positive ways.

Friends, life is too short to avoid difficult situations, to be careless with our words, and to waste time on trivial concerns. What if today were your last day, how would you live differently?

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~Joshua 1:9

Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. ~Ephesians 4:29-32, NLT

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of today. Help me to use the time wisely and to honor You in all I do. Empower me to live by faith and not by fear, trusting You for the courage to step out and make a difference in this world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

The Art of Acceptance

kitten

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The Serenity Prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971) is one of the most popular prayers today, and was adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous in the 1940s. It has been used as an inspirational saying for wall hangings, posters, and digital images around the world. People are familiar with the first part of the prayer, and may not realize there is a second part.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

The Serenity Prayer communicates beautiful simplicity of faith. It offers hope of a life lived in peace and surrender despite difficulties. Simple truth, but not easy to practice.

One thing I have been learning about myself lately is how important it is for me to be in control. Since childhood, I have developed a pattern. No matter how overwhelmed I feel inside, I do not allow it to stand in the way. Sometimes the internal battle is intense and it requires God’s strength to help me do what needs to be done. This strategy has served me well (although there are also some unhealthy results that I’m working through).

Since experiencing the armed invasion of my home four months ago, I have struggled with anxiety attacks and flashbacks. It is lessening in frequency as time goes on, but when they appear there doesn’t seem to be any trigger, showing up from nowhere. My tendency is to fight. I get frustrated by the interruption, but my ability to push forward doesn’t work. It only makes things worse.

So I am learning the art of acceptance. Rather than resisting, as soon as I feel anxiety I acknowledge its presence. “Oh, here you are again. Something must have triggered you. It’s going to be okay.” I invite the presence of Jesus and practice relaxation techniques. Strangely, acceptance removes the power from anxiety. It removes the power from other hardships, as well.

Acceptance of the hardships we face does not mean we are being complacent, ambivalent, or resigned. It does not mean we ignore, minimize, or pretend. Rather, acceptance is the conscious choice to relinquish control and have faith in the Lord. It is the determination to surrender to His Will.

We do need wisdom to determine whether we should make changes or accept things that cannot be changed. Many situations require a combination of both.

With aging bodies, addiction, disability, chronic illness, and terminal illness, we do what we can to promote health, but we cannot heal ourselves.

In relationships that are strained or broken, we own our part for the hurt we have caused, change our unhealthy behaviors, and do what we can to promote reconciliation, but we cannot change the other person or make them participate in the reconciliation process.

In the realm of leadership, we must be diligent to prayerfully develop strategic plans, work hard to realize goals, and make adjustments as necessary, but we cannot control external factors that impact outcomes.

We trust the Lord for courage to change the things that can be changed. We trust Him for serenity to accept the things that cannot be changed. As we do that, He helps us enjoy the pathway of peace.

I look up to the mountains—
does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth!
~Psalm 121:1-2

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:6-7

Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Three Things My Mom Taught Me

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A few days ago I had my 49th birthday. The Lord has been so good to me. Not that life is easy. In fact, the last few years have been painful because of significant loss and also with intensive emotional healing. I have lifted the lid to my past and acknowledged the dysfunction and brokenness of my childhood, inviting Jesus to heal me. Excruciating and yet liberating.

But it has been tough for my parents too. I understand. Almost every parent, Christ-follower or not, tries their hardest and wants the best for their kids. It’s heart wrenching to find out that despite your best intentions and efforts, it wasn’t enough to protect them from being damaged in some way. However, in celebration of my birthday, I want to reflect on the rich blessings poured out on me. For starters, I give thanks to the Lord for my mom.

My mom was 18 years old when she found out she was pregnant. The doctor recommended she have an abortion. After all she was young and had just started college. Despite the conventional wisdom of the day, she chose life for me. For that reason alone, I am deeply grateful.

My parents got married and wanted a happy family, but it didn’t work out. It was difficult and confusing to navigate divorce as a child. I would have loved to have been raised by two parents on the same team in the same household. Nevertheless, they invested in my life in different ways and taught me some valuable lessons that continue to shape me. Today I want to share with you three things I learned from my mom.

