Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year !

“Greet one another with a holy kiss” - 2 Corinthians 13:12

It’s a few hours before midnight rings in the new year 2009. Johnny has been sleeping on and off all day on the couch and finally woke and went to bed upstairs. The firecrackers are popping all around us. The moon is uniquely beautiful tonight framed in a hazy mist with just a sliver of a crescent shining against a dark circle next to a single shining star.

It is a haunting sight between the shadows of the live oak trees that are silhouettes lighted by the moon. It is a unique masterpiece painted in brilliant strokes of amazing grace by HIS mighty hand. To me it is a message of beautiful brightness in the darkness. It is a beacon of hope that 2009 will be a year of many blessings.

I say that having absolutely no idea what the future holds for us. This is the first New Year’s Eve where I look forward in blind trust in the Lord because I know that there are storms ahead on the way to rainbows. There are going to be “walking on water moments” where I know I will be reaching out to grab God’s hand and not looking down. But I am able to keep hope alive because I know that all problems are blessings in disguise. God is always teaching us more about HIM through trials.

That’s why this midnight I will be up to greet the new year and sing God’s praises despite the circumstances and toast the coming year ahead with a shout. This year however, I will be toasting alone. Johnny is too weak to stay up. He simply is not eating much. The nausea continues to plague him. Yesterday when we went to Mayo for an appointment I had to push him in a wheelchair.

He barely made it up the stairs tonight. I may have to make him a permanent bed downstairs soon. I’m not sure he’ll be ready to do chemo again on Monday if things continue this way. I simply pray that God will direct us according to HIS will for the situation. It is hard to watch Johnny suffer. Get to work angels and keep that tight hedge around my baby! HE has given you charge over my sweetheart!

New Year’s Day, I am making the traditional pot of greens for prosperity and black eyed peas for good luck with some Hoover’s cornbread fried in a skillet. My precious friend Debi and hubby Mark are bringing a wonderful surprise gift – a pick up truck full of chopped wood! Yay! Someone to share the meal with! And receiving the abundance of a friend’s kindness on the first day of the year. That’s my idea of a good start!

Johnny loves a good fire too, so the wood is a perfect gift. I made him one last night even though it wasn’t cold. I believe there is healing power watching the flames. He graciously shared his “secrets of the master” and taught me the art of building and stoking a fire all night long over the past few months, so I am quite the expert now. I also am learning to conquer the BBQ grill thanks to those nifty little individual charcoal bags you simply toss underneath the rack and lite.

Tonight at midnight I will be standing outside on my veranda lifting my glass of French champagne to the sky, flanked by my faithful canine companions Lucky and grand-pup Rhett under sparkling white Christmas lights. I will be toasting our awesome God in thanks for another year. I will be toasting everyone I love. I will be toasting old friends and new friends. I will be toasting all of you in thanks for your loving support of our family through this current crisis. I will also be asking God’s blessing on each of you and your own circumstances.

But most importantly – a special thanks to you all for showing such love to my husband. He is absolutely overwhelmed by your attention and demonstration of the Christian spirit. It has brought him and all of us to new levels in our faith. It is so comforting to know we do not make this journey alone. We not only see God’s footprints when we look down – we see all of your footprints that are indelibly etched in our hearts forever. God bless each and every one of you.

Happy New Year from the Williams Family!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Day After Christmas Surprise

“I will praise You with my whole heart;

Before the gods I will sing praises to You.

I will worship toward Your holy temple,

And praise Your name

For Your loving kindness and Your truth;

For You have magnified Your word

Above all Your name.

In the day when I cried out,

You answered me,

And made me bold,

With strength in my soul”

Psalm 138:1-3

T’was the day AFTER Christmas and God gave us a BONUS BLESSING!!!!!

For the first time in quite awhile, Johnny woke up feeling good.

He had made it through Christmas day and my parents visit for dinner but only with great strength and effort. He missed out on the tasty fried turkey a friend had brought over to provide for our meal. All he could eat was a spoonful or two.

I helped him dress in a “Christmas outfit” downstairs because he was too weak to walk upstairs and change. His frail body is getting even frailer. Tear filled my eyes as I helped him pull his pants up his legs. He used to have sexy, muscular legs and a nice “tush” (a result of his championship basketball playing days.) Now his upper leg fits inside a ring I can make with my fingers from both hands pressed together. Now I know what “skin and bones” means.

On Christmas morning I asked him if he would hug me. With great effort he put his arms around me. His arms were there but his heart wasn’t. There was no “bear hug” squeeze like he used to do lifting my feet off the ground. I miss those bear hugs. Our kisses have become pecks on the cheeks. Because we don’t sleep together anymore we don’t have our “spoon moments” in the bed, where we press our bodies together and just become one in silent reverie of the warmth of love.

I’ve tried but it smothers him now. He gets claustrophobic feeling pressed in even if I try to tuck blankets around him for comfort. So the season of our love is taking on new dimensions as are roles change and I love him in new and different ways. I nurse him tenderly. I take on all the responsibilities of business and dealing with orchestrating his new life which revolves around frequent visits to Mayo Clinic and patient care at home.

I can feel his spirit slipping away in a sense………….that was until YESTERDAY!

He got up and had his quick sip of coffee and headed to the bathroom for his morning newspaper reading. I didn’t get to talk much yet because the cable man arrived moments later to fix my computer. Then the phone rang and it was a “blast from the past.” The familiar voice said “Do you know who this is?” It took a few moments to realize it was Johnny’s long lost cousin Yvonne who was my FSU roommate and who had introduced me to Johnny.

We talked a few minutes and I filled her in on the state of Johnny and how frail and weak he was yada yada. Then I took the phone to him when he got out of the bathroom having prepared her for the worst. Then what do I hear? I hear a BOOMING voice full of life and vim and vigor, laughing and joking and carrying on a hearty conversation. I turned around in shock and awe. Was this my Johnny? It was like a ghost from the past.

I walked upstairs to help the cable man and Scarlett was just waking up. She called me into her room and said “you wont believe the dream I just had! I heard the cableman talking and it sounded just like Daddy’s old voice!” I told her that was no dream! Daddy was back!

Later that morning I was finishing up Christmas dishes (yes, I gave myself a break the day before) at the sink washing up the last few pots and pans and Johnny surprised me by walking up behind me and slipped his arms around my waist. He hugged me and kissed the back of my neck like the old days and told me how wonderful a nurse I was to him and what a great Christmas hostess I was. He thanked me for everything I was doing in “running life” for us while he was down.

I turned around in his arms with tears in my eyes and said “Do I know You?” with a smile. We had the sweetest embrace we have had for months. I had my husband back – and I didn’t know for how long, so we made yesterday one big celebration all day long. It was better than Christmas.

He was hungry – yay! He was lighthearted. He was happy. He was mostly painfree. Yippee! He had such a great day that we poured a glass of wine for the three of us as the sun set and toasted all the things we had missed – Johnny’s birthday the week before, Scarlett’s birthday yesterday, and Jesus’s birthday!

We kept on toasting and toasting all the blessings we could think of in our lives. This may have been our best day in 2008. For a frozen moment in time we were back together as a family and as our old selves before we traveled down tragedy lane. We laughed….we sang……we watched Wheel of Fortune and I beat him like a drum!

He even stayed up late past 10:00pm to watch the last of a football game. Woo hoo! Then I tucked him tenderly into bed and kissed him goodnight. I slept good last nite for the first time in awhile.

This morning as I write this I don’t know who Johnny will be today. But I am praying for one more good day and that he feels hungry again. I wrote you that he had rallied with the new pills last week but it only lasted a few days then he was back to down and out…..hardly eating again. So we shall see what God has planned today.

But meanwhile, we thank the Lord for that “manna from heaven” He sent us for a day. Isn’t it wonderful that He gives us just enough light for the step we are on? The Lord is full of surprises as we continue to follow Him in faithfulness and wait upon Him. He never abandons us even when sometimes we get impatient. He simply reminds us to trust Him to always be provided for. Our God is an awesome God and He never ceases to amaze me.

He gives me strength to wake up each morning looking for the miracle and surprises He has in store. Thank you Lord for everything.

Beautiful Blessings,


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Whatever The Question - Love Is The Answer

“And you shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. And the second like it is this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:30-31

What would you do if you were told you only had six months to live? What would you do with your time left? Last Christmas, we had no idea we would be faced with the reality of this question. We all know our day of death is inevitable, but we never really believe it is true for ourselves. And so we go on living as if we have forever.

Celebrating the birth of Christ gives whole new meaning to that question if we stop and consider the gift HE brought to the world. One word – LOVE. It is all we need to know and consider on our journey here on earth.

Having an “appointment time” for one’s imminent departure, completely changes everything about life. It brings you from a life of superficial living and mundane attention to inconsequential things, to getting serious about answering the eternal question – what am I here for? What have I accomplished or learned so far?

What you have learned is evident in how you currently live. Are you focused on the truth of our existence or caught up running in place on the never ending wheel of frustration like a gerbil in a cage. That wheel is full of a million distractions that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.

What matters is love. What matters is love. What matters is love.

There I said it. Are you listening?

The whole purpose of Jesus being born was to bring the world this message. Love your Lord. Love yourself. Love your neighbor . Those commandments are intertwined – you cannot have one without the other. It’s like the old chicken and the egg question. Which came first?

Our lessons in love for the Williams family have cast a whole new light on the subject these past months on the cancer journey. This is where love comes down to the “heart of the matter” and is tested in ways I never would have imagined. It’s like a long version of life flashing before your eyes…but in this instance it is love and all its aspects we have known flashing before us.

I see all the different forms of love we have experienced throughout the years since our love began. It has grown and evolved, gone backwards and forwards, up and down. It has stretched to both extremes of good and bad. We have left it. We have come back to it. We have defined it. We have redefined it. We have multiplied it.

It has been filled with joy. It has been filled with pain. It has been filled with laughter. It has been filled with friendship. It has been filled with battles. What I have come to realize now looking back, is that all of it has lead us to the best definition of love – and this was the one Christ was trying to teach us – unconditional love.

Yes, it’s all about loving someone through the good, the bad and the ugly. Remember the old time vows of love we recited at our marriage ceremonies? For richer or poorer. For better or worse. In sickness and in health. It’s all about the commitment of love that we make to love no matter what. Love conquers everything.

