Monday, November 30, 2009

Round Four

It's treatment week again. Tomorrow will be a long day of infusions. Wednesday and Thursday will only require 1-2 hours in the chair. We're trying a new anti-nausea medication that is specifically for delayed onset nausea in combination with the Sancuso Patch this time. So far, nothing has completely eliminated John's nausea. But his sister, Lillian, who has been undergoing chemo and radiation in Reno, says the drug John will be taking this time (Emend) worked extremely well for her.

Today John will have CT scans to see how well his nodes have responded to the treatment at the halfway point. At the end of treatment, he will have more scans and another bone marrow biopsy.

Round five will be the last three days of the year. His sixth and final round of treatment is expected to be the last week of January. That will change if John's counts drop dangerously low and do not rebound sufficiently for him to tolerate subsequent doses of chemo on schedule.

The effect of chemo is cumulative. His white count did drop dangerously low after round three. But within a week's time, his counts had all rebounded nicely. When his counts drop into the danger zone, he has to take his temperature numerous times throughout the day because the slightest rise could indicate infection.

When we began this treatment journey, a CLL friend who was approaching the end of the same therapy told me that it would go by faster than we expected. She was right. Although John still has three rounds to endure, it's exciting to think that two months from now we will celebrate the end of these treatments and hopefully a long remission.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The only constant...

One of my favorite sayings is "The only constant in life is change." I don't even remember where I first heard it, but I searched the quote and learned that it originated with Heraclitus (a 500 BC, Greek philosopher).

At the age of fifty, I can definitely vouch for the truth of his words. I have lived long enough to see and experience plenty of change, lots of surprises, many storms, some tragedies, but even more rainbows and silver linings. I remember a Tim Keller sermon I once listened to where he explained how the greatest joy is birthed out of the deepest sufferings. I can vouch for that too!

Yesterday was one of the hardest days emotionally that I have had in a long time. When these days come (I just want to cry and it seems like I can feel every nerve ending in my body), I remind myself that I am a fifty-year-old woman and this is a part of the terrain. I am no exception. However, one of the surprises of my life the last few years has been the lack of these expected (and dreaded) symptoms. I have yet to experience a serious hot flash. I have friends who started experiencing them in their thirties. The only time I have experienced noticeable symptoms of the dreaded "change" have been when I was under a lot of stress. And once that stress subsided, the symptoms disappeared.

Yesterday was one of those days when I just knew there had to be a physical component to how badly I was feeling. I am able to recognize that component because the "pain" I was feeling has been in my life for years. It's not new; although it has been brought back to the surface through recent circumstances. I started to write on my blog while in the middle of my most fragile moments (which were a combination of very real pain and recognizable hormonal imbalance). But thank the Lord I was able to stop myself from putting the details of my pain here on my blog. That is a major victory for someone like me! ~I say this with a triumphant smile on my face!~

Instead of blogging, I wrote a long, rambling, pitiful private message to someone who I know really cares and loves me unconditionally. And then last night I wrote a "please forgive me" message explaining that it was just one of those really tough days. To which she replied, "Don't feel bad! I love you so, so, so much!"

Today I have all of those same hurts, but today I can handle them again.

Next week is round four of chemo for John. Treatment week is very stressful. Today I'm feeling thankful that treatment week and hormonal day did not collide. I typically battle just a touch of mild situational depression at some point during John's treatment anyway. Usually it's the weekend following treatment. It is so hard to watch someone you love suffer. And having been through cancer with my mom years ago seems to make it harder because I remember. I not only project myself into an uncertain future; I do so with the reality of some of my worst memories. It's hard to put into words, but in this case the past complicates and intensifies the present.

The emotional pain I was feeling yesterday also ties into memories of events surrounding my mother's illness and death. Deep emotional wounds were inflicted during the last week of my mother's life. Ironically -- or not -- those wounds have been reopened simultaneously with my husband's present cancer battle. The pain I struggle with comes and goes in its intensity, but it is always present. Yesterday it was overwhelming, but today it is manageable.

Yesterday I broke down while talking to John on the phone. But in the middle of my pain, I told him what I always know to be true: "Even though I am hurting so badly, I know tomorrow will be better. I always get through it. I never feel like this very long. I just have to push through, and then I'll be fine." I know that because I have felt intense pain before and I have always overcome it to find joy and triumph on the other side of the pain.

God is faithful and He is sovereign. Everything He allows me to suffer is for my good. I trust Him. Whatever I lose, I know He will redeem. At the core of my being, I believe it with all of my heart. He will redeem every loss. I have faith that He will redeem every loss because He has promised to work all things for my good. But it isn't just through faith that I know this. I have lived for fifty years and He has already done this for me many, many times. His timing has not always been the timing I would have chosen. But He has rescued me so many times in the past, and when He has visibly shown up in my life I could always see, in hindsight, how He had been working for my good long before I ever realized the grace and deliverance I was going to need. My circumstances may have surprised me, but they never surprised God.

I will have tough days. I am weak. I am fragile. I am a dysfunctional mess within myself. And I know it. But His strength is made perfect in weakness. I know that I don't have to find strength within myself. I am completely and willingly dependent on Him.

