Don’t waste your disappointment

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How disappointed ARE you by life?  Have things turned out better or worse than you had hoped?

The approach you take to ponder those questions depends on your age, by and large.

Or, it depends on how you were brought up.

I grew up in the 60s and 70s.  By the time I graduated from high school in 1975 I had suffered 3 disappointments that I can recall.  All three left their imprint. The first let down occurred when I was NOT selected to join the girls’ drill team at my high school.  A step below the cheerleaders, this group choreographed routines with flags. It was the first (and last) time I tried out for something.  The ‘failure’ humiliated me initially. But what really hurt was being excluded from a group of girls I had wanted to join.  I longed for friendship and fellowship.

The next disappointment took place following one year in a French-speaking high school. Toward the end of those 9 months of 9th grade, I had arrived at the point where I finally felt at ease with the language and was on the cusp of becoming fluent.  However, my dad’s military assignment to Belgium did not satisfy him professionally and at his initiative with Army assignments back in Washington, DC we moved.  I wanted to stay, but as a 15-year-old, I had no voice in the decision.  To this day I still wish I had been given one more year in that environment.

The 3rd and more impactful pain began when I ‘fell into’ the grip of bulimia.  This was a pain FAR greater than I could handle and lasted 9 years until I was 25 and pregnant with Graham. Repercussions still continue to this day.  My journey post bulimia, all directed by God, has led me along different side paths laden with harmful and false thinking, not connected with reality.  (Anyone who has struggled with an addiction like an eating disorder understands.) I have grown spiritually, without a doubt, accompanied by much mental suffering.

As I left home at age 18 for college, I had grown skilled at living a hidden life.  My mom didn’t know anything about the binging and purging or the nightmare it was for me. This was 1975, after all, and the popular press had not yet discovered eating disorders.

Why am I sharing these 3 events?  To provide examples of how my parents did not train me to handle disappointment.  At all.  And THAT has caused more harm than the bulimia.

So how DID they raise me? What did I hear growing up?  My dad, the career military man, preached:

  • Maria, you can do ANY thing you set your mind to….. and
  • It’s merely mind over matter…and
  • Do your best….and
  • You can have a good marriage if you give 100%, none of this 50/50 stuff

My mom’s messages were:

  • Good girls don’t
  • Take time to smell the flowers

I NEVER heard:

  • Life is hard
  • Life is filled with disappointments and failures and setbacks
  • AND here is how you deal with them!

Were my parents Christian?

No, my mom was a church-goer until the middle of my junior year in high school when she became a believer. And my dad had grown up thoroughly tutored in American pragmatism and optimism, raised dirt poor in the land of opportunity. His success was due entirely to his hard work, so he told me.

Didn’t my mom’s conversion to Jesus impact me?  Not on the surface.  I have no doubt that her prayers for me will follow me the rest of my life into eternity.  But as far as verbalized, explicit teaching? Well, we all know how long it takes for God’s Word to sink in to new believers and change their thinking, let alone what comes out of their mouths!

Back to my life as I headed off to college.  Compared to my childhood, I can say that without a doubt my life after high school has been hard, filled with more disappointment and suffering.

Of course, compared to some friends of mine, it’s been ‘relatively easy’.  And when I look at global suffering, it’s been a piece of cake.  I understand that.

What I’m worked up about is NOT my pain, as little or significant as it may be, but how WE don’t teach our kids to handle disappointment and failure.  Neither in secular culture nor more significantly in the church.

I teach in a private school that prides itself in being progressive.  And whereas they do talk the latest educational trends such as ‘failing forward’, they don’t invite speakers in to exhort and equip students to know how to deal with setbacks.  Just think about graduation speakers.  You get the picture.  Our American verbalized, publicized exhortations to the young are one-directional, toward a bright and successful future.  What is the cost?  Current culture and the news provide evidence:  strewn, broken lives and a rapidly-unraveling society.

Among Christians, I don’t hear of many parents in the US or any other western countries who structure home life any differently.  How many parents deliberately allow their children to face trials, exposing them to experiences that might lead to suffering, all along providing a safety net?  We have our children for 18 years, on average.  The time to fail and learn how to deal with suffering and disappointments should be in the home, before kids launch out on their own.  The consequences leap exponentially after that.

