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127 – The Cure for Devastation

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Cure for Devastation Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungDevastation: Wildfires. Rioting. Looting. Floods. One terrible thing after another seems to be happening nowadays. Some just unpleasant, but some have leveled people’s lives. They’ve lost everything but the clothes on their backs. How does anyone, writers included, move forward after losing everything? Come join us to find out.

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In a community just seven miles from where Karen lives, it looks like a nuclear bomb went off—that’s the scope of devastation on the town. There’s nothing left. People have their lives, and that’s a lot, but everything else is gone. In the wake of all the destruction from wildfires in the Northwest, where many folks have lost everything, how do they even begin to start over?

As terrible as that is, this isn’t the first time people have had their lives turned upside down. It’s happened all throughout history.

In 1900 a tropical cyclone hit Galveston, leaving between 8,000 and 12,000 dead. Galveston rebuilt and its beaches are considered one of the most desirable vacation spots in the US today.

In 1931 floods devastated China, leaving 4 million dead. Those left behind rebuilt and recovered. In 1951, a flood in Manchuria left 4,800 dead and thousands more displaced.

And you all remember September 11, 2001, when the most deadly terrorist attack in history left 2,977 people dead, including hundreds of firefighters and policemen and emergency personnel. But New York rebuilt. 

In November of 2019, the Corona virus hit, devastating much of our world. In our own county, over 200,000 are dead, damaging our economy and so much more.

Then came the tragic death of George Floyd, and the ensuing rioting, looting, and murders.

The hits just keep coming, like the wildfires we just had in Oregon. Leaving us reeling and wondering so many things…

“Why did my house survive when so many others’ homes are nothing but ashes.”

“How can I go forward when I don’t have anything left?” 

“What has happened to my country?”

“What do we do now?”

Karen went to God’s Word and found the greatest solace in Psalm 27:

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock. Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at his sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. Do not hide your face from me, do not turn your servant away in anger; you have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior. Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.

Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path…I remain confident of this:  I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

The word wait doesn’t mean just sit on your hands and wait for God to deal with it all. The sense is more “to expect,” “to await,” “to hope in or hope for.” There’s even an eagerness implied: God is our hope and He will be working on our behalf.

As Karen was thinking about what to share with you all in this podcast, that verse sent her looking for something else: stories of people who have come back from devastation. So here are a few of the stories she found. Our prayer is that they will encourage and bless you in whatever you face today. 

Frederick Douglass was born in Maryland, where it was the custom to take children born in slavery away from their mothers. Frederick was separated from his mother at a very early age. When he was twelve, though, his master’s wife started teaching him. That is, until the master made it clear this was not to continue. Undaunted, Frederick learned to read and write in secret.

When Frederick was bought by yet another master, he started teaching slaves from his and other plantations. When his activities were discovered, he was severely beaten. Finally, he was able to escape the plantation, and started attending abolitionist meetings. Before long, he was giving speeches that moved and changed the hearts of the listeners. His powerful speeches drew huge crowds and helped end the practice of slavery.

In one of his writings, Frederick Douglass had this to say about facing devastation: “It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor of the acclaimed French “Elle” magazine. He was known for being charming and flamboyant. Then, in December 1995, a massive stroke left him deep in a coma. When he awoke twenty days later, he was fully aware, fully himself, but the only thing he could move was his left eyelid. He had “locked-in syndrome.” His brain was fine, but his body was completely incapacitated. Except for that eyebrow. 

Bauby refused to give up. He communicated by blinking his eye for the number of a letter in the alphabet: one blink, a, two, b, and so on. Eventually, he not only was able to communicate with his family, but he dictated an entire book about his life and the experience of being trapped in his own body. His book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, was made into an award winning movie. Karen watched it one day by chance, and wept and cheered as she watched.  

Proverbs 3:21-26 gives us this wisdom about despair in disaster:

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble.

When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.

This isn’t saying we won’t see devastation or disaster, but it’s promising that we won’t face it on our own. God is at our side and will keep us safe. He will keep us from getting snared in anger and despair, in a spirit of bitterness and futility. His promises in the light will stand solid in the darkness. All we have to do is hold fast to Him and His truth. 

Wilma Rudolph had a lot to overcome before she turned four years old: double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and then, at 4 years old, polio left her with infantile paralysis. The small girl had to wear a brace on her left leg. But even at that tender age, she refused to be defeated and learned to walk normally again. 

