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202 – Why Suffering Matters with Guest Rachel Hauck

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Why Suffering Matters with Guest Rachel Hauck Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungOur journey as writers who believe in God has many ups and downs, mountaintops and canyons. It’s so easy to forget, when the downs come, that they, too, are from God. And that He allows and uses them for His purpose. Join our guest Rachel Hauck as we consider the gift of suffering.

About Rachel Hauck

Rachel Hauck is a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author. She’s a RITA finalist and winner of Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year, and Career Achievement Award. She writes vivid characters dealing with real life issues. Her book, Once Upon a Prince, was made into an original Hallmark movie. She also loves to encourage new writers and sits on the Executive Board of American Christian Fiction Writers. Visit her website at rachelhauck.com to find out more.

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. Welcome to the deep with us today. We’re excited that you’re here, and we’re excited that we have a guest today. Yay! I’ll let Karen introduce her. 

Karen: Our guest is Rachel Hauck, and she is just a wonderful person. Not only is she a New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, but she is a phenomenal worship leader. She leads worship at the ACFW Conference every year, and boy, she sure knows how to usher us into the presence of the Lord.

For all those reasons, Rachel, we are delighted to have you here. Welcome! 

Rachel: Thank you. It’s good to be here. 

Erin: We love to start our show by asking all of our guests, what does the deep mean to you, Rachel? 

Rachel: The deep. Oh, man. What just comes to mind immediately is deep calls to deep. So it’s just that deeper part of God, wanting to know those deeper things. Going below the surface. Pulling up treasure. 

Karen: Mm hmm. 

Erin: Yeah, I love that God wants to go deep with us. I mean we want to go deep with him, but he wants to go deep with us and reveal deep things about himself to us. Can you guys imagine that? The God of the universe wants to not only know us deeply but reveal deep things about who he is, too. We could probably meditate on that all day, but we’ll move on. 

One of the fun things that we wanted to talk to Rachel about—I mean she’s just been in the business for so long and done so many great things as an author—but one of the things that she had said in an email was, “God’s after my heart. Not my stuff, or not an employee. He wants me.” 

Rachel, I loved that. What I want to know is how did you come to that? I bet that wasn’t an overnight learning experience. 

Rachel: No, not at all. I think it’s just the whole process of coming into the things that he called me to do. Like he called me to be a writer. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Ever since I was a child, people would say, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I’d say, “I want to be a writer.”

My father would say to me, “Rachel, you’re a writer. Be a writer.” 

I studied journalism at Ohio State. Didn’t want to be a reporter. The Lord, sent me to where I live now. I was in the software world for a while.

Anyway, Christian fiction was big in the early 90s, and I started writing, but it was lots of disappointment, you know? The rejection. We were talking about that before the show. Rejections and things like that were coming up. Meeting people, just waiting for the right doors to open. Writing full time and then being back in the corporate world. Just all of that journey.

All along, the Lord was dealing with things in my heart. I remember when I got my first contract with Thomas Nelson, who at the time was my dream publisher. 

Erin: Wow. 

Rachel: I remember thinking, “Oh my gosh, what if I can’t do it? What if I can’t do it?” 

I was driving down the road and the Holy Spirit said to me, “Okay, you just keep saying you can’t and don’t be surprised when you fail.” 

Karen: Right. 

Rachel: So that’s when it began. Getting at those deeper issues, and what comes out of my mouth, and what I believe, and how I processed even writing stories, and just laying on the floor, trying to come up with an idea, weeping before the Lord. I had so many tears in those early days, like, “I don’t know what I’m doing!” and not feeling good enough.

You know how publishing works. Maybe you get promoted, maybe you don’t. 

Karen: Right.

Rachel: And out of the gate, pouring my heart into a story, but ending up not really being on the front of the promotional list. For the reasons that, well you know, business. That’s when the business kicks in.

The Lord was just leading me through that saying, “You’re writing for different reasons than I’ve called you to write, Rachel.”

So it was book after book. Technically after my first couple of books with Thomas Nelson, I should have been gone. I just didn’t have the numbers.

That’s when they came to me and said, “Hey, would you write with country singer Sarah Evans?”

I said, “Sure.” 

I’d already had a moment with the Lord where I’d said, “Look, I’ve got nothing. I don’t have kids. I don’t have a career. They could call me today and tell me, ‘Don’t turn in the book you’re writing,’—which was Love Starts with Elle—I could go anywhere. Tony can eat cereal and he can wear wrinkled shorts. I don’t care.”

And so they’d come to me a few months after that and said, “Will you write with Sarah Evans?”

I just knew, and I said, “Yes. Absolutely.”

That was three of the easiest books I ever wrote, as far as just the grace that was on me. Not only did I have to write a book for my publisher, I had to write a book for this country singer. We paired together, of course, for the idea of the series, but I was the one doing the finger work. 

After that was The Wedding Dress, which changed everything. So it was doing what he called me to do and sticking with it, even when it didn’t look like I was being successful in the world’s standards.

Karen: It’s interesting, Erin and I, before we do any of our meetings or we do any of the podcasts, we read from Streams in the Desert the devotional for the day. The verse that we read this morning was Genesis 15:13-14, and it’s so perfect for anyone going into publishing:

“Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be mistreated for one hundred years. But afterward, They will come out with great possessions.” 

That’s perfect. Then the devotional goes on to say, “I can be sure that part of God’s promised blessing to me is delay and suffering.” 

Welcome to publishing. 

Rachel: Welcome to publishing. I remember saying that at one ACFW conference when I was in the middle of leading worship. I said, “If you don’t plug into Jesus, this industry will kill you.”

Karen: That’s exactly right. 

Rachel: But you know, I love Genesis 15:1, where God says to Abraham, “I am your exceeding great reward.” 

Really, that’s where it all starts. That the journey of life, no matter what you’re doing—publishing, editing, writing, mixing cement, raising kids at home—is about coming up from the wilderness, leaning on your beloved.

