Normalizing Failure

Photo Cred: Amy Humphries

The number of times in my life that I have done anything at all, perfectly is approximately zero. I’ve done some things well, other things even better, but nothing in life have I executed or carried out perfectly. As a matter of fact, some things I’ve attempted in life… many things… I’ve absolutely failed in. I’ve failed to show up for friends and family when they’ve needed me. Failed in carrying out duties at work. Failed in my workouts and fitness life at times which I take pretty seriously as a lifestyle and habit.

And yet through my failures I’ve learned. Overcome. Transitioned. And grown. Through my failures I’ve seen things from a new perspective I didn’t know mattered. Through my failures I’ve been able to stand up and try again.

John Maxwell, a bestselling author and expert on leadership says, “A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them.”

Applying this concept to my life, I’d like to introduce the idea of failure being quite normal even freeing. Because in failure we get the chance and opportunity to try again and overcome.

An example of this could be a child learning how to read or trying a sport for the first time. It would be insane to expect that child to perform a new task perfectly. The beauty of being a child is they are given the right (for the most part) to make mistakes in things, learn consequences if there are any, and get better.

I remember my first swim meet ever, I was 7 years old, maybe 8, and was supposed to swim a 25-yard breaststroke. I got to the end of the lane and popped my head up, thrilled to see I had won. For all of 3 seconds when the person running the timer in my lane said I was disqualified. I actually swam freestyle, not breaststroke. Oops! I learned the lesson and never made the mistake again I don’t think through all my years on a swim team. I had failed. But no one held it against me.

So why would we hold failure against ourselves as adults? Why do we take such considerable strides to HIDE failure on social media and with friends and family? I’m all about putting our best foot forward in life, but what if that is actually crippling us at the end of the day rather than living authentically with our stories of not being where we want to be yet that could be encouraging and helpful to so many people.

I submit to you now that failure is more normal than carrying out any task in life perfectly.

I’d like to see failure normalized, not hidden behind pretty social media posts and trying to hide our faults and failures to the enormous extent that we do.

Another example comes from my own life with working out and Triathlons. I used to compete in regularly 1 to 2 times a year in Triathlons around the northeast of the US in new cities and towns each race. My first year I had a HORRIBLE race time. I put so much effort into training and making a goal time for the race, yet I completely blew it the day of the race. I briefly thought to myself “I’m not made to do Tris.” I almost gave up this hobby and lifestyle because of a bad race. It took about two weeks until I missed the swimming, biking, and running and chose instead to say, “Well, it seems I have a lot to learn and become better in with regards to workouts and training. I can do better next time.”

I think giving into the first statement, “I’m just not made to do this” isn’t going to help me win and become better at the next thing I choose to focus my time and energy on. It isn’t going to help me succeed. It isn’t going to help me really at all. Though I failed in reaching all of my goals that first race, I chose instead to see my end time as a reason to adjust, get educated on workouts, include other people in my training by talking to a couple of other athletes who had done way more racing than I ever have.

I chose to realize that “failure” was just a matter of personal definition, not an absolute that determined an end to something that I really enjoyed— in this case swimming, biking, and running—despite my slow pace and poor choices in the race that really set me back.

Normalizing failure for any and all can be a way to rethink failure in general. If you personally “did bad” in something— could be anything from baking a cake that turned out horribly that you meant to give to someone for a special occasion, to showing disruptive and “bad” behavior at an event that in retrospect you realize you shouldn’t have acted that way—and you choose instead to learn grow and change based off of that perceived failure, have you really failed at all?

I don’t know a single person on planet earth that has done ANYTHING perfectly in life. But everyone I know has messed up in big or small ways around me my whole life, including myself, and the world still moves on.

Instead of getting caught up with our failures, beating ourselves up, ruminating on went wrong, what if instead we chose to focus on the positive that might be a result of that failure? What if that time we didn’t show up as we should for someone we learn the art of apologizing and making amends? What if we recognize that no matter how old we are, we are fallible human beings and failing is a part of life. Failing is actually… normal… and can bring about positive change including overcoming obstacles and achieving greatness in some area.

