I have had the opportunity to speak at two separate Ladies Spring Teas during April 2013. They were in different locations in southern Manitoba. And I am overwhelmed.
Both evenings were remarkable for different reasons.
The event at the beginning of April was at the church my parents help to start in Morris, Manitoba. I grew up there, was baptized there, got married there, ministered there, and then left the community. I hadn’t been back for a very, very long time. And yet, I was welcomed like a queen. I was absolutely thrilled and humbled at the same time. What a precious evening of seeing friends and family and reconnecting with my “old” life. The connections we make are timeless. Many of my friends hadn’t changed much at all. I came away with a new perspective. And they say you can’t go back… I don’t know who “they” are but I think I proved them wrong!
The second event was a few days ago in the tiny hamlet of New Bothwell. I lived 2 miles away for over 20 years and it blew me away that there were so many wonderful women so close to me and I had never met them. We moved away from here last summer and again, here I was, coming back. The remarkable thing about this evening was how many women came! I looked out over the church full of women and wasn’t sure if I would upchuck my supper. I took a deep breath and dove in. What else was I going to do??? It went really really well, in my humble opinion, and I could tell by the expressions and response that women were blessed by my story of God’s faithfulness. It was pretty cool to see the organizers scrambling to set up more tables and chairs for the unexpected numbers of women. One woman told me they had never ever had so many women out for a Ladies Night Out. Yay! What an awesome problem to have!
The other remarkable thing is that I RAN OUT OF BOOKS!
Yes, you heard me.
This hasn’t happened to me before.
The reason it’s remarkable is because as I was packing up to speak at this event, I prayed and said to God – “I did my part in writing this book and here they sit on my shelf gathering dust. Could You please do what You can do and get these into the hands of the people who You think should be reading it?”
So I packed more books than I normally would take to a speaking engagement. I had just told my sister that I only take a few books because people come for the talk, not for the book. I usually take back most of the books I haul in and out of my car and it’s disappointing. So I packed a few extra in good faith.
And the end result was I UNDERESTIMATED GOD!
It’s such an overwhelming feeling to know you’ve been used by God. It’s hard to explain but you just know that you have impacted and hopefully encouraged the lives of others by what you’ve said or done in Jesus’ name.
Thank you, Lord for showing up at these events. I give you the praise and honour.
Hey – it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I’ve been quiet because I thought I had nothing of any substance to write about. And then I realized it’s because I’m living a normal life again. Not that normal life isn’t exciting – but the twists and turns of a drama filled life is way more exciting. I’m enjoying the calm. Or at least calm patches
The truth of the matter is that our lives have been turned upside down since moving last summer. We are in the midst of house renovations, meeting new neighbours, figuring out where to buy groceries, and where to go to church. I’ve been looking for a job closer to our new home and was busy with fun stuff like going through major dental work and cataract surgery – both side effects of Arimidex (the drug I’m still taking to ensure I don’t have a cancer recurrence).
And since moving, we are testing old friendships to figure out who remains and who is loyal after leaving our church family of twenty+ years. You’d think cancer was a good test, eh? There are many who care and love you during a health battle in a church family – the politics are of no significance when life and death are on the line. But when you choose to leave and move out of the community, who sticks with you and continues to maintain communication? It’s been interesting and we love the people who have just been dropping in for coffee when they are in the neighbourhood. Consider that an invitation.
I thought my “author” days were over. Book sales have dwindled – my last royalty check from the publisher was $1.57! And I felt like my story wasn’t newsworthy or current anymore. My boxes of books sit on a shelf in the office collecting dust.
And then we took a trip to Cuba.
There were so many God opportunities at the resort where we stayed. So many times I was able to encourage others with my story and crumble walls and soften hearts. The reality of living life is so fresh and real when I get away from “normal” and realize what a gift I’ve been given – to not just enjoy life but meet people from all over the world. I can encourage others who have their own story – some are in a dark place because of relationships gone bad, or running away from tough situations and turning to a whole lot of alcohol (yes, this was an all-inclusive!) to ease their pain. When the walls come down, I can give them a shoulder to cry on and encouragement to keep going in their own life journey.
