Sunday, October 30, 2011

31 Days: Letting Go of Results



In the past nine months, we have welcomed into our hearts two loveable teenagers who often make us want to pull out our hair - and theirs.

In the past three months, both of the loveable teenagers have been kicked out of school - an alternative school - and had a general outbreak of various ills and woes. Both have lost initiative and probably a good bit of hope. Both have made poor choices and attempted more than once to shut us out.

As Cory said, we seem to be just one rung above rock bottom.

You would think it wouldn't work this way, right? I know I saw it ending differently.

I remember sending out a heartfelt email full of encouragement and sap and the very next day, things turned around, for the better. I felt like maybe, just maybe, our love here was making a quiet little difference. It felt good to sit in that belief for a while.

But it didn't last long and it only made the free-fall a sadder one.

I'm a girl who likes results. I'm competitive and I keep track of my progress. I do most of my keeping track in secret, it's just for me. But I always know. I was good at sales, in the olden days, mostly because I liked working with something so measurable. Come election season, I watch the polls like a hawk. I'm a sucker for a come-from-behind-win, but that win - it's got to be there. I need at least a glimmer up at the horizon.

So this stuff with the kids? It feels like losing. It feels like an omen. If I didn't know better, it could feel like a strong "give it up", or a "why bother?"

Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you work your tail off at your job and success keeps hiding. Maybe someone else ends up with the credit - they grab your results and wear them as their own. Maybe you have a special needs child and the milestone shows up like a glittery grain and you have to strain your eyes to see it, or they say ADD and it feels like an assault on you, the Mommy. Maybe you have an adopted child and you're seeing everything in reverse. It could be a work of art that no one else appreciates, a bad review, six months of counseling but the marriage unravels anyway. It might be foreclosure. Dinner in the trash. Tipping the scales. It might be the best post you've ever written and not a single comment.

Every day, every day, we measure and we track. We hinge our joy and our purpose on that positive correlation - if I try harder, the trend ticks up.

But what if we embraced the big mystery, all of the places we were not meant to see - at least not for now? We say we believe that there's a reason for everything, that God never wastes pain. What if we lived that way? What if we believed that poor results are sometimes best, sometimes necessary? What if we opened our hand to the idea that God doesn't have time for numbers, that he measures success in the subtle shift of the soul, or in tears, or in heartbreak, or belly laughs?

I'm choosing to believe, beyond all that I see in front of me, that this thing we've been doing - this thing that looks like failure and inspires us to joke - I'm believing that it's a huge, confetti-specked success. I'm choosing to walk in what is true, and then, to keep on walking.

You with me?


*For the rest of the Letting Go series, click here.

59 comments:

  1. I love this Shannan! I love the perspective and the positive attitude, it's the way to be!

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  2. oh my. as a youth pastors wife-- do i dare tell you--- that is the epitome of normal? God's in it for the long haul and these young souls are just putting on their shoes. and some of these young ones are going to pick about 17 wrong pairs before maybe they get lured in by the beauty of the right ones. what you are doing -- loving them regardless. that is Gods chicken soup for the soul... and no one ever goes wrong with chicken soup. :)speeeeeaking of chicken soup---
    the drama-o-stock was cracking my stuff UP last night. hope you and paula and alton worked yourselves out. :)

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  3. Sometimes I think nothing is worth doing unless I get positive feedback or a high-five. Thanks for opening my eyes.

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  4. this so speaks to me. keep on trucking little lady. courage doesn't always roar...sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying "I will try again tomorrow".

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  5. oh and just because i know this to be true about wayward walking teenagers-- that has no bearing on my offensively perfectionistic self secretly keeping tabs and scores all over my every endeavor. be it chicken stock or mastering the perfect messy bun. LORD have mercy.. i am the keeper of my own report card and letting go of perfectionism is getting a solid D.

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  6. Once again, I needed this. Doors shut last month, but I found myself reminding myself and my husband today, God is in this. God is with us.

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  7. Oh, my goodness. This is one of the best posts I've read in a long time--and one I really, really needed. I'm not a competitive person--or at least that's what I always tell myself--but so often I fall short of my own expectations. Not the goals I set for myself, not the results that I just had to have, but certainly the way I expected things to be.

    What if I let go of those expectations and just lived my life with the expectancy that God is always going to be good and that I can count on him no matter what?

    That's a "what-if" that I really need to ponder. Thank you for prompting me to ponder.

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  8. me thinks this is the best post i've read here, if you want to know. ;) my littles are little, but i sometimes (often) feel this way as well. where's my progress? in fact, not just with the littles, but where's my progress with me? why the same mistakes (sins) again and again? sigh... keep swimming, just keep swimming.

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  9. Another amazingly perceptive post..You really make me re-think everything! So, yes, I am with you! I grade myself on everything...I need to remember that God has a boatload of grace to offer. And that his thoughts are higher than our thoughts, etc. so maybe what I consider a failure really works out OK in God's greater scheme of things (Oh, how I wish I could express my thoughts with half your talent!)

