It’s astonishing in life how one of the most momentous, joyous occasions could simultaneously happen at the same time as one of the most heart-wrenching, painful occasions.  I was two months into my recovery after brain surgery and hoping to get back to some “normalcy”…little was I prepared  for the two surprises about to come to me!  One surprise would be the best thing to happen in my entire life.  The other would be absolutely crushing and would challenge my faith in an even greater capacity, though my faith felt pretty “maxed-out” after the journey I had already experienced.  Both would have to do with the amazing man God had put into my life this past year…a man my heart was growing in love with more and more every day.

The next month was April and my family saw slow but great improvement in my health.  I could tell by subtle hints from Jamie that he was patiently waiting for me to recover so he could propose.  However, I couldn’t imagine when he had any time to get a ring or a moment alone with my parents to ask for their blessing.  Unbeknownst to me, he did talk with them one very early Sunday morning when he was visiting!  The following Friday he ordered a custom-designed ring setting for the diamond that was passed down from my beloved Grannie.  I was clueless- I thought maybe in a few weeks or months this would all happen…but had no idea that he was planning all of this at that time!  He visited that same weekend he had secretly ordered the ring and we had a beautiful walk together in one of my favorite parks.  It was peaceful and I was beginning to get glimpses of what everyday life could feel like once I recovered.

Monday was a day that would shock us all, though, and the next turn of events were about to change our lives and challenge our faith yet once again.  Jamie went to the doctor to find out news we never would have imagined- he had what they thought to be a cancerous tumor and before we knew it, he was scheduled for surgery that Wednesday, April 22!  I remember receiving the call from Jamie and the shock setting in.  Here I was still recuperating myself and hadn’t even left my house yet, except to get my staples removed and to go for mini walks with Jamie or my parents.  My first real outing wouldn’t be to visit friends or go to church or the store- it would be to the hospital- this time not for me but for the one I love.  My strong and supportive parents rushed me down to Virginia to be there for his surgery and recovery.  I remember shedding a tear or two the night before his surgery, and really for the first time feeling that, “Why God?” feeling…but I couldn’t let despair set in!  I just couldn’t!  I had to have faith and trust in the goodness of the Lord.  God was so much bigger than all of this and I knew my Jamie was held in His hands.  The Lord had been faithful thus far in our lives- He was worthy of all our trust.

We spent some time in Virginia for his recovery and he came to Delaware to my parents’ home (which we began to call “The Rehab Center”) for the remainder of his recovery.  Back to Virginia we traveled for follow-up oncology appointments.   We were quite a pair, both crippled in our recoveries and both laughing and falling more in love, trying to take care of one another, with the help of countless family and friends.  On Wednesday, May 13, Jamie came in the morning to pick me up from his friends’ home where I was staying.  He said, “Let’s take a walk before my appointment today.”  Nothing out of the ordinary for us, since other activities were too strenuous, but we could limp along a trail hand-in-hand and enjoy God’s creation.  He took me to a park on the Potomac River and before I knew it, he turned me around and he was on one knee!  I was speechless between my squeals of surprise and elation!  How in the world did he have time to do all this?  My surgery, his surgery, the shock of cancer, everything!  Of course I said YES!!!  It was absolutely incredible, the happiest moment ever and the most unbelievable surprise! 

We began planning our wedding, not letting the obstacles of life keep us from moving forward and living our lives.  One doctor was set on starting chemo right away.  We went to Johns Hopkins for a second opinion, and the specialist there told us there was no need to rush into chemo with a 50/50 chance that surgery kicked all the cancer, so we chose to wait and scan and plan our lives holding fast to faith in God’s sovereignty.  Our wedding date was set for September 12 in Maine, where my happiest childhood memories took place along the coast with family.  The second week of July, we found out that his blood work came back showing the cancer was not gone.  It was crushing news, but once again we had to look to God for all the strength and hope we needed to start the course ahead of us.  It was 10 short weeks until our wedding day and chemo would be 9 weeks long.  His oncologist encouraged us to postpone our wedding, but Jamie was determined to not let cancer dictate our lives- we would go on living and we would be married!

Although our hearts were filled with disappointment knowing the road before us would be much more difficult than we had asked and prayed for… we looked back with thanks at the beautiful summer we shared and at God’s perfect timing once again.  Had he started chemo earlier, Jamie would not have been able to travel to Maine for my dear cousin Bridget’s wedding and spend time up there planning our own wedding, nor would he have been able to go to Aruba to officiate one of his best friend’s weddings.  God knew that these were moments that were so very special and He allowed him to miss not one of them!  We look back and treasure all the beautiful blessings of those several weeks leading up to chemo.
As I sit and write, recalling the twists and turns and surprises and shocks along with the tears of joy and tears of pain…Mat Kearney’s song lyrics from “Closer to Love” come to mind…Through it all, my heart was continually pulled closer to love- the never-ending, all-encompassing love of God that is in Christ Jesus, as well as the steadfast, faithful love of a man named Jamie whose heart is that of a warrior’s and whose vision for life and faith has carried me when my eyes and heart have been too weak to see through the fire.

She got the call today
One out of the gray
And when the smoke cleared
It took her breath away
She said she didn’t believe
It could happen to me
I guess we’re all one phone call from our knees
We’re gonna get there soon
If every building falls
And all the stars fade
We’ll still be singin’ this song
The one they can’t take away
I’m gonna get there soon,
She’s gonna be there too
Cryin’ in her room
Prayin’ Lord, come through
We’re gonna get there soon

Oh it’s your light,
Oh it’s your way,
Pull me out of the dark
Just to show me the way
Cryin’ out now
From so far away…
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love…
‘Cause you are all that I’ve waited for
All of my life (We’re gonna get there)
You are all that I’ve waited for
All of my life
You pull me closer to love
Closer to love…
(“Closer to Love” lyrics by Mat Kearney)