THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, ‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.’ -Mark 1:3
Today my heart is broken.
I haven’t watched the video. But a description of its contents is enough to send me reeling. The revelation of a doctor’s extraction of the brain of an aborted fetus while its little heart still beat inside its dying body has pushed me over the edge.
Over the edge of every good reason I had to stay silent. Plunging down the chasm of my vanity, the worry over my image as an author and speaker. Past the safety net of positivism.
I spent the day grieving, just flat-out brokenhearted over what we have become as recent undercover videos of abortion practices and the sale of fetal body parts has revealed the seedy underbelly of the death industry.
Kill. Harvest. Clean up the blood. Dispose of the body.
Go to lunch and arrange another sale.
She eats, wipes her mouth, and says, “I haven’t done anything wrong!” -Proverbs 30:20 (God’s Word Translation)
Over twenty years ago, a doctor in an emergency room told me he didn’t plan to treat my disabled mother’s pneumonia because, in his words, “Her life is useless.” Eighteen years ago, a doctor in Canada wanted us to pull the plug on our paralyzed son because his life would be worthless.
I fought for my mother to live her final years in dignity. I have fought hard for my son to live well in his broken body. Along the way I’ve learned much about this fierce and glorious and fragile breath we call life.
The gift is so beautiful that I even have a hard time taking it from the critters that complicate our country living. I’d rather whisk a spider back outside than squish it. I used to designate all snakes as being either “one-rock” or “two-rock.” The big ones took two rocks to kill. Recently I walked past a little bull snake lying on our rock wall as it cooled off in the sprinkler.
I left it alone. It wasn’t a good morning for anything to die.
Though I have been destined to fight for the lives of those I love, I have long resisted God’s call to speak out against the culture of death publicly, out of fear of being seen as negative or political. No more. I no longer care what anyone thinks of me.
When Is Silence Evil?
A fierce national spirit and reluctance to actively protest the agenda of the Nazis kept the German church largely quiet against the genocide by their leaders. Few Christians had the courage of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German theologian who ultimately was killed by the Nazi regime for his participation in the resistance against Hitler.
Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Today genocide is rampant across the globe. Some kill in the name of God. Others kill in the name of ethnic cleansing. In developed countries, we routinely kill the pre-born, the aged, the disabled in the name of compassion. Call it “women’s health” or “death with dignity.” Someone still dies, and someone profits.
Are we any better than Hitler? Or are we any better than a church that, for the most part, kept quiet as people were experimented on and gassed and skinned to make lampshades?
I have always been pro-life. But it became personal for me the day a doctor wanted to dispatch my mother because she was in the way. It became personal for me the day a doctor wanted to dispatch my son because his organs were more valuable to society than his life.
I realize my voice is a small one. It isn’t likely many will even read this post, much less feel compelled to act upon it. But I must add my voice to those rising to fight for compassion. I will fight with my last breath for the lives of those without a voice in this wilderness.
Why does every life matter to me?
It matters to God.
Will you stand with me? Will you educate yourself and speak out and support the families of the voiceless?
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28 Jubilee Bible
“Why do you look for the living among the dead?” -Luke 24:5 NASB
Inexplicably, we’re drawn to the life-and-death struggles.
The cars lie mangled in the middle of the highway. Red and blue lights pulse on the wet asphalt as an ambulance slowly backs up to the carnage. A woman stands weeping next to a solemn officer. Traffic crawls past the wreck in funeral procession as a policeman impatiently motions for the line to move on. His eyes plead, “Please, don’t make it a spectacle.”
But we can’t help it. We have to look.
Inexplicably, we’re drawn to the life-and-death struggles. I don’t know if it’s curiosity or fear that feeds the need for people to watch disasters unfold. This appetite for the macabre may just be a reflection of the world in which we live, a culture that spends millions of dollars to be entertained by the most perverse images Hollywood can conjure up. Death compels us to look. In the process, we lose the respect for life that once helped preserve society.
This world is trapped in a race toward perdition.
Every act of rebellion feeds the engine. Every time we spit in the face of God we turn a new corner that threatens to send us hurling into the abyss below.
The Christians worry about it. We argue on Facebook about what is happening and why. We lay claim to opposing views of His truth. We watch with fascination and a sick stomach as this planet plunges toward a fearsome end. We pass by each injustice in procession, eyes glued to the gore as we shake our heads in disgust.
Unlike us, He’s not wandering through the tombs.
Then a still, small voice speaks to the one who believes in Jesus Christ: “Why do you look for the living among the dead? When these things begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws near.” Jesus told us plainly that when certain signs begin to come to pass on the earth, it is time to look up. Unlike us, He’s not wandering through the tombs. He’s actively engaged in our welfare and extending deliverance to all who ask.
Christians are suffering, and we will continue to suffer as we journey alongside those intent on destroying themselves and others. We may be trapped on the same planet, but we have a different destination. Our Captain has commanded we keep our eyes off what is happening around us and instead look to Him. In a moment, any moment of any day, He could return for us. We’re not supposed to be watching those around us; we’re supposed to be watching for His beautiful face.
This last weekend I was privileged to join other authors and editors at a local event in our area. We filled the coffee shop with authors and aspiring authors who came to “stir up” the gift of God in their lives.
I spoke to them about how the novels of Clive Cussler challenged me to re-think my own writing. You may have heard principles like these listed elsewhere. For me, it was a master novelist who brought them to life.
Below are my notes from the presentation. May you be “stirred up” to write for God with boldness!
I have a hard time reading books for leisure. I spend so many hours at my computer that I can’t turn off the internal editor in my head at the end of the day. I can’t get past poor plot lines or sloppy editing in a book. The little bit of reading I usually do is Christian, and I have often been discouraged by some of what is currently being churned out in the name of God.
My introduction to Clive Cussler was through his novel, The Silent Sea, a gift to my husband from a friend. I was immediately engaged by the story and the fact that it was clean.
I’m almost finished with another of his books, Mirage, and as I read this one, I took the time to analyze it. I was entertained by it and challenged to rethink my own writing. I have found seven principles that I believe make Cussler’s books bestsellers for the right reasons.
If you’re not familiar with Clive Cussler, here’s a little background information on him. He is a prolific writer, having authored or co-authored 60 action-adventure novels, two children’s books, and several non-fiction books. His books have been on The New York Times bestseller list more than 20 times.
Cussler began writing in the evenings and on weekends in 1967, and he published his first novel in 1973.
His first non-fiction work, The Sea Hunters, was released in 1996. The Board of Governors of the Maritime College, State University of New York, considered it in lieu of a Ph.D. thesis and awarded a Doctor of Letters degree to Cussler in 1997, the first time in its 123-year history that the university bestowed such a degree.
Cussler is the founder of the National Underwater and Maritime Agency, or NUMA, a non-profit organization dedicated to American maritime and naval history. He and his team have discovered over 60 historically significant underwater wreck sites.
Two of his novels have been adapted for film. The most recent of these is Sahara, an action-comedy film released by Paramount Studios in 2005 and starring Matthew McConaughey.
His most recent novel, The Assassin, just came out on March 3rd of this
year. Clive Cussler is also a serious collector of classic automobiles. And he’s
83 years old.
Here are seven principles I learned from a secular novelist. Note how they vitally intersect to create a powerful message.
Live the Adventure Boldly
Proverbs 28:1 tells us “The righteous are as bold as a lion.” When God commanded Israel to enter the Promised Land, He told Joshua, “Only be strong and very courageous.” Joshua 1:7
Is our writing bold? Cussler sends his characters into improbable situations and court danger. His canvas is expansive.
He isn’t afraid to think outside the box. In Mirage, Cussler takes his hero from the Delaware breakwater to an old Soviet prison in Northern Siberia to California to the Aral Sea. One moment he is exploring an underwater shipwreck. The next he’s fighting for his life as a torpedo speeds toward the wreckage where he is trapped. In a later scene the good guys are cutting open the red hull of a luxury yacht that has capsized Poseidon-style. The promotion blurb for his newest book, The Assassin, which just came out last month, promises to transport the reader from the oil fields of Kansas to Washington D.C., to New York, to war-torn Baku oil-fields on the Caspian Sea, and back to America.
Literary agent Chip McGregor once told a group of us writers that in the Christian publishing world, it’s said that if you want to sell your book, “Put a bonnet on it,” a reference to the current popularity of Amish romance. I have no problem with Amish romance novels, if God has called the author to write them. But why should Christians limit ourselves to cheap devices for the sake of selling a book?
We, of all people, can be living the adventure. We have God’s entire universe at our disposal. The Bible has revealed to us wonders that we can scarcely fathom. Good and evil are played out at our very doorsteps. Demons oppose us. Angels minister to us. A being not of this world lives inside us and guides us.
I remember the time I wrote a short story for a creative writing class in high school. The teacher was very taken with the story, and I had my first taste of the thrill of actually using words to create a picture in the reader’s mind. It was the first time it occurred to me that “To write is to paint worlds with words.”
Read the page one of the Prologue to the first paragraph on page 3 of Mirage. Can’t you see this being the opening scene in an action movie? Notice that he doesn’t take much time setting up the scene and he doesn’t give long descriptions. But in just two pages he has given us a lot of information and engaged our imaginations. You know the name of the ship, the name of the captain, the fact that he is a veteran seaman, they just passed through a hurricane, and that it’s about nine o’clock at night. You can hear the water flowing against the ship and the feel cool metal plates under your feet. You can envision the captain in his ridiculous outfit and even breathe an inward “ewww” at his hairy chest and back. You stand on the bridge of the ship and are enveloped with the others in the mysterious blue light.
