Euphoria, noun: a feeling of great happiness and excitement. ~ Merriam Webster Dictionary
Euphoric high. That is what crossing a finish line feels like. Your body may be beaten and battered, your muscles may be screaming that they hate you…but when you cross…ahhhhhh…the high of accomplishment settles in. In that moment the high erases the pain, the set backs, and the obstacles. You revel in the victory of completion.
Every year that is how I feel on Marathon Sunday in Detroit. A euphoric high settles in, not just because I have crossed the finish line, but because once again God has left me in awe of what He can and will do through a group of people who are obedient to His call and faithful to the cause He has laid on their hearts. Every year I wonder how God will top the previous one and yet He always does. This year was no exception. Two days, 60 participants, one VOICE: Santino’s Voice. We were the voice of autism in Detroit for two days in a row and we were loud and we were proud. In us God has birthed a vision that the autism community must be heard and reached…awareness must be raised to bring forth understanding. We are a team that passionately wants every family that runs the race of autism to know that there is a God who loves them and there is hope and rest found in His arms. So we take to the streets, we pound the pavement, we run, we walk, and we do it all for the Glory of God. There is grace, there is acceptance, and there is love. We cross the finish line as individuals but we walk away forever connected as a team, inspired by a precious boy named Santino who runs the marathon of autism daily. We all walk away knowing that we CAN do all things through Christ, who strengthens us, because we see that strength and courage in Santino on a daily basis.
Bittersweet, noun: pleasure alloyed with pain. ~ Merriam Webster Dictionary
The dreariness of the day could not conceal the striking beauty of the fall colors. Deep burnt orange, vibrant red, even dull brown looked breath-taking in the landscape of trees and falling leaves. As I stared out the window I couldn’t help but be in awe of a place that I wish I could avoid, a place I never want to go. We parked the car and approached the little marker as the chill of the air appropriately settled in and chilled me to the bone. The thought crossed my mind, “what a difference a day makes.” Just the day before we were reveling in the accomplishment of our team and celebrating the victories and progress our son, Santino, has made battling autism. But here we stood, a mere twenty-four hours later, grave side, wiping away pine needles and cleaning the marker in the cemetery designated as a memorial to our precious little girl who would have turned 7 this week. Francesca Isabella Catherincchia October 23, 2007 – January 07, 2008. The reality of the situation washes over me and I recognize that every year I find myself at the bittersweet crossroads of the finish line and the cemetery. I celebrate the accomplishment of one child while my arms ache to hold another, just one more time; to smell that sweet baby smell that was uniquely hers even if it is only in the breeze that fills the fall air.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you.” ~ Maya Angelou
God is a storyteller, this I know for sure. Every day that I have the privilege to open my Bible I become more acutely aware of just how important His story is…it is the very lifeline of my life. Then the light bulb goes off and I realize that God story is far from over and we are all living in the midst of it. Think about the enormity of that truth…Our God is a story-teller and His story is still actively taking place…WOW!!! The book of Genesis tell us that we, humanity, are created in the image of God. Therefore, if my God is a story-teller and I am created in His image…then I must be a storyteller too…my story matters. That is why there is agony in the untold story…our stories are meant to be told. In every story…happy, sad, triumphant, and tragic…the beauty of God’s hand print can be seen if we just open our eyes and lift them up to the One who has created us. I have found, in my own story, that God’s grace does abound when we go through the hardest struggles, when we find ourselves in the deepest oceans, battered by the strongest waves. It is there that He reaches down to us and the power of His story blends with the fragility of our circumstance. The result is the epic tale of a Sovereign God who loves His people so much that the pain and heartbreak of this life are never carried alone, but He indeed carries us through the storms. He brings us to the other side better than any human mind could ever fathom. Heartbreak is never an end when you walk with God…it is the beginning of new and beautiful normal that is birthed by that showering of His love and grace. This is a story that matters, a story that needs to be told. Because in the agony of silence is the robbing of blessing. When we remain silent we rob those who are suffering from the hope that is found in our Savior.
“Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders…” ~ Hillsong United
Back in the summer I prepared a book proposal, If any of you know anything about the publishing world you know that this is a very detailed lengthy project that includes writing at least one to two chapters of the manuscript that will ultimately become your book, at least you hope it will. I knew, for some time, that God wanted Francesca’s story told. I had been encouraged by a few people to pursue that prompting but I held off my obedience until an opportunity sat before like a neon sign screaming “Will you be obedient NOW?!?!” In July as I prepared for the She Speaks Conference an opportunity was presented to me on a silver platter to meet with a few publishers. In all my preparation for this conference, emails and webinars and such, the one thought that was continually stressed was…”the point is not to get published, the point is what God is going to do through the process.” That sounded great but so did the idea of getting published. As I sat nervously before the acquisition editor of a major Christian publishing house the question was posed to me, “What will you do if you do not get a book deal?” With all confidence I answered, “I will continue to tell my daughter’s story.” I knew that a book deal was just one of many different avenues in which I could tell the story that God wanted me to share. If it happened great and if it didn’t, rejection would not silence me. So, here I sit months later…no book deal and no real desire or prompting to write the rest of the book. My mind travels and I wonder about the loose ends of an unfinished book and then these words echo in my head “the point is not to be published, the point is what God will do through the process”. Writing Francesca’s story was one of the most healing and precious moments of my life. Writing a full memoir of my journey was never the point…the point has always been to share how God touched the lives of so many through Francesca.
My only qualification for being God’s story-teller is that He allowed me the honor of being Francesca’s mother; I had the privilege of bringing her into this world and holding her as she exited it. I had a front row seat to witness one of the most miraculous and precious lives I will ever know and now God would like me to share her with all of you. Yesterday as I sat at the bittersweet crossroads of the finish line and the cemetery I knew it was time…time to share Francesca’s story. The Spirit has led me to where I must trust that this is what God has called me to do even though it scares me, for the words that I will share will be like my diary opened for all the world to see. But I trust that God has a plan and a purpose for this story. Starting tomorrow, through this blog, I will share Francesca’s story. The chapter I wrote for my book proposal will posted in this blog over the course of the next few days. My prayer is that it will bring healing and hope to all those who are heartbroken or find themselves at a crossroads.