Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Dave's Perspective on Lyme Disease

I love those moments when I get to hear how God is working in Dave's life.  This was one of those times.


Question: 
 How has Lyme Disease changed the way you think about your life?

 Answer: 
 Life is short-honor God with all of your time.

 I need to BE more and not just DO.  Doing must come out of who we are in Christ.

 God has broken me and is letting me start over.  Will I let him use me as a vessel for His glory?

 God has kept me around for a purpose--I have been close to death three times:

  • Rupturing my spleen in 1979 
  • Lyme undiagnosed for 15 years that started affecting my heart 
  • Lost half of my blood in 2003 due to undetected slow-bleeding ulcers 

 So, what is this purpose of God's? Am I willing to be used?  I want to be willing to say like Isaiah, "Here am I, send me."

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See Lyme Resources

Monday, February 27, 2012

God Hears

Have you heard the one about Hagar, when she cried out to the Lord and he took away all her trouble?  No?  Probably because that's not how the story goes...though that's how we want to view God and is often how we pray.  And the lack of tangible answers can send our faith into a tailspin.

Tucked in the middle of Abraham and Sarah's journey to learn to trust God completely, we find the mixed-up story of Hagar.  God had promised heirs to Abram (his original name), but 10 years went by, and the 85-year-old man remained childless.  His wife, Sarai, had the bright idea to follow one of the customs of the day and gave her Egyptian maidservant Hagar to him, so they could have a child that way.  (Hagar was likely acquired on one of their trips to Egypt, when Abram asked Sarai to pretend she was his sister so he wouldn't be killed on account of her beauty.)

Just as Adam accepted the fruit from Eve, Abram accepted Hagar and lay with her.  Hagar became pregnant (I would guess much to Sarai's chagrin) and began to despise her mistress.  It must have been pretty degrading, because Sarai complained to Abram, and he told her to do whatever she thought best.  Unfortunately the wounds of barrenness and humiliation ran deep, and what she thought best was to mistreat her servant until she ran away.

Talk about a dysfunctional family!  Was Hagar completely innocent?  No--but she didn't deserve the treatment she received either.  But here's where the story gets interesting.  Hagar, pregnant, runs into the desert, and God finds her on the road to Egypt. She had likely made this trip before and would know how harrowing it was--no one but a fool would attempt it alone.

Perhaps it was that sense of foolishness and futility that made her evade the Angel of God's question, "Where are you going?"  It was not unlike the question to Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" or the one to Cain, "Where is your brother?"  God knows how to find us when we have desperately lost our way.

God's advice?  Go back to your mistress.  Now, she'd probably die if she kept going in the desert, but return to the trouble she had left?  That would seem unthinkable.  And it would have been except for two things:

One, God heard her.  He had seen her misery.  Why should a woman likely raised to believe in other gods care what God thought?  Because he cared for her.  Hagar is changed because she saw God, and she believed he saw all that she went through.  She was not outside his sovereignty, his control.  There is safety in the storm, in the Lord.  Perhaps like Abram she was discovering that the Lord is our shield, our very great reward.

Hagar, the foreigner.  The servant.  The sinner.  Yet she saw the God who sees us.

Two, the mixed blessing that God gave her.  Life was not going to be easy--her son would be hated.  But her descendants would become too numerous to count.

The Bible doesn't tell us exactly what happened when she went back, but apparently Hagar was safe.  It seems that she became Abram's servant after that, because years later Sarah tells him what to do with her rather than taking matters into her own hands.  The child?  Ishmael:  God hears.

Did Sarai ever wonder if God heard her pain as well?

Maybe God's path for you isn't easy.  Maybe insults and injustice are there, or maybe you have been waiting decades to see a promise from God fulfilled or a heartache relieved.  Maybe you wonder, where is God?  He hears you too, your misery, anguish, confusion. The years and the journey may seem long, but he has not abandoned you.   He hears.  He sees.  He cares.  May you see the God who sees us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Caregiver's Hope for Lyme

December 10 years ago, 1 am:  I woke up and Dave was not in bed.  I was used to Dave’s strange hours, but the house seemed eerily quiet.

1:30:  I went to the bathroom, the house was dark.  I looked out the window, no car.  Dave was gone.  I woke every hour after that, still no Dave.