  1. It’s never too late to change. My mom committed her life to Christ at the age of 32. She had done a lot of living before then, marked by broken relationships and poor choices. I have heard her compare herself to the woman at the well in John Chapter 4. And like the woman at the well, my mom was radically changed when she encountered Jesus. The Savior lovingly reached out to her, she took His hand, and I have witnessed her walk out the process of glorious transformation. No matter her age, my mom is committed to growing personally, in her relationship with Christ, and in her relationships with others. In fact, her marriage to my step-dad speaks loudly of her desire to change. After suffering through three divorces, my mom recently celebrated twenty years of marriage to her beloved husband.
  2. Always take the high road. Most of my mom’s career has been focused on public sector and non-profit work. She is an excellent administrator and has great skills in networking and building partnerships. Unfortunately, she has also been viewed negatively by others who felt that she threatened their agendas. My mom has been the recipient of ugly words and treatment. At times, she has endured immense pressure. Regardless of how she is treated, my mom will not stoop to their level. She stands firm in her position, but extends kindness and respect. She is not two-faced; she does not speak negatively about others. My mom relies on the Lord to help her respond with truth, honesty, and integrity. And, no matter what, to love and pray for those who opposed her.
  3. Be brave enough to acknowledge your mistakes. It is hard for most people to admit they are wrong. A sense of fear or shame can be powerful when looking at our failures. We want to hide or bury the mistake, or we respond defensively out of self-protection. Yet, my mom can look at fear or shame, take a deep breath, and muster enough courage to deal with past and present issues—whether small or large. She taught me to be brave enough to acknowledge little mistakes. Rather than lying to cover it up or getting angry at the one who pointed it out, she takes responsibility. Having nothing to prove, she says something like, “Oh, that was me. I did it. Sorry about that!” My mom also taught me to be brave enough to look at the big mistakes. This ability has been a gift to me especially while on my own healing journey the last few years. As I have talked with her about childhood abuse and trauma, she has listened with grace. She does not justify herself. She does not minimize my experiences. Instead, she tries to understand my perspective and see how she contributed to my pain, even though her motivation as a parent was not to hurt me. I have tried modeling this approach with my own adult children. I know I have not parented perfectly. Even though it is scary, I want to be brave enough to acknowledge my mistakes, and see my kids experience the healing they need.

As I embark on a new year and approach the age 50, my goal is to incorporate these lessons into my life more fully. I am so thankful for my mom and the things she taught me. I hope that her example is an inspiration to you, as well. I encourage you to use her lessons as tools to help you thrive in life and in the positions God has called you.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7).

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2 Peter 3:18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for teaching me and speaking to my heart. Help me to learn from parents, mentors, and others you have placed in my life, and to apply their wisdom. Continue to mold me and make me to be more like You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Your Problem May Be Easier Than You Think

hammer-sledgehammer-mallet-tool

We purchased our home on Crescent Drive the summer of 2002. It was the perfect size for our growing family with plenty of bedrooms, a large backyard, and an in-ground swimming pool. The day we moved in, one thing caught my attention. At the top of the stairs, there was duct tape wrapped around the wooden handrail. The first thing that entered my mind was, “I should see what’s underneath the duct tape.” Followed by, “It’s broken and the entire 12-foot piece will need to be replaced. I don’t have time for that now.” Apparently that’s what my husband was thinking too.

One-by-one our kids graduated from high school. Four of them left home. Three of them got married, and grandchildren have arrived. Amidst all the changes, the old duct tape was still there, looking dirty and worn. Through the years, other repairs took priority. But nobody wanted to tackle the broken handrail, so the duct tape remained as a permanent feature. Until recently.

Our once perfectly sized house feels large and empty for three people, so we decided to put it on the market. As we spruced up the place, the time to tackle the duct tape had clearly arrived. I held my breathe, as I gingerly peeled the tape back, ready to assess the damage. I looked closely and felt through the gummy residue. There was nothing wrong. No crack. No split. Nothing. The wooden handrail was completely intact.

Fourteen years of avoiding such a simple problem. We had assumed the handrail needed to be replaced, but all that was needed was to remove the duct tape and apply a little “Goof-Off” to the stickiness. I laughed with joyous relief. I also laughed at the absurdity of the situation. We had avoided dealing with this problem for so long, because of a faulty assumption.

