The Path That Leads to Life {Book Club}

Today we finish our discussion of Looming Transitions. This month has been a good reminder of a life principle: what you dread may end up being a bigger blessing than you would have guessed and it will pass more quickly than you may be ready for.

We’ve come to the end of the book, so it really will be time to move on next week, but I’m not quite ready.

Here is a bit more behind the scenes on the book—and thank you for caring about these details! Since I’d never written a book before, there were parts of the process I hadn’t thought of before, but would have enjoyed hearing from other people. Oh, let me also clarify, this book is self-published, so someone who has an agent and works with a publishing house will have a different experience. I tried to go the traditional route but I couldn’t find an agent who thought the need for this book was great enough for a traditional publishing house to be interested.

I decided even if the number of people who bought this was relatively small, the benefit to them and their lives mattered more than number of sales.

The Title

The first title of this book was Finishing Well: When Life Still Goes On and can I tell you how much I loved that title? You know when you think you have the perfect name for a person and you call this future imagined person by a name? Well, that’s how I felt about Finishing Well. I wanted to convey that this book would help a person, um, finish well. On my computer, all of the chapters, the various editions, and the final drafts are still stored in my Finishing Well file, her first beloved name. Whenever I’d  be with my community in Beijing and needed to project something from my computer on a larger screen, often they would see the file and comment on it. It was my known baby and I loved her.

Then I took part of the introduction to a writing group I’d visit when I was back in the US and the most senior writer, who I respect and is massively connected in the writing world, eviscerated the title. E-vis-er-ated. He had good reasons and I don’t remember all of them now I was so stunned. I’d heard not to get too attached to your title because it most likely would change. But Finishing Well seemed so perfect, I thought I’d be the exception and wouldn’t need to change my title. I decided then that I would try my best to hold the title loosely and even though I still called it Finishing Well, I knew it would change.

I entered a writing contest trying to win a publishing deal for the book. I spent a long time working on the proposal—especially the title. At that point, her name was Ending Chapters: When the Story Continues. This version was in reaction to so much of the literature about transitions focusing on retirement. I wanted to show that a phase of life really was ending, but that your life wasn’t over and the story would continue.

Well, I didn’t even make it into the top ten of the contest, so I knew I wasn’t there yet. Ugh. This titling of a book is hard work! Last spring, around St Patrick’s Day (because I remember talking to my editor the first time while I treated myself to a shamrock milkshake), I started reworking the manuscript in earnest. It hit me one day, after reading finishing well about 27,438 times in the manuscript, that I had to edit that phrase out; and as much as I had been resisting the word “transition” because I didn’t want people to think the book was about the whole gamut of before and after a transition, it was indeed a book about transitions.

Duh. One can be too close and miss what is right in front of you. Once Transitions surfaced, I knew it needed a word that would help convey the messiness involved. The excitement, the loss, the upending of a life. Looming popped up in my mind and that was that. I won’t bore you with the subtitle, but that was reworked and reworked.

One of my dear friends really isn’t into editing but I trust her ear. I texted her version after nuanced version of the subtitle. She kept saying, “I don’t know how to help you, but you are not there yet.” Indirectly she was saying, “and please stop texting me.” You know when you can’t drop something? That was me. I texted back, “99% of the time, it is not annoying to be my person, I’m so sorry this is the 1%, I CAN’T help myself. What do you think of . . . ?”

The cover, the back cover, and the proofs

Well, I had planned to share about the cover (#1 thing to consider: how does it make you feel. #2? Can you read the title in a thumbnail on your phone). The back cover — Be thankful for the editing process!! I had no idea how many words to put on it and it was so crowded the first time. And dull as dirt. My friend Tanya wrote that lovely paragraph, (the one on Amazon), and I was so worn-out by that time and loved it, so I used it verbatim! When you get your proofs, and you actually see how parts lay out on the print, it is both exciting and painful. I had no idea how much work was still left — I printed out a PDF version 1 and version 2 and then got a physical book.

The acknowledgments

I think you can tell, this book was a labor of love. It was emotionally taxing to write and edit. It kept raw pain open, yet is also introduced me to new friends. It helped bridge one phase of life to another. How could I express what a gift and labor and anchor and weight this was? How I had not done it alone? How much God used the very writing to help keep my soul fertile? When I wrote them, it felt like I was pronouncing a blessing, a benediction over the book.

