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093 – Going Wherever God Leads with Guest Kay Marshall Strom

Kay Marshall Strom on Write from the Deep Podcast Going Wherever God LeadsGuest Kay Marshall Strom is well acquainted with the Deep. The author of over 40 books, she’s also travelled the world—but where she goes is where God leads. And where God has led her is to the poorest and most oppressed places. Places where she’s had to face her own weakness, where she’s been held at gunpoint, and where she learned, without a doubt, that God is sufficient.

About Kay Marshall Strom

Kay Marshall Strom is an author, speaker, and 21st century abolitionist whose book topics provide a wide variety of speaking possibilities, including the global family of God and a Christian perspective on justice and mercy. She also speaks at writers’ conferences and workshops. Learn more about her speaking, teaching, books, and travels at her website kaystrom.com.

Thanks to our patrons on Patreon, we can provide an edited transcript of the show!

Erin: Hello listeners and welcome to the deep. We are so glad you’re joining us. We’re glad because we have another interview today! We have Kay Marshall Strom with us today, and I’m going to let Karen introduce her.

Karen: Of course you are! Kay, you and I met, I don’t know how many years ago at writers conferences, and the thing that I noticed first about Kay was that she had such a peaceful spirit about her. Just a sense of real contentment, and that struck me because I’ve never been a peaceful person. I’ve been a little bit of a stormy person, so to meet someone like Kay impressed me. She was a speaker at one of the conferences I was speaking at as well. She was one of the keynoters, and she talked about something she’s going to share with us in a little bit, about memorizing scripture. How important that is. I was so impacted by that. It just changed everything for me.

I’m delighted Kay is here. In addition to being a terrific person, she is a traveler. She rails against social injustice wherever she encounters it, and she calls herself a passionate citizen of the world. She’s got 39 published books, seven of which have been book club selections, 12 have been translated into foreign languages, and one has been optioned for a movie. So she’s out there shaking the world with the stuff she’s doing for God. We’re so excited to have her here. Her writing has appeared in a number of volumes including the NIV Devotional Bible and the devotional book My Heart, Christ’s Home, Through the Year. Kay, welcome to the deep.

Kay: Thank you. What a privilege and a joy it is to be here with you.

Erin: We are delighted to have you here. I actually had the privilege of hearing you speak at Mount Hermon as well just recently. We’ll talk more about that. But first, Kay, we want to ask you what we ask everybody. What does the deep mean to you?

Kay: The deep to me means the hard places. That’s when faith is a little more difficult to come by. God seems farther away. We seem like we’re on our own. That’s what it means to me. I have been through some hard places.

But when I’ve been in great places I feel the deep in a different way—to be deeply into the lap of God.

Erin: Talk about some of those hard places. Pick one, I know you have a lot!

Kay: Well, our house burned, and that’s when I had three books in process.

Karen: Oh my gosh!

Kay: One of them was actually completed and was already being advertised and sold in Zondervan’s catalog. And Zondervan had lost the copy because they had a virus in their computer. So they said to me—we were on vacation—they said, “When you get home send us a copy of the book as soon as you can.”

Well, there was no book to send.

Karen: Okay, writers. Everybody, let’s just have a moment of silence and grieving!

Kay: That’s deep.

Karen: That is deep!

Erin: What was your first thought? What did you do when you discovered that there was no book?

Kay: I didn’t know what to do. I thought, “I’ve gotta rewrite it.” And that’s actually what I did. But of course all my research and everything was gone too. But I rewrote it, and did one page at a time, and zipped it off to Zondervan. And did the next page and zipped it off, and the book came out.

Erin: Okay, wait a minute. Let’s review. Your house is burned down, and you’re still writing a book? How, logistically, did that work out?

Kay: Actually, when the house burned, we were in England. My husband was dying of a terrible condition, and we were on vacation. I’d decided we needed to take one last vacation together. My children were ready to start college. So, we were actually in England. We had a little bit of—I started to say a break, but I guess it wasn’t really a break—before we came home to the burned-down house. Other than that, everything was great.

Karen: How long had your husband been sick?

Kay: He died. This was a genetic condition that we didn’t know he had, and it showed itself probably 15 years before he died.

Erin: Oh, my word.

Karen: Were you being his caregiver for that long?

Kay: Yeah, I really was. In fact I did a book on that because I couldn’t find any books for caregivers to help us know how to steer through this kind of a thing. It was really difficult. And then of course all our insurance was immediately canceled because they said it was a pre-existing condition. So, I was supporting everybody on my writing too. Other than that…

Karen: No deep places in your life at all!

Kay: No, no. But that’s what I think of when I think of deep, because some great things came out of even those awful situations.

Karen: Okay, such as?

Kay: Learning to trust God. Learning what I should have known. The writing wasn’t my writing, it came from God because my brain stopped. Learning what I was able to do when I had to. And turning not only my husband over to God, but also my children who were away from home because of college. So, we made it.

Erin: What did you feel were the biggest struggles as you were trying to be a caregiver and as you’re trying to support your family with your writing? What did you feel was the biggest struggle and what did you learn the most through that?

Kay: Two things. One thing was, we were very active in our large church but everybody just sealed up tight. Nobody came to visit. Nobody. Even the pastors didn’t come to pray with my husband, even though I requested it repeatedly. I think the thing was, it was just hard to see what was happening to him. They couldn’t see that. So I learned that I cannot depend on people. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I mean, people are not the place we should put our trust and our dependence.

Erin: Right.

Kay: It has to be in God.

Erin: Right.

Karen: How did you do that? Because I know that for me, I’m such a social person, I’m such an extrovert, that my first thing to do is to reach out to people and to find support to be able to talk to people. So when you felt like you were in the place of isolation, when they weren’t reaching out to you, what did you do?

Kay: I went to a Christmas party. I didn’t really want to go, because I thought I shouldn’t, but I got a babysitter and went. All I could think of was what was going on, what I still had to do, my books that were getting behind. I was standing by the fireplace, and a woman I had never seen before came up and stood on the other side. And I had to talk. I had to.

I started pouring my heart out to her. She’d said, “How are you?” That was the mistake. And so I just started pouring my heart out. I purposely took a breath in the middle of a sentence so I wouldn’t come to an end of a sentence and breathe and she would leave. I could not let her go.

And I talked and talked. Afterwords, I was just humiliated, and I went home. But when I saw that woman later, she said, “I understood. I knew you were in pain, and I have been praying for you nonstop since that.” And I thought, even in that, God was taking care of me. At that point.

So things like that happened. I could not really take a shower or take a bath or anything because I had to be with my husband all the time. He would, you know, throw things out of the freezer. Or go peek in the neighbor’s windows and stuff. I had to be with him all the time.

One day the postman came to the door and said, “I have a package for you.”

I said, “Oh, would you please come in and stay with my husband? Just read him a story while I go take a bath? I’ll take it really fast.”

And he looked at me, and he said, “Okaaay…” And he did.

Erin: Wow.

Kay: So you never know where the help is going to come from.

Karen: I think one of the most valuable things is that you asked him for help. I mean, I realize it came out of a place of desperation—

Kay: It came out of a deep place.

Karen: We’re often so reticent to ask people for help, and I think there’s a lesson in that. We need to be open and vulnerable enough to do so.

Kay: Yes.

Erin: How did you get words written during that time, practically speaking, what would you do?

Kay: I wrote at night. I stayed up most all night and wrote. I tried to just sit in a chair and get little cat naps during the day. But when I stay up too late and I’m too sleepy, I start hallucinating. And I would see my grandma outside the window and I would say, “Okay, Grandma, I know what you’re saying—get to bed—but just hold on, I’ve got to do this.”

And so I really had a nice time with my grandmother during those days, who died many, many years before.

Karen: Good heavens!

Kay: That’s what I had to do. I had to write at night.

Erin: Wow. And she’s got 39 books people. I’m just sayin’. And articles.

Kay: Actually, 44 now.

Karen: Oh, my!

Erin: And counting! One of the things I loved that you wrote on your website was that you talked about being a passionate citizen of the world. I’m guessing you’ve done some world travel?

Kay: Oh my! You should see my passport. I have. The thing is, people say, “Oh, did you have a nice time?” I’d say, “No. I was in a refugee camp in Sudan. It wasn’t lots of fun.”

Mostly what my traveling is—I write about social justice issues—and most of my traveling is among the poorest and the most destitute and the most neglected people the world. I especially look for the people who know Christ, and I ask them, “What can we do for you? How can we work alongside of you? How can we help you? And how can we learn from you as well?” So that’s generally what I do. And the stories that I hear are heartbreaking in many cases.

Erin: What’s an example of one that touched you the most?

