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Secondary Principal Blog

Janie Niswonger

When our family moved to Georgia in 2002 we couldn’t wait to share all of the beauty and history of Kennesaw Mountain with our Ohio family. On their first visit, my sister Jeannie, my niece Megan, and I set out to hike to the top of the mountain on a hot summer day.

Jeannie is a former Marine with all the stamina, grit, and rich vocabulary one might imagine a Marine to have, and she expected us to keep up. But, it was hot. Georgia hot. And we had never experienced summer in the south while hiking a mountain.

Pictured above: Janie Niswonger, Shirley Hicks, Jeannie Hicks, and Megan Hicks

Megan and I needed a break halfway up the mountain. Jeannie thought we were weak and she let us know that. I will spare you the graphic dialogue, but the hike ended with Megan reaching the summit in tears and Jeannie yelling in my face, “Hickses never quit!” It’s a story we tell now with laughter and affection, but it wasn’t funny at the time.

I have always known God wired Jeannie that way for a reason. He’s called her to do things that have required great courage and resolve. Early in 2015, Jeannie was diagnosed with brain cancer. Within weeks of the tumor’s appearance, she was unable to walk and required assistance with her most basic needs. Her husband divorced her, claiming her diagnosis was more than he could handle, and she had to move in with our parents at 47 years old. My sister was devastated, completely shattered, standing at the foot of a mountain she didn’t know if she had the strength to climb. 

Over the last four and a half years, Jeannie has had three brain surgeries (two while she was awake!), countless rounds of chemo, and all the radiation a human being is allowed to have in her lifetime. It has all been an uphill battle, but along the way she has also conquered unforgiveness, resentment, self-pity, self-doubt, and fear. She told me once that she was grateful for her cancer journey, and that admission took my breath away. While I know my sister does not want to go through this, she has learned that God can be trusted, life is too precious not to forgive, and that true strength comes from faith in Jesus.

I am sharing this with you now in celebration of Jeannie’s most recent diagnosis. On September 6, 2019, we heard the words from the oncologist that we have all been praying for: No Evidence of Disease! These are precious words that every person who goes through cancer hopes to hear. They are the words we pray over Mrs. Borders every time we think of her.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now and I certainly don’t know what any of us may be called upon to carry in the future, but I know one thing for certain. The Lord will be with us, and He will give us His strength. 

2 Timothy 4:17 - But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.