Chaos is a given in life today, especially if you’re a writer. Finding time to write in the midst of all that’s going on can seem impossible. Which can be depressing and frustrating. Which can steal our ability to enjoy the task God has given us to share His stories. Guest Tricia Goyer is here to help you not only cope with chaos, but find happiness in the midst of it!
About Tricia Goyer
Tricia Goyer is a speaker, podcast host, and USA Today bestselling author of over 80 books. Tricia writes in numerous genres including fiction, parenting, marriage, and books for children and teens. She’s a wife, homeschooling mom of ten, and she loves to mentor writers through WriteThatBook.Club. Tricia lives near Little Rock, AR.
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Erin: Welcome, listeners. Welcome to the deep with us. We’re excited because we have a guest, and I’m super excited about the topic. I’m going to let Karen introduce our guest.
Karen: Our guest is the amazing Tricia Goyer. I mean, there are some people who use amazing for everything, but when you use that word for Tricia, it’s true. She’s been married to her husband, John, for 28 years and they have—are you sitting down?—ten children officially, plus two more bonus daughters, who totally count as their kids.
She has started Hope Pregnancy center in Kalispell, Montana, led a teen moms support group since 2002, and God has opened the doors for her to publish 70 plus books and 500 plus articles. We call her—she’s a part of the same brainstorming group that I’m a part of that meets once a year—and we call her the Energizer bunny. She just does not stop.
She’s also had the privilege to speak all over the United States and internationally. On top of all that, she homeschools their kids. She’s been homeschooling for 25 years and still has another 10 years to go. That just boggles my mind. And she’s such a joyful, happy person, even on top of all of that.
I love this quote from her website: “I dared to say to God, ‘If you can do anything with my life, please do.’ I’m amazed what God’s done. I know where I was headed: to destruction and a life of pain and shame. Yet God has turned everything around for his good.”
That’s what we’re here to talk about today. How God turns everything around for his good and for our good. So, Tricia thank you. Thank you for being with us and welcome!
Tricia: Thank you, Erin and Karen. It’s so great to be here. I love connecting with you, and I think you guys are awesome, too.
Erin: Well, thank you. We are delighted for you to be here. Our first question, as usual, is what does the deep mean to you?
Tricia: Well, the deep means really going deep into God’s love. As someone who grew up not understanding God’s love, I didn’t have a biological dad around, my stepdad was very distant, it has taken me a long time to understand, to truly understand the love of God. Now that I totally understand this love, I feel like I can just climb up in his lap and be in his embrace.
That is the deep to me, just realizing that his love will never leave me and that he is always with me.
Erin: I like that.
Karen: We’re here to talk to Tricia today about having a happy heart. She’s just recently had a book release called Heart Happy: Staying Centered in God’s Love Through Chaotic Circumstances. But I started reading it, and I’m pretty sure that Erin started reading it, and it’s pretty remarkable.
It’s funny, when you think of happy people, you look at them and you think they’ve never known a difficult day in their lives. But that’s just not true. Tricia, why might writers struggle to be happy in the Lord?
Tricia: Well, I think sometimes we just don’t understand what happy is. I think sometimes we think happy is that everything has to be going right in our world, and happy is that we have a great day, and I’ve lost ten pounds, and my jeans fit better. All of those things is what we tie our happiness to.
But actually happy and blessed are words that can be both used in the same Scripture verses. So, you know, those verses that say, “Blessed is the one who… fill in the blank,” it could be also translated happy. And that isn’t blessed, like, blessed that I have a new SUV. It is going back to God’s Word saying: walking the right path. So that word blessed and happy is translated from the word essure, which means walking on the right path.
When we are in God’s will, when we are walking on his path, that is where we find our happiness and blessed. And we all know God’s path. Isn’t perfect and we don’t have everyday sunshine and birds singing out the window. But if we know we have God, we can lean on him. We can depend on him. We can seek him for our strength. That is where we get that inner happiness that only comes with communion with God.
Erin: There’s a lot in the Bible about joy. Tell me what you see as the difference between being joyful and being happy.
Tricia: That is such a good question. I think joy is that outward expression of, you know, we have the self-control, we have the faithfulness, and the joy is the outward expression of what God is doing in our lives.
I see happy more as a deep-rooted thing in our soul. When we are happy in the Lord, it’s more like a contentment, a settling in our heart with God’s heart. Joy, we can be joyful and rejoice, and it’s having joy in that outward expression. But happy is more the inward expression and the inward state of being connected with God.
Erin: That’s super interesting. I like that distinction. I’m thinking, too, for writers, like both of those, being joyful and happiness, I think that writers can struggle with them. It’s a very difficult journey, or can be. Why do you think it’s important for writers to be happy? I mean, what happens if we’re not happy?
