Failure is ALWAYS an option

I hate failure. With great passion. Admittedly, I hate it so much I fear to start something just because I could fail. Looking back over the years, I know I have missed some amazing opportunities because I fear to fail.

The world has made me fear. It’s definitely not God’s doing. God wants to push me over the edge because he knows my wings will make me fly. Fear does not have God’s flavor on my tongue at all, it’s acidic and has a nasty back-taste. Where God and his promises are full bodied and effervescent.

I have been contemplating failure a lot lately. Part of the reason is that I am nowhere near where I would have thought I’d be by now. I had this amazing life planned, working in a hospital and volunteering with retirement centers around my community as a chaplain. Perhaps finally doing a little bit of traveling. I never thought that life would be taking the look of what it is right now. I never thought God would place me where he did when he seemed to fill my mind with such dreams.

My life is not bad. I am very blessed to have the job I do, taking care of a lady who is just a few short months away from turning 100. I’ve learned a lot taking care of her. I am an active member in my church as a Sunday School Superintendent and teacher, which still surprises me since I grew up in that church. To think that these people are trusting me to teach them God’s word is daunting and occasionally nerve-wracking. The responsibility is big and I am still learning. Just because I have a piece of paper that says I satisfactorily completed Bible studies in a graduate level school, doesn’t mean that I still don’t have a lot learn.

Sometimes, I desperately miss school. I miss the constructed learning environment where I could fail and learn without it it necessarily making a huge impact on my life. I miss the drive that I had to succeed– not that I don’t still have it, but it seems to be missing a focus on a set goal. Now my drive to succeed sometimes just feels like getting to the next paycheck. Not that inspiring.

Life is about failure. It’s about coming at a situation and finding a way through it. Most time, if we are honest with ourselves, it rarely takes one time through a situation. We usually have to stop and reevaluate our tools and knowledge before attacking it again, perhaps at a different angle.

God gave me dreams for a reason. I think he has given me the ways to put them into action. I just need to learn how to trust him more than worrying about my bank account.

Failure in the science world is seen as a success in many ways. Albert Einstein famously said, “I have tried 99 times and have failed, but on the 100th time came success.” Scientists don’t give up when they meet with resistance. They take notes and then tweak a variable before attempting it again. Their brains- their hypothesis–says that it should be possible, they just need to find a way to make it work in real life.

To live life as if it was a hypothesis. A possibility that could be made reality. To know that dead ends and sudden twists are great adventures that mean it could still be an amazing discovery. To know with certainty that what you know to be true still has the ability to amaze you when you discover that there is more than that certainty.

It’s interesting. I view my theological inquires- my study of the nature of God and my religious beliefs– as a human hypothesis of God. I have long believed that if I held my beliefs as such, I would be able to be willing to let God show me his true self. My feeble human words can never accurately and completely describe the Divine. The Divine cannot be contained in the failing words that I use. To believe they can, is to shove God into a box, and he cannot be contained. I read all theologians’ writings with this thought, it is their very human attempt to explain an aspect of God that they see. They are bound to make mistakes just like I am. If I have a prayerful heart and ask God to continually show me who he really is, I am less likely to be led astray by theologians whose own prejudices influence their definition of God and salvation.

Perhaps this seems to be very childish view at God from someone who has a Masters Degree in the Bible. But, then again, Christ exhorted the disciples to come like children to him, which is to say, humbly and without artifice. When those who call themselves theologians and have the degrees to back them talk of God, do they do it humbly? Or is it with a certain arrogance that says they know it all? Listen and learn from them, but make sure you always have a faith that is open to God’s guidance. When you speak to others about the God you follow, be honest, say you don’t know everything but what you do know has changed your life.

I have been blessed mightily by the theologians that God has placed in my educational/spiritual life. But, I know that they don’t know it all.

I will always need to learn more about God. And I will never know everything about my faith and salvation until he calls me to his side and explains what it really is. My human hypothesis will then be put to the test, and I much rather hear him say, “Close, but let me show you what you didn’t understand.” Rather than, “Wrong! That is not what I was doing!”

