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I was born in a small west Tennessee town called Newbern. When I was four my family moved to Columbia, Tennessee, where we lived until I was six. We then moved to the nearby town of Culleoka, where I lived until I was eighteen. I still call Culleoka “home,” even though I now reside in Nashville, Tennessee. There are no words to explain how I feel every time my car pulls into my mom’s driveway! As the saying goes, there is no place like home!

It has been my good fortune to experience many different jobs. I have never been afraid of hard work, as I was raised on a working farm, and my parents did a wonderful job of preparing me for the real world. We raised cattle, horses, tobacco, hay, hogs, goats, gardens, and more. The days started before sun up and lasted until the last leaf of tobacco was pulled from the stalk, or “stripped,” as it is called.

I left home when I was eighteen and began my adventures, as I wanted to find out what my purpose and calling was. Along the way I have been a cook at a theater concession stand, worked as a grocery store produce clerk, been a log handler at a log home manufacturer, an assistant manager of three major fast food restaurants, owned a small grocery, deli, and catering business; was an office manager for a minor league baseball concessions contractor, a male dancer, a waiter (several times), a bartender, a DJ, a call center operator, a new home cleaner, and a marina parts department manager. All of those jobs prepared me for the biggest and most exciting career ever––being a hairstylist!

A good friend talked me into attending cosmetology school in 1988. I had no desire what so ever to be a hairstylist, but my friend insisted that I should try. He convinced me when he said, “You can be your own boss.” I liked being the boss. I knew that by being in charge of my own business, if I failed, I had no one to blame except myself. I like personal responsibility and do not run from it. So, he directed me to the Jon Nave Institute in Nashville. One of the funniest stories I tell happened on the first day of school. Mrs. Nave was passing out our school equipment kits when I spoke up and said, “What is this?” After the giggling stopped she said “This is going to be a long year for you young man.” What was the item I asked about? A curling iron, which confirmed I didn’t know anything about hair or the industry, at all.

I graduated from this school less than a year later and found out I was actually pretty good at doing hair. I remember that my grandmother was a wonderful artist. Now you may think of an artist as being a painter or a singer, but my grandmother was a great all around artist. She could not only paint, but she was an amazing person and everything she did turned out to be some form of art. She passed away when I was only six but I remember every detail about her and every word she ever said to me. She inspired me so much and I truly believe that when I put my hands into someone’s hair that the artistry gene of my grandmother comes out!

Upon graduation I began working for a salon inside Caster Knott’s, a local department store in the Bellevue Mall, just outside of downtown Nashville. I worked there for a year and a half and was then offered the opportunity to work for J. Russell Salon and be the salon manager. A man named Russell Miller, who lived in West Palm Beach, Florida, owned the salon. He needed someone in Nashville to manage the salon, which he had inherited through a business deal. The salon was located on the other end of the same mall and I remember thinking I had hit the big time. This salon was a very upscale salon, just as the Bellevue Mall was a big deal in Bellevue, Tennessee at the time.

I stayed with J. Russell Salon for eight years. Russell turned out to be a great mentor and inspiration. He shared more with me about business than I could have ever learned in business school, and I guess it didn’t hurt that he was a former executive with Lord & Taylor department store.

In 1999 I decided I was ready to give the salon owning business a shot, so I convinced my partner, Charles Scarbro, that we should open our own salon. We opened on July 5th, 2000 about ten miles from the mall and we named our salon “The Edge Salon.” It has been such an adventure.

Back in 1993 I had become what is called a “platform artist” for a company named RUSK. the company was based in Scotland, but was expanding to the United States. There, I had the opportunity to work with stylists from all over the world, among them the owners of the company, Irvin and Louise Rusk. It was during this period of my life when my passion for travel and hair developed. I got to travel all over the United States and share what I was learning with other stylists.

I went from working with RUSK to being a platform artist for a hair color line out of Paris, France called Perma of Paris. This experience truly broadened my knowledge and understanding of the art of hair color. I not only did stage shows for the company, but accompanied European hair colorist of the year Maurice Denzer around the United States as we educated others about the product line.

