Can Anyone Try Too Hard?

I’m a desk-worker by trade who is currently “trying” to lay a brick walkway at my home. Right now, I’m still at the shoveling stage: shovel out 18 inches of dirt, shovel in a sand and gravel mix. This morning, I had to remind myself that the walk won’t get done if I don’t move some more sand and gravel before the sun gets hot.

This will be the second brick walk I’ve put together at this house, and I may or may not require help from my brother this time. I still need to push myself to finish edging a garden bed with the same brick — hand-formed antique red brick that my parents “acquired” when they took down a chimney.

Part of being a New Englander is to do stuff. It’s kind of like when you’re trained as an engineer or machinist: you know that you can figure out how to do just about anything, so you figure whatever is in front of you is something you can (and should) do. How can a person try too hard or try too many things?

The questions for me are less about whether I’m “trying” too hard, but whether I’m attempting tasks that aren’t my own:

  • Am I asking often enough for help?
  • Am I honoring others by letting them know I need what only they can offer?
  • Am I choosing to batter a wall instead of using a nearby window or door?
  • Am I trying to “break in” to someone else’s lifestyle instead of quietly living my own?

I can “try” too hard in some arenas and not hard enough in others:

  • Am I trying to learn life skills that I’ve missed to date (for example, how to build supportive friendships)?
  • Am I trying to shape my character where I fall short: most notably (as everyone can attest) in humility?
  • Am I trying to make my life fertile ground for God’s good work of growing spiritual fruit?

This last, to me, is where the “trying” and the “not trying” are most clearly linked. Getting fruit depends on effort and on things that are beyond effort. I can’t force the Concord grapevines in my backyard to bear fruit. But I can — and did — prune them properly (thanks to internet how-to graphics). I can — and do — irrigate them during dry, hot weeks.

Concord Grapes 301 Maine

Last year’s Concords, in this picture, are few compared to the green grapes now ripening on the vines I learned to tend.

This year, Lord willing, I’m going to have a huge harvest on grapevines I didn’t plant, never imagined looking after, and have only “tried” to care for properly.

I try to do what God puts in front of me. I avoid doing what God has put in front of someone else. God takes all the efforts we make together and sends the results.

Grapes, bricks, and better character. I’m trying. God’s doing. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Today’s Five Minute Friday blog link-up prompt is “Try”.


About Carlene Hill Byron

The former editor of New England Church Life and The New England Christian, Carlene Hill Byron is enjoying being home in Maine after 20 years in North Carolina. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild. Find her at, and on Facebook at MyHouseHasHistory.
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4 Responses to Can Anyone Try Too Hard?

  1. Somer says:

    The antique red bricks and luscious grapes leave such a pleasant picture in my mind of your house 🙂
    I really like what you say about trying to do things that others are supposed to do. And not for us.
    I’ve read that several times this summer.
    Repeating themes and now here too 🙂

  2. Lesley says:

    I like how our thoughts tied together today! It is so important to do what we can but to recognise that it’s God who produces the fruit, not our efforts. I also agree that it’s important know when we need to ask for help and to be willing to do that.

  3. atexasgirlblogs says:

    Congrats on the walkway and I would love having bricks like this to make me a flower bed although I would have to ask for help as I can’t do this work myself any longer. Have a great day.

  4. Carlene, this is really outstanding. I write from the perspective of a terminally ill dude whose caregiver is his spouse, and I find that when I let Barbara do the things that I now have trouble accomplishing…I’m offering her a blessing. She wants to help, and having to stand on the sidelines while I push to do the hard stuff myself is incredibly frustrating – and depressing – for her.

    #1 at FMF this week.

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