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

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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?

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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!

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

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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?

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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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089 – Share the Writing Adventure with Guest DiAnn Mills

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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?

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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!

Stay Connected

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

088 – The Right GPS for Your Writing Journey

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Right GPS for Writing Journey Karen Ball & Erin Taylor Young Write from the Deep PodcastMost of us have experienced using a GPS device. It’s great when it works right. But when it doesn’t, look out! You can end up lost for hours. Or in some very bad places. The news has covered stories where hikers were so focused on their GPS that they actually walked off a cliff! You need direction on your writing journey, but is that direction reliable? Come explore that question with us!

But first, an update on our pledge drive…

The month of February is our Patreon pledge drive. We’re so thankful for our patrons on Patreon and the platform Patreon provides so that creators like us can be paid. Creating each episode of the podcast takes more hours than most people realize, not to mention the costs of media hosting and this website. That’s time and money we can’t use to help support our families. Our goal with the pledge drive is to double our number of patrons from 10 to 20, and we’re not quite halfway there yet. If you’re a listener to the podcast, would you be willing to check it out and consider helping us reach our goal? We’d also love your help in spreading the word. We’re excited about the two new tiers we’ve added to broaden the content we give to patrons!

Thank you for listening to the podcast. You’re a blessing!

GPS – Friend or Foe?

When Karen and Erin were in Washington together, we drove to a lot of remote places to take photos. And we ended up using GPS fairly often. As a result we ended up lost fairly often! As we were driving in circles one day, we wondered why we submit to the authority of the GPS, especially when it’s proven itself to be unreliable. As we talked about it, we realized there were lessons there for us not just as we were driving or looking for some place, but in our writing journey as well.

Lesson 1 – The Detours are the journey

It’s okay if you’re not where you expected or wanted to be. It’s okay if you’re not where you think you should be. In those times when you feel lost, like you’re on the wrong path, remember that God knows where you need to be. And He will ensure you get there. When you feel as though you’re hopelessly confused or lost, take a moment. Breathe. And ask God, “Is this your doing?” He’ll let you know if it is. If it isn’t, He’ll get you back on the path you need to be.

With God in charge, you’ll always find your way. It’s just not always by the route you expect. And it’s not always as easy as you think it will be. In fact it’s never as easy as you think it will be. So don’t worry about finding your way to where you think you’re supposed to be. God’s destinations are far better than anything we can think of.

Lesson 2 – Open Your Eyes and Look Around

How much do we miss out on when we fail to open our eyes and look around? When we’re zeroed in on our GPS, trying to figure out if we’re where we’re supposed to be, it’s easy to blaze right past the little–or even the giant–signs pointing to our next turn.

In your writing journey, it’s easy to become overly focused on what everyone says you need to do or how you need to do it. To focus on doing everything the way “they” say you should. But often, the most effective and important thing you can do is take in all the suggestions and counsel, then look up. Look around you. Listen to what God is telling you. See what He’s showing you. And look inside, to feel His leading and guidance.

When we’re on a journey, it’s easy to get caught up in preconceived outcomes and expectations and miss the little delights God has for us along the way. The same is true for writing. If it’s all about fulfilling expectations, which may or may not be reasonable, you’re bound to be disappointed. But if it’s about enjoying what you have, and enjoying the time with God, it’s bound to be amazing.

Lesson 3 – Don’t assume meaning

On our first adventure to a remote area that would supposedly offer opportunities to photograph bald eagles, the GPS told us to look for a certain parking lot, which we never saw. Back and forth we went until we finally understood: The GPS’s “parking lot” was a flat section of rocks just large enough to pull our vehicle in!

In your writing career, there are lots of people out there who will help you, give you counsel. But as you listen, don’t assume you understand what you’re hearing. When things don’t seem to make sense, ask questions, ask for clarification. For example, was that person saying EVERYONE has to write using an outline, or that he does it and it works best for him? Be careful when you’re hearing things. Be discerning. The payoff is clarity moving forward.

Lesson 4 – Timing is everything

Our first visit to the eagle spot at the “parking lot” yielded one fly by. We were disappointed. Just before sunset, we decided to give the “parking lot” spot one last try. We parked, made our way over the rocks, and then just stood there, stunned. Eagles lined the banks of the river, roosted in the trees around us, and soared overhead. It was majestic!

