Fail Better

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

–Samuel Beckett

I climbed up a tree to think. My son caught me sitting there, snapped this picture of me. I didn’t have time to smile or pose. This is just me looking like me. I think I look weary. Or vulnerable. Or something. This picture surprises me. That facial expression is not the one I imagine myself having. But there it is.

Unexpected Truth.

Unexpected Reality.

This is where I am, struggling through the Unexpected Truth of this suddenly heavy Lent. It’s humbling. I thought I was going all-out in a flashy show of devout fervor. No meat, no alcohol, no rap. And God i all: aw, that’s cute, EE, you’re giving up your favorite rap station for Lent? How about this? How about I ask you to give up something big? Like, say, your house?

B-b-but GOD! That’s NOT the Lent I prepared for! That’s not the Lent I want!

I want a Lent that I can control. I want a Lent that doesn’t require real sacrifice, just symbolic sacrifice. I don’t want a painful Lent. I want an easy Lent.

Ah, but this Lent. This is the Lent I need.

Fasting shows–with glaring accuracy–my weakness, my neediness. Where did that harsh tone of voice come from? Why am I so snappy at the children? Then again, why am I surprised at myself? Isn’t being surprised by my weaknesses a sign of pride?

Oh, God.

This Lent, it’s like my son snapping a picture of me–no time to pose. No time to smile. It’s just me in all my rawness, in my unvarnished weakness.

Yet, I am grateful. I need to see myself clearly. This is what Lent does.

I’ve found myself gasping out little aspirations of thanks for everyday things. Thank you, God, for this doctor’s appointment. Jasiel’s fever was at 103.5. She screamed every time she urinated. Thank you, God, for these antibiotics.

As soon as I said those thanks, a pocket of expansiveness opened up inside me. A thought. What glorious abundance it is to have health insurance, to have the privilege of taking my daughter to the doctor.

Thank you, God, for this clean bathroom at the doctor’s office.

Gratitude is the insulation against the cold winds of despair. I’m clinging to that insulation now.

I woke up with a tear-stained pillow the other night. I was crying because I don’t want to leave my home.

Thank you, God, for the gift of having lived here.

The other morning I wept because I thought: “Now that we don’t own our home, we’ll never be able to adopt an orphan.” They don’t let renters adopt babies, do they? Only successful people who own homes with wide lawns of freshly mowed grass. It’s always been part of my lifelong dream–adopt an orphan.

Thank you, God, for a heart open to children.

Maybe it sounds odd to thank God for my own heart. Well, it is a gift–is it not?–to have a mother’s heart that only longs to love and love and love? Yes, it’s a gift. So, I thank Him for it.

I was frustrated last week because I was supposed to meet up with a friend. I so wanted to see her. I so needed that break. But my daughter was sick and needed my sole attention and care. I texted my friend my apologies, tried to wrangle my schedule and make our meetup happen. She texted back: This is life, friend.

Thank you, God, for friends who seek me out. Thank you for the interruptions of life.

Sometimes I think I deserve a well-planned life. One with backup plans and contingency plans and no interruptions.

I am failing at Lent right now. But I’m failing forward. This Lent is teaching me things I never knew.

By God’s grace, I’m failing better.

  • Kristen Herrett

    Beautiful. And I so needed to read this today as it feels like something much less signficant than losing a house is looming on my horizon but my perspective wants to make it so much larger…so I pray I can fail better as well.

  • Ro elliott

    we are neighbors…so glad we are…thanks for your raw and honest words here…oh to see reality…a painful but the most productive way to grow…so we can decrease and He can increase…I pray right now for His peace as you go through this transition…may you feel the God of all comfort wrap you in His arms…may you keep counting…the smallest of gifts can transform our hearts…blessings to you today….

  • Susan

    I hear you, EE. I’ve found the past few years that God has chosen my Lenten disciplines. The first year, I was but, but….  This year He placed a precious 13-year-old boy with ADHD in our spare room. His mother was in a coma for two weeks, and his father is unable to care for him. I’ve been tutoring this boy for two years, and he is little trouble, but it’s been a number of years since I’ve had a teenager in my house.

    As it turned out, we needed him and did not know it, but my Abba did know.

    My heart aches for you needing to leave your home.

  • TheresaEH

    **I** gave up candy for lent, particularly licorice..nice and easy eh….BUT God decided it was time I *give* up the bandages covering an emotional(and physical) wound that ocurred 35 years ago. 
    That is a very nice picture of you BTW

  • Shelly Miller

    Gratitude is the insulation against the cold winds of despair – you express that truth well. Lent is a harsh season, full of new life after walking through the pain. Thanks for helping me to see better today.

  • Jenn

    Thank you for the honesty of this post. It’s beautiful.

  • JessieLeigh

    “Gratitude is the insulation against the cold winds of despair.”  I love that line.  And I already know it will running through my mind on auto-rewind for the next days and weeks.  I, too, am trying to wrap my brain around loss this Lent… in our case, the loss of our precious 4th baby.  There is always, always, ALWAYS something to be thankful for, but I admit that I feel like I’m swimming through the darkness during this particular season.  I do believe I need to reinforce my shelter built of gratitude.

