What do you do when your planned-out writing journey suddenly goes off the rails? Guest Lori Ann Wood faced this very situation. Through her God-ordained detour, she discovered three key questions that will help you in your own detours.
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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Erin: Welcome, listeners, into the deep with us. We’re excited to have you, and we have a guest. We’re continuing our interview with Lori Ann Wood, and we’re talking about life’s unexpected detours and the deep questions that we have for God. We’re going to jump right in!
Lori: I think these are the questions that, maybe, they nag at everybody all the time. But when you get put on a detour, when you get shoved off on this road you don’t want to be on that’s kind of rough and out of the way, and you didn’t like it, and you didn’t choose it, that’s when those questions demand to be paid attention to.
Lori: That’s how my questions came about, and the questions were all derived from those temptations that Jesus faced in the desert.
Erin: Right. I like your first question. It’s a question of worry, you call it. “Is this life all there is?”
How do you think that worked in your life? How did you answer that for yourself and how did that apply to your writing journey?
Lori: I think if I were to look at all the questions as a whole, what’s true for all of them is that at some point I realized I didn’t necessarily want to know what the answer was. But I wanted permission to ask the question.
I felt like I was at a point in my faith where I was almost embarrassed to be asking some really basic questions like that, but I needed permission to ask them. You know, I think about Job in the Bible. I don’t know that he necessarily wanted the answers, but he needed to ask the questions. That’s what I’m trying to pull up in the book.
It’s just going deep and asking the questions, because when you’re asking the questions, you’re still communing with God. You’re still conversing with him. I think that was always meant to be the idea.
For that first group of questions that you were talking about, that question of worry, “Is this life all there is?”, I looked at issues like loss, uncertainty, fear, and regret.
Because we could get to a place when we’re on this detour where we don’t know, should I be just focused on my physical self? Should I be focused on, in writing terms, building my platform? Should that consume all of my day? Should I just be looking at the temporal part of whatever it is we’re doing?
I explored that from different ways, but in terms of writing, I had to really look at the value that I was putting out there in terms of what was valuable in this life and what would be valuable to people on the other side.
So that question of worry, of “Is this life all there is?”, I had to struggle with it and really come back and answer it over and over again.
Erin: That makes sense. I love the second question, too. The question of doubt. “Is God always good?” I think that’s an easy one for writers to struggle with in terms of, you know, when bad things happen. I can imagine you sitting there dealing with heart failure wondering, “Is God really always good?”
Lori: Yeah. This one I think is just really one of the top questions. I think if you Googled the top questions of faith, this is probably going to be at the top of every list. Is God always good?
You know, I was following God. He had been walking lockstep with me. I thought we were on the same page, and now I find myself on this detour and I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know if God’s left the scene. I don’t know if he has all of a sudden gone deaf to my prayers, or if I’m doing something wrong.
We start to question if our current pain or our current position somehow indicates God’s level of care for us. Because it doesn’t feel like love sometimes. Just as human beings we’re like, “Wait, this doesn’t quite feel right.”
So we struggle with the question: Is God always good? In the book, I looked at things like protection and resilience and vulnerability and idols, and wondering how that plays into our faith and how we move that forward.
In terms of writing, one of the things I was doing early on, and I didn’t realize it at the time, because in my heart failure journey, my heart function was really low, and then sixteen months in my heart jumped up to almost normal.
Lori: It surprised everybody almost as much as the initial diagnosis. But it wasn’t permanent. What happens when you’re in heart failure is you’re on this downward line graph. When you’re on that downward graph, you can have some spikes up, but the general direction is still down. I was experiencing one of those spikes, but I thought that spike up was the end of my story. I thought, “Okay. Beginning. End. I get it.”
Then about three years ago, my heart function dropped quite a bit, and I was in active heart failure again. I, at that point, wanted to honestly protect God a little bit. I wasn’t sure what to write because I had been writing about answered prayer and healing. Then I thought, “Wow, how do I do this now? How do I reconcile what’s going on with my writing because I don’t know how this is gonna end.”
