Archives for March 2015

When Hard Work is Mistaken for Talent

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“…if we work hard enough, hard work will eventually be mistaken for talent. And if we refuse to give up, perseverance will eventually be mistaken for greatness.” ~Erwin Raphael McManus in The Artisan Soul

I’ve written nearly one thousand posts here on this blog.

One thousand is my go-to number for conversations with my husband. How many times have I emptied the dishwasher or washed the sheets? One thousand. When he asks me how much I spent at Target today, I say “One THOUSAND dollars!” The real dollar amount always sounds more reasonable by comparison. I use the same number when describing how I feel about the errands he asks me to complete during the week. I say things like, “I would rather clean the toilet ONE THOUSAND times than make one more trip to Home Depot!” I’m a real catch.

I have, however, written nearly one thousand blog posts, no hyperbole required.

I’ve also written three full length book proposals (the cause of one thousand tears), a few submissions for collaborative books, essays and devotionals for other websites, a few articles, eight chapters for books that will never be published (one thousand knives through my heart), forty days of devotions on the Holy Spirit, and many notebooks with my own private scribbles. All of this in four years of part-time writing, squeezed into the cracks of my day between the one thousand trips I make to Target and Home Depot and the grocery store.

I’m not a full-time writer, and I will never be described as prolific. Some weeks I barely squeak out a post or two, but over time, the work adds up. The words pile into small drifts. They eventually become large enough to send out into the world and expect a little something back. I’m not the most talented writer out there, I can’t even rub shoulders with the greatest, but I’m willing to get up at five in the morning to write one thousand words. I’m willing to persevere through rejection after rejection in the hopes that someone might mistake my hard work for excellence, my piled up drifts of words for talent.

This isn’t a pat on the back, or a not so subtle way to ask for compliments. This is an acknowledgement of where I stand on the path towards publication. I have an enormous amount of work ahead of me. I have room to grow, and many more words to write before my work is mistaken for something of significance. Diligence and perseverance are underrated qualities, often pushed aside when natural beauty or genius or flash show up. But most of us don’t have those things to recommend us. We have hard work. We have one thousand hours of teaching or studying or apprenticeship or mothering or decision-making or practicing in the wee hours of the morning to recommend us.

This is better than flash. It’s better than natural beauty and genius and “talent”. Take heart, friends. When you feel like the one who got left behind. When you wonder if God overlooked you when handing out gifts and talents. When you question your ability. When you wonder why others get ahead when you do not. Take heart. Do the work. Perseverance tastes sweet on the tongue, while quitting leaves a trace of bitterness impossible to erase.

Over the last four years, I quit writing one thousand times. But I began writing again one thousand more. If you feel like quitting something hard today, know that I am here, sitting in the glow of early morning light, gathering my words and thinking of you. If you have a path to pursue, then allow the flame of your passion to light the way. When the mean winds blow and the flame flickers, struggling to remain lit, perseverance will place a hedge of protection around you. It will make a way for you, until further down the path you reach a clearing, and your one thousand footsteps towards progress are mistaken for greatness.

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This fall, I will write thousands more words as I begin work towards an MFA in Creative Writing. I hope you’ll walk this new path with me, and we can cheer each other on towards our respective goals.

Speaking of goals, tell me about yours? What have you done a thousand times and will likely persevere through a thousand more? Changing diapers totally counts.

When I Became a Mother, I Wish Someone Told Me…

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When I became a mother, I wish someone told me that families have seasons. I should have figured this out early on, but when my first child arrived it threw me headfirst into a sea of hormones and breast milk and sleep-deprivation–the likes of which no one understands unless they are also a mother or a prisoner of war. Once I found myself able to tread water and to think the occasional coherent thought, I decided to dive deep again. And just like that I jumped right back into baby-ing, this time with a pre-schooler, then two in tow.

