Today I am 35 weeks pregnant. I had my baby shower on Saturday. My amazing sister-in-law Rachel hosted it in her lovely home with a delicious high tea. Not all of my dear friends and family could make it of course, but I was able to share in the afternoon with 19 of the most loving, inspiring and encouraging women I have ever known. As my treasured friends started arriving and embraced me with hugs, I was reminded of a message that Cam sent me many years ago about the friendships that God would give me here in Perth.
Rachel had a wonderful idea as an activity for us to sit together in a circle and each friend to share how they know me and to share a word of wisdom or encouragement for me as I embark on the motherhood journey. What an incredibly thoughtful and empowering activity! My self-talk has been very harsh and negative for many years, but as Rachel began to share first, I decided that I would accept all the loving and positive words of truth and let them settle deep in my heart. It was a blessing that will live in me for a lifetime. It reaffirmed for me that I have some incredibly beautiful and blessed friendships.
I went back through my messages later to find the exact words of Cam’s text, which was from 23rd March 2011:
At the time I would have thought, “oh that’s a nice thing to say” but I would not have taken it seriously, nor have I really thought about since then. I now realise it was a prophetic message; a promise from God. A promise He has fulfilled in a way I could never have imagined possible, just as the message describes, as I learn more and more how God sees me, and sharing that journey intimately with friends who I call family.
It is a reminder that He is good and faithful and I just wanted to write a short post to share it.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NLT) – Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) – Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.
It is my desire for every woman, and man, to have intimate and connected friendships, to have people come alongside you, and for you to come alongside friends, in all times of life. If you are without this, I pray you will find it.
We take pride in making choices. They don’t have to be good choices or have positive outcomes, we just like the fact that we can decide for ourselves. It’s one of our favourite pastimes. The amount of times that I’ve thought “don’t tell me what to do, I will make my own decision thank you very much!” is embarrassing. We like to be in charge of our own destiny and we feel better when we are in control.
About the only decision we have zero control over is one incredibly significant aspect of life. We cannot control when or where we are born. I was born in Australia whether I liked it or not. There was nothing that I did that made this possible. The same can be said for my parents and their parents. Being born in Australia doesn’t make me great nor does it make me terrible. Tim…
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We are excited to announce that our family will be growing by one in 2016. Due on 5th July. Can’t believe how blessed we are!
Today marks seven weeks since Kieran and I got married. It might not seem like a particularly special anniversary to celebrate, but it’s a significant milestone because it is the longest amount of time I’ve ever been married. Cam and I had only 6 weeks and 6 days of marriage.
I shared with Kieran a few weeks ago that subconsciously I feared that our marriage would also ‘disappear’, because this is what past experience has taught me. It hasn’t been at the forefront of my mind, but it has been a lingering and strange feeling, to expect, and anticipate, without any valid reason, that Kieran wouldn’t be with me and I would suddenly be alone, no longer married again. It perplexes me that even though we are in the middle of completely different circumstances, with no illness staring us in the face every day, with no matter-of-weeks prognosis looming over us like dark clouds, with no conversations of death and funeral plans being had, that my mind has still played tricks on me so far as to ‘expect’ something similar to happen.
This phase after my wedding in 2011, I was shattered, lost in concealed tears, traumatised and alone. Today, seven weeks into my new marriage, I am so deeply thankful to have my health, to have a step-daughter and step-son to call my family, and to have a loving, funny, kind, empathetic, compassionate husband, who adores me and supports me and encourages me to be who God shapes me to be. Stepping into a step-family has not been easy. I have frequent days where fear makes me want to run away because I don’t feel like I am capable of being what this family needs. It’s hard to admit that this family is in fact exactly what I need and God knows it. As I slowly work through the fears and the false doubts of my capabilities, Kieran is right there with me, and I know that God is creating a new thing, and just as He promised that He would return to me what I have lost (see post from Jan 2014) He has and is continuing to restore what I have lost.
“…He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.” ~ Isaiah 61:3
So, to my husband, happy seven week anniversary, my love. We made it. Here’s to the next seven decades together.
Last Saturday I visited some friends in the Perth hills who sadly lost their house in the Stoneville fires on 12th January 2014. They shared with me their story and we went to see the ruins of their family home that they shared with their three boys.
At 11am on Sunday the 12th, the fire began, unbeknownst to Nicki and Campbell. By 11.30am they could smell smoke and hear helicopters close by. At 12.00pm the helicopters were flying directly overhead. They had not received any official communication to evacuate but Nicki sensed it was time to take the boys and leave. Campbell stayed to pack a few things. By 12.45pm Campbell was driving away from their house up their driveway that was lined by flames. By 1.30pm, their house was burnt to the ground. Two hundred metres away, you couldn’t even tell there were fires. Fifty-six houses were tragically lost that day. The lives of 56 families turned upside down in two hours. Fortunately and miraculously, there were no lives lost.
