Strip down and never lose sight

Crisscrossed with knee-high boundaries of grass, the field stretched far below the hilltop. To the distant right, the sound of a fast-moving four-wheeler buzzed louder until I saw it speed toward the horizon, followed seconds later by a skinny-ing mass of runners.

Along with all the other camera-laden parents, I  darted across the fields, staking strategic positions to capture my son rounding a corner or blazing down a hillside. I hurdled boulders, pushed through sluggish throngs, and catapulted my rattling, aging body from one carrefour of the course to another.

When my runner passed by, I whooped.

I hollered.

I scurried across the field to the next junction to cheer him on some more.

Hundreds of spectators gathered to watch the state middle school cross-country championship. Hundreds of kids flashed by. Yet within that undulating motley horde, I found and locked eyes with my son. 

The corner of his mouth turned up when he saw me.

He gulped more air.

He lengthened his stride. 

He disappeared.

And I scurried to the next junction to cheer him on again . . . until I met him at the finish line, red-faced, breathless, and satisfied.

We’re not unlike these cross-country runners, you and I, especially if we feel called to write for the Christian market. After returning from the 2011 ACFW conference, I spent days processing not only that event, but also my writing journey as a whole. I argued with my muse, re-evaluated my purpose, and gasped for clarity amidst the torrid winds of the publishing industry.

Until I watched my sons race last weekend.

And I remembered.

I remembered running up the hill of uncertainty after taking years off writing to focus on parenting.

Around the corner was an industry professional who said no to a query, but invited me to Mount Hermon, where my heart for Him and writing collided like a flare on a pitch black highway.

I rounded the craggy corner of tens of rejections.

Then I “happened upon” a newspaper editor who just “happened to need” a new weekly columnist.

I fell behind, distanced from hope by whispers that no one needs or wants to hear my pathetic story or craftless words.

On the back stretch I caught sight of the waving arms of a friend who led me to my agent.

I lost sight of other runners sprinting ahead of me, pouring out multiple books a year, and I wanted to give up my goal to publish even one.

Around the next bend, a blog reader commented that the words on my website changed her life.

I coveted the bold, new uniforms of other runners and wondered if I should water down or change my message.

A fan on the sideline told me how a Christian book by a Christian writer saved her husband’s soul.

We are in a race, we faith-focused writers . . . a race to make Him known . . . a race to further the inbreaking of His Kingdom . . . a race beckoning us to finish hard, finish well, and finish strong . . . no matter where we fall in the pack.

And around every corner . . . along the loneliest stretches . . . down the effortless hills and up the steepest inclines, He runs to meet us . . . to cheer us on . . . to lock our wandering eyes upon His countenance above all others along the swarming sidelines.

“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! . . . Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way . . . ” (Hebrews 12:1-3, TMV)

What about you?

Where have you felt God’s presence along your race course? How have veteran Christian writers inspired you? When have you heard Him whooping and hollering, redirecting your steps and restoring your focus on Him?

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54 thoughts on “Strip down and never lose sight

  1. Love this post, Amy. I’ve had so many God winks along the way. Magazines that had just the research I needed at the sign in sheet for a dentist appointment. A doctor flat out asking me to write a chapter for a text book. Even ACFW coming to Colorado was the impetus for me to finish my novel. That’s where I met Greg during an agent appointment.

    Strong work!

    • Jordyn–I LOVE your “God-cheering-you-on” stories! Also, just visited your blog for the first time tonight. Love it, too. So great meeting you last week at the conference, & thanks for commenting here!

  2. We all need encouragement…this is a tough race we are in. I am thankful for my family that encourages me on. I thankful for the Christian teachers, preachers and writers who have inspired me on. I thankful to God for His continuing patience with me and for encouraging me to keep on going. I thankful for His example to learn from in the Word.

