It’s good to be home. It’s good to have an empty afternoon on the calendar. And it feels really good to have my fingers on this keyboard again and headphones over my ears — though they don’t completely block out the sounds of kids and summer.
The last three weeks have been back-to-back traveling for me. In late July, I went to She Speaks 2015. What an amazing conference! It’s a speaking and writing conference put on by Proverbs 31 ministries. If you’re interested in women’s ministry, writing or speaking, I wholeheartedly recommend it.
Last year, I attended after getting a wait list spot just before the conference. I was so green and I had just taken my first huge step of faith to write. I came home wide-eyed, took a deep breath and pushed publish on my first post.
This year, I prepared my little heart out. Weeks before the conference I began formally laying out a book proposal. I presented at a speaking group with Amy Carroll, got to meet friends I’d come to know online, met a book launch team with Emily Freeman and met with two publishers.
The publishers heard book proposals from hundreds of women for two days straight. I had fifteen minutes to pitch my idea and my heart. I had a written proposal, a one sheet, new business cards and my big idea. Both times, the publishers listened, asked some questions and said not yet. Keep writing, keep working — but not right now.
The publisher’s responses weren’t unsurprising given everything I’d read and studied about publishing nowadays. Still, I was honestly disappointed and the self-talk I’d held at bay started in.
“This is a pipe dream. You stepped out in faith but you misstepped and now what?”
“It’s silly to even try.”
“There’s no success here. You didn’t make it. Hang it up.”
But the thing is, even as I sifted through those thoughts, I was scratching out notes for another project, another post, a way to re-work the content the publishers didn’t want.
As soon as I got home from the She Speaks conference, my kids and I packed up and drove to Alabama to cheer on my oldest as he graduated from Air Force Officer Training School (OTS).
Ben has an Air Force scholarship through medical school and his OTS included dental, medical, seminary and law students. So these were already hard-working folks, but seeing the discipline and training these men and women went through and watching them drill and parade in full dress was inspirational.
I asked Ben whether he’d ever thought about quitting. I mean, that was an option. He said that he had seriously considered it the first week. In fact, several had quit and driven home.
But he and his flight-mates pressed through a 4:30 a.m. wake-up every morning to run in the dark, 10-minute meals eaten at attention, grueling drills in the Alabama heat, intense studying and exams, physical team-building challenges and a mock deployment.
And after the final presentation, after throwing their hats in the air, glad-handing and clapping each other on the backs, Ben said with a big smile, “That was awesome. I’m so glad I did this!”
One feels so much better than the other. But neither Ben’s graduation from OTS nor my publisher meetings are end points. What follows unsuccess and success in life is a comma, not a period.
This isn’t my first “unsuccess.” I’ve experienced it in a tip-top job interview that went south, dismal parenting moments and a particularly humbling time when I sang and accompanied myself on the piano at a Christian Women’s Club luncheon.
Those moments have been some of the best teachers. There wouldn’t be nearly as much to celebrate in successful moments if we didn’t know fully the feeling of falling short. After unspectacular grades my first semester of law school, I completely revamped my studying. That first report card didn’t just change my work habits; it changed me — my expectations and perspective. And even as I write this I can feel the sweet elation I had when spring grades came out.
Neither unsuccess nor success are end points. They are points on a continuum that make up a whole life. Both require us to get back up the next day and keep at it. Ben will start back with more school and second-year exams. And I’m back at it with some exciting projects and new writing opportunities.
I share all this because you’ve been here from the beginning. I appreciate your encouragement and your comments. I treasure the emails I’ve received from those of you who are grieving as we have grieved and from those seeking God’s faithfulness. I appreciate you sharing the posts that have meant something to you.
I have some exciting changes coming and some fun new projects. These 12 blank sheets of paper are now taped to my bedroom wall where I’ll record notes and thoughts and ideas for the next adventure.
And unsuccess? Just one of the many commas that will be marked on a continuing line.