In 1999 my career took an explosive growth change when I stumbled upon a company called Raccoon Hair Extensions, led by the wonderful husband and wife team of Richard and Cris Millstein from Baltimore, Maryland. They were very established stylists, and wanted to bring a new technique in hair extension application to the United States. Once again I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. I became heavily involved in the education department when the company became known as Extend USA. I spent six years working alongside their many educators from around the globe, not only sharing my vision, but learning theirs.

This brings me up to 2005 and I felt on top of the world. By this time I had tapped deep into the country music scene in Nashville, and had become the stylist for some of the industry’s stars. I was traveling around the globe sharing my knowledge. And, I had a great partner who kept our salon and personal lives together while I did whatever I felt like I needed to do.

I was also on tour with an up-and-coming artist named Emma Jacob. She is to date the greatest voice I have ever heard in my life. I still remember the first time I watched her sing live. It was at a Nashville club called 12th & Porter and I was standing in the wings. As she sang I begin to cry. I knew was listening to an angel sing. I had never heard such a voice. I spent countless hours with Emma and we were not only client/stylist we were and still are great friends. I will never, as long as I live, forget the uncountable memories and moments of crying laughter. My time with Emma was one of the happiest times in my life.

Everything sounds great so far right? For the most part it was. A few things I haven’t mentioned. I’m an epileptic. I know it’s a disability but I have never thought of it that way. It began with petit mal seizures in the fifth grade, but evolved to grand mal seizures during my senior year of high school. I definitely have the scars to prove it! Seizures here, seizures there, seizures everywhere. I don’t have an aura (indication) prior to a seizure but I am fortunate that my seizures are controlled with medication. There’s just one thing, I have to remember to take it properly, get plenty of rest, and limit stress.

With my fast paced life, and crazy diet and lifestyle, I wasn’t in the best of health. I was always chasing my tail, so to speak. Always behind, always late, always tired, always sick, the list goes on and on, but I always had a smile on my face, love in my heart, and energy to go on, even though I was running on adrenaline.

One day while on the road with Emma I got a call about a “sty” that I had removed from my eye. A nurse at my doctor’s office had called to tell me I needed to contact my doctor, because the sty had some irregular cells. It sounded like they were saying I might have cancer, and yes they were.

I immediately made an appointment to visit with my doctor who wanted me to visit an oncologist! A what? An oncologist? My next call was to my holistic doctor. I knew I hadn’t exactly been doing what he had been telling me to do, but now I was ready to listen to him. His name is Larry Rawdon, and he has a practice called OSA’s Garden in Florence, Alabama, some four hours from Nashville. The long drive for every appointment had been well worth it in the past and I knew it would be now, too. Now, who is OSA? None other than my grandmothers sister! Larry married my cousin Rita, and she had introduced me to the world of holistic medicine and lifestyle in 1995.

I had been dabbling in juicing but nothing to the degree I was about to undertake. For me, changing my diet was not like changing a shirt. It is a huge lifestyle change and, just like life, it can take years to change bad habits. In 1995 Larry advised me on a juicing, raw food, and supplement plan combined with regular exercise. In 2005 I decided to take him more seriously, so I dedicated myself to his advice and it seemed to make whatever was in my body disappear. Within six months all my tests were normal, just as if nothing had ever happened.

As with all good things, we slowly allow our bad habits to creep back in, but I did maintain my daily juicing of fresh fruits and vegetables. If someone asked me I would say, “I’m an 80/20 eater. 80 percent raw juice, (healthy) and 20 percent real world diet.” Looking back, I now realize that what I thought was 80/20 was more like 50/50.