While in high school, she competed in the 1956 Summer Olympic Games and brought home a bronze medal in the 400-meter relay. Four years later, at the 1960 Olympics, she became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics.

When asked how it felt to win like that, Wilma replied, “Winning is great, sure, but if you are really going to do something in life, the secret is learning how to lose. Nobody goes undefeated all the time. If you can pick up after a crushing defeat, and go on to win again, you are going to be a champion someday.”

“Colonel Sanders,” of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, lost his father at the age of six. Because his mother had to work to support the family, Harland cooked and looked after his siblings. His life seemed to follow a normal path: he got jobs, lost jobs, got married, and they had children.

Then his son died of infected tonsils, followed quickly by losing his job. Again. Followed not long after by his wife leaving him. When Sanders was forty, he was running a service station in Kentucky and selling fried chicken. Despite its popularity, when he was sixty-five Sanders had to sell his business. All he had left was his savings and $105 per month from Social Security.

Lots of people would have given up. After all, what’s the point when you’ve lost everything? Why even try to come back. But Harlan Sanders tried. He borrowed money and sold his chicken door to door.

Eventually, in 1959, he opened a new restaurant: K.F.C. The company took off, and in 1962 Colonel Sanders sold it for 2 million dollars. When asked about his success after so many obstacles, Sanders replied, “I only had two rules: Do all you can and do it the best you can. It’s the only way you get that feeling of accomplishing something.” 

The prophet Ezekiel’s vision of dry bones:

The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’” Ezekiel 37:1-14

God is the one who breathes life into us in the face of devastation. He creates miraculous new beginnings when there seems to be no hope. We don’t have to rely on ourselves or our own strength.

Francine Rivers and her book Redeeming Love

When Francine became a believer, she had fourteen romance books published in the general market. Those books had some pretty risque material. After becoming a believer, she didn’t want to write those type of books anymore. Everything she put down on the page after that, she says, “was total garbage.” Her agent even said she couldn’t sell any of what Francine was writing.

For three years, Francine tried to write, but couldn’t. First she was angry about it. Then she moved into acceptance, and finally, surrender. God took her to the point of giving up her career for him.

After that, she was involved in a Bible study on Hosea. It struck her that this was the love she wanted to write about. She wrote a book called Redeeming Love. Bantam, her publisher, didn’t know what to do with it because it had so much about God in it. They did go ahead and publish it, but it didn’t do very well.

Afterwards, Francine decided to come over to the Christian market. She brought a book to Tyndale, where Karen was working at the time. That book ultimately became a series: Mark of the Lion. Karen and Francine worked together on all Francine’s books through Leota’s Garden. They tried to bring Redeeming Love to Tyndale, but Dr. Taylor wasn’t comfortable with the main focus of the story. Francine had rewritten the story of Hosea to be set in California during the gold rush, and to be about a prostitute and the man God sends to redeem her.

When Karen went to be an editor at Multnomah, they acquired, with Tyndale’s approval, Redeeming Love. Francine, after finally being able to take out all the parts Bantam had wanted her to add, felt she “redeemed it.” Published in May 1997, Redeeming Love has been on the either the top 10 fiction or top 25 bestseller fiction list since it came out. It sold over 3 million copies, has been translated to 30 languages, and has been made into a major movie which will release in 2021. 

We love what Francine says in this quote: “Love the Lord your God, and love one another. Love one another as He loves. Love with strength and purpose and passion and no matter what comes against you. Don’t weaken. Stand against the darkness, and love. That’s the way back into Eden. That’s the way back to life.” 

There are so many ways we as writers face devastation. Times like Francine experienced, where she finally had to give up the idea of ever writing again. Times like our friend, novelist Bonnie Leon, is facing right now, with the fires destroying so much of her property.

Bonnie Leon has put pictures on Facebook of their outbuildings, their truck and Jeep, their chicken coop (yes, they lost all their laying hens), the forest around them, reduced to ashes. Yet, there in the middle of it all, their home is left standing. Untouched. She wrote a beautiful blog about all the conflicting emotions: despair, hope, gratitude, guilt.

Many of us who share God’s truth in writing face the unexpected devastations of health, finances, family, even faith. Times when we can’t see God, can’t even feel Him. When we wonder where He went and how He could have allowed this terrible thing into our lives.

There are so many things to discourage us and leave us in despair, hopeless and unable to create. If you’re in a place like that, know that you’re not alone. Many of us have been there. Are there even now.

But God is there at your side. Walking with you every step of the way. Meeting you in your deep darkness, and uplifting you. You are never alone. And you can embrace His promise in Isaiah 41 to those He loves and has called:

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

…For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you. The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst.

But I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.

I will put in the desert the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive. I will set junipers in the wasteland, the fir and the cypress together, so that people may see and know, may consider and understand, that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:10-13, 17-20

When disaster levels our lives, or the lives of those we love, how do we, as writers, move forward? #amwriting @karenball1 #christianwriter Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What helps you realize God’s presence and hope in the midst of difficulties and devastating events in your life?

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126 – When Things Go Wrong with Guest Christy Johnson

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When Things Go Wrong with Guest Christy Johnson Write from the Deep PodcastGod has put a task on your writer’s heart. He’s made it clear to you what He wants you to do. So hey, everything should be easy, right? Wrong! So what should you do when everything seems to go wrong? Come listen in as guest Christy Johnson shares some guidance.

About Christy Johnson

Christy Johnson is a soul-health coach, relationship expert, and author. As a domestic abuse survivor turned champion of forgiveness, Christy’s driving passion is to help women find hope and strength in the aftermath of failed marriages and toxic relationships. She’s the author of Love Junkies and Free Looks Good on You. Visit her at www.christyjohnson.org.

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

Karen: Hello, listeners. Welcome into the deep with us today. We have a guest Christy Johnson, and I’m going to let Erin introduce her.

Erin: Yay me! I get to do an introduction. That’s because I’ve known Christy for so long. Oh my goodness, I think we met at our very first writing conference. I know it was my first writing conference. I think it might’ve been Christy’s, too. That was lots of years ago, and I’m delighted to have her with me today, and with Karen.

Christy Johnson is an author, a popular national speaker, a relationship and soul health coach, and the executive director of Living Soul. She’s appeared on numerous radio and TV programs.

Her first book, Love Junkies, and the video series that she created with it are used in hundreds of small group discipleship groups, and they’re nationwide in churches, maternity homes, prison ministries, and drug rehab facilities, and her YouVersion Bible plan for Love Junkies has over 170,000 downloads.

Christy is all about freeing and empowering women to find hope and strength in the aftermath of betrayal and brokenness caused by abuse and toxic relationships. Christy’s most recent book is Free Looks Good on You: Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love.

We’re going to be talking a bit more about that as the show goes on because getting that book to publication has been one heck of a trial. Christy, thank you for coming on the show. We’re delighted to have you here today.

Christy: Thank you for having me, Erin and Karen. And thank you for reminding me how we met, Erin. Seems like a lifetime ago that I wandered into my very first writers’ conference and discovered that I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to write.

Erin: This is the discovery we alI make at our first writing conference.

Karen: Those discoveries keep me employed.

Erin: Exactly. Alright, so Christy, what does the deep mean to you?

Christy: Oh, that is a really deep question, Erin.

Erin: I’m jumping in right away.

Christy: There you go. I think for me it means that the more vulnerable and transparent I am about what I really, really think the more I’m going to connect with my reader. If I can’t drill down and really get connected with my deepest fears, my deepest insecurities, and write in such a way that I’m transparent about those, I’m not going to give my reader permission to feel that deep.

If I can't drill down and really get connected with my deepest fears, my deepest insecurities, and write in such a way that I'm transparent about those, I'm not going to give my reader permission to feel that deep. #ChristianWriter… Click To Tweet

The deeper I go, the deeper I’m going to connect with my reader, and then she’s going to feel like, “Oh, wow. I’m not alone. I thought it was the only one that felt this way. Now there’s hope for me because somebody else has felt this way and found a way out of the mess.”

So, the more transparent and vulnerable I am, the deeper I go into my emotional abyss, the more I’m going to connect with my reader and give her a promise of “There’s hope for me. I can recover from this mess.”

Erin: Right.

Karen: That’s really good. You know, so often when I’m teaching or mentoring writers, I encourage them to be more vulnerable. We like to write about difficult things, but too often, authors take a step back and write from a place of safety.

I tell them that the only way to get to the heart of your readers and help to change their lives, or grant them a deeper understanding, is to be vulnerable. To take away those layers of self protection and just tell the story that God wants you to tell.

Christy: Very well said.

