the gift of not nailing it

Screen Shot 2015-10-04 at 10.53.39 AM It's my last day in Africa.   I'm staying at a little motel right on the ocean in Lome, Togo's capitol city.  This morning I'm drinking coffee on the patio outside my room, looking at the waves, thinking about my time here.

It's been a hard three months.  The work was hard, the hours were long, the weather was hot.  Plus, it was a hard season for me personally -- physically, emotionally, spiritually.  And getting a bad case of malaria didn't help.

I thought I was going to be really good at living in Africa.  I thought I was going to love it, that I was going to be an exceptional version of myself, that I was maybe even going to move here permanently because I loved caring for people here so much.

But instead, I feel like I just barely survived.  Africa broke my heart.  Africa broke my body.  Africa broke my spirit.  And by God's grace (and with the prayers and support of lots of family and friends in the U.S.) I got through it.

I feel kind of how I felt when I was going through chemo for breast cancer.  I sucked at having cancer.  I was moody and despondent and an almost unrecognizable version of myself.  All I can say is that by God's grace, I survived.

It's not easy for me to acknowledge the times when I don't shine, the seasons of life in which I don't thrive, the efforts I make that barely add up to anything.  It's not easy for me to shake my head and admit, "Yeah, I didn't nail it."


I wanted to win a gold medal for choreography, but instead I ended up belly-crawling across the floor.

I wanted to make a gourmet meal from scratch, but I barely managed to microwave some mac-and-cheese.

Screen Shot 2015-10-05 at 8.06.41 AMThis morning as I was reflecting about my time in Africa, I realized that if I look back on the experience and search for the memories of how good I was at being here, I will have constant, permanent disappointment.

But if I look at what God did in and through me during this time, that's where the gold lies.  That's the treasure in an otherwise muddy field.

The truly beautiful thing about my Africa experience is how God's grace showed up in me here.  God provided for me to be here.  God spared my life, and I didn't die of malaria or a rabid dog bite.  God allowed me to provide medical care for patients who were suffering.  God let me take some of the burden off the full-time staff here.  God kept showing up with armfuls of grace, heaping them on a really hard experience.


Maybe this is the gift of not nailing it.

In these times, we find humility in acknowledging our failed attempts.

We find freedom in admitting our human limitations.

We find the humor in life, when our best efforts look more like Pinterest fails.

And we see the grace that doesn't always overflow from the top of a pristine vessel, but sometimes seeps through all the broken cracks.