#MarlaStrong How a wedding brought us together; no….I didn’t get married!
My entire trip I have allowed my energy to take me in directions I previously would have steered away from. As my car has taken on miles and miles along this journey, I often have taken Left turns that turn into the Right decision (did you see what I just did there, ha). When I was lounging in Malta, IL (the best city in IL, Chi-town is the 2nd) I was offered an opportunity to help with a wedding in St. Louis from one of the most amazing wedding planners in the United States. The offer came with a paycheck, which is must needed as my bank account is currently looking a little, well…little. It also came with a place to stay for a few days, which beats sleeping in my car in hotel parking lots. I got this gut feeling that I had to go to this wedding and help out. I am not sure why I had this feeling, but I knew that making some cash, having a place to stay, and the bride and groom invited me to stay during the reception and enjoy some cocktails, dinner, and dancing. I decided that this was what my pursuit of passion was all about and quickly said, “Yes.” I believe the wedding planner was a little surprised I said yes to her offer, but she was grateful as the wedding was a major event and she needed a super strong individual to help (I am talking about me right now if anyone is wondering). I jumped into my car and took the 4 1/2 hour drive from Malta, IL to St. Louis, MO. What I didn’t realize was that the wedding was just an event that would lead me to meeting one of the most amazing and inspirational people I have come in contact with in my lifetime.
I got out of my car and headed into this beautiful home in a St. Louis, MO suburb to be greeted by an array of welcoming hugs, smiles, and laughter. As we sat around, and they fed me wine, I shared stories of my journey around the United States. Through our conversations I learned the story of Marla Vogt, the owner of the home. Marla was a stunning women with a massive and contagious smile and full of energy. I believe that when you look up the word ‘firecracker’ in the dictionary there will be a picture of Marla standing there smiling with this massive grin. You can imagine my shock as Marla shared her story of how she is currently battling stage 4 Colon Cancer.
What? There is no way that she is battling cancer right now.She looks amazing and she definitely does not look like someone who is going through a life threatening battle.
About a year ago Marla was diagnosed with stage 4 Colon Cancer. At 41 years old, with two beautiful children, an amazing fiance, a successful business, and big plans for the future she was suddenly facing what the doctors told her was a “less than a 50 percent chance of survival.” In the past year she has undergone a list of medical procedures that could emotionally and physically make the worlds strongest person break. Marla has undergone surgery to remove part of her colon, sections of her liver, lesions on her lungs, chemo therapy, and a full hysterectomy. Marla shared that she had been in a dark place through the start of her battle, but soon found amazing support through the community, her friends, her family, and most importantly God. Through this support she has begun to shift her energy from darkness to the light, from negativity to positivity, from why me to bring it on. She has leaned on her faith through this entire battle and has begun to mix modern medicine with holistic medicine to strength her arsenal for her battle. I sat there struck with awe as she shared her story. The entire time she was sharing stories about her journey she had this smile on her face that could have lit up the entire city of St. Louis. I could see a bright energy radiating from her soul, I swear it wasn’t just because I was sipping wine (aka chugging), and I could feel her energy filling my soul.
I went to sleep that night feeling a strong sense of power in my soul. I laid there and instead of thoughts running through my head about issues I was dealing with, I couldn’t stop thinking about how strong, courageous, and brave Marla was. I couldn’t stop thinking about how I have these issues in my life and how they feel minimal to what she is going through, yet she has this positive and energetic energy that impacts everyone that comes in contact with her. She started sharing stories about how when she goes to the Dr. she always takes fun and silly pictures before, during, and after. This should give you a sense of exactly what type of person she is. When most people go to these types of appointments full of stress and fear, she goes into these situations with this powerful sense of loving life.
