Stuck? Do the next thing — #TellHisStory

September 15, 2015 | 24 comments

“Let’s run a marathon,” she said.

She propped her elbows on the table, and rested her chin in her hands. The restaurant’s candlelight danced in her eyes. Behind her, the moon cut a perfect circle through dead-of-winter’s velvet sky.

My sister-in-law waited for my answer.

I didn’t exactly say no-oooo, but maybe it was the way I twisted my whole forehead into a Gordian knot. I’m subtle like that.

She leaned back, crossing her arms over her chest. “OK. Fine. A half-marathon then.”

“Yes. Yes. Absolutely yes. I’m in.” I surprised myself when the words tumbled out. I felt it under my ribs. I wanted this.

We paid the bill, hugged good-bye, and both went home.

The next day, I was all like — Uh … oh.

I didn’t exactly own a pair of running shoes. And I didn’t exactly know how to, you know, run 13.1 miles. Which is what one does when one runs a half-marathon.

But I had committed to this, and I wanted this. But how? How do you chase after the impossible dream?

You take the single first step. That’s how.

It’s the starting that’s always the hardest.

But you’ve just got to take the step …
or you stop.

You’ve got to move forward …
or you flounder on dead-center.

And if you don’t keep doing the next thing, you won’t give wings to your dreams.

And I wanted that crazy dream to fly. So like Forrest Gump, I started running.

That first day, I ran to the end of the driveway, slapped the mailbox with my palm, and then came stumbling back to the house.

rural mailbox
The next day, I went a little farther.

If I ever started thinking too hard about things, like the fact that I had miles upon miles to go before I could run 13.1 without puking, I would have stopped entirely.

But I couldn’t think about the ten-gazillion steps I’d need to take to cross the finish line. I could think only of the next one. 

“Do the next thing.” ~ Elisabeth Elliot


A lot of life is like this–

You get the sense that God wants you to take the leap, but the cliff looks too high.

You feel the nudge to write a book, but you can’t even tackle the opening sentence.

You read the “Help Wanted” ad about your dream job, but lose confidence after filling out the first line of the online application.

You dream of leading the Bible study, reconciling a relationship, starting a speaking ministry, expanding your business, adopting a child, knocking on the neighbor’s door, pitching the idea … but the first step looks daunting. And the last step looks positively impossible. 

So you shake your head, with a “yeah, whatever” … and you don’t even lace up your shoes. But what if you went all Forrest Gump on your life, and you simply took the next step, and the one after that, and the one right after that? And pretty soon, you found yourself “running all the way across Greenbow County.”

And what if you actually made it, simply because you kept doing the next thing?  Crazy things like that happen every day.

What if you saw a book, not as a 55,000 words, but as a series of sentences accumulated over time?

Honestly? A half-marathon is one trip after another to the mailbox … after another after another.

I can’t lie about how hard it was some days. Or how I wanted to use the early drafts of my first book as campfire kindling.

Your dream? It requires persistence — one prayer, one phone call, one action, one step every day. One. Step. Every. Day.

Even when it hurts. The world needs you.

Today? Run to the mailbox.

That’s all. Just run to the mailbox. Take the next step. A great crowd of witnesses is cheering you on. 

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Hey Tell His Story crew! It is always a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there! Our featured writer this week is Lori Schumaker. She beautifully encourages us to leave a legacy of love, even when it looks like simply continuing to show up and believe in one another. Find Lori here. To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. 🙂 xo Jennifer

by | September 15, 2015 | 24 comments


  1. Ally | The Speckled Goat

    So encouraging! This “long-range-looker” needed the reminder that every journey starts with one step- and focusing on that step is enough. Thank you!

  2. Michelle DeRusha

    Hey girl, we are on the same wavelength today – I wrote about the same thing…marathon running as an analogy for book writing. Great minds think alike! 😉 Take the next step!

  3. Alecia Simersky

    There’s a quote,”Don’t look ahead at how far you have to go, look behind at how far you’ve come” that I always keep in the back of my mind when I’m out walking the hills in my neighborhood. I repeat over and over in my head ‘don’t look up don’t look up don’t look up’ cause if I did I would quit. Cause it hurts and it’s hard. I am always surprised at how often I need the reminder to just take the next step when I get overwhelmed. It’s a good reminder.

  4. Pam Ecrement

    Outstanding, Jennifer! I have not run even a half marathon, but I watched my daughter go through the process you describe. For me the message of this post relates to my first step with starting a website in May to risk pursuing a dream to write after I had set it aside following a seriously discouraging conversation with a woman 15 years ago who was a part time editor. The nudge to start the website really got pushed harder when I signed up for a writer’s conference in June. Each “next step” develops a bit more courage, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to fight against the old haunting voices seeking to dissuade me. The community of others like you who write provide me encouragement and strength to keep taking one more step. Thanks!!!

  5. Mary

    Your words are perfect for me in this time of my life. I have been digging into what brave looks like and the verse that I have been given over and over is when Peter is called by Jesus to get out of the boat and walk to Him. Oh my! It humbles me every time I hear it and I even know how to swim. Thank you for cheering me on with your words to pursue that next step which is still unfolding.

  6. Tiffany

    I love your encouraging words and I just adore Elisabeth. “Do the next thing” has been a mantra in our house for years. It drops a manageable dose of perspective into your day, makes you stop looking uphill, and just fix your eyes on well, the next thing. Thank YOU for the reminder today. 🙂

  7. Brenda

    Thank you, Jennifer. This is one that we should print out for those hard days…and there are always hard days. Reminds me of that saying (Hmmm, can’t remember who it’s attributed to) “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Good words, this afternoon, thank you. 🙂 (btw, I told my son that he and I should “do” a half marathon. He’s yet to respond, *smile* )

  8. Anita

    Oh, I loved this! Especially since I’ve run two half marathons. Wanna run a marathon? I’ll run with you! ;). For me it’s so much easier to invest myself and time in things like running–it’s not critical, people cheer me on because I run (and my Nike+ app lets everyone in Facebook world know about it) and I’m old (as dirt, my students would say). Sending things to agents and publishers? That takes an amount of brave that petrifies me. I’ve done it a few times and quit at the first rejection. Thank you for the cheers of encouragement to try again.

  9. Kristi Woods

    Goodness! I have a passionate distrust of running. Is it really good for me? 🙂 But I am super excited for you and this 1/2 marathon. You go, girl! Run like the wind. And as for the moral of the post? Loved it. Am chewing on it. Found great encouragement in it, especially as I’m branching out to speaking. Thanks Jennifer!

  10. Angela Howard

    “Do the next thing” – I can definitely get overwhelmed by the many things when God is calling me to do the next right thing before me. It is often to simply love the person in front of me, finish the last project I started, and have faith!

  11. Tara Ulrich

    Oh Jen! Thank you for this! I have so many thing I want to do and try, yet I am afraid to take that first step. Thank you for reminding me that all it takes is taking that first step. I am going to try and bring a little Forrest Gump to my life.

  12. Lynn D. Morrissey

    There are wonderful life lessons here, Jennifer, and whew! Way to go! I think I would pass on those lessons if I had to run. But I’m very glad to learn from your tenacious example. This is such a strong and encouraging post! I’m afraid that I’ve learned my lessons from *walking* life’s path, instead! 🙂 I love that you alluded to Elisabeth Elliot. She took her quote from a poem on an old English parsonage (according to her). I will include it at the end of my comments. I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing Elisabeth Elliot, at the time married to Lars Gren. And so, I called her Mrs. Gren. We also exchanged a couple of letters. She was an incredible lady–such a strong Christian, a powerful and insightful writer, and excellent speaker. I would recommend any of her books, including the early ones about her first missionary-husband, Jim Elliot. And I loved her radio program, Gateway to Joy, which now is re-airing on St. Louis on BBN. ‘She was on the air for ten years. Perhaps some of your readers could listen online now. They’d not be disappointed. Her messages are worth their weight in gold–so wise, practical, and Bible-centered. Mrs. Gren has now done the next thing and gone home to be with Jesus about a month ago. I can only imagine the “well done” she is now receiving from Christ, Himself.

    For you and your readers, here’s the poem:

    “At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
    there came in the twilight a message to me.
    Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
    that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
    And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
    like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’

    Many a questioning, many a fear,
    many a doubt hath its quieting here.
    Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
    time, opportunity, guidance are given.
    Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
    trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

    Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
    do it reliantly, casting all care.
    Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
    who placed it before thee with earnest command.
    Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
    leave all resultings, do the next thing.

    Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
    working or suffering be thy demeanor,
    in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
    the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
    Do the next thing.”

  13. Constance Ann Morrison

    I’m off to the mailbox–one step at a time. Thanks for cheering us on, Jennifer!

  14. Mary Flaherty

    Oh yes! I just started training for a 5K, and let me tell you—I HATED running. HATED, HATED, HATED!!! (I cannot emphasize that enough). But when my last bloodwork came back no better than before, I was told I had to make some health changes. I had to get serious. I cut out sugar, met with a nutritionist and got a new eating plan, and stepped up my exercise to include running. My driveway wasn’t long enough to slap the mailbox—that would have bordered on cheating. But I do love that-made me laugh!

    I’m on Week 3 (the app is called C25K—Couch to 5K), and I walk/run every morning in the semi-dark/dawn. I don’t hate it…oddly, I look forward to getting up to walk/run–and I marvel at how I can actually run now…like a real person. I even have the cute clothes because if I’m going to run in public, at least I need to look good. It’s one day, one step, one moment at a time. I can’t do the 5K yet, but I CAN do what I’m supposed to do by Week 3. ONly 5 more to go and I’ll be running a 5K. We can do it! Loved this encouraging post.

    • Jen

      I can’t run yet – too much weight for my knees to do more than jogging in intervals while walking most of it. But I love what you said about looking forward to it. I’ve found on the days when I don’t get out and walk, I miss it! It wasn’t that way in the beginning – I had to pray my way through just a couple of miles at first. 🙂 But now… I need it!

  15. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Jennifer, this is so cool. Yesterday, I included the text here in the blog comments from where Elisabeth Elliot got the quote, “Do the next thing.” And just today, I heard her talk where she recites that very poem! This is a wonderful 15-min broadcast she is doing today from a larger series called “How to Simplify Your Life.” Today’s talk is called “Do It Now,” but she also talks about how “doing the next thing” was an especially great comfort when her first and second husbands died. I thought that you and your readers might have a moment to listen to her “do the next thing” talk. I love being able to hear Mrs. (Elliot) Gren again. Talks are only archived for one week. Here ’tis. Enjoy!

  16. Dolly @

    Yes 🙂 Love this reminder…it has been my mantra lately, especially the line in The Serenity Prayer (full version): Living one day at a time….Thanks 🙂

  17. Lisa notes

    Just do the next thing has gotten me through SO many adventures in life. It’s great advice and I love being reminded of it here through your story, Jennifer. Thanks for your faithfulness to this community.

  18. Ellen Chauvin

    Some days that phrase “Do the next thing” is the only thing that keeps me sane! Thank you so much for these words of encouragement today!

  19. Nancy Ruegg

    Thank you for the positive little push in the right direction, Jennifer. Nothing is accomplished if we’re too frightened, too lazy, or too disheartened to take the first step, and then the next, and another after that.There is also great comfort in knowing God is with us, giving us wisdom, strength, and guidance every step of the way. Word to self: Press on!

  20. Bethany Boring

    Too funny – I have this saying – “Take the next best possible step. God never called you to run a marathon!” And then you shared this…editing…editing…

  21. Carol Bovee

    Love this! I heard once that the Biblical phrase, “a light unto my path” came from the lanterns they carried that lit up a foot or tow radius around the feet. God’s lamp doesn’t light us into next week, often, but it does light up the first step and as soon as you take it, it lights up the next step. I love that and I love your post (this from the lady who has NEVER run a marathon, a half-marathon or even a 5k). Today is just one step!

  22. Rebecca

    Great words of hope today. Sometimes that one step seems like that moment in the Indiana Jones movie. You need to step out to the unseen and the road will rise up beneath your feet. I needed this reminder today.

  23. Jen

    I wrote about how we can persevere this week, and theses words here go right along with it. It’s one seemingly small step at a time, but each one takes us closer to that end goal. Thanks for cheering us along! 🙂



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