When You’ve Done Everything Right

Fresh cherry

I love cherries. If I could only have one fruit, that would be it. But not just any cherry. When we first moved into our home here in Southern Oregon, we planted a cherry tree. At the time, I knew what kind of tree it was. But the little tag identifying it has long since vanished. All I know is that our cherries are a rich, dark red on the outside, like a Bing cherry. But unlike a Bing, the meat inside is a light red, and the taste is a blend of sweet and tart. I’ve canned these cherries as pie filling, brandy cherry sauce, preserves, any a number of other wonderful concoctions. And they all taste marvelous. That blend of sweet and tart is perfect.

It took us a couple of years to learn what to do with that tree to get it to produce healthy cherries. One year, there was no fruit at all. We’d done everything right, but…nada. I was heartbroken. The next year, a modest production of cherries. But no sooner were they ready to harvest then the birds flocked in. They had that tree stripped in a day. One day, and all my beautiful cherries were gone. That’s the year I learned about putting netting over the tree. The next year, cherries galore. All of them infested with little white worms. That’s the year I found out about spraying the right substances at the right time. The next two years, it was as though the tree was making up for lost time. Cherries, cherries everywhere! And then last year, when we had record rains, the cherries were ready to pick almost a month early. Not only that, but they were huge and even more flavorful than ever before. And we picked close to 25 gallons. Yup, you read that right. Twenty-Five gallons. I still have probably a third of what I put up from last year’s cherries.

As you can imagine, we were pretty excited about what the tree would do this year. We did all the right things—sprayed when we were supposed to, made sure the tree had ample water, put the netting in place as soon as fruit showed up, watched and tested as the cherries ripened. I left for the Write! Canada conference last week knowing when I came home, I’d be spending the first day back picking the beautiful cherries.

I got home last night. This morning my hubby and I went out to pick. But as we did so, we were horrified to discover that 9 out of ten cherries were bad. Rotted from the inside out. We did EVERYTHING right. And the outcome was bitter disappointment. As my hubby and I talked it over, I finally said to him, “You know, we did everything we knew to do. I guess we just have to accept that there are things outside of our knowledge or control that affect the cherries. No matter what we do.”

My hubby’s response: “I’m gonna cut that tree down.”

I laughed, then shook my head. “No, you’re not.”

“Why not?”

“Because when we have a year like last year, when everything works and the fruit is abundant and delicious…that makes the ugly years worth it.”

I’m guessing you know where I’m going with this. As I was at the conference last week, talking with authors and editors and other agents, I heard countless people talking about all they were doing to fulfill this task God has given them to write. Many were doing everything they should. Studying the craft and the market, working hard, refining their understanding and expertise, learning how to do their part in marketing, and on and on. And yet, as I encountered these wonderful folks, each one burning with the passion to share God’s truths through writing, I knew.

Even when you do everything right, even when it seems a manuscript should be acquired or a book should sell a gazillion copies…sometimes, it just doesn’t happen. Sometimes, there are things outside our knowledge or control (remember the stories of even best-selling authors whose books released within a month or so of 9/11? Terrible sales, even for established authors), and, for whatever reason, we’re negatively impacted. When those things happen, many allow themselves the frustrated cry, “I quit!” But friends, I’m here to say to you, when that happens, let yourself cry out. And then shake it off. Remember why you’re doing this. And always remember, the way things are today are just that…the way things are today. We have no way of knowing the wonders waiting around the corner. And if we’ll stay the course, trusting the One who gave us this task to begin with, holding on until HE releases us from it, the time will come when everything works the way it should, and the rewards—HIS rewards—are abundant and delicious.

And that will make even the ugliest of years worth it.

49 Responses to When You’ve Done Everything Right

  1. Jennifer Hudson Taylor June 19, 2013 at 3:25 am #

    Karen, I am going to treasure this article!

  2. Naomi Musch June 19, 2013 at 4:02 am #

    What an encouraging post! True on so many levels. I’m going to remember it (with inspiration) every time I look at my cherry tree. 😀

  3. Ron Estrada June 19, 2013 at 4:32 am #

    I’ve come close to chopping down my writing tree a few times. It is worth the work and the wait, though. You have to love what you do. The act of writing alone needs to sustain you, or there’s no way I could do this just for the harvest (and a sparse harvest it is). As someone who lost his entire batch of heirloom tomatoes and peppers to a late frost this year, I feel your pain. If you get a good harvest next year, all your loyal blog followers expect jars of yumness.

  4. Pam Enderby June 19, 2013 at 5:08 am #

    Some words of encouragement….I stumbled upon your post via google + I usually don’t open a post from someone I don’t know, BUT your title won me over. I’m so glad I did. Most always, it takes perseverance mixed with sheer obedience and GRACE to keep writing. But, like your cherry tree, from time to time, there seems to be a bumper crop of readers and encouragement. I pray we remain faithful to do what God has called us to do. He is worthy!!!

  5. Martha Rogers June 19, 2013 at 5:20 am #

    Oh, Karen, I love cherries too, but I have to get mine at the market. Your analogy is right on. You know how long it took for everything to come together for me, and it’s been worth the wait. The good makes up for frustration and disappointments. If you love what you do, perseverance and patience will bring in a “good crop” if you don’t give up and “chop the tree down” before God is ready for the Harvest. Thanks for all the encouragement you’ve given me through the years.

  6. lisa June 19, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    Thank you for these words of encouragement.

  7. Renee Osborne June 19, 2013 at 5:48 am #

    I needed to read this today. I’ve needed it for weeks on end. Thank you, Karen.

  8. Connie Almony June 19, 2013 at 5:56 am #

    I LOVE this analogy! And I love your husband’s response to the cherries. Haven’t we all been tempted to cut that tree down–and give up! But you are oh so right. I love the psalms in the Bible where the author is calling out to a seemingly silent God wondering where He is, then remembering all the wonderful things God has done for him in the past, knowing He will do more in the future. God has a plan. We just need to learn to roll with it.

  9. Micky Wolf June 19, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    Bravo, what a great post! Here’s to cherries in about any form–and setting aside the ax while continuing to press on. Thank you!

  10. marci Seither June 19, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    Sometimes life does seem like a bowl of cherries, but with the hope of great harvest! Thanks so much for this timely post! From one canner to another…I hope next year is enough to fill your shelves to the brim!

  11. Cheryl Barker June 19, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Very encouraging, Karen. Love how you reminded us that wonders may be just around the corner. Thank you!

  12. Virelle Kidder June 19, 2013 at 6:41 am #

    Such a wonderful story, Karen, that speaks to my heart during a long fallow period where God is teaching me much. I believe He is growing my heart now to be able to write what is next. This is a deep encouragement today.

  13. Meghan Carver June 19, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    Wonderful analogy, Karen. Thanks for this today.

  14. Patricia Bradley June 19, 2013 at 6:54 am #

    Perfect timing for this post, Karen. I love your cherry tree analogy. It is so on target. Thanks.

  15. Sue Harrison June 19, 2013 at 7:11 am #

    Wow, Karen, thank you. Just what I needed to hear. It’s so easy to get discouraged when everything that was right goes wrong. I’m going to remember your cherry tree!

  16. Angela Strong June 19, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Learning this one the hard way, though I find that when I focus on improving instead of proving myself, it’s a lot easier to keep going. Thanks for your analogy. I love it.

  17. Janie Emaus June 19, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    I needed this right now. Perfect timing for how things are going in my life. Thanks!

  18. Beppie Harrison June 19, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    It’s good to be reminded. Thank you!

  19. Ann Shorey June 19, 2013 at 7:35 am #

    Thank you for this post, Karen. Just the words I needed to read this morning. 🙂

  20. Andrea Cox June 19, 2013 at 7:39 am #

    Karen, thanks for the wonderful encouragement. I especially like how you drew from your cherry tree experiences. That was a neat tie-in.


  21. linda glaz June 19, 2013 at 7:46 am #

    Awesome post, Karen, and I grew up on an orchard, very early on, and my cousin to this day still battles over the good years and like last year here in Michigan, not so good. Hang in there, the preserves and pie are worth it. You are spot on with writers feeling the same way. Great post!

  22. Evinda Lepins June 19, 2013 at 7:50 am #

    whew, just in the nick of time…. I can’t believe all that this writing journey has accomplished — a ministry that helps others unpack their emotional junk — a blog talk radio show, to name just a couple of things, and all the while I kept saying, I just wanted to write a book, God. Why are we taking all these detours? Why aren’t the now three books that you’ve given me making their way into the WWWs (walking wounded women) of the world? Oh, how fear screams and faith whispers and when I am still, He is God reminding me that I am but a needle in a haystack and HE will pluck me out to pierce the hearts of whom He selects…. I thank you for this post that encourages us to show up, do what we were gifted to do and allow Him to lead us to the doors that will open to the hearts of desiring readers.
    Blessings to you, Karen
    Kim (Evinda)

  23. Vanessa Davis Griggs June 19, 2013 at 8:20 am #

    Oh My Goodness! This was rich and right on time! Thank you, Karen. I encourage others, but this certainly has blessed me today. I know God has more for me, even when I don’t know where He’s going with everything. Thank you so much! There is so much more required of me. 🙂

  24. Jeanne Takenaka June 19, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    I’m with you, Karen. If I could only pick one fruit, I think it would cherries. We had a cherry tree in our back yard when I was growing up. LOVED THEM.

    I also appreciate your analogy and the truths you’ve shared. Pressing on, practicing anticipation on my writing journey. God’s timing and harvest are always perfect. Thank you for this post today.

  25. Michael Ehret June 19, 2013 at 8:46 am #

    And I don’t even like cherries … but there is great truth in your post, Karen.

  26. Stephen Schwambach June 19, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    This is just simply one of your very best, Karen. Thank you.

  27. Lenore Buth June 19, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    Karen, I love the way you phrased that last paragraph: ” . . . and if we’ll stay the course, trusting the One who gave us this task to begin with, holding on until HE releases us from it . . . ”

    My latest book just came out, published by Concordia: “Godly Moms: Strength from the Inside Out.”

    It’s the book I couldn’t let go of. The premise came out of nowhere and settled in to stay, even the style I used. From the beginning I knew exactly what this book should look like and who I was writing it for.

    So I wrote and prayed and rewrote, striving to make every word count. Along the way I threw out thousands of perfectly good words. I studied technique and how to write great proposals and all the rest. I sent off proposals and got them back, sometimes with a nice, “Sorry, this doesn’t fit our needs right now” letter.

    Every now and then I wondered why I didn’t give up and go read someone else’s book.

    Then, when HE was ready, I got a call from an editor who’d hung onto my proposal because she liked it. Now my book would fit their specific needs. Was I still interested in writing it? Could I tailor my word counts to fit their specs and turn in the final ms. by their deadline?

    You know my answer.

    Thanks for reminding me why I couldn’t quit. I feel good about staying the course and about this book. The rest is up to Him.

  28. Heather Day Gilbert June 19, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    So beautiful. Yes, we can never control all those external factors. We just pray, do our very best, and hope God brings us one of those fruit-laden years to reward all those years of barrenness.

  29. Candy Arrington June 19, 2013 at 9:41 am #

    Excellent post, Karen!

  30. Shadia Hrichi June 19, 2013 at 9:56 am #

    Thank you, Steve, for the timely reminder to continuously remind ourselves why we write and Whom we serve. It’s a difficult journey but if God has called us to write, we can trust His purposes and timing are perfect. Shadia

  31. Julie Surface Johnson June 19, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Bless you, Karen. As others have said, this was just what I needed. Loved your analogy. Love your encouraging heart.

  32. Susi Robinson Rutz June 19, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    What a delightful bit of encouragement to nourish those long days of writing and platform building.

  33. Angie Dicken June 19, 2013 at 10:36 am #

    Very encouraging, as always! Thanks so much for this!

  34. Beth K. Vogt June 19, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    I always look forward to your blog posts, Karen, but this one … well, this one gets filed in the “Read Often” file. And the quote below? I’m printing it out!

    “And if we’ll stay the course, trusting the One who gave us this task to begin with, holding on until HE releases us from it, the time will come when everything works the way it should, and the rewards—HIS rewards—are abundant and delicious.

    And that will make even the ugliest of years worth it.”

  35. Karen Ball June 19, 2013 at 11:51 am #

    Thanks, everyone. So appreciate hearing your thoughts.

  36. Jo Huddleston June 19, 2013 at 12:05 pm #

    Karen, my friend, thank you for again sharing your wisdom with your readers. I don’t even know what a cherry tree looks like but I’ll remember your story and its relation to our writing. Thanks for showing a way through the bad times.

  37. Nancy Farrier June 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm #

    Wonderful words, Karen. You made drool and get teary at the same time. Thank you for sharing.

  38. Patti Jo Moore June 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Wow! Wonderful post, Karen–and one that I needed to read today. Thanks so much for sharing this with us–I’m adding it to my “Keeper File” (and for some reason I’m really, really hungry for cherry pie right now). 😉

  39. Kathleen Freeman June 19, 2013 at 12:56 pm #

    Excellent writing, Karen! Thank you for sharing the parable of the cherry tree. May cherry growers all over the world continue to spray, net and water, even when our fruit rots. May your trees produce an abundance, and may we have the wisdom to know when to pick and how to process our crop.

  40. Sharon Hoseley June 19, 2013 at 1:10 pm #

    “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

    – Jesus in John 11:25

  41. Leslie G Nelson June 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm #

    Thanks Karen, very timely for me.

  42. patti iverson June 19, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    mmmm—-I remember pitting 1000 of those cherries with my ruby stained hands and eating about half of ’em—mmmmmm some more. Thanks for not letting Don cut it down, and thanks for sharing the wisdom God gives ya! I love loving you… <3

  43. Peter DeHaan June 19, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    Ironically, sometimes when we don’t do everything exactly right, things still work out. Either way, it’s a mystery.

  44. Mesu Andrews June 19, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    WOW, woman! This is a fabulous post. So encouraging and profound. Thanks so much for your wisdom. You’re a gem. 😉 …and I pray your cherries are like manna on the sixth day…lasting through the Sabbath rest until the next shower of God’s provision!

  45. Marilyn Rhoads June 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    Great blog. I bought cherries tonight and told my husband these were the best yet!

    Could your tree be a Royal Anne?

    I’m echoing Julie and Anne–just what we all needed to hear. You’re a born encourager. I bet you learned how to do this the hard way.

  46. Terrance Leon Austin June 19, 2013 at 11:27 pm #

    Awesome post. A farmer can till the ground, and plant all the proper fertilizer, but that harvest will not grow over night. Those of us who believe our calling is writing must be willing to wait and work hard until GOD decide that the harvest is ready. Thanks for the post, bless you….

  47. Susan Gregory July 31, 2013 at 6:45 am #

    Printed this and posted it where I will see it everyday. Thank you.

  48. Ali Stegert August 16, 2013 at 2:54 am #

    What an inspiring article. Thank you.

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