Another Answered Prayer

The most amazing thing happened to me last night!  My 7 year-old daughter laid down with me and read her chapter book while I read mine.  Now, some of you may be thinking…..really?  That’s it?

However, with a little background you might appreciate this triumph more.  Last year, Julia started first grade.  It was already a big transition from Kindergarten full of tantrums, losing naptime, and play time, etc.  Then she was assessed for reading and we found out just how much she was struggling.  She was too low to get into Reading Corps and not low enough to get into Title I.  

I took this as a personal failure because:

  1. I am her mom.

  2. I worked in Title I for three years at her school and knew how to help kids learn to read.

  3. I am an author and a librarian and I failed to hand down my passion for books to her.

After my pity party was over, I picked myself up and became determined to help her, no matter how much extra time it took.  After a few months, she was able to join the After School Program to get some extra help from teachers and she hated every minute of it.  She cried every time I made her go because none of her friends were in it.  I also started to do Title I interventions with her at home, in addition to reading with her.  We read in the bath, to the dog, and anywhere else that made it fun.

The tears of frustration came often.  I tried to encourage her and be as positive as I could, but it was very difficult watching my child struggle.  Eventually, January came around and we had gotten her scores high enough to qualify for Reading Corps.  Finally, something just clicked and she has taken off ever since.

In an effort to keep her from falling behind again this summer, I signed her up for the summer reading program at our public library and we have been reading almost everyday. 

While we went  through this battle together, I decided to write a book about it.  Because, working in an elementary school, I watch kids struggle to read all the time.  I knew Julia wasn’t alone.  So, I have written my third Princess Faith book entitled, “Princess Faith Brings Julia Strength.”

It focuses on one of my favorite verses, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  I feel this is a great verse for people of all ages to remember.  The book is just finishing up the illustration phase and I hope it will be released in the next few months.  

So, in the meantime, I am going to snuggle up and read with my incredibly strong-willed daughter, every chance I can.  I am so grateful to have another dream come true and thankful that God answered yet another prayer.


I Get To....

I read a devotion the other day that spoke about not taking things for granted.  It tells of a method of changing complaints into gracious comments by starting them out with three little words: “I get to…”    

Instead of complaining about going to the grocery store and fighting the crowds you would say: “I get to go to the grocery store to buy food because I am able to afford it and provide endless food for my family.”  Take a minute to stop and think about how your life would change if before you opened your mouth to complain,  you did this.  I believe it would be life altering.

I get to play referee with my kids because I was blessed enough to have two healthy children.  I get to clean my house because I am lucky enough to have a home to call my own and that keeps me safe and warm.  I get to do laundry because my family has an abundance of clothes to wear.

I’m not trying to say that I never complain, because I do.  I am human and I often fall short of my expectations for myself.  But I am also a work in progress.  I am always striving to be better, do better, and be someone my kids can look up to.  

‎”Though nobody can go back and make a new beginning... Anyone can start over and make a new ending. “ -Chico Xavier

Honest Conversations

One Friday afternoon my mom was dropping off my daughter to preschool because I was with my husband at a doctor's appointment.  One of my daughter’s classmates asked her where her mom was and her reply was, “My dad has cancer, she is with him at the doctor.”  The 5yr old girl responded, “Your dad has cancer, he is going to die.”  Her mother just sat there not saying a word, supporting and confident in her daughter’s statement.

My mother quickly stated “No, he isn’t going to die.  He actually got a great report from the doctor today.”  Then the preschool teacher came to get them for class and that was the end of it.

I wanted to share this story, not to spread anger or criticize anyone’s parenting skills, but solely to demonstrate the need for accurate cancer education for children.  Because let’s face it, with cancer becoming so widespread every kid is likely to hear that word at some point in their childhood.  And speaking from experience, it is very difficult to talk to children about this topic openly and honestly.

My heart breaks to think there is a child growing up who believes a cancer diagnosis automatically equals death.  Talk about a defeatist attitude!  The truth is, every specific kind and case of cancer is very different.  And yes, cancer does kill people.  However, it doesn’t kill every person it touches.  In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, the overall rate of surviving cancer is about 58%.  That means more than half of the people touched by cancer defeat it, and the odds just keep improving!

