Tempted to Throw in the Towel? Read This.

I love hearing about the times they almost gave up.

Field of Dream(ers), 2013

And by ‘they,’ I mean our heroes. You have your own examples: how Albert Einstein was considered a slow learner in grade school, how Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. As a writer, I take heart every time I hear about a literary great who almost threw in the towel.

I love reading about how the Bronte sisters almost didn’t submit their novels for publication (or claim authorship after they were published under male pseudonyms), or how Madeleine L’Engle tried to give up writing on her fortieth birthday, after a decade of rejection slips  and just before A Wrinkle In Time was published.

And one of my favorite posts on Glennon Melton’s phenomenally successful and beloved Momastery is an obscure one from back in 2010, in which Glennon admits to thoughts of giving up writing online, “… because I’m really, really scared that I’m going to start sucking and [readers aren’t] going to like me anymore.”

Can you imagine? Can you imagine what the world would look like if these women had given up?

All right, I admit it, my world would be rocked more than most, because they are among my favorite writers and my bookcase would be barren without their work. But our heroes don’t have to be famous to matter. Far from it.

I often wonder, in an It’s A Wonderful Life sort of way, “Where would I be without my friend Tammy’s encouragement? Would I ever have learned to drive a stick-shift or self-published two books if she hadn’t believed in me? And what about my friend Brooke? Where would I be if she hadn’t been brave enough to follow her dream of going to Vassar? How would I carry on, stay sane, and keep the faith without my husband, my family, every beloved friend?”

We owe so much to the courage of others.

***

All this is on my mind today because I’ve been waiting on some (potentially big) things in my writing life to move forward. After flying through a series of green lights, I’ve been waiting at a long yellow one.

I need to speak in metaphor for now; I promise to give details when (and if) things come together. But I tell you this to say that, if you’re discouraged and down about your dream, I get it. It is hard to keep the faith. It is hard to wait and work and hope for a dream that might never come true.

But what I’ve come to realize in this season of waiting is that nothing is wasted. I’m coming to see that, even if what I hope for never comes to pass, I will still be so thankful to have tried. I will not regret telling my stories, because — regardless of outcome — telling stories is what I was meant to do.

***

Here’s the thing: we can give up on our calling. We can quit 50 times a day if that’s what we need to do, if that’s how scared we are. But even so, our callings will NOT give up on us.

Whoever it is you’re supposed to be, whatever it is you’re supposed to do? It follows you around. They don’t call it a ‘calling’ for nothing — it does have a voice. A really, really persistent one.

So for all of you who sense a calling — be it to parent or sing or write or build or teach — please, don’t give up. We need you. We need your specific contribution. You may not see how or why, and that’s okay. Just stay faithful. Just keep on. Just for today.

Because even if it’s just one person that needs what you have to offer … well, that’s everything. Giving hope to one person is more than enough. And you know this already, don’t you? You’ve seen it happen. When you put your heart on the line and one person is moved, everything changes.

In that instant — when someone looks at you through tear-filled eyes after hearing you speak, seeing you dance, or listening to your song — you see that your dream wasn’t really even ABOUT you at all. Instead, it was about that one person who needed you to be exactly who you are.

The value of your gift was never measured by whether or not you had your name in lights. It was always about the people who would have been bereft without it, without you. And when you realize that?

You’re home free.

***

Tempted to give up on a dream? Join the conversation in the comments!

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The Dance of Disconnection (And Some New Moves)

You’ve probably had this happen to you.

Coffee & connections, 2012. Photo Credit: Sarah Bayot

You see a person you love after an extended time apart. It’s wonderful to reunite. You feel so fortunate to have this friendship; you’re sure you’ll keep in touch.

And then you go home, back to your everyday life, and you don’t call them for months.

This isn’t something you do on purpose. It’s just that one day you wake up and realize that you’re disconnected, despite your good intentions.

At this point, you have a few options. You can:

A) Shrug off the guilt, saying that you’ll call at an unspecified ‘later’ date. However, you know you won’t call. You feel too bad about not having called already. This a fear-based cop-out.

B) Pretend it doesn’t matter (‘They won’t really care one way or the other’). There’s just one problem: You do care, and most likely they do too. This is another fear-based cop-out.

C) Take a deep breath and pick up the phone (or write the email or set the date). This is the brave choice.

No judgment here; I’ve chosen all three. In fact, I typically move through A and B before C. I let guilt drive me, then I turn to denial, and then I muster up some bravery and do the right thing.

***

Such was the case when I called my dear friend Leo* to wish him a happy birthday. I’d had the joy of visiting with him in November, but I’d let the intervening time go by without picking up the phone. Though I knew that Leo wouldn’t give me a hard time, I felt bad for not calling sooner, and I had to psych myself up to do so.

But the minute I heard his voice on the line, it was so clear to me: we can’t let fear rule our friendships.

So if you’re doing that ridiculous ‘I can’t call/reach out now; it’s been too long’ dance that we all do, just know this: you only have to push past fear for the time it takes the phone to ring.

***

Performing in an Old McDonald skit

Keep your friends close, and your fellow Old McDonald skit participants closer … (2010)

Leo and I spoke about his birthday plans and recapped local news. (A car literally crashed into the McDonald’s where he has coffee every day. Fortunately, Leo wasn’t there, and the driver is recovering.) He told me he liked my birthday gift. I glowed; “like” is high praise from Leo.

Gradually, we came to that pause that signals the end of a conversation. The pause in which you feel the distance between you, but also how you’ve bridged that distance.

“Okay,” I said. The small word held so much. I didn’t have to say, “I miss you,” or, “You’re like family.” It was all right there.
“Okay,” he replied.
“If it’s all right, I’d like to call more,” I said.
“That’d be good,” he said. “See you … no, talk to you … soon.”

I felt such energy and gladness afterward; it felt so good to be done procrastinating that phone call. For the rest of the afternoon, I flew through my work with enthusiasm. And the word enthusiasm comes from the Greek en theos, meaning, God within.

God within when we have brave days, choosing connection … and God within even when we don’t have brave days. Even when we fail to show others how much we care. Even when we feel, so acutely, the distance between who we are and who we want to be. Even then.

Because wherever love is, there is God.  

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What relationship do you want to rekindle? Join the conversation in the comments!

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AWCC Around The Web:

Upcoming speaking engagements – if you’re in the area(s), I’d love to see you there! 

  • Florence Lauderdale Public Library, February 24, 2013, 2-3pm
  • Living Spirit Church, Florence, AL, March 3, 1:30pm
  • Faith Inclusion Network, “That All May Worship” Conference, Norfolk, VA, March 14-15

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*Names have been changed.