Friday, October 30, 2009

I have it!

I finally received my proof copies this evening. The book looks great so far. But I will read through it completely to make sure there are no printing errors before approving it for publication Monday morning.

I just have to say again how excited I am about the cover. Terra did such a beautiful job. But it's more than beautiful artistically. She was able to depict both captivity and freedom in the same image. I know that could not have been an easy task and she spent endless hours working on it, wanting it to be perfect. Well, it is.

Two of my friends have offered to also proof a copy for me over the weekend so that I don't miss something. I could have books a week from Monday. And when I do, you will be the first to know.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Tomorrow I will see my book in print!

I was notified that my proof copies were shipped overnight delivery today! I will have them tomorrow. Two friends and I will go over them this weekend, looking for any printing errors before I order my first shipment. I hope we don't find anything. I'm ready to get on with this.

I submitted my files on the 20th and the reason it has taken ten days is because both the cover and the internal files had to have something minor fixed and then be resubmitted. Even when you take care of delays quickly, which we did, it drags out the process. I can't imagine what it will feel like to hold an actual book in my hands that I have written and published myself. I kind of wish somebody was going to be here with me to share that moment. But I will probably be home alone. I guess I'll just have to get in my car and go to a friend's house so I can hug somebody and scream, "It's really a book!"

John and I talked about it this afternoon and we're going to be real brave and order 300 copies to start with. That first shipment will come directly to me and I will set up a little shipment work space in my house. I may work on organizing that space tomorrow.

I still don't know an exact release date. I plan to approve the proof or submit corrections on Monday and then print books. I don't think that will take more than a week. For those of you who have already purchased your copies, you should be getting them soon. And for those of you who haven't, you can go to:
to order a copy directly from me. Or if you want me to hand it to you personally, you can email me to reserve your copy and tell me when you want to receive it in person. I would love to know how many copies I am going to sell immediately. It might make me a little braver about ordering my first shipmment.

In six to eight weeks, the book should be available at and other distributors.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Acknowledgments (Breaking the Chains)

My whole life is a testimony of God’s faithfulness and redeeming love. I thank Him, first of all, for His amazing grace.

I thank my husband, John, for his love and devotion. I once heard a sermon using the love of a spouse to emphasize the power of our love and acceptance in Christ--how a spouse’s opinion can outweigh the opinions of all others. For instance, if my husband thinks I am beautiful, I will feel beautiful. While feeling beautiful has never been my great longing, I have always wanted to feel lovable. John makes me feel lovable and adored. And through the magnitude of John’s love for me, I have been blessed to experience the richness of God’s love; because as deep as John’s love is for me, I know that God loves me even more. My husband has been a rock of stability for me as I have struggled to heal from the many wounds of my past. Without his constant encouragement, support, and patience, I might never have written this book.

I thank my son, Danny, for consistently focusing me on God’s grace and the cross of Christ throughout the process of writing this book and for introducing me to the online sermons of Tim Keller. And I need to thank Tim Keller. Although I don’t know him personally, he has been instrumental in helping me to understand what the cross truly means in my life. Listening to his online sermons revealed to me how the entire Bible is the story of Jesus. As I struggled to break the chains of false doctrine, and before I could believe the simplicity of the Gospel, I had to be convinced that it was true. Tim Keller convinced me that God’s grace was true and real, and I could trust in Jesus for my complete salvation.

I thank my friend and pastor, Allen Jackson. He has been not only a teacher but an example to me of how to become a more fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ. He has been patient and kind when I have needed gentle guidance and spiritual encouragement. His counsel helped me to overcome my unbelief in God’s promise of eternal life through faith in Christ. He ministers to our congregation from a posture of humility rather than superiority, which I have greatly appreciated. And he has cultivated a love for Israel in my heart that I never had before. I am indebted to the friends who devoted time and energy to reading this book as I wrote it, chapter by chapter, rewrite upon rewrite, offering their unique insight and feedback. They prayed for me. They propped me up when I occasionally succumbed to fear and anxiety anticipating the possibility of painful repercussions. Ann and Eric Brenton, Donna and Lee Synnott, Karen Jones, Robin Hanloh, Dr. Frank Scott, Andrew Osenga, and my husband, John: you have my heartfelt gratitude for your contribution to making this a better book.

Thank you, Jennifer, for telling me—in no uncertain terms—to stop apologizing for my convictions.

I thank my editor, Geoffrey Stone, not only for his skill and expertise in editing but for making the process less painful than I anticipated. After finishing the original manuscript, I didn’t imagine that I could think any more deeply about any of these past experiences. However, as a result of his thoughtful questions and comments, I gained even further insight into my past through the editing process of this book.

I don’t know how I could ever effectively convey in words my deep gratitude to my friend, Charlie Daniels, for agreeing to write the foreword to my book. We have only been friends for a short time, but he and his wife, Hazel, have so impressed me in their love for Jesus, their humility and their boundless generosity. When I asked Charlie if he would consider writing the foreword, I never dreamed he would respond, “I would be honored to write your foreword.” Charlie, the honor is truly mine.

Terra Mears, I want to acknowledge you and thank you for the beautiful cover you created for me. I have always admired your artistic talent. However, considering the subject matter and content of this book, as the granddaughter of Cornelius Mears, your involvement and contribution to this effort are extremely meaningful to me far beyond the blessing of your obvious talent.

I want to thank my sister-in-law, Cheryl, and the many friends who gave me permission to tell their very personal stories in this book, using real names. I am thankful that I have not been alone on this journey of deliverance and I do not stand alone in proclaiming the truth of our shared past because of your willingness to go on record in this book.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Monday's Update!

I just heard from my rep at LSI. The minor problem with the cover is all fixed and my order has gone to printing. My proof copies should ship tomorrow or Wednesday. If I am fortunate enough to have the proofs by Wednesday, I think I could make the Friday deadline for ordering my first shipment of books. But if not, then it will be Monday. There shouldn't be any more delays at this point.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Update

In case you are checking for the status of the book, we had a minor hang-up with the cover. It will be fixed by tomorrow morning and proof copies will be printed and shipped to me for approval within a few more days. It shouldn't take me more than two days to proof and approve it. Then we can get on with printing my first shipment. Just wanted to let you know about the minor delay.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Compelled to Comment...


The above is a link to a public blog post from a man named Paul Dyal. He is a very prominent man in the cult I was raised in. His blog popped up on a Google search I did months ago and I still occasionally read his blog just to see what kind of arrogant things he is saying on any given day. This man's church is in Jacksonville, Florida. Even when I was still a part of this group, there was something about him that put me off. His demeanor and public remarks, in my opinion, wreaked of arrogance and certain comments demonstrated a blatant disrespect for women. This was merely my impression of him. I never sat down and actually talked with him personally. I had no desire to know him. I vividly remember groaning internally when he rose to speak (in the general conventions our church hosted).