I woke up the next morning, not knowing what to expect. I have done a lot of things in my life, but one thing I have never done is help throw a wedding. We started at 9am and I quickly realized that not only was I going to be working for one of the best wedding planners in the world, but also one of the most intense. I think it is probably the same feeling IU and Texas Tech players felt playing for Bobby Knight. You know you are playing/working for a legend, but you better be on your game! Over the next few hours I placed name cards on this stunning Gem wall, I laid the most gorgeous linens on 20 plus tables, I threw down some chargers (those are fancy plates used for salads for you non wedding people) and I held the umbrella (it was a torrential downpour all day) for 250 people as they walked in and out of the ceremony. Although I was absolutely soaked I quickly learned that I became one of the most popular people at the wedding (I saved a lot of dresses, makeup, and hair with job). I had people coming up to me thanking me, asking me questions about my height (the usual), and I even had a few telling me how handsome I was and asking about my relationship status (don’t worry, my head won’t get to big…I know what weddings do to single women along with some vodka tonics).
As I was enjoying some drinks, some dinner, and some dancing (the bride and grooms were so amazing that they asked me to join in on the party), I started to get a strong sense of fear running through my heart. All I could think about is how I was supposed to marry my soulmate in September. I started to think about how her dad was going to give me a huge and welcome me into their family. I started to vision my first dance with her as she would have looked like an angel and a gift from God. As the dark fear based thoughts started rushing through me, I thought: Maybe working a wedding was not the best idea. I went back to all of the things I have learned through books, from Dr. Jason, DJ, family, friends, people I have met along this trip, Marianne Willaimson’s teachings and “Nascar quick,” I started to see things differently and see peace. FYI: Nascar quick is when your attitude changes in less than .5 seconds (yeah, I just made that up). I started to focus on how amazing and beautiful the wedding was, I could sense the love of all the people in the room, and how I was here in St. Louis crashing a wedding and having a blast with people I just met. After the wedding we had another hour or so of breaking down the venue and watching as people walked away with love in their hearts. After a 14 hour day I was ready to crash out. I felt like I just played 48 minutes and I was in charge of guarding Lebron James all game (yeah my body felt punished). I learned that in the wedding industry this is called a “wedding hangover.” Let’s just say that for once I had no issue falling asleep that night.
The next morning I decided that I had to go to a St. Louis Cardinals game (I mean you can’t be in St. Louis and be an anti Cubs fan and not go see the Cardinals play). It was another rainy and muggy day, but I was still excited about just relaxing and watching one of the most iconic teams in the history of baseball compete in America’s past time. I was having an absolutely blast at the game and then it hit, I saw a Snapchat video that quickly drained my energy (damn you social media). I quickly dropped about 100 levels of energy and just felt a sting in my heart (damn you love).
When we got back from the game, I put on a fake smile, but they could tell something was wrong. I told them I was headed to Kansas City and my next stop along my journey. I took off and got about 10 miles outside St. Louis and I just had to stop and park. I found the closest exit and parked outside a McDonalds and I just started to cry. I tried to do what has helped me all trip long: “I can see peace,” “I can see this differently,” I started to go back through some old blog posts, but nothing was working. aghhhhh I just need to close my eyes and stop my mind from thinking. As I attempted to stop my thoughts with sleep, my mind started to tell me to just go home. I felt like I was running away from St. Louis with more to do, but Fear was driving me further away. Now my fear based thoughts were telling me to call the trip early (It telling myself: your wallet is light, you only have a few days left, it is probably cold up in Wyoming and Montana, you are too sad). I was edging closer to the decion that maybe it was time to get back to Arizona, I mean I have been on the road for a couple months now. I finally fell asleep.
When I woke up: I had about 10 text messages on my phone.
Guess Who????? ………………It was Marla
I got messages saying:
“Come back to St. Louis we want to spend another night with you.”
“You are such a special person, we love you.”
“I got music lyrics from a country song talking about “coming back.”
“I even got a video of them singing “Turn Around.”
I obviously couldn’t help but start laughing. I mean I was only 15 minutes away from there house, but I had pretty much made up my mind that I needed to head out. I texted over a few laughter type emojis and told them “thank you and that I loved being with them and that I appreciated our time together, but that I needed to move along.” I then get this in a long text:
Have you ever had something happen in your life that hit you like a tidal wave?