But it is about more than marital love. That is simply our practice field. Then it extends to our family. Then it grows to embrace our friends. Then it grows to our neighbors and our communities. And from there we can reach out and touch the world with love.

But as Christ shows us – it begins with the greatest source of love which is our Lord. We must recognize and honor Him first. Then we can love and honor ourselves, and the chain of love keeps growing and growing.

This Christmas I hope you will give the gift of love to your life in all its glorious forms. Don’t wait until you have a deadline. Tell those you love that you love them. Show those you love that you do by making them a priority on your list of things to do. Live your life as if you knew when your time was up so you will make the most of it. This is how to make your life count.

This is the real purpose and the only purpose for being here. We are each a different blueprint of God’s love. We are all snowflakes in life. Roll us together and we can make a good snowman better than ole Frosty!

So Christmas greetings from The Williams house to all of you “jolly happy souls.” Our one wish for you in the coming year is to live, love, laugh and be happy. Then pass it on.

Christmas Blessings!

Rene, Johnny and Scarlett Williams

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Chrismas Poem by Rene


Twas the night before Christmas
At Johhny and Rene’s.
The Williams were snuggled
In bed with their dreams.

Even Scarlett and Rhett
For a brief Christmas stay,
Were back in their bedroom
Like long ago days.

Dear Lucky lay ready
To guard through the night,
In the house that slept under
The Christmas star lights.

Each window had candles,
Old fashioned you know!
That shined like a beacon
Of warm Christmas glow.

The lights on the wraparound
Porch sparkled bright
Setting colorful flowers
Ablaze in the night.

The Christmas tree sparkled
A glittering pink
In Victorian splendor
That make your eyes blink!

And the dining room table
Held plenty of cheer
Holding hundreds of Christmas cards
Keeping hearts near.

But this year no presents
Lay under the tree
Except those from family
And friends we received.

For Christmas was different
In 2008.
We decided the gifts
To each other could wait.

We didn’t need Santa
To come with his sleigh
With sacks full of presents
On this Christmas day.

We knew for this daughter,
This Father and Mother,
The best gift we had for this year
Was each other.

When we wake in the morning
We’ll open our eyes
With hearts full of joy
For another sunrise.

We’ll think of the babe
In the manger that morn,
Who changed all our lives
On the day He was born.

We’ll lift up our voices
In thanks and in praise,
For giving us love
To fill all of our days.

Every day is a blessing
When trusting in Christ,
To know that He lives
In our hearts is so nice.

When we look at each other
We look at HIS face
We each are a mirror
Of heavenly grace.

This Christmas is dear for
This family of three,
Holding hands singing carols
In front of the tree.

We don’t know next Christmas
If three will be here,
So we treasure this moment
Of blessings this year.

We bid you Good Christmas
And warm family love
May blessings rain down
From the heavens above.

We hope that you’ll hold
All your loved ones real tight.
And tell them how precious
They are every night.

The gifts of the spirit
Are those that will last
Today and tomorrow
Through future and past.


The Williams Family

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holding On To Hope

“Hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured into our hearts” – Romans 5:5

Christmas is drawing closer and looking back over the year I shake my head with wonder at all that has happened. Our lives have been completely transformed as the grace of God has surrounded us and led us down unexpected paths. We have traveled through the valley of death on a gripping journey but yet I can count it all as joy. Only God could have taught us how to cope with unbearable sadness and give us the strength to look beyond it and shout the victory.

But here’s the thing. We are not alone in suffering. We each have some form of unbearable sadness that we must cope with at some time during our life.. We all bear a cross that simply has a different name. My heart aches for those around me who are struggling through grief, illness, bankruptcy, loneliness, addictions, surgeries, cancer, lawsuits, unemployment, handicaps, bills, pain, fear, divorce, abuse, homelessness, etc. These are just a few of the things I pray for other people for, in my own personal prayer ministry each day.

Back in 2004 I had to find my own way to God to deal with the shock of discovering I had a deadly form of breast cancer which I did not have a great chance of surviving. I was furious with God. I was scared to death (excuse the pun.) I screamed, I ranted, I raved, I stomped my feet. I cursed. I yelled at Johnny. I broke mirrors. I acted like a spoiled rotten child. God patiently waited for me to calm down.

One night, in the still of the night, I was laying there angry at the world. I lay awake until the wee hours fuming about my plight. Finally I calmed down simply crying from the frustration of it all and just totally gave up my tantrum. It was then that I “sensed” God gently whispering in my ear “are you ready to listen?”

At that moment, with my eyes closed, I saw a vision of sorts. It was a glowing heart pumping in the darkness and with every beat the heart grew brighter. Suddenly I KNEW it was the heart of God, because it enfolded me with a peace that was a kind of “blessed assurance” that everything was all right because HE was with me. Nothing else mattered. I fell asleep and slept like a baby that night for the first time. Maybe it was because I realized I was not the center of the universe. God is the true center.

The next morning I woke up with a new sense of well being. I determined that if God was in control than I no longer had to worry about the cancer. I felt an urgency to make the most of every moment. My focus changed from being self centered to seeking God. I wanted more of that feeling I had the night before. I developed a voracious appetite for learning more about God. I discovered the incredible gift of power to be found in “THE WORD.”

I was excited. I went from helplessness to helping others. This was the secret to my own transformation. I decided that though I was weak from cancer treatments I could still pray and serve God! I decided to make my own mission of seeking others to pray for. At first I simply made a list of family and friends and their concerns. I got a blank journal book and started there. Then I decided to expand it and start looking for more. Everywhere I went I simply started asking everyone I met if there was something I could pray for them for.

What amazed me was how receptive people were after getting over the shock of my question. It led to many beautiful discussions, often with total strangers, of how great and wonderful our Lord is. I discovered that there are A LOT of people who are eager to talk about the Lord and are simply waiting for someone else to start the discussion.

Johnny is now discovering these same truths through his own journey. Despite a descent into constant pain, nausea, weakness, no appetite, his spirit still remains resilient and humbled to the will of God. It is a juggle of faith and human frailty. It is choosing to trust in God even when the future appears bleak. It is about praising God even when you don’t feel like it. It is about believing in a power greater than yourself to protect you.

God does His part. We have to do ours. It is an eternal pact that binds us and there are many fringe benefits if we can hang on to hope long enough to receive them. We must have hope to sustain us through the darkest night. What is hope? It is ”leaping up in expectation.” It is believing everything will work out for good – not by our own power but by the power of something far greater than ourselves. WE must believe no “matter what.”

Our “no matter what” came this past Monday as we met with the oncologist. The CAT scan did not yield the results as positive as we wanted them to be. A SLIGHT hair of a reduction in the mass on Johnny’s lung and in the lymph node. However the mass on his adrenal gland on the kidney continues to grow bringing more pain in his side. Johnny asked the dreaded question. How long do I have? The doctor replied 6 months.

She said she still wanted to do one more round (3 sessions) of the current chemo he was on because of the slight success. But she was concerned about the side effects and Johnny’s quality of life beyond that, if results are not more dramatic, which may simply lead to keeping him comfortable and pain free. I expressed concern about resuming chemo so soon because he had not fully recovered from the last chemo.

Johnny has only been eating less than a handful of food a day for the last two weeks and his weight has dropped down to the low 160’s. It is a viscous cycle created by the pain pills which nauseate him and remove his appetite. His body is frail. He is bony and gaunt. I told her my main priority was for addressing his constant pain and nausea and lack of appetite.

The doctor insisted that it was best to keep the chemo going on schedule while it was showing some results. She suggested doubling the oxycontin for pain and then adding marinol to relieve the nausea and stimulate his appetite. Marinol, she explained was medical marijuana in pill form. It apparently is now legal in Florida for medical uses in cancer treatment. We agreed that if we could get everything under control then he could endure a couple more chemos and keep fighting.

He did the chemo Monday and started the new regimen with increased pain meds and the new marinol pills. For the record – Johnny’s nausea is now under control and his appetite is now back to normal! I cannot tell you the joy of seeing him perk back up and hearing a chuckle in his voice! It is even greater joy to be able to cook for him again! But best of all we have a thread of hope. It is the same hope that David had as he faced Goliath with merely a slingshot. It is all about keeping your eyes on God when the Egyptians are at your back and the Red Sea is in front of you. You close your eyes and hang on.

So what is YOUR cross? Are you letting unbearable sadness rule your world and keep you from bringing light to the world? What are you CHOOSING to feel today? Perhaps you need a “heart to heart” with God and to look beyond your own self to reach out to others. What are you doing today to reach out and touch another life? Don’t go to bed tonight until you’ve done ONE THING to make another life breath easier. Do a random act of kindness for someone anonymously.

Do the same tomorrow.

Unbearable sadness is a matter of perspective. It is how you choose to handle it that makes the difference. We have all been faced with a loss or tragedy or trauma that has damaged us in some way. But we cannot dwell in that place for too long. We must light the candle ourselves that dispels the darkness. We must not lose heart. We must dig down deep and find the courage that lies dormant in each of us. Keep fighting!

We must choose to run under the pinion of God’s feathers. We must accept God’s strength to get through the valley. We MUST ask God for help and then get out of our own way so we can hear Him whisper to our hearts. God is always there. God is always waiting. We each have a destiny – a purpose for being here on earth. We each have an appointed time to be born and to die. Our concern is not the beginning or end. It is what we do with the “in-between.”

If I could give each of you a gift this Christmas it would be the gift of understanding the incredible power we each have through Jesus Christ to conquer anything. I would give you the whole armor of God. I would give you the helmet of salvation. I would give you the shield of faith. I would give you the sash of truth. I would give you the breastplate of righteousness. I would give you the sandals of the gospel of peace.

Most importantly, I would give you love. I hope you will take it and pass it on to everyone you meet. It is the best Christmas gift of all. Every thought of encouragement I just shared with you is not an original thought. It’s what I learned from reading my bible. I am simply sharing the truths I found that have helped me carry my own cross.

One last thought to leave you with. This is a quote posted on my refrigerator by James Frey:


Merry Christmas Kisses!

Rene and Johnny and Scarlett

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Soul Magnifies the Lord

“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my savior” – Luke 1:46-47

As the year draws to a close I look back and see all we have come through since this journey began early this year. I’ve been feeling lately like my get up and go has got up and went! The holidays have landed upon us and I watched as the neighborhood started lighting up around us with festive trimmings. I told myself that I might skip all the hoopla this year. I entertained thoughts of throwing a little 3 foot quickie tree on the coffee table and calling it a day. Surely everyone would understand!

