We had a guest in the house this week. Actually we had a few guests in the house, such that our guest rooms were full one evening. And so, I received the privilege of Nely’s  company in my room for a night. And the encounter, like those with Christ himself, left a mark on me. 

First, let me tell you a little about Nely. Nely es la hermana de Jenny, one of the Misioners who I live with.  

Nely, left, with her sister Jenny on the right 

Nely is older, with 4 kids. And stage 2 cancer in her womb. which she just discovered last week. Nuestra casa is a much closer to a hospital where she can receive the care she needs that her own house, so she spent a few nights here with us. But this one evening, other guests occupied our guest rooms and so Nely was entrusted to my care.

Have you ever experienced that feeling of being around someone especially…fragile? you know, the very sick or elderly? Someone with the flu that’s fevering and moaning,  leaving you helpless to alleviate an ounce of their suffering? When a loved one of a loved one dies and their heart is ripping and you feel like being near them just might rip yours up too?

[I honestly think that those are some of the main reasons people don’t like being around the poor. It’s uncomfortable to not know how to help or what to say.

But it does help. We always think we have to DO SOMETHING to help. Sometimes. But more often, we just gotta love. Which often requires no actions nor words.]

Well I’m going to admit that I felt a little nervous letting Nely into my upright little world. That beast Cancer intimidated young and healthy and independent Kate. But with Nely I was so wrong. It was not at all a case of “I wish I could help you but I can’t and I feel bad that my being healthy is probably insulting to you somehow.” 

Let me tell you some things about Nely. 

  1. She was diagnosed with Cancer approximately one week before I got to know her.
  2. She does not look or act like someone just diagnosed with Cancer.
  3. She is more often smiling than not-
  4. Especially when she is talking about God’s faithfulness. 

All I have, God has given me,” she shined. (Ps. NELY HAS CANCER). “This cancer is just a new opportunity to trust him. He has given me a new chance to live every day, and having cancer does not mean he is going to stop taking care of me. God is going to help me get through chemotherapy and every other struggle that I will go through.”

This woman’s fidelity to the God who has given her life and could take it with this disease upturned my own reality. She knows her life is not hers. And unlike the most of us, she has made peace with it. For Nely, Cancer is not a thing to fear. Cancer is one more thing to lean into the arms of God and, with Job, proclaim:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

For over two hours, we talked of God’s faithfulness and how she knows God is caring for her through it all and I can only say that I encountered Christ. Paz con su enfermedad. New joy every morning at another day gifted to live. Peace tambien with what the Lord has taken away from her.

(I promise I take pictures outside of my room too)

This is faith. Healthy, sick, young, old – faith can distinguish the difference between the unbreakable and intimate  l o v e  our Creator has for us from the  t h i n g s  he puts in and out of our lives.

Dorothy Day tambien grasped some of the essence of this faith too, in a different but equally real context. From within a strung-tight life of service that would have exhausted anyone living on their own strengths, she states:

“We may be living on the verge of eternity – but that should not make us dismal. The early Christians rejoiced to think that the end of the world was near, as they thought…Are we so unready to face God? Are we so avid for joys here that we perceive so darkly those to come?

We must just live by faith, and the faith that God is good, that all times are in his hands, must be tried as though by fire.” – Dorothy Day, The Reckless Way of Love

Before she went to bed that night, Nely got on her knees and offered her vida entera right back to the One who gave it to her. It left me to look at myself and perceive how I’m leaning away from trials of faith and therefore opportunities to be purified. While I find good reasons to keep my life in my own hands,  Jesus is patiently asking, “My child. Do you believe that I love you?”

Update from Honduras: Learning Libertad

Back in Honduras for less than a week annndd. well. lots of feelings. So I have arranged a little update centering on the theme that has seemed to define my transition back: freedom.

After more than 5 weeks back in the States, I have become accustomed to a very normal and worldly and luxurous habit of freedom. In the USA, I can go where I please. I can speak and completely understand the English language. I can go running without worrying for my safety. I can sleep in…, things I am struggling to re-adapt to back in Honduras.

I miss going for long runs with my favorite songs blaring from my earbuds and a ridiculous grin on my sweaty face.

I miss teasing Amy and lauging with my friends.

I miss eating yogurt and driving and familiar things like Target and stop signs that are just part of going where I like.

And so, with these feelings of not having what I like and what I’m used to, it kind of feels like I’ve lost independence and freedom all over again.

Now it’s routine prayer. early wake ups. my little annoying friends The Ants returning with warm weather. feeling dumb when I stare at someone who’s simply asked me if I’ve see the blue cell phone, because the meaning of the word “azul” just didn’t come to me. running is only a thing at 5am if I can find people to come with me because it’s not prudent to go alone. etc.

Life has limits. There are restrictions. Everyone faces restraints of this type of “freedom” (libertad). The new parents with a baby preventing them to sleep in EVER. Jobs. Limited quantites of money to travel and buy all the things we would like. Bodies that don’t always and with problems we can’t always solve.

So is the pursuit of freedom just an attempt to circumvent those natural human limits? To be free FROM things we dislike?

The lovely Pope John Paul II reminds us that according to a Christian worldview “Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.”

WHAT? So basically obedience. Freedom TO act a certain way. Well that is a little confusing I tend to associate freedom with the FEELING of doing what I like. Then how to remember that I am not defined by what i FEEL and EXPERIENCE?

It’s okay to feel things I do not like, but I don’t have to act according to how I feel. Shoutout to the parentals for raising me with the phrase “fake it ’til you make it.” It’s really a good idea. And it really coincides quite well with JPII’s definition of freedom too.

Also, God wants us to be truly free! and we can only find la VERDADERA LIBERTAD (true freedom) in Him.

Saint Paul writes in 2 Cor 3:17 that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” and Paul had more than his fair share of affliction, emprisonment, and hardship. We cannot find total and true freedom apart from our purpose and Creator, because it is a gift and a grace reserved for only those who would desire it.

True freedom is a peace that allows us to act as though we are beloved (because we are!) even when the circumstances around us couldn’t be worse. So I’m learning.

Quick caveat: Lest I leave you with the impression that life in Honduras is full of suffering and challenges, I must clarify with gusto that it ISN’T.

At this very moment, I’m sharing a lovely afternoon with my roomie Maggie while Jose is going about his day outside belting out some dramatic song in Spanish. Nick made muffins for breakfast today. I have clean laundry. I shed tears with Karen in the kitchen over a needed heart-to-heart. My room was surprise painted a gorgeous aqua

Blogging in my room; my humble deco upon the pretty new walls
My awesome roomate Maggie (surrounded by mostly my laundry…)

color during the Christmas break. I still get to do yoga every day. Hondurans are hilarious and incredible.– life is very beautiful and blessed here.

A final salute to my friends and family- Thank you for your support in so many ways! I thank you for your prayers and can say that you are all most definitely in mine. May God show you the true freedom that cannot be snatched away by anything. May He bless and keep you!

xoxo adios! -Kate