Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Writing Saved My Life

This column ran a while back when it won the Cecil Murphey Mount Hermon scholarship essay award. That spring -- because of Cec's generosity -- I attended a writers conference, where a friend dared me to talk with an agent. I was shocked when that agent offered me a contract.

Me... a girl who started writing only because she wanted to die.

It was the summer of 2001, and I was 17 years old. I wanted only one thing that summer: to die. For seven years I'd struggled with a condition that affected my brain and my heart – leaving me depressed, alone, and afraid. I wanted to end it all.

Then I met Annette.

It was an accident, actually. I was surfing the Web one day when I came across Teen Light magazine, an online journal published by a local journalist named Annette Dammer. I submitted poetry to the site, and Annette immediately e-mailed me back. "This is great!" she said. "You have a gift."

At first I didn't believe her, but I kept writing. Working for Teen Light gave me something to do on dark sleepless nights – nights when the pain was so great I wanted to die – nights when suicidal thoughts raged through my mind.

Annette's words kept coming back to me. "You have a gift…" The question haunted me: could she be right? What if writing was the reason God had put me on earth? What if my life actually had a purpose? What if I could write to encourage others – even if I had to do it from my mattress?

Slowly, Annette gained my trust. I told her about myself, about my illness, and about the hopelessness I felt inside. "God is using you," she told me. "Don't give up."

That summer, Annette taught me how to write a query letter. She slammed my inbox with writing-market information. Before long, I started to secretly send out queries. My first article was published by Focus on the Family magazine that Fall.

I danced around the living room as the slippery white pages rubbed against my fingers. At that moment, something inside of me came alive. I knew: my struggles weren't in vain. God was using them to encourage other hurting people through the words He gave me.

It's been seven years since the day I danced around my living room. Seven years since I wrote my first query letter. Seven years, and I've been published almost 150 times – each article a gentle miracle from God's hand. But there's another miracle from God's hand: the miracle of my healing. Three years ago, He touched my body and made me whole.

Then the real crisis came. What should I do with my life? What should I do with my new-found health? I spent months on my knees before God, crying out for guidance.

The answer came clearly one cold winter day: go to journalism school.

"Journalism school?" my friends asked. "Are you crazy? Writing is a hobby – not a calling. Why be a journalist when there were so many other jobs out there?"

My answer was simple: everyone has a story. Every story needs to be told.

From the beginning of time, God penned the words of your life in His book. You may not understand why He chooses the tragic – the painful – or difficult moments.

But you'll love the ending – if you'll stick around long enough to see how it turns out.

I'm so glad I did.


Stephanie said...

I struggled with an illness for about 3 1/2 years that spanned over high school and the start of college. I was blessed to be healed about a year and a half ago! :) I feel like I have been pressing into God so much asking Him where He wants me. I almost feel like coming out of being sick for so long I didn't know how to function normally in the world. Sometimes I get a little frustrated when I don't know what step I am supposed to take next (like now), but then I read something like this. So encouraged to read a story where God turned what seemed hopeless into something extremely beautiful. thank you for sharing!

BJ Hamrick said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean, Stephanie. I felt like I needed serious career counseling! Plus... I forgot for a long time that I didn't have to plan my life around my illness after I got better. People would ask me to do stuff and I would say, "Let me see how I'm feeling that day..." Then I would remember, "Oh yeah! I don't have to do that anymore!" I'm glad you're doing so much better. Hang in there!

I know all about waiting--for the right guy, for high school to end, for my boobs to come in (two out of three ain't bad).

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