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Mud Caked Boots

Friday, we had a hose bib fixed that has been leaking for longer than it should have been. 

It wasn’t a quick fix, but it leaks no more. The area around the hose has been leaking water and creating mud around it for quite some time now. 

As I was testing the newly fixed hose, I was reminded of a moment when I was standing in the same spot where another mess was being revealed and one we didn’t know about just yet.

I stood in the same spot trying to fix a mini mudslide, a hose bib spraying rusted water, and a downspout that burst open with pride and years of sludge.

As we (Ian, Jon, and I) worked to clean it up, my feet sank into the mud. 

I got stuck. 

It was quite a metaphor for the time we lived in—so many felt stuck.

Confusion and uncertainty were raging—it was 2020 after all.

Nothing made sense.

We were, after all, living in the times of the “Great Pause.” In our house, we were trying to understand several things that were not making much sense.

As I stood over the rancid sludge-covered boots and captured this horrible moment, I strongly felt God was preparing me for something else. 

How could I know the path these boots, now caked with mud, would take us. Doesn’t it always come back to cake, cake, cake and more cake

Tears began to sting my eyes for many reasons: the crazy, uncertain world, the second anniversary of losing my dad, mandates not allowing us to see my mom and some curious and unexplained things happening at home.

We could never have predicted how so much would turn upside down in the world and in our world these last two years.

How quickly things changed for so many of us. We are still trying to make sense of so much. It’s likely this side of heaven, we will never fully understand most of it.

For us, clarity came within less than a week with an ER visit, a hospital stay, a risky surgery, and an aggressive recurring brain cancer diagnosis for my husband. It all changed the course of our lives. 

That was two years ago. 

That week, that ER visit, that surgery (tumor resection), and what we learned were some of the most challenging days of my life, and yet somehow, there was peace beyond understanding to help me navigate those days. Remember the billboard—you will have peace of mind—as I left the hospital after the surgery? We are still processing so many details of it all.

It is hard to believe we have been on this journey for two years. As I drove over the bridge home from the hospital to break the news to the kids, I asked God to give me the strength, to provide me with words, and please help keep me at peace. 

Then I saw a sign, “You can be certain, You will have Peace of Mind.”

It became abundantly clear, though, that God would continue to give us peace, courage, and strength the more we trusted and allowed Him to lead the way—Thy will be done.

After so many ups and downs, inhaling and exhaling, waiting and deciding, there was another tumor resection and a stroke just over a year after the initial diagnosis and only weeks after moving two kids 5 hours away from home. If you know the depth of the bond of our family, you would understand the ache this has caused our kids as they were also trying to spread their wings. 

Again we made it through trusting God’s plan to go where you are called.

Last week after months of hard work, progress, treatment, stable tumor reports, and prayers, we got news of tumor progression.

Sigh.

We are living a life-altering story filled with uncertainty once again. We are doing our best to manage it with great faith and an abundance of hope. 

It’s a miracle we are standing at a two-year mark.

All hope is not lost. 

There is always hope if we choose to see it.

We will continue to take things One Day at a Time and let the Spirit Lead.

We have spent the better part of the last few weeks working on house projects, including blessing the world with things we no longer need, letting go of things we thought we’d save just in case, and rearranging some spaces to honor our season of life and tending to some broken things. 

Some of those things have been broken or need attention for much longer than necessary. Or at least longer than we have been willing to admit. Like that hose, we had no choice but to get it fixed—it finally redeemed itself. 

These days it takes us longer than expected to tackle projects—the list is still so long. But isn’t that life?

There are things we have to strategically plan, put on the back burner, nix altogether or substitute with a more logical, less labor-intensive solution. 

But the truth is. It’s hard to attend to and reconcile ALL THE THINGS that require and can quickly drain our energy. 

Important Work

We have important work these days. Jon is fighting the good fight, the kids are continuing to grow while supporting life at home, and I am doing my best to keep things running (maybe not always smooth but running all the same) while encouraging our valiant fighter and tending to the hearts of my kids.

It’s essential to be patient and tender with all that is coming at us. We are offering grace when we can. 

Meantime, we are making plans for the upcoming school year for my two high school girls who will continue to school at home. They are excited about what is in the works. 

We are supporting the eventual transition back to college for our sophomore and senior (one who will be starting MBA work). While the workload will be demanding, the future is bright, and there is no doubt they are where they need to be.

These daily tasks are just a symptom of a whole and fruitful life. Jon and I are grateful to be doing this together, even at a much slower and simpler pace. We are learning to love the slow pace of this life. 

More like Mary at his feet

The gospel reading from mass today seems fitting. 

“Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed Him. She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.’ The Lord said, to her in reply, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”—Luke 10:40-41

It’s taken me a long time to be more like Mary and less like Martha constantly doing all the things. Jesus wasn’t upset with Martha for doing all the things, he was pointing out that she was doing all she did with anxiety. It seems counterintuitive that something that could cause a tremendous amount of anxiety (my husband’s brain cancer) has been where I most easily found myself sitting at the feet of Jesus. It is where I search and find peace, hope, courage and strength not because of the diagnosis, but because I have given over my worries to Jesus.

As I type this, I remember the trip to the city earlier in the week for treatment and the multiple phone calls to manage a long list of necessary evils of a diagnosis that requires attention or needs a decision. The fact that I can get through these days with little anxiety is because God leads the way—All Glory to Him.

