Sunday, 19 January 2020

Family and Loss

I just read an article about two sets of young parents who lost their babies without ever being able to take them home. One, a little girl named Grace, died not long before she could be delivered, and the second, a little boy named Charlie, who lived for only a few days and went though numerous surgeries. They talked about their great love for these children they would not be able to raise and how they did not blame God for wanting them to come back home to him. While their grief in this life will never entirely disappear, both families know they will see their children again and that brings peace. My heart went out to them. I know what it feels like to lose children, and so does my daughter. The pain is so intense it feels like it will rip everything inside apart, and there is always the niggling thought that perhaps something could have been done to prevent it.

I was with my daughter the day she lost her first child. I was driving from Idaho to Washington to visit when I got a frantic call telling me to hurry because she was spotting and needed me to take her to the hospital. Her husband was working and couldn't be reached. I drove as quickly as I could over unfamiliar and winding country roads the last 100 miles of my journey. Without even stopping for a bathroom break, I drove her to the closet town that was over thirty miles away. By the time her husband arrived, the baby was gone, and we all learned that if the doctor been able to get to her sooner, the outcome would have been much better. Her next child, my grandson, was stillborn. I wasn't there when he was delivered, but I went to the mortuary with them to pick up the little silver heart where his ashes had been put so she could carry them with her wherever she went. 

Times like these truly force us to think about our mortality and how very lucky some of us are to even be alive. But they also bring back painful, personal memories for me that fade a little when I'm not reminded of them, but seem to come back full-force whenever I read about people who have been able to see and perhaps hold their babies for a brief moment in time. I was able to get pregnant with great regularity, but I was not able to carry any of my babies for over three months. I never got to feel them move inside of me or see my body change in that beautiful way a woman's does as a baby continues to grow. I never got to feel their heart beating or wear maternity clothes. After twenty tries at becoming a mother naturally, the doctor found so many tumors inside of me that an emergency hysterectomy was performed. 

I never talk much about those days of sorrow and pain. I was blessed to adopt two beautiful babies who have brought great joy into my life, but it often seems like whatever I was cursed with has continued to the next generation with no biological reason. My daughter was finally able to have a child who lived. My grandson is six now, but he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at three and there have been numerous times when we've almost lost him. My daughter-in-law has never been able to get pregnant, but she and my son have adopted my sweet granddaughter who is now eleven. I love them fiercely and would do anything to see them healthy and happy. 

The hardest thing to digest was finding out after my last miscarriage that it was a chromosome imbalance between my ex-husband and me that caused all of my babies to die. Had I married anyone else, my babies would have survived. That was quite a bitter pill to take, especially since my marriage had never been a happy one, and my husband had only agreed to adopt if I would do all the work. That was an easy decision for me to make since I wanted children so badly. I'm only sorry I couldn't give them everything I wanted them to have - mainly a home where they would feel nothing but love and acceptance. None of us were ever good enough for the man who had promised to be there for us.

I've never shared this next part with anyone other than a teacher I had in a college class when I went back to get a Master's degree in mid-life so I could better support myself and my children. It's rather lengthy, and was written as an essay in third person because even ten years after the fact it was nearly impossible to think about without excruciating pain, but it tells about my last miscarriage. Maybe it will help someone else who has experienced the same kind of loss. We women have tender hearts, but few people know what to say when a baby is lost early in a pregnancy. It seems like we're mostly forgotten, and once a mother is able to carry a child and take him or her home, she moves from that place of seeming bareness into the life most women take for granted. I hope this essay gives those of you who have never encountered this kind of tragedy some added perspective so you can bless other's live with your understanding and support.


NOW IS FOREVER

     She looked around the small cell she found herself in. Suddenly, it all came back. Three months ago she had entered the gynecologist’s office for the hundredth time, or maybe it only seemed like that because the trauma associated with each visit had made each moment’s wait in the examining room seem an eternity. She had clenched her fists until the knuckles turned white and had tried to push back the nausea that threatened to strangle her.
     She had known why she was here for days as she always had. A new life was growing inside of her - a life trying for the twentieth time in ten years to gain a physical body and the chance to be her child. She had known of this child’s existence within a few hours of its conception. 
     Most people thought she was crazy when she told them of her uncanny feelings, so she quit telling. But not telling did not make the premonitions go away. It only made them more intense. Besides, what did it matter to anyone else how many times a woman got pregnant? It was like taking a vocational class at school. Students could try with all their might to build something beautiful, but if the project was not completed, it was deemed a failure.
     And she couldn’t handle another failure at not being a woman - the real woman her husband had always wanted would give him a child. There was nothing wrong with him. He got her pregnant on a regular basis. It was her fault she couldn’t carry the baby to term.She could almost understand his coldness when a baby was lost at home, but not being with her when the remains of their children were pulled from her womb was something she would never understand. They were hers whether dead or alive. It hardly mattered that she would never get to snuggle them in her arms. The vision of their glory and innocence would be etched forever in the recesses of her mind.
     To control the pain, she learned silence, but that silence only contributed to the enmity she often felt for the man who had promised to love and cherish her in sickness and health.His constant criticism made her feel less-than-human, but this pregnancy seemed different and maybe it would take away some of the stigma she felt for not being like other women. This baby had already made it through the first trimester - something none of the others had been able to do. And today, she was going to see this awe-inspiring miracle for the first time through an ultrasound – also something that had never happened with any of her other pregnancies.
     It was cold in the examining room, and the temperature lowered even farther as a monitor was brought in and a gooey substance smeared over her abdomen. The doctor smiled, the nurse held her shivering hand, and when she looked up she could see her little miracle moving vigorously around in the safety of an embryonic sac. She could identify tiny fingers and toes. It was too early to determine sex, but that didn’t matter. She had seen something awe-inspiring and marvelous. No other experience in life could be quite as grand and glorious.
     She wanted to savor her newfound peace and contentment alone because no one else would understand how valuable this moment was to her womanly sanity. She had long before given up talking about her real feelings, and wished she didn’t have to share this experience with anyone except her two adopted children. Time and exposure to emotional abuse had not yet hardened them as it had her. They knew she loved and wanted them. Adoption was just a big word they had yet to understand.
     And they talked constantly about having a baby brother or sister. Her daughter wanted to hold the baby and show it off. Her son wanted to share his toys. It didn’t matter if they got broken because he would show the baby how to take care of things.
     She stroked her stomach on the long drive home, crooning words of love to her unborn child. And when she got to the house, she hurried to her room and undressed in front of the mirror. She felt beautifully radiant for the first time in her life and wanted to see if the reason for her hope had altered her physical appearance. It hadn’t! Her tummy wasn’t even protruding, but the tranquility in her eyes had never been there before. She smiled to herself as she dressed to prepare the evening meal.
     About midnight there was a cry. She jerked awake and listened for the sound of her children. All was quiet, but that was not unusual since they lived far out in the country where nighttime sounds came only from nocturnal birds and animals whose habitats were near. Still, she knew that sleep would not return until she had checked on their safety. So much could happen to them in the night, like the time her son had difficulty breathing and she had held his hand through the bars of his crib all night long. It had turned out to be an intolerance to milk, something easily corrected, but not so easily forgotten. 
     Moonlight stole across their peaceful, sleeping faces as she brushed each cheek with a kiss and secured their tangled covers.She had often wondered about a mother’s intuitiveness when it came to her children, but as the long night hours turned into a flickering red dawn she understood more fully that a mother’s intuition was merely one of God’s gifts of preparation for what was to come.
     Her family was seated around the kitchen table eating a Saturday breakfast of bacon, eggs and homemade pancakes when the first fluttering in her abdomen began. She escaped to the bathroom before anyone could see the hovering tears. Surely it couldn’t be happening again, but tiny drops of fresh blood were descending from her uterus to her undergarments.
     With panic so all encompassing that she feared she would become physically ill before she could even sit down; she called her doctor at his home. His instructions were brief. “Get to the hospital at once.” 
     The town where the hospital stood on the banks of a swift-moving river was over forty miles away. She lay in the back seat with her husband behind the wheel. It was mostly a silent drive, except for an occasional question as to what was happening from her children. It was too late for even a word of kindness now from the man she had married because he had never been part of what she was going through before. 
     The lights in the examining room were blinding, but she hardly noticed. She was stripped of her clothing and strapped to a table. A nurse was squeezing her hand. “It hurts, dear, I know,” she tried to comfort in a practiced fashion. “But it won’t be much longer.”
