The Summer of Learning

An Essay By Heather // 9/11/2009

Courtship and love. Sickness and hospitals. Waiting--learning perseverance and patience--crying--hoping.

My summer seems to have been a mishmash of those things.

You all know that last December, a wonderful young man named Justin asked permission to court me. Last spring, it seemed like we could be married by this time. We were specifically hoping for September or October. Once Justin graduated, there was the slight problem of waiting so jobs could open up in the weather service. But, we thought, it shouldn't be a problem, right?

Wrong. As always when we try to take our destiny in our own hands, God quickly showed us who was in control. To quote my friend Joy, "Just try telling God OK, Lord, this is what I'm going to do in my life. He'll laugh and say, I don't think so."

The first thing that happened was that Justin's dear, sweet baby sister Olivia, who has Down's Syndrome, was diagnosed with Leukemia. With that, plans began falling like a Jenga stack.

Olivia and Justin's mom were packed up to Kansas City to a children's hospital. June, July, and August were full of tears and prayers as Olivia was treated with chemo, went downhill, stayed sick, bounced back, visited home, and repeated the cycle. Justin's parents were exhausted.

There were plenty of jobs opening up, but with one thing or another, the jobs were filled or office administrators stalled on filling them. Justin started looking for a temporary job, but even that seemed denied to us. Nothing was happening. We kept getting further and further from our dreams.

Some days, it felt so hopeless. I threw myself into writing, hanging out with Justin and my friends, and praying. I knew it was important that I should be strong for Justin, so I tried to be optimistic. I told Justin over and over, both for his sake and for mine, "Just watch. You'll get one of the best jobs out there, right on the first interview. Not a problem."

But there were days I broke down. I couldn't handle it. I would start crying throughout the day for no particular reason. When Justin phoned, he could tell it had been a bad day. We would start comforting each other. My heart ached as I pressed the phone to my ear countless times, listening to Justin's comforting words and echoing them back to him when he needed comfort. I needed to be with him, and yet on our weakest days that too seemed to be denied to us.

I was driven many times to prayer. Never have I prayed so much or so strongly in my life. I begged God to show us where He wanted us to be, what he wanted us to do. Specifically, I asked that Justin would find a job, even a temporary one, and that He would improve Olivia's situation. Over and over, I prayed that He would give us peace, that He would give us strength, that He would give our hearts the desires He had for us.

Gradually, I felt peace and acceptance. And even joy. Justin and I were being given an incredible chance to build a rock-solid relationship with each other before we were even married! God was preparing us for our future life. I can't pretend that I enjoyed it all the time, but at least I understood why some of these things were happening.

Then one day, Justin called with incredible news. "Heather, Olivia was accepted into the new pediatric cancer unti in St. John's! Here, in Springfield!"


I cried that night, but it was a good night. I told Justin, "I don't want to bank on it happening, but I feel like this is a turning point."

And it was! Within a week, Justin got a temporary job roofing. Within a week of that, he had been interviewed and accepted a weather service job in Michigan. And the day after he accepted that job, I finished the first draft of my third novel!

God is GOOD! He has blessed me with this amazing life, amazing friends who pray for me, an amazing family who loves me, and an amazing young man who loves me and is the sweetest, most understanding guy in the world! This beautiful life I live is a blessing, and I wouldn't have changed any of it. I wouldn't want to change one single tear, one single bit of sorrow. The sorrow and tears makes the victory that much sweeter.

I'm not saying that this is going to be the end of toubles. I know it's not--I know that as long as we're on this earth, we'll always have troubles. But I know now, more so than ever, that God guides every step of our lives, He doesn't hand us any more than we can take, and He is always there to draw strength from.

So, the things I learned this summer?

1: Never, NEVER plan on things happening your way.

2:Surrender to God's will--it's much easier in the long run.

3: God works in wonderful, awesome, faithful, mysterious ways.

4: Never plan on a word count in a novel--just let it go until it's come to it's natural conclusion. You can always edit out!

5: Being in love is one of the best feelings in the world

6: Growing in love and knowing that even when it's not all warm pink fuzzies, you can still stick to the ones you love, is an amazing thing

7: Life is a gift and an adventure, and we should spend it shouting at the top of our lungs "Hallelujah!" and enjoying every second God has given us

PS-And no, we're not sure when we're getting engaged or married yet. One thing at a time...but rest assured that it will happen! And Olivia just started her third round of chemo in the new hospital, much closer to home, and is doing quite well. Keep updated with all of that with my blog:

copyright 2009 Heather


Aw, this was sweetly sad. I

Aw, this was sweetly sad. I hope that Olivia gets better! And good luck with you and Justin ;-)

E | Fri, 09/11/2009

"You were not meant to fit into a shallow box built by someone else." -J. Raymond

Friends like you ...

 ... make me praise God.  It's been good to watch you and Justin in your journey this summer.  You've grown in a lot of ways, and I'm happy for you both.

I'm glad that God has let me watch you, pray for you, and even share some of your struggles on occasion.  Keep at it, girl!  "The trying of your faith..."

Mary | Sat, 09/12/2009

Brother: Your character should drive a motorcycle.
Me: He can't. He's in the wilderness.
Brother: Then make it a four-wheel-drive motorcycle!

Erin: Thank you. Mary: Justin

Erin: Thank you.

Mary: Justin and I know it's so much easier to get through things like this summer with many friends loving and praying for us. Thanks for your love and support, and the distractions you provided with talking about writing and books.

Heather | Sun, 09/13/2009

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"

. . .

This was really, really nice.  Everything you said--like "This beautiful life I live is a blessing, and I wouldn't have changed any of it. I wouldn't want to change one single tear, one single bit of sorrow. The sorrow and tears makes the victory that much sweeter"--was spot on!  The quote from your friend Joy reminds me of the quote in the movie Bella: 'If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans."

Thanks for sharing this.  It's lovely. :)

God bless you and Justin!!!! 

Clare Marie | Sun, 09/13/2009

"I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve." -Bilbo Baggins [The Lord of the Rings]

This was such a blessing to

This was such a blessing to read, Heather!!! <3 Sarah

Sarah Bethany | Wed, 09/16/2009

Thank you!

Thanks, Clare and Sarah!

All of you guys are such a blessing to me--I never thought I could be such good friends with people who I'd mostly never met in person! :0) Thank you so much!

Heather | Thu, 09/17/2009

And now our hearts will beat in time/You say I am yours and you are mine...
Michelle Tumes, "There Goes My Love"


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