Life is a tidal wave.
Love is a tidal wave.
Disease may be a tidal wave.
Living between the rise and fall.
The place that once was comforting and peaceful, becomes the same place you fear the most
Your tears run down your face, you taste the salt.
You’ve tasted that before.
You rise and fall like waves crashing to the shore.
We walk around through life, hoping the water doesn’t touch our feet.
Oh it might be cold…
It might take you under, when you least expect it.
Don’t be afraid my dear, we all rise and fall.
What if it takes you to the deepest water you’ve ever been to?
Is it dark?
Water so deep, you can’t keep your head up.
You suddenly can not breathe.
You go under again and again, you taste salt.
You’ve tasted that before.
The waves keep coming and pulling you under again and again.
But, it doesn’t end there.
You have to push yourself, with ever ounce of strength & breath.
The sun, the earth, the moon, they are all right there.
God is there, he won’t let you go under and not come back up again.
And just like that, you are at the shore.
Looking back at the waves and the deep water.
The same ones you thought would take you, have now become nothing to fear.
The sound of the waves are that of peace, love, and tranquility.
For they did not take you, it did not defeat you.
It made you!
You conquered the waves,
You stared death in the eye,
And now you admire them.
Did you really have any doubts?
You know now what it feels like to go under and rise again.
Did you forget what the salt tasted like?
You’ve tasted that before,
As we continue to prepare to rise and fall……
Again and again.
Ummmmmm….I thought, as I felt complete shock in my body as jolts of energy started shooting through my soul.
That is absolutely beautiful. Did you write that? I asked her.
“Yes, a couple weeks ago when I ran away with my kids to Gulf Shores. Sitting right here…….”
Ok, I will give you a minute to wipe your tears from your eyes…………Let me know when you are ready to keep reading.
I know it took me a few minutes to stop the tears coming down my face. I had this strong pull telling me that I had to go back. After reading that poem is there any other option. I gave it a few more minutes for my windows, and my eyes, to defog. I started up the black beauty (my car) and I headed back to Marla’s to hang with her and her family. As I walked into the house I was greeted by hugs and affirmation. I told them why I had left they started to tell me:
“You have such an amazing soul.”
“You are such a special person.”
“Your journey is so brave.”
“You are a gorgeous person and anyone should blessed to be with you.”
I was loving the affirmation and their words and I could feel my energy shifting ‘Jet Quick,’ this is even faster than ‘Nascar Quick.’ We sat there for then next couple hours just talking about life. Jeremey (Marla’s fiance) and Marla started sharing the struggles they have gone through in their relationship, the struggles of her cancer battle, the struggles they have had in past relationships, and the struggles of pushing forward in such a hard time of their lives. That night I went to bed and I could feel the shift happening to a place of peace. Before bed I said to myself:
“I got this. I am not going to quit. I have gone to far and gone through to much to just drive home and end it on this note.”
As I am sitting her writing today all I can think is “Wow.” It is such a simple word, but the feeling has so much power attached to it. Marla told me yesterday that she believes in Divine Appointments (a blog post I wrote about a few weeks ago). I agree 100 percent and I know that this entire meeting was set up before I even left Malta, IL. I went from thinking I was coming to St. Louis to make some money while working and crashing a wedding (fun right). After day one I believed that I was destined to come to St. Louis so I would have the opportunity to meet Marla and learn about life and how to handle adversity in a spiritual and loving way. Finally, after last night I realized that while the former was true, my true purpose to come to St. Louis was to save my trip and this journey. I was ready to give up and Marla, Jeremy, and her family saved that journey for me and have given me a re-found hope to keep moving forward.
I could write a book about Marla’s journey this past year and how she has responded. I don’t have time on this blog and I also know that someday soon, when Marla is cancer free, she is going to write that book and it will be a National Best Seller. What I will should out as loud as I can is:
Marla with her kids:
Pictures of the Beautiful Wedding Venue: