Has the deep turned your life upside down? Beloved author Deborah Raney knows exactly how you feel, and shares what she learned about trusting God when it seems your life will never be the same. Come listen in for her words of encouragement and wisdom!
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Erin: Welcome everybody to the Deep. We’re so glad that you’ve joined us today, and we have a guest joining us. Yay! We love it when we have guests. Today we have author Deborah Raney. She’s taking time out of her busy schedule and coming to us from Kansas. So welcome, Deb. We’ll let Karen introduce you.
Karen: Deb and I were talking just before we started recording trying to figure out how long ago we met, and we just figured out that it was in 2001. So we’ve known each other for 17 years, and that it was at a writers retreat that we were both part of where we met. I have watched Deb in her career and so respect what I’ve seen of her and heard of her in just living out the Christian life. She has a depth of faith that has blessed me many times and great wisdom that has blessed me many times. You know this woman dreamed of writing books since she read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books and discovered that a Kansas farm girl could indeed grow up to be a writer.
She’s got more than 30 books. She’s garnered multiple industry awards and her first novel, A Vow to Cherish shed light on the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. The novel inspired a highly acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title and continues to be a tool for Alzheimer’s families and caregivers, and I especially appreciate that because a woman who is in essence a pseudo Aunt for me has been dealing with Alzheimer’s now for about the last five to six years and watching the ravages on her dignity and on the struggle with her, and her kids taking care of her—it just breaks your heart. So Deb, thank you so much for being here. Thank you so much for the work that is helping those dealing with Alzheimer’s and just thanks for being you.
Deb: Aw, it’s my pleasure to talk to you guys today. I’m so glad you invited me.
Erin: Thank you. And you know, we’re gonna put you on the spot right away because the first thing we always like to ask everybody—because everyone has a different take—what does the deep mean to you?
Deb: I guess the first thing I think of when I think of the deep is just going those deep places that God takes us. You finally learn if you’re a Christian long enough that it doesn’t mean all kittens and ponies and butterflies. You know, absolutely God takes us into some very deep places and that’s where we learn. That’s where we grow. We don’t like it very well while we’re there, until we come out and we realize that we wouldn’t trade that experience for anything because we have grown closer to him. We have learned that he is there and that he’s a personal God and He loves us and he wants to get us through those times and teach us through those times.
Karen: Yeah. It’s so easy when you meet someone like Deb who just has what seems to be this naturally sunny disposition, and she’s always smiling, and she is a real encourager. You think to yourself, well, she’s never known a day of suffering. And then you find out she is the way she is, she has the spirit she has, because of suffering.
Deb: Yeah, not a whole lot. I mean truly compared to a lot of people, I’m very, very grateful. I haven’t gone through a lot of really difficult things. But the things that I have gone through, God has used I think to make me into the woman he wants me to be, and I want to be that woman.
Karen: Right, so let’s talk about that. What are some of the deep places that you’ve gone through with God and what did you learn from them?
Deb: Probably the very first thing that God took me through was losing my little sister. She was a newlywed of 21. She had been married just three months. Got married on her birthday, and she was killed in a car accident. I was pregnant with our second child at the time, but I had never lost anyone except for a ninety-two-year-old great grandmother. It was my first.
And just weeks before this happened, I had told a friend that I probably would just go crazy if I ever lost anyone and especially if it was someone too young to die. Instead, truly, I mean, I’m not gonna say that there was no grief, that that was an easy thing to go through at all, but it was absolutely amazing how God met me and my whole family in that moment. And there were silver linings just all over the place in that story.
Erin: How did you deal the answer of somebody too young to die? How did you cope with that?
Deb: I think maybe we were all so much in shock that we didn’t even start asking those questions until later. You know, my sister was just about to get her teaching degree. And I remember the first question was: She would have been such an amazing teacher, how could you take someone like her? And the next question was: We loved her husband, he had become part of our family in the time that they had dated and been married. We wanted him to go on and have a wonderful life, but we didn’t want to lose him either. And in an amazing, miraculous way, my brother-in-law met a woman who embraced our family like we were her own. And the older I get, the more I realize how very difficult that had to have been for her. To this day we still have a very wonderful warm relationship with them. They work with Family Life Today setting up the Weekend to Remember marriage conferences. They are just an amazing family. They have four sons and when their oldest son got married, he asked my parents to be seated with the grandparents as honorary grandparents.
So yeah, truly just such a blessing. And in answer to your question, Erin, how we dealt with that, how we could see God in that, I think as time went on and we started seeing some of those silver linings, seeing people who watched my family go through that time who said, “I don’t understand how you’re getting through this but whatever it is that you have, I want it.” And even over the years right up until just a couple of years before my mom’s death, my parents were still traveling when they heard of someone who lost a young child in a car accident they would travel and go be with those parents and just share their experience how God brought them through it. And it just opened up ministry all throughout our family. And brought our family closer too. I mean, we were close, we were a very warm and loving close family. But today we are like this and, I know we’re not on video, but we are tight now. We’ve gone through some really hard things as a family and that set the foundation for how we would get through things with God’s help.
Erin: Wow, so that was golden. Give us more. She’s got more places everyone.
Deb: Well, this wasn’t such a deep place, but my desire in life, I mean, I knew from the time I was 11 or 12 that I wanted to be a writer, but before that, I wanted to have 12 children. Yeah, I know, I was crazy. I knew not what I was saying.
Karen: I was going to say you were insane.
Deb: No, I was totally ignorant. But I’m the oldest of five children, and so, you know, I practically raised my baby sister who’s eight years younger than I am. So I wanted 12 kids. When I was 17, doctors started telling me that I probably would not be able to conceive, and I thought no big deal. I’ll just adopt 12 children. And so that became what I thought would probably be part of my story. But the Lord intervened, despite doctors continuing until I had my hysterectomy 10 or 15 years ago, continuing to tell me that it was a miracle that I gave birth to four children, because I don’t seem to ovulate, but apparently I did. And our kids are very much spread out. We had a baby in the seventies, two in the eighties. And then our youngest little oops baby came along in 1990. So there is 14 years between our kids, and they’re all just incredible blessings. And I didn’t have to wait as long as some women have to wait, and some women, I know, never have that prayer answered in the way they want it to be answered. But for me, God did answer that prayer and I’m forever grateful for that.
Erin: Wow, I’m beginning to understand why you write the books that you do. She writes books about issues and hard things. And they’re great books, you guys. You definitely need to read them. But I’m seeing that your life is filled with these kinds of tough questions, and these types of deep roads. So what how have you used what you’ve gone through in your writing?
Deb: It’s funny because, in many ways, I feel like in my first books, I could write about really deep, hard things because I hadn’t been through too much deep. My life in general was just happy-go-lucky. And so I could go to the deep places and then come out and live my happy little life. In recent years, and I feel almost guilty saying I’ve been through some really deep hard times. It’s all relative—
Karen: No, hang on a second though. I’m going to speak to that. It’s like I feel bad when people start talking about their salvation stories and how God came in and saved them from these horrific lives or these terrible things that they had done. And I am like you are, Deb. I had this golden childhood that was full of laughter, and I was a very happy child, and I tell people I was converted when I came out of the womb. So I don’t have any big conversion story. But my story is my story, and it impacts people. Your story is your story, and those are deep places for you, when you went through them. For all of you listening, your story is your story. And it’s your story that God uses to touch people. So no more disclaimers. You have been through some hard places and we respect that.
Deb: Okay. I own it.
Karen: That’s right.
Deb: Yeah, so that is true. But I’ll say that in recent years, I feel like that God has used more the actual things that are happening in my life, for me to pour into the book that I write, and that’s okay too.
I mean, it’s just interesting how there was almost like just a division there. With my first half of the books, the first 15 books I wrote, I really kind of had to pull out of my imagination. I had not lived those things. The more recent books have a lot more of my real story, and of course you’re writing fiction, you have to change all the names to protect the innocent and all of that.
As an example, nine years ago my husband was laid off from his job. And we, I mean, we’d thought we were home free. We’d been married 30 some years and uh had a great marriage and have really not ever had… I mean, we have all the normal issues that marriages have, but nothing…we had never used the d-word and we still haven’t. But boy did we come close.
Karen: The only d-word I ever used was death.
Deb: That’s a good one. Yeah, and we had always said that would be the option before the other d-word—divorce. That just wasn’t a word in our vocabulary. But what happened is that okay, a man gets laid off when he’s in his 50s. He doesn’t have a college degree. It’s a very difficult time to be looking for a job and the job market was not great. And so this man decides that he feels like God is saying, “I don’t intend for you to get another job. I intend for you to go out on your own and start a new business.” And I’m like, are you crazy? I mean, I truly thought he had lost his mind. And God was not telling me the things that he was telling my husband. And that did not seem fair. It was a really, really difficult time. I look back and I saw things in myself that I didn’t know were there. Ugly things. Not good things. And, talk about the deep, I mean that was, that was just, uh, even now I apologize to Ken over and over. Nine years later, I’m still apologizing.
And yet, you know, even looking back and seeing how everything turned out, I understand why I was so terrified of this life he was asking me to follow him into. The one thing I look at is, my husband had always been so supportive of everything that I felt God was leading me to do. I wanted to stay home with my kids, and Ken sometimes worked two jobs so that I could do that. And when I started writing he just could not have been more supportive. He supported me in every way on a journey that we didn’t know whether it was going to turn out, you know, the way we hoped it would or not. For all we knew it was going to be a worthless endeavor, a waste of time and all of that. So I don’t know why I couldn’t see that man and realize that God was using him then, so why would he not be using him now? But I could not see that. And I would wake up at three o’clock in the morning absolutely on the verge of a panic attack just terrified. Terrified that I was going to lose the ability to see our kids and our grandkids because they live far away, and with what my husband wanted to do, we were going to have zero money to go travel and see those kids. And I just remember I would wake up terrified, and I would go out to the living room at three o’clock in the morning with my Bible, and I would open it up. And sometimes I could read it, and it would offer me comfort, and sometimes I couldn’t do more than just put my hands on it and say, “Lord, be with me get us through this.”
There came a point when the severance package was gone. And when we had to make some decisions. We had a daughter who was still in high school. She was in her senior year of high school headed to college. How were we going to pay for college? Just so many unanswered questions. I remember one Sunday, it was a hot day in July and we were headed out the door to the car to go to church and things were not good between us. Ken had preceded me out the door and he literally turned around and he said, “We have no business taking this to church.”
We went and we sat out on the deck with the Bible, and we prayed together, and we read the Bible together, and we just asked God to be there. And I don’t know what happened. We fasted that day, and I don’t understand the spiritual practice of fasting, but there is something there, something powerful, and from that day on I could not worry. I was incapable of worrying about our situation. I would wait, I would wake up at three o’clock in the morning and say, “Okay. Okay. I’ve got to worry. I’ve got to get all worked up here. No, there’s nothing there. I can’t.” It was the most supernatural thing. It was just incredible. And from that day, one thing after another, nothing terribly dramatic, it’s not like suddenly we won the lottery and everything else. But one day at a time, the Lord took care of us. And it was exactly like the day that Ken came home from work early and told me that he had been laid off. He took me in his arms, and he said, “The Lord has taken care of us for 35 years. There is no reason to think he won’t continue to take care of us.” And I believed it that day, but you know, when the rubber hit the road and things got real, it was a lot more difficult.
Fast forward to today, nine years later, and we are living our dream life. And if the Lord had not taken my husband out of his day job this never would have come to pass. And we would have been too afraid to make the decision for him to quit his job so we could explore this. It just so happened that this all was happening at the time when self-publishing was becoming a possibility and lots of writers were needing book covers designed, and just all the things that Ken had the skill to do. He was able to step in and start his own business and be very successful at it. Today he travels with me when I go to conferences. He teaches at conferences, teaches a great class called graphic design for writers about working with your publishing house on all the different graphic things. And we could not be happier.
Now, I’m not gonna say that these whole nine years have been happy. There have been an adjustment periods and redirection periods and all that, but God has been faithful every moment. Every single moment.
Erin: What’s interesting about what you’ve been saying is that I keep hearing the word fear. Fear and worry. Not only was it fearful for you to go into that situation, but I loved how you also said, “We would have been afraid to do this.” And yet prayer it seems, fasting and prayer, really overcame fear in a supernatural way. Sometimes I think we want to overcome fear in our own way. You know, “Oh, we don’t have to be afraid. Our mind can do it.” Sometimes it’s that supernatural thing that God gives us. The ability to not fear, to follow that scripture that says, “Do not fear, for I am with you,” and so I love that your story is that.
Karen: And I think it’s actually not sometimes. I think it’s in every circumstance. Like it talks about the grace that we receive is a gift and it has nothing to do with us. That God has given it out of his love for us. So, any relief of the things that we humans like to do, that is supernatural. That is God stepping in.
Deb: So many times, I couldn’t count how many times, I said to Ken, “This makes no sense. What you think God is leading us to do, makes no sense to me.” And I think that the Christian life sometimes doesn’t make sense. We were talking in our Sunday school class this past Sunday, and there came a point when the conversation was about God answering prayer and I wanted to stand up in that class and say, “I want to see a show of hands. How many of you would say that God answered your prayer in exactly the way you thought he would?” And we think that the answer would have been zero.
Karen: Yes, indeed.
Deb: We always have a great idea how God could just do this, this, and this, and it would all work out perfectly, and when he does that, that, and that, and everything comes together, we can only look back in awe and know that he did it. We didn’t do it. His solution is always, always better. And the other thing that I think about that is that when we go through really hard times like that though the wonderful gift that is in that, I don’t want to call it a reward for us being faithful through that but maybe it is, and that is that I feel so much better equipped for whatever our next trial is. Because I will always, always be able to look back on that time and know God was there. Even when I couldn’t pray, even when I couldn’t feel him there. He was there. There’s nothing you could say that would ever make me doubt that. I know that because I experienced it.
Karen: Deb, that’s amazing and such great words for each one of us—that if we look back on the evidence of what God has done in our lives, if we look back at those times when we begged him to set us free from the deep, and yet he kept us there for his purposes. If we can just recognize who he is, that he is God and he is in the process of refining us, but he’s also a loving father who wants to bless and encourage and delight us. You’ve been a wonderful messenger for him today. Thank you so much for being with us. Erin and I so appreciate it.
Listeners, I think we neglected to mention that you can find out more about Deb on her website, deborahraney.com. Deb, please, continue doing what you’re doing, Deb. It’s an inspiration to all of us and thank you so much for being with us.
Deb: I loved our time together. Thanks, you guys.
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