My favorite place in the world is the beach. I love everything about it. The smell of sand mixed with suntan lotion, the sound of waves crashing to shore with kids playing in the background. I love the feel of the hot sun beating on my skin and the cold shock of the water when I first dive in. I love the beach in the fall, winter, and spring as well.
A couple of weeks ago, I was at the beach. I usually take a cheap raft and swim out the buoy and then hop on the raft and float back into shore. This particular day, I kept slipping off as I tried to get on the raft. I guess I had blown it up too much. I think I tried about 5 times before successfully getting on the stupid raft. There were a lot of people on the beach on this particular day. It was a Saturday and hot. As I was trying to get on, I was afraid I would end up losing my bathing suit and end up on YouTube or someone’s SnapChat. I was flailing trying to get on. I was failing. Kind of how I felt life has been lately.
As I floated on Lake Erie I thought of something that happened early on in ministry. I had to interim Senior Pastor after my boss left ministry under difficult circumstances. I was young and female. One day someone came into my office and proceeded for an hour to tell me everything I was doing wrong. I sat there and listened. They finally said, “I know you’re trying your hardest but your preaching sucks and it’s just not good enough.” I stood up. I was crying (which made me mad at myself). I cry when I am mad. I said, “I am sorry they picked me and not you. Why anyone would want to do this with the church hurting so badly, is beyond me. If my best isn’t good enough for you, maybe you should go somewhere else.”
For years when I would preach all I would hear is in my head was “you suck”. It was on repeat in my head. This person ended up apologizing to me about 7 years ago.
Once I got on the raft, I thought about the past 6 months. I have felt like I can do nothing right. I heard this person saying, “Heidi, you’re trying your hardest but your best simply isn’t good enough.” It has been a hard season. It has been a busy season. People are walking through such tough stuff. There has been a lot of loss.
I started working on my Masters in July of 2016. It is a two-year program. It has been a transformative experience for me. I have discovered so much about myself. I was supposed to finish at the end of June. With the craziness of life, I had to withdraw from the very last class with two weeks left. I was doing well but I could not finish my final project with my schedule and mental capacity. I would sit at my table and my mind would go blank or I would cry. I will finish in December, six months later than I was supposed to.
This was a tough decision for me. I am goal oriented and driven. I feel like I failed. And the whole world watched. Kind of like my attempt to get on the raft.
The irony? My Capstone Project is on finishing well.
I have chosen to live my life pretty wide open through my writing and social media. If you are going to live an honest life, you cannot just highlight when things are going well.
How do I handle setbacks?
Do I feel sorry for myself? Do I try to hide it? Or do I face it?
I will finish. Once I made my decision, I knew it was the right one. It was best for me, it was best for the church and for the people around me. I will be able to give my project the time and attention it needs.
My graduation gift to myself was to go to the Indians/Yankees game. I had to purchase tickets before I knew this would happen. Going to the game was a reminder that I didn’t finish when I was supposed to. A reminder that I failed. But on the bright side, my Cleveland Indians beat the Yankees and there were fireworks afterward set to rock music. It was the perfect summer night; baseball, fireworks, music, and dollar hot dogs.
In the midst of all this, I had my 30th Class reunion that somehow I ended up helping plan. It was a blast but it did cause me to be introspective. Introspection has been my companion these past 6 months. Am I where I thought I would be at 48? Am I where I want to be? What do I want my legacy to be? Have I made a difference? Am I still making a difference?
Here is what I learned from all of this.
- Life is good, even when it is hard.
- You only fail if you refuse to get up.
- It is okay to admit when you have reached your limit.
- People are important. I would choose this path over and over again.
- We are not defined by our biggest failure in life, nor are we defined by our biggest success.
- Following Jesus is still the best decision I have ever made. So glad He pursued me.
- I will continue to grow. If I am not growing, I am dying.
I have a sabbatical coming up in a few weeks in which I will be able to slow down, catch my breath, and ponder all these things.
Life is good, even when it is hard.