Thursday, November 25, 2010

Something For Which To Be Thankful

On the United States calendar, today is marked as Thanksgiving. Originally, it was sited as a Christian holiday, but oddly enough, it is now largely viewed as a secular holiday; a day of harvest and festival. I prefer to see it from the Christian angle because whenever I think of giving thanks, I immediately think of God. If anyone deserves a special day of appreciation, it is the creator of all things and the giver of life.
Life. More and more, that one simple, yet powerful, word seems to take a front seat in my every day existence. This year, one of the things for which I'm most grateful is the release of my most recent book (my first nonfiction), I Shall Not Die, and the launch of its partnering empowerment ministry, The I.S.L.A.N.D. Movement. As I've repeatedly stated during speaking engagements as well as in my writings regarding I Shall Not Die, it is my seventeenth published work, but it is actually the first book that I was inspired to write. It was one that God ordered in 1995, but one that I'd fought against penning until 2009. Yet, despite my procrastination, when I finally obeyed the voice of the Lord and finally got it into print this year, He blessed it beyond my imagination. Truly, just as He promised in scripture (Ephesians 3:20), God has done exceeding abundantly above all that I asked or thought.
Through I Shall Not Die and The I.S.L.A.N.D. Movement, many doors have opened for me to share the message of this book that is based on my own true life miracle and experiences. I should have been dead a long time ago, but God said not so, and even through the loss that I suffered, God still gave life. I Shall Not Die has been available to the public for less than two months, but the testimony that it shares has blessed many people in that relatively short span of time. I'm thrilled by the feedback that I have received in the form of Facebook postings, private emails, telephone calls, and online reviews. Additionally, I Shall Not Die has captured the heart of an independent documentarian who has plans to turn it into a televised documentary. How humbling it is to be used of God to share the message of hope with the world.
At the start of my writing career in 2002, I promised the Lord that I would use this gift He gave me to His honor and glory. I have declared that it will be all about ministy, and over the years, various outside temptations have come my way to try to distract me. Everything from a would-be publishers request for me to change my writing style so that my stories appeal to a more secular audience to the lucrative offer from another would-be publisher if I would agree to operate under a pen name and write erotica. My answer to both of these was an emphatic NO. Sure, it would have brought me a certain level of fame and fortune, but what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? My declaration remains the same. This gift that God has given me is all about ministry, and whatever notariety I don't gain doing it God's way, I won't gain. And I have no regrets.
I am so thankful for where I am, because I know that I am is where God wants me to be at this present time. And I know that more doors will open that will help to usher me to the place where He desires me to be in the future. I wouldn't trade my journey for the world. And believe me when I tell ain't over....there is more to come...and I'm thankful for that too.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Time Does NOT Heal All Wounds

Today, October 15th, would have been the celebration of my 22nd wedding anniversary if Jimmy (my first husband) was still alive. Fifteen years have passed since he transitioned, and yes, I have moved on with my life. However, one of the many things that my experience with him taught me is that true love never dies...not even when the true lover does. I never would have thought that I'd still miss him after all these years, but I do, and that's not something that I even try to mask or hide. It's not a fact that I'm ashamed of, nor is it one that I wish to change. The pain of his absence is not a pleasant feeling. Sometimes, especially on significant days like today, it still brings tears to my eyes, but despite that, I actually enjoy missing him. That's right...I enjoy it.
I feel favored to have the memories. It brings me joy to know that his presence in my life was so positive and impactful that his not being here (physically) is still noticable. I pray that whenever the Lord decides to call me home, I would have lived in a manner to have left that kind of impression on someone's life. It would be great to leave behind tangible goods such as property, money, and other valuables, but all those things, in the grand scheme of things, are fleeting. To leave behind memories - good and godly memories - that last a lifetime... What a legacy!
Regardless of what "they" say, time does not heal all wounds. The saying sounds good to the ears, but it's not true. I know that for a fact. No doubt, it heals some wounds, but not ALL. For other wounds, all time is capable of doing is placing a scab on the surface of them so that the pain lessens, or so the wounds don't become contaminated and fester into something worse. Often times the pain may be so meager that it's barely noticeable. But it's still there.
I think that the most wonderful thing that can be done through pain, is to bless others. When a personal tragedy or mishap can be used by God as a positive tool that blesses someone else, that's awesome. Since the official release of my first nonfiction book, I Shall Not Die on October 1st, I have read email after email from readers whose lives were changed by the message of LIFE that it brings. I am so humbled to have been chosen to write and deliver the words that are ministering to people on such a level. In the past two weeks, I have read notes of marriages being healed, mindsets being changed, and outlooks that were made brighter by way of I Shall Not Die. It's what God promised to do through this book, and it is a promise that He is delivering.
The feedback and reviews that are coming in by way of the ministry website guest book and by way of has made me grateful that time didn't completely heal my wound. Had it done so, I may never have obeyed God's order to pen this book. And had I never written it, my lingering wound would not have had the opportunity to heal the wounds of others. For that reason alone, I gladly carry my scar, and I thank God daily that He has allowed it to be a blessing to others.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Launch of The I.S.L.A.N.D. Movement