I am thankful that he is posting so publicly on the Internet about his beliefs. It is a constant reminder of the spiritual deception and abuse I was raised in. The one thing I will say for this man is that he isn't vague and evasive; he doesn't try to conceal what he truly believes in order to gain acceptance from mainstream Christianity. He openly states the beliefs that formed my spiritual foundation in life. My former church (Christian Gospel Temple) has attempted to deny the control, the heavy legalism, and the fact that we believed our group was THE Body of Christ exclusively. Oh, we believed God had people in denominations, but ultimately those sincere Christians would come out of those other churches/false beliefs and find us, the true church with "the truth" about salvation (as well as many other of our distinct revelations). We absolutely did believe that in order to "make it," a believer would have to find the "truth" about salvation (that you had to become perfect to receive eternal life), come under the true ministry God had appointed in the earth today (our ministers with the vision of William Sowders) and "go on to perfection."

I was raised to believe that if one left "the Body" to go to any other Christian church outside our fellowship, it was displeasing to God and there was no point in deceiving yourself; you would be leaving the "truth" to be a part of Babylon. You were better off not even trying to serve God than to "think" you were serving God out in the "religious world." The message was not ambiguous or vague in the forty-three years I spent there. It was very clear and transparent. That is why I find it so offensive today when this is denied.

If you had a conversation today with some of the "leadership" of my former church (CGT), many would attempt to convince you that we never looked down on other Christians or operated in exclusivity. It has been stated to me that since CGT has no written doctrinal statement, they don't really have doctrine. That's not how I was raised. And it insults my intelligence to be told that as if I am so stupid that I will buy it. It is patronizing and condescending and dishonest. I may have been conditioned and indoctrinated and manipulated all my life to buy into most everything that was spoon fed to me all those years, but I haven't lost my memory or my mind. I remember. They cannot rewrite my memories or my history.

If you read this man's words, he is honestly telling you the attitude of the group (as a whole) toward other Christians in many, many posts. I'm not suggesting you read exhaustively. But he tells it like it is, like it has always been in that group. He is honest enough to flatly and unambiguously state, "We have always, and still do, disdain religious Seminary's...."

He is recognizing that their lack of ministerial training is handicapping them as a group and they need a school for the ministry, "... seminars that are solely designed to facilitate the needs of the Body."

However, because they have disdained formal education all of these years and believed that their education has to come from within their own system, no one within their group is really qualified to teach any of the things he sees the need for. People who are qualified to offer real counseling, for instance, go to school for years and then accumulate hours of training under a professional's guidance in order to obtain knowledge and experience in such areas. But in their arrogance, they have never believed they could learn from anyone "outside the Body" because of their disdain for a formal education.

I don't know why I feel compelled to comment on this. I think reading these words just triggered an emotional response from me. In spite of my disagreement with just about everything he believes, I'm glad that this man blogs as transparently as he does. I wrote in my book about the attitude that was cultivated in me toward other Christians and while I expect some to attempt to deny the truth of my words, this guy makes it abundantly clear that I didn't pull my memories out of a hat.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not Feeling Alone

I take a lot of good-natured teasing from John and friends about my blogging and Facebooking. Last night at our small group, John laughed and joked about my "openness" by saying, "So much for having a personal life when you're married to a cyber-gal!" And he's right, there is virtually nothing I won't share unless specifically asked not to.

I have only blogged about John's CLL since he gave me his blessing to do so. And there are many reasons why I share what we're going through. One reason I write is, it's simply the most efficient way to keep friends and family informed of the latest. Another reason is so that everyone who cares about us will know how to pray. John expressed last night how overwhelming it is for him to know how many people are constantly keeping him in their prayers. And I reminded him that you can only be overwhelmed with praying friends if you let them into your private world. (Not that I'm trying to take credit...hahaha...okay, I am taking credit).

In addition to those reasons, writing serves as an outlet for my thoughts and emotions. I am definitely a talker, but writing is quite often even more therapeutic for me than talking. I have always preferred to express myself in writing whenever possible. Some people like this about me and others have found it laborious. I'm not saying it is always a good thing, but it's how God made me.

And, last but not least, a very important motivation for me to share in such a public way is that I am oh-so-aware of how much it helps to simply know that we are not alone in our struggles. Since John's diagnosis, especially while he was still wanting to keep his CLL private, I found online support groups where I could reach out to others who knew the emotional roller coaster I was on. My favorite support group became a site called CLL Christian Friends. I found the most loving, supportive group of people who were all affected by CLL in some way. Some contributors are patients themselves and others are caregivers with spouses, parents, siblings or children diagnosed with CLL. I found more than information there. I found caring people whom I now consider my friends. They reached out, listened, and prayed for people like me who were just beginning their roller coaster ride. Those new friends could understand what I was going through better than many of my "real life" friends because they were riding the same roller coaster and, once you join this cancer "club," there are so many things that do not have to be explained to you because you just know. You share the same experience.

In my little online CLL community, I am constantly reminded that we are not alone on this journey. Others know and understand. Some have a much tougher road currently than we do. And once I got my bearings, I had the opportunity to offer that same "You are not alone" support that was there for me.

Well, cancer is not the only area of my life where I have wanted to reach out to others with the message of "You are not alone." Wanting others to feel less alone on their journeys out of bondage and deception was a big part of why I wrote my book, Breaking the Chains. My inspiration for sharing my life and my testimony came out of a long list of desires, actually. There wasn't just one motivation for writing the book. But wanting to convey hope and make others (with similar wounds to mine) feel less alone was secondary only to proclaiming the message of the cross. Nobody has to explain to me what this particular journey (out of bondage and deception) feels like because I've lived the journey, and I know. I know the struggles. I know the fears, anxieties and losses that come with it.

I know that a lot of people cannot relate to my compulsion to write at length about whatever I'm going through or whatever God is teaching me through my struggles. But there are those who do. And there are those who occasionally feel encouraged by something I write and communicate that to me, which always makes my day. It seems like whenever I am feeling like such a dork for being so expressive, I get an email from someone. It happened many times while I was writing the book and pushing through anxiety. It is almost as if God knows exactly when I need some affirming words and He provides them. I got one of these emails this morning and it meant so much to me, I just wanted to share it on my blog. Emails like this assure me that I am occasionally helping someone.

I am so excited for you! Nine months in coming - how appropriate since you have labored hard and long over this ‘baby’.

I liked what you said in your blog post about the experience turning into a healing process for you. I know it helps me when I put my thoughts, however jumbled they may be, onto the blog. It’s like letting poison out of a wound.

I have been following John’s treatment progress with your blogs - once again, thank you for being so open with your experiences. I have an aunt and uncle who are going through a similar experience and I forward your blogs on to my aunt. Reading about those who are going through similar experiences is encouraging - it lets you know you are not alone.

