The Book I’m Not Writing

June 13, 2014


Even as I type that out it sounds as if I’m in complete control. That I’m turning down the book deal of the century, forgoing my east-coast interview travels, in leu of a higher purpose. However you want to spin it, it sounds better if it’s put on my terms. Wrapped up tidy and set on a shelf.

Only it’s not.

I began writing the story of our large family (14 children, two parents) last year and it was so well received that I took the suggestion of many to write a full fledged book. Because I’m an off-the-charts-perfectionist in some areas and I don’t believe in doing anything important halfway, I perched glasses on my face, hung around the library a lot more, and planned my 2014 to revolve around penning this memoir. Steven and I decided I would take a year off of my paying jobs, we would move back to the east coast, I would travel New England to conduct my interviews, continue to live simply and minimally in our SC house, and maybe have a baby towards the end of the year. I didn’t seek out a publisher or pitch my story. I wanted to present my blood-sweat-and-tear-stained manuscript to a publisher written the way I wanted it to be written, on my terms. 

I set up my first interview, packed my voice recorders, and traveled with the kids to a little farm in Missouri back in February. It was all very poetic and just as I had imagined a book writing journey goes, minus the morning sickness and the fact I was parenting alone. But I did wear my glasses. We moved back to the east coast, as planned, and Steven took a job in Atlanta, GA (sort of planned). I traded morning sickness for pitch forks and paint brushes as we tried to get this SC house on the market, pep talking my way through the entire process. I told myself the book would still happen…I’m strong…a fighter for my dreams…I might have even gone so far as to tell myself I was carrying the torch for every mother out there who still wanted to accomplish something big while wiping up accidents in the bathroom. I’m a huge proponent of positive thinking, but sometimes I think I mask the truth God is trying to get ahold of me with while I’m Polyannying myself in the shower.

Deep down, life was shifting.

A quick browse on Pinterest and you’ll see a plethora of quotes about living your dreams and tackling your goals – in all their annoying glory. The stage is set to look as if it’s all up to us, we just need to work hard and make it happen in a pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps sort of way. For a society trying to get away from black and white, we embrace it in convenient places. Eating up the quotes as we go.

Now I realize I’m about to enter my third trimester, I found a disgusting palmetto bug minutes ago on our kitchen counter, and I may have had one too many iced lattes today, but humor me for a moment: glamorizing the struggle and the conquer is our American version of heroism. At its’ finest. And it can be misleading. For what do we do with the hikes that end two miles before the peak? How do we find peace with stories that never get written? Are their goals and dreams that should never be conquered, never be realized?

That all sounds very un-american-dreamish, no?

I had a completely different post in mind than the one I’m currently writing. I was going to complain and tell you all what a hard year it’s been, how I’ve taken up my cross daily and made sacrifices to pursue my book writing dreams.How I could write this book, but circumstances out of my control tell me I should not be the one writing it. But it all sounded way too much like Pinterest quotes, and not enough like real life, that I threw up before I even typed it.

The truth is, It’s easier to take control of our own destiny, through sheer grit and determination, than to leave it up to a God you can’t see with an unknown outcome. It’s our terms. Me, myself, and I. And we celebrate that version of control with pins all over Pinterest. But sometimes, I think we black and white a very gray thing. Sometimes, we try to make things work even after a few months into “the plan” and we’re getting subtle messages from God to give up. Lose control. Stop trying to bargain. Sometimes we blame other people, however warranted, to lessen the blow of dreams going up in smoke. And sometimes, we just plain wrestle and cry with clenched fists until we’re exhausted and can’t fight anymore. Not the celebrated fight of a foot plodding in front of the other, but the humble lift of our feet off the ground completely and the jumping into the haven of Jesus’ arms.

And that’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when you’ve dedicated your year to writing a book that will not see the light of day.

It’s unglamorous. Unromantic. And there are no heroics involved. No book to bring to the publisher and nothing to add to our Linkedin profile when it’s all said and done.  Just us sitting on the lap of Jesus with more battle wounds, scars, and lessons learned. A little bit richer, a little bit refined.

There is a book in me to be written, I do feel that. It won’t be the original book I planned on writing, and it won’t be in the timing I had hoped, but it’ll be done when it’s supposed to be done. And I’m relieved and sad all at the same time to finally be typing that out.

Life moves on.

(That’s probably on Pinterest somewhere too. 😉 )

Image Via


  • Reply Brooke of Colorful Chaos June 13, 2014 at 7:52 am

    I’m so encouraged by your blog. I love that it’s beautiful and well put together, but it’s also real and at times very raw. This was a fantastic post. I hope sharing these real feelings with us have helped you to feel better. They’ve blessed me!

