When the Work Doesn’t Get Easier

writing series header Final

Last week, I mentioned the anxiety that plagued me during my early years as a newspaper reporter in Northwest Arkansas.

I often dreaded going to work for fear of discovering I had made a mistake in a story or missed something that had happened the day before.

I disliked covering live events. What if I didn’t take notes fast enough or get the quotes right? What if I completely overlooked the main point?

It also was hard for me to write under the pressure of daily deadlines. Although it got easier as the years went on, I never really felt comfortable doing it.

life-preserver

It wasn’t all bad, of course. I learned a great deal. I loved seeing my name in print (probably more than I should have). And I had coworkers who became good friends.

But for years after moving on to other positions, you know what I mostly remembered from my newspaper days? The bad feelings.

For some reason, anxiety and fear colored my experience far more than my actual accomplishments. In fact, it has only been recently that I have begun to frame that season in my life by what I actually did, rather than by how I felt about it.

I reported on the Fortune 500 companies in the area (most specifically Wal-Mart Stores Inc.). I drove all over Northwest Arkansas, touring factories and interviewing entrepreneurs and executives. I flew in an airplane for the first time in my life when I had to cover an awards dinner in Little Rock.

I wrote dozens of articles about all sorts of business-related topics—healthcare, retail, real estate, banking, construction, small business development—you name it, I probably wrote a story about it at some point.

Now, almost two decades later, I’m wondering. Why did I focus all those years on how I felt, rather than on what I did? Was it sin? The lies of the enemy? My own body chemicals betraying me? Deeply ingrained ways of responding? Some other issue that might require the excavation skills of a trained counselor or therapist?

And why did it take so long for me to break free from all that?

These are not questions I have ever pondered before. But, as is often the case when you start writing or thinking deeply a topic, related issues arise that you may not have been expecting.

At this point, I have no definitive answers. Perhaps I never will. But I do know this.

The newspaper business was a training ground for me. I needed to learn how to do those things I dreaded so much. And I did do them, some quite well.

But there’s more. I have a musty box in my basement storage room that contains a stack of letters and cards, written to me by people I interviewed. Small business owners, many of them, who appreciated the attention their little slice of the economy was receiving in the newspaper.

It wasn’t just that they enjoyed the attention, though. It was that the coverage actually brought them business. It actually helped them.

I actually helped them.

No, I wasn’t curing cancer or teaching underprivileged children to read. But in some small way, the work I did back then was beneficial to someone else’s livelihood.

I’m not rewriting history here; I’m gaining a new perspective.

And here’s what I’m realizing. Sometimes, the work we do is hard. It requires perseverance and grit and determination. Sometimes it never gets easier. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important and necessary. It doesn’t mean we aren’t there for a reason. It doesn’t mean we aren’t learning lessons and stretching in ways that will benefit us—and others—in the long run.

Especially others, I’m finding. It’s natural to think about at how hard something is for me. But just this week, I started wondering. What if our work—our writing, our serving, our designing, our teaching, our managing, our administrating—is primarily for the benefit of someone else, someone else who needs us to do what we are equipped to do? What then?

If I let my fears hold me back from what I want to do—or perhaps from fully accepting or embracing what I am doing—I’m not just hampering myself. I’m very possibly holding someone else back too—someone who needs my message, my presence, my heart, my helping hands, my story.

It’s a sobering truth, but also quite empowering.

As Ann Voskamp wrote recently, “We only get one life here. It’s a crazy, beautiful, liberating thing to realize: We’re not here to help ourselves to more—we’re here to help others to real life.”

How about you? What hard thing have you done or experienced that was directly for the benefit of someone else, even if you didn’t realize it at the time?

Lois Flowers

Note: This is the third post in my “Faith, Fear & The Life of a Writer” series. If you missed an earlier installment, you can catch up here and here. And please be sure to check back next week, when I’ll share the writing feedback that changed my life.

Also: I’m linking up this week with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Storms at #HeartEncouragementThursday, Crystal Twaddell at FreshMarketFriday and Dawn Klinge at Grace & Truth.