Erin: I’ll tell you, Christy, that’s one of my favorite things about you is that you’re very open about the difficulties you’ve had in your life, and the mistakes, and the traumas, and the trials. I do think that’s why your books connect with readers and your ministry connects with women. Because of that deepness and that openness.

Karen: Authenticity.

Erin: Yeah. I don’t see a lot of authors getting there. I mean, they do, but you’re just one of the people who I think is very authentic.

Christy: I think it’s because a lot of times we feel like we want to reach more people, but we can’t reach everyone. The more we narrow our audience and our focus and quit worrying about trying to reach everyone…but what I love is that we can share from those deep vulnerable places when we’ve been completely set free.

Like the woman at the, well, she hid from every woman in town because she was so ashamed of her lifestyle. But once she saw herself like Christ saw her, the shame was completely gone, and she became a credible witness because the past was gone.

Until we get to that place in our writing where we’re no longer ashamed about our past because it’s the old us, then we can be completely authentic about what we’ve been through because we don’t have anything to hide anymore. That’s what really connects us with our readers: not trying to hide anything, not trying to be, you know, not politically correct, but spiritually correct. Not sounding like we’re trying to reach everyone when really we’re trying to reach a very specific target.

Karen: My husband, Don, and I were just talking about this yesterday morning while we were drinking coffee. I was telling him thank God for grace and that we live in a state of grace covered by the blood of Christ.

Because if we went before him in all our imperfections, and we didn’t have that covering of grace, we’d be in major trouble. I told him, “I’ve learned I will continue to disappoint God. I will continue to do and say the wrong thing. But because I have that covering of grace, as long as I am repentant, and as long as I continue to try to be a better reflection of him, I don’t have to worry.”

That’s a freedom to know that you can be wrong and you can be mistaken and you can be a flat out twit, and it’s okay so long as you come to him with a heart of repentance for it.

Christy: Right.

Karen: That is freeing indeed.

Out of that spirit of authenticity and sharing everything good, bad, and in between that happens, tell us about the challenges you faced in getting this book published.

Christy: There were so many, where shall I start? I did have an agent for this book and initially when I pitched a book idea to him at a conference, I wanted to write a book about manipulation and control. I had called it Controlled No More: Removing the Mask of Manipulation.

He was like, “Eh, that’s kind of a small niche market. What else you got?”

I was like frozen in my tracks, but I said, “Well, I always wanted to write a book about my forgiveness journey.” I didn’t know if people would want to read through my story because I’m not like a name brand author, but I started telling him about my journey through forgiveness.

He was pretty interested because his wife had previously been married to a man who was a serial adulterer, and she had never been completely able to forgive him.

He was pretty invested in this forgiveness idea and he goes, “What about a book called Forgiving Men?”

I was like, “Yeah, I am so on that.”

But the deeper I got into this project, my editor was like, “Mmm, no. That title is not going to work. You haven’t pegged the deeper felt need of your audience.”

The women, a lot of times, that really need to forgive, don’t really want to forgive yet. They’re still angry.

She said, “The anger and resentment, the bitterness, is the surface issue. What is the deeper felt need?”

Honestly, Karen, that took me a couple of months to really drill down and dive deep to try to figure out what was the deeper felt need. What was the thing that was missing? What was the thing that kept my women up at night?

Through a lot of reflection and 40 titles later, I discovered that what was missing was the freedom, and that became the new title: Free Looks Good on You: Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love.

I worked with my agent quite a bit during this process, and even though I thought I had a pretty sound platform at the time—I think I had 8,000 subscribers on my newsletter and now I’m approaching 20,000—he was still unable to find me a contract.

But I couldn’t let go of this book. It was like, I had to publish it.

Because my first book was published by a traditional house, and after a few years, I ended up buying my rights back, I thought, “How hard can this self publishing thing be ?” not realizing that the first time I did this, they handed me over all of the files, all the interior layout, everything. All I had to do is just switch it over.

I had no idea what I was in for.

I’m kind of a DIY-er, and I really like that. So, right when I was getting ready to do the interior layout, I thought I’d try to learn how to use InDesign. I watched all these videos and I thought, “I’m going to do this.”

It was kind of fun, actually. It was a lot harder than I thought, but I finally got it done. All I had to do was get it translated to the Kindle version, whatever that is. I just got exasperated and couldn’t figure it out, but I have a great mastermind team who have published many books, and Misty said, “I’ll do it for you. It’ll take me 10 minutes.”