2 Corinthians 11:30
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.

2 Corinthians 12:9
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

I baked two pies tonight and put a whole turkey breast in a very large crock pot to cook overnight. I normally do a turkey breast in the crock pot for extra white meat and extra broth. Then John does the real turkey in the oven on Thanksgiving Day. This year, however, we are only doing the turkey breast because it's just the three of us; John, me and Marian (his mom). And I convinced John there was no reason for him to mess with a turkey this year. He loves preparing the turkey and that is always his job. But he agreed that the turkey breast would be sufficient and it would be a lot less hassle. Other than that, I will be making our usual feast of dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes fried in butter and brown sugar, cranberries, corn, green beans and yeast rolls...followed by pumpkin and chess pies. We won't put a dent in the food. But you just have to have certain things on Thanksgiving.

Although I was initially disappointed that we would not be spending Thanksgiving with extended family this year, I find myself looking forward to a quiet, relaxed day at home tomorrow. Since publishing my book, I have experienced such a wide range of emotions. I can honestly say there has been far more positive feedback than negative and more highs than lows. But I have definitely noticed that between the reactions to the book and the stress of John's health issues and treatment, I am especially emotional and sensitive lately. Little things seem to trigger a disproportionate wave of "feelings." In my fragile moments, I don't like the way I am. I wish I didn't feel everything so deeply. It's a blessing and a curse all rolled into one.

I guess when all is said and done, I would rather be sensitive than insensitive. But my sensitivity is a pain in the you know what to me right now.

Having said all that, I don't think I have ever been more thankful for John. He is such a rock of stability for me. I was telling him tonight how much I appreciate his soothing, stable, steady presence in my life. When I'm feeling stressed and emotional, he is so gentle, calming and reassuring. He never speaks harsh words. He is never unkind. He always seems to know just what to say and how to make me laugh at whatever is bothering me. I am so blessed.

There could not be a more perfect husband for me in the entire universe. And I am so thankful for him. I hope and pray that God will give him a long remission and allow us to have many more years together. But no matter what tomorrow holds, I am so thankful for what God has done in our lives. Even when I'm struggling, I feel like the most blessed person on the face of the earth. I know John feels equally blessed, but I really do think I got the bigger blessing.

I couldn't go to bed tonight without sharing my thoughts. I will fall asleep, as I do so many nights, thanking God for being so good to me. My life could be so different today and I owe everything to the love and mercy of God.

I pray every person reading this will have a peaceful, restful and joyful Thanksgiving and truly count their blessings. I know I will.

Encouraged

Between last night and this morning, I have heard from numerous people who, after finishing the book, want to buy additional copies to give or to loan out to friends. One person told me they want to buy four more copies. Some have already purchased additional copies. And others have let me know they will be soon placing orders for more copies.

As I wrote this book, I carried certain people in my heart from beginning to end. I desperately wanted to reach those people's hearts because of my love for them personally. I longed to reach them. But I have come to the realization since the book was published that I may never reach the people I wanted to reach. God's plan for the book just might be completely different than my own. And I'm at peace with that. Maybe it's a timing thing. Maybe the hearts I wanted to reach will be touched somewhere far down the road and not now. Whatever the plan is, I have learned to rest in God's sovereignty.

When I say I'm at peace, I don't mean to suggest that I will never feel sadness or disappointment over not reaching those I was attempting consciously to reach. I know I will have moments of great sadness over that. But I am learning that there is a deeper peace and a rest found in God's sovereignty that I can still have even in the middle of my greatest sadness and disappointment.

I am encouraged this morning. And I am humbled knowing how many of you are praying for us.

As I went through the Beth Moore study on Esther recently, I was continually inspired. I drew courage from the points Beth would focus us on. There were so many parallels between that study and the things God had shown me as I wrote my book. In the beginning of the study, she made the statement, "You cannot amputate your history from your destiny." She added that we may want to and we may try to, but we cannot.

I have wondered for years why I could not simply walk away from my past and live this wonderful new life that God had given me. I now realize that God never intended for me to be that shallow or that selfish.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our doctor's visit today...

I am extremely happy to report that John's blood was better than we expected today. His neutrophils are almost normal and he was severely neutropenic just last week. This means that he is not as severely immuno-compromised today as he was a week ago. When we left the doctor's office last week, Dr. Flinn told John to take his temperature three times a day and if it rose even slightly, he was to call the office immediately. But his white count and neutrophils have rebounded.

A few years ago, I had no idea what neutropenia was. But I had to be a fast learner once we got this diagnosis.

We are still going to stay home for Thanksgiving. I think it was the right decision. John needs to rest more than he needs to party. And this way we know we won't be exposing him to any infection unknowingly. But I can't tell you how relieved I am that his counts have bounced back so well. That means he will be able to take his next treatment right on schedule next week. And he wants to get the last three rounds behind him as soon as possible. We are hoping there won't be any delays because of dangerously low counts. If we stay on schedule, his last treatment will be the last week of January.

For those of you checking, I just wanted to post the good news. And Marian is doing so well that she doesn't have to go back for six months.

