Driving through a residential area in San Francisco yesterday, trying to navigate back to Highway 101 at 5:30 am, I had a moment of panic thinking “where am I, Lord please let the GPS not fail me” and then there came a split second where I thought “no matter how much you thought you were in control, you in fact are not.” This thought lingered with me and throughout the day, I dwelled on it, dissecting what that thought meant. What I gleaned from it, was that though you are not a puppet in this life, as you have the freedom of choice, the master plan was pre-designed and your choice of road A or road B both end right where you were supposed to be all along. I may have had to take a twenty minute tour of a really stunning neighborhood in San Francisco, but my end destination was the same. Transferring to the right freeway would have been faster but not as pretty. The two paths were simply put; different.
My mind ran with this as it usually does and I thought about why we were driving to San Francisco at 5:30 am in the first place. Emily has cancer. Upon hearing that news, Jennifer, one of Emily’s Aunties, needing to channel some of the anxiety from the news of Emily having cancer, entered herself in the Nike Woman’s Marathon. Having asthma and never having run a marathon, she linked up with Team in Training to help raise funds for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and in return, be trained for her first ever half marathon. Heather, Jennifer’s friend ran as well, both in honor of Emily.
Sunday arrived so at 3 am, part of the family loads up the cars to go pick up Christina and the kids so that 6 children, 6 adults, in a caravan of two cars, can start the drive to San Francisco to cheer Jennifer and Heather across the finish line. So we’re driving, the sun is starting to crack across the Bay and Chris, Jennifer’s husband calls to say that he and their 4 kids are searching for parking. 10 children and 7 adults have arrived in San Francisco at dawn to cheer on two women running for Emily. So is this road A or road B I thought? I am not one to doubt that Emily having cancer is part of the master plan but I have heard people voice questions like: how could this possibly be part of the plan, why would God give cancer to someone so young, what did we do wrong to make this happen, Is God punishing us? Basically, did we take the wrong path? All of these thoughts are Satan’s way of taking something God inspired and using our worry as a tool to divide us from God. Truly, no matter the end destination that God has planned, we are right where we are supposed to be.
With this reminder, as our gathering of 17 watched people start to cross the finish line, the children bundled in their jackets leaning over the barricade to see or sitting in the camping chairs, dosing under their blankets, I smiled because I know that Gods plan for Emily is something huge. So many have been affected by her story, so many people closer to God, so many people hugging their own children tighter, reaching out to lend a helping hand. The community that has surrounded Emily and her family has been overwhelmingly HUGE!!! This week, a woman who wanted to remain anonymous delivered ten bags of non-perishable items to the Loves and came back the next day with bags full of perishable food items!!! When she finished unloading the bags and handed Christina a bouquet of flowers, Chrissie burst into tears. Every time the need for a babysitter arises, Christina feels horrible asking people to give more of their time yet I usually have 4 or 5 people offering to help. I can’t remember a single time in the last 8 months where there has been an emergency over child-care! Even when someone calls to say they have to back out because their own kids are sick, there is always someone there to fill in the gap. How can this NOT be part of Gods plan?
Tired of standing, I turned to sit with the kids and noticed Emily sneaking Salami out of my bag. I nudged Christina to look, apologizing because I know Chrissie wants the kids to be Vegan. She laughed and turned back to watch the race. The rest of the kids were devouring the grapes and apples that had been given to them but Emily was ripping bread off the baguette in my bag and folding the salami between the bread as she had seen me do. She would take two bites; finish the salami and then stuff more into her piece of bread. When she caught me watching her, she smiled and raised her bread in triumph saying “Babbie wook!” Of any of the children God allowed to have Cancer, this clearly was the one most up for the challenge.
The sun had risen but was hidden behind the thick fog, the mist San Francisco is known for began and Jennifer sent a text message to Chris that they were on mile 8. Just then, a woman who was about to finish the race, ran to the sidelines. She quickly emerged back in the alleyway pushing a wheelchair containing a teenage boy who had the classic tufts of hair scattered across a balding head that signified he had some type of cancer. Us girls starting crying as the woman ran the last 0.1 miles pushing the boy across the finish line. Our family is not alone in the battle with cancer. We are not the only ones faced with the reality of what the end destination may be and in that moment, I selfishly prayed that Gods plan for Emily is to be the Doctor that finds a cure for cancer or something else that stems from her experiences.
I don’t know who saw them first but soon everyone was cheering that Jennifer and Heather were coming. Chrissie had made signs; the kids were on people’s shoulders, asleep in chairs, or standing on the stroller screaming “mommy”, “Auntie Jenny”, “Heather”. Just as Jennifer hit the 13 mile mark, with her arms up in the air in victory, she spotted us with the help of her running mates who were pointing in our direction, and burst into tears. Christina waved her over and in a daze; Jennifer abandoned the race for a minute to come say “hi”. Christina lifted Emily over the barricade and Jennifer posed for a picture. When Chrissie told her to take Emily with her, Jennifer paused, confused, and then crying, turned around to finish her race with her running mates who had stopped to wait for her. We were all crying as Heather, Jennifer and Emily finished their first half marathon and Emily threw hers arms in the air mimicking those around her.
As we all gathered on the other side of the finish line for pictures and hugs, one of the boys expressed how “Awesome” the day was. Though everyone was tired, cold and hungry, we were all still smiling, laughing and enjoying the day. Tom was taking pictures of the beach, three of the boys were practicing their karate moves on each other, Joah was melting down as he was over stimulated and under napped, Jay was talking to some woman who didn’t have phone reception either and Emily was showing everyone the Tiffany Necklace that Jennifer had given her. As Jennifer put it, “this was her race”. Pictures done and the chaos wearing on the adults, Jennifer and Heather left to meet up with the TNT group and be bused back to the hotel. The rest of us started the trek to the cars.
After the three hours it took to get out of the city, due to how far away the cars were parked from the finish line, 25,000 runners with thousands more spectators, and two sports games in the city the same day, physical exhaustion set in. Yet there was a peace over the cars. We made our way to Emeryville, to meet up with Jennifer and crew for lunch as no one wanted to spend one more minute in the city. Heather and Jennifer had showered at the hotel and were ready to devour some food. With our party having grown to 19, the Cafeteria at IKEA seemed like a fabulous idea. Our party clumped together and as the stomachs registered food, our marathoners became more talkative and the kids got a boost of energy. We visited for a while and then everyone said their goodbyes.
Climbing back into the car, wrapping a blanket around Adam and myself, as he and I had agreed that it was time to go to sleep, I thanked God for the journey that He is taking us on. I asked that He toughen us up as I personally feel very weak at times on this path. Especially when Emily is hospitalized and I asked that He prepare us for the end destination. Though it’s not the easy route as Highway 101 would have been 12 hours before that moment, it certainly has forced us to grow closer to Him, to grow closer to our friends and family that reach out to support the Loves and it certainly has forced myself to treasure every waking moment I have with my family. I drifted off to sleep knowing that 19 of us spent a long, chaotic day in San Francisco because Jennifer and Heather ran a Marathon in Honor of Emily because Emily has Cancer and that is all part of Gods plan.