Until I talked to my long lost cousin Lydia. She called to see if she and her Hubby Mike, who is my cousin, could make a day trip to visit Johnny just for a few hours this past weekend. Johnny has had it extra rough since his last chemo last Monday. His blood platelets are down, his stomach stays upset and he barely eats each day. And then there is the never ending pain. So they desperately wanted to see him but to not impose.

But the four of us go way back. Lydia was supposed to be my maid of honor at my wedding but Mike got transferred unexpectedly. They ended up in New Mexico for the last decade or two so we had grown apart through time and distance. But they moved back home to Varnville, S.C. last year after my Aunt Ruby died, to take care of Mike’s two adult handicapped brothers left behind. Obviously these two have hearts of gold and love, to uproot their lives and make such a tremendous sacrifice.

I love the people in life who understand you can talk the talk, and you can walk the walk, but its better to walk the talk, then to talk the walk. These two are walkers! So we really looked forward to seeing them. When we talked on the phone Friday we were talking about putting up decorations and dreading it and I told Lydia my plan. She paused and said “Rene, I really think you should decorate - especially this year.”

The beauty of that suggestion was – they were coming in two days so that gave me a short deadline to rally with. I’m an adrenaline junkie that has always put off projects til the last minute and my last minute had arrived to whip the house into a winter wonderland. So Saturday morning I got up and hit the ground running. Lydia had not seem my dream house yet and I was so excited to show her. We had dreamed together by her pool one summer when I went to visit them while in college. So I knew she would love and appreciate everything she saw.

This made me look at our home through fresh eyes. I worked from 10am til 10pm Saturday sprucing up and dragging the tree out of the garage, and the hundreds of ornaments, and yards of lights and bows. I even got fresh hanging pots of red and white impatiens flowers, to adorn the porch and provide more color. Before I knew it Christmas spirit was rushing through my veins. It was contagious. Johnny watched and laughed as I buzzed around whistling and singing carols as I worked.

As I worked I thought about that Christmas in 2004 when it was me laying on the couch-bed where Johnny now lays all day. I’ve come a long way in four years since my Christmas miracle saved me from a life threatening reaction to the chemo, that put me in the hospital that Christmas. I never dreamed I would be nursing Johnny through a Christmas miracle of his own. But here I am waiting to find another light in the darkness.

Because I believe there is a light in the darkness of everybody’s life. No matter how bad things get or how hopeless a situation seems, or how much one may suffer – the light is always there. We are always standing on a threshold of choosing the light or not. Our perspective and choice determines our destiny. Agony or ecstasy. Winning or losing. Happy or sad. Leader or follower.

I think the greatest gift we can give back to our savior this holiday season is to lead souls to Christ by following His light. I heard a great story by Rick Warren of “Purpose Driven Life. He was explaining his family Christmas tradition that dates back to when he was a boy. They honor the baby Jesus with a birthday party complete with cake and ice cream! Then they form a circle and each person gives a “gift of the spirit” to Jesus by telling Him what they will be doing for him in the coming year. Each person has a personal mission.

How great is that for remembering what Christmas is really about? What we can give to Christ rather than what we are getting from Santa? Oh yeah! It’s not all about me!

So my Christmas challenge for each of you is this. At the end of the day every day of the coming year ask yourself “Did I GET more today or did I GIVE more?” I hope you will give more of yourself in small everyday ways to the people in your life that you encounter.

Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us that “it is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself…serve and thou shall be served.”

So how bright is your light this Christmas? Is your Christian character showing? Do they know you’re a Christian by your love? Lead the way and make the first step by example. Remember, you may be the only bible some people ever read. So let your light shine. Let your life shine as bright as the Christmas lights on your tree.

When Mary, the Mother of Jesus found out she would be giving birth and that her life was about to become very unpredictable she didn’t ask how hard it was going to be - she simply said “My soul magnifies the Lord…”

We continue to magnify the Lord with all our hearts and souls around this house. We know God is in control. We feel surrounded by angels and prayers from all corners coming from other hearts everywhere. I know I’ve thanked you all bunches already, but I just can’t thank you enough for continuing to care and keep those cards and letters coming!

Everyday is like Christmas around here each time we go to the mailbox. And isn’t that the way it was meant to be? Johnny sends Christmas greetings. My Christmas wish for you all is, that you will find Christmas in every day also – not just once a year.

Holiday Blessings for a Merry Christmas!


Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Psalm of Thanksgiving

“Make a joyful shout to the Lord all you lands!
Serve the Lord with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.
Know that the Lord, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;
We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him and bless His name.
For the Lord is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.”
- Psalm 100

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone from Johnny, Me, and Scarlett. This has been a happy holiday for us indeed. We have so much to be thankful for. These holidays have been filled with all the usual trimmings –

1. A table adorned with turkey and ham, dressing and giblet gravy, fresh snapped green beans and potatoes, fresh shelled white acre peas, homemade macaroni and cheese (Scarlett’s personal request), rolls, southern style sweet and unsweet tea, fresh Vidalia green onions, pumpkin pie, pecan pie etc. Of course there were snacks to tide us over until dinner was done – fresh boiled peanuts and old fashioned party mix made from Chex cereal, pretzels and mixed nuts. Heaven forbid we should go hungry at any minute!

2. Family gathered together. Scarlett and Rhett spent the night and it was like old times hearing her knock around the house upstairs, with her music and TV and stuff strung all over the bathroom (which used to be hers but now is mine.) It was so joyful having her “hang out” and sitting in her Daddy’s chair with him as we watched television together and talked about life and old memories and her ever growing successful career. She’s on her way to Savannah and Hawaii next week for work and conference and pleasure. So it was good to see her before her jet setting life zooms into the fast lane again.

3. Time with the parents! Mom and Dad drove in from Orlando for Thanksgiving Day to share our glorious meal and bring desert. Mom and I had a chance for long overdue “girltalk” as we prepared dinner together and Dad spent a lot of time with Johnny solving the world’s global crises, predicting our country’s economic and political future and armchair coaching the various football games on TV.

4. Shopping! Scarlett ventured out to the new outlet stores with the fabulous new shops with Rachel and together they set a new family record for an 8 hour shopping spree. It’s a rough life but someone has to do it.! The grand prize in her treasure hunt was nabbing a pair of first time ever Jimmy Choo shoes.

5. Rummaging through the Christmas decorations and wishing I had a band of elves handy to put it all up. I used to go to such extremes with decorating the house and yard all by myself. These last few years the decorations get smaller and smaller. Last year it was pretty much just a wreath on the door and lights around our wrap around porch. Ah for the days of the big sled and reindeer in the front yard with lighted fences and holly draping everything in sight and poinsettas everywhere, and the nativity scene on our corner.

6. Neighbor visits. Our next door neighbor Brenda brought her latest bundle of joy , 9 week old grand-daughter Bria, to light up our day. She was so pretty in pink and holding her in my arms brought dreams of my own grand-child to come one day. She just cooed and gurgled at Johnny in her own baby language. When they left they left us with smiles all day long.

7. The annual FSU/UF football rivalry game which takes place every Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It was an action-packed soggy game in the rain for the boys and spectators. The end result is one I hate to mention. The Gators got us again! That Teebo is a force to be reckoned with, but I can’t complain cause he is a godly guy! I love that we have role-models like him out there for young kids to emulate. As for our Seminoles – at least we had our wire to wire year back a decade ago! Every dog has his day and just for the record – Bobby Bowden can stay as long as he wants to as far as I’m concerned! No matter what! Another godly guy there I might add.

There you have it in a nutshell. All the blessings and more than a family could ever pray for. And that’s just touching the tip of the iceberg. Just ask Johnny. Folks ask me everywhere how he is doing. My best response is this – spiritually he is doing fine as he continues to place his total trust in God. But as he said at the end of today’s holy healing prayer session – “and thank You Lord for creating pain pills as your will is done!”

Johnny does not complain. He is stoic as he battles for the healing. The avalanche of blessings that have landslided into our life from this journey is hard to fathom. It is indescribable. It boggles our minds and fills us with such joy that I think it is like it has taken on a life of its own. A community of love has been formed that is the best medicine that could possibly exist. There could be no better healing. A family of old and new friends join in a circle with our own family to form a hedge around us.

It keeps us in a place called hope. No matter what the circumstances we are able to deal with fear and anxiety in a unique way. We lift it up to God and praise His name. We praise Him as we lift up the pain or hear the Doctor tell us that the tumor has grown. We praise Him in the moments when Johnny finds a comfort spot as he lays and feels temporary relief. We continue to give thanks every night for every day we have together.

I encourage you to give thanks in your own life no matter what struggles you face. Look for the good. It is always there. Appreciation is a fruit of the spirit that boomerangs back at you in multiplied blessings. It’s like stoking a fire. The more kindling you add the bigger the flame. Appreciation is a very magnetic force attracting all God’s best your way.

Tomorrow is another chemo day for Johnny. We give thanks that they continue to tell us we have weapons to fight with. But we know the best weapon is prayer so we thank each of you who continue to provide us with ammunition daily as we storm the gates of hell and claim the victory in the name of Jesus.

Beautiful Blessings,

Rene and Johnny and Scarlett

Friday, November 21, 2008

How Great Thou Art!

“Every day I will praise You and extol Your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; His greatness no one can fathom.” - Psalm 145:2-3

Recently, I’ve been having a lot of wee in morning conversations with God. Johnny isn’t sleeping as well lately. He has to find a certain position and not move to keep the pain at bay. The slightest stirring by me rouses him and brings him back awake. And then there is my snoring that disrupts his peace. I wake up to him pounding my back in frustration. May I tell you how embarrassing it is to have such an atrocious habit you have no control over?

So, consequently, I spend a lot of nights in the guest room for his sake. Also, I have started staying up later, after he retires to bed, to have my own quiet time, in the still of the night. This is the only time of day when nobody needs me – not Johnny, not the dog, not Scarlett, not my friends, not anybody. These are my times I can get a clear line to God. These are the moments I draw my strength from God to get me through the next day.