A CLL Thanksgiving

John and Marian both have appointments with Dr. Flinn this afternoon. Because Marian spent so much time in Reno with Lillian over the summer, she missed her regular check-ups. And John is in the middle of his six rounds of chemotherapy.

Lillian has finished her chemo and radiation and is now trying to recover from it. She was hospitalized last week for an infection and she has had a very rough time since her surgery in May. But she has the best attitude and I do believe she is on the mend. I really look forward to her being back home in Evansville after she regains some strength. "They say" that it takes from six months to a year to feel yourself again after going through chemo. She has had chemo AND radiation simultaneously. I've seen what John has gone through and it's hard to imagine what Lillian has been through (because I know it's been even tougher).

Last week John's white counts dropped very low. The effects and toxicity of chemo are cumulative, so that wasn't a surprise. But you realize how vulnerable a patient is when the doctor says, "I want you to carry a thermometer and take your temperature at least three times every day. If your temp goes up even slightly above normal, you need to call me immediately."

I asked about spending Thanksgiving with our family, which would include kids from nine months to eighteen years. I was thinking that as long as all the kids were healthy, there would be no danger in spending the day with them. But I asked just to be sure. Dr. Flinn said he would check John's blood again this week before he answered that question. He said he usually advises patients to avoid being around a lot of kids because kids are exposed to so many things; you don't always know what is incubating that has not manifested in symptoms yet. He didn't say we couldn't. He said it would depend on whether John's white count and neutrophils had rebounded or gone even lower this week. But I began to think that maybe we should reconsider our plans and stay home. I don't want to take any chances when it comes to John's health. And I didn't want to put any stress on family members either (worrying that they or their kids might unknowingly expose him to anything that could make him sick).

When your immune system is as compromised as John's is now, even a cold has the potential to escalate into pneumonia. If John got H1N1, he could die from it. He is vulnerable.

Initially, I was so disappointed. I am not a "why me" person. I'm a "why not me" person. I am not prone to pity parties or wasting a lot of emotion on feeling sorry for myself. That just isn't the way I respond. Even when I feel that something is unfairly happening to me, I don't focus on the "fairness" of it (I just think about the "hurt" of it). I try as much as possible to focus on my blessings. But for about a day, I indulged myself in more than a few "I hate CLL" moments, and "Why does this have to be happening to us?"

This year won't be our most joyous Thanksgiving or Christmas or New Year's. I hate having to isolate ourselves and keep our distance from loved ones. I hate not being able to see the kids if their noses are runny. I hate that John has to endure treatment the first and the last weeks of December. I hate knowing that he will be miserable on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. The fact is, I am really dreading the month of December. I wish I could just press a fast forward button on life and it could be February. I broke down and cried as Cheryl and I talked on the phone about our Thanksgiving plans and I shared my emotions. I felt like such a baby. After all, it's just one Thanksgiving. It's just one Christmas. It's just one New Year's. But sometimes all the emotion you're trying to juggle just gets triggered by something and you crumble.

So I cried and let the emotions surface. And now I'm fine again. John, Marian and I will have a nice, quiet Thanksgiving at home together. And suddenly that doesn't seem at all "unfortunate." I just needed to adjust my outlook and think about how thankful I am for the two of them. We will have a great Thanksgiving because we have each other. (And we will have great food!)

After I came to terms with our change in plans, I began to realize that a quiet Thanksgiving at home is probably the absolute best thing for John (even if his white count wasn't dangerously low). He has not felt like himself for months and what he needs more than anything is rest. He doesn't need a big, festive, Thanksgiving filled with activity. He needs to rest his body. Next week he faces round four. And I just want to do everything within my power to help him get through this.

As I am writing, it is occuring to me that Thanksgiving is an attitude. And I want to have that attitude no matter what my circumstances.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A New Day

Since the heaviness I last wrote about was so short-lived, I thought I had better update my blog. I have told several friends this already. The morning following the night of sadness and grieving, I woke up with the realization that although I was sad over some of the reactions, I did not feel fear. (I mentioned that in a comment following my last post.) I began to think about what a miracle God has done for me in taking away my fear and anxiety. And my sadness turned to sheer joy. I became almost euphoric at the realization that I was no longer afraid of people and their criticism or even their rejection. I have been rejoicing ever since.

As I began to write this post, a song popped into my head. I haven't sung or thought about this song in years. It's a song we sang in my old church, but it really has more significance for me today than it ever did in the past.

Look up and rejoice
A new day has begun
Look all around you
See what the Lord has done
He has turned your darkness
into a glorious light
It's the dawning of a new day
And the future's so bright.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Emotion

I am heavy hearted. I anticipated people being angry with me for writing my book and I prepared myself for it. I was not surprised to hear tonight that people are infuriated with me, to say the least. I knew this was going to be painful (for them and for me). And it is. No surprise.

I don't regret the book. I told the truth. I shared my heart and my testimony. I know it will help some and infuriate others. I have received so many emails from people confirming that they know I have written the truth, that my experiences mirror theirs and that the book resonated with them and triggered many memories. Numerous people have written this to me: "I have your back" and "Thank you for writing this book." One person from my past wrote to me and told me I was the bravest person she had ever known to write the truth of our lives. Others have written, "You went easy on them" or "You were so kind." But I knew it would not be received that way by all.

