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075 – The Unexpected Power of Words

Unexpected Power of Words Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungEvery writer has a reason for what they write, a message they want to share through their stories and books. When we sit down to write, we have a solid idea of why we’re writing. But the amazing thing is that’s just the beginning! When you’re writing with God, He infuses your words with His power and truth. And He draws the readers who need HIS message to your work. Which means your words will have more reach and more power than you will ever know!

Thanks to the authors who shared their stories of the unexpected reach of their words!

Links to authors and books mentioned:

Linda Goodnight, New York Times bestselling author of The Memory House, book one in the Honey Ridge Novels.

Christy Johnson, author of Love Junkies: 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle.

Karen Ball, author of The Breaking Point.

Vickie McDonough, author of A Wealth Beyond Riches.

Sharon Srock, author of Pam, book 3 in the Women of Valley View.

Erin Taylor Young, author of Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe.

The bottom line? God has His purposes. He knows you in ways nobody else does. He knows your story. He knows how that story can reach out and touch someone and help them when they don’t even know that they need it. Be faithful in the task that He’s given you to write. Never ask yourself, “Who will read this?” Never worry about whether or not your work will have an impact. When you enter into a task that God has given you, when you follow in obedience what He’s called you to do, when you open your heart and your craft and your story to Him, and let Him come in and infuse it with His truth, His peace, and His love, it will impact lives in ways you never expect.

We want to hear from you!

Do you have a story about the unexpected reach of your words? Share it with us!

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Do you ever wonder if the words you write matter? They do. And in ways you never thought!

Join Team Deep! Visit our Patreon page to learn how you take part in the vision!

A very special thank you to our Patreon sponsor of the month Bobbi Updegraff!

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074 – When Your Life Turns Upside Down with Guest Deborah Raney

When Life Turns Upside Down with Guest Deborah RaneyHas the deep turned your life upside down? Beloved author Deborah Raney knows exactly how you feel, and shares what she learned about trusting God when it seems your life will never be the same. Come listen in for her words of encouragement and wisdom!

Thanks to our wonderful patrons on Patreon, we can now provide a complete transcript of interviews!

A special thank you to our Patreon sponsor of the month, Bobbi Updegraff!

Erin: Welcome everybody to the Deep. We’re so glad that you’ve joined us today, and we have a guest joining us. Yay! We love it when we have guests. Today we have author Deborah Raney. She’s taking time out of her busy schedule and coming to us from Kansas. So welcome, Deb.  We’ll let Karen introduce you.

Karen: Deb and I were talking just before we started recording trying to figure out how long ago we met, and we just figured out that it was in 2001. So we’ve known each other for 17 years, and that it was at a writers retreat that we were both part of where we met. I have watched Deb in her career and so respect what I’ve seen of her and heard of her in just living out the Christian life. She has a depth of faith that has blessed me many times and great wisdom that has blessed me many times. You know this woman dreamed of writing books since she read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and discovered that a Kansas farm girl could indeed grow up to be a writer.

She’s got more than 30 books. She’s garnered multiple industry awards and her first novel, A Vow to Cherish shed light on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The novel inspired a highly acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title and continues to be a tool for Alzheimer’s families and caregivers, and I especially appreciate that because a woman who is in essence a pseudo Aunt for me has been dealing with Alzheimer’s now for about the last five to six years and watching the ravages on her dignity and on the struggle with her, and her kids taking care of her—it just breaks your heart. So Deb, thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for the work that is helping those dealing with Alzheimer’s and just thanks for being you.

Deb: Aw, it’s my pleasure to talk to you guys today. I’m so glad you invited me.

Erin: Thank you. And you know, we’re gonna put you on the spot right away because the first thing we always like to ask everybody—because everyone has a different take—what does the deep mean to you?

Deb: I guess the first thing I think of when I think of the deep is just going those deep places that God takes us. You finally learn if you’re a Christian long enough that it doesn’t mean all kittens and ponies and butterflies. You know, absolutely God takes us into some very deep places and that’s where we learn. That’s where we grow. We don’t like it very well while we’re there, until we come out and we realize that we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything because we have grown closer to him. We have learned that he is there and that he’s a personal God and He loves us and he wants to get us through those times and teach us through those times.

Karen: Yeah. It’s so easy when you meet someone like Deb who just has what seems to be this naturally sunny disposition, and she’s always smiling, and she is a real encourager. You think to yourself, well, she’s never known a day of suffering. And then you find out she is the way she is, she has the spirit she has, because of suffering.