After my third child started pre-school, and treading water became the norm, it occurred to me that the baby season was well and truly over. I could breathe again. Maybe you are here too. In this new season, we can trust our weight to stay the same (ish) and our nights to follow a predictable pattern and our boobs to never grow back. We can trust ourselves to feel fully human. Only this human, this new version of us, feels so entirely different from the person we were pre-parenthood, we must get to know ourselves all over again. We also have to get to know this new version of our family–the one where little people leave the house and sit under the influence of teachers and girls who gossip and boys who teach others how to fart with their armpit.

When I became a mother, I wish someone had told me that families have seasons, and I will have to change and grow with them. I will have to rediscover who my family is in each new season. No relationship is static, and the shape of our families will change and so will our role in it. This is good and healthy and terribly hard when we realize our children don’t need the mother they had yesterday. They need today’s mama, a new version of us who emerges as we adjust to a more grown-up version of them.

I’ve spent time in the choppy waters of transitional seasons too, where some members of our family grow in a new direction and others have a few years of the same-old, same-old to go. Here, the water treading sometimes stops for an impromptu walk on the beach (savor these moments) or more likely, for one long breathless dive. These are the trickiest to manage, and here we may find ourselves reaching for a life-preserver when seasons collide. The current pulls us in opposite directions when we try to manage the inevitable conflict of interest between one child’s needs vs the other’s vs our own.

When I became a mother, I wish someone told me that families have seasons, and that each season will build on the last. Those sleepless nights? Good practice for the high school years when parties and late nights and teen drivers keep you awake well past your geriatric bed time. Those hormones? Good practice for remembering how they make you feel slightly off-balanced and crazy–kind of like your kid when he hits puberty. Those hours of quiet during the school years? Good practice for you to embrace the quiet as sustenance for the after-hours, when all is loud and chaotic and busy.

When I became a mother, I wish someone sat me down and told me that families have seasons, and you reap every sleepless night, whispered prayer, disciplinary action, mac and cheese meal, hug, listening ear, chauffeur duty, sacrifice, and ounce of mama love that you sow.

You Be You: Belonging in New Places

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She’s a city girl who finds herself unexpectedly living in the suburbs. She got married, had a kid, quit her job, and watched the city disappear in the rear view mirror as she left it behind. Everything that felt familiar and comfortable, every rhythm on which she built her life dropped down to a single note. She is now the ultimate soccer mom cliché, the yoga pant wearing, ponytailed, mini-van driving suburban mother.

She doesn’t recognize who she is in this new place. She says she doesn’t know how to be herself here, but she does know that she wants to craft music out of this one-note, she wants to learn how to beat out a new rhythm. It feels false at first. It feels like she’s wearing too-tight pants, pants that squeeze her new mama belly until it spills out over the sides. She’s spilling out, when all she wants to do is make this life fit.

Here’s the thing no one ever tells you–especially those “city girl in the country” Hallmark movies–you may never feel entirely comfortable in this new place. You will never sing the same song again. You will never squeeze yourself back into those old jeans. You will never change yourself enough to fit in a singular place. And that’s ok. It’s ok to be you, to be your city self or your country self or your somewhere in-between self. It’s ok to be your working self or your mama self or your bi-vocational self. It’s ok to be a beautiful melting pot of all your happiest and hardest experiences. You be you.

Here’s the other thing no one ever tells you–you can change the shape of your place, even if it’s only a little bit, to meet your needs. Sure, the city won’t have lots of open spaces, but you might find one small space of green that makes your soul sing. The country won’t have the latest haute couture or fusion cuisine, and the suburbs will look like a never-ending ad for Target, but if you dig a little deeper you might find something unique and interesting that breathes life into your ordinary day. This goes for churches and schools and careers and friendships too. Rather than longing for the former life, the previous way of things, find ways to bring the joy of the former into the new. Ask yourself:

What made you come alive?

What filled you with longing?

What made you sigh with contentment and say “this is my place of belonging”?

Now, ask yourself how can you cultivate that life with all of its living and longing and belonging where you are right now.

Cultivating a sense of belonging happens over time. It is hard work. Belonging happens over trial and error and bad experiences and unfortunate relationships. It happens in the midst of a sense of loss and grief. It happens while you experiment with yoga pants and the unsexiest vehicle on the planet. Give yourself a break, but also give yourself a chance. Find your way back to you because wherever you go, be it city or suburb or country town, there you are.