It’s about being conformed into the image of Christ, which is Romans 8. I know the verse because I memorized it, but I can’t pull it out of my secession, and you guys don’t want me to quote the whole thing. But Paul writes that Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. He said that we are conformed that he might be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.

So we’re conformed to him because he’s the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. How do you conform me to him? 

Karen: By suffering, pain, death, resurrection… 

Rachel: By the life that I lead. Right. By the good, the bad, the valleys, the mountains. 

Karen: It’s in those difficult places that we put our roots deep into who Jesus is because it’s only when we do that that we can withstand the storms. 

We moved to Washington a little over a year ago not knowing much about this community to which we moved. It’s Gold Bar, Washington. Little did I know that half of the year, they call it Blow Bar, because the winds are just channeled by the Cascade Mountains. We’re at the foot of the Cascade Mountains. It’s beautiful, but the wind is just channeled past us. 

I look out in my backyard sometimes, and I just wait for that music. You know that music from the Wizard of Oz where you see the gal on the broom? Yeah. We got our weather station so that we could see how strong the winds are that are blowing through. The only way you survive that is having your roots so deep into the Lord that nothing can rip you out. Nothing can destroy you.

Erin: Yeah, I think that… with the suffering, nobody wants to suffer, okay? We don’t. But suffering gets our attention. I think suffering draws us to what’s really important and it makes us think about, well, was that review really important or, was it more important what God thinks about my effort here?

Or, is selling 200 books really important? Or is that one person whose life may be forever changed, is that what’s important? So it’s awful. Nobody loves it, but yet we can’t learn anything without it. 

Why did God do that? Don’t you wonder, why is that the plan? I don’t know that I have a good answer to that.

Rachel: This past summer, my older brother had his esophagus rupture. We were all on our way to the annual family gathering in Eastern Tennessee. He was airlifted from Tallahassee to Jacksonville for emergency surgery. He almost died. My husband and I were headed up. We had just gone through Jacksonville when he called and said he was taking himself—he’s not married, he’s a bachelor—taking himself to the emergency room.

We ended up turning around and going back down to be with him in Jacksonville. He was under by the time that we were there. He was in the hospital for five weeks, and he was never alone. Family and friends rotated in and out to be with him. But when I was there with him, and my sister came down to be with us as well, I asked that question a lot. What is this suffering? 

Of course he was the one really doing the suffering, but we were there with him. I’m telling you guys, it makes me cry just talking about it. The nearness of God was tangible. One day I was sitting next to my brother and I was just praying. He had tennis on the TV, and we were just being with him in the room.

I started singing, “Hallelujah, hallelujah.” And then, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and boom, he was in the room. 

Erin: Wow. 

Rachel: I just lost it. I remember he was standing at my brother’s feet and he said, “It won’t be long.”

I knew it wasn’t death. I knew it was healing. 

He’d said that to me about my grandmother and she died a week later, but she was a hundred and two, going on a hundred and three. She wanted to go. 

There were several other moments. It just, I almost miss it. I don’t want him to be in hospital, but the nearness of God in that moment… 

I can’t tell you that there’s a formula to touch God in the midst of suffering except just keep going to him, keep going to him, keep going to him.

The beauty was the Lord even set up my brother for this. He just had. 

My brother told me one day, “I think I dreamed this before it happened.”

One day he was riding his bike and he was just kind of singing to the Lord in his garage. This is not a “sing to the Lord” kind of guy. He doesn’t go to church every week. You could have knocked me out of my chair when he was telling me this. 

He said he was singing in the spirit, listening to a jazz song, and the most incredible peace fell over him and his eyes teared up. 

He was tearing up telling me the story and he goes to God, like, “Hey, come on, you know I don’t like this emotional stuff.” 

But the Lord in his kindness prepared him. So I think that, Erin, coming out of your question, I don’t get it, and I remember walking down the hospital hall, weeping, I had to hide behind a post, just weeping, and saying, “God, I don’t understand suffering. But I feel you so near. I almost welcome it.” You know? 

Erin: Yeah. 

Karen: Don and I went through so much in our lives, in our relationship, in just everything, and we came to the place where our mantra, if you will, and I’ve said this before on the podcast, became: God is in control. I don’t get it. I don’t understand it. I may not like it, but God is in control. 

It’s that sense of whatever it is, whether it’s suffering or whether it’s great success, whether it’s utter failure—and I’ve been in both places, great success and utter failure—in all of it, it’s knowing that God is present and God is at work. 

His work isn’t to make me a success. His work is to make me a reflection of a loving Lord to a lost and hurting world. That’s the work that He is doing in me. Whatever I write, or publish, or whatever, the podcasts, if they are part of that, that’s because of his purposes and his will. Everything else doesn’t matter. I just need to rest in him and say, “Okay, where do you want to take us today?”

Rachel: One hundred percent. Absolutely. 

Erin: Suffering is very much part of the human experience. In many ways, this was Job’s question to God. “Are you really running the universe right? Because there’s suffering happening.” 

God’s like, “Hey, I’m God.”

You can’t question that even though we might want to. But the suffering, I think, brings in many ways, our compassion and our humanity. It’s something that we have in common with everybody all over the world. But I also think it’s so interesting that at the end of time, when the new heavens and the new earth are here and we are in God’s presence, I mean, no more suffering.

What a contrast that will be. How can we even imagine that? Here, there’s suffering. There, there isn’t. It’s something to just dwell upon and try to look forward to it and try to understand it. And we never will, so there you go. I’ll just stop there.

Rachel: Yeah. I think that is Romans 8:18. Paul writes that we can’t imagine that with this present suffering…what’s coming. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Rachel: We can’t compare it to the glory that will be revealed in us. But if we share in his suffering, we will also share in his glory.

Karen: Right. 

Rachel: I think of the existential question, if God is good, why is there evil? And I really think that’s what this earthly journey is all about: eradicating evil. He allowed it because it’s the opposite of good. You know, he’s so good, he could allow evil to exist. In the end of the age, he’s going to eradicate it.

Whatever your end-time eschatology is, one day it’s going to be gone and forever we’re going to live in the light of his glory. Forever. I can’t even imagine like, what am I going to be doing a thousand years from now? You know, you still have this concept of, “Okay, but when I die…” But no, you will never die again.

Erin: Right. 

Rachel: You just can’t even imagine that. You almost go, “Man, I’m going to get bored living forever.” But you won’t.

Karen: I don’t think so! 

Rachel: I know, right? We won’t. 

Karen: I’ll spend the first millennia just talking to the animals. 

The thing that I look at when we talk about suffering and the thing that it constantly brings me back to, especially in light of being a writer and how we feel as though things just aren’t happening the way we thought they would, and how this journey isn’t what we thought it would be, or it’s so much better than we thought it would be, is how when something happens, some hiccup in the road, we let ourselves go to that place of, “I lost my faith in God.”

Or, “This happened and I started doubting God’s goodness.” Or, “If God was loving, then why?”

I look at Isaiah 45:5-6. It says: “I am the Lord.” Listen to that. “I am the Lord and there is no other. Apart from me, there is no other. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting, men may know there is none besides me. I am the Lord and there is no other.” 

God is God, and who are we that he takes notice of us? Yet we have the gall to say things like, “I lost my faith because…”

Then you didn’t have those deep roots in your faith. You weren’t submitted to the fact that God is God and you are created to honor him and glorify him. No matter what. Even if you’re walking across the water and then you start to sink. You are there, whether you drown or whether you survive, and he lifts you up out of the waves, you belong to God, and he is the one who is in control. Not you. 

Erin: All of those things—when we get sidetracked—it’s just a distraction. It’s a distraction to what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be pointing to God’s glory. As writers, that’s our job. We’ve talked about suffering and we’ve talked about a future glory, but at the same time, that’s why what we do now matters. That’s why every word we write matters. It’s important to be telling people what’s going on here and what’s to come. We have such an important job. 

Rachel: I was talking with a friend this morning about Dante’s Inferno of all things. She was a hospice nurse, and so she’d been there with people about to die. She’d seen some who knew they were being carried away by angels and some who were dying in agony, literally being carted off to hell. She said that Dante’s Inferno really brought hell into a reality with her.

I was saying that the hard part about Dante’s Inferno is he didn’t give the answer. You don’t want to go here, so where am I going? Here’s how you get to heaven, you know? But that’s not the rest of Dante’s Inferno.

I think if we show flawed characters and people who are really struggling with life, and in that somehow there’s the revelation of Jesus, that’s how I approach writing a story. Everyone’s going to be messed up and just as flawed as anybody else, but somewhere along the way, they encounter the one who has the answers.

Erin: Yeah. 

Karen: We need to show the reality that when some people encounter the one who has the answers, they don’t like the answers and they walk away. Away from the only answer, away from the love, and it needs to break our hearts the way that it breaks Jesus’ heart. 

We need to be sure that we are authentic in what we’re writing about the struggles of the Christian life. This is not an easy gig. I mean, let alone as a Christian being called to write and to publishing, it’s like double damnation. You find these things that we need to communicate, the truth of it and the truth of him, to a world that’s lost in darkness. 

Wow, this has been a great conversation, Rachel. I’m just so delighted with all that we’ve talked about. And listeners, get excited because there’s more coming next time.

Guest @RachelHauck encourages us to see suffering as a gift from God. #ChristianWriter #amwriting Click To Tweet
We want to hear from you!

What do you think about the human struggle with suffering?

Special offer from our previous podcast guest shadia Hrichi

Enter for a chance to win a free copy of Shadia Hrichi’s latest Bible study Rahab! One copy will be given away each week during the month of November!


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

Special thanks to our November sponsor of the month Christy Bass Adams. She’s the author of a devotional titled Learning As I Go: Big Lessons from Little People, and a middle grades novel, The Adventures of Cricket and Kyle: Imagination Checkers. She’s also a speaker and leads women’s conferences and Bible studies, and she’s a monthly contributor to Inspire-a-fire and a newspaper columnist for Greene Publishing.

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


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201 – When a Crisis Upends Your World with Guest Shadia Hrichi

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When a Crisis Upends Your World with Guest Shadia Hrichi Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe’ve all faced times of trial, but what do you do when MORE crises happen while you’re already in the middle of a crisis? Guest Shadia Hrichi shares how God used crisis upon crisis to strengthen her faith and her writing.

About Shadia Hrichi

Shadia Hrichi is a passionate Bible teacher who loves seeing lives transformed by the power of God’s Word. She holds a master’s in biblical and theological studies and a master’s in criminal justice. Her Bible studies include her latest release, Rahab: Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me, as well as TAMARHAGARLEGION,  and WORTHY OF LOVE, endorsed by Francine Rivers, Liz Curtis-Higgs, Chris Tiegreen, Bible Study Magazine, and others. Shadia enjoys speaking at retreats and events, and loves to visit the ocean each week for “a date with Jesus.”

Enter for a chance to win a free copy of Shadia Hrichi’s latest Bible study Rahab! One copy will be given away each week during the month of November!

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

Erin: Welcome, listeners. We are delighted that you’re here with us. We’re doubly delighted because we have a guest, and I’m going to let Karen introduce her.

Karen: It’s Shadia Hrichi! We’ve had her here a couple of times before and we’re having her back because we love her. And we love the way that she brings the Bible to life for us and helps us to apply it in every step of what we’re doing for God as we’re on this journey to write and share his truth.

She holds a Master’s in Biblical and Theological Studies as well as a Master’s in Criminal Justice. She is an amazing teacher and the author of a number of Bible studies and has just released her newest on Rahab. Shadia, welcome. We’re so glad to have you here. 

Shadia: Oh, this is fantastic. Thank you so much for having me back.

I appreciate all that you do to invest in writers. Your ministry is beautiful. Thanks for having me. 

Erin: Thank you. Well, as we love to begin, what does the deep mean to you, Shadia? 

Shadia: When I think of the deep and my walk with God, I’m reminded, of what Paul says: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and I want to know God more.”

I think that’s what we all want as Christians. We all want to know God more. It’s just like any relationship. You do that by going deep, by spending that time together and intentionally investing in that relationship. I just want to know him more.

Erin: I love that the focus on intention there is the key. We might want things, but if we don’t do anything about them, they’re just desires, not goals. 

Shadia: Yes. 

Erin: But if we have the intention and the goal of doing that, of spending that time, then it can happen. So I love that word. 

Shadia: And it’s God’s desire too. We’re right in alignment. It’s his will. 

Erin: That’s right. And he does draw us. I think that’s something we can be praying for when we’re praying about having a deeper relationship with him, that he would call, that he would draw us, and that we would meet him with that intentionality as well. So I like that.

Well, we’re excited about the release of your new Bible study. I got to tell you guys, go look at her Bible studies. These are great. I have thoroughly enjoyed even just looking through them. But digging into them and doing them—doing is a cool experience. We’ve got to definitely say that is a life-changing type of a Bible study experience when you’re going deep.

Rahab: Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me is the newest one, and so I’m excited about that because it’s about Rahab. That’s interesting. But as you were writing this study, how did it impact your own faith walk? Especially how that regarded your situation with your mom’s health? 

Shadia: Yeah. It’s interesting because with this particular Bible study, faith and salvation together are the primary themes of the entire Bible study. Those are the center cores of Rahab’s story and this particular Bible study. Looking back, I realized I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when God allowed me to experience not one, but two really difficult events that challenged my faith.

One of them we talked about last time with me having to suddenly have to move. That happened about halfway through writing this Bible study, and that was very, very difficult. But who knew I was going to be in store for something far worse? It happened just a couple of weeks away from my book deadline.

Whenever you’re on a book deadline, anybody who’s experienced that knows that’s pretty stressful. Everything is basically on hold until you finish this book. You’re not cleaning the house. Your friends have to bring you food.

So here I was at the end. I had just a couple of weeks left for finishing the book. I had about two days left that I was writing for the end of the study. I’m under all this pressure, and I get a phone call from my brother. Now I live in California, my family’s originally from New York, so my brother, my mom, and so forth are living in New York. I get a call from my brother saying that mom is in the hospital.

Now at that point, I had already made three trips to New York just in that past year because her health had been slowly failing, but she kept bouncing back. The last time I saw her, she was getting stronger. She was back home and things seemed to be going fine.

But my brother calls me and by the time he called me and said that she was in the hospital, I mean, hours later, she’s already on life support. I almost didn’t even comprehend the words. It happened so fast.

Just hours later, I’m on a flight back to New York. All my friends and Bible study group and prayer team are praying alongside with me for two things. I wanted to get back in time to say goodbye, and more importantly, to share the gospel one last time.

I think I’ve shared on this program before, I wasn’t raised in a Christian family, I’m the only Christian in the family. Twenty-five years of witnessing, and I’m still the only Christian in the family. I’ve been witnessing to my mom for years, and there was a time many years before that she had prayed with me to receive Christ, but I never really saw much fruit. She was kind of on her own, and one of those people that…I mean, I can’t put this on my shoulders, but I sometimes feel that if I had just been there, she would have went to church with me.

Karen: Right, right. 

Shadia: You get it. I honestly just never knew where she stood with the Lord. When the plane landed, a friend picked me up, and we drove straight to the hospital. I went right up to her room.

She’s in ICU, my brother’s there, my stepfather’s there, my aunt, my mom’s sister. Mom is sedated, completely sedated. There are fifteen wires and tubes and all those things. Quite honestly, looking back, I was probably just in shock.

I’ve heard people say that even if somebody’s sedated or in a coma or anything like that, their hearing still works. 

Karen: You can talk to them. Right. 

Shadia: Yeah. So I held on to that. I went up to her bed, and I held her hand. I thought to myself—obviously praying this whole entire time—I thought, “God, she’s heard the gospel. I don’t need to go through the Romans road. I mean, she knows it.” 

So all I just kept saying was, “Run to Jesus. Run to Jesus.”

I would read things like Psalm 23, the Shepherd Psalm, and I played the song “Amazing Grace,” just little things like that. Even though my family was in the room with me, and they’re not believers. They’ve always been very gracious and sensitive to my faith, and I appreciate that. So there was no one standing in the way of any of that.

I remember saying to my mom, “Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”

She never did. At one moment, she did open her eyes once and she turned and I felt like she was looking at me, but then she closed them again and I’m like, “Oh God, did she, is she there? Does she hear me?”

You don’t know. It’s so hard. And by the next morning she was gone. 

Karen: Oh, gosh. 

Shadia: Yeah. She passed.

God had answered one of my prayers. I got there in time to say goodbye. In the dark days that followed, God was still with me. God’s light was still there.

What happened afterwards, though, is the most interesting part of what happened. I’m in New York, and I had to stay helping my brother, my stepfather, and everyone with the burial plans, the paperwork. All the logistical things that had to be arranged.

She passed on Tuesday, and by Friday, I had scheduled a flight to return home on Saturday morning. There was nothing left that needed to be done. My brother who owns a restaurant, was kind of already back in work mode. You know, life still goes on. We’re still grieving and so forth, but there are still responsibilities.

Karen: Right. 

Shadia: I booked my flight for Saturday morning, but Friday, I had no peace. I just kept sensing this thought, like I had to stay one more day. I’m like, “Is that you God? Or is this my imagination?”

You know, you’re under all this stress to begin with. But by Friday night, I think it was around 11 o’clock, I can’t sleep. I’m feeling like I’m supposed to stay another day, and I’m questioning it because I’m like, “What for? There’s nothing left to do. I’ve got to get back home. I’ve got work to do.”

Of course, I’m asking God for clarity. “God, can you make it clear? Is this you?”

But I didn’t get that sense. Finally, since this feeling wouldn’t go away, I decided, “All right, well, if this is God, I need to do this, and if it’s not, what am I going to lose?”

Here I am, 11 o’clock at night, getting on my iPad, cancelling the flight, cancelling the drive to the airport. Then, of course, the airline didn’t have a flight on Sunday, so I had to book for another airline, and so on. All the things.

So I change everything, and now I’m going to fly out Sunday. So Saturday morning comes, and I’m throwing my hands up. “Okay, here I am.”

My brother’s back at work. My stepfather has some things to do, and I’m just home at my parents’ house, and I had nothing really to do. I’d already scoured Mom’s room for journals, photos, anything personal, anything special that might minister to me or my family. Mementos or whatever.

I thought, “Well, I haven’t done that in her art studio.” She was an artist, so she had an art studio. I thought, “Let me go in there and poke around.”

In the back of the studio, I found an old bookshelf. I was looking for journals, though she wasn’t a journaler. She wasn’t a writer, but I had given her a journal once like twenty years ago.

Lo and behold, I recognized it. Although at the moment, I couldn’t even remember if it was the one I gave her twenty years ago. But I recognized that it had no title. It wasn’t a book. So I pulled it out and then I recognized it immediately. It had this yellow sunflower on top and it was a journal I had given to her twenty years before.

Erin: Wow. 

Shadia: In that journal were just three entries. In one of the entries, she wrote a prayer telling God how much she thanked him for me, that I had shared the Lord with her and witnessed to her. Then she wrote a prayer of salvation, giving her life to Christ. Dedicating her life to Christ.

I’m reading these words like, “Is this really what I’m reading?”

Especially because of the fact that she was not a writer. She wasn’t a journal type person, but I’ve got boxes of journals, you know what I mean? But that wasn’t her thing. So for her to write this down, this is significant. She wrote this prayer of salvation and thanked God for me telling her about him. 

I thought in that moment that even though mom had struggled all those years to hold on to her faith—because we’d had conversations now and then—I’d just never, I mean, I was looking for that clear sign, that evidence. I was struggling myself, not seeing that evidence and God reminded me of 2nd Timothy 2:13, which says that even if we are faithless, God remains faithful. He cannot deny who he is.

It seemed that he honored Mom’s prayer because it was a sincere prayer. I’m the one who had to rest in that truth, trusting in who God is and thanking him for displaying that for me by ensuring I would delay that trip in order to find that journal rather than spending the next six months in despair until the next time I was back there.

Here’s one more tiny piece of this story. When I got back home here in California, the next morning, my mind’s still a little bit blown, and I was struggling again. Like, “Is she really in heaven? Is she really with God? Is it true?”

That’s when the Spirit spoke clearly—that clarity I wanted on Friday, and I didn’t get it. I got it on Monday morning, back in California. He spoke very clearly, giving me that reminder of me finding that journal, delaying the trip. He said to me, “Is it in God’s nature to give you false hope?” 

Erin: Wow. 

Karen: Amen. 

Shadia: Yeah. Then, of course, when I finally started getting back to finishing the end of the Bible study, it’s nothing like what I would’ve written before this happened. So, yeah, I’m just praying that story encourages many others..kind of like Rahab. She saved her family. She went back for her family. She could have jumped out the window with the spies and saved herself. 

Karen: Yeah. 

Shadia: She could have been rescued that night, but she stayed back and risked her life to save her family. I feel like God allowed me to see that connection. 

Erin: Yeah. 

Shadia: That’s what he did. He allowed my faith to really be challenged in a beautiful way and again displayed the beauty of who he is, which is ultimately what we want. That’s what I want. I want to know him more. 

Karen: Right. 

Shadia: He revealed himself more clearly.

Karen: Yeah, that’s amazing. 

Erin: That’s what he does. That’s who he is. That’s the goal—that God reveals who he is in his word and through us. 

Shadia: He wants to be known. 

Karen: Right. 

Erin: And trusted—us understanding by faith that we can trust who he is and who he’s revealed himself to be, which is why I like so much that you write Bible studies. Because that’s one of the ways that we understand who God is and how he reveals himself to us. He left us the Bible to reveal himself to us. 

Shadia: Absolutely. 

Erin: We don’t dig in the way we need to. I saw this quote on some of your promotional material for the Bible study for Rahab. You’d said, “In today’s fast-paced, instant-results, frenzied way of life, many Christians have come to lean on a Bible verse or even a word as spiritual nourishment.”

I thought, “Yeah!” You tell us, though, why is that a problem? 

Shadia: Yeah, it certainly is the culture we’re in now. “Just a Bible verse a day and keep the devil away” kind of thing. The problem with it is that except perhaps the book of Proverbs, the Bible wasn’t written to be understood in verses.

A lot of the Bible is narrative, or in the New Testament, there are stories. Everything is written in within context. Then even broader of that, all of the Bible is written and connects to the rest of the Bible. There’s one redemptive story throughout the entire Bible. Then each element of the Bible, whether it’s a book or even if you just take a chapter, it all has to be understood within context.

That’s how you get to know God more. That’s how you see what this bigger picture is. Where is he coming from? What is he trying to teach us?

We can’t survive spiritually on breadcrumbs. God’s given us bread. God’s given us food. God’s given us a feast. 

We can’t easily take it all in at once, but he’s also provided nerds like me who love to do that extra digging and then provide guidance on how you can dig in, on how you can know God more. He has revealed himself in his word. It’s very important to study the Bible with those bigger pictures in mind and looking at everything and how it relates to the Bible as a whole. 

