Archive | January, 2011

Me & Moses

31 Jan

A few nights ago, I had a dream that just won’t leave me. It wasn’t a nightmare exactly, but I did feel a bit shaken up when I awoke. A moment or two passed before I was able to assure myself that I was, in fact, safely tucked in my bed.

This is the very first time I have ever dreamed in “Old Testament” so please humor me as I share this unusual dream with you.

In this dream, I found myself in the middle of a desert. I felt hot, exhausted, and more than a little cranky. This guy named Moses was hanging out with me, and a whole bunch of people wearing sandals were following us. They were even crankier than I was.

Let’s fast-forward through the long and drawn out part of the dream during which Moses and I, along with all the people, trudged through the sand, struggling to reach our destination.

At long-last we made it to the end of our wearisome journey. Moses gave me a high-five, and we were both feeling pretty good about our accomplishment — until God came along. He was not smiling.

He pulled out a giant map and put it right under our noses so that Moses and I could take a really good look at it. Why, God wanted to know, did we take the long route? I decided to let Moses field that question, seeing as how he’s Moses and all. But he just lifted his shoulders and shrugged.

God was still waiting for an answer. I figured I had better come up with something more noteworthy than a shrug. Referring to the map, I pointed out to God that although the short route was indeed shorter, it had some awfully high mountains to cross, and did He really want me to take a bunch of people over those mountains without hiking boots?

It’s altogether possible that I may have stammered a few times as I tried to explain this to God.

He still was not smiling. Then, in a voice that nearly blasted all the sand out of the desert, God said – I AM WITH YOU, EVEN WHEN YOU CROSS OVER THE HIGH MOUNTAINS.

I’m pretty sure that’s what woke me up.

It was nothing more than a crazy dream. Yet the message continues to haunt me. How easy it is to become confident in following my own path through life, avoiding life’s challenges, and choosing a safe and easy route where no faith is required. How quickly I forget that He who moves mountains is with me every step of the way.

How thankful I am that treacherous mountaintops and a lack of proper foot attire are of no consequence to Him.

How Great

27 Jan

A large envelope arrived in the mail for me today. I like large envelopes, don’t you? They hardly ever contain junk mail or bills.

Some of you know that I write children’s stories for Sunday school papers and Christian magazines. When the stories are printed, the publisher sends me a few copies of each issue in which my stories appear. They’re called contributor copies. The envelope I received today was stuffed full of contributor copies.

I’ve been writing these stories for years, but I still get excited every time the final copies arrive. I love seeing the transformation each story undergoes after it leaves my computer screen — how it comes alive with illustrations on the brightly-colored pages of these publications.

As I looked through the materials that arrived in today’s mail, it occurred to me that all of my stories have a common thread. Although they are each different, written for a variety of ages on numerous topics, every story I have ever written seems to emphasize one common theme – God’s love.

Even my book for grown-ups — Mammograms, Mastectomies and a Spiritual Makeover — talks much more about God’s love than it does about cancer. Because if ever we need a reminder of God’s love, it’s when we are faced with a crisis such as cancer. Having cancer tends to feel an awful lot like punishment, and that makes it easy, especially during treatment, to forget that we are the recipients of God’s love.

After my diagnosis, when nothing else would comfort me, I used to sit at the piano and play songs from an old hymnal – soothing songs from my childhood. There’s one song that I played over and over again.* The melody is actually pretty melancholy. One might think I could have found something a little more cheerful to play. Yet the words of that song kept drawing me back to it. I think that’s because they’re from one of my favorite Bible verses — 1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us…”

There it is again. God’s love. It seems to be my most favorite subject.

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*Psalter Hymnal (gray) page 231 – How Great Is the Love of the Father

What Was I Thinking?

21 Jan

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I remember telling my husband that I wanted to keep my illness a secret. After all, breast cancer is a private matter. People aren’t all that comfortable talking about breasts anyway, right?

I soon discovered that it’s pretty hard to retain any sense of privacy in a room full of doctors, nurses and medical technicians when you’re the only one who’s not wearing a shirt.

Truth is — I am a very private person. Always have been. That’s why no one is more surprised than I am to find myself writing this blog. And guest blogging? Way out of my comfort zone. Even more surprising is the fact that I have written a book with the word “mastectomy” in the title.

With the upcoming release of this book, reality has set in. All week long I’ve been having WHAT-WAS-I-THINKING moments. Ever have one of those?

But each time I panic, I receive yet another email. They keep coming – emails from women who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer or who are in the midst of treatment. I can tell that they are scared and hurting. I know. I’ve been there. There is just one thing they all want from me – they want to know how I made it through to the surviving side of cancer.

In those first few days after I had found out about my cancer, a friend rushed to my house to comfort me. After hugging me tightly, she looked into my eyes and said, “Oh Jill, how are you going to get through this?” For the longest time, we both just stared at each other. Because neither one of us knew the answer to that question.

Now I do. It’s not that I have all the answers. Not even close. But I do have the One answer I needed so badly. And I can’t wait to share Him with other women who are desperately seeking His love, His peace, His hope, His healing, and His grace.

That’s what I was thinking when I decided to write this book.

I was thinking about Him.

Thank You

18 Jan

Today I am guest blogging at The House Studio. Come visit me at their blog – www.thehousestudio.com. And while you’re there, feel free to leave me a comment. I always love hearing from you!

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I’d like to say a big THANK YOU to all of you who have been asking about my book. I am touched by your kindness and support, and your enthusiasm is much appreciated.