I am attempting to live life as a hypothesis. There is nothing stopping me from trying again, but myself. It’s hard to put into practice though. Human constraints whether real or imagine seem to wrap themselves around me and I hesitate. Why am I willing to do it with the most important aspect of my existence- my faith- but I’m not willing to do it with this very human existence? Failure seems to be knocking whenever I think of going off script.

Makes me want to pull a Mythbusters and blow something up before trying again.

Here’s to living life without fear! May I seek it with a full heart, because God gave me wings and is encouraging me on.

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A Valentine’s letter to God

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Dear Father,
I’m sorry.
I haven’t been talking much to you lately.
No, actually, I haven’t been listening to you all that much.
I don’t know exactly why or when it happened. I just kept putting it off. When I call you up, or acknowledge your presence, it’s more to talk at you. Not, you know, talk with.
Why does that happen?
I love you so much. I want to hear you, to see your hand on my life.
Am I afraid of something that I think you might say?
Am I hiding from some truth you need to impart?
I don’t know. That’s more than probable, I guess.
I know that I have been struggling lately with what I think my life should be like at this moment in time. We build up these fantasies in our minds about the grand things we will accomplish at some arbitrary time we’ve selected. Then we find ourselves just being disappointed.
My dreams feel as if they are turning to dust within my grasp at this very moment.
I had plans, I had goals!
I seem to have nothing to show for it.
Father, I feel rather useless at this time. Perhaps, I fear, that you see me that way as well. Maybe, maybe that’s why I haven’t been turning my ear to hear your soft voice.
I struggle to open your message and find the encouragement that I know for a fact is there. Waiting. Waiting for me to be brave enough.
I’m always rather, cavalier might be the word? about telling others that I’m waiting on your guidance. I am. That’s not what I’m almost indifferent about, but rather the attitude I attach to the waiting. Or is it what I’m showing the world?
I believe that you can guide my steps. But, am I eagerly awaiting your guidance? Maybe eagerly isn’t the word. Trepidation? Maybe that’s a little bit closer. I could probably fill this letter with the thesaurus, it helps me skirt the issue.
I feel like I should be moving, but instead, it’s like I’m glued where I’m standing. With blinders on, so I can’t even turn to see the way.
It’s this weird pull and push feel. I know I’m where I’m supposed to be right this moment. (Example: living with my 99 year old client is where you have me. I think this is possible for at least one more year, but maybe two.)
But, I feel as if there is something I’m supposed to be doing at the same time. What?
That’s the million dollar question, Ranelle.
I keep questioning how my struggle with education (i.e. getting my Master’s) will play out in my life.
Will my Master’s in Divinity be simply used in my local church? Not, that my church isn’t worthy of me using it to teach Sunday school, but I thought counseling was the dream…
What about the 8 long years of being forced to break new ground at my school in regards to finding the ties between Theology and Disabilities? 75 pages later and a failed attempt at a class, the school seems to have no interest in it.
But, the class seems to have sprouted legs and ran across the country to come to fruition under different leadership. Bittersweet for sure, excited though I am for another school to catch the bug for the issue.
I saw and felt your hand through every step of that fight, God. Now I wonder, did I falter? Did I fail you? Or was it just so I could see the blessings in my own struggle with learning disabilities?
What am I missing?
I know that you love me, that your dreams are so much bigger than I can even imagine. But, I’m afraid that I’ll miss them. That I’ll be so busy looking at my poor misguided dreams and not see the huge one you are driving towards me.
Are you perhaps saying, that my dreams are too limiting? That they were good to get me from point A to point B but your dreams for me will take me to point Z?
Isn’t it funny? I’m just as afraid of your big dream for my life as I am of you not having a dream for me.
Of me just being…me.
No assurances of me being special, or of me playing a key role in the grand scheme of things. Of me, just simply being average.
I wonder God, if all of your children have that secret fear as well? Do we all aspire to be truly amazing and fear we are mediocre instead?
Do we become mediocre when we let the fear of failure get in the way of listening to you?
I believe you as the Creator God never made a mistake in the making of your children. That’s what you forced me to come to realize when you made me work on that paper. I believe each person you have given the chance to be on this earth, has a beautifully messy purpose here.
But, because you are a just God who wants true worship, you gave us freewill.
And we – with freewill– have totally ignored our purposes and masked them with flimsy dreamscapes. Where your truth lies uneasily under our fabricated realities, poking holes trying to make us aware of more.
You know so much more and want to give us so much more.
But, afraid we cling to the darkness and the falsehoods we have built around us like a cocoon.
Father, make my life a love note to you. Remind me that though I only see the ugly, bumbling, hungry caterpillar, you see the brilliant, made new, freed butterfly in all its shining colors.
Remind me, when the world gets too loud with its false encouragements, that you see me as just right. That you see me as your redeemed child, just perfect for that special mission built for the gifts that you gave me.
Remind me, that I am special. You deemed me special, because you had your Son die a horrible death to save me.
Remind me Lord, that I am yours.
Make my life your love note.
My dreams are small in comparison to your’s. They have served their purpose, now help me serve mine.
Dream your dreams for me.
I want to walk down any path you lead me to, so please help me to see it laid out before me.
Though I am sure to stumble for I am weak of flesh, please help me to keep walking for you are strong.
Hard though it is, help me release the “should’ves, the need tos, the would’ves, and the have tos.”
This Valentine’s day, I recommit my love to you.
Your love is the only thing that can keep me on the right path and not stuck in my mind. I want to love you so deeply that I can never hear the words of doubt that dance in my mind. I want to love you so much that I race to the end of the known and jump into the dream only you know. I want to love you so much that fear has no hold upon me.
Use me Lord.