Erin: Yeah. I think of so many people out there who have a question about God, or an anger toward God, or a disbelief, they’ll pull out one little thing, but there’s a whole backstory behind all this. 

You know, somebody once said to me, “Are you saying that people who follow the Jewish faith tradition, but don’t follow Christ, they’re not Christians then? What’s going to happen to them? Jesus was a Jew.” 

I’m just like, “What? There’s a whole story in there. A whole redemptive story about how God woos his people.”

Shadia: Yes. 

Karen: The interesting thing is, as writers, none of us write books with the intent that our readers will come and pull one sentence, one paragraph out and put that up on their wall and use that without context. I mean, they could pull something that somebody bad says, and say, “I’m so inspired by this.”

You’re like, “Ah, you have to read that in context of the story in order to understand.”

That’s the same thing with the scriptures. 

Shadia: Yes. I think this is why so many Christians are feeling empty, longing for deeper intimacy with God, because they’re only looking at the examples out there, like this verse a day, a word a day. There’s nothing wrong with those things, just like you shared, Karen. I mean, I have a Bible verse on my wall.

Karen: Sure. 

Shadia: But I know the context of the story and it has such richer application to me because I’m aware of the bigger story. 

Karen: Because you’ve gone deeper.

Erin: These little Bible snippets, they’re like Twitter. It’s all soundbites. Soundbite faith is not deep. It’s not going deep with God, so obviously Bible study is going to help us with that. And reading the Bible through in its entirety. That’s a great practice for us to be doing every year or every two years or every six months or whatever it is.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t meditate on a Bible verse or even a word. Those things can still be good. If you’re thinking about how God is almighty, well what does that mean? Invariably, if you have more context of the Bible, what you’re coming up with for what “almighty” means are things that we’ve seen in the Bible and also in our lives. There’s that richer context there. I love that. 

Shadia: Yeah. 

Erin: This has been a great conversation again. Of course! But we’re already coming to the end of our time. Are there some final words of wisdom that you would want to leave us with, either from your own life or from what you’ve learned with studying Rahab or whatever?

Shadia: One of the things that I could share about the story of Rahab is how it just applies to us. I’m always saying that the Rahab story is our story because the entire Bible is a picture of God’s passionate pursuit of his adulterous bride. 

Karen: Right. 

Shadia: That’s us. One of the prostitutes. But from Genesis all the way to Revelation, God is working out his plan of salvation to bring his bride home. Rahab, who’s this prostitute who’s rescued ends up in the lineage of Christ. She ends up marrying a prince of Judah. Her story reminds us that no matter what we’ve done, God is willing to embrace us if we turn to him and be saved.

Her story is our story because we are the prostitute. We become the bride of Christ. It is such a perfect place to begin a exploration into who God is. Her story is amazing, and we didn’t even talk about this whole aspect of where it appears in the Bible and the fact that they’re on the edge of the Promised Land, all that stuff. Powerful story and a beautiful story and a greatly, greatly theologically significant story in the Bible. 

Erin: Cool. And we recommend it, by the way!

Karen: We all need to delve deeper. Yes, we all need to delve deeper into Rahab and to understand all of that, where it fits in God’s story and in his relationship with us.

But more than anything else, I just want to say thanks for sharing what God did for you and the way that he blessed you beyond anything you could imagine. That’s the sign of a loving father. We can rest in him. We can take him at his word when he says that if we come to him and lay our burdens on him, we can then rest.

We can rest in him. We don’t have to worry. We don’t have to be anxious for anything. And boy, howdy, if Christians don’t know how to worry, they don’t know how to do anything. They are worriers from the ground up, and we should not be. We should be resting in the God who loves us beyond our imagining.

Thank you, Shadia, and may God be with each of us every step of the day.

Shadia: Thank you. 

Karen: Amen. 

Erin: Amen.

Guest @ShadiaHrichi shares how God used crisis upon crisis to strengthen her faith and her writing. #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
Shadia Hrichi’s Latest Bible Study

Rahab: Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me by Shadia Hrichi

Rahab Rediscovering the God Who Saves Me by Shadia Hrichi

Enter for a chance to win a free copy of Shadia Hrichi’s latest Bible study Rahab! One copy will be given away each week during the month of November!


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

Special thanks to our November sponsor of the month Christy Bass Adams. She’s the author of a devotional titled Learning As I Go: Big Lessons from Little People, and a middle grades novel, The Adventures of Cricket and Kyle: Imagination Checkers. She’s also a speaker and leads women’s conferences and Bible studies, and she’s a monthly contributor to Inspire-a-fire and a newspaper columnist for Greene Publishing.

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


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200 – Writing Wisdom and Advice: A Celebration of Our 200th Episode

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Writing Wisdom and Advice A Celebration of our 200th Episode Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIt’s been such an honor and delight to share your writing and spiritual journey with you! As we celebrate our 200th episode, we have a gift for you: writing wisdom and advice from some of our amazing guests! So come listen in and be blessed!

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Welcome to the deep, my friends! We’re glad you’re here with us. Today we’re celebrating! It’s our 200th episode! We started this podcast in September of 2015, everybody. Two episodes per month for eight years!

God has been so kind in giving us this task, showing his faithfulness and presence. Way back when, before we started this podcast, God spoke to us at the same time about how writers needed encouragement to help them deal with the struggles in their spiritual life on the writing journey. We’re so honored that he’s given us this task, and we’re delighted that you all are here.

Yes, God did lay it on our hearts. You have to know, we didn’t tell each other about it at that time. He spoke to us individually, and then we came together and discovered this and knew it was God.

We have to give a shout out to Thomas Umstattd Jr.,  too. Right about the time we were thinking about this, Erin mentioned it to Thomas at an ACFW conference. He said, “You and Karen doing a spiritual podcast for writers? Huh. That could be very interesting!”

It was so kind and so encouraging. Thomas and James L. Rubart gave us advice and tech help, too. We sure didn’t know how to do any of this, but Thomas did, and he was a resource and guide as we got started.

Thanks also to our awesome sound editor Mike at Podcast PS. He gets the brunt of all our bloopers and goofs, and he fixes them. Thanks, Mike!

For all of you out there who’ve supported us on Patreon, you’ve been a crucial part of these podcasts as well. We couldn’t have done this without you.

As we thought about how to celebrate this 200th episode, it occurred to us to reach out to former guests of the podcast and ask them for their advice and counsel for you. Our celebration is a special treat for you!  To keep the podcast from being an hour long, we’ve shortened some of the comments.

DiAnn Mills shared this:

“Karen and Erin’s interview with me…showed Christian sisterhood in action. They made me feel like I was the most important person on the planet. I valued the prayer time, professionalism, and insight into my book’s topic. The time sped by, and I regretted the ending of our conversation.”  DiAnn Mills

That’s how we always feel at the end of our time with our guests. Oh my goodness, we’ve laughed and cried and grown closer to God and each other. It’s fellowship in action. We’re so blessed by the body of Christ. That’s God’s design and purpose. We’re in this together, y’all. Stay connected, stay encouraged.

“You’re already doing a good thing for your life as a writer, because you are listening to this wonderful writing podcast. We can learn so much from one another. Be a writer’s writer like Karen and Erin. Cheer another writer on. Offer encouragement. Open doors. Someday another writer will do that for you, too. We can help one another.”  Karen Stiller, author of The Minister’s Wife, and Holiness Here coming out in Spring of 2024.

“I’ve always loved the title of your podcast, Write from the Deep, because it’s truly the only guarantee of a Christian writer’s success. No matter what degrees we hold, how many contracts we’ve secured, workshops we’ve taught or attended—if we don’t quiet the outer noise and dig deep to hear the still, small Voice inside, we have nothing of eternal value to write. So, no matter what distracts us, we can Write from the Deep when we LIVE from the deep. That’s why David’s psalms are so powerful. He wrote what he lived, and his words burn in our souls.”  Mesu Andrews

“When I was first published, decades ago, it was a challenge to find helpful information on the craft of writing. Writers groups were a rare gift and writer’s conferences became a lifeline. I’ve appreciated the way Write from the Deep has brought these necessary components to the next generation of writers. The variety of topics, personal stories and valuable insights from Karen and Erin have made this podcast a treasure chest for both new and experienced writers. Thank you, friends, for all your hard work. I’m honored to have been a guest and blessed to be a listener.”  Robin Jones Gunn

“God planted a love for words within the heart of every writer. God does not need our words, but he delights in using them in order to encourage, teach, inspire, and challenge – first us, and then others. Let God first have his way in your heart, then he will gladly help himself to your words to advance his kingdom purposes.”  Shadia Hrichi

We need encouragement, we need inspiration. This world can be difficult and dark. Lindsay Franklin shared with us that they recently discovered a would-be intruder trying to break into their house. While they were all home, in the middle of the day! How brazen. How disconcerting and eerie that must have been! So Lindsay Franklin gave us this bit of wisdom:

“Life is weird, but God is good. We’re never promised things will be easy or everything will work out perfectly. But we are promised God’s presence, and that’s more than enough.”  Lindsay Franklin

“I’ve been taking great comfort recently in these words of Jesus from John 8:12: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ It gives me such peace to know that if I am truly following Jesus, I am walking in his light and I can trust him to lead me one step at a time, only as far ahead as I can see for the next step and the next and the next. I’m trying to live life that way—one step at a time, eyes on Jesus, all the way home!”  Deborah Raney

Robin Lee Hatcher gave us this Scripture from Isaiah 42:16 (NASB95):

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.”

“God gave me this verse for a particular book when I was in a panic, not knowing how to tell the story in my heart. He made darkness into light before me then, and he has continued to do so for the many novels that have followed.”  Robin Lee Hatcher

These Bible verses from literary agent Steve Laube then tell us what happens next, when God makes our darkness light:

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God…His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire…Therefore, I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”  Combined from Matthew 5:16; John 5:44; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Psalm 86:12

“My advice is pretty simple and something I’m still working on myself: Keep your focus on the Lord. Always. It’s so easy to be distracted by this world and all the things. Everything we do should be done to the best of our ability for the glory of the Lord.”  Kimberly Woodhouse

Kim is still working on that, like we all should be, because it’s hard!

Paul Hastings, host of Compelled Podcast – Christian Stories and Testimonies gives advice that echoes Kim’s:

“Sometimes when I grow discouraged by lack of progress, I must be reminded of an eternal perspective. Seek first the kingdom of God, and he’ll take care of the rest. Even if you never achieve fame or acclaim as an author here on this Earth, if you serve the Lord faithfully then at the end of time you will hear the words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Master’ (Matthew 25:21).”  Paul Hastings

“The Holy Spirit knows best about your career. Trust his voice rather than the siren call of social media. Faithfulness trumps fame and. Book sales don’t equal your worth.”  Mary DeMuth

“Don’t get your identity or self esteem from your successes and failures as a writer.”  Sharon Dunn

“We are beloved children of God. That is our identity whether we write or not, whether we have ‘success’ or not. 2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us, ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (ESV).'”  Sharon Hinck

I like the focus Thomas Umstattd Jr. has on service in the advice he sent us:

“As a Christian author, your job is to honor God and thrill your reader. That’s it. At the end of the day, no one else matters. Not your agent, publisher, book store owner, book critic, English teacher, or editor. They are not your customer. They are not your God.  If your readers love your book, and you honored God in writing it, that is enough.  Love God, and serve your reader.”  Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Thomas also shared this Scripture with us:

“‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second [commandment] is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31 (ESV)

