first steps

first steps - philip ulrichFirst steps are scary. They’re often unsure and wobbly and will most likely end in a fall. We start out not worrying about that too much. One moment we’re clutching the edge of the couch, swaying on unsteady legs, looking scared and excited all at the same time. A hand lets go and flails about in the air, then the other hand lets go, and suddenly little legs are stumbling across the rug. We’re grinning and giggling and tumbling into open arms and happy cheers.

It’s funny how first steps get scarier as we get older though. It gets harder and harder to let go of that couch. And when we finally do, we just hope no one is looking … at least not until we stop wobbling.

There has been a bear floating around in our hearts for years. In songs and doodles and long talks about what might be one day. We’ve joked and dreamed around the dinner table. We’ve had plans and hopes for him, and he’s brought us more than a few tears. There have been times when we’ve tried and stumbled and crashed to the floor enough that we really wouldn’t mind at all if that little bear just wandered out of our lives and back to wherever he came from. But still, we’re glad when he decides to stay.

Finally his story starts coming together. We give him a name and a backpack and not much else. Just a bewildered little bear walking into a village. Then the questions start.

“Where did he come from?”

“Why is he in this village?”

“And how did he get so far from home?”

As Erin and I sat on the couch that day, wondering about that little bear and that little scene, we realized we really wanted to tell his story. As we talked and imagined, Growly’s story grew and grew until we were dreaming of a book, then two books, and then three, and …

I wish there was an app that could take all the hopes and dreams right out of your heart and place them perfect, shining, and spell-checked on a big display table at Barnes and Noble. Because first steps are hard. First steps are scary.

The alarm rings at 5 a.m. and you groan as you tumble out of bed at this awful, early hour. There’s a feeling of fear growing as you start the coffee. You wish it would brew more slowly as you frantically try to work up that inspired, awesome feeling you once had when you first dreamed about writing a book. You realize the coffee is ready and it fills you with terror … you desperately try to think of something else that has to be done before you get started. You can’t think of anything, and now your stomach is churning.

“What if I get it wrong?”

“What if I mess up this dream I’ve been carrying around for so long?”

“What if I just fall flat?”

You sit down in front of the screen, desperate for an excuse not to get started. Facebook? News? Cute puppy on YouTube? Somehow you resist.

You open a fresh page and stare with dread at the blinking cursor as you whisper a prayer. “Please God, don’t let me mess this up.”

And then, you let go of the couch … Chapter 1 …  An Early Morning …


The second Growly book, Widewater, is now available. Visit our store to purchase your copy today, and don’t forget to enter our launch giveaway for a chance to win one of Annie Barnett’s amazing prints.


  1. Martha says

    Tremendous post. The gift of writing God has placed in you is amazing. Congrats on the release of another wonderful portion of Growly’s journey.

  2. says

    Beautifully said. I love hearing Growly’s beginnings and the place he has in your family’s hearts. Well done and congratulations on all of it. Enjoying Wide water as much as the first book. :)

  3. says

    Storytelling at it’s best — well done, Phil. :-)

    “It’s funny how first steps get scarier as we get older though.”

    This is so incredibly true. There are things that I want to try, but when I realize that I’m older and there is more at risk, I shy away.

    Thanks for the encouraging post, and can’t wait to get the second book for Zach (ahem, us!)

    • says

      Thanks Brian. I love starting new things, but is is funny how the fear factor seems to be there every time and that it seems to be worse for the things that are most life-giving and closest to your heart. I find it can be so hard to give myself grace to stumble for a while and for things not to be polished “perfect” right from the start.

    • says

      Thanks Julie. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to first steps, but I am learning (slowly) that the thought of the steps I’m about to take is usually scarier than the steps themselves. Thank you again for commenting.

  4. says

    Hey congrats on your first post! First steps are hard and seemingly at times all the ones after them. I have dreams of my own that sometimes seem so scattered and I don’t know where to go next. Thanks for the inspiration!

    • says

      Yes! Something that was a bit of a surprise to me is that even after the first step (In regards to writing Growly), the second, third, fourth steps, (in fact every morning of the process) was almost as hard. Great job on your site by the way. I’m looking forward to reading more.

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