By God’s grace, there is ONE small category of families who seem to be teaching their children well.  These are the missionary families, whose children face hardships in places around the world, some of which are dangerous by our standards.  As one mom I know writes (and I’m paraphrasing) ‘my kids know the Bible is real, because we are living that moment-by-moment kind of life, depending on Jesus for our very survival’.  Whew!  Those kids are growing up equipped to face the world as it is.

Now for some encouragement for the rest of us:

On Friday, June first, I started to read the May 2018 edition of Tabletalk Magazine.  Scroll down the website and look for the issue that looks like this:

Tabletalk - May 2018 Ligonier Ministries publishes this collection of daily devotionals and essays, organized monthly around a different theme.  The topic for May is Hope and Disappointment.

A breath of fresh air enlivened my heart when I read the first sentence in the first full article entitled, ‘The Reality of Disappointment’ by Jeremy Pierre.  He writes: “Life is one long, steady disappointment.”  He then continues to explain what he means and how the believer can see the real hope that life with God offers, an eternal hope that will not prove unsatisfactory and sterile.  The very NEXT essay by Dr. David Murray startled me into proclaiming out loud, YES!

He penned, “If our schools really wanted to prepare our children for life, they would offer classes in failure and disappointment.”

Wow!  Now isn’t that counter-cultural and brave, to point out what we all learn the hard way.  What makes accepting suffering SO difficult for many of us Americans is that our country is all about success.

  • What are YOU going to be when you grow up, little child?
  • You can be ANYbody you want to be, even the president of the country.

No…..you can’t!  What a horrible setup for disappointment.

So, what is ‘my call to action’ as blog instructors teach us writers to add at the end of a post?

I don’t know, maybe the thought that each one of us has the power to start a revolution in embracing reality.  Consider this way of framing what we teach our kids before they leave home:

  • Life IS hard, because our first parents blew it. And it’s not going to get better in our lifetime here on earth.
  • God, who created us to enjoy a perfect world WITH HIM, has wired us to long for perfection, for beauty, for happiness IN HIM.
  • There IS another world planned, a perfect world.
  • And He offers a way to enjoy that fully satisfying world with Him forever.
  • All are invited to come and claim a spot in this permanent joy and peace, but there is only ONE path to it, and that is through His Son Jesus Christ.
  • There is nothing to DO or to earn. It is all gift.
  • Anyone who longs for this gift is eligible to receive it.
  • Once you belong to Him, you are guaranteed His continual presence and supernatural help and a bright future.
  • Oh, yes, there WILL be moments of genuine gladness and joy on this earth right now. So, celebrate them as God’s previews of the true and lasting happiness when we see God face to face.

Trials, Trust and Truffles

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Summit Graduation Banner - 17 May

 

 

 

It was a sweet homecoming – with so many friends, students, parents, colleagues, and brothers and sisters in Christ!

I had been invited to be the commencement speaker this past weekend at my old school, Summit Christian Academy, in Yorktown, Virginia.  It had been 11 months since we had seen everyone, having moved down to Western North Carolina last June.

As I shared in an earlier blog post, I had crafted a talk that was a parable of 2 college students, but Mike had honestly commented that it felt more like LAW than GRACE when he read it. Humbled, I ditched it and started in on Version 2, this time relying on God for inspiration.

Katy bar the door

 A talk tinged with ‘Law’ and good advice?  “Katy Bar The Door!”

 

 

And what resulted, I’m convinced, was what God had intended all along.  Instead of a clever framework for how to live the college life, according to Maria, I spoke from the heart.  I unreservedly shared some past pain, lessons  and surprising gifts in the new talk entitled  ‘Transitions, Trust and Truffles, (aka treasure)

Intended for whom, you ask?  Voilà la question!

Some of the 18 seniors sitting in cap & gown nodded off.

Dozing off during a speech

 

 

 

 

My look back and distillation of transitions-cum-trials from forced and often reluctant practice relying on God  was probably of little interest  to 18 year-olds that Saturday afternoon. (Yes, I could see a few chins sinking to chests!)