This brings me back full circle to spiritual abuse. When you write of your love for those left behind in the cult, I understand completely. I have a friend of twenty years that I left behind. I tried to reach out her - but it ended in disastrous results.... Thanks for being brave enough to share yourself - it will bless many others.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The book has been submitted!

I completed the submission process today for my book,
Breaking the Chains.

In 3-5 days I will receive three proof copies (for myself and two others) to review one last time for any printing errors. Once the final proof is done and any needed corrections are made, I will order my first shipment of books. It's possible that I could have books in as little as two weeks. Distributors like won't have the book on their sites as soon as I will. It can take six to eight weeks longer for the retail outlets to stock the book.

It has been just about nine months to the day since I began writing. I didn't document the date, but I do remember it vividly. And I know it was mid-January. I started out sitting at my little kitchen desk with my old laptop. Within just a few weeks, John surprised me with a new laptop (an early birthday gift) and I moved from the kitchen desk to a recliner in my family room. There were days I never even got dressed and even more days that I didn't leave the house. I was so consumed with writing some days that I would even forget to eat or drink!

Everyone who has taken a look at my cover thinks it is not only beautiful and eye-catching, but the perfect image for the message of this book.

It's hard to believe this day has finally come.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ready to Submit!

The cover has exceeded my highest expectations. It is a work of art. When I look at it, I see an image that captures the sense of freedom and redemption I have found. I found that freedom and redemption in the cross. And I wanted the cover to illustrate that. It's no small task for an artist to capture both captivity and freedom in a single image. I knew that. I also knew that my artist (who is beginning to feel like my little sister) could do it. Okay, it occurs to me that I am more than old enough to be her mother. However, she has a mother. And nobody needs two mothers. So I have designated myself as a surrogate big sister.

I have not previously mentioned the artist's name who designed my cover, but she has given me permission to do so. So, Thank you, Terra Mears, for the endless hours you've spent designing and perfecting such a beautiful cover. I couldn't have had a more perfect cover for this book than the one you have created. And it means the world to me that you wanted to do this. I've thanked you many times privately, and I've thanked you in the acknowledgments. But I have really looked forward to acknowledging you and thanking you on my blog as well. I'm proud to announce that you are the book's cover designer. If I ever write another book, I hope you will agree to work with me again. You are so talented. But even beyond that, it's very meaningful to me to have the personal connection we share. I think you know how bonded I feel to you. At least I hope you do. I love you very, very much.

I am so blessed to have a personal connection with every single person who has contributed to the production of this book.

I am blessed that my friend, Charlie Daniels, agreed to write the foreword. He is a very special person, and I have such deep respect and admiration for him as a Christian and as a human being. It certainly won't hurt to have my foreword written by someone so well known and well loved. However, what makes his participation even more meaningful to me is that he's a true friend. John and I feel a special bond with Charlie and Hazel.

In addition to the personal connection I have with my cover designer and foreword writer, a very special person in my life wrote the epilogue to my book; my son, Danny Bryant. And he did an amazing job, too. I am so proud of him. And I'm so pleased that he made such a meaningful contribution to my book.

Every person who has been a part of this process is someone very special to me, including the friends who read each chapter as I wrote (and rewrote) my testimony. I am indebted as well to the friends and family members who gave their permission for me to share details about their lives and testimonies, and who have given me their wholehearted, unconditional love and support all year long in this effort.

I wanted my next blog post to be an announcement that I had submitted the book. I have the cover pdf and my manuscript pdf ready to go. I logged onto my online publisher's website and started to begin the process tonight, but I didn't get very far without having an unanswered question. Therefore, I think I had better wait and do this during business hours so I can speak with a customer service representative. I want to make sure I'm doing everything correctly. Hopefully I will complete the submission process tomorrow (Tuesday).

We have a doctor's appointment in Nashville at 8:45. Then I have another appointment here in town at 1:30. I'm hoping I will have enough time in between those appointments to complete the submission. If not, I will get started and then finish up later in the afternoon. I am very eager to get this submitted.

It is normally a two week process from submission to shipping books if everything goes smoothly. I have been through this manuscript so many times, I can't imagine a delay unless there are printing errors in the proof text.

My next post WILL be a submission announcement.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


I am not sure if I made this clear in my last post. I meant to point out that I can only remember having three real dreams in my life; things I never expected to happen. The only one I remember praying for God to give me was a happy marriage. The others were more like fantasies I never expected to come true. I woke up this morning thinking of a fourth dream I never expected; getting my college degree at the age of forty-four!

In the last six years, God has blessed my life so richly and in a multitude of ways. He has also made my wildest dreams a reality. I used to think God didn't really care about the details of my life. It's almost as if He has set out to prove me wrong. I am overwhelmed at His faithfulness, His goodness, His matchless grace and His boundless love.

God has made all of my dreams come true. That's why I said that I need some new dreams. Because I know He isn't done with me yet.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wow . . . a real book!

I saw the cover tonight. I can't stop looking at it. I'm so happy and excited. My mother-in-law and I were admiring the artwork and I said, "This is going to be a real book!"

The cover designer and I chatted on the phone about a few final touches to the cover text before converting to pdf. I will have the file tomorrow night. I will submit the book Monday morning.

I'm going to have to get some new dreams. I was telling John recently that I haven't had a lot of big aspirations in life. I have never really wanted more than a simple life full of meaningful relationships. My number one big dream in life was a happy marriage, which I now have.

I had two other personal dreams that I thought would be so cool, but never expected to see happen. I always thought it would be a blast to write restaurant reviews for a newspaper. I knew I could do it and people have told me all my adult life that I was born to do it, but I didn't have a clue as to how I would ever get my foot in the door with a newspaper. And then God blessed me with a dear friend who is the editor-in-chief of our local paper. He was all too happy to help me fulfill that dream.

The other dream I never expected to come true was to be a published author. I knew I had a book in me, but never set out to make that goal a reality. I am not a driven person. I'm not even a highly motivated person. I do not believe I would have started writing this book at all if God had not inspired me through a small group of women who prayed fervently for me back in January of this year. Their prayer was that God would use my testimony for His glory and for the deliverance of others. From the moment they prayed that day, I couldn't stop thinking about writing this book. I began to write and the words just flowed out of my heart and onto the page.

I did not write this book for self-therapy. I didn't think I needed that kind of therapy. But I was wrong. God has used this book to further complete my own deliverance and healing. I agonized over nearly every word. I relived every chapter (as well as some things I did not even choose to write about). There were so many emotionally draining days (and anxiety attacks; anticipating, worrying, and wondering about certain possible reactions from people I love). I wrestled and prayed, and others prayed for me. And something amazing happened. I noticed that as I neared the completion of the book, there was a transformation that was happening for me. Little by little, I was feeling bolder and less fearful. Even my close friends witnessed this happening to me, in me.