“Everybody born comes from the Creator trailing wisps of glory.” ~Maya Angelou
Whether we’re writing fiction or non-fiction, fantasy, biographies, devotions, or children’s books, our challenge is to tap into the limitless creativity of God. It was God who thought up kangaroos and daffodils and gave lions their teeth. He painted the stripes on the zebra and gave pandas their teddy bear eyes. He sends the lightning to split the sky, the thunder to speak His mysteries, and the rain to wash away the storm. It is those wisps of glory we are called to capture for our readers.
We’re finite. We have only so much brain power at our disposal. But by letting God in on the discussion, we open new doors to our craft. I’m convinced that God loves to partner with us in the creative process. He wants to reveal Himself to others through us. In fact, that’s His plan.
“As a writer, I need an enormous amount of time alone. Writing is 90 percent procrastination: reading magazines, eating cereal out of the box, watching infomercials. It’s a matter of doing everything you can to avoid writing, until it is about four in the morning and you reach the point where you have to write. Having anybody watching that or attempting to share it with me would be grisly.”
“Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness”~1 Tim. 4:7
Cussler must be a disciplined writer, to have produced such a body of work. We can be full of ideas, but unless they make it to the page, they never see the light of day.
Develop a plan for writing that fits your life. Don’t worry about what other people do. Do what works for you. Just be disciplined.
Do the Research
“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing” ~Wernher von Braun
Whether we write fiction or non-fiction, research is the foundation of our story. It gives the story an air of realism. If we know our subject well, we will write with authority and speak with confidence.
In Clive Cussler’s books, especially in Mirage, I occasionally had no idea what equipment he was talking about. But the extra effort he put into being accurate gave integrity to the scene and convinced me of his knowledge base. Because his novels are so expansive, it also lends credibility to the story lines.
He has also taken obvious care to know the physical settings in which his characters play out the plot. In one of my favorite scenes from the book Mirage, the protagonist searches for a lost ship among the rusting hulks that litter the exposed seabed of what was once the Aral Sea. I was so taken by this image that I had to look it up and discovered that, indeed, the Aral Sea is shrinking.
Challenge Your Readers
Go ahead. Use the big words. Your readers can handle it.
Cussler’s use of military jargon and knowledge of the settings of his scenes reveals a careful study of his subject. I found myself occasionally pausing to mull over a new word or picture a piece of machinery he described. I had to look up words like “panamax,” (size limits for ships passing through the Panama Canal) “subaltern,” (a person holding a subordinate position, specifically a junior officer),“lateen-rigged dhows,” (A broad-beamed shallow-draft vessel with lateen-rigged sails), and “fusillade” ( a number of bullets fired at the same time or one after another quickly).
Oddly, I didn’t find this distracting. In fact, it was refreshing. It felt GOOD to read fiction that made me think. I was engaged and learning and still being entertained by the story.
It’s okay to challenge your readers. Writers have been told that readers want to be spoon-fed, instead of being encouraged to think. Whatever genre we’ve chosen as our outlet for our writing, it’s possible to elevate the craft and perhaps even society with our words. And I believe it’s possible to do this without being preachy or assuming a pseudo-intellectual tone. It just takes more work on our part so we don’t lose them along the way.
“There are two kinds of writer: those that make you think, and those that make you wonder.” ~Brian Aldiss
Obviously, we want to be the former. We want them to think, but we don’t want them to be totally lost. You can tease your readers along and pull them into the story. Then challenge them to rise above and beyond mediocrity.
Know Your Audience
“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.” ~Jimmy Stewart
Cussler knows his audience well. In this Oregon series, his use of military terms and non-stop action is clearly geared to lovers of government intrigue and action movies. He knows his readers aren’t looking for steamy romance. He doesn’t sell politics or try to solve interpersonal relationship problems. He gives them action, and lots of it.
Write what you love, but treat your readers always as partners in the experience.
Strive for excellence.
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.” Ecclesiastes 9:10
I’ve been challenged by the high standards of the two books I’ve read. Along with Cussler’s superb writing, the editing on the book is impressive. You’re not likely to find typos or dangling participles or unfinished plot lines in these novels.
This is especially interesting because he produces a lot of books. He often co-authors with other writers, which is probably why he can be so prolific. As an author who has used both the traditional and self-publishing paths, I’ve learned that either way, it’s important for the writer to insist on quality control over the finished product.
One Final Thing…
Seek God’s anointing.
“Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it.”
Psalm 127:1 NASB
Along with these principles of good writing, we have a greater charge: Whatever we write should honor God. When we have partnered with Him in the process, He delights in breathing life into our words.
Last week I shared a questionnaire from our recent local event for aspiring authors. It was designed to help you understand yourself and your calling a bit better as you step out into the world of writing on a new level. If you took the time to fill it out, send me an email and tell me what you learned about yourself.
This week, I’m offering some specifics to help you in your quest. To these I would add this one thing: BE BOLD. It takes a warrior’s heart to persevere in the publishing world. Walk in the confidence that God has put a story in your heart and He will equip you to tell it. After all, it’s really His Story, isn’t it?
Now that you’ve put your first thoughts down on paper, it’s time to take the next steps. The following are some guidelines to help you in the process. Blessings on your journey!
Read all you can, especially in the genre in which you’re interested.
Get to know who the best authors are and check out their websites to see what they’re doing. Why do you enjoy their work so much? In what ways do they connect with their readers?
Invest in some good books on writing and learn the craft.
Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying that genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. This is especially true for writing. It takes a considerable investment of time and hard work to get what’s burning in your heart down onto paper. The Chicago Manual of Style is the gold standard for correct manuscript style as you begin to edit your writing.
Sure, it helps to have some natural talent in writing. But like any profession, repetition is crucial in training for the best results.The more you write, the easier it will get and the better you will become. You can’t wait for inspiration to hit. Set aside a regular time and treat it as an important appointment with God. Without discipline, your dream can’t get into print.
Be willing to be vulnerable.
Paul Gallico, author of The Poseidon Adventure, one wrote, “It is only when you open your veins and bleed onto the page a little that you establish contact your reader.” As hard as it is, it’s important to let yourself be vulnerable as you write. You will also feel vulnerable when others begin to read and critique your writing. It can be painful to have the baby to whom you’ve given birth casually tossed around by others. But once again, the ability to allow criticism and critique is crucial to becoming a better writer. These things give us perspective and help us to see our work through the eyes of our readers.
Join at least one writer’s group.
It can be a national group or a local group, but the fellowship and information-sharing between writers is critical for success and growth. Other writers can help with providing an objective critique of your writing and pray for you when the going gets tough. Go to a writer’s conference if at all possible.
Check out the many resources online.
Today’s Internet offers many great resources for both the beginner and the advanced writer. Take advantage of these free sites and learn all you can.
Begin to build your platform.
This generation of authors is expected to be proficient in social media. Work to make contacts through such media as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn. You’ll meet some great people and begin to get your message out to others. Take advantage of any opportunities to speak at church, work, on community events.
Commit your writing to prayer.
The Bible tells us:
Unless the LORD builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it.
Psalm 127:1 NASB
Let the Lord let you. You want His anointing on everything you do, say, and write. If you let Him guide you on this journey, you will have the satisfaction of knowing your have been obedient to your calling, no matter where your writing takes you.
And I love meeting others who share my passion for words. Last month, I was privileged to be part of an event hosted by His Story Christian Gift Center in Lewiston, Idaho. We had a lot of fun meeting and working with aspiring writers. As part of this day, we handed out a worksheet to those who wanted to write but didn’t know how to get started. Today, I’m sharing this worksheet with you. Whether you’re a person who likes to carefully plan your writing projects or like to write without a net, it helps to get to know yourself a little bit better. It took me years to discover what my focus is and what motivates me to write. Here’s the first segment of the worksheet:
You’ve felt for some time that you have a story in you. It could be a novel that’s been shuffling around in your mind for years. Or you have an incredible life story that you long to share with others. Perhaps you yearn to write for children or parents or youth. You know God is urging you to step out in faith and put the dream to paper.
The journey to publication, whether through independent or traditional channels, is an arduous one. Although it’s not for the faint of heart, it’s within your reach. It takes a lot of discipline, hard work, and willingness to learn. So where do you begin?
It’s best to write down a few things to help you solidify your goals. These next questions will help you put into words what’s brewing in your heart. Take your time, think them through, and commit them to prayer.
1. What genre are you interested in pursuing (non-fiction, fiction, fantasy, young adult fiction, devotional, children’s books, etc.)?
2. Why did you choose it?
3. Who are your favorite authors, and why?
4. What Scripture(s) best describe your walk with God?
5. Describe your life’s calling in one sentence.
6. What gifts and talents do you think God has placed in you that qualify you to speak to others?
7. If others could describe you in one word, what might that word be?
8. Do you have the support of your family to take on writing?
9. What is your educational background?
10. What do you hope to accomplish through writing?
Fill this out and keep it. Pull it out occasionally and see where God has taken you in your journey. Next week, I’ll post the second half: Now What?
For the past three weeks, Anita Greening and her family have been sharing their journey through a bewildering series of setbacks and how they have leaned on God during this time. In this last part, Anita shares how she has come to find their “new normal” and the wonderful news she has just received.
How have you learned to fight the fear and despair that comes with a serious illness?
