I’ve Always Known … It Was Never Me

Karen Kingsbury

April 05, 2024 | 7 minute read

Even before I gave my life to Jesus in my mid-20s, I knew God was with me. I grew up in Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, a deep-souled teenager who loved taking a journal to the beach and writing. My thoughts, my dreams, and the stories that were always only a heartbeat away. 

I’d drive to the shore where the words would come as easily as the waves. What I wrote on the page always made me smile. But even back then I knew it wasn’t me.

The sun would shine off the Pacific Ocean and I’d stare at the true, straight line of the distant horizon and I would see something no one else could see. God’s name, like a grand signature across the deep blue water. 

As if He was telling me: This view was brought to you by me, my daughter.

Driving home from Zuma Beach it would be the same thing. Spanning across the canyon depths and mountain cliffs, I could see it again. God’s signature. And somehow I knew that He alone could take credit not only for the beauty of the ocean and the winding highways, but for my work, too. For every line I had written.

Writing continued to drive me and define me. I wrote for the Canoga Park High School newspaper and I majored in journalism at Cal State University Northridge. My senior year, against great competition, I was hired as an intern by the Los Angeles Times. I remember looking at my byline and marveling: By Karen Kingsbury, LA Times Staff Writer. 

The feeling was unlike any I had known. But still it wasn’t me. I had won the position far too easily, a spot as a sportswriter, where at first, I couldn’t tell the difference between an endzone and a red zone, a delay of game or a game-deciding catch. 

My dad could see my disadvantage, so he would take me to the high school games, sit in the stands and take notes. On the way back to the Times office, he would explain what had happened and I’d have a story by the time I got back to my desk.

After graduation, I spent a year writing for the Simi Valley Enterprise. I made so little money that I moved back home with my parents. One day I met a tall, handsome guy – Donald Russell. We talked for two hours and before we parted ways, he asked me out. 

“And would you mind,” he seemed to search for the right words, “if I brought my Bible? Maybe we could read a chapter before our date.”

His Bible? I didn’t say anything. But it was the strangest thing a guy had ever said to me. What would make this young man want to bring a Bible to a date? I’d never opened a Bible, let alone read one.

The date finally came, and sure enough, Donald brought that Bible to my parents’ house. As strange as it was, he was too cute and too clean-cut to let him go right off the bat. I endured an uncomfortable fifteen minutes while he read Philippians, chapter four out loud. I didn’t know a Philippian from any other sort of “ippian”, so the beauty of the words was lost on me.

When Donald paused mid-chapter, I smiled. “Are we good? Can we get on with the date?” He looked a little disappointed, but we headed off to the movies and sure enough, we had a blast! 

Over the next three months there was just one problem. Donald kept bringing the Bible everywhere we went. He was fascinated by Scripture and I came to understand that before meeting me he had determined there had to be more to life than working, paying bills and one day, dying. “I want to live my life to honor God,” he told me.

As strange as it was, I believed him. His faith appealed to me, though I wouldn’t let him see that yet.

One afternoon we met up to play tennis. After the game, Donald pulled his Bible from his car, his eyes bright. “You won’t believe what I found today! It’s in 1 Thessalonians. Listen to this.”

He read me a section of Scripture and for some reason the words hit me wrong. Despite seeing God’s signature in the beauty all around me, the Bible was getting on my nerves. In that moment it felt like Donald had chosen the verses to confront my personal beliefs.

The feeling was one of holy conviction, but I didn’t know that at the time. I pushed back. “The Bible isn’t the final word on truth.” I felt the blood rush to my face. “And what you read, that’s not what I believe.” I rattled off a list of “I believes.”

All of them founded on absolutely nothing.

Donald looked shocked. Hurt. He hadn’t been trying to convince me of anything. He wasn’t looking to convert me. Not at all. But before he could say anything more, I took his beautiful, highlighted, underlined Bible and I threw it on the ground. As it hit the hot parking lot asphalt, the binding split in two. 

I wondered if the ground might also split down the middle, sending me immediately to a place so dark I didn’t dare think about it. But I knew this: I couldn’t defend my views by breaking the Bible. Without saying a word, Donald picked up the pieces of the book, gave me a sad look, and left. 

When I could finally force myself to move, I slid behind the wheel of my car and began to drive. I knew exactly where I wanted to go. A strange little place I had passed by all my growing up years. Somewhere I’d never been inside.

The local Christian bookstore. 

Once through the front doors I asked for two things. A Bible with words I could understand, and a way to look up words. This was before apps, so the woman handed me an NIV Bible and Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance. “You can look up anything in that book,” she smiled. I had a feeling she’d seen my kind before. No doubt she prayed for me as I left the store.

Because I wasn’t on a quest to find a relationship with Jesus. I was on a mission to prove Donald Russell wrong. This was my personal, compelling search to validate my ways of thinking. I couldn’t wait, so I sat in my car on that sunny Southern California afternoon and opened the Bible. Next, I took the wrapper off the concordance and I began looking up everything I thought should be in the Scriptures.

Instead, one at a time the things I wanted the Bible to say simply were not there. And in the uncomfortable quiet of my car, I heard the still small voice of God.

Karen. You can either fall away with your manmade beliefs…or you can grab onto my word and never let go.

It was a road-to-Damascus moment, a seeing of the light I had dodged for three months. And without hesitation, I grabbed on to God’s word. The lines of text on the crisp new pages were alive and active. They spoke straight to my heart and I knew that this was the answer. That God Almighty had been chasing me down and cheering me on all this time. 

I felt like I could finally breathe.

Donald forgave me, and today we’ve been married nearly 36 wonderful, wildly thrilling years. It’s been all God, too. For both of us!

In the years since falling in love with God and his word, He has met me at every turn as a writer. When Donald I found out we were expecting our first child, I was devastated. We lived in a $100 a month, detached garage with no heat and no air conditioning. A happy place for a couple of Jesus-loving newlyweds. But no place for a baby. Donald was still finishing his teaching credential, and I was back working at the LA Daily News. Ten-hour days as a feature writer for the Sunday edition, and yes, more money than the Enterprise. But not enough to rent an apartment.

“We need to pray,” Donald told me. “That God will give you a way to write from home!”

“From home?” I shook my head. “I’ll never make my $24,000 salary writing from home.”

“Promise me you’ll pray. God can do anything, but we need to ask Him together.”

After that, Donald prayed faithfully and I prayed doubtfully. 

Halfway through my pregnancy I sold one of my newspaper true crime stories to People Magazine for $750. I was thankful for the win, but that night I sat next to Donald at the picnic table just outside our little garage dwelling. 

“See?” I shrugged. “I can’t make a living like that.”

When the article ran in People, an agent called me. He explained that the story would make a great book. But when I told him I was just 25 years old and that I’d never written a book, he fell silent. “Let’s see what we can do.” He explained that I might get a few thousand dollars advance, but nothing more. “You’re too young, too new at all this. But it’s worth a try.”

Months passed, and our precious Kelsey was born in September that year. By then, though we continued to pray, I had money down on a non-refundable daycare situation. The idea of a true crime book had faded from view. 

Then three days before my maternity leave was up, the agent called. “I need you to sit down.” He told me he had gotten my proposal into a bidding war, and that the ending bid was for $85,000 – three times my annual salary. He explained that he’d get a fee, and that the advance would be broken into three pieces. “You’ll probably get just the first third that first year, while you cover the trial and write the book.” 

“How much would that be?” Chills began making their way down my arms and legs.

“That first check?” A smile hung in his voice. “$24,011.89.”

Eleven dollars and eighty-nine cents more than I made a year.

I hit my knees and the truth fell over me like springtime rain. God had answered our prayers but not because of anything I had done. Not because I was a talented writer or because my prayers were so pious and trusting. 

He had answered my prayers because he is God and I am not.

In the time since then, my prayer has remained the same. “I am nothing and You are everything, Lord. I don’t deserve your favor, but I ask for it, that You be glorified in the work You have given me.”

Time and time and time again he has answered that prayer, too. When I got my first publishing deal for what I call Life-Changing Fiction, and when I wrote about a family called “The Baxters” and the floodgates opened wide with sales and royalties. All him. With every book, God was putting a story on my heart and allowing me to capture it on the page. I felt like the first reader in a storytelling process that was utterly dependent on him.

It still is.

Opening Karen Kingsbury Productions recently and making our first movie – Someone Like You – was just more of what I already knew. It wasn’t about me. I write for him, through him, and because of him. The movie Someone Like You was made by his wisdom. His favor. 

Forever it will stand as a reminder of what I have always known. In this writing journey, it was never me. It was him. 

And it forever will be.

Karen Kingsbury

Karen Kingsbury

There are more than 25 million copies of Karen Kingsbury’s books in print. Karen lives in Nashville with her husband, Donald, near their adult kids and several grandchildren. For more information about Karen, visit or follow Karen on Instagram and Twitter @KarenKingsbury and on Facebook @KarenKingsburyAuthorPage.

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