For the Days You Don't Feel Like an Award Winner

{It’s easy to dwell on the successes and mountaintops of the “entrepreneurial-minded”. But today I want to share about my closed doors and disappointments and days I haven't really felt like an award winner. This was a difficult post for me to write, and my biggest worry is that readers will assume I'm seeking quick flattery. Do me a solid and trust that that's not the case. This week's series: #LetTheLightIn} 

{It’s easy to dwell on the successes and mountaintops of the “entrepreneurial-minded”. But today I want to share about my closed doors and disappointments and days I haven't really felt like an award winner. This was a difficult post for me to write, and my biggest worry is that readers will assume I'm seeking quick flattery. Do me a solid and trust that that's not the case. This week's series: #LetTheLightIn} 

This past summer I wrote half of a book.

My husband was gracious enough to spend his days off from teaching to watch our kids so that I could park myself in quiet spaces around our city and write. It was glorious, it was rejuvenating, and it was amazing the words I could crank out when my writing hours expanded beyond 7-9 pm.

But here’s the thing: unless you are a New York Times Bestseller, or unless you have a bomb social media platform, or unless your first book called Here Goes Nothing far exceeds everyone’s expectations in sales – there is no guarantee that the second book you wrote half of will receive a contract. Publishing houses gotta pay da bills, and each book they take on is a very strategic decision. 

Going through the publishing process with a prestigious company the first time around only confirmed that I am a tiny fish in an extremely large ocean of talented people. But - neither naively nor pessimistically - I decided to try for a second book contract anyway.

And I was told no.

Rewind a few weeks prior.

I received a call from Dordt College telling me I was the winner of their first ever Horizon Award. The award is intended to identify an "alumni who is community-minded and entrepreneurial." My Alma mater was recognizing me for my blog writing, my journey living overseas and in the inner city, and my book about my attempts to love my neighbor. 

After the door to publishing a second title was closed, I wondered what to do about this award I was supposed to receive in a couple months. Should I call back and tell them they picked the wrong alumni? Sure, there was a book out in the world with my name on it, but it hadn’t met its hopes and dreams in its first quarter of life. I wasn't exactly feeling "successful in my field."

Out of my embarrassment and my dislike for making phone calls, I decided to keep my entrepreneurial shortcomings to myself. 

Months later, emails began gracing my inbox with information about the event at which I would accept my award. One email quoted the form I filled out after being nominated, a form I filled out before my first book was ever published: “As a Christian in the writing world, my challenge is to encourage others without putting myself on a pedestal. My job is to remember that success means speaking the truth in love, not selling enough copies of the book so that we can afford Disney World.”

Dang it.

Even though I didn’t have the guts to call and share what had been going on behind the scenes of my own writing world, I knew I needed to have the guts to share in my acceptance speech.

Especially when I was specifically asked to spend eight minutes talking about my professional journey. So I did.

I talked about moving from Guatemala to Chicago to Milwaukee, about my professional journey from teaching to motherhood to writing. I talked about the spiritual battle of putting my own words in the public eye; I talked about that darn quote about book sales that Dordt kept repeating, adding sarcastically, “Ya know, Lord, this book didn’t have to get us to Disney World, but maybe a little farther south than Gary, Indiana would have been nice.”

I ended my speech referencing Tauren Well’s song, “Hills and Valleys” - a song I played on repeat while writing this past summer:

I’m standing here a true entrepreneur – having experienced the ups and downs of navigating my passions through the business world, not even sure if the opportunity to write a second published book will arise. But I’m also standing here knowing that for some reason God opened the door for my book to be published, and that He has used it to open other doors I didn’t even know I wanted to walk through. And I’m standing here just so thankful to be able to look back and clearly see God’s faithfulness through all of our hills and valleys as a family.

{Credit: Dordt College}

{Credit: Dordt College}

And the truth is, dear Reader Friend, I’ve been wondering when to share all of this with you.

I wrote a vague Facebook post in July about God closing doors and opening windows. I shared heavily on Instagram about spending four days on Dordt’s campus and receiving the Horizon Award in October. I’ve told these specific details to everyone who has walked up to me in person and asked, “So how are book sales going?” Or, “When is book two coming out?”

But I knew if I talked about this on the Internet too soon, my words would be too shortsighted, too emotionally driven, too whiny, too ready to blame others or myself; too wrapped up in this summer’s identity crisis. I wanted to write this blog post from a place I could clearly and confidently say:

That closed door stung, but I am not seeking flattery to make me feel better.

My identity is not in what I do, but in Whose I am.

The Lord has proven Himself trustworthy over and over in my life, and I will surrender this to Him too.

{Nothing is better than friends who know everything about you and still don't burn the "world famous author" banner they made when you came to visit and speak.}

{Nothing is better than friends who know everything about you and still don't burn the "world famous author" banner they made when you came to visit and speak.}

This past weekend, I spoke to over fifty high school students about fear, reminding them that letting our fears fester in the darkness gives them power over our lives.

Which is how I knew it was time to write this post – not because I owe it to the Internet, but because personally coming to grips with this hasn't erased the fears I've harbored about it coming to light publicly:

What if people assume “low sales” means "unimportant message" or "all-around crappy book"?

What if people feel like their Golden Reformed Child is actually kind of a loser?

What if people learn this about me and suddenly lose interest in what I have to say as a writer and a speaker?

And I don't want to be enslaved to those fears any longer.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” {Romans 8:15}

That day I was told "no," I sat on a barstool at my parent's house and asked my dad if he had ever felt like a failure in his business ventures.

He said, "Yeah, definitely. I felt bad about it for a couple of days. And then I got up and tried again." And so here I am. Feeling metaphorically naked in every way, yet still head over heels with forming words into sentences, still attempting to love my neighbors. Still praying my work will be a spotlight on Christ instead of myself.

But I bet we all have days when we don't feel like award winners - more like failures or phonies. 

And maybe those are the days we wake up and refocus our hearts on accepting the Lord's plans over our own. Maybe those are the days we bring Christ's light to our fears that are trying to discourage us into despair or apathy. Maybe those are the days we remember that no matter our circumstances, we can still choose to follow Christ and love His image-bearers.

Maybe those are the days we remember God loves us so deeply - and that He loved us so long before we were ever award winners. 

“On the mountains, let’s bow our lives to the One who set us there. And in the valleys, let’s lift our eyes to the One who sees us there.”

 

Grace and Peace,

Kendra