Often I lay there in the guest bed gazing at the stars alone. The room used to be a children’s room with the last owners, and they put up those fluorescent stars that glow in the dark. So I look up and think “How great Thou art!” and I remind myself not to worry because God is watching over me. It is a new reality to lay in the bed alone. Sometimes I wonder if God is preparing me for the possibility of really being alone one day in this gradual way.

It is a precarious position I find myself in. I do not want to let go of Johnny. I do not want him to leave me. There are so many undone things we had planned to do in these golden years of our life. We have been through so much since our first kiss at my dorm’s doorstep. We’ve had good years. We’ve had bad years.. We both have “grown up” together in so many ways as we found our own paths in life.

Now that we have matured, our tempestuous life has subsided into a calm and peaceful journey, as we have settled into the house of our dreams, on the corner of Rebels Hill Drive and Greenland Oaks the last 10 years. We look at each other through the eyes of a love that has endured through many trials, and now has come around full circle to everything it was meant to be from the beginning.

Yet I stand at a crossroads of believing he will be healed, while at the same time having to muster the strength of possibly having to take care of myself for the first time in my life. Johnny has always taken care of me. He has been my knight in shining armor.

Have I mentioned how ecstatic it is to pray together? This simple act of love was too long coming. It is a joy that is unexplainable to grow in this new way together. There is a power there, that knits our hearts in new ways into a fabric of a tapestry that only God could create. God is the thread that binds us. Oh Lord! Please don’t take Johnny now when we have just found this new dimension of love as part of a trinity with You!

These thoughts creep in as I struggle to understand the will of God through all this. I believe with all my heart that Johnny is healed through the stripes of Jesus. I fight daily to keep my faith alive and to stand in the gap for Johnny as he battles the pain and not knowing what the future holds. We continue to hang on to hope, as we bow to His will in all things. As long as the doctors tell us they have new weapons to throw at the deadly pestilence we fight even when we cannot see.

Faith comes down to simply this. We praise the Lord no matter what. We learn that we are more than conquerors because the battle is already won – our souls are His. We live forever under His wing of protection in spirit. Johnny has reunited with and surrendered his spirit to the greatness of the Lord. This is to know heaven on earth. This is to believe all is well all the time.

Embracing that simple truth opens up the heavens to new levels of blessings. Suddenly you BELIEVE that He has given His angels charge over you in all your ways. You understand that no matter what is swirling around you – you are protected by He whose greatness is so vast that no one can measure it. Now that’s protection!

His wonderful redeeming love for each of us is something that makes my soul sing – even as I stand – not knowing what tomorrow brings – but knowing that, as I bow in humble adoration – He is there with me.

I wish for each of you – that same trust in God – to believe that the greatness of the Lord surrounds you – the love of the Lord enfolds you – the power of the Lord protects you – the presence of the Lord watches over you – wherever you are – God is – and all is well.

I cannot thank all of you enough for the cards and letters and phone calls and visits that continue to come on a daily basis, to lift us up and remind us that love surrounds us in so many beautiful ways. Most of all thank you for your prayers and thoughts – that is the greatest gift of all. Johnny appreciates each and everyone of you and sends his love back.

Beautiful blessings,


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

His Eye Is On The Sparrow And I Know He Watches Me

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father in heaven. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than the sparrows” - Matthew 10:29-31

I confess – sometimes I wish I was a sparrow. Life seems so easy for the birds. They don’t think. They don’t struggle emotionally. They don’t fret over loved ones. They don’t sweat the stock market falling. They don’t worry about paying the bills or having health insurance. They don’t count the calories in everything they eat or worry about getting fat. They simply fly.

And yet, Jesus tells us we are worth more than sparrows. And when I stop and think about it – I think we do fly at times. Our bodies may be bound by gravity but our spirits know no boundaries when we are in “the secret place” where peace is found. So where is it? I have found it in the heart of God. How do you find God’s heart? Two words……be still.

This is something I learned about cancer. You have no choice but to be still. Sometimes I wonder if God doesn’t use illnesses such as this to get our undivided attention. It forces us to stop life as we know it and contemplate the very purpose of our existence. It compels us to look at life through different eyes. We go from living on auto-pilot to holding the wheel in our hands, understanding that every decision we make has consequences.

Even the decision to be still or not be still can change the course of our lives. It is a matter of filling up our spiritual gas tanks on a regular basis or running on empty through life. We all know the stress of driving our car on fumes and praying for a gas station before we give out of gas on the side of the road as opposed to the peace of always driving with a gas tank at least half full. Just ask my Mother! One of her cardinal rules in life is to NEVER get below half a tank!

Johnny is learning all about being still through this journey. He is now on his third line of defense chemo and has just had his second dose this past Monday. It has knocked him down a lot more than the last ones he has done since June. He plows through the side effects of high temps and cold chills and no appetite and continuous pain courageously. The oncologist increased his pain meds to Oxycontin – the big boy – along with Percoset as needed. So far it has been two days and the pain has not subsided much. He calls it “tolerable.”

I was reminded of my own painful period when I had a pinched nerve for several months and the pain never subsided. I could not even lay flat on my back without excruciating pain. So I walked the floor many nights like a zombie – sometimes just sitting on a stool at the kitchen counter and resting my head on it. Sometimes I could doze off in the recliner if I propped 7 or eight pillows just right. It was a living hell of misery until one day it all magically subsided.

But here’s the thing about pain I learned as I reflect back on my life. There is no physical pain – no matter how massive – or how long – that can match the spiritual pain of living my life without God as the center of my being.

When I look back on the times of my life that I did not have the close relationship with the Lord that I do now, I wonder how I ever made it through. I realize how very alone I always felt. I was living a life of unnecessary misery and wondering why I was so unhappy. I tried to do everything myself and wondered why I never found success. On the surface I might have appeared to be optimistic and happy. But it was just a shell that was empty on the inside. There was no God inspired foundation from which all my decisions flowed.

It was not that I didn’t try to be a good person. I did try. But I always gave up when the going got tough. I made choices then that I would never make now that I have allowed God to fill up every cell in my body with His light. I made a lot of mistakes that I could have avoided if I had been thinking the way God teaches me to think now. I operated out of fear. Now I know there is nothing to fear – no matter what – because I allow God to work through me and I am never alone. God always has my back. The “secret place” is always there for me to run to.

So how did I get from where I was to where I am now? I decided to surrender because I had reached my wits end doing things my way. Then I went to work with a vengeance to understand God. I wanted to “know His name” and find that peace He kept promising. But there is a key that unlocks that door to “the secret place.” You must “speak the language.” The only way to learn “Godspeak” is to bury yourself in His word every single day until you find the “word” flowing off your tongue effortlessly. It is actually the same as being fluent in any other language. When you reach the point where you “think” in that language you have arrived.

At this point you find for every door you open to “the secret place” there is another door in front of you that takes you deeper and deeper. I think this is what God means in Psalm 91 when He tells us “because you have loved me I will deliver you and set you securely on high because YOU HAVE KNOWN MY NAME.” I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt something that is true for Johnny, me, and Scarlett. WE KNOW HIS NAME. It is a never-ending journey of discovery. You must continue walking the path everyday.

I should clarify though that knowing God is not a free pass from tragedy or unexpected sorrow. The world continues to surround you with all its reality of living. The DIFFERENCE we have found, is that circumstances do not touch you in the same way. We may feel human suffering and frustration but when you have that PEACE that Jesus bequeathed to us, its like – it’s ok. Because peace brings a hope that all will work out for good for those who love God. And the will of God is all that really matters – we are nothing apart from it.

So here’s to peace finding each of you in beautiful ways! Let God in and find out for yourselves what that peace that surpasses all understanding means. It’s all about living like a sparrow – being free to fly despite all circumstances – and finding that nest in our Father’s mighty arms to protect us from all harm – free from fear!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Great Is Thy Faithfulness!

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” - Lamentations 3:22-23

Lately I feel like we are living in “the twilight zone.” Actually we are living in “the secret place of the most high.” It is a surreal place I have never been. It is one of those places you can only get to when you realize the only thing you have left to hang on to is faith. You do not know from one moment to the next what is about to happen. But when all you have left is faith, you come to realize, that is all you ever really needed.

The “secret place of the most high” is not easily found. It requires a depth of believing akin to being pushed off a cliff and told to fly and then actually believing that you will fly. It reminds me of when I took my green belt test in karate and had to break a cement block with a swift chop of my hand (accompanied by a blood curdling yell.) The real test was not whether or not I could break the block. It was BELIEVING I could break the block. I did it!

But that was for fun. The blocks in front of me today are life and death matters. The blocks I believe I can conquer, have consequences much more painful than breaking my hand if I do not believe to the fullest capacity I can. And so, I have no choice but to believe that God is in control no matter what, and that whatever happens – it will be alright – it will all lead towards good.

I now understand what praying without ceasing means. I find myself praying even in my dreams. I pray when I wake up. I pray during my morning walks. I pray as I drive. I pray as I wait on appointments. I pray during commercials on TV. I pray as I listen to music. I pray as I cook. I pray as I wash dishes. I pray as I clean the laundry. I pray as I counsel. I pray at parties. I pray at funerals. I pray at football games. I pray as I bathe. I pray as I massage Johnny’s aches and pains. I pray as he falls asleep. I pray as I fall asleep.

Yesterday Johnny started on new chemo – this is the third line defense. The tumor continues to grow. However we continue to keep the faith. As long as they keep telling us they have more weapons to throw at the deadly pestilence that stalks Johnny’s body, we trudge forward with resilience of spirit. Our God is a mighty God and if David could fell the giant Goliath with a simple slingshot in the face of overwhelming odds – then we too can say that this battle is the Lord’s and we will simply rest under His pinion.

Two weeks ago we were blessed to take Johnny to one more Florida State football game. We haven’t used our season tickets all year. We have missed the vantage point from 45 yard line – 2nd row up seats, as we watch now only from our living room recliners. But it was good timing for the Virginia Tech game at home because Johnny had been off the chemo for several weeks and feeling frisky and determined to attend at least one more game.

So we gathered up our team garb and decked ourselves out ready for a battle in FSU shirts, hats, glasses and even jewelry! We put the Seminole magnet signs on each side of the car and packed the Seminole seats in the trunk. We prepared for any medical emergency with Mayo Clinic’s phone number, a thermometer, blankets for possible chills and Levaquin antibiotics in case his temperature soared away from home.