That was a hard one. In that question of doubt, as a writer, I had to really look at how do I move forward. That’s when these questions really came into focus for me. Because the only way to move forward is to be honest and say, “I don’t know how it’s gonna end.”
I also had to know at some point that God is always going to be good, and it doesn’t have anything to do with how much our life matches what we had imagined our life would look like.
Karen: I think that that’s an important aspect of this, what you’re talking about with what we imagined life would be. I never imagined that at sixty-five I’d be pretty much incapacitated by diabetes, that I’d be incapacitated by interstitial lung disease, which is ultimately what will kill me.
It never occurred to me in those early years and in my faith with God that these things were where my journey would take me. But the cool thing is when you stop and balance your expectations with God’s character. We miss God’s character when we’re so focused on our expectations.
I’m not saying don’t ask the question. I’m not saying, you know, don’t struggle with the question. I understand.
Personally, I didn’t struggle with it because I had come to a place long before where whether I live, I am the Lord’s, or whether I die, I am the Lord’s. Whether I live, therefore, or die, I am the Lord’s. There was such a confidence in that. But I’m a very simplistic believer. I take God at his word in a simplistic way.
People who struggle and come in and need to know the theology and all those kinds of things, I admire that. But I don’t want that. I like being able to just say, “Okay, Lord, I received that and I’m walking in that.”
I’m in prayer all the time. Conversing with him all the time, which doesn’t mean I’m any better than anybody else. That’s just my path. There have been times when I’ve struggled in my marriage. I couldn’t figure out why I married the man I did when there were so many issues, so many problems. Why we never had kids. There were struggles.
But in the midst of all that, God led me, and he will lead each of us to look then and say, “Okay, here are my expectations of what my life was gonna be.”
Don and I were in counseling for twenty years, and about halfway through we decided our mantra was, “God is in control. I don’t like it. I don’t want to be on this path. But he’s in control, and I trust that.”
The other thing that we always used to say is, “This is not the cruise I signed on for.”
I fully expected to have children and grandchildren and all those things. That didn’t happen because of Don’s childhood, and the abuse he suffered. But I don’t think that that was God not being good or kind.
I had a really honest, blunt friend who told me one day when I was talking with him and bemoaning the fact that I’d lost so much by marrying Don. He looked at me and he said, “What if you marrying Don isn’t about you? What if it’s about Don? What if God has given you this wounded, devastated heart to present whole to him as best you can by loving him?”
My initial godly response was, “So, not even my pain is about me? Really?”
Lori: Oh, that’s so true. I can relate to what you said because my husband, faith has always come really easy for him. He’s a complete truster. When I was first in the hospital, he’s a runner, and he finally went for his run after I’d been in the hospital for a week.
He came back in and he said, “Felt so good. I finally talked to God again, and I’ve realized that even if you don’t get better, everything’s gonna be okay.”
I didn’t take it very well.
Karen: He’s a really empathetic, sensitive sort, isn’t he?
Lori: But he was there. I got there eventually, but he was usually way ahead of me. My dad, who passed away in 2020 from lung cancer, and I are similar. We both come to faith by this questioning. By questioning, we may not get the answer, but we are grabbing out for God’s hand and pulling him in. All the time.
Lori: I think people do that in different ways, but that’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to be the same.
Erin: Karen, you touched a little bit on what’s going on with Lori Ann’s third question here. The question of control: Is God’s plan enough?
I especially love this for writers because we have our own expectations of what our writing is going to do for the world and accomplish. So, you know, is God’s plan enough? What if his plan is not the same as ours? How did you deal with that question or come about that?
Lori: That question of control is hard, and maybe it’s harder for people like me that question all the time. Because I like to know what’s ahead. I like to know what the plan is. And this writing thing, it’s not for planners, is it?
Karen: Yeah, if you go into it thinking you will have any control whatsoever, you are deceived.
Lori: Right? My book is launching this week and the most helpless thing is wanting people to review the book and just sitting there and watching. Are they gonna review it? Will they ever review it? Because there’s not one thing you can do about it. You can’t buy it. You can’t do it yourself.
