My Turkish husband and I were wandering through Istanbul, near Galata Tower, on a rainy spring day. We saw this lamp shop, a bright spot against the gray. Traditional Turkish lamps hung gracefully behind the shop’s window and spilled their rainbow lights onto the rainy sidewalk. This is one of my favorite photos of the fairy-tale land of Turkey, and I invite you to walk with me there.
In Alanya, Turkey, on the Mediterranean Sea, a castle rises atop cliffs as the sun shines through feathery clouds. In the distance, the Turkish coastline curves westward toward Antalya, the ancient port where the Apostle Paul once journeyed with a message of Christ’s love. Enjoy this Mediterranean moment with me, as a southern wind blows away your cares in the fairy-tale land of Turkey.
I lived in Turkey for 2.5 years and did photo essays about that beautiful country with its variety of landscapes, historical places, and people. Then I began to write about the freedom protests that began last spring because of Turkey’s oppressive government. That led to an article about censorship. Turkey has more journalists in prison than any other country. As I witnessed the freedom protests close-up, taking videos of peaceful people walking in unison for the right to speak freely in their own country, I felt a close bond with Turkey.
My Turkish husband, who had been tortured by the Turkish police, went with me to meet friends one Sunday afternoon for tea in Istanbul. We witnessed police attacking tourists with water canon and pepper spray. As we made our way home, the police chased us, and the pepper spray I was engulfed in made me sick for days. Ironically, I left Turkey just days before police showed up at my old apartment door to arrest me for a photo I had published.
See the photo here, minus the woman whose image used to be in it (she complained to the police). It shows the Kocaeli Book Fair building with a banner of Ataturk, founder of the secular, democratic Republic of Turkey next to its current ruler, the Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan, who makes his image as large as Ataturk’s. Notice the flag poles like bars in the foreground, layers of oppression.
Jessica as an angel and Jonathan as a gold-crowned king in a California play 2004
Help me write my way home to see my children in California. I haven’t seen Jessica (21) and Jonathan (18) in the 3 years I’ve been teaching English overseas. After I got divorced from their father (who got everything, including them), I couldn’t find a teaching job in America, so I went to Russia in October, 2010. After 6 frozen months, I flew to Turkey where I lived and taught for 2.5 years. I met my Turkish husband there. After nearly getting arrested for writing about the Turkish freedom protests and posting a photo, I went (with my Turkish husband) to teach English in China just 2 months ago.
In all these ups and downs, I’ve been able to support myself. But I haven’t bought a much-needed new computer (my old Apple laptop is 9 years old and very slow). I haven’t taken a real vacation. And I haven’t been able to afford a trip back to Los Angeles to see my children.
From Sunday, November 3 to Sunday, November 10, all 5 of my books are only $.99 (less than a dollar) for Kindle format. You can pick from my true cancer survival story, travel adventures, science fiction, and fantasy. Or you could splurge and pay $9.99 for a paperback. My books encourage people to survive anything, and they make great Christmas presents. Light can shine in the darkest places.
Please buy one of my books for a friend, think of me, and share my story.
Thank you. See my books here.
Jessica, me, and Jonathan in California in 2010 before I left to teach overseas
Here is one of the eeriest photos I ever snapped with a camera. My daughter Jessica stands in a church, holding a candle, as a mysterious man watches from the background. Jessica, like me, has been attacked by predatory men. May Jess be a symbol–a girl bravely holding a candle–a single flame shining in the dark, a delicate resistance.
Read more here.
Lonna Lisa Williams sits inside the cave behind Duden Waterfall in Antalya, Turkey, 2012
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought I’d share my own cancer story:
I was nursing my baby when I found a lump in my breast. I told my doctor that I felt achy and tired all the time, and he said it was because I just had a baby and chased after a toddler all day. He thought my breast lump was a clogged milk duct and gave me a mammogram. Nothing strange showed up in the mammogram. But the lump didn’t go away, and I felt like I had the flu all of the time, with low-grade fevers and night sweats.
“Something is wrong,” I told my doctor when I returned, my two children with me. I knew that I was in charge of my body’s health, and I had done research on breast lumps and ways to test them.
“Give me a needle biopsy,” I requested. Jonathan started crying in my arms, and Jessica was running around the examining room.