When I felt that fear and pain coming my way, I made a conscious decision to think on something else. I would open the bible, turn on some uplifting music, or just say out loud, “No, I will not think on that today!”
The cancer journey has been much harder on my family in many ways than it has been on me. The emotional aspect of it for them was very difficult. Seeing me sick and not able to do the things I had always done was hard for them. The uncertainty they felt about the future and about my future was difficult for them, too.
For me, other than the physical effects from cancer and the chemo, I wasn’t too concerned about it. I always believed and confessed that cancer died 2000 years ago on the cross of Christ, and I believed that God wasn’t finished with my life on earth. I felt sick, exhausted, and in pain, but I haven’t been too concerned about whether or not I would be well again. I just truly believed I would be.
For me, the hardest struggle has been financially. It’s funny how I can trust God in some areas and struggle to trust in others, as if God would say to me, “All right, I can take care of this for you, but I won’t help you with that problem.” It sounds silly, but I believed God would take care of the cancer, but I have struggled with the idea of Him taking care of the financial aspect. My biggest concern throughout my journey has been the financial one. I prayed and prayed for God to removed this heavy burden from our backs, and the more I prayed, the harder things became financially. I would awaken in pain and nausea, but the all-engulfing problem to me was our financial difficulties.
It was a long road for me to learn to trust God in this area. It hasn’t been easy, but at this point I am able to step out there and just tell my Heavenly Father what we need and trust Him with the answer–even when the bills pile up or go unpaid month after month. God has been persistent through our journey to move us to a deeper level of faith and trust in Him, to teach us to be content with what we have, to help us face our fears and overcome them through Him, and to bring us to a place of peace in our “new” normal way of life.
He has never let go of us as He walked with us through the valley of the shadow.
That is so beautiful, Anita. What would you tell someone else who is enduring a similar trial right now?
I would tell them emphatically that no matter what, they can make it! If they will yield to God and allow God to have His way, He will bring them through their situation. I would tell them to never, ever give up. Keep going, keep believing, and know that God is there for them. He loves them deeply. I would honestly tell them it will be painful, it will hurt. It will be very difficult but through it all, God will never let them go. Be honest with God. He can handle your honesty. Be honest with others. Let others know when you need help, when you need prayer, or when you just want to be alone.
You have an update on your condition. Please share it with us.
I had a CT scan that was clear. There was no more evidence of cancer. The oncologist said the CT didn’t show microscopic cancer cells, and therefore I would need to continue chemo for the next few months. Afterward, I will be having maintenance chemo for another few months to help ensure that the cancer will not return.
Hannah has started at a diagnostic clinic at UAMS. She had her first appointments in August and September. We are hopeful to find a diagnosis for her and are believing God for health for her, as well.
Thanks for sharing your family’s story with such honesty. It has taken great courage to walk the path you have with faith. If people want to keep in touch or help out with your expenses, how can they contact you?
The last two weeks, we have been blessed and challenged by the story of the Greening family’s faith in the face of continuing hardships. Today, in the next segment of the interview, Anita shares how they are learning to trust God for provision and healing in every area of their lives. Be sure to stop by next Thursday for the conclusion and to hear Anita’s good news.
What’s your favorite Bible verse? What verses have sustained Matthew and you through these last years?
These verses are some of Matthew’s favorite verses from the Bible. He has leaned on them and God has brought him comfort and strength through them.
Behold God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; for Yah, the Lord is my strength and my song; he is also become my salvation. -Isaiah 12:2
When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him. -Isaiah 59:19b
I have so many favorite verses in the Bible, but if I had to choose just one, I would choose Isaiah 41:9-10:
I took you from the ends of the earth, from its farthest corners I called you. I said, “You are my servant;”I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
God has comforted and strengthened me with this verse over and over again.
Jordan writes a weekly article for the music website CMADDICT.com. What is the series about and what motivates her to write for this particular site?
Jordan was asked by the owner of CMADDICT.com to contribute to his website awhile back. She was blessed and honored by this request and was excited to be a part of the site. She writes a weekly article and makes a video of her music that she wrote in the hope of inspiring others and pointing them to Jesus Christ. She is motivated to write because of her love for Jesus and her love for others. The desire to share her faith in God and the hope to be able to lead others to the Lord also motivates her. She has such a passion for God and has been through so many personal trials herself, as well as seeing and hearing from so many hurting people. She wants to encourage people to look to Jesus, to look beyond themselves to God.
She knows that when we take the focus off ourselves, our perspective is changed, hearts are changed, and lives are made new. Through God, people can endure anything. She believes true life and true love are found in God through Jesus Christ. The series she writes is based and focused on all of these things.
How do you find God’s strength on the hard days?
