Sideline Sentiments, Part IV: On Being Performance-Based

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Sideline Sentiments are my thoughts on life, from a bleacher perspective. Literally.

There’s an old phrase in sports that says you’re only as good as your last performance. I first heard it from my dad probably 15 years ago in a warning on the fickle and fair weather nature of most fans.

While it doesn’t hold much truth, it is, at the same time, absolutely true.

Logically, we know as athletes, employees, workers and beyond we’re actually the average of the sum of ourselves. One great game doesn’t qualify us for all-star status and on the contrary, one poor showing means nothing more than everyone’s capable of having an off day. We would do much better to look at a season, a career, or a life instead of making sweeping statements based off a moment in time. We’re not, in fact, only as good as one shot, one play, one game or one day.

But then, in a sense, isn’t it also true? Turn on Sportscenter. Settle yourself into the stands. Watch a post game press conference. We’re constantly judging and being judged by our last game, our last shot, our last words, or our last play. The way people talk, you’d think some of the profession’s greatest performers were operating at a preschool level. All stars will always be unfit according to critical bystanders.

You’re only as good as your last performance.

I’ve been there and I’ve believed it. After a bad game, I’d await anxiously for the next, wishing away any and all time in between. The next game—an opportunity to redeem myself, to re-prove my worth. As if I could erase unwanted history in a forty minute performance. But that’s how it went. Living from performance to performance, and feeling however worthy the last one proved to be.

I don’t think I’d be out of line to say most athletes operate accordingly. And so life becomes nothing more than a coaster of riding the peaks of good performance and scrambling out of the valleys of perceived failure.

How exhausting.

But guess what, it’s not just athletes.

Athletics only happen to be both a microcosm and magnifier of the general human approach. We are, indeed, performance based creatures.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say you could actually rephrase the popular phrase to be slightly more accurate. You’re not only as good as your last performance.

You are your performance.

And the only thing more exhausting than going through a season riding the highs and lows of basketball performance is going through life riding the highs and the lows of life performance.

I’ve been there and I’ve believed it. Constantly striving, trying, proving or disproving. Did I do enough? Do I make enough? Did I work hard enough? Do they like me? Did I show enough? Am I good enough?

The questions are endless and security is found only at the end of the questions.

There is no freedom and no rest when our self-concept is all knotted up in nothing more than ourselves.

But what if all of our energy and efforts, our striving and our trying weren’t really the measuring stick at all? I mean, what if we were worthy not because of ourselves, but in spite of ourselves? What if performance were nothing more than an outpouring of a re-aligned identity?

Well, I’m not there and, honestly, I’m still trying to believe it.

But grace isn’t a destination and sometimes it still seems too good to be true. In my 26th year of life, I’m learning more than ever it isn’t about me. It’s not about my productivity or my performance. I’ve been there and done that and it left me nothing more than a motivated mess.

I’m learning I had it all wrong. That all along, my worth was never so fragile and fleeting as my last showing or the next person’s opinion. But instead, it’s as solid and steady as the Creator who made me. Because, indeed, that’s where my true worth lies.

I don’t know exactly what it looks like to live according to grace and faith over perfection and performance. But I’m learning. And already I’ve found more peace and less pressure, more rest and less stress, more compassion and less comparison. I’m learning to live life, not perform it. To relish the moments without worrying about outcomes. To concern myself less with perception and performance and more about people. I’ve learned I can only love others when I’m not stuck on myself. And further, I can only love them properly when I’m not assessing their achievements. Ultimately, I’m learning I am so much more than anything I could try to prove, and you are too.

Our worth is intrinsic, and it’s not our own doing. It doesn’t lie in what we’ve done, but because of Whose we are.

So while we might be athletes and homemakers and entrepreneurs and employees, we are all one thing.
We are people. Uniquely talented and individually equipped.

And that’s so much more precious than any performance could ever prove.

For More Sideline Sentiments:
Part I
Part II
Part III

Away Game Road Trip

I’m back! I returned home this past Wednesday morning from a five day road trip around France to catch a few of Trent’s away games. My first leg of the travels was from Lyon to Le Havre. Le Havre is a port city in northwestern France, located on the coast of the English Channel. Three metros, two trains, a bus, and a whole lot of footsteps later, I was at the door of my hotel in Le Havre. I met up with some good friends from Paris who were also traveling to the game. The weather wasn’t the greatest to walk around the docks of Le Havre, so we spent the early hours of the evening over burgers in a diner before heading into the game, which so happened to be a good win!

Saturday morning I traveled back to Paris with my friends. I spent the next two days between different friends’ homes in Paris. I always love being back in Paris, and the time spent with friends was absolutely wonderful. I learned how to cook beef bourguignon, browsed the never-disappointing aisles of Marks & Spencer, took several walks through the beautiful city, visited my favorite outdoor marchés and drank copious amounts of coffee and tea. Paris never ever disappoints.

And just like that it was time to hop another train southwest to Le Mans for Trent’s final away game of the regular season. Le Mans is home of the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. It’s an endurance sports car race. I’m not sure how sitting in a car for 24 hours proves any sort of endurance, but that’s just my opinion. Unfortunately, the team’s trip to Le Mans didn’t have such a kind outcome and we left with a loss. We hopped an early train on Wednesday back to Lyon.

After six years overseas, I’m finally comfortable navigating metros, booking tickets, and traveling by train solo. Maybe that makes me an extremely slow learner. Either way, I’m enjoying the freedom found in being able to up and go!

Here are a few pictures captured from the past 5 days. Per usual, I ended up with so few pictures, which could only mean I was having too good a time to stop for snapshots!