It's been a few weeks since I last blogged...not because nothing has been happening worth blogging about, but because so much has been happening that I've had trouble finding the time to blog. So I ask for your patience, and if necessary, your forgiveness, if this blog entry runs a little longer than normal. I have to catch you up to date...
Believe it or not, after my last entry that chronicled all of the challenges I had faced to date, even more road blocks popped up that had the potential to hinder the birth of the I Shall Not Die book and the I.S.L.A.N.D. (I Shall Live And Not Die) Movement. Once the book was finally produced and shipped to me from the printer, I encountered a battle with the company that was outsourced to bring the books to me. For hours, the driver of the delivery truck held the books hostage, actually refusing to bring them to my home, stating that he didn't like delivering to residential areas. I won't blast the company by name on my public blog, but believe me when I tell you the temptation is there. I had paid for shipping and delivery, yet the truck driver told me that if I wanted the books, I'd have to rent a pick-up truck from somewhere and meet him in a business district because he didn't like delivering to residences. Really? Are you kidding me? You're a delivery man! After several telephone conversations with the people at the delivery company's headquarters and my ultimate threat to call the printer and report the incident so that they'd never use their delivery service again, I got my books. I waited from 8:30 in the morning (the scheduled delivery time) until 6:30 in the evening to receive them, but they finally arrived. And yes...I still reported the company to my printer.
When I first broke open the box and held the book in my hand, I cried. Okay, I'll admit that I tend to shed a few tears each time I am blessed to hold a new release for the first time, but this one was different. This book is personal...and it represents a new level of ministry for me. Plus it seemed as if that moment would never come. With all the adversity I'd faced, there were days when I felt paranoid as I wondered what the enemy would come up with next. I'm so glad the God I serve is omniscient. No adversity could arise that He didn't know about beforehand. With that being the case, God knew that the delivery issue wouldn't be the end of it all.

