Thursday, August 14, 2008

To the nth Degree

I have been watching the Olympics for the last 6 days, and it's so very exciting. Watching Michael Phelps make history, watching the American men's gymnastics team defy probability and win a team medal. But with the thrill of victory has also come the agony of defeat. The brokenness on the face of the American women's gymnastics team captain after she fumbled not just once, but twice to, in all probability, cost the women's team the gold medal.

I cannot imagine the effort and commitment these young athletes have made in committing their lives to compete in the Olympics. Years of training, discipline, sacrifice all to be decided whether it was worth the cost in the nth of a second. Did you see the defeat on the French men's swimming team when the lost the relay to the American men, literally, a tap behind? I mean honestly, after the way that they had pridefully declared they would "smash" the Americans, I was thrilled when we won, but what of the people in France? It was literally, "tap, tap," seconds too late.

I've seen a lot of competitors fall and it has cost them their entire dream. The young German gymnast who is the best in the world on the high bar, and this time, when it counted, he fell. After our women's gymnastics captain failed, both of her teammates tripped up to, failure and defeat were contagious.

It's honorable what these young athletes go through and commit themselves to, but I for one could not live my life that way. I've been thinking about how this is the way it was in the old covenant in the bible, a single slip was ultimate failure, perfection was demanded. Anything short of that was disastrous.

I am so grateful for the New Covenant, for the covenant of grace. I am grateful that in life, when we fail or fall in Christ, we don't stand back up as failures, our story is not complete, we arise to a new opportunity in grace. We can have the failure wiped clean, a lesson in life, but not the defining moment of it. I am grateful that Jesus came for me and He stuck the landing, made the new world record and completed the perfect routine. And I am grateful that He did it for me, that like in the Olympic gymnastic competitions, 5 compete, 4 scores counted, in the Christian life, millions competed but only One's score mattered, and through Him we ALWAYS bring home the gold.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand. Psalm 37:23-24

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


The definition of the word is "the failure to fulfill the expectations or wishes of," or "the defeat of the fulfillment of" such as of wishes or hopes.

My daughter experienced a huge disappointment today. We got a letter in the mail informing us the gym where she has learned and practiced gymnastics for the last four years is closing. We started there in a "Mommy and Me" class right after the 2004 summer Olympics. When I saw the excitement it brought my , then two-year-old, daughter to watch these young women flip and fly on the TV screen, I signed her right up. Over the past four years she's grown and flourished being knocked up level to level quickly and even getting to participate these past two semesters as the youngest member of their demo team. It's sort of ironic that as we rushed home tonight to watch this year's Olympic gymnastics competition we sat down and opened the letter in the mail that bore the bad news about her gym. This year as we have been watching it's with insight and understanding as well as the same wonder of the two-year-old from four years ago.

It's not as though there are no other options for her to continue learning gymnastics, it's just that she's really grown to love the place she's been, her teachers and the friends she's made there. It's a huge disappointment, and maybe even a little more heartbreak for a little girl who is already sad about the closing of her elementary school back in June, and she's already leery of the change she's making attending a new one in the fall. Now TWO places she's loved and grown are no longer going to be a part of her life. That is disappointment.

Last night I was at a meeting at church and we were talking about the theme for our women's ministry in the fall. I edit our newsletter and we center the publication and our ministry around a general theme. We talked about the sense of hopelessness and disappointment surrounding us today. The economy is lousy, people everywhere are struggling, businesses are failing, jobs are being lost. There is a lot of disappointment to go around. In my own life I am watching people I care about struggle with personal disappointments too, marriages failing, betrayals of loved ones, people wounding people, people facing battles, even life-threatening battles, that they didn't expect to be facing. Disappointments.

I have another perspective on this word that always rings in my mind when I hear the word disappointment. It's something over the years I have shared with many people, and I'm inclined to repeat it again now. Did you know that God has NEVER been disappointed? That was a revelation that came to me when I was going through emotional and spiritual healing from an abortion I had in my late teens. I was having a very hard time believing that God would forgive me for what I had done because I was so very certain He was too disappointed in me. But I was wrong.

"What is she saying????" I know as some of you read this, that's what's going through your minds. "OF COURSE God was disappointed!"you say, but no you'd be mistaken. He was grieved, I am sure, and He may have even been angry, but He was NOT disappointed.

Let's go back to the definition. "The failure to fulfill the expectations or wishes of." God held no expectation of me, He already knew I was going to fail, and commit the sin that I did. In the very definition of disappointment is the element of surprise. God is NEVER surprised. Because He was not surprised, because He already knew, He could not be disappointed in me. He has never been disappointed in me, or in you.

As we continued to talk about the fall theme, we each shared our thoughts on it. And what I was left with was this picture of the "dis" being broken, even smashed off of "disappointment." And when that happens, what is left? "Appointment."

Let's talk about the definition of "appointment." "A meeting set for a specific time or place," or "the act of appointing, as to an office or position."

This weekend my pastor was speaking on joy, and how joy is built out, in a large part, of our perspective on life. Now here is the thought process I have been working through, my perspective. This same God who is never, NEVER disappointed in me, because He is incapable of being surprised is also not surprised by those things that disappoint me. When in my mind I saw the "dis" being smashed off of the word disappointment, across the hammer that leveled it was the word "hope." Hope is a rare commodity in the world today. But those of us who are believers in Christ have a "corner on the market" of hope, the smasher of disappointment.

Romans 5:3-5 says, "We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us."

We can have joy in our troubles, our hurts and even our disappointments, because we know that God is working out a greater plan and purpose, not only FOR us but also THROUGH us. Wherever these disappointments, these troubles, may lead us to, we can be sure that we were APPOINTED to be there. There is no random, accidental or coincidental event in the life of any believer. That is pretty incredible, brings me joy to think about it!

I don't know how well I will be able to soften the sadness of a 6-year-old with this truth, but I know I can try to encourage and love her through the process. And I can hope (because with Christ I can ALWAYS hope) that at some point these young life lessons will be owned by my daughter who is living them. At some point when we can look back at some relationship built, or some good deed done, or some feat that is accomplished because of the new places God has brought her when the old ones have been removed. And she can say God took my DISappointment and brought me to a place of APPOINTMENT for His good plan and purpose, for me and through me, in Jesus' name. Oh that she may some day be able to see her life with sucha heavenly perspective.

May we all learn that lesson in our lives, that we may grow in faith, in hope and in love. God is faithful, and He can be trusted.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I suppose that's what this past 9 days has been in my blogging life. A space between the first 26 Days of Praise and what I hope will be the last 4.

How is it that it seems to have been a long nine days, and yet they somewhat seem to have flown by. Time is a tricky thing, beyond my comprehension in some ways as life seems to tick off in increments, whether it's seconds, minutes, hours or days. Nine days ago seems like forever ago and also somehow like a blink.

Last weekend Neal and I stole away for the weekend to attend my 20 year high school reunion. Talk about time flying and ticking all at once. It's hard to believe it has been 20 years, and then I look around at my 17 plus year marriage and my three children and it's obvious time has marched on. It's funny when you attend something like this reunion. I look back and think back to the girl I was 20 years ago. I don't think where I am today is where she thought she would find herself. But I really have no complaint.

I think it's safe to say I was the only woman there who didn't look like a size 6 who has been fastidious in working out for the last 20 years. I found myself in a roomful of "the beautiful people." I knew I'd see a lot of people looking good, but didn't expect it to be them all. (Seriously, them ALL.) I might prefer my waist size to be a little smaller (and may be more inspired to work a little harder at it) but it didn't discourage me to show up with 20 years of contentment around my waist.

That's what I sort of saw in myself as I said hello to old friends, now strangers, who I have not seen in two decades. I'm content with my life. I love my husband immeasurably, and I have three really good kids. We live in a nice, albeit modest, home and life is good. We have our struggles, financial and otherwise, but we are blessed.

I saw a lot of drinking and carousing going on over that weekend. It was like a few of them had just been let out on parole, or perhaps had even escaped some sentence. I mean this in no way to be looking down my nose at anyone (some of the beautiful people seemed content as well) but I can't help but think, where is their contentment? It must not be found in their beauty or their accomplishment. I didn't do all the things I planned when I was just 18 years old, and in fact that girl made some decisions back then that cost me a lot for a lot of years, but somewhere along the line I discovered what really mattered was outside of myself. I came to know and serve a God who loves me and has had a plan and purpose for me since before I even begon to imagine one for myself. That's pretty incredible.

When Neal and I got back from our weekend away (which the best part of was the time together, not the reunion) things were not all as I would have them be. Victoria didn't seem well. She was off and exhausted for several days. Turns out she has strep throat (AGAIN) and she must have been wiped out from the schedule we kept the week before. It really had me stressed. I let myself get quite overwhelmed by it in fact. It rattled me. As I belive I have shared before, it is often the littler things that shake me, more than the real battles, or perhaps even the imagined big things. Victoria has always been such an anomaly with her fainting and propensity towards illness and injury. I think perhaps there has built a stronghold there of fear for her. When she gets sick or even seems strange, it triggers deeper concern from me than when it's the boys. On the one hand there is this vibrant, active, physically strong little girl, but if she is anything but all of that I immediately fear the worst. Funny, as I think of that, I remember that the Lord gave me her name from a scripture, 1 John 5:4. It says, "For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith." Her middle name Gayle is for the book of Galatians, where it talks about children of promise. Victoria not only was but IS a child of promise. The first and only time I EVER heard the audible voice of God is when He told me in the midst of an emotional healing from abortion that I would have a daughter. It was 10 years before she came, but for ten years He kept on confirming and confirming that promise over and over again.... No wonder the devil tries to instill fear in my heart over her. God must have a wonderful plan for her life. (I know, of course He does... and forgive me for rambling out my thoughts as I go.)

I've been contemplating changing the name of this blog. Diana on life doesn't quite sum it up. I have considered calling it "Muddling Through," because sometimes I feel like that's what I am doing in this faith walk. There are days when I'm not sure which way is up, but I am always sure of Who does know the way. I often (at times easily) get derailed and don't follow the way that I should, but my Guide remains patient with me. Because He's more than a guide, He is the very breath of life I breathe.

The second half of my week flew by for better reasons, my brother-in-law and his family are here visiting from Virginia. I have two very precious nieces and a nephew who is the cutest of babies. I have a sister-in-law I am loving growing closer to, and getting to know better, even from 3,000 miles away. My brother-in-law has always had a special place in my heart, even if he doesn't always know it. After losing Neal's mom last year and my two little ones never really having a chance to know her, I am grateful for the closeness that is growing with Neal's siblings and their families out of that tragedy. We've had a lot of fun spending time with them.

Well, I have muddled through this post long enough, rambling, finding insight and evenbeing a little scattered. I hope to return with 4 more Days of Praise soon.