Beauty From Ashes – December 23rd

Weeks ago I lay in Izzy’s bed late at night talking about Christmas. We talked about baby Jesus and how she wanted Grace, the American Girl Doll. We talked about the animals that were probably in the barn the night He was born and we talked about how Christmas was really about his coming into the world. She said she knew all that but had counted the presents under the tree and she still wanted more. I smiled and reminded her that some people wouldn’t get anything for Christmas this year. She was stunned.

“But why, Mama? Why would people not get presents?,” she asked, her world suddenly widening.

So, I told her. I told her how blessed we were to have things like a house and a car and food in our cabinets. I told her that things like presents and toys were all extras. And then I asked her if she had seen the people sleeping on the streets a few nights back. She told me she had not and she was confused that some people didn’t have homes. She grew angry. At me.

“How could you have just driven right by them? How could you not have stopped?”

“Izzy. What would I have stopped for?,” I asked, so proud of the compassion rising up in her even if it was misdirected in anger towards me.

“To bring them home with us,” she said. “They can’t be out there, it’s too cold.”

“Baby, we can’t bring them home with us. They are people. They don’t want to come to our home, they want their own,” and I continued talking about their lives, who they might have been and how they might have gotten there. At that point she wasn’t listening to me anymore, she was dreaming up her own plans.

“They need blankets. We have to take them blankets, Mama.”

And that’s how it started. A seed was planted in her heart for “people with no homes” and she began to talk about them each night. Some nights she would talk about ideas she had for helping them and other nights she would just cry for them. When I would pray for her, thanking God for her and asking Him to protect her forever she would remind me to pray for the people with no homes. She wanted me to always pray for God to protect them, to keep them warm and to help them find homes.

I kept putting off the blankets. I was busy with work and life and our own Christmas stuff. But she was insistent, “when are we taking the blankets to the people with no homes? I will give you all the money in piggy bank to help pay for them.”

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Four years ago on December 23rd we got the call that would change our world forever. The call that said Izzy had cancer. I still remember sitting in the rocking chair in her bedroom listening to the doctor’s words. I remember sliding off of it onto the floor in disbelief. It couldn’t be.

But it was to be. I never could have imagined what the next four years would have in store for us. How difficult the journey would get. How the years would change me. How my heart would harden and thaw over and over again through re-diagnosis, remission and relapse.

Yesterday morning started off just like most every morning has for the past four years.

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We unhooked her formula from the night before, gave her her morning meds, then waited an hour and gave her her chemotherapy. But after that, well after that we gave Izzy the day she had been wanting. We headed downtown to pass out blankets…and cheeseburgers too.

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She signed all the cards and decorated the wagon while I tied the sparkly red ribbon she had picked out around the blankets. As the morning went by she grew more and more excited. Daddy came home from work early and the four of us loaded into the car with twenty blankets and headed joyfully downtown. And then it started pouring. I mean wind blowing, tornado warnings, pouring and we had a wagon decorated with Christmas lights and a card board sign filled with fluffy warm blankets.

So we are driving downtown in this storm, Carter is freaking out because he’s terrified of storms, Izzy is getting carsick from the chemo because we can’t have the windows down and Kendrick and I are arguing about how many cheeseburgers to order. Everyone has a different idea of how we should change the plan because of the rain and I am just pissed. Nope. We weren’t changing anything. We were walking around that damn circle and Izzy was going to pull that wagon she decorated. The end. So we did.

We walked around the entire circle in the pouring down rain (covered each blanket in a plastic bag) and Izzy found one person who had no home. A man named Richard. We told him how significant today was for our family and how much Izzy wanted to pass out blankets. He was so blessed to get a blanket from her.

After that we loaded up the car and drove around finding people to pass out the other blankets too. We didn’t get to use the wagon but we got out of the car each time and the kids got to pass them out themselves. And it was beautiful. And it was redemptive. And it was an act of love birthed from a child who has suffered much.

It’s been four insanely long years but here we are and here she is. She is still alive and fighting and while this isn’t the path I wanted for any of us I can see redemption in it. I can see power in it. I can see God’s hand on her and all of us. But most of all, after days like yesterday, I can see the beauty that has risen from the ashes.

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Merry Christmas to you and LIFE for Izzy.