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Ann Voskamp has become one of my favorite authors.  I find myself when reading an article or one of her books, not able to put it down.  I also find myself internalizing every word that I am reading.  Over this past holiday I picked “One Thousand Gifts” off of my bookshelf.  (The story of how I received this book is a story for another day and I can tell over a cup of coffee.)  When reading the first chapter, Ann speaks of the death of her sister at an early age.    I was paralyzed as I read.  In the same chapter she tells the story of her brother.  He was now facing the death of their second child.  I was in tears.  These two stories brought me to a place to look at my own story and how God has met me in my pain and in my brokenness.

It was five years ago to the day as I write this that I received a phone call from my mom.  She shared with my husband, Wally and I that she was sick.  She asked if we could come to Arizona in the next few weeks.  She had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  She told us that it was in the early stages.  What was odd about this call is that I had not spoken to my mom in six years…since the death of my father in 2005.  I was surprised, I felt overwhelmed and I had a strong sense that my mom was not telling us the entire truth and my life would be turning upside down.

When we arrived in Arizona, we found the 125-year-old home that my parents loved in complete disarray.  I was greeted at the door of my sister Carri.  She has Down Syndrome.  She was extremely thin.  There had been a fire on the stove and mold all through out the refrigerator.  My body went into shock.  With in days I became the guardian of my sister because of the death of my mom. I now was the caregiver of my sister and my life would never be the same.

Being a type A, high control independent woman I was broken.  I became angry, confused and numb.  Even though graduating with a Special Education degree it was never in my plan to take on the full time care of my sister.  I asked the question, “What have I done wrong to deserve this?  I sat at my kitchen table, knowing that I would be turning 50 years old in a few months, having to leave my full time job, looking up to my ceiling, yelling loudly,  “My life is over!”

In my brokenness, God has met me. How has he met me?  God has given me a small community of people that have walked alongside of me.  They have asked me deep questions to help me process.  They have allowed me to grieve and to be mad. Really mad!   They have been safe.  They have not fixed me.  They have allowed me to journey so deeply that through my story I have seen redemption.

Today, 5 years later, I am grateful for the pain.  I am grateful for my sister, Carri.  God has used her to change me.  Through my brokenness I have gained a life filled with abundance, more intimacy in my relationships and quite frankly…..MORE GOD!

Kaleen Marshall


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