I Missed My Turn but I Didn’t Miss God by Becky Keife

Do you believe it’s okay to fail? If you asked me, I’d be quick to say, “Yes! Failure is a part of life. Failing means you’re human. Failure is an opportunity for learning. Failing means you tried.”

But turns out, what I know is true doesn’t always translate into how I feel.

Recently I messed up. I was talking on the phone while driving (yeah, I know) and I missed a turn. I didn’t realize my mistake until much too late. So late in fact that by the time I turned around, backtracked, and made it to my appointment, I was told that the doctor could no longer see me. The appointment I had waited months for. The appointment I had taken time away from work and arranged childcare for.

I stood in front of the receptionist, flustered and sweaty and desperate to turn back time, and I started to cry. Tears of frustration and embarrassment. And also tears of shame. But as I drove home, silently wiping tears and berating myself for my mistake, I realized that my response was less about the inconvenience I caused and more about what I believe:

I believe I shouldn’t make mistakes.
I believe I should always be focused and timely and efficient.
I believe a string of bad nights’ sleep shouldn’t affect my clarity of mind.
I believe failure is an indictment on my character.

As I type these words though, I can name for myself all their slippery slopes and half-truths. I would never believe these things for you.

But sometimes it takes missing a turn and crying in front of a stranger to realize you’ve got some work to do in the department of self-kindness.

Self-kindness doesn’t mean making excuses or justifying poor behavior. But it does mean making space for mistakes. It means acknowledging that you’re human. Perfectionism is a myth. Performance-based living is soul-crushing. So why do we live like a mistake-free existence is the ultimate achievement?

I drove to my mom’s house to pick up my kids. I thought I had collected myself, but as I sat on a little stool while my mom putzed around the kitchen, the flow of tears started again.

“I just feel so stupid,” I confessed.

My mom hugged me and affirmed that failures big and small can just feel plain devastating. Then she made me a plate of sausage and sweet potatoes.

Space to cry. To be held. Loved. Fed. Those were gifts I wouldn’t have received if I hadn’t missed that turn and seemingly messed up my whole day.

And this is the beauty of God: He loves us at all times, and He works in all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28) — not just on the days when we have our ducks in a row and everything goes as planned.

Today I want to hug the me from that day and tell her that she is no less valuable or loved because she messed up. Today-me knows that appointments can be rescheduled and God’s mercies are new every morning. I cannot miss His love. 

For more reminders that your limitations don’t disqualify you from God’s love and kindness, check out Becky’s upcoming book The Simple Difference, available now for preorder.

This article first appeared on (in)courage. You can find the original article here.

I Missed My Turn but I Didn’t Miss God (incourage.me)

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The Mystery and Miracle of His Might by Rachel Kang

In the middle of the night, when all is dark and all is calm, and I am tired and trying to hold open my heavy eyes, I behold my newborn son and gaze down upon his small silhouette, his little life. In the darkness, I feed him. I change him. I burp him. I cradle him. I lull him. When I am done and simply stay there to hold him, I feel his hand on mine. Holding my finger, he grasps to keep me in his grip. And though he is but two months old, his hold on my hand is unbelievably strong, and it is both a mystery and a miracle to feel the cling of his clutch wrapped around the thin of my finger.

One year ago, when the pandemic put a pause on the world, I found myself announcing that it did not put a pause on God’s plan for my family, for life swelled and swirled within me. It was a gift, even in the middle of so much grief. And I could not have known then that when I chose to name the child within, he would really live up to the meaning of his name — that even at two months old, he would show himself to be small but strong.

Aaro is his name. Of all the different variations of meaning his name holds, “mountain of strength” is the one we chose because we want for him to see himself just as a mountain — to see and know he is not a small or hidden or helpless thing.

On a day like today when I am thinking about the mystery and miracle of might showing through the smallness of my son, I cannot help but hear hope for the here and now: Those of us who feel small and insignificant and unseen are, in fact, seen and loved greatly by the One who created the greatest galaxies.

He sees us for who and how we are and shines through us with a strength we could never imagine ourselves.

