We woke up Christmas morning this year to the stomach flu at our house. Before the Bible could be read (we start every Christmas morning cuddled in bed reading the story of Jesus' birth) or the presents from Santa could be opened, this first "gift" was upon us. Much to the 5-year-olds frustration she had to wait for Mommy and Giraffeboy to feel well enough to start the morning's activities, and as soon as the last present was unwrapped Mommy went back to bed. There was no going to the big family party at my Aunt's house. I barely registered how cute Giraffegirl and Giraffeboy were opening their presents because I was trying to just make it through without being sick, and really it didn't feel like Chirstmas to me. But I believe that as in so many other times in my life, God blessed me with the gift of perspective, and left me grateful for the Christmas we had. A few days before this Christmas we got an email from our pastor asking us to pray for a family she knew who had just lost their wife/ Mother. This dad was left to raise two young kids, ages 4 and 8, on his own. In addition, 5 days before Christmas I attended the funeral of a close friend's husband, who lost his battle with cancer. My cousin celebrated her first Christmas since her son, age 15, died. So sick or not, as I looked around my room as we curled together watching a movie that afternoon, I couldn't help but realize that I was surrounded by everything I needed on Christmas, and that I was blessed. We are still working on getting better over here, but we are on our way, and we've had plenty of bonding time to enjoy each other as we've been homebound.
This isn't the first time that I've been blessed with perspective. My sister has a close friend whose little girl, Maryah, was diagnosed with ewing-sarcoma bone cancer at age 9. Maryah was amazing- strong, brave, inspirational, and her battle with cancer, including multiple remissions, went on for over 6 years before she died at age 16. Just watching someone so young fight such a hard battle gives you perspective over the things going on in your own life, but in our case, it gave us an even more important perspective and was a blessing. During the years of her fight, my son was born and diagnosed with marfan syndrome, followed by my daughter being born and diagnosed. It seemed that with every new marfan "issue" that came up in my family, my sister would call with the news that something worse was going on with Maryah. I remember vividly the day we got the news that my daughter had marfan syndrome. I was shocked, heavily grieving her perfect health, and I called and cried with my sister on the phone. It wasn't a half hour later that the phone rang. My sister, in her tear-filled voice, told me that Maryah's cancer was back. Suddenly I wasn't grieving my daughters perfect health, but was instead thanking God that she could LIVE with what she had. That wasn't the first time that happened with Maryah and our situation, and it surely wasn't the last, but it lives in my head as a reminder. And don't get me wrong, I would gladly give back all the perspective for Maryah to never have had cancer, for her to be alive and healthy. But I recognize this gift she left us all with.
There are other ways that the gift of perspective has been a blessing in my life. I mentioned earlier that my friend's husband died this year when he lost his battle with cancer. I've watched as he went through the ups and downs of fighting cancer for nearly 10 years, including the periods of remission. I've seen the struggles of dealing with insurance, medical appointments, and so much else. I have another good friend who is fighting cancer too, and I see the struggles she and her family face. And because of our own experience with marfan syndrome I can empathize with the financial strain they go through, and with the insurance struggles and other things. And because of so many situations I've been through with my extended family and friends, I have seen how quickly someone can die, how we aren't guaranteed to live to old age, and how each day is a blessing. When I see these friends fighting these battles I truly realize that it could be me or my family instead. I think of the quote "there but for the grace of God go I", and I am grateful for that grace. It's one more way the gift of perspective has blessed me.