There have been those days that the loss, pain, and despair would creep up on me and engulf me. During these times, I felt that I could no longer find hope. At times I just really wanted to give up. I was weary I felt overwhelmed by trial upon trial; problem after problem, more and more and more issues. Inside, I felt I had nothing left.
Nothing left to give. Nothing left to say. Nothing left to hope for. I remember grieving and crying out to God and feeling as if He was a million miles away. I remember being brutally honest with God and telling Him that my family and I had had enough. I told Him that we were just flesh and bone, and we didn’t have super-human strength, and we just couldn’t take it anymore!
I believe God loves our honesty, and He is strong enough to deal with our pain, anger, and disappointments. There is not a thought we can have that is ever hidden from Him, anyway.
I remember asking Him where He was. Where was our help? God was remarkably quiet during those times. He knew what He was doing, but to me, everything about life was way out of control. At times I was angry, Matt was angry, and even our children were angry.
At times, we were all afraid. We cried. We cried together, and we cried separately. We cried out to God. We prayed together and individually. We learned through it all not to look back very often. Honestly, when we remembered the good times in the past, it brought all the more pain to our current way of life.
So we learned to live in the present. We learned to be content with what we had. We learned it wasn’t important to have abundance. Instead, the greater value was in that deep trust that came from God providing for our needs day by day. When we had no idea where food or clothing or any provision would come from, we learned to trust God.
Last week we posted the first part of an interview with Anita Greening and her family. Anita is fighting ovarian cancer and describes their determination to serve God in the midst of suffering in this poignant second part of the series.
You and your family have exhibited a strong faith in the face of crushing hardships.
Please tell us about your faith journey:
What have you had to give to God? What is He teaching you through your recent trials, both individually and as a family?
Faith in God is what has carried us through every difficulty we have faced. God has been our strength, our comfort, our encouragement, and our life. Our trials truly began ten years ago in 2004 when my husband and I worked for the same company. This company suddenly closed due to an insurance glitch, and we were both without a job. After months of looking for work in my hometown, we ended up selling a lot of our possessions and moving to Waxahachie, Texas, where my husband was attending Bible college. We hoped that in moving so near to Dallas, he would be able to find a good job.
It didn’t happen. After spending nearly a year there, we moved to our current town in Arkansas. Jobs have been hard to find here as well. It has been very difficult financially for our family for many years. Still, God has been faithful and has sustained us. We have learned what it is like to be fed day by day, from God’s hand to our mouths. We have learned to be content with what we have and to take one day at a time with God’s help. We have had to go deeper in faith and trust than we ever imagined going.
Peanut Butter and Two Loaves of Bread
I remember a couple of weeks when my husband was traveling due to his job that the girls and I lived off of a jar of peanut butter and two loaves of bread. There were no funds for food and that was all we had. We thanked God for it and for his provision.
My husband finished his Bachelor’s degree, and I too obtained a degree as a Radiological Technologist. His degree in church administration did not help us in our new location, and unbeknownst to be at the time, there were so many radiologic technologists in our state that finding a job was extremely difficult. To this day, I haven’t worked in this field. It has been a huge disappointment.
Also during this time, my husband lost his mother to a long-endured battle with lymphoma cancer. It was heartbreaking and so painful! I too lost my dad, who also suffered from bladder cancer and congestive heart failure. We were all grieving.
After being diagnosed with cancer in January of 2013, I was traveling back and forth to Little Rock, Arkansas for treatment. It is about an hour and 15 minutes drive one way. We had one car and it was very old. It gave out and wasn’t worth fixing nor did we have the funds to fix it. We went three months without a vehicle. It was hard. We borrowed and shared my mother’s car which she graciously allowed us to use on a daily basis. After finally purchasing another more reliable vehicle, we were hopeful that things would get better.
We were in shock! How could this have happened? What were we going to do now? We prayed. We sought God. It seemed God was silent. With all that we had, we continued to pray, give tithes and offerings to God with what we had left, and keep trusting in Him. My husband worked on finding another job, and I began to have more health difficulties. It was in that same month that I began to notice what I thought were symptoms of the ovarian cancer once again.
My husband began to take on my daily work load in the house, as well as continuing to look for work, working on his Master’s Degree through distance education, taking care of Samuel, and many other tasks. Matthew for awhile was angry about the cancer returning. He felt that I had been through enough and that our family had too. He became quiet and withdrawn for awhile as he worked on his feelings about all that was going on. So much has occurred in our family over the last ten years, it sometimes seems overwhelming! Matthew looked to God through prayer, the Bible, church, and Christian music. He has a strong faith in God and in God’s ability to heal. He prays for me daily and almost nightly lays a hand on me and prays for my health before going to sleep. Also, Matthew continues to lead our family to church and leads me in communion almost daily. As he works on his Master’s Degree in Licensed Professional Counseling, he works on helping our children deal with all the heartaches, pain, and sickness that our family has been through over a ten year period.