I had to write this book. Many people may never be able to understand why, and that's okay. I am at peace with people's condemnation of me. But I do not enjoy hurting people and I am feeling such sadness tonight in knowing that I have. Anyone who had any contact with me while I was writing this book knows the agony it was for me to write it and the many tears I shed in the process.

I was at a restaurant today and some family members came in. One of them came over to our table to say hello. The other did not. I felt very conflicted about what to do (or not do). I wondered if I should say anything to this person or just leave well enough alone. I came to the conclusion that since we were in the same room, I had to take the opportunity to tell him I loved him. As I saw him get up to leave, I quickly got up, walked over, attempted to hug him and said, "I don't know if you even knew I was here, but I wanted to tell you how much I love you." I was emotional and had tears in my eyes. I do love this person very much and I doubt that he believes I do. He probably feels that I have betrayed him and he will probably die not understanding why I have done this.

His response to me was detached and cold. He did not tell me he loved me.

I really didn't expect a warm embrace or an "I love you, too." It's hard to put into words the emotion I feel. This person has never chosen me when there was a choice to be made. And I am probably more at peace with that than I have ever been. But it's still hard. I'm not even going to identify the person. If you've known my life at all, I'm sure you can guess. I'm not writing any of this to disparage him. I'm writing because I'm hurting and I know that someone who is reading cares.

Please pray for me that I will not let people's reactions overwhelm me. I knew going into this that there would be a personal price to pay.

Burma

I emailed the missionary in Burma, telling her that I had shipped three books as a gift for her ministry. I asked how she had come across my little unknown book so soon after publication.

She said that she searched the words "breaking the chains."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Enjoying the rewards of readers' comments...

I have not had time to blog much since my first shipment of books arrived. I have been so busy. I have sold and shipped many books. I have submitted my book for a possible review by Tim Challies (Discerning Reader.com). And now I am enjoying, truly enjoying, hearing some of the feedback from friends who have read or are now in the process of reading the book.

Most of these comments have been private; some have been on my Facebook Wall. I would love for many of them to be shared openly as reviews on the website's guestbook and/or on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But if most of you are more comfortable sharing your response to the book with me privately, I want you to know that I certainly don't consider that "settling." I love the comments you have shared with me. No matter what kind of disapproving comments may come, those of you who have shared from your heart with me have already made this effort more than worthwhile. I'm thinking about saving every email into a file that I can keep forever to remind me of you and your response to the book for the rest of my life. That is how touched I have been by your comments. And I know there are more to come.

As I've shared before, I have a hard time taking money. In my heart, I just want to give the book away to everyone so badly. And I do mean everyone. Although my husband and many friends assure me there is nothing wrong with selling a book that I have invested almost a year (and several thousand dollars) in, I still find myself wanting to gift people with it.

This morning when I got up and checked my email, I had a message from a missionary in Burma. Somehow she had found my book website and wanted to know if I would consider donating my book (just one) to her efforts because she thought it could be helpful to her ministry there. I was absolutely blown away that a missionary in Burma even knew about my book only a week after I received my first shipment. She also asked me to pray for the unbelievers and the children's home she works with. I emailed her back that I would not send her one book, but several. And I went to the post office today to find out how expensive it is to mail a package to Burma. It was a little more than I expected, but I could not even hesitate. I told the postal clerk that I could just see the look on my husband's face tonight when I told him that I spent $33 to give three books away to someone in Burma. But I knew it could not be a coincidence that she found my book and I felt that God wanted her to have this book for some reason. I told the clerk that I had to be obedient and send the books even if it was expensive to mail them. She asked what my book was about and I told her, with exuberance, that I had found the true Gospel after being raised in a cult with many false beliefs about salvation and God. She asked to see the book, so I went to my car and got one to show her. She asked if I could come back on Friday so she could buy a signed copy. I said I would be happy to. I had to fight the impulse to say, "Oh, here. You can just have it." I heard John and Jennifer in my head, saying, "It's okay to let people buy the book." LOL.

That is the second time I have gone to the post office to ship books and sold one to someone as a result of simply talking about it. I believe God is telling me that He is pleased that I want to touch people's hearts more than I want to make money from the sales of this book. I told John tonight, "God will bless me as He sees fit and His blessings are the best. After all, He blessed me with you, didn't he?"

The thing is, I really, truly don't care about anything other than the hearts I may reach. Every single one of you who has written to me, it feels like you have given me a million dollars with your words.

I have to go exercise and work off the homemade pizza I ate for dinner or I would continue to write and exude my gratitude. I just wanted to take a few minutes to tell all of you how much I appreciate your love and support. And I am just basking in the warm glow of your messages. Not because of the compliments on my writing or anything like that. I love feeling the bond and the connection I have made with you through this book. Some of you who have written to me, I have not had contact with in years. To know that you feel so safe with me that you would write to me and pour out your heart, letting me know how much the book has resonated with you and settled things in your mind that you have wrestled with for many years; THAT is the most meaningful kind of "profit margin" I could ever hope for! From the deepest part of my heart, I thank you. And I love you.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Post-Publication Ramblings...