  • Megan Fletcher

    “I’m failing forward.”  yes, indeed.  And, thank you for blogging it to challenge me. :-)

  • Ironiccatholic

    This is beautiful (in a difficult way)–

    I only want to correct one thing; maybe it lightens your load.  You do NOT need to own a home to adopt an orphan.  We are adopting from a country in Eastern Europe and owning a home is not necessary (I think a stable lease is).   I realize some countries may requires that home ownership, and I have no idea about the USA (probably depends by state).  But I know “my country” (which I need to keep quiet online, email if you want the identity) is OK with renters, and there are thousands of children who need families, if God calls you to that. 

    Peace these days–
    The Ironic Catholic

    • Tarynkay

      We just adopted our beautiful baby boy  (!) domestically, and I did a lot of research on various agencies, and every single agency said something along the lines of “you do not have to own your home in order to adopt.”  So please don’t give up that dream!

      • Maryann945

         Along those same lines as the above posts…several years ago, I had to write a brochure for our state about adoption, and one of the points they always asked me to put in bold was that you don’t have to own your own home. I also know a couple who adopted two little girls (not babies but young) and I’m almost positive they rent. So check with your state if/when you’re interested in pursuing this further.

  • Lucie

    I sure as hell needed to read this.  And I bet I’m not the only one.

  • onenhim

    “Gratitude is the insulation against the cold winds of despair.”

    I see I am not the only one who was moved by this sentence. I went back and read it a few times before moving on. But instead of simply saying, “Great words, Elizabeth. So profound,” and then going on with my day (as it easy for me to do), I am going to DO something about that powerful sentence. I am going to put it into practice today.

    I am going to wrap gratitude around my shivering shoulders and watch the ice melt. Thank you, friend.

  • Angela

    Oopsie, little problem with the sign in. The comment from “onenhim” was from me. :)

  • Emily

    Read this one twice. Needed it today as well…

  • Emily Moothart

    I feel like I’m failing at Lent, too, and I didn’t even try for anything crazy.  I’m going to ponder your words today. 

  • Jen

    I’d say you are a seriously cool mom for climbing a tree to think.  :)

    I’d also say that you aren’t failing.  I think you’re rolling with the punches.  It’s terrifying to have a sick kid  You got through it.  It’s painful to have to give up a house.  You’re doing it.  You may not be living the law of Lent but you sure are living the spirit of it.

  • Tifanni

    EE, We went through the same thing a few years back of leaving a house that we desparately loved due to circumstances. It hurt tons, but looking back, I can see God’s plan much clearer then I saw it then. I still miss and love that house and town, but I know whats in store for the future is greater then a house.  And yes, renters can adopt too, so don’t lose heart.

  • Handsfull

    Oh, poor Jasiel!  I had one of those myself last week, so I know her pain… and yes, I was thanking God for antibiotics too!
    This is (as Ann would put it) the ugly-beautiful.  These are the times when you find out what you really believe, and how strongly you really believe it… and it’s hard.  And it hurts.
    Times like this are when I desperately seek God as my refuge from the pain and the uncertainty.  And even when I haven’t FELT like I found Him, with the benefit of hindsight I can see that He was there, sheltering me, comforting me and giving me the strength and hope I needed to keep going.
    Transition.  It’s a hard time in child-birth, and a hard time in life, but you can do it, EE!  Keep breathing… and remember to breathe out, as well as in :)
    I’m praying for you and yours as you keep going.

  • Alyssa Sampson

    This is a beautiful post, and a beautiful place to be, failing forward. I will hold on to that little phrase :)
    Please don’t fall into the trap of thinking God is out to get you, that he is upping the ante on your Lenten offering by a million times and with a smirk. I honestly believe he led you to pursue relentless optimism just in time for you to need it and that he is there with you for every step of the way.
    I’m blessed by your words and the honesty you shape them with!

  • Melissa Smallwood

    I am “failing forward” with you. Wise words!  

  • Carrie

    I need to learn how to fail better.

  • ARM

    Yes, this is a beautiful reflection.  But I also think you look beautiful in that picture that shocked you so much (am I the only one?).

  • Claire

    Elizabeth, I’m so sorry for what you’re going through.  Last year God chose my Lenten sacrifice for me, and while it wasn’t as hard as losing our house, it was tough.  I admire your ability to maintain a grateful heart in the midst of this, and I hope that your future holds many more joyful seasons.

  • nicole i

     “Gratitude is the insulation against the cold winds of despair”, I am clinging too.  Thank you for those wise and timely words…I quoted you on my blog.

  • Rose Mary

     I really needed to read this now. I know I am failing or maybe I’m falling but I really hope it is forward. I can’t tell right now… But thank you for writing this…. I’ll remember you in prayer during this really difficult time of yours. 

    ‘Gratitude is the insulation against the cold winds of despair.’ – I’m clinging to that too. Thank you EE.