This new year, let’s embrace our “failures” as we might call them and realize that as Maxwell said, “The only guarantee for failure is if we stop trying.”

As long as you admit the mistake, change the course, make a new decision next time you’re faced with a problem or dilemma that you “failed in” then truly failure isn’t the end of the story.

I’m sure many people are making new year’s resolutions and vowing changes for 2021. Let’s not see 2020 as a failure, but a year of learning and growth. Let’s choose to walk into 2021 refreshed for amazing opportunities that if we keep going, don’t give up, and try again in we can have the greatest personal success imaginable, no matter what our goals are be them relational, financial, spiritual, physical, or any area of life that you may be holding onto failure in.

There is always hope. There is always room for growth and change. There is always a new time to keep the faith and change the course for better next time. At the end of the day, without failure we will never fully understand the deep feelings that success brings.

“Practically Perfect in Every Way” -Mary Poppins

BrookCagle

PC: Brook Cagle

NOT.

I’ve done some pretty ridiculous things over the years that some might call dumb. Or silly. Or crazy.

One time, when I was leaving Sevilla, Spain to travel on to Tel Aviv, Israel I HAD to get to the Spanish post office to ship a suitcase home to the USA the night before I left Europe. So with about 2 minutes till the post office closed, I ran through the city, brandishing a sword in front of me that I bought in Toledo, Spain, which I also had to ship and had no box for, dragging a 60lb suitcase behind me that didn’t even have wheels. Spaniards thought I was a crazy American, ducking and tripping out of my way as I yelled “!Perdoname!” through crowds with the sword in front, suitcase bumping along in tow praying there was a line at the post office and it would be open late.

Another time, when I lived in Southern California, I pulled off the freeway to the exit on my way home. Waiting for traffic to slow down, so I could merge and join them, I inched forward with my car. As I looked left to make sure it was safe to merge, a man who was homeless, dehydrated, and in need of hospital care stumbled across the intersection and collapsed on my car. A homeless man on my car in the middle of an intersection! I didn’t know what to do.

Another day more recently, I ran bra-less through town trying to find a present for a bridal shower that started in two hours. I didn’t have a bra because it had been about 5 weeks that I had done laundry. So I had to buy a new bra, and a present, and pretend like I didn’t have a hangover as I showed up a flustered mess wearing the previous nights makeup to this shower. Oh yeah, and I arrived an hour late to the party because I got lost on my way. Even though I had GPS and it was in my hometown.

I’ve crossed lines with people and relationships, started things that I can’t finish, and wondered what the heck am I doing with my life most of the time.

And while this has been going on, I’ve smiled and laughed, and even had fun, not realizing the problem till after the fact, only then asking God for help to deal with my heart as I’ve felt guilty to the world around me in my mistakes.

During one such prayer, it occurred to me that at least part of what I’ve been dealing with is why Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites” in Mathew 23:27. They were more concerned about their image than their own hearts and souls. And like them, I prayed that God would protect my image and reputation… that was my biggest worry in the moment.

So then I realized not only do I choose sin, let people walk all over me, but also the cherry on top, I’ve been a hypocrite too worried more about my image than anything else! Wow. Praise the Lord I have any friends at all after some of my ups and downs.

But the beauty is, I DO have friends. Some really great ones that sprinkle truth, encouragement, and understanding for the decisions I make. And through it all I’ve been learning about myself– that I’m not as strong as I think I am. That sometimes I’m a hot mess. And that I’ve been putting myself in a box with what I think I want in life.

Beyond that though, I’ve been learning about God– that He is faithful, doing WORK in me to answer some pretty major heart prayers. That He has me right where He wants me at this point in life. Mostly I’ve been learning alllll about His grace and mercy.

