Far down, under the ground many of us walk on day in and day out, are roads and buildings and the remnants of long-ago lives and loves. Underground cities, they’re called. I’ve visited the one in Seattle. Peered down through the dark and dust and imagined people, horses, carriages…life.
Under our feet.
In the deep.
I’ve been to other deep places, too, but these weren’t quick visits. Nor were they as entertaining as those old buildings and crumbling streets. These deep places are everywhere.
They’re the places we find ourselves in when life and faith meet struggle and uncertainty. The darkness where we wonder if we’ll ever see the light again. The soul deepness that rises from the core of who we are and wrestles our confidence and peace to the ground. Yes, I’ve been there. Am, in fact, there yet again even as I write this, perched as I am on a sit-down-but-don’t-stay-too-long chair in the Intermediate Care Unit. I’m watching my dad as he sleeps–this towering, redwood of my childhood who carried me when I was weary, who lifted me so high in child play I was sure I could touch God’s smile…who lived faith and truth every day, teaching and guiding me until I turned to the Lord he loved so dear and opened my heart to Him as well…who still stands tall as a octogenarian, so respected and enjoyed by those he’s encouraged and blessed…
Today, Dad is weary. Laid low by some rogue infection that I’ve decided to hate. And as I watch my dad cocooned in heated blankets, trailing the wires and cables feeding information to the monitors, I don’t know what will happen. Not two weeks ago I laughingly informed him he had to stick around for Don’s and my 50th anniversary. “You’ll only be 100, Dad,” I told him. “No sweat.”
The echo of our laughter that day ricochets around me in this deep place, this darkness of not knowing. And, like so many in our world, I want out. I want to be back in the light. Back on the mountaintop. Back where I can lift my face to the bright sun and revel in freedom and blessing and truth. But even as I long for escape, I know…
God is in the deep. His truth, His light…Him. He’s there, and it’s only in these places, these deep, often hard places, that I see Him clearly. That all the dogmas and preconceived ideas and arguments fall away empty, and I’m left murmuring with Paul, “I know nothing but Christ and Him crucified.”
That’s it. Christ. His sacrifice. His presence.
So why am I telling you all this? Because you are writers. And at some point, if it hasn’t happened already, you will understand. You will face your own deep places. Your own dark. And if you’re anything like I am…
You’ll want out.
And that’s okay. Go ahead and feel that way. But then…stay. Embrace the deep places. Rest in the One beside you. And let Him use that place to draw you deeper into Him. Into trust. Into truth.
Because when you do that, you will find something amazing. It’s in the deep that we find our truest story. The story that will permeate what we write and speak and teach. The story that will change us first, and then others. Because it’s from a place of deep truth.
If, like me, you’re in the deep right now, know this: you’re not alone. There are a lot of people there with you, even if you can’t see them. And while their particular deep places may differ from yours, you…we all share a Guide. And we can trust Him.
Every step of the way.
For writers in the deep, or those wanting to go deeper into God, there is a new haven: a podcast to care for your writer’s heart, and a website for encouragement, resources, and refreshment—all from writers, for writers. Come join us at writefromthedeep.com.
I know what it’s like to be in the deep. The last few couple of weeks have been deep for us. My dad has had a terrible summer health wise and is now on bed rest waiting for a clot to dissolve. At the same time, my mother-in-law has had two brain bleeds. Different parents. Different cities. We throw ourselves on God’s mercy.
God is good all the time.
I’m praying for you and your dad, Karen.
Thank you Karen, for honoring life, family and deep places. I am moved by your words.
Sorry to hear your dad isn’t doing well 🙁 Thankfully I’m not to that point yet. I’ll be praying!
Perfect timing. As I contemplate laying out the bones of a novel in preparation for this year’s NANO, I’m in exactly the same place–a deep from which I’d like to do nothing but run. At the same time, that’s where lives real truths lie, as you are finding out with your dad. It’s hard, but as God is watching over them, they are also good. Bless you for your good words.
I saw the title of this post in my email inbox and thought, “Oh, Karen is writing today.” One of the things I love about this blog is the diversity of its writers and how each fills out a different piece of the writing journey. You’re the one who digs into the “deep.” Love that!
I relate to your struggles with your Dad. Mine is facing Alzheimers. He had an infection a couple months ago and the hospital sent him home as if he no longer mattered, saying it wasn’t an infection–it was. It was horrible to see him laid low and not at all coherent. I thought it was the end, but thank goodness it wasn’t. He was baptized for the very first time a few weeks later!
It’s the brokenness that reminds us not to rely on ourselves, but on our heavenly Father. It’s crazy how we resist this reliance everyday only to find we have no other choice in our desperate times, only to then discover His yoke is easy and His burden is light. When we hand it over to Him we truly find our rest. Sometimes I find myself thankful for those awful times, because they brought me back to Him when I’d been slowly drifting away. Sigh!
Praying for your Dad today, Karen. God bless!
.. and though the deep is dark, the One who loves holds fast His embrace. Selah…
Karen – your writing is anointed on today’s blog. Thank you so much for sharing your heart during the dark hours. Praying for your dad and the family in this moment … with love, Bev
Thank you Karen for doing just what you teach us here today. Staying in the deep place and being vulnerable to share it with us. Your post touched me deeply.
…Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?…Even the darkness will not be dark to you. The night will shine like day…
It’s a true blessing to still have your father with you in his eighties. Karen, I’ll be praying for strength in this trial and more years together for you.
It is 24 years and 11 months since my dad lay dying of lung cancer at only 71. I’d walked the valley of the shadow with my brother-in-law’s cancer only five years earlier. In some ways, that made it easier. I knew better than to pound my hand against the shower wall, protesting the injustice and demanding a reprieve. I knew Dad loved God. He’d even told us he was not afraid to die and he was ready ― words that may have been the greatest gift he ever gave us. For two and a half weeks, life was a cycle of working mornings while hoping the vacation didn’t run out before the end, spending afternoons with Dad, and sleeping six blocks from the hospital with a dear Christian sister, who didn’t tell me her brain cancer had returned until after Dad died so I wouldn’t be grieving about her, too. The two days before he died, when he could no longer speak, he would lift his arms up, as if reaching out for God’s waiting hands. I stood beside him as his spirit left the cancer-riddled shell behind. That was a blessing I’ll never forget.
I never suspected at the time, but others were watching. Almost a year later, a colleague told me he was “impressed” by the way I was as Dad was dying, and I was able to share how it was God alone who made that possible. Since then, I’ve never doubted that my painful passages are training grounds for being better able to share my Lord with others walking through difficult times. The deep places are the darkest ones, but a single photon of light can be detected by the human eye in total blackness. Living through the dark can make us a lighthouse for those still in it.
Karen, first and foremost my prayers are with your Dad, and with you.
My way of dealing with the dark places, both in life and in writing, has as its metaphor the footmobile in single combat with a tank. It’s all about negating the tank’s advantages of armour and firepower.
And to do that, in the absence of hand-held antitank weapons or satchel charges, is to get inside.
ost tanks fight with at least one hatch partially open; visibility through the viewing blocks is limited, and the commander has to be able to stick his head out and look around.
And there’s the advantage; you have to embrace the danger by killing him, and then dropping through the hatch, to kill the crew in their confined space, with bullet and blade. To make their fortress their abattoir.
Yes, you’re outnumbered; with the TC dead, you still have three or four crewmen to deal with. But their numerical advantage is also their weakness, because they have to avoid killing each other. You’ve got the simpler task of killing everyone in sight. It’s a classic knife-fight in a phone booth.
A fell and bloody business, with odds against. But the odds are worse if you don’t try, because you’ll face the binary solution set of being squished under the treads, or being blown into pink mist by the main gun. Well, you can also get shredded by the coax.
The point being, if there’s to be light, you’ve got to lay the groundwork for its coming. The passengers of the doomed Flight 93, fourteen years ago, understood this well.
And in the words of Neil Young, in his musical tribute, “Let’s Roll”…
“you’ve got to turn on evil when it’s coming after you.
You’ve got to hunt it down
and when it tries to hide,
you have to go in after it and never be denied.
Time is running out…
As a coda to the above, the biggest weapon we have against Satan is his own vanity. He likes to see the results of his work.
That is the opening we need, to kill him.
And for those who might be interested, here’s the Youtube link to “Let’s Roll” –
During the seven months it took my daughter to die of melanoma cancer I clung to God by a slender thread. I couldn’t understand. She was only 44 and she had two daughters, nine and six years old. Her husband was living with his girlfriend.
I watched my godly daughter go by inches, but I also say our loving Lord turn the stray into a dedicated father–JUST AS MY DAUGHTER SAID WOULD HAPPEN. I asked her why she believed that, and she looked a little disgusted. “Mother, ” she said, “you of all people should know I am not trusting him, I am trusting God.”
Nine years later, I see godly young women surrounded by my daughters godly friends (six surrogate mothers) and I have exchanged negative feelings for trust. God is good. I am praying for you and your dad.
Such power and grace, both in your daughter and in your sharing of that story.
Thank you for sharing, Karen, and I’m so sorry to know your Dad is still in the Intermediate Care unit. I was so impressed with him when I met him in Nashville one year. I’ve been in your shoes as I watched both my mother and father decline in health in a hospital room. I look back at my journal entries during those days and see God’s hand all over the pages.
The past year and half has been a deep place for Rex and me, but God has brought us through in marvelous ways. When I had cancer, I wanted to wallow in self-pity, but God wouldn’t let me and showed me His love, grace, and mercy in bringing me out of despair to hope and full recovery. Because I followed Him, I was able to bless others with encouragement and grace as we faced the same enemy. Sixteen years and counting in survival.
I’ll be in your class at conference and so look forward to seeing you.
It is so good to share the deep with others.
And to remember that God is in the deep.
Thank you, from one in another corner of the deep.
Karen, a magnificent piece (of writing). In a story like this syntax, punctuation, spelling, etc. (or otherwise, the technicals) are of distant secondary importance. Its your CONTENT that touched me with great power. It felt genuine, original and honestly heartfelt without reservation on your part. You made a strong connection. My prayers are with you Dad.
I was reminded of this great song of 1969.
Oh Karen…I know what it feels like to sit beside a Daddy like that. And I Just said a prayer for you/yours.
This blog post was so perfectly wrought, I read it by word, but more so, by heart. My heart was nodding in a thousand places.
How can we feel God almost better in the deepest dark? How does that even make sense. And yet…
I am such a big believer that pain and grief and heartache are colors even God can find a place for when He paints…not that I like this…but I like that He is that big: Hands big enough to work all things together.
Thank you for being honest and vulnerable with your heart and your words.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
“O, Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue (and I have confidence that also means, ‘or comes from my pen or is typed on my device’) behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.” Ps. 139:1-4 ESV. I’m praying God’s Word over you and your dad today, Karen. Thank you for allowing us that privilege by sharing your struggle.
Janet Ann Collins
Karen, you certainly practice what you preach. I’ve been praying for you and your dad and won’t stop. 100 years is a long life, but grief doesn’t depend on age.
Wonderful thoughts, friends. Thank you for your prayers. The happy news is that Dad is home now, recovering. I’m so grateful for God’s touch on Dad’s body–and for The encouragement you all are.
Thank God for that, Karen. Thank you for updating us.
So great to hear this good news, Karen. Give him a hug for me. I’ll be praying for him to be up and around in no time.
Your words are like a perfect poem, which leaves the reader with no words, only a “knowing” and a deep sigh.
Love you, dear one.
Karen, oh how I’m praying for you and your daddy! May you feel the loving arms of our Heavenly Father surround you just now…
Your words have blessed me so many times, Karen, both in blogs and your books. Today is no exception. I’m praising God that you dad is improving but will still keep him in prayer.
God always amazes me and He’s done it again. This very day I prayed that God might use someone or something to give me encouragement today. And oh my, He used you so powerfully to speak to me through this blog and most especially from the podcast on the website. Thank you so much for helping me remember that if we aren’t letting God write through us, those words are empty. I have been striving too hard for the wrong motivations and this helped me to see what God wanted me to see. I too have been in those deep places, most recently with our five-year-old disabled grandson, a little boy whose very life has been a testimony to the goodness of a gracious and loving God. Prayers to you Karen and much gratitude.
Thank you for sharing the truth of faith in action. Painful, but precious. Today I stroked the abandoned walker in my garage. It made Mom feel close, at least for a minute. Last year was our walk through the valley of the shadow of death. Had I known the heartache and trials which would occur over just six months, I could not have found strength to face them. But now, looking back, the evidence of God’s faithfulness, the truth of His word “to never leave us or forsake us”, the provision of our daily needs, the sustaining righteous right hand of His touch live within me. Those truths cemented through trial and heaven now a deeper reality.
Karen, may you keep your eyes fixed on Him through your trial. I know He will be faithful.
Thank you, Karen. Praying for you and your family.
Karen, I usually don’t read blog posts that are a couple of days old because i just don’t get the time. So glad I took a moment to read this one! I also enjoyed your Embrace the Deep podcast and your free download of 5 Crucial Ways to Safeguard Your Writer’s Heart in the Deep.
You had so many valuable ideas to share, and you really tapped into my own discouragement right now. I have just come out of a dark time in my life and I’m still being chased by some of those shadows. Your words were so encouraging and helped me refocus.
I’m glad to hear your dad is doing better. I can identify since my husband was in and out of the hospital for the better part of three years.
Karen, I would like to have you contact me at patti(dot)shene(at)gmail(dot)com at your convenience.
Thanks so much for sharing!
Diane Huff Pitts
Incredible writing. Valley writing. Shadow writing.
Today’s blog took me to your website, one of the loveliest welcomes I’ve had in a long time.
Glad to get to know you. My dad is 93 caring for my mom who is 7yrs into Alzheimers. We learn to embrace the now. We dare the future. We relish the past.
Diane, your parents are in my prayers as I write this.
And so are you.