Finding Hope for the Present in the Past

Fifteen years ago today my HOPE Journey began.

If you know me personally or have spent enough time with me or this blog, you know what happened fifteen years ago today – April 7, 2005.

I’m not going to regurgitate Lis’ story of strength, HOPE, and survival. Most of you have heard it before either through this blog, my many speeches at American Cancer Society events, Toastmasters, or when we bring up (S)heroes at work.

I continue to thank YOU all for your support through that time, and the times I have shared our story. I’m forever grateful.

If you are new here, haven’t heard our story, and are interested, then please read about it by clicking here or going to the Lisy’s Battle with Leukemia section above. You’ll find all my original “journal” entries that I wrote as we went through her battle and subsequent victory.

I’ve started and stopped, edited and deleted, and have rewritten this post about a half-dozen times now.

It’s hard to write something serious when we’re in these awkward times. That sounds silly, but maybe it’s because for so long I wrote about something serious and now I find more joy in my nonsense baseball lists, LEGO, or YouTube reviews. Those take me away, posts like this draw me in. Oh, I like that!

As I said above, I didn’t want to retell her story. As I said above, I wasn’t sure I wanted to even write today. But fifteen is a milestone right?! It’s three times the remission period. Translation: Five years is when you’re considered out of remission. Five times three is 15. Fifteen is today! Though technically she was considered in remission in early November 2005, but this is the date we always remember so go with me here.

As I wrote in an earlier post, we’re in the midst of a Lost rewatch so a part of me toyed with the idea of incorporating flashbacks, flash-forwards and flash-sideways into a post.

But for the sake of your minds – and my own – I skipped that step, though in my sideways alternate timeline it turns out pretty great.

Instead I kept coming back to the word HOPE and asking myself, “How do we deal with the emotions we’re feeling in these uncertain times?”

It helped that we had this dude hanging out with his mom day-and-night!

My answer is found in how we dealt with the emotions we were feeling in those uncertain times fifteen years ago today and why we look back at that season and confidently say it was the best thing that happened to us. That we walked out of that hospital stronger than we walked in.

The emotions we dealt with as a family in April 2005 were similar to the ones most of us are feeling now.

Uncertainty. Fear. Frustration. Worry. Stress.

Uncertainty of what the future looked like. Fear because of the fight against and unseen, life-threatening enemy. Frustration because we’re not in control of our situation. Worry for the loved ones that are battling. Stress due to our possible financial or work situations.

Those were my exact feelings back in April 2005.

Oh, did you think I was talking about present day?!

Where do we find HOPE in times like these?

When I share our story of HOPE I always share about the three F’s that we learned through our fight (oh another F!).

Faith. Family. Fun.

You can find HOPE in family, in coming together during tough times to support and encourage one another.

You can find HOPE in fun, in laughing about awkward situations (and most of you do, I see your social media posts), in playing board games in a hospital room as we did in 2005, or playing board games for four hours on a Saturday night, as we did three nights ago.

You can find HOPE in faith, and that’s where I’m going to spend the rest of my time writing about.

My HOPE Journey

My HOPE Journey started in a little church back in 1998, but it was jump started (CLEAR!) on this day fifteen years ago.

Our faith and HOPE journey started here.

I long considered myself a man of faith (told you, lots of Lost the last six weeks), even before we made that trek into the hospital room. I don’t believe in coincidences. I do believe in miracles. Lis, Lukas and I went to church for the first time as a family on April 3, 2005. Why would we choose that date?! We didn’t. We were brought to that island (darnit!) church.

Our faith was tested during April 2005, just as your faith may be tested during these uncertain times now.

Maybe you find it hard to believe in something bigger than you. Maybe it’s hard to believe in something you can’t see (sure are believing in this COVID-19 and can’t see this can you?!). Maybe it’s hard to believe that a GOD of love shouldn’t allow things like this to happen. Maybe it’s hard to give up control of your life, to live and let go.

It is. Oh trust me, it is. I learned that fifteen years ago today.

When you do believe those emotions we listed above – though they still persist because we are human – will be nearly eliminated. HOPE will overcome those fears because you know that you’re being taken care of. Those burdens will be lifted because they’ve been carried by someone else.

Which reminds me … Easter is this weekend!

For most of you this is the first time in your lives that you don’t have sports, recitals, school functions, places to be, things to see, an excuse to ignore church.

Maybe this Sunday would be the perfect time to tune into an online church service. I’ll shout out the one we attend right now. Heck, it’s a perfect mix of what I mentioned above: faith, fun and family. Check out their YouTube channel here.

I’ll leave you with my favorite passage of all-time. A passage that I’ve carried with me through every trial I faced, every test of my faith I endured, surviving each one and coming out stronger each time.

As our pastor mentioned Sunday when he preached on my verse, you need to come out of these trials better than you went in.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1: 2-4 (NLT)

I was introduced to this verse about two decades ago after I had lost my job, went through a tough stretch in a relationship I was involved in, was struggling financially, rebelling from my parents and to top it all off had gotten a flat tire. I was in the beginning years of my twenties and I was spent. I was tired. I had no hope.

A mentor of mine, the assistant pastor of our church and an avid-sports lover himself, introduced me to this verse and it changed my perspective on life.

Five years later I’d be reminded of this verse, as those above “trials” became sprinkles compared to the storm that was about to hit me and my new family on April 7, 2005.

I headed to that verse when we battled more-than-your-average-financial struggles, like we did in 2014. I went to it again when we battled Kevin-tried-to-ruin-his-nearly-perfect-marriage marital struggles, like we did in 2017.

I’m reminded of that verse now as we battle an uncertain, fearful, frustrating, worrisome and stressful time – an invisible enemy.

How will you come out of this storm? Will you come out of it better than you walked in, with HOPE, a renewed sense of faith, with knowing that there’s someone out there watching over you, guiding you, taking care of you?

Or will you leave it the same as you went in? Fearful, uncertain, worrisome, stressed?

I pray you choose HOPE.

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