Tricia: Yeah, that’s such a good question. I think going back to what does it mean to be happy and what happens when we’re not happy? There are times when we are going to feel unsettled. There are times when we’re going to have a whole list of chaos in our life. There’s going to be all the external things, but it goes back to the happiness in the Lord. Where I got this term from, the term heart happy, was from George Mueller.
George Mueller was someone who lived 150 years ago and he cared for orphans. He also journaled everything that was going on in his life. He had lists and lists of prayer requests, and he always took his needs before God, that God would provide for him. Even though he was caring for thousands of orphans at a time, he never requested money. He knew that the Lord would provide.
George Mueller says that before he would get up in his day, before he did anything else, he would read Scripture, he would pray, and he would get his heart happy in the Lord. It just made me realize, like that’s been a routine in my life for many, many years. I mean, for decades, no matter what’s going on.
We’ve added kids biologically. We’ve added kids through adoption in our home. There’s been a lot of trauma. There’s been a lot of chaos, and every day I jump out of bed because I need Jesus so much. I need to be in God’s Word. I read Scripture and then ask God, “What do you have for me?” There might be a lot going on in my life, but I have to center my heart in the Lord.
If we are struggling, which all of us do, with not feeling happy, we need to go back to where the source is from. We need to go back to God. We need to go back to his Word. And it’s not like the circumstances always change. But my heart changes in the middle of the circumstances, where I can step back and say, “You are in control. You know what’s going on. You love me completely. You have a good plan for my life. You have a good plan for these circumstances.”
Then I can go on with my day better able to handle trying to meet a writing deadline, trying to deal with kids from trauma, trying to homeschool my children, whatever it is. The happiness must come from that time with the Lord first, and that makes all the difference in our day.
Karen: I think that’s an excellent point. Too many of us tie happiness to our circumstances. And, “How can I be happy when this is happening? And this is happening? And I’m suffering this, and I’ve just had a loss, and I’m sick all the time and blah, blah, blah. How am I supposed to be happy in the face of this?”
And that’s because we’re looking at it through human, finite eyes, rather than going back to Scripture and understanding that circumstances don’t have anything to do with it. I love what C.S. Lewis said once, and I can never remember the exact quote, but it’s along the lines of, “I don’t pray to change God’s mind. I pray to gain God’s heart.”
You have to recognize that, in many ways, happiness has very little to do with us specifically. It has very little to do with what’s going on in our lives. It completely has to do with whether we are content in God, as you have said.
Erin: Yeah. The other thing that I noticed too, Tricia, when you were talking about that, we have to go back to, “God loves me. God knows what he’s doing.” You know, you were preaching to yourself. Faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ. You were preaching to yourself from God’s Word so that your faith can grow, so that the Holy Spirit can work on you.
Because I was thinking, “What are the steps to being happy? What about the person who’s really struggling?” But you exactly gave us the formula, so to speak. Going to God, looking at his Word and preaching to yourself, and understanding and knowing those promises.
Guys, for you out there who just, you know, today is a rough day, and you’re struggling with this, go back to just the one thing you know for sure about God and preach it to yourself because the Holy Spirit will work through that.
Tricia: Yeah. I have a good example of that from when we were doing trauma therapy with my little guy who we adopted. He was almost three years old, and we had no relationship because we got him when he was almost three. He’d been moved around in foster care, and he was destructive.
My whole life of having him was just, “Don’t do that. Stop doing that. Put that down. Why won’t you do this?” I mean, trying to get him to obey me.
So we go to trauma therapy, and I’m thinking it was going to, like, teach me how to discipline him. Instead, she says, “This is what I want you to do. I want you to get some special toys and spend five minutes a day with Casey, and your complete focus is on him. I want you to see what he’s doing, state what he’s doing, repeat what he says, and to praise him.”
So I would say, “Okay, Casey, you are lining up your cars. You are handing Mommy a car. Good job, Casey, for sharing your car with Mommy.”
Then he would say, “Mommy car. Mommy car. You gave mommy a car.” And that relationship was built. It wasn’t about getting him to obey. It wasn’t about the obedience. The relationship was built as I was connecting with him. I was seeing him. I was repeating him. He came to trust me, and I came to appreciate him.
I realized one day that as I’m going to God’s Word, that’s what I’m doing. I am seeing what God’s doing. “In your Word, God, you say that you are faithful. You say you can pull us out from the miry pit. I see your faithfulness, God. I praise you for your faithfulness.”
Just like I was building that relationship with Casey, I can do that with God every day of my life when I see what he’s doing, when I repeat what he says, and when I praise him. That has just become something that I’ve done in my life, and it came from trauma therapy with a little three-year-old guy.