Can you beleive that once again, we would be forced to change the location of the pending October 2nd I.S.L.A.N.D. Conference where we would officially unveil the book and the accompanying motivational ministry? We'd already had to change it once because someone who (for reasons that are still unclear) did not want the conference to manifest took it upon themselves to cancel our first venue booking and demand that the pastor not allow it to be held there. Now, due to more "church drama," we were forced to go for Plan C. And that plan had us taking the celebration out of the church altogether, and moving it to an events building instead. As God would have it, someone who had booked the building for the same time and date that we needed it, called and cancelled their booking just moments before I called to ask about the building's availability. (I told you HE was omniscient!) And with a venue secure, we were moving forward once again.
Because the books arrived several weeks prior to the official release date, two "early release" events took place. The first one was held at Auburn Avenue Research Library in Atlanta, GA, and was hosted by Bossettes. It was a wonderful event that came with live entertainment that included spoken word by EbonyJanice and song ministry by recording artist/stage actress, Alicia Robinson Cooper. The second "early release" event was a speaking engagement and book signing wherein I was blessed to be asked to be the keynote speaker at the 85th church anniversary service of East St. Paul United Methodist Church in San Antonio, TX. What an honor it was to share the "I Shall Not Die" message with the attendees there, and then to sell and sign copies of the book afterward. I took my youngest daughter along with me for that appearance. It was her very first flight and she got the opportunity to reconnect with a friend that she hadn't seen since she was a four-year-old Pre-K student. They are both now thriving 17-year-old high school seniors, and it was good to see how quickly they gelled. They even sang a duet at the worship service. Additionally, I was blessed to reunite with a sister-friend that I had not seen in more than ten years. It was marvelous! San Antonio made for a great tour stop on many levels.
Finally, the day of the official book release and ministry launch arrived. October 2nd was the date of the I.S.L.A.N.D. Conference, and it was with great excitement that I and a car load of family and friends took the 3.5 hour drive to Valdosta, GA for the celebration. En route, another curve ball blindsided me when I received a call from the booking manager of my featured artist, telling me that he would not be at the event. The immediate disappointment was heavy. I had been announcing for months that he would be there, and just a couple hours before "showtime" I was informed that he would not. Determined not to let the blow be a TKO for me, I regrouped my emotions and prayed that God wouldn't allow the absence of the national recording artist to cause those who would be there to turn around and leave. God answered my prayer, and the conference that commemorated the book and the ministry was a wonderful affair.
Those who attended the I.S.L.A.N.D. Conference were blessed with music and arts ministry that included praise dancing, singing, and a featured appearance by Agape Award winning mime minister The Master's Mime . The highlight of the night was an awesome (and I do mean, AWESOME) Word from the Lord that was delivered by Bishop Q.S. Caldwell of Celebration of Praise Ministries. The capable emcee for the evening was Pastor Bernard Robinson of Abundant Life Ministries. I can't say that our featured recording artist wasn't missed. He definitely was. He was on program to sing a couple of very key he's one of my personal favorites, so I still wish he would have been there, but I was more than a little relieved that none of the audience members expressed any disappointment in his absence. And God provided a "ram in the bush" when one of the attendees (her name was Nicole), who I'd never even met before, agreed to fill in on a moment's notice and sing I Won't Complain, which was a poignant song for the program. And boy, did she sing it!
To top off the evening, quite a number of books and other I.S.L.A.N.D. ministry products were sold, and the wonderful reviews from readers have been pouring in via email, telephone calls, and by way of feedback posted in the guest book on the ministry website. Despite all of the ditches, mud puddles, and even dung hills that we had to leap over to get there, God made us victorious, and I am eternally grateful. He promised to be faithful, and He is and continues to be. Thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness!
And now the main tour begins. For the next few weekends, I can be found fellowshipping, promoting, speaking, and signing books in Jacksonville, Florida, West Haven, Connecticut, Chicago, Illinois, Lenox, Georgia, and Jackson, Mississippi. I hope to see some of you as I make stops through your area, and I request the prayers of the righteous as I continue to use this platform to empower, encourage, and edify.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

You Hear That, Elizabeth???

