Sing Your Song

Have you ever messed up in front of a bunch of people? Maybe not Steve Harvey at Miss Universe messed up, but embarrassed yourself enough to get that awful feeling of failure? You know, like Sally in Peanuts, when she said “hockey stick!” instead of “Hark!” Or, in high school, when a girl was giving a presentation in US History, and wrote “pubic works” instead of “public works” on the board. Her audience of 16 year olds was soooo mature.

Well, on Sunday, I was singing in church, and my voice was just shot. After cheering on the Tigers in the rain at Tiger Stadium the night before, and pushing my voice to the limit on a few songs earlier in the service, I knew the song was going to be difficult. It was just so high. So, I got close to the end, hobbling to the finish line, and I missed the mark. My first thought was “I’m never singing this song again.” I kept my eyes closed, afraid to see the looks that ensued. I could feel my neck start to sweat, and my face flush. But we finished, and moved on to the next song. My mind continued to race. This was on video.

Slowly, as we sang a new song with our congregation, I realized how silly it was to pack up a song forever because of one missed note. Ironically, the song was Great is Thy Faithfulness. “Morning by morning, new mercies I see. All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.” I heard the church singing along to the last song, Is He Worthy by Andrew Peterson. It’s a call and answer song, where someone sings a line and the congregation answers with “We do” or “He does”. I took my ear monitor out, and the sound of the people confirming God’s love and worthiness was overwhelming. My stupid note did not matter.

It’s easy to get taken captive by your own thoughts. “When Satan tempts me to despair…” It was so easy for me to decide not to sing a song declaring God’s faithfulness because of my own inadequacy. Yes, I’m inadequate! That’s why I need God!!

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
I will boast in the Lord;
the humble will hear and be glad.
Proclaim the Lord’s greatness with me;
let us exalt his name together. -Psalm 34:1-3 (CSB)

Satan uses our shortcomings to convince us to give up. God uses our shortcomings for His glory and grace. Like Paul said in Philippians 3:14, “I press on to win the prize of God’s heavenly calling in Christ Jesus” (NIV).

One of my favorite movies is Elizabethtown. One of the main characters gets fired from his job in the first few minutes of the movie because of a recall on a shoe he designed. When he finally tells his love interest about his mishap, her response is:

So you failed. Alright you really failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You failed. You think I care about that? I do understand. You wanna be really great? Then have the courage to fail big and stick around. Make them wonder why you’re still smiling.

Why am I still singing? Because His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Because He put a new song in my mouth (Psalm 40:3). Because He rejoices over me with singing, so I’m going to sing back (Zephaniah 3:17). I will rejoice in the Lord, always, even when I mess up.

Sing your new song to the Lord. Your failures and shortcomings will never be enough to separate you from His love. It won’t ever make sense to us, because we can’t love like He does. We can’t comprehend unfailing, never ending love, but we can accept it. We can come to God after every mess up, hiccup, throw up, and He will welcome us in.

Sing your song.

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One in Four

Today is Infant Loss Awareness Day. It’s okay if you don’t want to keep reading. I don’t want to make you sad. It’s not for everyone, and that is okay. I sincerely mean that.

Four years ago tomorrow, I returned to work after a six week maternity leave for a baby who didn’t leave the hospital. His name was Hartley. For a while, a lot of people knew our story, they lived it with us, but as the years pass, I find it more personal. While I love saying his name, I tend to hold his memories in my heart instead. I share his story readily, but my words are usually met with sadness. I am happy to share our story if you need to hear it, but for today, as we remember the babies we never met, or only knew for a short time, I want to offer hope.

For the mamas who are wondering what to do with empty arms, I speak life. For the dads who wonder if it’s okay to grieve something they didn’t know, I speak truth. For the families needing to talk, I listen.

Confusion. Sadness. Devastation. Uncertainty. Anger. Peace…unexplainable peace. Numbness. Ache. Heartbreak. Joy.

You learn the power of prayer. When you aren’t able to pray, your people fill in. When you can only stand in the shower and cry, God hears that prayer, too. Eventually, the words come. A few and then some more. And then some more. Eventually, your happy moments don’t feel so awkward. You remember that it’s okay to have fun. And you remember why you can’t eat Bluebell for every meal.