This has been quite a week. Books arrived Tuesday. I was up to my elbows in processing orders and personalizing books Tuesday night and Wednesday. Everywhere I went on Wednesday, I was signing and selling books (mostly to friends). I shipped almost all of my orders on Thursday. A few missed envelopes and one additional bulk shipment was sent out yesterday. And now I am completely caught up.

There are two errors in the first printing, which you may or may not even notice. My editor and several proofreaders missed both. I have read the whole book repeatedly and did not notice either until the second proof. So I just couldn't see delaying those first shipments. But I have now revised and resubmitted the file. Therefore, any books purchased through Amazon will be printed from the resubmission. I met two people in the publishing business last weekend and they both assured me there are almost always mistakes in the first printing. It is so hard to find every little thing in an entire book. They were telling me stories about finding a misspelling or an unintended word after 150,000 copies were printed and/or sold. I found an unintended space and a word I should have capitalized. So I guess it could be worse.

I don't quite know what to do with myself today. After almost an entire year of working so hard toward this goal, it feels odd to know it is really done now. This has been one of the most productive years of my life. Not only in producing a published book, but personally and spiritually, God has done some big things in me this year THROUGH the process of writing this book. I feel like I have come so far in one year's time.

I have been so busy trying to get this book in print and in the mail; it feels strangely calm and quiet today. I guess I should just enjoy getting to this point. But I can't really, because I realize that it is now time to transition from producing the book to marketing the book. And since I have self-published, I will have to plan and execute my own strategy for making people aware of the book. This is the part I have not really looked forward to because it feels like self-promotion, which I am not comfortable with. I do have advisors who are ready to help guide me into this next phase. And I am so thankful for them.

Another aspect of this I have been so uncomfortable with is taking money from friends. It's very hard for me because if I did what I would like to do, I would just give this book to everybody. But obviously I can't do that. I have not only invested hours upon hours of my time for the whole year of 2009, I have made a significant financial investment. My husband doesn't understand why I feel guilty about being paid for the book after such a big investment of my own time and money. I think it's because this truly was a labor of love. I have never looked at this book as a financial endeavor or a way to receive personal recognition. I wrote from my heart out of a sincere desire to help others and proclaim the Gospel. That's all.

The book is now either in the hands of readers or will be within the next few days. I am praying simply that hearts will be touched. I'm not praying prayers for financial success or personal recognition. I want people to read the book because of the message, not because I want to be recognized. I wish I could get the message out without any personal attention being focused on me. At the same time, I know how unrealistic that is.

Please pray with me that I am able to reach some hearts with this book. Someone asked me after reading the manuscript if I was at times writing TO my old friends. It seemed to them that I was. I suppose I was writing to them. I long to reach their hearts and help them see the truth. I love them so much.

If anyone reading this blog is an old friend or family member who is still in CGT/GAC, I am asking you to please read the book for yourself and make your own judgment. If you have any love for me in your heart whatsoever, please read my testimony. Don't just accept what other people tell you about my book. Know that there have been people calling my book a pack of lies and labeling me as a slanderer without even knowing what I have written. That is a preconceived bias against me and a preemptory attack on me. How can anyone possibly call a book a pack of lies before they have even read it? I will tell you that, in my opinion, the only reason someone would say something like that without knowing what's in the book is that they know the truth is damaging and they want to plant the suspicion in someone else's mind that the author has an evil motive.

I truly believe that if you read this book without a preconceived bias against me, you will feel my heart. How anyone could claim to love me and simultaneously refuse to read my testimony is beyond my comprehension. If you don't want to pay money to read it, go in on a book with several others and share one copy. I didn't do this to make money. Although many people believe this book will sell beyond my expectations, MY greatest aspiration for this book is simply to reach people I love. All year as I wrote this book, I carried certain people in my heart. I thought about you over and over. I cried over specific lost and damaged relationships. I prayed for you. And I think you know who you are.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Books in the Mail!

I sent off just about all of my orders today. I noticed when I got home that there were five bubble mailers I had overlooked (in a small box) and not taken into the post office to mail. So those will be sent in the morning. I was so frustrated with myself.

I don't know exactly how many books I've sold in the last two days because I haven't counted. But in addition to all the orders from the website, I have sold books to almost everyone I've talked to. My Bible Study friends all bought the book. I went to lunch with another bunch of friends yesterday and sold six books. I went to the dentist and sold a book. I even sold a book in the post office as I was lugging all of my boxes in and explaining why I was mailing so many packages at the same time.

Shipping and keeping meticulous records are more challenging for me than writing OR selling the book.

I have tomorrow's shipments ready to go in the morning. I'm planning to come to White House with books next Thursday. So if you want one and would like it hand delivered instead of paying shipping costs, just email me and we'll work out the details. I keep a box of books in the back of my car now at all times just in case someone asks for one.

