Friday, December 6, 2013

Caroling for Kali

Good morning everyone! Amidst all the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I wanted to pause and share a bit about a very special family who has impacted our lives in more ways than they'll ever know. Several years ago I attended a women's ministry Christmas luncheon at our church. Sitting at my table were a bunch of women I knew from church – and one lady had brought her neighbor and introduced her to us all. Her name was Vicky. She's one of those people who, the first time you meet her, you can just feel the warm, infectious joy that is pouring out of her heart. I was instantly impressed and thought, "Wow, I'd like to get to know her". Over the course of the afternoon we each shared a bit about ourselves and our families. Vicky talked about her 3 {grown} daughters and about her wonderful husband, Jeff. It was a lovely afternoon of getting to know each other around the table.

In the months and years ahead, my husband Chad, despite a few years age difference {sorry Jeff!}, became great friends. I can't tell you the number of times Chad has home from work on the phone - I ask him who he's talking to, the answer is always, "Jeff". I've stopped asking because I know the answer. Those of you who know my husband know that he's a relationship guy – and I'm so incredibly grateful for the bond Jeff & Chad have. They've vacationed together {guys baseball roadtrip}, prayed together, served together, laughed together, cried together – their friendship is truly one of those few that you find in a lifetime that is "the real deal". And I love it. One of the many things I love about Jeff is his fantastic hugs and warm smile. Each time we see him at church, there's a big hug waiting! Jeff's also so wonderful interacting with our two kids – especially our daughter who has special needs and can sometimes overwhelm people with her many questions. He answers them all with a smile, which warms both mine and Chad's hearts.

The thing I admire most about Jeff & Vicky is that you'd never know by how they act or live their lives that God has placed some pretty tough circumstances in their lives over the past few years. I remember back in the fall of 2010 when Jeff excitedly told us he was going to be a grandpa as his daughter Kali and her husband Nick were expecting. We were thrilled for them all! Then I remember Chad coming home from work one evening on the phone. Jeff had called to ask us to pray as the doctors had discovered that baby Isaiah most likely wouldn't live long outside the womb. As a family, we began to pray. We prayed that God's will would be done and that He'd give peace and understanding to the family regardless of the outcome. Isaiah was born and went to be with Jesus in January of 2011. And countless people have been touched and positively impacted by the faith, strength, and peace that Jeff, Vicky, Kali and Nick have shown during this difficult time.

In the months ahead, Kali returned to work and I had the privilege of working with her on some custom Red Letter Ink prints for a ministry she was working with – Connected Families. While our interactions were brief, I so desperately wanted to share with her what an impact her & Nick's journey has had on not only myself, but our whole family – but I didn't know if it was appropriate, so I kept quiet. I ran in to Kali at church a couple of times, and again, just exchanged pleasantries without saying much because I just couldn't find the right words.

Fast forward to the spring of 2012, and again, Chad came home – walked in the door and was on the phone. It was Jeff. He'd called again asking for prayer. Kali had just been diagnosed with colon and liver cancer. And again, as a family we began to pray. Trying to explain cancer to our kids has been challenging. But they've been so sweet in their prayers for Kali...and Jeff & Vicky. Our son Carson sometimes will whisper as we're praying at bedtime, "Don't forget Kali!". As the months have progressed, the news came right before Thanksgiving that Kali had decided to stop any further treatment or tests. This news felt like a kick to the stomach for us, and I can't imagine how it felt for their family. But again, they're handling it with faith, strength, peace and grace. The only explanation of how they're able to continue on with a smile on their faces is this – they have the unexplainable peace that can only be found when you put your faith and trust in HIM.

Last night we had the honor of being able to take our family over to join a group of about 100 friends to surprise Kali with some Christmas carols outside her bedroom window at Jeff & Vicky's house where her and Nick are now staying. We bundled up our kids and brought them along – because this was and always has been a "family thing". I tried as best I could to explain to the kids what we were doing and why we were doing it. They still don't quite grasp the concept of cancer, but the one thing they do understand – Jesus knows and He's got it all under control.

As we trudged through the snow in our snow gear, I snapped a few pictures of the evening:
{headed up the driveway to go Christmas caroling}
 {writing a message for Kali}
 {warming up in the garage}
 {our little Christmas caroler – Carson}
 {the sign we were met with as we walked around the back of the house}
 {beautiful, frigid night to sing for a very special lady}
{Miss Peyton was wiped out from the activities of the evening}

Last night as we returned home and were getting the kids ready for bed, there were lots of questions. Carson asked why people get cancer, and as I tried to explain that sometimes even medicine can't cure cancer, he declared, "Well, God can make it go away if we keep praying". We talked for a while about how sometimes God answers our prayers in ways we don't understand, but just because things don't happen how we'd like them to doesn't mean that God didn't answer our prayers or that He didn't hear them. Peyton especially had many questions about the various pieces of equipment she'd seen through the window in Kali's room. She wondered about the special bed Kali was resting in. And the wheelchair she'd seen off to the side. And she wondered why we couldn't go inside and "visit" {Peyton's favorite thing to do}. But her final comment before bed was, "She was smiling!".

Jeff & Vicky – thank you for your friendship and for showing the world what it looks like to fully rely on and trust God to get you through tough times. You've done it with amazing strength and beauty which has not gone unnoticed.

Kali & Nick – thank you for continuing to smile. As our family has prayed for you over the past few years, it's been so encouraging to see you resting in Him to find peace and strength in the promises He's given to us. You are an inspiration to those around you, and we're grateful for the opportunities we've had to talk with our kids about the fact that you're confident that no matter what, God is in control.

And Kali, we may not have a chance here on earth, but I look forward to the day when we can sit down together and get to know each other better. Thank you for being so transparent and open about all that you and your family have encountered over the past few years. You've impacted so many, and watching your faith grow over the past few years has really challenged me to never grow stagnant in my faith. We'll continue to pray that God's will is done and that He is glorified every step of the way!

Merry Christmas everyone! May you experience joy and peace this season as we celebrate the birth of our Savior – the One who gives us strength and hope!
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."   Romans 15:13 •

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