Erin: That is very cool. I think that’s such a good description of how we can build a relationship with God. I think that’s amazing. So how is Casey doing these days?
Tricia: He is doing awesome. He’s eleven now, and he is such a mama’s boy. I’ll be sitting on the couch and he’ll just climb up and wrap his big arms and legs around me and just have a hug with me. We love reading together. Every night, I go up to his room and we’re actually reading through the Little House on the Prairie series. He just thinks it’s cool that Mom is there reading to him. I get to pick the books for reading.
We have a wonderful relationship now, but it doesn’t come from me saying, “You’re not doing this right, and you’re not doing that right,” which I think sometimes we do with God. Like, “How come you’re not doing this? And how come you’re not doing that right? Things were supposed to turn out differently. I was supposed to have ten books published by now, and this isn’t working right.”
Or whatever it is, we’re pointing out what God’s doing wrong. Instead, we just need to commune with him and build that relationship with.
Erin: I wonder if sometimes we’re worried that God is pointing out things we’re doing wrong, too. And he’s not. He’s looking at us. He’s doing the same thing, going “Wow, Erin, you’re looking at me. Good job, Erin.”
Karen: One of the things that we wanted to talk about was how shame interferes with happiness. I think shame and false guilt, both do that. When we think that we’re hearing God criticize us and that that’s all that we’re getting from God as input, that’s not input from the Lord. God doesn’t work with us that way. He works the way that you did with your little boy. He draws us in love and he tells us how much he loves us and why he loves us.
So how do things like shame and false guilt interfere with that heart happiness?
Tricia: I talk about this in the book because for many years, even after I accepted Christ, I felt shame because I chose to have an abortion at age fifteen. I listened to the wrong voices. I was trying to escape what I thought was a problem, and I made a very bad decision.
For years, even after I became a Christian, it was like, “God loves me, except for this. God forgives me. Except for this. I can forgive myself, except for this.”
It was really going through a post-abortion Bible study that I realized, like, if I’m saying God can’t forgive me for this or his love doesn’t go this far, then none of it counts. I either have to accept all of it or none of it.
So I started really walking out in that love. But it has been even over time, I’m very much a people pleaser. I want to make everyone happy. I want to turn in the book right on time and have it be perfect. I mean, all those things go back to that, trying to please other people and trying to please God.
And it really came after I ended up adopting all these kids. I had to ask for extensions on a couple of books deadlines. My house is messy all the time. I remember one day in the laundry room, just crying. Like, “I can’t do this. It’s too much.”
It was like God was saying, “Finally. You’ve finally gotten to the place where you need me.”
Because I think I was working so hard to try to please him and make him happy. I felt that the gentlest whisper, “I love you just as much. I love you just as much if you miss your deadline,” which I try not to miss my deadlines.
“I love you just as much as if there’s a pile of laundry,” which currently there’s laundry in my laundry room.
I just had to get to that place, and that’s why the deep to me is God’s love and realizing we don’t have to perform to get to God’s love. We will never be perfect. I try really hard to be perfect. And God’s like, “Will you stop? Will you stop? I love you just as you are.”
Erin: I think that’s interesting because sometimes we as writers feel like our writing is our performance. Like that’s where we’re gaining our value or our worth. It’s not. It’s just not.
Karen: And that’s dangerous because then that leads you to look to other measuring sticks. To sales and to how much marketing money you get, and “That person’s on the bestseller list and I’m not. Why aren’t I on the bestseller list? That person started writing five years after I did, and they’ve sold a ga-jillion books and I’ve sold thirty-two.”
We fall into comparison and we fall into looking at the wrong measuring sticks for our worth. Then we start asking ourselves, “Did God really call me to write?”
We start getting into this downward spiral that absolutely delights the enemy. He’s so happy when he can sidetrack us and take us down into that dark hole of depression and shame and false guilt. It’s dangerous, and we just need to treat it like a rattlesnake and stay as far away from that as we can.
Tricia: Yeah. And I think it’s so important. I love what you were saying, Karen, about comparing with others, because once we start writing, I mean, there’s Amazon ratings and bestsellers lists, and all those things.
I have a sweet friend who I took to her very first conference. I introduced her around. I introduced her to my agent. She signed with my agent, and her book hit the bestsellers list and stayed there for a very, very, very long time. I’m like, what? I don’t understand. I think I had like thirteen or fourteen books at the time, and her one book had sold way more than mine.
I just felt God saying, “I have a plan for you. It’s a different plan than my plan for her. Would you have written all these other books if you just had one that really hit it big?”
I’d be like, “Uh, no.” I’d be sitting back going, “Great! I don’t need to write about that subject…”
And he’s like, “I have a plan for you. I need you to write this, and I need you to write that.” And the sales are enough to keep going.
