#TellHisStory: Do the Next Thing

September 11, 2013 | 39 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, and it was rumbling in my bones. 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.

iowa driveway

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 write a book, but because 55,000 words looks too daunting, you don’t even want to 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, starting a speaking ministry, expanding your business, adopting a child, knocking on the neighbor’s door, sharing the gospel, 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 it you actually made it, simply because you keep 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?


A half-marathon is one trip after another to the mailbox …
after another
after another
after an excruciating ‘nother.

I can’t lie about how hard it was some days. Or how I cried some days over unfinished chapters of my now-completed manuscript.

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

One. Step. Every. Day. Even when it hurts.

But the world needs you.

Sure, you might trip over your shoelaces. (Not that I would know anything about THAT.)

But someday? You’re going to cross the finish line, and it’s going to be glorious.

Today? Run to the mailbox.

That’s all. Just run to the mailbox. And open it up. It might be enough to convince you that it’s worth lacing up your shoes again when the sun rises tomorrow. Enough to convince you that a finish line is waiting, and Someone is there to whisper in your ear: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

country mailbox



letter in mailbox



And … yes! I really DID go from zero to 13.1 miles — not once but TWICE, back in 2010.

Photographic proof:




So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.

For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here: https://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/. Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!


[badge url=’https://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/’ title=’#TellHisStory – a community of God/’s storytellers’ image=’https://jenniferdukeslee.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/tellhisstory-badge.jpg’]



by | September 11, 2013 | 39 comments


  1. Dea Moore

    Yep, good advice to “go all Forrest Gump” on my life. Congrats! Now get one of the those stickers for your car window that says 13.1. My step-brother has a sticker that says 0.0. I think that means he won’t be running to the mailbox. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      I think there are many ways we can run to the mailbox, so to speak. And while I’m not running long distances so much anymore, I often remember the lesson of running and training, as it applies to so much of my life. The latest? The book. That felt like a full marathon, and then some. 🙂

  2. Janet

    Yay, you! I love this! Perfectly coached. I’m making a list of next steps – right after I get done with the treadmill….

    • dukeslee

      Hey thanks, Janet! Yeah, it was a great experience running those long races. On the second of the two events, I got plantar fascitis — right on the very final mile! I finished, but it was months before my foot healed. I am now only running short distances, but finding other ways to “run to the mailbox,” so to speak. What’s your mailbox? 🙂

      • Janet

        Ouch! And yet you finished! I’m impressed. I have several mailboxes! Always! Right now I’m working on building up readership on my blog – working on writing quality posts (you’re an inspiration…), networking, learning a little more about all of the social media connections… I’m also learning about encouragement and friendship from this community of strangers…You are one of the encouragers. Thank you

  3. Kim @ Kim's County Line

    One step at a time. Yes, I needed to hear that message today. Thanks, Jennifer, for the reminder and for the opportunity to link up.

    • dukeslee

      Always glad to have you, Kim.

  4. Lisa notes...

    Congratulations, Jennifer!!! That’s so fantastic that you did a half-marathon twice (does that add up to a full marathon once?).

    I love this advice to take the next step. One day at a time. That’s all the Lord ever asks of us. He’s always in our current step.

    • dukeslee

      I’d say, YES. Two halves make a whole. I’m going with that. 🙂

  5. Shelly Miller

    Thanks Jennifer, I needed the encouragement to keep at it today. Appreciate you and what a milestone to put under your belt – twice!

    • dukeslee

      I’d have to train a good long while to accomplish that feat again. But the lesson? I’ll keep it in my pocket for the rest of my life. Always cheering for you, Shelly, as you “run to the mailbox” in your own life.

  6. Alicia Bruxvoort

    Oh, I needed this reminder today as I’m overwhelmed with the thousand steps that stand between me and what God’s asking me to do. I think I’ll just take those five steps to my mailbox for starters! Love to linger here.

    • dukeslee

      Always a joy to have you, Alicia… Praying, just now, for you, as you take steps — one right after another. I believe in you and WITH you!

  7. Kristen

    Thanks, Jennifer — I needed this inspiration today. For sticking with my first week at a gym for one thing, but also for other things I feel called to do.

    • dukeslee

      I believe you can do this, Kristen. One step at a time. Do the next thing, girl . Cheering you on.

  8. eil1een

    Love it! I never thought I could run 1/2 marathons either. But now I’ve got 2 behind me. Love how running lessons apply to how we live life too!