One morning in 2008 I woke up to find a really large pimple on the side of my neck. I watched it for three months, but it never went away. During my physical exam that year I showed it to my doctor and he ordered a needle biopsy. A week later it was determined to be a lymph node full of fluid and water, nothing else. “Great,” I said, “but how do I make it go away?” My doctor then referred me to a Vanderbilt ENT and through the help of a great friend who works there, Janie Smith, I was able to see Dr. Kyle Mannion. Dr. Mannion ordered another biopsy and a CT scan. Nothing. All liquid. Nevertheless, he wanted to operate. I was reluctant because the test didn’t indicate what the fluid was or wasn’t, so we agreed to watch it every month. It didn’t get any larger, but it didn’t get any smaller, either. It also never tested positive for cancer cells. Nothing, just clear liquid for the next three years. All was fine, or so it appeared.

By 2011 my life had reached complete chaos. Charles and I had opened a second location, and had an long-time employee walk out. I was busy with country music artist tours, and we all were doing hair for NFL cheerleaders, NHL hockey dancers, videos, commercials––and all of this was on top of operating the salon. I must thank all of the amazing clients for their patronage and support. Life was crazy, but they came along for the ride.

During this time, I’d been visiting several specialists including a dentist, lymphatic massage therapist, and anyone else I could think of who could possibly figure out what was on my neck. In early December of 2011 Dr. Mannion finally said the words I had longed to hear. “Bill, it’s been three years and we have monitored this place regularly and not a thing has changed about it. It’s the same size it has always been and after sixty needle biopsies there is still no sign of cancer, so I am going to let you come back in six months.”

I left his office more on top of the world than I already was. First line of business, celebrate! I went to the salon, and because it was the holiday season, the room was filled with every kind type of cake and candy a Southern lady could bake. I ate like I hadn’t eat a sweet in years! What started out as a day-long celebration turned into a week, then two. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t get enough sugar. It was as if I had been given a line of cocaine. I would eat an entire cake in one day, and I was gaining a lot of weight. My trainer was not happy.

The week of Christmas 2011 is a week I will never forget. A client sat in my chair and asked, “What is that place on your neck”? No one had ever noticed my small lump before. I blew the comment off and explained the situation. A few days later Charles said to me, “I think that lump is larger.” What? Larger? It couldn’t be. It had not changed in three years of being watched regularly by a ENT doctor, why all of a sudden would it change now? I reluctantly called Dr. Mannion and told him how two people had commented on this lump, and how during the past three years no one had even seen it. I was sure it was coincidental, and he thought that it probably was, too, but just to be safe he advised me to come in and let him do another CT scan and biopsy.

The first of January 2012 I had the test done and then went to his office for him to deliver to me what I was sure would be the same results. I had a million thoughts of things I needed to do and places I needed to be as I was sitting in the room waiting for him to come in. When he examined my neck he asked if I thought it had changed, and my response was that I did not think it had. He paused then said, “Bill it has changed. It has doubled in size and there are now two masses in the same location. We are going to have to operate. I cannot allow them to remain.” My heart sank. An operation was not going to fit into my busy schedule at all. I was too busy to be sick!

We agreed to remove the lump ASAP, but I just had to give all of my experts one more shot at fixing my neck before the surgery. I even postponed the surgery one time so that I could visit a holistic dentist. I wanted him to see if a certain treatment he specialized in would be a simple fix for this more than three-year year issue. He was a great dentist but unfortunately he didn’t have the fix I was hoping for.

In February of 2012 I went to Vanderbilt hospital in great spirits and was mentally convinced that the procedure would only take an hour. It was a simple exploration to discover a simple issue, and then I would be headed home. There was absolutely nothing wrong with me. I was convinced. I felt amazing. I had tons of energy. I was on top of my game. I was on top of the world in my industry. This was going to be a tiny bump in the road, so tiny a bump that I refused to tell anyone about it. My dear family had no idea that I was in surgery, because I didn’t want them to be worried about something that I was certain was nothing.

I remember telling Dr. Mannion that morning that I wanted him to be sure to make the scar huge and bold. I wanted to be able to have a scar that looked like my throat had been slashed. I thought that would be a great conversation opener when people asked, “What happened?”

At six-thirty in the morning I was carted off to surgery, sure I would be headed home no later than eleven. But when I came out of the anesthesia, I felt as if I had been hit by a truck. I had tubes coming out of everywhere, and I was in a hospital room, not a recovery room. My throat felt terribly weird and the clock displayed 5:45. What? 5:45 pm? What had happened? What was going on? This was supposed to be a simple little procedure to determine what that simple little bump was.

I then noticed Charles sitting in a lounge chair in the room, and there were no lights or TV on. Charles knows I think television can be terribly negative to watch and I smiled inwardly at his kindness in remembering this about me. I next tried to speak to Charles, only to realize that I couldn’t. No sound at all came out. What was happening? Charles had a look on his face, and I could tell by his expression that something was up. Charles was very calm when he said the doctors would be in shortly, and sure enough it was as if they had a monitor on me that told them “he’s awake,” they were there that quickly. Dr. Mannion greeted me, but then proceeded to tell me that I had cancer. His news dropped my stomach to around knee level.

I had squamous cell carcinoma. Skin cancer. Dr. Mannion assured me that if I went to the grocery store to purchase any kind of cancer, I had bought the right type. He also said that it was very contained, that it was hidden behind my left tonsil. He added that he was surprised to see skin cancer behind someone’s tonsil, but felt confident that he had removed it all. I was in such shock that I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was saying. This had to be a bad a dream. I didn’t have cancer. I wasn’t sick. I just had a little bump on my neck. Dr. Mannion must have the wrong lab work. This dang hospital had mixed my lab results up with someone else’s. There was no way I had cancer, I thought. But somehow I did. I was numb. I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk. I couldn’t do anything. Cancer. How? Why me?

I managed to get out a whisper. “When can I go home?” Apparently I had to stay until they were certain I could eat. One of the tubes was a feeding tube, in the event that I needed it. They said it was better to get that tube down me while I was under, just in case. Feeding tube. No feeding tube here buddy, this man’s gonna drink his juice and eat his fresh veggies! By this time Charles was about ready to climb the walls without any television, and I guess I might have been a bit cranky. Charles finally convinced me to call my sister and tell her what had happened. Of course, there was one problem, I couldn’t talk!

Charles finally called her at eight-thirty p.m. to tell her that at six-thirty a.m. I had a minor procedure that had become a major surgery. He asked if she would come to the hospital to stay with me, but she was not to tell my mother, or anyone else. I’ve always known that my big sister loved me, but when I tell you that within ninety minutes she was walking in the door and she lived two hours away I knew she really, really loved me. I felt so safe once she arrived. I’m glad I didn’t tell my mom just then, because I was having a hard enough time wrapping my head around what was happening. I cannot imagine trying to deal with others sadness and my own shock at the same time. I just wanted my sister and now she was there and things would be fine.

I was determined that I would eat, and that I would get up and be walking by morning, so at two a.m. I asked the nurses to come in and walk around the hall with me. We did this several times and by eight a.m. I was scooting along pretty well. I had managed to drink water, eat some jello, ice cream, and mashed potatoes. True to his word, that afternoon my doctor released me. But, what I thought was the end of a terrible nightmare was only the beginning of a bad memory, which in turn lead to the best thing that ever happened to me. Of course if you had said this to me that night I would had slapped you silly, but looking back I realize now that––just as always in my life––I was always at the right place at the right time. I now realize that the right place at the right time is God’s way of working his miracles, something I would discover soon enough!

My recovery was much faster than I expected. At the advice of my holistic doctor I was eating coconut like it was going out of style. Coconut oil, raw coconut, coconut milk. Raw oysters and sardines were my other staple. The raw vegetable juice burnt my raw cut up throat terribly. I was losing weight, but that was a good thing. I was 240 pounds before the surgery and was now down to 225. I was also drinking lots of KANGEN water (alkalinized water) from a machine I purchased in 2009 and to this day I truly believe it.

In the meantime I had gotten on what I now refer to as the “you got cancer cafeteria line” It was my experience that once diagnosed with cancer, you are bagged, tagged and put on the line. Do this, go there, meet this doctor, take this test, do this, go there, do that! I was going crazy. My life had fallen apart right in front of me, and I had still not accepted this entire “cancer” verdict. I felt that at any day the hospital was going to call and say, “Mr. Vandiver, we are so sorry but we got your lab test mixed up with someone else’s.” Instead it was more “be here, meet this doctor, have this test.” I felt completely out of control. What had happened to my wonderful life? I wanted to get back to work, but couldn’t because I kept getting tested for something every day of the week.

