194 – When God’s Surprises Are Hard with Guest Lynn Austin, Part 2

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When God's Surprises Are Hard with Guest Lynn Austin, Part 2 Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungSometimes it’s easy to say yes to God. We can do it almost without thinking. But what happens when God asks us to do something that terrifies us? That we know we can’t do? Guest Lynn Austin is here to share the times God has done exactly that!

About Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin has sold more than two million books worldwide. She has won eight Christy Awards for her historical fiction and was one of the first inductees into the Christy Award Hall of Fame. One of her novels, Hidden Places, was made into a Hallmark Channel Original Movie. When she isn’t writing, Lynn can be found riding her bicycle or playing with her four grandchildren. She and her husband have three grown children and make their home in western Michigan.

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!

Erin: Hello, listeners. We’re glad you’re here with us. We’re continuing our interview with guest Lynn Austin, and we’re going to jump right in. 

Lynn: I’m very surprised by the success that God did grant once it all took off. Very surprised by the movie. That was amazing. And meeting Shirley Jones. 

Erin: How did that come about? The movie?

Lynn: I was with Bethany House, and Hallmark had done another one of Bethany House’s books. They went to Bethany House and said, “Do you have any other books that you think might work for a Hallmark movie?” 

I guess they gave them several, and they chose my book Hidden Places. Then the publishing company offered to fly me out there. That was when the Johnsons were there. Gary and Carol Johnson.

We flew out for a day to watch the filming, and it was just surreal. Absolutely surreal. This book that’s only in your head, right? And here’s your characters. I mean, you see your characters running around talking. It was just unbelievable. That was a very pleasant surprise. 

Erin: I bet you could never have imagined any of this when you got that garbage bag. You know, this was the payoff. All of that hard work, all of that sowing and sowing and sowing you did, and you didn’t reap for years. Then, just an amazing and abundant harvest, so to speak. I love how God does that. 

Lynn: Even after that, God wasn’t really done with surprises. People think that if you write a book, you should be able to be a speaker. In my little hometown, different churches started asking me to come and speak at Coffee Break Bible Study. And I very humbly said, “No. I am not a speaker.” 

My friend came to me and said, “Lynn, you’re a writer. You can write a speech.” 

I said, “I could probably write a speech, but why don’t you give the speech?”

Karen: That’s right. 

Lynn: I’m very much an introvert. I’m very happy to be in my little office with my characters. I don’t need to get up in front of people. I hated speech class, every class I ever had. But this friend of mine just kept poking me. She said, “How do you know you’re not saying no to God?”

Karen: Good question. 

Lynn: Thank you very much. 

Karen: Put your face in this, right?

Lynn: Yeah. So she promised to pray for me. She had a real prayer ministry. So I started doing all these little coffee break Bible studies all around. Of course they talk to each other, and so you go to one and then the next one wants you. Pretty soon, the International Coffee Break organization asked me to come and speak at their convention.

I said, “No, I don’t think so.”

Again, my friend said, ” You better pray about this because this might be something God wants you to do.”

She promised to come with me to this convention, and I said, “You better.”

The day of the speech in the afternoon, they called me to do a sound check. I went in this auditorium, and there’s like a thousand chairs out there. They were empty, but I’m up on the platform, looking out at these empty thousand seats. I could not get a word out of my mouth. Nothing came out. Just this fear took over and just swallowed me up.

I heard this voice booming, “Lynn!”

And I thought, “Oh God, take me to heaven!” 

But it was the sound guy. He said, “You have to say something.” 

Erin: For a sound check you must make sound. 

Karen: That’s right. 

Lynn: My dear sweet friend comes running out with her Bible that she carries in her purse, and she opens it up to Psalms and she says, “Just read.”

I’m reading in this shaky voice, “The Lord is my shepherd…” 

We finished the sound check and she sweeps me off back to our room and down on our knees. ” You’ve got to pray. You’ve got to pray!” 

Nothing happened. Finally it got to the point where I’m just a wreck, and I don’t know how this is ever going to happen. 

Then we’re backstage when the event is starting and they wanted to pray with me, the organizers. The only thing I could pray was, “Help. God, you have to help me do this. I cannot do this by myself.” 

