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It’s so hard when the journey we think we’re on in our writing takes a detour. We worry and wonder what God is doing. IF God is doing anything. Guest Lori Ann Wood shares the shocking—and life-threatening—detour in her own life and writing journey, and how God’s miraculous hand was at work for his amazing purpose.
About Lori Ann Wood
Lori Ann Wood lives in an empty nest in beautiful Bentonville, Arkansas, with her husband, the love of her life whom she found in 9th grade. She currently serves as WomenHeart Champion Community Educator for Arkansas and American Heart Association Ambassador. Lori Ann was awarded the Frederick Buecher Narrative Essay Award, and her work has been published in numerous print and online venues. Having discovered a serious heart condition almost too late, Lori Ann writers to encourage others to ask their difficult faith questions along the detour of life. Lori Ann’s first book, Divine Detour: The Path You’d Never Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted, released with CrossRiver Media in February 2023.
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Karen: Hello, friends. Welcome into the deep today. We’re so excited to have a guest, who Erin will introduce. We’re going to talk about the reality of detours, whether they’re health or otherwise in our writing journey, and how they often turn out to be exactly God’s intended road for us.
Erin: I’m excited to introduce Lori Ann Wood. She currently serves as founding leader of the Parenting Education Ministry at the Church of Christ in Bentonville. She also serves as WomenHeart Champion Community Educator for Arkansas and American Heart Association Ambassador. Y’all, I bet we’ll be talking about some of the reasons why!
Lori Ann was awarded the Frederick Buechner Narrative Essay Award, and her work has been published in numerous print and online venues, including Heart Insight Magazine, the Christian Century Magazine, Just Between Us Magazine, the Joyful Life Magazine, Pepperdine University Press, and so much more.
Having discovered a serious heart condition almost too late, Lori Ann writes to encourage others to ask their difficult faith questions along the detours of life. Lori Ann’s first book, Divine Detour: The Path You’d Never Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted just released, so that’s exciting. Lori Ann, we’re glad to have you here today. Welcome.
Lori: Oh, thank you. It’s so great to be here.
Erin: Let’s just jump in. What, Lori Ann, does the deep mean to you?
Lori: The deep to me is mostly when I personally am taking my faith to the point where I’m going deep enough. Because I think we get to a certain point in our faith sometimes, and we stop because we don’t want to go any deeper, because we don’t know what the answers might be or where we might end up.
To me, the deep is not being afraid to go in there and ask those questions and dig and dig and dig. That’s where I’m coming from when we’re talking about the deep.
Erin: I love it, and I know from what I’ve learned about you that you have certainly faced deep places of trial and struggle. I’d love for you to start off by sharing that. For you as a person, what’s been going on?
Lori: I got a very, well, I felt like it was an out-of-the-blue diagnosis about seven years ago. I thought I had the flu, or maybe I thought it could be pneumonia. I hadn’t had pneumonia. I was just a little draggy.
My kids were coming in for the holidays, and I was still functioning and doing all these things, but I wasn’t myself. I knew I didn’t have the energy that I should, but because it was a holiday week, it was Thanksgiving week, I didn’t go to the doctor. I went to convenient care a couple of times, but I didn’t go see my family doctor until the Friday after Thanksgiving.
He immediately looked at me, listened to my heart with a stethoscope like they always do, and took me to the x-ray lab and said, “If we’re lucky it’s pneumonia.”
Erin: That’s a little scary.
Karen: There’s something you don’t wanna hear.
Lori: Right? But I’m thinking that’s the worst case, and what he found on that x-ray was that my heart was very enlarged. The Cleveland Clinic cardiologist later told me it was the largest heart she’d ever seen.
Karen: Oh my word!
Lori: I was immediately admitted to cardiac ICU. My heart was functioning at 6%. I had no idea. It was to me just unbelievable. I had no family history. I had no risk factors. I had great cholesterol and low blood pressure.
I had actually done an evaluation for a life insurance policy about a month before that, and they said, “Your numbers are so good. You have less than 3% chance of ever developing heart disease.”
Lori: Then I found myself in the hospital, and they diagnosed me with end stage heart failure. I had no idea, no clue. Didn’t know what it was. I started on this journey, really in my health, but more importantly in my faith, and I’ve been on that journey for about seven years.
Erin: Were you a writer at the time or did writing come about because of this?
Lori: I think I’m like a lot of people. I felt like I had a book lurking around in the back of my head somewhere, but I still had kids at home and I was teaching college at the time and just was not writing.
I had ideas. You know, I’d maybe write a book about how to plan children’s birthday parties or how to take a vacation on the cheap, something like that. But I never wrote.
Once I got this diagnosis and I couldn’t stand up and speak for two hours at a time, I had to make a lot of adjustments in my lifestyle. I found that I could sit at my computer and I could type all day long. So this book started, and really the whole writing journey started, because I wouldn’t have taken the time to do it in a safer, healthier life.
Erin: I love how ironic that is. It’s like, “Now everything is gone. Everything’s been ruined, so I’m gonna write.” You know, it’s like, “Now that my health is terrible, hey, let’s write.”
Lori: Exactly. I didn’t want to even start writing anything down, but my husband told me when I was in ICU, ” We should be writing down what’s going on.”
I didn’t want to do it because I didn’t want to relive it. I just wanted to get back to my normal life. I wanted this to be kind of a blip on the radar and then get back to the normal planned route. I was in denial, but I did eventually start writing things down.
Karen: We’ve had a couple of previous podcasts talking about focus and how to maintain focus as writers and the things that take away from focus. But in this case, God brought about this focusing of what it was that you were to do because you couldn’t do any of those other things.
Like you said, if you’d had a healthier lifestyle and were still teaching, and with the kids and everything, you couldn’t do that. You couldn’t write. But to discover that this is what you could do now, from that stepped-back perspective, I see that as God’s saying, “This is your task, and this is how I’m going to make sure that you do the task that I have for you.”
Lori: Yes. It’s one of the things I think back on. In one of my heart failure groups, and I think anonymous wrote this like so many other wise things that come out of anonymous, but it said, “Not all storms come to destroy your life. Some storms come to clear your path.”
I really felt like this storm cleared my path. I mean, another way to look at it is a lot of doors closed at that time. By eliminating options for me, I was able to focus down the hallway to the door that was open and bypass all those closed doors.
Erin: I can see, though, that there would have been a great deal of reluctance because all of a sudden you are faced with this life-threatening situation and, you know, who wants to go there? That’s really scary.
I mean, as you say, you wanted it to be a blip, but now you have to dive into it. You have to embrace it, and that’s scary. How did you find courage to do that?
Lori: I’m wrestling with the word courage because what I did at first, a friend of mine dropped by a little notebook in my ICU room. I maybe had been there a couple days at that point, and it was just one of those little spiral notebooks. I think she meant for me to write down doctor’s notes or medications or instructions for the kids or something like that.
What it ended up being is in the middle of the night when I would wake up, I would just write down complaints almost to God. Some angsty statements like, “I don’t get this. I don’t understand. Where are you? Why are you not showing up?”
I just started writing that down. That was one little element that was happening. The other thing that started happening at that time is, because I had this health situation, I started a blog because it was just easier to keep people up on my health news that way.
Lori: Eventually stuff from that little notebook seeped into the blog, and that started resonating with people. Not people who were necessarily on a health detour, but for people that were on a relationship detour, or a career detour, or whatever kind of detour they happen to be on. They’re like, “Hmm, I don’t know anything about heart failure, but these issues seem a lot like what I’m wrestling with.”
That’s when I knew. That’s when I sort of dug in and thought, “Okay. I think I know what I need to be sharing now.” That was where the courage came from, if you can call it that.
Erin: Yeah. I think what happened was it built very slowly. It started with just frustration. It started with just this little tiny step of writing something down in that notebook. Then you took that next step.
It was like God kind of just nudged your step. Small baby steps, and it did bloom into something that seemed courageous because pretty soon you’re exploring what’s going on. You’re exploring the deeper questions that God is calling you to explore, and ask, and find solutions for.
Let’s talk about that. In your writing journey, you were working on this book. It turned out to be the book that we talked about, the Divine Detour book, and you came up with some questions that every life must answer. I love that. Talk a little bit about what those questions are and what they meant and how they apply to writers.
Lori: When I started looking at everything I had been writing, at some point I put every title and every idea on a sticky note and started to move them around and figure out how I was going to make sense of all this stuff that was just sort of bubbling out of my experience at the time.
Everything inside me wanted it to be chronological. I wanted it to have a beginning and an end. I even had my sections figured out. I was going to have my diagnosis and my device, because I have an internal device. The alliteration was there and I was liking that. It felt right.
Then three years ago I experienced kind of a downturn in my health, and I had this sort of feeling like, “I don’t know the end of this story.”
I thought before I could write from beginning to end, but I don’t know the end of this story. That made me pause for a while. Then when I looked at those little sticky notes again, I happened to be studying about Jesus’s 40 days in the desert and the three temptations. It struck me that those temptations were really just internal questions that we asked ourselves.
Those questions looked a lot like three buckets that my little sticky notes were trying to go into. I felt like I was onto something, so I started exploring these questions and putting them out to people who were reading my blog, and other people who had supported my writing along the way.
They said, “I’ve asked those same three questions!”
Karen: After listening to everything that Lori Ann has been through, I bet you guys are just on the edge of your seat waiting to hear what those questions are. Well, you’ll hear all about them in the next episode, so stay tuned and we’ll visit with Lori Ann again!Guest @lori_ann_wood shares what happens when your life or writing is hijacked, and you find yourself on a detour you never wanted! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
Books Mentioned on the podcast
Divine Detour: The Path You’d Never Choose Can Lead to the Faith You’ve Always Wanted by Lori Ann Wood
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Have you ever found yourself on an unwanted detour? What helped you cope?
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