Deb: Yeah, not a whole lot. I mean truly compared to a lot of people, I’m very, very grateful. I haven’t gone through a lot of really difficult things. But the things that I have gone through, God has used I think to make me into the woman he wants me to be, and I want to be that woman.

Karen: Right, so let’s talk about that. What are some of the deep places that you’ve gone through with God and what did you learn from them?

Deb: Probably the very first thing that God took me through was losing my little sister. She was a newlywed of 21. She had been married just three months. Got married on her birthday, and she was killed in a car accident. I was pregnant with our second child at the time, but I had never lost anyone except for a ninety-two-year-old great grandmother. It was my first.

And just weeks before this happened, I had told a friend that I probably would just go crazy if I ever lost anyone and especially if it was someone too young to die. Instead, truly, I mean, I’m not gonna say that there was no grief, that that was an easy thing to go through at all, but it was absolutely amazing how God met me and my whole family in that moment. And there were silver linings just all over the place in that story.

Erin: How did you deal the answer of somebody too young to die? How did you cope with that?

Deb: I think maybe we were all so much in shock that we didn’t even start asking those questions until later. You know, my sister was just about to get her teaching degree. And I remember the first question was: She would have been such an amazing teacher, how could you take someone like her? And  the next question was: We loved her husband, he had become part of our family in the time that they had dated and been married. We wanted him to go on and have a wonderful life, but we didn’t want to lose him either. And in an amazing, miraculous way, my brother-in-law met a woman who embraced our family like we were her own. And the older I get, the more I realize how very difficult that had to have been for her. To this day we still have a very wonderful warm relationship with them. They work with Family Life Today setting up the Weekend to Remember marriage conferences. They are just an amazing family. They have four sons and when their oldest son got married, he asked my parents to be seated with the grandparents as honorary grandparents.

So yeah, truly just such a blessing. And in answer to your question, Erin, how we dealt with that, how we could see God in that, I think as time went on and we started seeing some of those silver linings, seeing people who watched my family go through that time who said, “I don’t understand how you’re getting through this but whatever it is that you have, I want it.” And even over the years right up until just a couple of years before my mom’s death, my parents were still traveling when they heard of someone who lost a young child in a car accident they would travel and go be with those parents and just share their experience how God brought them through it. And it just opened up ministry all throughout our family. And brought our family closer too. I mean, we were close, we were a very warm and loving close family. But today we are like this and, I know we’re not on video, but we are tight now. We’ve gone through some really hard things as a family and that set the foundation for how we would get through things with God’s help.

Erin: Wow, so that was golden. Give us more. She’s got more places everyone.

Deb: Well, this wasn’t such a deep place, but my desire in life, I mean, I knew from the time I was 11 or 12 that I wanted to be a writer, but before that, I wanted to have 12 children. Yeah, I know, I was crazy. I knew not what I was saying.

Karen: I was going to say you were insane.

Deb: No, I was totally ignorant. But I’m the oldest of five children, and so, you know, I practically raised my baby sister who’s eight years younger than I am. So I wanted 12 kids. When I was 17, doctors started telling me that I probably would not be able to conceive, and I thought no big deal. I’ll just adopt 12 children. And so that became what I thought would probably be part of my story. But the Lord intervened, despite doctors continuing until I had my hysterectomy 10 or 15 years ago, continuing to tell me that it was a miracle that I gave birth to four children, because I don’t seem to ovulate, but apparently I did. And our kids are very much spread out. We had a baby in the seventies, two in the eighties. And then our youngest little oops baby came along in 1990. So there is 14 years between our kids, and they’re all just incredible blessings. And I didn’t have to wait as long as some women have to wait, and some women, I know, never have that prayer answered in the way they want it to be answered. But for me, God did answer that prayer and I’m forever grateful for that.

Erin: Wow, I’m beginning to understand why you write the books that you do. She writes books about issues and hard things. And they’re great books, you guys. You definitely need to read them. But I’m seeing that your life is filled with these kinds of tough questions, and these types of deep roads. So what how have you used what you’ve gone through in your writing?