Guess what? She couldn’t even figure it out. So, I decided, “Okay, I’m too invested in this. I can’t stop now. I’m going to hire somebody to do it.”

I researched on Reedsy and found somebody that looked like they knew their stuff. Every revision that he gave me, I think maybe he was using somebody on Fiverr. But I was so far into the project that I didn’t want to call him on the carpet because I needed to get this book done.

We went through 10 revisions.

Every time he sent me the files back, I had to proof it. He should’ve proofed it. He should have eyeballed everything. I was getting so frustrated. So that was one thing.

Then the cover design, the image that the cover designer chose didn’t really translate when you expanded it to fit onto the back cover and all that. But I’d already chosen this image, and it was just a huge learning curve. Finally I got it done.

Those are some of the things. If I had to do it again, I would, first of all, have to wait a year or two, so I could get my energy back for this. Time heals all wounds, so they say. Maybe the absence, the timeframe, will make me forget the hard journey that it was.

Erin: Right. Because here you were starting, thinking that this is going to be traditionally published. I remember when you were talking about that, and all of a sudden the disappointment of that, and then what do you do now? You’ve turned into more than an author at that point. You had a story to share and you had a message to share, and suddenly you’re being put into, you know, a round peg into a square hole that you’d never thought. You know, like, “Now I’m a publisher. Now I have to figure out what to do with this, that, and the other thing.”

How did you stay connected to God through those kinds of frustrations, through that kind of disappointment or just the constant nibbling away? I know that there were lots of other little hassles along the way. How did you cope? How did you stay close to God through those kinds of things?

Christy: Reminding myself of how God had been faithful in the past, and realizing and reminding myself, and renewing my mind, taking those thoughts captive on the failure. Because, you know, social media tells us that success equates to dollars and followers. And learning how to renew my mind. That’s not what success is. One day the Lord told me success is obedience.

And knowing that he would be faithful to complete the work he began in me and surrounding myself with his word, but also with Jesus with skin on, like my mastermind group that would listen to me cry and encourage me once again. And surrounding myself with writer friends, and my critique group, and speaker friends that could remind me of the value they saw in me and that, really, I can’t do anything in my own strength.

After a while, all of the setbacks became almost comical. I had to wonder, “Is this a divine delay?” God’s timing is better than ours. I wanted everything to be done so I could finish it and move on to something else, but he has a purpose and a plan and reminding myself that it’s okay. I had to trust his timing, not Christy’s timing.

Karen: Don and I hit so many detours in our life together. This December will be, I think, 41 years that we’ve been married. Don likes to say that we’ve been happily married for 10 years, which is out of 41. 20 years in counseling, and so many things happened.

We were going to put our house on the market and the week before we got hit by the hundred year flood that collapsed the foundation of our home. And so, you know, two years later we finally have it on the market. Our mantra has become through our life: God is in control. I may not understand it. I may not even like it, but God’s in control.

God is in control. I may not understand it. I may not even like it, but God's in control. #amwriting #christianwriter @KarenBall1 @ChristyJohnson7 Click To Tweet

That’s what I have to hold on to. When you reach the end of what you think you’re able to do, when you surrender and say, “Okay, fine, I can’t do this. I cannot. I cannot do this,” and you turn it over to God, therein again, lies freedom. Because we don’t have to do anything beyond what he has equipped us to do.

Christy: Right.

Karen: We can learn from being willing to let go and to say, “Fine, then show me. Show me what you want me to do.”

Christy: Yeah, absolutely.

Erin: What do you think will be different for you going forward? Sooner or later, you’ll probably have another book you want to write. Through this experience, how do you think that’s going affect you moving forward as a Christ follower, as a writer, as a minister to others?

Christy: Knowing what I struggled with last time, and maybe delegating some of that this time, because as a DIY-er sometimes I want to do it all, and some of those things are just not worth my time. I’m very artistic, too, and the interior layout, for it to look real pretty, for me was important. Erin, you are one of the ones that told me, “You won’t be happy with Vellum because they don’t have really pretty pull quotes.”

I was like, “Oh, my book has to be pretty on the inside.”

Erin: Wait, wait. Now let me get a disclaimer in here. Vellum is amazing and I love it, but I also know Christy. I also know that compared to your last book, that is true. Vellum was not capable of doing the things that your last book had. And I know those were important.