Sometimes you’ll try something in your career, and it just doesn’t turn out the way you thought it would. Or, even worse, it totally bombs. You send a great proposal to an editor, and it’s rejected. You put out a book, but no one seems to like it. But the truth is, none of that means it was a failure. It may just mean it wasn’t the right time for it. Pray about it, and ask God if you should ditch it or, maybe, just set it on the shelf for another time. Then, if God nudges you to give it a try sometime down the road, do it. God sees everything and every time. You can trust His leading––and His timing.

Lesson 5 – God Leads in God’s way

Many of us are so used to our phone or car GPS giving us directions every two minutes we think that’s the normal way of leading. Or the only way. It isn’t. It’s the GPS’s way of leading. But we’re so accustomed to it that we get uncomfortable without it. We feel lost without the constant map we can consult or Siri’s words speaking every few minutes.

But God is not obligated to work that way. We need to listen for God in the way He speaks to us, and that can be different for everyone. He wants us to seek. Not to wait to be spoon-fed. Writers often struggle with direction–am I supposed to write? Am I hearing God right? Seek the answers from Him!

Yes, He has plans for you. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that He does, but read on to verse 13 where it says, “You will seek me and FIND me when you seek me with all your heart.” We’re supposed to search hard, with all our might, and seek with humility, worship, reverence, and a willingness to submit.

There is one true GPS that will never lead you astray. Even if sometimes it feels like it. You’ll find out that the path you’re on is exactly where you’re supposed to be. That GPS is God telling you, “This is the way for you to go. This is what you need to do.” That’s the only one that will never be unreliable.

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Have you ever felt lost on your writing journey? What helped you find your way?

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087 – Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference with Guest Kathy Ide

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Kathy Ide Write from the Deep Podcast Mount Hermon Christian Writers ConferenceEver felt as if God was giving you a task that’s waaay too big for you? Well, conference director Kathy Ide shares how she came to direct not just one writers’ conference, but two! And the lessons God taught her along the way will help you, too!

First, some special news!

We’re so thankful for our patrons on Patreon and the platform Patreon provides so that creators like us can be paid. Creating each episode of the podcast takes more hours than most people realize, not to mention the costs of media hosting and this website. That’s time and money we can’t use to help support our families. This month we’re doing a pledge drive. Our goal is to double our number of patrons from 10 to 20, and we’ve added two new tiers to broaden the content we give to patrons. If you’re a listener to the podcast, would you be willing to check it out and consider helping us meet our goal? We’d also love your help in spreading the word! 

Thank you for listening to the podcast. You’re a blessing!

About Kathy Ide

Kathy Ide is the author of Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors and the Capitalization Dictionary and editor/compiler of the Fiction Lover’s Devotional series. She’s been a professional freelance editor and writing mentor since 1998, working with Christian authors of all genres at all levels. She directs the SoCal Christian Writers’ Conference and Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Having founded The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network, Christian Editor Connection, and PENCON, she is now co-owner of the Christian Editor Network LLC, parent company to those organizations as well as The PEN Institute.

Thanks to our patron support on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript!

Erin: Hey everyone! Welcome, welcome to the lovely deep. We’re excited because we have a guest with us. It’s Kathy Ide. I’ll let Karen tell you all about Kathy!

Karen: Well I don’t know that I can tell you all about Kathy, but I can tell you if you’ve been in Christian publishing for any amount of time, you’ve undoubtedly seen Kathy. You’ve undoubtedly met Kathy. She’s kind of done at all. She’s an editor, a writer, a mentor. She has books that have been published. She directs conferences. She founded the SoCal Christian Writers Conference down in Southern California. And she’s been the director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference since 2016, and she’s doing a phenomenal job.

One of the reasons that we wanted to ask our dear Kathy—the other thing you will find out about Kathy is that she has a sincere and loving heart that wants to help people and that’s evident in everything that she does—so one of the reasons that we asked her here for our podcast is because, number one, conference season is going to be starting for 2019, and we want to get you folks ready for that. Number two, we just want to hear what God has taught her in the midst of all these amazing things that she’s been involved in. So Kathy Ide, welcome.

Kathy: Thank you so much Karen and Erin. I love doing this kind of thing.

Erin: So Kathy, let’s put you on the spot. On this show we talk about the deep and everyone has a different concept of what that could mean, so what does the deep mean to you?

Kathy: I love what you shared with me when you asked me to do this, about there being two aspects of the deep. One being going deeper with God, and the other referring to the deep places in our lives that we experience.

I thought a lot about that ever since you shared that with me. I think we can go deeper with God in any season of our life. You know, we have these mountain top experiences where we go to a retreat center like Mount Hermon and we’re just on the mountain top having a great time with God. We’re going deeper with Him because we’re focused on Him. And then we have our everyday lives, and we can choose to spend time with God, get to know Him better, go deeper with Him. When we’re in the valleys, it’s harder sometimes to rely on ourselves, and therefore it’s harder sometimes to trust God even though that’s what we need to do when we can’t rely on ourselves.

Karen: Right.

Kathy: But then sometimes we get into places that are really, really deep. We feel like we’re at the bottom of the ocean with shackles and weights around our ankles. There’s nowhere to go, and we can’t even see God or hear Him because all we can see and hear is that ocean surrounding us.

In those deep places, sometimes it’s easier, sometimes it’s harder to really feel God’s presence. Yet that’s the time when God can come alongside us and surround us. If we put our focus on Him instead of on the deep that we’re in, He will be with us. He may not rescue us from those deep places, at least not immediately. I know with scuba divers in the ocean, maybe there’s an emergency—there’s a shark or a rip in your suit or whatever. You want to go straight to the top, but you can’t go straight to the top. You have to go gradually. And that’s what God usually does in those really deep places—help us gradually out of those deep places whether the circumstances change or not.

Karen: One of the things that we’ve often talked about on the podcast is the fact that we need to learn how to—as long as God asks it of us—how to dwell in the deep, and how to learn in the deep, and how to grow from those deep places. Because it’s in those deep places that we often are refined the most, and refined to become a far clearer reflection of our Suffering Savior. It’s not like Jesus hopped out of the deep as soon as He got into it. So we need to remember that. And we need to pray and determine if God is saying, “Yes you can be set free from this,” like you said, or if it’s a situation of, “I want you to dwell here for a while because there are things I have to teach you here.”

Kathy: Yes, absolutely. I think once you’ve been in those deep places, and God has helped you through them, you can then help others go through their deep places and help them turn their focus on God as well.

Karen: Do you guys remember a singing artist whose name was Twila Paris?

Kathy: Yes!

Karen: She was way back when. She had a wonderful song called “Wounded Healers,” and that’s what we become. We become wounded healers because we’ve had the wounding ourselves. We’ve been through it, and then we’re able to understand and to help heal others with…well, understanding. With compassion, rather than with black-and-white thinking.

Erin: I think one of the biggest parts of that is the trust we learn to develop. I like the metaphor of the scuba diver that you were using because if you do that straight up shot, that’s dangerous. That’s not good for you.

Kathy: Yes.

Erin: It’s so counterintuitive. Same with those places where we’re learning to trust God. I think that’s one of the ways we help people the most, though. Even if they’re going through something slightly different than we are, we can be like, “But I’ve been there, and I trusted. I trusted for a long, long, long time, and sometimes that’s just the way it goes.”

Karen: Speaking of trusting God, Kathy, talk to us about how you came to be the director for the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference.

Kathy: Well, that’s a funny story. I’d been writing and editing and attending conferences and teaching at conferences for several years. When I learned that Mount Hermon was looking for a new permanent director, my first thought was, “I’m really too busy for that.”

So I started telling all my friends who I thought might be good candidates, “Hey, Mount Hermon is looking for a new director for the writers conference. You should apply.”

And they all asked me, “What are the qualifications?” I didn’t know, but they asked if I could find out.

So I asked what the qualifications were and I was given a link to a webpage. I looked at that webpage and with everything I read I thought, “I’m reading my own bio here. But I don’t have time.”

So I told my friends, “Here are the requirements, here’s what they’re looking for. You should apply.”

Karen: Right, right. Here am I, Lord, send Aaron.

Kathy: Yes! God must have somebody in mind, but it couldn’t possibly be me because I don’t have the time. I had just launched the SoCal Christian Writers Conference. I was very busy with that on top of my editing business, on top of trying to write my own stuff. So I thought it couldn’t be me.

But God, as He often does, kept poking me and saying, “What if you’re my choice for that job?”

I said, “Well then I would have time for that job.”

And He said, “Don’t you think if you were my choice for that job, I could figure out your schedule?”

Erin: Wow.

Karen: Oh no, Lord, that would be too hard even for you!

Kathy: Yeah, too hard for the God of the universe to handle my schedule. It’s certainly too hard for me. But I thought okay. I almost did it as a challenge to God. I said, “Okay, I will fill out the online application, but that’s all I’m going to do. I’m not going to call anybody. I’m not going to tell anybody I’m applying. I’m just going to fill out the application. That way if you want to pull me out of the hat, you can pull my name because it’ll be there.”