Remember the classic comedy, Sanford and Son? Sure you do. Its original run ended in the late 70's but you don't have to think back that far or even have to have been born at that time to recall it. This show, starring the late Redd Foxx (as Fred Sanford) and Demond Wilson (as his son, Lamont), still airs in daily reruns over thirty years later.
On this sitcom that Time magazine once listed as one of the 100 best television shows of all time, Fred, a 60-something-year-old widower (whose deceased wife was named Elizabeth) would often feign heart attacks when something major, unexpected, and normally unpleasant would happen. At the onset of his attacks, Fred would place one hand on his chest, stretch the other out in front of him, and while staggering around the room gasping for air, he'd say, "This is the big one. You hear that, Elizabeth? I'm comin' to join you, honey!" Oh, how many hours of laughter my generation and many generations that followed got (and still get) from watching his antics.
Well, I had my own "You hear that, Elizabeth" moment just a few days ago. Over the course of writing my first nonfiction, I Shall Not Die, I've used this blog to keep a public journal of the journey. And what a journey it has been! In my most recent posting, I talked about how I've had to "fight" every step of the way to get this God-ordered book in print and the partnering ministry (The I.S.L.A.N.D. Movement) launched. I spoke of the latest struggle just to get the book files to the printer, and nearing the close of that posting, I said that I was expecting the enemy to come back again with something else as a means of stopping the birth of this movement. Lo and happened. It was totally unexpected, and I was completely unprepared. By my measuring stick, it was the BIG ONE!
What I was expecting was a glitch with the printer or maybe an issue with the shipping or some other problem on that same level. But no. This time, it wasn't an issue with the book at all. The printer received the files that I mailed to them, they sent me a proof to approve the cover and page set-up, and as I type this blog entry, the book is in the print stage (thank you, Jesus!). So while I was expecting another problem to come from an outside came from within...from a place that is very dear to my heart. People that I love, for reasons that are still not clear to me, stepped in and pulled the plug on the worship service that had been set up to commemorate the book and ministry launch. That's right...they cancelled it. I kid you not. Family members who were helping me to plan the event had donated funds to get thousands of marketing items printed to pass out and publicize the upcoming service, and because of the enemy's newest stunt, all of those dollars were flushed down the drain. Even to this day, those who stopped the program have not spoken to me to offer an explanation for their drastic actions, but because of them, for a few days, I walked around hurt, stunned, and quite frankly, angry beyond words. Like Fred Sanford, I felt like putting my hand over my heart and staggering from the blow of it all. But when I allowed myself to calm down and I began to place it in God's hands, the Spirit spoke to me. And the words He spoke to me, I relayed to the supporter who had called to inform me of the cancellation. "This won't stop it," I told him. "God has ordered this, and if He said it, He's got to bring it to pass."
So we joined in faith and believed God to provide a ram in the bush. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work (because faith without works is dead). For the past several days, I, along with people who are in my support system, have been working tirelessly to find a new location for the worship experience. Door after door was closed in our faces. Either the contact people were not returning our calls, or the facilities were unavailable on the date we needed to use it. Finally, as I was conversing with a friend and we were brainstorming other options, I mentioned a former acquaintance in the area that used to fellowship with our church when we were both teenagers. As an adult he became a preacher and ultimately, a pastor. I asked about his church and the friend that I was speaking to informed me that he no longer lived in the area. For a moment, I felt a twinge of discouragement. And then she mentioned the name of the person who now pastored that same church. As God would orchestrate it, I knew him as well. I hadn't seen or spoken to him in years, but I used social media to send him an email, and he responded with these words: "I'd be honored to host this service at our church." Thank God for Facebook! :-)
And so, we press on. We are having to get more promo material printed, but God is still good. We didn't have to cancel or even reschedule the date of the event. The I.S.L.A.N.D. Conference is still set for October 2nd, and while I am fully aware that there is still time for more adversity to arise, I feel that the worst of it is over. And even if other things do come my way, the fact that God got me through the big one, assures me that He'll get me through anything else. He's on my side, and I'm on His, and nothing can stop us now. You hear that, Elizabeth? NOTHING!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Fighting for the release of "I Shall Not Die"