  3. Wow, Amy! This was an amazing post that I can’t help but identify with. There have been many times I have felt like giving up but then God places great people, great moments, and great connections into my life that just keep me going. He knows what He is doing for sure and I just have to keep trusting Him as He leads me down this path. 🙂

    Jeremiah 29:11

    • First, Amy: thank you for this beautiful reminder that even when we can’t see it and certainly don’t feel it, God is working out his plan for our lives and using us in ways that we may never know about until we get to heaven.

      Jenny: Jeremiah 29:11 is my life verse. I go back to that over and over again, and lean on it so much. Writing and waiting has challenged this so much in my life…more than anything I can remember recently. He is always faithful and his plan and timing are always perfect. I just pray that he will keep me faithful as well.

  4. Pingback: Strip down and never lose sight «

    • I’m so glad you found it, then, Sharon! I kept trying to find you at ACFW, by the way, to thank you in person for helping me online with my pecan farming questions. See, back then you were a huge encouragement to me. It’s a privilege to bless you back.

  5. Amy, I love this post, love you running from station to station to cheer on your son. What a wonderful picture of some great truths…and Truths! It’s not only wise but necessary for us to reevaluate where we are from time to time, to assure we’re on the path God wants us on. Then, run!

    Your post put me in mind of two of my favorite Bible verses:

    “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”–Hebrews 12: 1-3

    And this:

    “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”–2 Timothy 4:7

    Blessing to you on the race! 🙂

  6. You, my dear friend, are an amazing writer. Love this analogy. Love your personal story. Love how God meets us always. Love that no two journeys can ever be compared.

  7. Amy, you have such a God given gift and always manage to speak directly to my heart and soul. I too, can relate with watching writers pass me by. Still working on my first novel, while they have published two or three. I have recently come to terms with that and know that this is the way He meant it to be. This post cements my knew acceptance of myself.
    Thank you, yet again, for your encouragement and keeping me close to Him.

    • Cindy, I think half the battle is being confident we’re going the way He intended for us, and that way is good. You’re such an encourager. Praying blessings for you today!

  8. Amy, you open your heart and allow us to see inside. I love the beauty of your words, but I cherish the beauty of your friendship. I was so encouraged to see you at ACFW. YOU have a story to tell in a way no other writer can tell it. YOU will honor God with your words in a way that touches His heart.

    My favorite part of this post is when your eyes locked with your son’s and his lip turned up slightly. To me, as a mother of two boys, that showed he knew you were there cheering him on. That slight upturn of the lip was a connection between mother and son.

    God is using you in a mighty way, friend. He is cheering you on. He is running up those hills with you. He is hurdling boulders to take your picture.

    I truly felt his presence in my writing career during the first week of January. Beth Vogt had posted a quote in the My Book Therapy Monday night chat that convicted me to start clearing my plate. I wasn’t sure why I needed to do it, I just knew God was leading me to the dessert buffet. I received my answer four days later when Rachelle called to share news about my first contract.

    • Those crazy, precious boys, eh? 🙂 Loved that you picked that little part out. And the part about God hudling boulders to take our pictures. 🙂 Love your story about January and so thrilled for you! I’m so grateful for you!!!

  9. Aaahh, your writing always moves me. I have tears in my eyes. You captured every writer’s struggle. Just six months ago I was ready to quit. Three of the most painful events in recent years happened in direct relation to my book pursuit. I felt God was telling me something. But God did give me friends in this writer-world. Friends who told me people needed my book. God also gave me an assurance that the pain and the ensuing lessons would not be wasted.

    I’m so glad I didn’t give up. The day finally came when an editor’s email came: “Lucille’s book is a go.”

    Fellow writers, hold on. Keep running.

    God put this desire in your heart.

    • Praise Him, He never wastes any of our battles! I love the verse in Joel about how He redeems the years the locusts have eaten. He SOOO does that, doesn’t He? Grateful for you, Lucille! Writing mercies!

  10. Love this, Amy! It has been my experience, in my writing journey as well as my personal life, that God always gives us what we need at exactly the moment we need it most. And sometimes that means not getting what we think we want. His plan is always the better one!
    I’m so glad you were able to come to ACFW and that you found the answers you were looking for. It was great meeting you in person!

  11. What a terrific post for a Christian writer to read. I am SO glad that the Lord led me to you in cyberspace.

  12. I love how you showed your son so much support and how much that meant to him.

    I’ve been supported by so many as I’ve traveled on my writer’s journey. The encouragement writers offer one another is amazing. I’ve just returned from the ACFW conference where I was showered with blessings. My heart is full. =)

    • Keli, I think God surrounded us with so many encouagers because He knows the world needs hopeful words that testify to Him perhaps more than any other time in history. Grateful for full hearts and heavy pens!

  13. Honored to be cheering you on. Keep going. The race is difficult at times but the goal is in sight. Great analogy, Amy.

  14. I just love how the community comes together in encouragement and support. So many of Rachelle’s more seasoned clients have welcomed me with open arms, offered spot-on advice and picked me up when I fell flat on my face. I keep thanking God for such a rich community.

    Love your analogy, Amy (especially because I am a runner!).

  15. What wonderful words, Amy! The race is constant, but thanks to God’s nudgings and the encouragement of veteran writers, new writers know the finish line has been strung across the course on the distant horizon. We just have to trust and keep running toward it. Woo Hoo!

  16. Amy,
    One of the highlights of ACFW was meeting you in person (and hugging you!)
    Now when I read your posts they mean just a bit more … a whole lot more.
    I always liken the writing life to a road (the writing road). I would still be standing on the side, scuffing my toes in the dirt, but for the encouragement of others to “get moving!” Truly every step forward included the encouragement, exhortation and guidance of another writer, editor or publisher … someone wiser than me. The missteps? I’ve had those too. Someone was always there to help me regain my footing.
    Appreciate your insights. They keep me moving forward.

  17. I struggle with the idea of uniqueness. If a voice isn’t unique, is it necessary? Then, I’ll receive a response to my blog that someone thought of my way of thinking as unique. Maybe I do have a purpose in this race.

  18. As a runner and a writer, I want to thank you for your words of encouragement. What a perfect comparison between racing and chasing after the writing life we crave. Thanks for the blessing of your words at a perfect time.

  19. Great post. Thank you for cheering us on, Amy, and reminding us that it probably is an endurance race- not a sprint.While the industry is hard, I think I have been my toughest obstacle. I actually consider meeting you one of the encouragements I needed. I came to the conference pretty alone and it was great to meet people and move beyond FB friends.

    • Oh, yeah, Charise. Talk about a big ol’ boulder to hurdle . . .um . . . that would be ME!!! So grateful for you, dear! I’ll always regret not sticking around to see that elephant with you . . .

  20. Not knowing what’s around the bend. It’s the exciting and scary part of this journey. I think God knows just when we need to see around another “corner” to keep us going. Such a great reminder Amy!

  21. Amy. You encourage me today.
    I have run many races, but his is a new one.
    The voice of Truth comes through your words.
    Thank you.

  22. I had just about given up hope of going on with my writing. The end of May my youngest daughter passed away very unexpectedly. I was scheduled to go on a mission trip to Ecuador and after her death there seemed to be no way to go on that trip. God said “trust me’ that is all he said and then He filled me with so much peace and grace I was amazed. I went on that trip and met two published authors. (God is good) They were able to encourage me and hook me up with ACFW and TWV2 and several blogs. My church had been discouraging me to write fiction but now I had people to encourage me. I know God loves to give us that eye catching look to encourage us in our race. Your post have touched me. I will be praying for your health and strength.
    Glenda Parker

  23. At the moment you locked eyes with your son tears sprung into my eyes. We all need someone cheering us on, locking eyes with us, in our corner, celebrating and snapping pictures. I couldn’t begin to chronicle each person who has done that for me on this writing journey. The thought is overwhelming and humbling and joyous. I pray I can lock eyes with others and bring them along on the race as so many have done for me!

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