The treatment appointment itself consumes a ton of time, and the phone calls often are a game of tag. I’ve never been a fan of the game of tag.

There is so much life to live, yet cancer and managing my husband’s health take center stage every day. I am here for it. It’s where God has called me to serve and love. 

Trust God

It’s where I have also been called to trust God the most. 

Cancer has a life of its own—such irony. While it has woven itself onto the pages of our story, we are doing our best to keep going.

It’s no wonder, at times, we find ourselves exhausted in this house. Napping and honoring our bodies is our new friend.

Many things have surprised me on this journey of caring for a spouse with brain cancer. I have been most surprised at how subtly exhaustion sneaks up on each of us in this house.

Obviously, cancer takes a physical toll. But it also takes an emotional and mental toll, even on those not fighting it. I’m sure I don’t need to explain all the reasons why.

This brain cancer journey affects everything.

It affects every decision we make, and those (decisions) we can barely find time to even contemplate or consider. 

It affects how often the laundry gets done or how recycling the same clothes work just fine.

It affects how we spend our time, our treasure, and how we manage the maintenance of our home.

It affects our sleep—needing more hours than expected and is the cause for not catching even a single wink.

It affects what we so quickly let go of and causes us to tighten our grip.

It affects how hard we fight for peace and how much we are unwilling to compromise when the slightest glimpse of unrest tries to enter. Maintaining peace and stability is crucial to this fight.

It affects our desire to explain, defend and draw a line in the sand, yet we learn silence is a much better friend.

One thing it won’t affect is even though we sometimes feel stuck in the sinking mud, we will continue to be grounded in faith, hope, and love. 

It’s hard to believe it has been two years since we began this journey.

I thank God daily for the miracle of life given all we’ve been through and all Jon has endured, even as he still laughs, smiles, and holds tremendous hope.

He gets up every single day ready to take on the day with the best attitude, his eyes focused on God’s Will and plan for His life.

It’s true this is no easy task—people remind us of this often. 

As I spoke to a friend last week when she called to check in, her words, “This is real life,” hit hard. 

It is real life. 

What we are living is incomprehensible when you look at the entire picture. 

And it is our real life.

My husband of almost 25 years and father to my four children is fighting for his life.

Jon is fighting for his life. It is worth repeating.

That is real life, and it affects everything. 

Why I write

Sharing words here about some of the vulnerable parts of our story is not an easy task. I don’t do it for attention or because the world is owed anything about our journey.

I write because it’s the gift I have been given long before our journey began two years ago. I didn’t start writing when brain cancer entered our world. 

I write because it’s a gift I have been given to do my part in being a witness to how faith and God weave in and through our lives.

I write because it helps to process the life we are living, weaving words, brings me peace.

Crafting and weaving words while being mindful of the hearts who read them while coming from a place of love and truth can be difficult. 

I’ve said it before. I wrestle with the words often and sometimes for days and weeks. Some reflections come easy. Others and their final edits never get shared because I question the message. They must all point to faith, hope, and love or truth, beauty, and goodness. 

Even when it’s only a tiny part of the story, sharing here runs the risk of being “open to correction” even when it’s not the place. 

We need grace, compassion, and tenderness—a soft place to land. There is no space for judgment from either ourselves or others on this very difficult journey.

There’s no space for criticism or judgment about our journey’s hows, whys, or whats, even when well-intentioned. It is nearly impossible to imagine walking in other people’s shoes/boots, especially after they’ve been stuck in sinking mud for some time.

These boots are filled with blood, sweat, and tears, and they are caked in mud and sludge from a downspout that burst open that day and was holding years of gunk (which we were none the wiser) and yet with a little bit of patience the water washed over my feet and finally ran clear. It was forgiving. 

We reconciled to eventually get that hose fixed. 

With some help, we finally did so this year. 

Just as we reconcile to be okay with what doesn’t get fixed and know God will take care of the rest.

Those boots covered/caked with mud and the person who wears them are grounded in faith, hope, and love and covered in prayers that bring us peace, courage, strength, patience, and trust that can only come from above.

Without all of that I am not sure how I could get through this journey.

May we be grounded in faith when we walk our challenging journeys and take muddy steps.

May we be tender and compassionate to those who have walked through and been stuck in the mud on their journey.

May we be given a soft place to land so we can remove heavy boots for a while and watch the cleansing water (from the newly fixed hose bib) wash over the mud-caked boots 

May we be more like Mary as we decide to sit at the feet of Jesus.

May we leave our sorrows and worries at the foot of the cross. 

“May the God of hope fill us with all joy and peace in believing, so that we may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”—Rom 15:13.

A few more things

It’s fitting I would share a bit about cake today, July 17th, even if it is about the mud still caked on my boots.

Speaking of cake, Happy 4th Anniversary in Heaven, Dad. It has been 4 years too long. I promised you I would always celebrate you with cake. I know this isn’t the best version of a cake I could make, but it will have to do. There is something important in sharing about my mud-caked boots.

Speaking of writing you can always find me on the Instagram and Facebook where I write smaller reflections more frequently.

Back in January (of 2022) Sophia asked me to join her as Co-Host on the Hear and Now Podcast. Every Tuesday new episodes go live. We are excited about spending time together sharing our journeys of faith and where we Hear God’s Voice now.

Jon, the kids and I want to thank you for your continued prayer support and for your continued generous support as we continue to navigate this brain cancer diagnosis journey.

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