30 Responses to When the Work Doesn’t Get Easier

  1. Carlie says:

    Lois, I love how you used your experience to encourage us to work through our fears and keep going when the work doesn’t get easier; and to consider how we may benefit others. Great post! It’s always such a pleasure visiting your site.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you so much, Carlie! Isn’t it cool how experience–good or bad–is a gift that keeps on giving when we can share it with others? I hope you are having a good week. 🙂

  2. Mandy Hughes says:

    Fantastic post, Lois! Having a new perspective can make all the difference. I am happy you are seeing your doings in a different light and feeling satisfied in the way you helped others. Let not fear keep us from doing the very thing God has called us to do.
    Your neighbor here at Heart Encouragement,
    Mandy

  3. Thanks for sharing such an edifying post!

    There are times I think about quitting blogging, but then there is always this thought from the Holy Spirit saying, “What if the blog isn’t about you, but about others who read it.” And then I feel encouraged to keep on keeping on.

    Blessings.

  4. Thank you for this great encouragement for writers! You offer the perspective of reflection. Instead of focusing on my feelings, it is better to focus on what I’m doing! Your #coffeeforyourheart neighbor.

  5. Lisa notes says:

    I totally agree with you, Lois: “If I let my fears hold me back from what I want to do—or perhaps from fully accepting or embracing what I am doing—I’m not just hampering myself. I’m very possibly holding someone else back too.” Very profound insight! Thanks for sharing your story. It’s helpful.

  6. This is no shock – but I love your words today. I think as writers – bloggers particularly – we don’t often see the fruit of our labor. We can get caught up on likes, shares, comments and we can assume that when we don’t get them, our effort is a waste. But I agree so much that it’s the unseen worth in our work that matters. The one heart that finds encouragement, or strength, or difference – even if we never hear from them. That matters. We matter. I need to remember that when I forget. 😉

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you so much, Tiffany. Speaking of getting caught up in likes and comments, I wonder if writers and bloggers are more likely than other people to have words of affirmation as their primary love language. That’s true for me, and I always have to be on guard not to let that become an unhealthy need. It’s so true what you said: “It’s the unseen worth in our work that matters.” 🙂

  7. I have a part time job serving lunch at a school and then I come home to my girls. It is a time where I don’t feel like I accomplish much, but things always look different in hindsight!
    Love your post and hearing about your job!

  8. Debby says:

    I have a box like that too, Lois. It’s filled with cards, scraps of notes with handwriting difficult to read but enough to know we made a difference in someone’s day. Our church founder could only afford to send a one word encouragement by telegraph to the local ministers and he chose the word “Others”. You’ve chosen that mission too.
    P.S. My first plane flight was in a small private plane out of Fayetteville, AR where we lived at the time. Loved that town.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Debby, it’s a small world, isn’t it? 🙂 I can’t remember if we flew out of Fayetteville or Bentonville when I took that first flight … it’s been too long ago! It’s nice to know other people collect words of affirmation too. 🙂 You’re right … it’s nice to look back at them and realize something we did made a difference to someone else! Thanks for your words here … they have made a difference to me this week!

  9. Linda Stoll says:

    Dear Lois, you’ve asked a whole lot of questions that deserve a good pondering. I love that.

    I’m thinking there’s a good balance in there somewhere in showing both our actions and our feelings the respect they deserve. Neglecting the one while emphasizing the other leaves us feeling a bit off kilter.

    In doing sorting through all the facets of who we are, we come to a healthier, saner place where we’re better able to serve those around us because we’re filled with peace and joy and not trying to get our neediness or confusion met by others.

    Thanks for these thought-provoking paragraphs today, friend …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Linda, I’ve read your third paragraph several times … what a wonderful observation! The sorting process happens, followed by healing, followed by peace and joy and the ability to serve more selflessly. And the freedom that comes when we don’t have to get our neediness or confusion met by others? I’m not totally there yet, but moving closer. I’m so glad you shared these insights, my friend!

  10. Somer says:

    I totally understand what you’re saying about the perspective we have on a season of our life. We do tend to view periods and passages of time like that with the feelings associated with them not necessarily the facts that happened. Life is very complicated and sometimes in bad seasons or even in seasons when we did not function the best and made wrong choices there were still good things that happened. It wasn’t all bad. It usually never is. It really does show you that feelings do you play such an Intergal part in our memories. And that we can’t always trust them they mislead us about the facts.
    On the flipside of that it makes me think with my family my kids my husband and my friends that I need to be careful to give them feelings of love, care, concern, and compassion because that’s what they will most remember not the individual memories.
    It does sound like that season of your life was very productive and that’s a wonderful life lesson to go back and reflect on all of the positive and try to retrace those memories in your mind and alter your feelings associated to them. I really enjoyed your post from last week and this one as well.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Somer, I never thought about connecting this to our relationships with friends and family members, but that’s a great point. Like you, I need to be careful about the feelings I give my loved ones because you’re right … they will remember those more than actual events or experiences. Thank you for your kind words … I’m so glad you offered your perspective here this week! 🙂

  11. Lois,
    I’m just savoring these glimpses into your journey as a writer! When it seems that so many around us are doing BIG things for others and for God, we wonder what we’re really doing here. But whoever we touch with our daily lives is something eternal, and I have a feeling sometimes we have it all backwards.