To the chapters at hand

This is a much longer post than normal, I’d apologize, but you can stop reading any time you want :). It’s  Not Just About You, Work Out Your Grief, and Your Unique Path. I reread those three chapters before I started this post. I don’t mean to make this in too grandiose a way, but if these ideas really take root in ourselves, our teams, and our organization, can you image the difference it could make in Kingdom Work? The enemy of our very souls wants us to focus on ourselves, shut down, and avoid the pain of the grief.

Thankfully, the Lover of our souls invites us to what appears to be a harder path, but it leads to life, a bigger story, and fertile soul.

If you wouldn’t mind leaving a one sentence review on AmazonI’d appreciate it. Just cut and paste a sentence you’ve already written and to those who have posted reviews, thank you! Once 100 reviews are reached, it triggers Amazon to start recommending a book more.

Thanks for reading this. I really can’t thank you enough.

Love, Amy

P.S. After a Looming Transition, next week we get to go on a trip  Around the world in 80 days by Jules Verne! It is $6.99 in paperback or free on Kindle. It’s a short read, so we will do half the book next week and finish the book the next week. I’ve read it in preparation and can’t wait to discuss it with you. I’m ready for something light 🙂

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post. If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. Michele Womble May 30, 2016

    Thank you for sharing the process of choosing a title, the cover and back, etc. I love hearing the story of how you came to the title and yet how you still have your pet name for the book….For some reason that reminded me about how the American Indians (some of them, I guess – would give a person a new name as they became an adult – or sometimes as they entered other phases of their lives) and I wonder if their parents sometimes still called them by the old name just…because. And the old name is true but the new name is maybe more true or a new truth about them. Anyway, I love the name Looming Transitions because of the layers of meaning, that the transitions are “looming” ahead of us, coming up, looming up in front of us or over like a dark mountain…but for me when i read the title I also think of a loom and sort of weaving those transitions or the transition in a way that allows it to be a positive thing instead of a disaster.

    On another note: I can relate a little because in some ways getting an album (CD) ready to “release” (release sound so…I don’t know, something, but they don’t say ‘publish’ about albums….) is similar – so much to do in choosing and approving artwork (front AND back, yay even) and fonts and all these little details that don’t seem to have much to do with your vision for the project and yet can really affect how others will receive (or not) your vision when they see the book cover …

    For me the whole process was on one hand way easier than I thought it would be (it’s actually possible for me to do this!) and way harder than I thought it would be (all the details I’d never thought of)

    so I know it was a lot of work, but we are SO GLAD that you decided to go ahead and self-publish, that “even if the number of people who bought this was relatively small, the benefit to them and their lives mattered more than number of sales.”

    I predict that Looming Transitions is going to be like your mint plant. In a good way. 😉

    1. Patty Stallings May 30, 2016

      Michele, I hadn’t thought of “looming” as weaving but I love it!  I’ve recommended Amy’s book about 100 times to individuals and groups, and I’m going to think on how to weave that image/concept of a process of creating something new into how I describe transitions and Amy’s book.   You are so clever! 🙂

      1. Michele Womble May 30, 2016

        I just assumed it was part of the symbolism, Patty, but today I started thinking (instead of feeling) and looked up “to loom” on the internet and apparently there is no official  “to weave” definition, so not sure I can accept the ‘clever’ compliment 🙁  maybe the opposite 😀

        …but still every time I see/hear the title of the book, I think of a loom – and maybe partly because the lines of the crosswalk on the cover, to me they look like thread on a loom waiting to be woven…

    2. Amy Young June 2, 2016

      Michele, you are so encouraging :). Yes, it was all of those details I had never thought of. The fonts and what to put where and how to phrase things on the back of the book. I am now pleased with the finished product and I’m so glad I look at it and don’t have disappointments, but love :).

      I love your insight on “Looming!” — I hadn’t thought of that and now when it comes to mind I’ll think of you. I had noticed on Amazon that when I just type in “looming” it takes me to looming kits, which makes me smile 🙂


  2. Michele Womble May 30, 2016

    BTW, Amy, I wrote my Toiletries Bag Poem and linked it up to the grove last week – Since I keep mentioning in book club how I have not unpacked my toiletries bag I thought I would share it here – and also note that I have unpacked my toothbrush and toothpaste and they are in the bathroom drawer.  I’m still living out of the bag in other ways, but I’m working on it. 🙂

    Why I Haven’t Unpacked My Toiletries Bag.

  3. Ruth May 30, 2016

    I think the grieving chapter was one of the most helpful chapters in the book for me, because it affirmed my need to grieve these transitions, even when things aren’t quite as obvious.  The transitions I’m in the midst of aren’t coming or leaving the field myself–my teammates just retired and returned to the U.S. and I’m preparing for a home service in a few months.  Even these transitions where I’m not moving involve grief, and it is okay to feel and name that.

