Sunday, May 21, 2017

My Momma’s Best Advice: How to Keep Going when You Lose

by Andy Lee @WordsByAndyLee

I was in fourth grade, and the opening day of the Tillman County Fair grew closer by the minute. Excitement kept me up at night as I tossed and turned and day-dreamed in the dark of winning blue ribbons.

Competition didn’t pump through my veins on the basketball court or baseball field. An athlete I was not. But give me a sewing machine, recipe, or a speech contest, and I could win with the best of them—humbly of course.

But this county fair was different. My offerings to the contests did not fare as well as the year before. The chocolate chips in my famous chocolate chip cookies melted into the batter turning the golden delights into brown ones, but there was no time to bake another batch. Those would have to do. I hoped their taste would overpower their looks.

And my Thanksgiving table cloth with appliqued napkins and stuffed pumpkins was not perfect. Sewing a straight line never was my strength. Yet, it was creative. I thought.

So needless to say, after the judging was done, the ribbons adorning my entries were not blue. One was red and the other white. First place would not be mine to attain that year. My ten-year-old competitive heart crumbled. Disappointment hung thick in the car as we drove home down highway seventy passed Rhonda Rollin’s daddy’s Dairy Freeze. Not even an ice cream cone could make me feel better.

Wisely, my mom gave me time to grieve. She didn’t impart her advice until we pulled into our driveway. The blue Ford slowly rolled up to the house. Mom braked gently, put it in park, turned the ignition off, and turned toward her pouting, freckled face daughter. That’s when she gave me the advice that stuck with me for the rest of my life.

No rebuke.
No “You’ll do better next time.”


“Andy, in life you have to be a teeter-totter. You can’t always be on top. Others win. That’s just the way life is. Sometimes you’re on top, and sometimes you’re not.”

Time and time again that wisdom has softened the blow of defeat granting me grace for myself and the one who won. It even helped me recently when I learned that I had not won a writing contest. My initial disappointment wasn’t graceful. The loss stirred up that ten-year old girl who decided she would never enter another contest.

I even thought, Maybe I’m done writing! Maybe I should do something else.

I began second guessing everything I’ve written.

But after a short-stack of pancakes with a lot of butter and syrup, the memory of a my mom’s advice drifted through my mind.  It lessened the disappointment, silenced the doubts, and placed it all in perspective.

Andy, you have to be a teeter-totter.

Such wisdom. Her words reminded me that life is not about blue ribbons or being an award-winning writer. No, life is about using our gifts and passions for the Kingdom of Light.

And taking turns.

If my turn on the ground gives someone else the chance to be in the air, I’ll take my turn. Honestly, God didn’t tell me to win an award-winning book. He just told me to write a book.

And I did.

What was the best piece of advice your mom gave you?


Andy Lee is a Bible teacher, blogger, and author of A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called (Leafwood, 2016) and The Book of Ruth Key Word Bible Study: A 31-Day Journey to Hope and Promise (AMG Publishers). Visit her site, where Andy digs deep to live fully and join her daily with hundreds of viewers on her Bite of Bread Facebook Live broadcast at 8:20 AM ET to start your day in the Word. 


  1. That was a great way to tell a kid. And it's excellent advice.

  2. Thanks Andy. Sometimes I get discouraged that my writing makes a difference. When that happens, I have to remind myself that if it touches or helps just one person, then it was worth the effort. After all, I am writing because God has called me to write.

    Your example of a teeter-totter helped me to put things in perspective. Blessings to you and thanks for sharing.

  3. Love this ... such an encouraging truth: You have to be a teeter-totter. There's grace in those words -- room for both success and failure. Room for growth.

  4. Sometimes it's hard to always be the one that helps another rise to the top. But there's honor in that, too. Obedience is key. Just write. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Great wisdom and truth to keep before us every day!

  6. Thank you Andy for sharing this post. The best advice my mom gave me was "don't do good deeds that seem bad and do not bad deeds that seem good". She also constantly told us "even if you are the janitor, strive to be the best janitor".
    Seems to me you have a great mother.

  7. So simple yet so wise and easy to remember. A perfect piece of advice. How blessed you are to have such a mother! And thank you for writing this. I'm going to ponder it a lot as I go through some job interviews in the coming weeks!