We went to see the ruins of their house. I’ve never stepped close to a home destroyed by fire, I’ve only ever seen it on TV. I found it to be fascinatingly tragic. Seeing the tragedy of every item you held dear due to a memorable moment in time. Lost. The things that are irreplaceable. Photos, letters, cards and love notes, a special gift from a loved one lost, an original painting, a piece of art you created, a favourite dress, a family heirloom. At the end of the day, Nicki and Campbell, along with their family and friends, are grateful that they are alive. That’s the healthiest perspective you could have in a difficult situation like this. But this doesn’t change the fact that it’s simply crappy that this happened to them and that they have lost so much. They will rebuild and they will be able to buy new things to fill their new house. But two things that will stay with them for a long time to come that will appear at unexpected times – the memories of the things lost and the fear of losing to a fire again.
My heart broke for them but yet they didn’t assume a position in need of sorrow or pity. They want to get on with life, start anew with the opportunity given to them to rebuild a home of their own design. They have moved into a rental house close to their home which means they are still close to work and school. The next 12 months will have difficulties of course. As if building a home isn’t stressful enough but to have to continue to maintain routine for their children, in a home that isn’t theirs, with a collection of things in it, which have graciously been donated by locals, but also aren’t their own. Although the ‘stuff’ is insignificant in the grand scheme of life, but we get attached to our comforts and it would be difficult to start all over again.
Nicki and Campbell kindly allowed me to post these photos of the remains of their house. While we were there, I observed a special moment that I tried to capture on the trusty iPhone camera. Standing in her driveway, looking at the ruins of her house, I watched Nicki delighting in dozens of black cockatoos flying over us, nesting in the blackened trees high above us, amazed at their presence in charcoal trees. Earlier she told me that she went shopping to buy a new dress that morning as she wanted to have something nice to wear to go out to dinner that night with me and some other close friends. She struggled with this as she didn’t want to buy another dress. Minutes before she evacuated her house three weeks earlier, she put her hands on her favourite dress. A dress she has had for 15 years. A dress that always made her feel good when she wore it. She physically had her hands on it to take with her but decided against it as she thought to herself “I don’t need to take that.” In the moment I observed Nicki smiling at the black cockatoos, standing in the dust of her lost possessions, glowing in her brightly mesmerising new dress that she didn’t want to buy, I saw her beauty in the tragedy of loss and the new beginnings to come. I saw the colour of new life.
To experience one amazing love in my lifetime was a gift. Cam came from left field and took me by total surprise. God had it all planned before I even knew Him to gift me with a beautiful, Godly man I didn’t know I needed in my life. He further blessed me with His strength to get through the most painfully traumatic experience of my life in losing Cam. It took a long time, but I no longer see it as loss but as gain. I gained faith and salvation, the knowledge of what true love is and a life of blessings in Perth. For a long time I wondered if I could ever love like that again or if there was someone in the world that would be equipped to love me in the way I desired, with a similar intense love I had previously experienced. A part of me believed God is capable. Another part of me thought ‘most people don’t encounter this kind of love once in a lifetime, how could I find this for a second time?’ A dear friend from Cam’s and my church said to me soon after he died that God would return to me what I’ve lost. I didn’t understand how that could be possible. I’ve lost so much in Cam. He died. How could He return that to me?
But God is God. He is capable. He is good. So indescribably good. His love overwhelms me to the point of wanting to fall to my knees in deep gratitude. If one love in my life wasn’t already a blessing, to gift me with another, well that’s just ridiculous. Ridiculously gracious. Ridiculously beautiful. Ridiculously furious love. But this, He has done. God’s love for me is Kieran. Through bringing into existence our love for each other, it is in this, that God is revealing to me the depth of His love in full expression. Showing me what His love for me really is and how love in a relationship is created to be. A love of who I am. A love built on honour and respect. A love born out of selflessness. A love that leads. A love that makes me feel safe and protected. An equal and reciprocal love.
So I really haven’t been good at this blogging thing lately. A lot has happened in a year. Obviously. I spent most of 2013 trying to fit myself into relationship that I couldn’t admit was wrong for us both on so many levels. But I have no regrets, for I grew significantly in that. It forced me to face the cyclic patterns of depression I had experienced from my teenage years and through my adult life. Often I would deny the signs of despair, hopelessness and worthlessness as it came and went, attributing it to whatever was happening in my life at the time. I never spoke of it to anyone. I would simply spend too much time home alone crying, hurting, breaking silently. During these intermittent, unpredictable cycles I would disengage from relationships and friendships and push people away. I recognised this happening in me through my relationship last year and although I was tempted to run like I normally do, I actually couldn’t bear the thought of losing someone else. I had it stubbornly cemented in my head that after Cam died, the next relationship was it for me because I didn’t think I could survive any more loss. This is why I tried to mold myself into something that wasn’t right. I’ve since realised that I can’t possibly go through life without experiencing any form of loss again. That’s just not reasonable. I spoke about this with a friend of mine who experienced a similar loss. At some level we have both had the notion that because we have endured such tragedy and heartbreak, that we are somehow now immune to any more tragedy and heartbreak, that once we get to the other side of grief, life will be peachy. That’s just not realistic. It was a nice thought while it lasted. Perhaps this brief notion served a purpose as one of the many mechanisms that helped get me through the grief. I know that there will still be challenges to face in my life. I also know that His strength and His provision of supportive people is all I need to get me through anything.
When I finally had the courage to seek help for depression, my determined self went all in. My GP put me on a low dose of a SSRI anti-depressant of which I stayed on for 7 months. The first couple of weeks was uncomfortable and I had difficulties focusing at work. I felt spaced out and vague, not good when training customers. But I persevered in determination. I started seeing a brilliant Christian psychologist. I’ve seen counselors and psychologists before which served it’s purpose at the time in having an objective person to confide in. Talking stuff out is all well and good, but this new psychologist put me to work during our sessions and also giving me homework, the result provided me with practical tools to use in daily life to combat the root of the feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, dealing with the underlying cause stemming back to where it all begins in the early years of childhood. This I will keep as a topic for another post.
So in summary. Found love, my heart was broken, God healed, didn’t think I could find another, God is good, God provides, found love again. Amazing! Blessed. Grateful. Overwhelmed. Honoured. I am treasured.
It’s been too long since my last post. I really wasn’t intended to stop writing or leave such a large gap. I suppose it’s just one of those things where life gets in the way. There has been emotional ups and downs, but for the most part, the last 7 months have been positive.
The first anniversary of Cam’s death was a marked moment in my grief. A line drawn in the sand and a step across to a side of decision. Decision to live again. Decision to be happy. Decision to not let the traumatic events of Cam’s death torment me anymore. I have decided not to relive it. And so if I find my mind flickering towards those memories, I think about or do something that makes me happy, distracts me. It’s not suppressing pain or grief for I believe I have grieved well. It is choosing to move forward and live in peace. And that I am. I feel deep peace. The heaviness and pain I felt has gone. I’m very much enjoying being free from stress, sadness and anxiety. Cam is free, and so am I.
Since my last post, God relentlessly continues to bless me and provide for me. I started a full-time job as a Trainer at the end of August. It took me two months to find work after I came back from the states but it has turned out to be the perfect job for me. I absolutely love it. The people are lovely, the company really looks after their staff and after more than 10 years of indecision, I feel like I have finally found my niche. I have found my passion in training people.
In October I moved into a lovely little townhouse not far from the city and close to my office. This being my 11th move in 10 years, I am happy to settle here for a while.
I am still surrounded by amazing, caring, generous people. I spent Christmas with my family in Queensland, the first since I moved to Perth in 2010. I was able to enjoy this Christmas. The Christmas before, the first without Cam, I wanted to hide from the world, to curl up and die.
In December, a dear friend moved in to my spare room. She is the same age as me and sadly also lost her partner a week after Cam died. God most certainly put us together to share our journey and support each other in grief and moving forward in life. He knows. He knows exactly what we need even when we don’t know that we need it. It’s rather uncanny how in sync the events in our life have been since we were both widowed. She has been a blessing and an absolutely pleasure to know and live with. She’s one of those people I know I’ll grow old with, even if we live on opposites sides of the world.
In February, I turned another year older. Three years shy of 30 now.
One year ago today my husband Cam left us to be with Jesus. It’s been a long and difficult year. There have been many tears, anger and sadness that seemed never-ending, wishing upon wish that things had turned out differently and that I could wake up next to Cam to find it was all a bad dream. A deep well of grief in my existence and darkness that I thought the light would never reach. As if losing Cam was not enough to deal with, but the way he left was incredibly traumatic. I’ve endured countless flashbacks to those moments where we helplessly watched him decline in a matter of days and even hours. Thankfully I don’t experience this anymore. The last time I was overwhelmed with a traumatic flashback, I was at Bethel Church in California in the middle of worship two months ago. As I began to get emotional and reach for the tissues, I felt God speaking into my heart and gently shifting my focus from what was lost, to what was given. I started thinking about the good, the joy, the gifts of life and faith and the love that God has given me through Cam. I felt the raw grief lift off me and all that has been given to me suddenly had more weight than the pain of losing him. I felt freedom. I felt joy. I felt His love deep within. And I grabbed it with both hands and I will never let go. No one and nothing will ever take that away from me now. What an awesome God! At times I still feel sadness and lonely without Cam. But I don’t want to miss him like I used to. Little by little, at my own pace, I’ve been making healthy progress in moving forward with a life without Cam. Since coming back from America, I have a whole new lease on life and I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time.
