Month: July 2023

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

Spread the love

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 Click To Tweet

Long Way Home by Lynn Austin

Long Way Home by Lynn Austin


What is the hardest thing God has asked you to do?


Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

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!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!


Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.

193 When God’s Surprises Are Hard with Guest Lynn Austin, Part 1

Spread the love

When God's Surprises Are Hard with Guest Lynn Austin, Part 1 Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe believers talk a lot about God surprising us in wonderful ways. When God does exceedingly, abundantly beyond what we imagine. But some of God’s surprises are hard. Even devastating. Guest Lynn Austin shares how God’s hard surprises have been some of the best surprises in her writing journey.

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: Welcome, listeners. We are so delighted that you have joined us here in the deep, and there’s extra excitement today because we have a guest whom Karen will introduce.

Karen: Our lovely guest is Lynn Austin. She’s a prolific writer, and she’s award-winning in her writing and as a speaker. She’s published twenty-three novels. You get that guys? Twenty-three novels and one nonfiction book. Her novel All She Ever Wanted was chosen as one of the five inspirational top picks of 2005. 

Her novel Hidden Places was made into a movie for Hallmark Channel starring actress Shirley Jones. I just think that’s so cool that she got to meet Shirley Jones! And Shirley was nominated for a 2006 Emmy Award for her portrayal of Aunt Batty in the film. 

Recently, Erin heard Lynn speak at the Florida Christian Writers Conference and was struck by what she had to share. We asked her to join us here and share her experiences and wisdom with you. Welcome, Lynn.

Lynn: Thank you. So glad to be here. 

Erin: We are delighted to have you here to talk with us. We’ll start with our first and “always” question. What does the deep mean to you?

Lynn: I think for me it means writing from my own wounds, my own doubts, like all the spiritual struggles I had, to not just gloss over them, but to use them in my work. And to not be afraid to ask the hard questions, confront the hard questions in my writing, like unanswered prayer. I mean, theologians battle over these. For example, why does God sometimes not answer prayer? 

I don’t have the answers to that. But I have to be able to have my characters express those questions and their doubts. My most recent book, Long Way Home, tackled the Holocaust of all things for goodness sakes. How do you have answers that? 

Karen: God gives you easy topics to write about. 

Lynn: Yeah! But I think to go deep, you can’t be afraid to do that. You can’t be afraid to do that and to touch on your own experiences in doing it.

I went through a period of unanswered prayer for probably about seven years, praying for a child and not having one. To tap into how I felt that, and to be honest about it. How I felt my arguments with God, because those are the times you grow. So I think for an author to go deep is to handle that tough stuff. 

Karen: Erin and I were talking about that just before the podcast. Sometimes writers are afraid to tap into those deep places because they want to share a message, but they’re not willing to go into where their own wound is. 

Lynn: Right. 

Karen: As a result, the writing can be on the surface. While things are happening to the characters, things aren’t happening within the characters, and that doesn’t communicate anything to anyone. It’s just words on the page if we’re not tapping into that deep part of who we are. I have been doing gardening at this new house that we have in Washington, and there’s one rose that they had planted here that’s a type of rose that I absolutely abhor. I do not like this kind of rose. 

Erin: You hear that? There’s a flower Karen doesn’t like!  

Karen: I decided this thing had to die. I dug and I dug and I dug and I got down to the ball that all the shoots were coming off of. I dug out one root and then there was another root twice as big. Then there was another root that went straight into the ground. My husband brought out a Sawzall for me, you know, one of those automatic saws. I cut apart the part of the root ball where the shoots were coming up, and I was exhausted. It took days. 

I know that there are still roots and there are still sections of that stinking rose down there. We need to go that deep. We need to cut that deep into what we’re doing, get to the core and the heart of who we are in order to have our books touch and change people.

Lynn: Right. Sometimes I think we’re afraid to do that deep digging in our own life, so we gloss over it. But, we have to resolve these deep issues in our own life, and I think it does deepen your writing. 