“To my writing brothers and sisters, a simple word of encouragement: God is already preparing the hearts of your readers for the message or story he has called and equipped you to share. Even before you’ve written a word. Even before you’ve posted something about your W-I-P on social media. Even before you’ve sent the first email, the first newsletter, the first blog post. Before all that, God. You can trust him. You can rest in him. Take a deep breath, and write.”  Liz Curtis Higgs

“No matter what, when, or how God called you to write, the platforms and audience he gives you are HIS. Your career is HIS. Write as he guides you. And be willing to leave it all behind if he calls you to something new and unexpected. Your writing is not your life-path. JESUS IS.”  Brandilyn Collins

Elizabeth Ludwig says something similar:

“My advice to writers is don’t ignore your spiritual journey! God has much to teach you along the way. Sometimes, getting there is more beneficial than actually arriving.”  Elizabeth Ludwig

“I loved being part of Write from the Deep. During the two episodes that we visited, I especially loved connecting my health and spiritual journeys to the writer’s journey. And the Scripture that speaks to all of that is found in John 13:7, where Jesus is washing his disciples’ feet and he says, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” After our conversations, it became even more clear to me that God is using each of our writing paths in ways we may not fully know this side of Eternity. And that gives me purpose and peace, knowing I don’t have to design and figure everything out on my own.”  Lori Ann Wood

“It can be difficult for authors to dig deeply into their own pain and past mistakes when shaping their stories, but the result can have eternal results in readers’ lives when they do…I would encourage young writers to set priorities in their life and writing, and then allocate their time accordingly, aware of the endless distractions that would divert them from God’s calling to write.”  Lynn Austin

Not only do we have to deal with distractions, we also have to deal with blank pages…sitting there…waiting for our genius…and waiting…and waiting…

Robin Lee Hatcher offers these words of wisdom for writers:

“You can’t fix anything you haven’t written. Give yourself permission to write ‘bad stuff.’ You can fix bad stuff. You can’t fix a blank page.”  Robin Lee Hatcher

I always find the blank page the hardest part, maybe some of you can relate. Once something is there, then comes the fun part—making it better, for me that’s easier, so I love Robin’s advice. Just get something on the page.

“Some of the best advice I’ve received as a writer is to invite God into my creative process. And so now, that’s the advice I love to give other writers, too. Pray before you write. Talk to God about the details, big and small. And ask him to show you the stories he has for you. It is such a gift to be able to create alongside our Creator.”  Becca Wierwille

To follow that up, Laurel Thomas says:

“My advice would be to receive with confidence from the Creator as we create!”  Laurel Thomas

I love that simple key: receive with confidence. That means we take note of the fact that God is the ultimate Creator, and he’s made us in his likeness, and he DOES gift us with creativity. It comes from God. We don’t have to manufacture it. We can be confident that it’s already ours through him.

Lenora Worth echoes that:

“Always, always, ask God first. Ask him when you get an idea. Ask him when you write the proposal. Ask him when you have doubts or when you hear good news. Ask him, ‘Lord, can you show me the way?’ And thank Him. He gives us the talent and the words. Never take that for granted as we tell the greatest story ever told. His story.”  Lenora Worth

Our creativity is important. Cathy Gohlke had this to say:

“Our world stands in great need of stories that discover the healing wonder found in relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Take stock of your life, of the unique experiences—the good, the bad, the victories and failures, the times you’ve shone in the sun, and the times you’ve had to rise from the ashes—and the lessons learned from those experiences.  Recognize the threads God has woven through your life—the themes—and objectively view the tapestry he’s created in you.  Realize that these life experiences and how you’ve grown from them, how they’ve brought you closer to God, are his gifts to you—gifts that you, as a writer, are able to use to inspire readers through your pen.  What the enemy means for evil God can use for good—as long as we open our hands and allow him. As writers we are constantly faced with discouragement and self-doubt.  Realize these are insidious, desperate tools of our common enemy.  Realize, too, that God has given us armor—the armor and implements of war found in Ephesians 6.”  Cathy Gohlke

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Ephesians 6:14-18

We can’t forget that last part about praying. Prayer is the thing we do while we’re WEARING the armor. We don’t just stand around dressed in armor. We use it in prayer battle.

Prayer isn’t the least thing you can do. It’s the greatest. We need to be bolstered by prayer because of another Scripture that Christy Bass Adams mentioned:

“I’m reminded of Matthew 10:16 (CSB) as Jesus is sending out the disciples and instructs, ‘Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.’ Answering the call to write is like sending the sheep out among wolves. This world needs confident, focused, and determined Christians. We must intentionally pay attention, research, and carefully analyze our partnerships and alignments. Writers are vulnerable. Rejections can often cripple us or steal our hope for a season. We must learn to speak up. Fight for what is true and right. Take a stand on faith and be firm about that stand. But also, be gentle in our tone. Innocent as doves. Kind in our responses. Careful and purposeful with our words. Words are powerful and we must use them for the greater and higher authority of Jesus Christ.”  Christy Bass Adams

“Do not be afraid, for He is ever with us. Claim your name—Image Bearer of the King—and go daily into battle for the Kingdom of Heaven as the pen warrior you are, remembering that victory and glory belong to Him.”  Cathy Gohlke 

What a blessing it’s been to talk and share with these amazing people and writers, and to share the experiences and wisdom God has given them with all of you. As we mentioned, our goal with this podcast was to encourage writers in their spiritual journeys.

Tina Yeager shared this encouragement with us, and with you:

“Karen and Erin inspire listeners to draw from the living wells of their souls for meaningful creative work. Write from the Deep delves into topics with profound impact. May all of us called by our Creator remember our purpose as a compass, to submit to his guidance, and to maintain an attitude of worshipful wonder. May anointing continue flowing from this podcast through all who experience it for many seasons to come.”  Tina Yeager

May each of you continue to draw closer to the One who guides and uses us for His purposes. Blessings to you all.

Join us for writing wisdom and advice from many of our previous guests as we celebrate 200 episodes! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?


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

Thanks so much to our October 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.