Excerpt from She Laughs: Choosing Faith Over Fear by Carolanne Miljavac
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever. Psalm 73:26
One time I decided to surprise my girls with a trip to the movie theater after school. I was having one of those days when I just wanted to remind them what an awesome mom they have. We loaded up on popcorn and candy, handed in our tickets, and made our way to theater six. As we waited for the previews to start, I stared at their excited faces, feeling extra good about myself. Wow, I really mother-crushed it today, and they are never going to forget this. The lights went down and the virtual popcorn roller coaster began. The next thing I knew, a preview started to play an opening scene of a woman standing in the rain facing the other way. As the camera zoomed in on her closer and closer, my arm made its way across both my girls’ faces. Then the woman whipped around with half her face eaten off, and to make it five trillion times worse, she was holding a little baby. A zombie baby. I. Was. Appalled.
My oldest daughter had sun so low into her chair it was almost folded up shut, and my middle was eyes wide open trying to knock my hand off her forehead so she could see. I was looking around the theater wondering if I was the only one ticked off that they were showing previews like that before a kids’ movie. Nobody else seemed fazed. I straight panicked through three scary previews, thinking the theater had made a huge mistake, when it dawned on me that we might be in the wrong room. Right about that time, terrifying music boomed right through us as creepy red letters popped onto the screen, revealing to this awesome mom that she had her babies about to watch The Conjuring. Oh. Nope nope nope. I jumped up quick and ushered my traumatized daughter and her intrigued sister out the door as fast as I could in front of the other fifteen people who were in there. In my defense, some people had kids, or preteens, or whatever, with them. Our door was side by side with The Conjuring theater door, and I took the wrong one, pretty much ruining all their fun. One daughter couldn’t get over me subjecting her to that horror, while the other was mad because she wanted to watch it. To this day, I can’t take them to the movies without my oldest reminding me at least seven times to pay attention to what theater we go into. Looking back, I bet the other adults in that theater probably wondered why the heck I’d bring my two little girls to that movie. I had an awesome mom fail that day. I just tucked it into my book of never-ending oopsie stories. But these aren’t really the kind of fails we fear, are they?
Failure to Discern
Laughter isn’t just what happens when your friend smashes her face into the super-clean JCPenner window instead of walking through the open door right next to it. I mean, I can still remember the hollering that came out of my body as I watched her stare confused at everyone like, Can you believe somebody put that there? with her faceprint still fresh on the glass behind her. Okay, fine, it wasn’t a friend. It was me. It was my face smoosh story, and I had no friend there to witness it. I wish I would have though, because the walk of shame to my car afterward would have been less embarrassing with a friend. Thank goodness when we can’t see the window coming for our face, God gifts us with an ability to see the humor in the aftermath of our humiliation.
Discernment sure can be tricky when the right path doesn’t seem as crystal clear as the wrong one. Life can feel like the house of mirrors in a carnival attraction at times. I took my girls through one recently, thinking it wouldn’t be hard for me to see the way out since I’m a grown woman. But after walking into the third clear wall, I got a little scared to take another step. I had to slow down, look closely, and put my hands out to feel for the right path before stubbing my toe on another wrong one.
Y’all ever walk your rosy cheeks right into the wrong relationship? I’ve smashed my face on some glass a time or two, blindly stepping toward a nice smile and a few yummy compliments. Dang near broke my nose over a muscular forearm. Isn’t it funny how we can leave a faceprint on the warning right in front of us and still bounce off it looking for another way in? Sometimes it takes a broken heart to realize a better path set before us.
Failing to recognize the right door to walk through could have some scary consequences, and we do feel afraid sometimes that we are making a mistake. There are a lot of wrong doors out there that look just like the door we were looking for. You’re going to walk through and into the wrong ones from time to time. If you’re like me, you might even charge through them like a wrecking ball now and then. But we know that God works for the good in all things, so whatever mistakes you’re about to walk into will serve as a guide for your future “what not to dos.” Don’t let the fear of failing to discern keep you from taking steps forward. Embrace the face smash. As you move forward, you can laugh looking back.
Failing to Meet Expectations
The definition of fail is to fade away or weaken, fall short, disappoint, or leave undone. You are most definitely going to do all of that if you are out there living, learning, using your voice, and growing. We all agree that nobody is perfect, so what’s with being scared of disappointing others? A major reason for fearing failure is that you won’t meet people’s expectations of you. I played softball in college. I remember one game when we had based loaded and two outs, and I was up to bat. I started letting thoughts of what everyone expected of me swirl around and drown out every ounce of confidence I usually carried with me into the batter’s box. The next thing I knew, I’d taken a swing at a ball so far over my head I had to jump for it, gone golfing for another, and let a perfect pitch go right down the middle while I stood by frozen. Three pitches, three strikes, game over. That’s what a fear of failing others does—it robs you of everything you know you are capable of. I lost faith in my ability to perform. It didn’t matter that I was prepared, ready, and able, because all of my focus had shifted to how horrible letting everyone down would feel. Pressure to please others will have you taking swings at all the wrong things and standing by frozen as opportunities pass you by.
Faithful woman, you were created to step up to the plate and crush it. The enemy knows it. Practice makes perfect, so put expectations aside and put to good use what God says about you. Every time you study the truth, praise the sacrifice made for you, and deepen your trust through Christ of what you are capable of, you strengthen the skill of choosing faith over fear. Your focus on the path set before you will begin to outweigh what anybody else has to say.
You can trust that God has placed a calling on your life. If you have faith to pursue it, there will always be people who can’t see it. Living according to other people’s expectations will weaken the purpose for which you’ve been created. If your purpose is weakened and it begins to fade, isn’t that the definition of failure? Leaving this earth when your time comes with a calling left undone sounds much scarier than disappointing people.
There’s no joy in pleasing everyone else at the expense of your peace. You can do what God says you can do, so if you keep showing up, you’ll keep growing into everything He says you are—which is greater than any expectation a person can place on you.
There will be days we inevitably do or say things that people will judge us for or things that we regret. That’s just being human. We makes mistakes, lose our temper, forget to be thankful, yell at our kids, gossip, lose perspective, or resent our husbands for showering so quickly. (But seriously, it annoys me that he can get in and out so fast while I gotta wash, shave, shampoo and condition, run out buck naked to see what the bloodcurdling scream was about, jump back in after discovering it was over a Barbie shoe not fitting, get out and lotion my whole entire body, and then get pooped on when I’m done. I can’t lie—there are days he hops in and out fresh as a daisy and I glare hatefully and then slam every cabinet in the kitchen. Sorry for that. Forgive me and my hormones, Lord.)
We will never be good enough for the standards of different kinds of people, from different backgrounds, with different views on life. We didn’t used to have so many opinions shoved in our faces each day. Mamas, wives, sisters, single ladies, let me ask you … What does God say about you? Have you gotten so wrapped up in the differing opinions of other people that you can’t hear the whispered words of the Lord? Well, snap out of it! Tune them out and tune Him in. It’s as simple as that. He can be found offline, off the radar, off the map, away from the distractions of all the chatter. When you and the world are apart, He is right there inside your heart.
Failing to Fail
Once you’ve succeeded, you’ve set a standard, and that can be scarier than the ease of failure. If you fail to fail, you just might realize everything you didn’t know you could do—and now there’s no excuse. How many times have you decided not to give your best effort because if there’s a chance you could fail, you’d rather know deep down that you weren’t really trying? Ope! I feel like I just personally attacked my own self. Hopefully that’s a gut check for you too. The idea of failing while giving your very best effort may be the reason you’re scared to set a higher standard. When we go bowling and I somehow can’t get my warped ball out of the gutter, that’s when I make sure everyone knows the lanes are tilted, my wrist hurts, and I’m just here to have fun. I wasn’t really trying anyway. Lies! Oh yes, I was trying. I’ve rolled plenty of strikes before, which makes it even harder to stomach when I throw the ball right into the gutter. Deep down I desperately want to beat my husband for once in my life before I die. Gutter balls are way more bitter when you know how to roll like a winner. I want to hear the thunder as the pins crack and fall, not the lonely sounds of a slow-motion gutter ball. That’s just embarrassing.
