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A Clever and Courageous Journey

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We have navigated some crazy rough waters in our days. Quite literally in summer of 2019 we encountered a wild rip current in the Gulf of Mexico that flipped us off our kayak and paddleboard and we were drifting at sea. Jon and I and the precious child of my dear friend needed to be rescued. 

We have faced many other things, like hearing loss, broken jaws, countless other challenging times and traumas.

We thought that rip current was the worst…until those rough seas of life flipped us over yet again.

Walking across this connector bridge feels like another kayak moment—everything I knew was drifting further away as our world flipped upside down.

Make no mistake, I could see light, so I kept my eyes fixed.  It was the only way to keep going.  

This was now our journey—a clever and courageous one.

Recently, we have encountered the most turbulent seas ever. We are keenly aware this has been a challenging year for so many others as well as our family too—possibly the most challenging season yet.

It’s not for me to convince you where I see God’s presence, but we know there have been gifts and sacred stories that I’m not ready to let go of yet. Maybe those are stories for another day.

This is a triumphant story and a tearful one filled with nostalgia, worry, peace beyond understanding and a full belief that with God nothing is impossible.  

There have been gifts. There are always gifts—not, unlike the Magi coming with what they have to offer.

It is a song for celebrating like “Raise a Hallelujah,” and still there’s a faint chorus of “Lord, I Need You” and “Auld Lang Syne.” Did you know that means days gone by?

We all wish for those easier days gone by.

Our last 5 months have been filled with putting dreams on hold and embracing the present moment as we began a journey we had no choice but to accept.

“One day at time,” has been our motto, as has been finding joy, seeing the light, believing in tomorrow, and holding onto hope because we believe in miracles.

I stared across the small room at a set of eyes. The rest of the face was covered and masked. I took a deep breath.

I was suffocating from wearing my own mask for hours in the waiting room long before I heard those wretched words he had to say to me.  

I slowly released the air before he spoke.

I was meeting this man for the first time after four days of knowing his name, surrendering to his hands, waiting for this moment, knowing God made him part of the plan.  

Only a Master Weaver can so beautifully weave details to connect this man to another we know who earlier in the week became part of our story. Through this mutual friend, I was reassured of this man’s skills. The way this connection was discovered brought me incredible peace. 

It felt like God’s way of letting my heart know, “My child, I am sending the right people to care for you both along the way. Please see me in the threads.” 

It was my turn to speak after I collected and composed myself. 

“You know, Doc, I believe in miracles.”

He nodded and quietly listened to my words about miracles-the big and small ones.

Because what else can he say to a patient’s spouse when he just said the tumor was malignant? 

Believe it or not, the most uncomfortable part was not those words. 

I already knew, somewhere deep inside, and I was already prepared for it as much as one could be at this time.

I spent early mornings and late nights, rushing back and forth to the city to be by his side. Crossing over that connector bridge (the picture) was my latest kayak flip.

I kept mothering, preparing, and encouraging the kids who made sure things were running at home with the support of some beloved friends who have been there through thick and thin.

I was ready for it. Don’t ask me how. 

But I had peace of mind. If you can be sure of anything-I had peace of mind. That can only come from God.

Things were finally adding up. The puzzle pieces were beginning to fit.

My one question, “God, what is happening here?” It was all beginning to make sense.

The way God weaves details and prayers before we knew, the intercession of Saints and all of the colorful threads quickly come together to reveal a tapestry that was heartbreaking and stunning because God’s Glory can always render me in awe even in the painful moments.

St. Sharbel reminds us, “Your journey in this world is the trip of your sanctity.” How he, St. Sharbel, was part of this story was revealed to offer us peace, intercession, miracles, and grace. His connection surrounding those days was indeed a wink from God…more to come on this.

We rest knowing only a Good and Faithful Father can offer this much peace when you are given the news that brain cancer is the next chapter’s title in this story called life.

I don’t know why as I sat in this small private room, tears filled my eyes most over the fact that I couldn’t see this man’s face under all of the layers. 

Perhaps, because I am a perceptive people person easily able to read the hearts on a person’s face. I needed to see hope, I needed to see human, I needed to see soul because it was with literal blind faith that I entrusted his hands to care for the one I loved the most. 

And there were tears of gratitude because I already saw the miracles happening surrounding these days. Those stories deserve a chapter of their own.

Tears because in moments with news like this, we expect to turn to our partner in life and say, “We got this.”  

But my partner, he wasn’t there. I ached for him to be sitting there with me asking him what to do like our many other hospital trips over the years. 

I knew I had to be a rock for him and for our kids, who I already began to prepare the night before with all the possibilities. We prayed together and I answered their questions. It’s incredible how we draw strength for them, from them, because of them.

He, my partner in life, wasn’t there because he was in ICU. 

He was recovering from an ER visit, a LifeFlight transfer, and a surgery that changed the direction of our life and an eventual treatment plan to come.

I know the tears were not only because of the words uttered by the skilled professional who’s stamina, precision, and attention to detail matched the details of the tapestry I witnessed God weaving in all of these moments. I hope to someday share more words to honor the beautiful tapestry I saw God weaving for me, for Jon and our family to be revealed in these most difficult days. 

And there were abundant tears for the perfect stranger I now call friend, a few years ahead of me, maybe there to mother me as I walked back to my seat in the waiting room. She was there on her own challenging journey with the love of her life.

Our concerned eyes met and instantly connected hours earlier when I scanned the busy waiting area and settled into a chair in the farthest corner of the room near her.

Our stories will forever be intertwined. My waiting room friend has become this constant reminder that unconditional love and continuous support can come from many places. Though the diagnosis and details are quite different, going through her own journey supporting her spouse, she consistently reaches out to check in on me. 

We remain committed to reminding each other we aren’t alone. We are seen and heard. And we are taking this one day at a time together, but quite a distance apart. Thank God for technology. 

There was a month of recovery, a spontaneous trip to rest and heal surrounded by salt air, sand, beach, and the calming hearts of dear friends. 

Thank God for the beach.

And Thank God for domestic churches and loving friends.

Six weeks later, we sat in front of a monitor at our kitchen counter, hearing a familiar voice. Though I could barely remember his eyes, I can now describe his beaming face as he told us how thrilled he was for the way his patient looked. 

He smiled and muttered something like, “I’d say you are an ideal post-op patient, Jon. Did I tell you what a difficult surgery this was?”  

I chuckled nervously, and tears swelled my eyes said, “No and I am very grateful for that.” 

Seeing his humble face and his beaming eyes was the gift I longed to see in July to know the human and the heart of this man. This man, this surgeon, whose steady hands gifted with precision removed a mass and then the healing and fight began. 

We stared at 6 weeks of treatment, radiation, chemo, and drives to the city while homeschooling my girls. God knew how this detail, schooling at home, made life a bit easier on me. I can do all things through Christ. 

During those weeks, our drives became our time together to reacquaint, repent, reconcile, restore, and rebuild, to love, to laugh and to cry.

Little did I know the rebuilding of the stairs on our church would align with rebuilding our hearts and minds.  

Just before we started those appointments I was startled awake early one Sunday morning to go to an early mass. I went alone, I didn’t have much time alone or alone with God in those weeks.

There was a message and a thread of peace by a beloved priest. He said, “you are clever and courageous…and after 6 weeks you will all be Good.” Though delivered to the etire church about the stair project it felt like a divine message directed at me. 

His words echoed in my mind and brought me peace during those 6 weeks, when I wasn’t sure we could do this. 

The hardest part of all of this has been the inability to plan. So we’ve quickly adopted the attitude we can only take this one day at a time while trusting and surrender fully to God’s Will and Plan. 

Ironically, I started a surrender Novena because I was aware things were not quite right leading up to the days that detoured our life. I finished the morning of our visit to the ER. I was aware several friends were praying the novena with me even when they may not have known why. 

For many reasons, we’ve kept this private (for the most part) until now.

If we pay attention, I think we will find it all goes according to His plan though the mystery is we don’t always know why.

As Jon worked through his 6 weeks of treatments (remember rebuilding the stairs?) we had our daily dates and rosaries in the car. We settled into this routine and walked all the miles we could to strengthen our bodies, our minds and to avoid the side effect of fatigue.

On both accounts, it worked. Keeping a positive state of mind and taking the necessary time the last few months has been the best way to heal and treat a beast that likes to return sometimes without warning.  

It’s been a beautiful time healing many things beyond living with cancer. If you know Jon, you may be aware of the amount of time and energy he put into his 24/7 trauma job these last 17 years. 

We always say, trauma happens. We forever live with trauma, and I don’t say that to be curt. It’s been our life, and Jon has served his job and others selflessly for years because he cares so much.

We all know the giving, selfless, servant heart Jon has for our family has been very much the same in his love for serving in his job.

Despite his love for the service life, Jon could not return to this demanding job as his body continued to fight, heal, and rest. 

The work/fight is not yet over, we made it through those dreaded six weeks. Jon is doing very well, better than expected, for now he cannot yet return to the demanding work of serving others until he has finished all of his treatments. 

It’s our time to serve and care for him.

We know God is a Waymaker. We pray, hope, and trust for His provision— to alleviate the worry we carry, not just for his health, but for our security that lingers with each appointment that comes our way. 

We are present, patient, hopeful, and have eyes fixed on a Good and Faithful Father and Healer that will light the way. 

As I sat in mass on the Epiphany praying about sharing our journey, I couldn’t  help but think of the Three Wisemen/Kings. They left everything they knew in their comfortable lives. Though we didn’t get to choose this journey, we do get to choose how we focus our attention, like the Wisemen did. 

They were clever and courageous. 

They looked for the light.

The Journey of the Magi is proof that God comes for everyone in their own journey toward Him.  Like the Magi had to take a different path home, our journey has been altered quite a bit. We know it must not have been easy for them, but they diverted to choose good.

We believe God’s plan is always better than our own even when we journey with challenging circumstances. It may not be the path we dreamed, but God will light the way as we continue on.

He will fill us with hope, with peace and with love.

He will make us clever and courageous – “Wise ones still seek him.”

I humbly ask you to join our family in prayer as we begin this New Year with great uncertainty, yet an abundance of faith. As we continue on this journey we’ve been called to endure and pray we use our gifts to give Glory to Him.  

“We saw his star at its rising and come to do him homage.” Matthew 2:2

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