Admitting the inevitable: I make mistakes

As I worked through my last post, I was smacked with the realization that while I’ve claimed fear of “getting in trouble” as the main motivation for rule-following most of my life, I’m not sure that’s really ever been true. But if that’s not been my reason, then what has?

I’ve come up with three, which I’ll dive into over the next few days:

1. I hate admitting I’ve made a mistake.

2. I don’t want to step outside of the labels I’ve been given and therefore draw attention to myself.

3. I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

My first job out of college was a copy editor position at a local Christian publisher. I was green as could be. My senior-year internship had been an editorial assistant role in the communications department of a large corporation—an invaluable experience (and one that would serve me greatly in later positions). But it wasn’t a publishing job per say, and to be honest I was clueless as to how things worked at a large publishing house.

But they hired me anyway, so I did what I had done best for most of my life—I faked it. But there was a woman in another department who, unbeknownst to me, was keeping an eye on the new girl. She was once a copy editor too, and she’d been at the company for years.

She re-edited everything I edited. Then she’d have me come down to her desk, and she’d explain all of my errors. Lots and lots of them. I’d just sit there and nod, vowing to myself that I’d never make that mistake again—or that one, or that one.

Total embarrassment.

I loathed being summoned to that desk and seeing everything I’d missed laid bare. There was no escaping my imperfections because they were on paper right in front of my face! I wasn’t everything I thought I was. I needed to practice and learn and grow. I needed a good dose of humility, too.

Eventually this woman would become a cherished mentor. It didn’t take long for us to develop a mutual respect for each other that grew into fondness. To this day, I credit her with helping me hone the valuable skills that I would carry with me into future jobs. Under her watchful eye, I became an asset to my team. I’m able to see clearly now that she didn’t resent me and my lack of skill at the time—she wanted to teach me. And she did. And I am grateful.

This is key.

A couple of years ago, I was working part-time on staff at a church as a writer-slash-editor. There wasn’t another editor on staff; I was it. If a mistake made it onto a handout or pamphlet or the website or the magazine we published twice a year, it was on me.

No pressure.

So how about that one time when I referred to a church board member’s teenage daughter as his son—smack in the middle of our fresh-off-the press magazine?

Not one of my finer career moments. Other errors have made it into print over the years, but that one takes the cake. When someone noticed it and pointed it out to my manager, she didn’t even want to tell me. She knew it would crush me. (She knows me well.) In fact, I don’t think I learned the board member had a son and a daughter—not two sons—for at least a month after that magazine issue had been in circulation.

You can bet I’ll never make that mistake again, but that’s not really the point.

I had seen a [unisex] first name in a bio and made an assumption, and in a quick edit swapped out the words “kids” for “sons.” It was my mistake; there was no way around it. But I did not in any way shape or form want to admit that to anyone. Instead, the first words out of my mouth were those casting blame on others who in my opinion, should have caught my error.

MY error.

I hate admitting my propensity for making mistakes; therefore I don’t want to make any mistakes in the first place; therefore I strive to adhere to whatever rules are placed before me; therefore when I inevitably fail because alas, I am human, I am ashamed and try to direct blame elsewhere.

It’s a sin issue, no doubt. It’s pride at the root. And that’s not what should motivate my obedience, especially when it comes to my relationship with God.


Elisabeth Elliot once wrote that our attempts to keep God’s law will in itself be “sufficient to humble us, for the ‘straightedge of the law’ (Romans 3:20) will only show us, as Paul found, how crooked we are. We will find, in fact that we cannot keep it.”

I must be willing to admit that I am not capable of flawlessly following every rule because I am not perfect. If I was perfect, I wouldn’t need Jesus. And believe me, I need Jesus. Oh, how I need him! And it’s God’s beautiful, perfect law that reveals this truth.

I don’t have to just be okay with this. I can be grateful for it. And in my gratitude to God for his gifts of grace upon grace, I can freely say, “I make mistakes. Glory to God!”

We’re not done here yet.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge. You might notice I’m a bit behind. Consider it an exercise in giving myself grace!} 

I hit a parked car in 1997.

I can only recall one occasion when my dad picked me up from school. There might have been more, but typically my mom was the taxi driver of the family (and between five daughters spanning 25 years, there was a lot of taxiing). I was 16, and Dad pulled up to school in a car I didn’t recognize—a maroon, 2-door 1988 Acura Legend. It was mine. My first car.

I loved that car. I could squeeze four friends into it, the tape player (yep) worked just fine, it had automatic windows (not too shabby for an ’88), and it had great pickup. (Not that I was a speed demon or anything—rules girl, remember?)

As a new driver, I was extra careful. I didn’t want to do any harm to my car, and I certainly didn’t want any tickets sullying my beautifully clean driving record.