Karen: Dear listeners, we are not dissing Vellum.

Erin: Right. I use vellum. I love vellum.

Christy: But after it was all said and done and all the blood, sweat, and tears I did on that interior layout, I looked at a Vellum book and I was like, “I should’ve just done it that way.”

Next time around, I don’t think I’m going to be so anal. I spent way too much time trying to make it perfect. And really, there’s a difference between perfection and excellence. We should strive for excellence, but perfection is unobtainable. I spent too much time trying to make it perfect when excellence was all I needed.

There's a difference between perfection and excellence. We should strive for excellence, but perfection is unobtainable. #ChristianWriter #amwriting @ChristyJohnson7 @KarenBall1 Click To Tweet

Karen: Why did you feel it’s so necessary to publish this book? So necessary that you went through all this stuff?

Christy: Because the freedom that I found on the other side of my anger and bitterness, the intoxicating joy and freedom that I found, I felt compelled, absolutely compelled, that I had to show other women a way to find their own freedom.

Because there were just handfuls of women along the path of what I call my recovery out of relationship addiction, and my recovery out of bitterness, I wanted to help other women find their own freedom.

Forgiveness is such a vague concept. Everyone knows we’re supposed to forgive, but where’s the tip sheet? Like how do you do it? Where are the steps?

I find so many women that forgive, but then the offense keeps coming back over and over. They struggle with maintaining forgiveness. They can’t make it stick. I felt like there were some prerequisite steps, some skillsets that had to be in place before that forgiveness could stick, could be maintained.

That’s what I really wanted to help women find. Their own freedom. A few years ago I started a coaching group that’s basically a companion now to the book, but seeing how much freedom these women were finding, I just knew I couldn’t let this project die in midair. I had to finish the work.

There’s a Scripture that says to finish the work so that your eager willingness to begin it will be matched by your completion of it (2 Corinthians 8:11). That Scripture has compelled me to keep going when things looked hard. When rejections came in. When I felt like this was too hard. I had to finish.

Karen: What I love about this is so often when we know that we’re doing something that God wants us to do, when we know that we’re on a task that God has clearly given us, and that passion for it is in our hearts, we expect because this is something of God, and from God, we expect that everything will go according to plan, because this is God’s thing for us.

Erin: That it’ll be easy.

Karen: Yeah. We were just reading our devotion out of Streams in the Desert today, and one of the things that it said is to expect to be in the hard places.

The iron in our spiritual understanding and our spiritual soul doesn’t come from easy times, it comes from the hard times. We need to be ready to go through those difficult times because that’s what refines us. That’s what makes us more of a reflection of Christ. Christ did not have an easy time. We, as his followers, will not have an easy time, but hallelujah, God, is with us in the midst of it all.

We don’t have to worry about having all the answers. We don’t have to worry about being able to do it all. We only have to be obedient. Like you said, at the beginning of the podcast, success is obedience. When we’re able to let go of all those pieces and just trust God to put them together, he does.

I’m so amazed by the way things work out. He puts it all together and we go along for the ride, and we can glorify him then. When that book is finally done, and when it’s out, and when it’s blessing people, we can look at that and say, “This was God’s path for me, and I have become stronger in him, and my spiritual life has more iron in it because of it.”

Christy: Right. I often say between every dream and destiny we have to go through the desert in the middle, but that’s where God refines us and strengthens us. God even sent Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

That word tempted doesn’t mean tempted by sin. It means to be proved genuine. It’s in that desert, in that wilderness season. We can’t go around it. We have to go through the valley of the shadow of death.

Erin: Christy, you didn’t just go through the valley of all of your trials, though. Before you ever thought of writing a book, you went through a valley. You went to this deep place and had these experiences and needing to learn how to forgive.

Then, once you had this solution, you’re like, “Okay, now I need to help other people.” Well, guess what? That’s where writers are like, “We’ve got the solution, it should be easy now,” but still, just getting that message out is a difficult path.

I think that’s what we forget sometimes. We’ve been through a difficult path, and it’s still going to be difficult. Just that publication process. We can’t presume that’s going to be easy, but it’s so worth it.

Christy: Right, right.

Karen: Therein lies the beauty of surrendering to God and moving forward with him rather than trying to do it on our own. The end result, whether it’s to refine us or to refine the people who are reading what we’ve written or are participating in the studies, all of that is in God’s hands and he will use it all to glorify himself. What an honor to be a part of that process in glorifying him.