Deb:  It’s funny because, in many ways, I feel like in my first books, I could write about really deep, hard things because I hadn’t been through too much deep. My life in general was just happy-go-lucky. And so I could go to the deep places and then come out and live my happy little life. In recent years, and I feel almost guilty saying I’ve been through some really deep hard times. It’s all relative—

Karen: No, hang on a second though. I’m going to speak to that. It’s like I feel bad when people start talking about their salvation stories and how God came in and saved them from these horrific lives or these terrible things that they had done. And I am like you are, Deb. I had this golden childhood that was full of laughter, and I was a very happy child, and I tell people I was converted when I came out of the womb. So I don’t have any big conversion story. But my story is my story, and it impacts people. Your story is your story, and those are deep places for you, when you went through them. For all of you listening, your story is your story. And it’s your story that God uses to touch people. So no more disclaimers. You have been through some hard places and we respect that.

Deb: Okay. I own it.

Karen: That’s right.

Deb: Yeah, so that is true. But I’ll say that in recent years, I feel like that God has used more the actual things that are happening in my life, for me to pour into the book that I write, and that’s okay too.

I mean, it’s just interesting how there was almost like just a division there. With my first half of the books, the first 15 books I wrote, I really kind of had to pull out of my imagination. I had not lived those things. The more recent books have a lot more of my real story, and of course you’re writing fiction, you have to change all the names to protect the innocent and all of that.

As an example, nine years ago my husband was laid off from his job. And we, I mean, we’d thought we were home free. We’d been married 30 some years and uh had a great marriage and have really not ever had… I mean, we have all the normal issues that marriages have, but nothing…we had never used the d-word and we still haven’t. But boy did we come close.

Karen: The only d-word I ever used was death.

Deb: That’s a good one. Yeah, and we had always said that would be the option before the other d-word—divorce. That just wasn’t a word in our vocabulary. But what happened is that okay, a man gets laid off when he’s in his 50s. He doesn’t have a college degree. It’s a very difficult time to be looking for a job and the job market was not great. And so this man decides that he feels like God is saying, “I don’t intend for you to get another job. I intend for you to go out on your own and start a new business.” And I’m like, are you crazy? I mean, I truly thought he had lost his mind. And God was not telling me the things that he was telling my husband. And that did not seem fair. It was a really, really difficult time. I look back and I saw things in myself that I didn’t know were there. Ugly things. Not good things. And, talk about the deep, I mean that was, that was just, uh, even now I apologize to Ken over and over. Nine years later, I’m still apologizing.

And yet, you know, even looking back and seeing how everything turned out, I understand why I was so terrified of this life he was asking me to follow him into. The one thing I look at is, my husband had always been so supportive of everything that I felt God was leading me to do. I wanted to stay home with my kids, and Ken sometimes worked two jobs so that I could do that. And when I started writing he just could not have been more supportive. He supported me in every way on a journey that we didn’t know whether it was going to turn out, you know, the way we hoped it would or not. For all we knew it was going to be a worthless endeavor, a waste of time and all of that. So I don’t know why I couldn’t see that man and realize that God was using him then, so why would he not be using him now? But I could not see that. And I would wake up at three o’clock in the morning absolutely on the verge of a panic attack just terrified. Terrified that I was going to lose the ability to see our kids and our grandkids because they live far away, and with what my husband wanted to do, we were going to have zero money to go travel and see those kids. And I just remember I would wake up terrified, and I would go out to the living room at three o’clock in the morning with my Bible, and I would open it up. And sometimes I could read it, and it would offer me comfort, and sometimes I couldn’t do more than just put my hands on it and say, “Lord, be with me get us through this.”

There came a point when the severance package was gone. And when we had to make some decisions. We had a daughter who was still in high school. She was in her senior year of high school headed to college. How were we going to pay for college? Just so many unanswered questions. I remember one Sunday, it was a hot day in July and we were headed out the door to the car to go to church and things were not good between us. Ken had preceded me out the door and he literally turned around and he said, “We have no business taking this to church.”

We went and we sat out on the deck with the Bible, and we prayed together, and we read the Bible together, and we just asked God to be there. And I don’t know what happened. We fasted that day, and I don’t understand the spiritual practice of fasting, but there is something there, something powerful, and from that day on I could not worry. I was incapable of worrying about our situation. I would wait, I would wake up at three o’clock in the morning and say, “Okay. Okay. I’ve got to worry. I’ve got to get all worked up here. No, there’s nothing there. I can’t.” It was the most supernatural thing. It was just incredible. And from that day, one thing after another, nothing terribly dramatic, it’s not like suddenly we won the lottery and everything else. But one day at a time, the Lord took care of us. And it was exactly like the day that Ken came home from work early and told me that he had been laid off. He took me in his arms, and he said, “The Lord has taken care of us for 35 years. There is no reason to think he won’t continue to take care of us.” And I believed it that day, but you know, when the rubber hit the road and things got real, it was a lot more difficult.

