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So, Climb Aboard…

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Last week I nervously shared the post about the Clever and Courageous journey we were walking these last few months.

I knew the weight it carried as I hit publish. 

There was an ache for the pain it may cause others, for the emotions in how each person could receive the story we had held close.  

And more importantly, we knew it would bring an offering of love. Though, I don’t think one can ever be prepared for the outpouring that overflowed with reminders of loving touchstones along our path in life.

“So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4:16) 

Two days after sharing, the morning of the Feast of Epiphany, I had my own Epiphany of how God intertwines these things and shows love to us. We’ll come back to this.

I listened to my friend, Elizabeth Foss, at her Take Up and Read Study, as I do each morning. I was moved by the readings of Jesus Walking on Water. You know the story of the disciples fighting against the storm through the night. Jesus came down from the mountain where he prayed. He approached the boat. The disciples were terrified of His image. When Jesus got in the boat, the storm calmed. 

I listened to the version told in Matthew’s Gospel, the familiar story about Jesus telling Peter to Not Be Afraid as He was instructed toward Jesus walk on water. 

“Take Heart, It is I. Do Not Be Afraid. Do not take your eyes off me,” Jesus tells him. 

 He tells him to fix his eyes and have courage. 

You know the story, and you understand the kind of courage.

It is a sign of supernatural courage from being in the presence of God.  

When Peter looked away toward the winds and the rough water, he began to fall in. But God firmly grabbed his hand and pulled him back into the boat.

When Peter was struggling (with his faith), when he was undone, it was then, in his desperation, he was ready to receive the help. 

Elizabeth shared something like, “The boat represents the church.” It is in the boat where the storm is calmed. 

It is then, in our suffering, that our faith is strengthened because we must rely on Him.  

When we keep our eyes fixed on God, avoiding focusing on the whipping winds, trusting and fully surrendering, we can rest in Him even in stormy waters.

This was our story—our clever and courageous one encountering stormy waters, our brain cancer story.

It’s a story we chose to hold close to heal Jon and our family while fully embracing and processing the depth, the ache, and the magnitude of our days. 

We did this all while reconciling the immense peace. It was a supernatural peace given to us through God’s grace during a time surrounded by trauma, grief, suffering and a vast unknown—our stormy seas.

In essence, we knew we needed to lean into God.

We spent time focusing on Him as our source of peace and support. When we look back on those days surrounding the surgery and diagnosis, there was incredible peace despite the magnitude of it all.

It was the same peace I felt wash over me when my little friend and I (paddleboard story) quietly prayed on the vast ocean waiting for the rescue. I was too tired to pray after fighting the rough waters. So she prayed, I waited.

I wanted to focus on keeping us steady. So I surrendered and asked Momma Mary to intercede by asking God to show up for me like He always does when I am on the precipice of falling into the water. He will always show up. We just have to invite Him on the boat.

In His faithful savior style, not only did the waters calm, but they began to push us toward land. 

It was not unlike the week driving back and forth to the hospital alone—the praying, the turning to God, relying on Him.  

It fueled and comforted my days as I continued to come home to the kids and return the next day, recharged to be by Jon’s side.

The days and months to follow were focused on intimate prayer, visits to mass, adoration, laying of hands, and bringing the Eucharist to Jon, cooking, cleaning, walking, and just living in the moment. 

In the silence, we found the surrender, the peace that allowed us to keep our eyes fixed on Him and do the hard and holy work of treatments and healing. It was our clever and courageous journey.

It was holy and sacred.

It was healing.

It brought immense peace.

The last week of December was a difficult week for us as some details of job security and financial concerns were causing a great deal of unrest. 

There was very little peace during that week until we set our eyes above and let go of control, expectations, hurt, and all the things.

God reached in and grabbed us to pull us onto the boat. 

Through prayer, the Holy Spirit has asked me to allow you to join in now.

As the messages of love, encouragement, and prayers came rolling in, so did tsunami-sized emotions. In some ways, while we were open to receive for the surge of love, we were not ready for all of it-our hearts overflow.

I woke up to my text box and DM’s flooded with countless messages from dear friends reaching many different corners and chapters of our life.  

For a moment, I just breathed and held it in the silence of my heart. 

I wanted to reach out to every person who messaged me to relive a special memory of where our lives intersected. 

This reflection is born out of love to express gratitude and acknowledge the beautiful words and humbling generosity we have received since we shared our news. 

I began to see how God was crafting our time in all of this.

As I type this, U-2’s Beautiful Day is playing in the background. And I am reminded it was the second song (the first was Raise a Hallelujah) that blasted from our car speakers in celebration as we drove home on Jon’s final radiation treatment day. 

Listening to U2 now reminds me of the high school friend who often had U2 blasting from his car. This friend also took the time to reach out last week to offer encouragement. The message touched me. Just like I was touched by the conversation with a friend, I worked with 20 years ago. He started his message with his favorite nickname for me, Hey, Aunt Hettie.

What is the significance of this? It’s how God so beautifully weaves our days, our relationships, our connections.  

As I read through some thoughtful messages, I was reminded of how much loving others really matters. Jon and I are still processing all of the support and love from so many places because we simply love and adore people.

I thought back to being in the Florida waters with my little friend and how our bond was strengthened as we sat on the paddleboard drifting into the Gulf of Mexico. She prayed the Hail Mary, and I steadied the board as we waited to be rescued.