    It was also really helpful to be encouraged to mark relationships and what they meant.  I tried to do that for my leaving teammates, and I hope it was helpful for them.  I know it was helpful for me.

    1. Michele Womble May 30, 2016

      Ruth, I’ve gone through a grieving process every time we go back and forth between the two countries, even if only for a few weeks or months – I think maybe because the two places are so far removed from each other and exclude each other almost completely, maybe because being with one is a separation from another…not sure, maybe I need to do some tuning in and feeling and naming – because I don’t really feel grief if we go to a third country for a few weeks…or maybe I do, but it’s not the same.  Anyway, I mainly just wanted to echo that even when your not moving, per se, the transitions can still involve grief (which is obvious, i think, when a beloved teammate is moving, and not so obvious when you’re just going to be gone a few months….the chapter on grief has been really helpful for me, too.

      I’m sorry you’re losing your teammates, it’s so hard, but rejoice with you that you were able to mark relationships.

    2. Amy Young June 2, 2016

      I was talking with a friend yesterday who has started a counseling internship — two of her three clients have come in for help processing grief of some kind. It reminded me that this grief is real and hard and far more a part of life than I had ever considered until I had to write whole chapter on grief!

  4. Michele Womble May 30, 2016

    I appreciate that you said that sometimes we DO have to shut the door on the pain in order to accomplish a task, but that we should be careful not to just leave it shut.  I have to “numb myself” to everything in order to just get packed every time we come and go – if I don’t shut the door to the pain, we won’t get packed, and that will harm other relationships in my life :-).

    But, it’s so tempting to stay there.

    I am one of those people who would slip out the door quietly – say goodbye’s in quiet, personal conversations and sneak off.  Several people at our church in Novosibirsk wanted to have a big send-off party for us, and I really didn’t want to do it.  We were planning to be back in a few years anyway, and for me it would be so emotional – “wasted pain” since we aren’t leaving for good – and I’m an introvert, anyway.  So they didn’t…but at the close of a conference not too long before we left, they opened up the floor, so to speak, to anyone who wanted to say some words to us.  I sobbed for several hours straight…it was gut-wrenching, it was horrible….it was one of the biggest blessings of my life.  They did exactly what you said in ch. 8 – mark, bless, release.  For us.  Even though I’m crying now as I remember it, it was so freeing – and I was so wrong to let the desires of my own personality drive me away from receiving from them what they could – what they wanted – to give.

    And if something happens (like it always can) and we don’t get back in a few years like we hope?  We’ve said our goodbyes.  We’ve marked, blessed, and released.  We won’t have to live with the regret of having slipped out silently…

    1. Amy Young June 2, 2016

      Oh Michele, I’m tearing up reading this. I totally get the desire to slip out the door — in the short run, it IS so much easier :)! What a gift your community gave you. It is so painful and yet so good. Yet another paradox, eh?!

  5. M'Lynn May 30, 2016

    I know that feeling of choosing a name for a baby and then realizing that’s not her name! I was 36 weeks pregnant when I realized it and around 37 weeks when we found her actual name. I had unpacked her clothes and sorted them into her closet when she was named the first name, so later when she actually wore the clothes I called her the wrong name a few times (and the name I called her wasn’t the first name… it was a completely new and different name)! The last phases of publishing a book sound very similar to the last phases of pregnancy and first phases of having a newborn! That point of “done!!! i don’t even know anymore just choose and tell me what you chose!” ha. That was the middle name. 🙂


    Thank you for your willingness to be small (reminds me of Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman) and publish the book yourself. I’ve been blessed by it, and I know I’m not alone!

    1. Amy Young June 2, 2016

      I do see a lot of similarities between birthing and human and a big project like this :). Now I totally love the name LT, and can’t imagine her being called any other name, but it was funny how she had her other name longer than she’s had her real name :)!

      I’m learning, small is okay. Learning. Not totally there yet, but on the path!

  6. J May 31, 2016

    Hi Amy and everyone,

    I must admit, I haven’t quite finished the book, I’m currently reading chapter 9. I am enjoying the book and will post a review on Amazon soon.

    Michelle, I am also an introverted type. I don’t like goodbyes and would rather slip away without making a fuss. Chapter 8 “It’s Not Just About You” was helpful and made me also consider how to bless others when they leave.