Fast forward to today, nine years later, and we are living our dream life. And if the Lord had not taken my husband out of his day job this never would have come to pass. And we would have been too afraid to make the decision for him to quit his job so we could explore this. It just so happened that this all was happening at the time when self-publishing was becoming a possibility and lots of writers were needing book covers designed, and just all the things that Ken had the skill to do. He was able to step in and start his own business and be very successful at it. Today he travels with me when I go to conferences. He teaches at conferences, teaches a great class called graphic design for writers about working with your publishing house on all the different graphic things. And we could not be happier.

Now, I’m not gonna say that these whole nine years have been happy. There have been an adjustment periods and redirection periods and all that, but God has been faithful every moment. Every single moment.

Erin: What’s interesting about what you’ve been saying is that I keep hearing the word fear. Fear and worry. Not only was it fearful for you to go into that situation, but I loved how you also said, “We would have been afraid to do this.” And yet prayer it seems, fasting and prayer, really overcame fear in a supernatural way. Sometimes I think we want to overcome fear in our own way. You know, “Oh, we don’t have to be afraid. Our mind can do it.” Sometimes it’s that supernatural thing that God gives us. The ability to not fear, to follow that scripture that says, “Do not fear, for I am with you,” and so I love that your story is that.

Karen: And I think it’s actually not sometimes. I think it’s in every circumstance. Like it talks about the grace that we receive is a gift and it has nothing to do with us. That God has given it out of his love for us. So, any relief of the things that we humans like to do, that is supernatural. That is God stepping in.

Deb: So many times, I couldn’t count how many times, I said to Ken, “This makes no sense. What you think God is leading us to do, makes no sense to me.” And I think that the Christian life sometimes doesn’t make sense. We were talking in our Sunday school class this past Sunday, and there came a point when the conversation was about God answering prayer and I wanted to stand up in that class and say, “I want to see a show of hands. How many of you would say that God answered your prayer in exactly the way you thought he would?” And we think that the answer would have been zero.

Karen: Yes, indeed.

Deb: We always have a great idea how God could just do this, this, and this, and it would all work out perfectly, and when he does that, that, and that, and everything comes together, we can only look back in awe and know that he did it. We didn’t do it. His solution is always, always better. And the other thing that I think about that is that when we go through really hard times like that though the wonderful gift that is in that, I don’t want to call it a reward for us being faithful through that but maybe it is, and that is that I feel so much better equipped for whatever our next trial is. Because I will always, always be able to look back on that time and know God was there. Even when I couldn’t pray, even when I couldn’t feel him there. He was there. There’s nothing you could say that would ever make me doubt that. I know that because I experienced it.

Karen: Deb, that’s amazing and such great words for each one of us—that if we look back on the evidence of what God has done in our lives, if we look back at those times when we begged him to set us free from the deep, and yet he kept us there for his purposes. If we can just recognize who he is, that he is God and he is in the process of refining us, but he’s also a loving father who wants to bless and encourage and delight us. You’ve been a wonderful messenger for him today. Thank you so much for being with us. Erin and I so appreciate it.

Listeners, I think we neglected to mention that you can find out more about Deb on her website, deborahraney.com. Deb, please, continue doing what you’re doing, Deb. It’s an inspiration to all of us and thank you so much for being with us.

Deb: I loved our time together. Thanks, you guys.

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Have you ever felt like your life was turned upside down? What did you do?

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073 – Erin Taylor Young in the Deep

Erin Taylor Young in the Deep
Erin with WAY too much hair…

Erin Taylor Young’s journey into writing, and the deep, has been far different than she thought it would be. And yet it’s been exactly what she needed.

The long way to becoming a writer…

When Erin became a Christian in college, she knew God was giving her a task of “saying something.”

“God burdened me, way back when. I knew I was going to do something that had something to do with ministering to others…I kept praying, ‘What is it I’m supposed to say, when am I supposed to say it?’ I did whatever God told me to do. I was playing guitar with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, I was writing songs…I think my sense of timing for humor writing came about because I was a songwriter. Not that I was a good songwriter, mind you, otherwise I would still be a songwriter…But I think that gives you a sense of timing. It’s so funny how God takes these little bits and pieces of your life…and [they] come full circle.

