From Broken to Blooming

What Are You Afraid Of?

By Marlys Johnson

“Two years,” the medical experts told my husband, Gary. “Because you’re young and in good shape. And it’s slow growing.”

Gary tenaciously lived ten good years with late-stage prostate cancer before it spread even further throughout his body.

“I want you to get married again,” he said one day while he was showing me now to manage online banking, use the GPS on my phone, and where he kept the list of passwords for our online accounts. “You still have a lot of life in you.”

But I knew I’d never remarry.

And then three years after stepping into widowhood, I began to think about dating and possibly remarriage.

Being an obsessive list-maker, I drafted an inventory of what was important to me: A man who is family oriented, active outdoors, takes good care of himself, someone who is making a difference in the lives of others.

And then a friend counseled: “You don’t want to limit God to a list.” So, I filed it away.

In time, I dated a couple different men and eventually decided that dating wasn’t for me.

But then, ‘Maybe I can do this.’

Followed by, ‘Nope, too complicated.’

A regular roller coaster ride.

As brave as I like to think I am, I suspect it was ‘fear’ that fueled this particular roller coaster.

On a hike through snow-covered hills last winter, I finally admitted my fears and spoke them out loud to God.

Among other things, I was afraid the man wouldn’t understand that my writing is a calling and it takes time.

I was afraid he might not understand how my deceased husband’s family is just as much family as my blood relatives – that these are my nieces and nephews, these sisters-in-law are the sisters I never had while growing up sandwiched between two brothers.

I was a afraid of change. Transitioning into a married life after being comfortably and contentedly single sounded scary.

William Bridges said this: “We resist transition not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up.”

Did I really want to lose my independence? My ability to say, “Yes, I’d love to go to Israel with you,” “Yes, I’ll meet you in the Outer Banks,” “Yes, I’ll come to Mexico to help celebrate your husband’s birthday”?

Hence, roller coasters.

And then…Dan.

We met while I was interviewing him for a story about a shower truck ministry for the homeless. The conversation naturally turned to our similar experiences as cancer caregiver and widow/er.

He thanked me for listening.

I said, “Anytime.” And he took me up on it.

Our conversations continued over hiking and Chai tea and snowshoeing and a concert and dinners out and more hiking and more Chai tea.

It just happened. I hadn’t planned on it, but I grew to love this good man.

Not too long ago, I stumbled upon that old “dating qualities” list in an online file.

Ironically, Dan fit each item, even this one: “Romantic in a thoughtful way, not in a spend-lots-of-money way.”

The last item on that list was “cancer widower.” It wasn’t a deal breaker, but still…when I wrote I was thinking how nice it would be to partner with someone who had trekked through the same harsh wilderness I had. One more thing in common.

Dan is a rescuer of people with dead batteries and leaky faucets, and sweet elderly ladies who need a man’s fix-it powers.

He’s the co-designer, builder, towel washer, and one of the drivers for the shower truck that serves the homeless in our community. He’s a regular volunteer on maintenance projects at Ochoco Christian Conference Center.

He enjoys hiking, camping, snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking, and snorkeling(previously a scuba diver) – and I’m having fun trying to keep up with him.

Dan refurbishes vintage motorcycles, and I’ve officially been outfitted with a black leather jacket and helmet.

There is dust gathering in his easy chair at his house.

Last Sunday, this kind, thoughtful, big-hearted man said, “Here,” as we stood warming our hands in front of the wood stove at a friend’s cabin on the Metolius River. “You’ll need to set your tea down.”

He took my hands in his, looking me in the eyes, and listed all the reasons he believes we belong together.

And he asked me to marry him. (I said ‘Yes!’ Rather joyfully, in case you’re wondering.)

Wow. Just…wow.

This isn’t about not wanting to do Friday date night alone.

This is about partnering with a teammate headed in the same direction in life, a best friend who loves adventure, a man who enjoys making hard places a little easier for other people.

Jake Canfield writes: “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”

I am in the process of transitioning toward marriage, toward belonging heart and soul to a good man.

I am not losing anything – not my freedom, not my independence, not…anything!

Rather, I’m gaining someone who will venture out with me, someone I can serve alongside.

And there is no fear anywhere near – oh, miracle!


What if we could conduct an honest search of our hearts to determine if there’s something we’re a little afraid of?

And what if we could name those fears out loud – to God, to someone we trust?

Jesus said; “Peace is what I leave you; it is my own peace that I give you…Do not be afraid.” John 14:27

This is me, choosing not to be afraid as I transition away from something that was quite comfortable and familiar.

This is me, hanging on tightly to this good man. Because I have a suspicion the ride is about to get even more deliriously fun and wildly purposeful than it already is.

Bio: A cancer widow, speaker, and award-winning writer, Marlys would rather lace up hiking boots than go shopping. She has a passion for repurposing old junk into cool new stuff, and an even greater passion for showing people how God loves to scoop up the shatters of our brokenness and create new purpose. Marlys blogs at



7 thoughts on “What Are You Afraid Of?”

  1. I was moved by your inner roller coaster emotions and reasonings…and fear. We all experience them in many ways, but losing a spouse and contemplating our future caps them all. God knows your heart and has many exciting experiences in mind for you. I’m happy knowing you said “yes.” Thanks for sharing this story with us.


    1. Hello! I’m Deborah Malone the owner of this website. I am so happy that you decided to read Marly’s story. I met her several years ago at a writer & speaker’s conference. We talked a good bit and she told me about her ministry to help other people who had been through the death of a loved one with cancer. And I know she has really put a lot of herself into this work. I was thrilled to hear she was getting married and couldn’t wait to ask her if she’d share her story on my blog. I couldn’t help smiling while I read about her adventure. I could hear the excitement in the way she wrote the post. Once again, thank you for following my blog and for leaving a comment. Blessings, Deborah

      Liked by 1 person

    2. What am I afraid of? Since losing my daughter Amber, I fear the loss of my other children. My psychiatrist says these are unreasonable fears. But I never expected that I would lose Amber while she was having her baby. Now I fear the loss of my children that I have left here. Another fear I have is going fast on a highway, another unreasonable fear. It seems fear breeds more fear, for me. Being afraid in my brain is contagious. Fearing one thing makes me fear another and another and another.


  2. You made me cry. I am happy for you. I have been on one coffee date since my husband passed. But I have spent 6 years surviving and raising kids. I am leaving the dates to God, I just don’t have it in me any more.


    1. Hi. This is Debbie the owner of the website. Thank you so much for replying. This was a very moving story. I met Marlys several years ago at a writers conference and we just seemed to connect. When I heard about her getting married I knew I wanted to have her on my blog. It made me smile when I read her story. I dated my husband for 15 years because I had family responsibilities, and four years ago we were able to get married. It was worth the wait:). So don’t give up. God will bring that right someone into your life when you are ready. Once again, thank you for your comment and following my blog. Blessings, Debbie

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Since the loss of my husband in 2001, dating has been quite difficult. I have never met a man that loved me like my husband did. So at this point in my life I just don’t date. I wait on the Lord to bring a companion for me, a godly man who will treat me with respect and love.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I want to thank you Deborah Malone, Reading blooming in broken places has changed my life. One big change is I broke up with a an abusive boyfriend. Another big change is I’m planning to move to Missouri to live with my niece. I must live within my means and I cannot afford the rent in Naples Florida another year. But basically I want to thank you Deborah for sending me your book. I read it twice and many sections over and over. It has give me the inspiration to make the necessary changes in my life and I appreciate you very much.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s