Like many families, the Duncans’ holiday routines and traditions are borderline sacred. Mother’s Day is for celebrating Mildred with flowers, cards, and a family meal. Father’s Day, with the exception of the flowers, is no different and allows us to honor Leroy. We gather for ham rolls on Easter, and we grill burgers on July 4th. Christmas Eve is for exchanging gifts, and New Year’s Day is for black eyed peas. This year, however, the gifts remain wrapped and the black eyed peas are still in the package, as I write from Mom’s bedside at St. Thomas Hospital. She was admitted the Friday before Christmas and the new year finds her still recovering. As it turns out, Mom got a pacemaker for Christmas and extended care for an intestinal obstruction. Christmas 2018 has been, well, different.
The enemy tries to convince me that different is bad. The Holy Spirit inspires me to believe otherwise. It’s hard to feel sorry for my family when other families would love to spend just one more Christmas with a lost loved one, inside a hospital or anywhere else. It’s difficult to gripe and moan about spending the holidays in a hospital room while service men and women spend months and even years separated from loved ones. The enemy tempts me to turn this holiday season into a Hee Haw skit . . . “Gloom, despair, and agony on me; deep, dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck we’d have no luck at all. Gloom, despair, and agony on me.” But what the enemy intends for harm, the Lord intends for good. The devil reveals a distorted perspective intended to steal Christmas, kill my family’s joy, and destroy our hope. But the devil is a liar.
God provides, through the lens of faith, a much clearer perspective. Mom’s sickness has brought unexpected blessings. Christmas 2018 has enabled my sisters and me to spend countless hours one-on-one with Mom. Together, we have enjoyed deep conversations. We have watched The Price is Right, Rachael Ray, and Charles Stanley sermons. Mom has kept us laughing with her quick wit and too many one liners to remember. Once when I asked her how she was doing, she said, “I’m stretched out on this bed like a new dollar.” After kitchen staff brought in her clear liquid breakfast, she excitedly proclaimed, “That’s too much for an elephant to eat!” Still the funniest comment came while we were watching The Young and the Restless, the “story” Mom has watched for more than 40 years. “There’s that Victoria,” she said. “She’s got about three men on the hook, and I don’t know which one she’s going to pick!” We shared a long laugh after that one.
There have been good days and bad days this Christmas season, but all days have offered blessings that would have been overlooked if we had chosen the enemy’s doom and gloom perspective. As believers, we have an alternative. Believers are not commanded to give thanks FOR all things, but we are commanded to give thanks IN all things. That perspective enables us to give thanks for several specific things in the midst of this particular challenge: days upon days of precious time with Mom; a revived prayer life; and the beautiful blessing of seeing Mom love on and minister to the staff who have provided her care. Her hospital door is a revolving one, with visits from nurses and techs who aren’t even assigned to her that particular day. Mom is a 78 year-old rock star at St. Thomas because nobody has a clearer perspective than her. She oozes the love of Christ.
Finally, my family has been reminded of a few important truths through Mom’s hospital stay. We have been reminded that traditions are less important than those with whom they are shared. We have been reminded that nothing is more precious than time spent with loved ones. Most importantly, we have been reminded that we don’t have to believe the enemy’s lies. The Duncans would, of course, choose Mom’s health over the hidden blessings of a hospital stay. But if the former is not possible, the latter should at least be recognized, if not cherished. What the enemy intends for harm, the Lord intends for good. No, we aren’t thankful for Mom’s sickness, but we have chosen to give thanks through it, as the Good Lord commands. And He is ever faithful.