When we arrived home from our vacation last week, I got a phonecall and was asked to speak at an upcoming ladies spring tea. So I guess it isn’t quite done yet. I’m excited to be able to share my story – it’s been a while and I’ll certainly need to rewrite what I’ve been sharing in the past. Because God isn’t finished with me yet! He spoke to me loud and clear this past week when I went for my regular 6 month check up with my Breast Cancer surgeon. The ball of puky fear in my stomach returned while sitting in the waiting room. It stares you in the face when you take off “normal” in the office and put on the blue paper gown. But again, it’s all clear and I can breathe “normally” again.
Take nothing for granted – life is so precious and fragile. Treat each other with love.
My daughter living out in Alberta phoned today with some exciting news. One of her friends called her to ask if her mom had written a book. She let her know that yes, her mom wrote a book. This friend was standing in a book store beside a stack of books with my picture on it. We had been visiting our children in Alberta a few weeks ago and attended their church. This friend of hers had been sitting in our row and at the beginning of the service my daughter introduced us. Now she recognized my picture and had to call Jessica to confirm that the author of this book was her mother. There was also a sign on the table beside the books that said this was the book of the month for a local book club. How exciting! I would love to be a fly on the wall listening into the discussions at that book club! It’s so gratifying to know God is still using the book in places and with people I have no knowledge of. And sometimes it’s really nice to find out too.
Well, this year was a bit different than the previous ones. Here’s how:
- This year we ticked off the 5 year milestone walk – WOOHOO!!!
- I was featured in the Winnipeg Community Newspapers. I told my story briefly and why our family does this walk every year – and of course, shamelessly flogged my book
- This year our team was made up of friends more than family and that hurt my heart. I missed having my other children there with us.
- The venue was changed. It wasn’t bad just different.
- I managed to walk 3.5 km this year/. For some of you, this won’t impress you. For the ones who know how I struggle with the side effects of the chemo drug I’m still taking, and know that for the past two years I’ve only walked the 1 km and turned back…well, it’s an accomplishment. I’m feeling it now, but it was worth every step.
So that’s why this year was different. It was emotional for me again as I walked with my husband and my oldest daughter and granddaughter and the rest of the team. I’m so grateful for life! Tears are okay.
Camping season is winding down out at our favourite summer getaway. Every year we have new summer neighbours and this year we met a wonderful couple who braved the elements in a pop up tent trailer. We made our introductions at the beginning of the camping season and she was wearing a Relay for Life shirt at our first meeting. I asked her about it and she told me that she had been a Breast Cancer survivor for many years. We talked and shared just a bit about our lives. All polite introductions.
Through the summer, we managed to avoid each other. Not on purpose. But they were out the weekends we weren’t and we were out when they weren’t.
This past weekend, we got our act together and were both out at the same time and both without other company. When they arrived on Saturday afternoon, my husband and I were sitting outside enjoying a cup of coffee in the sunshine. They stopped to say hi. I could tell something was bothering her. She was usually happy and cheerful but this was a sad woman standing in front of us. I asked if she was okay. She told me that she had been to 3 funerals that week and she just needed time at the lake to recuperate and process. And she walked away.
I knew she needed a hug. But I didn’t even really know her. Is it appropriate to hug complete strangers?
So the next day, I was washing dishes and looked out my window and saw this lady sitting by her campfire. I felt the nudge. I argued, “You want me to do what? You’re kidding! I don’t even know her.” I waited. I looked out again. She was still sitting there. I dried my last dish and stood there watching her. I knew what I needed to do.
She looked up as I walked towards her. I simply said, “Yesterday when you told me about your week, I knew you needed a hug and I didn’t give you one. That was wrong of me. Would you accept a hug now from a stranger?” She said she would. So we hugged and I knew she was battling something pretty significant. We continued talking and she told me that all 3 of the funerals were women who had been battling breast cancer. One of the women had been her paddling partner for her Dragon Boat racing team. I felt like my insides were crumbling. The reality of the fragility of life. I didn’t want to hear it. But I stayed. I knew that the processing I had been doing in the past few weeks had not been in vain as we shared together how cancer had changed us. The beauty of it is that she is also a believer in the faithfulness of God and how He has walked every inch of this journey with her.
And even in the terror of knowing we could be next for a recurrence, we have the assurance that come what may, He can give us the peace and the strength we need to face it.
So we’re not strangers anymore. We wiped our tears and hugged and exchanged contact information.
