Today’s blog post comes from Cris & Maria Tabush. They were first time guests at Lighthouse Family Retreat #11 this summer. Cris and Maria have 2 daughters – Emma, age 2 and Mia, age 6. Listen in to their experience discovering the heart of Lighthouse Family Retreat. Just for reference, Flip Flop time and Common Ground happen in the morning on retreats. The parents go to Common Ground and the kids go with the volunteers to Flip Flop time. Common Ground is used for small group time and Flip Flop is playtime for the kids!
When we got approved for the retreat, I got a little nervous when I read on the schedule “Common Ground.” Since I’m an introvert, I thought it was going to be the most uncomfortable meeting of my life. To be honest, I thought that I would sneak out from the meeting because there’s no way my daughter will stay with a stranger. She never stays with anyone; she can cry out loud for hours!
When it was time for Flip Flop during that first morning on retreat, my daughter wasn’t sure of what was going on. When she finally realized it, she grabbed me and wouldn’t let me go. One of our Family Partners approached me with confidence and told me to trust them as they have done this several times. He even reassured me saying that my daughter will be ok. Something told me to trust him so I chose to. Minutes later he sent me a picture and she was smiling! She was being held in such a lovely and caring way. I couldn’t believe it! I was so happy for her and felt a huge relief.
One hour into the first Common Ground meeting, I realized that I wasn't uncomfortable or nervous. In fact, it was the exact opposite feeling – I was comfortable. Since Emma was diagnosed, we have never been around people who really understood what we were going through. It was comforting to not only talk about it, but I also appreciated being able to listen to others say the exact same things I was thinking or had experienced. Using the same descriptive words we were accustomed to was very healing for us. Common Ground became our favorite part of the schedule.
Others say (and we believe) that the heart of Lighthouse Family Retreat is Common Ground. However, I don’t think it would have had the same impact without all of the other impactful moments and people. Being on vacation, not having to worry about planning anything, and of course the family partners and volunteers are all crucial.
When we think about it, they are the heart of Lighthouse – always full of energy, carrying big smiles, ready to have fun and serve. We have never been in a place with so many wholehearted people. The connection, the love, the empathy, the joy, and the hope that we experienced this week cannot be found anywhere else.
Our Family Partners were so patient and caring with our daughters. Our girls are always slow to warm up with strangers, but they quickly felt comfortable with our Family Partner volunteers. For some reason our daughters thought that it would be fun to speak to them just in Spanish (they are bilingual), and our Family Partners would do their best to try to understand them – lol – making it fun. They taught them words in Spanish every day. It was hilarious.
Cancer foundations are amazing, but sometimes we cancer parents feel “guilty” for using free resources that we could afford, and this was my thought about Lighthouse. We can afford a vacation at the beach, but we knew it was something more than a simple vacation, and I’m so glad we overcame that guilt and gave it a try.
Upon leaving, we left a lot of heavy baggage of feelings behind. We gained so much perspective about life and cancer. All four of us were able to spend quality time together without stress. We were able to rest, have a date night, and build new, valuable friendships with other families going through similar hardships.
Lighthouse was not only helpful to heal and experience joy, but it also gave us hope and tools for upcoming challenges. Challenges that came as soon as two days post-retreat for us. Cancer flips your family life upside down. We don't usually plan anything because everything can change in the blink of an eye; however, being on retreat felt like we were told, “We got you. Come rest, have fun, and restore. It’s amazing how you are overcoming this, and know you are not alone.”
We are TOTAL BELIEVERS that God sent us to Lighthouse Family Retreat to get through this journey. We will be forever grateful for the Lighthouse family! We are looking forward to coming back and serving as Family Partners in the future!
MEET THE TABUSH FAMILY: Cris and Maria have two daughters - Emma, age 2 and Mia, age 6. Cris, Maria, Emma, and Mia call Houston, TX home. Emma was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia in the summer of 2021. She is in remission now but still continuing chemotherapy for another year.