8:00:  Got up with the kids, still no sign of him.  “Where’s Daddy?”  my almost five-year-old son Zach wanted to know.  “He’s out, he’ll be back later.”  What else could I say?

Noon came and went with still no sign of him.  Why hadn’t I continued hiding his keys?  Where could he be?  Do I call someone for help?

2:00 pm:  Dave called, he was in the next city about an hour away, and would be home when he could, but wasn’t feeling good.  He had gone to Menards, sat in the parking lot until the store opened at 7, then went to Border’s Books to read, although he could never read more than a paragraph.  The words would jumble and he read the same paragraph over and over.  Suddenly he couldn’t remember where he was, what he was doing there, why he had come—or how to get home.  He sat in our car until he remembered, and then called me.  He stopped on the way home to sleep a bit, and then made the rest of the drive.

4:30 pm, Dave came home, oblivious of the chaos in my mind, and went to bed.

Thankfully we haven't had an experience like this since the early days of Dave's illness.  Dave had to go on medical leave from his position as the children’s pastor at our church in June of 2000, but was undiagnosed at that point.  In October of that year we learned he had late stage Lyme disease.

We traced his symptoms back 15 years to his college days when he began having trouble thinking of words and writing.  He had two extended flu-like illnesses, characteristic of early Lyme disease, but no one suspected what was wrong.

Over the years he had joint pain, dizziness, headaches, eye twitching, and problems stuttering.  Eventually he developed chemical sensitivities and food allergies, then sensitivity to light, sound, motion, and smells.  For four months our church brought us meals because the smell of cooking made him pass out.  Then we learned he had Lyme, and began long-term antibiotic treatment.

Dave did 16 weeks of IV Rocephin, but discontinued because his insurance wouldn’t pay for it.  Then he started a variety of oral antibiotics along with supplements to build his immune system back up.

He wasn’t able to go to church, or to engage in a meaningful conversation, and he slept about 16 hours a day.  Our kids were 1.5 and 3.5 when he went on leave, and I felt like a single mom—and a widow with a husband.  I couldn’t talk to him, couldn’t discuss decisions with him, and yet there he was real, but not all there.  Where was he?  What was happening in his mind?  God, will he ever get better?

I remember praying, God, heal him, or take him home to you—but don’t let him continue on like this, living but not able to live.  I prayed that way for months until I finally demanded, God, what are your intentions towards Dave?

And God replied, Merry, what are your intentions towards Dave?  What will you do if nothing changes?

I knew my intention was to love him, to stand by him, to care for him.  How could I make it through this ordeal?  I went back to the basics of my faith—God is sovereign, God is good, God is loving. These truths didn’t seem to make sense in our circumstances, and I had to choose—who will I believe?  Will I believe what the world and my circumstances reveal to me, or will I believe God?  I chose God, and struggled to hang on to my convictions.

The first Christmas came and went, and then the second, with little improvement.  I was able to cook in the house again, but that was small consolation for me.  Then in September of the second year I saw a window into Dave’s soul.  For one glorious week he was able to read, to talk, to discuss things again.  I had seen brief windows before, windows of an hour or so where he would ask what was happening to him, how long had he been sick—did he still have a job?  Then he would slip back again, occasionally grabbing his briefcase and asking, “Do I have a meeting tonight?”  No, my dear, no.

I let my hopes grow because a week was so long—but slowly he slipped back into Lyme-land again, and again was unable to communicate.  The pain he felt seemed horrendous, and I felt helpless to know how to comfort him.  He used to be comforted by my touches, but since his medical leave they seemed to increase his pain.

I prayed, “Lord, protect our marriage.  Don’t let my heart wander from him.  Let him still love me if he comes out of this.” Amazingly I began to love Dave more.  Truly, and deeply, love not dependent on what he did for me, but because God considered him worthy of my love.

In January of the third year we again switched antibiotics, deciding the last down-turn was due to antibiotic failure.  His painful “herx” reaction lasted a month this time, but for once had a definite ending.  Always before I could never tell the difference from one herx to the next—they all seemed to run together with no discernable pattern.  But this time it ended, and the Dave I’d had for that week in September was back again.

