I visited Carolyn today.
Carolyn’s home screams “Merry Christmas”- with five foot tall nutcrackers welcoming people in their driveway, multiple colors of lights framing their home, palm trees and yard.
One would look at it from the outside and smile at the joy that must be inside that house.
And they would be right.
But not like one would expect.
This afternoon my son and I approached their door to deliver a meal- carrying a basket of food and hoping to see a cooler set by the front door. I didn’t want to intrude, and quite honestly, uncomfortable conversations with people I don’t know aren’t something I look forward to. So I was hoping to set the food in a cooler and head back to the car.
But there was no cooler. As we stood there for a moment, not sure what to do, the front door opened and a friendly woman smiled at us and welcomed us in.
As we entered the home, we met Jackie- Carolyn’s warm and energetic mother-in-law. She invited us to come in and sit down.
And we saw Carolyn. In her wheelchair. Bundled in her blankets with a sweet knitted hat on her head.
Carolyn- at war with cancer. Again. Who has no hair. Who probably feels ill. Who probably feels afraid.
Who has the most radiant smile and peaceful presence.
Carolyn and I met briefly at Back to School Night last August, as her oldest and my youngest are classmates. It was so brief, I didn’t expect her to remember me. I remembered her, because I knew her name. And I knew her story. But she didn’t know mine.
So today I sat with her and we shared our stories. How our tumors were discovered. What our recoveries were like. And how her cancer came back.
And we talked about how overwhelming it feels to be loved by so many in times of need and crisis. It is hard for many of us to simply receive- until we realize that by receiving help/love/assistance we are, in fact, giving. We are giving others the opportunity to be a blessing. To love us. We are giving God space to work in the midst of crisis- to bring joy the midst of sadness, to bring hope in the midst of fear.
As is often the way with God, I went to Carolyn’s house expecting to be the giver- to love my neighbor in a small, tangible way by cooking a meal. And I walked away having been humbled and blessed and overwhelmed at God’s goodness and grace. Simply stepping through the door and entering in- into the room, into the pain and fear, into the mess that is cancer, into Carolyn’s life- connected us to each other and to Jesus in that moment. And God was honored.
And so very present.
He was with me throughout the day as I prepared a simple meal, slowing me down to take the time to pray for this tender family as I cooked.
He was with me as I listened to worship music while I stirred pasta sauce, reminding me that God is a good, good father, and we are loved by him.
God was with me when I, at the last minute, asked Alex to accompany me to Carolyn’s house. His youthful presence brought delight to the women in the house and was an opportunity for Alex to be a giver- to share a conversation and a smile.
God was there in joy and laughter that filled up Carolyn’s living room, as Jackie shared her delight that Carolyn was having “a good day”.
God was with me as I sat with Carolyn- his strength and courage and grace binding our hearts together.
God was there as two women- each deeply affected by cancer and seeking to fix their eyes on Jesus- looked each other in the eye, silently giving compassion, encouragement and hope to the other.
Thank you, Carolyn, for allowing God to shine so brightly through you. For trusting him through it all. His grace, his peace, his patience, his joy, his love, his gentleness, his faithfulness and goodness flow through you and bless so many around you.
Thank you for letting me see Jesus today in you.