People sometimes ask me if I found my faith when brain cancer found us.
It is more likely it prepared me.
I remember finding my faith and proclaiming my love for and trust in God at age 10. I sat next to my mom at an evening church event with a guest speaker. I remember he asked, “Who wants to be saved?”
For whatever reason, as an innocent young girl, I felt I needed to be saved from something. I have my guesses as to what that was. Tears flowed down my young face, and my hand shot in the air.
The next thing I knew, I was standing on the church’s altar, primarily among adults who needed saving, too.
I think my mom was as shocked as I was—But there I stood.
Maybe she was confused by my tears; perhaps she knew why I needed saving. Only God knows that truth.
Maybe she knew how the Holy Spirit can move us to tears when something feels right—true, beautiful and good. All I know is I told her earlier in the week we needed to go hear the speaker that night. I don’t know who it was or why I was drawn to going to this event. I just knew I had to hear what this speaker had to say. It was one of those “Go Where you are called” moments.
My mom knew by the urgency and frequency of my asking, “Can we go?” what it meant to me.
So she brought me there. We were seated among others eager to draw closer to God too. My mom always talked about God loving me, read the Bible, and spoke about Scripture often. I think she read the entire Bible many times over. Or at least she tried.
I was baptized into the local Baptist Church. I converted and entered the Catholic Church just before getting married.
God was preparing me every step of the way.
For the last several months, it has been on my mind to find the date of my baptism. I was only 10; who could remember that far back? Last week I found (accidentally, I might add) the baptismal certificate that recorded my baptism date.
Inscribed on the inside of the certificate was a Bible quote:
“Go Therefore and make disciples on all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” -Matthew 28:19.
I honestly don’t think I have seen the pile of papers I found in 25 years. They were with some wedding documents and memories tucked in a treasured space. I also found, among the papers, the certificate of our completed Pre-Cana class which prepared us for the Sacrament of Marriage.
There is grace in the Sacrament and in taking the steps to fully understand the commitment and gift of marriage.
Speaking of Cana, The Wedding Feast of Cana is always one of my most beloved stories of the Scripture. I can only imagine why—it was the first miracle attributed to Jesus, turning water into wine at the request (intercession) of his Mother, Mary. Yes, the water was transformed, but the jars that carried the water were transformed, too, just as we are when we enter into the Sacrament of Marriage as a bride and groom.
While we are always a work in progress, God has prepared me.
He has prepared Jon and our children for all that has come our way.
I am confident God gives us consolation in these details.
The wedding, the vows, the sickness and in health, the till death do us part.
“Everyone is interested in a marriage. If the human heart does not have enough love in its heart, it seeks out those who are in love. The most famous marriage in history was at Cana, because Our Blessed Lord was present there.” -Fulton Sheen
At our Pre-Cana Retreat, we discussed the many aspects that could challenge a marriage—commitment in good times and bad was the one that stuck out most to me at that time. I remember flashing forward to thinking about the excitement and fear of our long life ahead of us. Was I made for this?
Our Pre-Cana class which prepared us for marriage was on September 27th, 1997. While September 27th wasn’t the start of our brain cancer journey, that date was the moment I knew our life and our marriage might change when the doctor told us Jon needed another surgery. The surgeon did his best to prepare us for how Jon’s life may be altered by possible weakness, loss of function, and the risks of everything. And on September 28th, his life did change.
Mine changed, and our marriage (and each of our roles) changed in ways we could hardly expect.
No Sacrament of marriage could really prepare us for any of it.
On the evening September 27th, 2021, after that appointment, we took a long walk the same way we always did—with the strength of each other, side by side, in a fast cadence together. A memory I will treasure for a long time to come.
It was there God sent us that Blue Heron—though I didn’t realize it until days later—that would let us know God was with us. That Blue Heron has become our symbol of strength while standing on one leg this entire year, and as a symbol, God hears our prayers.
It is a metaphor not lost on me that Jon has been learning to stand on one leg, and our marriage has been too.
Last week, the night before our infusion, Jon and I prayed we would get a window with a view. Several previous appointments have been inside small little rooms with no view. I just wanted to spend the day outside, so a room with a window would have to do. Our tiny request was answered, and to top it off, a Blue Heron was framed and hanging outside our room. In the year we’ve been coming to infusions appointments, I have never seen a Heron painting near any of the rooms.
Through this journey, we have learned more about marriage commitment than in any other year of our almost 25-year marriage. Our lives changed in ways we could never expect. We have not been prepared for each part of the excruciating moments, but we have been met with grace and strength by trusting God to lead the way. We have grown closer to one another and to God as He continues to sanctify us along the way.
The details are not lost on me. God knows and shows us His infinite love by being in every single detail.
God in The Details.
I am not into weird signs or superstitious symbols, but God is in the details. It is in the details we find confirmation and consolation of His ever-loving presence.
The day of my Baptism, our Pre-Cana day, and the eve of that second surgery/stroke when the doctor prepared us for what may lie ahead all share the same date as our wedding day. All were on the 27th. All are important moments, some more important than others that prepared me.
While the Baptism was in April and our Wedding in December, there is one other beautiful thread in this magnificent tapestry I would love to share.
I mentioned we met with the surgeon on September 27th, 2021, to review our MRI. It turned into him preparing us for surgery (the next day), and then Jon and I came home to walk and pray to prepare our hearts as best we could) for what was to come. And back in 1997 (I know a lifetime ago) the PreCana class prepared us for the Sacrament of Marriage; it also fell on September 27th.
Our very first date in 1990 was on September 27th too. God is in the detail, preparing us and weaving our life tapestry of life together so beautifully.
God has prepared me all along the way.
By choosing to have His cleansing baptismal waters wash over me, as I proclaimed my commitment to Him when I was 10, God prepared me for my journey with my faith.
While there has been more than enough suffering on this journey, He promised He would never leave or forsake me.
He is still with me.
God trusted me with the work of glorifying Him through the commitment to the vocation of marriage. Here I am, almost 25 years later, serving my spouse as he heals from a stroke and fights a disease that may someday take his body but cannot steal his joy, peace, or commitment to his faith.
“He offers you continual proof of this; it would seem as if he had nothing else to do but sanctify your soul.
Oh, how good Jesus is! The continual crosses to which he subjects you, giving you not merely the necessary
strength, but superabundant strength to bear them meritoriously, are most certain and singular signs of his
deep love for you. Believe me, the strength he gives you does not remain sterile in you; I assure you of this
in God’s name and you must listen to me in all humility and rid yourself of any sentiment to the contrary.”-St Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio
Faith tells me that God is already there no matter what lies ahead.
I was texting with my son last night as we discussed how God prepares us for challenging and painful things.
Ian wrote, “It is just being able to trust Him more, and each time you know He will be there. That’s what “preparing us” is. Not that it will be easy, but you won’t fall away from Him in times of grief. You have built that intimate relationship between you and God to know where to go when you need Him most. And He WILL be there.”
My son is correct. It is all about the relationship with God. Like all relationships, they are best when built on trust and unconditional love. He is always there. We just have to invest in Him.
It is evident to me God has prepared me over the years. I have seen His loving and protective hand in so many unimaginably tough moments of my life.
I sometimes say to myself, “I see what you are doing here, God. I see the ways you may have prepared me.”
I see it in the many ways God speaks to me. Just check out the specific Bible verse that was typed on my Baptism Certificate so many years ago. Undoubtedly, he was preparing me for how He wanted to use me. You can find it at the end of this.
I see it in the MANY moments where someone I loved ones was in the hospital or suffering. Or when I was lying in a hospital bed with sepsis at age 25 or in an oncologist’s office every other week for 9 months, holding my breath for news while carrying my second baby—the son I quoted above—hoping cancer would not be part of mine or my baby’s birth story.
“The soul that places its trust in God alone has nothing to fear. Lift up your mind full of faith to your heavenly home and may all our yearnings and aspirations be directed there. Admire the heavenly regions which
can be reached by no other road than that of suffering. That is our true home. What matter if we reach
it by treading no other paths than the rough ones of tribulation and sacrifice?”-St Padre Pio
God prepared me for the next challenging moment each and every time.
Does having faith mean the pain and suffering go away?
No, not exactly.
But Maybe in some ways.
It does mean the more I lean into God and follow and trust Him, the more peace beyond understanding there is.
The more I can still experience joy while encountering difficult things.
Peace Beyond Understanding
The peace that can exist in those moments can only be explained by God with His infinite love, peace, mercy, and grace.
So to answer the question of those who asked if I found faith since brain cancer.
No, I didn’t find faith or God because of brain cancer. I already had that faith.
But Brain Cancer (hearing loss and all the other things) made me focus less on unnecessary things in the world.
“In order to reach our final goal, we must follow our divine Leader, who usually leads chosen souls by the path he himself has trodden and by no other; by the path, I tell you, of self-denial and suffering: If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Should you not deem yourself fortunate to see yourself treated in this way by Jesus? Foolish are those who fail to fathom the secret of the cross.” –St Pius of Pietrelcina, Padre Pio
Brain cancer and stroke recovery motivate me to focus on what is important and life-giving rather than what causes stress, hurts, or steals our peace.
It encourages me to unite my suffering to the Body and Blood of Christ and trust He will provide.
He has provided in the most extraordinary and extravagant ways and in the most ordinary and humble ways.
I have offered up the challenging days and moments,
the wounds, the fears, and the agony of walking through some hard things while united to His suffering.
He wastes nothing.
He redeems it all. Maybe just not this side of heaven.
But He redeems and heals no less, in His time and His way.
He gives us a choice to follow him with Free Will. This gives us the freedom to choose while working to stay in the state of grace. This is why the Sacraments mean so much.
And yes, sometimes we fall. We are all sinners.
We, humans, sure are complicated beings.
But walking in faith, surrendering to Him, and receiving the Sacraments—certainly makes it easier to get through this thing called life and all it throws our way.
There is forgiveness, there is hope, and redemption.
There is joy and peace even when it doesn’t make sense.
There are new mercies every day.
My faith won’t be shaken because I have already been saved, and I continue to choose God every day.
“To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21
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Speaking of sharing about my faith, you may have heard—We opened a shop.
You can check it out here.
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You would honor my family and me if you visited the Online Shop of House of Love and Laughter—where words are a matter of the heart.