We seemed to be moving into a new phase and getting to know each other again.  He could read for about 20 minutes at a time, and when I saw his passion for reading God’s word again, such a precious gift that had been taken away—my heart rejoiced.

For several months, these improvements continued.  We believed we were heading towards a remission.  He still had a lot of pain, required about twelve hours sleep each night, and continued to be very sound and motion sensitive.  But he was able to come to church again, and taught Adult Sunday School for about nine months.  He sometimes couldn't make it through both Sunday School and church as it was too exhausting, but to be teaching again, which is his passion, gave him a new excitement about life.

Slowly that Fall, though, the improvements melted away again, and by April of the fourth year, the improvements were all but gone again.  Over the next 2 years I slipped into a deep depression.  To have Dave and lose him again was surprisingly more painful than the first time I lost him and it wasn't until the spring and summer of the seventh year, that I came out of that again, found my ability once again to hope in God rather than in cures, to trust God again, to again remember that circumstances don't define God's love for us.

I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I do know that God can be glorified even in something as tragic and life-changing as Lyme disease.  There have been other windows, other glimpses...but the roller coaster continues.  Somewhere in the middle of all of this I quit demanding that God do what I wanted (although I continue to pray for Dave’s healing), and I began to submit myself to God and ask, “Lord, change me.  Make me willing—and able—to bear up under this strain, and to walk with you.  Be glorified in my life and in our family—and in Dave.”  God has faithfully answered that prayer and drawn me nearer to him.  He has softened my heart and made me willing to follow Him, no matter what happens in our lives.

I felt I could thank God for the blessing of knowing him more deeply through Lyme—but not for the Lyme itself because that hurt Dave so.  But one day Dave told me that he thanks God for the Lyme—not because of what was lost or the pain it’s involved—but because he is changing too.  If there was no God, Lyme would just be an awful tragedy.  But God can work for our good even in the midst of a tragedy, bringing something meaningful out of an otherwise meaningless and destructive illness.  We can look at the almost twelve years and maybe more lost to Lyme—or we can put our hope in a God who can bring good out of nothing as He created the world out of nothing.

*     *     *

For more information about Lyme Disease, check out the links on my Lyme-Illness-Disability Resource page, or email me (see the bottom of the About Us page).

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Footprints Reprise

I see his 
blistered feet 
on parched sands 

picking up shell 
fragments and 
holding them 
gently in his hands— 

 And one day he will make us whole.

Shell fragments, hot sand, and two hearty flowers, Washington Island



© 2003 by Merry Marinello


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Hope that Doesn't Disappoint

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.   Romans 5:2b-5, NIV 

Hope doesn’t disappoint?  I could hardly believe my eyes as I read these words in Romans 5 when my husband Dave went on disability years ago.  The hope I knew did disappoint.  Dave’s mysterious symptoms had increased each year of our marriage until we finally had an answer: late stage Lyme disease.

When Dave left work, confusion and a myriad of neurological problems were setting in.  Every few months Dave would have part of a day where he could talk without passing out, and he would ask me what was happening to him.  Did he still have a job?  Why was he sick?  How long had it been this way?  And slowly as I revealed the details I would see him sink back into Lyme-land again.

I tried offering just the sketchiest details—was it the stress of reality that chased him away?  But no, it didn’t matter.  The reprieve was only a brief window into his soul.  Was that supposed to be hope for me, hope that the Dave I knew still existed and one day would come back?  Or was it a cruel tease, reminding me of what used to be but might never be again?  Every time Dave had a good day, I hoped it was a new beginning, only to have that desire crushed.

What was this elusive hope that did not disappoint?  A hope so strong so as to be:
...an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf…    ~Hebrews 6:19-20a
Slowly over the next few years God began to reveal this hope.  It wasn’t about my current life circumstances, a slippery slope at best to place my trust in.  It wasn’t about whether or not Dave recovered—although I believe God cares infinitely more than even I do about Dave’s well being.

It was about my heart being tethered to the inner sanctuary, the promise of being eternally with God, sealed by God’s love poured out into our hearts now.

Can God really be known that personally? I wondered.  Yet that’s the whole point of the inner sanctuary—it was always to be the place God met with man.  And now that place is in our hearts.  At times it’s more than I can grasp.  When I think on the infinite holiness of God alongside His accessibility to man through Christ, it’s more than my finite mind can comprehend.

