I'm nervous about this because I have spoken to audiences around the world, but I have never spoken in such a personal manner.
I had dinner with a group of pastors last night who shared part of their stories. And I wondered what I could share that would make an impact. And then today I sat here with all of you and listened to these speakers and asked, "Why did I agree to speak today?" But those of you who know Bill, know that he is a very hard man to say no to.
I met Bill a few years ago at this Summit when he interviewed me, and he surprised me when he asked if I would pray with him. After the interview he asked everyone in the audience to pray for me and my husband. It was an almost physical experience where I felt myself being lifted up.
When I was a child I had faith in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, but after growing up my faith began to become more abstract. I still prayed everyday, believed our souls outlived us, and thought good could triumph over evil. I had a picture of God as a some sort of super-CEO. The ideas in the Bible were powerful allegories and profound ideas but not actually real.
Bill and I talked over the course of a year or so and prodded me to question what I believed and why. I couldn't explain his personal interest in me. It was his persistance that kept me exploring the contours of my faith. At a Christmas Eve service I asked God to help me figure out my continuing questions. I awoke on Christmas morning with a clear mind.
I saw the evidence all around me of God, much of it coming from the world of science and technology where I had made my career. I figured, why not an immaculate conception. Every time I turn on my GPS I marvel at it's ability to track exactly where we are. (And she gave a lot of other examples.)
God became instantiated in a weak body, not because he needed it, but because we did.
A short time later, my father died, and while I was sad, I did not have the same experience I did when my mother had died. I was filled with an inner peace.
In 2009 my doctor told me I had an unidentified form of cancer. I battled my way through 11 surgeries, 4 months of chemotherapy, and 2.5 months of radiation. But that sweet peace stayed with me.
I realized cancer had brought blessings: the love of family, the kindness of strangers, the joy of life, the power of faith. All of these things I came to appreciate in a new way.
My ordeal with cancer paled in comparison to our daughters battles with her own demons. Two weeks after I finished my radiation, Lori died alone in her apartment. People at her funeral told me she was in a better place. For the first time I believed it. I realized she had not been truly alone.
Soon afterwards, my husband Frank told me he had lost his faith. He could not believe Jesus loved him and God let such a terrible thing happened. I prayed he would be given a sign and his faith restored.
A few days after Father's Day he came in with a look of relief. He had been in the garage and pile of boxes caught his eye. For no particular reason he decided to open one of them and found four father's day cards from Lori. He opened one of them and found a letter written many years ago when Lori had written how much she loved him and what a fine father he was. In that moment he knew that Jesus loved him, and I knew that God hears us and answers our prayers.
There is an ebb and flow to life. Our life is flowing now. We've moved to Virginia to be close to our family. I am engaged in activities that challenge me and I believe and hope make a difference. I realize that life is not measured in time, but in love and contribution and moments of grace.
In that interview with Bill, he asked about the very last line of my book, "My soul is at peace." Perhaps he realized I didn't fully understand what I had written. I do now. The peace of the Lord passes understanding.