    I can relate to what you wrote about how your feelings about certain seasons frame your perspective of them. I’ve often wondered that myself, but striking a balance isn’t all that easy. I’m so glad that God takes what we do — what little we offer up to him — and multiply it in ways we’ve never dreamed to help others and draw us closer to himself! xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m glad for that too, Valerie. And those two last two things you mentioned–helping others and drawing closer to God–are really what life is all about, aren’t they? I agree … it’s so hard not to compare ourselves with all the people doing all the big stuff, but in the end, it really does come down to each one of us and our relationships–with God and with the people we’ve been blessed to influence along the way. I appreciate your words here … they are prompting further thought on my part, and also prayers for contentment! 🙂

  12. Lesley says:

    This is thought-provoking. It is good to look back and see situations from a different perspective sometimes. Your post brings to mind a situation from a couple of years ago that I have just looked back on as being hard, but when I stop to think I can see how God was using it to teach me a lot and also to bless others. It is encouraging to know that he can use us to bless others even in the midst of situations that we find challenging.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I totally agree, Lesley. The gift of God-guided retrospect is such a blessing, isn’t it? I don’t know if it’s there all along, or if He gives us glimpses when He deems the time is right. Either way, like you, I’m so thankful for new perspectives. 🙂

  13. Lois, I love the questions you’re asking yourself. God’s been talking with me about reframing my perspective of my past, too.

    As He showed me that my biggest tormentor in elementary school came from a single-parent home, and her life was probably pretty hard, it’s helping me look beyond all the ways she wounded me. Slowly, I’m beginning to have more compassion for her. And, the bonus is, when one of my boys hurls hateful words at me because they’re angry, I’m beginning to see beyond the initial hurt they intend to inflict into why they are saying what they are. I don’t know if this makes sense. 🙂

    Those questions….I think I need to “borrow” them for myself, if that’s okay with you.

    Beautiful post, my friend.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It absolutely makes sense, Jeanne. I’m guessing that many people are never able to move past the hurt that was inflicted on them to see the hurt that motivates someone else. What a blessing that God is revealing to you ways that you can do that. And yes, please borrow all the questions you like. In fact, I’ll just go ahead and give them to you! 🙂

  14. Trudy says:

    I’m sure you were used to bless many, Lois. Then and now. 🙂 I love how you share the questions you ask yourself to delve deeper. It reminds me how we need to do that sometimes to gain a better perspective. This part is especially encouraging to me – “If I let my fears hold me back from what I want to do—or perhaps from fully accepting or embracing what I am doing—I’m not just hampering myself. I’m very possibly holding someone else back too—someone who needs my message, my presence, my heart, my helping hands, my story.” Thank you for inspiring me. It’s very hard for me to write vulnerably, so thank you for the reminder that God can be helping someone through it, whether or not we hear from them. Blessings and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I really appreciate your writing, Trudy. It never sounds forced, and it’s always gentle. I’m so glad you don’t let the fact that it is difficult keep you from doing it … I know it is a blessing to many, including me. 🙂

  15. Easy and worthwhile aren’t the same thing. Thanks for making the point so clearly! I’m sure many people were blessed by your perseverance in what God led you to at the time. He lets nothing go to waste!

    This post made me think of when my husband and I were resident innkeepers- it was a simple, often unglamorous job. Hard work. But we also still have memories in a box of thank yous, because through the hard work we were blessed to serve others!

    Thanks for sharing and setting a vulnerable example of this process!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Resident innkeepers … how fun was that?! I’m so glad you kept your thank-yous too … it’s nice to have tangible evidence that you made a difference in someone’s life, isn’t it? And this: “He lets nothing go to waste.” So true, and so comforting! Thank you for your continued encouragement with this series, Bethany!

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