Sisterhood of the Breast Cancer Pants (?).
Yesterday was one of those days. I know that others who have gone through life/death experiences will understand. And it happened at Tinkertown. I hadn’t had one of these for a while and I was really hoping that I wasn’t settling into a “normal” life again. Some things happened in the past few weeks that were unsettling and eye opening again – one of them being the passing of the mother of a good friend of mine. She had been diagnosed just before I was and had been battling with breast cancer since then. I followed her treatment from a distance and when I heard she had lost the fight, and gone home, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Something like this can have a profound effect on a survivor. One fellow BC survivor said every once in a while something comes along when your false sense of well-being is devastated and you realize again how fragile life is.
So yesterday, at Tinkertown, my 3 yr old granddaughters were riding on the Merry-go-round. I was watching them and as they came around and I saw the joy and thrill of the experience on their faces, I had that overwhelming sense of appreciation for life. There was no holding back the tears. It came in a swell from deep inside. I was filled with such a thankfulness for the gift of being able to be there in that moment. My daughters stood beside me as we hugged and realized together how precious this experience was.
Congratulations to three Word Alive Press Manitoba authors who were recently mentioned in the Winnipeg Free Press!!
Help put Manitobans On the Same Page
“Ted Hull, a Winnipeg consultant to churches and charities, won a national book prize this month in the category of Christian leadership for his book A Guide to Governing Charities: Success in the Boardroom Starts with Asking the Right Questions (Word Alive Press).
Hull was one of several Manitobans honoured in the 24th annual Word Guild Canadian Christian Writing Awards.
Manitobans receiving awards of merit in other book categories were…Sherri Hildebrandt of Landmark for More Than Enough: My Breast Cancer Story (Word Alive Press)…and M.D. Meyer of Norway House, were honoured for magazine articles or contributions to anthologies.”
At Word Alive Press, we are so excited to share this success with you, our local authors!
Remember that national writing contest I wrote about a long time ago? And then I found out I was one of the short listed authors? Well, I found out last night that I won an Award of Merit. What I mean to say is, “I CAME IN SECOND!” Sorry for yelling, but second is so incredibly okay for me. See, I’m not a writer. I’ve told you all along that I was just telling my story. But it’s so exciting to read what the judges had to say about my book and how I put it together and strung my words into sentences. They liked it And now I’m getting a certificate (the award) to hang up on my wall and look at and tell me that I did okay. Very sweet affirmation.
So I’m celebrating here today by going for a bloodtest and dr.’s appointment and then, coffee with my sister. Yes, I know how to party!
I was at work one day last week when someone came into my office to ask me something. It wasn’t what I expected. I was at work so it should be work-related, right? And the people I see in my office are usually asking about schedules, payroll, or client care questions. So when she looked at me and hesitantly asked me if I had been on TV lately it took me for a spin. I wasn’t sure if I should be answering this on company time. I threw the question back at her – “Why would you ask me?” She said she had seen someone that looked like me on TV while she was working at a client’s home. She hadn’t seen the whole program but it sounded like me. She hadn’t heard about any of my story so she had no idea. She seemed uncomfortable and shy about asking me about it so I fessed up and said that it was really me on TV and yes, I really had gone through breast cancer treatment. She couldn’t believe that I had gone through all that and was now working as her manager. I tried to explain to her that I am just a normal person and yes, I’ve gone through a huge experience but everybody has a story to tell. When she left the room, she patted me on the back and said she was so glad I was still here. These workers care for palliative people and know what cancer can do. She wasn’t saying this lightly and I appreciated it.
And that’s why I can’t sit in my house and let this story lie dormant gathering dust. That’s why I get up each morning and take on the day. God chose to keep me here for a reason, people. And that’s what keeps me going – knowing that I’ve got a purpose. And so do you. Every one of you. The same God who gave me the strength to fight and keep going is the same one who watches over you. He loves you and has a purpose for your life. It may be difficult to navigate and I know it isn’t easy to figure out the where and how and why but keep putting one foot in front of another and keep serving Him and loving others. Everyone has a story to tell. That means you.
The interview I did with Bob and Audrey Meisner on the tv show My New Day aired this morning. You can watch it here:
Now that I’ve seen it myself, I’m not quite as nervous about other people seeing it. It was edited very well – except the part where I choked on my water!