Today, I am geeked! Getting to this monumental point in the process of publishing I Shall Not Die has been an uphill battle, but because God has been with me for every step of the climb, my testimony is victorious. From the moment I said "Yes" to the Lord and answered the charge to write my first nonfiction/ministerial book, one adversity after the other has arisen in failed attempts to stop it.
First, there was the uncanny, overwhelming fatigue. From the typing of the first letter on page one of I Shall Not Die, all the way to the last period of the final page, I fought tooth and nail just to stay awake. It mattered not what time of day I embarked on adding to the manuscript, I would suddenly become so sleepy that I could barely keep my eyes open. It was one of the most bizzarre experiences of my life. I could be doing anything else or writing on anything else during the course of the day and be fine, but whenever I began to work on I Shall Not Die, within minutes, I would be engulfed by lethargy. Every day, I was taking one, two, and sometimes three naps; sleeping for up to three hours each time. Literally, I was sleeping the day away; erasing precious hours that I needed to be writing the manuscript. I tried to explain it away several times; even tried to define the whole experience as coincidental. But the final proof that it was indeed directly related to the writing of I Shall Not Die came when as soon as I completed the writing of the book, the lethargy disappeared.
There were other hurdles too. Of course, computer viruses are not abnormal, but it seemed a little more than happenstance that after never having one in the four years that I'd owned my laptop, I suddenly got one on the first day of a 5-day cruise that I was on. It was the time I'd set aside to work on editing the manuscript and I couldn't do it due to the virus. And then there was the oddity that the company that I'd worked with for years with designing covers for the books published through KNB Publications suddenly became unavailable to design one for I Shall Not Die. In the five years that I'd worked with them, I could always shoot them a "cover vision" for a client's book and without fail, within 48 hours, they'd have three or four samples for me to review. When I contacted them about I Shall Not Die, they told me that they had too much to do and couldn't get to it in a timely manner. I would have to wait four-six weeks or maybe more. I was forced to go with a different graphic designer that I'd never used before. Thankfully, the new guy did an phenomenal job, sending me ten samples within 24 hours. He's KNB's new cover designer now (smile).
Even now, I continue to face challenges in getting this book in print. For the last three years, I have been using the same printer for books published through KNB Publications. Our protocol has always been that I sent them the book files via email for printing. Well, for the first time ever, my emails were not reaching them. emails containing the I Shall Not Die files were not reaching them. When I would send them a regular communication, they would receive it. But when I would try to forward the book files to them, they wouldn't. On three occasions, I emailed the book and cover files, but they would not successfully transmit. I wasn't getting any error or "undeliverable" messages, but the printer wasn't getting any of my emails. I couldn't understand it, and neither could they. Thinking back on it now, I shouldn't have been surprised; the battle to get this book in print has been a normal part of this birthing process.
There is a age-old gospel song that says, "Don't wait 'til the battle is over; shout now. You know in the end you're gonna win." Well, I'm shouting now! The book files are finally in the hands of the printer. I had to download them on a CD and mail them priority shipping since they weren't getting the emails. But if history with this book is any indication, the battle's not over yet. I'm praying that all goes well with the printing, but if they call me to tell me that they've run into a glitch, it will be no big shocker. It will also be no big worry. This book will come forth, and it will do so on time. I don't mind fighting for the release of this book because it's worth fight for. And although the enemy has proven to be a worthy opponent, I'm the daughter of the Army General, and the battle is not mine, but HIS. That makes me a guaranteed winner.
I am so excited about I Shall Not Die. The book order is scheduled to be in my hands no later than Sept. 15th, and although it is not set to officially release until October 1st (during The I.S.L.A.N.D. Conference in Valdosta, GA), God has already opened the door for two pre-release events, and because of His grace and favor, I will have the books back in time to have them available at both. One pre-launch is being scheduled for Friday, Sept. 17th in Atlanta (hosted by Bossettes), and another (two, actually) in San Antonio, TX on Sept. 24th and 25th (hosted by Carver Library and East St. Paul United Methodist Church respectively).
To God be the glory!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It Was A Set-Up!!

