My sister doesn’t like Hallmark movies. They’re predictable and she says if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. I don’t mind. In fact, I look forward to going home for the holidays to indulge in some very predictable entertainment. That being said, I do enjoy the unexpected plot twist. Life is full of them these days.
I started FeetCryMercy to keep in touch with my family and friends before moving to Laos in 2012 to work at a museum about ethnic diversity and traditional handicrafts. If you search its earliest years, those posts read more like diaries written of travel, adventure, language learning, and adapting to a new place. I had no other vision for this space at that time. I moved to DC in 2014 and, as life returned to normal, I didn’t post much.
Two years later, I lost my job and FeetCryMercy was the ring where I publicly wrestled with God, where I questioned if and how he provided in the midst of lack, where I reflected on the true meaning of contentment, and the beautiful kaleidoscope of blessings that we never lose access to regardless of how our situations change. I used this space to write about racism in response to current events. I encouraged friends in their singleness, and myself too. I prayed and reflected and wrote my way into a deep conviction that God is who he says he is, I am who he says I am, and he will do what he has said he will do.
In all this, I had not imagined this plot twist: that one day I might write a book. That was for smarter, better connected, writer folks who majored in English, talked about classics at dinner parties, and because of either husbands or family money could afford to just write. As much as I liked to write, as therapeutic as it was for me and as much as it was my vehicle of choice for encouraging others, my big vision was just to be faithful.
So when last fall, a publisher contacted me and asked me to submit a proposal, I kept a lose grip on the possibility that anything would come of it. I submitted the proposal in January and in early February at 4 PM on a Tuesday as I was getting on the metro to go to class I got an email back from them saying they couldn’t make me an offer. I felt proud of the work I’d done, I thought, “don’t all writers have rejections under their belt?” I remained open to the idea and thought no less of what I might have to offer a broader audience or my immediate community through faithfulness to a ministry of writing. At 5 PM as I was getting off the metro, I got an email from a literary agent expressing interest in working with me. In the span of an hour, the Lord had closed one door and opened another and a few weeks later, I had an agent, Brad of Wadestone. This spring we worked on some new writing samples and improving my proposal. In June he sent it off.
It brings me to tears to remember the years when winter tarried, when I thought I’d never do ministry again, when I thought that the Lord was finished using me, that he’d taken away all my gifts for good. I remember sitting in a corner at church crying every Sunday feeling very distant from God and thinking that failure was the only thing I had to look forward to in my Christian life. I remember thinking that God no longer heard my prayers. These recent years have been a gradual coming out of what I thought was retirement as far as spiritual vitality and public ministry went.
I arrived six years ago in DC broken and weak, re-entering the American church after a long time away: two years in Laos, a three year dark night of the soul in Boston and Seattle, three years in China. Even after a few years here, I hesitated about becoming a deacon when I was nominated because I thought I’d been called out of any sort of official public ministry when I left missions back in 2007. Would pride and performance eat me alive while I claimed to work for God but really worked for my own ego? I still ask myself these questions today, still reluctant to pursue public ministry because often for me it has come at the expense of a thriving relationship with God not out of it. Pray for me.
I couldn’t be more excited (or, surprised really) to announce that I’ve accepted a two-book deal with Harvest House Publishers! Two weeks ago they popped the question and I said yes. It’s my sincere hope that what my wilderness years–and my years of plenty– have taught me end up drawing others closer to the Lord. Now I get to be faithful with 120,000 words (60,000 words a piece) and I pray that each one of them moves your heart Godward and stimulates your most holy imagination.
You can also follow my writing on Twitter @FeetCryMercy and on Instagram @aj_akins.