One time our whole family went bowling, and we were all excited to watch my brother-in-law roll his first strike of the night because he is basically a professional. He was in a league and had his own fancy ball with its own fancy ball bag and everything. By the time he got his wrist guard on, stretched his legs, cracked his neck, and tucked his custom-ordered ball-wiping towel into his back pocket, we were all anxiously at the edge of our seats, ready to witness Thor bring down the hammer like never before seen at the Bowling Stones family fun center. With a look so sharp it could through butter, he lined himself up and began his approach graceful as a giraffe on ice. As he reared back, about to bring the ball forward, his shoe decided it no longer wanted to play today, screeching to a halt and sticking to the floor while the rest of his body continued to fly forward. I haven’t seen a belly slide that painful since I gave myself whiplash last summer showing my kids how to slip ’n’ slide because they weren’t doing it right. For a minute I thought his head might make it down the lane to the pins before his ball did. When I tell y’all I died laughing, I mean I genuinely feared for my life. I laughed so hard I went completely silent aside from sounds of muted breathless wheezing. I had to stop, drop, and roll on the floor just to try to catch my breath. That might have been too much failure for him to handle if he didn’t have such a great sense of humor. The gift of laughter will catch you when you fall, cancel out fear, and restore faith to try again. Even after an epic fail, he still ended up beating us all in the end.
You see, the fear isn’t of failing: it’s off rolling gutter balls when you know you’re capable of strikes. It’s of falling short of the standard you set for yourself. Have you ever considered that it’s not failure you’re afraid of? Maybe you’re afraid of the possibility of success. Failing leaves room to grow. But maintaining success? Phew, that can feel terrifying. Now that you know what you’re capable of, you may question if you can keep this up. The pressure to hold yourself to that higher standard can create a lot of anxiety. For me, having God show me over and over what He’s capable of in my life was really scary, because I started to fear I’d inevitably mess it all up.
Every time I speak in public, whether it’s a serious or comedy event, I have a moment of complete terror that my first successful show was a fluke and I’m not actually capable of doing this well. Essentially, I have to keep showing God that I trust Him by taking that first step onto the stage anyway. When I think about the worst that could happen, it looks like me walking out in front of a bunch of people and going completely blank, running off the stage, blowing future opportunities, and disappointing everyone who put the event together, everyone who bought tickets, and everyone who ever believed in me. But if I let this fear keep me from a calling that is undoubtedly on my life, then I’d be placing it above faith that I can do all things Christ called me to. Same goes for you. What’s the worst that could happen? That’s what my best friend always says when I’m feeling fear and stress.
At the end of the day, one thing will never ever change. You are loved. You have gifts and purpose. Most important, you cannot fail the One who matters most when you’re taking steps toward your calling in faith. Even when you fail to meet a standard, His strength when you’re weak is showing you what to learn in failure. Success isn’t so scary when you understand that some failures are necessary in order to achieve it.
Sometimes, all you need is discernment and peace. Discernment to make the best call regarding the path Christ has for your life and peace with the decisions you feel guided to make. Accept that you will make some mistakes. If you’ve been feeling restless and stressed, maybe it’s time to log off, step away from the crowd, and shut down the voices of others. Just for a while. Just long enough to breathe, think, reconnect, and pray. Long enough to shake off the world and put on the armor of the Lord. Long enough to remember the truth. You are enough for your family, you friends, your job, and your gifts. You love enough. You give enough. You kiss and hug enough. You discipline enough. You make mistakes, and you’re given grace. You’re not alone in feeling like you’re all alone. Nobody has it all together. Your loved ones, your friends, your coworkers, and even your enemies are yours for a reason. The mistakes you make will teach them as much as they teach you.
Remember and trust that God knows you, and He knows your future. With His guidance, discernment, mercy, and grace, you will do what is right by your purpose in life. Even your mistakes have already been developed for the good of those you love, and also for the good of those you don’t even know. Look to the Word for assurance. Let it be your compass and just do the best you can. Let go of the judgment, guilt, and shame placed on you by others. Condemnation is not from God but from the enemy. God will convict you of changes you need to make with love and guidance, but the enemy will try to paralyze you with shame and doubt. Keep your eyes open for that deception. Remember, there’s a difference between condemnation and conviction.
Have you ever noticed that when you fail a test, the problems you missed are forever burned into your brain? I will never again misspell Wed-nes-day or Feb-ru-ary. Getting it all wrong is a pretty effficient, long-lasting method for getting it right. There’s no greater motivator to learn and do better than feeling like you’ve let someone else or yourself down. But you’re given grace and forgiveness, so don’t stand still. Sometimes we take a leap of faith and fall short because there’s more to be learned from starting at the bottom and making the climb. If the fear of failure begins to hold you back, you’re lacking trust. It’s okay to feel it, but don’t let it keep you from trying to succeed. Feel the fear as you make the jump. The Lord is your strength to get back up.
