For this post, I couldn’t decide on Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” or Madonna.s “Like a Prayer. But truly I should have used “Raise a Hallelujah”, “You Say”, “Way maker”, or even Carrie Underwood and Vince Gill’s rendition of “How Great Thou Art”. Those are the songs that have hit home, especially over the last year. These songs have my hands flying in the air as I walk my new neighborhood waving at those driving by or in their yards. With this crazy diagnosis comes many walks but above all, the most important walk has been my faith walk. My faith has always been strong—growing up going to church on Sundays, taking my kids to church on Sundays, blessing at the dinner table, you know, the usual. I guess with life as crazy as it was, I always felt as if this was enough. Now that I have time to just “be”, I find myself digging in oh so much deeper. When August hit and the community around us was first finding out about my diagnosis, the prayers started flowing. I was hesitant about being on every church prayer list around here because I was not ready for everyone to approach me with the side head tilts and the “I’m so sorry” sentiment….all sweet, don’t get me wrong but somehow, I always felt the obligation to reply in a way that would make them feel better and calm their worries and truly, that just became exhausting at times. My phone was blowing up–texts from well wishers, scriptures and song senders, prayers, funny gifs, and oh yeah, the normal life texts-practice times, grocery store runs, and just day to day life texts. Honestly, I was trying to figure out how to find the “old Liz” during this time and it was actually, hard to admit this still, but hard to get messages all day long reminding me about my new diagnosis. I fought, no, I fight, internally with myself about this…”Liz, find your new normal” then I fight back “you cannot let this diagnosis define you”—guess I should just ask for boxing gloves for Christmas. Night time was a hard time, it was so quiet and my mind would just run. Andrea Day puts it so eloquently in her anthem RISE UP, “when the silence isn’t quiet and it feels like it’s getting hard to breathe”. But just when I accept this, my fellow thriver, Kelli sends me a song by Elevation Rhythm entitled, ironically, “Quiet”—-my favorite lyrics, “I’ll just be quiet and let you speak through the silence”. How does God put people right where they need to be at just the right time?? Anyway, I remember I would search through my text messages in search of those prayers that were sent that day and those scriptures I could really focus on at that time for peaceful mindfulness. My prayer warriors were in out full force with Grammy and my sister in law, Angie, leading the charge. I am so thankful to have this army behind me. I wanted a place to gather these prayer as I found it to be super cumbersome to sift through text messages in my search. I looked for an app to use for all of the well wishers prayers, scriptures, and songs. I found the app CLUSTER. Perfect, one place I could share with my faithful friends to help me. I actually found it as I was sitting on my back deck waiting to watch the sun rise one morning after a long restless night—as I signed in to set it up, it asked me for a title. I, with everything it seems, started thinking of songs and music. As I looked over the calm waters I kept thinking how blessed I truly was to be sitting where I was taking in the salt air by the sound–there is something about the water that is so calming. I have always said the beach was one of the places I felt closest to God–cue “Saltwater Gospel”–but there is definitely “Something in the Water”–Carrie Underwood says it perfectly in this song, exactly what I was feeling and thinking. I had my title. I leaned on my sweet friend, Sarah, to help with my start up; she is truly one of the most faithful people I know. She knows how to find just the right scripture to lead you in the right direction or pull you out of a hard spot. She doesn’t push it on you but shares in the most caring way. The devotions she added to my Cluster page were on point and always uplifting. I might add that I have known Sarah since I was 14; she is one of the girls who knows me inside and out and even though distance has kept us apart, our hearts are always joined in our special friendship. I shared my link with friends and family who inspire me to study my faith and to grow in it. What a beautiful collection I now have! It was also so nice to go straight to that place when I had quiet time and wanted to say my own prayers or dive deeper into my own studies.
They say good things come out of our trials. I’m still working on being “thankful”, if you will, for my diagnosis but one thing I can say that I am learning to do is pray. I tried to start a book “Dangerous Prayers” with my dear friend, Jenn, but it was taking me to a little deeper place than I can handle at this point. So I started making it a point to pray for specific people. I pray mostly for Kenneth, my boys, and my family. I want them to feel at peace with my diagnosis as best they can. I want them to know that God has this and His plan is for all of us is greater than we can understand (now I just have to convince me of this). I pray for friends going through struggles and am learning that specific prayers are fair game—-it’s not like I pray for a Wolfpack win or anything but specifics to help others and their families through their hard times are fair game. Jenn and I have walked many miles diving deep into this exact conversation. I fight the selfish feeling inside of me and try to pray for courage and understanding of this new normal for myself. Praying eases my thoughts and fears. I find it to be comforting and gives me a sense of yes, this is something I can trust in, believe in, and do!
People often talk about their testimony, when they found Christ and gave their life to Jesus. Regina’s testimony inspires me every time I think about it. I often pick it up and read it as her story of diagnosis, losing her house to a hurricane, and helping her family cope with the struggles that come with both are truly a testimony to her faith. Her and her husband, George, helped Kenneth and me more this year than they will ever know. Growing up Catholic, the idea of pinpointing an exact “aha” moment when it comes to Christ and religion has always been a bit foreign to me. I was baptized, received reconciliation, confirmation…..all the steps to “prove” my true Christianity; I never knew any different. I still feel like this in a way. I am so lucky my mom, a devout Catholic, was adamant we go every Sunday morning to church and every Sunday afternoon to attend CCD (aka Sunday school….no stories allowed here, Rise!). The seeds were planted and even though, I have moved in a different direction than the Catholic doctrine, I have no doubt that God loves us, have raised my children as believing Christians, and believe that if we follow His teaching and His ways, He will lead us to the most beautiful and all encompassing eternal life with Him….what else could we ask for? But, if I had to “pick” specifics that have reinforced my faith through out the years, I can hone in on a few for sure.
First and foremost, the birth of my three boys! WHAT? How can someone NOT believe in God watching the birth of a baby and then watching them grow in to a full blown adult. It’s mind-blowing! No, it’s GOD.
Kenneth and I went to Sedona, AZ for our 10th anniversary. I was overwhelmed when we looked over the Grand Canyon but my breath was taken away when we drove up to a beautiful small chapel at the top of a hill, one of the Vortexes of Sedona, as they call it. “Eagle’s Wings” was playing softly, one of my favorite songs and the song I sang to my boys when they were little. Thanks, GOD.
When I lost my Aunt Jackie, I was 24 years old. She was my second mom! She would take me riding for hours when I was a teenager in her little red Honda prelude. I thought we were just practicing driving but looking back, those were the best conversations I ever had. I remember being so sad that cancer had taken her from us but so relieved thinking that she was sitting with Jesus watching out for all of us. Thank you, GOD.
My middle son was playing in a football game in 7th grade that truly modeled the movie “Facing the Giants”. We joked that the other team needed to bring their birth certificates to the game to prove they were only in middle school. One of these giants clocked my Jake and he was down for the count. The coach signaled me to come down to the field-Jake looked at me with eyes as if to say, “mama, just help me”…..feeling completely helpless as I stood by my son laying on the field, I looked over at our team and there kneeled his entire team of 12 and 13 year old awkward tween boys all with their heads down being led in prayer by a fellow teammate. At that moment a sense of relief and peace came over me and I knew Jake would be okay. That was GOD! I hear Drew leading his team in prayer before a ball game-yup, God loves baseball too.
Finally, I will never forget the revival service Jennifer, Lisa, and I attended at our church, Mount Olivet, with Lisa’s preacher, Pastor Midge, speaking. I had been diagnosed in the last couple of months; we were still trying to get a grasp on what in the world was going on. These two girls had been my go to’s for faith and friendship for years but THIS took on a whole new level. We raised our boys together, cheered them on at more football and baseball games than we could ever count, and now shared stories of their college adventures. We enjoyed beautiful music at this service and a wonderful message of hope. At the end, these two girls grabbed each side of me and we all prayed together. We cried so hard we shook. It was the relief I needed and God’s love just enveloped the three of us while we held each other. Midge came over and prayed over us and it took a while for us to even think about letting go. I will never forget these girls giving all they had at that moment to pray with me. Nothing else mattered and I felt uplifted in a way I had never experienced before. Now, THAT was GOD!
Through out this past year, there are been so many God Winks, as my mom likes to call them! So many times when my gut feeling (now renamed God feeling) has led me to follow the right path especially at the beginning of this diagnosis.
Each time I go for a boat ride, sit by the water, watch a sunset, have my feet in the sand, or listen to waves crash, I have a deep sense of being closer to God. I “Raise A Hallelujah” because I know I am “Livin’ on a Prayer” sent up by so many friends and family. As Martina McBride sings so valiantly “I am so Blessed”. I know when my time comes that I will be sitting beside Him feeling a love that compares to no other…….but know this, my time is NOT here and won’t be anytime soon. Now THAT’s God!