I am an organised person and I like to be prepared for whatever is ahead. This has been especially important for me when anticipating the first events without Cam – first Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries etc. While preparing my thoughts for this day, I thought that I would reflect on the events of this time last year. But I realised, Cam isn’t reliving those traumatic memories and neither should I. So I’m not going to. I’m going to reflect on the happiness and love we shared and put the traumatic memories to rest. It’s amazing the memories you hold dear even in the most tragic of times. It’s those moments shared with loved ones left behind that I will hold on to. An embrace at the precise moment of heartbreak that deepens a bond, the minutes when time seems to stop for an eternity shared with a sister, the care from a mother whose love knows no limits.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
Today I will not mourn what was lost, but celebrate what is given to us in Christ.
Ok so I’m behind again. Here’s a quick update.
I did a lot of the typical touristy stuff in New York. By the end of my time there, I’d had enough of the crowds, traffic, honking horns and hot dog stands. But I had a great time – New York is certainly mind blowing. I got the opportunity to go to a New York Yankees baseball game (which they won), took the double decker bus tour around downtown, uptown and Brooklyn, went to the top of the Empire State building, watched Usher perform at the Rockefeller Centre for the NBC Today Show (when I say watched, I mean heard – couldn’t see much from the back of the crowd), took a cruise to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island where over 12 million people immigrated to America between 1892-1954. I find this amazing… in 1907 approximately 1.25 million immigrants were processed at Ellis Island in that one year – that’s the population of Adelaide. I hung out in Times Square daily, experienced the New York subway, paid my respects at Ground Zero and took a rickshaw ride around Central Park. I also managed to squeeze in three broadway shows – Sister Act, Memphis and Chicago. Memphis was by far my favourite. New York graced me with 5 days of perfect weather. After that it rained so I figured it was a good excuse to go shopping at Bloomingdales and Macy’s.
I have to be honest, it wasn’t all peachy in NY for me. I fight hard against the darkness that grief can bring, but sometimes it creeps up on me. Even with millions of people outside my doorstep, I felt so alone and all I wanted was to be with Cam. I was feeling homesick too, missing my family and my girls – I was in serious need of some girly company!
I started a three week tour from New York to Los Angeles yesterday. First destination: Washington DC where I am now. As I write this I am sitting in a park hand feeding almonds to some squirrels. My new friends on the tour are all really lovely and we’re only a small group of 5 ladies and 1 guy plus our female tour guide. Got my girly company after all!
Visited JFK’s burial and eternal flame yesterday at the Arlington National Cemetery and saw the changing of the guards at the tomb of the unknown soldiers. Did lots of walking today to see museums and art galleries, monuments and the White House. I am spent! Over the next few days we’ll be traveling to Virginia and Tennessee. Yeeha!!
Here are some pics…
Empire State Building
View from the observatory deck
At Yankee Stadium
Statue of Liberty
I’m going to try to give more regular (and brief) updates. Arrived in New York yesterday. I was quite overwhelmed as the shuttle bus driver drove into Manhattan (not to mention a little afraid for my life – oh my goodness the driving is C-R-A-Z-Y with a capital C). Seriously have to have your wits about you whether driving or on foot or you will get run over but a car, bike, truck, taxi, limo, bus, people or a hot dog stand. My hotel is right in the centre of Times Square, like right in the middle of all the chaos which is awesome. Close to everything one could ever need – clothes shops, shoe shops, tourist centres, sightseeing attractions, a million restaurants and other questionable street food stalls, electronic stores, hot dog stands. The thing I’ve had most difficult trying to find is fruit. Oh well, the clothes I came away with are already a little tight
Today I did a double-decker bus tour of downtown NY and Brooklyn. It’s so mind blowing to see street after street after street of skyscrapers. Over 1.5 million people in an area of 59 square kilometers call Manhattan home. To put that into perspective for my Perth people, Perth has 1.7 million people in 314 square kilometers (thanks Wikipedia!).
I also went to the World Trade Center memorial. I felt like bawling before I even got into the plaza. It seemed like I was the only one affected that way out of hundreds lined up to get screened before we could access the memorial and even when we were inside. Maybe it was because my grief is still so raw, I don’t know. It just seemed more like a tourist attraction than a memorial. No one seemed to be still and quiet and reflect on the traumatic time it was, the thousands of lives lost, the thousands of people who risked their lives in the rescue mission, the families who are left with shattered hearts and the people who were there supporting them. It made me shed a few tears.
Tonight I got a cheap broadway ticket from Times Square to see Sister Act at Broadway Theatre which was great. I even sat next to a professional opera singer who is originally from NY but now lives in Germany. Never met an opera singer before – I can tick that one off the list! I look forward to catching another show or two before Tuesday!
Here are some pics for those that are behind the times and don’t have Facebook…
World Trade Center Memorial (pool two)
I’m a bit behind with the updates so I’ll try to keep it brief. My time at the Ellel Ministries healing week was not at all what I expected. I didn’t realise the centre was on 140 acres of grassy fields, beautiful big oak trees covered in Spanish moss, a little pond (with a resident alligator) and all the space you could need to sit quietly with God. I went there of course expecting to focus on healing from grief but God had other ideas and He gave me clarity and freedom from burdens I wasn’t aware I was carrying.