Kay: This was one that I told recently, but it was when I was in north Africa, in a country there. It’s hard to tell the names of the countries because they’re all, you know, very hidden, the Christians are. But the Christian women met me in the middle of the night. They had sheets over them so that I couldn’t see them, so that if I was stopped, I wouldn’t be able to identify anybody.

Erin: Wow.

Kay: Yeah, it was for their protection. One of the women said to me, “The only reason the few Christians that are here are allowed to exist is because of the pressure your country puts on our country. And the only reason there’s any pressure put on our country, is because the Christians in your country put pressure on your government. The day that pressure stops is the day we will be wiped from the face of the earth. Our total existence depends on you. And you don’t even know we exist. You in America don’t even know we’re here.”

And I just cried. It’s true.

Erin: So everybody who’s listening to this podcast can now pray for these women.

Kay: That’s right. That’s exactly right. And north Africa. The struggle is so great in so many of those countries.

Erin: Kay, what got you involved in this to begin with? Where did this passion come from? How did God birth this passion for social justice in you? And to go? Not many people say, “Yay I’m going to go traveling to the poorest hardest places in the world! Pick me! Pick Me!” How did that happen?

Kay: That’s right. Well, it was interesting. It was after my husband had died, and I was doing a lot of reading. I like to read biographies of people. I was reading about Marie Antoinette. I read in there about how at that time there was great famine in the area and the poor people were starving in Paris. She decided to have all the royals over for a big dinner, so she had them over, and there was so much food that the tables were literally sagging with the food. After three days the royals went home and there was still leftover food. And Marie Antoinette said to her husband, “You know, we shouldn’t throw all this food away. Let’s put it on the streets so that the poor people can eat it.”

He said okay, so they had the servants do that. And King Louis and Marie Antoinette watched from the windows of the tower as the people of Paris were crawling on their hands and knees to lick the food off the streets. They were so starving. And Marie Antoinette said to her husband, “How kind we are to our peasants here. They must love us!”

Down in the streets they were saying, “We’re going to have your head.” Which they did.

The thing was, Marie Antoinette was not cruel. She was just totally clueless.

After I read that book, we experienced 9/11 and the destruction of the twin towers. And I went to church that Sunday and one of the elders stood up and said, “We need to pray for the people affected by this awful situation. We are so good to the world. You’d think they would love us.”

And I just gasped. We are Marie Antoinette. We have no idea what the world needs, what the world wants, what we can do for them, and where we need to back off. We don’t know.

So I approached all the editors I’d been working with and suggested a book of going around to the hardest places of the world and talking to the Christians and saying, “What do you need? What can we do? And where can we step back and learn from you?”

Every one of the editors said, “We can’t do it. It’s a good idea, but nobody cares. Nobody cares in this country about anybody outside our borders, and the book won’t sell.”

Finally a group that I worked with, Partners International, helped me decide where to go and how to do it. But the book was published by InterVarsity Press. They said, “It probably won’t sell, but we want to do it, because it should be written whether it sells or not.”

And it was one of their top sellers that year! People do care. We just don’t know. People don’t know, and when they know, they don’t know what they can do. That’s how I got into it.

Erin: What’s the name of that book? I can put a link in for our listeners.

Kay: That book is Daughters of Hope. And after that is Forgotten Girls, in that same series. The one that I did on the organization that helped to sponsor me to go the first time is Harvest of Hope. Those are the three major books that are written along that line, and tell stories of the women I met and the people.

Erin: I love it. For all you listeners, we’ll have links in the show notes so you can check those out. Kay, I’ve heard you talk about a story before about what encouraged you to start memorizing scripture. Tell our listeners that because I think it’s just amazing.

Kay: It was when I was in China doing some of the same work that I’ve been telling you about. I was invited to go to a house church. It was not on a Sunday, and there was nobody there, and they said, “Be ready to run if we tell you to because it’s illegal for people who are not Chinese to be in Chinese homes. And there I was.”

Erin: Were you scared?

Kay: I have gotten over being scared.

Erin: I love it!

Kay: I have been imprisoned, and I have been held at gunpoint, and all these things. And I’ve just gotten over being scared.

Karen: Oh, my word!

Erin: Okay, everyone, will cover those stories next!

Kay: As I was in that house, they were showing me around, just a little house. The living room had two pieces of furniture. A big table and one little chair. The men took the wood top off the table and it was actually a hidden baptismal. So I thought that was kind of neat.

But I was looking at that, and a little old woman came in and sat down in a chair. She took out piece of paper from her pocket and a pencil, and just kind of sat there holding the pencil. I said to the translator, “What does she want?”

“Well,” she said, “We don’t have much of the Bible, and she wants you to start reciting some of it so that we can write it down, and we can put it in our collection, and we can share it with other churches.”

And I said, “Uh…recite some of it?” And I thought, well I know verses…

She said, “No, we want you to recite chapters.”

And I said, “Chapters?”

Erin: Oh dear.

Kay: I thought, “Well, I’ll start with the 23rd Psalm. I can do that one right off my head.”

She said, “Start with Romans. We don’t have any Romans. It’s illegal in this country. If you could just do a couple of chapters of Romans it would mean everything to us.”

I said, “Chapters of Romans? Oh dear. I—I don’t know any.”

She said, “Oh, you don’t have Romans either?”

I said, “No, no we have it. I have it on my shelf in my office. And I have it in different rooms. I have it on my computer, on my phone. But I don’t know it.”

And that woman gave me such a look of disdain when the translator told her what I said. She picked up her paper, picked up her pencil, turned her back on me, and stalked out of the room.

The thing is, my favorite chapter of the Bible is Romans eight. Think of what I could have told them if I had known that chapter. I could have said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

And I could’ve said, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” And then I could’ve said, “What then shall we say in response to all of these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn’t spare even His own son but lifted Him up for us all, how will He not also, along with Him, gloriously, graciously give us all things?”

And then all the way down to, “What can separate us from the love of Christ? Trouble or hardship, persecution or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? No. In all of these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. And I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present, nor the future, nor any powers, neither height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But I couldn’t say that because I didn’t learn, I didn’t memorize, Romans eight until I got home. I never, ever want to be in that situation again. So I’ve been learning major passages that I think are especially appropriate for the Holy Spirit to bring to mind when I’m in a situation where I need to do that.

Karen: I’ve got to tell you, I’ve heard this story before, but even sitting here listening as you were reciting the words from Scripture, I just got chills all over. The power of God’s Word, and the impact that it has on us, we take it so for granted without recognizing that these are the words of life. How can we not consign them to memory and to our hearts, that God can use them when the time is right?

Kay: Yes. That’s exactly right.

Karen: So just very quickly share with us when you were held at gunpoint.

Erin: We need to know that now!

Kay: I was in Nepal, and the Maoists were taking over. But we decided we were going to go ahead and go where we were going to go anyway, and if they asked us where we were from, we’d say Canada like we always do because it’s safer. And they can’t read what’s on our passport anyway. So we thought we were safe. But we were stopped by the Maoists. They held us for about a day and a half. Then they said they were going to let us go since we weren’t from the US, we were from Canada. They got in the car with us, but put the gun to my head as we drove down.

I thought, “Boy, I hope we don’t hit a bump.” But it turned out all right. They let us go, and all as well.

Erin: You’ve been everywhere. Out of all of your travels, out of all of the things that you’ve experienced, what would you say is one thing our listeners could take away, or could do, or could be encouraged by?

Kay: One of the most impacting things that has happened is my time in the Sudanese refugee camp. They were holding—out of Khartoum—they were holding the south Sudanese there. It was mostly women, because the men had been killed. Women and children. They told me, “We hate it here. We just hate it here, and we want badly to go home. But as long as we’re here, we will be missionaries for Christ.”

The guards would come by and say, “What are you doing?” They’d be singing and clapping and dancing. “Why are you happy? Do you not see where you are?”

And they said, “Oh, yeah. Come and listen.”

By the time South Sudan became a country of its own, and they sent all those people back, by that time they’d closed down the refugee camp. But, no surprise, Sudan—which is Muslim, and South Sudan is Christian—the Muslim Sudan, they said, “Our capital city of Khartoum will never, ever have a Christian church. Never.”

Well today, there are 14 known Christian churches, and every one of them has been started by one of those guards, who came to Christ because those women determined they were going to be missionaries wherever they were.

Karen: There’s the word for each one of us today as we’re listening to you and being amazed by what God has done through you, that He will do the same thing if we just present ourselves to Him. If we’re willing, then, to do what it takes to be a missionary for God wherever we are. In our writing, in our families, in everything.

Kay: That’s exactly right.

Karen: Kay, thank you so much for spending this time with us. You have so many stories, we’re going to have to have you come back again and share lots more. But we appreciate your time with us and your reminder of the importance of knowing the Word deep in our hearts and in our memories, and of being willing to be a missionary wherever God has us. May He continue to bless you and what you do for Him.