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  10. Teenagers... they are God's way of keeping us humble. My first teaching job an almost retired gentleman who taught down the hallway, told me something I will never forget... They will forget everything you ever taught them, but they will remember who you are, and if you cared. You can't measure something you can't see my friend. You are making a difference. It's just that you might not be able to see it, until you've climbed the mountain and peek over the crest. And...sometimes ?Mountains can take years to climb. : )
    Dana

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  11. Walkin' right beside ya....all the way.

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  12. I remember when I was a wayward teen (I know impossible, right? ;)), but I was and my poor mom felt as though she had completely failed. My favorite auntie told her one day "don't give up, the jury's still out" and she was absolutely right. Hang in there. They need you and are so blessed to have you.

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  13. I needed to read this tonight. Thank You.

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  14. LOVED this! After being home with our little guys almost 3 years, our youngest had a break-through the other day. HE SAT STILL AND WELL BEHAVED IN HIS CAR SEAT FOR 20 MIN!!! I know that does'nt sound like much, but it was a confetti moment for us. I teared up and we went straight to starbucks for a celebration!! I know it's not a teenager moment (had some of those with my bio kids) but - still- i hear your heart!! Lisa

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  15. survival phrase: Mystery.... not mastery.

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  16. the last time i saw my kiddo she was in line at tokyo joes. pregnant. it had been one year since we last spoke. we both cried and hugged in the middle of the line. our hearts intertwined. she made a real go of it. kept it mostly together. had her sweet little boy. and now it's been three years. when she doesn't call, there's a reason and it's never been good. she has my number. i pray every day for that call. and i miss her mess. but i know that i got her from 12 to 18 in one piece. it meant something. even if her journey is still bumpy. teenagers are rough, but they need you. so much. xoxo

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  17. This was my favorite of your special series!
    I love teenagers. I love that you are believing in them.
    Me too.
    Never stop believing!

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  18. I have been waiting for a confetti moment for sooo long now. Too long to keep track. We have had so many "failures" in the last few years, with my husbands job, our finances, our daughters health, that we don't even see the light at the end of the tunnel. But, we know its there. God tells us that it is. And He provides wonderful, occassional glimmers from time to time that light up the sky like fireworks, and keeps us running forward. I have never felt closer to Him or stronger in my faith than I have the last few years. Some may call them struggles, I call them blessings.

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  19. I sure needed this. The Lord continues to circle back to this with me: it doesn't matter one iota what success looks like to me, what impact I can measure, how I feel like I'm making no contribution. My value must be found only in Him. I must allow Him the space to speak, the space to work, and I must learn again to be thankful for each moment of His abundant grace in the day to day.

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  20. thank you for another post of something i needed to hear, something i need to do.

    while i ask God to bless you all, may i say something here to autumn? ... (i feel the same way about myself so what i say to myself, i'd also say to you) - don't give up!

    and to meghan ... saying a prayer and sending best wishes for you, your daughter and grandson.

    kathy

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  21. I'm so with you! And, can I tell you? This post of yours are some of my very favorite words - ever. This series you have written has been good for my heart.

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  22. Totally random - my blog features my claws today. In case you need something light-hearted. :)

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  23. Needed this tonight my friend. Dan/Dave is in jail, far, far away. My story for him would have been MUCH neater all tied up with a bow, but alas, I am NOT the writer. Drats. Just glad that I know Who is. ;)

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  24. I am so with you. My parents are foster parents. Many, many long nights and car rides in the same place. BUT years later, the foster kids have the same sentiment - just the fact that they saw what could be, compared to what was, gave them hope.

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  25. This post is the prize in the Cracker Jack box Shab. Indeed it is. Thank you. xo

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  26. What a fantastic reminder of something I believe with my heart and soul: that there are no off-cuts with love, every last scrap is eked out and used somewhere, where He knows it is most needed. Two quotes on the subject that have been on my mind recently - one by Wordsworth:"that best portion of a good man's life...his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love." and also some lines that screen writer/film maker Richard Curtis put in the mouth of Dr Who (beloved sci fi tv show over here, not sure if it made it over the pond?), "Every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things - but, vice versa, the bad things don't spoil the good things or make them unimportant." - which is a beautiful, simple take on why/how to love people isn't it?

    I mentor troubled teen mums, and there is so much disappointment along the way, but, as you so rightly say, we are not in a competition to fix lives, we have the honour of perhaps being able to increase their pile of "good things", memories and words and relationships to hold onto in the toughest times.

    Blimey, I've been a wordy birdy today, sorry! ;)

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  27. What a wonderful post to start off this new week.

    Thank you for sharing once again from your heart.

    FlowerLady

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  28. I teach high school English. I know exactly what you mean.

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  29. 'Ya betcha, Girl. I'm right there with you. I needed this post this morning to remind me about a situation in my own life right now...that even though it looks like everything I want to be RIGHT is physically looking to be ALL WRONG could very possibly be about HIM counting the tears.

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  30. Reading these "letting go" posts day after day has made me realize i sure am holding onto a lot of stuff. But i love this series, it's clear that when i let go and let God have His way, things sure go a whole lot better. and today is, yet again, a post that i can relate to and so appreciate reading.

