Have you ever felt like you were being called to do something? I mean, like someone or something was tapping you on the shoulder as if to say, “Hello…you know how you’re doing something already? Yeah, stop. Do something else.” That has happened to me exactly twice in my life.
Tap Number One
The first time was when I was diagnosed with cancer. I was 26. I went to see an ENT (Ear, nose, and throat) doctor on the recommendation of my friend’s dad, Ralph. Oh, Ralphie. I miss that big guy. At the time, doctors had told him that he was in the late stages of throat cancer. Worst news ever. I saw him at my sister’s wedding, and I mentioned that I felt a lump on the side of my neck but had already seen two different doctors who told me not to worry. “Probably just a swollen lymph node,” they’d said. But Ralphie convinced me I should go see someone else, so I scheduled the appointment. Luckily, my mom went with me.
Being told I had cancer only a few years after a successful collegiate sports career was pretty much the last thing I ever expected. Even more surprising was what the doctor said after my exam: “I’m confident I know what this is. Can we schedule you for a biopsy? What are you doing tomorrow?”
Tomorrow? Are you serious? We need to do this tomorrow? My thoughts raced. It must be really bad if he wants me to come in so soon. Thank God my mom is here.
When I found all this out, I was working in finance, which is pretty ridiculous because I have always considered myself a writer. I enjoyed writing even as a young child, and it is kind of strange that I ended up in a job that required me to type a lot but write very little. Thinking about the stresses of the day to day in comparison to this cancer business seemed silly now. If it really is cancer, then what am I doing with my precious time?
A few days after my ENT appointment, I had that biopsy. He was right. It was cancer. Aggressive variant metastatic thyroid cancer. Sounds fancy, I know. Two weeks later, I would have a nine-hour surgery at UCLA to remove it. All of it. And it was everywhere: neck, chest, and the lower part of my head and moving up my brain stem.
While the news of my sickness was a shock early on, the real terror didn’t set in until right before my big surgery. Those days were filled with surgery consults and moving my belongings back into my parents’ house; I wouldn’t be able to work, drive, or do much of anything besides go to physical therapy. Once my affairs were in order and the op date was set, the fear began to move, slowly creeping its way into my brain.
There’s a good word to describe what happened next, and that word is LOST. I lost it. I remember exactly where I was, too. I was having dinner with a friend, and all of a sudden this wave of terror came over me. I mean terror. I started to panic. How can my life be over?
I lost a lot. I lost my mind. I lost my nerve. I started to cry, and then I lost the ability to stop. My friend did her best to comfort me. My breakdown was complete and terrifying, a plunge into the purest form of dread that could ever be experienced by one person. How could this be “it” and there was nothing else?
My friend and I walked home from my meltdown, and we talked the whole way. I am so thankful for that conversation and that she knew exactly what I needed to hear in that moment. I realize now that God was hard at work that night preparing me for the tomorrow that would come.
In the months post-op, I had a lot of time to think. Why in the world would I go back to my job? It was clear that I should be doing something that was truer to my God-given talents and gifts. I realized shortly after that God was calling me to teach. I don’t know why I listened to Him. Looking back, I can recall a lot of times when God tried to get my attention and set me on the right path. I never listened to His voice or stopped to evaluate the signs because, in my mind, I knew exactly what I was doing and I didn’t need to consult Him. This time, I listened. I was in a place to listen, so I listened. I became a teacher and I know with all my heart that this is one of the special assignments God chose just for me.
Tap Number Two
A few years later, that tap was at it again. I was newly married–which I still think is funny because after all of my medical issues, I was sure that marriage would be a really dumb idea. I started dating my husband about two years after my first surgery, and I tried to keep him at arm’s length. Actually, I spent a lot of time in those early months trying to convince him that pursuing a relationship was a colossal waste of his time. After all, what was the point? I wasn’t going to live that long. He just kept saying, “I have big plans for us.”
So, just married and getting used to the whole “You aren’t dying just yet so it’s alright to be loved by someone” thing, we were driving home from church and talking about what to buy our niece Hannah for her birthday. We didn’t want to just buy her another random toy; we wanted to give her something meaningful, something special. I got an idea.
“Babe, what if we rewrote the story of Hannah from the Bible and made Hannah her own personalized book? Then, she could learn about this great Godly woman who shares her name.” Brent thought it sounded interesting. I wrote out a simplified version of the story. Brent illustrated the cover. We worked for a few weeks. Then we took the book to Kinko’s and had it put together.
We gave Hannah the book. She was six at the time. She held it in her hands, and I explained that we made her a storybook about Hannah from the Bible. She looked at me. “I didn’t even know there was a Hannah in the Bible.”
Huh. Well that was strange. . Hannah and her sister, Abby went to Sunday school and Awana. They attended church regularly. Why didn’t she know about this woman in the Bible?
I mean, until I actually rewrote the story for her, I’ll admit that I didn’t know the story all that well either. I had done a few women’s studies here and there, and I was introduced to some stories of women that way. I definitely didn’t learn about them growing up, but shouldn’t Hannah know about them by now? Was this strange to anyone else?
We started to ask around and it turned out that most girls we talked to couldn’t name any women in the Bible. I mean, besides Eve. And Mary, Jesus’ mom. Not the other Mary.
I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It wasn’t that these girls couldn’t name the women in the Bible.
It was that they could name every one of the Disney Princesses.
Let me stop right here and make the following declaration: I am NOT knocking Disney. They have created some amazing, gorgeous stories that have won the hearts and minds of girls everywhere.
But the thought lingered. Wouldn’t it be great if girls today were just as excited about biblical women as they are about Ariel, Aurora, and Belle?
Belle. From the Latin “bellus” meaning beautiful. That’s it! What if we could create a brand that was just as fun and entertaining and “cool” as the Princesses but that was based on female heroes of the Bible? That would be something. That would be everything.
We started working on our first manuscript, and three years later Bible Belles was born.
* * * * *
What’s the point, you ask? Well, the point is that God is trying to get your attention. It could be about something that seems small, simple, or even unimportant. Pay attention. Looking back, God tried to get my attention tons of times. I was just too busy “knowing best” to listen or care about what His plans were. In my case, He got my attention in a big way with that first tap. Some might think that part of my story is sad, but I can honestly say that cancer has been one of the single most precious and cherished blessings of my life. Through it, God drew me closer to Him and I found out about a special assignment He chose just for me. That first tap softened my heart enough to pursue the second calling He placed on my life. He never stopped trying to get my attention. He tapped me, twice, and He’s tapping you. All you have to do is turn around.