But the adult women who came up to me afterwards and shared snippets of their struggles and how God encouraged them via my remarks confirmed to me that however ‘unusual’ the talk was, it had indeed ministered to some.  What kind of thread can unite the stories of 4 improbable Bible characters such as the Ethiopian eunuch, bitter Naomi, willing Sarah and reluctant Moses and encourage all of us to trust God?  Where else but in Christianity do both the ‘deserving’ AND the ‘undeserving’ receive overflowing gifts of love and grace from God!

My points were: 

  • Transitions are frequent in life
  • Some we choose, some we don’t
  • The only sane way to handle all of them is to trust God
  • God is doing more than we can imagine in even those transitions we choose
  • Our trusting God will be evident to others and make us attractive – causing them to look twice – at us and our circumstances
  • At that point, having been drawn to our counter-intuitive trust in God, they may ask WHY we are different and WHAT we believe, opening the door for us to share specifically the content of our HOPE in God. (1 Peter 3:15)

Preach gospel to yourself

 

 

 

One ‘aha’ moment from this past year was the need to stop listening to my thoughts and instead TALK to myself, that is TELL myself truth.  Once I realized that some of my thoughts were not really MINE, but enemy propaganda’ planted by spiritual forces of wickedness, I wrote out a list of FACTS that I continue to recite every day to ward off the virus of discouragement.  Here they are:

  • Discouragement is from the Pit of Hell
  • It has no content – it is just a tactic, a device, a ploy, a method, a tool
  • Discouragement is intended to stop me, and move me from where I am being effective for the Kingdom
  • No weapon formed against me can prosper UNLESS I quit
  • I will not quit or leave my post until God moves me

The entire weekend was a gift to me; for not only did we catch up with many friends from our neighborhood, the school and then church on Sunday, I got to experience the encouragement of the body of Christ.  Many friends and family members called me before our trip, wrote me reassuring emails and texted me that they were praying.

Text Msg to Encourage me -17 May 2014

 

 

 

 

One final thought:  So many friends came up to me after my talk and remarked: “I had no idea that you all were going through such trials.  I’m so sorry!”

What I found myself reflecting back to them was this: “Don’t be sorry!  Mike and I have had a  very rich year, digging into God’s Word for comfort, guidance and truth.  I wouldn’t have invited these trials, but I’m not sorry for all we are learning about how REAL and RELIABLE God is.

Paul exhorts the Galatians to:  Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way ….  fulfill the law of Christ.  (Gal 6:2)

You all did that for me this weekend!

Bear one another's burdens

God’s been busy in my life

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God at work

 

 

 

  • God – 1

  • Spiritual Forces of Discouragement – 0

**

There was a school contract for next year in my box on Thursday.

No other doors for jobs have opened up.

This is a no-brainer.  God directs us by shutting doors and opening doors.

Whoever boasted with confidence:  “You can do ANYTHING you set your mind to….” should get a grip on reality.  Nothing thwarts God’s plans.  And if He doesn’t want you doing XYZ, then you won’t do XYZ.

  •   I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure – Isaiah 46: 9-10

**

So THANK YOU ALL for your faithful prayers this school year as I have been battered multiple times by discouraging setbacks. I do believe my cousin Terry who has affirmed all along that God must have plans for me to shine light on Him at this school.

**

You can also pray as I prepare to give the commencement address at my old school in Yorktown, Va next week.  I was invited in February for this Saturday, 17 May at 3 pm.  During Spring Break and then over Easter, I leisurely finished up my talk.  I forwarded it to my husband who is a good editor and his comment was, “This feels more like law rather than grace!”

What????

Law v. Grace

 

 

 

So now, closer to the wire, I started over to write THE TALK, version 2.0, this time HAVING to TRUST GOD and not my resources. Darn!  (Just kidding)

This is one of those times I suspect God has been enjoying a good chuckle at my expense – He has me right where He wants (relying on Him)!

Actually, I’m grateful to God for a grace-dependent husband who tells the truth in love.  I do think this talk will be better.  It’s blessed me already.

Summit

 

When you pray this coming week, ask God:

  • that the message He has will accomplish His plans and purposes
  • that the ‘tech’ works (slides and sound)
  • that my delivery not be a distraction to anyone
  • that we all may see God as able and willing to handle the big and the little events of our lives
  • for our safety on the road (8 hours there and 8 hours back)
  • for good care for our cats while we are gone

Trustworthy

 

 

 

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