february + march 2014.
Well, we spent another week with only $5 to our name, during which it became apparent that we required yet another round of van repairs -- and yet again money magically materialized... just enough to get us home. So we made a break for the coast and hit a bunch of beautiful beaches.
Shortly thereafter, we stopped by Van Cafe, our Vanagon parts shop of choice in Santa Cruz, just because we were blowing through town and we could, before venturing up the coast about half an hour north to camp out on a bluff overlooking the ocean. It was a beautiful night and a relaxing morning, mostly spent frolicking on the beach below or lounging at the cafe across the street. After staying longer than we had intended, as always, we collected ourselves and fired up the van, only to discover there was no fire! We were stuck... and we'd just gotten busted for camping out there the night before by a security guy who gave us the standard, over-zealous "tap" on the window of the van with his industrial strength MagLite (which was certainly not the first tap and sadly not the last on our trip). But after seeing how cute we were and seeing our sleeping baby, he let us stay "one night only". For my part, I specifically did not panic or get pissed that we were broken down for the millionth time, even though we'd had this van-intermittently-won't-start issue "repaired" three months prior. We prayed and... and nothing. I put Little Buddy down for his nap, then ran across the street to scope out the bus schedule, got some cash out of the exorbitantly over-priced ATM machine, made change, and ran back with 5 minutes to spare before the last bus of the day was due to come and whisk The Music Man off to our trusty VW parts shop. Except as I crossed the street, and The Music Man walked over from the van to meet me, a bunch of surfer dudes all gasped and shook their heads and looked over the edge of the cliff for a few seconds before getting in their cars and somberly driving away. On the way out of the lot, one of them casually said that they'd just seen a guy fall from near the top of the 50 foot monolith in the waters below.
Apparently this was something they'd all seen before? I asked if they'd called 911 and one guy said, "no, I don't have a cell phone" and drove off. While I was trying to get my barely functional iPhone to respond, the strangest thing happened: The Music Man (who admittedly used to be the guy who would drive away and not get involved) called 911 and ran down the path maybe half a mile to the beach to help the guy who'd fallen. Two surfers we'd chatted with earlier that morning, one of which we'd encountered multiple times (and The Music Man had even prayed for the last time we'd talked to him) were down on the beach getting ready to catch some waves and heard a weird noise and went to investigate and found a young man (who they didn't even realize was climbing the monolith) bobbing around in the water, passed out, bleeding heavily from his head, and gurgling -- pretty much on the verge of drowning. I think his name was Marcus? So they dragged Marcus out of the water, at which point The Music Man ran up to them. The surfer dudes, having done their duty, continued about their surfer business while The Music Man took care of Marcus and continued to talk to 911. He ran back up and I gave him our first aide kit and a blanket and some water, and he ran back down and took care of the guy and prayed with him and held his hand and comforted him until the medics arrived. He stayed by his side right up until the point the EMTs turned him away as they put him on the LifeFlight chopper to fly him out. In the end, Marcus miraculously escaped serious injury.
It was a wild experience though and I was so crazy proud of my guy. I'm the guy who instinctively jumps in an gets involved... even if it's trying to break up a fight between two raging raccoons at a city cemetery (don't worry, I just threw rocks and yelled at them from a safe distance), but the Music Man is traditionally much more reserved. All the drama, all the hurt, all the chaos of pregnancy and miscarriage and cancer and homelessness -- somewhere in the last year or so he learned to not just be the sure and steady guy he's always been, but be a rock that others can deeply depend upon... someone willing and able to look unflinchingly into eyes filled with fear and pain and say with tenderness and surprisingly convincing confidence, "I'm here... you're not alone... I'm going to take care of you... we're in this together... I'm not going to leave you... no matter what... it's going to be okay". I don't know everything that transpired down on that beach, but I know that somewhere during that long hour, Marcus said he was climbing the monolith on a spiritual quest which went awry. Perhaps he got his answer? I love that God loves that guy so much that he didn't just have someone there to drag him out of the water -- he made a way for him to not be alone in the midst of his pain. We don't have to be alone. We are not alone.
So The Music Man made it back up to the bluff, and one of the firefighters offered to give him a ride into town to the parts shop, and off he went. And as soon as Little Buddy had woken up from his nap I gave the van a try and it magically started! The Music Man had just purchased a veritable plethora of parts from the shop (which we didn't install at that time, but which turned out to be the very parts we needed to fix the van a month later) and I cruised back to Santa Cruz to pick him up, and we carried on with our big adventure.
We headed north for another visit with the Rameys, then further north still, stopping in Redding, Lake Whiskey (with yet another tap on the window with yet another MagLite), Eureka, and the Redwood Forest, which was breathtaking. After our first night and a torrential downpour in the forest, we awoke to find another van the same year as ours parked just across the way (with the same cargo case and a tiny bike on top and the Canadian version of us inside -- toddler included). They were such a sweet family and we connected for a bit, took a few photos, and got exactly the advice we ended up needing about our starter issue, our fridge, and various other problems before continuing on our way. We (and by we, I mean The Music Man and Little Buddy) also saw a lady get healed in the Redwood Forest. The Music Man helped Little Buddy pray for her back, which had been in chronic pain for something like 20+ years, and she got all warm and tingly and it stopped hurting (which she said never happened) and she was so surprised and touched that she burst into tears. I kindof have this theory that people don't spontaneously burst into tears unless something real just happened. So when the boys came back beaming and told me about their adventure I was both happy and sad. Happy because the woman was healed but sad because I missed it... and also a little guilty because the only reason the boys were even out there was because I literally kicked them out and locked the doors behind them, as they were both driving me up the wall! But don't judge me... living in a van with the external dimensions of 8x14 (only 5x5 of which is actually space you can stand up in IF you're less than 5 feet tall) with an extraordinarily handsome bearded guy who mostly moves in slow motion and an absolutely adorable 2 year old who mostly moves in fast forward is less than half as easy and/or stress free as it sounds... especially after five months!
It was a long journey home, and we were weary from the drive, but so very thankful to finally make it back to Seattle, to family, and to friends -- with just a few weeks to connect and rest and pack before heading overseas. God provided for all of our needs while we were back home, from finances for our adventures abroad (bless you!), to a place to retire the van while we are away (you guys are the best!), to a place to stay and regroup and pack while in Seattle (you guys are our heros!), to an iPad (bless you, friends -- there'd simply be no blog if it weren't for your generosity, and we might not have survived three long plane rides were it not for having the means to repeatedly serve up Curious George on demand). He has more than enough...
Being back in Seattle was both good and hard. Part of us wanted to hurry up and get home and get back to living our life in our happy little home and having our friends and being stationary so everything makes sense... and part of us didn't/doesn't know if or when that will happen but takes great comfort in knowing that even if that doesn't happen, or doesn't happen the way we hope, or doesn't happen soon... even if we are apart, it is comforting that we can still remain close. It has been such a surprise, and a very great joy, to grow even closer together with many of our friends while being far apart.
It's been a while since I've been able to offer a medical update, but since returning home I have been able to pay my oncologist a visit (or two). I am totally cancer free and God is good! And I don't say that I'm cancer free lightly -- especially after a tumultuous day of test results. I got the call today that the results from my blood draw a few days prior showed my hCG was 13, which indicated the cancer had returned. I marvel that even in the midst of it, as weak and weary as I am, I didn't freak out -- neither of us did. We were Simon Peter, asking, "Where could I go? You alone have the words of life." (John 6:68) We knew and know that God is good and His promises are true. And not just last year when I was sick and then I wasn't, but today, when the call from the nurse could have sent us reeling out of control, cancelling plane tickets, and mentally signing up for chemo. But when we heard about the bad results we went straight home to rest and pray and worship and kiss. That's right: when in doubt, make out! And when we headed to the doctor's at 3 to discuss the "13" from Wednesday's blood draw, we both had perfect peace even though we couldn't make sense of my test results. What a day! What a roller coaster ride. In the end, it appears that I simply had a very early miscarriage which my first blood test picked up, but today's blood test showed my levels are perfectly normal and I am healthy. I am cancer free. I have an amazing husband and an amazing doctor and an amazing God, and I am oh so thankful! Nothing like getting goosed once in a while to help you keep your perspective, right?!
So we leave on March 24 for 11 weeks of worship in the City of David (that's in Jerusalem, which is in Israel) before heading to Switzerland to kick off 6 weeks in Europe doing we-don't-exactly-know-what-or-where-but-mostly-in-Italy-probably. We'll be back in the States in late July for another 2 plus months of hiking around the Northwest, we think, and then we hope to move back into our much missed home overlooking our much missed Green Lake in early October… unless something else unexpected happens, which would no doubt result in a terrible mixture of both dread and delight.
This is not a sightseeing tour we are embarking on -- we consider ourselves less like being on vacation and more like being on a mission, and we really need prayer. Lots of it. So don't be shy. We'd love your prayers for grace, favor, protection, direction, fearlessness, financial provision, boatloads of inspired music, divine appointments, ridiculous healing miracles, and exceptional parenting prowess.
We are so thankful that you've been on this journey with us this last year. I can hardly believe it was only just a year ago that my body was threatening to miscarry and a small group of the most amazing girls (including my incredible friend and midwife, Carmon) rallied around me and showered me with love and friendship and selflessness. And in the aftermath of our miscarriage, we were overwhelmed by all of you -- you poured out your prayers and your words of hope and life, you brought us dinners and garden care packages, you laughed with us and cried with us and hoped with us and celebrated with us. Bless you all for your generosity, and generosity of heart. We are forever grateful for your love and hold you very dear to our hearts. We really hope that you will continue to both follow our story and be a part of it. It's not easy pouring our hearts out and we haven't done so entirely for our own amusement… we want to be known by you, just as we want to know you. We love you all so dearly, we miss you so much more than you can know, and we pray God continues to write His story in and through each of every one of our lives.