Another incredible weekend with survivors and supporters from across Canada comes to an end…It’s always bittersweet when these weekends finish but much more sweet than bitter. I’m writing now from the airport in St. John’s hanging out with our friend (and fellow facilitator) Norma and Mikey, all of us en route to Toronto. We flew from Deer Lake, NFLD to St. John’s on the smallest commercial plane we’d ever flown – check out this tiny prop plane!
Norma on the left, the pilots RIGHT THERE! So cool.
Despite the intense fog when we landed, the flight was smooth and uneventful – just the way a flight should be, I suppose. I took some time during the flight to reflect on this past weekend (before I fell asleep, that is!); we are so grateful to have opportunities to connect with others in such a safe environment on such deep levels. We always meet new people who become almost instant friends and I love when we can let down our walls, allow ourselves to become vulnerable, and share our stories with one another.
Laughing and reconnecting with the other facilitators at these events is always a blast too – what solid, insightful, supportive people to have in our lives and to call our friends! And it’s great to take the time to reflect on what happened in our hearts and minds over the weekend before jumping back into the swift pace of life
at home in the RV.
It’s been interesting to be at this point in our lives (without a house, without jobs, without much clear life direction) and find ourselves working as facilitators and peers at a YACC Retreat. Truly, it’s where we were 3 years ago when Mikey was diagnosed. And yet it’s not the same place…so much has happened in 3 years to change our hearts, our perspectives, our understanding, and the way we react to hard situations. Although many circumstances in our lives are the same and it feels like we’re in the middle of a storm, we are different people and are choosing to focus on the sun.
This weekend was a great reminder of refocusing, of realigning our hearts to truth and not letting our current situation define who we are. Amidst the fun, the games, the uncontrollable laughter, the conversations over terrific meals, and the beauty of Gros Morne were moments that reminded us to enjoy the storm because we know Who’s in the boat with us.
When Mikey was first diagnosed with cancer, a story from Mark 4 gave Mikey and I a new perspective on storms. It’s the story of Jesus and his disciples crossing over the sea of Galilee when a furious storm comes upon their boat. The disciples, reacting to the waves crashing overboard and slowly sinking their boat, find Jesus sleeping on a cushion in the stern, and immediately cry out, “Jesus! Don’t you care if we drown?!” Jesus awakes, stops the storm and turns it into calm seas, and says to his friends, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” And his disciples, feeling many emotions at this point I’m sure, turn and say to one another, “Who IS this man whom even the winds and seas obey?”
This story is really a picture of living life with the certainty that comes from knowing who is in your boat. Think about it. If the disciples really believed that this Jesus, who commanded the raging storm to be still, was who he said he was, they could have rested like him in the boat. They could have slept away the storm unafraid. They could have sat up in the crow’s nest, one arm fist-pumping enthusiastically in the air as they enjoyed the ride of their life, not worried about what might happen because Jesus was in their boat.
When we first heard this story presented this way, we knew something big was coming our way, and although we didn’t think it would be cancer 3 years ago, we felt prepared for the storm. The reality was that cancer was not this wild and crazy ride…it was quiet, often lonely and isolating, full of dark moments and confusion. We forgot to trust that Jesus was in our boat all along, and although we found our way through the storm with his help later, we lost some months along the way. With the recent life developments this time around, we were reminded of how we can choose to respond after going through cancer and learning that, in the end of it all, Jesus was with us all along. This past weekend confirmed that we are in a different place indeed than we were 3 years ago, physically (Mikey felt more energetic than he has felt at any conference or retreat; I ran every morning of the weekend and didn’t feel drained), emotionally (we were able to wear the facilitator/survivor/supporter hats with much more balance than in the past), and spiritually (we are choosing to trust, and already see, that Christ has been faithful to us in the past and we can trust him as we ride out this unknown storm).
How wonderful to see growth and to experience change in our lives as individuals and as a couple from that first retreat to now! We are blessed with such a solid community not only in the young adult cancer world but also in our personal lives and understand the reality that comes from Dr. Keith Block’s quote:
“Not having a supportive community is medically equivalent to smoking a pack of cigarettes a day.”
It also helps when you wake up every morning next to someone like this:
(Okay – he’s not like that in the mornings. BUT this is the goofy, fun, lovable personality that I married! So blessed to be loved by him and honored to walk alongside Mikey.)
Staying focused in the storm of life also is easier when I’m staying grounded here:
“The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” – Proverbs 16:1
Running also helps – it’s my release. Again, I experienced the energizing power of getting up early to get a run in. Friday morning I ran a tough but gorgeous 5.3 miles (stiff body!); Saturday was a sprite 5.5 miles along the coast; Sunday was a speedy and fresh-feeling 6.5 miles past Lobster Head Cove. Making time to run does so much for my emotional and mental health, and staying on top of exercise while traveling makes me feel so much better.
Community. Friendship. Support. Love. The guiding Word. God’s faithfulness. Track records that we haven been taken care of and will continue to be provided for in the future. It’s time to enjoy the ride, to storm into the sun. Thanks to YACC – the facilitators (Karine, Angie, Norma, and Renee) and supporters and survivors – for helping to remind Mikey and I of this truth this weekend in beautiful Rocky Harbor, Newfoundland. Grateful to see that even if your circumstances do not appear to have changed, we can change along the journey, and that impacts our circumstances.
Soon we’ll be on a plane bound for Toronto where we’ll head straight to a lunch time screening with Pat and then prep for an evening screening. Let the craziness continue! Glad we know and can trust who’s in our boat right now… see you
from the road in the air,