Friday, August 12, 2011

Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em

by Niki Turner

If there's one thing (oh, that there was ONLY one thing) I  feel I've failed to learn, it's how to apply the truth in the chorus of Kenny Rogers' song "The Gambler" to day to day life.

"Know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run."

I tend to be a bit stubborn. (At least, that's what other people tell me.) Stubborn can be a good trait (when you call it tenacity, or perseverance). Stubbornness (aka tenacity and perseverance) can also be destructive.

It's possible to "latch on" to something that's outwardly good - an opinion, an idea, a relationship, a job, or a vision - that has, over the course of time, become toxic. Milk, for example, is good for children. Milk forgotten in a sippy cup behind the bed for a week is still milk, but it's no longer beneficial for health.

Sometimes it's a moment by moment thing. When to get out of a conversation, when to leave a gathering, when to stop shopping (that can be challenging for those of us who are tenacious about looking for the next great deal). Or it can be figuring out when to finish an edit on your manuscript, when to stop adding brush strokes to a painting, when to realize the house is as clean as it's going to get, or when to admit that you're done with something.

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to pluck what is planted;
A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down,And a time to build up;
A time to weep,And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,And a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;
A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;
A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.
Eccl 3:1-8 NKJV
(No matter how hard I try, I cannot read that passage without picturing Kevin Bacon in Footloose.)

It's critical when talking about what to let go and when to hold fast by faith that we be led by the Spirit of God. Our flesh is an inaccurate gauge for when something is finished, when it's time to release something. Flesh tends to get frustrated early. The stubborn among us tend to cling to things that other folks would have released long ago.

It's only by the leading of the Holy Spirit that we can know we aren't "beating a dead horse" when it comes to the things we're applying our energy and effort to. Sometimes perseverance is required (Kathryn Stockett's debut novel "The Help" was rejected by publishers 60 times), but sometimes, we need to be smart enough to set something aside and move on.

Examine your schedule, your projects, your WIPs, your relationships, your plans ...

What needs to be "held" and what needs to "fold"?

From what should you walk away, and from what should you run?


  1. I'm going to have to pray about this one. What to let go of? The fluffy stuff might be browsing blogs and FB. And I don't do much of it.

    I sure hopeitsnot this wip! But I'm ready to be done with it and move on.

    Good morning. It's Friday! I'm not at work today anyway and I'm at a writers conference. GREAT!

  2. Great post. The thing it made me realize is that as long as you're frozen, holding the same hand, you can't be dealt another one--if that makes sense.

    The practical implication for me is that I've determined, this morning, that the next time I attend any writers conference, I'll have something new to pitch.

    Still,I'm enjoying this conference tremendously. Had lunch with Dina and Deb yesterday. Looking forward to another great day!

  3. Deb and Barb and Dina having fun at the conference... I have to let go of wishing I was there. ;)

    Seriously, right now I have to let go of wishing I could work on my book. I can do nothing in the way of my writing until the end of this year when I've finished all my classes. There isn't enough time in the day to work full-time, do schoolwork, and take care of sick hubby and sick me. :( I need to pray more about it because I tend to get anxious about not having worked on the book for however many days. I need to just let go of that for a few more months.

    Thanks Niki!

  4. So glad you three are there at the conference, because I know we'll all get the benefit of your added wisdom! : )

    Deb, it is DEFINITELY not your WIP, IMHO. (How's that for enough capitals?)

    Barb, I love that visual! If we're not willing to "fold" those losing hands from our pasts, or things that are out of God's will, he can't "deal" us anything better!

  5. Suzie! I was just thinking about you this morning!
    I've been feeling much the same way about my own WIP. While I was reading your comment, something occurred to me... as writers, we can be "working" on our books in our heads all the time. I don't know how I got locked into the idea that I'm not working on it if I'm not in front of the computer. Obviously, that time has to be there, too! But when the seasons of life don't permit it, I can still be concentrating on plot and character and motive and so on and so forth, gathering up ideas for scenes and dialogue, instead of feeling guilty and ashamed of myself for not meeting my word count goals!
    Hmm. Now you've got me going!