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Failure Redefined

Photo by David Travis on Unsplash

(A lovely story of God’s creativity, told by Steve Vinton.)

I still remember the weekend we failed.

It was back in early 2018. Justin and I traveled 140 miles (quite a trek in this part of Africa) to a little village that invited us to come talk with them about building a school together. We took three guests along with us: two young men from our college and Josif, a visiting professor from America.

A hospital fairly near our destination ran an eye clinic. The college men clearly needed glasses. Taking them with us was an opportunity to get glasses for two people, and traveling together would be a great experience for all of us.

The trip to the eye clinic was a big disappointment. Oh, our companions got to see the doctor and have their eyes tested, but in the end the hospital only had 6 pairs of glasses, none of which were the right prescription. And the people in that village never ended up building their school. They would have to make bricks for months and haul foundation stones. Sometimes the task simply looks so huge and overwhelming that people’s will and determination melts away. The people we met with were warm and friendly, but they didn’t want a school enough to build one themselves.

We still made the best of the trip back together, telling stories and enjoying the fun of eating the peanuts and drinking the bottles of juice we had bought on the side of the road. But that was the weekend we failed. I was sad for the two young men who needed glasses and didn’t get them. And I was sad for the kids in that village who wouldn’t be getting to go to school.

********************

Then last week, more than two years later, a picture popped into my WhatsApp, a picture of a kid wearing glasses. It was a picture for the history books – the first kid in Village Schools Tanzania to get new glasses! Here’s what had happened:

Josif, that visiting professor, was disheartened by our failure. So, when he got back to America, he went to work and found a company in France who agreed to send us a wonderful machine. Our kids just look into it, and somehow it spits out a little piece of paper with the exact prescription for the glasses they need. On top of that, they gave us lenses for more than a thousand pairs of glasses! In 2018, Josif wanted his two students to get glasses, and we failed. Now 29 kids have glasses so far. Eventually, we’ll test the eyes of every single one of our more than ten thousand students and provide glasses to every kid who needs them.

I’ve been asked if it bothers me to drive sometimes 500 miles to a village only to have them end up not building their school. Isn’t that failure a huge waste of time? Here’s my answer:

We have to fail, because sometimes failure opens the doors for something so much better than we could have ever dreamt of.

I wanted those two kids to have glasses so badly. Who would have ever thought that now every kid in every one of our schools who needs glasses is going to get them because things didn’t work out the way we planned!”

Are you facing what looks like failure today? Maybe things are not as they seem. Have faith. Have patience. Be encouraged.

Got Gunk?

wedding rice

I can still remember the evening Steve put a diamond ring on my finger. We were taking one of our many walks on Hollywood Beach. After his proposal, we stood under a streetlight so I could see just how much the stone sparkled. I spent plenty of time over the next several months admiring that ring—watching how it broke streams of sunlight into prismatic colors, dunking it almost weekly into a plastic jar of cleaning fluid and using a tiny brush to scrub it.

Last week, I looked down at my ring and noticed it was surprisingly dull. The top surface looked clean and shiny, but sparkling? No, not really. Upon closer inspection, I discovered an unidentifiable gray-white scum clogging the spaces between the prongs. Ewww! No light could get through to the stone. I don’t have one of those little jars of cleaning fluid anymore, but toothpaste and a brush worked rather well. My ring is sparkling once again, and I’m determined to be more mindful of caring for it so I can fully enjoy its beauty.

By now you’ve probably guessed what this week’s question will be.

How’s your sparkle? Do you look clean and shiny on top while collecting gunk below?

Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” us. The writer there is using the analogy of a race, but a ring works just as well.

What hinders us?

What keeps us from glorifying God and enjoying him to the fullest?

Chances are something just popped into your mind. Maybe it’s a sin. Maybe it’s just a bad habit that slows you down or dulls your sparkle. I could make a list of possibilities for you to consider, but that would just be the gunk that threatens my sparkle. Yours might be different. No matter what it is, you are not stuck with it!