Here is reality … God is good. God has a plan for you, and God has a plan for me, failures included. I have a home now despite plenty of days in the past calculating how to continue affording our tiny apartment. I have three amazing little girls who are happy and love me endlessly despite plenty of tears shed over fears I could never provide them a good enough life. I have a husband who loves me even though he’s seen the worst of me, and I still haven’t quite figured out how to fully love and be loved. In the past I have failed in so many ways every single day, and my future has always turned out okay.
As you’re reading this today, you’re okay too. If not now, you will be. You are capable of recovery. A new day of victory awaits, so always keep your faith. I know what tragedy feels like. Losing my niece to cancer changed my perspective toward life and toward failure. I have what matters most to me. Everything else is gravy. Embarrassment passes. Feelings fade. You live and you learn from mistakes. Remember that the next time the fear of failing threatens to keep you from the possibility of success.
Being saved means you are forgiven by the only One who matters, the only One who truly knows who you are to the core of your soul. So ask for grace, apologize when necessary, and do not compare yourself to anyone. If you are trying your best not to walk the beaten path but to be better, that is amazing and you can always start fresh. God can’t be strong in your weakness, sister, if you’re trying to be perfect all the time. You’re doing it wrong, and He will make it right.
When We Fail, God’s Got Us
We try to be strong. So much stronger than we are capable of. How many times have you repeated to yourself, “I can do this. I can do this”? But when you lean on your own ability, that’s when doubt takes over. Which turns out to be necessary in order for you to see that you need His strength. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). He strengthens me because I’m weak. Like 2 Corinthians 12:9 reminds us, His power is made perfect in our weakness—not in our already perfect strength. So if you feel like failing makes you weak, consider it a catalyst to getting stronger. It’s so simple, yet we still give the fear of failing power over our faith some days.
It boils down to trust. Failure is inevitable. Do you trust that when you do fail, God’s got you? When I fail, He pulls me through. A kind word, an apology, a new path, an opportunity opened when a different door closes, a chance to make a difference through a valuable lesson learned, or a much-needed release through laughter when relief is needed. These are all parts of growth. These are the ways He pulls me through. Failure bears good fruit too. Life is full of disappointment because people always make mistakes—and that includes you. Yet nothing can change what God sees in you. You are capable of failing over and over again, yet still being successful. As long as you have breath in your body, there’s a plan for your presence. Don’t let overwhelming feelings steal that truth from you. Peace is around the corner, because God’s plans for you are good. The moments you fail don’t change that. As long as you believe something good is ahead, you can overcome your fears of failing to do good work in the future.
She doesn’t laugh in the face of failure because she isn’t afraid. She is freaking out sometimes. The pressure can really get to her. Right now, she is me. I had a full-blown anxiety attack in the middle of writing this chapter, because I’m scared to death to fail in every way I just spoke of. I’m scared my writing will fall short; I’m afraid to disappoint; I’m terrified of the pressure of a deadline. I’m so tired. I want you to know with tears and short breaths that I can barely catch, I know it’s not easy to overcome a fear of failing. I feel like crawling under a rock and shutting everyone out right now. I know that at the end of the day, it’s going to be okay. Everything is going to be okay. None of this is easy; fears are very serious. They can overwhelm your body and your mind. They can make you sick and drain your joy. It happens. We laugh later on, because as scared as we are now, ultimately it will be all right. A deep breath and a lifted weight aren’t far away. So stick it out. It’s worth every failing day to finish what you start.
In John 13:7 Jesus said, “You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.” Trust that every failing moment serves a purpose. You might not know what it is just yet, but when the time is right, you will.
She laughs without fear of failure because she knows in time, He’ll reveal His purposes.
Order your copy of She Laughs: Choosing Faith Over Fear by Carolanne Miljavac
Carolanne Miljavac is a southern raised, Jesus saved, barely sane author, speaker, social media goofball, wife, and mom of 3 daughters. A true reflection of “Beauty for Ashes,” Carolanne has become the “Go To Girl” for a good laugh, motivation, loving truths, and vulnerability. She has over 300 million video views and more than half a million social media followers. Learn more at CarolanneMiljavac.com
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