Scarlett joined us for this trip and for a moment in time it was like the good ole days when she would drive from college to meet us at the game and whoop it up with her Daddy as they hooted and hollered our team to victory again and again. We rolled through our ritual stop at Shell’s Oyster Bar in Tallahassee. Johnny couldn’t have the oysters raw on this day. Nor could he eat his usual quota of about 5 dozen. But all the staff embraced him with affection (they are like family) and shucked up a few dozen raw for me and Scarlett while Johnny enjoyed his steamed and fried.

Our next challenge was finding a parking spot anywhere close to the stadium so Johnny wouldn’t have to walk far. I decided if God declares we are to pray for all things great and small that included parking spaces in time of need so I decreed it in the name of Jesus that we would miraculously have just the right spot for Johnny appear.

Believe it or not we found the closest parking spot in our 10 year history of attending home games. The greater blessing was it was the last spot in the lot so we were the first spot next to the exit, which was crucial for us to be able to get out at halftime. The lot was right across the street from the stadium. This just DOES NOT HAPPEN on game day folks. Especially finding it minutes before gametime. But God has a heart!

We got to meet up at halftime with my brother Chip and friends for halftime hugs. But it was time to go after that because Johnny’s stamina was almost gone. On the ride back he gloried at the thrill of being able to go to the game. But he said that would be his last for the season. It was pushing his limits to the max.

And so we continue our journey here one day at a time. The new chemo brought in the flu like symptoms last night. Johnny went to bed early. I had to bundle him up in blankets to get rid of the chills. But he woke up this morning feeling better and now we brace for the unknown again. He will be getting two weeks of chemo on then one week off so we now plan our lives around a new schedule.

The mail continues to bring new cards and letters from old faithful senders and new people also. Some we know, some we don’t know. Either is thrilling to Johnny. He has so many cards and letters by now that I finally had to start putting some in baskets and consolidate them. I have run out of room on our walls. But every card and letter is precious to us. It is another reminder of God’s love. And packages continue to come with special surprises that make it feel like Christmas. I know this Christmas will be the best ever. The meaning will be so much more than the rest.

Of all the gifts I have come to appreciate the greatest gift is faith. Faith is a two way street. God’s faithfulness to us fuels our own faithfulness to Him in return. Faith quenches fear. Faith fires up our power from within to arrive at that special “knowing” that all is well all the time – even in the midst of chaos. But faith is a fire that must be stoked every single day. It is like a water pump from which we draw “living water” to nourish our souls.

Stop and think when things seem to be falling apart and you are at your wits end with things – have you been giving as much of your time and your heart to God as you have everything else? It is at these moments that I find I have been slacking. But every moment brings the opportunity to change course and get back on track to that peace that surpasses all understanding and to open the door to all the blessings that flow from being one with, the same as, and in tune with God’s thought.

Keep the dust off your bibles and fire up your faith by reading God’s word to us each day. It just makes sense to keep the guns of grace loaded and ready for whatever comes next.

Beautiful Blessings,

Rene Williams

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Watching the Angel Trumpets bloom

“For only we who believe can enter His rest” - Hebrew 4:3

The yellow angel trumpets are blooming in our backyard. I originally had dotted them all along the entire picket fence in our back yard but they started growing and expanding their trunks and branches too close to the fence. So I hired someone to come cut them all down. But he left one solitary tree amongst the line of stumps.

The blooms are about a foot long and there are about 25 hanging from the branches in golden, glorious splendor. It’s as if they are calling out a solitary message to us as we gaze out the window, “We’re still here!” I love how Johnny can see them from his makeshift bed we converted the couch into, next to the bay window in our living room, looking into the backyard.

Those flowers are truly a reminder of God’s astounding glory. It also helps us to remember that angels are watching over us, as one day flows into another in this seeming “time warp” we live in now. Each day is another notch in our belts of time that we thank God for – because we are still here.

Hurricane force winds have blown through our emotions the last several weeks. After the last chemo Johnny had a new development of pain that worried us. We had been rocking along pretty steady with our routine. Johnny’s days consist of quiet times in the living room, back and forth between the recliner and the couchbed. He watches TV or I read to him or he naps on and off all day. Sometimes he strolls out on the back deck.

Occasionally he will ride off in the truck for a few hours just to get away for getting away’s sake. But that doesn’t happen too often. Every move made away from the quiet routine at the house is a tremendous effort for him. Even the visits to Mayo for blood tests or appointments will wear him out. He is always glad to get back to the house.

So when the new pain manifested last week it rocked our world. I lay in the bed one night and listened to him for a couple hours in the middle of the night. He groaned every time he moved. He couldn’t cough easily. Deep breaths hurt him. I lay awake with eyes wide open. Suddenly the reality of the severity of this journey set in and it frightened me.

I felt a glimpse of the true possibility of actually sleeping without him. I laid there and prayed for God to give me the strength to hold on to hope that everything was all right. I prayed for the strength to be strong when Johnny was so weak. I realized how very much he has always taken care of me. Now it was time for me to take care of him. It was an overwhelming feeling to suddenly realize that what I was about to undertake was a load of love that Johnny had carried for 33 years.

The next morning I called Mayo Clinic to report the new developments. They told us to get him to Mayo’s emergency room as soon as possible because they wanted to make sure it wasn’t a pulmonary embolism. Five hours later, after heart monitors, blood tests, x-rays, oxygen, and a CAT scan, we received the good report that they could find nothing – most especially – a pulmonary embolism. Whew! Praise the Lord!

It was a traumatic day that left us exhausted. On our follow up visit to the oncologist’s office we were told that the new pain is called “referral pain” that manifests in various parts of the body due to tumor growth. They prescribed stronger pain killer to keep Johnny comfortable.

The blood test we did last Friday showed low blood counts so we had to be back at Mayo this past Monday. Then his platelets clumped so we had to go back Tuesday for a re-take. Johnny is starting to feel like a pin cushion. His veins are getting rubbery. His patience is getting thinner. So was mine. I realized that all those years I spent working in a nursing home and dealing with and counseling caregivers – I really had no idea what a monumental journey it was for them. I do now.

Johnny has been on his own roller coaster of emotions as he tries to walk towards healing, though the opposite possibility looms in the distance. He struggles as he juggles being a patient and still trying with all his strength to be my protector. A few days ago the swirling winds of emotion came to a crescendo but led to “the talk” we’ve been needing to have.

I told Johnny that we are praying and believing for his healing and a victory over death but the whole point of living that God tries to convey to us is TO LIVE EVERY MOMENT AS IF IT WERE THE LAST. I reassured him that he had done his job well of being a good husband and father and provider.

Now it was time to focus on the important things at the moment. It was time to savor love, to do the things he always wanted to, to appreciate the true gifts he was blessed with, to say all the things you have been wanting to say, to reconnect with all the people you have cherished. It was time TO LIVE while he was alive.

An important lesson I found during my own journey through cancer was that sometimes God stops us in our tracks so we will listen and hear this important message. LIVE! LOVE! LAUGH AND BE HAPPY! Isn’t that what life is all about?

I heard a local church is doing a series on that very idea. I think it is wonderful. I hope that each of you will stop and take stock of your own lives. Don’t wait for a left hook in life to “get it.” Take charge now and live the life God intended for you.

Find your purpose (which is not only to pay bills.) Mend your fences. Go find God and WORK at the most important relationship you’ll ever have. Stop running and start strolling. You’ll see a lot of sights you’ve been missing.

I wish for each of you the exhilaration of truly appreciating every breath – every moment.

Beautiful Blessings,


Monday, October 13, 2008

A Soldier's Psalm

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him will I trust.’” -Psalm 91: 1-2

I discovered the most incredible book a few days ago. I had been searching for “a Word” from God to help me maintain peace of mind, as I witness the economic crisis around the world, in the midst of our battle for Johnny’s health and remaining positive about what the future holds for us all. There is an “inspirational book” rack at our local Publix grocery store. The last couple of stops I made there I twirled the rack and perused a few books but none was just the right one.

Then I “stumbled” upon the book “Psalm 91 – God’s Shield of Protection” by Peggy Joyce Ruth a few days ago. It just jumped out at me. It was an odd choice for me because it was full of true war stories by actual military veterans and that normally wouldn’t attract me. I’m all about ideas presented in warm fluffy, feel good ways. This book was all about true grit.

But as I thumbed through the pages, I was fascinated how the author went through Psalm 91 verse by verse and explained how this was the only place in the bible that contained ALL of God’s promises to us put together in a sacred covenant. It is an absolute guarantee of divine protection in the form of a spiritual contract from God to each of us regarding our health, healing, rescue, deliverance, safety, protection and provision.

As Peggy tells us in the book, “nothing in this world can be relied upon as confidently as God’s promises when we believe them, refuse to waver, and decide to make His Word our final authority for every area of our lives.” Within the verses God tells us the key to releasing the power of those promises to us, through speaking His Word out loud and believing with all our heart that His promises are true.

But here is what really hooked me. I discovered that Psalm 91 has been called “A Soldiers Psalm” because it has been tested again and again in many wars, with many faithful soldiers, who experienced miracle after miracle in deadly battle situations, while Psalm 91 was being prayed over them, by relatives or by the soldiers themselves crying out to God. Pretty cool huh?

As I devoured the words in this book it truly lifted me up more and more as I realized – we are all soldiers in one way or another fighting our personal battles in different ways. It is all about life and death. It is all about whether or not we triumph in the ultimate victory of realizing GOD HAS OUR BACK! When we submit our lives and full control to His will as His subjects in His kingdom, He pours out His power and might to guard us and provide for us.. And all we have to do is ask.

Today is the United States Navy’s 233rd birthday. My father is a retired Navy Commander and today he toasted all members who have served. I would like to “click his glass” tonight and dedicate this Psalm to the US Navy, to Naval Commander Laurence Paul Bowdren, retired MSC, to all his friends and members who have served in the US Navy, and to all our countrymen who haved served in any armed forces, in any capacity, while showing their love of our country in performing their duties, to protect us all. May God continue His divine protection over each you.

Here is the Psalm in its entirety. I encourage you all to print this out and recite it out loud every day. The best part of it is, that it protects not just you but your whole family:

Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."
Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked.
If you make the Most High your dwelling— even the LORD, who is my refuge-
then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread upon the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
"Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges My name.
He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
With long life will I satisfy him and show him My salvation."

