Do You Know How Absolutely Amazing You Are?
“If someone managed to do an X-ray of the soul, I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that our places of deepest joy are located right beside our places of deepest sorrow.” Stephanie Rische
My good friend and longtime prayer partner wrote these words four years ago when she was twenty weeks pregnant with her first child – a pregnancy her doctors said was impossible. Ultrasounds had caused them to suspect a genetic abnormality incompatible with life, and for the next twenty weeks Stephanie and her husband, Daniel, found their greatest joy colliding with their greatest fear.
As I write these words, our family is celebrating the four-week birthday of our youngest grandchild, Jane – four weeks spent in the NICU at Boston Children’s Hospital. As difficult as these weeks have been, the dark shadows of our fears have been illuminated by your loving acts of service.
May I tell you how absolutely amazing you are?
You are Elaine, 96, who is usually the very first one to comment on these posts and on Jane’s Caring Bridge page as well. Elaine and my mom were friends from their kindergarten days in St. Paul, Minnesota, until God took Mom home twenty months ago. Nearly 90 years! When I hear from Elaine each week, it’s as if she’s standing in for the mother who can no longer come alongside me in my concern for my grandchild.
You are Penny*, a new friend I made this past year whom I’ve not yet met in person but pray for daily. I’ve told you about Penny before. After spending four months in the hospital last year fighting COVID, Penny is now battling Stage 4 cancer. On her way to her chemotherapy session last week, Penny shipped boxes of homemade treats and gifts for our older grandchildren at home. Astonishing, sacrificial love.
You are Cynthia, who delivered fresh produce and homemade chicken noodle soup, and Linda, who pressed a beautiful volume of prayers into my hands.
You are Sandy and Adele and Ann and the women from my church in North Carolina who have prayed faithfully for Jane for months now.
You are Patty and Richard who “adopted” my brother when he came from California to take care of our home, pets, plants, and guests for weeks while we’ve been away. These wonderful neighbors took Dan hiking, invited him to supper, drove him to the airport.
You are Becky, who put your own life on hold for a week to help manage ours.
You are the ones who overnight shipped a Chicago-style meal packed in dry ice so we could taste love from our former home.
You are my sister, Cindy, who hurried to her church to see if they still had an infant prayer shawl she had made and donated. She shipped the lacy shawl, blessed by her pastor, to Massachusetts, where the NICU nurses have carefully placed it over Jane each morning.
You are “Boss Russ” who delivered the best homemade BBQ and mac n’cheese dinner a family could wish for, and stayed to entertain our grandson by letting him “assist” with electrical repairs.
You are Lori, who sent pizza, and Linda, who gifted ice cream outings for the older kids and continues to check in with us daily.
You are Bill and Lesley, who have served as compassionate translators as we’ve entered the unfamiliar world of advanced medical technology.
You are the countless members of our son’s church who’ve made sure the Meal Train has stopped at the door multiple times each week, relieving tired grandparents from the burden of dinner preparation.
During weeks full of fear, our hearts have been enlarged by joy. The joy of knowing through cards and text messages and prayer chains that we were not alone.
That we never have been.
Because of you.
Please know this, though. We can’t all be everywhere. We can’t do everything for everyone.
During our forty-plus years in full-time pastoral ministry, I carried the burden on my back of almost constant concern that I wasn’t doing enough. If Mike and I managed to care for nine families in need in a week, we still felt awful that we couldn’t reach the tenth.
That is one backpack I do not want you to carry, friends!
When you read of what others have done for a family in a time of crisis, please know it’s an affirmation of when you, too, have done all that and more for those within your reach.
What’s done for one has a ripple effect even as we learn how to comfort others by the ways we’ve been served ourselves.
Four years ago, Stephanie wrote, “As we wait in the unknown these next four months, I wouldn’t choose any other way than the bumpy road of love. Even if it means that our hells and our heavens, our fears and our wonders, are separated by mere inches.”
Stephanie and Daniel were surrounded by a cadre of pray-ers who refused to let them walk the bumpy road alone during those last twenty weeks, even as those of you reading my words have surrounded us with the constancy of your prayers, cards, and messages.
Just two weeks ago, their son Graham celebrated his fourth birthday: whole, beautiful, perfect. He started preschool last week! And four weeks ago, our little Janie made her grand entrance applauded by nearly a dozen medical professionals there to witness the miracle.
This is only the introduction to her story; Chapter one has yet to be written. There are medical mountains still to climb.
But one day Janie will hear in wonder about the many people who cared for her before she was ever born.
Absolutely amazing people like you.