Casting Crowns “Dream for you”  {listen

Lining a Milestone in Silver

The 9th was my 30th birthday. 30 years on this little planet that is hurtling through the cosmos. 30 years that go by unnoticed by most of the 7+ billion people on this blue marble, but for a small group that means the world to me.

I was thinking about milestones, how society says that by each ‘stone’ we should be ever so far in our life.

Medical milestones at a young age cause anxiety with parents when children don’t start sitting upright on the time dot, or speaking, or walking.
When we hit 13 (at least in America), we decree we are ‘Teen’ and more responsibilities are heaped upon our shoulders.
When 16 comes around with jangling keys, we fight for freedom and worry our parents.
18 decrees us ‘Adult’ by the law, and we are kicked out of the safety net of our high schools into the scary world of work and college.
Then 21 comes around and suddenly everyone sees you as a true adult and urges you to drink up and flash that license as proof.
It’s time to sow your wild oats and party hardy, until you are 25, now it’s time to start calming down and looking for someone to spend your life with.
And now you are 30. Now you should be settled with a loving spouse, have a few little munchkins running down, have a respectable career and basically have your life set.
The next years will run by a bit predictably, but not poorly, you’ll buy a house, have grandkids and dogs running around that house.
Retirement will come at a suitable time, where you can still go on adventures and see the world, where you can babysit your great grandkids that you spoil rotten, much to the bemused annoyance of your grandchildren.
The twilight years will of course be kind to you and your spouse, and you will slowly slip away from this little world, entering into the peace of heaven, while leaving a family of loved ones comfortable and happy.

But…what happens if you don’t make those milestones?
Are you a failure?
Does society judge you for not succeeding at their arbitrary decrees?

I can easily tell you what I have not succeeded in, what milestones I have missed: marriage, kids, home, dog, successful career that I went to school for, a nice saving’s account, and a newer model car.

So basically…everything I have failed at, right?

One can easily paint their whole existence a failure, if they just focus on what society says we should be doing. I found myself getting caught in that riptide when I was bearing down on my day of birth. I started comparing myself to my friends: those who are about to get married, others who have children, one who had gotten a home, others who are in their dream jobs and making a comfortable living or are working in their God called ministry.

