I've written before about my family in South Carolina.
My Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill, who have always been like a second set of parents to me. And I've written before about my cousins Margaret and Lisa, two of Aunt Grace and Uncle Bill's five children, who are sisters to me. Lisa is also a blogger and an amazing photographer.
While I haven't written about it before, my cousin Lisa is married to a kind and gentle man named Mark, who last year, underwent a heart transplant. While the transplant saved Mark's life, they still are required to make three hour drives, each way, to Emory University in Atlanta, several times a month so that Mark's progress can be closely monitored. While this situation has taken a toll on them, it has also strengthened them. Whenever I've talked to Lisa, she emanates patience, peace, but above all - faith and gratitude.
Mark and Lisa are an amazing couple, they are deeply in love, and over their 25+ year marriage have raised four incredible children. Lisa has homeschooled them all, and they are such good, good kids.
There is Matthew, the oldest, who is now in college and planning to pursue graduate studies in philosophy and theology. There is Stephen, the gentle giant, who wears a size 17 (!) shoe and has a heart bigger than his soles. He is always there to help and do whatever he can for people, including my 82-year old mother, and 92-year old Jim. Mark and Lisa's fourth and youngest, Mary Elizabeth, shares a birthday with my mother (July 7, hence her name, Mary!), and is a year older than Henry. Mary Elizabeth is our daughters' pen pal, although Mary has proven to be a much more "consistent" correspondent.
This summer, during our move from Virginia to Texas, Charlie and I spent the night in South Carolina at my Aunt Grace's home and we had some time to sit and talk with Kathryn, the third of Mark and Lisa's children. Kathryn is soft spoken and beautiful, a mirror image of her mother.
Kathryn told me how she was taking classes at the local college, and working in a restaurant as a waitress. As I was talking with her, I was so excited for her, because to be standing on the threshold of adulthood with your whole life in front of you is awesome.
When I talked with my mother last week, she mentioned that Lisa and Kathryn had come over to cook her and Jim dinner one night (and then stayed to clean up!) and Mom said how she had asked Kathryn what she wanted to do one day. Kathryn said she didn't know yet, and my mother asked her, "What brings you the most joy?" Kathryn told my mother, "Biology. I love studying biology." And my mother responded, "Well then, that might be the field for you!"
Now I tell you this, and I give this small glimpse in to Mark and Lisa's family because I think it is necessary to know them, and by knowing them, you are more likely to care for them.
Yesterday morning, beautiful Kathryn was in a car accident. She suffered severe injuries, including a head trauma that has required her to be placed in a medically induced coma and intubated. The next 48 hours are critical. While we will not know about brain damage for several more days, she has broken bones, bruised her lung, and damaged her pancreas.
I've often heard the phrase, "God doesn't give you more than you can handle" and I'm not sure that I fully agree. I believe life happens because of circumstances and sometimes, things occur that are way more than we can handle.
How do you nurture and sustain that critically necessary strength of spirit to shield you in times of misfortune? And how do you continue to have FAITH when life seems to hit you with one thing after another? How do you continue to believe that the Universe is unfolding as it should, and God's fingerprints are on everything?
As for me, I have come to believe in the incredible power of community, gratitude, and on your knees prayer. So today, on the first day of what I know will be a beautiful and growth-inducing new year, I am gratefully asking my communities to join me to pray for my Aunt Grace's grandchild; Lisa and Mark's daughter; Matthew and Stephen's little sister - and Mary Elizabeth's big sister.
Kathryn Grace with the beautiful face, who I pray like her incredibly strong cousin, Emily, will make a full and complete recovery.
And become the best biologist the world has ever seen.