All of a sudden, this shofar started sounding. Now, my husband’s a trumpet player, so I know the symbolism of the shofar, but it was so commanding and it was so beautiful that they stopped praying midstream.

The symbolism of the shofar, it comes from when Abraham’s about to sacrifice Isaac and this ram is caught by its horns. They make the shofars out of them. For the Jewish people, it’s a symbol of how God will provide salvation, and I needed salvation at that point. 

As this just went on and on and on, it was like the voice of God. He couldn’t have picked anything that was more perfect to speak to my heart that he would provide. That if he called me to do this, to speak, he was going to do it. 

All of a sudden this calm went over me, and I walked out on that stage, and I gave the speech that I had written, and it was like walking on water.

Erin: Wow. 

Lynn: Truly. I knew I could never do this myself. But you say yes to God, and then you just keep saying yes. 

I was so glad that I said yes to that. I still can’t say I love speaking, or that I’m looking for opportunities, but whenever one comes along, I say yes to it.

God has taken me to so many places and so many things, and every time holds me up on the waves. Every time I can walk out and speak and not be afraid and not have that terrible fear. He always holds me up. 

On one of the most recent ones, I went on a book tour to Germany. They took me to the part of Germany that had been behind the iron curtain. I was talking at a church and they were sharing with me how, before the iron curtain fell, how persecuted they were.

Their children were persecuted just because the parents were Christian. They weren’t allowed to go to the good schools. They weren’t allowed a higher education. 

Yet here’s this church filled with vibrant, happy people. I mean, it was packed. Again, I’m the speaker, right? I’m getting up, and I think, “What a privilege that God would allow me to do this.”

Karen: Right? 

Lynn: So I always say, “Keep saying yes. Even when everything in you says this isn’t gonna happen, he can use you when you yield yourself to him and when you follow what he has for you.”

Karen: And when you stop focusing on your weaknesses, when you stop focusing on what you can’t do, and start focusing instead on what God can do.

When I first started speaking, my very first Writers Conference that I spoke to when I worked at Tyndale was the Florida Christian Writers Conference when it was in Titusville. I had been up in front of people since I was in my young teens singing with my dad. I always threw up before I sang because I was so scared.

Sure enough, before I spoke at this conference, I had to make a mad dash for the bathroom and throw up and then I could come out and do what I needed to do. But just like you, knees shaking, trembling, “…and when…you want…to be published…” 

But each time when I said yes, and the more that I did it, just like you, it became a part of who I am. God takes those things that we think we can’t do, and he supplies to the point where it becomes a part of the fabric of who we are. 

Lynn: Exactly. 

Karen: You may not love speaking, but God has made that one thread in the tapestry of who you are so that he can utilize you to speak to others.

I remember I talked to my dad once and I said, ” What if I forget the words? I’m so scared when I sing with you. What if I forget the words? Or what if I get choked up and cry?” 

That was my greatest fear because the hymns and the songs that we used to sing strike to the core of me. “What if I forget the words and I start to cry?”

He said, “Karen, if that happens, then God decided they didn’t need to hear you sing. They needed to see your tears.”

Erin: You know what I love about this though, Lynn, is that you said yes to something that was just terrifying to you, and that you did not feel realistically that you could do. But saying yes was the only way to see the miracle. That was the only way to see that miracle happen. 

When we don’t say yes to that opportunity because we’re afraid, oh my gosh, we miss seeing God do something amazing. I love that your friend made you, too. Sometimes we have such a struggle doing that on our own, and yet someone comes alongside us and intercedes for us and helps us and prays. Even the way God supplied the shofar, that’s just God up and down.

Lynn: Exactly, exactly. It was so perfect. 

Karen: I attended a silent retreat one year, if you can imagine that, me at a silent retreat. It was led by Robert Benson, who is just a terrific man. He had us make these life maps where we mapped out the crucial times in our lives and things that happened.

It was fascinating to me because as I did that, and then as I went back and looked at it, I saw even more with hindsight than I did when it happened, God’s presence, God’s provision, God saying yes, God saying no. 

I think we forget those things. I think it’s great that you have such good memories about what God has done for you because that testimony and that history for you helps you each time you’re afraid to step out and say yes, because he’s proven himself over and over and over again. 

Lynn: Amen, that’s true. 