Well, I wasn’t surprised when they called me for an interview because, after all, my bio.

Erin: Yes!

Kathy: But even in the interview I kind of took that very laid back, because I didn’t think this was going to be right for me. So I was casual. I was myself. I didn’t put on anything. I was just very off-the-cuff. And one of their first questions was, “We see on your bio that you’re busy with a lot of things. Are you sure you have time for this job?”

And I said, “No. I really don’t. But I’m pretty good at delegating, so if I had a big enough team I could probably do it.”  So I was almost self sabotaging the interview to the point where when I hung up I was just sure there was no way they were ever going to call me back.

But they did. And offered me the job. I quibbled about a few details, but even then we worked out all the details. And as soon as I said yes, my first thought was, “Oh my gosh what did I just do? Who is the new director of the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference? Me right?”

But as soon as I got over about three months of shock, I realized that because of the way it happened, this really was God’s choice. I really was who God wanted to be in this position. Then if that was the case, I didn’t have to worry about anything. He wouldn’t have chosen me if He knew I was going to wreck the conference. Unless of course He wanted to wreck the conference. But I don’t think He does.

Karen: Here’s the thing, and we tend to forget this. When you have something like this where you’ve got responsibility, and you’re going to be doing things that affect other people and other people’s careers, and you feel like you have to make sure you do everything right for everybody else, God is saying to you, “I have a gift for you in this. I have something for you to learn in this. I have something to refine you in this. I’ll help you take care of all these crazy details.”

Frankly, as I thought about everything you would need to track in order to direct the writers conference, I wanted to jump off a very tall building. I am not a detail person. Erin will tell you, “Karen is not a linear thinker.” You have to be a linear thinker to do that.

Still, in the midst of it all, the greatest gift that He has in it is it for you. To show you things about yourself to reveal things about Himself to you. And then you can rest in Him for all that other stuff. We forget that so often. We get so wrapped up in thinking, “Oh, now I have to ABCD.” But we really don’t. What you have to do when you accept those big challenges is to turn it back to Him, and put it on Him, and say, “Okay, Lord,  we are in it now.”

Kathy: Absolutely. I think when I took on this job I was aware of some of the scope of it. As I did the job, I found out there was a lot more involved then I ever thought there was. It’s a much bigger job than I even imagined, and I knew it would be big. But when God gives you something big to do, you have to rely on Him, because I know I can’t do this myself. Even though God has equipped me throughout the years that I’ve been doing all kinds of things in my life. I realized that a lot of things I learned over the years were things that I needed to have in my background in order to do this job. So He has equipped me, but He equips me on an every-single-day basis.

Karen: Right.

Kathy: He does the things that I can’t possibly do. I don’t know who He wants to be on faculty. I rely on Him to send me people and give me the right direction in the decisions. As our friend Steve Laube told me the first year I was director, “You know, you can’t wreck this. Don’t worry.” And he’s right. Because it’s not my conference, its God’s conference. He’s going to do things through me. I just have to show up for work.

Karen: What do you feel were the main lessons you got from taking on this challenge, now being a couple years out as you look back on it? What were the lessons or the gifts that God had for you?

Kathy: Oh, so many. As far as gifts, you know I’ve always loved Mount Hermon, and being kind of at the helm of it just feels so special. That alone is just a gift. I constantly feel like really? I’m not qualified for this. But God says I am, so because of Him, I am.

But as far as lessons, it’s just a deeper knowing that He is in charge of this. I’m not. A deeper knowing that He’s in charge of all the areas of my life.

I know especially when writers go to a writers conference, they think, “Oh, if I could just meet Karen Ball. If I could just connect with Erin Taylor Young, then they could make my publishing dreams come true.” And yes in a practical sense, the people you meet at the conference can be that next step in your writing journey. But we tend to focus so much on our plans for that. We’ve read the bios online, and we know who the right people are to meet. And then we can’t sit at that person’s table. We end up sitting at somebody else’s table because the first table was full. And then the “somebody else’s table” was exactly where God wanted you to be.

So I think just trusting that He knows what He’s doing. We have the faith that God knows what He’s doing, but trusting is putting one foot in front of the other and actually stepping out and doing the things that we say we have faith in Him to do.

