Blessings in the storm
The other day Jen and I were making our way to the airport to pick up my mother for a Thanksgiving visit. We were talking about the journey behind us and the journey ahead with Jennifer’s cancer treatment. I shared with her something that has been on my heart lately. I said, “If I had my choice, I would never wish cancer on anyone. I would definitely not wish cancer on you. But, I can definitely see how God has blessed us through all of this. I really can. It has brought us closer as a family. We have learned who are friends are. We have been shown a lot of love by the church. We have different priorities now. God has really blessed us.”
Jennifer didn’t say anything. She just nodded her head up and down as tears streamed down her face.
St. Benedict said it this way, “Keep death always before your eyes”. When you face serious life-threatening illness, when you preside over the funeral of one who has passed away, when what you value most comes under threat, it changes you. If you are open to the Spirit’s loving and gentle work, you find that your life is being recreated in unique ways by God’s gentle and firm hand.
For me, that means that I savor everyday moments a little bit more. When my youngest, Mattea, sees me walk in the door and yells “Daddy!” and runs up to me for a hug, I hold her a little closer. When our oldest Karis wants to dance in the middle of the sanctuary, I don’t stop her. I just delight in her love for music and her love for the Lord, and know that the Spirit is at work in her heart. When gets my attention to tell me about what happened, and she has to tell me about every detail of everything that happened, I try to listen better. And I try to never let a day go by where I don’t tell Jennifer I love her and how beautiful I think she is. I find myself laughing more. Playing more. Living in each moment. Trying not to run ahead of myself and miss everything.
Another blessing in the middle of this trying time in our life has been seeing how God has blessed us and provided for us. God provides for our financial needs daily. Jennifer received a small inheritance that has helped with medical bills. Anonymous letters come from halfway across the country and across town with money in them. We are not wealthy, but our fridge is full, our bills are getting paid, and we have a wonderful parsonage to rest our heads in.
You, our church, have been a part of God’s provision as well. You have sent cards, made casseroles, helped with housework, and watched our kids. You have allowed us flexibility with our schedule, and you have stood with us through this difficult time every step of the way. You did not expect to get into all of this mess with us when we started here, but you have not complained at all. For that, we give thanks.
Over and over again, people ask how we are doing, both in this community, United Churches, and people around the country that we have shared our lives with. And we say we are doing fine. That is an understatement. Even though we have our good days and our bad days, we are truly blessed. We may have a few more tears streaming down our faces, but as many of them are tears of joy and gratitude than they are tears of heartache and frustration.
Many days, “Team Walker”, before heading our separate ways, will hear Daddy yell at some point a cheer that he learned from a football coach whose kids both ended up being NFL coaches as well. I say, “Who has it better than us!” And the response is “nobody”. I truly believe this. We have a Lord who lavishes love on us that we do not deserve, and his presence seems more evident every day. We have each other as a family. We have some good friends. And we have a church family that loves and supports each other. Who could ask for more?