We always try to compare and God’s like, “Look at me. Lift your eyes.”
That’s why my morning time is so important. It just turns my eyes to God instead of all those other things and all those other thoughts that are swirling around in our minds.
Karen: I read a challenge on Facebook, of all places, where it said: First thing in the morning, reach for the Bible, not the screen. It was urging people: Don’t get on your phone. Don’t get on your tablet. Don’t get on anything like that. Get into Scripture and reach for that first, and then go to the screen if you need to.
Erin: What I like also about your book is the subtitle. I think it’s great: Staying Centered in God’s Love through Chaotic Circumstances. I’m pretty sure that from what we’ve heard from you today, you’ve lived through chaotic circumstances. What do you think is the biggest challenge for writers in trying to stay centered on God’s love when they’re in chaotic circumstances? What do you think is the biggest challenge there and how can they overcome that?
Tricia: When we think of chaos, we think of the whirlwind, and we think of the tornado. We think of all these things swirling around us. I think the biggest challenge is to think that we can let those things overwhelm us and that it’s an excuse for not doing what God called us to do.
I think with me, God, put these book ideas in my life. I’ve had book contracts and it could have been easy for me to say, “I’m dealing with kids in trauma right now. I cannot do do this.”
But instead I said, “You know what? There’s trauma going on. We are working on the trauma. But for the next hour, I’m going to work on the message God gave me for other people.”
Sometimes those messages have included things like what I wrote my book called Calming Angry Kids, which talks about how to help kids who are angry and in trauma. I worked on books that deal with those sorts of things. But sometimes I’m working on novels, and I’m just pouring my emotions into the characters. Because God gave me a message and he gave me the ability to write this.
We can just step back and say, “There’s too much going on. I can’t do this.” But I’ve seen God’s face the most over and over again when I say, “Okay, I only have an hour today, and I really am tired right now, but I really feel that this is something you’ve called me to write.”
I still sit in the chair, put my fingers on the keyboard, and I still work on it. It’s amazing. I’ve had books I wrote in the middle of the biggest, biggest chaos. When we had a teen that was really acting out, I was writing the novel called The Elder Sister about Miriam.
I was in the middle of it. I was digging into the Bible and writing about Miriam and Moses and Aaron and learning about their culture and all those things. There’d be sometimes screaming in the other room, with this teen, as I’m sitting there working on this book.
After I went back and read it, I’m like, “How did this even happen?”
It was probably my least edited book. It just was God. It was God’s hand on it, because he knew I was trying to be faithful in the midst of the chaos. That is such a meaningful book to me, because I know what was going on around it. Then to hear about the grumbling and all the things with the Israelites. I mean, those emotions are there inside the book because they were there inside my home.
There’s no coincidence that that was going on and I’m trying to write this story. I was crying as I was writing and pouring into this character of Miriam because some of the things she faced were similar to the chaos happening in my life.
So I think instead of saying, “I can’t do it. I don’t have time. I’m just going to put this writing thing to the side,” realize that through it, whatever is going on, it can channel into your work, too, and God has a purpose for it.
Karen: I love that. I love how he takes each of us and he shows what he wants us to do, and we just have to be obedient. Sometimes that’s people like you, Tricia, who are able to keep going, even with the screaming in the next room. But if you’re the kind of person that needs to just kind of turtle in and stay away from everything for a little while, God’s okay with that because he works with us as we are.
He created us. He knows exactly what we need and what we’re able to do. I love that that book is special to you because you know that in your weakness, he was shown strong. You have testimony out there all over the bookshelves of how God has been faithful to you and how God has been faithful to you being faithful. I really love that.
Erin: We’re coming to the end of our time. Do you have some final words of wisdom you want to share with our listeners?
Tricia: Yeah. I would just say that I think all of us are going to have some level of chaos in our lives. I doubt there’s any people out there who say, “Oh, my life is perfectly happy, and there’s nothing going on.”
We’re all going to have some type of chaos. I think definitely leaning into God and then reaching out to others for support. Karen mentioned our group earlier. I would just pour out my prayer requests to them.
So, just have other people around you. I think it gets dangerous when we become isolated and when we don’t share our needs, and we don’t share our requests. Ask other people to pray for you during those times.
I know some of the prayers that the group wrote back to me were exactly what I needed in that moment and the encouragement to keep going. Whatever your chaotic circumstances are, just know that God’s there for you and other people can be there for you. But you just have to open your heart to both.
Karen: I think that sums this time up very well, so let’s just say amen!
Erin: Amen.Facing Chaos? Guest @TriciaGoyer helps you find happiness in the midst of it! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
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