So a lot of it is just realizing what a gift this is, realizing that even as difficult situations come up that I’ve needed to deal with over the past couple years, even in those, He has me there because He knows I will listen to what He has to say. And I need to do that. I need to listen so that I’m doing what He wants me to do and taking the steps He wants me to take, even when those steps are challenging.

Erin: I want to go back for a minute. You said something like how all of this went down you knew that it was God. That seems to have been a useful thing. I think a lot of writers out there have trouble discerning, “Is this really God?”

Were there other specific things that helped you know that this really was what God wanted you to do?

Kathy: it was partly because I wasn’t trying for it, because they came to me rather than me really working hard to get this. So sitting back and saying, “Okay, God, if this is really what you want, I need you to work out these particular circumstances that aren’t things that I could do. Or maybe they are things I can do but I’m choosing to see whether you do them for me.”

That’s a big part of it. But after I took the job, there were little things like, oh we needed to have these little things like tickets with a tear-off thing on the side. And I said, “Oh! I know how to do that!” Because I’d learned it in a job twenty years ago. So even the little things where you say, “Okay, I have stuff in my background that God put there because He knew I was going to be here,  and I know how to do this. Because God has prepared me.” And if I don’t know how to do something, God brings people into my life to help me figure it out.

Karen: It’s that whole Joseph thing: for such a time as this. You had no idea that all those things that happened to you would bring you to this place where you would accomplish this task that God had for you down the road. Had you known about that task that was down the road in those early days…again, really tall building!

Kathy: Yes!

Karen: It’s God’s mercy that He takes us a step at a time and teaches us His sufficiency and His provision in all of that with each new step that we take.

Erin: Let’s be really clear here. I’m going to guess that, while you were still feeling pretty confident that this was God’s will, I’m going to guess that it still wasn’t a completely easy task.

Kathy: Definitely not! I think that, going back to your question about lessons, I think that’s another one of the lessons. I’ve known for years that I need God every minute of every day. But He’s taking me one more step out onto the waters and saying, “Do you really trust Me?” He’s taking me to that place where I have to every day, with every decision I make, say, “Okay, God, I know you’re in charge.”

I’m still struggling with the time commitment thing because taking care of the SoCal Conference as well as Mount Hermon, that is a lot of time-consuming stuff, in addition to editing and writing and all the other things. So every day I just ask God, “What do you want me to do today?” Because that’s pretty much all He tells me. And even when He tells me, sometimes what I thought was supposed to happen that day doesn’t. But I can still be confident that if there are distractions or interruptions, as long as I’m responding to them the way I believe God wants me to, I don’t have to worry about those distractions either. Because whatever I thought I was going to get done that day will get done later or won’t get done, and it’s okay because God is in charge.

Karen: Yeah, my life philosophy has become: The detours are the journey.

Kathy: Yes.

Karen: I think we have a good idea of what you wish attendees who come to your conference knew and took to heart. The whole thing about how they can trust God’s agenda and just relax and enjoy. What would you like your faculty members to know and take to heart about being at Mount Hermon?

Kathy: Oh, that’s a good question. I think the faculty members have a lot of the same struggles with different specific details. But a lot of the same struggles as the conferees because as faculty, you’ve got all those added responsibilities. You’re going away from what you do on a regular day-to-day basis for God. You’re putting that aside for a week and trusting that nothing is going to blow up while you’re gone. That the family will be okay, that your jobs will be okay while you’re gone for a week.

What I encourage—and I’ve encouraged my fellow attendees even in my early days of Mount Hermon and still encourage attendees and faculty—find a time during your week at Mount Hermon when you can take an hour at least and get away from the main hub of the conference. Take a walk in the redwoods. Walk beside the streams and waterfalls and listen for God’s voice. Let this be a retreat for you, too.

If you just spend the whole week working, you will have missed one of the best benefits of Mount Hermon which is that retreat area feel. You can hear God’s voice so clearly at Mount Hermon. Not when you’re constantly on the go teaching, conducting appointments, that kind of stuff. Those are all important, obviously, or we wouldn’t have hired you to be on faculty, but find an hour or so in your schedule where you can get away and be alone with God whether it’s in your room or in the redwoods or wherever it is. Take that time to refresh because if your cup is full you can’t give what you’ve got in your cup to others.

Karen: Amen.

Erin: It occurs to me that not everyone knows what the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference is. Give us a brief fifteen-second version of what Mount Hermon even is.

