Every year at Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a host of blessings. That is not surprising. What does surprise me is how that abundance of blessings continues to grow, no matter the circumstances. As we enter the advent season, a season of hope and expectation, I look back on 2016, a year that began with a cancer diagnosis in January, and I’m amazed at how my blessings have multiplied. It’s been a hard year, I admit, but through the difficulties I’ve learned to see the blessings that come from adversity and how much more I appreciate them. Here’s a sampling:
Chocolate, glazed sourdough donuts. Don’t laugh! The words alone should be explanation enough, but it’s what they represent that fills me with gratitude. Tim does the grocery shopping now and he brings me these donuts every Saturday—even after my feeble protestations that he shouldn’t, because he knows I’ll secretly be disappointed if he doesn’t. It’s sweet and I love him for it. It’s his way of saying, life is short, throw caution to the wind and enjoy it. Feast!
Hugs. Given to me by Dr. Kazhdan, my oncologist, and Dr. Santillan, my gynecological oncology surgeon, at the end of our appointments. I’ve seen many doctors in recent years and I know they all have their patients’ best interests at heart. But oncology doctors are a special breed. They gear up and do battle every day with a beast that wreaks havoc on the human body. Most of the time the outcome is uncertain. Oftentimes, they lose, but they don’t give up. Their hugs tell me to follow their lead.
Smiling faces. Right there with the doctors are the infusion room nurses (Marsha, Val, Jordan, Susan, Ermalinda and all the rest) along with the lab techs and other support staff. They spend their lives fighting this disease and treating patients with kindness and respect along the way. Sherry Archer made it a point to come talk to me at every visit, even though our paths wouldn’t normally cross. Her smile brightened my day.
Handshakes and more hugs. Every Sunday morning when I arrive at NW Hills UMC, greeters await to offer me my name tag, welcome me, and often give me a hug. Then, right at the door, is Mr. Lee in his wheelchair. Waiting to shake my hand and offer his personal welcome. Lee, who is fighting cancer himself, always tells me how much he likes my smile. He makes me smile. Lee arrives early at church on the VIA Trans bus so he uses the time to welcome everyone to the service. He helps me remember that our circumstances are what we make of them.
My Sunday school class led by Tricia Baumgartner. They have prayed for me all year. They also made meals for Tim and I during the months of chemo and gave me gift cards in case I had other needs. (Sherry A. makes the best chicken pot pie!) They gave me a blanket with pink and red hearts on it that hangs from my living room chair, ready whenever I need it. Their discussions make me think hard about our Scripture lessons. They make me want to be a better person and a better Christian.
Facetime. Thanks to this program, my grandchildren, who have lived on the east coast for the past two and half years, not only recognize my voice but my face, even though we don’t get to see each other as much as I like. I get to see them playing in the bathtub, coloring, dancing, singing, fighting, and crying. I know how Carson says “yesh” for “yes” and “plesh” for “please” when he wants a cookie. Brooklyn tells long, involved stories about PJ Masks, sings the ABC song, and counts to fourteen. We’ll be together soon, but in the meantime, technology is my close friend.
Readers. I’m so thankful for the support, enthusiasm, and encouragement I’ve received from readers throughout the year. Your cards and gifts have meant the world to me. You gave me the gentle nudge I needed to keep writing through it all. Your words of kindness blessed me. (Thank you, Natalie Kreitzman!)
I never totally understood the concept of sacrificial praise until I was called upon to offer it this year. Giving thanks in the storm is one thing, but giving thanks for the storm is another. I might not be to that place where I can be thankful for cancer, but I am thankful for the kindness, generosity, and love that continues to be showered on Tim and I as we negotiate this journey.
“For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
My prayer is for a wonderful Christmas season as we look forward to all that 2017 will bring. Feel free to share some of your 2016 blessings with me!