While I have waited for the cover I have continued to make the most minor revisions to my manuscript. The most recent involve punctuation changes. I have become obsessed with the proper use of an ellipsis and making sure all of mine were absolutely correct and consistent editorially. I asked my editor to create one final pdf for me, which I will have first thing Monday morning. So, even though I have had a finished manuscript for a while, I feel like I have had some extra time to review it and polish it as I was waiting for the cover. What may have seemed trying to me (waiting), I now believe to be a blessing. God knew exactly how long I would need to get it right.

I have always believed that if God was in this book being published, then He was also in the timing. And even though I have been anxious and eager to get it submitted, I have wanted to trust Him for His perfect timing. Learning to trust in the Sovereignty of God over every area of my life has been so liberating. As my pastor so often says, "God is faithful. You can trust Him."

I am so excited about seeing the cover and being close to the actual completion of this project, I just had to share it with all of you.

Friday, October 16, 2009


There have been a few delays with the book cover. The finishing touches have taken longer than expected, but my cover designer has been working diligently to get it finished this week. (The above is a sneak peek at the work in progress -- just the title portion of the cover.) I expect to have the finished product by Saturday. I plan to submit the book to the online publisher the same day I have the finished cover.

I know some of you have been checking my blog, expecting to see a release date by now. I apologize for the delays. I have learned a lot about this process. For one thing, editing and revising the book has taken far longer than it took to write it. Making sure everything is just right at the very end is a killer. And I guess it's kind of the same way with the cover.

My cover artist has done the cover for me as a gift, since book sales are as yet to be determined. My financial goal has simply been to recover my investment. I began writing from the desire to help others by sharing my testimony. There is a definite investment (in addition to time) in producing a book. She understood that and wanted to help me. This is a very generous gift of her time, talent and effort. Therefore, I have not wanted to be demanding or impatient because that would certainly not convey my deep gratitude for her generosity. I am very thankful for her contribution to this project and I want her to know it.

The minute I have the cover, I am submitting the book to the online publisher. Since it is done electronically, I can do that any day of the week. When I have submitted it, I will post an announcement. According to the publisher, the process from submission to publication is about two weeks. It takes several additional weeks for the book to be available through other distributors (like Amazon), but I am planning to order 250 books to sell and ship personally through my website. I will only increase that number if I pre-sell more books in the next two weeks than I expect to. The books that have been pre-ordered will obviously be the first delivered.

Thank you for being so patient. Some of you purchased your books in July, when I expected this book to be published by the end of August. I am sorry it has taken this long.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

60 Minutes this Sunday

I've been advised that this Sunday 60 Minutes will feature the Kanzius cancer treatment, which is currently in testing. If you are not familiar with this new research, this is a radically new form of cancer treatment using radio waves and nanoparticles to kill cancer. Only the cancerous cells are destroyed; not healthy cells (chemo destroys both).

The man who invented this technology had CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukemia) and died of complications from his CLL and treatment before his invention was ready for human trials. It's a shame he could not benefit from his own discovery. But his wife and MD Anderson are carrying his mission forward. And people like John stand to greatly benefit from this treatment in the future if it is proven effective.

I just thought you might like to watch.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another quote...

"Sometimes we fear that fighting for what is right will kill us. Then again, it occurs to us that to stand by and do nothing out of self-preservation is to be dead already." ~ Beth Moore (Esther)

I wish I had had this quote before I finished my book. It would have been in my book.

Book Update

There have been a few delays with the cover, but my designer has absolutely guaranteed me that I will have a finished product by tomorrow night.

Provided I do get the cover pdf tomorrow night (October 14), I will submit everything to the publisher Thursday. They will print proof copies and overnight them to me. A few friends and I will read them, looking for any printing errors, and once those are discovered and corrected, I'll be printing books!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Little Things Are Really the Big things

If you were looking at me right now, you would see that I have tears in my eyes. But they are tears of relief and thankfulness. It's amazing how happy you can be just to see someone you love eat an egg and a piece of toast, drink a glass of milk, smile, converse a little bit and chuckle at a joke. (Mike, I gave John your message this morning: "Mike says to go to the middle of the ship." He laughed. He would not have even smiled yesterday. So I'm glad I waited.)

Yesterday was a long, hard day. The last few days have been hard. But for some reason, I had a particularly hard day yesterday (emotionally). I had expected this round to be easier for John because of having the anti-nausea medication. But it didn't seem like he got much relief at all (although it probably would have been a lot worse without it). I was expecting yesterday to be better than Friday. So it came as a surprise when he spent a whole second day sick in bed. By last night I was feeling kind of blue. The stress makes you fragile.

I was telling a friend that seeing John so sick brings back a lot of memories of my mother, who died of colon cancer just after her 49th birthday. She was terminally ill for seven months. Ironically, the one meal I can most vividly remember her eating when she could get something down was a fried egg and a piece of toast. And that's what sounded good to John this morning. It had to be a fried egg for both of them.

After eating his breakfast, he took a Compazine and an Ativan and went back to bed. Before he did, I hugged him and said, "I'm so glad you're back." And he said, "I'm not back yet. But I will be soon." I wasn't suggesting that he was back to being himself. I was feeling overwhelmed with thankfulness that I could see a twinkle of his personality again. Just seeing his smile and being able to have a conversation with him made me feel like a kid on Christmas morning. I feel like a new person compared to last night.

You can't really know the feeling I'm trying to describe until you walk in these shoes. I have watched the progression of cancer in a very up close and personal way before. Hearing about someone's cancer battle and being in the battle with someone very close to you are totally different experiences. There are past moments, conversations, and experiences that are etched into my memory forever because of my mom's battle. It's an emotional battle for every family member, as well as the person who actually has the cancer. The emotions of my past experiences will always be with me. The fact that it's been over twenty years doesn't change the intensity of the emotion. When a memory is triggered, I feel the same emotion I felt then. And going through this with John triggers a lot of those memories.

Thankfully, John's situation is different. We are expecting a good response to these treatments and hopefully many years of not having to think about his leukemia. But when you are in the moment of watching someone you love suffer, there is only that moment. And there are your memories. And there is fear.

When you are feeling fearful and anxious, you feel isolated and alone - even though you know you are not. There are many friends I could have picked up the phone and called last night. Any number of wonderful people in my life would have been at my disposal at a moment's notice if they thought there was anything they could do to offer love and support. But one of the strange things about being in this position is that sometimes you can't figure out what you want or what would help. I thought perhaps I just needed someone to talk to and considered picking up the phone and making a call, but then at the same time, I wasn't sure I even wanted to talk to anybody. If I can't figure out what I need, I sure can't expect anyone else to figure it out!

So I wound up talking to all my friends last night by writing on my blog. There is something about writing that provides a release for me and serves as therapy. For some reason, just putting my thoughts and feelings out there makes me feel better. When I see a lot of hits on my blog, I know I'm being "checked on" and that you're thinking of us and praying. Although a blog may seem less personal to some (as a means of communication), it is very personal to me. It is comforting to me to know that you are reading the thoughts I share. Yet I don't have to worry that I'm interrupting you at a bad time because you can read when it's convenient or when you happen to think, "I wonder how John is doing. Maybe there's something on Shari's blog." I know you're only reading because you care and want to know. I don't have to worry that I might be bothering anyone or being a whiney baby because nobody HAS to read.

I'm so thankful John has allowed me to write about what we're going through. This is therapy I have needed for more than two years. It is such a helpful outlet for me to be able to share and write about whatever is on my heart at the moment I need to share it. If you call me three hours from now, I may not have the same need to get something off my heart. The great thing about a blog for me is that I can write at the moment I need to write and then feel better whether I've talked to anyone personally or not. That probably would not work for everyone, but it works for me.

I didn't want to make this about me (and I still don't). I wanted to honor John's preference for privacy in the beginning, and I did my best. But concealing anything only adds to my stress. I am wired to be an open book. Please know that even when we don't talk personally, I feel your love in a very tangible way just knowing you have been to my blog to check on me. Thank you for taking the time to walk through this with me. It means more to me than you know. It may seem like a little thing to you, but it's a big thing to me.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hoping tomorrow is a better day...

Well, so much for my hope that Round Two would not be as bad as Round One. It almost seems worse to me. John says he is not worse than after the first round, but he is still very nauseous even with the anti-nausea meds. And it's lasting longer this time. His last infusion of Round One was on a Friday and the severe nausea hit him on Saturday afternoon. Sunday morning I got him the prescriptions and by Sunday evening, he was getting some relief. He didn't feel a lot better until Tuesday, but the worst only lasted a day and a half.

This time his last infusion was Thursday and he was starting to feel bad already on the day of the last infusion. He didn't seem too bad Thursday night, but he has spent the last two days in bed, hardly coming out of our bedroom at all. He is drinking lots of ginger ale, but he says that even trying to think about what he might be able to eat is nauseating. Anything that comes to his mind makes him feel sicker.

All he has eaten today is a few bites of an apple and a piece of sourdough toast. He's lost a lot of weight and looks so thin to me. I know missing a few meals isn't going to hurt him in the overall scheme of things. I'm not pressing him to eat at all. It's just so hard to see him still feeling this bad. I thought with the anti-nausea medication he would not feel quite so bad this time. And it seems worse. I'm really surprised that it has lasted longer than the first time, too. But they did tell us at the outset of treatment that the side effects of chemo are cumulative and he wouldn't feel as bad after Round One as he could potentially feel after Round Three. Right now I cannot even imagine Round Three. I'm so thankful he is going to have three weeks without treatment before he has to do this again.

I apologize for sounding so blue. I'm really fine; just a bit melancholy. But there is nothing anyone can do. It just helps to talk about it. I don't want to call and whine to anybody. Writing on my blog is good enough. We don't need a thing other than prayers. I guess all the quiet is just getting to me tonight. I miss John's smile, his jokes and the laughter that is normally in this house.

I'm thankful this won't last much longer.

It is so hard to watch someone you love suffer like this and not be able to do a single thing to make it better. If I can do nothing but keep his glass filled with ginger ale, I'm thankful I can do something. But this is definitely the most useless I have felt in a very long time.

I did get out of the house for a little while earlier in the day. I was asked to give an interview to a college student (the daughter of a friend) who is doing a report on abuse. She is a communications major going into the field of broadcast journalism and we did an on camera interview. She was going to come here, but John was concerned about anyone coming into the house who might even possibly bring a germ. (She's not sick, but there is so much going around right now.) So I asked if I could come to her. I was a little nervous about the on camera part, but she asked good questions and once I started talking, I forgot about the camera. I think I was extra talkative because there is no conversation at home right now. LOL.

I appreciate your prayers so much for John, and I wouldn't mind a prayer or two going up for me tonight either. I need to stay strong and not let my emotions get the best of me.

This is worth reading!

I just saw this link left in a comment on my son's blog. I read the article. It's so good I had to share it. I hope you will take the time to read it because the message applies to all of us, not just David Letterman.

This article quoted the Scripture that I felt like God gave me recently for the publication of my book. It is Revelation 12:11.

What David Letterman Can Teach Us About the Gospel

Friday, October 9, 2009

Another long day...

John has not felt good today. He has only come out of the bedroom to take his medications. He mentioned banana cake the other day, so I told him I would bake one. I asked him if he thought he'd be able to eat chicken noodle soup if I made some and he thought he would. So I made soup and baked a loaf of herb bread. He had to close the bedroom door so that he wouldn't smell it while I was cooking.

I just went in to check on him to see if he was getting hungry and he said, "not really." He doesn't complain, but he looks so miserable. After a minute or two, he said, "Did you leave the door open? I can smell it." I said "sorry" and left, closing the door behind me. There is nothing I can do and I realize it. I guess the best thing I can do for him is just leave him alone and hope he is able to fall asleep.

A person like me doesn't know what to do when cooking doesn't help.

Just as I was posting this, John emerged from our room and ate a bowl of soup. But he couldn't eat the bread because the herbs didn't taste good to him. I've read that the chemo really affects your taste buds. I wasn't expecting him to feel this bad with the anti-nausea meds. If it follows the same course as the last time, tomorrow could be harder than today. And after that he should start to feel better.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Day Three of Round Two

Today was John's last day of treatment for round two. We have a follow up visit with Dr. Flinn a week from Tuesday, then more treatment the first week of November. Two down, four to go.

John is holding up well. He is taking anti-nausea medicine orally to ward off a repeat performance of round one. He says he feels completely wiped out and he seems pretty lifeless. But he ate dinner (pizza sounded good to him) and he is not sick. He says that occasionally he'll have a wave of intermittent nausea, but it doesn't last long. His numbers were still good today before his last infusion.

We are settled in for a restful night of watching new shows on TV. There are several we like on Thursday nights right now. I'm looking forward to The Office (The Wedding). And I have really gotten into Flash Forward.

I got my lab results today. My cholesterol is high, just as I anticipated. But my ratio is good. My total is 284. My LDL (bad) is 183 and my HDL (good) is 72. The fact that my HDL is so high makes my ratio good in spite of the other high numbers. I know there are dietary changes I can make to help. And I have been very haphazard about taking my Omega Three Fish Oil capsules lately. Some days I remember and others I do not. I'm going to get back to being faithful with those and also start taking the cholesterol supplement (with policosanol) that lowered my cholesterol significantly the first time my blood came back high. The supplement lowered it from 256 to 217 within a matter of months. I don't want to take drugs when I know it would help for me to simply eat right.