Kay: Well, thank you, and thank you so much for allowing me to be in this place that is in the deep in a positive way. Thank you.

Karen: You bet.

Erin: Thank you.

We want to hear from you!

Has God asked you to go somewhere that made you uncomfortable? What happened?


Ever been held at gunpoint because of your faith? Kay Marshall Strom has. Come hear what God taught her!

Links to books by Kay Marshall Strom

Daughters of Hope: Stories of Witness and Courage in the Face of Persecution by Kay Marshall Strom and Mishele Rickett

Daughters of Hope by Kay Marshall Strom

Forgotten Girls: Stories of Hope and Courage by Kay Marshall Strom and Michele Rickett

Forgotten Girls by Kay Marshall Strom

Harvest of Hope: Stories of Life-Changing Gifts by Kay Marshall Strom


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Thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!


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092 – What to Do After a Writers’ Conference

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young What to Do After a Writers ConferenceWriters’ conferences are a wonder! You meet so many people, from fellow writers to editors to agents, and they all have great tips and guidance to share with you. But how can you sort through everything after you get home?

Come learn practical steps to avoid feeling overwhelmed, to battle discouragement, and to put what you’ve learned into practice!

We’ve talked about writers’ conferences when we interviewed Kathy Ide and DiAnn Mills. We also talked about how to prepare for a writing conference in The Unexpected Deep of a Writing Conference.

But this time we want to focus on what to do after the conference, once you get home. Why talk about that?

You may be dealing with a spiritual high, or a huge boost of excitement if people loved your work, or a profound sense of discouragement or fatigue. Writing conferences can have a big impact on you and your career, and we want you to handle them wisely, which includes not just preparing well, but following up well. What you do with what you learn at that conference matters.

Key Practices After a writers’ conference

1. Stay connected to God.

Especially at a place like Mount Hermon, which feels so close to God in the redwoods, it’s easy to come home and feel like you’ve lost that connection. But God isn’t only in the redwoods. He’s at your messy house too. He’s in the midst of your family who’ve been waiting for you, and at your workplace.

Being away can give us an opportunity to stop and listen in a way we don’t have at home or elsewhere. But now the challenge is to keep that yearning, that connection with God in the midst of your tiredness from travel and in the midst of daily demands.

  • Set aside time for God, to be thankful, to reflect on what He told you about Himself. We don’t stop and do that nearly enough!
  • Ask God to bring to mind what He wants you to remember most about Himself.
  • Tell your family, your friends, etc., the specific ways God worked at the conference—the divine appointments, the words of encouragement, the big and small ways God showed you His love.
  • Journal about what God showed you, how He spoke to you, the people He spoke through.

The point is to continually keep your focus on God, the One who gave you this task.

2. Take time to decompress and recover from social interaction.

Whether you’re an introvert or not, you need time to recharge from interaction. You’ve expended more energy than you realize.

Chances are you’ve been talking to strangers, making new friends, and putting yourself out there in ways that have pushed you to the limit. Kudos to you for doing that! Now go into your cave for a while. Knowing what you need to do to recover is healthy and good.

  • Plan for recovery time after the conference instead of diving into life as you know it.
  • Consider taking an extra day off work, or plan a later departure from the conference center so you have some time to yourself.
  • Consider a few extra hours of childcare before you come home. You’ll be a better parent if you give yourself a little extra time for solitude.

3. Take time to recover physically.

There’s excitement, energy, and late night sessions followed by early breakfasts at writers’ conferences. You’ll likely feel as if you’re running on pure adrenaline by conference end. Your body needs a chance to recover.

  • Consider the benefits of a recovery day before you get back to daily exercise. Your workout will be more productive if you’re operating from a place of rest rather than a place of stress.
  • Consider hiring someone to clean your house while you’re gone.
  • Consider setting up a grocery order pickup so you don’t have to make a plan and walk through the grocery store when you’re weary.
  • If you pre-make meals for when you’re gone, make one or two extra so you can pull them out the day you get home.

4. Take time to refill your well of creativity.

We have this idea that because it’s a mind thing, creativity must be limitless. It’s not. Creativity requires energy. When you’re socially tired, physically exhausted, and mentally drained, it’s difficult to produce new work. Know the things that nurture your creativity and plan to do them before you try to get back into your writing routine.

5. Take time to NOT reflect on anything you learned at the conference.

Chances are you’ve gotten an overload of information—picture trying to drink from a full-blast fire hose. You may be overwhelmed—that’s normal. It’s okay to go home and keep all your handouts, critiques, notes, whatever, in your bag a few days, or even a couple weeks. You’ll process everything in due time.

Of course, if you’re afraid you’re going to forget something, make a note about it before you leave the writers’ conference, or even on the airplane. But otherwise plan to step back from the overload.

6. After you’ve relaxed and regrouped, then take time to reflect on everything you learned at the conference.

Reprocess your conversations, your evaluations, your critiques in bite-sized pieces at your own pace. There’s no rush. You don’t have to have it all figured out on anyone else’s timeline but yours and God’s.

Realize that editors and agents who may have asked you to submit something to them don’t expect that to come two hours after you get home from the conference. Guess what? They’re decompressing too. They expect you to take the time to incorporate what you’ve learned from the conference into your manuscript. They’re not looking for a hastily created proposal, they’re looking for a thoughtfully created proposal that reflects outstanding craft.

But friends, if someone asked to see your proposal and/or manuscript, please do send it. Don’t waste an opportunity God has given you.

You may have had appointments or critiques with editors and agents who didn’t feel your work was ready, or felt your topic wasn’t for them, and now you’re wondering what to do. This is a time for prayer and reflection.

  • Maybe rejection is much needed redirection. You need to take your work in a different way, or seek a different publisher or agent.
  • Maybe it’s encouragement to work harder on your craft even though you thought it was ready, now you have to take more steps—discouraging but yet encouraging because you can see where to grow.
  • Maybe you need to consider indie publishing because you’ve learned your topic is too niche for a traditional publisher.

This all may feel overwhelming, but if you take time to process it, you can seek God’s guidance and move forward with a plan rather than simply reacting with emotion.

  • Realize that you’ve been exposed to new ideas and new techniques, some of which will work for you and some won’t. They won’t resonate with who you are as a writer or a person. That’s all fine. Your job is to sift through ideas and techniques and discern what works best for you. And ditch the rest—guilt free.

There is no one right way to write, or edit, or begin a career, or publish a book, or build an audience, or market a book. There are many ways. What you need to do is lay what you’ve learned on the altar before God, and ask Him what HIS way is for you.

You’ve also likely been exposed to several varying opinions of your work. One person says you need more anecdotes in your nonfiction work, but the other critiquer didn’t even mention that, but instead encouraged you to consider making the manuscript fiction. Those are possibilities, not directives. It’s up to you to prayerfully reflect on the counsel and opinions you’ve received.

What if someone else thinks your devotionals show wonderful promise? Does that mean you should switch to writing those? Not necessarily. Faculty members are pointing out areas of strengths and areas to improve. They notice different things in manuscripts because they’re different people. It all becomes information to help you find your way. To open your eyes to some of the possible paths before you. Prayerfully consider where God is leading you. Ask yourself: What does my heart resonate with? And go that way.

The bottom line:

Every editor, agent, and faculty member at that conference who gave you guidance and instruction wants the same thing as you—that you walk in submission to God, glorifying and serving Him in everything you do.

We want to hear from you!

What’s your best tip for thriving after a writers’ conference?


What will help you most after you get home from a writers’ conference?

Thank you!

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

Special thanks to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Priscilla L. Sharrow! She’s writing a book about her experience with traumatic brain injury, so watch for that! Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com.

Thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!


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Please share!

091 – Liz Curtis Higgs Shares How God’s Hard Answers Bless Us

Liz Curtis Higgs Shares How God's Hard Answers Bless Us Write from the Deep Podcast Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungGuest Liz Curtis Higgs has received some tough answers from God—but she says those answers are the best thing to ever happen to her! Come listen as she shares the amazing ways God blesses us in the midst of hard answers we never wanted.

About Liz Curtis Higgs

Liz Curtis Higgs is an award-winning speaker and best-selling author of 37 books, with 4.6 million copies in print. She’s spoken at conferences across the United States and in 15 foreign countries. Her messages are biblical, encouraging, down-to-earth, and profoundly funny, helping both sisters and seekers embrace the truth of God’s amazing, unchanging grace. Liz has been interviewed on more than 600 radio and television stations, including guest appearances on PBS, A&E, NPR, and Focus on the Family. Learn more about Liz at lizcurtishiggs.com.

Thanks to our patrons on Patreon, we can provide an edited transcript of the show!

Erin: Welcome, listeners, welcome to the deep. You can hear I’m excited today because I’m always excited when we have and interview. I’m especially excited because we have none other than Liz Curtis Higgs here with us. Karen, give us an introduction.