I'm looking forward to hearing feedback from readers. Remember that you can also leave comments on my guestbook at BREAKING THE CHAINS

Checkin in...

I sold books everywhere I went yesterday. At Bible Study, at lunch, at the dentist's office. I delivered a few books that had been pre-ordered. Then I came home and worked on my spreadsheet (trying to be meticulous with expenses, book income, donations). And then I went to work on personalizing stacks of books to mail out today. I didn't just sign my name to any book. I wrote a note to each person. So I was aware of my tendency toward carpal tunnel by the time I went to bed. While I was working, I was receiving a few additional orders.

My first day as a published author was quite exciting. I am proud of how beautiful the book is, thanks to Terra.

As soon as it opens, I am heading to the post office for supplies to mail books. The labels are all printed and they are ready to go in their packages. Once that's done, I will drop them all off and then head to the church for my day of volunteering. I will breathe a big sigh of relief when I get this first big shipment sent off.

I'm glad my living room is still empty except for my baby grand piano. It makes a great work space.

I just wanted to let you all know what I'm up to. The next blog post should read: Books shipped!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Also available at Amazon.com...

I was just alerted to the fact that the book is also available now at Amazon.com. I wasn't expecting to see it there for six to eight weeks. But it's there!

So if you prefer not to buy the book directly from me, you can buy it anonymously.

BREAKING THE CHAINS on Amazon.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Books have arrived!

I will be working on shipping books tonight and tomorrow.

If you live close by and want to get a book from me in person, please just email me and let me know. I don't mind driving around town delivering books. If you have paid for shipping and I hand deliver, I will refund your shipping charges gladly!

You can email me at ShariLHowerton@aol.com.

The books should arrive today!

I checked tracking this morning and my books have been received locally. The status says they are "out for delivery." They could arrive any time.

As soon as I saw that tracking status, I went to work getting my little shipping station set up in the living room. My printer is hooked up to my laptop for printing labels (which I need to run out and buy today). I also need to go to the post office and a UPS store to determine the best way to ship these books. I will need boxes.

I'm really excited.

I have prayed for the last ten months that God will not let me make this about me (in my head) in any way. I want this book to glorify Him and not me. I am resisting any personal pride over this accomplishment. I know that any talent or ability I may have to write or communicate or help someone else is a gift from God and not something for me to take pride in. I am SO aware of that.

But maybe it would be okay to say, "Wow. This is so cool. By the grace and mercy of God, I am a published author." You think?

To God be the glory!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Books have shipped!

BREAKING THE CHAINS is a published book!

I just went to my online account at Lightning Source and checked my book order. It has said "Printing" all weekend.

THIS MORNING IT SAYS: SHIPPED ! ! !

The books are coming from nearby Lavergne. I just can't imagine that it will take more than two or three days for me to have them. I guess I better get my shipping work space set up! I can't wait to start sending books to those of you have have pre-ordered and waited so patiently.

I want to share something with you. As you know, I ordered 300 books. I actually noticed something very, very minor in the second proof that I had missed. It's just a space in a scripture reference that was unintended. In all my read-throughs, I never noticed it. My editor never noticed it. My proofreaders didn't notice it. So, I can't tell you why, after countless edits and two proofs, I finally saw it. But once I did, I had to make a decision. Would I delay printing the first shipment in order to submit a revision or just go ahead and print the first batch?

John rolled his eyes when I suggested I might need to do another revision. He insisted that I was the only person who would ever see that space. Of course, being who I am, he wasn't thinking about the fact that I would have to TELL everyone there was a mistake in the book. I remember when I used to wear a cubic zirconia that looked so real. I would get so many compliments on that ring and I would always say, "It's not real." That's just my personality.

I have pointed out the error to every single person I've shown the book to. I always get the same reaction. Terra laughed at me when I said that maybe God did not want me to have a "perfect" book. She said that space did not even qualify as an imperfection. So I decided to leave it and forget about it. No new file, period.

Well, I can't do that. It's bugging me. And I can fix it. But I did not want to delay the first shipment. I knew that space wouldn't bother anyone but me. So I printed 300 books and now that they have shipped, I am going to submit a corrected file for any future shipments. I just wanted to share with those of you who have purchased the book that you will know you have one of the first 300 copies because only those 300 copies will have a space in one scripture reference. (If you don't see it, email me and I'll give you the page number.) In a way, I thought that would be kind of a neat way to mark the first 300 copies. Maybe my thinking is just "looking on the bright side." I certainly would have preferred to catch every tiny mistake before I printed any books. But if my book becomes a best seller, you will have collector's editions. (ROFL...I say this completely tongue in cheek. I know this book is not going to be a best seller. It's a joke!)

I just wanted to announce that I will have 300 books some time this week. If you have been waiting for me to announce that the book is in print before ordering, this is that announcement.

BREAKING THE CHAINS has been published!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Next Step: Printing Books

I received my second proof of the book this morning at 10:30. I have (again) read the entire book today and I just approved it. The status now says: "Available for printing download." It can take up to one week for printing (it could take less). And then the books will be shipped to me from Lavergne. So I wouldn't think it should take more than a couple of days for me to receive them once they are shipped.