I went ahead and had pizza for dinner, but I went with veggies only. I know what I really need to do is get back to eating a low-glycemic diet. I'm convinced it is absolutely the healthiest way to eat. But I love many bad foods and I have controlled my weight so well with exercise that I have never developed the same discipline with my eating. Well, now that I am fifty years old I can't afford to ignore the health ramifications of my eating habits. I'm going to try my best to avoid fried foods and saturated fat. I am already very conscious of trans fats and don't eat red meat on a regular basis. But I love fried appetizers and rich, creamy sauces/soups/dips.

My WBC was 5.1. So I don't have CLL. I have been so tired that I really was wondering if that might show up (considering my dad has it, John's mom has it, and I have learned it is often familial). Fatigue is the most common symptom. But I guess I'm just getting older. : )

If you want a glimpse into what I came out of...

Click Here

The above link will take you to the blog of a prominent minister in the religious cult I grew up in. Since I discovered his blog earlier this year, I have occasionally read just to see what all he is saying openly on any given day. He does not welcome comments from people who do not "follow" him and his teachings (or appreciate what he has to say). He has, in the past, even deleted comments that put him on the spot and challenged him openly (though the questions were asked very respectfully).

There are any number of blog posts you could read to see that everything I describe in my upcoming book is the truth (about the group). But I thought I would just share the most recent example. You might find it interesting.

In recent months, he has been specifically upset about and aggressively challenging the drastic changes in my former church (CGT) on dress codes. He explains in this post that the calling of their particular group is to produce a first resurrection church, not second resurrection church. (You will understand his thinking on that better once you have read the book.)

Although I disagree with him on many of his convictions, the one thing I will say for this man is that he is at least willing to say honestly and in public view what he truly believes. The only time I witnessed him not be forthcoming was when he was asked about a specific incident of covering up child abuse. The person identified themself by first and last name and asked a question about why something was handled a certain way. They asked in the most respectful and gracious manner, not showing the slightest disrespect or contempt. They just asked for an answer. That was when all the comments were deleted and the man decided not to allow comments from people who were not his followers. You can read the whole discussion that led to the deletions here.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day Two of Round Two

Today went well. John has not been sick yet, but since we already know nausea is a side effect for him, he decided to start taking Zofran tonight (every 12 hours) to make sure he got ahead of it this time. Last time his last treatment was Friday and the severe nausea set in mid-day Saturday. Zofran does not cause drowsiness, so he can drive.

Since Day Two and Day Three are much shorter infusion times, we decided to go in the afternoon. That way John can go to the dealership in the mornings and then just come home and rest after receiving his infusions. I went to my Bible Study this morning and was glad I didn't have to miss it. I am enjoying it so much and the message is quite timely for me right now.

It's hard for John to know if he'll feel like eating or what he'll feel like eating ahead of time while getting the chemo. And he doesn't really like to smell food cooking. So last night and tonight we just stopped and ate on the way home. Of course, this does not bother me one bit. We went to J. Alexander's last night and Chop House tonight.

Our appt. tomorrow is again at 2:00. So John will go to the dealership in the morning if he feels okay and I will do something mundane like laundry. Then we will head to Nashville for the last day of Round Two. Only four more rounds to go after tomorrow. And so far, so good. All of his counts are holding steady and none of them have dropped dangerously low yet. Some of you reading this know how good these counts are. Today (after getting F, C, R and L yesterday) John's counts were:

WBC 5.9
ALC 1 (16.8%)
Neutrophils 4.4
RBC 4.14
HGB 13.3
HCT 38.2%
Platelets 173

I know it is likely they will eventually go lower, but at the same time I am thankful they haven't tanked early on. It means that he is tolerating treatment well thus far. I fully attribute that to prayer.

I just have a feeling this weekend won't be anything like that first treatment weekend. John says he is very tired and feels "weird," but other than that his most annoying health issue by far is his raging reflux. I don't know what in the world we are going to do about that.

And now I need to go work out because I am eating a little too well this week.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A long day...

We just got home from Day One of Round Two. Today was the long day. John got all of his Rituxan, all of his Lumiliximab, and partial doses of Fludarabine and Cytoxan. The next two days he only has to get the F and C, which should take about an hour total.

We left the house at 8:00 am and didn't get out of there until nearly 7:00 pm. I had packed one peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which we split. That was lunch. So we were both hungry. We stopped at J. Alexander's and ate before driving home and walked in the door a little after 8:00. We are both tired. But John is not sick. He got anti-nausea in his IV and he has a prescription for Zofran, which he will fill in the morning and start taking as a preventative measure.

They scheduled him for an afternoon infusion tomorrow, so I don't have to miss my Bible Study Group tomorrow morning, after all! I'm really happy about that because I am loving this Esther Study.

Speaking of my Esther Study, I have one more lesson to complete for tomorrow. So I better get busy before I start falling asleep.

Just wanted to give an update for all of you who are concerned about and praying for my John. I love you so much for keeping us in your thoughts and prayers. You just can't know how much until you go through something like this and feel as surrounded by love as I do right now!

A blast from the past...

My friends, Lucky & Dee Dee, are in California and just sent me this picture. It's a pizza from my all time favorite Italian restaurant, Petrillo's. I grew up on this pizza and it's one of the first places I want to go when visiting my old stomping grounds. I wish I could snap my fingers and join them for lunch. On second thought, that would mean leaving John here in the treatment room to finish the day without me. So I wouldn't snap my fingers and go, even if I could. But I sure would love to have a slice of that pizza right now!

So, Dee Dee, if you're reading this, how about a picture of an In 'n Out Cheeseburger dripping with grilled onions for your old pal?

From My Preface...

"Since this book is about a personal journey, I cannot avoid revisiting conversations, interactions and experiences that have shaped and influenced my life. It is not my desire to hurt or embarrass anyone. Therefore, I will struggle with that aspect of my writing from beginning to end. I am well aware that my book will create different levels of discomfort for many. I genuinely grieve that unavoidable consequence."

I do believe the above is the biggest understatement of my entire book.

Since I'm sitting all day in a treatment room with John, I decided to read through my manuscript one more time to assure my anxious heart that I've gotten it right this time. But the chapter I reread first was the one I was still wrestling with (toward the end of the book). I think I really feel at peace with it as is today. I don't think I need to make any further changes. I'm starting to think that I just have a lot of genetic self-doubt that causes me to endlessly question and scrutinize myself.

After reading that chapter and realizing that it really is good enough without any further improvements, I started again at the beginning. When I read the above paragraph in my preface, I remembered the day I wrote it back in January. The Preface was the very first thing I wrote and I would have to say that paragraph applies to almost every single day of my writing, re-writing, editing, revising, re-editing, and re-revising. I have wrestled and struggled mightily. There have been tears of sadness and tears of joy. I have sometimes wrestled for more than twenty-four hours with one word choice.