You wonder if you could have done anything to stop it. You wonder if you made the right choices in the midst of the loss. Should I have held him? Should we have had a funeral? What happens now? We remember. For a moment, we were his parents, and we made the best decisions for our family in that moment.

Four years out, I can offer support to a mom in a similar situation. But I can do that because of strength and peace that can only come from God. Because kindred moms did the same for me when I was living it. I can say Hartley’s name because I know that I will SEE him in heaven one day. I have hope.

I clung to 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (CSB)

I listened to Shoulders, by For King and Country on Repeat. “My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through, You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders, Your shoulders”. I know God carried me through those awful months. He carries me now.

I still feel like I’m missing something, sometimes. I wish I had him here. I wish I wouldn’t have lost my ability to have more children when I lost Hartley, but I trust that God’s plans are better. I know “all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 CSB). I don’t have to understand it, but I can trust in God. His love never fails (Psalm 136).

If this is the first October 15 since you’ve lost a child, you’ve almost made it through the day. The hurt won’t be as sharp next year. The grief, while still there, changes. It will get easier to breathe. If it’s been five or ten or twenty years, thank you for loving on those of us who came behind you. Thank you for working together to make October 15 a thing. We remember.

If you know someone who lost a child, say something. Acknowledge that today might be hard, and that you see them. Say their child’s name, if you know it. It is the sweetest sound. We remember.

“A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven’t. Most don’t mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn’t happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she’ll know.” -Barbara Kingsolver

Thank you for reading this far. I am one in four.

She’s Doing the Best She Can

When I was younger, I used to get so frustrated when my parents’ expectations of me were different than those of my sister. I felt like I worked my tail off, and she coasted through life and received the same praise- or even more, according to my mind. My mom would say we were different kids. I didn’t like that answer. But now I’m a mom with two very different kids, and I totally get it.

My expectation of my older son is that he receives A’s in conduct, yet I celebrate B’s with my younger son. I know that a B is the very best he can do some days, and I gladly accept it. I haven’t heard any complaints yet about the seemingly off-balance parenting, but I’m sure it will come eventually.

It can still be frustrating as adults when we feel like God parents us differently. I may feel convicted of a sin I’m committing, one my friend also does all the time, yet God hasn’t placed it on her heart to stop. Why did I get called out? Because she may be doing the best she can, and I am not.

Flip the tables. When I’m in charge of getting the boys to baseball or soccer, feeding the family, teaching a lesson at church, making sure homework is done, bathing the boys, and working full time, the floors may not be swept, the laundry may be sitting in a basket, and the furniture may be dusty. But I’ve done the best I can, and I’m grateful for grace. I’m relieved that no one is going to call me out on the undone.

My mom used to get annoyed when someone would say “I gave 110%”. She would say that’s impossible. You can’t give more than you have. I think about that often when I’m not performing in the way I feel like I should. 100% is relative. Today my 100% might be awesome. I might have the energy to do everything on my checklist. I might have two boys who wake up in great moods, ready for a fantastic Friday, and I might even get to work a minute or two early. On the other hand, I might encounter a dog who eats my kid’s toaster strudel, forgotten homework, hair that just won’t cooperate, and a child who never ceases to feel the call of nature as I’m ready to walk out the door. My all might look different on a day like that. I will do the best I can.

I love listening to Annie Downs’ podcast, That Sounds Fun. Several weeks ago, Annie and her guest (and I’m so sorry I don’t remember who it was- I will edit if I find out) were talking about looking back on old versions of ourselves and being embarrassed by that person. Hiding your face when you think about words that came out of your mouth or dumb decisions that had awful ripple effects. One of the ladies said something along the lines of “You know, I don’t get embarrassed, because I know that girl was doing the best she could”. I remember driving to work, fighting back tears, because I was beating myself up about not being on top of my mom-game or my work-game or really just my self-game. But I was doing the best I could. My best for that moment was what I was doing. I was trying.

