In January of 2020, before I had any idea of what this strange year would hold, I sat down to set some goals for the year. I looked back. What went well last year? What didn’t go well? What do I need to focus on this year?
When it came to my writing goals, I felt in limbo. Writing down any dates or things to work towards felt dishonest because I had done the work needing to be done. I had 2 book proposals done that were looking for a publishing house. I had gone to 2 writing conferences in 2019, and just felt discouraged. I felt like I was at a fork in the road, and the more I prayed, the more I realized I was called to wait. It’s confusing. Does anyone write down on a goal sheet, “For the month of January, I’m going to wait and see what God does.” What do we do while we are waiting?
These projects were weighing heavy on my heart, and if I couldn’t find a publisher, would I have to self-publish so that I could move past them and onto my next project? Writing is like a fountain. When it can’t go out, it pools up, and any new words stop until the other ones can get let out. I couldn’t just sit in limbo, waiting forever. How long should I wait? I needed to write something, and it was going to be one of these books. They were just begging to get out of me.
What’s wrong with self-publishing? Nothing really. They really have some great perks. I asked myself why I resisted the idea of just publishing it myself. It boiled down to one main thing: I don’t want to do this alone anymore.
Self publishing for my book meant that I’d have to wear all the hats. I’d have to make all the decisions. I’d be doing it alone, or with people I hired to help me. I just wanted a team.
I don’t want to be alone in this ministry of writing anymore. I wrote it down as I brainstormed my next steps, and it flashed at me like neon lights. It became something that I came back to again and again.
So that’s how I prayed. Lord, bring me people! I need to let go of my control-freak tendencies and embrace collaboration. We aren’t intended to do ministry alone.
Not long after, I found a home with a publisher for one of my books.
About half way through my book writing, my mind started shifting to different mediums to use the book material, and I came back to my old idea of starting a podcast. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted the podcast to be actually. Maybe I didn’t even want it to involve the book. I don’t know. I needed to brainstorm. I had pieces of ideas, like threads waiting to be woven together. But I didn’t even know who to brainstorm with.
What I learned in going to all of the writing conferences is that with some few exceptions, Christian women’s publishing is a how-to world. Apparently, women want step-by-step approaches. They want an action plan. This was difficult for me, because the message I want to drive home is that it is finished. We are complete in Christ. Christian women are inundated with “law” in what feels like every single publication. It’s a constant. I wanted to write about “gospel.” I wanted to write about how the gospel wasn’t just for salvation (justification) but for all of the Christian life (sanctification). I wanted to relentlessly point to Christ, not our works.
I was explaining this to an literary agent in one of my meetings, as I presented my book proposal. “But the gospel doesn’t sell…” she said. “Can you make the gospel message have action points?” I didn’t even know how to respond.
Their words were in the back of my mind as I tried to brainstorm. I wanted to do a podcast about the gospel–about the freedom that we have because of the gospel. I also wanted to communicate it in such a way that people who were used to hearing the law all the time would listen and perk up. But in order to do that, I needed to brainstorm with another woman who got it. Someone who was theologically nerdy as well. I wanted her to have a passion for the gospel-for-life message, but I also wanted someone who had done some writing on it as well, has dipped her toes in the publishing world, and knew what we were up against.
Here Comes Katie
I met Katie back in the spring of 2019. Her name was familiar to me as someone who commented and encouraged my work often on social media. We had run into each other online a few times. She lives about 30 minutes from me, and we had a lot of real life friends in common on Facebook. In person, she shyly came up to me when Knut and I were at a Christ Hold Fast city event in Minneapolis. It was funny, because she was nervous to introduce herself, and wanted to make sure I knew she wasn’t a stalker. She didn’t want to bother me. She loved my writing. She gushed and then nervously left, and I tried to keep her for conversation to show her I was a real person, and I actually knew who she was, and not just someone online.