Back then I took dance classes—ballet and musical theater—at a local studio. The dance studio shared a parking lot with several other businesses that have come and gone over the years. There was often this boat of a car parked in the lot that drew a bit of attention. It was some type of sedan, and the outside was covered in carpet. Carpet. (Why?) To this day I have no idea who it belonged to.

All I know is that the very first time I drove myself to dance, I slowly guided my steering wheel to pull into a parking spot, and I hit it.

Oh my gosh, I hit the carpet car. 

I had no clue what I was supposed to do in that situation, only that I needed to get myself and my Legend away from the scene of the crime as quickly as possible. So I threw the car into reverse, circled the lot nonchalantly, and parked on the opposite side, praying fervently that no one had seen anything.

Heart racing, I climbed out of the car and casually examined the front bumper. Some paint had scratched off, but that was it. So I casually took a little stroll past the carpet car and gave it the side eye. There was no evidence anything had happened to it. Exhale. 

I walked into the studio to put my ballet shoes on and tried to just be cool.

No one saw. I never confessed.

Should I have left a note for the owner of the carpet car? Should I have at least told my parents I was the one who scraped my bumper? Probably, yes.

But I didn’t do either of those things. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

parked car.jpg

I’ve spent the better part of my life explaining to people that I’ve just always been a “good girl” who didn’t like to break the rules because I didn’t want to get in trouble. But now I don’t think that’s entirely true. My parents trusted me and gave me quite a bit of leeway when it came to rules. I didn’t ever have an established curfew; I just knew how late was too late and to always call when I was on my way. Disciplinary action never really took much more than a “Go to your room” to get the point across.

(This is ridiculous, but I remember one time asking to be grounded because I wanted to know what it felt like. The cool kids in books I read were always saying things like, “I can’t this weekend, I’m grounded.” It’s okay, go ahead and roll your eyes.)

They probably wouldn’t have been mad had I told them about the parked car incident. And there hadn’t been any damage to the carpet car, so I don’t think the owner would have called the police or even asked for my insurance information. Still, I kept silent.

No, I don’t think my adherence to the rules had much to do with fear of punishment at all. I wasn’t afraid of getting in trouble. I was afraid of having to admit that I made mistakes. I couldn’t bear the thought of revealing that in fact, I was not the perfect, quiet, good girl everyone thought I was.

That’s not rule-following for the right reasons.

Again I wonder, Have I changed at all? Because I don’t think I’ve ever felt afraid of God’s discipline, as though that was something reserved for Old Testament figures who did the really bad stuff. My first problem is using the words punishment and discipline interchangeably, when they are two very different things. Christ took our punishment on the cross, but God still disciplines his children, whom he loves, because he loves:

And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? —Hebrews 12:5-7

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. —James 1:2-3

So if I’m not afraid of getting in trouble, what is so horrifying about admitting that I make mistakes? What scares me enough to keep me tethered to the rules?

I think I already know the answer. It’s something I want to explore further and with God’s help, kiss good-bye.

More to come.

**Thank you to everyone who prayed as we prepared for Hurricane Matthew. God answered our prayer and the storm shifted off-track just enough to spare us any real damage here in Central Florida. We are so grateful. Please join us in praying for those in areas hard-hit by the storm in Haiti, the Bahamas, and the northeast coast of Florida. 

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

Living free in a {literal} hurricane

I knew the enemy would be lurking when I decided to start the Write 31 Days challenge, because he always pops up in obnoxious ways when I commit to tackling something writing-related and (Lord willing) kingdom-building.

But seriously. A hurricane? 

The windows are boarded up, the a/c is cranked in anticipation of a power outage, snacks are ready (and hidden from the kids), and board games are stacked. We’ve rearranged the living room in case we decide to drag our mattresses out here tonight, and there are already toys everywhere. The rain and wind are picking up.

I’ve been fighting a pit in my stomach all day. Yesterday I shared over on Instagram the scripture I’ve been praying through and dwelling on to calm my worries:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. —Joshua 1:9

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. —Psalm 46:1-3

For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock. —Psalm 27:5

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. —Ephesians 3:20-21

Stacey Thacker posted this morning about the coming storm and taking God at his word, because even the winds obey him (Matthew 8:23-27). Yes and amen. I needed to read that.

There’s nothing quite like the Word—Truth with a capital T—to combat fear and lies and tell the enemy to take a hike.

hurricane.jpgIs this the post I had in mind for today? Nope. But oddly enough, I think it fits. As I’ve been cleaning and gathering and laundering and preparing for Matthew today, I’ve been thinking about what living free really looks like. Am I living free today? On a day when everything is out of my control, what is my response? Am I held captive by fear and worry? Or can I calmly face the storm, taking my God at his word and wholly trusting that he reigns, no matter what?