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  31. I haven't commented before but I had to at least leave a simple "thank you." yours has, by far, been my most favorite of the 31 dayers. Your authenticity is refreshing. I think I need to read these letting go posts again and again.

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  32. Great reminder that our happiness is not dependant on the things we see. Sometimes what lies beneath the surface is the richest, most rewarding stuff that we wait for. Like Mary, knowing her son would be the savior of the world for thirty some years before everyone else knew. Holding His promises when we don't see the results . . that is faith.

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  33. We have had several young people live with us for periods of time. Stephen lived with us for almost 4 years. There were so many ups and downs. He was a good kid from bad circumstances. There were many days that I felt like we weren't really helping him or influencing him... but here we are over 5 years later: he is married to a beautiful woman,has a son, and is a fine young man. Result often take much longer than we would like, but God is good.

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  34. i, too, must comment at the very end ... your series has been such a blessing to me ... thought-provoking and full of grace.

    a sincere thank you.

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  35. Hands down, the best post I've ever read.... on every level. Thank you for putting this into words for us all.

    ~Chris

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  36. This reminds me of the Kristof & Wudunn book, "Half the Sky." They seem to live on the reality plane more than some of us are able sometimes, but they fight on and connect people to other people who can help people define what is success for them, or peace, or happiness...

    Fighting for people against injustice even if it doesn't get the results that we think our fight should ALWAYS matters even if we never see the results hoped for. I love that you shared this with us.

    I'm a social worker and a strong Christian (perhaps a bit too earnest and naive about other people's souls and journeys over these past fifteen years at times though). Someone told me about ten years ago that I needed to get off of my high horse of thinking that what I DO is the key as I am, in all probability, part of a long line of loving people holding each other's hands over time and fighting for, believing in, cheering on the people who I am privileged to serve. What this wise woman said was, one day the change will come for individuals and families and communities, but that I might not get to see it.

    Sometimes our efforts are a part of a bigger plan, but we may never see the results. Thanks for always being so honest and getting to the heart of things. I love that whenever I read your posts. Blessings to you and your family in this wonderful time of transition.

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  37. Ok, I'm gonna try this posting this again. See i it works out (fingers crossed). You know me, I'm such a scorekeeper and as you know, I can now understand the unique challenges of the teenager!Just had one of these disappointing experiences last week! But, I won't give up!

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  38. Are we with you?! Every step of the way, Shannon. Every step. Much love to you today.
    -Ceci Loves

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  39. I have loved, loved this series. You've got some mad writing skills, friend. Hurry and finish your book!

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  40. So simple. Yet, so much to think about. I'm with ya, sister! Right there.

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  41. Just wanted to thank you for your inspirational series! I featured your series/blog in my post today:

    http://www.coastalheartcountrysoul.com/2011/10/soul-searching-31day-challenge.html

    Thank you again for not posting about soup or garlands. :)

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  42. I fished out my book by Bennan Manning,"The Ragamuffin Gospel". I am rereading it yet again, a very true story of God's grace. Because we all have results that are but a dim memory. But grace and mercy are where it all begins and ends. It gives us a hope for tomorrow, keep loving the ragamuffins of this world Shan!!

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  43. Totally with you...After working with kids for many years...seeing them doing heartbreaking kinds of things...knowing that they know the right "Way" and are choosing not to follow Him...I know I may not see the results of the time and love poured into them, until I get to heaven...but that gives me hope

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  44. Shannan,
    Any amount of love is not a waste. It is love. Any amount of encouragement is not a waste. It is encouragement. Any amount of believing in another is not a waste. It is believing in another.
    Not in vain. Not losing. Maybe not winning. Maybe not the measurable advancements that you desired, but the seeds are there. And will remain.
    xo, Cheryl

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  45. Loved this post, so encouraging. I hope you don't mind, I shared a quote (giving all credit to you) from this regarding embracing the big mystery, on my facebook page. I think it is inspiring.

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  46. what if we lived this way.... oh shannon. what if, indeed.... i love that you are. xo

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  47. I've been walking this road for a long time...a looong time. I decided to give up on my faith today...and now I read this. I could answer almost every one of your "have you ever felt that ways" with a big fat yes. I am tired, but I want to believe there is a reason for all of it.

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  48. I have been reading your blog for over a year now and your 31 days posts have touched my heart in so many ways. You leave many of us wanting more.....keep on keeping on your journey of life and sharing with us. We are with you all the way!

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  49. This is a beautiful post. I like to measure progress too, and it just doesn't work when it comes to kids. Thank you for being so open.

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  50. I am raising grandchildren, one a teenager, and have a special needs child who will always be at home with me. This is a great post and inspires lots of contemplation. I will read it again many times. Thank you.

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  51. We adopted two special needs sons, and every day I feel like I'm failing. The daily calls from schools- being kicked off the "small" bus- teachers wanting us to "do something" and the thing that keeps us going, is the hope in knowing that my God will never say "what's the bother" - but this momma is tired and often discouraged. Thanks for sharing and encouraging me today.

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