Stories that Matter

When You Feel Like You've Failed…What Then?


Every morning now for the past few months, dishes stack in my sink. Some mornings they’re clean, some mornings they’re not. And somebody forgot to turn on the dishwasher. Me, I suppose, but I wonder if I’m the only one who knows how to work the thing. Pressing the right button is quite difficult, I surmise.

So I grumble over mess. Over extra work and noise and things missing or out of place. I could probably point out that the sun is shining through the window the wrong way if hard pressed to find a new complaint.

But it’s not any of these things, really, that have me in this tightly-wound, chest-constricting corner of my own design. It’s something deeper. A longing, a dream. Something I have held onto to for far too long. And I know it’s time. Time to let it go.


It’s been building a while now, I think, as I stir the oatmeal and wonder if I dare put this into words.

Words unspoken speak the loudest. 

I thought this the other day. Thought on it a while and realized how true it is. How so many times we’re just afraid. Afraid to face our own feelings, let alone share them. Maybe sometimes that’s okay. Maybe there isn’t really anyone who’d understand. I feel like this a lot. People will listen. Empathize. But will they really know?


This thing I do. This daily wrestling of words and feelings and hard things that sometimes can’t be made sense of whichever way you write it down…this life-breathing gift that I have loved so long…it’s sucking life from me.

The thought slammed me like I’d run into a glass door, knowing it was there but for whatever reason, having momentarily forgotten.

These dreams I have…I’ve let them take over. I’ve fed them too long and now they are greedy and take more from me every day. More than I ever intended to give. And it’s time to let them go.

But you can’t quit, they say. You’ve worked so hard. So long. And you’re so good, so close… 

That right there is like gold, but it’s dynamite. I grab hold for all it’s worth. I so want to believe it. To see this dream shoot off into the night sky like the fireworks we’re so often subjected to from the hotel we live beside. But…I wonder now if I’m looking at that dream all wrong. Fireworks don’t last. They cost a helluva lot of money, spent in light and smoke, gone in minutes.

It’s not about quitting. Not about giving up. Just…maybe…doing things differently.

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We grow things. In the hot months it takes time and you have to remember to water what you plant. But they’re still growing despite the few days off and on where nobody did…

I planted seeds. Seeds that seem to be thriving and offering the hope of a small harvest. But then there were the sunflowers…


They are my favorite flower. They’re easy to grow. They can withstand the heat, and they are majestic and tall and proud in their glorious display of bobbing yellow heads under bright blue sky.

Time to get out of this funk, I told myself. Time to plant sunflowers.

So I did.

A whole packet of them. Rows around the roses in my little courtyard. I watered and waited. And waited.



One seed sprouted out of the entire packet I painstakingly planted in the ground. Even my screaming back the next day did not deter me because I knew how glorious the end result would be.


Will it even survive? If it grows, will it bloom? Will it satisfy me or will I continue to lament over all the others that did not?


Maybe I should give up planting sunflowers. Or maybe, next time, I should put the seeds into pots first. Water and care for them until they sprout, and then plant them in the ground.

Do things differently.

But oh, I’m stubborn and willful and so resistant to change. You know? This season of waiting has been that much more difficult because I wanted it so badly. I wanted answers to come quickly and I allowed the stress of the not knowing to become all-consuming. Life stealing.

Joy stealing.

And then you wake up one day and say enough.


If I have failed, it was not for lack of trying.

But I know now, the bigger failure would be to ignore this beauty. This life I have been given. Whatever else may or may not come from these dreams I planted so long ago, is not for me to say. But I will plant seeds again.

New seeds.

I will nurture them and watch them grow, but I won’t hold on too tight.

I will leave room to breathe.

To live.

And to grow.

As He intended me to do.



  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on July 21, 2014 at 10:52 am

    In the final analysis, I believe that neither failure nor success are materially vital.

    God watches our path upon this Earth with interest, but that interest – and Love – is for how we approach things, not that which we achieve.

    Our failures and successes will fade on the wind of our passing. But the love we show, even if it is not taken up in the temporal, is that which will endure.

  2. Denise Morgan on July 21, 2014 at 11:13 am

    Perhaps you should re-read your post of April 27: ” Be still . . . .”
    It sounds like God is trying to redirect the path of your life. Perhaps not to quit following your dreams or shelve your goals but possibly to point out that maybe your priorities might not be in alignment with what He has in mind for you.
    The main thing God wants from us is our relationship with Him. Everything else is incidental. Some years ago 3 words were revealed to my husband as he was “being still” and they were PAD – Priorities; Awareness: Distractions. We searched His Word to see what was said about these and were shown that if our Priorities are not in line with what God wants us to be then we need to become Aware of what is Distracting us from being in line with God’s will. And with that said once we became aware of the distractions we needed to take whatever measures were necessary to correct the situation so that our priorities will be God’s priorities.
    God wants us to put Him first; spouse second; children third; job fourth; church fifth.
    These priorities have been preached from the pulpits from different preachers from different churches from different areas over the past many years but being the fallen humans that we are the words fell on deaf ears UNTIL we reached the point of becoming a bit more spiritually mature and began to “be still . . ” so that we could hear what He was saying to us.
    And then the hard part – DO what He wants us to do. Hmmmm.
    So the dirty dishes, the dusty shelves, the plants that wither and die (or won’t grow at all !) are not at all important to Him but people ARE important to Him.
    We are to be His hands and feet and make the most of the divine appointments that He brings us into.
    So perhaps you may need to be still and calm yourself and your mind and listen.
    Your writing is wonderful and touches so many lives but if your writing is a distraction from God’s priorities than maybe you need to engage in a spiritual “tune-up”. Your relationship with God is the main thing.
    Be still . . and know . . . .

    • Cathy West on July 21, 2014 at 11:19 am

      That’s pretty much what I was trying to say in this post, Denise.

    • Jennifer Zarifeh Major on July 23, 2014 at 10:41 am

      Denise, I have read this comment quite a few times and am somewhat bothered by the fact that Cathy poured out her heart, and you thumped her upside the head with a heaping dose of Christianese. You also repeated everything she said, and then translated it into very heavy spiritual language that is overly ponderous to the point of being negative.

      If someone came to me with these words, I would treasure the vulnerable and nurture the desire to grow, NOT smack the living daylights out of any hope of change.

      If someone is bleeding, it is best not to tell them they are not bleeding properly. Perhaps just hand them some grace.

  3. Jenelle. M on July 21, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Some of my favorite lines: “Joy stealing”. For you to recognize this and want to “do things differently” is huge! Cathy, you’re listening to God’s prompting, not ignoring it, and going to do something about it. That right there is a fantastic example to others so way to go girl!

    It’s clear that you’re not going to give up, but not being so obsessed by this… well, I am pretty thrilled to see how else God uses you, sister. And I don’t see any of this as failure. I see it as laying it down your dream and being open to maybe reaching it a different way. Those are two very different things my friend. I continue to lift you up!

  4. Cathy West on July 21, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    Jenelle, I thank God for friends like you, who ‘get it’.

  5. Jill on July 21, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    To read this as I’m reading your book brings tears to my eyes. Why? Because last night I slipped into bed, wondering how to trust God that my writing would ever be enough. You see, I was comparing my writing to yours. Comparison. It’s an awful companion. You have a gift that is different from mine. Beautiful. Heart-wrenching. I didn’t want to put your words down and go to work this morning. You are touching lives already. These may not be the words you are looking for today, because YES on trusting God, but Cathy, you are simply an amazing, amazing writer. And that is what I needed to tell you today.

    • Cathy West on July 21, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      Good golly miss Molly. I mean, Miss Jill.
      Gold nuggets. Thank you. And I’m so grateful for them. I guess the transition here is just the letting go, releasing the entire publication process and NOT letting it drive me crazy. I know what I have is a gift and I want to honor God with it. Letting myself get all worked up about things I have absolutely no control over is NOT God-honoring. Not to mention it’s wildly unhealthy and damaging to the relationships I have with those around me who probably just want to tell me to suck it up, sistahfriend.
      So that’s what this is about.
      Not quitting. Just. Doing things differently.
      Thanks for your words of affirmation. 🙂

      • Jill on July 21, 2014 at 1:21 pm

        I love this thought process and couldn’t agree more! I realize my response wasn’t really centered on your post. Sorry about that! I get easily distracted. 🙂

    • Cathy West on July 21, 2014 at 1:13 pm

      Oh, and the comparison thing – sucks. Really. I do it all the time. That’s also one of those life-stealing things I’m trying to get rid of. We’re all different. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. 🙂

  6. Jeanne Takenaka on July 21, 2014 at 2:02 pm

    I loved this, Cathy. Doing things differently is sometimes exactly what we need to do with our dreams. Learning to breathe and hold them loosely? Tough sometimes, but freeing.

    Beautiful post.

    • Cathy West on July 21, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      Jeanne, very tough. But I tell you what, I feel better already. 🙂

  7. Jennifer Zarifeh Major on July 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    Oh wow.
    You blew me away.

    My favourite line? “New seeds”.

    New seeds are so full of hope and excitement. But they’re like, known, but unknown. The process might look similar, but with new seeds, the flower will be different.

    And full of surprises.

    Just like you.

    • Cathy West on July 21, 2014 at 2:45 pm

      Where’s the blushing emoticon…
      Thank you my dear friend. You are too kind.
      You’re one of my anchors. You know that?

  8. bethkvogt on July 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm

    You are so wise.
    And your vulnerability is so beautiful — a glimpse of your heart.
    You know how I feel about your writing — you’re one of the best of the best. And I don’t understand the whole who-gets-published-and-who-doesn’t process … but I do know that your heart is for God. It’s not about getting priorities wrong … its about loving the real people in our lives while we long for the dream to come true (and it has in some ways for you). It’s about not losing sight of God (and you haven’t) and seeing what he has for us in the waiting . . . and knowing that God does some of his most amazing work in people during the waiting seasons.

    • Cathy West on July 21, 2014 at 10:51 pm

      Beth, you are the wise one. And I love that you came out of darkness to shine your light in my world today.
      You inspire me. Always.

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