Erin: We’re coming to the end of our time here. Do you have maybe any final words of wisdom you want to share? Or anything we haven’t covered yet that you want to leave for our listeners? 

Lynn: I would say If you’re a writer, dare to ask God for a sign that you’re called, because that changes everything.

If you know you’re called, like God gave me this miracle with my mentor, then you can’t squander it. You can’t dilly dally around. You know, there are days you don’t feel like writing, but how can you say no to God’s calling? Unless you’re sure of that in your heart, you know, you could find a lot of better things to do.

Maybe you’re just called to write one book. Maybe you’re just called to write one article, or just to tell your story in some way. Maybe that’s all it is. Maybe it’s not like a whole career in writing, but we have to learn to trust God. Ask him, “Is this something you really want me to do?”

Or is this just like, “Hey, I think I’ll write a book”? How many people do you know that say that? 

Karen: Every single person I’ve sat next to on a plane!  

Lynn: “I have a book inside me!” 

Karen: Yeah, everybody does. 

Lynn: Right. But it’s God’s idea… I meet people at writers conferences and they’re there year after year after year, and they never actually get around to finishing it or submitting it for publication. They’re just playing at it. 

If you ask, God will tell you, “Yes, you’re called to write.” Or, “No.”

I think it’s very important to know that because then when those hard times come, the garbage bags and all that stuff, you could go back to that calling. You could say, “You’ve called me to write and I’m going to trust you in this calling.”

Because there’s going to be challenges. There’s going to be doubts that we have and everything else, and that’s what really keeps you on track. If God does confirm the calling, then that’s the discipline to stay in the chair and to keep working and to not give up. Print out another copy of that manuscript and send it in a stronger box this time. I’m glad we don’t have to do that anymore, by the way!

Erin: Yeah, I love what you’re saying because it’s important, especially when you have to keep on with: pursue, pursue, pursue. I don’t think you’re saying that, hey, we can’t write just because we’re creative. I mean, we can. We can write just because we’re creative, and we can write journals, and we can write whether God has told us to or not. We’re creative people. 

But there’s a difference between pursuing, pursuing, pursuing because he’s called us to. And I think that’s an important distinction. I love that you’ve brought that up, that we know, if we have that call, that’s something that you keep walking through the fire for. 

Lynn: It works at the end, too. Like I’ve been writing forty years or something like that now, and a lot of books. When all these changes were taking place in the publishing industry and there were changes within my publishing, I got very discouraged. I thought, “All right, maybe it’s time. Maybe God’s asking me to retire?” 

I thought of other good things I could do. So again, I asked God to show me. Don’t you wish when you would ask God for an answer, he’d send you an email or a letter or something? You don’t often get that, but in this case, I really did. I got a letter in the mail and the return address was prison.

When I opened it up and read this letter, it was a young woman in prison. At the top of the page, she had a quote from one of my books. In this book, somebody was going to commit suicide. She went on in this letter, saying what a dark place she was in in prison and that somehow or other at the prison she had read my book and God changed her life, and she realized she wasn’t going to commit suicide after all because of my book.

She said, “Thank you so much for changing my life. I hope I can influence someone else someday.”

I cry every time I read that letter, but you know, I thought, “If I wrote that book, if I had my whole career for that one person, is it worth it? Absolutely.”

He will answer your prayers, and obviously I did not retire. I figured I’m going to keep writing. He sent me this letter that this book has this influence in a reader’s life. God was very gracious to show me that, to show me the result of all the hard work just in one life.

Karen: Well, Lynn, this has been wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to come and talk with us. I got chills when you’re talking about the shofar blowing and how God used that for you. I encourage all of you who are listening, keep your eyes open to God’s confirmation. Keep your heart open to God’s confirmation and whatever it is that you feel he’s wanting you to do, say yes.

It’s just that simple and just that difficult. Say yes. 

Erin: Amen. 

Lynn: Amen.

What happens when God asks us to do something that terrifies us? @LynnNAustin is here to share the times God has done exactly that! #amwriting #ChristianWriter Share on X

Long Way Home by Lynn Austin

Long Way Home by Lynn Austin

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Thanks so much to our July sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! She’s a speaker at women’s retreats, and her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, is now available. She’s hard at work on the next book in the series!

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