Shannon Taylor Vannatter's headshot

Lately, my creativity has been at a standstill. It started in March 2019 when I rushed my husband to the ER with severe abdominal pain. My brain stopped when the doctor said cancer in his intestine and liver.

A few days later, they removed a golf-ball sized tumor and re-sectioned his small intestine. The doctor said it was a slow growing cancer and patients with this type usually had a good prognosis. Our brains still snagged on cancer. 

Two months later, we saw a specialist. When he said slow-growing cancer and good prognosis, we finally started believing it. Especially when he said with treatment, Grant could live twenty or thirty years and this disease wouldn’t cut short our happily-ever-after. Grant was fifty-six, when this started, so that sounds good to us. 

We also learned Grant’s liver function is fine. The doctor set up a treatment plan. Carcinoid cancer doesn’t respond to chemo. Instead, Grant gets a monthly shot to keep the cancer from growing or spreading. The shots cause stomach bloating and upset for a few days, but the side effects are mild.

They’ve done two radiation treatments through his blood veins. This zaps the spots on his liver without doing any tissue or organ damage. After his last procedure, one spot was gone, and the others had shrunk forty to sixty percent. Our finances are tanked, but he’s worth it.

But in the beginning of all this, I had just signed a three-book contract, with a completed manuscript due every four months. Normally, that timeline is workable for me. But I lost two months, while we were in a fog after Grant’s surgery. By the time we saw his cancer doctor, I had two months to write a book. 

Even though I was convinced Grant would be okay, I couldn’t have cared less about my fictional characters. Their manufactured problems paled in comparison to what was happening in real-life. I considered asking for an extension on my deadlines, but I had a new editor. I didn’t want to begin our relationship with messing up her editorial schedule.

So I prayed. And wrote the book. I practiced BICHOK—bottom in chair, hands on keyboard. And I wrote. Even though I didn’t want to. I forced that book onto the page and somewhere, in the midst of it, I started caring about my characters again. I turned the manuscript in on time and started the next one.

Woman typing

But the entire series was forced. Once the editorial process was complete on each title and I read the proofs, I was amazed each had turned into a not half-bad book. Definitely a God thing. 

By the end of that series, I didn’t want to write. I needed a break. My writer buddy asked if I’d be interested in being an editor if she bought a Christian publishing company. During my writing career, I’d thought I’d enjoy being an editor, so I jumped. 

I signed on as part-owner, acquisitions, and content editor for Scrivenings Press. In the months before my new job began, I finished up the final editorial process of the last book in my forced series, took some online editorial classes, and wrote a proposal for a new series. I guess my proposal was forced too. It got rejected. I dove into my new editing job. It was chaotic at first, but after a few months I fell into a rhythm. But even with a schedule worked out, I realized I couldn’t write if I wanted to. There simply wasn’t time.

And I was okay with that, at first. The only thing I really wanted to do in my writing career was get a longer book published. One I’d written years ago. My agent advised it was a bad time to break into longer length books, so it languished in my computer. I could publish it with Scrivenings, but that felt like cheating. 

I agreed to write a novella for a collection with four other Scrivening’s authors and checked with my agent. Our contract was all inclusive, so I’d basically have to pay her for writing for my own company. We mutually agreed to go our separate ways. I was agentless with no time to write but contracted to write a novella. Since it was only eighteen thousand words, I figured I could carve out the time.

And then I found out I had thyroid cancer. It hadn’t spread, so I had half my thyroid removed. With no further treatment. We were thankful, but my energy tanked. My ability to focus disintegrated. Meanwhile, I had three books a month to edit. Submissions to accept or reject. And a novella to write. I couldn’t keep up. Even after the doctor put me on daily medication. My focus got better, but my energy didn’t. 

About that time, a friend at church asked when my next book would come out. I told her about the novella and that my usual publisher had rejected my proposal, that I felt like a dry well and didn’t even have an agent. 

Her: “I think you should put Waverly and Ron together.” 

Me: (Two side characters from that last forced book? They had nothing in common.) “Why?”

Her: “Because they’re both city.” 

She was right. Once she put the idea in my head, Waverly and Ron’s story captured my imagination. I don’t think I heard the sermon that Sunday. It welled up inside—I want to write.

I talked to my friend/business partner. She understood how overwhelmed I felt and gave me an out. I’m no longer part owner. I acquire and do content edits on Contemporary Romance and Women’s Fiction titles, genres I know inside and out. Within days, she’d found other editors to take up my slack. This majorly eased my workload. And just in time for a major health crisis with my dad. I was able to push everything aside and be there for him and my mom. 

With my dad on the mend, I now have time to write and still get to discover new authors and help their words sing. It’s the best of both worlds. I’m in talks with a new agent willing to allow me to write for Scrivenings without her. I recently sent her my new proposal with Waverly and Ron and I’m currently revising my long book. 

And I’m determined to live Colossians 3:23 – And whatsoever ye do, do [it] heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

Have you ever felt like a dry well? How did God get you through it?

Get to Know Shannon

Award winning author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter writes contemporary Christian cowboy romance and has over a dozen published titles. A romance reader since her teens, she hopes to entertain Christian women and plant seeds in the non-believer’s heart as she demonstrates that love doesn’t conquer all—Jesus does. 

She gleans fodder for her fiction in rural Arkansas where she spent her teenage summers working the concession stand with her rodeo announcing dad and married a Texan who morphed into a pastor. Shannon is Scrivenings Press Acquisitions/Content Editor. In her spare time, she loves hanging out with her husband and son, flea marketing, and doing craft projects.Connect with her: Shannon’s WebsiteShannon’s Bookbub. Sign up for her Newsletter to get a free e-book, recipes, behind the scenes info, & enter exclusive giveaways: Shannon’s Newsletter

Check Out Her Latest Release Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

Cover image for Candy Cane Wishes and Saltwater Dreams

By Amy Anguish, Hope Toler Dougherty, Linda Fulkerson, Regina Rudd Merrick and Shannon Taylor Vannatter

Mistletoe Make-believe by Amy Anguish – Charlie Hill’s family thinks his daughter Hailey needs a mom–to the point they won’t get off his back until he finds her one. Desperate to be free from their nagging, he asks a stranger to pretend she’s his girlfriend during the holidays. When romance author Samantha Arwine takes a working vacation to St. Simons Island over Christmas, she never dreamed she’d be involved in a real-life romance. Are the sparks between her and Charlie real? Or is her imagination over-acting … again?

A Hatteras Surprise by Hope Toler Dougherty – Ginny Stowe spent years tending a childhood hurt that dictated her college study and work. Can time with an island visitor with ties to her past heal lingering wounds and lead her toward a happy Christmas … and more? Ben Daniels intends to hire a new branch manager for a Hatteras Island bank, then hurry back to his promotion and Christmas in Charlotte. Spending time with a beautiful local, however, might force him to adjust his sails.

A Pennie for Your Thoughts by Linda Fulkerson – When the Lakeshore Homeowner’s Association threatens to condemn the cabin Pennie Vaughn inherited from her foster mother, her only hope of funding the needed repairs lies in winning a travel blog contest. Trouble is, Pennie never goes anywhere. Should she use the all-expenses paid Hawaiian vacation offered to her by her ex-fiancé? The trip that would have been their honeymoon?

Mr. Sandman by Regina Rudd Merrick – Events manager Taylor Fordham’s happily-ever-after was snatched from her, and she’s saying no to romance and Christmas. When she meets two new friends—the cute new chef at Pilot Oaks and a contributor on a sci-fi fan fiction website who enjoys debate—her resolve begins to waver. Just when she thinks she can loosen her grip on thoughts of love, a crisis pulls her back. There’s no way she’s going to risk her heart again.

Coastal Christmas by Shannon Taylor Vannatter – Lark Pendleton is banking on a high-society wedding to make her grandparent’s inn at Surfside Beach, Texas the venue to attract buyers. Tasked with sprucing up the inn, she hires Jace Wilder, whose heart she once broke. When the bride and groom turn out to be Lark’s high school nemesis and ex-boyfriend, she and Jace embark on a pretend romance to save the wedding. But when real feelings emerge, can they overcome past hurts?

Buy it HERE.

The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82 Faith Over Fear

At times, God’s call to love others persistently and sacrificially can feel confusing, especially if the individual we’re reaching out to behaves in unhealthy and hurtful ways. How can we love well, in a way that is healthy and emotionally and mentally safe? In this episode, Jennifer discusses ways our insecurities and past hurts can pose personal challenges, how God uses those challenges to create increased beauty within us, and the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in all our interactions. Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails here: https://bit.ly/3l1eAYs Resource mentioned: Becoming His Princess Bible Study Video Week One: https://bit.ly/3o5qHFG Group Discussion Questions: 1. What did you find most helpful in today’s episode and why? 2. How often do you pause to evaluate your reactions to particular people or situations? 3. In what ways have your insecurities or past hurts colored your perception during disagreements or relationally tense moments? 4. Consider someone with whom you often experience difficulty. How much of your ongoing issues might be exacerbated by unresolved hurts from your past? 5. When, if ever, do you find yourself getting sucked into someone else’s drama? 6. What are some ways you can avoid this? 7. How well do you “shake off” rejection? 8. What might healthy boundaries look like in your situation? 9. What do you find most challenging when it comes to establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries? 10. What is one action step you feel God is wanting you to take after having listened to this podcast episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/LinaDes
  1. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82
  2. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 1) – Ep. 81
  3. The Love That Casts Out Fear – Ep. 80
  4. Anchored in Christ When the Storms of Life Hit – Ep. 79
  5. The Courage to Grieve – Ep. 78

Fall lake image with quote on worry.

I struggle to remain focused on today, especially when I feel anxious. My mind can conjure too many what-if scenarios. Obviously all of my fretting doesn’t change whatever may lay ahead, but it does steal my energy and peace to handle my challenges well.

I so want to grow in this area, which is why I find my friend Victoria Mejias so inspiring. Whenever I encounter a woman of incredible faith, of consistent surrender, even during the hardest times, I pay attention. I watch, I listen, and I learn.

The devotion below is taken from a Bible plan written by Victoria for those struggling with chronic illness. Keep an eye out for her full Bible plan, releasing by Wholly Loved Ministries, soon!

Each Days Troubles

By Victoria Mejias

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). 

“Day one: trouble eating, swallowing and severe fatigue. Day two: trouble walking and balance issues…” I wrote in my journal as my physician had instructed.

As if I don’t have enough physical ailments, I’m also highly allergic to the contrast used in diagnostic tests used to determine whether or not I’m experiencing a flare up of my chronic illness. So I’m left with taking copious notes and jotting down my symptoms on a daily basis.

Living with multiple sclerosis makes it difficult to plan ahead. As a single mom, I force myself to press on despite how I feel physically, mentally or emotionally. But my diagnosis isn’t just chronic, it’s progressive. Meaning my worst day in one week could be my best moving forward.

It’s exhausting and enough to drive anyone to despair. But I remind myself as I read the Apostle Matthew’s account of Christ’s words, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34, NIV). Upon reading that, I’m reminded not to be weighed down by any given day’s hardships. 

Imagine Christ, knowing full well the agony that awaited Him, saying not to worry. He embraced His fate, a barbaric crucifixion for our sake, being secure of His future. 

Chronic illness is real. Mine, in particular, is degenerative. One look at my journal would illustrate that. And still, I can remind myself not to worry. Not because tomorrow will be painless. Just the opposite, it’ll serve up its own special blend of trouble. 

But, it simply doesn’t compare to the glory we’ll experience on the other side of our physical suffering. And we can find comfort in knowing our eternity with Him awaits.

Get to Know Victoria!

Victoria Mejias serves on the Wholly Loved Ministry team in numerous capacities, from board member to writer. She’s a graduate of the University of Nebraska – Omaha and holds a Certificate in Urban Ministries from the Dallas Theological Seminary’s Urban Ministry Institute.

Victoria Mejias's headshot

She is a former Pastor and has spoken at a variety of venues on matters of leadership, diversity, spirituality and faith– locally, nationally and internationally. Victoria is the recipient of two U.S. Congressional awards for her service, has two children, loves the Lord and reaching the lost. She enjoys travel, arts and culture and speaks very openly about her journey with Multiple Sclerosis. To learn more about her, visit Victoria online at www.victoriaelizabeth.com.

Here more of Victoria’s story on episode four of my Faith Over Fear podcast, which you can find HERE.

Listen to the latest episode, A Prayer Challenge to Help You Fight Anxiety, here:

The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82 Faith Over Fear

At times, God’s call to love others persistently and sacrificially can feel confusing, especially if the individual we’re reaching out to behaves in unhealthy and hurtful ways. How can we love well, in a way that is healthy and emotionally and mentally safe? In this episode, Jennifer discusses ways our insecurities and past hurts can pose personal challenges, how God uses those challenges to create increased beauty within us, and the importance of establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries in all our interactions. Find Jennifer: https://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com https://www.facebook.com/JenSlatte https://www.instagram.com/slatteryjennifer/ Find Wholly Loved, at: https://www.WhollyLoved.com Join the private Faith Over Fear Group Here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/442736966614671 Sign up to receive her 30-Day Fighting Fear emails here: https://bit.ly/3l1eAYs Resource mentioned: Becoming His Princess Bible Study Video Week One: https://bit.ly/3o5qHFG Group Discussion Questions: 1. What did you find most helpful in today’s episode and why? 2. How often do you pause to evaluate your reactions to particular people or situations? 3. In what ways have your insecurities or past hurts colored your perception during disagreements or relationally tense moments? 4. Consider someone with whom you often experience difficulty. How much of your ongoing issues might be exacerbated by unresolved hurts from your past? 5. When, if ever, do you find yourself getting sucked into someone else’s drama? 6. What are some ways you can avoid this? 7. How well do you “shake off” rejection? 8. What might healthy boundaries look like in your situation? 9. What do you find most challenging when it comes to establishing or maintaining healthy boundaries? 10. What is one action step you feel God is wanting you to take after having listened to this podcast episode? Episode Image Credit: Getty/LinaDes
  1. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 2) – Ep. 82
  2. The Courage to Love Those Who Are Hard to Love (Pt 1) – Ep. 81
  3. The Love That Casts Out Fear – Ep. 80
  4. Anchored in Christ When the Storms of Life Hit – Ep. 79
  5. The Courage to Grieve – Ep. 78

And, before you go, some fun news: Faith Over Fear will have three new hosts! My Wholly Loved sisters, Jodie Bailey, Shellie Arnold, and Tara Rye, will be joining me as cohosts, shifting the podcast under the Wholly Loved umbrella. More hosts mean more perspectives, more truth, and more fun! We’ll be launching, as a team, with a series we’re super excited about: Women of the Bible: Their challenges, hurts, what they might have feared, and how God met them with love and grace.