    • Reply Amanda June 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      I hate to sound so cliche as to ditto instead of writing my own comment. But seriously, ditto.

  • Reply Marilyn Teuscher June 13, 2014 at 8:11 am

    Thank you Mary Beth, that was a humbling and touching post. I was blessed by it. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Reply kallahrachel June 13, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Mary Beth – I feel self conscious commenting because I haven’t been following your blog for too long… But this brave post blessed me so much. My heart leaped in recognition of truth… Quiet, inconvenient, unglamorous, life-changing, peace-making, soulstirring truth.
    Thank you for putting into words something we young Americans don’t hear today.
    Have you read Outliers? It gives a secular perspective on exactly what you’re talking about… Sheds light on how misleading our American ideal of success is, and what really makes up the glory stories – a truth that is less glamorous and more common sense.

    When I read it, I felt balanced by my Christian belief that I serve a God who created me for a purpose… He has a plan for me, and it is not as simple as just my deciding how I want my life to be… But a surrendering of each thing that I think I want, and allowing Him to lead me gently [ok sometimes more like kicking and screaming] to a place where I finally know what my heart desires, and the peace that passes understanding.

    And then we go through it all over again from square one. 😉

    The cool thing is knowing from past experience – He loves writing beautiful stories. And they are never ever disappointing or anti-climactic.

  • Reply Linds June 13, 2014 at 9:00 am

    Thank you for this.

  • Reply Cecelia June 13, 2014 at 9:08 am

    This was thoughtfully written, beautifully written, and truthfully written. All characteristics that I’m sure will make for a great book someday…but also all characteristics that I’m sure come from the thoughtful, beautiful, and truthful person God made you to be. And those are things that can be lived out far beyond the lines of a book 🙂 In fact, I can feel it jumping off the page …(or screen, rather)

  • Reply Lauren June 13, 2014 at 9:32 am

    Beautiful, Mary Beth. You may not be writing a book with pen and paper, but you are living God’s story out, sharing that in bits and pieces here, and you consistently bless and challenge my heart. Your lived out book is powerful and we will all enjoy reading and seeing glimpses of it until the day when you can have your written book published.

  • Reply Heather Schoenecke DiSarro June 13, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Girl. Just yes. I know you don’t need approval from us to make this post OK, but it’s more than OK and so relate-able on so many levels. So thankful for your words and your heart that you pour out for us in this space 🙂

  • Reply Kristi Phillips June 13, 2014 at 9:58 am

    Such honest words and I feel that a lot of women can relate to this, I myself included! About giving up the cross daily and allowing God to work in us on a daily basis. You have such a beautiful heart! Thank you for sharing!!

  • Reply Barbara H. June 13, 2014 at 10:00 am

    I understand. I had hopes to do some writing, possibly a book, as the kids got older – then we moved Grandma in. 🙂 I keep having to give that desire over to God to work out if/when it is His will to do so, to seek to be content in the circumstances and ministry He has me in now, and to rest in Him about any future endeavors.

    • Reply Barbara H. June 13, 2014 at 10:02 am

      P.S. I do hope the Lord opens the door to write about your family some time. 🙂 I enjoyed the posts you’ve written thus far and the tone of genuineness in them.

  • Reply bethany June 13, 2014 at 10:01 am

    I love every bit of this, Mary Beth. As so much of my own journey has overlapped yours, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for living courageously. Honestly. Authentically. Love you friend. xx

  • Reply Michaela Jean June 13, 2014 at 10:37 am

    You my dear are oh so brave. As simple as this may sound, I do my best to live with the faith that what’s meant to be will be. Although I fight it on occasion, it generally relieves my anxieties and takes a weight off my shoulders. I hope that reminder lightens your load if even an inch.

    Happy Friday amiga!



  • Reply kari June 13, 2014 at 10:39 am

    A beautiful, vulnerable reflection. Your question “How do we find peace with stories that never get written” has lingered with me throughout the morning.

  • Reply Kiara June 13, 2014 at 11:24 am

    Well, I’ve never been one to comment on blog posts when I don’t personally know the author because it just feels weird. But this I am going to respond to, perhaps because I can relate to it so deeply. I am also a writer, and my husband is a furniture maker. Our dreams have been cursed from the beginning. 🙂 I think the biggest struggle for us is always and forever the battle between what America tells us to do and what Jesus tells us to do. So much of the time nationalism creeps its way into the Church and people think that it’s harmless or even a good thing, but it can be so detrimental. I’m not here to lecture anyone, especially you, I just think that this reflection is such a good example of Who’s really in charge. I feel rest and release for you after reading this post, and I’m proud of you for admitting that you had to let this dream go. It is a heartbreaking and humbling thing to do.
    Grace and Peace

  • Reply nicoleneesby June 13, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    my heart couldn’t stop saying amen through this whole post. i feel like my entire year so far has been just this. letting go, living slow, simple, non-glamorous days. i am such a dreamer and it’s hard for me to let God write His story for my life in His time. thanks for being real. xoxo

  • Reply K Marchetti June 13, 2014 at 1:24 pm

    This made me tear up, very much touched my heart. Thank you for being so brave, and so honest. Thank you for acknowledging that sometimes the bold thing to do is to set something down. We don’t really encourage that very much and yet I think God asks us to this as often as he asks us to fight through things.

    “Not the celebrated fight of a foot plodding in front of the other, but the humble lift of our feet off the ground completely and the jumping into the haven of Jesus’ arms.”

    The fighting isn’t the hard part, the laying things down that aren’t meant for me is – very grateful for this post! Praying for you and your family!

  • Reply Dylann June 13, 2014 at 1:30 pm

    It’s so hard to let go of our dreams. I have struggled with this too, wanting to control and write my own life story, but Jesus always always shows me that He is writing His way. It is freeing in a way. xo

  • Reply alana taylor June 13, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    Thank you so much for your vulnerability in this post. I know it wasn’t an easy one to write and put out there for the world to see. I know all too well the inner struggle of having to “eat crow” and admit defeat. Only, I don’t see this as your being defeated or your passion flame being put out. Really, I see it as God redirecting your heart and sometimes, when He does that, it tends to feel like we’ve been beaten.

    Honestly, what you’ve said here – especially about the whole “american dream” and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” and “making things happen” – has been on my mind and heart a lot lately. As someone who strives to do everything with intention, it is far too easy to rely on ourselves more than we rely on our heavenly Father. We spend our days striving, insisting that we can DIY our own lives,.. completely forgetting Who holds our future.

    Anyway… here’s to whatever is next for you and your growing family. No matter where the road takes you, I’m honored to be a spectator of your journey and fellow laborer in Christ.

  • Reply Jenna June 13, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    You’re an amazing woman, mother, friend. Thank you SO much for your honesty. You inspire me, every day 🙂

  • Reply Dawn June 13, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    “But I did wear my glasses.”

    That gave me a needed chuckle. And also, a reminder that sometimes we only get a little piece, a tiny little fleck of our dreams at first, during the management of other things that can take a very long time. But life moves on, as you said, and dreams tend to be conveniently static: waiting for us when we’re ready.

    Very inspiring post, thank you.

    From one writer to another!

  • Reply Sarah June 13, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Beautiful, just beautiful. Thanks for sharing

  • Reply Jill June 13, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    You’re the best.

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    I loved this spontaneous post. Be patient : happening of good things is slow and takes time ♥♥. Baci

  • Reply Jackie Rice June 15, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    I completely relate to what you’re saying here. Thank you for sharing and being willing to poke a hole in the American dream… sometimes it’s easier to believe in that than a God we can’t see. I struggle with allowing God to have control – all. the. time. But I know deep down that His ways are greater than I can imagine so I’ll put the reins back in His hand, even when it means letting go of my dreams.

    It’s amazing how hard it is to balance this with the pinterest quotes and the entrepreneurial advice we find online. It’s a struggle to know when I need to “hustle” more and when I need to let go and let God, you know? I suppose the answer is let go a lot more than I want to admit.

    Blessings to you during this very full season of your life. Thanks for continuing to share it with your readers here.

  • Reply noni June 16, 2014 at 12:23 pm
    and I love this place. and your voice. so precious in. every. way.

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  • Reply Grace (My Spare Oom) June 23, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    YES, Just…yes. Thank you for having the courage to write this and share this with us. I agree, I think our world does romanticize chasing one’s dreams…whereas listening to God’s voice (especially when He’s telling us to stop chasing something good) is not always viewed in a positive light. As someone who’s also been on the receiving end of that voice from Him, I can assure you that His plan is so perfect. 🙂 Best of luck to you + your beautiful family!

    • Reply Mary Beth June 25, 2014 at 7:24 am

      Awwww…thank you, Grace! There is so much to look forward to and I’m relieved I got that post out of the way. I can move on now. 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Reply Rebecca June 23, 2014 at 4:19 pm

    As always your blog posts inspire and encourage me… Honestly this was SO refreshing and honest and I just loved it. THANK YOU so much!!

    • Reply Mary Beth June 25, 2014 at 7:21 am

      Honesty is the best policy, even if it sucks sometimes. 😉 I’m truly relieved to have it done with and set on a shelf somewhere. I can move on now and everyone has been extremely nice about it. That helps!!!

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