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Downton Abbey and Life Editing

downton-abbey-christmas4--aI might be throwing my husband under the bus just a little bit in admitting this, but we’re three seasons deep in the TV show series Downton Abbey. Think Pride and Prejudice, only more dynamic and unexpected. Let’s agree he was watching it for my sake and move forward with my point in all this.

A few episodes ago (they all seem to run together after 5, 10…20?) the following line was spoken and has been bouncing around in my brain ever since:

“My dear fellow, we all have chapters we would rather keep unpublished.”

Maybe you had to have watched all thirty episodes leading up to that line, have an unexplained appreciation for early 20th century chivalry or hearken back a chapter in your very own past for which that hits home in order to fully appreciate those words.

If you’re like me, you might have all three.

Sometimes they’re not even be chapters. Maybe just a sentence in the story of our lives we wish we could white out. Others times only a single word.

Chivalry and the Netflix marathon-ing aside, maybe now you can begin to relate.
You might have a chapter, a sentence, a word or two you wish had never happened?
They are the cutting words we’ve spoken to sting. The actions begotten out of bitterness. The walls we’ve forged while wounded. And the silence we’ve refused to shatter in our stubbornness.
They are the ugly and appalling pieces of ourselves, often hidden from others but always apparent to ourselves.

And sometimes we let ourselves be defined by the chapters we wish were never written. As if the story of our lives must center around the mistakes we’ve made, the hurts we’ve endured or the hardships we’ve had.
I’ve been there. And the truth is, I still fall back at times into thinking my worst chapters are, in some twisted way, the only ones that matter in my book.

But then I remember.
I remember that although my book is not yet finished, I can move forward without fear of whatever’s written on pages past. Because that’s the extravagant grace afforded by an editor God. He crossed out my life’s worst work in the form of his cross.

And so the shameful chapters of our lives move from center stage to stepping stones. They are nothing but unexpected twists in the plot that bring us into a deeper appreciation for God’s ultimate editing act.

But it doesn’t even stop there. Faith grown through failure not only brings us closer to our Father, but it can bond us with those around us. Because indeed, we all have chapters in our lives we would rather keep unpublished.

What if we saw nothing but the heights of God’s grace when we’re approached with the depths of human depravity, be it from ourselves or anyone else? We’d probably be a little gentler, a little humbler, a little more forgiving and a little more gracious. Maybe we’d begin to see the good chapters in the lives of others instead of re-reading their worst writing over and over and over again. Maybe we could even use the toughest chapters of our story to help others make it through their own.

Next time you look back at what you’ve written in the life you’ve lived and you can’t make it past the mistakes, just remind yourself they’re already erased.

So write a new chapter and make it memorable. Live into the character you were created to be and believe it to be somebody beautiful. Somebody of invaluable worth and inexplicable uniqueness.

Yes, let’s write our stories.

Oh, and guess what? The Editor? Turns out He’s actually the main character.
I guess our stories were never really about us anyways.

April Reads

Beginning in 2015, I’ve made it a point to read two or more books each month. Every month I share my reads and a few short thoughts on how I felt about the books. If interested, I’ve put together a collection of many of my favorite books HERE.

The two books I read this month were Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist and The Case for Grace by Lee Strobel.

Bittersweet

Although I must say I preferred Bread and Wine over Bittersweet, I’m a huge fan of Shauna Niequist’s writing under any title. Bittersweet is a book about thoughts on change, grace, and learning the hard way. Niequist walks you through a season in her life that was exactly as she titled it: bittersweet. There are many lessons to be learned from her transparency through the tough times. Perhaps my favorite takeaway from this book was that we’ve all been broken. That’s normal. But we shouldn’t hide behind our brokenness and imperfections. Rather, let’s learn to use our own lives–flawed as we may be–to reach out and impact others. Chances are, somebody else could use your story to find strength for their own.

My favorite excerpt: “[We] as a community have trained them and have been trained ourselves to believe that a story isn’t enough. I could not disagree more. Let’s resist the temptation to hide behind theology the way a bad professor hides behind theorems and formulas. We dilute the beauty of the gospel story when we divorce it from our lives, our worlds, the words and images that God is writing right now on our souls. And let’s stop acting as if religious professionals are the only ones who have a right and a responsibility to tell God’s story. If you are a person of faith, it is your responsibility to tell God’s story, in every way you can, every form, every medium, every moment. Tell the stories of love and redemption and forgiveness every time you experience them. Tell the stories of reconciliation and surprise and new life everywhere you find them.”

The Case for Grace

I have read most of Lee Strobel’s “Case for…” series. While they were powerful, well-written and incredibly eye-opening, they were more factual/analytical than narrative. The Case for Grace, however, was completely different. And I loved it! This book was basically a compilation of powerful stories on the real-life workings of grace in the lives of addicts, drunkards, homeless, persecuted, murderers adulterers and more. The stories were put together in interview format, and the interviewees are still alive. This was a game-changer for me. While I love reading biblical and ancient stories on the workings of grace, there is something about the present-day guiding hand of God that hits me in a different way. This book made me realize more than ever that grace is a force stronger than I’ve ever imagined and readily available and present even today.

My favorite excerpt: “Exactly — repentance is the rebel’s only path to God. I needed to confess that I’m wrong and God is right; I needed to see my depravity in contrast with his holiness; I needed his cleansing and leadership of my life. This is how transformation and renewal begin. It’s not enough just to pray, God, make me a better person. It was repentance that opened the floodgates of grace for me — and it was grace that changed my life and eternity.”

 

January reads:

February reads:

March reads: