The other day, I had the realization that Caleb started woodworking and I started blogging in the same year. I like to joke that he’s the woodsmith and I’m the wordsmith, thus proving my point.
It was Christmas of 2012. Claire was five months old, and I was very much floundering in my new role as a stay-at-home-mom. At least I felt like it. She was not an easy baby, that Claire, and it didn’t help that I am prone to second-guessing my instincts.
Caleb was still teaching P.E., coaching high school football and track, and we thought that’s what he’d do forever.
One day, my mom called about her Christmas list.
“Do you think Caleb would like a table saw for Christmas?” She knew that he had done some woodworking in high school and had been pretty good at it. And I enjoyed some of those high school things he built, in our hand-me-down, piece-together first home, a quaint little rental in the country complete with a well, big barn in the back, and an old milk barn caddy-corner to the south east. None of which we ever used.
“I don’t know, mom. It’s been a long time since he’s done any woodworking, and he never talks about missing it. I’m not really sure where we’d keep bigger tools like that. Maybe? But I doubt it.”
She took a risk and got him the saw. And that’s when it all began, no thanks to me.
That January, Caleb scoured Craig’s List (Facebook Marketplace wasn’t a thing yet.) for other must-have equipment to start a small wood shop in that dirty ole milk barn. It’s laughable compared to what he has now, two shops later. We even got our hands on a little book about “How to Set Up a Small Wood Shop,” in which it actually mentions an unused milk barn among the potential great alternatives to an actual wood shop building.
And Caleb went to work, building whatever he could for whomever he could, charging them basically nothing.
Even now, I could cry remembering how faithfully, diligently he got up day-after-day to go do the work. Before any reputation of building beautiful things. Before anyone paid him.
And that’s what he still does. Day after day. For many years, he would schedule shop time before his teaching job, after his teaching job, and on Saturdays, making sure to both work and also still have time with the kids. Here we are 11 years later, and it’s his full-time job and how he supports our family of soon-to-be eight.
A milk barn, a table saw, and no profit. If that’s not a small beginning, I don’t know what is. Caleb has never despised it, and God has blessed it.
That same year, after the January Caleb set up his wood shop (It was called Hartman Woodworking back then.), I started a blog. I’m not even sure I really knew what a blog was, and it was not something I ever thought I’d do. But Claire was a year old, I still felt like I was floundering, and I needed something that was just mine, some place for me to sustain a complete thought, to do the deep work that made me feel like me. It made sense at the time.
For the next 11 years, I’ve written here and there with a couple of brief seasons of regularity. But mostly, I haven’t written. My website has been revamped many times over, and I still basically have nothing to show for it.
This is not a pity party. And I’m not looking for anyone to tell me it’s not true, or that it’s fine. This is just me taking a real, and somewhat hard, look at the reality here. It would be easy just to say that other things have been more urgent, that other things needed to be the priority. But I know how to make time for things when I need to, for the things that matter to me. I do it all the time. The truth is, writing feels like bearing my soul, and that vulnerability is scary.
I get that there’s a difference between the kind of work Caleb and I do (mine it much less tangible and concrete and a lot harder to tell when it’s done), the availability we have to do it, (I’m with the kids all the time, and that frees him up to work), and the pressure to do it (I’m not responsible for, nor feel the pressure, to provide financially for dependents). All of that is true, and matters to a degree.
But at the end of the day, that’s all excuses.
Caleb has worked steady, little by little, over these last 11 years. And I haven’t. This wouldn’t matter, and in some sense, it doesn’t really. But the only thing is, I can’t shake this intuitive, innate, almost carnal sense that I need to write. I can’t avoid the feeling that, for whatever reason completely unbeknownst to me at this point, God is asking this of me. And, I’m tired of feeling like I’m avoiding it, that I’m in disobedience by not giving it some real attention and hard work. I fear getting to the end of my life and regretting that I didn’t do it.
So here we go. The work begins again. Help me not despise it, Lord. For I know You don’t. And I pray You rejoice in this work too.