This is from a Caring Bridge update that I did in September after our family had returned from a retreat for families facing pediatric cancer. I happen to be wearing my Blue Skies t-shirt today and was just thinking again what an awesome ministry it is. If you have the opprtunity to do something like this, I encourage you to do so! You will be blessed as a volunteer, and if you are a guest as we were, you will be cared for beyond your belief!
Last night we got home from a 4 day retreat for families facing pediatric cancer. I knew it sounded good when I first read about it, but I had no idea that “good” wouldn’t even begin to describe it! 🙂
As most of you know, we have had a lot of changes in the past few years. We became pastors of a church 5 years ago, I quit my profession of 22 years 3 years ago, and a few months later, we became parents for the first time through foster care. A year ago this month, adoptions were final on our 3 baby girls, and 2 months later began the journey we are now on with Charlie’s LCH.
Charlie just completed 13 weeks of chemo and we were given the ok to go to maintenance which is chemo every 3 weeks, with a daily chemo pill added. About this same time, we made the decision to resign from our church. Transitions are usually bittersweet, as is this one. 🙂
Needless to say, we have a lot of major life changes going on! So, when we pulled in to the resort Thursday night, we were hoping for a few days of a change of scenery, maybe meet some new people, and let our girls just have fun. We did not expect to be greeted by a sweet teenager with a smile, whose first words to us were “Are you the McCoy’s? YAY, the McCoy’s are here!” I thought I recognized her, and then realized it was from a video in which she had talked about how much Blue Skies had meant to their family as her 3 year old sister fights cancer. She was at this retreat as a volunteer. That was my first clue as to the heart behind this ministry.
We were soon introduced to our host family. I didn’t even know we would have a host family! 🙂 Jennifer and her precious daughter Waverly showed us to our beautiful “room”. It reminded me of a penthouse apartment. There were several people that just appeared from everywhere, helping to unload the van, get us settled, blow up mattresses, give us welcome gifts, hand us a gift card to Piggly Wiggly for breakfast food, offer to go the store for us, etc. I was told that our laundry would be done each day, and they would clean up for us. Ok, so I was getting a little choked up by now. Ummm…wow.
The next morning, we made our way down to the beach for morning devotions that had already started. I saw another familiar face, a smile, and a wave, as Dixie motioned for us to sit on her blanket. Dixie is mom to precious Bayleigh, who is still in treatment. Dixie was at this retreat to serve. Wow again, and more tears. There were already people getting up to go run after the girls so we could sit and just breath. Listen. Breath. Relax. Bask in the peacefulness of the sound of the ocean, God’s word, and His presence.
After that, a bunch of other kind souls took our girls for the rest of the morning, to play in the pool and playground while we went to our first Kindred Journeys. What a perfect name for this group. While the 11 other families there all have different stories from each other, we all have a common bond of facing childhood cancer or life threatening illness. We heard the painful stories of diagnosis, the shock, the loneliness, the treatments, the chemo, the isolation, the relapse, the weariness, the faith, the loss of faith, the fight, the resilience, and most of all the perspective of what is really important in life.
We shared stories, our hearts, and tears, and were led by Pastor Brad and his wife Amanda who also had been in the seat that we all sat in that morning. By the time our session was over, and it was time to head to lunch, I had already begun to relax. Jennifer had told me that while we went to lunch , she would bring our girls up to the room and put them down for a nap. Ok, now I am thinking….. how I can get her to come home with us???!!
After a wonderful seafood lunch waterfront, we made our way back to walk into a clean condo, humming from the dryer, and our babies all asleep on the bed. We were told on the way back that our host family is known as “The Baby Whisperers”. Indeed!! 🙂
We ended the day with steak dinners by the pool, games, and chocolate shakes, and thoughtful little gifts and notes left in our room for the girls, by our host family. Sigh….. 🙂
The next 2 days were just as amazing. We felt like we were and instant family with the other guests and volunteers.
We learned that it’s ok to cry in front of 20 other adults. It’s ok to say what we really want to say but have been storing away in our heart…some for months, some for years. It’s ok to let our kids run wild in the rain.
We learned that “God has your back, even when you don’t feel Him.” We learned that one of the most beautiful things is when a girl who has lost her sight to a brain tumor stands and dances without abandon to the crowd singing “I’ll Fly Away”.
We learned to not say goodbye, but instead “see you later”. To all those who made it possible for our family to be on the receiving end of this retreat, we cannot thank you enough. Charlie is doing great, and her, Dakota and Addison had a ball! Our hearts are so full. You were the hands and feet of Jesus. To our new friends, moms, dads, sisters, brothers, on this journey with us, you are in our thoughts and prayers!
To all of the brave kids that are still in this fight, you are our heroes. We loved laughing with you, hugging you, walking on the beach and getting to know you. You are loved by so many people. Nothin’ but blue skies from now on, sweet ones……:-)