Thursday, February 12, 2009

Romancing the Authors Welcomes Novelists Stephen and Janet Bly!

Today at Words to Go, I’m pleased to welcome Stephen and Janet Bly, two novelists who also happen to be married. Stephen’s most recently released novel is The Land Tamers. I was discussing romance and marriage with them recently. In the midst of our conversation, I discovered that they were living a life rewritten by circumstances. I asked if they would mind sharing their story with us today and they graciously consented. Welcome Steve and Janet!

STEVE: We’re glad to be here!

JANET: Thanks, Patty!

PATTY: Why don’t you start by sharing the story of your trip to Paris and then how things began to seemingly crumble following that romantic trip?

STEVE: First, I’ll share this scripture that Janet and I trust in often:

“I have learned the secret of being content in any
and every situation, whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or want.” Philippians 4:12 NIV

STEVE: Saint Paul’s principle is a great model for economic stressors. But his attitude also works well for the changing seasons of marriage too. . .for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. Marriage, what we’ve called ‘the ultimate invasion of privacy,’ comes with a guarantee that you’ll experience both good and bad mixed together. That’s what we’ve realized through the precious privilege of our 45 years together.

PATTY: Why was it so important that you travel to Paris?

JANET: Paris has been a destination place for me ever since my years of studying French in high school and college.

STEVE: And I insisted that Rome was the city of my choice. So, we found a European tour that included both, plus Venice, Lucerne and London thrown in too.

JANET: Bussing along the French and Italian countrysides was magnifique.

STEVE: As it turned out, we celebrated Janet’s February birthday that year in Paris.
We stood that wintry day, snowflakes falling all around us, hand in hand at the Eiffel Tower, more romantic than we could have dreamed.

JANET: I thought it was the top of my birthdays we’d celebrated together.

STEVE: Most surprising, I discovered Paris to be my favorite tourist stop, too, even over the ancient ruins of Rome.

JANET: Then we went home. And that was when we got the news.

STEVE: Within two weeks after our return from gondola serenades and a heart stopping cable car ride up the Alps, we huddled in a tiny, sterile doctor’s exam room. We listened to the light banter in the reception room, a surreal sound as we waited for the biopsy report. We had discussed the possibility of the diagnosis, but nothing quite prepared us for the official announcement that stunned us: “Mr. Bly, you have an aggressive prostate cancer.”

JANET: We couldn’t breathe. We wouldn’t think past that harsh fact. These words threatened to suffocate us, consume us, shatter our peace, prick our faith. Cancer changed our outlook. It challenged our future together. It questioned our financial foundation. Sometimes life tosses a bomb like that. We were thankful we still had Paris.

PATTY: Shock is very debilitating. How did that news affect your relationship?

STEVE: In season, out of season, we’re striving to learn the secret of being content whatever the circumstances, whatever the reports are from each doctor visit and test taken. And we’ve fully enjoyed the months we’ve been given of reprieve between treatments.

JANET: This news intensified our already close relationship, making it dearer than ever in very nitty, gritty ways. Steve had to adjust in major ways. He went from physically and psychologically and sometimes emotionally taking care of me to now needing me to take care of him. This has been a difficult transition. But I’ve appreciated being able to do for Steve in ways he refused or didn’t seem to need before.

STEVE: I’ve even apologized for not allowing her to be on the giving end more in our relationship.

PATTY: If you don’t mind sharing, what other emotional walls have you hit with Steve’s diagnosis?

JANET: The news changed other aspects too. We don’t like traveling without the other as much as we used to, unless it’s unavoidable or the Lord gives us strong direction otherwise. Suddenly, every hour that we get to be together is a special gift, a treasure. Nothing’s taken for granted. Every touch is sweeter. The laughter and shared events seem brighter.

PATTY: That was very common for us right after we lost Jessica. We could not bear to be apart. When mortality stares you down, you begin to count every second in life as precious.
Since we’re discussing romance this Valentine’s week, when one spouse is struggling with health issues, what sort of advice can you give them about keeping romance alive when every day is a struggle?

STEVE: Follow your heart and step it up a notch from the norm of your practiced and sometimes routine years together. Be honest about how this altered state affects your view of your life together. What are you willing and able to be for each other? What’s off the table? Figure out little daily things that keep the home fires alive.

JANET: I’m determined to quickly forgive a perceived slight, a short retort because Steve’s worried or not feeling well. But sometimes I fail to respond with the patience I want. I’ve had to learn to shake it off and realize I’m no saint, even under these dire circumstances.

STEVE: I’ve been writing one sentence or one-word notes on heart post-its and sticking them on the bathroom mirror every night for Janet, so she knows I’m thinking about her, and she knows what I’m going through too. “I hurt today” keeps us connected as much as “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

PATTY: How wonderfully honest and straightforward to find loving solutions to the complications of illness.

JANET: I don’t press for details when I know Steve is struggling with a bad dream or an attack from the spiritual enemy. I pray daily for him and stay close, letting him know that he still seems desirable to her and that he’s close in her thoughts.

STEVE: I took up golf again, a sport I had mostly put aside since college days. This helped me both physically and mentally.

JANET: Even though I don’t join him on the links, I enjoy riding in the cart and it gives us another topic to discuss that majors on something he does well. When he feels good about himself, we can feel good about us too.

PATTY: You’re truly showing us all how to live life in a full partnership. What else brings those simple pleasures to your lives?

JANET: We watch romantic movies together, lately from the 1930s and 40s. We talk about the characters and how we relate or not, and what memories this brings up from our own dating and younger days together. This provides a wonderful relief from only discussing about aches and pains and lack of energy or old age.

PATTY: It sounds as if you’ve rewritten the way you look at life even how you communicate to each other.

STEVE: All the changing health-issue needs has given us new love languages for each other. Some days I need a back massage more than I need a kiss. But some of what is lost doesn’t have to be a barrier to intimacy. In fact, this can often reveal a desperate need for each other even more.

PATTY: So the physical barriers can be overcome because you’re both working it out together.

STEVE: There’s always a way to show love in ways that fill the needs, especially when you’re determined enough to bring it honestly to God in prayer and when you’re willing to talk to your partner about the gut-level stuff. This is true no matter what sort of physical and emotional changes happen.

PATTY: Steve and Janet Bly, your lives are a living testament to those who see pain as the end of life. What you’ve taught us here today is that suffering can also teach us how to live our lives in a manner that continues to glorify God and strengthen us. If souls grow through suffering, the two of you will cast very long shadows in eternity. I pray God ministers his healing touch on your lives. You are dearly appreciated for your honesty and authenticity her today on Words to Go.

Tomorrow a beloved and bestselling author will chat about the greatest romance of all time.
There are books to give away. Steve and Janet Bly, Karen Ball, myself, and tomorrow’s mystery guest will be giving away a virtual book bonanza tomorrow. Remember that each day of posting enters your name in the book give-away again.

Thank you for visiting us today with our very special friends, Steve and Janet Bly!