You will have books soon!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Heaven is the Face (by Steven Curtis Chapman)



I heard this song for the first time as John and I were driving to Sarah Cannon for round three of his chemotherapy this morning. SCC was being interviewed on the radio (the Fish) about the release of his album, "Beauty Will Rise." In the YouTube I posted above, SCC is explaining the background and the emotions that moved him to write it.

In the radio interview, he was describing the ache and the longing to see his little Maria in heaven. He even touched on the guilty feelings of those longings being such a high priority in his anticipation of heaven since losing his little girl. I could so relate and I know others can, too. How well I remember the first few years after I lost my mom so prematurely. My longing to see her was overwhelming and I experienced guilt because I knew I had not longed that intensely to see Him. It felt like my greatest desire for heaven was my mom. And I wondered how that made God feel.

Of course I couldn't hear this song without also reflecting on John losing Brittany, his eighteen-year-old daughter, to a fatal asthma attack in August of 2003. Neither of us said anything, but I wondered what he was feeling as we listened to the song. John knows SCC's pain in a way that I and many others cannot. My eyes were full of tears and I was sniffling. John asked, "Are you crying, dear?" And I nodded.

I guess I will never forget the first time I heard this song, since it also describes heaven as a place where there is no more cancer--or tears--and we just happened to be on our way to another round of chemo for John. When we got married six years ago, we had no idea that there would be a diagnosis like this in our immediate future. Just as Steven and Mary Beth had no idea what May 21, 2008 would hold for them.

Just like SCC described, I would have chosen NOT to walk this path. If it was within my power, I would zap John's CLL from our lives and he never would have received that diagnosis in 2007. My personal dream for the future was that we would go into assisted living together and be one of those darling old couples who is still holding hands and telling inside jokes up into their nineties. When we first got married, I would think about how many years of marriage we could have if we got to grow old together. We were forty-four and forty-nine when we got married. So I would count the years and think, "If we live to be eighty-four and eighty-nine, we could have a forty year marriage even marrying this late in life!"

There are so many things God ordains for our journey that we would not choose. But He always keeps His promise to work all things for our good. And I will never forget the summer afternoon after John was first diagnosed, when I was watering flowers on my back porch; crying and begging God to let John have the most benign form of CLL and never need treatment. I know He spoke to me that day. He told me not to put my faith in prognostic markers or even a certain outcome, but to put my faith in HIM and His promise that He was working all things for my good . . . even this. He reminded me that although there might come a day when I had to grieve, it was not now. He had not taken John and it was much too soon to start grieving. He didn't want me to give up my todays in order to dread some tomorrow that I might not even see.

I realized that God has ordained the number of all our days and with or without a diagnosis, I don't know how many days I have. I need to live--fully live--in the days I've been given. And from that time forward, I have gone to sleep many nights saying, "Thank You, God, for today. I know you did not have to give me such a wonderful husband and marriage. I'm so thankful You did."

As I sit here next to John while he receives treatment (he is dozing right now, so he can't see me blotting my eyes and nose with tissue as I type), I would most definitely choose not to be going through this. But my next thought is that if John has to go through this, I'm so glad God let me be right here beside him. That was God's doing. He doesn't remove pain or loss from our lives, but He gives us what we need to endure; His grace carries us through.

As I listened to SCC on the radio this morning, I also thought about just how significant his music has been in my spiritual journey. I will never forget hearing "Heaven is the Face" on our way to chemo this morning. It will be one of those special songs in my journey just like "King of the Jungle," "The Change" and "Remember Your Chains" have been (along with others). The first album of his I remember listening to repeatedly was "Heaven in the Real World." And in this morning's interview he mentioned playing some of those songs for his youngest daughters.

At a time in my life when it seemed like I couldn't figure out or make sense of anything, I remember listening to "King of the Jungle" over and over in my car. These lyrics had special significance for me:

What I feel is telling me I'm going crazy, but
What is real says God's still on His throne
What I need is to remember one thing
That the Lord of the gentle breeze is Lord of the rough and tumble
And He is King of the Jungle


And "Remember Your Chains" inspired the title of my book. The lyrics of the second verse and chorus were in the original manuscript of my book. I wrote about what that song meant to me at the end of the thirty-first chapter. I removed them because I was never able to make contact with the record label for permission to reprint them. But I'm sure I won't get into any trouble for sharing them with you on my blog.

There's no one more thankful to sit at the table
Than the one who best remembers hunger's pain
And no heart loves greater than the one that is able
To recall the time when all it knew was shame
The wings of forgiveness can take us to heights never seen
But the wisest ones, they will never lose sight of where they were set free

So, remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone


If you don't know the details of my testimony, you will understand why those lyrics are so profoundly meaningful to me when you read my book.

I don't know the Chapmans personally, although my son does. He has told me many times what a genuine and wonderful Christian family they are. I often read Mary Beth's blog and I feel like I know her heart through her writing. She is so open and inspiring. I admire her transparency; especially as she is a public person. Many times as I was writing and rewriting my book, her blog posts encouraged me not to be fearful of openly sharing my own very personal story. As children of God, we are not promised an absence of pain or struggle in this life. But we have the opportunity to glorify God and help others in the midst of our pain and struggle--and often through it and because of it.

