Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dealing with Discouragement

What do you do when the ugly discouragement monster rises up from your belly, pushes itself through the giant lump in your throat and makes you scream, "I CAN'T DO THIS!"?

Well, I know what I want to do. I want to curl up into a ball, eat mint chocolate chip ice cream, and decide never to leave the house again. But I also know that if I make that choice the monster wins. So I guess I'll have to fight, darn it.

I don't get discouraged easily, and mostly I don't stay there too long, but I hate how it feels--like a kick in the gut. Sometimes I am discouraged by my own stupid choices, like realizing I have blown a diet for the 9,827th time. Other times discouragement comes from a source outside of myself. This week, that was the case.

I mentioned in an earlier post that while we were in Colorado, David and I had to take a Language Acquisition Aptitude Test. I, who have a college degree double major in English AND German, totally bombed the test, while David ACED it. Apparently, according to the test, David will pick up French easily, and I will have to work a lot harder at it. I found these test results to be extremely discouraging.

I love languages. I don't want to be told that I am not any good at something that I actually enjoy a great deal. I feel like those horrible singers who go on American Idol, really believing themselves to be gifted divas, only to hear Simon blast them for their hideous rendition of "Stand By Me." (Idol Fans: think William Hung or Sanjaya)

In the midst of my discouragement yesterday, I went to watch Chandler play in a basketball game. Chandler is an excellent defender, but he rarely makes a basket. He hadn't scored yet this season, though almost everyone else on the team has some points on their stat sheet. Late in the game, Chandler was thrown the ball, and he was the only person on the other team's side of the court. He had a wide open shot, and he took off toward the basket with a profound look of determination. As he neared the goal--no defenders in sight--he tripped over his own feet, fell to the ground, and dropped the ball out of bounds. As he stood up, I saw tears springing to his eyes--causing me to become verklempt. What is a mother to do?

As the other team took the ball back down the court, Chandler caught my eye, discouragement written all over his face. I silently prayed, "Lord, help him fight the monster. Don't let the monster win."

Two seconds were left on the clock, and Chandler was, once again, the only person on his team who was open. He got the ball, turned, and on the buzzer, and took a shot. Nothin' but net! The shot was made after the clock ran out, so his basket didn't put any points on the scoreboard, but it sure racked up some points in his spirit. He left the game believing that it was possible for him to succeed at basketball. He was--praise God--encouraged.

I am so glad that Chandler did not let pride keep him trying again. I am so glad that his competitive spirit motivated him to work harder. And I am so grateful that God honored the simple prayer of his impassioned mother.

The moral of the story is this: My son reminded me, through his persistence, that I am not defined by my own skills and abilities (or the lack there-of); I am defined by the one who calls me "beloved." He takes my best efforts, given as an offering to Him, and He uses them for His purposes. And that is what it's all about, after all. HIS purposes. HIS glory. HIS kingdom. Either I'm ALL for Him, or I'm nothing at all. Amazingly, He can use me in spite of my weaknesses. God does not NEED me to be good at French. He simply invites me to bring what I have, and promises to make something good out of it.

Nevertheless, mom--yes, YOU, Barbara Dennis--I would appreciate your prayers for my French studies. I think God has a tender-spot for the impassioned prayers of mothers!

Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not--to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
I Corinthians 1:26-31


  1. And this grandmother will continue to pray for those two great boys that God is fashioning into such great men! Go Chandler - Go Graham! They both are so tender and caring in their own amazing ways.....It is a gift to watch them, hear about what they do - and see God's hand on them through you and David.....xoxoxo

  2. From someone who NEVER tested well - don't let the score tell you anything... it's just another standarized test that is nothing more 2 dimensonal fluff! You are far from 2 dimensional and the God you serve is FAR from 2 dimensional! You know yourself, you know your abilities and you know your God; you will do fine when it comes to learning French!

  3. Jenn, I have total faith in you and our wonderful God. So, maybe David is better at the language. You, my dear, will shine as a well-dressed French woman. You and your scarves will always look stylish. You will draw them from a distance!

  4. Jenn, since our last FB chat, I've been praying regularly for you guys, once again. I'm when I pray, I really believe, I,mean REALLY believe, that God gets a move on! (True for ALL of us who pray.)