Christy: Right.

Karen: Well, Christy, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a delight to talk with you. Thank you for the wisdom that you’ve shared with our listeners.

Christy: Thank you so much for having me on. Writers are my tribe.

Karen: Well, listen in tribe. When you face the hard times and when it seems like everything is working against you, I know it’s counterintuitive, but rejoice. Because you’re on your path to refinement. You’re on your path to that end result that God has for you, for your readers, and for all of those around you.

Erin: Amen.

Christy: Amen.

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Are you going through a difficult valley in writing your book or trying to get your book to publication? What’s helping you persevere?

Books mentioned on the podcast

Free Looks Good on You: Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love by Christy Johnson

Free Looks Good on You Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love by Christy Johnson

Love Junkies: 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle by Christy Johnson

Love Junkies 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle by Christy Johnson

THANK YOU!

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

Thanks so much to our September sponsor of the month, Wendy L. MacDonald. Not only is Wendy a writer, she also produces a weekly, short, inspirational podcast called Walking with Hope for HopeStreamRadio.com. Check it out!

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

STAY CONNECTED

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

125 – Are You Living in Love?

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Are You Living in Love Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe know God loves us. We read about it in Scripture and even memorize Bible verses saying He loves us. We sing songs about His love for us, and we have all kinds of mugs and art and shirts proclaiming God’s love for us. So why aren’t our lives overflowing with peace and confidence? Join us to find out!

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

An Amazing Secret

On our last podcast we talked about insecurity and validation, and the dangers of seeking validation. Do go back and listen to that if you haven’t. It’s episode 124

We wanted to follow that up with one of the most important things a writer needs to know. It’s the secret to helping you overcome painful negative experiences and emotions, and the secret to serving others well in your writing. I believe if every Christian in the world were fully convinced of the truth of this one important fact, they would live with infinitely more power, purpose, and freedom, and that would carry over into their writing life.

What is this fact? It’s something we all say we believe—and sometimes we even do believe it…kind of. But we don’t believe it to the extent that we could…or should.

Wondering what that is?

You can find the secret—because it’s not really a secret—in Ephesians 3:17-19. It’s in a prayer the apostle Paul prays for believers:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (NIV & NRSV)

This prayer has an important component: a “so that.” It’s an expected result, an effect. Paul wants believers to know the breadth and depth of God’s love for them, to fully take it in and understand it, so that something else will happen: so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What does that mean? How does being filled with all the fullness of God affect us as writers? That’s what we’re going to talk about.

To start, let’s cover some important aspects of God’s love for us.

God’s Love for Us

1. God’s Love Is Not Based on Us.

It’s not based on what we do or don’t do. It’s not based on our goodness, or on our worthiness. God gives us our value and our worth because he loves us. It all starts with God. With who he is. With what kind of character he has.

1 John 4:8 tells us that God IS love. That’s part of the definition of his character. It’s more than something he chooses to do, it’s something he by definition IS.

A friend once tried to tell me that God couldn’t possibly love her because she was too damaged, too unlovable. The problem was that she was telling God he isn’t who he says he is. We don’t get that luxury. We can’t define God however we want. If he says he’s love, then he is. Nothing we choose to believe will change that.

2. God’s Love Is Unfailing and Unending.

God’s love endures forever. There are numerous places in the Bible that state this, but one of clearest is Psalm 136. It talks about all the things God has done for Israel, and every verse has the refrain: His steadfast love endures forever. This goes on for 26 verses, and it’s like God is saying, “Do you understand? Do you see it?”

It’s so easy to look at circumstances and feel like God has failed us, or that he doesn’t care. But that’s us redefining God’s character, and we aren’t allowed to do that. 

3. Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

4. God Knows Us Fully and Still Loves Us

God fully, completely, totally, thoroughly knows you. He knows every single detailed thought, action, idea, hope, dream, failure, sin, anger, hate, folly, evil, that you’ve done, or thought about, or wanted to do. He knows who you are deep down, and he STILL loves you. In other words, you are fully known and yet still fully loved.

Psalm 139:1-4, 13, 16 says,  “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

We live in a curated world, where you can project whatever image you want to on social media, or when you’re in public, and most of the world will never know the difference. But God does. We can’t curate ourselves in God’s eyes. He sees it all, and he still loves us.

