"Tumors on her brain and spinal cord," recalled the Zeeland woman of that fateful news nearly 30 years ago.
"I didn't know much about the Holy Spirit then," she said. "But now I know it was the spirit that spoke to me and told me that I was not alone and it was gonna be OK."
But there was more bad news to come. Little did Victoria know that five years later, she would have to tell her three daughters, including Sydney, that their father had been killed in an industrial accident.
Eventually a teenaged Sydney lost her tumor battle. But even after multiple tragic events, Victoria's faith deepened and she now ministers to others through her books, chaplaincy and speaking ministries.
Chapin is also co-director of "The Well," a conference for Christian creatives April 28-30 in Hudsonville. Victoria will help lead several of the conference break-out sessions. ( www.seeyouatthewell.net)
A FAITH-FULL JOURNEY
Chapin's own story is filled with "God moments."
The Muskegon area native was not raised in a Christian home, yet always had a spiritual curiosity. Meeting a "believer" at her workplace, the two became spiritual friends and eventually married.
The couple had three daughters when that fateful diagnosis came for their infant girl.
For a full decade after she lost Sydney, Chapin said she never properly grieved the girl's death. Knowing Sydney was now in a "better place," Chapin simply stuffed down her feelings of loss and couldn't relate to other grieving mothers.
A turning point came when saw a notice of an upcoming bereaved mothers' conference. "God told me I had to go," she remembers.
"The moment I saw those 60 other women there, all that grief came rolling out of me and I just bawled for all of us."
Chapin later led a book study group for the Starlight Ministries organization and was one of the presenters at their conference last year. She also helped launch a new curriculum. Now she's on their board of directors, using her own grief journey to help others.
Her book "Undaunted"- a prayer journal that focuses on spiritual self-care - emerged from her own journal entries made during her grieving experiences.
Chapin also lent a chapter to the new anthology "Story Matters: Empowering Your Hope While Going Through Tough Times" (by Linda Olson, c. 2021). In it she shares the story behind coping with her daughter's fatal illness.
MATTERS OF THE HEART
Chapin has a heart for service. Perhaps that's a reason for her hospitality work background.
As she sought to make progress on her writing projects, she attended "The Well" conference four years ago. The smaller group sessions and the personal contacts were just what she needed. Chapin volunteered to help with the conference the following year. She took on an even more substantial role in 2021.
The Well has broadened its focus to offer something for all "Christian creatives." There are interest tracks for writing, speaking, film/theater, art and publishing/marketing. There are also "self-care" sessions. That's where Chapin takes the lead in several of the workshops, one using her "Undaunted" book.
This year's conference includes an onsite Christian film festival, open to the public as well as to conference attendees. The festival is directed by Jason Campbell, president of JC Films ( www.jcfilms.org), producer of dozens of faith-based movie projects. Campbell will be anchoring the conference's theatre/film track, teaching sessions on scriptwriting, acting, production, comedy and fundraising. He is also one of The Well's keynote speakers. (The other is author and president of Platinum Literary Services Michelle Medlock Adams).
Chapin can't hold back her enthusiasm for The Well experience.
"It's crazy when you get involved in a community like this, networking and getting to know people... opportunities just open up," she offered. "My 2021 - with two books published and multiple speaking engagements - would have never happened without my connection to The Well."
Chapin's husband Jim, an RN by training, is also helping at the conference by serving as chaplain/prayer coordinator. Their blended family includes 12 kids in all, both teens and adults.
One of Chapin's longer term goals is to complete a book she started co-writing with Sydney while they rode the ups and downs of her prognosis. "It was going to be the book about her miracle – that's how it started," she recalled.
"But what really motivates me for this (The Well) conference is that there are so many voices out in the world. And as 'creatives' in the Christian faith we need to use our gifts to speak truth to the world. And to glorify God."
"The Well" is set for April 28-30 in Fair Haven Church, 2900 Baldwin St. Hudsonville. For registration and more information visit www.seeyouatthewell.net.