My plans for the blog this week went out the window. I hope to get back on track next week, but for now I wanted to close out this year thanking one friend – plus two – in particular for their amazing and inspiring example. I wonder if God had me change my plans?
Let me explain….
Last Christmas our little church was brand new. Redeemer Church had our first meeting in January 2012. One of our first outreaches involved putting together a group of vocalists to sing Christmas carols at two events in the area in which we were planting the church. Our rehearsal was held at the home of my friend, Liz. Our first “practice” was at the home of her dying neighbor. I certainly wasn’t surprised that Liz had gotten to know her neighbors well enough to know this dear lady was in her last days. Since I met Liz nearly 35 years ago she has consistently demonstrated a heart for others.
This Christmas Liz is the one fighting for her life. Only God knew what no one else did when we sang for her suffering neighbor that day. In a matter of weeks Liz would learn that the cancer which had been surgically removed two years prior had returned with a vengeance.
For the past eleven months Liz has courageously fought this vicious disease. With the help of family and friends, she has gone to more appointments than she can count: blood tests, chemo treatments, scans, follow up visits…over and over; week after week; month after exhausting month. There has been some encouraging shrinkage but not enough to suspend the treatments that leave her exhausted, among numerous other side affects.
Watching my friend suffer with grace has been no surprise. Liz’s sturdy faith and affectionate relationship with her Savior has been well established for decades. From her “what should I give Jesus for His birthday this year?” questions every Christmas to the numerous seasons of enduring trials and disappointments by crying out to God for help, I have watched her demonstrate a sweet and tested dependence on the One who rescued her from a life of sin in her teen years through the prayers of her mother.
Many things have struck me about Liz over this past year. But the one thing that I will carry with me is how eagerly she fights to think of others. A box full of candies for the nurses in the chemo ward (including some sugar-free options for those who can’t have processed sugar). Mary Kay samples left over from her business for those of us who got to help with transportation to her appointments. Thanksgiving and Christmas ecards for friends. A request for me to bring her daughter a bagel from Panera. Simple, thoughtful expressions of others-oriented kindness from a woman who is fighting for her life.
I don’t know what 2013 holds for Liz. But I know a miracle healing will happen. I pray she will be healed to spend more years on this earth leaving the fragrance of Christ in her wake. But her healing may come another way. She has said that she knows how Paul may have felt when he said:
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for [Frank and Joy’s] sake (Philippians 1:21-24).