Erin: I love how you put it: confront and confront with honesty. I think sometimes we feel like we can’t ask that question because, you know, maybe God’s going to disappoint us. Or maybe we can’t ask it in the book because we have to somehow defend God and not let him look bad, you know? As if God can’t take care of himself.

Karen: And not let us look bad. I mean, putting it on the page, people are going to think that we’ve struggled with that, so, you know, “I’m not gonna put that down there because then they’ll know that dark place inside of me that I haven’t told anyone about.”

Lynn: Exactly.

Erin: Very true. Well, one of the things that I loved when I was passing through at the Florida Christian Writers Conference, I heard you say something to your class about surprises on your writing journey. I was just like, “Aw, she has cool surprises. I know she does.”

So I’d love to hear you share your experiences. What kind of surprises did God have in store for you on your writing journey? 

Lynn: I was surprised right from the very beginning that I was called to be a writer. Because when I went to college, I was a psychology major. It never occurred to me. I was not one of these kids that has been writing ever since they’re little and make little journals. 

I had a conversation with Beverly Lewis, and she said she always knew she wanted to write, and I’m like, “Eh.”

I didn’t always know that. But I finally got to the place where I was so disappointed with so many books. I wanted a book with hope. I sat down one day when my babies were napping and I thought, “I’m just gonna try to see what happens when I write.”

And I loved it! I figured out that God had wired me to write, because when I was a kid I was always off in my imagination. So that was the first surprise: Hey, maybe he’s calling me to do this.

But then there was a long period where I struggled with it. It was a secret. I didn’t want to tell anybody that I was writing, because of course then they ask you a week later, “Hey, have you gotten your book published yet?”

Karen: Right, right. 

Lynn: You know, no clue at all. So, I didn’t tell anybody. My husband knew, but I would just sort of sit in the dark and write and was enjoying it more and more. I felt God say at one point, “If you really believe I’m calling you to write, you have to take a risk and call yourself a writer.”

That was very hard for me because I wasn’t entirely sure. So I kind of stepped out and said, “All right. I am going to take this risk and I’m going to call myself a writer.”

I was writing in my home. The kids were playing around me. I had my typewriter, that’s how old I am. My husband’s a musician. He was giving music lessons, and kids were filing in and out. This young man came in waiting for his turn and saw me working and he said, “Whatcha doing?”

Well now, you know, I didn’t want to tell some sixteen-year-old kid I’m this wannabe writer, but I said to myself, “No, I’m gonna take a chance here.” 

I said to him, “I’m writing a book. I’m a writer.”

He didn’t laugh. He said, “That’s really cool. My mom’s a writer. You should meet her sometime.”

I said, “You mom’s a writer? What kinds of things does she write?”

He got a little bit shy and he said, “Well, we’re Christians, and my mom writes devotional books for a company in Chicago called Moody Press.”

I was completely blown away. The next week when he came for his lessons, and his mom came with him. She turned out to be this kind of person who loved to mentor other writers. She had been doing it for a while. 

Now I lived in Canada in a city of about 700,000 people and God brought probably one of the very few published Christian writers right to my door when I took this step of faith. I often wonder, “Would I be a writer? Would I have the success I’ve experienced if I hadn’t taken that step?” 

But you know, I think it’s important and what I try to tell other writers is, confirm your call. Ask God to confirm it. Because there were many times in the years afterwards when I wanted to quit, but I remembered that. When I took that tiny little step of faith, he confirmed that call in such a surprising way. A trumpet student’s mother of all things!  

Erin: But such a God thing, though. That is absolutely such a God thing. Those are the kinds of things we have to hang on to. Like, that’s an Ebenezer, you know? You have to write that down and remember those stones that he gave us, those promises that he fulfilled.

Lynn: Right. 

Erin: Because everything builds off of that. Our faith, we have to keep going back. We have to preach that to ourselves. Because there’s going to be dark roads. Long paths. 

Lynn: There were a lot of those. I think what it showed me, too, is that it’s not just a matter of writing books and getting published, but that it is a spiritual journey that I’m on and that, you know, that if God could do this miracle, I mean, you gotta admit that was miracle, right?

When I was starting off, she took me under her wing and mentored me and taught me everything I needed to know. Took me to writers conferences. She had a writers’ critique group. Everything I needed just right there at my doorstep. It showed me this is a spiritual journey, and that he is going to teach me along the way and coach me, and that’s what it turned out to be. It was a matter of learning to trust along the way.

Karen: He’s amazing in the way that when he asks us to do something for him, he then equips us. We like to think that it’s all on us and our reaction is, like Moses, “Here am my Lord. Send Aaron! I’m not a man of clear speech. I can’t do this, but send my brother. He’s really good.”

Yet God supplies every single thing we need along the way. If we just will be willing to step out one step at a time and move forward on that step. And like you said, would you have been a writer if you hadn’t taken that chance?

Well, hard to tell, but God will continually pull us to do the thing that we need to do to accomplish what he has for us. Not because he needs us, but because he wants to bless us, which he has done for you in your writing.

Lynn: Yeah. Starting off I didn’t know anything. I barely knew how to write. I was reading Writer’s Digest Magazine and trying to figure out writing. And here’s somebody who not only knows writing, but the whole publishing process and everything. Just anything I needed to learn about the whole thing. 

Karen: Just amazing. God is good. 

Erin: Right! I’m guessing that’s not the last surprise he had in store for you, though. 

Lynn: No. It was a matter of learning to trust. Because it started off with such a bang and such blessings, there were a few surprises along the way of learning to trust his timing. 

It had been my prayer early on that family had to come first. I didn’t want this big writing career and send my children off to nursery school so that I could write. My family came first. 

I reached a point where I had a manuscript finished. This was the days before agents, and I’m sending it off and getting it back, and sending it off and getting it back. Finally a publishing company down in the United States said, “We’re interested. Send the whole manuscript.” 

Which I did, and the waiting period was about a year. Waiting, waiting, and waiting, and hearing, “Okay, it’s got another committee it has to go through,” and all that. 

Finally it was in the last stages of the publishing process and it was like, “You should be hearing any day.” 

So I’m not leaving the house. Back in those days, the phones were hooked onto the wall, so you didn’t wanna go too far. So I’m waiting for God to open the whole world of publishing up to me. The doorbell rang. It was the mail carrier. He had a big black plastic garbage bag with my name and address taped onto it.

My first thought was, “Somebody’s sending me garbage? I guess I don’t have enough of my own?”

I opened it up and inside was my manuscript, and the box that I had mailed it in, which had burst open somewhere in a post office along the way. They very kindly shoveled all these pages of my manuscript into this bag.

I’m looking through them, and some had tire tracks on them and footprints on them, just this whole mess, and this disintegrated box. In the bottom of the box was a letter and it said, “We’re sorry, but we’ve decided not to publish your book.” 

Karen: Oh my. 

Erin: That’s painful. 

Lynn: It was very painful. I knew God had the power in his little finger to get a yes, and I’d be off and running. I guess I was surprised by that. I mean, it could have been rejected, but to come in a garbage bag? You know, what are you gonna think? 

Karen: The symbolism there. It’s just a little too hard to ignore. 

Lynn: It was not lost on me, believe me. I’m asking for answers, “Lord, why, why, why?”

Within a week or two of this devastation, I was still very depressed. We were leaving on a family vacation. We were going from Canada down through the US and my husband wanted to stop at every national park along the way. 

Erin: Oh, fun!

Lynn: I’m viewing all these great wonders of nature, and just looking up at them and still going, “Why, God, why? Why?” 

I wasn’t feeling any answers. When I got home from this vacation, I was putting all the pictures in the photo album. Remember when we used to do that? Real photo albums?