It is the latter that sets me free.

And the good news about the enemy is that he has no stronghold here!

For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption… —Colossians 1:13-14

If you’re in the path of the hurricane too, please stay safe. Pray Truth with me, and let’s tell the enemy we won’t succumb to worry and fear, because he has no power here. We are free, even in the midst of an oppressive storm.

Don’t count me out of Write 31 Days, either—I’ll keep writing, even if it’s on paper and by candlelight! 

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.


Freeing up my to-do list

I’m the queen of setting ridiculously high expectations for my day and then feeling like a total failure when I realize at 8pm that my goals might have been a little unrealistic. Sometimes I get the impression that all of my peers are accomplishing SO much, and I’m falling behind. I’m not doing enough! Must do more! Must be better! Must be Super Mom AND Super Writer and Super Wife!

How quickly resulting feelings of failure, disappointment, and stress spiral out of control.

For the last year I’ve been using a planner to keep up with my family’s schedule, manage to-do lists, and meal plan (I try, at least). I’d be kinda lost without it. I used to have a mind like a steel trap, but these days I tend to forget basics like my kids’ names and the fact that the mortgage is due on the 1st of the month. Things got a little mushy in there after the second baby.

I love to-do lists, maybe a little too much. There’s something I find satisfying about using up every line provided—as though somehow it affirms the fullness of my day as a stay-at-home mom. (Perhaps that’s a topic I’ll need to tackle another day.)

The thing is, like I said before, I tend to have unrealistic expectations for my day. I’m counting on my preschooler taking a 3-hour nap, the words I need to write flowing freely and easily, and no phone calls, cats getting sick, or texts interrupting me.

Guess how often it actually works that way?

I’ve found something that helps, and have been experimenting for the past month or so. I set flexible daily goals—this involves deciding to be okay when items get shuffled to another day or even the next week—but I also add, after the fact, anything I accomplish that wasn’t on the to-do list. And then I check it off of course, because we all know that’s the best part!

It’s been freeing. Now I’m able to acknowledge and appreciate the time and energy that go into the little things that seem too insignificant to make the to-do list, but matter nonetheless.

For example, a few things I’ve added lately: Mailed a card to a friend—check! Put together a puzzle with my kid—check! Laundry wasn’t on the list, but I threw in a load—check! Helped my other kid with her homework—check! You get the idea.


Instead of being discouraged by other people’s accomplishments, I’d much rather 1) cheer on my friends and peers, celebrating wins and encouraging each other through the failures; and 2) keep my eyes (and my to-do lists) focused on God, knowing that he keeps in perfect peace those whose minds are stayed on him and who trust him (Isaiah 26:3).

The truth is, we’re each uniquely equipped for both the number of tasks and the types of tasks God puts before us. Taking note of the unplanned or seemingly small accomplishments each day reminds me that all of it matters, and that sets me free to approach my day joyfully, with open hands and an open mind.

{I shared some of these thoughts earlier this week via The Drafting Desk, a monthly email newsletter for anyone wanting to trade in the pursuit of perfection for grace, joy, and freedom. Lindsey and I would love to have you join us! Learn more and subscribe here!}

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

For my 6th-grade self

Last night, my 3rd grader burst into song (this happens frequently in our house). It was to the tune of the Gilligan’s Island theme, but it was a song about—wait for it—prepositions. And she rattled off every last one of them. My jaw dropped.

I had an immediate flashback to 6th grade, 1st period grammar class with Mrs. Robinson, who was also my homeroom teacher. I was sitting in the second seat from the back in the first row of desks, near the door. And boy did I want to bolt out that door. Instead I remained glued to my seat, heart pounding and eyes brimming with tears as I held the results of my first test as a 6th grader. The big red D scratched at the top of the page—and the red Xs next to almost every answer I’d given? I didn’t even know how to process that.

It was a test on prepositions, which I’d been expected to memorize. I’d never had to study for anything before though, and had walked into class confident that I would just know the answers. They would be in my head somewhere, and I’d just summon them. (Why did no one teach me the Gilligan’s Island song?!) I was a smart kid—my mom and my teachers always said that. I was sure it would all just come naturally.

Not so much.

That big D. It looked so mean. And all that red ink! I was humiliated and quickly flipped my paper over on my desk to hide it from the eyes of the classmates sitting around me. Everyone was leaning in their seats to try to get a peek at other kids’ scores. My teacher must hate me, I thought. Everyone told her I was smart, but obviously I’m not. 

Middle school is hard for a lot of reasons. I had no idea the likelihood of bad grades would be one of them.