     “Not much longer,” she reflected, as cramp after cramp elicited inside contortions. How could these people know what time was? Nineteen, now twenty times she had been placed in this identical situation. Her baby was dying, and all the begging and pleading and prayers in the world could not reverse it. Where was God’s mercy? Hadn’t she sufficiently proven that she would endure anything to give life to one of his children?
     The doctor completed the exam and then tore off his examining gloves as he moved to her side. She could read the pity in his eyes. 
     “I wish I could be more hopeful, but I’m afraid your baby is starting to abort. There’s a possibility the process could reverse. We’ll have you admitted, and then we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
     She mumbled a polite thank you and was whisked away to the maternity ward where she was put in a room with a woman who was in the final stages of labor. It was the perfect irony. She couldn’t blame the woman who every now and then groaned out with pain, but it was hard to be sympathetic when the woman announced that she would never go through the ordeal again because no child was worth it.
     Her own children were taken to her mother’s where preparations were made for them to spend the night. They didn’t want to leave her and clung to the side of her bed, but she reassured them with a motherly kiss, and told them that grandma was expecting them and would have something fun for them to do. Her husband asked if she needed anything, or if he should stay. She told him everything would be fine, so he left with the children.
     She would never remember the details of that long afternoon and evening. Only that she cried and prayed that God would not forget her, and that in his mercy he would let her child live. And when the nurses came in to check on her, she put up a courageous front. She had spent years learning how to hold feelings inside and nothing would allow her to fall apart in front of strangers now. The pity would destroy whatever was left inside. Besides, what she was going through wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just something that happened to unlucky women, but even unlucky women deserved a miracle sometimes.
     The woman in labor had her baby, and another expectant mother was brought in to replace her. Fortunately, it was a woman even less inclined to small talk than she was so they got along fine. Television was impossible to watch because she could not stop herself from slipping into the bathroom every time she felt even the smallest contraction to see if any changes in her condition were evident.
     She wanted to go home. She wanted to hold her children so tightly in her arms that the impression of their small bodies would never leave hers. At the same time, she wanted to run away from everything - all the pain and suffering and heartache that had come with trying to be a natural mother. Perhaps things would have been different if her husband had not blamed her for the loss of their children. If she had the courage, she would tell him what the doctor told her in the examining room that morning. It wasn’t her fault. There marriage had been cursed with a chromosome incompatibility. All their babies would die. But if they had been married to other people . . . It was too late to think about that now.
     In the early hours of the morning, her baby quit struggling. It slipped from her body as silently as it had entered it. She couldn’t stop herself from scooping up the remains in a clinical container and holding them close to her heart while she said goodbye. In a few short hours, they would be analyzed and destroyed.
     She left the container behind and slipped silently back into bed. She wanted to grieve like some of the women in the south she had read about, rocking back and forth and moaning loudly and with total abandon. Even throwing or breaking things would bring relief, but that wasn’t her nature. She couldn’t stand waste of any kind, so she did the only thing she was prepared to do. She took pen in hand, and aided by the moonlight pouring in through her window she wrote.
     “My tiny, precious baby, just a few short minutes ago your physical body left mine. Only heaven can know the pain and sorrow I am going through. It is so real, so intense, yet somewhere deep inside is calmness, a loving certainty that you are back home with our Heavenly Father.
     “I wanted to give you a physical body, a home for your spirit, and a family who would love and support you. I also wanted to feel your tiny arms around my neck and hear you call me ‘mommy.’I know God must love you very much, and he must have wanted you with him a little longer, but that does not stop the pain and heartache of losing you. And it does not stop the emptiness I will feel inside when I leave this hospital without your small body next to my heart where I can cherish the feelings of your spirit growing inside of me.
     “Yesterday, a miracle happened. The doctor did an ultrasound. I saw your tiny body clinging so desperately to mine and your strong heart beating. I knew you were a fighter, and someday you will bless the lives of many others with your strength.I can see the temple through my window. It is nearly three in the morning. The physical danger for me has not yet passed but shortly will. However, my emotional longing to hold and love you will be with me for what is left of my mortal life. I will always wonder about you, wanting to know where you are and whom you are with.
     “Every time I look up into the brilliant blue of the sky, I will pray that someday we will meet. That I can take you in my arms and give you all the love I have inside to give. I have to believe that someday this will happen – that you can yet be a part of my life. Be brave my precious baby. Life will hold wonderful things for you when you finally make it to earth. And I will be waiting for you no matter how long it takes.”
     She held the papers to her lips, and tears of mourning blotted the ink. She had done all she could. Life would never allow her the blessing of natural motherhood, and her belief in personal miracles had been shattered almost irrevocably, but she would never give up loving every child she met because there was no way of knowing if one of the children she had tried to carry would come into her life in a very different way. 