    • dukeslee

      Woot! Rock on, friend!

  9. Karrilee Aggett

    “Guilt, out. Grace, in.” and go ‘all Forrest Gump on your life’ – two gems this week that will definitely stay with me and be coming out of my mouth from now on! <3

    And just when I was considering (again) to get back to running… My goal is nowhere near a half – but, one step at a time, right?

    • dukeslee

      One step at a time… In running and in life in general. Cheering for you as you run to your metaphorical mailbox, whatever that is for you today. 🙂

  10. Kris Camealy

    Bless you Jennifer. Today, of all the days, I NEED this. I am so weary…

    • dukeslee

      Praying. (((Kris)))

  11. Sheila at Longings Ends

    Thanks for this encouragement, Jennifer. ABSOLUTELY needed it today. Blessings…and never stop running the race! 🙂

    • dukeslee

      There really is a finish line. Can you imagine it? Glory…

  12. Elizabeth Stewart

    I needed to read this today. The next step seemed hard this morning.

    • dukeslee

      Praying for your steps, Elizabeth. xo

    • dukeslee

      So good to see you here, Katharine. You remain in my prayers. Any updates on your health?

  13. Laura Rath

    LOVE this encouragement Jennifer! Thank you.

  14. Dolly@Soulstops

    You go girl..SO proud of you…You are such a great encourager, Jennifer…hugs 🙂

  15. amandaconquers

    Such timely encouragement for me as I have been sitting on the words that have been burning in my heart for over a year. The idea of writing some 60,000 words is overwhelming (not to mention the part where you could face countless rejections at the end of it all). So start with one sentence. Then do the next thing. Thank you for this. So appreciate you!

  16. Jennifer Camp

    This is just the encouragement I needed today, Jennifer. Thank you!

  17. Laurie Collett

    One small step of faith at a time! Thanks for hosting & God bless!

  18. generalkat

    I will keep these words close to my heart whenever I get discouraged…”Do the next thing.” It is hard to see the finish line when there are so many miles (or words) to go. I just want to be faithfully writing a bit of my story each day and finding help from my critique group to make my goal a reality. Just one day at a time. May I be disciplined in my training “to finish course and keep my faith. Henceforth,there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness with which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will recompense me in that day, and not only me but also all those who have loved His appearing.” II Tim. 4:7-8

  19. Rebekah

    Way to go, Jennifer! With 30% lung capacity, I admire people who run any type of marathon 😉 and have always been curious about that adrenaline that kicks in. I don’t anticipate that being something for me although I always love the analogy so I’ll run with it! 😉 Thanks!!

  20. Summer Gross

    My sister and I were just chatting about this. For us the key is commitment with passion but not attached to emotion. I need to persevere, take steps but be willing to write, work, love through the down days. Does that make sense? My question is, how do you persevere?

  21. Candace

    Congrats Jennifer on an amazing accomplishment! I am so impressed. My husband runs half marathons and has always tried to get me to do them with him. I get way too caught up in the last step and how hard it will be to make it to the finish line instead of just taking that first step. Thank you for your beautiful inspiration! I’m so glad to have found your #tellhisstory community.

  22. joanneviola

    Love this post. “it is just one trip after another to the mailbox”. So inspiring. Thanks for this reminder this morning. So glad to have found this community.

  23. rickd3352013

    You keep putting the sentences down as if they were footsteps and the second book will be done before we know it 🙂

    Working on the first – sometimes just a sentence or two at a time – but I won’t quit. Thanks for every solid coaching moment.

  24. Caleb

    Wow, I like the way you put that, “it’s just another trip to the mail box and another…” I find that I can easily lose hope in the tasks God has given me when I think about all the “work” I have to do. Thanks for the encouragement to just put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing!



  1. When old seeds bloom | Lisa notes . . . - [...] at #TellHisStoryWinsome [...]
  2. An Open Letter To My High School Youth Pastor - All The Grace Between - [...] Linking up with Imperfect Prose and #TellHisStory. [...]
  3. condition of the heart - You Are My Girls - [...] up with Jennifer and other story [...]
  4. On guilt, loss and not alone | Draw Near - [...] Linking with Heather, Emily and Jennifer. [...]
  5. Saturday Shortcuts | Planned Peasanthood - [...] Dukes Lee | #TellHisStory: Do the Next Thing – That first day,  I ran to the end of the driveway,…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest