It’s hard to believe, but I made it through the 31 day challenge! For 31 days (with a few days missed here and there), I faced some of my fears, and wrote about what I discovered. I still have many fears and many lessons to be learned, but I feel stronger, more confident, and more content as I look toward the future, with all of its unknown variables and mysteries. The truth that my journey through cancer had begun to teach me has been even more deeply imprinted upon my heart: as we encounter trials and things that scare us in life, if we keep hope alive and our faith nurtured, we can overcome anything. Wherever we are on our journey of faith-convinced there is no God, just starting to entertain the possibility of God, tentatively beginning a relationship with God, or faithfully trying to grow in our relationship with God, if we have faith in goodness and perfect love, will can face anything with hope in our hearts. Because even though we might not see it yet, believing in the existence of goodness and perfect love, is believing in all that God is, though our minds may fight what deep down our hearts desire. And with God by our side, anything, even death, will be overcome.
On my own journey of faith, I have dwelled in every stage. After experiencing darkness for the first time, while in high school, I was convinced that God did not exist. After witnessing goodness and the strong faith of many friends at Notre Dame, I began to entertain the possibility of a God. At the end of my freshman year, after making peace with pain of the past and asking God to forgive my failings, I tentatively began a relationship with God. And ever since, I have been faithfully trying (though I often stumble) to continue to grow to love and serve God more completely. As I reflect on the different stages of my life so far, I realize this: the most challenging times in my life were not the darkest; rather, the darkest times in my life were when I had no faith, and therefore no hope. When I was in the depths of true despair, when I had no faith in a Father that is always good no matter if the world is or not, it was then that the world around me looked the darkest. Even on the hardest days of chemotherapy, when my mouth sores were so painful I couldn’t talk and I thought I would choke on my own saliva, or when depression set in and I was convinced I was going to die before treatment was over and before my son was even six months old, even then, though my faith was only a sliver of what it should be, it still existed. And therefore, so did hope.
Keeping a faithful heart and choosing to live in hopefulness, I have strived to overcome even my deepest fears this month. And amazingly, as I trudged through murky water, I kept witnessing examples of courage. These examples carried me forward, and will continue to carry me forward for the rest of my life. And so now, I want to share them with you.
A few years ago I moved to New York City to live with my older sister. Before moving there, because of age and physical difference, we were not that close. And truthfully, I had little understanding of who she was or what her life was about. However, shortly after becoming her roommate, it became clear to me that my sister was enduring a dark time in her life. It seemed to me that she had begun to believe lies that society and her current boyfriend told her. I saw a woman who was absolutely gorgeous on the outside, smarter than I could imagine being, more talented than I could fathom, and who posessed a fiercely loyal and loving heart. But my sister didn’t see those things. And as a result, she began to doubt whether goodness was in her future. Still, she never let hope leave her heart, and now, less than five years later, we are best friends, and she wakes every morning in a home full of love, next to a devoted, incredible husband and with this sweet face looking up at her:
After years spent working hard to support his family, my dad recently began to pursue a passion he’s had for years: storytelling. Even though he’s never written fiction before, he didn’t start tentatively or small. Instead, he began writing a cross-generational book that travels through various countries and time periods. At this point, he’s written 575 pages, and he hasn’t even begun to write part two! I’ve been trusted to read some of his words, and they are beautiful, moving, and challenging, and I can’t wait to read more of the incredible story he is weaving. But the thing is, my dad doesn’t know what will happen when he finishes his book. He doesn’t know when it will be published or how people will react. Still, he never lets hope leave his heart, and keeps writing. How beautiful.
Though I hadn’t seen her since my own wedding almost four years ago, I recently had the privilege of witnessing a dear friend celebrate her own wedding day. I watched her promise to love and honor her husband, while promising to accept love and honor from him, for all the days of her life. As I sang the words to the beautiful song Song of Ruth, by Steve Warner (director of the Notre Dame Folk Choir), I remembered seeing tears on my beautiful friend’s face six years ago, as she sang the words to the very same song at a wedding our choir provided music for. My dear friend has always been moved by this song. She has always treasured the kind of love it describes: a love that pushes one to vow to go wherever their loved one goes, to make their home wherever their loved one lives, to befriend and cherish the people their loved one cherishes, and to exalt the same God whom their loved one exalts. Years before she even met the man who is now her husband, she knew that she would have this song sung at her wedding. She didn’t know who she was meant to marry, and she didn’t know when she would meet him. Still, she never let hope leave her heart, and she now radiates love and joyfulness, like this:
These are just some examples of courage I’ve seen lately. I could go on and on, and tell you more about a mom who’s continuously sacrificed her own desires to care for her family, a brother who’s willingly endured physical pain to show his love for me, a brother-in-law who’s left the only home he’s ever known to pursue further education, a brother-in-law who’s embarked on a new relationship, a sister-in-law who’s created a beautiful new life and community far from home, a mother-in-law and father-in-law who have traveled to various parts of the country to lovingly support their children, a best friend who’s gracefully navigating being a new mother while holding a full-time job, a best friend who’s moved cross-country to support the dreams of her boyfriend, a best friend who’s moved home to help her mother as she heals, and a best friend who’s making sacrifices in order to leave her conventional job so that she can pursue her dream of writing full-time. I could also tell you more about the One who gave His life so that we might have full communion with God, our Father. Truly, I could go on and on, because I am amazed by the acts of courage I see around me. These acts of courage continuously remind me to never shy from facing my fears, and that we can find happiness by living with hope in our hearts.
Even just after emerging from the hardest months of our lives, with hope and faith in our hearts, we can find real happiness, living a life where we face our fears with courage.
(A special thank you to Joe McGinley for taking this wonderful photo of our family! Check out his incredible fly fishing guiding adventures and beautiful photography on his blog, Fly Fishing for the Soul.)
I cannot thank you enough for encouraging me and joining me on my 31 day challenge of facing my fears. Please keep visiting-I would be honored to keep sharing my journey of faith with you!
To support the Notre Dame Folk Choir (a group I was honored to be a part of during college), and the incredible musical ministry they do all over the country and in Ireland, consider buying their gorgeous music! Your prayer life will be richer, and you will not be disappointed in their stirring songs! You can buy some of their more recent music on itunes, here, or all of their wonderful albums through World Library Publications, here.
Day 1: Be Not Afraid
Day 2: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made
Day 3 Keeping a Faithful Heart in Light of Suffering
Day 4: Facing Fears with Laughter
Day 5: Listening to My Heart
Day 6: Daring to Love Myself in Order to Love Others
Day 7: Opening Up My Idea of a Remarkable Life
Day 8: Giving Voice to My Fears
Day 9: Being a Bearer of Joy
Day 10 & 11: Give Everything
Day 12: Switching My Focus
Day 13: Reaching Out
Day 14 & 15: Letting Go
Day 16: Giving Voice to My Dreams
Day 17: Putting Fear into Action
Day 18: Clear Eyes, Full Heart
Day 19: Strength, Wisdom, Courage, and Clarity
Day 20-22: Facing the End of Things
Day 23: Showing Delight in Others
Day 24: Embracing the Dawn
Day 25: Saying No and Letting Go of the Guilt
Day 26: Find Love, then Give it All Away
Day 27: Doing What I Have to Do
Day 28: Snow in October
Day 29: People Should Know
Day 30: Finding Myself Surrounded in Beauty