Matthew, as his name means, has been a gift from God to me and our family.
God has been ever present during our difficulties. We have seen him in simple things like the joy and laughter in our children’s faces, a gentle breeze and just the beauty of nature. We have felt his presence during prayer, in the midst of our tears, and in those times we just felt we could go no further and then there would suddenly be strength to keep going. We knew the strength came from Him. We have seen God at work through prayers and encouragement from friends and family. People from all over have prayed for me and my family.
It is humbling. It seems our lives are transparent and open before the world. That has been a big adjustment for me as I have always been a private type of individual. So many people have sent cards, notes, gifts and even financial help. Yes, God has been there through it all. Through the fear, the pain, the tears, the heartache, the financial problems, the loss, the disappointments, there was God. We know that everything we have faced and are currently enduring was allowed for a divine reason. My prayer is that good comes from it and that God will be glorified through it. We hold onto Jeremiah 29:11 that says,” For I know the plans that I have for you says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a future and a hope.”
We believe that “All things work together for the good of those that love the Lord and are called according to His promise” Romans 8:28. We as a family are thankful. We are thankful to God and his goodness to us. He is for us, and who (or what) can be against us? Where there is God, there is life….spiritual life, physical life, financial life, abundant life. We may not see it all at this time, but we know He is the source, and we believe in Him. We know that His goodness and mercy is following us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23). Thank you God!
Next Thursday: Unstoppable, Part 3
Visit the Greening Family here:
The Greening family continues to have crushing medical bills as Anita and Hannah fight for their health. Please visit their gofundme site and consider making a donation to help ease their burden.
Today I am honored to introduce you to the Greening family. I first learned about them through my son Kevin, who is the founder and senior editor of a website devoted to Christian music, CMADDICT.com. Jordan Greening is an aspiring musician and writes a weekly article for the site, called Jordan for Jesus. Her enthusiasm for God and her radiant smile belie the incredible hardships faced by her family in the last ten years. When I learned of all they have endured, I knew I had to share their story with you. This is the first of a three-part series, so be sure to check in the next two weeks for the final installments. You will be inspired and blessed by them, because this family is….Unstoppable.
You and Matthew have three children. What are their names and ages?
Our oldest daughter is Jordan. She is 22. Our youngest daughter is Hannah and she is 20. We have one son, Samuel, who is 2 years old. We adopted him in 2012, a few months before I was originally diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
How has God gifted each of them? What dreams and goals do Jordan and Hannah have for the future?
Jordan loves to sing and write music. Not just any music, but music for God. She has loved the Lord and Christian music since she was very young. I remember Jordan singing along with Christian music CDs when she was in kindergarten and even 1st grade. She started singing specials in church when she was around six, and she also loves to sing for YouTube. She loves the Lord very much and I would say her dream would be to work as a Christian music artist professionally. She works day and night on music and taught herself to play guitar and a little on the keyboard.
She hopes to travel one day and share her faith and love for the Lord with others as well as share the music God gives her. She has quite a following on her twitter site where she works to encourage people and share her faith as well. I cannot begin to recall the numbers of people both young and old that have messaged me through the years because they were so encouraged by Jordan and the things she has written to them online. Some were just renewed in their faith, some were encouraged or inspired, some were led to Jesus and some even turned from suicide or self harm after talking with her. She truly desires to please the Lord and hopes that through her faith and walk with Him, she would be able to point people to Jesus Christ.
Jesus is her first and only love.
Jordan is also in college as a part-time student working toward an associate degree. She hopes to transfer to a 4 year college at some point in the future.
Hannah also loves to sing and is a self-taught rapper as well. She writes her own music as well as singing music by other artists. She has sung in churches since she was very little and for YouTube for a number of years. Hannah also loves the Lord and lives her life for Him. She has a strong faith and a very compassionate nature. She has been a supporter of children suffering from cancer for many years. She began making special edited pictures and videos of children who were dealing with cancer while she was in her teens. She was careful to ask permission from the families before doing this.
Through time, people began approaching her for pictures and videos for their children. She has worked doing these things for years online and faithfully prays for the children and their families. She has often sent the families and their children messages and words of encouragement or even gifts through the mail. I have often seen her in tears when these precious little ones would gain their angel wings and pass to the arms of Jesus in Heaven. Even after their passing, Hannah continues to support their families and the legacy of these precious children through pictures and videos online.
Through this work, she was asked to help with Talia Castellano’s social media sites. Talia was a YouTube sensation and an inspiration to many people throughout the world. Though she was young, Talia touched many hearts and lives with her spunky and cheerful and inspirational nature. Talia also appeared on the Ellen show a number of times. Talia passed away about a year ago at the age of 12. Hannah has felt honored to be able to work with Talia’s family and friends and help with Talia’s Face Book page, YouTube, and twitter site to keep Talia’s legacy alive and help bring support, funding, and awareness to childhood cancer. Through these things, Hannah decided to work toward a degree in Nursing and desires to work in pediatric oncology. She has completed all of her basics at this point and hopes to apply this spring for the Nursing program in a local community college in our town.
