Author Spotlight: Janet Williamson
We are pleased to introduce author Janet Williamson, who recently published God of the Valleys: Mysteries along Life’s Journey . The book is now available through the Word Alive Press Bookstore, and everywhere fine Christian books are sold. We asked Janet to share a little bit about her writing and how this project came to be, but first, a little bit about the book.
Janet Williamson, along with her children Tanya and Eric, tell their stories of God’s loving presence, amazing grace, enduring faithfulness, and immeasurable peace that is greater than the depths of suffering. As students of God in the classroom of life, on a journey inundated with mysteries about suffering, this family learned to embrace each moment, fully engaged in life, while discovering nuggets of joy woven into the fabric of suffering. God’s strength and unfailing love is intertwined in their lives through Scripture, prayer, praise, church support, and friends. They have learned to depend upon God to see them through to the end.
Q: What is the book about?
A: God of the Valleys: Mysteries along Life’s Journey tells our family’s stories of trusting God through struggles with cancer. Even when understanding eludes us, God’s love, grace, peace, and joy overflows in both good and challenging times. The story is told from the point of view of each family member as each person experiences God’s activity through many sources, including the Scriptures, prayers, church, circumstances, and relationships.
Q: Can you tell us why you wrote this book?
A: My children asked me to write their stories of God’s loving faithfulness. Often, we will struggle with mysteries and lack understanding when life unfolds in unexpected ways. With God’s help and guidance, we made adjustments in order to live fully and to help others on their paths of life.
In our family, cancer became a frequent challenge, and we learned that God provided avenues to stay close to Him through, prayer, worship, and encouragement from Scripture. The church and relationships helped us to focus on His enduring grace and peace. Even when the mysteries surrounding health resulted in a lack of understanding, God directed our path back to trusting Him (Proverbs 3:5–6). When we are in the valley of suffering, God is in the valley with us.
Q: How did your journey through the dark valley of multiple childhood cancers and your own way of processing grief affect your faith when so many people become angry at God and even turn away from their faith during similar circumstances?
A: When cancer struck, we would sprint to God and to our church family for prayer support. Scripture helps me to process my grief.
After my children died, I prayed that God would reveal Himself to me in ways that I could understand. Philippians 3:10 comforted me. I had a fellowship of sharing in the suffering of Christ even unto death. Even when I couldn’t understand, God understood—and that strengthened my faith.
When my children died, I prayed and asked God if I would ever again pray for healing for others. God comforted and healed my broken heart and reminded me of the mysteries connected with healing, and the many times I had prayed for my children and they had been healed. Proverbs 3:5–6 cautions me to not lean on my own understanding around why some are healed while others are not.
Q: Why did you choose to raise your children purposefully?
A: I believe that everything that happens in life is purposeful, and God can take the events that Satan intends for harm and turn them into something good to help others. The challenges and struggles serve as a motivation to press into God deeper for His sustaining, loving grace and to find His purpose.
Although I believed my children would recover when diagnosed with cancer, there was a muted acceptance that life was fragile, and we had no guarantees for tomorrow. Therefore, it was pivotal to say, do, and become all that we could be in the moment, with no looking back and no regrets.
God only promises us the present, and by looking too far into the future we can miss the blessing that is today. My children and I learned to make plans, submit them to God, and live for today (Matthew 6:34).
Q: Was there ever a time in your life when you thought about walking away from God? Did your children ever want to walk away from God or become angry with God because of all the suffering they went through?
A: We were too occupied with running to God to entertain walking away. There was nowhere to go apart from God.
Early in my Christian commitment, I vowed to walk with God no matter the cost. My children adopted that vow too, and over their lifetime they revisited their commitment.
As a family, we distinguished between God’s blessings and love for us and the devil’s attacks on their health. Our anger was directed at the enemy of our souls in prayerful spiritual warfare.
We learned to be thankful to God for the little things and the gifts we received. We recognize that every good and perfect gift came from God (James 1:17) and every negative attack on their health came from the devil. I would pray that God would grant us grace to choose Him, and to love Him, no matter the suffering.
Q: Without a partner to share the parenting load, how did you balance suffering, hospitalization, and surgeries with having fun while raising your children?
A: Jesus partnered with me to share the load and He carried the heaviest portions of my burdens. I prayed frequently for wisdom, grace, humility, and every need that would arise. God sent people into our lives to shower us with joy, supportive encouragement, and guidance. Every good thing that happened I attributed to God’s intervention.
There was so much goodness. My children and I loved to laugh, and we found humour in very simple daily occurrences. With a good sense of humour, my son Eric led the way to appreciate the bright side of life. Eric was a master at optimism, and he attributed this as a gift from God. Even when the children were hospitalized, their joy and laughter often overflowed through the little things.
Fortunately, my children didn’t go through a stage of rebellion and their zest for life manifested in volunteer work. They lived every day fully engaged in life, mindful that we had no guarantees for tomorrow.
Q: What prompted you to keep such detailed journals about your life and your children’s lives?
A: I kept detailed journals because it was my outlet and another lifeline to God. I meticulously recorded many facets of events, significant words, dates, and people so I would always remember. As a single mother, I talked to God frequently and shared my fears, concerns, joy, and desires with the Lord through my journals.
Q: What is one of your most treasured memories with your children? What would you say was your main parenting practice that helped your children develop a relationship with God at an early age?
A: My most treasured memory was a family vacation when we drove to British Columbia for Expo ‘86. We shared fun, adventure, spontaneity, and laughter at the silliest things, especially since I was directionally challenged and made numerous driving errors.
From the outset, as a single parent, I prayed for God’s direction to raise my children to know Him intimately. We prioritized Family Altar, a time together when we sang worship songs, prayed aloud, and read the Bible. We included a time of talking about the meaning and application of Scripture, focused on thankfulness, and then prayed for others and ourselves.
We loved loud music, so praise and worship choruses permeated our home. Another practice was readying ourselves to pray about the mundane and to repent and forgive others and ourselves.
Q: During this journey, what was the most profound revelation from God that enabled you to carry on, and how were you able to carry on when the outcome wasn’t what you had trusted God for?
A: The most profound revelation from God was that He loved my children and me unconditionally and was faithful even when I couldn’t understand the events in my life and the suffering my children endured. I had trusted and believed with all my heart that God would intervene and keep my children from death, but they died. In my grief, I lamented that my testimony of God’s faithfulness had also died. I was wrong. I had to live long enough to see the extent to which God was faithful in the years to come to keep me in His love and grace and continue to show Himself as a loving and faithful Father.
Q: Why did you delay so many years before writing this book, and what kept you from writing in those early years immediately after your children’s deaths?
A: Following my children’s deaths, I was on a grief journey. I surrounded myself with busyness, taking on enormous ministry commitments at a different church, in addition to studies at university and teaching full-time. I was so busy running away from my grief and moving forward that I had no time to look back. During those times when I tried to read my past journals, I found it challenging to concentrate on writing my story as a book. It was years after my children’s deaths that I stepped off the treadmill of busyness, took a leave of absence from teaching, and truly began to process my grief deeply with God.
Q: Do you have any final thoughts?
A: We all have a testimony of God’s loving, faithful presence in our lives during dire circumstances. We can use that testimony to encourage one another to cling to God in the challenging seasons of life when we walk through the deep valleys. Every circumstance in life is an opportunity to draw nearer to God and to give Him glory.
Find and follow Janet on Twitter: #Janet Williamson