God bless all of you for your cares and prayers and cards and calls and concern over Johnny and Scarlett and me as we trod the road towards victory. I wish for each of you, the courage to trust God and to believe in all His promises as you journey towards your own victory in all things.

Beautiful Blessings!


Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lessons in Love – The Abc’s of Love That Lasts

"Whatever the question, love is the answer"

Tomorrow is our 33rd wedding anniversary. It seems so long ago since the day we said “I do.” When I look in the mirror sometimes I have to look twice. Is that still me? Johnny frowns at the mirror now, as he leans forward to count the few remaining hairs the last chemo has left him. I tell him constantly how beautiful he is bald. He tells me my head was a lot prettier when I was bald. We laugh.

It’s funny how perception in love changes over the years. I have come to find out that what I thought love was 33 years ago, was just a faint sliver of the big picture of love. I had no idea of the magnitude of a true journey of love. I discovered the truth of love after making a million mistakes over the 33 years. Call it wisdom from the pain of being human.

I remember in my college philosophy class the professor asked us each if we could have anything in the world what would it be? I answered that I would like knowledge. He told me I had no idea what I was wishing for. He said that complete knowledge was a blessing and a curse. I now understand what he meant.

When I look back I think I could have avoided some painful mistakes if there had been a pre-marriage course on the basics of marriage and how to survive sharing your life with another as you turn “me” into “we.” Marriage is when romance hits reality! The reality you create together can be heaven or hell.

I learned a lot of lessons from making every mistake in the book. Here’s my advice to those of you in love or looking for love, for things I wish I knew then that might help you make love last now:

The ABC’s of Love That Lasts

Act Authentic – The most important thing you can do to make a relationship work is to be yourself. But do you really know who you are? Until you do, you don’t really have anything to give. Only in discovering who you are, do you know what you want and what you don’t want. Until you respect yourself others will not respect you. Write a “manifesto” about yourself and how it relates to what you want in a partner.

Balance Budget - Marriage brings two different ways of dealing with money together. It is important to get an understanding of how each individual handles their finances and come to a consensus that each understands and agrees with involving shared money and how money will be spent. Finances are one of the biggest reasons cited for divorce.

Communicate Concerns - Good communication requires two important skills. Listening and talking, How well do you listen? How comfortable to you feel telling the other person something important to you. How easy is it for you to share something when you think it might be upsetting to the other? You will always be coming back to this one so make sure it is strong and solid.

Divide Duties – Here is an area that usually is never discussed and only assumed by each other. This can be a deal breaker if not handled properly. Who is in charge of exactly what? Who cleans the house? Who takes out the garbage? Who keeps up the yard? Who washes the clothes? Who folds the clothes? Who does the dishes? Who puts the dishes away? Who mops the floor? Who sweeps? Who dusts? Who cleans up pet messes? Who walks the dog? Who changes the garbage bag when empty? Who cleans out the microwave? Who does the grocery shopping? Who does the cooking? Who is the chaffeur when the kids come along? Who handles the bills? Who files the important papers? Who cleans out the fridge? Who makes the grocery list? Most importantly – who holds the remote control?

Explore Esteem – Back to the central issue of any successful relationship – how happy are you? How confident are you? How deserving do you feel to have a wonderful mate and life? Why do you want to get married? Do you feel complete within yourself? Do you have a fullness of love that begins with a true and honest love of yourself to give to another?

Find Forgiveness – Let’s face it. Your gushing and exhilarating passion you feel for your significant other right now is overlooking a lot of real stuff about your loved one being an imperfect human being, Guess what. It’s true. Reality will rock on as the flames become a slow steady ember over time, and suddenly one morning you wake up and say “hey! What happened?” It is then you must deal with the infinite list of possibilities your true love exhibits such as snoring, farting, burping, smelling, leaving dirty laundy strewn, showing up late, not calling when they should, blowing the budget, spending too much time with friends or at work, saying things they didn’t mean (you hope), forgetting your birthday, criticizing your parents, your friends, your job, your everything. Not pulling their side of the duties you agreed on, betrayal, lying cheating etc. Can you forgive and go on? Both sides need to love unconditionally and give and take. Life happens – despite all our best intentions.

Give God Glory – The best of relationships are a true trinity with God in the middle. It keeps balance and accountability and helps to build a solid foundation for your love to grow on. God is the best referee of all as two humans clash together to forge a mighty union. Having God as a major player in the game of love paves the way for the children to come that will have a house built on love and strength.

Honor Home – Your home should be a refuge for your souls away from the world. It should be filled with peace and love and comfort. It should be a reflection of both personalities with spaces for each to feel resonance with. Whatever space you live in, no matter how big or small, no matter how cheap or expensive, is your shelter from your storms of life. You should honor that space and make it off limits to chaos or trouble. Home is where you hang your heart. It is the rock your children will cling to.

I DO Means I DO – One of the biggest reasons people need to sit down and examine themselves and each other and who they are and what they want is to be prepared to make the greatest and most binding decision of their lives which means “I DO.” It does not mean “I DO” but only if you treat me right. It does not mean “I DO” until I meet someone that I like better. It does not mean “I DO” until I get tired of it. It does not mean “I DO” until suddenly I am bored and want to be free to find me again.” It does not mean “I DO” but only if you do things my way. “I DO” means I am willing to risk everything and pledge my love to you, knowing that each of us is imperfect but we love each other anyway despite our flaws and enough to find a way to bridge our differences and help each other become the very best God meant us to be. “I DO” means you are saying to the other “I’ve got your back – no matter what.” “I DO means “WE DO” and that includes the children. Whenever you consider tossing out “I DO” remember the children are tossed too. No matter what convenient arrangement you make for them as you tear their worlds apart – they do not understand divided love or living apart from either parents.

Jump Joyfully – Love is a constantly flowing river in motion with ebbs and tides that breath life into two souls. Staying stagnant brings pollution into the relationship. Find ways to keep moving joyfully together with hobbies and activity that you share together and apart. It is important to keep healthy and vibrant to make the most of every moment and to keep the passions burning in your spirit.

Keep Kissing – Romance is a fire that must be constantly stoked. In the midst of all the ways the world can pull you apart you must stay aware of the need to make time together for pure romance. Feed your love with looks and compliments, and special gestures and acts that simply say “I love you” in so many different ways. Many people make “date night” and carry on the tradition for years.

Love Laughing – Laughter may be one of the key single ingredients that bind people together. Sharing a sense of humor bridges gaps in other areas and provides a way to connect with each other anytime. It can diffuse volatile emotions in the twinkling of an eye.

Make Memories – Life can be mundane if you let it pass by too quickly without markers of moments that were special and significant. I think every bridal couple should start their lives with a 50 volume set of photo albums to have ready for filling and filing the precious memories made along the way. It is so wonderful to look back after decades and relive the reasons you fell in love and how it blooms and grows.

Never nag – This is the number 1 no-no in lessons of love. Never, never, never nag. If you do you are breaking one of the above lessons in proper communication. One of you is losing power in the great balance of love. Go back to the basics and refresh your self esteem and confidence and approach the situation like an adult.

Observe Occasions – There is something beautiful about celebrating rituals in life. Birthdays, holidays, anniversaries, special occasions help us mark history and give us opportunities to stop and appreciate each other and life. It defines our heritage and culture. It gives us a sense of pride and appreciation for the good life we have.

Pray Persistently – Do not start your day without God first. It sets the stage for all to come and reminds you that there is nothing that can happen today that you and God can’t handle together. There is power in prayer and in giving thanks to our source of all GOODNESS. No matter how busy you are – God comes first – end of story. Also, there is no greater ecstasy you will find then praying together with the one you love.

Quarrel Quietly – Quarelling is warfare and as such there should be rules of engagement. How do you “fight fairly?” Keep your voices down. Keep calm. Never say anything hurtful or viscious that you will have to take back later. Stick to the facts. Never argue in front of children. It frightens them.

Respect Rights – Within a union there are still two individuals who have separate needs and habits and dreams interests. The worst thing that can happen is for one partner to lose theirself in the other person, This happens easier than you think, Both parties must give 101%. This can fluctuate at times but in a proper balance always comes back to a win/win give and take. Respect your loved one’s individuality and needs. Give them breathing space.

Sleep Soundly – Never go to bed angry. Over and out.

Tell truth – Honestly is the greatest gift you can give to your loved one. You MUST be able to trust the one you love. You must look each other in the eye and make that your greatest commitment. This is important in trusting the other never to cheat. Swear that cheating is never an option, If the other reaches the point of actually considering it, that should be the pre-agreed point where a summit meeting is called to discuss what is wrong with the marriage and how it can be fixed.

Understand Upsets – Despite all the best laid plans of mice and men setbacks will happen. How they are dealt with moves the marriage forward or backward. Going back to the basic lessons outlined above can bring your enduring love back into focus.

Value Virtue - Love brings out the best in us. It teaches us the value of virtue and creates a legacy to pass down to our children and to generations to come. What mark will your love leave on the world? Virtue is defined as an excellence and general morality. It is a code to live by. It is an effective power or force of good we give to ourselves and others. What legacy will YOUR love leave? Work hard and realize it is worth the efforts to create the kind of love that blooms and grows forever.

Wait Wisely – How will you know true love has arrived? The bible gives us a guide to look for in that which is noble, just, lovely, of good report. It reminds us that:

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not parade itself; it is not puffed up; does not behave rudely; does not seek its own; is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity; but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…………..and now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

I wish for your love a thrilling adventure in life where you are able to recognize all the beauty it brings which outshines all the mistakes and pitfalls you had to overcome to finally see the light of what really matters. I have learned that “whatever the question – love is the answer.”

Despite the many ups and downs and detours the love that Johnny and I vowed to cling to 33 years ago……it was all worth the ride. And today I can honestly say that I love him more and deeper than I could ever have imagined possible.

He is my knight in shining armor, he is my best friend, he is the most brilliant man I have ever met. He has a heart of gold. He loves life. He loves his daughter. He loves me. He loves the Lord most of all.

So here’s a toast to a life of love that changed me forever and ultimately taught me that true love comes from putting God first as my teacher and the fountain from which every good thing in my life flowed. Cheers!