This morning Danny sent me an email telling me that he had read my blog and was praying that I could rest. He reminded me that I can't say everything perfectly no matter how hard I try. And I was reminded of the time my Christian counselor, Floyd Dawson, pointed out to me that I tried way too hard to say everything perfectly. I remember him telling me, "You put so much pressure on yourself. You seem to think that if you can figure out a way to say something just right, it will avoid upsetting others, avoid conflict, avoid 'making a mess.' But when it comes to relationships, you cannot avoid 'making a mess' sometimes. However, the solution to this problem is not to avoid the mess by using the perfect words; the solution is love and mutual respect in our relationships. Because where there is genuine love and respect, the mess isn't a threat to the relationship. The mess can just be cleaned up through repentance and forgiveness. The relationship grows stronger--sometimes--as a direct result of the clean-up process."

I know he didn't mean that we should just go around making messes and wreaking havoc on other people with blatant disregard. But there is so much truth in his words. Life is messy. Relationships are messy. Pretending and living in denial accomplishes nothing. And a lack of conflict does not constitute a real relationship. A real relationship can withstand conflict and be stronger because of it. Where there is strong love and commitment, conflict is no threat.

On Facebook recently, the question was posed "Would you rather be ignored or patronized? Which is worse?" I can't even remember which one I chose as worst. I really don't enjoy either. But I think I've discovered through reflecting on a past experience which affects me the most. I was looking up synonyms and antonyms online for the word patronizing. And I found a site that chose respect as the perfect antonym for patronizing. It crystalized my feelings on the situation I was reflecting upon. I knew I had chosen the right word. The person who made me feel patronized made me feel disrespected by not simply telling me the truth--that they didn't trust me. The truth might hurt me, but I can get over being hurt. Without truth in a relationship, there simply is no relationship. I think I would rather just be ignored than patronized.

By the time I publish this book, I think I am going to feel as though I have given birth to a child. There have been so many times I have thought, "I just can't do this." I remember saying that when I was in labor. When I really felt that way the strongest, the hardest part was almost over and the best part was just about to begin...the life of my sweet little baby who would grow into this adult son who prays that I will rest.

I CAN do it. I KNOW I can.

Thanks, Danny. I love you.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Another Beth Moore Quote

He who delivered you from the fire can deliver you from fear.

Sometimes God uses the winds of a new threat to blow the dust off a past miracle that has moved from our active file into the archives. Remember, Beloved! Remember what God has done for you! Rehearse the story again.

Find someone this week to retell it to.

Dear One, He who delivered you from a Pharoah can deliver you from any Haman. Remember who you are.

I am so thankful for this study on Esther. Every time I sit down with another chapter, God gives me something for that very moment. Tonight He spoke to my fears and anxieties. And He encouraged me through Beth's words to tell my story of deliverance and not be afraid.

Dear Lord, I'm really trying hard!

I sent my Word document to the editor last night, assuring him that I believed this was the last rewrite needing a new pdf. I then worked out, took a hot bath and got comfy with my current Beth Moore Bible Study on Esther.

I am on week three, reading the third chapter of Esther, which focuses on Mordecai's refusal to bow to Haman. In the third chapter of the study book, Beth makes this statement:

"I'm not sure we're ever in a more uncomfortable predicament than when we discern evil in someone who other people esteem. At no time should we be more prayerful or careful to search our own sin-driven souls."

She then asks the reader to make a list in the margin of the possible ramifications of a wrong or overblown judgment, followed by this observation:

"Among the ramifications on your list, you probably noted that we could find ourselves in a serious chastisement of God. I'd just as soon avoid asking for that kind of trouble. Also imagine the terrible guilt of a retraction proving insufficient. Surely we have all strongly misjudged someone."

I didn't think that I had written anything that made an outright judgment of anyone, or their heart, but reading this did cause me to feel an even greater concern regarding my choice of words. I thought of one specific chapter where I might have been guilty of judging someone's motive. And I know that no matter what I think I see as evidence, no matter what my questions may be or how discerning I think I am, I cannot know another persons's heart. Only God knows our hearts. We don't even know our own hearts most of the time.

So I got up this morning and emailed my editor to hold off making a new pdf. I explained my concern and that I wanted to go back through a specific chapter to make sure I was careful to avoid judgment. He's been so great. He replied, "No problem."

I have spent the last five hours agonizing over my words and making sure that I express myself in the form of questions and not statements that imply judgment. I actually wound up making that chapter even more personal than it already was. I realize that I could go on making changes forever and there will always be something I may later feel that I could have said better. But I want to do my absolute best to demonstrate faithfulness to God as I exercise the freedom He has given me to share my testimony.

My desire is to please God in this effort above all else and I hope and pray that He will touch the hearts of others through the sharing of my own. I am flawed and imperfect. No matter how many times I rewrite and revise, I'm painfully aware of my inadequacy to do this perfectly. But I am trying so hard to do it right and in a God-honoring way.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

I was right!

I talked to my cover designer yesterday and the cover is done. The only hold up is that she wants an expert friend of hers to look over her finished product and make sure everything is just right. She doesn't want to hand over the cover until she gets his input. She feels so bad about the delay, but I told her I appreciate very much her desire to make sure it's the best it can be before she calls it finished.

I'm very eager to get this book submitted, but perhaps God has a purpose in giving me a little more time to make sure I am satisfied with the book's contents. I have thought numerous times that I had made all necessary changes. I'm quite certain my editor is weary of making new pdf's for me. But as I've been waiting on the cover, I have continued to reread in an effort to assure myself that I've caught every mistake before printing. At this point, I am not finding typos (which is great).

However, I have been wrestling with a few specific sentences and paragraphs, trying to get the words just right. John cautions me not to over-edit my words and my publishing friend wisely reminded me that I can mess up something that has already been fixed by continuing to make further changes. But I have to be able to own every word in this book and feel comfortable with every statement I have made (for the rest of my life). That weighs heavily on my mind and heart.

In my effort to be flexible and cooperative and open to the expertise and suggestions of my editor, I am realizing that I have convinced myself to accept his wording in a few places where his words just don't sound like my words (to me). As I explained to John this morning, "That just doesn't sound like something I would say. What he inserted is not untrue, but it's not the way I would say it. And that is bothering me. I need those statements to be in my words, not someone else's."

I know that there will be feedback on this book. I will possibly be asked to answer for or explain certain comments and my conclusions. I don't ever want to say, "Well, those were actually my editor's words, not mine. I just didn't want to be difficult to work with and it was close enough." This book is too personal.