The official release date for Mammograms, Mastectomies, and a Spiritual Makeover is Feb. 28th. At that time it will be available from most on-line retailers (such as amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com). It will also be available in book stores, although they might not have it in stock. If that’s the case, just ask the book store to order the book for you. (My publisher’s distributor is Ingram Books — most book stores have an account with them).

From Jan. 17th till Feb. 28th my publisher is offering a presale. During this time, the book can be ordered directly from Jebaire Publishing (www.jebairepublishing.com) for a discounted price of $10.50. You can just click on the cover of my book in the side bar to the right, and it will take you directly to Jebaire Publishing. Payment can be made by credit or debit card or through PayPal. All books ordered during the presale will be shipped to you during the week of Feb. 28th.

Thank you for sharing in my excitement over what God is doing with this story.

Mammograms, Mastectomies, and a Spiritual Makeover

16 Jan

Some stories insist on being told.

Whether we want to tell them or not.

Some of you know that I am a writer. I write stories for children. Happy stories. When I got cancer, someone suggested that I write about my experience. But I wasn’t so sure about that. Cancer stories don’t always have happy endings.

I did, however, start keeping a few notes on my computer about my experience with cancer. It was a half-hearted attempt. I didn’t back up the notes or print them out, and when my computer died, I figured that would be the end of having to write any cancer book.

I was wrong.

The story started writing itself in my head. Not just random thoughts — but entire chapters and even a table of contents. It was driving me crazy. Finally, with my brother’s encouragement, I sat down (at my new computer) and started typing — just to get the words out of my head.

In no time at all, I wrote the first three chapters. Then, halfway through the fourth chapter, I abruptly stopped. Reliving one of the worst experiences of my life was too painful. I couldn’t do it. And for a whole year the story lay untouched and forgotten.

Then at the start of a new school year, with the house all to myself, I sat down at the computer, ready to work on happy stories for children. But you know how I tend to be a bit OCD about housework? I’m the same way about my computer. I like the files to be organized all nice and neatly. And so it bothered me to have that breast cancer story just sitting there, incomplete and out of place, on my computer. As my finger hovered over the delete key, I hesitated. I thought maybe I should take one last look at the story before getting rid of it.

An hour or so later, I was still reading that cancer story, and when I reached the point where I had stopped writing, I simply started typing again. Without ever making a conscious decision to do so, I spent the next few months finishing my story.

Because some stories insist on being told.

It’s not a story about me, really. It’s a story about God and the love that He lavishes upon us when we are frightened and hurting. You see, the amazing thing about having your life turned upside down by cancer, or any other crisis, is that God stays so wonderfully close. He sees our tears. He feels our pain. He knows our heartache.

If you’d like to hear more about God’s incredibly amazing love, I invite you to read my story. It’s called — Mammograms, Mastectomies, and a Spiritual Makeover.

Available for presale ordering beginning Monday January 17, 2011 at jebairepublishing.com under “Featured Books.”

This Far

11 Jan

Allow me to indulge in some wallowing. This has been a rough day.

It started out with a visit to the doctor’s office. Just a regular doctor. No big, scary oncologists were involved.

Truth is, it actually felt kind of good to see a doctor regarding something that had nothing to do with cancer. It felt so normal to have a medical concern that could not be blamed on Tamoxifen. Of course, I was wrong…

For the past few months, I have been experiencing pain and stiffness in my neck, back and shoulder. All very minor, and I hoped it would go away. It didn’t. The pain spread to my arms, and then my hands went numb. They aren’t constantly numb. They just go numb whenever I’m doing something important. Like driving.

Even though I had never before visited a chiropractor, I felt sure that a visit to one could solve my problem.

The visit started out well enough. Looking around, I was pleased to see that the exam room was not furnished with equipment that looked like it belonged in a torture chamber. And I was pleased that nobody in a white lab coat approached me with needles. I didn’t even have to take off my shirt. I was starting to like this place already.

As the kind chiropractor gently massaged my back and shoulders, I felt myself relaxing — until he informed me that my current medical concern was most likely due to my past experience with cancer.

Cancer? Really? I couldn’t believe it. He went on to explain that my surgeries to get rid of the cancer a few years back had taken a significant toll on my muscles, nerves and bones. Other parts of my body had apparently stepped in to compensate. But they couldn’t keep it up long-term. Consequently, the numb hands.

Soon after I left the chiropractor’s office, a deep, dull pain set in from the treatment. I hurt from the top of my head down to my heels. Throughout the day, tears kept filling my eyes, but I refused to let them fall. No way would I cry even just one more tear over cancer.

One of my favorite movies is Star Trek First Contact. I love the powerful scene when Lily tries to convince Captain Picard to give up his ship and retreat from the invasion of their seemingly undefeatable and evil enemy, the Borg. But Captain Picard insists that too many compromises and sacrifices have already been made. At the climax of that scene, Captain Picard shouts, “The line must be drawn here. This far, no farther!”

Seems to me the Borg are a lot like cancer. I feel that I’ve made way too many compromises and sacrifices since cancer invaded my life. Like Captain Picard, I want to shout, “This far, no farther!” But this morning, cancer had the audacity to cross that line again.

I’ve never been a fan of the book of Job. It always seems like such an unhappy book to me with all that fuss over human suffering. But today it was as if the hand of God moved my numb hands to open the Bible directly to the book of Job chapter 38. In this chapter, God is basically comparing His divine awesomeness to Job’s puny understanding of pretty much everything. By the time I got to verse 11 – in which God asks Job “Who said (to the ocean), ‘This far you may come and no farther?’” – I realized there was a message here for me.

I’m not the one who gets to draw the line in the sand. God does. Sometimes I forget that. Sometimes I need to be reminded that He is in control. Even of cancer.