I Am Thankful For Heartbreak and Failure

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I have seen so many “I am thankful for _______” posts in the past month that it got me thinking: What would I put on such a list?  Of course the normal things came up: my family, friends, health, home, safety, freedom, love, Jesus, faith, the World Race, America, clean shaven men, hand-holding, soft rainstorms, mountaintops, laughter, joy, hugs, kisses, smiles, frozen Greek yogurt, technology, fuzzy blankets, cold weather, bonfires, music, snuggles, accents, books, education, ASU, random acts of kindness, God-following men, letters via snail mail, and the list goes on and on.

Then, I got to really thinking and decided I was missing two important things: heartbreak and failure.  Yes, at first I argued with myself.  “Heartbreak?  Failure?  Those aren’t so pleasant.  Why should I be thankful for them?  I usually try to avoid them.  It makes no sense at all to be thankful for having had a broken heart or having failed.”  Oh, but it does!

You see, we are all naturally inclined to be thankful for the pleasant things, the things we want more of and hope to never be deprived of.  I am among the world’s worst at simply trying to avoid unpleasant or uncomfortable things/situations/people.  Someone breaks my heart?  That’s fine, I’ll just move on and try to pretend it never happened.  You know, avoid those memories like the plague.  That’s totally acceptable, right?   Unfortunately, no.

I believe a part of growing up is accepting that life is not always a series of pleasant, enjoyable moments that come together perfectly as long as you “do things right.”  Things are going to happen.  Despite perfectly executing that “next step” agenda that we are taught to strive for (college, career, marriage, kids, etc.), there will be unpleasant moments.  There will be broken hearts.  There will be failed attempts, plans, ideas, and relationships.  That’s part of the process, and really, it’s one of the best parts if you think about it.

I happen to love the metaphor that places God as an artist and we, as people, are His masterpieces.  Instead of thinking of us as paintings or sculptures, I like to think of each of us as mosaics.  Each tiny piece has been broken off from somewhere, rearranged, fitted into the whole, and is an integral part of the big picture.  Each time your heart has been broken, whether by a friend, a partner, a family member, boss, or even a stranger, those pieces are scooped up, rearranged, put back onto the canvas, and fitted into making the big picture beautiful.  Same thing goes with every failure.  Every failed test, failed relationship, failed plan, failed job, failed idea – it’s all used into making your big picture beautiful.

A song out right now by Casting Crowns that I have grown quite fond of states:

One day I’ll stand before You

And look back on the life I’ve lived

I can’t wait to enjoy the view

And see how all the pieces fit.

On that day, I do believe I will be seeing the most beautiful picture of my life – my life’s very own mosaic masterpiece crafted by God Himself.  Each heart break, each failure – it’s all working together along with all of the joy, the love, the excitement, the adventure, the pleasantness of this life.

So, nestled on my list of things to be thankful for you can find “heartbreak” and “failure” somewhere amongst the others, probably hanging out somewhere between “traveling” and “men wearing ties.”

We Talked, But I Didn’t See His Face

Jesus Chats
Tonight as we were sitting together in the family room watching the news, my Granny turns to me and asks, “Have you raised any money yet for your trip?”  It always makes me shudder a little that she refers to the calling to be a missionary I have surrendered to as merely a “trip.”  Brushing the mental note of her using that term away, I responded with a “No.”  I’m not sure what annoyed me more, the fact that she asked or the fact that I have no funds in my support account.

Worry tried to sneak it’s vicious head into my thoughts and into my heart.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God called me to The World Race.  I know that I can do great things through Him while I’m on it.  I know that it is where I am suppose to be.  And I know that as of right now, I have only $150 of the $16,285 that I must have to go.  I am also acutely aware that there is no way that I, myself, can come up with that money in the 250(ish) days until I am set to leave the country.

See why I was so vulnerable to worry?

My Granny asked me another question right after my response to the first.  She asked, “Well, do you still plan to go?”  Defensively I said, “Yes, Granny.  I am still going.  Why would I not go?”   She retreated from her questions with an “I don’t know”, but we both knew what she was thinking.  She was thinking, how could I go if I didn’t have the funds?

I know that’s what she was thinking because that’s exactly what I keep thinking.  I haven’t any donors yet.  My family is in no position to say, “Here Mary Elizabeth, we’d like to give you $16,135 to complete your funding needs for the World Race.”   I have no doubt my sisters alone would gladly do that if they could.  But they can’t.  And I know that.

I keep thinking:  If I had known at graduation that this would be my life trajectory instead of law school, I could’ve gotten a job back in May, not signed a lease and had to be paying it long after I moved back out of that apartment, saved on the expense of moving (twice), and the list keeps going on.  That worry snakes it’s way deeper and deeper into my thoughts.

And then there’s Jesus.
When everyone and every situation seems to keep telling me “this is virtually impossible” or “you haven’t enough time” or “your needs are too great,” Jesus offers up the truth.

He says, “Mary Elizabeth Bailey, do I not love you?  Does My Father not love you?  Didn’t He send me to die so that you can live with Us and rest in Our love for eternity?”  Of course, I’m over here with teary eyes saying, “Yes, Jesus.”  And Jesus continues on saying to me, “Do the birds of the sky worry about being taken care of?  Does My Father leave them without food?  And the flowers that adorn the Earth and remind you of natural beauty created straight from the hand of the Father, do they worry that there is no one to clothe them day after day?”  And I answer with tears still in my eyes, “No, Jesus.  I know our Father takes care of them.  But —”   And Jesus cuts me off saying, “But what?  But you do not think He has the power to take care of you?  You do not think that when you died to sin through my blood that the Spirit within can work to take care of you?  You worry, but about what?!  The birds are fed, the flowers are clothed, and Father doesn’t even love them near as much as He loves YOU.”   Ugh, sometimes I want to cross my arms like a toddler and pout when Jesus calls me out.  He’s right.  He’s always right.   But instead, I just sit with a half-smile on my face.  So Jesus goes ahead and says, “I’ll remind you again:  I love you.  Father loves you.  You have no reason to worry.  When you worry, it’s like you are doubting Him.  We can both agree that doubting Abba Father’s love and provision is crazy, right?  Look at what I have been through.  Look at what you have been through.  Has He not provided every step of the way?  So child, stop worrying.”  I can’t help but smile now.  There’s just something about being told that I am loved and being shown the truth.  Truth sets me free, and this time I’m being freed from the chains of worry.  How dare I doubt my Father!  I tell Jesus, “I’m sorry, Jesus.  I don’t doubt Father God.  I know He’s taking care of me and that He always will.  I need Your constant reminders, so thanks!”  Jesus wipes the drying tears from my eyes and tells me, “Just seek God and His righteousness.  When you do that, not only do you have no time to worry, but also you’ll be awed with the perfect provision He gives.  Don’t worry about tomorrow — or the next day or the next day or months down the road.  Father has you taken care of.  You can’t see it, but I can.  Trust me.  I love you.”   He never ends a conversation without making sure I know that He loves me.  Ah, what a sweet Jesus!

After this chat all I can do is continue to trust in Him.  Trust in the One who made me, called me, and loves me.  Trust the One who provides for me always.  All I can (and want to) do is what Jesus told me — stop worry and seek God.

If you are knee-deep in worry and your heart is feeling overwhelmed, I encourage you to have a chat with Jesus.  I promise you, He loves you just as much as He loves me or anyone else.  He wants you to bring your worries to Him.  My chat with Jesus came from Matthew 6:25-34 tonight.  Yours can, too — if you want.

Love you, my sweet blog readers!
And so does God.
He actually loves you much, much, MUCH more than I could possibly imagine loving you.  🙂

P.S. I actually am leaving in July 2014 to go across the world (11 countries in 11 months) to bring the message, the hope, the love, and the light of Jesus to people I have yet to meet, but already have places in my heart.  I DO need $16,000+ in my support account to be fully funded.  I am confident that God will use His people (many of you reading this) to make this happen.  So, if you feel led to make a donation (which is actually tax deductible — yay!), you can go to my World Race page (http://maryelizabethbailey.theworldrace.org/) and click “Support Me” on the left side.   Even if you can’t donate, I welcome and ask you to check out my page and the World Race site in general to get to know what I have been called to.  🙂

This Person: Advice to Myself

Don't stand at the horizon and look back -- look forward.

Don’t stand at the horizon and look back — look forward.

There’s comes a time when you realize you aren’t sure what happened to your old habits, old characteristics — and you miss them.  The good ones, anyway.
You miss…YOU.

I used to think everyone was inherently good.  I used to never tell secrets because I grew up realizing that people are never as trustworthy was you want them to be.  I used to want to help people no matter if they were rude to me, nice to me, or seemingly worthless individuals.  I used to guard my heart so well that I could never get broken — but that came with a price.  I used to say what I thought because I had innocent, naïve, loving thoughts.  I used to welcome anyone and everyone as a new friend.  I used to go after whatever I loved, whether I was good at it or not.  I used to chase joy instead of reputation.

When did I become someone who forgot these things?  Someone who lives differently, and loves selectively.
I’ve become vulnerable, but for the wrong reasons and to the wrong people.  I forgot how much I know that trusting someone wholeheartedly is a great risk, reserved only for ones I know are worth the risk.  I became someone who doesn’t always use words kindly.  I have become a person who is no longer all inclusive to others; someone who runs from others as soon as they offend or hurt me.  I’ve become someone who chases a “good reputation” and lives in fear of doing anything that might “look bad,” rather than chasing joy and delighting in my freedom.

My advice to myself?
Love inclusively.
Trust carefully.
Search for the good in someone until you find it.
Forgive always.
Help whenever you see a need.
Use your words kindly.
Never fear.
Chase after joy.
Be bold enough to embrace failure.
Be true to God.
Dream big.  And bigger.
Be free.
Pray harder.
Never give up hope.

The truth is, sometimes I just don’t know what kind of person I’m becoming.  The person my parents are proud of?  The person my friends are entertained by?  The person chasing after success?  The person afraid of truly going after her dreams?  The person who looks good on paper?  Or the person doing all she can to become who she wants to be — not who her world and the people in it are trying to make her into?
For now, I’m going to take my own advice and see what happens.  After all, the one person you know you can trust is yourself.

Make Your Trade: Completeness or Self-Worship

The goal of your faith should produce joy.

The goal of your faith should produce joy.

 

Joy.  There’s something different in joy than in happiness.  In the words of my favorite pastor (Dan, Journey Campus), “Happiness is self-worship.  The trouble with happiness is that it depends on what’s happening.  But joy is built on the foundation of knowing someOne, not having something.  Joy is completeness in Christ.”  Joy, true unabated joy in the Lord, is something that cannot be substituted for.  Why?  Because there simply isn’t anything else like it.  Happiness is a temporary, cheap knock-off.  Happiness fades and wears with time, but joy grows with time — if you let it. 

I was thinking, “what do I so often trade in my joy from the Lord for?”  My answer: temporary happiness because of someone who isn’t the Lord.  I am confident I am not the only one who does this.  To be completely, transparently honest, I decieve myself into thinking if I start hinging my happiness on “Christian people” and let that become more important than the joy of the Lord, it’s still okay —- you know, because those people love God, too.  No, it’s not okay.

I have been guilty of letting that text message from that “oh so sweet Christian boy” bring me happiness in place of the joy of the Lord through prayer.  I have been guilty of substituting my quiet time with God for “hanging out” with God’s people — or just ONE person who loves God.  I have been guilty of letting the compliment from “that special person” mean more to me than God’s Word telling me “Mary, I -the Creator of Life- love YOU.  I made you.  I say you are wonderfully made.  I love you more than the sun and the stars.  I chose you to be Mine.  I whisper good morning to you every single day.  I let you rest in My arms every single night.  I show how much I care about you with every breath you breathe.”   Really, is there even a comparison?  No, not at all.

There’s a certain pang of remorse that I feel with the realization that I trade my joy from the completeness in the Lord for temporary, always-failing happiness from the acceptance of someone else (even if that someone else is a God-fearing Christian person).  To accompany remorse is guilt, shame, sadness, and anger with myself.  But as it always is with my merciful and loving God, there is redemption:  He is still here, holding joy out to clothe me in.  No more wearing around happiness like a tattered, weather-worn jacket.  God is clothing me in a cozy, withstanding coat of joy.  He is offering me the joy I was so eager to dismiss.  He is dismissing my shame, guilt, remorse, self-anger, and sadness of knowing I have given up joy.  Why?  Because He loves me.  Because He is faithful .  Because He knows what I want even when I am confused.  Because He is merciful.  Because He is forgiving.  Because He is Yaweh.

I invite and challenge YOU to find what you trade in your joy for.  What do you allow to bring you temporary happiness?  Get rid of it.  Ask the Lord for His joy to fill you.  Ask for Him to remove what thing or person you let dictate your happiness and your degree of joy.  (I’m not saying that if someone makes you happy to get rid of them.  But if you rely on them making you happy instead of having joy from God, then yes — make some changes.)  Seek joy in Him alone, and I can promise you:  it will stand every test and every trial.  It’s a hard thing to do, given that we are selfish beings by nature and would rather have happiness (remember, it’s self-worship) than joy (completeness in Christ).  But wouldn’t you rather be complete in your Savior than bowing down to yourself? 

Let me be clear:  I think it is acceptable and encouraged to find joy in Christian fellowship.  I am NOT saying that being joyful or happy because of or with other Christians (or non-Christians) is a bad thing.   I am simply saying that the core of your joy….it should be from Christ.   I am saying that at your core should be joy in Christ above happiness.   But is all happiness bad?  No, I think not. 

It is my goal to lay aside the things and/or people that I have sought happiness in and seek only the Lord further, to seek to grasp the joy of the Lord and live on that.  Let His whispers and His displays of love bring me more joy than anything else.  Let His Word touch my heart more than the words of anyone else.  Let my worship be His and not my own.  Let my joy be in Jesus.  Let my life be joyful.