I had to knock myself out of that spiraling mindset. There is never an end to it. You can just keep tearing yourself down and listing how badly you are dealing with your life. Or, you can start seeing what you ARE doing, and how amazing your season of life truly is.

Every person is gifted with seasons. If you are familiar with Ecclesiastes, Solomon talks about a ‘Time for Everything,’ and it starts at 3:1 with this verse, “There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven.” Now, I like to believe this ‘time’ is not dictated by society or our culture. Because having the nameless mass that changes the fads, in charge of my milestones is a little terrifying.

So, I believe God is in charge of my seasons, my times. Sure, freewill plays a part in how we react to what is going on in our life, but God also places us in certain places in the world for a reason. So that we can dig deep and blossom brightly in the darkness.

With my mind on that thought, I pondered what I have succeed in and I attempted to list out 30 triumphs for my 30 years on this earth:

  1. I have a Masters in Divinity from an accredited seminary!
  2. I have surpassed all of my old IEPs and have left my doubters in my dust!
  3. I am a Sunday School teacher for the ladies of my church, and have been so for the last 3 years, helping give them the tools to dig deeper into the Word.
  4. I have been recently chosen to be the new Superintendent of Sunday School.
  5. I am very active in my church, and my opinion is respected.
  6. I am an encourager, really working on listening to that little voice prompting me to reach out to someone who is hurting.
  7. I am getting really involved in Joni and Friends with various ministries: collecting wheelchairs for Wheels For the World, Family Retreat, and having gone to Global Access Conference recently.
  8. I am a respected Caregiver, all of my job opportunities since I was 14 came from word of mouth. I actually just got offered a job for 2 years from now, because the lady liked the way I took care of my present client.
  9. My clients always know that they have me firmly on their side for support.
  10. I had the opportunity a few years ago to actually lead a workshop at my college on disabilities.
  11. I finished and passed my ‘thesis’! A 73 page paper that I worked on for 8 years!
  12. I spoke at a workshop for the satellite showing of The Justice Conference at my school.
  13. I am writing on this blog as well as short stories.
  14. I’m learning not to be a perfectionist and having the fear of failure keep from doing something.
  15. I’m not shying away from debates nearly as much as I use to.
  16. I worked on my screwed up ankle for three months which gave me the ability to pay for my apartment for the last semester of college while I was laid up.
  17.  I am known for my level of work ethic.
  18. I am constantly becoming more comfortable speaking in front of people.
  19. I have, through the grace of God, learned how to be more honest with myself.
  20. I have also with his grace, managed not to be swayed by from my personal path by other people.
  21. I’m learning how to really listen to God’s prompting and act on it.
  22. God is giving me ways to use my spiritual gifts, in places and ways I never thought possible.
  23. My education has not ended, because I am constantly learning.
  24. I am constantly digging deeper into the Bible.
  25. I’m dreaming big and planning a possible Retirement Center in my valley. Who knows, right?!
  26. I am learning how not to wait to do something I really want to do, simply because I just don’t have enough money, I can still have fun.
  27. I’m going to go to Disney with a group of friends, thanks to their generous birthday gifts, which means I will be taking my first true vacation!
  28. I will be skydiving in June thanks to my parents! Crossing off something from my bucket list and facing one of my fears.
  29. I still have a great relationship with my parents and I count them as my closest friends.
  30. I am constantly learning how to trust God more with my life.

I might not be where I thought I would be, but I am further than I thought I could be. My life is not my own, God owns it and he has different plan for me than my little checklist.

Overall, my life is good, and I am thankful for the last 30 years on this little blue marble hurtling through the cosmos.

A Crossroads on a Precipice

We all make plans. Even those of us who like to shoot from the hip and make rash decisions, ultimately make plans. I think it’s built into our DNA to plan for the day and our lives.

