We’d owned our little white 1948 bungalow exactly one year, closing just before Christmas 2010 when I was newly pregnant. This year was our first opportunity to hang Christmas lights, and even though I wanted them hung desperately, I knew better than to push the idea.
For six weeks prior we’d been waiting for staging results. It was Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, we knew that, but no one could figure out how far it spread. The merriness of the season had been replaced with the cold chill of uncertainty and grief. So when Jonathan asked a friend to help him hang the lights—his spine too sore from a bone marrow biopsy to do it himself—I knew just how much he was craving normalcy too.
Chemotherapy started on a Friday, one week before Christmas. We hunkered down, him determined to roll with the waves of nausea, me determined to roll with his changing needs.
By Sunday night the worst of all possible scenarios happened—I, the caregiver, came down with a stomach flu. With Jonathan facing high risk of infection, he was banned to the futon while I alternated between our bedroom and the bathroom. At 2:00am, just after throwing up again, I heard Anna’s cries. She wanted to nurse. I sat at the edge of my bed sobbing. I didn’t think I had anything left in my own body to offer her or anyone.
In a state of complete surrender, I posted a short prayer to a site set-up to keep family and friends updated on Jonathan’s cancer battle. “I am sick, Jonathan is sick, we covet your prayers,” it said.
Perhaps you’ve had moments like this—moments when you’re so weak there are no words for Christ, only tears. I needed other people pleading on my behalf. What I didn’t expect was the physical help that arrived too.
At 10:00am the next morning a gentle knock at the door awakened me from a couch nap. It was Shirley, our neighbor who’d lived on the street for over 50 years. She held a Tupperware of soup and homemade banana bread. “I read that you’re sick,” she said. “Take this, and call me if you need more.”
It didn’t stop there.
Tammy called to offer help babysitting, and Kara dropped off Cajun stew on our doorstep, and Anna stopped by with medicine, and Sharon cried with me when I showed up unannounced at her house.
These small acts might seem like nothing miraculous, but what made them so was their timing. If you’re like me, this past holiday season was non-stop busy. I’m baking bread, licking envelopes, crafting cards, delivering gifts, and doing all the other crazy things we women convince ourselves “need” to get done. But, despite it being just days before Christmas, my friends placed me above their checklists. They chose to be like Mary, who sat at our Lord’s feet instead of fretting about the lights not being hung on the house, or the sugar cookies not being ready.
I will probably still write a to-do list next Christmas and in the busy times to come, but before getting presents I plan to be present. Because my friends taught me last Christmas that the best gift is a willingness to show up for people even when they don’t ask, in ways they may not even know they need.
We live in a broken world. And sometimes, a certain season is especially painful for families. Who in your life needs less of your presents and more of your presence?
By: Lesley MillerLeave a Comment
Brittnie (A Joy Renewed) says
Such a great reminder of what really matters in life – people!!
Thanks for reading, Britnnie. Your little one is very cute. And how fun is the 10 month age?! I am looking forward to the infant stage again.
Lesley Williams says
Love this message, thank you for sharing.
And obviously we should be best friends since we both know the proper way to spell “Lesley” 🙂
Presence. I crave that most so need to give it more too. Powerful story. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for taking time to comment. Appreciate it, Steph!
What a wonderful message that service and presence are the best gifts to give and receive.
They can certainly be the hardest gifts to give, and for some, the hardest to receive! Appreciate you reading.
Less presents…more presence….
Will keep you in my prayers…
Thank you for YOUR blessings.
Thank you for your prayers, Kay!
Such a beautiful reminder of what is truly important. When my husband was diagnosed with cancer we were so blessed by the people who went out of their way to help us. They helped with meals, unexpected gifts for our son for Christmas when money was short, visits and kind words. It’s been a year and a half now since he went to be with Jesus and there are still people that do little things for me, like bring me flowers on valentines day. I’ll never forget the way they demonstrate the love of Jesus through their presence and actions.
Vicki, I really appreciate you taking time to write. Your words blessed me! I’m so sorry to hear your husband has passed. One of the amazing things about cancer is how you truly get to see the way God works, and how He uses his people to do so. I hope your army of helpers will continue to stay by your side for years to come.
[…] In a state of complete surrender, I posted a short prayer to a site set-up to keep family and friends updated on Jonathan’s cancer battle. “I am sick, Jonathan is sick, we covet your prayers,” it said.
Perhaps you’ve had moments like this—moments when you’re so weak there are no words for Christ, only tears. I needed other people pleading on my behalf. […]
That is the part that touches me the most. I bet, right in that moment where this happened God must have thought, “What a faithful lovely daughter I have in Lesley.”
Your lines touched and impressed me. Thank You for sharing, Lesley (:
In my prayers & in His love and blessings,
Nadine, thank you for your sweet words, and your prayers.
Thank you for sharing this part of yourself. yesterday and today I have begun praying that I will be intune enough to know and be able to serve someone each day. This reminded me of that. I need to be present in my life, children’s, family and friends such that I do know and can be there.
Megan… years ago when we were traveling through China I began every morning with a similar prayer: “God, show me who needs your love, your attention.” I was amazed at how He answered. Your comment reminds me that I need to pray for him to help me see who needs my presence. Friends are often obvious, but strangers or neighbors aren’t as obvious sometimes.
Thank you for sharing! What a timely article for my heart. My husband suffers from chronic back/neck pain. Evenings can be a challenge- trying to keep him comfortable while taking care of our 2 young children. And tonight I feel like I have nothing but tears… Yet God is faithful to meet me where I need Him. The best encouragement I have is His presence as I am learning that not even a sparrow falls apart from Him. (Not even my husband endures daily pain apart from Him). So to answer your question, it is my husband who needs my presence as I gain strength from God’s presence.
Audra, you are superwoman right now! I can imagine caring for two young kiddos without your husband’s help is very tough. Jesus, please heal Audra’s husband so that he can live without pain and be able to keep up with his young children. And please help Audra know how to be present to his needs even on long days. Amen!
Banana cream pie, lemonade and other Friday favorites « Barefooton45th Barefooton45th says
[…] the risk of being narcissistic I’ll start by telling you to hop over to (In)Courage where one of my articles went live yesterday. I wrote this piece last fall on my writing retreat and it finally ran! Let me tell you, that site […]
Beth Williams says
Praying for your husband!
It is soo true that people in this hurting, sinful world need our presence. I took a day of vacation & put together some food for a friend who’s husband was dying and she was taking care of her mother-in-law. Not only was she appreciative, but I got something out of it.
I truly enjoy doing things like that for people in need. I want to show the world Christ!
Thank you for praying for Jonathan! And I am a firm believer that food is one of the best ways to show Christ’s love. 🙂