How does knowing, and fully believing God’s love for us is real, is not dependent on us, is unshakable, never ending, has nothing that can ever separate us from it, and that it’s a kind of love that fully knows and still fully loves us…how does that help us as writers?

The Power of Fully Believing in God’s Love for Us

1. When we are truly secure in God’s love for us, we’re secure in our value and identity.

When we truly believe in God’s love for us, have nothing to prove, and nothing to lose. That frees us to be the writers God made us to be without fear.

For example, deep down, would it matter if people rejected me because I wrote God’s truth about something they didn’t want to hear? It may hurt, I won’t deny that. Rejection hurts. But God’s love is more satisfying than man’s love. That’s how he created us. To be fully satisfied in him. So at the end of the day, I can trust God to heal my emotions and dwell on the joy his love for me brings.

Or what about sales? Would it really matter if my book didn’t sell a bunch of copies? No, because God loves me no matter how many copies get sold. He gives us value no matter what. 

Or what about disappointments that are inevitable on our writing journey? It’s never going to be a straight line from point A to point B, and it’s never going to be easy.

Whatever comes our way, there is a security in knowing that nothing can separate you from God’s love. No cancelled contract, no troll reviewer, no terrible edit, no crushing response from an agent or editor or critique group, no sickness, no calamity. He has not forgotten you, and not abandoned you because he loves you. His love is always, always, always rock solid. And because he loves us, he uses these trials for our good and his glory.

We’re not saying this is easy, but we are saying this is what God wants for us. He doesn’t want us dwelling on what man can do to us but on how God is always FOR us. Psalm 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

2. Our security from God’s love for us helps us be authentic not just in our writing but in our lives.

As humans, there always seems to be a part of us that wants to protect ourselves, to curate what the world sees. But our security in God’s love helps us learn (over time, this is not immediate) to live more authentically, which gives others the freedom to do the same as they see our authenticity. That can also help eliminate imposter syndrome. We see through the lies of it because we’re always doing our best to project our authentic selves. We don’t have to fear some kind of unmasking.

3. When we’re truly secure in God’s love for us, we can love others freely.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” Here’s the deal: We actually can’t manufacture the kind of love God wants us to have for others. We’re not capable. Compared to God’s love, human love is pathetic and weak. But what we can do is be a conduit of God’s love. We can let God’s love in us supernaturally overflow to others. But that starts with our awareness of the love God has for us. And the more we’re aware and fully embrace it, the more it simply overflows in us, because it’s God’s love, not ours. It’s Christ in us loving others.

4. When we’re secure in God’s love for us, we can serve others with our whole heart, without expecting anything in return.

Because God loves us, he’s going to satisfy us with joy in himself that comes from his Holy Spirit. He refills us. He rewards us. Most people are never going to see the blood, sweat, and tears you put into your writing, but your heavenly Father does. Matthew 6 tells us how God sees what we do and rewards us. We lay up treasures in heaven that can never be taken away. 

Verses to meditate on

We talked about just some of what it means to be filled to the fullness of God. He overflows in us, and we’re more and more conformed to the image of God. But again, it starts with our deep, unwavering belief in God’s love for us. 

Take some time to soak in Scripture, to soak in God’s love letters to us, his beloved children.

Consider 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and for right now, don’t think of this as how we should love others, but how God perfectly loves you. We’ve altered the words a bit to help you get the idea:

“(God’s love for you) is patient, (his) love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor (you), it is not self-seeking, (God’s love for you) is not easily angered, it keeps no record of (your) wrongs. (His) love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (His love for you is always protective, always trusting, always hopeful, always persevering. God’s love for you) never fails.”

Here are some other verses to let sink deep into your heart: 

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” Exodus 15:13

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” Psalm 125:9

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

“…We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:3-6

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV)

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (ESV)

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:8-10

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

Final Words

God loves you with an amazing love because he is love. If you can embrace that, accept it and live in that, imagine the glory that will take place in your life. Imagine the example you will be to others and the wonderful brilliance that will shine through you!

We know God loves us. But do we live like we believe it? #amwriting @karenball1 Click To Tweet
We want to hear from you!

What helps you know…truly know…that God loves you?

THANK YOU!

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

Thanks so much to our September sponsor of the month, Wendy L. MacDonald. Not only is Wendy a writer, she also produces a weekly, short, inspirational podcast called Walking with Hope for HopeStreamRadio.com. Check it out!

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

STAY CONNECTED

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