“All I did was try to be faithful along the way. And I’ve done some very odd things that had nothing to do with writing books…I have an art degree…I studied Greek…I have a masters degree in music theory and composition. This has nothing to do with writing, and yet, twenty-thirty years later, God pieced me into [a writer].”

The burden came in an incomplete form, but with each of these seeming detours, it filled in pieces until it was more complete, until Erin could see what it was God was calling her to do. She never doubted she had this call to speak things, to say things, she just didn’t know how she was supposed to do that.

“God laid this on my heart way back when, but brought it to fruition now.”

How Erin knew God specifically gave her the task of writing…

“It didn’t become very clear until I met you, Karen…When I’d realized I could write words without music, I’d started a journey of writing stories…and finally I felt led to go to my first writing conference…I prayed that God would tell me at this writing conference if this was something I should continue to pursue…God was so faithful to honor that. I met with a mentor there, Rene Gutteridge…and she said very specifically to me that she saw a lot of promise and that I’d need to work hard but that she thought I could make it in the writing business…It dinged in my head and I thought, that is God answering my prayer.”

“I went through this writing process continuing to be faithful. To learn. To work hard. To grow. And every so often I’d pray, ‘Okay God, should I still be doing this?’ And something would happen where He would very clearly give me that, ‘Yes, Erin, I still want you to pursue this.’”

Finally on the night Erin met Karen…“We walked out of the building and Karen looked at me and she said, ‘You have a gift’ …and that really struck me because it was another time when I was praying, ‘God, please tell me, am I supposed to continue on this journey?’ and the most astounding thing happened…I felt God clearly speaking in my heart, ‘Erin, you don’t have to ask anymore. From now on, if you don’t walk this writing journey, you’re being disobedient. You don’t have to keep asking. I’ll let you know if plans change.’”

On finding an agent…

“I had met Steve Laube much earlier and really respected him as a man of God and as an agent, and so I had already picked him out…I wanted him to be my agent…He knew me at this point and knew my writing. He had actually even complimented my writing…I had sent him a proposal of this dog book, and I prayed for eight solid weeks, with tears, with fasting. I prayed that Steve Laube would reject me if he wasn’t the right agent for me. Because it was so important to me to have the agent that God wanted me to have, even though I’d sort of picked Steve out…Eight weeks to the day, Steve sent me a really, really nice turn down…Disappointing as it was, I knew and I trusted that God had told him and had told me that this was not the right person for me. All I can say is that we hafta, hafta, hafta be willing to trust God for those things.

About hope in the face of rejection…

“I was talking at a writers conference once about how to have hope and still get rejections…You hope in God. You hope in what God wants to do, and that’s all I can say that I had [when Steve rejected me]. I knew that I knew that I knew that God would not let him offer me representation if it wasn’t right…You all have seen how much Karen and I enjoy working together. All of that would’ve been missed if I’d had some other agent instead of Karen. God had this prepared ahead of time and we could never have foreseen the friendship we’ve had or the sharing of hearts and burden for writers out there.”

On God’s Word…

“The single most valuable and influential thing in my growth as a Christian has been memorizing Scripture. It’s this deliberate intention of taking God’s Word in. And not just memorizing it, but thinking about what that verse means. How does that verse change the way I think about something? What does that verse say about this situation here? Nothing is too hard for God, for example, what does that mean, and how does that apply, and how does that change my thinking process about the life that I lead?

“I’ve found that eating God’s word in this way has been the most fruitful thing. I have grown so much closer to God. Because you can’t just memorize something and expect it to stay there in your brain forever. I figured that out early on. I needed to actually work on retaining the verses I learned. I came up with a way where I’d try to learn a new verse every week, but I would also review verses that I knew everyday.

“What I found through this practice is that Scripture is a part of me. I don’t have to hunt for my Bible when I want to pray, for example. I can pray a string from one verse to another verse to another verse as God brings them to mind. I can be thinking about them in the car…They’re always with me. And that has transformed me, because when you’re thinking and praying on the Word, what you’re doing is you’re looking at God. I heard a sermon from John Piper, and he said, “We become what we behold,” referring to 2 Corinthians 3:18, where with unveiled faces we’re beholding the glory of the Lord and being changed into His likeness from one degree of glory to another. And when we’re beholding God in His Word everyday, it can’t help but have a profound impact on who we are and how we reflect His glory to everyone around us.”