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Do you feel out of place and out of sorts with your current life circumstances? If so, what are you doing to make yourself fit in? Is it time to release those efforts? How can you make your place better fit you?

For more posts on belonging, click on the “filed under” tag at the bottom of this post or search for “belonging” in the sidebar.

Doing the Work

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My husband’s cousin married an artist. A real, honest-to-goodness, brush-to-canvas artist. When we first met, I saw a few pencil drawings he sketched on the back of a crumpled piece of paper, and I thought how quaint. He scratches out little drawings on the back of trash. It wasn’t what I expected when they told me he made capital “A” Art.

I didn’t know he drew them in seconds. Tiny little moments of time caught on any slip of paper he had at hand. He drew some by request, and others for the pure pleasure of it. At home, he painted into the wee hours of the night or before the sun came up in the morning.

He caught more than moments in time, he caught life unfolding in cityscapes or landscapes or still life.

His work hangs in galleries now…

To read the rest of this post, please join me at Circles of Faith.

Books on My Nightstand: Edition: A Little Bit of Everything

IMG_5514 via kimberlyanncoyle.com

It’s time for an old-fashioned book round-up, don’t you agree? Here’s what I currently keep on my nightstand.

Recently Read:

Scary Close– This feels like a departure from Donald Miller’s usual fare, but I enjoyed it. Miller writes about how to achieve healthy relationships, as he recounts the year leading up to his wedding. He’s honest. Super honest. Vulnerability and quality writing make this book worth the read.

Lean on Me– I haven’t read much by Anne Marie Miller, but I appreciate her thoughts on community and belonging. My struggle looks different from hers, as do my coping mechanisms, but it’s always good to get another perspective on learning how and where we find community.

Lessons in Belonging– Erin S. Lane writes about her search for a place to belong within the Church. She’s an exceptional writer, and   makes some interesting points on church and belonging from the perspective of a twenty-something.

Someday, Someday, Maybe– I adore Lauren Graham as an actress, so I thought I’d give her novel a try. It’s a quick, fun, easy read which I suspect may include a bit of autobiography disguised as fiction. I didn’t love it, but it served the purpose of giving my brain a break. I’d reach for it on a beach or an airplane.

The Artisan Soul– I’m halfway through this beautiful book by Erwin McManus. He writes about crafting our lives as a work of art, and how our creativity connects to our spirituality. Absolutely worth the read if you’re an artist, creative, or want to explore more of the idea of life as art.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore- My sister gifted me with this picture book by William Joyce, and it arrived on a day when I needed to read this message most. “Everyone’s story matters.” Yes and amen. Perfect for kids, book lovers, or the book-loving kid in all of us.

Savor– Shauna Niequist is one of my favorite writers, and I want to be her when I grow up. This devotional is one of the prettiest books I own. When it arrived I clutched it to my chest and sighed, then I asked my kids if I’ll ever write a book that looks this beautiful. They rolled their eyes. It’s impossible to go wrong with Shauna’s words, but I do prefer to read her in longer form. I’m anxiously awaiting her next book release. In the meantime, I’ll console myself with a daily dip into this gorgeous one.

Links I love:

In Love’s Kitchen by Lisha Epperson for SheLoves Magazine. On living and loving dangerously. So, so lovely.

What I Learned From a Week Living Like a Monk by Michelle DeRusha. Perfectly witty and wise as usual. Plus, she uses the euphemism “plush” when referring to her dog Josie’s appearance after a little weight gain. I now have a new word to describe what is happening to my backside.

For the Days When Your Best Efforts Still Come Up Short by Marian Vischer. She’s in my head. And we might be the same person.

The Art of Blogging: a series by Deidra Riggs. Loving this series about blogging by someone who does it so well. I already pre-ordered her new book because I can’t get enough of her words.

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Leave me some book or link love in the comments. What’s on your nightstand?