Perseverance: The Lesson of the Gravel Pile

This true story of motivation and perseverance is told by Beth Estelle Innes, daughter of Elizabeth Estelle, Homeschool Christian Mom.

My dad has taught me many lessons. Pick up after yourself, stand up straight, leave things better than they were, do things right even if no one else will see, are all examples of these lessons. One of the lessons on motivation that I will never forget started with another of my dad’s principles,  Be careful with your money.This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our Disclosure Policy for details.

Motivation: To Make Things Look Better

Our driveway needed more gravel one spring so it wouldn’t have ruts and be all muddy. Dad estimated how much he would need, which worked out to be about 2 yards. When he called to get the gravel delivered the company had an VERY expensive flat delivery fee for 2 yards. But, if you bought 10 yards they would waive the delivery fee. You could get 10 yards for about the same price as the 2 yards. You can guess what my thrifty dad decided to do.

Perseverance: Moving 10 yards of Gravel

More information about a yard of gravel: A cubic yard of material can be spread to cover 100 square feet (10×10 foot area) at 3 inches of depth. Math Central answers, “What does 1 yard of gravel look like?” A cubic yard of gravel is one yard × one yard × one yard, perhaps looking like this: If we slice it into 2 inch slices, we have 36/2 = 18 slices, each of them 2 inches thick, with a top surface that measures one yard × one yard hence with an area of one square yard.

A couple of days later a gigantic truck backed into the area where Dad wanted the gravel and dumped 10 yards into a gigantic heap. It was monstrous! And oh, how much fun it looked to climb on, which all four of us children did. Dad let us have some fun before he made his announcement. The driveway would only take 2 yards of the gravel to re-do. We got to work and the driveway looked great.

However,  the rest of the gravel had to be moved into the lower floor of our barn. When Dad told us this we kids stared at the pile and then at Dad and then at the pile. We had helped Dad with projects our whole lives. But 8 yards of gravel? Dad passed out the shovels and said his infamous saying,

“We only will shovel for 10 minutes.”

And we did. For days, for weeks, for months, for years (okay, okay, it wasn’t that long.) Every day after school we would have to troop out to the pile and dig in. And you had better put a concerted effort into your shoveling or the ten minutes would start again. (That was very good motivation.)

Keep At It and the Job Will Get Done

When we looked at the pile every day it never seemed to get any smaller. It was the never-ending hated task. Now I feel sorry for my dad having to drag all of us whiny kids out there to shovel every day. He probably did not want to shovel either and it would have been a lot easier just to do it by himself. But then we kids would have missed the lesson. No matter how big the pile is or how hard it is to lift each shovel-full, if you stick to it relentlessly it will get done. And it finally did! I think we went out for ice cream cones when it was all finished. Whew!


A couple of years ago I volunteered on a project without fully assessing the situation. It was a cleaning project and since anyone can wield a sponge and bleach how hard could it be? After 3 hours of enthusiastic scrubbing  I realized what a colossal task I had taken on. You couldn’t even tell I’d made progress yet. My enthusiasm died and I wanted to quit and let someone else finish. I had put a valiant effort in and it was a volunteer project anyways, so why shouldn’t I?

But then I remembered a skinny kid whose dad had said, “Only 10 minutes of shoveling” and I knew I couldn’t quit. Every time I looked over my shoulder and didn’t see any progress I would say “only 10 minutes more.” It took 10 hours to finish the project. It took a lot of muscle and work. But when I could looked at the completed task I felt the same exhilaration as that day the last shovel scraped the remaining pieces of gravel.

Perseverance: Stick to It. Get It Done.

Are you faced with a seemingly insurmountable project? Are you discouraged by its magnitude and your lack of progress? Don’t quit. Throw yourself a two second pity party and get back at it! Take one more shovelful, work ten more minutes, and conquer your nemesis. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade stick with it. Don’t listen to critics–especially yourself. Your perseverance will make all the difference.

The mountain of gravel is conquerable.

One shovel at a time.

Have the right mindset.

I imagine that if you have read this far, you have some BIG OBSTACLES in your way. Maybe you are going through a tough time where people are doubting you and now you have started doubting yourself too. Please don’t despair! The Lord will use difficult things in your life to draw you closer to Himself. If we are thrown to our knees through a tough situation, that is not a bad place to be. Keep praying! Keep reading your Bible! Seek the advice of godly friends. The Lord has promised to work in your life and give you the wisdom that you need. He is not trying to hide His Will from You. Matthew 7: 7,8 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.”

I’m praying for you! If you want to reach out to me for some motivation, I’m on Facebook at Homeschool Christian Mom.

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