    I had been thinking earlier on bout the difference for those who are single and married. You had mentioned, Amy,  relocating as a single person and not having anyone in your daily life who had known you for more than 4 months. Although moving with a spouse and children can be harder work and has other difficulties, there is the reassurance  and comfort that you are  moving as a family and going through changes together.

    Thanks again Amy for the book – I will be recommending it to others.

    1. Michele Womble May 31, 2016

      J – I agree, moving with a spouse and/or children does mean that you have someone there who knew you before – (for more than 4 months, for example).  I didn’t think about that while I was reading the book, thanks for pointing it out.  It has its own challenges, of course, but the comfort of “being known” – who I was – maybe a little bit less of a loss of identity…

    2. Amy Young June 2, 2016

      J, thanks for reading :). Your comment makes me happy — if a small blessing movement starts (both from those leaving and those staying), what a difference it can make for all. It takes some intentionality and I know in times of transition, this can get pushed to the side.

      It somehow seems age appropriate to go off to college and have to start over, but I will say, it’s one of the few parts of singleness I really don’t like :). I like having people to share memories and stories with!

  7. Kiera May 31, 2016

    Well, I was sold on the book after the first chapter and wanted to start recommending it left and right. Then, I thought it might be more responsible to actually finish reading it first. So, now, having finished, I am free to start recommending it left and right! So worth it! If I could get everyone who leaves to read and act on chap. 8, wow, how much less pain there could be. But people are people and I can imagine it’s hard to move past your own pain to think of other people. So, I am pep-talking myself now that when the time comes, it won’t be only about me.

    Another thing I have noticed about leavers is that they become overly critical in their last months – sometimes people from whom I can’t recall ever really hearing criticisms, let loose on lots of things in their last months. I guess maybe they finally feel free to let people know how they truly feel. I wonder if this is related to grief as well. Lashing out to avoid the pain?

    I love that you listed all your China people in your acknowledgements. We have a Goodbye Party here every year where the leavers give speeches. For years I have pictured myself in their shoes and thought about what I would say. Sometime in the last year or two, it occurred to me that most of the people I want to give a speech to, aren’t here anymore. Even though I am really not a put-things-out-on-Facebook, public, kind of person, maybe when the time comes, I’ll just have to post my speech on Facebook and tag everyone to acknowledge them and their contribution to my China life. 🙂

    Thanks for the book, Amy. Thank you for being faithful to write it. 🙂

    1. Amy Young June 2, 2016

      I love the thought of a FB speech where all of your people are tagged!

      I have also noticed (even in myself) can become more critical than they normally were. I think you’re right that a part of it is grief (and stress). It seems also to be a way to help us actually get through the super hard part of preparing for a big transition. As we loosen those ties — well, if it was all great, why are we leaving ?! I noticed how universal this is when a dear friend who loves China so deeply and understands the culture and language like few others even experienced this. What hope do the rest of us have to avoid it :). Still good to remember not to sin in our frustrations and how our words inference others!

  8. Jodie May 31, 2016

    So many great questions, ideas and insights in this book. And it’s great to hear more about how it came into being, Amy. I especially liked this paragraph: 
    “Tuning in isn’t just contemplating your feelings; it’s about sorting out pieces of your life and story so you can process your grief in a healthy way. Each of the multiple small deaths you will face will not come packaged the same way, so it is vital that you tune in.”
    I also liked the idea of going on a bear hunt, and we can’t go around grief, under it or over it. We have to go through it, at some point in order to be healthy.
    And this part at the end: “You need to remind yourself that with the pain of this season dying come blessings as space is created for something new to be born in your soul.”

    1. Amy Young June 2, 2016

      Jodie, I love hearing the parts that especially stood out to you :). Thank you.

  9. Anna June 10, 2016

    I’ve been reading the book, but not making it online to comment.  I’m in the middle of my own transition, but on the adjusting to a new place side of the transition.

    Thanks for sharing glimpses behind the scenes.  I can see why you were so attached to your original title.  But I agree that it is so much more than finishing well.   Someone sent me a copy when we were in the midst of transitioning away from what we had thought was our long term work, and we weren’t really sure what the next step would be.  I’ve read it, and I bought another copy on my Kindle so that I can loan out the paperback copy.  Even when you aren’t “finishing” there are so many transitions, and it’s good to think through your needs and emotions.

    One section that really stood out to me was the part about not doing it alone.  This is so true.  We have to remember those in our close circles, whether it be our immediate family, coworkers, extended family, friends, etc.  All who are touched by our lives are also touched by our transitions, too.

What do you think?

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

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