On obstacles…

“When we can step back and say if nothing else, God will use this for His glory, God is taking me through deep places, God is doing what He wants to do, God is omniscient, God is omnipresent, God is sovereign, when we look at God, God, God, God, it’s so much easier to not look at me, me, me, me.

“What I’ve been learning, even just in the past weeks and months, is that the more I look at Him, the less I groan about me, and the less I feel entitled. The less I feel angry. It’s a continual process of submitting, submitting, submitting, but it’s so much easier when we’re considering who God is. When we’re looking at Him and His greatness and His glory. I think that’s what pulls me through. And that’s how we love others…God has been teaching me a lot lately about love. He’s been showing me how much His unfailing love is the bottom line of everything…and so we draw on God’s unfailing love. We hope in His unfailing love. We hope in who He is and what He does. And then it doesn’t matter so much if I don’t sleep for three days. I mean, it matters, but it doesn’t matter. Because it’s still about doing what I’m called to do everyday, leaning on Him, acknowledging my weakness, trusting that He’s going to enable me to do whatever tasks…The way to get through the deep is to look at God instead of at me, and trust Him to get me through whatever I need to do that day.”

On obedience…

When you feel that check in your spirit and it doesn’t make sense, but you feel the check and you’re obedient…sooner or later, when you find out why, it’s always that God had a better plan in mind.

Fruit from experiences…

“When we’re thinking of ourselves as writers, and the experiences that we go through, the things that we ‘collect’ along the way…they find their way into our books. My book about Henry was very much about unconditional love and about what happens when we begin to love. It’s funny how something from a book I wrote a few years ago, still, God is bringing more and more of that into my life today as fruit, as love being this ultimate thing we give to others. It’s like the fulfillment of who we are as Christians. That we learn to love other people. That’s what happens when we write. We get these little tidbits all through our life, and these deep experiences…and they still come to fruition in books then, and then later in your life, too.”

On love…

“We were talking to someone the other day about unconditional love, and how they didn’t feel loveable, that God couldn’t love them. And that’s been an issue in my life too. All of these issues about love, love, love, and I feel like God’s been hammering that in me, to show love to others as I write, as I do what I do with Write from the Deep. We do this because we love God, and we do this because we love our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we do this because we’re called to love and show love in the world.”

 

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What questions do you have for Erin?

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Erin Taylor Young shares how God has led and sustained her in the deep.

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072 – Karen Ball Tells All! (Well…Almost.)

Karen Ball Tells All on the Write from the Deep PodcastLessons from 35 Years in Publishing

Ever wonder what it’s like to be an editor for best-selling authors like Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Robin Jones Gunn, and more? Ever wanted to get a behind-the-scenes peek at what it means to be an agent or writer or podcaster? Karen Ball dishes on over 35 years in publishing, during which she’s been all of the above—and shares her best counsel for those on the publishing journey.

On Friends and Advisors for the Journey…

Karen believed she would love editing—and she does!—but what she didn’t realize was that the authors she worked with would become cherished and trusted friends as well as colleagues. It was this discovery that gave Karen the solid foundation of trust that God was guiding her to the people He wanted in her life to counsel and encourage her, as well as hold her accountable. Which is why she tells writers to seek God’s wisdom in choosing your fellow travelers, your counselors, and your advisors.

On the Deep Places…

Karen thought she knew how her life would go, and she was completely wrong. But in the process of traveling the journey, especially in the deep places, she learned that God is in control. She said she and Don developed a mantra: “God is in control. I may not understand it. I may not even like it. But I can trust Him.”

On Marriage…

It’s really, really, REALLY hard. As Gary Thomas says in his amazing, authentic book, Sacred Marriage, marriage isn’t about making you happy, it’s about making you holy. But here’s the thing: it’s worth it. And the struggles that Karen and Don encountered lead them to embrace 1 Corinthians 2:2: “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”

On Being Changed by the Journey…

“Sometimes I miss that happy little kid I used to be…but Scripture talks about putting away childish things and I think sometimes…in fact, I know, that as you deepen in your relationship with God, you understand it’s really not about you. It’s about what He is doing and who He wants to reach through you and how He’s going to utilize you. And it’s a gift! When you go through even the hard things, it’s a gift that refines you and enables you to help others.”

On Editing…

It’s about serving the authors I work with. It’s not about “fixing” their writing, it’s about coming alongside them respecting what they’ve done and are doing, and helping to draw the very best writing out of them.