I may never know why God has allowed Dave to suffer with Lyme, but there is a question that lures me into His presence day after day.  Who is this God who on the one hand seems to hide himself, yet on the other desires to be known by us so much that he gave the precious blood of Jesus to accomplish that goal?  How can I know the One who is himself the hope that does not disappoint?
One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.  ~Psalm 27:4
This was King David’s longing, the hope now fulfilled, and yet will be fulfilled even greater in eternity.  This is the journey we're on, to pursue this hope and all that God has to offer us.  Come, let’s gaze upon his beauty and seek him in his temple.


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Friday, February 17, 2012

Broken but not Wounded

by Michelle W.

Brokenness and woundedness are not synonymous. If a horse is broken, you can ride it; if a horse is wounded, you cannot.

I am a broken person in the kingdom of God. God can count on me to follow instructions, walk nicely, run when needed. I am useful to him.

Being broken is good.

I used to be a wounded person in the kingdom of God. I didn't walk well (in fact, I limped), I didn't know how to follow instructions, and I "bucked" a lot. Life was hard - a constant struggle.

Was God mad at me then? No! Did he ride me harder then? Never! He led me gently.

He broke me with his kindness. He healed me with his love.

If God was so kind and gentle, why was I worn out? Because I ran frantically around and around, trying to do what the other "horses" were doing, trying to be what I wasn't created to be.

*     *     *

Michelle has been married for over 20 years and has four grown sons whom she home-schooled.  Her life message is “In every aspect of life, I have seen the faithfulness of God when I did NOT deserve it.”  She also writes, “This year I've experienced genuine and permanent freedom, healing, peace, and the love of God. Life in Christ is a precious gift, and I think too few people ever take hold of it!”

© 2003, originally posted on the Sonlight Teacher's Lounge

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quiet Time Boosters


Feel like you’ve hit a rut in your quiet times?  Here’s some things that have refreshed my faith in times like that:

List names and attributes of God that you rely on in times of trouble (Example, God is our protector, firm foundation, etc…) to remind you of the God we run to as our refuge & strength.  Proverbs 18:10 says “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”    Think about a favorite Scripture or praise song for ideas.

Practice running to God when things, whether small or big, go wrong. (Stop, drop & pray!) It's amazing how those small "moments" of prayer can add up to meaningful time.

Pick a favorite Psalm and make two lists.  One  “Who God is,” listing the characteristics & actions of God  .  The other “Who I am,” taking on the convictions of the Psalmist (Example, “I commit my way to the Lord,” instead of “I try to…”)  I find this incredibly powerful and faith-building.

Meditate for several days or weeks on Matthew 6:25-34 or the entire “Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7.

Spend a month reading and rereading Philippians, James, or another short book.  Meditate throughout the day on whatever thought God gives you—even if it’s just one verse.  When my daughter was newborn, I thought I'd never have a quiet time again!  But God gave me the idea to read James over and over, just a few verses at a time—and to leave the Bible open in a place where I would pass by several times per day.  God really blessed those moments (and I prayed a lot for wisdom!).

Continue to search the scriptures to find out who God is.  Meditate on Psalm 27, 46, or 91.  God has given us an incredible trust in His word (Ps. 25:14).  Meditate on Matthew 13:44.

Do a word search on a word that intrigues you.  I recently did a search on the word "confident" and found some real gems that boosted my faith.

Memorize!  It's not just for kids!  If you've never memorized scripture, start with a verse or short passage you find meaningful.  If ou have, challenge yourself to memorize a chapter—or even one of the short books!  You can do it, really!  Review while you exercise or go to the bathroom, or tape verses on your mirror, computer, above a baby's changing table, or any place you might see it.

Pray Scripture.  One year I prayed through 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  In January I prayed that I would be patient with my children and husband.  In February I prayed I would be kind in my words and tone and actions, etc...  God really used this to reveal my heart and help me grow.  It's also powerful to pray Scripture for your children, family, friends, church, etc...

Feeling too tired or burnt out to seek God?  Pray for God to change your heart, to give you that desire to seek Him—and ask God to meet you where you are right now.  Accept his grace and love, for he will meet you in your struggles.  He is the Shepherd who sought us out when we couldn't seek him.