Beautiful Blessings,


Monday, September 29, 2008

Dancing In The Rain

“Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass, life is about learning to dance in the rain”

I heard through the grapevine today that somebody has been talking about me. They said “Something is wrong with that girl. She is too happy all the time.” I laughed out loud when I heard that. If that’s the worst thing someone can say about me I must be doing something right.

I suspect though that the perception of the person who made that statement is that either I live in total denial of reality, or that nothing ever goes wrong in my life. Neither of the above is correct. The truth of the matter is that I struggle through storms just like everybody else. I stumble and I fall. But I get back up and I keep on going and I keep on smiling. And I keep on trusting God no matter what.

I am learning to dance in the rain. It is all about praising God (even when you don’t feel like it) and believing that good things come to those who love the Lord. It is clinging to the belief that God is in control. It is about stepping out of myself when the winds are swirling around me and reaching out to help somebody else. I was born to dance this way.

What I find is that my own problems seem to pale next to another’s and there is strength to be had in lifting up one another. What goes around comes around. And it all comes back around to living every moment. The bible speaks of it as “redeeming our time.”

Time has become a precious commodity around our home. Johnny began his new chemo last Friday. It is our second line of defense. The side effects are not as powerful as the last chemo so Johnny continues to keep his appetite. But he is weak. His stamina does not last long. His patience is getting a lot shorter. But his faith in God is something he clings to fiercely.

Tonight was a special night for Johnny. Scarlett invited her Daddy out for a special date. She asked me to dress him up fancy in his finest suit. So I pulled out his black Ralph Lauren suit with a shiny silver vest and bow tie to match. I shined up his black shoes and tucked a little scarf in his pocket. He looked so dapper!

Scarlett arrived in a gorgeous formal gown to escort him to his favorite French restaurant for their date. Before they left she gave him a card. She told him that he had been her first love and that he would always be her hero. The card ended with a personal request for a private dance.

She took him into the formal living room where the song “My Little Girl” by Tim McGraw began playing and they danced together as if they had all the time in the world. It was truly a “redeeming moment in time” that I will never forget watching. For just a moment it seemed like nothing in the world was wrong. The love between a father and a daughter overshadowed all the storms.

What precious moments in your life have you been putting off until the right moment? I encourage you to seize the moment and “dance in the middle of the storm.” Don’t wait until it passes. Life is too short to wait. There is too much to be missed.

Stop and take stock of what really counts in your life. Do more then tell some one you love them. Show them. Get rid of the busyness and get back to the basics. It might surprise you how much you fill your life with things that just simply do not matter in the grand scheme of things.

Vow tomorrow to start doing the things that really matter. My greatest wish for each of you is to stop and dance……….

Beautiful Blessings,


Friday, September 19, 2008

Keeping My Eyes On Joy

"Be not grieved or depressed, for the joy of the Lord is your strength and stronghold" - Nehemiah 8:10

Today I learned a lesson from many friends of mine who always rally around me when I feel the joy slipping. Friends are angels who lift you up when your wings are broken. They remind me of the importance of keeping the faith and of the truths that sustain me. They help me to keep believing when I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you all. You know who you are.

Here is an excerpt from an email I received from my friend Connie inn Marianna that says it all about keeping the faith:

Here is a little something that I read today

Faith believes it possesses before it sees.

Every promise of God exists in the unseen, invisible realm. The unseen is more real than the seen because it includes everything God has ever had in His heart to speak into existence.

We are asking the wrong question when we ask, When is God going to do it? He has already done it, provided, taken care of it.....whatever "it" is.
The right question is When am I going to believe I recieve?

Remember we are not sight-walking people but faith walking people. We don't have to see or feel or taste or touch or hear before we believe and receive.

Faith receives when it prays. We either rest in our faith, knowing we have received until it becomes visible, or we become frustrated and begin to struggle with our faith.

Walking by faith and not by sight requires the renewal of our minds, transformation of our thinking, and retraining our whole way of believing and receiving. And that is not our job. God has given us the Holy Spirit to do that work for us.

As we focus on the Fathers promises....His Word written in the Bible and in our hearts....the Holy Spirit builds and increases our faith. His work in us enables us to believe and receive. Just like we believed we received our salvation before we saw anything in us change, we believe we receive everything else in our life of faith.

Every promise of God, every provision for your life, every answer to every problem is in the invisible realm. You and I are not waiting for things to come to us...things are waiting to be taken hold of! Faith brings everything in to the visible realm...believing whatever you desire is already yours and taking it.

By the stripes of Jesus I was healed. I take my healing now!!

Do what Jesus said to do in Mark 11:24 Whatever things you desire or want or need, when you pray, believer you take and possess them and you shall have them.

Take hold of what God has promised....lay hold of the invisible......Take it today.

This was an article that I read just a bit ago and I thought wow that is right on time..................this is exactly where it is exactly what God told me.....I had asked Him when He was going to fix me and He asked me When are you going to believe me.............I have already done it. You just need to believe me and trust my Word.

Love you, Connie

Each of you lift mne up in so many different ways.........girlfriends are forever! Thank you thank you thank you all of you.



Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hope Floats

"Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." - Romans 5:5

God certainly works in mysterious ways! He encourages us to "hang on to hope" despite what we see happening around us by trusting Him and keeping an expectant heart. It seems that the anchor that we cling to, once again, all comes back to the power of love. There is no greater power in the universe. Even the greatest scientific minds of our time concur on this point.

And so it was, after last weeks' unsettling events and test results, the only choice we had, was to surrender to the love of God and "believe it before we see it," as we journey towards the victory and destruction of the enemy cancer. We jumped back up after a discouraging moment, remembering our motto "tough times never last but tough cookies do!"

We cannot help but wonder about God's orchestration of things as we look back at how certain events have fallen in place. I told you about the Chinese doctor and how I happened upon him quite coincidentally, and his recommendation of Chinese medicine. We decided to go forward (after our last meeting to review the scan results) with the Chinese approach to curing cancer with major emphasis on Reishi mushroom medicine, along with the brewed herbs from the mountains of China, and corbrin pills.

Then "coincidentally" the "fellow" Doctor we met with at our last meeting week before last, was unable to facilitate Johnny getting his B-12 shot necessary to start the chemo scheduled for this past Friday. So we did not start the new 2nd line defense chemo yet. (Could this have been a "God moment" making room for a chance to try the alternative method?)

But we DID get to talk with our oncologist about the specific possibility of giving the chinese medicine several weeks trial and we were thrilled to have her 100% support. We told her we had already started it for a week and in my research I found that the recommended amount was at least four cups of Reishi mushroom brew (he had only been drinking one cup per day) so we decided that for one week we would "sock it to it" with the recommended 4 cups of reishi mushroom, 2 cups of the brewed herbs, and 15 pills of corbrin per day.

Our oncologist has another patient also using Reishi but on a slow growing tumor. So she is unable to chart the effects as well. Considering Johnny's tumor indicated fast growth and that the chinese medicine information could possibly show results within several weeks, we decided to do another CAT scan this coming Thursday, which, if there is any significant change found in the scan, would prove that the Chinese medicine approach SPECIFICALLY was responsible.

WOO HOO! How exciting is that? And it makes me wonder about God's plan in all this. If the last scan we had prayed for yielded results it would have been due to chemo. If this scan yields good results it will be because of chinese medicine. That is exciting to me because Reishi mushroom therapy has NO SIDE EFFECTS. It does no harm to the patient. Could this be a clue to the answer the world seeks?

That has always been what distresses me about traditional western medical approaches to treat cancer. With chemo we infuse the body with poison which destroys our immune system and blood counts and has been proven to cause more cancer. With surgery (specifically masechtomy) the patient is maimed and mutilated of some necessary part of the body and side effects like lymphodema are something the patient must live with forever. With radiation the skin and organs are fried and this also has been proven to cause more cancer and bodily disfunction.

It seems like we have strayed from the original goal in medicine that Hippocrates mentions when he states that medicine will "do no harm." Wouldn't it be incredible if Western and Eastern medicine could combine forces hand in hand to effectively remove this scourge of the earth we call cancer? Wouldn't it be wonderful to find a cure to save those we love and those that others love all over the world?

From the research I have done it seems that the very minimum of possibilities to be had from exploring Chinese medicine is that it can work with Western medicine to eliminate the devastating and body wasting side effects of chemo, and radiation. That alone would be a blessing. But here is what else it has been documented to do.

1. Supports immune resistance during chemo and radiation.
2. Protects against bladder cancer cell growth
3. Possibly supresses invasive breast cancer cell growth
4. Stimulates cytokines, macrophages, and T-cells
5. Inhibits platelet aggregation
6. Protects liver from chemical damage
7. Sedative
8. Promotes feeling of well being
9. Cardio tonic - cardio vascular effects
10. Lowers blood pressure
11. Reduces or eliminates tumors.
12. Cancer preventative
13. Anti-allergies
14. Anti-inflammatory
15. Hepatitis
16. Anti-stress

So we march onward in battle and our days are filled with brewing and drinking the chinese medicine. We have also added other strategies including the power of prayer and speaking the Word and daily affirmations that Johnny's body is filled with all the healing forces necessary to bring his body back to good health.

We thank you all for your encouragment and prayers. Keep us in prayer again for our next CAT scan. Perhaps THIS is the scan God meant us to find. Meanwhile, we keep floating on hope.

Beautiful blessings,


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I Will Not Be Broken - Faith No Matter What

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man." - Psalm 118:8

I apologize for taking so long to get this blog out. I had written an entry this weekend to update you on the results of Johnny's CAT scan. The text mysteriously disappeared as I went to copy and paste it from WORD to this website. Talk about kicking and screaming! I started it at midnight Saturday and it took me two hours to do. It was a very emotionally charged one, so tears were streaming down my face the entire time I wrote it. And suddenly it was gone.

Well, that of course kept me up another hour trying to search through my computer trying to figure out where it could possibly have gone. Then when I finally gave up and went to bed I couldn't go to sleep wracking my brain. I got up again and searched the computer more. I didn't get to sleep until about 4am.

Maybe God had a better message to send you through my typing fingers. So here goes take two.

Thank all of you who took the time out of your life to remember ours and pray for Johnny's CAT scan to be a positive report. It was not to be. His tumor has increased by 30% and the adrenal gland site has also grown. They decided to NOT do his scheduled chemo session because of the poor results on the tumor. They are going to try another chemo which helps only 20% of patients and it only offers several weeks of longetivity beyond the prognosis. It is a milder chemo with less side effects.