On Life…

“Life has given me some degrees…in counseling, in psychology, in all kinds of things that I’m then able to utilize as a writer, as an editor, as a wife, in whatever I do for God.”

On the Most Fun Thing about Writing, Agenting, and Editing…

“Here’s what I love about all three: story and relationship. All three of those careers focused on the power of story and on my relationship with the people I worked with.”

On the Task God Has Given Each of Us…

It’s not about making you happy or famous or rich. It’s about God using everything we do to refine us into a clearer reflection of Christ to a dark and weary world.

On Lessons Learned from Health Issues…

“It’s given me a new perspective on Luke 12:48, where it says that those who’ve been given a lot will also have a lot required of them…I’ve always be able to do a lot of things, to take care of things myself. But to come to a place where I had to admit I was no longer able. A place of having to ask for help. A place of having to go to people and say ‘I’m not going to be able to do that thing for you after all.’ To recognize I was no longer able…to accept that…and to then ask people for grace, that was very difficult…But when I went to them, people extended such grace to me. They were so kind. And as I considered that verse again, what God whispered to my heart was that the ‘much’ that’s expected isn’t necessarily doing, but surrendering…it’s recognizing that I can do nothing without Him. That my weakness is His opportunity to show that He is GOD, and for Him to be glorified.”

Karen’s Final Words of Wisdom…

“‘I know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.’ Regardless of what’s happening in your writing career, in your life, God is sufficient. You may not get it, you may not understand why things are happening to you the way they are. You may feel like you’ve been in a constant struggle all your life, and that may not seem fair. But when you look at it, recognize that nothing we experience reaches the level of what Christ has done and sacrificed for us. ‘I know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.’ Everything pales before that.  And what He has done requires me to sacrifice everything as well. That’s the only certainty I can hold onto, but what a certainty.”

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071 – The Lie of Perfectionism

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young The Lie of PerfectionismPerfectionism is one of those things that seems like a good thing, but in reality it’s far from good. In fact, perfectionism destroys those who strive to achieve it. None of us is remotely capable of being perfect. And when we try to be so, it too often stems from pride and/or fear. Come learn why perfectionism is so dangerous not just to your writing, but to your spirit and peace.

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Perfectionism

When we talked about self-doubt, we touched on the idea of perfectionism. But it’s such a common and damaging problem that we wanted to give it its own episode. As Christians and as writers, we want to pursue excellence in what we do. But where do we draw the line? What’s the difference between a healthy pursuit of excellence and an unhealthy striving for perfection?

Let’s start with a definition of perfection: Merriam-Webster says it’s “the quality or state of being perfect” such as the “freedom from fault or defect” or “the quality or state of being saintly.”

When we think of it that way, most of us are self-aware enough to realize we aren’t flawless, nor are we saintly. In fact, we’re often pretty darned far from it.

Yet, when I read in an article in Psychology Today called “9 Signs That You Might Be a Perfectionist” I was surprised by them. I mean, for sure I recognized some of those signs in me, because I already know that I struggle with perfectionism, but somehow I hadn’t necessarily connected those signs to perfectionism.

What does perfectionism look like in our lives?

  1. You have trouble delegating because you don’t trust others to do the job correctly.
  2. You often fixate on the things you messed up.
  3. You avoid or procrastinate doing tasks where you may not excel. For example, those of you who haven’t finished that manuscript some editor or agent has expressed interest in because you’re afraid the ending won’t be as good as the beginning, I’m talking to you.
  4. Or you don’t ever complete your manuscript because there’s always something “more” you can do to make it better.
  5. Your self-confidence depends on what others think about you and/or your book. It’s about your accomplishments, not your true worth in God.

Why is perfectionism a bad thing?

Perfectionism, and the things we do to attain it, can hold us back from being the kind of person and the kind of writer God designed us to be.

Another Psychology Today article talked about perfectionism being toxic because “those in its grip desire success, they are most focused on avoiding failure, so theirs is a negative orientation.” We live in fear of failure, of doing something wrong. Instead of in freedom. We covered this more in depth in the episode on self-doubt so go back and listen to that if you struggle in that area.

And yet another article defined perfection as…

  1. “The relentless striving for extremely high standards (for yourself and/or others)” that typically, to an outsider, seem unreasonable
  2. “Judging your self-worth based largely on your ability to strive for and achieve such unrelenting standards.”