Then we became Facebook friends. I realized then that she was a writer herself, and I started following what she wrote. I quickly realized through her written words that we were kindred spirits. I could tell she resisted the same “5 steps to a better walk with Christ” click-bait that got under my skin. I could tell she just wanted to talk about the cross and what it meant. She was pushing for her reader to understand the gospel. Nothing less was acceptable.
Fast-forward to me trying to brainstorm podcast ideas. Praying for wisdom, her name came to mind, about a year after we met in person.
I nervously messaged her, asking if I could run my podcast idea past her in a phone call. I just wanted to play around with an idea. In the back of my mind I knew she would make a great co-host, but I didn’t even know if I wanted a co-host. Maybe I just wanted to do a quick 15 minute audio devotional by myself on a regular basis. Maybe I wanted to interview people. Maybe…I really didn’t know. But I knew she would have opinions, and I trusted her judgment.
So we chatted. I told her I was thinking of starting up a podcast. She said she had been thinking about doing one too. Neither one of us had a full picture of what we wanted to do. But about 30 minutes into our conversation, we realized that the pieces that I had of my vision for a podcast fit with the pieces that she had for a podcast. We were like 2 puzzle pieces, each having what the other was looking for. The connection was electric.
“So, should we do this together…I guess? Like, would that be weird? It’s ok to say no. Maybe we should just pray about it.”
Making new friends in your 30s shouldn’t be this awkward, but it is. However, this friendship became nearly instant, as Katie started to be my confidant on all things writing. She became my partner in ministry. I still sometimes tear up when I think about what a perfect answer to prayer this has been. I look forward to our recording sessions so much. She makes me laugh so hard. It’s just so fun.
As we were brainstorming our episodes, and how to get the podcast launched and marketed, we decided to reach out to 1517, as we were both huge fans of their podcasts, and just ask if we could be on their webpage. The 1517 podcast producer asked for details of our plans, and which we had already put together, so we sent him in a matter of minutes.
What they offered in return was so much more support than we could have imagined. They set us all up with equipment, graphic design, web hosting, and all the technical things that Katie and I had no idea how to do. Not to mention, they were excited and encouraging about what we were doing. They basically did all the things Katie and I had been stressing over. They wanted to free us up so we just had to worry about the creative side. It made this a completely stress-free, absolutely fun, life-giving project.
Isn’t it amazing how collaboration and community–where everyone is using their gifts–just lifts the burden off of being all the things and doing all the things?
The Collaboration Continues
The podcast was named “Freely Given.” We want to talk about faith and freedom, to combat guilt and slavery to all the things the world says we “must” do. You can click on the link, or literally look up “Freely Given” in any podcast app. Look for our little picture:
The first 10 episodes or so will be on spiritual disciplines, drawing from my book here and there. (The book, “Ragged: Spiritual Disciplines for the Spiritually Exhausted” will be coming out in 2021. I found the perfect publisher that was a perfect fit. It’s now written, had it’s first edit, and turned in. It’s the reason I haven’t blogged all summer.)
We have a bunch of ideas for episodes coming after that. How does grace effect our relationships? Why are the “3 solas” important? (Sola scriptura, Scripture alone, Sola gratia, Grace alone, Sola fide, Faith alone) How do you lead a Bible study that views Scripture through law and gospel? And more, and more, and more. Every time we record an episode, we get 3 more ideas of episodes to record. So, we’ll be doing this for awhile. We are theology nerds, because for us–in our regular, everyday lives, theology has been life changing.
They are released every Thursday morning! You can subscribe on any podcasting app.
Now that my book is turned in, I’ll be back to writing more on here, and elsewhere. In the meantime, listen in on my conversations with Katie. We have fun, and we hope it will be a place of laughter, rest, and peace in your day, that you may know the depth of the forgiveness that is in Christ.
If you are interested in seeing Katie’s own amazing work, she just published a Bible study on Galatians that is amazing. It’s called Forgiven Therefore Free and it’s just the neatest resource for either individual or group Bible study. She’s also a regular contributor over at cph.org. Check her writing out. Seriously.