That's was a set up, and boy, did He set me up good! I'm not talking about a friend or a relative, I'm talking about God. And believe me when I tell you that there is no better "setter upper" than He! Every time I think that I have fulfilled His order as it relates to I Shall Not Die, He points out an unfinished area of the puzzle, and then points me in the right direction to help me create the piece that will fill the slot. There's a popular saying that states: "The will of God won't take you where the grace of God won't protect you." I have found that to be very true throughout my life and certainly throughout the process of birthing I Shall Not Die. What started out as what I thought would only be a book has evolved into more. Much, much more.
I've shared the story behind the I Shall Not Die book throughout this blog. Faithful followers of this online journal are aware that when I embarked upon the mission of writing this book, that task alone was intimidating. I had my moments of doubts and disobedience. Getting beyond the fear to reach the point of taking God at His word and trusting Him to not only walk with me, but lead and guide me through the process was fourteen years in the making. But even as I moved beyond the lurking shadows of fear into the lighted path that faith provided, I had no idea of where this walkway would lead. I thought I knew, but I have come to the realization that I hadn't the slightest notion. And in the process, I also now realize that this is just the way God planned it. He set me up!
God knew that if He allowed me to see the entire view from the onset, I would have frozen in place. It's quite possible that the writing of the book would still be on the back-burner if I'd known then what I know now. So instead of giving me a panoramic view of what He had planned, God showed it to me in snapshots that He knew I'd be able to handle. That allowed me to complete the I Shall Not Die manuscript in five months after fourteen years of procrastination. When God revealed that the I Shall Not Die book was actually a puzzle piece of a larger platform that was to be the I Shall Not Die Motivational Ministry, I was somewhat taken aback, but it wasn't an assignment that paralyzed me. However, when another puzzle piece turned the ministry into a movement that God inspired me to title The I.S.L.A.N.D. (I Shall Live And Not Die) Conference, I was like...WHOA!! It took me totally by surprise, and the reveal of it all momentarily overwhelmed me, but there was no turning back, and God gave me the reassurance that if He assigned it to me, He would equip me with the wherewithal to carry it out. And I wouldn't have to do it alone because he promised to put people in place who would recognize it as a vision that He'd given and be willing to assist in making it a reality. And so He did. Every phone call I made...every email I sent out requesting the involvement of others were answered with an unquestionable "Yes."
God is so faithful. His mandate (the book) broadened into a ministry (the motivational ministry) and then into a movement (the conference)....and it all happened before the book was even sent to the printer for production.!! But what a blessing and an honor to be used of God to bring about a change in someone's life, someone's heart, someone's soul! The official launch of the ministry in it's entirety (including the book) is scheduled for Saturday, October 2, 2010. Join me in Valdosta, Georgia for The inaugual presentation of The I.S.L.A.N.D. Conference where our keynote speaker will be Bishop Q.S. Caldwell, Chief Apostle of Celebration of Praise Ministries, and our featured music guests will be Stellar Award recognized, national recording artists, Lowell Pye (of Men of Standard) and Marcus Cole (formally of Commissioned). The evening of glorious celebration and radical worship will be hosted by Pastor Bernard Robinson, the voice behind the mic of the Bernard Robinson Morning Show on WJEM-1150 AM gospel radio station in Valdosta. Admission is FREE and the public is urged to attend.
I am trusting God to do mighty things through the movement as a whole. That is my most earnest prayer. The book, the ministry, and the conference - I want it all to be to man's edification and to God's glorification. I speak it in faith and in Jesus' name that it is already done. To God be the glory!
To obtain more information about the mandate, the ministry, and the movement, visit the official website by clicking HERE. The book that started it all will officially release on October 1, 2010. Orders can be placed now through the ministry website. Shipping is free for advance orders, and the books that are ordered in advance will be shipped in the month of September.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My First Nonfiction/Ministerial Book Is Complete

It was a challenge to write, but that came as no surprise. I knew it would be, but with the Lord's help, it's finally finished! And believe me when I say that without Him it never would have gotten done. Truly all things are possible when you believe in God. To God be the glory for the things He has done! My first nonfiction/ministerial tool is complete, and what a joy (and a relief) it is to celebrate this accomplishment. The writing of I Shall Not Die serves as the final piece of a very big puzzle in my life. I won't go into that fullness of that in this blog post. . .you'll have to read the book (smile).

My most sincere prayer is that when this book is officially released in October, it will be a powerful source of encouragement to those who read it. I want this book, more than any book I've ever written, to get into the hands of those who need its message most and be a life-changing experience to the readers.

Throughout my career as a writer, I've been asked many times during television, radio, magazine, and blog interviews which of my books is my personal favorite. My answer has always been that there is no answer for that. I just didn't see how I could love one more than the others. "That's like asking a mother which of her children are her favorite," I'd often reply. But I have an answer to that question now. By far, I Shall Not Die is my favorite among my titles. It's not necessarily better written than any of my other books, but because of the content, and because it's a personal testimony, it is dearer to my heart.

For any who saw the original cover (see photo below right) that was designed for this book, you will notice that it has been upgraded just a bit (see photo top left). I polled a few family members and asked them which cover they liked better and the revised design won by an overwhelming majority. A special thanks to Alex Johnson, III of AJ3 Photography for the picture of me that is on the new cover and for the cover design itself. Additionally, I'd like to send a special thanks to Lisa Zachery of Papered Wonders for designing the new logo for the I Shall Not Die motivational ministry. And for everyone who has gone through the website to pre-order your copy, thereby making you a VIsion Partner (VIP) with this ministry, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. As I head down the home stretch toward the finished line of getting this book in print, I thank God for you because I know that your support has made the process a little easier for me.