I'm thankful God has blessed SCC with the gifts of writing and sharing his music. I'm thankful he uses his gifts to glorify God and help people like me. I'm thankful for the beautiful wife God gave him. They will probably never know all of the lives God has blessed through them . . . until heaven.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Additions to Website

I made some changes to my BREAKING THE CHAINS website this morning.

I posted the table of contents, with the preface below it. And I added a Guestbook feature for comments. A friend suggested I do this so that when the book is released, readers have a place to leave feedback specifically about the book.

I look forward to receiving comments. I love hearing the responses to this book. In addition to that, this will offer the opportunity for readers or potential readers to ask questions. I haven't used this feature before, so I may have to learn a few things as I go. But I'm sure it's designed to be user friendly.

I definitely decided to submit a new file. There were just too many little things that bothered me. I have corrected all of them and submitted the file to my editor, who has taken the day off. But he will convert it for me tomorrow and I will resubmit. The process for resubmission is 2-3 days. They recommended that I take a quick look at another proof before going ahead with mass production. They will overnight it to me and it shouldn't take me an hour to make certain that everything is acceptable. Printing takes up to one week. And then the books are shipped to me. I think I'm still going to be very close to having books by November 12, but I decided to list the release date as November 2009 rather than keep looking at a specific date and feeling stressed out if I (again) don't hit the target.

I can't believe I ever thought I could have this book released by the end of August. In hindsight, I realize I was being very optimistic. But I have to learn everything as I go on this one because it's all new territory. There have been so many little details to take care of on the tail end. But I'm so close now.

I promise that if I find some tiny little thing in the next proof, I will just ignore it. The errors that jumped out at me did not jump out at either of my other proof readers. That assures me that anything still remaining is not important enough to stress out over.

Just wanted to keep you updated! Hang in there with me, Tim!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The final proofread . . .

I just finished the final proof of the book. This is the first time I have read my book as a book rather than a manuscript. And I am astounded that after all my many proofreads, I still found things I had never noticed previously. While reading it as a real book, certain things that looked fine before did not look right to me. I noticed a few capitalization inconsistencies and, more than anything else, inconsistencies in hyphenated words.

When writing for publication, I have learned that there is often more than one acceptable way to do something; the most important rule is to make a decision and then be consistent throughout the entire book. For instance, if I hyphenate make-up, it needs to be hyphenated every time I use the word. I discovered in the final proof that I had hyphenated several words throughout the book and in just one place, I had not. Or vice versa. Email is a word that we initially hyphenated (e-mail) but it is seldom written that way today. I had hyphenated it in one place, but wrote it as one word everywhere else. Those are the kinds of little inconsistencies that would not matter to most readers, but would drive me crazy to have in the finished product. Once I see them, I cannot leave them. And editors just can't catch everything. An editor is seldom working on just one project. I think that I was able to catch some of these more minor mistakes at this point because I have stopped agonizing over the content and I am no longer rewriting anything. This run through was totally for printing errors and editorial errors previously missed. I was hoping I would not find any more editorial errors. But I did.

I have two friends proofing the book for me this weekend. I look forward to comparing what they find to what I've found. I made corrections to my file as I read. So if they don't come up with something I missed, it's ready to go. I just have to have my editor convert my word document one last time to a new pdf. And resubmitting it to my publisher will be quick and easy. I do it online. I won't order more proof copies. I will just proceed with printing books. So the resubmission shouldn't delay shipment by more than a day or two.

I know it probably sounds like I'm overly-scrutinizing my text, but this isn't a blog entry, it's a published book. I want it to be done well. If I had published this without these final corrections, I would have been disappointed with my finished product.

As I finished the final proof this morning, one thing really stood out to me. Although I began writing out of a desire to help others, I recognize that God has used this book to complete my own healing. I am a different person today than I was when I began writing in January. As I read the book today, I no longer feel fear and anxiety about anyone's reaction to it. If you could only know the emotional struggle I was in throughout the writing and editing process of this book, you would understand just what a miracle that is in my life.

The chapters about my mom will always be emotional for me to read. But I don't feel the same emotion in every chapter that I have felt previously. I have worked through a lot of things and where I may not have been able to fully forgive certain people for past hurts, I think I am now able to let go and forgive. But before I could do that, I had to come face to face with the reality that, although I thought I had forgiven, in some cases I probably hadn't because of the intensity of emotion that was still there; just buried so deeply inside. God brought me face to face with those hurts, with my still unresolved pain over the last nine months. As I read this last time, I found myself wanting to say in my heart to certain people, "I release you from owing me anything. I set you free. Even if you never ask for my forgiveness, I am choosing to forgive you."

The chapters that stir the greatest emotion in me today are the last two, which focus on my deliverance. I have overcome some strongholds through the process of writing my story. This time through, I didn't feel compelled to try to say anything better. It was solely about literary consistency. What a free feeling that is for me! And if that was the only thing to come from this effort, it was worth it for me. But I don't believe anything is ever just about me.