HOPE OVERFLOWING

stories of grace, hope and life beyond cancer


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June – madness or fun? Sometimes it’s hard to tell!

They say that time waits for no man, and as June has rolled around – and almost ended – once more I have been reflecting on the huge changes that our family has seen over the past few Junes.

Here’s a brief snapshot:

June 2011: We were living just outside of Bath, I was expecting Jonty and we were both working full-time. We found out towards the end of the month that Joel had been accepted for full-time training for vicar school.

June 2012: We had moved and were living in Cambridge. Jonty was four months old. I had been diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in April and by June was half-way through a gruelling season of chemotherapy.

June 2013: We had moved house again and were living in a village just outside of Cambridge. I had finished my active treatment and we were celebrating with a six week road trip around Europe. On this exact date I think we were busy enjoying sunny Spain!

June 2014: Joel finished his ordination training mid-June and we moved (again!) this time to leafy South West London. Joel was ordained a deacon in St Paul’s Cathedral and started his current job.

June 2015: We didn’t move house!!!! Joel was ordained a priest last weekend. There are so many exciting things in the pipeline at the moment and we can’t wait to see how the next year will unfold.

I feel exhausted just looking back on these Junes – what a whirlwind few years! What a total rollercoaster!

When I look back on these Junes written down like this the first thing that stands out is, boy have we moved house A LOT (there were another two house moves in the couple of years preceding the years I have outlined that I haven’t even included)!!

I was so pleased to write that we didn’t move this year, although Jonty does keep asking when we are moving house again. He says that he doesn’t like the shower at this house and would like to move to Jericho!! Thankfully, at 3 years of age, it is not his decision to make, especially as I am particularly fond of the shower at this house!

Aside from all the moving, the key thing that stands out for me when looking back is both how crazy it has been but also how blessed we have been through all this craziness. The blessing and the grace that we have known have come in so many different forms and I am so thankful for all of it. Here are just a few:

In each place we have lived, we have very quickly found ourselves surrounded by communities that have loved us, have both wept and celebrated with us and that have encouraged and challenged us to be our best selves.

We have always had access to brilliant healthcare, particularly at the time when we needed it most.

In our season in Cambridge, in particular, we were given the space and time to grieve for what was lost through cancer, but also to celebrate life and all its blessings.

We have added to our family and have gained a beautiful, completely hilarious character of a son.

Through it all we have known the peace and joy that only God can give. He has been our bedrock, our very present help in times of trouble. This is what has made sure we haven’t been taken out by each curveball that has come our way in all these crazy Junes.

So here’s to many more Junes! I am excited to see what the next few hold! Fingers crossed for lots more amazing adventures and not too many house moves!

Here are a few snaps from this June. It’s been a good month!

legoland june 2015Legoland

crabbing

Crabbing with Oupa

priesting

Joel’s priesting

phantomelfie

#phantomselfie

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The highs and lows of Andean trekking

Since returning from Peru on Saturday, I have been asked so many times, “How did it go?”, What was it like?”, “Did you make it??”

It is hard to describe quite what trekking in the Andes was like. For me I think the best way to describe it is that is was wonderful and yet so very hard at the same time. Like many things in life I suppose, and especially things worth doing… Wonderful and so very hard all mixed together!

First, some of the hard bits… The altitude absolutely and literally took my breath away! I found breathing so tough at altitude and I was surprised at how little things left me completely out of breath. Things like brushing my teeth or getting dressed. No wonder you have to walk so slowly!!

The walking was gruelling (maybe not for everyone, but let’s face it I am not all that fit and on the walk I regretted every slice of chocolate cake I had ever eaten!) and consequently (and coupled with jet lag, general lack of sleep and altitude) I felt absolutely flattened every evening! Oh my goodness, I was usually in bed by 8pm… Completely unheard of for a night owl like me, but by the time dinner rolled around I usually felt like I could barely string a sentence together!

But in amongst the challenges there were some beautiful gifts too… One of these gifts came as something of a surprise for a raging extrovert like me. Despite going on this trip in a group of 28, for some time each day I would find myself walking alone (usually because I was slower than most). This time was so precious to me, I soaked in the beauty and complete stillness of the surroundings and I relished in the opportunity to quiet my soul and enjoy God’s glory. What a gift this was and what a contrast to the constant noise and busyness of my daily life.

Probably the most amazing and emotional moment for me was reaching our highest point on day three of the trek. We had steadily gained altitude since starting the trek and the third day was the pinnacle and saw us reaching an altitude of about 4,450m (about 13,500ft) above sea level (to give you a feel for how high this is, people sky dive at 11,000ft).

As I walked that morning I knew this moment was coming and for about half an hour before reaching this point I found myself walking by myself. For this half an hour I kept welling up just thinking about the road I have walked over the past two and a half years and by the time I reached the top I completely dissolved in tears…

But they were not tears of sadness, they were tears of gratitude.

I remembered how this time two years ago I was in the middle of active treatment, I had just had a mastectomy and axillary clearance and was waiting for my radiotherapy to start. I was so weak and tired and could barely walk around the block. I felt like I was hanging in there for dear life, fervently praying for a brighter day. At that time, if you had said to me that I would trek in the Andes just two years later I would have probably wept for different reasons and I would never have believed you!

As I ascended that hill on that third day, the words, “I am back! Thank you Lord that I am back!” ran through my mind and I was overcome with gratitude. Our guide, Mayra invited us each to choose a rock and to put all of these rocks together into a pile (which reminded me of this similar imagery in the Bible of people piling up stones as memorials and as thanksgiving). As we put our rocks in that pile we were encouraged to say a prayer. That was a really special moment for me and I thanked God for his faithfulness and for my restoration so far and I prayed for my family for the future. It was such a special moment, one I was privileged to share with others and one I shall always cherish.

There is so much more to say as it is impossible to reflect on all that has happened and all that God has spoken to me about in one go… But I will say this! Wow! What an experience! Thank you to all of you who have sponsored me, supported me and cared for Joel and Jonts while I was away. I am truly grateful!

I know I haven’t said anything about climbing Machu Picchu itself, but I will. 🙂 Look out for that post coming soon!

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