  6. I think that's so true, Niki. I'm always mulling things over about the book. I forget that by doing so I'm really working on it. And so, we have no need to feel ashamed by lack of word count. Thanks!

    I think I also need to let go of the need for everything to be perfect. I have to learn to be okay when I don't get 100% on a paper or exam. I'm going to pray about this because this is a huge weak area of mine.

  7. Such sage advice! The passage from Ecclesiastes is one of my favorites, too. It's hard to let go, though, when you've pout so much time and effort into something. I guess it's one of those things that just takes
    God's grace

  8. I think it's a matter of being willing to be led even though we think we can see what's ahead "if only . . . "

    I tend to be tenacious (some -- okay MANY -- would say stubborn) and keep trying to fit the same square peg into the same round hole.

    As they say, "Man plans, God laughs." ;)

  9. Hopefully this will go through this time...

    Deb, Dina and Barb - I'm so thankful the 3 of you are there together. Especially you, Deb, because I know you didn't think you'd get the chance. I guess you really aren't going to be my roomie at ACFW then. That's the only sad part about it. I guess I'm choosing to let go of that, finally.

    So, anyone want to room with me? I'll pray and wait to see what plans God has for me in that direction.

    Instead of letting go stuff in my life, I've taken more on with this new website and blog. But it's also fired me up about working on the church site. And because I'm obedient to Him in that regard, He's giving me more time to work on my wip. Yay!

    Great post, Niki. And good video with Kenny Rogers. Just show me a cowboy if you wanna see me smile. Heh.

    Anita Mae.

  10. Hi Ladies,

    Barb, Deb, and I (along with Barb's very patient husband) all went out to dinner tonight. Fun times.

    I'm not usually very stubborn, if anything, sometimes I need to fight harder than I do and resist the urge to run.

  11. Pizza and ice cream. In case you wondered. Then Rob Early got to listen to us talk writing for two hours.

    I still haven't found an answer for your questions Niki but thank you for the encouragement.

  12. @Suzie - It's always the perfectionists among us who struggle with letting go and letting God. : )

    @Tracy - It IS hard to let go of our creative babies. As hard as it is to let go of our REAL babies when they grow up! You are correct, grace is the way!

  13. @DeAnna - I'm chuckling. I SO prefer the adjective "tenacious" to "stubborn."

    @Anita - Kenny Rogers was pretty "hot" back in the day! I know what you mean about taking on more instead of setting stuff aside, sometimes that's as much of a step of faith and being willing to "fold 'em."

  14. @Dina - That's what I love about that song, and the passage in Ecc. Some are too quick to let go, some hold on too long. God's timing is essential!

  15. @Deb - if you haven't come up with any answers yet, then you're probably just where you need to be! : )

  16. Wow, Niki! Wow!

    Umm, when to walk away . . .

    Yesterday I was all ready to give up all things writing related. In fact I was utterly content to do so. But then I got online (after 30 minutes of griping at my stupid laptop) and saw that the anthology that my novella is in is now available for pre-order on Amazon.

    In that moment I felt God saying "YOu haven't gone through these last ten years only for me to let you walk away. I have a plan and a purpose for you. Be patient and perservere . . . and stop calling your computer all sorts of bad names."

    Okay, maybe He didn't say that last thing.

    Now let me see if my computer is gong to cooperate and let me post this comment . . .

  17. Great post, Niki! I always thing of Kevin Bacon when I hear that scripture, too. And his line right before that: "What did David do... What DID David do?"

  18. I think what I need to set aside, that I've held too long, are those preconceived attitudes and beliefs about God that have worn a groove in my heart, but aren't really accurate or healthy. You know, when things go wrong it must mean I'm messing up, God won't bless me if I don't spend an hour a day with Him, etc.


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