From that moment, I shifted my attitude. Not to be lazy or to brush off sub-par efforts, but to truly look at my motive. If this is my best today, then I’m okay with that. And let me tell you, it’s incredibly freeing. To know that I don’t have to be everything to all people, to know that I may be killing it some days and just making it on others.

What I do have to be mindful of is that I’m doing everything for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (ESV). If I’m doing that, I’m truly doing my best. I don’t have to be Supermom or Wonder Wife, I just have to be a child of God. And I can do that. And you can too.

Steven Curtis Chapman put that verse into a song called “Do Everything”. In the chorus, he sings,

As you do everything you do
To the glory of the One who made you,
‘Cause He made you,
To do
Every little thing that you do
To bring a smile to His face
Tell the story of grace
With every move that you make
And every little thing you do

If your actions fit these lyrics, if they pass the 1 Corinthians 10:31 test, then you’ve done what you can do. You’re doing the best you can. If your job for the day requires more, then bring it to God. We weren’t meant to do it all alone. He may give you the strength you need, or He may send just the right helper. Ask God to guide you, and your best might become better. Glorify Him in your weakness, and praise Him in your strength.

“Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.” Colossians 3:23 (CSB)

Giving Up the Glad Game

“We’re better off the sooner that we find
That life is mostly what we choose to see
‘Cause whether or not I’ve got what I want
Life keeps moving on in front of me” -Ben Rector

I used to be a fan of the Pollyanna glad game. If you’re not familiar, one, read the book, two watch the movie, and three, it’s basically looking at a bad situation and finding something to be glad about. So, say your alarm clock didn’t go off, and you are now late for work. You can be glad that you got thirty extra minutes of sleep! Or, if you forgot a major assignment at school, you can be glad that you have a school go to! See? It doesn’t really solve the problem, and it places an unrealistic expectation on you to fix it on your own.

It can be a good exercise for reframing, but it can also be frustrating. It doesn’t make the problem go away, and sometimes, when someone tells me to look on the bright side or reframe my thoughts, it makes me more annoyed.

Paul David Tripp talks about this idea in his devotional, New Morning Mercies. In the September 25 entry, he says, “It is not biblical faith to try to convince yourself that things are better than they actually are. It is not biblical faith to work to make yourself feel good about what is not good. Biblical faith looks reality in the face and does not flinch.  On the other hand, there is a crucial difference between facing hard realities and allowing those realities to dominate the meditation of your heart.”

If you’re in a situation that seems insurmountable, you will continue to feel defeated all day long if you sit and think about how insurmountable it is. However, if you take your situation for what it is, ask God to redirect your thoughts, and face it, it helps move your focus. It’s deeper than just finding something to be happy about. It’s a directional shift to God and His guardianship.

Psalm 73:1 says, “Be a rock of refuge for me, where I can always go. Give the command to save me, for you are my rock and fortress.” (CSB) We can always go to God with our troubles, and we can always be assured that He will provide a safe place for us, if not physically, emotionally and mentally. We won’t necessarily escape the situation, but we can lean on Him within it. 

Maybe you’re in a season of waiting. You don’t know how long it will take to get through your trial, and you don’t know how long you can stand it. God knows the end date. God knows the exact moment when your waiting will be over. He is already celebrating that sigh of relief, that wave of peace. When you’re tempted to focus on the hard, focus on His goodness. Look at your day ahead, and pray, “God, I don’t know how I will make it today. I don’t know how I will find the strength, but I know You are good. I know You have plans for me that I may not understand. I know You are with me. I know I can find rest in You. Help that be my focus today.”

The phrase “If God brought you to it, He’ll bring you through it” can be overused and trite, but it’s true. The hard part is acknowledging that He is the one delivering you to the other side. If God brought you to a difficult time, it’s because He wants to help you mature in your faith and bring you closer to him. He knows the situation is impossible without Him, and you can figure it out the easy way or the hard way. Psalm 63:8 says “I cling to You; Your right hand upholds me.” (NIV) In other words, without Him, we fall. We fail. We walk through the day defeated. 

I know it’s not easy. It’s hard to escape the feeling of dread in a dark situation. God won’t always take away the problem, but He will deliver you to the other side, and you’ll be better for it.

I was given a thorn in my flesh… Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV)