Wednesday, October 22, 2014

what to do when failure sticks his tongue out at you

My daughter tried out for the school jump rope team, didn't make the cut, and I've never been more proud of her.

It stings.
And cuts.
At times it doesn't even make sense.
And sometimes the sting lingers longer and cuts deeper when it hits someone we love.

Two weeks ago the elementary school was having tryouts for the school jump team.  My daughter wanted to try out, but when it came time to get serious about it, she wanted no help or advice and put off preparing for this tryout.  She played and procrastinated the whole weekend long.  It wasn't until 8:30pm the night before the 7:00am tryout that she decided to get serious and consider my feedback and guidance.  Unfortunately, bedtime is at 9:00pm and she had waited till the last minute and wasn't going to get adequate practice in before the morning tryout.

As a parent, I had a tough decision to make.  I could let her tryout for the "experience" even though she wasn't prepared, and perhaps it would be a good learning experience for her.  I contemplated what to do and decided that a better learning experience for her may be found by not allowing her to tryout.  I wanted her to understand that when she wants something in life, she has to put effort into it and prepare herself for it...that she needs to take things seriously and work hard.  I truly believed this was a greater lesson for her that would "stick."

As expected, she went to bed upset that night and I went to bed torn, wondering if I had made the right decision.  After school that day I learned that eight girls had tried out and all eight had made the jump team.  Of course, this challenged me even greater as to whether or not I had made the right decision.

That weekend my daughter informed me that there were still spots available on the team and that they were going to hold a second tryout.  Once I got in touch with the jump team coordinator, I learned this was true.  This gave my daughter one afternoon and evening to prepare herself.  And prepare she did.  This time she welcomed my advice and we researched, googled, and practiced various jump moves that would be asked of her at the tryout.  She was persistent in her practice and though it was limited, she really did work hard. And I was proud of her.  We did homework later that evening and studied for a test, but her mind kept wandering to the possibilities in front of her.  She went to bed that night with visions of hope stirring within.
Her tryout was at 7am and it was a long day waiting to hear if she had made the team or not.  However,  when I picked her up from school that day she sluggishly approached the car with downcast eyes,  drooping shoulders, and a forced smile.  My heart sunk, for I knew that she did not make the cut.  Her first words when she got into the car were, "I didn't make the jump team, but that's ok."  I placed a gentle hand on her leg beside me and said, "I'm so sorry honey.  I know you must be so disappointed."  And the floodgates were released.  She cried the whole way home (and I had to viciously fight back tears myself).

Seven girls tried out that morning and four of them made the team.  My daughter was only one of three who did not.  It broke my heart.  And though I know that God has reasons and purpose for all things, and that His ways are better than our own, I just did not understand.  It did not make sense to me.  The jump team would have been good for her in many ways.  Good for her physical health, good for her self-esteem, good for her to be a part of something, to belong, to feel valued, and good motivation to keep her grades up as that is one of the criteria for being part of the team.

When we got home, I immediately had to leave to attend a ministry meeting.  I wanted to stay home to comfort my girl and pour extra love out onto her.  Tears fell as I drove away and boldly questioned God.  I had prayed for her so fervently.  I asked Him to smile down on her and grant her favor.  But, my prayers weren't answered the way that I wanted them to be.  This made me angry.  I mean, how hard would it have been for Him to have just smiled down on her this one time?  Can we catch a break for once? I wondered how I would be equipped to encourage my daughter and tell her that even though she is disappointed, God still has a good plan for her, when I was the one in need of encouragement and having a hard time believing this for myself.

It seems not much comes easily for our family, despite our honest efforts.  I am not stepping down into that self-pity pit, I refuse.  But, I won't lie by saying that these last (almost) 5 years have been easy and smooth sailing.  There have been a lot of storm clouds and a lot of prayers for breakthrough that still have not quite broken through. Though at times this makes me want to give up, I can handle this for myself.  But, when it comes to my children, it's a tougher pill to swallow.

What do you do when you don't make the cut?
When life doesn't turn out as you had wished, planned, or dreamed?
When your good-willing prayers seem unanswered?
How do you handle it?

Now, if it would have been me not making the jump team, I probably would have laid that jumprope aside (with no intention of picking it up anytime soon) and walked away with my tail between my legs.  But, that's not how my daughter reacted.  Do you want to know what she did?

The very next morning, she walked to the bus stop, with jumprope in hand, knowing that at that very bus stop were two other little girls who did make the team.  And she walked into her classroom that day, with jumprope in hand, knowing that two other classmates had made the team too, and that many would be asking whether or not she did.  She was brave and unwavering.  She came home with that same jumprope in hand and has been jumping rope on recess, in the driveway, in the garage, in the kitchen, and in the living room. every. day. since.  She's already learned the "front cross" and "beckster" jump, and it's only been a week.

I've never been more proud of my little girl.  I am learning from this daughter of mine.  God is using her to teach me a thing or two.  She didn't let disappointment or defeat stop her or shut her down.  She didn't slide into a pit and quit.  No, she is a fighter.  She is my determined one.  The one who taught herself  how to ride a bike, rollerblade, snap her fingers, blow a bubble with chewing gum, hula hoop, do a cartwheel and a back walkover (never having a gymnastics lesson in her life).  She never gives up, and I've told her that this optimistic, determined attitude is going to carry her far in life.  She perseveres through trial and she is teaching me to do the same.  She is taking her disappointment and failure and using it to motivate and better equip her for what's next.  She's already looking ahead to next year's tryouts.  Bless her jumprope-loving heart. I know He's smiling down on her now.

I believe God does the same and wants the same for us too.  Though I can't pretend to understand His ways at times, I do believe that He allows life's disappointments and failures to mold and grow us for the purposes He has set on our horizon.  We have a choice.  We can sit in idleness, put up walls and barriers, wallow in self-pity, and give up.  Or we can give into His plan and keep moving forward.  One foot in front of the other.  One baby step and one little jump at a time. Building up our faith, spiritual strength and endurance for the uphill climb with an attitude and perspective of hope and expectancy.  This makes heaven smile and our Father proud.

Life really is kinda like preparing for a tryout.  Perhaps we don't have a jumprope in hand, but there is a Hand being held out to us as we are being prepared and equipped for glory.  I'm taking hold of it.  There may be a few missteps and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears along the way, but we are guaranteed a reward that far outweighs making "the cut."

It's been a long time since I've opened up this old blog.  Had to dust off the keyboard and sweep some cobwebs away from my heart to find my way back.  But stories are meant to be told.  Wisdom is meant to be gleaned.  Truth is meant to be shared.  And hope is meant to be given.

My hope and prayer is to encourage anyone who has felt defeated or disappointed by life out there to pick up their rope, hold their head up high, and keep jumping.  Jump right into the arms of the One who has a good plan for your life and trust that He knows the best route to get you there.  Don't give up.  Don't let failure have the final say.  Front cross your way into a road of perseverance.  It's good for the heart.  And the harvest is just ahead.
All for His glory,