What a surprise and joy when our youngest, Samuel Isaiah, became a part of our family! He has been a blessing to everyone. He is a smart little fellow who knows his colors and how to count to 16 at two years of age! He loves to sing, color, look at books, and has a huge interest in cars and trucks. He loves to watch mommy and daddy cook and hopes to one day be in the middle of it all! Samuel is such a friendly little fellow and he makes friends wherever he goes. We were overjoyed when he became a part of our family and we know that God planned him just for us. We really didn’t think we would ever have a son, but God had other plans! Samuel has been with us since he was 3 months old and his adoption began suddenly on my husband’s birthday in June of 2012 and ended on my daughter Jordan’s birthday in November of 2012. We tell Samuel that he was born out of our hearts. Indeed, my cup runneth over!
What is your medical status at the moment? How is Hannah?
At this point, I have relapsed with ovarian cancer stage 3C. I am currently taking chemo once a month for 6 months. If the cancer recedes, and I become once again NED (no evidence of disease), I will then have around 6 maintenance chemo infusions at the end of my treatment. These will also be one each month for 6 months. I have an upcoming CT to let us know how I am doing. We are hopeful that the cancer is diminishing.
Hannah suffers daily from many symptoms including bone pain, joint pain and swelling, swollen lymph nodes, migraines, anemia, chronic fatigue, nausea, blood abnormalities and etc. She has seen many specialists over the years, but none have been able to piece together her symptoms and come up with a diagnosis. We are hoping to soon schedule her with a team of doctors or in a diagnostic clinic where tests can be done in hopes of finding a diagnosis and getting her the help she needs.
It should have been a banner year. How many people get to be authors? And have an article published in a print magazine? And get to work at a job they love? How many parents see their children and grandchildren living solid lives of faith and hope?
This year I had the honor of working with my daughter Grace, who, by the way, is the best office assistant/publicist ever.
I had the joy of seeing our youngest son get his own place and grow in a job he loves.
I celebrated when our eldest granddaughter was accepted into the college of her choice.
I joined my beloved family for a nine-day trip to my favorite Pacific beach and attended my first Hot August Nights car show in my hometown.
My precious husband and I celebrated forty-two years of marriage with a two-day trip to the Big Town, where we got our Cabela’s fix and my husband finally bought a buffalo picture. He’s maintained for years that a log home needs a buffalo pic. I maintained otherwise. We finally agreed on one that would nicely grace the upstairs hall at the top of the stairs. At a vintage lamp shop downtown, I bought my first Quoizel Tiffany lamp, something I’d been coveting for several years.
The ancient mint and green carpet in our house is giving way to a handsome porcelain slate tile that will hold up better to country living, wheels, and our son’s German Shepherd/cross dog.
I’ve been able to share our story and God’s comfort with others through my writing and speaking. My first book, Song in the Night, recently was re-released in e-book form. I’ve met and re-connected with many wonderful people and heard inspiring stories of faith across this country.
I even learned how to use Google+ Hangouts to make a video presentation at a virtual caregiving conference, no small feat for a sixty-year-old woman who still struggles with the t.v. remote.
Yes, 2014 should have been a great year. In fact, it has been. And for that I’m eternally grateful to my Savior.
So why did I lose steam mid-summer? Why did I feel like I was spinning my wheels?
Mostly, I think, it was because in the midst of everything else, I am, first, a caregiver. Everything that I do comes after and along with my caregiving duties. Simple things like a trip to town involve a a lot of work and planning.
Every step is hard work. Every victory comes with much warfare. The joys have been interwoven with sorrow.
We lost Aaron’s beloved mother in January; my dear uncle in July. Kevin had an infection and sternum injury in May. He received emergency care during our coastal trip and again back at home. My father endured a hard winter of medical struggles. Then I suffered a severe lumbar strain and was completely out of commission for a few weeks. The family had to take up the slack in the daily chores.
It was during that time down in bed that I finally could stop. The enforced rest gave me a chance to re-think what I’ve been doing and what I want to achieve. One thing I know for sure:
I never want to be spinning my wheels on this journey. I want to listen carefully to God and only go where He guides. That may not mean a smoother ride. In fact, that may only increase the warfare in my soul and on the home front. The road to Zion is narrow and often filled with detours. I’m thankful to be on this trip, though. My destination is assured; a room in God’s mansion is already reserved for me heaven. It’s just a matter of staying on course, listening for God’s guidance, and remembering to enjoy the view along the way.
I will not spin my tires.
I will not spin my tires.
I will not spin my tires.