You see what is grace and mercy without sin? Grace and mercy mean everything because of sin, not in spite of it.

In years past when I’ve messed up, I’ve wallowed in it, living in guilt like a rat in a sewer afraid to come out to the light of day.

But not this time. I realize now that I live in a sinful world and it is inevitable that I will find myself messing up. And it isn’t tragic to the point of wallowing away like sewer rats. It’s human. I am human as you are, and that is why we need a Deity to come down to the crap that humanity has made the world, to rescue us, and to pull us out. We need a God. And the God who calls me His daughter was and is willing to do just that! With all of His grace and all of His mercy…

How AMAZING that my Best Friend since I was 5 years old when I asked Jesus to come save me, is even better than the friends I call up, text, or grab a drink with to talk about the latest life lessons! With Jesus, I don’t have to explain myself. I get to bring my depressing, crappy issues to His feet- that He immediately, no questions asked, begins to Build, Restore, Teach, Edify, Encourage, and the Laugh with me about.

I’m honored and humbled that He loves me that much. That He shows me my blind spots in real life situations. That this weekend, or last, or the one before that are not where my life ends, but are building blocks to the next season. And His heart is all about restoring me back to Himself for His own glory. I have the faith of a mustard seed to move on- chasing rainbows, dreams, and promises that He’ll fulfill saturated with grace and mercy flowing down.

“After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

I don’t have all the answers, but that is the whole point in not being perfect. I’m not supposed to have all the answers. God tests us, He lets us choose paths, He lets us make decisions, He opens doors at the right times, and He redeems the messes we make, if we let Him.

Sometimes I spill coffee on myself in the car. Or bite my nails when I’m nervous. Or buy new bras because all of my current ones are dirty. And even as a 25 year old grown woman, I broke a vase of my mom’s and tried to hide it. But I realize when I let go of trying to be perfect, He can finally work and reveal to me the truth of who I really am– a forgiven daughter of the King. The bottom line is: I’m not perfect and I’m done trying to live some image of myself who tries to be. So in choosing not to be perfect by my standards, I am FINALLY allowing Him to move in me with all of His.

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me” (Philippians 3:12).

{Q&A} Lauren Takes Study Abroad to a Master Level

I was bit hard by the travel bug when I studied abroad 3x in my undergrad days. But when I found out my dear friend Lauren, whom I met in Spain 5 years ago on one of these trips, was going to get her Masters in Columbia I was inspired by her love for adventure. She took study abroad to another level and learned everything from how Colombian’s put cheese in their hot chocolate to how medical interpretation is a way to help native Spanish speakers.

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1) What school are you at in Columbia? Why did you choose that school?

I am in grad school at Universidad de La Sabana. It’s a peaceful, well accredited campus right on the outskirts of Bogotá, Colombia. I would mostly say God is the reason I ended up there.

2) What are you studying exactly?

I am studying “Pan-hispanic Linguistics” which is the fancy term for diving into the different dialects of Spanish spoken around the world in a certain pluralistic and inclusive approach. The extensive geography of Spanish speakers around the world calls for a certain tolerance and respect for those with different dialects. Without going too deep into the politics of things, basically Spain is not the norm to follow for “correct” Spanish, but rather each country has their own norms and nuances that should be equally accepted. This is a new direction of thought, but it is changing the politics of the language in beautiful ways.

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3) For your thesis, what was the process of deciding that different Spanish dialects could be an issue for medical translation?

I saw the issue of medical interpretation between different dialects of Spanish and American English while I was an intern at the Colombian Medical Academy… There are essentially endless amounts of Spanish dialects once you delve into the different regions, countries, cities, neighborhoods, and households of native speakers… Many countries in South and Central America are not up to the technological ease of access of info we have in the states. Since the vernacular greatly varies, we are doing a disservice to patients when we try to fit them into one box of Spanish speakers.

4) What do you hope to accomplish in the future with your new degree? Where do you see your Spanish medical translation taking you?

There is something very special about bridging the gap between cultures and languages that I absolutely cannot get enough of and I simply want to be an advocate for those who may struggle getting that help due to the language barrier. So for me, it’s simply an empathetic intention to serve others by relaying information between different languages. That is the kind of stuff that gets me excited.

As far as where I see this taking me, with more experience I would love to participate in mission trips or programs such as doctors without borders to help interpret in predominately Spanish-speaking countries.

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5) Were you surprised by anything you learned during your 2 years abroad?

I was surprised by how I learned things. Though I think general knowledge is great, I loved being able to dive deeper into different aspects of the Spanish language, pragmatics, dialects, and so much more. I remember times when I would get teary eyed because I truly was so moved and excited about what I was learning!

There were a few surprising cultural things as well: people will not eat wings if they do not have plastic gloves on; they love cheese and put it on almost everything (even in hot chocolate) there are so many holidays, sometimes 3 a month; it is normal for people to interrupt someone being helped in line to get help faster.

6) Did you live with a family of other students? How did living with a family help your adjustment to Colombia?

I lived with a family my first year in Colombia and with other students my second year.

Living with a family definitely was a blessing in my adjustment because I got to learn some of the nuances with Colombian Spanish, cultural habits, and how to navigate in a big new city. The lady who owned the home was maybe 5 feet tall and 100% a firecracker who skipped lines and spent a long time getting ready. I got to try many authentic Colombian dishes while living with the family. Home cooked meals are always the best. The family I stayed with was my first community so I leaned on them a lot.

After being more established, I moved into a cheap place with 2 other girls I met at school in my program. I missed living with a family in a squeaky clean apartment, but I also enjoyed more independence living on my own.

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7) What was your biggest struggle in moving to a new country and culture?

Community, connectedness, and patience in the process were my biggest struggles in the beginning. I lived abroad in Spain for 5 months so the culture shock process was not foreign to me. First you love everything, then you feel kind of sad and homesick, then you start to adjust. I do not put it lightly that I deeply struggled at first and often called my mom asking her what in the world was I thinking. What made that adjusting period the hardest was my lack of community at first. Before moving I felt bold and courageous for going to a place where nobody knew me, but whether it was a dose of humility or not, I quickly realized, shoot, I want people around and I don’t have to be courageous and bold all of the time. I struggled with not knowing anyone more than I thought I would, because I didn’t have anyone in my same frame of reference to relate my struggles with.

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8) What is one way that your relationship with God has grown during this time?

Anytime I am out of my comfort zone God seems to feel more present in my life; it’s part of the reason I seek to be uncomfortable. I don’t like getting so settled and forgetting about leaning on God. Columbia was an amazing experience, but sometimes a lonely one as well. I had to invite God back into the role of being my best friend, my redeemer, and my strength.

I started practicing grace and forgiveness towards myself for little and big things. I tried to not worry so much about how my day would unfold, how exciting it would be, how unique it would feel, and I focused on living. I am still working on this last part (that seems to be a tough one for me!).

I am pretty good at being alone, but sometimes I just want people around. I think God showed me that my life won’t always be full of solo time, so it’s good to soak it up and learn about myself. I guess you could say I really tried to slow down and invite God into the nooks and crannies of my soul—some needed to be dusted off and shined, and some needed to be reorganized, but the beauty of cherishing alone time (even if it was too much sometimes) and inviting God into even the most simple days helped me grow stronger and closer to Him.

Growing Pains

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Sitting at a family dinner this past Holiday season I was struck by a conversation centered on growing pains. At the table was a 6 month old baby girl, and her mother mentioned to the group that her first teeth growing in and how she was teething and in pain. Then the conversation turned to a 60 year old having pain in her feet as she did simple things like cleaning and laundry. Then my cousin mentioned when he was 10 or 11 how much pain he was in for a couple of years, simply growing! Growth spurts do that to tall people.