  • Ask the Lord to show you the gunk in your life.
  • Ask him to help you scrub it away.
  • Ask a friend to come alongside you in that endeavor.
  • And then keep clean. Maintain that shine!

It’s worth it. I promise!

 

You Win the Serve!

 

tennis-1776528_1280

I grew up in South Florida, Hollywood to be exact. It was a great place to be a kid. I’ll spare you the long list of delights and simply describe one—paddleball. Paddleball is a bit like racquetball except:

  • The paddle is all wood.
  • The ball is pink and very bouncy.
  • The court is outside, and open except for the front wall.

Good luck finding many paddleball courts, or paddle balls for that matter, now.(I couldn’t even find a photo!) But once upon a time, it was all the rage. There were courts by the schools, courts at public parks and courts by the beach, all of them crowded.

My dad taught me to play paddleball. It was great fun and a great workout. I didn’t realize until recently that it was also a great way for him to instill his positive attitude in me.  As a general rule, my dad did not let me win.

Lesson number one: Life doesn’t always give you what you want.

The rules of paddleball are pretty simple.

  • When your opponent slams the ball off the front wall, hit it before it bounces more than once.
  • Make sure your return sends the ball to the front wall before it hits the ground again.
  • Don’t hit the ball out of bounds. (You’ll lose the point, and you’ll have to go running for it. Remember, no back wall!)

We would play until we were drenched with sweat and out of breath. We’d laugh a lot. I haven’t played in decades, but my imagination can take me back to the court by Hollywood Hills Elementary School in an instant.

Lesson number two: Simple things, done with those you love, are priceless.

My dad is really good with words. He would say silly things as we played like “7- Up, the all family drink” when we were tied 7-7 and “We all need fortitude” when the score was 4-2. But the one I remember best is this: “You win the serve.” In racquetball, whoever loses a game gets to serve first for the next one.  I never once heard my dad say, “You lost.” He always said, “You win the serve.”

Lesson three: A whole lot of life is dependent on how you look at things.

My dad has had his share of hardship. You don’t need to read his list. You’ve got your own list. But he would be the first to tell you that he has lived and is living a life into which the Lord has poured great blessing.

  • He would tell you that sometimes he’s won the game and sometimes he’s won the serve.
  • He would recount the importance of spending time with those you love.
  • He would remind you that you won’t always win, but that will be okay.

My dad is a smart guy. I hope you’ll benefit from some of his wisdom today!

The Mud Hole

momIn honor of the approaching Mother’s Day, today’s guest post is by my mom, Beth, written as one of the many devotionals she has given at our church and edited down for this site.

The hard times of life happen to everyone, making us feel as if we are walking through mud. We move, but we don’t seem to get anywhere. We make a little progress, only to slip on the slimy bottom of our own weaknesses and sins. Far too often we reach out for whatever branch or hand we think will help: anger, drugs, alcohol, food or anything else that will restore our balance or at least cover up the mud we’re struggling against. Those things seem to help at first, much as a wad of bubble gum may fix the hole in a dam for a moment or two. Before long, though, we are back in the mud, or rather we realize that we have never left it.

My dad’s favorite hymn was “The Solid Rock.” (Words by Edward Mote in the 1830’s). Dad, and Mr. Mote, understood how to handle the mud holes of life.

“My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness

I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

On Christ, the solid rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.”

Surely this is the answer to our mud hole experiences, to stand on rock, on The Rock, not on sinking sand. We can do it by the grace of God.

Psalm 69: 14 “(you) rescue me from the mire, do not let me sink.”

Psalm 37:23-24 “The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.”

And then, of course, there is the story Jesus told of the wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7).

We will still go through mud holes, but we can do so confident that there is, below the silt, solid rock beneath our feet. We need not doubt that we will make it through. Sometimes our only choice is to put ourselves in neutral and let God do it all. Other times we can use what he has taught us and avoid most of the mud. But here is the best news of all:

Nothing–not even a million slips into the mud holes– can separate us from God’s love. It is His nature to love and nothing we do will change that.