My eyes fill with tears as I sit here thinking about my 6th-grade self, because I didn’t know it then, but that moment changed me. I was ashamed, knocked off my “I’m so smart” pedestal, and all I knew was that I never wanted to see angry red marks on any of my papers ever again. How could I bounce back from this? What would my parents think?

I would learn how to study and memorize. I would strive for nothing less than perfection. “100%” and “A” were the only things I wanted to see written in red from there on out.

Well, I didn’t end up with a perfect record. PE and honors pre-calc would take me down. But for the duration of my education years, I never could let go of those less-than-A assignments or stop comparing my grades to those of the kid next to me—even in college.

(Interesting to think that 10 years after sitting in Mrs. Robinson’s grammar class, I’d be entering a career in which I made red marks all over other people’s writing for a living. And I would love it. Yikes.)

As a middle schooler, achieving less than perfection made me defensive, argumentative, and pouty—every correction a stab at my pride.


A lot of years have passed since then, and I can still recall the memory of being handed that D test in detail. Have I changed at all since then? Some days I wear my failures like badges of shame. And when I make a mistake and am called out on it—a typo on the page, a factual error in conversation, or spiritual guidance offered in love—guess what? Defensive, argumentative, and pouty.

My stinking pride! It’s still hanging around, all these years later—right there at the root of my perfectionist tendencies.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “…whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Sometimes I mentally tack “…so you better do it perfectly!” onto the end of it. Heads up, that’s not in the Bible. God is well aware of the fact that I can’t be 100% without him, and I’m certainly never going to earn 100%. That’s not the way it works. I make mistakes. I am a sinner. I need his grace. How often I forget.

So, dear 6th-grade Rebekah, with your glasses and braces and hair that just won’t cooperate, take a breath and wipe your tears. Middle school will get better. It’s your first memorable failure. There will be more, a lot more. (Sorry, kid.) God’s grace is sufficient for you. Believe it, because it’s true. And oh, how you’ll need it.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}

Grace, Freedom, and the Rules

The unpredictability of a summer schedule with kids home from school and no routine to depend on left me feeling a little bit crazy one week over the summer, so I resolved to create consistency elsewhere. I somewhat randomly chose a passage of Scripture to dwell on every day for one week. The same passage, every day. No hopping around elsewhere in my Bible or pulling out a devotional—just reading my selected passage, thanking God for the words, and asking him to show me something new each day about himself and myself. These are the verses I selected:

For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. —John 1:16-17 

I frowned at the page after the first read, puzzled by the words despite their familiarity from years and years of church attendance and Bible studies. I’d heard that first sentence a lot. It’s pretty and flowy, and on its own, sounds like a nice place to sit and rest, you know? After all, it’s grace upon grace—not just grace, but more grace on top of that! Okay, great. But what do I do with that? I moved on to the next sentence and began to focus on the bigger story—the eternal perspective.

“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

God gave Moses the law to give to his people. It was rigid to say the least, and as we see in the Old Testament over and over and over again, the punishment for disregarding it was severe. Yet it was God’s grace in the form of rules to live by. It was a gift.

I think of one of those things parents love to say that kids loathe: “I’m doing this because I love you.” We want our children to stay safe from harm, so we establish rules; they have to eat their veggies, look both ways before crossing, and keep their seatbelts buckled. We’re not trying to make them miserable—we’re trying to keep them alive, for Pete’s sake.

God does this for us, too.

But there’s more. We also get Jesus. Grace upon grace. Another translation phrases it “grace in place of grace.” Jesus is God’s grace to us in the form of a person we can know and relate to, fulfillment of his promises, the One who stood in our place and took the punishment we deserved—death—so that we could truly live.

We have the Word, rules to live by. We have Christ, fulfilling the law and taking the punishment for the rule-breaking we will inevitably do—grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And we have the Holy Spirit to be with us always, intercede for us, and help us discern the hard places.

This was big for me to grasp, and in the moment understanding began to dawn on me, I reached over from where I’d been sitting in bed and shook my husband’s shoulder, startling him awake, because I needed to tell someone this thing that had never really clicked for me before. It’s gift upon gift upon gift—and as much as I like to convince myself I’ve somehow earned it by doing the right things, I couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t deserve any of it.

God’s rules and his grace work together. They don’t limit us. They set us free. 

This is a challenging concept for a girl who actually likes following the rules. (A lot.) So I’d like to take the month of October and look back at snapshots of my life each day, finding the places where those stories intersect with ideas about rules, grace, and freedom. It will probably be a little messy, which makes me uncomfortable. I might struggle some days to hit “publish” on work I know is unfinished and on thoughts I’m still processing. But I’m feeling expectant that this exercise will be a good one—both in writing and in better understanding God’s love.

Click here to see all posts from the Grace, Freedom, & the Rules series.

{This series is part of the Write 31 Days challenge.}