I came to a place last night where I didn't feel okay about a certain sentence, but the right words just weren't coming to me. The sentence my editor inserted was not inaccurate, which is why I accepted it to begin with. But his perspective is different from mine because he is reading about someone else's life and he wasn't in the environment like I was. So he expresses the same thought in a slightly different way. I'm sure he was trying to emphasize a certain point I had already made, but it didn't quite apply the way he believed it did from my perspective. And it was nothing more than his word choice. I knew I had to say it differently for it to resonate with others who share my background. But the words just weren't coming, so I went to bed.

I have prayed many times that God would help me to find the right words to convey what He wants me to convey through this book. I did not write this book to make money or to get attention or because I wanted to be an author. It's true that one of my dreams in life has always been to publish a book. But I really never believed I would. And that was not the impetus for me to begin writing in January. From Day One of writing, this book has been a ministry effort for me and something deeply personal. If God intends this book to help only a handful of people, I will be humbled to be used by Him to help even five or ten people. The book does not have to be a huge success and be widely read for God to accomplish His purposes. God alone knows the intended audience for my testimony. And because I am publishing this book as a testimony, it is monumentally important to me for every word choice to be right and for the words to be my own.

I went to bed having no clue how I was going to reword the end of that specific paragraph. I just knew it could be said better. I really believed God would help me get it right and I did not wake up at 2:00 AM stressed out about it. Sure enough, the minute I woke up this morning, the words just came to me as I was still lying in bed. I got up, went to the spot, and typed the words as I believe God gave them to me. Not only did it feel right, it tied into the following paragraph so much better.

I have been wanting to get this book in print yesterday. I have pre-sold between 35 and 40 books and I am well aware that people are waiting for a book they have already paid for with an expectation of an August/September release. For all of you who are checking on my progress, I apologize for the delay and I want you to know how much I appreciate your patience and support. Those pre-sales are going to help me pay the costs of printing books. I went into this project not knowing if I would even sell enough books to cover the expense of producing it (and I still don't really know that). But I believe God has a plan for this book and so does John. We would prefer not to lose money on it, but we are willing to if the book can reach even a small number of hearts.

I'm convinced that God has had a hand in the delay because it has given me time to wrestle with every word for just a while longer. I dread emailing my editor and asking him to create yet another pdf. But, in the end, I will have peace of mind knowing I am able to take ownership of every word. It has taken more time and effort to edit this book than it took to write it. At some point I will have to let go of trying to make it better. Please say a prayer for me that I will get it right on this one last effort and I will be able to submit the whole thing to the online publisher this week. John starts his second round of chemo on Tuesday and I would really like to get this manuscript off my heart and into the publisher's hands.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The book is almost ready to submit!

My cover designer just emailed me that the cover is done and she has been contemplating sending it to me. She said I will have it today. I'm guessing that she is having a hard time letting go of her work and calling it "finished." She is a perfectionist. I'm dealing with the same challenge on the manuscript. I have made endless revisions; changing one word in a sentence, wondering if I should add or subtract a detail or two in certain places, having something extremely minor jump off the page at me that I have never noticed before. It is exhausting. But I have learned so much from the process. I have learned a lot about publishing a book. I have learned a lot about myself. And I have learned even more how to rely on God's grace in times of fear and anxiety.

My editor and publishing mentors all assure me that mistakes make it into published books all the time and sometimes are not even noticed until the second printing. But it's still hard not to keep poring over the manuscript looking for something you've missed. On the other hand, I am becoming weary of reading it over and over again. I am so glad I wrote this book and it has been therapeutic beyond my wildest dreams. But I am now thinking that there is going to be an additional benefit to writing it. I really believe this book is assisting me in detaching myself from some of the emotions and wounds of my past. Up to this point, I have not been able to accomplish that (although it has been a strong desire to do so for years).

As I wrote the book, I found myself many times writing TO my old friends. More than once I had to delete long portions where I attempted to (overly) explain myself as I would fall into an apologetic tone, feeling guilty for sharing the truth of my past because of my love for certain people and my desire for them to still love me. I will never forget the day I shared a certain chapter with Jennifer (whose story I tell in the book), wanting to make sure I had all my facts straight. Jennifer responded, "Shari! Stop apologizing for your convictions! You need to delete the first four pages of this chapter!" I knew she was right, but I continually felt the need to seek understanding and approval from people in my past. I so wanted to reach them; to reach their hearts.

That was how much I agonized over the content of this book. I agonized over whether I was dishonoring my parents in sharing anything about my relationships with them. I love my parents. I agonized over other family members' reactions and how their perceptions of the same events might differ from mine. I love my family. How they feel toward me matters to me. Sometimes I realize it matters too much and I have to remind myself of some of the things God has taught me about seeking approval and validation from others - even my family members.

I didn't want to include any details that did not pertain to my spiritual journey. I didn't want to hurt or embarrass people unnecessarily. I agonized over the fact that all of my own hurts are so vivid in my memory, while contemplating the reality that I may have inflicted hurts on others that I don't even remember. I hate knowing I have hurt others. And my worst fear in life (or one of my worst fears) is being a hypocrite. So I included unflattering things about myself very intentionally. I'm thankful my husband and my son understood why I needed to do that and assured me I could never embarrass them.

I have a feeling that some of the people I was trying to reach with this book won't even want to read it. And that's okay. It's their choice. One of the thoughts I have had repeatedly since finishing the book is that if I died tomorrow, I have left my testimony, my struggles, the things I have learned and the history that is uniquely mine for anyone who wants to know me. And my focus has somewhat changed now that the book is done. I find that the people I am most looking forward to sharing my testimony with are my newer friends; those who did not know me before I lived in Murfreesboro or attended World Outreach Church.

Our very close friends, Mark and Anita, came over for dinner last night and I showed them my printed manuscript (in a three ring binder). Mark shared with me that he realized within the first six months of knowing me that I had been in a cult from just the little bit that I had shared with them about my past. I have known them for over six years now and my history has come up in many conversations. I have tried to help them understand how I was raised, what I was taught, and some of the background to certain events over the last couple of years. I can never seem to condense my testimony into a conversation or even many conversations. And I have come to the conclusion recently that the people I am most eager to share my testimony with are the people who I know love me; the ones who are really interested in my life and who I am today. As I approach the publication of this book, my focus is becoming less about the people I WANT to love and understand me. Oh, some days it is definitely still about them. I won't ever deny that. But I don't want to plead for anyone's love anymore. I want it to be enough that God loves me and He has placed so many loving friends in my life who demonstrate their love and support in SO MANY ways.

My two favorite chapters in the whole book are the ones that focus on John and Brittany.

I wonder; is it possible that by publishing this book I might finally be able to take my eyes off of the past and live completely in the love and freedom Christ has given me in the present? Might this book be a tool God uses to finish the breaking of my chains? I hope so!