Below is the draft I typed up this afternoon to use as our family's annual Christmas Letter. I keep going back and forth as to whether I should send this. I'm not really sure why, I guess because most family members like to read an update on our family and how things have changed, which this is, but on more of a spiritual level. Anyway, here it is in all its glory. . .
This year the Lord has really revealed Himself to us through various situations, and I feel compelled to share what TJ and I have learned as a result.
Life can change in an instant. The Lord has proven that to us by the circumstances surrounding some people that TJ and I know. I do not know why any of the following life events happened to these specific people, but I do know they were God-ordained and He will be their source of strength (Isaiah 41:10).
I will first begin with our friend Mark. Mark had cancer, and he was fighting for his life. But, to most people he appeared healthy and never complained about his situation. He instead turned to the Lord in prayer, and appealed to his church family and friends for their prayers, too. One Monday morning in July he was out shopping with his 15-year-old daughter. He felt dizzy and nauseous, and could no longer talk. He began fumbling with his keys and as they left the store, pointed across the street to the hospital. She drove him there and he was life-flighted to another hospital where he later died. The cancer had unknowingly spread to his brain and the tumor ruptured, causing him to stroke. He left behind a wife and 5 children, as well as a host of other family and friends, TJ and I included. Mark was a true man of God and wonderful example as a leader, husband, father, and friend. He exemplified Christian living and set a high standard for others to follow his lead; however, he was very humble in his living and, honestly, most of what he taught us we learned after his untimely death. I often think of Mark, remembering how only a few months before we sat on our patio laughing and joking while Mark and TJ grilled burgers and hot dogs during our Sunday School get-together. I remember how the Sunday before he passed away he inquired about my dad’s upcoming visit, and he encouragingly patted me on the shoulder as a sign of friendship and genuine interest in my life. There are countless other ways Mark has touched our lives forever; but, in an instant, he was taken from this earth to live with his Savior Jesus Christ.
In September I received news that a friend of mine from the MOMS Club had been rushed to Duke University to undergo brain surgery. All summer Carrie had been experiencing headaches and was told they were caused by sinus problems. Thankfully she persisted in searching for an answer and doctors at Duke found a massive tumor on her brain. Suddenly her life was changed, as were the lives of her husband and almost 2-year-old son, along with her close friends and family. I immediately went to God’s Word to help get perspective on this situation, as Carrie is my age and her son and Ta are friends. I focused on 12 promises of God and studied the Scriptures, reminding myself of God’s presence and faithfulness (Hebrews 13:5) no matter what the situation. I emailed out those promises to encourage others in the MOMS Club, and we held a prayer vigil for Carrie the day she underwent surgery. I have witnessed miracles and received answers to prayer before, but none like this: Carrie’s tumor was benign and the surgeons were able to remove it in its entirety! She has made a full recovery with no side effects. Nevertheless, her life is not the same as she better appreciates the gift God has given her by extending her years on this earth. Lord willing she will live to watch her son grow old and have children of his own.
In early November another friend of mine in the MOMS Club experienced a similar situation to Carrie’s. Michelle had not been feeling well and went for some tests. In an instant, Michelle’s life was forever changed. The tests revealed colon cancer, and it has since spread to her liver and brain. She is scheduled to begin chemo in early January, but her prognosis is not very good. She has only a short time remaining on this earth, and I have been praying for her and her family since receiving the news. She, too, has 3 children, all boys, ranging in age from 11 to 5. My heart hurts for her but I know God will use this for His glory (Romans 8:28-29), even though in my finite mind I am not able to understand God’s plan for Michelle.
Finally, today we received news of a fellow church member. He has been working out-of-town and was involved in a head-on collision this morning. He is in a coma at a hospital in Indianapolis. His wife and daughter have flown to be with him and we are awaiting further news. How quickly their lives were changed! But, just as God has been with them in the past, He will continue to be with them now and in the future (Heb. 13:5).
This Christmas season, we pray that each of you would come to know Christ in a personal way. Christmas is so much more than gifts to each other and to your children; it’s celebrating the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who is God’s greatest gift to us. I am sharing, because as in the above examples, our lives can change in a flash. One day we will all appear before the Lord, and since we do not know when that will happen, I pray you stop and think about your standing before Him. Christmas is the perfect opportunity to accept God’s gift of Salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” ~John 3:16