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Welcome to 2020

I hope the coming year is the best one ever for all of you. Has everyone made a huge list of resolutions? I decided to forgo doing that this year for the first time ever. Maybe I just don't want to admit failure again because most everything I write down has been broken, or at least seriously compromised, by the first of February. Or perhaps I was just too lazy or consumed by other things to make the effort. In any event, I have been thinking about my life and wondering what things I wanted to change badly enough that I would invest the amount of time, sweat, deprivation or just plain agony to put forth the amount of energy required. I couldn't come up with anything specific because I've tried to change most everything in the past with very little success.

But after some contemplation and a little nudge from above, I decided that God knows what I need far better than I do. I was saying my morning prayer on Thursday of last week and trying to decide why my wants and desires always outnumbered the blessings I willingly gave thanks for. During the past few months, I have become much too focused on my past mistakes and failures and dreams for the future that have little chance of becoming my reality. While I was still on my knees and debating with myself, three words suddenly entered my mind with such force that it completely stopped any other thoughts. "See your blessings."

Now that was a new one for me. I have been told to recognize my blessings, be thankful for them and even acknowledge them on a daily basis, but I had never been told to "see" them. That seemed like an odd pronouncement, but I've given a great deal of thought to those three words the past few days. To really see something you must look beyond the obvious and open your heart, your head, your senses, your emotions and your spirit to everything that is going on around you - from the song of the wind as it ruffles the air to the innocent smile of a child. I found myself looking for visible signs that represented things I took for granted and quickly gained a new appreciation for life and all the little intricacies that make up each moment of my existence. Instead of rushing through my day with a list far too long to be accomplished, I started paying attention to details. I'm not saying that I've been magically transformed into a new person, but I have come to view my life and all that goes on around me in a different way.

Instead of rushing to my computer or out the door in the morning without taking times to appreciate the little things that make living worthwhile, I've been taking a few moments periodically to really watch what's going on around me. It's made me appreciate things that I have been totally oblivious to before.  So while I still haven't made any new year's resolutions, I've decided to try to "see" my blessings more often. I have a feeling it will become the basis for some of the changes I've wanted all along.

It has also given me the right dedication for my next book (Unsheltered - Agent Reagan Sinclair - FBI) that will be released, hopefully by the end of the month. I'm not just living life for me. I'm living it in memory of the wonderful people in my family who walked this earth before I did. I owe them gratitude for so many things.

For all my wonderful ancestors from England, Scotland,Wales, France, Germany and other European countries with wonderful names like Experience Gaylord, Needless Oakley, Gamaliel Bramson, Pasco Whitford, Malat Malatiah, Obedience Snow, Japath Griffin, Peleg Sherman, Icabod Potter, Patience Lamphere, Honor Grenville, Absalom Wiggins and thousands of others. Thanks you for your strength, courage, willingness to defy hardships and the genes you passed on to me. They have helped make who I am.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019

The Best of Christmas

I just wanted to wish everyone a very wonderful Christmas with many blessings for the new year. In so doing, I am including three poems I wrote as a much younger person. I've never  been a poet, but my thoughts about our Savior and this very special time of year are tender. May God's choicest blessings be with each of you.

When I was a child, Christmas meant anticipation,
taking our pennies and dimes 
to Kresses or Woolworths
to buy simple, well thought-out presents.

We were poor, and the six of us children shared 
one basement bedroom and a couple of cots in the hall.
We didn’t know just how poor we really were until we 
went to church or school and saw what others wore.

We’d read the story of our Savior’s birth
from the book of Luke on Christmas Eve,
then opened one specific present,
homemade flannel pajamas from our parents.

We’d hurry off to bed, knowing we’d never sleep 
until we were sure Santa had made it there.
We’d creep up the stairs several times during the night
tiptoeing on the edges so they wouldn’t crackle and creak.

But we never saw if the jolly old elf had arrived.
An old Army blanket, suspended in the
living room doorway was too formidable an object 
to either push aside or crawl under.

At five in the morning, Daddy hurried out to the barn,
Mom called Grandma and Uncle Douglas, saying it was time.
We warmed ourselves by the old coal stove trying 
to keep our excitement down so we wouldn’t explode.

When the time came to take down the magical barrier,
we kids would rush to find our pile of presents.
There was never much there, for money was not:
a doll, a book, plastic animals for the boys.

A new pair of shoes and a homemade dress or shirt, 
an orange, peanuts and hard candy for our stockings.
They were simple holidays, but happy ones.
Dad played with us and Mom fixed the traditional meal.

After Daddy died, leaving seven little children alone,
the real joy of the Christmas season was gone.
We still got gifts and kept the blanket in front of the door,
and Grandma and Uncle Douglas came to spend the day.

But Daddy wasn’t there to make the holiday special, 
to play with us or to hold us tight in his protective arms.
The hole in our family was so immense we went through
motions but were never really happy and smiling again.

That was also the time when the real meaning of Christmas 
made more sense for death is part of life just as birth is.
Christ walked the earth, by example showing the way,
atoning for sins, dying so we can be a complete family again.

I have seen many Christmas’ since I was a child but 
none have been more meaningful than those of early days,
except for the Christmas’ I shared with my own children
when they were young and starry-eyed and still believed.

I played the magical elf, and my son and daughter 
climbed the stairs to see if Santa had been there.
There were more gifts purchased from stores those days,
but homemade ones still played a part along with a tradition meal.

They were happy times, but life moves on, children grow, 
have children of their own, and our part in the celebration changes.
But the meaning for the day is always crystal clear, and Christ’s gift
is the only one that cannot be purchased except by complete devotion.

                                             *******************

In this world of modern marvels,
one seldom takes time to think
of the creator of both heaven and earth,
Jesus Christ, the Savior of all mankind.

But who is this man?

A babe,
born in a stable in the village of Bethlehem. 
A boy,
reared as a carpenter in Nazareth. 
A citizen,
of a conquered and subdued nation. 
A man,
whose mortal footsteps never went beyond a 150 mile radius. 
A scholar,
who never received a school degree. 
A preacher,
who never spoke from a great pulpit.
A citizen,
who never owned a home.
A traveler,
who moved about on foot, without money. 

He is Jesus Christ,
author of our salvation.

His life, brought light and understanding
of things eternal and divine. 

His teachings, influenced the behavior 
of unaccounted millions.

His matchless example became the greatest power 
for goodness and peace in all the world.

                                                  ***********************


Grandpa’s Christmas Letter

I am not yearning for a white Christmas
as well you may have guessed.
The white stuff that so delights you
can stay in the mountains in drifts.

Christmas, as other holiday, is just another day.
My parents who were not into gift exchange,
but giving more to the needy than anyone else in the valley,
being liberal with us when they sensed the need.

I understand their viewpoint now that I am older.
Too much money is wasted on throwaway gift giving.
So, granddaughter dear, do not send me things
I do not need or have any particular desire for.

The things people need more of 
in this country of ours are
worthy compliments,
appreciation, and just plain love.

Sunday, 15 December 2019

The Most Glorious Time of the Year


When I was growing up two-thirds of a century ago in a small farming community in South Eastern Idaho, Christmas really was a magical time of year. We always woke up to three or four feet of fresh snow and since our neighbor’s houses were too far away to be seen, it was like we were in a kingdom all our own. My father made sure we had a fresh Christmas tree. It wasn’t necessarily the most symmetrical and there were spaces between the branches, but we thought it was wonderful. When we returned from the Neighborhood Christmas party on Christmas Eve where Santa gave each of us a brown paper bag with peanuts, hard candy and an orange in it, he would sit us down on the floor and read the story of Christ’s birth from Luke: 2 in his deep, melodious voice.

We never got much in the way of gifts because my father was a World War II veteran who came from an impoverished family. His father had died when he was a year old and his mother had to take in washing and ironing and clean other people’s homes to support her children. I only remember two gifts I ever got, what we called in those days – a lady doll and a baby doll with a soft body and a hard head. 

But I do remember thinking what an enchanting story Christ’s birth in a manger was because I grew up around animals, and they were never pleasant nor serene. The chickens would peck my hands when I went to gather the eggs. The cows would toss their heads around when they were milked, and we had to be careful not to get the stepped on. The horses were big and frightening. The sheep were un-cooperative and not terribly bright, and the pigs were right down offensive and disgusting. 

The barn was a converted Army barrack that leaked when the snow started to melt. Shepherds were rough-looking men with bad hygiene who lived in one-room trailers and only came around civilization when it was time to sheer or sell the sheep. As for the Wisemen, I had no idea what they did, but apparently they could afford some very nice gifts. 

My misconceptions about a lot of things did not change rapidly. I learned songs at church like Give Said the Little Stream, Popcorn Popping on an Apricot Tree and Jesus Wants me for a Sunbeam. And our lessons were more about being good little boys and girls than about learning who Jesus really was and why it was important to become more like him.

I’m not sure when thinking about the way Christ’s birth has blessed my life even became part of my thought process. My childhood and youth seemed to be nothing more than one tragedy after another, and it was all I could do to survive, but I have come up with a few pivotal examples from my life that have helped me see both the beauty and the necessity for challenges that force us to our knees and give us a chance to learn the principles Christ taught throughout his earthly ministry in a way that became personally meaningful.

The first happened when I was five and taught me about the need for obedience, watchful care and the value of life. It was a cold spring morning and my father was busy in the field preparing the tandem disc for plowing up the fields. My mother allowed my three year-old brother and me to go outside. Since I was the older sibling, I was told to watch him. I’m not sure what happened, but the frost hadn’t even left the grass when my father came running towards the house with my little brother’s body dangling in his arms and calling for my mother to get the keys to the jeep because this beautiful little boy was dead. My father had accidently run over him. 

My mother turned to me and said in a tone that crippled me for years. “If you had been watching him the way I told you to, this never would have happened.” He spent six weeks in a coma, and while he survived, the extent of his injuries meant our family life was never really happy again. My guilt over something that wasn’t my fault is still there, but it taught me not to take unnecessary chances and to listen to what people I needed to trust said. 

When I was in the 3rd grade, I learned about compassion for others and acceptance of what cannot be changed. I spent 6 months in bed with Rheumatic fever that damaged my heart and made it impossible for me to even take part in physical activities while growing up. I was ostracized and made fun of simply because I was unable to do so many things, but those experiences helped me to see inside people’s hearts. I found myself always fighting for the underdog and wanting to be kind to people who were not readily accepted by others.

There were many other experiences that challenged my formative years, but the most gripping tested my childhood faith and belief in miracles to nearly the breaking point. I found my father dead in the bathroom of our small home from suffering a massive heart attack when I was thirteen. I loved him dearly and got up before dawn each morning to drive the tractor while he threw hay to the animals in the fields. Sometimes it was so cold my toes and feet would be numb the entire time I was outside, but with 7 children and no one else old enough or willing to help, I was always his right-hand man. 

I remember being told by my mother to take all of my siblings down the road to the neighbor’s house and stay there until someone came to get us. No one was at home, but people never locked their doors so we waited for hours and prayed continually that we would be the recipients of a miracle, but it didn’t happen. In fact, life became even more difficult because my mother went through a complete breakdown that forced me away from my home before I graduated high school. My grandmother, the only person other than my father that I ever felt close to, took me to BYU so I could utilize an academic scholarship, but she died before the end of my freshman year.

Now you might wonder why I’m relating such sad stories at Christmas. For me these challenges, along with losing every baby I tried to carry as an adult, have given me the basis for what I consider the greatest blessings of my life because they forced me to reach inward and upward for survival. I know God lives. I know he sent his son as a baby in a manger to bless the lives of everyone who even attempts to believe in and trust him. 


If I had no knowledge of Christ and his mission to bless and redeem, I would be just like all the other billions of persons who have lived through the centuries wandering aimlessly in a dark and frightening world, accepting mediocrity, living for the moment, taking what was wanted, and dying without knowing what my purpose was for even being here.

My blessings are the gifts that come from learning hard lessons and accepting what Christ has done for each one of us individually because he set the perfect example. Now that I’ve finally come to understand things more clearly than I did as a child who only recognized the magical beauty of the season, I know the types of blessings I’ve received. It’s being obedient and humble enough to ask for guidance and direction. It’s the ability to get an education so I could stand on my own without letting fear debilitate me.  It’s the capacity to love my siblings, children, grandchildren and friends without having to accept everything they’ve done. It’s being guided and protected on a daily basis and finally getting it that all of our prayers will not be answered the way we might like in this life. 

Because of Christ, I have a reason to live joyfully. I have hope that things are progressing as they should and have clarity of mind and peace that fills my heart and soul. My belief in something greater than I can comprehend fills every part of my life, if I will just allow it to. In Hebrews 5:8 we are told that we learn obedience by the things we suffer. 

My life has been blessed greatly over the years, even when I couldn’t see it. And I know it will continue to be that way until my mission is complete. I rejoice each day that I’m still able to get out of bed and go about my day with purpose. I might not get as much done as I once did, but I still make lists and check off goals that have been completed. 

I treasure my time spent doing things for others, and writing books that share Christian beliefs and gospel principles with people around the globe. I’ve been unfriended and ridiculed because I write about what I believe, but I want others to know what I do about Christ, his teachings and enduring to the end. It’s a beautiful time of year, and I don’t appreciate it nearly as much as I should. 



Monday, 2 December 2019

Post Thanksgiving

So I haven't written in awhile. There are no excuses except that I've been busy doing other things. Like finishing book 3 in my new series, Safe Haven - Agent Reagan Sinclair, FBI. I couldn't seem to wrap my head around the changes I needed and wanted to make since the story was becoming more complex and the motives had to match the actions and what prompted them. Trying to keep all characters straight was also making my head spin, but at my age I need the mental stimulation since I'm no longer around teenagers every day. I suppose I also have to admit that my expectations override my capabilities sometimes.  But to my great relief I sent it to Amazon today so I can start thinking about the holidays. 

Actually, I did spend some time contemplating Thanksgiving as I worked. I even set an entire day aside to do nothing but thank God for all my blessings instead of complaining because I have never gotten what I've wanted my entire life. But I know I'm not alone in that, and it really was refreshing to look at life a little different than I was used to doing. In fact, it's put me into a better frame of mind now that Christmas is almost here. I even plan on getting my tree put up some time this week and most of my presents are already purchased. Maybe the huge snow storm helped with that. I wasn't ready for slick roads and inconsiderate and often incompetent drivers but managed to make it where I needed to go.

I have no profound thoughts on anything today, but I do feel a great deal of gratitude as I get ready to go to the doctors for my weekly allergy shot. I love the blessings I've been given from relatively good health to family to having things I can do I enjoy. When I really think about it, I'm not so sure I would be any happier if all my dreams did come true. I would probably just have a stroke from being unable to comprehend how everything had finally come together. Sometimes our challenges and disappointments are our greatest blessings because they make us reach further inside as we search for ways to serve others better. Maybe I'll even bake some cinnamon rolls or stir up some caramel popcorn to take to a few of my neighbors. I do like to do things in my kitchen and really shouldn't even everything I see. I hope everyone had a blessed Thanksgiving, regardless of whether they were alone like me eating leftovers from the meal I had prepared for my children before they went other places, or enjoying the day with numerous family and friends.




Sunday, 13 October 2019

Strength of the Human Spirit

I've spent a good deal of time the past week thinking about life and how the briefest moment in time can set us on a path we would never have imagined. When I was five and my little brother was three, my mother blamed me for a farming accident that could easily have claimed his life, practically destroyed our family and left him with severe physical and mental disabilities he would have to endure for as long as he lived.  That horrifying declaration, "If you had been watching him like I told you to do this never would have happened," took away what was left of my childhood and plunged me into a world filled with self-doubt, guilt and an inability to trust or ever feel truly loved again.

We never spoke of that moment until right before her death over fifty years later where she said she didn't recall ever saying it, but I was left with scars that have never really healed. I don't actually believe in fate, but I do believe that insecurity and self-doubt, along with the knocks of life that come to each of us so we can gain experience and get to know ourselves better, have a tendency to put us in places we would rather not be. I've lived through three bouts with Rheumatic Fever, the loss of half of my hair that has never grown back, being molested by my violin teacher, loosing my dad when I was thirteen, and being forced to leave home after my mother - who was suffering a nervous breakdown - tried to run me through with a butcher knife because I wouldn't do something she asked. I lived with other people until I was taken to college by my grandmother and uncle. Those were lonely days because I wasn't allowed any contact with my siblings. My grandmother died a few months later.  All of those heart-wrenching experiences, along with other less traumatic events, happened during my first nineteen years.

I remember watching "Gone with the Wind" as a teen and feeling very much like Scarlet O-Hara when she said she would think about it tomorrow after facing a life-altering event. That simple phrase  has kept me going through an entire life filled with more loss and sorrow than I ever dreamed possible because tomorrow never comes, and the daily pressures associated with living must be faced as they come. I feel blessed that my spirit would not let me give up, even when all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and never see the light of day again. I also suppose that's why I write the kind of books I do. Anyone can write about a single trial turning into a happily-ever-after kind of life. But what about all those people who never get their happy ending?

I want the bloodied, bruised and broken who refuse to give up or give in because life is hard to know that they're not not alone. Those are the people I write for because I'm still waiting for the same things I desired as a child - not to feel afraid and to be loved for the woman I am. I recognize that the chance of that happening before this life is over is minimal at best, but I also believe in a loving God who wants the best for each of his children and will compensate for every loss and hurt felt in this life in the one to come - as long as a person never loses hope and remains faithful.

So I want to invite each of readers to check out all the books I've written under the pen name of JS Ririe. I know they will bring help and comfort to even the most troubled soul. You can read about Brylee and Reagan and all the people them come to know and love in two powerful series for free as a member of Kindle Unlimited. And if you don't belong to that, I'd like to send you the first book in the Indecision Flame series of 7 books and/or the first book in the Reagan Sinclair, FBI series in digital format for free just by sending me a quick email at janhill720@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you. All books are available at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv. Resilience came out in September and the next book in the series will be out right before or after Thanksgiving.




Sunday, 6 October 2019

So its been a few days since I wrote anything. I had a wonderful visit with my sister in Branson, Missouri, watching some of our good friends perform. It was wonderful seeing Tony Roi back on stage after suffering fall 2 years ago that left him in a coma for three months. Just as the family had decided to pull the plug, he woke up and wanted a steak. It's taken him months to learn how to walk and talk and do normal things again but he's back on the stage, with his own kind and loving spirt, performing tunes that Elvis made famous and so much more. We also saw John Tweed who performed in Disneyland years ago, a great tribute to Frankie Valli and the group Six who came out from Las Vegas several years ago and use their voices as their only instruments. They are truly amazing.

But we spent most of our time in Motown shows. It's the music we grew up on and love, and was performed by some of our favorite people: Eddie, Andre, William, Doc, Will, Rico, Kirk, TJ and others. They sing songs by the Temptations, Platters, Drifters, Spinners, Al Green, Marvin Gaye and so many others it's hard to keep track of them. I shouted and sang along so much that I lost my voice half way through our time there and still haven't recovered. We were there when some of them received a trophy for Best Morning show. We got up on stage and danced at several performances and got hugs and kisses that will keep me going for a few months since they're in very short supply at home. I've been divorced for over 25 years and have yet to find anyone who speaks to my heart. Guess I'm hoping God will provide someone for me to love forever when I get to the next life because it's certainly been lonely here.

It got to me thinking about family and how not everyone we love is connected by blood. One of my favorite things is doing genealogy using family search. I can spent literally hours looking at names of family members who paved the way for the life I live. Some of them have wonderful names like Deliverance, Thankful, Obedience and Echo. I love finding out what countries they come from and often wonder where I get some of my characteristics that are very unlike anyone else in my family. Perhaps some day I will have my DNA tested to see which countries from all over Europe, the British Isles, America and even South Africa I have legitimate ties to. But sometimes it's just nice to wonder. I am truly grateful for the sacrifices they made and can't help but wonder what experiences they had that turned them into the people they became. Guess it will be fun to see them again once this life is over because I truly believe we will go on forever. That comforts me when it comes to thinking about leaving my children and grandchildren when the time comes. I hope I have built happy memories and will leave behind a legacy they can remember with pride. I guess that's what we all want to do, but we will go about creating it in very different ways.