Although I know God was carrying me through the most difficult days after Cam passed, I also felt quite disconnected from Him. I was angry at Him and I felt let down by Him. After Ellel, while I was driving to Georgia, I was thinking about something Cam said. Cam didn’t want anyone to say he had the “ultimate healing” if he died. His exact words from his blog are:
There is no disclaimer here, but if this carcass falls to the ground, I don’t want anyone to think or say ‘Well, he got the ultimate healing – no more suffering now’. No, this is not good enough, and it is not healing – it is being deceased, no more, kicked the bucket, passed a ‘use by’ date, carked it… dead. This is not healing, it is the hideously devastating consequence of sin in this world, and it should be hated for every right reason – it steals, kills, destroys. It is worthy of our hate, our anger, our disgust and our every effort to come against it in Jesus name.
Whilst I understand what he was saying and agreed at the time, I realised that the perspective I established from this was hindering my own inner healing. After Cam died, I naturally believed that he wasn’t healed. I was blaming God for not healing Cam. I didn’t blame God for Cam’s death, but I blamed Him for not healing Cam. No, he wasn’t healed in his earthly body even though we all prayed for this, but he didn’t die because God didn’t heal him. Like Cam said, death is a consequence of sin and the fallen world we live in. But the truth still stands that Cam is healed. In Christ, Cam is healed and whole and alive. Does is still hurt that he’s not here with us? Of course. It doesn’t hurt any less. But now my heart can heal while hurting. While I was blaming God, I was just hurting.
These verses helped me:
And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. (Romans 8:10 NLT)
A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10 MSG).
After Ellel, I spent a little over a week driving through Georgia, North and South Carolina – including Washington, Atlanta, Athens, Toccoa, Brevard, Greenville and Charleston. I had the privilege of meeting several of Cam’s Camp Greenville friends. I will never get tired of hearing how amazing Cam was through people who were touched and inspired by him. It’s a beautiful testimony of God using one of his children as a vessel to show His character, His love and grace. I am so grateful to all of Cam’s camp family for sharing their stories with me and some great photos too!
On May 10th, I took Cam’s ashes to the Pretty Place chapel at Camp Greenville and honoured his wish to scatter his ashes there. God blessed me with a beautiful sunny day. I could see why Cam loved it so much. Tears flowed as soon as I arrived, before I even stepped into the chapel. The thought that first came to mind was what a journey Cam has sent me on. I would not be standing there if it weren’t for him. He continues to be a gift and a blessing to me. Thank God he is resting in peace.
Tonight I’m in Charlotte, North Carolina and my solo road trip has come to an end after almost 3 weeks of traveling through the south. Tomorrow I’m off to New York, New York!
To pick up where I left off, I spent Saturday night in Venice, Florida with a lovely couple who were hosts of a spare room that they book out as B&B style accommodation using a website called AirBnB. They kindly invited me out to dinner with them and they graciously offered to take me in their car. On the way back from dinner (with bellies overfilled with Italian), we were unfortunate to be in a car accident. We were driving on a main road, a young driver wanting to turn left onto the main road from a street that was on our right (for those back home who drive on the left – think opposite), apparently the young driver didn’t see us and failed to give way, leaving us nowhere to go but head on into the driver’s side of the other car. The airbags in the car I was in went off, causing minor injuries to my two friends in the front. The ambulance took one of them to hospital to get checked out and they were discharged later that night. I was sitting in the back so thankfully I came out unscathed. Unfortunately both cars were badly damaged and had to be towed away. But, I got to see the whole works – police, firies, ambulance, flashing lights and one very serious looking state trooper with a very serious hat (did I mention he was serious?).
The massage at the Warm Mineral Springs the next day came at a good time. It was nice to be able to unwind after the events from the night before. Even if I was the youngest person there swimming in the fountain of youth.
I’m now in Tampa, Florida attending the 5-day Healing Week at Ellel Ministries. It’s only been 2 days and God is already drawing out emotions from deep within. It’s been unexpectedly uncomfortable. I suppose transformation is not meant to be comfortable. I think back to my time of transformation before I found faith last year – it was not a time where I felt warm and fuzzy. There were tears and emotions coming to the surface that I didn’t understand, frustrations and new beliefs that I struggled to accept. Thankfully then I had Cam holding my hand walking me through every step of the way. Now I have to learn to lean on God every step of the way. It’s a valuable lesson but it’s not easy when you’re confronted with pain you didn’t realise was in your heart. I’m learning more and more that he’s a gentle God and He sets a pace for inner healing that’s just right for us, and it’s not an overnight process.
Opening it up to y’all now: What have you experienced during times of transformation and inner healing?
On Tuesday I missed my first flight ever. The shuttle I had per-arranged and pre-paid got my pick up location wrong and arrived and hour and a half after the scheduled time. Thankfully I could get on another flight soon after from Kansas City, Missouri to Miami, Florida.
Miami greeted me with a beautiful warm sunny day. Perfect beach weather! What does a girl do on her first day in Miami? Shopping and a swim at the beach of course. Miami beach goes for miles and miles with miles of people to fill it, it’s a place where anything goes and there’s no end to the assortment of characters on the scene. The water was a little cool for my liking but nevertheless it was very refreshing on a hot and humid day – not unlike Perth (minus the humidity).
On Friday I did a full day tour to the Everglades, around Miami city and Little Havanna, ending with a cruise around the Biscayne Bay where you’ll see many opulent homes owned by the rich and famous. At the Everglades, wild alligator sightings is a guarantee. They are everywhere – no exaggeration. The tour included a trip out on the Everglades (meaning “river of grass”) on an airboat. It was a short 30min trip but it was amazing!
This morning I picked up a hire car and on my way out of Miami I stopped at the Flamingo Gardens. With the weather threatening to rain any minute, I was fortunate to have the whole park to myself for most of the time. Flamingo Gardens is a non-for-profit organization that care for injured animals that can’t be released back into the wild. They do a lot of great work and if you like birds, they have some amazing birds to see including the bald eagle, owls, and as the name suggests, flamingos, as well as bobcats, otters (which I didn’t get to see because they were curled up in the couch watching a movie – it was just that kind of weather), more alligators and panthers. If you’re ever in the area, be sure to stop by.
After a 4 hour drive, I am now in Venice for a brief overnight stay before driving another 2 hours to Tampa tomorrow. I’ll spend 6 days in Tampa where I’ll attend a Healing Week with Ellel Ministries. Continuing to keep an open mind and open heart for healing and transformation. God is good!
Before I depart Venice tomorrow, I’ve booked myself in for a massage at the Warm Mineral Springs Spa which is the largest warm water mineral spring in the world and is known as the fountain of youth. What are you up to tomorrow?
But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42 NLT)
Instead of worrying about life’s troubles, sometimes we just need to sit at the feet of Jesus.
I am writing from the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City, Missouri. I’ve been here for 5 days. Before that I spent 4 days in Honolulu. When I was preparing for this trip, I was worried about travelling on my own in a new country for 10 weeks. But I’ve discovered that I needn’t have worried. Although its only the beginning of my trip, God has clearly put on my path the resources and people I needed and I have not once felt alone, by either making new friends or being aware of how close He is.
My time in Honolulu was a time just to rest, enjoy being in a new place and soak up the island atmosphere. My first night in Kansas was not the best start. The hotel I checked in to was awful. It smelt bad, the staff were rude, the entrance and hallway reminded me of a hospital. I arrived at 2am so I couldn’t find anywhere else to stay at that hour. I barely slept because it felt dirty – I ended up sleeping in my sleeping bag under the sheets. The next day i checked out, got a refund and checked into another hotel down the road… Such a relief! The best part is that I quickly befriended one of the reception staff there who happened to be an ihopper and has graciously shown me around, introduced me to the IHOP campuses and kept me company during my week in Kansas. Someone shared with me an experience they had on their travels where they felt God put people on their path that seemed to be just what was needed at the time. It’s strange that they said that to me the night before I left, because I really feel that this is what He has provided me from the moment I departed Australia, everywhere I have gone.
This trip for me is about seeking God, finding new direction in my life, having new experiences and honouring Cam. To me, this includes sharing Cam with people who never had the privilege of meeting him. And although he’s no longer here with us, he continues to impact people which is just amazing and of course a testimony to who he was. I can’t get enough of sharing Cam and our story. I love seeing how people are impacted, encouraged and inspired by it. A couple I met here in Kansas wrote me a lovely note after I told them our story. Here is some of what it said:
You have awakened something in me I have not had in a long time, the ability to weep… Cameron seemed like such an amazing man. When I think of him I got Psalm 116:15-16: The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die. O LORD, I am your servant; yes, I am your servant, born into your household; you have freed me from my chains.
Last year while Cam was having chemo, we spent hours every day seeking a healing miracle from God. We took every opportunity presented to us to have prayer. On one occasion, the gentleman praying for us prophesied that together Cam and I would do great things for the Lord. Being desperate for healing, we hung onto that and other things spoken over us and dreams we had and turned it what we wanted to hear and believe – that Cam would live. Those words stuck with me, especially after he died. When anger and confusion set in, I questioned in my mind and God why this gentleman would say that. Did it really come from God or was it just a nice thing to say? Something warm and fuzzy that seemed appropriate for him to say but didn’t really mean anything? It’s been on my mind a lot since Cam died. After I received that note, it dawned on me that we are doing works for the Lord, just not in the way I thought at the time. By sharing our story, Cam is still impacting people and doing great things for God. It was a revelation that released a lot of uncertainty and showed me more of God’s steadfast and loyal character – that He keeps His promises.
This time next week I’ll be in Hawaii on route to a long list of destinations in America. From our very first Skype chat, Cam talked about his desire to go back to the US. After that conversation, he planted a seed in my heart and for our entire short-lived relationship we talked frequently about it and tried a few times to plan a trip to the US together. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be.
It was still in my heart to go to America after Cam died so I’m traveling there on my own for 10 weeks. Well, not on my own, I know that God will be with me. I feel an assortment of emotions. Excited, of course, to be travelling and seeing a new country; terrified to be travelling alone yet I’m also peaceful; I have a sense of relief to finally go on the trip Cam and I talked about so much; and sad that Cam won’t be with me. It’s strange actually, before Cam passed away, I had a dream that I was planning to travel to America on my own. I dismissed it at the time because I believed that Cam would live.
The month before Cam passed, he asked me to scatter some of his ashes at Pretty Place in South Carolina where he worked at the YMCA Camp for three summers many years ago. He had such fond memories of his time there and when he showed me a picture of Pretty Place, I could see why he loved it. So during this trip, I will be going to Pretty Place with Cam’s ashes to honour his wish.
I don’t expect to get complete closure by the end of the trip, but I do feel that it will be the start of letting go of the grief. Since Cam passed, I have obviously experienced loss. But feeling loss is also a choice. Yes, when you lose someone you love, you automatically have a sense of loss. We also need to allow ourselves to feel the loss. This may mean wallowing in self-pity for a time (not forever), crying when you need to, yell and scream (preferably in a private place away from the ears of the public – it could look a little strange), having time alone, spending time with people who you know naturally give you comfort, spending time away in a new place, revisiting old places where memories are strong, or you might pour out your heart to God or someone you trust and say “This hurts. It’s not fair. This is not what I hoped and prayed for and yet it happened. I just don’t understand why.” All these things I have been doing to allow myself to feel the pain and loss but now it’s time to start letting go. It will take time. How much time? Who knows. However much time is necessary.
The phrase I have heard the most since Cam died is “time heals.” I don’t believe this is a true statement. If I ignore what I feel, avoid the pain and don’t face the grief, things will only get worse as time passes. I am responsible for creating an environment for myself for healing and I need to work at it. I need to set goals for myself and recognise milestones when I feel I’ve taken a step forward no matter how small. Time heals, but I’ve got work to do too, and with God’s help, the pain will come to an end.
“… The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” (Psalm 30:5 MSG)
Life. Everyday I find something that blows my mind, takes me by surprise or goes beyond my imagination of possibilities. Never for a moment in my short life did I imagine I’d be a 25-year-old widow. In the space of one year, I went from being single to engaged to married to widowed. To reflect on the long list of events that happened during that same year, blows my mind. If it weren’t for the love in my heart reminding me of Cam’s presence in my life and the pain in my soul reminding me of Cam’s absence, I feel like I’ve lived someone else’s life. Or it’s like I’ve watched a really sad movie that moved me, leaving me with feeling a mixture of warmth and sadness and longing. I almost don’t believe this is my story, my life, my romantic drama movie. It’s a strange sensation.
To recount, here’s a brief snapshot of the short time Cam and I spent together:
Aug 2010 – we began dating, well “Skype dating” actually. I was in Queensland when Cam and I got back in touch and were taken by complete surprise at the intensity of the love that quickly bloomed between us. A few weeks later, I decided to move to Perth to be with Cam.
Oct 2010 – Cam proposed to me. Crazy? A bit hasty you say? I can understand that people would see it that way and that’s fine. But Cam and I were living in a different reality to most normal crazy-in-love-couples. We didn’t know how much time we would have together. He was in remission at the time. We had hope that a miracle would happen of course, but Cam was upfront in telling me the doctor’s prognosis was 6 months to 2 years. It didn’t matter to me. Any amount of time with this incredible man was worth it to me. I loved him and I wanted to be with him for every possible second. It was as simple as that. Cam proposed with a beautiful song he had written and played for me at Cottesloe Beach. It was the most stunning day I’ve ever seen in Perth – 8 o’clock in the morning, perfect temperature, cloudless blue sky, no wind, the water was completely flat and dazzling under the warm sun. Beautiful. Loving. Intentional. Perfect. All that Cam was to me.
Nov 2010 – I moved to Perth. Cam flew over to Queensland where we spent a week planning our wedding that was to be held in Brisbane in January 2011. We then took two weeks to drive from Brisbane to Melbourne and across the Nullabor to Perth. It was our time to get to know each other when in each other’s presence. We spent hours almost every night talking on Skype for months before then, but we considered this time as another layer of getting to know each other. So fiancé, do you like, um, stuff?
Dec 2010 – Following routine blood tests, I got my first hit of bad news while Cam received it for the umpteenth time. The cancer activity in Cam’s body was active again. Chemo treatment was imminent. It was just a matter of waiting. Waiting for a miracle or waiting for cancer activity to continue to climb and reach a certain level before a chemo trial could start.
Jan 2011 – Pain and tiredness was on the increase for Cam. It reached the point where we went to emergency at Charlie’s a few times in January. I think it was the first time Cam was in hospital when we watched on TV the tragic news of the floods in South West Queensland. We also watched our wedding reception venue literally get washed down the Brisbane River (search for Drift Restaurant on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean). Cam was in too much pain to travel, our wedding reception sunk to the bottom of a river and Brisbane city was underwater – perhaps not a good time or place for a wedding. While seeing the funny side of all this (not many people can say their wedding drifted downstream), we decided to cancel our Brisbane wedding and move it to Perth in February.
Feb 2011 – Chemo trial starts. We didn’t get the miracle we were hoping for. Looking back, I was probably a little naive and in denial but I so desperately wanted to be optimistic and “think positive” and will Cam’s body back to health. A tumour on his back had grown large enough to feel it and pain constantly had to be managed with drugs. He was in no state to enjoy our marital celebrations so we again decided to postpone the February wedding and wait until he was feeling better to schedule another date. It was this same day that we cancelled the wedding that I had my first car accident on my way home after visiting Cam in hospital. It wasn’t the best day.
Mar 2011 – I think it was this month that I started to intentionally open my heart to God. Chemo continued and the cancer levels decreased. My heart softened to God’s love and Cam and I grew closer, our love and relationship grew deeper. All the while I was still resisting, challenging Cam with questions, trying to used logic to understand what it meant to have “relationship” with God. What is a “believer” anyway? I also started working again. And Cam started going to the Healing Rooms in Vic Park 2 or 3 times per week. We began to put all our energy into seeking God and a healing miracle.
Apr 2011 – I gave in. I gave in to God, fell in love with Jesus and I finally “got it”. I finally understood what He did for us on the cross. So I was baptised on 17 April. Yay! The most memorable part of that awesome day, was Cam by my side holding my hand in the freezing water, as I declared my love for Jesus. I really think this was the happiest time we shared. We were so smitten and so excited to be seeking God together, building each other up in our faith (and exploring my newfound faith), pushing the boundaries of our relationship and our relationship with God. If I could go back to just one moment in time with Cam, it would be somewhere around this time. We also set a new date for our wedding on 2 July.
May 2011 – Cam had been in hospital a couple of times after chemo started with digestive problems. But it was around May I think that the blood tests indicated that the chemo wasn’t working because cancer levels started to increase. We continued to put all our trust and faith in God and didn’t let bad results discourage us from pursuing healing.
June 2011 – Blood test results went from bad to worse. Tumour pain was rapidly getting worse. Two weeks before our wedding, Cam’s doctor gave a prognosis of 2 weeks to 2 months. The very next day, I quit my job.
July 2011 – I was given a gift. A husband. An amazing, loving, adoring, generous, inspirational, beautiful husband. I am the luckiest woman in all history to become Cam’s wife. Some women don’t like the idea of losing their identity when they marry. I personally love being identified as Cam’s wife. We had a lovely wedding, surrounded by so many amazing, loyal and wonderful family and friends. Soon after our wedding, we had to have some serious and difficult conversations. Newlyweds should not have the “what if I die” conversations. We wanted to remain hopeful and also be realistic so it was a necessary conversation but so incredibly difficult. Mind you, when I say serious, Cam’s idea of serious was to suggest putting roof racks on the Mustang to transport his casket. Cute. Not long after that, Cam woke up in the middle of the night with severe pain and breathing difficulties so I took him up to emergency. Doctors checked him out, breathing got better, and they discharged him within a few hours. The next night the same thing happened only it was much worse and much more frightening for us. He was in way too much pain for me to even drive him to emergency so I called an ambulance. We thought that would be the trip to the hospital where he wouldn’t come out again. But somehow, miraculously, he became just well enough to be discharged a week later with heavy doses of hydromorphone manage the perpetual pain. After he was discharged, we were graciously able to have a honeymoon away in Margaret River for a week. Memories for which I will be ever-grateful.
Aug 2011 – Immediately after our return from Margaret River, Cam went back into hospital. Two weeks later, I held my darling husband’s hand as he took his last breath. My heart was completely and utterly shattered. And I became angry with God.
Since then, the days have been hazy. I’ve been living in a cloud of grief that is sometimes so overwhelming that I can’t breathe. It’s been hard, really hard. It still is. And at times very dark and lonely. But it hasn’t been all bad. I know with absolute certainty it’s only with God’s guidance, love and grace that I have been able to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. If all this had happened two years ago, before I knew God, well, I don’t even want to think about that. Thankfully, I never have to.