Stay tuned. . .

Thursday, March 18, 2010

"I Shall Not Die" - Almost Done

To God be the glory. I'm about two weeks away from being finished with my first nonfiction/ministerial project. It's been a five-month journey, and what a journey it has been. The writing of I Shall Not Die has taken me on an emotional rollercoaster at times. Not a bad ride, but a rollercoaster still.

Revisiting this time in my life has sometimes brought laughter, and other times it has brought tears, but the tears have not left me sad or depressed in any way. I guess when it comes right down to it, it doesn't matter how many years pass after you have to bury someone you adore...the reminiscing will always spring forth some type of emotion. Regardless of what others may think, I'm still convinced that while a true lover may die, the true love never does. It's amazing how God can heal our hearts and allow us to move on and even love again without forcing us to stop loving the love we lost.

In this writing of I Shall Not Die, I have reached a point in the manuscript where I want to include a pictorial account of my first husband, whose amazing, determined spirit is the inspiration behind this motivational tool. In order to complete this section of the book, I had to go into my garage and unearth a box that had been taped up and placed there twelve years ago. Inside the box were eight photo albums filled with captured memories of my former life. Turning the pages in these albums and reviewing pictures that reflected so many happenings from the time I became a blushing bride all the way to the time I became a weeping was all so surreal. At times, it became overwhelming.

DAY 1 was Friday, March 12th, and it was the hardest. After opening a second retrieved box I pulled from the garage that is marked "Jimmy and Kendra's Wedding Memories" and seeing the wedding memory book, then pulling out the carefully wrapped glasses that we drank from (still clearly engraved with our names and the words "bride" and "groom") and the engraved stainless steel knives that were used to cut the wedding cake and the actual still-corked full bottle of Espirit De Vie Sparkling Non-alcoholic White Grape Juice that awaited us in our honeymoon was impossible not to have a "moment." I needed a shoulder and resolved to call one of my best friends who I knew would allow me to use hers (it's a blessing to have friends like that).

DAY 2 was Saturday, March 13th. It was still tough to try and go through the items I found, but God made it easier than the day before. I went back down to the garage to see what other things I'd stored there that would be useful in the completion of the book. A case of video tapes that I hadn't seen in twelve years was pulled from under the garbage bag filled with clothes that my daughters haven't been able to wear in forever. In that case, there are about twenty-five VHS tapes, most of which have footage of Jimmy preaching or singing at different church programs. I felt like I'd dug up a treasure chest, but I didn't feel ready to watch any of them. So I took them to my youngest daughter, and she spent much of the afternoon watching the memories play out in front of our eyes. She couldn't recall most of the happenings, but she seemed engrossed in the visual. She was just shy of three when her father passed and now she's seventeen. In her watching, I hoped she was forming a deeper bond with and appreciation for the man she never really got to know.

DAY 3 was Wednesday, March 17th. I didn't look through any of it on Sunday, I had an 8-hour photo shoot on Monday, and I just chose to focus on other things on Tuesday, so on those three days, the items went untouched. On Wednesday, as I migrated back to the boxes of memories, I found that God had given me the courage and strength that I needed to do a thorough search for the pictures that I would use in the "Captured Memories" section of I Shall Not Die. I attached a couple, as teasers, to this blog posting - you'll have to buy the book to see the others :-). There were no tears, but endless smiles as I explored page after page of photos. I even watched a video and saw Jimmy render a soul-stirring rendition of "Eyes on the Sparrow" at a scholarship memorial event. It's the first live recording of him that I've seen of him in years.

Just as He promised He would, God has really been with me throughout this project. I'm headed down the home-stretch now, and I can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel. I Shall Not Die is going to be a book that blesses many, and whatever hurdles that I had (or have) to clear along the way in order for it to get complete will be well worth it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

A Testimony of LIFE for My Mom

The number of obstacles and strongholds that I have faced in just the short span of time that I have been writing I Shall Not Die is utterly amazing. It seems as if the enemy tries one thing to stop the process, and if that doesn't work, he finds a larger stumbling block and places that in my path to see if perhaps, it will do the trick. Everything from physical battles to personal challenges, to financial struggles have been tossed in my direction since I began the journey to complete this divine assignment. Most of the bumps that have been carved in the road, I've been able to navigate around without too much difficulty, but this latest stunt, I admit, was successful in creating a substantial pause in the flow of my determination.

It's one thing to fight the eerie fatigue and lethargy that I've battled from day one of my efforts to bring this vision to past. The strange depletion of my body's energy has been aggravating and annoying, yes. But I can and have dealt with it in a relatively proactive manner, and though it has slowed the process of completing the book, it has never completely stopped it. But on Monday, February 1st, the brakes were tapped on the production of this assignment when I received the news that my mother had been placed in the hospital with heavy rectal bleeding. And the entire process was brought to a screeching halt when I got word that she had been moved from her regular room to the intensive care unit when the bleeding continued. Then shortly before I was able to get to the hospital to see her, I was informed that she'd been rushed from one medical facility to another because her pulse rate had dropped tremendously and her skin was cold and clammy and they feared that she might have to have some type emergency surgery to save her life.

I broke every speed limit law known to man as I took to the highway to see her. Once there, I was only able to spend one day with her before having to return home to prepare to travel for literary appointments that had been on my calendar for months prior. I was prepared to cancel if I had to, but my mother said not to. Thank God that by the time I got there, although she was hungry because they weren't able to feed her due to the series of tests she needed, and she was a bit tired from whatever test that had just been performed shortly before I arrived, she was stable and was in good spirits. But the fact remained that she was still in the hospital and was receiving her sixth unit of blood to replace what her body was continuing to lose.

Yesterday marked a week since the mayhem began, and from then until now, I have been unable to get my mind in the place to write again. It's not writer's block...I've been so consumed with concern for Mom, that I've just not been able to focus like I need to. I had been able to write despite my own drama, but not despite my mother's. There is truly nothing like the love a mother has for her child and nothing like the love that a child has for her mother. For the first time in my life, I looked at my mom lying in a hospital bed, with needles in the backs of her hands that were feeding her fluids to keep her from dehydrating and blood to keep her from dying, and thought to myself: What if I lose her? I'm writing a book called, I Shall Not Die, but I was terrified of losing my mother.

The older I become, the more I appreciate the fact that I come from a praying, Bible-believing, faith-walking family. After spending all the time in the ICU room with my mother that the hospital would allow, my dad, my two sisters, and I were told that we had to leave. But before we disbursed, my dad, who has been a preacher for about 45 years now, held my mom's hand and prayed as three of their five offspring stood around the bed and joined in. He prayed for the bleeding to stop and for his wife to be moved from ICU and eventually allowed to go home. And as he prayed in low tones, in my mind I spoke on my mother's behalf, repeating the words, "I Shall Not Die." I kissed my mom's forehead and told her how much I loved her before I left the room. I watched my two sisters do the same, and then I saw my dad bring up the rear with a kiss to her lips. When I got back on the highway to head back to Atlanta, I felt much calmer than I did when I was en route there. God had given me a level of peace that I didn't have prior.

Even as I make this blog entry, my mother is still in the hospital, but God is at work. The same doctors that were scratching their heads as they ran a boatload of tests on Mama to try to find the source of the bleeding are still scratching their heads now. They were never able to understand why she was bleeding, and now they can't understand why she's not. She has not lost any more blood since my father prayed over her on last Thursday. She has been moved from ICU to a regular room. She is scheduled to be released in the next day or so. And at this very moment, I think I just reclaimed my motivation to write the next phase of I Shall Not Die. Wow...even at three o'clock in the morning, God is good!

I am so grateful for everyone who have been praying for my mother's healing. I sent emails to just about every prayer warrior that I could think of. Mom's not totally out of the woods yet, and we realize that. As long as the source of the bleeding has not been detected and therefore not treated, the doctors have reported to us that the bleeding can resume at any time. But the Word (Isaiah 53:5) says with His stripes we are healed. And God's report is the one that we choose to believe.