Monday, February 15, 2016

LOVE is Sharing the Journey

Many times in life, we find ourselves, hand-in-hand and side-by-side with others on similar faith journeys. This is a story about Shannon Brill Rziha, a precious friend, wife and mother of three young children who passed from this life to heaven five years ago February 11th. I am compelled to share about her because she was such a part of our own Faith Journey, and just maybe there's someone God is calling you to partner up and share faith journeys together.

Several years ago, Ron and I were drawn to Shannon, her husband, Wayne and, at that time, little daughter, Cecilia. Later, they were blessed with two precious sons, Daniel and Anthony. We always remarked “What a beautiful family!” They served God in word and action in so many ways. Ron, because he had such a passion for promoting and discerning vocations in the Church, naturally gravitated to Wayne who was the Vocations Director. We watched Shannon, as her love for children was obvious as she was a vital part of Children’s Christian Education, Vacation Bible School, Fall Festival, etc.

In December, 2008, after many months of increasing pain in her hip, Shannon was diagnosed with cancer.
We saw our church family, as a team, go into action. Our church’s prayer team, as well as prayer teams all around the country, stepped up in prayer for them. Our church’s women, not only provided meals for them, but many helped in housekeeping, child caring, and chauffeuring. There were fundraisers, prayer vigils, "red solidarity night" and other events held for them. And, we watched Shannon and Wayne do their part – determining to find and obtain the most qualified and skilled doctors, the best medical center, the most effective treatments and surgeries. They submitted to trips away from the children in order to have the best care. And, Shannon, exuded the grace of God as she submitted to her medical team’s recommendations. She lost her hair after chemo several times -- smiling her way through it! I loved it when she bravely played the role of Lucille Ball (wearing a red wig over her smooth, bald head and refusing to use her cane) in a play that I wrote for one of our women’s meetings. Rarely, did she ever miss attending church. She put those who have no physical issues to shame as she would make her way on crutches down the aisle for communion and to get “as close as possible” to the altar.

Right from the start of Shannon’s faith journey, Ron and I felt so drawn to stand in faith with this precious family. They were consistently in our thoughts and prayers. I, personally, felt compelled to be a regular e-mail correspondent with Shannon – applauding her faith, encouraging her to keep “standing” and to not give up. We shared with them about what God’s Word says about times like this. We quoted healing and faith scriptures to them. But, we were speaking to them about what we knew from God’s Word – not what we had personally experienced. We watched how they trusted God, stood in faith and enjoyed life as best they could with their three precious young children.

In January, 2010, my Honey began to have such tremendous pain in his back that continued to increase. In April, we received the doctor’s diagnosis of Stage 4 Kidney Cancer. An emergency surgery was performed to remove the tumor off of his spinal cord. Shannon and Wayne were in Houston at MD Anderson that week for one of Shannon’s treatments when they heard about Ron. I’ll never forget the night, after his very serious, almost fatal surgery. Coming through the hospital room door on her crutches, was Shannon, having just arrived back to Tulsa. She said, “I had to get here as soon as possible!” She came in and was quite perturbed that Ron, the man of faith and her faith coach, could possibly be in this condition, yet she was there with us to be OUR woman of faith and faith coach. It was then, that we knew what it meant to feel the pain, know the pain, and know the emotions that she had been experiencing for two years before us. Before now, we had head knowledge, and now, we had personal knowledge of this experience. We “identified” with her. And now, we really understood St. Paul and his words in II Corinthians 1:4 “That you may be comforted with the same comfort that I have been comforted with.” We had planted into Shannon, and now Shannon was there for pay-back. She was there to comfort us. That’s what teamwork is all about. That’s what the Body of Christ, the church of God, is about.

My Honey graduated to heaven almost three months before Shannon, but I’m sure it was a part of God's divine plan. They comforted one another in life, understood each other’s pains and now, they’re celebrating being home. They are where we all will continue to press toward. In the meantime, the journey continues for the rest of us – to be there for each other – to comfort one another – hand in hand – side by side. LOVE is sharing the journey!