Motherhood, Creative Work, & When You’re Not Sure if You’re Getting it Right…

img_0103They were supposed to come over for some chicken salad and swimming. You know, fun, casual, summer-Friday-type-stuff.

Instead we wound up lingering on the porch despite the 100 degree heat, asking each other general questions about what’s new, when we were all equally caught off guard by the tears that immediately started rolling down my face.

I laughed, a little embarrassed as I brushed away the freshest layer of wetness from my cheeks. Then I made a joke about how it was sweat and definitely *not* tears and shook my fist dramatically at the sweltering Oregon sun.

They laughed, but continued to sit comfortably with me, neither of them moving to change the subject or rushing me to explain my sudden display of emotion. They both know I’m a blurter and it’s only a matter of time until it all comes tumbling out anyway.

“I’m just not sure if I’m doing it right.

You know?

Any of it!

The mothering, the writing, the prioritizing, the expectations I’m setting for myself, my Yeses, my Nos, or the way I’m trying to hold them together loosely all at once…”

They waited. There was more. Because of course there was.

“I feel like I’m on this precipice, and my toes are hanging off the edge… and I don’t know whether I’m supposed to dive off or if I’m supposed to grip the edge harder.”

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Yes I know. It all sounds a bit melodramatic. But I can’t help it. You see, I’m neck-deep in a season of flux. Of transition. Of being in the middle. I feel one season slipping away, and another season not yet within my reach, and I’m not at all sure how to bravely inhabit the place I’m in right now.

My littles are becoming bigs and my role as their mother is shifting so quickly that I can hardly keep my bearings. I miss the simpler days scheduled around nap times, when the hardest thing I had to do was keep the 1-year-old out of the toilet and the 3-year-old out of my makeup. (Said with zero sarcasm, because we all know how hard that really is).

Meanwhile, my writing is changing from a hobby that I secretly played at, to a calling I’m taking seriously and a vocation I’m stepping into. Where I used to give myself free rein to play, to embrace my amateurism, and to throw my love of words around like confetti at a parade, I now tend to give myself expectations, timelines, and heaps of pressure to get it right. I’m still learning how to weave together that amateurish love of writing with the narrative that serves you as the reader. There’s a crossover, I think. There has to be. Because I feel a deep resonance when I write from that place. I hope you feel it too.

All my roles are shifting, and while that’s exciting, I worry a lot about whether I’m getting it right here in the transition. The pause between two notes. The split second of awareness between what’s behind and what’s ahead.

I think a big part of me yearns for those simpler mothering and writing days- when the stakes didn’t always feel so high. But there’s this whole other part of me that also yearns to up the ante and go all in. Get to the next thing.

I guess I’m still learning how to be “all in” as a mom and be “all in” as a writer at the same time. 

Because even though I’m on a creative path that feels right and rings true, even though there’s a deep resonance with this work that makes it difficult in all the best ways, I’m still constantly tripping myself up with hesitation. Fear of making a wrong step.

I’m caught between wanting to freeze time so I can enjoy these fun, independent, capable kids who no longer fit on my lap, and wanting to hurry up so I can grow my own dreams right along with them.

I think that’s why I was crying on my porch about the precipice, and wondering whether or not I’m doing this part right.

///

Maybe you’re wondering too.

Maybe you’re here, in the middle of that thrilling and scary place, where you feel yourself voyaging between seasons of motherhood, of creativity, or of work, when all the lines are constantly moving and you have no clue how to stay inside them.

Or maybe you’re in that equally thrilling and scary place where, in the middle of all of that,☝🏼your dreams have come bubbling to the surface of your heart, and you can’t ignore them, but maybe you aren’t sure what to do with them either.

How does it all fit together?

How do we live this part well?

No seriously, I’m asking.

How?

Because so far I’ve only got one answer:

Rest.

Rest is the only way I know how to simultaneously recover from what’s finished and to prepare for what’s ahead.

As a family, we’re coming off an extremely busy season of school, sports, house-flipping, and projects. Personally, I’m coming off of an intense season of book proposal writing as well. It’s finally done now, (ALL THE PRAISE HANDS)… But, I also know it still needs some polishing.

So I have no idea if it’s right or wrong, but this summer I’m saying yes to precisely two things:

  1. Finding an agent and making my proposal the best that it can be.
  2. Soaking up moments with my family this summer through rest.

You may have noticed that things have been a little quiet here on the blog this summer. That’s because I know I can’t serve you well with my words, unless I carve out time to rest and be inspired first. So we’re pausing to eat popsicles in the pool with the kids, and play boggle and laugh at our weird dogs by the campfire. I’m jotting down notes and ideas for letters to you and I’m letting them percolate before I rush to my keyboard.

Don’t worry, this isn’t some kind of Dear John letter where I tell you I’m done blogging, “but there’s a casserole it the fridge and you’ll be fine without me.”

No, I’ll still be here, writing to you. I couldn’t quit you if I tried.

This is just me, inviting you into this space, and hoping we can be honest with each other about how we’re not sure if we’re getting any of it right.