It was sacred to be in this moment entrusted to care for this precious young friend. It was terrifying more for her than me, but I know the stillness allowed us to endure all of the forces (rough waters) coming at us.

What a reminder of the parallel of days as Jon and I navigated the vast waters of this new diagnosis on our own small boat with God at the helm.

It was sacred and holy.

We kept our eyes fixed.

The waters were quiet.

There was supernatural courage and peace.

Speaking of courage, several years ago, my life intersected with a high school friend when our children were in the same grade school. She was the first friend I met when I started a new high school that felt like it was out of my time zone AND out of my league. 

Over the years, she encountered many health struggles. In my junior year, she was out sick for some time. Every day I got on the bus, I looked for her. I prayed to see her on that bus again. It took some time, but she got back on that bus. 

Defying all odds many years later, after birthing twins and surviving a double lung transplant, she gathered a team of 20 for a Dragonboat race to raise awareness and to celebrate. 

I joined that team to celebrate alongside her, bring awareness to her cause, and dig deep for my own courage.

Having never seen a Dragonboat, much less knowing how to paddle, we arrived for our first practice in the blazing sun. So her team of dear friends and a few transplant survivors and donors carefully climbed onto the narrow vessel to balance the weight and refine the cadence and speed to move the boat forward. 

We did this while trying to keep the boat from flipping into the “lovely” sludgy river. 

If we found ourselves out of sync, it would pull us back. When in sync, we would glide along the water, moving us toward the finish line—such satisfaction when we succeeded with that rhythm after many practices. 

We arrived on race day without the warm sun. Instead, it was a chilly, rainy fall day in October. Not sure we were prepared to paddle a boat across the water with the pressure (enthusiasm) of a crowd, the colder temperature, and a bounty of other competing seasoned teams. 

We pulled our oars with all our might, each of us pulling our weight, keeping our rhythm of gliding as best and as fast as we amateurs could. 

I don’t know how everyone else felt when we crossed that finished line that day. I had to fight back the tears; I wanted to be fierce, but I was initially afraid to join the team. 

I knew how far my friend traveled to sit next to my 13-year-old daughter in the smallest part of the vessel pulling her weight. Both of these beauties showed courage as they overcame many things in life. How could I not show up and show courage?

As we crossed the finish line, I glanced over to the embankment and caught a glimpse of Jon laughing, clapping, and cheering for me, Sophia, and my friend. He is always cheering for us…

Really, for anyone. 

Our amateur team came in second place in our division. What a thrill for us to literally pull together for a cause so close to the heart of a dear brave friend.

Whether in a small boat praying a Hail Mary waiting to be rescued, or in a Dragonboat of 20 leaning and pulling to keep our cadence, or an entire community linking arms to pray and cheer on a friend to many on his cancer journey, we must remember to fix our eyes. 

We cannot do it alone. 

As I mentioned, the last week of December wasn’t just rough because of the uncertainty. It was made better as we bore witness to all of the love. 

I hesitate to share any unnecessary worry until we know more, but I want to ask for your prayers.

“Prayer makes your heart bigger, until it is capable of containing the gift of God himself. Prayer begets faith, faith begets love, and love begets service…” Mother Teresa

Just as we were obedient to the call of keeping the beginning of this journey sacred on our small boat together, I’m feeling a strong call to ask your prayers—so climb aboard the boat.

We will work together to move the boat forward. Sometimes we may lose rhythm and fall back—please paddle with us for this leg of the race.

And we’ll keep our fixed eyes on God because he’s at the helm. We will trust Him because I know from the few times I didn’t, I quite literally landed in the water. We cannot calm these storms without him. 

Our last MRI left us with questions rather than the clarity of the previous ones. 

We know cancer is unpredictable like this.

Let’s paddle and pray for the next scan to be clear so we can move forward together in one vessel —a community, a church, one body in Christ. Let’s head in the same direction trusting without borders abounding in love and support.

My friend Elizabeth ended her morning reflection with a question on the morning of the Feast of the Epiphany, where she talked about Jesus Teaching Peter to Trust. She asked us to reflect on where we have seen and known God’s love for us. (1 John 4:16). 

And my Epiphany was: I have seen God’s love for us in every one of you. 

Thank you for your generosity with the fundraiser Sophia started for us. We are humbled beyond words. Thank you for your love, your encouraging words, your prayers, your hearts, and your presence in our life. So climb aboard.

“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders.

Let me walk upon the waters.

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander.

And my faith will be made stronger.

In the presence of my Savior” – Hillsong United, Oceans

An Invitation to prayer with us:

We often pray Novenas in our home In the Roman Catholic Church) is a form of worship consisting of special prayers or services on nine successive days to obtain special graces, favors, or make specific intentions.

Today (January 13) marks the Feast of St. Peregrine, the patron Saint of Cancer. It is the first day of the Saint Peregrine Novena for Cancer Patients!

Saint Peregrine suffered with cancer on his leg and he was told it needed to be amputated. So St. Peregrine turned to the cross and prayed. He did not allow his illness to bring him to despair, but rather it brought him closer to the cross, even through his suffering. 

So today, let’s pray for all cancer patients — that their illness will not bring them to despair.

Here is a link to find the prayer: https://www.praymorenovenas.com/st-peregrine-novena
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