How many times have we avoided other areas in our lives because of faulty assumptions?

I have found that my faulty assumptions generally fall into two categories: (1) The problem is too big and (2) The Lord is too small.

The problem is too big. There’s not enough money. There’s not enough time. Relationships are strained or broken. We don’t see the answers. We keep beating our heads against the same brick wall. It’s outside of our control.

We may get overwhelmed by our circumstances. Our judgment gets clouded. We may assume the worst and our creative thinking shuts down.

The Lord is too small. We, in our humanity, are limited. We exist in time and space. What we see is what there is. We forget that our God is not like us. He is greater than we can fathom. He knows no bounds.

The amazing thing is He cares deeply about us, and shares His Spirit with us. What is impossible for us is absolutely possible for God.

Whether personal or involving the place where you lead, you need not be afraid of problems. You can look more closely and assess the problem. You can face problems, small or big, with confidence and curiosity. Although you may not feel strong enough or wise enough, God, who is on your side, is more than enough. You may be pleasantly surprised. Your problem may be easier than you think.

Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand (Isaiah 41:10 NLT).

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? (Romans 8:31)

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that nothing is too hard for You and that You hold me safely in Your hand. Remind me not to dread or be afraid. I do not have to avoid difficult situations, because You are with me. Let me not assume the worst. Help me to look to You in all things; You have the answers I need. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

Mixed race businesswoman jumping over gap between cliffs

When you think of change what comes to your mind? For most people, change has a negative connotation. As a young woman I was passionately in love with Jesus. He rescued me from a life of misery and destruction, and opened my eyes to see true meaning in Him. The Lord changed my life dramatically and I couldn’t wait to share His amazing love with others. Change was a great thing, and I wanted nothing more than to become more like Jesus.

Then I would look at older believers, especially those middle age and above. They seemed so set in their ways and quite comfortable to stay there. I was bewildered to see pillars of the faith settle for a predictable and safe relationship with God. They were good people. They were there every time the church doors were open. They financially supported their church, as well as other ministries. They sang the old hymns declaring that Jesus grows sweeter as the days go by. However to an outsider looking in, they seemed satisfied with the status quo.

I confess that, as a youngster, I judged many of the old timers harshly. Today as someone approaching 50, a follower of Jesus for 35 years, married for 30 years, and new to the empty nest season, I have a much greater understanding of where those dear folks were coming from.

I can only speak for myself here (although I think it can apply to others’ experiences). It’s not that I’m satisfied with the status quo. I have found ways of doing things, through trial and error, that work for me. I have developed good habits and efficient systems. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Plus, I don’t have as much energy as I used to. I try to choose my battles wisely. If it’s not a non-negotiable, should I really address it?

There can be a fine line between contentment and complacency. I am committed to change. Whether personally or on the job, I believe it is important to continually improve and grow. I try to keep an open heart to the Lord, willing for the Holy Spirit to reveal attitudes and actions He desires to transform. If you work with me for very long, you will quickly notice that I like to look for more productive ways to do things, to streamline operations, or to serve people better.

At the same time, I battle with initiating change. It is painful to examine issues of the soul. When it comes to leading, I know that people generally resist change. Any successful change effort requires lots of time, patience, and on-going communication. I don’t want to wade into the unknown and look like a poor leader if it fails.

My husband and I just returned from celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. We traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, for a three day get away. We agreed before hand that this would be an adventure and that we would try new things. The idea sounded good until it was time to actually practice it. I became acutely aware of three types of fear that are obstacles to change and doing new things.

Fear of failure. We booked tickets with a passenger ferry from Seattle. Without a car, we would see the sites of the city on foot. We charted out the places of interest. While boarding the vessel and fighting off the initial feelings of motion sickness I started to dread our new approach. What if I get too tired walking? What if I can’t walk to the places my husband wanted to go? I hate being wimpy, and he is much stronger than I. I certainly don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t want to be the reason we’re stuck in our hotel our entire stay. The desire to succeed can be paralyzing.