Before too long I was told that I needed radiation and chemotherapy. Believe it or not, I wasn’t as freaked out about having cancer as I was being told I had to have those treatments. I used to hear that the cancer may or may not kill you but if it doesn’t the treatment sure will, so I was pretty freaked out. I wondered if I should put my trust in my holistic doctor and his recommendation. Or, should I listen to my other doctor, who I don’t know and doesn’t know me. What should I do? Questions questions, and more questions. I was overwhelmed. I was confiding in Dr. Rawdon daily and he always said, “Bill you have to do what you think is best for you.”

One thing that is important to note is that by this time I had disclosed my cancer to my mother and she didn’t freak. That whole scenario was just my imagination of what I thought my mother would say. She told me she loved me and was certain I would be ok.

One reason I was so upset about having cancer is that in 2000 my father died from cancer that originated in his kidneys. I was sitting alone in his room when he passed. He awoke, grinned that grin, squeezed my hand and slipped away. He was a great man and a great father. We had our moments, but what I wouldn’t give to have one more day with him. He taught me so much, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of something he said or that little grin on his face. I can also hear him talking to my mother saying something that always began with “Momma.” He always called my mother “momma” and she called him “daddy,” except when she was mad at him and then it became “David!”

I have a great family. I have a brother who is seven years older and a sister six years older than me. Yes, I am the baby! I am also the gay baby. I know my girly ways drove my daddy crazy, but I also know he loved me. That may be why I have always tried so hard to prove myself. I always wanted him to be proud of me. Maybe I couldn’t fight like the other boys. Maybe I was a cry baby. Maybe I was a momma’s baby. Maybe I had a little swish in my step, but let me tell you that once my confidence begin to kick in there was no stopping me. I attribute that to many things, one being my friend David Wakefield. He was my first real friend, and I remember in the ninth grade he made it very clear that he would not tolerate anyone picking on me. This was extra special because David was a junior and the star of the basketball team. During basketball practice I always had to guard David, and he would purposely beat the crap out of me, never in a mean way, but in a way that would toughen me up.

Then there was my friend Dale Ingram. He and I often hit the local disco and I watched every move he made and tried my best to act like him. There was only one problem. Dale was straight and really liked the girls he was interacting with, and I was just pretending so that I would fit in. Dale was one cool soul who taught me how to move smooth..

Back to my cancer. My mother had always worked at the hospital, and I grew up hearing about wonderful doctors and funny patient stories. In my mothers eyes doctors were second only to God. I liked doctors, too, but I didn’t like drug companies. I don’t like all the things that are added to our food and water that we as human beings should not be consuming, and that are making our bodies sick. When it comes to this area, I have real trust issues with our government, and the medical and pharmaceutical worlds. Don’t get me wrong, there are a number of great drugs that have saved or prolonged many lives, but I believe that sometimes symptoms and diseases are created in order to create a drug for it. That was my opinion at the time. It changed during the coarse of my treatment,though, and I now fall back to my personal responsibility theory. Everyone must become personally responsible for themselves and their actions.

When I first met with my assigned oncologist the meeting did not go as planned, and I didn’t walk away with a warm fuzzy feeling. That was the beginning of me realizing that I had to step up or accept up. I had to either step up, say what I was feeling, and come up with a solution, or I had to accept up and accept what was being handed to me. I had to make a decision, something that is very, very hard for me to do. Just ask Charles. I can stand in front of the salad dressings for an hour trying to decide which one I want.