Karen: One of the greatest delights of my career has been working with Liz. She is a sister of my soul, my heart, my spirit, and humor. We have so much fun whenever we’re together. We were just talking about it before we started the podcast—I think we have known each other now for twenty-three years. I met her when I was ten. We have had such a good time in all these years. Not just because of a shared, crazy, whacky sense of humor, but also because Liz is one of those rare people who knows how to laugh, but she also has such amazing spiritual depth to her. She’s so open to God.

I remember when I met her husband the first time at a Sandy Cove writers’ conference. Liz was there as a speaker, and Bill—wonderful guy—came and met with me, and he said that Lizzy was interested in writing fiction. I didn’t know who Liz was because she was nonfiction and I was fiction. But boy, once we met, it was just, “Let’s take off and let’s have fun with this.” In fact, I went in and I listened to her keynote, and I laughed so hard that it gave me an asthma attack. I had to run out of the room, coughing and choking. She told me she saw me run out and thought to herself, “Oh my gosh, I’ve killed her!”

I had the delight of acquiring her first fiction for the Christian market. It was for Multnomah, a book called Mixed Signals, published in—did we say 1998?

Liz: 1999.

Karen: Since then, the amazing Miss Liz is the author of 37 books with 4.6 million copies in print. Her latest release, 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path, shows how 31 nuggets of truth reveal God’s faithfulness. Liz, welcome!

Liz: It’s so good to be with both of you. I love the whole concept of your podcast: Deep. I hope deep speaks to deep today.

Erin: Me too! That’s great. Thank you, Liz! So we always ask our guests first and foremost, what does the Deep mean to you?

Liz: Well, the simple answer is the not shallow. And I actually do mean that, because it’s so easy to skim across the surface of everything. Even our very lives can become a surface experience. Maybe in part because of social media. In the ways in we connect with each other. Short little text messages. Little tweets on Twitter and so forth. Your life is reduced to a handful of words and photos that you’ve carefully curated.

Deep is the opposite of that. Deep goes all the way to the soul. Deep goes where you’re not always really excited about taking people. The real you with all the ugly and all the pain and all the disappointments. The fears. The doubts. And yet, it’s the richest place of all. I think when someone allows you into their deep places, it’s a huge compliment. It’s a huge leap of faith and of trust. And actually, I think it’s where God asks us to live.

Karen: I agree.

Liz: It’s in the Deep with Him. And then with anyone that we trust to be with us there. Oddly, even though we know more people, I think, than we’ve ever known—and that’s know with a small k-know, it’s not the biblical know, as in he knew her in the biblical sense—that intimate knowing that’s just reserved for people that we trust. And that number for me is shrinking. Even as the number of people you know at the surface level expands exponentially, I think those we go deep with, we choose with care. Because we don’t want someone to take what we reveal in the Deep and scatter it in the shallow.

Karen: It’s tough, and you’re exactly right because we live in a world that is so keyed in—at least in America—to social media. We’ve lost that art of spending time together. Of savoring and having fellowship together. I think that’s one of the reasons I like doing video calls more than phone calls, because phone calls are fine, but I want to see the faces. I want to feel as though I’m right there with people and able to savor that time together. And yet even though we have that capacity, we don’t take advantage of it very often.

We’ve talked on this podcast about the importance of having support people around you when you’re working to fulfill a task God has given you as a writer. I think it takes great wisdom to choose the right people to invite into the Deep with you. They have to be people—like you said—who won’t be careless with what’s happening with you. But at the same time, they need to be truth-speakers. That’s what I love about you and about Erin. You guys speak truth into my life, and when I need the hard lessons, you’re there to say it. And I can receive it from you because I trust you so deeply.

Liz: It’s a real gift—that friendship gift. It’s a whole special level. I think one of the real keys, Karen, is that we have known each other for such a long time.

Karen: Right.

Liz: A new friend, you’re still kind of testing each other and seeing how deep they really want to go. But when you’ve known someone for years and have seen them at their best and at their worst, and you’ve seen that they’re not here, there, and everywhere, but that they’re solid, you just trust them a whole lot more. Maybe that’s an obvious statement, but old friends are rare. In some ways becoming more rare because of how we live and how we do life.

Erin: What do you think that can mean for writers today? We’ve been talking in the past about how writers are being called to do more and more of the marketing, and they’re called to be on social media, and they’re called to get known—with a little k—to be known by so many people and to have all these superficial relationships because that’s all they have time for. What advice or words of wisdom would you have for somebody trying to deal with the balance there? How do they find deep friendships when so much time is spent on the little-k known?

Liz: I guess I can only speak from how I’ve done things, and I’ve been doing this a long time, so that makes a difference. For me, I have tried to minister to people. I never think about building a platform or developing a following. Those kind of phrases, which, frankly, publishers love to use, are dangerous because they encourage the shallow. For me, it’s about ministry. Ministry might be a very simple, quick email to someone who’s reached out to me, to say, hey babe, I hear you. I’ve read what you’ve shared. I get it. I hear you and I’m going to pray right now as I hit send. And I do.

I never promise people, oh I’ll pray about that for you, suggesting that they’re going on some permanent list. There is no permanent list. I don’t want to suggest that there is. Maybe there should be. But I promise what I can do, and what I can always do is stop at that moment, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, a tweet, email, whatever, I can certainly stop right then and say, “Lord, can we talk about Karen and her needs, or Beth and her needs, or Sue and her needs.” It’s a joy and a privilege to do that.

It doesn’t mean okay, good, check that off the list. It’s not that. It’s just keeping a promise that I’ve made. I’ve now been at this so long. I’ve been a believer for 37 years.

Karen: Wow.

Liz: Isn’t that wild? It does seem like yesterday in many ways. So really from the day you meet Jesus, you’re ministering to people whether you know it or not. At some point you may raise your hand and actually say, “This is what I do all the time.” But the truth is even if you work at something that has nothing to do with “ministry,” you’re ministering all the time. It’s who we are. We’re built for that. So those of us who’ve been given a particular ministry of words, whether spoken or written, that again is something we’re doing all the time.

So, when I have a book coming out, all I think about is, “How can I minister to those dear people who’ve crossed my path over all those years? How can I minister to them as I tell them about this book. It’s not just the book that I hope will minister, I want even the promotional piece that I create, or the time we spend in an interview, I want it to minister, if they never buy the book. Is that making sense?

Karen: It is. It’s so much of the part of the fabric of who you are. That’s one of the first things that I recognized about you when I met you is that your heart is for people. It’s not your heart is for speaking, your heart is for writing. Your heart is for loving. God gave you so much, and so much grace, and you recognize that, and that flows through you to anybody who’s around you. There’s no sense of superficial about you. That’s a rarity, especially in today’s world. It was rare enough back when we first met, but in today’s world, that’s extremely rare. You look people in the eye, and you spend time with them, and you let them in in such a way that God can speak to them through you.

That’s who we’re supposed to be as believers. It’s not that we’re all perfect, and we’re all fixed and everything. It’s that in our brokenness, God can speak to other broken people.

We recently had a podcast that came out talking about when God’s answers aren’t exactly what you were hoping for. You’ve been through a pretty tough situation with the cancer that you’ve been facing. I’d like for you to share with our listeners, as a followup to that, you may not like God’s answers to your prayers, but you have said something that to me is astounding. But it’s not surprising because God does the astounding. You said, as we were getting ready for this podcast, cancer is one of the best things that ever happened to you.

Liz: I know. It sounds really crazy. I suppose I could blame chemo brain. Except at this point I’m fourteen months past my last chemo, so I can’t use that excuse anymore. I’m now back to my own gray matter for what it’s worth.

Here’s the thing: nobody signs up for cancer, and to say I was excited when I was first diagnosed would be crazy. In fact, what I said to my oncologist—this is so me—I waved my calendar, my printed-off calendar, and I said, “I have no time for this.”

She said, “Lizzy, you’re just going to have to make time because we have to address this cancer. It’s real. It’s there. And there are a number of ways we can deal with it, but all of them are going to require time.”

So I went to the Lord and I said, “Okay, Father, my calendar is actually yours. My time is yours. My life is yours. Lord, you knew what all these commitments were. You knew what was coming, and still you brought these commitments my way, so I believe, Father, that you want me to actually keep going and squeeze in some cancer stuff while I do that.

Last year, 2018, I ended up doing 52 events. That is twice what I normally do in any given year. 52 speaking events.

Erin: Wow.

Liz: I know. And I had 20 cancer treatments. That is just crazy. And it’s not, “Oh, isn’t Liz amazing.” Are you kidding? This comes under the category of, “Oh, wow! Isn’t God amazing!” Because He made it clear I was to keep the commitments. I only missed two events in 2018, and both of them broke my heart because I didn’t want to miss anything. Actually it was in 2017, the start of the cancer journey. I was in the hospital—it was such a nuisance. But I just couldn’t go. They would not let me out.

