Monday, November 23, 2015

Small & Simple Saves the Day

An experience came to mind recently, something I believe I’ve shared before, but I sense it’s something I need to touch on once again. Years ago, in the days following my father’s death, my husband & I helped my mother and my younger siblings pack and prepare to move. In the midst of the confusion, a plant that had been in our family for years was stashed inside of an open truck. By the time we arrived at our destination, this poor plant looked like it had been through a war. Its leaves were shredded, and it drooped horribly, but my mother didn’t have the heart to throw it away. Instead, she gave it to me, hoping I could nurse it back to health.

My husband and I lived about two hours away from where the rest of my family would be residing for a while. After we helped get everyone settled, we returned to our home with our infant son. The plant I had been given was placed in a corner and pretty much forgotten.
This plant was at least as old as I was. It had been given to my parents when I was very young. A dracaena palm tree, it tended to grow quite lush and tall. When I inherited the plant, it was shorter from a recent pruning, and in a dilapidated state compliments of the move. It resembled what I felt like on the inside of my heart.

I kept it in a distant corner, where I didn’t have to look at it very often. I watered it when I watered my other plants, but I didn’t give it any special attention. Then one day, an observant friend looked at that plant, and then at me. “Why aren’t you giving that plant a chance to access any light?” she asked. Though I had given it water, no light could shine on its leaves, the very thing that would help it thrive. It had tried to survive, but now it was dying—the leaves had yellowed, and I wasn’t sure I could save it.That’s when it dawned on me that I had been secretly hoping the reminder of my dad’s demise would fade away. I felt a bit ashamed of myself. Had I been wallowing in self-pity so much that I was neglecting things of importance? 

Struck by the symbolism of that small tree, I pulled it out of the corner and trimmed off the dead leaves. I found a new place for it in the bright sunshine and gave it the attention it required. Within a couple of weeks, it began showing new signs of life and started to flourish. Giving it the nourishment it needed gave it the strength to survive its traumatic ordeal. I was so touched by all of this that I wrote a poem about it:

It was kept in a darkened corner
Where light and warmth could not penetrate
A reminder of all that had gone before
Slowly, green faded into yellow
Then brown
At times it was pruned
But nurturing was limited
Gradually it slipped into partiality
Until one day
A chance beam of light
Dared glimmer on the withered leaves
Struggling through a forest of night
Reaching through leaves, stem, and decaying roots
It had been forgotten--this beacon from the past
Stored for a time
When strength could absorb
The offering of light
Awakening joy--pain--happiness--and sorrow
New life passing from roots to stem to leaves
Rebirth from the darkened past
Brought it forth into light
Where brown embraced yellow
Then green
Leaves reaching now beyond the rooted pain
Of mortal existence
Toward the hope of light
And truth
Green with the knowledge
Of warmer days.
Cheri J. Crane

As you may have guessed, this small tree was symbolic of the healing journey I endured following my father’s suicide. It still exists, taller now than it has been in years. It is a reminder  that despite the heartaches of this life, we can go forward and flourish, with the right nourishment. It is indeed those small and simple things that help us to endure challenging days: prayer, studying the scriptures, church and temple attendance, all of those items that nurture our spirit. When we neglect those things, we tend to wither. And currently, we live in a time when we each need to be as strong as we can possibly be as the adversary steps up his assault on all that is good. We can survive anything, as long as the gospel light shines within our hearts. It is that light that gives us the hope to face each day, knowing it will all be worth it in the end.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Review of Jennie's New Book

Julie Bellon reviewed my new book By The  River for Meridian Magazine today.  I thought I would share it with all of you:
Jennie Hansen fans have been anxiously awaiting her new release and By the River does not disappoint. Kira Paxton is a woman small of stature, but big in heart. She wants to fall in love, be independent from her smothering family, and live a full life. All of those dreams are set on a collision course, however, after she makes the grisly discovery of a young woman’s body near her running trail. 
Her screams bring Ford Kettering to the scene of the crime and from that moment on he tries to help Kira heal from her horrifying experience. She could fall in love with him, but when the young victim’s identity is released, Ford is listed as a person of interest because he was her high school teacher.  The budding relationship between Ford and Kira is a strong pull throughout the story, and readers will enjoy experiencing it with them through all the ups and downs.  Readers will also relate to Kira’s family problems as she tries to transition from the role of sheltered daughter to independent woman and the difficulties that come along with that.  When Kira’s condo is vandalized and an attempt is made on her life, she clings to independence, but also allows those around her to help keep her safe. From all appearances, Kira has become a loose end to the killer and, despite everyone’s best efforts, he is drawing closer. She will have to use all her wits to stay alive through this story that has more twists than a switchback road with hairpin turns at every corner.
By the River has all the shivers and thrills you’d expect from a Jennie Hansen suspense novel.  The reader is kept guessing until the very end who the killer is and if Kira will survive not only physically, but emotionally. Ford is a relatable character, fighting for his own innocence and for what he might have with Kira. He definitely lives up to the slogan, “Ford Tough.” The other “character” that is a standout is Jasper the dog. Jasper is a scene-stealer who will win your heart with his fondness for shoes, canals, and mischief of any kind, but who also proves dogs can be a man–or woman’s–best friend. This is a quick read because readers will not be able to put it down–and you’ll never look at running trails quite the same way again.
Jennie is an accomplished writer with over two dozen published novels to her name.  She writes in several different genres including romantic suspense, mystery, historical, and western and most of her titles can be found in LDS bookstores or on Kindle. 
By the River by Jennie Hansen published by Covenant Communications, softcover, $14.99, available on Kindle $10.49
Julie Coulter Bellon is the author of more than a dozen romantic suspense novels. Julie offers writing and publishing tips as well as her take on life on her blog You can also find out about all her upcoming projects at her website

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

So Much To Be Grateful For!

At the beginning of the year in my journal I entered something that I was grateful for that day. I never had to stop and think what my blessing had been - there were usually so many that I could record several.

In September I found a lump in my breast and was immediately rush through mammograms, biopsies, ultrasounds and ultimately surgery to remove the offending tumor. I was grateful I found it. I was grateful they removed it so quickly. I am grateful they were able to remove it all. I am everlastingly grateful it had not spread to my lymph nodes!

And I am so grateful for the outpouring of love and prayers I've had. I know they have been a major blessing to me through this. I have been calm and felt peace through the whole experience and as I have decided against chemo which my oncologist recommended, (though bless his heart he did not insist!!) and also against the pill - the magic bullet that was supposed to seek out and destroy any mutated cells that could turn cancerous. I feel I can pump up my immune system and let good food and other things I'm doing take care of those nasty little maverick cells.

My prognosis was a 35% chance of recurring cancer in 5-10 years if I don't have chemo and the pill. By the same token - I have a 66% chance of not having cancer recur. I choose to continue feeling really good and improve my diet and health so keep feeling this good. My husband wanted me to have the chemo - he wanted to have me around as long as he is here. But he admitted that he would not have chemo if they found cancer in him. (Double standard here??) :) 

I'm so grateful for the information everyone is sharing as to what they have done and what works for them. I'm grateful there are many out there that believe as I do - that chemo can kill every bit as soon as cancer! And it sounds to me as if it is more painful than the cancer itself!

I'm grateful for every day that I have been given on this earth and especially for a loving supportive family. And I'm grateful for a loving Father in Heaven who hears and answers prayers. Does it get better than that??

Monday, October 26, 2015

An Attitude of Gratitude

I've been thinking a lot about a distant ancestor of mine lately. Her name is Elizabeth, and she's one of my heroes. (Heroines?) When she was in her teens, her parents decided to journey to a new country, seeking religious freedom.So they boarded a ship along with others who shared similar beliefs and braved sailing across the ocean. Along the way, there were a few adventures--like the time a nasty storm threatened all of their lives, and Elizabeth's future husband was swept off the ship. Luckily, John managed to grab hold of a lanyard rope that were hanging off the back of the ship, and eventually someone noticed and pulled him to safety. We often refer to Grandpa John as the first water skier of the family, but I digress.

Finally, after weeks at sea, this little band of courageous men and women arrived in the harbor of what would become the famed Plymouth colony. They left the ship (The Mayflower) in December of the year 1620. It was a difficult time. They began this arduous journey with 102 fellow passengers. One died during the voyage, four more died while exploring a harbor (Provincetown), and one was born in that same harbor. Ninety-nine people settled the Plymouth Colony in 1620. It was a severe winter and supplies were limited. Nearly half of the residents perished due to disease and lack of food and medicine, not to mention the meager shelters that were shared during those first months. Among those who died were Elizabeth's parents, John and Joan Tilley. By the time another ship (The Fortune) arrived during December of 1621, only 52  residents had managed to survive.

A nearby tribe of Wampanoags saved the day. Taking pity on the surviving settlers, these friendly Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to plant crops in the area. They planted corn, barley, and peas using fish (herring) to fertilize the tender plants. They became expert hunters and fishers, eating a majority of their meals from the sea, learning newfound skills from their native brothers. To celebrate their survival and to thank their God, and the Wampanoags who had helped them, they decided to hold a feast. This first Thanksgiving took place in the fall of 1621 and the following paragraph, written by Edward Winslow, one of the surviving Pilgrims, captures the excitement of this event:

"Our harvest being gotten in, our Governour sent foure men on fowling, that so we might after a more special manner rejoyce together, after we had gathered the fruit of our labors . . . many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest King Massasoyt, with some nintie men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deere, which they brought to the Plantation and bestowed upon our Governour . . . And although it be not alwayes so plentiful, as it was at this time with us, yet by the goodnesse of God, we are so farre from want, that we often wish you partakers of our plentie."
("Plymouth Colony; Its History & People 1620-1691," Eugene Aubrey Stratton, pp. 24-25)

Though the hardships weren't over for this tiny colony, they still appreciated the great blessings that had been bestowed upon them, and they were quick to express gratitude. Their example is one we need during this current time of challenges. Sometimes we get so caught up in our busy lives and the trials we're enduring, that we forget the tremendous blessings that are also taking place. And it makes me very sad to venture into stores and notice that Halloween tends to merge into Christmas. Thanksgiving is often overlooked. To me, Thanksgiving is a holiday that needs more of the limelight. I think it's important to remember what it signifies and to reflect on those who paved the way for us to enjoy precious freedoms.

Elizabeth Tilley was one of those brave Pilgrims who managed to survive. She was in attendance at the first Thanksgiving, along with her future spouse, John Howland. They eventually married and had a massive posterity. Our family line descends through their daughter, Hope. I find that name inspiring and appropriate. It's a reminder to me that despite darkened times, there is always hope. Always!!!

Monday, October 12, 2015


The first weekend of October was a time of spiritual refreshment for me and many others. It was Conference weekend for the LDS Church. Some were fortunate enough to attend these inspiring sessions in person. Most of us viewed the proceedings in the comfort of our homes via TV or radio or Internet broadcasts. I was part of that latter group. A handful of family members gathered at my home to watch the four sessions on TV. We listened carefully as leaders in our church delivered heartfelt words of encouragement and counsel.

I've made it a habit to take notes during these talks, to record thoughts that pop into my head, and to write down the main ideas that surface for me. Later on I usually go back and highlight the things that touched my heart the most. Here are a few of the things I recorded during this most recent Conference: (this includes the General Women's Broadcast)

"Do more than just exist!"

"Don't give up! Believe in good things to come!"

"Our divine nature is a gift from our Heavenly Father."

"Pray to avoid temptation. Avoid those things that will drag us down."

"This is the time to prepare to meet God. Remember most of our blessings will take place in the '3rd act'."

"Remember the love our Father in heaven and Savior has for each one of us."

"Our trials may well qualify us for eternal blessings."

"Love one another. See the beauty in each other."

"In the midst of despair, have valiant hearts!"

"Our Savior sanctified the world. He has marked the path and  led the way. Follow Him."

"Serve each other with love and compassion."

"Family is the very heart of salvation."

"In the strength of the Lord we can do all things."

"Focus on the miracles and wonders of life to find happiness despite trials."

"Faith leads to hope--both will lead to confidence that one day, all things will make sense."

"Notice the good things. Avoid self-pity."

"Serve others--forget our sorrow in helping others."

"Don't chase after shadows!"

"Simplify! Focus on what's important!"

"Have a willing heart and a desire to believe."

"If we will be obedient, we can stay the course through troubled water."

"Gospel truths offer comfort and assurance during trials."

"We find true joy in living a Christ-centered life."

"If you do your best, it will all work out."

"The Holy Ghost makes a perfect traveling companion."

"Count blessings instead of challenges."

"Live faithful. All blessings will be restored."

"Be willing to forgive. Seek the good in others. Do not be offended, nor offend others."

"Choices matter."

"Never deliberately fly into a thunderstorm."

"We marry potential--not perfection."

"Maternal love is divine."

"We have only to ask for the Savior's help."

"Let your light shine--we can light the way for others."

"Bring hope to the hopeless. Help those in need."

"Radiate the light of Christ."

"Fear and faith can't exist at the same time."

"The Lord will qualify who He calls."

"To effectively serve others, see them through Heavenly Father's eyes."

"Comfort those who are struggling."

"We need women of discernment. Make important things happen because of faith."

"It's not always easy or convenient to stand up for Christ."

"We need a constant influence of truth."

"Ponderize--write a favorite scripture on your heart and mind."

"Don't just go through the motions."

"Trust the whisperings of the Spirit."

"Healing takes place on both sides of the veil."

"The light of Jesus Christ will shine through the darkness."

"Be faithful despite challenges. We all go through tests."

"When you cannot do what you've always done, focus on what is most important."

"Physical weakness can enhance spiritual strength."

"Cast out negative feelings of anger and spite . . . forgive all men."

These are just a few of the thoughts and notes I jotted down. I plan to reflect on them quite often in the days ahead. Let's face it--we live in a challenging time. What a comfort it is to know that we have inspired men and women at the helm to help us find our way.

Monday, September 28, 2015

And Let It Begin With Me . . .

Last week I witnessed something wonderful, quite by chance. It was one of those days when my body tries to show me who's boss (compliments of an arthritis flare) and I needed to take a brief time out to recuperate. So I relaxed on the couch and turned on the TV. I then sat transfixed as I witnessed a historical moment. Most of us know that Pope Francis was visiting the United States this past week. I happened to tune in just in time to watch his visit to the Twin Towers Memorial and Museum.

Representatives from several different religions had gathered together to welcome the Pope, and to share sincere pleas for peace and understanding among religions and races. It was one of the most touching things I had watched all week. At the end of this inspiring program, a group of students from varied backgrounds, joined in singing the song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth." It was all I could do to keep my emotions intact. The news commentators who were narrating this event were visibly touched. One of them remarked that this was quite  possibly the most important gathering during the Pope's historical visit to our country.

I've found myself reflecting on that event quite often the past weekend. It was an amazing effort to push aside differences and reach out in a way that seldom happens these days. I have pondered all of the good that could be accomplished if we all put aside our judgmental prejudices to help each other. What an amazing world it would be!

These days the news stories are filled with such negativity and violence. It was a refreshing change to see such an inspiring gathering where people were making a huge plea for peace.

We can make a difference in our own realms. It could be as simple as having patience while waiting in a long line in a store, and not yelling at the clerk over something silly that is usually out of his or her control. We can be more tolerant as we drive on busy highways or slow country roads. Instead of erupting in rage over an imagined infraction, swallow some pride and be the one who makes an effort to be kind and understanding.

When you see someone struggling, take a few minutes out of your busy life to offer assistance. It could be something simple, like holding open a door, or helping an overwhelmed young mother with her children. If someone says something rude to you, smile in return. (I know, this is a hard thing, but it truly is the simple efforts that will make a difference.) Count to ten before blowing a gasket. Do something thoughtful for someone else without expecting anything in return. So on and so forth. In short, ponder the popular saying, "What would Jesus do?"

And in quiet moments, reflect on the lyrics to this song:

Let There Be Peace on Earth 
(Jill Jackson/Mark Miller

 Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me.
Let there be peace on earth
The peace that was meant to be.
With God as our father
Brothers all are we.
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.
With every step i take
Let this be my solemn vow.
To take each moment
And live each moment
With peace eternally.
Let there be peace on earth,
And let it begin with me.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

More on Adversity

I'll follow Cheri's topic with some insights of my own since I'm undergoing another of those "bumps-in-the-road" that are supposed to be for our good and development. I've been diagnosed with breast cancer and will have a mastectomy next week. I wanted to keep it a secret and not tell anyone and just go about my life and get it over with and heal, but my husband gave me a blessing the night after I discovered the huge lump and said it would be for the good of others. When he told my bishop about it, my bishop counseled me to tell everyone so it would remind them to make sure they were okay. And, he said, you need to let people pray for you.

I have had an incredible outpouring of love and prayers from people. That makes me very happy. What makes me even more happy is that several people have said they immediately scheduled a long-overdue mammogram. My doctor's wife is a breast cancer survivor and has two mammograms per year, but for some reason, she didn't have one last year - or yet this year. When she read my facebook post, she realized it had been awhile and scheduled one. My doctor said he has had several people we both know call and make appointments since my post. So apparently it is working!

A friend called me to say "It's not fair! You of all people should not be having this problem! You have spent your life helping people." That shocked me. It also made me sad. Why would she deprive me of a "refining fire" experience? I'm sure it was just a knee-jerk reaction - a denial that bad things can and do happen to good people all the time! No one is immune.

I love Neal A. Maxwell and have been reading his insights into adversity. I'll never forget when he was in the hospital dying of cancer and suffering horrible pain, he said later he had come to know the Holy Ghost intimately as that was his only companion and comfort through the long dark hours of pain-filled nights.

I especially liked this quote: "God said He would structure mortality to be a proving and testing experience (see Abraham 3:25; Mosiah 23:21). Clearly He has kept His promise and has carried out His divine intent. Therefore adversity must be part of the pattern rather than always an aberration. Therefore even our fiery trials, as Pete said, should not be thought of as being "some strange thing" (1 Peter 4:12). Hence throughout the varying lengths of our lives there is rolling relevance contained in the counsel to endure it well." (Neal A. Maxwell Quote Book)

So many of you have had excruciating trials that leave me awed and amazed. My hope is that I can follow your worthy example and come out on the other side of this surgery and it's aftermath with the grace and courage you have shown. Thanks for your wonderful examples.