A Husband’s Response to “Worth in Work”

A couple of days ago, when my husband asked if he could write a post for my blog, he made me promise I would publish it. So today I somewhat sheepishly and self-consciously welcome Brad, who has written a response to my post last week about my worth being too connected to my work.

two windows2Last week Michelle wrote about her frustration with the business of being a writer–with the daily battle to gain and keep readers, to sell enough books to make a living from the work she loves. At times that  pursuit has left her emotionally exhausted and spiritually taxed. As she puts it, “I’ve mistaken my work–or really, my success at my work–as the only measure of my worth.”

I can attest to this tendency in Michelle.  She’s a number watcher in a number-watching business.  She measures success blog subscriber by blog subscriber, book sold by book sold. It’s a concrete approach that is reinforced daily by the publishing houses and agents.

My initial, impulsive reaction to Michelle’s post is to point out how far beyond writing, publishing and selling her worth goes. And of course that’s true. Even if the worst happened for her professionally, even if Oprah dedicated an hour-long television special to how people should NOT read Michelle’s work, even then she would be worthwhile beyond measure.

All I need to do to realize that fact is to imagine our family without her.  The physical household would fall apart as would the humor and the energy and the inspiration to be our best. Our boys don’t care that thousands of people have read her work. They only care that she reads with them before bed, tends to them in sickness, and laughs a contagious laugh that changes their whole day.  The homeless man down the road doesn’t care about her Amazon rank, but I’m guessing that he does care about the food Michelle hands him or the bag of quarters she offers when she sees him carrying his clothes to the laundromat.

True as all of that may be, I cannot ignore how much energy Michelle invests in her work or the fact that it does, at least in part, define her and her sense of worth. And that’s not an entirely bad thing.

In fact,  I happen to know the precise moment when I realized that all of the work that Michelle put into writing her memoir was worthwhile and revealed a great deal about her identity.

It was the afternoon of April 12th, and Michelle was doing a reading/book talk for roughly two hundred women at our church. She had forgotten something at home, so she called to ask me to bring it. When I arrived, the crowd was seated in the fellowship hall, and Michelle was reading from a particularly funny section of the book and discussing her journey toward faith.

The corridor from which I watched was empty, and I had the beautiful privilege of seeing how the crowd responded to her. At times they laughed uproariously; at other times they nodded in recognition; mostly they looked, with the bright eyes and subtle smiles of people who are thankful to be so entertained and edified.

Through the doorway I could see most of the crowd, but I could only hear Michelle. And it was the crowd that most interested me. They were the ones who demonstrated, so clearly, the worth in Michelle’s work.  I have rarely understood anything so perfectly, so purely than in that moment of realization. Whatever might become of Michelle’s memoir in terms of sales or professional recognition, it paled in comparison to the joy she brought to that group of listeners in that moment.

We can never really understand our worth or even whether our work is worthwhile, because we can never be the person to stand in the corridor. We’re too weighted down by the disparity between the perfection we envision and the reality for which we must settle.

But once in a while–no, as often as possible–we need to see through God’s eyes. They provide the ultimate corridor perspective, the ultimate vision of one who can see past our imperfections to our big-picture impact and to our boundless potential.

That is true worth.


When You Are Called Beyond Your Comfort Zone

Hildegard of Bingen

It was Day One. I sat at my desk, a typed list of 50 women at my side, my laptop open in front of me. I was ready, poised to embark on an eight-month research and writing project for a book about women in Christian history.

I glanced at the first woman on my list – Hildegard of Bingen: 1098-1179 – and paused. The twelfth century. What even happened back in the twelfth century, anyway? I wondered. Wracking my brain, I struggled to unearth deeply buried facts from my high school European history class. Was that when the Vikings lived? Or wait, maybe it was when the Crusades took place? Although I seem to recall something about a Norman invasion, too.

Turns out, I was a century off on all three accounts.

As I sat hunched over my laptop, my hands wrapped around a warm mug, doubts ping-ponged around my head.

Clearly I was not the right person for this job.

Cleary I wasn’t smart enough, historyish enough or researchy enough to write this book well.

Clearly the publisher had made a grave mistake in contracting me, the woman who didn’t know word one about history, to write a history book.

I wanted to quit, even before I’d begun.

…I’m over at Jo Ann Fore’s place today – and she’s giving away a copy of 50 Women Every Christian Should Know. Will you join me over there

Also…it’s not too late to submit your story to the #MyFaithHeroine blog post contest. Entries are due Wednesday – find out how to enter the contest (I’m giving away $25 VISA gift cards and a copy of 50 Women) by clicking here. 

Weekend One Word: New


  And a quiet reminder, friends? I’d love to hear the story of the faith heroine who has most impacted your journey. Consider entering the My Faith Heroine contest. The deadline for entries is October 22 — details here.  Sign up to receive posts by email {and get 3 free chapters from my forthcoming book, […]

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When You Mistake Your Work for Your Worth


When I  tell her in an email that it feels like I’ve got a cinder block sitting square on my chest, that it’s felt this way since I heard The Bad News three days before, she answers back in a flash. Cinder-block-chest calls for radical self-care, she says. What are you doing to take good […]

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For When You Fail to Love Well {or, More Accurately, When You Fail to Love At All}


As a kid I was always a little afraid of the Ten Commandments. They seemed so grave, so foreboding, so be-all-and-end-all. In my mind I imagined the Ten Commandments to look a bit like tombstones, carved into great slabs of granite, hanging ominously over my head and haunting me with the threat of eternal damnation […]

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Why You Can Believe the Wilderness is a Place of Wild Possibility


A couple of weeks ago the Nebraska Synod bishop preached at my church, and toward the beginning of his sermon on the Book of Numbers, he said something that immediately caught my attention. In fact, one second after he said it, I grabbed a pen and jotted it onto my bulletin, and then I leaned over and […]

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Weekend One Word: Strength


And a quiet reminder, friends? I’d love to hear your story of the woman who has most influenced your faith journey. Would you consider blogging about her and entering your story into the #MyFaithHeroine contest? Entries must be submitted by October 22 – details here.  Sign up to receive posts by email {and get 3 free […]

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Joy in Brokenness {and a giveaway of Playdates with God}


It’s book release season, can you tell? Of all the books I’ve read this summer and fall (and believe me, I’ve read a lot!), the one featured here today, Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grownup World, is one of my very favorites. I read this book several months ago, when the author, my […]

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When Your Life Feels Small and Ordinary

Therese of Liseux

The sun hangs low, bathing the path and the tall grass golden. A rare stillness drapes the rolling land, interrupted by a single bird call, an unfamiliar one. I crane for a glimpse of feathers amid burnished leaves as my dog strains the leash taut. I am walking the dog, something I’ve done nearly every […]

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What To Do When Your Kids Don’t Believe (Right Now)

Rowan in water

If you are popping in from the lovely Ann Voskamp’s place, welcome! I’m so glad you are visiting, and I hope you find a bit to enjoy around these parts. I am smiling at the opportunity to meet some new friends today, so feel free to say hello in the comments! “I think I’m in […]

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