Fear of the unknown. Our first evening we had dinner at an upscale restaurant. My husband and I both noticed that escargot was listed as an appetizer. Many times over the years (when not at a restaurant) we had commented that we had never eaten escargot but wanted to try it. Now here was our chance. And we both hesitated. Would it look noticeably like a snail in its shell? Could we get past that? What would it taste like? What if it was chewy and slimy and we couldn’t finish it? That would be embarrassing. When we step into the unknown we face our assumptions, many of which may be wrong.

Fear of being discovered. The afternoon high tea was one of our last activities in Victoria. We eagerly made reservations. As we walked into the beautiful historic mansion, I was struck with anxiety. I may carry myself with confidence, but I am not well versed in the proper etiquette for a British tea ceremony. What am I doing here? I am so out of place! Everyone will see that I am an impostor. Amid the dainty china and petite sandwiches and pastries, people would see the “real” me.

What is the Lord asking you to change? Is fear holding you back?

Be assured that if Jesus asks you to step out and do something differently, He is faithful to walk with you. Our Lord specializes in the transformation process and making things new. His perfect love is greater than any fear.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for your calling me as your child. Thank you for loving me and changing me from the inside out. Help me to walk in the confidence based on who I am in Christ. May I resist fear and step out in trust, as I follow You and do Your will. Don’t let fear hold me back. I believe that absolutely nothing is impossible for You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Servant Leadership

What Courage Really Looks Like

WonderWoman

When you think of someone that is courageous, who comes to mind? As a little girl I idolized Wonder Woman. Not only was she beautiful and possessed super human strength, she wasn’t afraid of anything. She could stop bullets aimed her direction. In the midst of calamity, she stood with confidence, her hands placed firmly on her hips. Wonder Woman was invincible. (Actually, I learned that the inventor did give her one weakness, but that was changed many years later.)

This super hero was so appealing to me because she represented everything I was not. Fear was one of my companions in childhood and continues to visit me as an adult. I never climbed a tree because I was afraid of falling. I hated being in the dark. I was easily spooked. I avoided any situation that seemed to have any kind of risk associated with it. I also was paranoid of getting sick. When I felt the slightest pain or discomfort, I worried that it would become life threatening. Wonder Woman and I were clearly opposites.

Last week I attended a seminar for Executive Directors. The consultant mentioned some of the attributes of effective upper level leaders. Skills can be learned but, according to her, these traits were innate. As she listed them, I checked them off with a sense of relief. And then she got to the trait fearless.

My thoughts immediately started to race. “Oh no, not fearless!” “What am I even doing in this room?” “What am I doing as an Executive Director in the first place?”

I took control of my thoughts, and reminded myself of an important principle.

Courage isn’t about what you feel like on the inside. Courage is about what you do on the outside despite what you feel on the inside.

As a vocal performer and public speaker, I have had lots of experience with anxiety. When I first started singing, I would get physically sick and make multiple bathroom runs before going on stage. Thankfully I learned to ask the Lord for His strength and peace, to help me harness the power of fear and use it as energy to fuel my performance. Nobody had a clue what was going on inside me. All they could see was someone exuding confidence and completely engaged with the audience.

It is similar with leadership. There are plenty of occasions to feel anxiety, fear, or a looming sense of inadequacy. It’s what we do in the midst of these feelings that counts.

Here are some of the external actions that characterize courage.

Courage perseveres. You do what it takes to cross the finish line. You keep following God’s direction and plan for your life, and don’t allow difficulties to deter you.

Courage evaluates. You are willing to take a hard look at the current realities and not sugar coat the facts. You look for feedback from others to accurately assess situations.

Courage changes. You may not like change, but you understand how important it is in order to move forward. Creativity and innovation are necessary in shaking up the status quo.

Courage confesses. You readily admit when you are wrong or when you don’t have the answers. Authenticity is more important than looking good.

Courage prays. You draw your strength and inspiration from Jesus. When challenges arise, you call out to the Lord in prayer and seek His wisdom.

Courage includes. You ask others to help in the areas of their strengths and skills. You know it takes a well balanced team to get the job done.

Remember, you don’t have to feel brave to be brave.

Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24).

Finally be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe (Proverbs 18:10).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You are my strength and my shield. When I am afraid, help me trust in You. Thank You for empowering me with everything I need to accomplish Your will. May I walk in confidence, knowing You are with me. In Jesus’ name.