Kathy: Oh, that’s tough in fifteen seconds!  Go to writers.mounthermon.org. That’s the really quick one. Mount Hermon is an opportunity for you to connect with the top people in the Christian publishing industry. To meet with them one-on-one to get their feedback on your writing journey as well as on your specific manuscript that you’re working on. And to hear from God, where He wants you to go next. It’s a place where you can make lifelong friendships. A place where you can make connections that you may not be able to make anywhere else. It will change your writing journey. It will change your life. It will inspire you and move you forward to the next step in the journey that God has for you.

Erin: I can totally seconds all of that. I feel like Mount Hermon was one of the most critical conferences that I went to as a new writer. One of my favorite things about Mount Hermon was, of course, the atmosphere. The redwoods. What I noticed specifically the last time I was there is that the whole place feels like it’s a place of prayer. It’s steeped in prayer. There’s no explanation other than that the Holy Spirit is so present.

The other thing I love about Mount Hermon is that aspect of networking and relationships. People like Steve Laube just sitting in the central lounge at 10 o’clock at night, just there to talk to you. I credit Mount Hermon with meeting Karen—the people I met there who put me and Karen together. That is one of the most wonderful things about writing conferences in general, but especially Mount Hermon because of all of the time that’s devoted to that kind of networking.

Kathy: Mount Hermon is a full-time year-round Christian conference center, so every employee, everyone who is on those grounds 24/7 prays for all of the events at the conference, for all of the people who come to the conference. For the writers conference we have a great prayer team who is very actively praying all year round for the faculty, for the attendees, for everything that happens. Going back to your question about how did I know that this was God’s will for me? A part of that was knowing that those people chose me because they had prayed about it.

Karen: Right.

Kathy: They pray about every decision they make about who to hire very deeply. And if they had prayed about it, and if they were choosing me, then I was the answer to their prayers as well as my own.

Karen: Kathy, it’s time for us to wrap up. Do you have one final word of wisdom that our listeners can utilize for today? Some application, some recommendation for them as the conference director, as a writer and editor, and all of those things?

Kathy: My favorite thing to share with writers especially, but this is true for anyone, is that if God has called you to write, He has a plan for what He’s called you to write. He knows how long it’s going to take for you to learn how to write and learn how to do it well and attend conferences and get the critique group and all the steps along the way. He even knows when life is going to get deep and you can’t write for a while. He knows all those.

But He also knows who He has in mind to read what He has called you to write. And when that person is going to need to read it. So all along your journey you don’t have to worry about, “Oh I have to get this done and I have to get this done by deadline.” Well you might have to get it done by deadline if you have a publisher, but you don’t have to worry about the timeline because God’s timeline may not be the same as yours. Probably isn’t. But His timeline will result in what He has called you to write landing in the hands of the people He knows are going to need to read it at exactly the right moment.

Karen: I love that. Well friends, as we finish up today, if you’re contemplating going to a writers conference in this new year, why not go check out Mount Hermon? I think you will see that it’s got a lot of wonderful things for you. Kathy, give us the date and website one more time.

Kathy: It’s writers.mounthermon.org. It’s always over Palm Sunday weekend, so you can know when that is. It’s always the weekend before Easter. This year the pre-conference is April 10-12, and the main conference is April 12-16. The pre-conference is a couple days before, when we have mentoring clinics, and the main conference starts Friday at dinner and goes through Tuesday at breakfast.

Erin: Terrific!

Karen: What can you get from a writers conference? You can get networking. You can get teaching. But more than anything else you can get fellowship from people who understand you and who are for you. This is one of the biggest differences between being a writer in the Christian market and a writer in the general market, and that’s that we’re for you. Everybody else is for you. There’s none of the competition, there’s none of the resentment. And if there is we can pray about it together!

Kathy: We’re all on the same team. If God wants your book to be published, I want to help you work that out. If God wants my book to be published, I don’t have to step on you in order to have that happen. Because we’re all working for the same boss.

Karen: Kathy, thank you so much for being with us and taking the time. We’re just delighted that God has lead you into this new adventure. And as we look at our own careers, at our own lives, we look forward to seeing where God has to take us next, too.

Kathy: I love that. Thank you so much, Karen and Erin. God bless you both.

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Have you been to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference? What was your favorite thing about it?

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Discover the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference with director Kathy Ide!

Connect with Kathy at her website KathyIde.com. Be sure to check out her wonderfully helpful book Proofreading Secrets of Best-Selling Authors.

Thank you

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