It’s good to have standards, it’s good to have goals, because it helps you achieve things. But the article goes on to say, “…when these goals are either unachievable or only achievable at great cost, it makes it very difficult to feel good about yourself. This is when perfectionism can be problematic.”

An article from Western Seminary had this to say about the dangers of perfectionism: “When we strive for worldly perfection what we’re often actually striving for is to be better than those around us. Our pride and sinful flesh make us want to come out on top when we compare ourselves to others. Our insecurities cause us to feel shame and embarrassment when our comparisons reveal our inadequacies.”

What about “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect?”

The same article goes on to say, “It’s true that the Bible calls us to be ‘perfect as [our] heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matthew 5:48). The Greek word for ‘perfect’ here is telios. It means ‘brought to its end, completed, or perfect.’ So, to be ‘perfect’ in this sense is not how perfectionists so often imagine it. Rather, it is to be completed in Christ. Philippians 1:6 says that completion is the work of God. He created us, saved us, and is faithful to perfect us.”

What is the healthy pursuit of excellence, as compared to the unhealthy striving for perfection?

1. Recognize that pursuing excellence is about God—about serving Him well, about submitting ourselves to His work and refinement, about relying on Him to equip us for the work He’s asking us to do. Perfection, on the other hand, is about me—how I measure up compared to everyone else, how I never make mistakes, how I’m able and capable because I’ve worked so darned hard, and so on.

2. An article on DesiringGod.org has this to say about the healthy pursuit of excellence: “When we pursue excellence, we’re determined to do something as well as possible within a given set of talent, resource, and time limits.” Recognize that God has equipped you in certain ways. If you need to study to refine your skills, such as your writing, go for it. It’s biblical to work to refine ourselves. But the moment you start obsessing or comparing yourself to others, stop. You’ve crossed the line into perfectionism. When that happens, submit yourself to God, asking Him to let you see yourself through His eyes. And consider setting time limits and allow yourself to do the best you can in that amount of time—and then let it go and move on.

3. A healthy pursuit of excellence is understanding that perfectionism isn’t possible. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Give yourself permission to not be perfect. You have to be willing to think about yourself differently.

4. Let go of control. That belongs to God. You can pursue excellence in a way that leaves results up to God. You aren’t the center of the universe, God is. It’s not about whether you do everything right, or do enough. It’s about your relationship with God and embracing His truth and grace. Trusting His grace. Knowing that He’s not surprised when we fail. He made us. He knows we’re not perfect. And He still loves us. In other words, make your focus about loving and getting to know God better. Not about being perfect.

5. A healthy pursuit of excellence means we work hard for the Lord, but we work out of passion rather than perfectionism. Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Passion produces a good feeling, you view your work as challenging and rewarding. Perfectionism always leaves you feeling less-than. Inadequate. A failure.

6. Do your best, but make sure that’s marked by grace. Cultivate self-compassion, self-love. Matthew 22:39 says, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Read 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 and put your name in there. For example, Karen’s love for herself is patient, kind…and so on. And then make sure you live all that out. You can’t show others patience when you’re not patient with yourself.

7. We need to find our value, worth, and identity in God, in being His child, in being created in His image, and in the perfect righteousness He gives us in Christ. Everything else is worthless. God wants us to delight in Him FIRST, and that overflows into delighting in the work He equips us to do. But if we’re not first His child, if we’re not first resting in His love for us, in the value He places on us, we’ll always be looking to others or the world or our achievements for our validation, and that will NEVER satisfy us, because we weren’t designed to work that way.

What is the only kind of perfectionism that matters?

God has called each of us to do the work and tasks He’s given us with excellence, but He’s also there to equip us, encourage us, and refine us as we go through the journey of becoming His child. But when we mistake perfectionism with excellence, we give the enemy a foothold to distract us, to discourage us, and to derail us from serving God. Excellence puts the focus on God. Perfectionism puts the focus on me. It’s pretty clear which one is going to lead me into a life of faithful service and peace. So lay your perfectionism on the altar of obedience and walk away. Leave it in God’s hands. Leave yourself in God’s hands. And rest in His provision, direction, and refinement. Let Him make you perfect in His sight. That’s the only kind of perfectionism that matters, and He’s the only one who can achieve it.

We want to hear from you!

Do you ever struggle with perfectionism? What helps you overcome it?

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Perfectionism isn’t just dangerous, it’s a lie.

 

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