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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Subscribers...

Hi All--I'm going to switch to publishing my blog under my domain name, hopeismyanchor.com this week.  From what I've read, this shouldn't affect google subscribers or those who get the blog through a feed, but if you don't see another post from me by next Monday, you may have to resubscribe.  Please email me if you have any difficulties (merry (at) hopeismyanchor (dot) com).  There will be a transition time of a day or two in there when accessing the blog might be difficult.  Thanks!  Merry  :-)

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why is Love the "Greatest of These?"

(1 Corinthians 13)
The tongues of men and angels...will be stilled
Prophecies will cease.
Knowledge will pass away.
Mountains will crumble.
Faith--is needed in this life, not when we see God face to face.
The giving of money or of human life is of this world.
Hope looks to a future that is not yet ours.

These are all temporal; love is eternal.  Love is forever.


See also:  Loving our Kids

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Healing - When the Miracle Doesn't Come

The accuser is constantly hissing in our ears:  "Where's your Jesus now?"  When we read the New Testament, it seems healing is everywhere.

"Jesus doesn't really care about you..."  "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean," the leper in Matthew 8 said to Jesus.  Jesus was willing then, but not now it would sometimes seem.

"You're not good enough."  Really?  He counts our hairs (Matthew 10:30) and gathers our tears in a bottle (Psalm 56:8).

"Your faith is worthless!  If you were really a Christian..."  Jesus said it only takes the faith of a mustard seed--the tiniest of seeds.  He didn't turn away the one who had just a modicum of faith.  "Help me in my unbelief!" the father in Mark 9:24 begged, and Jesus didn't reject him--he healed his child.

The tempter hissed in Jesus' ear too.  "If you are the Son of God..." he challenged Christ.  The lie was powerful to a parched and hungry man, a sock in the gut when he was already down, a blow of pure hatred at his weakest moment.

And in that moment, Jesus had a choice.  He was fully God, he did have the power to turn stone into bread.  But in his very first words, he chooses instead to identify fully, completely with us.  "Man..."  He is not only God.  He is man.  And he chose to live as we do.

Most of us don't have the ability to snap our fingers and make trouble or pain go away--and I don't think it's a lack of faith, though sometimes that may be an issue.  I think most Christians have at least as much faith as the father who asked Jesus to help him in his unbelief.  At least as much as a mustard-seed.  But our mountains don't always move.

Jesus in that moment chose to identify with us, in our pain, and told us in effect, you don't need the removal of pain to live.  "‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’"

His words echo Deuteronomy 8:2-3,
Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.  He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
Jesus spent a day in the desert for every year they wandered in the desert.  God's spirit led him into the desert to starve--the very thing the Israelites accused God of leading them into the desert to do, despite the food and water and clothes that didn't wear out that God provided for them.  And we, too, wander in our faith at times, in our deserts of pain and trouble and silence from God.  And we wonder, why has he brought us here?

Jesus identified with us.  Maybe he brought us into the desert that we might identify with him.  That we might be able to see beyond the pain, the trouble, the thing we think we just can't live through--and see that he, the Bread of Life truly knows, truly understands, lives through the pain with us--and he will see us through.  He is what we need most of all.

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Friday, February 10, 2012

Write the True Truth


I don’t remember who first said it, but I’ve heard this phrase often at the Write to Publish conference, and among other writers.  Whenever I sit down to write about our lives, this thought goes through my mind and frames what I say.  If I express only part of a truth—my faith in God for example—without the bloody battle to hang onto that faith that also is part of the journey in this war-torn world, then I risk propagating a lie. 

And that means…sometimes the pen must wait.  Here’s a journal entry from one of those times:

*     *     *

September 17, 2007

Dave has often said that he'd give up the use of his legs to be able to have his mind back.  I don't want that for him!  But I do wish and pray that somehow he could have a vibrant faith whether God chooses to heal him or not—either would be a miracle.  When you can't concentrate, can't read or listen to tapes long, can't think straight half the time, when your mind always plays tricks on you and makes you remember things wrong, and when sensitivities to motion, light, sound, and chemicals drive you away from people all the time—it’s hard to have a vibrant faith.  I just think, what kind of life is this, and why does God want it for Dave, and what possible good can He be bringing out of it? 

