“How do you do it?”
This is one of the most frequent
questions I hear as a writer who also works nearly full time as a
registered nurse. And the answer is: I don’t.
My baseboards are filthy. Balls
of fur from our three golden retrievers roll like tumbleweeds beneath
furniture. I don’t get out much, unless it’s with my husband/three
teenage sons. I don’t volunteer like I wish I could. I am absent more
than present at my women’s Bible study group. And on top of that, I
become exceptionally crabby whenever I’m stuck on a plot point.
I am what you might call an
unconventional writer. I don’t write the recommended 1500-plus words a
day. I don’t even write every day, especially when I work a
thirteen-hour shift at the hospital. And I think if a lot of today’s
writers were truly honest, they’d confess they don’t get their word
counts in every day, either.
For a long time I felt super
guilty about not doing more in more areas of my life. Only recently
have I accepted the fact that writing is hard, and writing for
publication requires significant sacrifices. Even if I did not have a
day job, this would still be true. However, the ability (with the help
of amazing editors) to write stories is something I take seriously as a
gift and, at times, a ministry. As such, I am learning to prioritize
and re-prioritize so that I can be the best steward of writing that I
can be, while at the same time keeping God and my family first, and
nurturing my profession as a registered nurse. To accomplish this, I
try to keep these three things in mind:
1) Inadequacy is not necessarily
negative, because it reminds me to surrender my tasks and schedules to
God, and that in my weakness He is strong. As the saying goes “The One
who has called me to it will see me through it.” God gave this
assurance to Moses in Exodus when he questioned his ability to lead and
speak for the Israelites: “Moses raised another objection to GOD . . .
‘I don’t talk well.. . . I stutter and stammer.’ God said, ‘And who do
you think made [your] mouth?. . . Isn’t it I, GOD? Get going. I’ll be
right there with you’” (Exod. 4:10–12 MSG).
2) Our God is a God of loaves
and fishes. He is pleased with whatever small brown bag I offer,
because not only is He enough, He is and can do infinitely more than I
could ask or imagine. Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now all glory to God, who
is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish
infinitely more than we might ask or think” (NLT).
3) God is the great Creator, and
as humans made in His image, we are creators too —albeit inferior. Our
flimsy efforts matter to God, though. Paul knew this when he wrote
“When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use
lofty words and impressive wisdom...I came to you in weakness—timid and
trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than
using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the
Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in
the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:1–5 NLT).
In my second novel, Then
Sings My Soul, the main characters are both reaching the ends
of themselves, Jakob in health because of his increasing dementia, and
Nel in spirit as a daughter struggling to care for her deteriorating
father. Both are searching for meaning in their inadequacies, in the
places in their lives they feel like failures, and in the art they
Finding balance in life is a
battle, and we can’t always do everything we want to do. Leaving the
pressure, whether societal or self-inflicted, to “do it all” at the
foot of the cross can help. Whether a nurse by day and an author by
night, a businessman by day and a father at night, a teacher by day and
a mom by night, we can accomplish what we need to if we keep our eyes
fixed on Him.