For the last six years, my mom has had Multiple Myeloma, which is cancer in the bones and blood.
And it’s been a wonderful gift.
Not that I wish cancer or suffering on anyone.
It’s hard. Painful to watch. Painful for her to endure.
But one of the greatest gifts that has come out of it for me has been relationship with her. We’ve spent so much time together on commutes to and from the hospital and in countless waiting rooms, and have come to know each other much better. We’re closer. There never seemed time for that before. For that I will always be grateful.
This month Mom was admitted to hospital for the final time. Myeloma was causing kidney failure, and this was it. She would likely not make Christmas.
One day as I was wandering the hospital halls and contemplating this journey, I realized God had given me another gift: the gift of family time without Mom.
It sounds weird, I know. But Mom has been the glue that’s held our family together. She’s been the peacemaker. The cartilage in the joint. The patter-down of ruffled feathers.
It will be more than just different without her. It will be difficult.
As we try to figure out how to relate to each other without her calming influence, we’re going to step on each other’s toes. We won’t mean to, we’ve just never done this without Mom before.
I felt like I had rounded the corridor in a hospital and discovered a big, beautiful gift on the floor. You know, the white box with the pretty red ribbon? I was elated at the opportunity for growth. We had a unique chance at deeper relationship. It was a first-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I. was. Thrilled.
But, as Mom slipped away, sleeping more and more, and we were left to interact without her to help us, it was … well… clunky and horrible. We’re terrible at this. We’ve never done this before. So we hurt each other. Even if we don’t mean to.
That’s when it hit me.
I had opened the gift.
I’d removed the beautiful ribbon and took off the lid, and inside the box was something stinky.
God had given me cow plops for Christmas.
Big, stinky cow plops.
But here’s the thing. A person can look at a gift like that and think, ‘Eww!!! What a crappy gift! I hate this stupid Christmas!’ or a person can think, ‘Ah… fertilizer… I get it. Thank you.”
As I stare down into the big box of stink that God has gifted me this Christmas, I am reminded of James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
My wise writer friend Violet Moore often said this of that passage:
The good gifts are the ones we want.
The perfect gifts are the ones we don’t want.
I say this all to encourage you.
Whatever you’re struggling with, however awkward and horrifying and stinky your journey is, I promise you, the journey is a gift. It might seem like the worst gift ever, but maybe that’s exactly what is needed.
If you’re also receiving cow plops for Christmas, let’s decide together to look into the box and call it perfect.
Because it is.
Even if it stinks for a while.
As Mom says, "It's all good."
And it really is.