We have a beautiful park in our town and this past year they did a major overhaul on the parking areas and roads, and put in a memorial garden...  I can't get used to it.  I drove through the winding roads tonight after study and came again to the sign that says the exit is the opposite direction from where we used to go, even though the exit is exactly where it was before.  I always think, how can this sign be correct?  How can I turn right here, and finally end up left?  How can this road possibly take me out of the park?  I drove that long, dark, counter-intuitive, winding road tonight and thought, this is our life.  Long, dark, going the wrong way and yet God says it will be the right way...and I don't understand it. 

I believed the first 3 years in a promised land in this life.  I lived it.  And now...my theology is far from my reality.  My faith hesitates in the gap and says, is there really anything at all for us in this world?  I'm asleep, holding on to truths I know but not experiencing them now, waiting for the next life instead of expecting anything more out of this life.  It's why I've not been able to finish my book.  If the truth was burning in my breast, my pen couldn't rest. 

But I can't continue until it's real.  And I know there's something real out there.  And the people who hurt like Dave need it.  I need it.  I'm so tired of the battle that I've laid down my sword and my shield, and I just exist.  Sometimes I'm stirred, yes—I can't be where I've been and not have embers.  But it's not the same.  It's not where I was.  It's not where I want to be.

*     *     *


I don’t regret waiting until I could write the true truth, waiting until God again woke me up from my fog and said, “It’s not imagination.  I’m real.  And I want you to know me more deeply, more intimately.”  The Christian life in the midst of pain is not a fantasy.  He wants us, he cares for us.  He desires to be known.  Seek him.  Meet him.  And write—even if only for you.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thankful Thursdays-Our Portion Forever!


My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.

~Psalm 73:26

Today I'm thankful for a husband who loves me and a God who gives us strength to endure what seems un-endurable.  I remember at times thinking, we can't live like this!  But here we are, almost 12 years later...and God has brought us through!


But as for me, it is good to be near God.
I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge;
I will tell of all your deeds.  

~Psalm 73:28

It's good to be near our Lord!  He feeds our souls.  

What are you thankful for today?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Invisible Illness, Visible God - Finished!

Some of you know that I've been working on a book for the last 10 or so years (longer if you count the years early in Dave's illness that I journaled, before I ever thought of writing a book).  In between taking care of Dave and the kids, homeschooling, working part time, and trying to breathe, I found snippets of time here and there to work on it.  Some years I worked on the book a lot, some it lay dormant, like a seed in the ground.  Cold, dark, resting--waiting to grow.

Last fall I attended a Women of Faith convention, and learned about a contest that WestBow Press was sponsoring.  The deadline gave me just under 4 months to finish up, and I wondered if I could do it.  I prayed and God cleared my Thursday afternoons and many Saturdays, so I set those aside for writing and revising.

My original journals went through several evolutions.  The first draft was mainly for me.  Sometimes I joke that I "unwrote" a book because my journals were so lengthy!  During the second draft I was trying to find my way...could this be a book that might interest and help others?  Two trips to Write-to-Publish and countless conversations, prayers, and experiments later, I settled on a devotional format.  Last fall I had a revised draft of about 2/3 of the book finished, and I spent the last 4 months finishing the final third and reworking the whole.

This week I finished, and entered the contest.  You can find a "sneak peak" on the page at the top of my blog:

Invisible Illness, Visible God
When Pain Meets the Power of an Indestructible Life
101 Devotions for Those with Chronic Illness and their Caregivers

The Grand Prize, of course, is publication of the winner's manuscript courtesy of WestBow Press, with the option that Thomas Nelson might decide to pick up the book.  Hundreds of people enter, and last year's winning entry looks like a quality book (I love Marcia Moston's title:  Call of a Coward).  The winners will be announced on March 31st.  While I'd love to win, my prayer is that a quality book will be chosen that glorifies God, and that whether through this opportunity or another, my book will be published.  I'm so thankful to be finished, and truly appreciate the support and prayers that many have given us.  The encouraging emails kept me going when I wondered if I should give up on such a big project.  Thank you!