So I am asking you to be honest and positive with your children instead of passing on your pain and fears to them.  Did you know, according to Mayo Clinic, positive thinking may increase your lifespan, lower your rate of depression and stress, and provide better coping skills during hardships?  “So I refuse to give up because I know God will never let me down.”(Isaiah 50:7)  “Be strong and courageous.  Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)


Everyday I Fight

I recently read the book, Everyday I Fight by Stuart Scott.  If cancer has touched your life,  you need to read this book.  For those of you not familiar with Stuart, he hosted shows on ESPN for more than 20 years until he died in January 2015 from cancer of the appendix.  I have always liked sports and I grew up watching him.

The foreword of this book is written by Robin Roberts who was a close friend of Stuart’s and she mentions that when they were fighting cancer, they both “focused on the fight, not the fright.”  I think that is great advice and I think that this book is proof of what an inspiring fighter Stuart Scott was.

In this book he is brutally honest about what cancer looked like for him and he stressed how much of the battle was mental, because it is true cancer messes with your head.  “A study released by the Duke Cancer Center in 2011 found that 4 out of 10 cancer patients are plagued by symptoms of PTSD for as long as a decade after the end of their treatment.”  A decade!

You know that old saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”?  Well Stuart points out in this book that this is not true of cancer.  He states, “Cancer can kill you, but it can also make you the man you always wanted to be.”  I wholeheartedly agree that I am a better person because of it.  I’m not giving credit to the cancer but to the human spirit’s response to it.

Stuart goes on to stress that “you don’t lose to cancer because you die, you beat cancer by how you live and why you live.”  I love this statement because I have found that there are people out there that act as if we can change the outcome somehow if we just pray enough, fight enough, or believe enough.  The truth is that we don’t have control, God does, so let’s make our life count no matter how long of life that may be.

I highly recommend that you read this book, it just may change your entire outlook on life.  I know I am glad I did.  In the words of Jimmy Valvano, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”



Tolerance And Love In The New Year

My third book will be released in a few days and I feel like some time I am going to wake up and realize it was just a dream.  I feel truly blessed to be able to realize a dream of mine. But the fact is that we can all do it.  It takes a great deal of hard work, time, and perseverance no matter how many times you hear the word no.

I find that entering a new year is always a time of reflection and gratitude. Reflecting on what and who I am to see where I might need to change, or what I may need to remove from my life.  Gratitude for my relationship with God and all of the overwhelming blessings I have been given.

This year is also a time of new beginnings for our country, as a new president takes office.  I will admit that no, I didn’t vote for him, but I also accept the fact that it has been decided and complaining will not change the outcome. Therefore, I choose hope.  I choose to believe that I will be pleasantly surprised by his accomplishments.

Tomorrow is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, he is a personal hero of mine.  I am saddened by the current state of racial relations in this country.  It is like we have started to move backwards.  In the words of Dr. King, “Hate darkens life, love illuminates it. Hate cannot drive out other hate, only love can do that.” You may remember Jesus teaches a similar message.

Remember that you are an example to your child.  Spread love, not hate. Spread light, not darkness.  Spread joy, not bitterness.  We shouldn’t need great tragedies like terrorist attacks to remind us that we are “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for ALL.”

The Walk

Last summer I just had one of those days.  You know the ones where your kids don’t listen to anything you say and you end up playing referee all day long so they don’t kill each other.  Well, Brett got home from work and I set supper on the table and told him I needed a break.

He suggested a walk and I said no at first because it was so hot out but then reconsidered because I realized what a grump I was and I wanted to enjoy the evening.  So I set out for my walk with my ipod in tow, still steaming about how the kids I love so much can drive me so completely insane.

The heat and the exercise started to wear me down so I turned for home.  I walked past a friend’s house and her and her husband were sitting out in their driveway having a beer.  They offered me a drink and I took a nice cold bottle of water.  They went on to ask how we were all doing after hearing that Brett’s cancer was back again.

I told them the truth, that the first chemo was really hard on all of us and I had forgotten how hard  this was.  They both offered their support and hugs and then the wife gave me a little booklet full of healing scriptures.  Running into them changed my mood dramatically.

So I continued for home walking a little lighter and just when I start walking into my yard a woman walking her two dogs stops me on the street.  Turns out it was one of my new neighbors that I hadn’t met yet but she had heard all about us and the book I had written.  While I pet her beautiful black lab she went on to tell me what a great idea the book was, that she would like to purchase one, and that she has been praying for my family.  A complete stranger was praying for us.