I walked away from my initial meeting with my potential oncologist with such mixed emotions that I felt overwhelmed. I felt completely powerless over what was happening, and what was about to possibly happen to my body. I felt like I was expected to sit back and say, “Here, do your thing. I will just come along for the ride and sit on the back bumper, although the front passenger seat would really be more comfortable.” I contacted Dr. Rawdon after that meeting and explained to him once more my hesitancy, and once again he stated his thoughts. Radiation and chemotherapy are not things he would personally like to do, but that I had to come to my own conclusion. I think I was at the lowest point in my mental health at this time. I felt like a kicked dog. I just didn’t know what to do.

That evening I went home, sat on my bed, and thought about what I was supposed to do. Treatment was to start in the next few weeks and everything was going as planned, except it wasn’t my plan. I was so uncomfortable. I was not trying to show it to anyone, because I always try to be the one everyone turns to. I love helping people, and now I needed help.

At the time I had a personal assistant, Julia. From the day I met her I felt like I was in the presence of an angel, much the same feeling as I had when I was around Emma. Julia was at my house one day when I came back from a doctor visit and she and I sat and talked. I shared with her my fears, thoughts, concerns, and hopes. I just let it out to her. I could see by the look on her face that she had no idea what to say, but she listened in her usual “Julia” style, which made me realize that things really would work out. She assured me that she would help in any way she could, and that whatever I needed her she would be there. I will never forget that night. I cried for the first time that night because I was just so confused about what was happening. I will say that Julia is one a handful of people who have ever seen me cry. Not that I think crying is a bad thing, I have been very fortunate in my life to not have had too many things to cry about. I was broken on that day, and I’m so thankful Julia was there when I came home. Coincidence? I think not, but I didn’t think that until later on, when things begin to become clearer.

By May 1, 2011, I was just weeks away from starting a cancer treatment that I was not certain I wanted to do. I still hadn’t accepted that I had cancer, and wasn’t certain I should go through with the treatment. My business was at the mercy of my amazing business partner and my staff, who stepped above and beyond the call of duty. My once incredible jet set life was now an even bigger bag of crazy chaos.
One day I arrived home from work. When I walked into my empty, quiet house all of a sudden I had a thought. I had heard one time that if you just ask God what to do, he would show you. Now I’ve always considered myself a spiritual person. I’ve always believed in God. With having so many epilepsy episodes there was no other way to explain all of the times I should have died and didn’t, other than the fact that God wasn’t ready for me. I’d even had a seizure in the middle of a busy road and didn’t get hit by oncoming traffic. I’d also had a seizure driving home from Florida, and managed to drive more than five hundred miles and don’t remember any of it. I’d had a seizure with only one other person in the room, and went into cardiac arrest during the seizure. How convenient that the one other person was a cardiac nurse. I could go on and on, but like a cat with nine lives I felt I had exhausted all nine of them. Was I just lucky? No, I have always felt God’s presence in my life and I have always known that He had big plans for me. I just didn’t know that I was about to find out His intentions.

That day I did what I thought was the only option I had left. I got down on my knees to pray. Don’t get me wrong, I had prayed before, just not like this. This time I asked God what to do instead of asking for something, or asking forgiveness for sinning. I just called out to him. “God, I know you know that I have exhausted my options. I am tired, I am sick, I am wary, I need help and guidance but I don’t know what to do.” I stayed in that kneeled position for a while, just begging God to answer me, but I received nothing, or so I thought. I finally got up, fixed a bowl of soup and went to bed. Tomorrow, I thought, might be a better day.

The next day I got up as usual and then went to the gym to exercise. When I got home I walked into my bedroom and began to have a strange feeling. It felt like the top of my head was on fire, but nothing else. I describe it as if the top of my head was removed and very hot liquid was being slowly poured into it, like a cup being filled from the top to the bottom. This warmth, this hotness was slowly making its way down the inside of my body from my head down.

“What now?” I said to myself as I began to imagine a list of problems. Had the cancer caused this? Was something else happening to me? As the intense warmth made its way down my body I became very emotional. As stated earlier, I don’t cry. By this time I was in a full-blown sweat and this intense heat was half way down my body. I made my way into the bathroom to look in the mirror to see if my face was as red as it felt. The next thing I know I was on the floor, tears pouring from my eyes. Streams of tears. Tears like I have never cried before and all I can do is think, you have got to get yourself together. I thought I was having a nervous breakdown. What else could it be? I tried to stop crying, but the more I tried the more I cried. “What is wrong?” I screamed. “What is happening? What is going on?”