Johnny's blood count was lower than they needed it to be for a chemo session, so we got a reprieve for this week. Since the prognosis was so grave and the doctor even mentioned a point of no treatment at all for quality of life - I thought it an opportune moment to bring up the possibility of alternative medicine. I had done some research on Mayo Clinic's website and was happy to find that they were starting to explore other methods to use in conjunction with traditional treatments.

I recently crossed paths with a Chinese doctor , who I discovered when I saw a sign for "Reflexology" in his window while driving by. I whirled the car aroun in a u-turn to go get some information. He was available right then and I made an appointment for a reflexology foot massage (one of those heaven on earth moments). During the session we talked in broken English (and pencil and pad drawings) and I told him about Johnny and the diagnosis.

He told me that his wife had lung cancer 4 years ago and that she was treated with chemotherapy and radiation along with a chinese herbal regimen at a hospital in Beijing. She is still alive today. He believes the combination of Western and Eastern medicine is the key to achieving the greatest success in treating a patient. The difference with combining forces is less side effects from the chemo and a stronger immune system to battle the damage from treatments, and to multiply our bodies own "cancer-killer" cells that we already have. Consequently, the patient has more stamina and strength.

He asked me to come back for another visit so he could explain and show me what he was talking about. So I returned and sat down with him at his desk. He described the tallest mountain in China and drew me a picture of it with the snow caps on top. Then he showed me right below the snow area where hundreds of herbs and mushrooms grow that are watered by the melting snow. These are harvested and are used in China especially to treat cancer but also for many other ailments due to their many medicinal properties.

He brought out this bag of herbs and told me that when Doctors write a prescription at Beijing Hospital this is what the patient receives. The "medicine" is prepared by boiling the bag of herbs in a special ceramic pot for an hour. The liquid is poured into two glasses. The pot is filled with water again. One more hour of boiling. Two more glasses of liquid. Next he brought out a box of 10 packets. The powder was concentrated Reishi mushroom powder which the Chinese consider the "king of herbs" in their country. Part of the mushroom's properties in dealing with tumors is that it shrivels tumors and prevents them from sticking to an organ's wall. It also boosts the immune system into a weapon of mass destruction.

It has been several weeks since this meeting but I have told Johnny about it, and though he was interested he still wanted to wait to see what results came from the CAT Scan. That morning as we set in the Doctor's office hearing the discouraging news, I leaned over and whispered in his ear "Can I ask now about the chinese herbs?" He didn't hesitate to say yes. So we told the Doctor what we knew. The Doctor was alot more receptive than I thought he would be. He mentioned Mayo Clinic's great interest in research and finding the cure for the incurable. Lung cancer is such a cancer. Especially Stage 4.

The synchronicity of coincidences appearing in our lives lately steering us towards alternative solutions is interesting. Two separate individuals have brought us information about the healing power of kambucha mushrooms just in the last several days. I was handed a magazine at the health food store with a cover story on the medicinal benefits of maitake, reishi, and shiitake mushrooms. Could their be magic in mushrooms? Let us know what you think. Let us know if you have information.

We have decided to take a leap of faith and try the tea. We are curious if it will boost Johnny's blood count on the test he will have done Friday. We will never give up fighting - never! never! never!

But let's go back to the day of the office visit, the discouraging news, and getting our faith back on track after a left hook from the devil. When we returned home we both kind of walked around in circles. We knew there were alot of people waiting on our call. Especially Scarlett. We really didn't say much during the ride home. We were still in shock after our great expectations of seeing a miracle. What happens to our faith when God sends an answer we don't want to hear??

I walked back to find Johnny sitting in his old office chair. It used to be his seat of power when we were "rocking and rolling" in our successful drywall business. Phones would ring, walkie talkies would chirp, fax machines would roll, printers would fly, file cabinets would overflow, and in/out boxes were stacked high. Now the office was silent and empty except for the pictures and books of Florida State Seminoles, Johnny posing with his favorite coach Bobby Bowden and friends, and the many relics of Johnny's Southern heritage he is so proud of.

I looked at Johnny stooped in the chair staring at the floor. The ravages of chemo and the disease left their toll on his now frail body. He has straggly wisps of grey hair left on his head, his face was gaunt, bony protrusions show through his teeshirt where his strong shoulders and back used to be. His muscles have atrophied. He looked up at me standing in the doorway and gave me a half grin. He patted his lap for me to come sit like in the old days. Before I stepped forward we just locked eyes.

I realized when I look at him, I look beyond his damaged body, to the soul of the man that stole my heart 33 years ago. I'll never forget the day we locked eyes in a crowded room full of people for the first time. He was the most gorgeous man I had ever seen with piercing green eyes, dark glossy hair. and the body of a greek god. He looked like Elvis in his early Vegas days. When he smiled at me I knew I was hooked. All the girls in my dorm swooned over him. But I was the lucky one he asked out to dinner.

He had a Southern drawl that made me melt and an adventurous spirit that excited me about life. A short time before our wedding he took me for a ride in his brand new Mach I Ford down some lonesome country roads near his home in Campbellton, Florida. He pulled to a stop in the middle of nowhere with his hand on the stick shift. He looked at me and smiled that "Elvis smile" with his curled lip and asked "Want a thrill baby?" I smiled back and answered "Go for it!"

Wheels squealed from smoking tires that sped down the road at breakneck speed. I was thrilled! And it's been that way for ever since. We celebrate our 33rd anniversary on October 4th. It has been an adventure in life I would have never missed, but there were some times of holding on extra tight for dear life! However - I can say I have truly lived.

As I walked towards Johnny sitting in the office tears started rolling down both our faces. I straddled him in the chair and squatted down to hug him - I couldn't sit because his body is too fragile to hold me. He pressed his face into my chest - my half chest, left from the ravages of my own cancer treatments. We kissed. Our kisses are so different now. They mean so much more than they did before. They are fragile kisses - like butterfly kisses. They are so filled with a love that is redefined by tragedy.

We started talking then. We praised God and determined we would not let this break our faith. We determined that God was still in control. We knew that though we did not understand the answer at the moment that God knew and was working in the wings. Our greatest concern was telling Scarlett. She has so much going on, as her photography business soars to greater heights, we did not want this to throw her off course. She trusts the Lord in all things and we did not want the devil to hit her with doubt when she heard the CAT scan report. She has such a fragile and tender heart about her Daddy. He is her rock and she knows he always "has her back" in life. We hesitated telling her until she returned from the convention in California but we knew we had to keep her in the loop.

I jumped in the car to go tell her in person but she called before I could get there so I had to tell her on the phone. I think by the grace of God she was so busy preparing for her second shooter's arrival from Los Angeles (the marvelous Jen), the wedding coming up in Jeckyll Island they would be shooting together, shopping and packing for her trip, juggling her new "customer consierge" Rachel, her new services for other photographers where they can come "Spend a Day With Scarlett," and the whole whirlwind which is now her life - God has kept her too busy to dwell on the latest news about Johnny. It wasn't until later that she called me and cried.

So how do you hold on to hope when things look hopeless? You surrender all to God.The first thing Johnny wanted to do was hold an immediate "holy healing session." But he did not want it for himself. He wanted to pray only for all those we know suffering illnesses and cancer. We know so many! Everyone needs a miracle not just us. And as I was reminded by my Mother when I called to tell her we didn't get our miracle, she said "You didn't get your miracle YET!"

Those six words blazed themselves into my mind as I struggled to get my perspective right and keep my faith in order. YET. I didn't get it YET. It really made me think of the story where the man is up on top of his roof in a flood as the water keeps rising and he is SURE that God will rescue him. A rowboat comes along to help but he sends them away saying "God will save me." A helicopter comes along to help and he sends it away saying "God will save me." The waters finally rise and drown him so he is now up in heaven at the pearly gates and very mad at God. "Why didn't you save me?" he screams at God. God calmly looks back at him and says "I sent a boat and a helicopter."

And so it is the answers come to us in unexpected ways. It makes me wonder about the chinese doctor that was placed in our path. He arrived in our lives weeks ago. He has patiently waited. We were not ready to consider th ealternative step until the CAT scan results. But now - at the moment we are ready - this solution waits in place. I know that God is the great orchestrator of all things. I know that all things work together for good to those who love God. I know when we do not give up and keep trusting God He speaks to us. It is the getting still, the quieting of our hearts - even in the midst of raging storms of doubt - that we can hear Him speak and guide us.

And I am serving notice right here and now to the devil "Get thee from me Satan!" Go! Go! Go! We are conquering cancer with the sword of the spirit. This battle is already won. The cancer wants the body and the devil wants the soul. But it will never happen. The victory is ours despite whatever outcome is God's will. I have listened to so many friends, family, and colleagues over the years and despite some horrific challenges people have faced including loss of child, parent, spouse, home, hope, and tragedies like rape, incest, abuse, addiction, handicaps, I have ALWAYS encouraged everyone to KEEP THE FAITH no matter what!

I realize how hard that is to do at times. And now, here in our own huge challenge I must take my own advice. I must never lose faith or forget how powerful my God is. If I can tell everyone else to do it - I can do it too. Our God is an awesome God. He is there in all things great and small. He cares for each of us as if we were the only living creature on earth. And yet, He still has time to make the universe run on schedule, down to something as miniscule as a worm giving birth.

Yes, He reminded me of this the other day on my dog walk as I stood waiting for Lucky and Rhett to move on. As I stared down at the sidewalk I noticed a worm writhing on the cement then leave a tiny puddle behind. As I continued staring mindlessly I suddenly noticed the puddle moved. Now I was fascinated like a child, and stooped down to see what was moving it. I saw a tiny hairlike thread that grew RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES into an inch long worm that slithered away. I believe God was sending me a message to remember that all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed. Mighty things can grow from it.

And so, our faith is renewed and restored even through new levels that we walk through. We thank our Lord for His tender mercies and we thank all of you for standing in the gap for us as we continue this journey to victory. We wish for each of you, the faith of a mustard seed that will bloom and grow into a brilliant power to light up your life and sustain you through your own trials. Never let go of God's hand. He walks with you through it all. He carries you on His shoulders during tough times. It is then you look down and see just one set of footprints in the sand.

Blessings and love from Johnny, Scarlett, and me.....