Before we finished talking, another neighbor  arrived home and came over to where we were standing.  She said that she too was praying for us and just wanted to give me a hug.  I then entered my house and checked my phone.  I had a message from yet another new friend who said she was praying for us, thinking of me, and shared some of her favorite bible verses with me.

For any skeptics who don’t believe God is alive and working within us, here is your proof.  I started the day mad at the world and screaming at my kids.  I ended the day feeling so blessed and honored that God brought these people into my life and that I have so many people who genuinely care.  It doesn’t get much better than that.  Thanks be to God.

Feeling Thankful

As I look out the window on this cold, fall day, I can’t help but take a moment to count my blessings.  I have two healthy children and a husband that I love.  I watch them play outside and it brings a smile to my  heart.  I am extremely thankful that their childhood is drastically different than mine was.

With my book, The Truth About Divorce, being released I have had the subject of divorce on my mind a lot.  When my parents’ were divorced I was 13.  Every moment of my childhood was spent living in fear of a father with an unpredictable temper.  

We ate what he wanted to eat, we watched what he wanted to watch, and if we stepped out of line we were screamed at and usually whipped with the belt.  He was very good at belittling us, making us feel small so he could feel big.  As an adult, I now understand he suffered from mental illness, but this wasn’t talked about during the time.  

During the divorce, when we had moved out, he would show up drunk at my mom’s house and beat on the door while screaming for us to let him in.  He would go around and look in all the windows to try to find us and yell at us.  It was terrifying!

The first time we went to his house for visitation all he did was tell my brother and I, what a horrible person my mother was and call her names.  Instead of making the most of his time with us, he forced us to do his laundry and clean the house for him.  I distinctly remember the time my brother got sick and threw up and my dad couldn’t be bothered, so he made me clean it up.

I can’t remember a time when I felt safe or at peace as a child.  That didn’t come until years later as an adult with my husband.  Some might look back and feel sorry for themselves under these circumstances and really, who can blame them?

However, the older I get, the more I can see that going through all those dark times were just part of God’s plan for me.  I had to go through that so that I could help other kids in tough situations.  The sum of all my experiences helped shape me into who I am, and I really wouldn’t change it.  I truly believe I was given the gift of writing for this purpose.  It is my calling to help others through books and serve God while doing it.  I lead a very blessed life.  This is my calling, what’s yours?

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”   1 Thessalonians 5:18






What Would My Life Look Like Without Cancer?

My husband, Brett, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma in June 2007.  At the time we had a one year old son and had only been married for 2 years.  Some days it feels like it has been an uphill battle ever since.

Brett underwent many types of chemotherapy and they all failed. He then had an autologous stem cell transplant at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.  This means essentially that they harvest his own stem cells, give him enough high-dose chemo to almost kill him, and then put the stem cells back in.  This failed.

Next, Brett underwent another stem cell transplant where his brother gave him donor stem cells.  This failed.  He was then put on a study drug through Mayo Clinic and was given 4 ½ years of remission! Eventually, however, this too failed.  

In February 2014 the cancer came back yet again.  Since that time he has tried many different chemo regimens and radiation.  He is once again in remission but the battle never really ends. I think at some point whether we are a patient or caregiver we all ask “What would my life be like without cancer?” at one time or another.

It’s very easy to say that I wish none of this ever happened, but that is only part of the story.  When we packed up and set out for Rochester for that first transplant our friends, family, and community rallied around us.

We received countless cards in the mail.  There were two benefits thrown on our behalf, one in our hometown in Iowa and one in Lake Crystal where we live now.  Even our daycare provider summoned the other families to help us out with gifts of time and money.

We had just joined a new church shortly before his diagnosis and didn’t know anyone.  But that didn’t matter.  Complete strangers to us in this congregation came up to us and offered prayers, to cook us a meal, and to watch our kids.  We became very close with the Pastor as well.

Now we have two beautiful children, a strong close-knit community and are part of a caring church family.  We are closer than ever to our family that was there for us throughout the fight and have made many new friends along the way. Life is actually pretty great!

I do believe there is a purpose in our suffering and that God has a plan for everyone, even though we may not understand it.  I think I need to stop thinking in “what ifs” and start appreciating all the beauty that’s in the “what is.”