I’m only 5’1″ and except for 1 or 2 achy nights in 5th grade, I didn’t have many growing pains as a young girl. At least not physically.

Emotionally and spiritually is another story.

This past New Year’s I got pretty, pretty happy. So happy that I don’t remember falling to my knees a couple of times throughout the night. Club and street- if I were sober I would have gawked at the drunken girl with a pink flower in her hair, unable to stand in her high heels or walk straight.

My soreness the next morning prompted my question to my friend, “Alison, did I fall last night??”

“Yeah. You did. A bunch of times,” was her simple reply.

Pain. Pain in my body, but mostly pain in my heart for being that reckless and careless to my limits with drinking and numbing out the other pain that got me to that point. Anesthetizing my heart with too many glasses of wine and mixed drinks, all the while dancing to loud music, and picking up random guys, points to more than just a cray cray New Years.

“What’s wrong with me?!” I’ve asked myself a few times this week as more bruises showed up on my knees, legs, and a distinct hand print from a man that left purple marks on my forearm as whoever he was picked me up.

Growing up isn’t easy. It’s painful. From little baby teeth, to achy joints just from growing, to aging bodies that we hear about from our elders.

But the pain that’s not so easy to see… that we hide away with a smile, or stare blankly at the wall depressed, that keeps us up at night in worry, that makes our hearts ache, that makes us cry silently in the shower so no one else will hear… it’s those pains that I’ve almost gotten used to throughout my middle school to post college years.

It’s those pains that I want the most freedom from.

It’s those pains that I want to escape.

And I KNOW, without a doubt… I’ve learned the lesson enough times… I can’t just numb those pains with a bottle, fake laugh, and kiss from a stranger in the night. It doesn’t work.

No, no. These pains need something, Someone much stronger and more powerful than too many drinks and stranger’s lips.

The reality is after a night like New Years, I realize how desperate I really am for an answer to my aches and pains. Heartache and growing pain. It’s not easy, but there is a way to heal…

I think like losing weight, or training for a triathlon, or working up in a career, all of which are slow, daily processes… the growing pains of the heart and spirit can be healed, but it looks like a slow process of turning to God, giving up the crap instead of just “dealing with it”, and being okay with good days and bad days. It’s a battle and a marathon, not a walk in the park.

Healing, freedom, and escape come through the Man who gave His life on a jagged cross, and then rose 3 days later for me and for you.

John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

That’s Jesus talking. That He came to give life ABUNDANTLY. I know the destruction substances can cause. I’ve experienced that from the thief. But I feel like it has been a while that I’ve experienced an abundant life through Him… almost like I don’t deserve it.

I have about six New Year Resolutions for 2017 (in 2016 I didn’t make any), but my main resolution is to let Jesus have more of my heart. To trust Him like I used to when I was a little girl. To let Him take the growing pains and make them something beautiful. To discover with Him this abundant life that He came to bring. That I’m worth it to Him.

And though like training for a triathlon or getting ahead in a career, the process of letting Jesus take control of my growing pains might seem slow some days… we will make it together. And that will be a beautiful thing.

To 2017.

To an abundant life in Him.

Deep Dish Chicago

Got a chance to bite into this crazy city. Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier, River Boat Tour, J. Alexander’s food and drinks, old friends, new friends. Luckily it was a Bye week, so no Football Production for me, and my dear friend Dan took me on a 3 day tour of his new home. Loved visiting Chicago for the first time. My eyes were opened to a different side of the city that I only hear crime stories of in the news. I experienced friendly people and a good time all around. I’d go back for sure, even if it was only to get another slice of that deep dish pizza. (Which you eat with a fork by the way. Who knew?!)

PS. You know that Bean? The shiny one in the middle of Millennium Park? Yeah. It’s not a Bean. It’s actually called Cloud Gate and is supposed to give a perspective of being “weightless” as it reflects the city around the person. I guess it worked for me? If you ever get to Chicago stand in the center of the Bean and look up. It’s pretty cool.

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