“Just come back in 6 months,” the impatient doctor responded. “You are young, and it’s probably nothing.”
“No, do it now,” I demanded.
That action saved my life. Two days later my doctor told me I had cancer. Thus began my battle with a rare tumor that sometimes appears in women’s breasts: non-hodgkins lymphoma.
I had to stop nursing abruptly and have surgery. Luckily, I only had a lumpectomy (a lump removed from my breast). I faced four months of chemotherapy, shots, and blood work. I endured strange medical tests like CAT-scans and bone marrow biopsies. My hair fell out. I looked pale, not even eyebrows on my face to soften my vivid blue eyes. My family, friends, and church helped me by watching my children, bringing meals, and babysitting me after my chemotherapy treatments left me nauseated and weak.
I wanted to live for my children and believed that God could help me. I laughed when two boys tossed my blonde wig to each other or people stared when I forgot my wig. I joined a breast cancer support group and wrote two books about my ordeal.
Since those books were published, I have fought other battles like divorce, dependence on prescription medication, and a near-fatal car accident. I had to go overseas to teach English, leaving my children with my ex-husband. After Russia, I lived in Turkey , married a Turkish man, and took a new teaching post in China. Now I’m trying to write my way back to California to see my children.
Last June, Jonathan graduated from high school. Jessica turned 21. I discovered that cancer was only one battle in my life, 17 years ago, and I’m grateful that the battles–and triumphs–continue.
Read about my story in my book Crossing the Chemo Room.
Lonna and her Turkish husband Omer at Duden Waterfall in Turkey
Lonna with her children Jessica and Jonathan in California, 2010
I’m not the only one who thinks that planet earth is heading into its last days. With overpopulation, pollution, and climate change brought about by an explosion of technology, nature seems to gasp under the weight of civilization. Films have been made about Doomsday and the End Times, demons and angels battling on the earth, and the significance of Israel and the Middle East in the final battlefield that will come.
From my viewpoint in Turkey, I see these events close-up and worry about the consequences of another war. I sit in my small Kocaeli apartment and read the ancient prophecies of Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. At night, after listening to the Turkish news report about yet another threat of war, I imagine demons and angels in the corners of my room, small flashes of black or white, spirits roaming the small spaces and wide lands around me, and threats on the horizon–lightning flashing, the moon changing color, stars falling, and Christ coming in the clouds.
How do I face the struggles of my own life as I teach English in this foreign country and miss my children back in California? I think of the spiritual armor mentioned in the New Testament: a helmet of salvation, breastplate of righteousness, belt of truth, boots for sharing God’s Good News. The Shield of Faith can quench the fiery darts of demons. The only offensive weapon is the Sword of the Spirit, God’s word. And surrounding me are prayers like incense, wings of a dove.
In Turkey, you can find the most surprising things. Here is a photo of the ancient city wall and tower of Nicomedia in northwest Turkey. The Greeks built it about 2000 years ago, and it still stands beside a modern restaurant at a hilltop park. The restaurant made use of the tower’s interior by putting a door over it and using it for storage, but I like to think of it as a mysterious cave into earth’s distant past, full of shadows, carved stone, and spider webs. Perhaps it also hides undiscovered treasure like a gold ring lost by a visiting king long ago. His body has since passed to dust and his name forgotten, but the gold ring may still be found by a curious restaurant diner in our modern world.
I was sitting alone at a park cafe near the Marmara Sea in Turkey, missing my daughter Jessica who is far away in California. We used to sit at cafes together near the Pacific Ocean, and I haven’t seen her in almost 3 years since I’ve been teaching English overseas. Soon she will turn 21, and I would like to raise a glass for her step into adulthood. I sent her a text on my cellphone, said a prayer, and took another photo, this time with a can of coke next to the lonely glass–for her.
I taught a group of 9 Turkish children, ages 9-11, for a month this summer. We learned to speak basic English: numbers, colors, animals, places, and questions with answers. For our last day, I printed out a book for them with spaces where they could draw pictures, color, and write things they learned.
“I take photos with my camera. I write stories. I mix the words and photos together to make books, and you can do this, too,” I encouraged them. They looked at me with their sweet, feisty eyes, and I realized,
We are all a masterpiece, like a book of words and pictures.