I had to really struggle with how to even present the book because I wanted it to be not really about my medical events. Those are woven into it, but I wanted it to be for other people who were on a detour who needed to ask the question.
That was something that at some point in my life, and I think it was at a writer’s conference when I got some feedback and realized, “I don’t think I can just write a straight memoir. I don’t think that’s going to resonate. It’s not going to get out enough to people and do what God wants it to do in that form.”
I had to kind of go back to the drawing board and that’s when those sticky notes started moving around.
Karen: You know, it’s really great because you can take each of these questions and you can do big picture about life. But then as writers, we can take them and utilize each one of them for our writing.
Is this all there is in my writing? Question of worry. What if my book doesn’t sell the way I want it to? What if I don’t reach many people? What if, what if, what if?
The question of doubt: Is God always good to me as a writer? If I’m not getting contracts, then God’s not being good. Again, you’re contrasting your expectations with his character.
Then the question of control: Is God’s plan for my writing enough? What if only one, and we’ve said this before, what if only one person reads it and that person’s life has changed? Is that good enough for you if that’s God’s intent for you as a writer?
Erin: Right. I think that last question about God’s plan being enough, that speaks to people who may be having regrets about this, that, or the other thing. I have a friend who’s struggling with their career. They’ve been in their career for over twenty years and they feel disillusioned. Even bitter, even upset, even filled with regret of wasting their life. I just want to say, “But what if that was God’s plan? Is God’s plan enough?”
It’s a very difficult thing to dig our way out of when we have those types of regret. But that’s where we go back to, well, was it the detour? Was it the plan? What was happening there?
Lori: Yes, and I think we sort of get our mind twisted around because we’re so driven now by numbers. How many followers do I have? How many people are on my email list?
That seems like that’s where our worth is. But you know, we can know from just getting one email, or one response, or one comment from somebody who was really struggling with something. Those little glimpses where you’re like, “If that’s all I ever get, that’s gonna be enough.”
We see that from time to time and get these little flickers. But it’s so easy to just get caught in, you know, how many reviews am I getting? How many copies am I going to sell? How many people are on my email list? I’ve learned, and it was a hard lesson, but I’ve learned that my plan has never been anywhere close to as good as God’s plan.
Erin: Well, that’s fair.
Karen: It is fair. And it’s necessary because, I mean, we did a whole podcast on understanding that success is measured by obedience. Not by numbers, not by sales numbers, not by reviews, not by any of that. Our success as children of God who’ve been given the task to write is measured by our obedience.
Have I been obedient? That’s the only thing that we have any control over, whether or not we’re being obedient to that task. God has everything else in hand.
All these questions that you’ve been asking and what you’ve shared with us, it’s all so important for each of us to take the time and to take the courage, because it does take courage to ask those hard questions, to dig deeper into ourselves.
If you are feeling, as you listen to this podcast, if you’re struggling with a sense of disillusionment, with a thought like something that you have on your website, Lori Ann, which I really like: “Why trust a God who disappoints?” Then you have to go back when you’re facing that question and ask yourself, “But did God disappoint? Or were your expectations other than what God wanted you to do?”
It always comes back to, when we start to doubt God, we’ve got to make those hard studies and come to a point where we recognize that God is God, and we are His creation. You have to keep that in mind because he is using each one of us to save others. What more can we want than that?
Asking these questions and digging deep into: Is that all there is? Is God always good? Is God’s plan enough? Friends out there, I encourage you. Dig into those. Check out Lori Ann’s book, check out her story, and then consider your own journey. Your life journey, your writing journey, and consider who gave you the task that you have.
Who is he? Is God who he says he is? For me that answer is quite clearly, he absolutely is. And he will do what he will do. So ask yourself, what is my answer to that?
Erin: Amen.Guest @lori_ann_wood has discovered three key questions that will help you when your writing journey and life seem to go off the rails. #amwriting #ChristianWriter Click To Tweet
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