by Kelly Harrel
Last year I had the honor of teaching for the first time at Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. One of the workshops I led was “Writing in the Deep Places.” I felt I had much to contribute to this topic since through the years I have battled with physical pain, depression, even brain trauma. Rather than allowing it to debilitate me, I’ve grown through it and even used these difficult experiences in my writing. When I shared last year on that topic, I felt like I had arrived. Like I had made it through with wisdom to share. In my own mind, I had conquered the deep places. Little did I know that this year God would teach me how to write in the deepest places.
The text came from my best friend on March 1, 2017.
I found a lump. Please pray.
For twelve years we have done life together. Our husbands both work nights, weekends, and holidays. Since we only live five minutes away from each other, we basically raised our kids together. We homeschooled together, we worked together at the same charter school, and led Bible studies together. Yes, we have done life together. And now, we’re doing death together.
It’s not that we didn’t pray. I’ve uttered the same prayer almost every day for a year. Lord, heal her. We absolutely believed He could heal her. In fact, after her double mastectomy, we thought the cancer was gone. She had never felt better. In July we toasted to my birthday and her health. Less than two months later the cancer had spread to her liver, lungs, and spine. The four months of chemo that followed did nothing. And now, she’s at home on hospice. Waiting for God to take her home.
The past twelve months have been full of trials and hardships. I stopped asking “What’s next God?” when my husband had a heart attack in September two days after my best friend got out of the hospital. Then my son totaled his car in November (praise God he wasn’t hurt) and I ended up with shingles for the second time in my life. Yeah, I don’t ask that question anymore because honestly, I’m afraid of what might come my way.
I have many reasons NOT to write. Truly, I feel as if my life is falling apart and at times feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m also working more than full time at my teaching job. But God has taught me that in this deepest place I NEED to write. At first, I thought it was my escape. My way of leaving the troubles of this life behind. I crave that hour or two of the day when I cease to be wife, mom, teacher, friend and can be the instrument through which God delivers his next story. Though in a way it is an escape, I realize now it’s more. Writing is how God made me express my emotions. And my emotions are what bring my characters to life. The story I’m writing now is not one of someone struggling with cancer, but of someone struggling with God. A teenage boy who doesn’t understand why his prayers go unanswered, why things can go the way he wants. At night when I turn off my light, I feel the struggle.
God, why won’t you heal her? We were supposed to raise our kids together, spoil our grandkids, and grow old together. It shouldn’t be this way…
I get the struggle. I’ve felt the emotions. I’ve cried the bitter tears. And even though everyone would understand if I just didn’t write in this season, God wants me to. He made me to tell stories. Writing in the deepest places is more about obedience than productivity.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds, except that I will write. In a week I’ll be packing my bags to go to Mount Hermon. My slides are ready for my workshops, I have Kleenex and chocolate, but I also feel like a wreck. I’m trusting God to carry me through as he has the past twelve months. Life is hard, without a doubt. But God is good even when we don’t understand. And when you continue to use the gift he has given you in the deepest places, he will bless your efforts. I do believe this will be my best series yet, I just need to do my part and trust the Lord to do his.
Don’t worry about having it all together when you go to #MHWriters18, my friends. None of us have it all together. What matters is that we come together to encourage, inspire, and lift one another up. I am looking forward to seeing you on the mountain.
Kelly will be teaching “Authors Don’t Preach–But Their Characters Might” and “Making Your Dreams Come True … Without Quitting Your Day Job” at Mount Hermon Writers Conference. It’s not too late to register. Join Kelly at #MHWriters18.
Kelly Harrel writes inspirational fiction and Christian romance that deal with real-life struggles in the light of God’s love and grace. Passionate to inspire others into a deeper faith, she enjoys speaking at women’s events, writers conferences, and to audiences of all genders and ages about overcoming depression and anxiety. After several decades in education, publishing six novels, and leading a multigenerational women’s ministry, Kelly still claims that her biggest accomplishment is homeschooling her children. She resides in Southern California with her husband, two teens, and a desert tortoise named George.