Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Writing Saved My Life

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 an infection 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 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, my illness, and 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 soon published by Focus on the Family Magazine.

I danced around the living room as the slippery white pages rubbed against my fingertips. 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 eight years since the day I danced around my living room. Eight years since I wrote my first query letter. Eight years, and I've been published over 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. Not long 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 our lives His book. We may not understand why He chooses the tragic – the painful – or difficult moments.

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

I'm so glad I did.

BJ Hamrick loves to live out the dreams God has for her. One of those dreams is Real Teen Faith, a place where she mentors teen writers - just like Annette once mentored her.


  1. BJ, this is such a great story of God's faithfulness and not opting for the "safe" path in life. So many people settle for less because it's, well, easier, and I think a story like yours can make a difference in that regard.

    Thanks so much for sharing...so glad to be writing alongside such great women (and wordsmiths).

  2. This made me cry BJ! I too struggle with illness. I want to be a writer but it doesn't seem as clear cut for me as your story. It makes me want to press on and trust in the Lord. thank you

  3. BJ, thank you so much for posting this. Since sixth grade, I had people telling me to write, write, write, but it wasn't until I was a teenager I thought I should, uh, write--all because of encouragement from a bands. Hence, my life of writing about music and musicians was born! Thank you for sharing your story. It's extremely touching and I love to see how you're giving back the gift given to you by another!

  4. This made me all teary. What a sweet post, BJ! I'm so glad God is working through you. :)

  5. What an amazing and heart-piercing testimony, BJ! Your story really touched me. Thank you so much for finding the courage to not only write about your experiences, but to survive despite them. You're impacting more lives than you know. You just chalked up another right here with me.

  6. Christa - You're right... that's really what it's all about... God's faithfulness. I'm blessed to be writing alongside you amazing ladies.

    Tonya - Hang in there. There's a lot you can't fit into a 500 word article... things like lots and lots of tears and loneliness. I know Jesus is with us in those moments, and I pray with all my heart you will feel Him there today... that He will give you the words to write.

    Amy - Thank you for sharing YOUR story. I enjoyed taking a peek at your blog! You go, girl. :)

    Erynn - Thanks so much for your encouragement. This group has been such a neat community and I'm so grateful for you girls!

    Christiana - God writes amazing life stories, doesn't He? Thanks for telling me you enjoyed reading it. I had a lot of family and friends who made the continuation of this story possible...

  7. Powerful words, BJ. You have a resilient spirit and a courageous heart--thanks for using both for the Kingdom. Praying God continues to write His story within and through you in amazing ways...

  8. The best thing about being a teenager (or having one) is that it doesn't last. But most of us didn't have a difficult a life during those years as you did. I'm so glad you learned your calling.