I probably like to plan a little more than my average friend. I like to know where I am going and how long it might take. Throughout the last few years I have had a plan of where I think I’ll end up in the long run. Chaplain in a hospital. It’s why I thought I went and got my Master’s, it’s what I’ve seen myself doing for quite awhile.

Now, it seems as if God is starting to reveal a different plan.

When we get so caught up in our little charts of how our lives will go, we tend to lose the awareness of how God is doing his own planning. Right now, God is removing my blinders.

I have made the decision that I will be going to the first ever Joni and Friends’ Global Access Conference and I think I’ll get a better grip on where I’ll go from there.

To be honest, the idea of change scares me too death. I hate the idea of failure. I’ve had so many of shakes with failure in school, even though I was able to surpass that thanks to God. The idea of possibly walking away from a solid job to do a ministry that doesn’t pay? The idea of trusting God to provide financial care?

Nope, no reason to to be worried.

So I continue to pray and ask that God reminds me continually that the only thing I need to be concerned about is doing God’s will. Right now, I am continuing to work as I get ready for February’s Conference and spending more time on my knees as I wait for God to show me the rest of the road before me.

I’m stepping onto the crossroads on the precipice. Indiana Jones’s style, the crossroads- well, bridge- is invisible, and it’s got to be in trust and faith Indy

that I make that first step. It’ll be a doozy, but I know it will ultimately be worth it. Just got to force my foot to move first.

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And as always, prayers are desired as I make that step. 🙂

Check out this amazing conference that will be held in California! Global Access Conference

Disabilities and Justice

In under two weeks I will have the honor of speaking at a workshop during the Justice Conference of Portland. While the actual Justice Conference is being held in LA, Portland will be streaming it along with having a breakout session the day before. To be asked to come to my former school (Multnomah University) by a former professor to talk about something I have researched and studied for the last seven years is a great honor and an amazing step forward. My workshop will be called “The Disabled: A Forgotten Minority.”
The Justice Conference is a great opportunity to speak to active members of the church as well as extraordinary workers of many ministries. To have the chance to bring their attention to the topic of the disabled in the church and talk with such knowledgeably engaged people will be a tremendous learning curve. I am so eager to have the chance to learn from their experiences.
I am no expert. To quote Albert Einstein, “I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious.” I am a firm believer that I will never know everything about this very important topic. But I can’t wait to be part of the conversation.
It has been so wonderful to see the theologians finally bending their considerable minds to how the church needs to interact with those who are disabled. It is a very long time in coming, and it has a far way to go.
So PLEASE keep me in your prayers as I work on my lecture and on the 21st when I am in front of so many amazing people to share my heart.  Pray that God will hijack my mouth and just use that time to make his plan shine.
So excited and nervous about this opportunity!  

You know what you need to do…

so just do it!
Last night, I went out to dinner with my roommate and one of my favorite professors.
This professor has this beautiful way of cutting through all of the fluff that we wrap around ourselves to protect us from prying eyes. She cuts through to the quick and forces you to deal with the rough emotions that you are refusing to pay attention to.
We were talking about how my possibilities after college were shaping up and what was the next step.
I mentioned that I was afraid of not being able to handle the rigors of my internship. How I wanted my family and friends to see God’s grace, how I’m sadden by the quickly approaching loss of a dear friend, and how ready I am if God calls me home.
She looked at me and said with great intensity, “You know what you need to do, so just do it!”
She told me that my focus was too small. That God has called me to something bigger than just those I love, that to focus on just my family and friends was to miss what God wanted me to do with my life.
It was hard to swallow. For me, my friends and family are why I do a lot of things. But, at the same time it holds me back. Because I do not want to fail.
The thought that I might be called to something bigger? Terrifies this little introvert to her bones.
I know that God has large plans for me, but at the same time I always thought that perhaps it was what I would consider to be ‘large’—you know, maybe 20 people at most. Now I’m thinking that might not be what he has planned.
I do not know what the rest of this year will bring, much less the rest of my life.
But, I do know one thing.
Like my professor says: “Get out of your own way and do what needs to be done.”
Fear has this power to hold you in place. You can fear the trail and never see the view. Or you can fear the trail but just walk with care, and be rewarded with an amazing life altering view.
I know what I need to do. Now? I need to just do it. Step out in faith and know God will catch me.
Is fear holding me? Or is it helping me?
I just need to do it.

7 years later…and the questions that come

For seven years I was on the same campus. Through my bachelor’s degree and then through my master’s, I walked the same grounds, sat in the same classrooms. Not only did I go to school on that campus, I worked on it, and lived on it.
For the first time, I do not know what is going to happen in the Fall. Am I scared? Oh, yes.
Do I have any clue on where I am going to be living, be working, or where I am going to be serving? No.
I am eager to see where I will be, but admittedly, I am afraid of what is going to happen.
I always like to have a plan. I like to know roughly what is going to happen when. So being on this darkened road, where I don’t know what is around the corner, there is uncertainty.
I have to do CPEs still- Clinical Pastoral Education (basically an intense internship at a hospital). I need to do a minimum of two units, but need to think more of doing four for a better chance at a job. It costs money to even put in your application without the surety of getting a spot. Then there is the tuition on top of that.  I’m concerned, considering I don’t even have a job at the moment.
I have heard the internship described as a boot-camp for chaplains. It’s a place where multi-faiths and multi-cultures come together and dissect what we do, when we do it, and how we do it. So it is not just others of your own belief system debating what we should say, but from all walks of life. Also, just because you are a chaplain does not mean you  have the go-ahead to talk about your faith openly.
First of all, I am excited about being in forced interaction with other faiths. I believe that there is something that can be learned from any person on this earth if you are just willing to be taught. It does not mean that I will accept their theology, but perhaps I can learn how to be more focused in my spiritual life, or more caring, by talking with those who follow other doctrines.
Secondly, I am glad to have this chance to be in a ‘safe’ zone in some ways, that I won’t just be tossed in a hospital and expected to swim. I can just imagine how much damage I would cause.
Thirdly, I am terrified. I have spent the last seven years on a campus where the professors, the staff, and the students, have poured into each other with love and encouragement. I have had struggles with difficult personalities, yes, but I knew that when I looked at someone on that campus, I was looking at a fellow sister or brother in the Christ we follow. So to be in an arena where you do not know how things are going to happen, how people will react to the way you minister, or your faith, is scary. To be at the point where this internship will either make you or break you in the career that you have worked so hard for- terrifying.
So here I am. Seven years of paper cuts, sweat, tears, smiles, and prayers, have come to a cap and gown with a weird Master’s hood and the beginning of a journey. I do not know if God is guiding me to start my CPE right now, or to work for a bit so I can have some money to live off of. I am unaware of what is around the darken corner on this road, but I do know God is in control. I am putting myself fully in his hands as I look at CPEs and jobs, because I know his plans for me are so much bigger than anything I can attempt to come up with. I have until August to know for sure, because that is when my apartment lease is up. Will I continue to live with my roomie because I found a job (or a CPE position)? Or will I move back to my parents to commute to a hospital?
This August, for sure, I will be volunteering for a week at a Joni and Friends family retreat. So maybe I will make some awesome connections there that will be sending me somewhere totally different?
In Spring, I will be back at my campus, but this time to be a co-teacher with the Dean of the Seminary, on my Biblical Perspectives of Disability class. Seven years of working on that paper is finally coming to an actual class, hopefully a lot of people will come. So maybe I’m not done with the school yet, maybe God still wants me to be involved? I do not know.
A lot of questions, a lot of prayers, a lot of uncertainty, and praying for more trust. God is in control. I trust that God has only the best plans for me, because he will not lead me somewhere to only abandon me. For the last seven years I have lived in faith, and in faith I will step out while God unfolds the journey before me. But, in that faith, I still covet your prayers, because having someone pray for me is always good.
We’ll see what happens this summer and how God works. I know it will be amazing.