Then, right there in front of me, God appeared. I didn’t immediately know it was God, I just saw an image that was so peaceful and calming. Then He spoke. “Bill, last night you prayed to me. I want you to know that whatever you choose to do with your treatment, you will be fine. I have always watched over you and I am not going to leave you now. I am not done with you, as I have more work for you to do.” My first thought was, Great, I am hallucinating. I am seeing and hearing God. God then said to me, “No, Bill, you are not imagining me. I am real. I am really here and you are going to be fine.”

Never had I had felt such serenity in my life. I immediately stopped crying and knew everything was going to be okay. I got up, took a shower, went to work, and didn’t mention a word of it to anyone. If I shared the story people might think I had gone crazy. God talked to me? No way. God was for religious people, right? God was for perfect people. God was for people who lived by the book. I couldn’t bring myself to discuss my experience with anyone until a few days later when a client, Clint Thomas (who is a minister), came in for his usual color and dread lock service. Yes, you heard correctly: minister, color, dread locks! Clint is one cool dude who I know is right there with God. When I had a moment I pulled Clint aside and told him everything you just read and he didn’t flinch or get excited. Instead, he looked at me and said, “I am so jealous!” Clint explained that he had heard of this scenario before, many times. Same thing: feelings of a fever, warmth, conversation with God.

As the days and weeks passed I began to share my story with many more people, and almost all were intrigued and asked questions. Some cried, and some didn’t know what to say because here was Bill, one of the wildest things to ever come out of the backwoods, talking about God. They could see me talking about a cool car, but not God! What was this world coming to?

From that day on not a week has gone by that I have not had a conversation with God. We talk about everything . . . well, I talk, He listens and shares His amazing insightfulness. Each time I am reminded that no matter what I think I am going to do, He is the final word and amazing things can happen if I will surrender to Him and allow Him to work His miracles.

One morning God came to me during meditation and asked me to write something down. I asked God to just tell me, and told him I would remember. God laughed then, because God knows me, knows I can’t remember anything. He then sternly told me to write His words down, so I got up, got a piece of paper and wrote what God spoke to me: “The answer to all problems begin with prayer.”

I wrote that first thought down, not knowing or understanding why God asked me to do that. I laid the paper aside and that was the beginning. Over the next year, by the minute, the hour, the day, the week, God spoke to me. He said, “Write these down.” Of coarse, I had to ask questions. “What am I writing? Why am I writing? What am I supposed to do with this?” On and on, God kept talking and I kept writing and asking questions.

One day I shared what I was writing with my dear friend and author, Lisa Wysocky. She encouraged me to write down at least four hundred of the thoughts and then we would publish them in a weekly spiritual journal. At this point I had written down about two hundred thoughts. I had notes everywhere, sticky notes, notes on my phone, notes in my computer, notes on my voice messages, notes at work. Everywhere! I kept them in order and managed to continue to translate them to a master list. Now for people who don’t know me, this alone was a major task.

One day God was sharing more inspirational thoughts for me to write down and when I had, he said, “You are done with this book.” I was elated to be done, but sad that it was over. I then looked at the number of thoughts I had written down and realized that it was 308. “Wait,” I said. “I only have 308 I need to write at least four hundred. God then said, “Bill, you are done with this book.” That time I actually heard the words “this book.” I reminded myself that this was not my project, this was God’s project. I wasn’t writing the book, I was writing it down!

I called Lisa and told her the book was complete. I entered the words into the computer and sent them over and Lisa put them together for me in book format and that brings us up to now.

There is one interesting tidbit that occurred after the completion of the book. Once everything was in book format I realized in re-reading each inspirational thought that each thought seemed to have a purpose. Some seemed prayerful thoughts, while some seemed motivational. Some seemed thought provoking while others seemed spiritual. I decided to print the book out. Then, as I re-read each inspirational thought, I placed them in a stack and I collected the thoughts into chapters. I thought at the time that this seemed like a good idea, but something was still nagging at me. There were so many thoughts that could go into different stacks and I didn’t feel right putting a thought in one or the other.

Once again I had to come to terms that this was not my book. I decided to go back and re-read the entire book thought to thought, just as God had presented it to me. It was then that I realized that this was indeed a book of inspirational thoughts, but when read one after the other there was a flow, a story. Even after writing them almost every day for over a year I didn’t realize this until that moment. So I hope you enjoy reading Inspirational Thoughts from God. It has been my honor and service to God to write it down. My hope is that anytime you pick up the book and open a page something will speak to you the way God spoke to me!

One more thing. I will answer the big question that many have wanted to and only a few have had the courage to ask. I was first asked this question at a gathering of friends that came to celebrate my recovery from cancer. Yes, I am fully recovered. The gathering was held at the farm of my dear friends, Rhonda and Trace Adkins. The event was for family and close friends, and with the encouragement of a friend I shared my story for the first time. After, I saw tears, and I felt love flowing. One of my cousins then had the courage to step up and ask, “What does God look like? Does his voice sound like Morgan Freeman’s?”

For a second I had no idea what to say. I then answered in this way. God is not tall, nor is He short. God is not fat nor is He skinny. God is not white, nor is He black. God is not harsh, nor is He gentle. God just is. There is such a tremendous energy that surrounds Him that when I was in His presence I failed to pay attention to what He looked like because I was so humbled to be near Him. He just is. He is amazing, funny, powerful, intelligent, caring, friendly, direct, knowing, considerate, passionate, kind, and most of all, loving.

As for the Morgan Freeman part, God’s voice is powerful. He speaks to you just as you need to be spoken to. His voice is stern but loving. He laughs . . . a lot. To me, His voice was not a deep voice but wasn’t a soft voice, either. I think of it as perfect pitch.

God thinks we humans take ourselves far too seriously. He laughs a lot because we think we are in control of our lives. There was one time God said to me, “Bill, please help me make people understand that I invented rap music and I created graffiti and I love Facebook, because it has connected so many disconnected friends and family, and I invented computers, email, and the Internet. I am the past, the present, and the future. I am everything that ever was, that ever is and ever will be. I am God.”

He wants people to understand that evil must exist for people to choose to turn to Him. We are human beings who have free will. We can choose to ask God to be a part of our life, or not.

God wants you to ask Him for help. He wants you to turn to Him. He wants you to ask Him for forgiveness of your sins. He wants to love you. He wants to take your pain away. God doesn’t care about how much money you make. He cares about how much you are helping make the world around you.

God will not always tell you why He does what He does, at least not here. Sometimes His actions are a challenge, done to see if you are going to continue to love Him or walk away from Him. Sometimes when we think God has left us, He is actually carrying us. We just don’t realize it.

God wants to have a relationship with you. That relationship is something between you and God, and something that you know in your heart. God is funny and often says funny things to me. He picks at me, especially when I allow myself to slip into control mode. He gets a kick out of me coming back to the reality that he is in complete control, and once I surrender it is like returning to loving arms. When will I learn? Probably never. When will I quit trying to learn? Hopefully never!

One last thing. Prior to this experience I had never read the Bible. I had tried, only to put it aside due to being so overwhelmed. I had never attended church until about a year before this incident. I had never felt the need, and I do still feel you can have an amazing relationship with God and never step one foot in a church. One day God said to me, “Bill, I have been trying to get your attention for a long time. I was tapping your shoulder and poking your back, and you would always acknowledge my presence, but never turn to me.” I always used to tell people how God blessed me with the ability to do so many amazing things. Now I realize that God allowed me to be at the right place at the right time so that He can do all of the amazing things that only God can do. Me? I’m just a player in a game called life and the game of life is God’s game. What’s next? Who knows? Each day I ask for direction.

Thank you for reading my story, and I hope you enjoy God’s book, Inspirational Thoughts from God.

God bless you all,
Bill Vandiver
December 2013