Karen: They should’ve brought them all to your room.

Liz: I had this vision, you know—in the movies, when they leap out of bed and yank all the IVs out and they run down the hall with their hospital gown flapping. I thought about what that might look like and it was so ugly I’d better just stay in bed. So I did miss 2 events through the whole cancer—and I don’t call it my cancer journey, by the way, I call it my cancer adventure. Because it has been adventurous. God has taken me places I not only have never been, He’s taken me places I didn’t even know I wanted to go.

The most life-changing place was to stand on the tiptoe of eternity. Because I went through all the chemo and all the radiation and all the stuff. They said, “Oh Liz we’re certain we have all this, but we’re going to go ahead and do some scans just to be sure. Wouldn’t you know, they found another tumor the size of a golf ball. Which really ticked me off because I don’t even play golf.

I said, “I thought this wasn’t going to happen?”

The color drained out of their skin and they said, “We didn’t expect to find this, Liz.”

And I said, “Well you know what? God did. This is no surprise to Him. So let’s carry on, friends. What do we do next?”

It was such an opportunity. Not to test God. My cancer was not about testing God, or Him testing me. It was about this adventure of grabbing His hand and saying, “Lord, I’m just going to leap into all this with you. I trust You completely.”

When it came time for the next set of scans, they were not saying, “No worries.” We all kind of stood on tiptoe to see what would happen.

When it came back: no evidence of disease, I’m going to tell you the truth. First thought that came to my mind was, “Well, shucks.” Because I had had in those three months—four months—I had time to prepare my heart for stepping into eternity. And I was pretty excited about it.

Karen: I know!

Liz: It’s like, “Lord, where else would I want to be?” There’s nowhere else. It’s what all of us are waiting for, whether we know it or not. Everyday you wake up, “This could be the day!” And when you have cancer, you’re even more aware of that, and sort of tuned up to the idea. I was, like, ready! So when he said, “Nope, you’re good.” The first thought was “Oh, shucks,” and the second was, “Shoot, I’m going to have to write that book after all.”

I was on, as I always am, on a book deadline. Seriously it’s like, well, okay, more books to write. Which I know sounds crazy, but those were the two things that came to mind. “Okay, I’m not done. God still has work for me here.” Then of course I embraced that. If that’s were God wants me, then here’s where I want to be.

But once you have stood on tiptoe and looked at eternity, what it does for your fears, is kind of amazing. Because it blows them all out of the water. What are you afraid of? If you’re not afraid of death…I’m not even afraid of the lead up to death, which used to be what really scared me. Woody Allen said, “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

I get that, except for the believer, even that part won’t be scary. That’s what I know now. I know that however bad it gets, God will be with me. The big ah ha of the cancer adventure is the faithfulness of God. He is so faithful. Everything His word says about Him is true. I’ve been teaching that for 37 years. Now I know that I know. He is exactly who He says He is. I would trade nothing for that discovery. It was amazing. So, there you go.

Erin: Isn’t it astounding that when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we want, our first reaction is that He isn’t faithful? And really the exact opposite is true. It’s to show us that He is faithful.

Liz: Yes. I believe that with all my heart.

Karen: It’s so hard for us to embrace that and to rest in it because we feel that so much of this is on us.

You guys know, and some of you listeners know, I was recently hospitalized for nine days. I’ve developed some kind of lung disease, and there were two procedures, both of which they said my oxygen levels were so low I could stop breathing during them.

So I did that standing on tiptoe, and I’ve gotta say that if it hadn’t been for the foundation that my parents gave me in their example of living out faith everyday, if it hadn’t been for the foundation of spending time in the Word and getting close to God, if it hadn’t been for the foundation of everything I learned about God when my husband and I were separated and twenty years of counseling, it’s like everything had been in preparation for this moment. And I was never afraid. I can resonate to what you’re saying, Liz. I was like, “Well, okay, if You still want me here, I’ll be here. But if it’s time to go, bring on the transport, I’m ready.”

Liz: Beam me up, baby, I’m ready! Let’s do it!

Karen: That’s exactly right. It does change everything. When I came home from the hospital and I could play with my dogs, when I stepped outside this morning and the rain had made all the fragrances in the valley so rich and resonant, all I could think of was, “The earth is declaring Your glory.” I’m so glad to be here to see it, but I can’t wait to see it in person. There’s a sense of anticipation mixed in with, you know, “God, I know You’ll take care of those I leave behind.” But that sense of anticipation is so profound.

Liz: It does make those who love us nervous though. At least it did my kids. They’re like, “Can you stop talking about heaven?”

Karen: Yeah, it did my husband.

Liz: But it’s such an exciting thing to look forward to.

Erin: Through the midst of all of that, and for all the good that it was, there probably were a few points here and there where you felt discouraged or down or frustrated, or anytime during your career. What do you do? What helps you when you’re feeling discouraged?

Liz: I’m called an encourager, so theoretically I’m never supposed to get discouraged.

Karen: Oh, yes you are.

Liz: But of course I do. I love prayer. For me, prayer is an ongoing conversation. I have never done the thing where you sit down and you pray for ten minutes. That’s great if that works for you. I have an ongoing conversation. I don’t know if your cell phone does this—I’m not happy about this particular quality—but it tells me how many hours I spend on my iphone. I just hate that.

Karen: Yes, screen time. Why do they do that?

Liz: I don’t know. It is nothing but convicting. There’s nothing about that number that feels good. However, what would be kind of fun to know is my God time.

Karen: Yes!

Liz: I don’t know who would ever keep track of such a thing, but my heart’s desire would be for it to be twenty-four hours a day. At least the waking ones. Although, you know, we know He speaks to us in our dreams, so God is ever speaking. The question is: is Lizzy listening? And then responding.

For me, prayer is just ongoing. I pick it up just like, “Oh, and another thing…”

Karen: “By the way, did I mention…”

Liz: “Oh, yes, Lord, that other thing too…” Not to be flippant. I never want to not be reverent toward the Lord. But He is so close to us. We don’t have to go to a particular place and do a set of things. That intimacy with Him is real, and it’s all the time. It’s one of my favorite things to talk to an audience about because we often think we have to usher Him into our presence.

He’s God. He’s everywhere. He’s in your writing study whether you invite Him in or not. I remind myself of that all day long. It also really—can I just say this—helps my behavior. If I think in terms of: the Lord is going to see it all, even the things in my mind.

I just taught this past weekend on that scene with Sarah when God and two angels show up to tell Abraham, “Your wife Sarah will have a son.” And she’s in the tent listening. Such a visual there, peeping in the tent flaps. And she laughs to herself and thinks, not says, thinks, “At my age”—this is the LRV, the Lizzy revised version—“shall I now have this pleasure?”

The Bible has so much humor in it. Do not say that it’s a dull and boring book. It’s so not. But then of course God says, “Why did Sarah laugh and say…” What a freak out that must have been for her. She thought she didn’t laugh out loud. But God heard it. She thought she thought, but He hears our thoughts. The scary thing is He knows it all, and the delightful thing is He knows it all, and is with us even so. What a comfort. What an encouragement.

As a writer, as a woman, as a believer, I take so much comfort in knowing God is constantly present. I don’t have to reach out to Him. He is here. Guiding my thoughts, guiding my words, and as I said, if I’m aware of His presence, He’s even guiding my behavior. Heaven knows I need it. I’m grateful.

Karen: Don’t we all need it.

Liz: Doesn’t mean I don’t mess up, by the way. I still do. But at least a little more quickly my reaction is, “Sorry, Lord.” A little more quickly.

Karen: I’ve been aware, lately, in working with dogs—I’ve had dogs my whole life and training them—and I have one little guy who is just over two years old, a Boston terrier corgi mix named Radar, and he is just solid enthusiasm. In working with him, in training him, he’s just so full of energy that he’ll be sitting and he’ll be doing great and the next thing I know he jumps almost to the top of a cabinet. He’s just out of his freaking mind.

Most of the dogs that I’ve worked with, because I’m consistent with them, they train and they get it. But Radar, there’s just so much that he can’t contain about himself. And I think to myself, “This has got to be the way God has felt in working with me, because He’s so patient and He’s so consistent, and I’m just constantly going off the rails.

Yet there’s such delight in that enthusiasm and in that excitement. I think God delights in each one of us, in our personalities. Even in the struggles that we face, He delights to be there and to draw us out of them.

Can you share a final thought with our listeners? One final pearl of wisdom about something they can do even today to find a sense of encouragement in the face of discouragement? To get their focus where it needs to be?

Liz: Oh, the answer is so predictable. I mean, for me. And that’s to get your face in the Word. It’s all that works for this girl. I get that Bible open. It almost doesn’t matter where. Although, I have to confess, I’m usually going to turn to the Psalms. David’s writing is so powerful and so honest. He’s quick to tell you, “It’s terrible, Lord!”

Karen: I love David because he’s a whiner. I can relate to that.

Liz: And yet then a praiser. You know one psalm next to the other. He really needed a better editor. But anyway. It’s the fact that David is so yay…boo…that we can identify with him at many different places in our lives. For me, it’s just kept my face in the Word. And I don’t mean read for ten minutes. Again, I’m not that girl who has this organized, check-it-off plan. Never. But I know right where to turn, and I don’t dally abut it. I get my face in the Word. I make sure I have the Word everywhere available so that I can dive in, hear His voice. This is how He speaks to us, friends.

When we listen to the love woven between the lines, when we sink in to the deep truths of His Word, it’s amazing how it will calm my spirit, help me take a deep breath, and press on.

I feel it’s important that I throw something in since this is for writers. You can use this or not. The one thing that has been hard to do through the cancer adventure is to write. It’s the hardest part.

I’m still speaking with no problem because, let’s face it, this girl never runs out of words. But the written word has been hard for me. And I want to say that because if anybody is dealing with any kind of anything that involves pain or medical stuff and you’re wondering, “Why can’t I get it together?” The Lord knows that about us.

I think those words are cooking inside of us. And when they’re cooked, when they’re ready, I believe God will poor them out richer and deeper for the time spent cooking inside us. But it’s hard for me, because I’ve pretty much put out a book, or sometimes two, every year, and it’s been a little while now, since I’ve had a book out. I’ve kind of been getting through cancer. But I’m through it now. So now it’s time to get back to the writing, and I’m just praying God will use what I’ve learned and pour it onto the page.

But I just want to give permission to your writer friends, if they’re going through some physical challenge, it definitely can affect your writing. And that’s okay.

Karen: That’s absolutely not just okay, God is in that, and God will use that.

Well, Miss Liz, I love you. So happy to have this time with you and to share your wisdom with our listeners. Friends, you can check Liz out at lizcurtishiggs.com, is that right?

Liz: That’s me. And my favorite place to hang is Facebook, so come on over there: Liz Curtis Higgs on Facebook. I’m on everyday. I respond to people. It’s a connection point for me.

Erin: We’ll put links in the show notes for everyone.

Karen: There ya go. Thank you so much for being with us. Liz. May God continue to watch over you and bless you and anoint your words.

Liz: Thanks, dear ones.

We want to hear from you!

Have you been blessed by an answer to prayer that you never wanted?


Liz Curtis Higgs shares amazing ways God blesses us in the midst of answers we never wanted.

Here’s a link to the latest book by Liz Curtis Higgs, 31 Proverbs to Light Your Path.

Thank you!

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

Special thanks to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Priscilla L. Sharrow! She’s writing a book about her experience with traumatic brain injury, so watch for that! Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com.

Thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!


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


Please share!

090 – When We Don’t Like God’s Answers

When We Don't Like God's Answers Write from the Deep Podcast Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young

Prayer is an integral part of our relationship with God. It’s where we’re focused on Him, seeking His wisdom and, often, His interventions. The Bible tells us that God will answer, but what it doesn’t say is that we’ll like God’s answer. So what do you do when you get an answer from God that you don’t like?

Be honest with God about your feelings. Ask Him to help you process them. But don’t stay in that place of not liking God’s answer. As hard as it is to move from emotion to reason, we all have to do that as followers of Christ.

Christ, in the garden of Gethsemane, gives us the perfect foundation for dealing with this situation in Matthew 26:39: “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

How do we go from an emotional response to God’s answers to a response based on trust?

1. Consider the reason for God giving us answers we don’t like. Is it for our refinement or even our safety? Is it all about God’s holiness?

Look at Paul and his “thorn in the flesh.” In 2 Corinthians 12:7-8 Paul says, “…to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you for My power is made perfect in weakness.’”

So God said no. More than once, obviously since Paul pleads three times. But God in His kindness gives a reason: It’s so that God would be glorified, not Paul.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 shows Paul’s response: “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

God’s answer was for a purpose: It helped Paul maintain humility. Dependence. Perseverance in trials. And most important–joy in all of that because he’ll boast GLADLY. He’s content. Another version says he delights in his weaknesses and persecutions. God’s NO is working for Paul’s good and God’s glory.

2. Realize that the answer you receive may not be about or for you.

When Karen’s dad was suffering through cancer, many people prayed for his healing. God’s answer was no. But Karen’s dad became an amazing example of peace through suffering to all who came in contact with him. His witness of patient endurance, of submission, of trust in Christ, of supreme hope in the resurrection encouraged and uplifted both believers and nonbelievers alike.

3. Understand that not liking God’s answers but accepting them all the same is the heart of obedience.

We don’t obey because we like, or even agree with, God’s answers. We obey based on who God is, not what the answer is.

Moses faithfully led the Israelites out of Egypt and then after they rebel, led them around in the wilderness for forty years. Moses never gets to see the Promised Land because there was one time when he didn’t do as God asked. In Numbers 20, when they had no water and the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron as if it was all their fault, God told Moses to speak to a rock and it would gush water. But instead, Moses said to the Israelites, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?” Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drink.

But God called Moses on his disobedience and told him he couldn’t go into the promised land. We may think that’s a little thing, but God said Moses broke faith with Him and didn’t uphold God’s holiness among the Israelites (Deuteronomy 32:51).

Moses pled with God in Deuteronomy 3:24-26: “At that time I pleaded with the Lord: ‘Sovereign Lord, you have begun to show to your servant your greatness and your strong hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do the deeds and mighty works you do? Let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan—that fine hill country and Lebanon.’ But because of you the Lord was angry with me and would not listen to me. ‘That is enough,’ the Lord said. ‘Do not speak to me anymore about this matter.'”

Moses didn’t like God’s answer. It was a hard answer. But there was nothing he could do because God’s in charge. Moses led the Israelites around all those years and he never got to enjoy the fruit.

The key to see in all this is what his heart is doing. At the end of his life, is he bitter or does He accept God’s response?

He accepts it. Moses is still faithful. He still speaks to the people on God’s behalf.

Was it a struggle to accept God’s decision? Of course, because Moses was human. But ultimately, he has a heart of obedience because of who God is.

We may not like God’s answers. We may never know the reasons this side of heaven. But we do know God, and we have to be willing to say, “This is an example of God being God, and me needing to simply submit to His will.”

4. God’s answer is based on something we can only begin to understand: His Holiness.

God answers in accordance with His holiness. His answers are also based on His knowledge and wisdom. He sees from a perspective we can only glimpse in rare moments of prayer.

We live in the immediate. God lives outside of time, and His answers are based on the knowledge He has of everything, not just of us and our lives.

Remember movie Bruce Almighty? Jim Carry’s character, Bruce, was “made God” so he could see what being God was all about. He carelessly answered everyone’s prayers with a yes. The result: utter chaos. God’s answers are perfect and perfectly timed, because He. Is. God.

5. Realize God’s answers hold benefits that we don’t see yet.

For example, Erin had a friend who’d been offered a job overseas. She’d prayed over the decision and ultimately declined the position, having never felt God give the amen to take the job. But over the years, when her career seemed to falter as a result of not taking that overseas position, she wondered and even regretted it. Now, some twenty-odd years later, she discovered that the career her daughter delights in, the career that is her daughter’s true passion and joy, could never have been possible had her daughter been living overseas for the bulk of her childhood. Only God knew that.

God is the one who is sovereign. He sees and knows everything from before the beginning of time. We have to trust that.

6. You can come in full confidence that God will fulfill His promises, but the timing and way is up to Him.

Numbers 23:18-20 says, “God is not human, that He should lie, not a human being, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”

We can trust God’s Word and His character. The problem happens when we want to put parameters on on how and when God answers us.

For example, Abraham was promised a son, a promised child of a new covenant. But Abraham and Sarah got tired of waiting and thought God needed help. Their idea did result in a son: Ishmael, born through Sarah’s servant Hagar. But Ishmael became a source of pain and struggle. Abraham pled with God for Ishmael to live under God’s blessings, and while God said He would bless Ishmael, He also said that the covenant would be with the promised child: Isaac.

The birth of Samuel shows an example of God’s perfect timing. Hannah pleads year after year for a child but God says no. Her husband’s other wife has all these kids and treats Hannah cruelly, provoking her so that when they go to their annual sacrifice, Hannah never ends up being able to eat the feast. Hannah, distraught, prays in the temple and, Eli, the priest, thinks she’s drunk.

Hannah tells Eli her struggle and he says, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to Him” (Samuel 1:17).