It’s me saying I’ll be here, but we may not do any deep dives this summer.

Is that okay?

We may just keep it light and fun and talk about our Favorite Things (like a flip flop with actual arch support, because at 35, these are the things I am forced to investigate for us. Don’t worry, I got you, boo) Or like what to do for fun on a date night, or what happened on the Road Trip this summer… because let me tell you, this year was something extra.

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But before I go, I have to tell you about this thing that Sarah Bessey said last week. I came across it while I was writing this very piece about rest, and it was so heart-stoppingly simple and profound that I have to share it with you. She was talking about the power of faithfulness,  of staying, of not giving up on our creative work.

She said, “Cultivate joy and rest and renewal as an act of resistance.”

I can’t stop thinking about that last part.

An act of resistance.

Maybe the only way to push back against the questions, the pressure, the scary unknown stretched out before us… maybe it’s rest. Maybe it’s getting low and getting quiet and trusting God to lead us while we find joy in this brief moment on the precipice.

 

*this post was sent from my computer and my heart*

10 thoughts on “Motherhood, Creative Work, & When You’re Not Sure if You’re Getting it Right…

  1. Robin

    1. I feel you. So much. I mean, I’m still in “stay out of the toilet” land and nowhere NEAR book proposals, but the feeling that it’s ALL MAYBE WRONG??? Uh. Yeah.

    2. Rest as an act of resistance? HELL YES. I believe you just honed in on THE ONLY way (short of a coma) to slow me down. If I’m resting out of rebellion, I can totally do it.

  2. Lindsay

    Thank you for this, Amber. I’ve been grappling with many of the same questions you raise here, living in the tension between doing meaningful work and being the best mother I can be for awhile now. Then this morning I stumbled upon your post and I can’t help but believe that wasn’t by coincidence. Thank you for the perspective and for sharing your heart. People often tell me that if I’m making a difference to even just ONE PERSON, I’m doing something right. I offer that same encouragement to you today, because your words certainly made a difference to me.

  3. Carol Horton

    Amber,

    When I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, habit two really changed my life. Begin With the End in Mind. You make decisions on what to do based on the end result you want.

    Thing is, the way I saw it, my goal was to live a long, happy, loving, productive life. The “end” was me on my death bed looking back. When you look at your life and wonder “am I doing it right?”, looking from this perspective will give you a good idea of what the answer is.

    Will you be ok with leaving this world someday having taken a transitional summer off to recharge and spend some quality family time? I highly doubt it. You’ll never regret taking the time to go all in as a mom, to spend time loving fully, being silly, experiencing the joy of your children while they’re still children.

    Then you get the bonus of being fully recharged to go all in on your writing. You will be filled with what God intended our experience here to be: deep love, joy, gratitude, lightheartedness, and bliss. You’ll want to share this experience with everyone. That will give your readers pause; you just gave them permission to step off the carousel and immerse themselves in their own lives again.

    The world soon becomes a better place!

    “Am I doing it right?” Absolutely! “How do we do this part well?” You’re off to a great start. I can say this with confidence because I’m much closer to the end than you are. One thing I’ve learned in my 60 years is that taking time for love, joy, fun and strengthening the relationships that sustain you is never the wrong answer.

  4. Julia Throm

    I’m 65 and have gone thru many changing seasons. The kids are all grown, my working career has down sized from teacher to sub and now I am primary care giver for my 87 year old mother. Your words are wise ones, that I am sure you will need to go back and read to remind yourself many times. I needed reminded today 😉

  5. Jenn Tanaka

    YES! I’m so right there. Not knowing how to do what we are doing mixed in with the expectation to get it right because heaven forbid we get it wrong! EVERYTHING this summer is speaking to me of REST. And seriously it’s my busiest summer yet. Thank you for reminding me to RESIST.

  6. Dorina

    I am standing right there in the middle. My focus this summer is also writing the book and being present in a state of rest with my people. So counter-cultural we might as well call it resistance. 😉 Thanks for your vulnerable sharing. I’m nodding yes and amen!

  7. Gloryanna

    THIS IS SO GOOD! And I totally totally relate! I think you hit on something with rest and being purposeful with our no’s and yes’s. I’m learning the serious benefit with rest, and I mean purposeful rest in the Lord. Loved this, Amber. Keep being in the middle–I’m right there with yah!

  8. Heather L.

    Thanks! This was great! I’m in the same transition with my kids and needing to find work and wanting to write (no book proposals yet). I want to know what’s next but I don’t want to rush these last few years with my kids.

  9. Jody Collins

    Oh, Amber….this is so good. Particularly this line, “Rest is the only way I know how to simultaneously recover from what’s finished and to prepare for what’s ahead.”
    I find it increasingly hard to force myself to sit even for 5 minutes with my hands raised in the air , saying, “Jesus, speak to me. Renew me,” and then waiting.
    But it’s the only way I can be re-fueled.

    God will bring the next right step for you; I am confident of that.

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