I’m looking at all these pictures side by side, the giant redwoods, and the Tetons, and the Rocky Mountains. I realized God had been shouting at me all that time that he makes all things beautiful in his time, and that this just wasn’t the time yet. 

Now what, how many years later? Forty years later I can say that, yes, I would’ve had to sacrifice family life and a lot of other things if that book had been published at that time. But at that moment, I didn’t know. 

To see all those God-given things and at that point, did I have the faith? Did I have the trust? I’m sorry to say I didn’t, because I realized that even if I started the process all over again and printed out another manuscript and started sending it off, it could be a year.

So without praying about it, without thinking about it, I was in a little tantrum, I took a teaching job. By then my youngest kid was in school, so I went and took a teaching job. That was the worst teaching job. Worst job I’ve ever had. There was so much stress. Three different times I was in the doctor’s office with three different ailments, and every time they said, “Are you under a lot of stress?”

I happened upon the book of Jonah, and I thought, “You know, I think I’m headed in the wrong direction. I think I’m in the belly of the whale with this job.”

I was surprised yet happy that he would go so far to redirect me if I would listen. And I listened. This wasn’t right, and when the contract was up the end of the year, I said, “All right, I’m gonna give this my all again. Go full bore.”

It’s learning to trust that even the bad things, the garbage bags he sends, are for a reason and to keep going. 

Erin: It’s so interesting because we always think surprises are good. But sometimes surprises are hard. 

Lynn: Very hard. 

Erin: And we’re just not as prepared for them. I think that’s probably one of the biggest surprises even that I had as a new writer. It’s hard. Oh!  

Lynn: It’s very hard. 

Erin: If I’m supposed to do this, it should be easy. Surprise. It’s not. It’s hard. 

Karen: The other thing that we forget is that those hard surprises, those surprises we don’t really want, those are God’s answer. We could be saying, “God, why didn’t you answer my prayer?”

And God’s like, “I did. I just didn’t answer it the way you want it.”

Lynn: Right, and if you give two conflicting prayers: you want a family life that isn’t gonna change and you want a successful career, you have to leave it up to him to figure out which one. 

Karen: I think that’s why my husband and I both have glommed onto the prayer request that says, “I know nothing but Christ and him crucified. The rest is all God’s. God can handle all the other details. I know nothing but Christ and him crucified. That’s what I’m holding on to. Lord, your will be done. I may not like it. I may not understand it, but your will be done here.”

Erin: I love that because you’re praying like two different things. You’re wanting two different things and it’s like, how are we not gonna be disappointed? It’s kind of a no win situation. 

Lynn: Right. 

Karen: No, but there is a win. The win is that you, you submit. 

Erin: Yes. 

Karen: You surrender, and you accept that as his answer and then look forward to what he has for you next. 

Lynn: Right. 

Karen: So you don’t end up in a teaching job that sends you on Prozac.

Lynn: I’m telling you, you ever end up in the belly of the whale, it’s not a pretty place to be. You turn around and get spit out. I guess that I was learning, too, that I had this image in my mind of what my writing career would look like. At the time we had Janette Oak and we had Bodie Taney and you see the trajectory of their career, and I had to get to the point where I asked, “Do I want that this image, this idol, really, or am I gonna accept what his will is for my career?” 

Karen: Right. 

Lynn: So I was over forty before my first book got published. But that was his answer. 

Karen: Wow. I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve had chills and been inspired. It’s just been a terrific time. It’s been so good, we’re going to do it again in part two, in our next podcast. Be sure to come and join us. 

Why does God send us surprises that seem far more hard than good? Guest @LynnNAustin shares how her hardest surprises were the best of all. #amwriting #Christianwriter Click To Tweet

Long Way Home by Lynn Austin

Long Way Home by Lynn Austin


Has God sent you any hard surprises on your writing journey?


Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

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!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!


Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.