Seemingly, Hannah has confidence that God would ultimately answer her prayer because she gets up, goes to worship and seems at peace.

In God’s time, He does say yes. Samuel is born, whom Hannah promised to give back to the Lord. Samuel ends up living at the temple with the priest Eli, and ultimately Samuel becomes the one who leads Israel after Eli and his sons all die on the same day. This was God’s purpose for Samuel, which happened on God’s timeline, but no one could’ve foreseen it.

Final thoughts:

It’s okay to go through the emotional response of not liking God’s answers. That’s a normal human emotion when we don’t get what we hope for. But we need to move from that place of emotion to a place of trust in the One who gives us our answers to prayer.

We get past the emotions when we focus on the answer, on the Giver, not the answer itself. Our trust is in God and His proven character, not in the individual answers we receive when we pray. The verse we’ll end with is one we’ve heard over and over, but too many don’t take it to heart. Let it sink deep now. Let this be your guide when you receive an answer from God that you don’t like:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

We want to hear from you!

Have you ever gotten an answer you didn’t like from God? What did you do?


Do you struggle with God’s answers to your prayers? Here’s what to do when that happens!

Thank you!

Were so grateful to all our patrons who support this podcast on Patreon! Thank you!

Special thanks to our March sponsor of the month, Becca Whitham! Look for her latest release The Kitchen Marriage, A Montana Brides Romance, Book 2! If you love romance, you’ll love her books!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!


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Please share!

089 – Share the Writing Adventure with Guest DiAnn Mills

Share the Writing Adventure with Guest DiAnn Mills on Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungBeing a writer can be an amazing adventure if you go into it with the right heart and mindset. Best-selling, award-winning author and conference co-director DiAnn Mills shares about her amazing adventures—including encountering crocodiles, and no, that’s not a metaphor!—on her writing journey. And she reminds us our Guide is faithful and true, no matter what.

But first, a huge thank you to all our new patrons who joined in our February Patreon pledge drive, and to our continuing patrons! You help make this podcast possible. Your support and encouragement is a true blessing to us.

About DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn believes every breath of life is someone’s story, so why not capture those moments and create a thrilling adventure?

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. You can download a list of her published titles by clicking here. Learn more about DiAnn at her website DiAnnMills.com.

Thanks to our patrons on Patreon, we can provide an edited transcript of the show.

Karen: I could tell you a lot of things about DiAnn Mills, that she’s a best-selling award-winning author of more than fifty books, fiction and nonfiction. She’s a founding board member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and she’s a member of a number of other writers associations. She’s also the co-director of the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference, the Mountainside Marketing Conference, and the Blue Ridge Novelist Retreat with social media specialist Edie Melson. She’s a popular speaker and teacher. But here’s what I love: she’s been termed a coffee snob. She roasts her own coffee beans—I’m so jealous! She believes her grandkids are the smartest kids in the universe—now that’s a good grandma. And she’s a Texan, which should tell you a boatload about her. But I found these five fun facts about DiAnn on her website:

  1. She’s always dreamed of becoming a Hollywood actress but decided writing stories would be more fun than acting the part. I tend to agree with that.
  2. Her favorite place to write is on the treadmill but she refuses to be called a hamster.
  3. She is admittedly a picky eater. She prefers fresh veggies, fruits, whole grains, and dark chocolate—which is why she’s skinny as a rail. She’s building her own food pyramid.
  4. She once took an African safari by herself—and I absolutely love this—the sleeping lions didn’t bother her, neither did the charging elephant. But the crocodiles gave her nightmares. I think that’s understandable!
  5. The oldest piece of clothing she owns is her high school jacket—the one with a boot to show she was a majorette. And DiAnn, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I was in the band from the fourth grade through six years of college, so go majorettes!

Erin: We’re delighted to have you here, DiAnn. Thank you for being with us.

DiAnn: Thank you for inviting me. This is exciting! This is fun! I’m looking forward to our chat and all were going to cover.

Erin: Well, we’re going to cover the first thing first. We ask this of everybody. What does the deep mean to you?

DiAnn: The deep to me means writing from that place that I know I cannot do it myself. It is the sweet ecstasy of intimacy with God. It is knowing that He purposed me for writing, and that He has given me a gift: a gift that I have to nurture and take care of, and continue to learn the craft and add more tools to my craftsman belt. And to just let the world know how exciting it is to be a part of God’s world. That’s with the deep means to me.

Erin: I love that.

Karen: I just read 5 million things that you were involved in and my big question is where do you find the time for all of this?

DiAnn: I have no idea. You’ve always heard you want something done, you ask a busy person. I always thought that was crazy, but I believe it’s true.

But I also believe that if God is in it, then the time will be there. And there are some things for me that are critical—other than the writing,  I’m talking about other than creating on paper and the editing and rewrites and all the things that go into writing a book—aside from that I have a deep passion to help other serious writers learn the craft and be what God intended. Not all of us have the same purpose in God’s eyes for writing. But for the serious writers, I want to see them move up the ladder. I want them to explore what they can be, their full potential.

So I have a deep passion for that, which leads to some of the mentoring I do, co-directing the writers conferences, teaching in other venues. It’s a part of that passion. Because when I felt a calling that yes I was supposed write, I felt it was also a balance that whatever I learn I should pass on to a writer who was serious. And you always hear me use the word serious because not everyone who says they want to be a writer is ready to make the sacrifice and go that extra mile.

Erin: Right. What I’m enjoying about this particular interview, we mentioned the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference—that’s on the east coast, I’m guessing—and we have recently talked with Kathy Ide about the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference on the west coast so we are coast-to-coast here. DiAnn, tell us how in the world did you come to be the co-director of that conference?

DiAnn: I taught there for about 10 years, teaching, inspiring, having a great time. I met Edie Melson, my co-director, at one of those conferences. We were standing in the line for the cafeteria and she turned to me, and I didn’t know her. I said, “How was your morning?” And she burst into tears. She’d had a critique She didn’t quite understand, and she just really had a bad time. So I talked her down off the cliff.

The next year she came to me and said, “Oh, thank you for last year! You really encouraged me.”  I did not know who this woman was. She had lost 100 pounds, so I did not know her and finally had to admit that. And we’ve been fast friends ever since.

She worked for Al Gansky who was the director for a few years. She was his assistant. When he chose to retire, she called me and said, “We’re already sister friends. Let’s take it to the next level.”

One year I was just watching as she did things, and then the years after that we do this together. We both have our strengths, and we know what our challenges are, and we compliment each other very well. The funny part about Edie’s and my relationship is that we’re both very strong women.

Karen: Oh, no, not you, DiAnn…

DiAnn: Oh, yeah! Which was great because we can challenge each other, but it’s in a way that’s done out of love. We often say we fuss like sisters, and we love like sisters. It’s a God-orchestrated relationship that’s for sure. We’re very close. We were sister friends to begin with and then business partners.

We’re excited about the Blue Ridge Mountains Writers Conference, and then we have the boutique conferences underneath that, Mountainside Marketing, Mountainside Novelist Retreat, and in 2020 we’re going to add the fourth which will be a boutique conference for nonfiction. So we are excited about all that we can offer.

Karen: When she came to you, and she made this proposal, I’m guessing that you were already exceedingly busy. That you already had a lot of things that you were involved in. How did God let you know that this was something that you needed to say yes to?

DiAnn: Peace. Peace deep inside of me that this was part of my purpose, part of what He had in mind for me. I think that as Christian men and women, we often get that little catch when something isn’t exactly right. I’ve come to guard that as this is something that God is telling me I should or shouldn’t do, to be aware, to be cautioned. Things of that nature. And I just had peace that this was going to be wonderful. That this was going to be another grand adventure. And it has been.

Erin: I’m guessing though that it probably hasn’t been 100% smooth sailing. What are the challenges that you faced or things God has taught you through this?

DiAnn: I think because of my experiences long before getting into the writing business, of working with women, being in a leadership role—personalities. Everybody’s different, and learning to work with different personalities and understanding what they are and still loving on that person even though you may wonder, “Where did that come from?”

I think the biggest challenge is working with personalities and making sure that everyone is happy and satisfied, from the faculty—what they’re teaching, what they’re leading, what they’re speaking about—to my first time conferee who’s just so nervous, so scared, that he or she doesn’t know what to do.

I’m a people lover, and I love seeing people blossom and be excited, so that just helps every little challenge, every little thing that could possibly go wrong. And it does. Somebody’s flight is late, or somebody had to cancel all their classes at the last minute, and who can we get to fill in? Things of that nature are bound to happen and you just have to have plan B, and C and sometimes D in case those do happen.

But it’s a thrill and it’s a joy to work with people. I used to say that if I hadn’t been a writer, rather than being a Hollywood movie star, on the realistic side, I probably would have gone into psychology, because I love the way people behave and how incredibly different and wonderful and creative they can be.

Karen: It’s funny because I’ve known a lot of writers who’ve said that. I’ve said that—that if I hadn’t gone into the whole writing and editing world, I actually was looking at getting a Masters in psychology. But I think my working experience of heading up fiction for publishing houses and dealing with all the different authors, I actually think I might have a Masters in psychology as a result of that!

God plants those desires inside of us. It’s really fun because I’ve always known you to be a very positive, upbeat person. You seldom seem to be drawn down by things. How do you deal with it when you do feel discouraged? What helps you keep going when you find yourself wondering if this is all really worth it? Or do you even find yourself wondering that?

DiAnn: Oh, yeah, I do. It used to be that every Monday morning I’d walk into my husband’s office and say, “Can I sit on your lap? I think I quit.” And I still do that from time to time because it got to be a joke.

I think for me, because of being split between introversion and extroversion, the writer side of me—the melancholy, the seeing life a little quirky and sometimes upside down—can be discouraging and can be depressing. For me it’s music, and praise God I have a husband who not only is a whiz at the computer but he’s a musician, so the piano is there, and he’s awesome with that, and he’s also very understanding.

But starting every morning at 4:30 with the Word is the best thing I can do. And while I can grab my thesaurus, my Kindle, and whatever else that’s on my desk, my Bible is right there. It’s a combination of all those things.

Karen: We talk with writers a lot on this podcast about the importance of grounding your heart before you launch on this writing journey. Grounding your heart in the Word, and grounding your heart in understanding that if God has given you this task, that He will equip you. That He will supply everything you need, and like you say, it’s His purposes that are being worked out.

We tend to come into it with our own ideas and our own purposes, but His purposes are so much better. I bet that when you first started into all this, you had no idea that it would be this amazing thing that it’s become for you with co-directing these conferences and helping so many writers. I think it’s amazing, if we will simply ground ourselves in Him and then say yes when He tells us to, where He can take us!

DiAnn: Yes. It’s like being putty—mold me, form me, put me where you need me. And you’re right, I’ll be scared, but I know I won’t be alone.

It just never stops amazing me that when I’m in a pickle about not understanding something or I have a question, the person or the resource will just show up in my life. One instance is the book I’m working on right now. It’s about a virus being unleashed on an airplane. I just thought, “Oh that’s amazing. Who do I know who can help me?”

And I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I was talking to this woman who said to me, “You know, I have my doctorate in microbiology and immunology.” And I found out she was Albuquerque’s go to person for the media when they have virus outbreaks. And she says to me, “I’ve always thought what a great story it would be to have a virus unleashed somewhere.”

That’s just one of the many occasions that things like that have happened. I just have to laugh because God’s gonna make sure things are done, despite us.

Karen: Right! It’s amazing to me the way He operates. If we step back and look at this path that we’ve been on with Him, whether it’s about writing, whether it’s about our lives, if we really take a hard look at it you can see that He has been so present, and He has been so active in everything that we do. For us to worry about anything is such a waste of time and energy and spirit.

DiAnn: It is. Absolutely.

Erin: Let’s swing around to that safari thing Karen mentioned. I really want to hear the story of the crocodile. I feel like there are stories in there about God’s faithfulness.

DiAnn: Absolutely. At the time, I was working on a series of books—a fiction and two nonfiction about the lost boys of Sudan. The publisher had given me a grant and said, “If you want to go to southern Sudan, here’s something to help you get started.” So I went alone, and met wonderful people, and went a whole week without a shower.

Karen: I can’t fathom it. You’re always so perfectly put together.

DiAnn: Yes, it was bad. I was beginning to think, “Will I smell like this forever?” I met incredible courageous people who have nothing and would still tell you that Jesus is enough. That in itself warms my heart and soul to this day. But my husband had said, “If you go to all this trouble, before you come home, why don’t you take a safari?”

I thought, “Oh, wow. I will.” So, I did that alone, and I had a tent, and I had electricity, and I had a shower. We would set out early in the morning and see all kinds of incredible animals. I’m thinking about this big bull elephant with a broken tusk that started to charge the Jeep, and we just took off. All the lions just lazy and sleepy because of all the junk they did the night before kind of reminded me of teenage boys. Zebra and giraffes and it was just amazing.

But the crocodiles—we came to this area where wildebeests make this incredible journey down over the hills to the river. And I looked down there and there were so many crocodiles. It was incredible. Granted, they were down the hill. I had no intention of going down that hill. But I also didn’t know how fast they could come up the hill.

For some reason those prehistoric creatures scared me more than the lions, the charging bull elephant, or anything else that I saw there. Those crocodiles, those big eyes, thinking, “I can see you wherever you go and you would make a tasty meal.”

That’s my crocodile experience. I suppose I could do a whole set of devotions on that safari and some of that would be quite amusing. But I’ll be fine if I never see another crocodile face-to-face again.

Karen: Erin and I taught at the Florida Christian writers conference a couple years ago and the place where they housed us as faculty had a really nice little bridge and pond and water back out behind. So we went out there and we  thought it would be a good place to take some promo photos. So we’re taking photos and turned around and I’m like, “That’s an alligator. There’s another one in the water!” So I went over, and they’re signs everywhere: don’t try to get too close to the alligators. I didn’t try to get too close but I had a really nice zoom so I got some great pictures.

Erin:  I guarantee they move faster than we do. I have seen them move.

DiAnn: I grew up on Tarzan movies. I know how fast they move.

Erin: One thing I wanted to ask you about the Blue Ridge Writers Conference, for those who’ve never been there, describe a bit about what that conference is like.

DiAnn: We’re nestled in the Smoky Mountains at Ridge Crest Conference Center. The housing is hotel-like. There’s a cafeteria there. They have beautiful meeting rooms. We cater to every writer on every level.

If you go to the website and you look at classes you’ll see act one, two, and three as the level for the writer. Act one being the beginner, act two being the middle of the road, and three for the advanced writer. And that is for every type of writing out there, from someone looking to write a better blog to someone looking to write a nonfiction book, or a historical romance.

We want to make sure that every writer can come, and leave feeling satisfied and fulfilled. So we want levels, we want all of the classes that we can possibly get from faculty who have expertise in their area. We have opportunities to meet with agents and editors and professional writers, one-on-one appointments.

We have a genre night where everybody gets to dress-up. We have an awards night with a fabulous dessert afterwards. And the awards night is for the published and unpublished writers, so it’s just something for everyone, so everyone feels important.

We have great speakers. We have panel sessions. We have opportunities at lunch and dinner for the conferees to sit at a faculty table. We don’t want name tags that say faculty. All the name tags look the same. The one thing that’s different are those who are part of our volunteer prayer group. They have a little set of praying hands or something that shows conferees that they can stop that person and be prayed for.

Erin: Wonderful.

DiAnn: We have a bookstore. And this year we have our first post conference. We’re so excited about this. Our conference is from May 19 to May 23. It’s from a Sunday afternoon/evening until Thursday at noon. So our conferees can take a nap Thursday afternoon, because trust me they will need it, and then on Friday we’re having an all-day session with Donald Maass. That’s all on our website: blueridgeconference.com.

You can see the faculty, the classes, contest information. We have scholarships available. We want to be approachable. We want that Southern feel, you know: you’re home, just sit back and enjoy yourself, and take it all in—physically if you want to hike, spiritually with all of the great speakers and devotion times that we have. And then of course learning the craft, learning marketing, learning speaking. We have workshops. We have continuing classes.

Karen: It’s a real shame that you’re not passionate about this!

Erin: And that there’s nothing for anyone there! For listeners we will have a link in the show notes so you’ll be able to check it all out for yourself. You can scroll down in the app if you’re listening or go to our website and will see the link.

Karen: It’s been so great to have you here, DiAnn. Thank you so much for coming and spending this time with us. We appreciate it. We’re so delighted that God has led you in the ways that He has, and that you’re involved in all that you’re involved in. Continue following Him. I know that you will do that. Thanks for providing adventure for so many others who have been given this task to write. Thank you so much for being here.

DiAnn: Thank you. I’ve had a super wonderful and passionate time.

We want to hear from you!

Have you been to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference? What did you think?


Are you ready for the writing adventure? Guest DiAnn Mills shares what a faithful guide God is!

Interested in DiAnn’s latest book or her book on the Sudan? Check out the links below.

Burden of Proof by DiAnn Mills

Burden of Proof DiAnn Mills

Long Walk Home by DiAnn Mills

Long Walk Home DiAnn Mills

Thank you!

Special thanks to our March sponsor of the month, Becca Whitham! Look for her latest release The Kitchen Marriage, A Montana Brides Romance, Book 2! If you love romance, you’ll love her books!

Thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!

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