As a continuation of my thoughts from yesterday, I was struck again today by the power of our stories…no two are quite alike, none are worn completely on our sleeve for the whole world to see. The thing is then, we never really know what’s going on behind the eyes of a stranger. We might have a guess, but in fairness, we can’t really presume anything about them. They might be celebrating. They might be dying. They might have received beautiful news today. They might have experienced deep loss.
Tonight I want to share a story that I believe matters greatly, as all of our stories do. It belongs to a friend I care deeply about, and it’s the perfect example of why we should always get to know someone before we assume we have them pegged.
Life is too short to make dangerous assumptions. We are called to love better and to dig deeper, and never to condemn…
When I run into Jennifer at the grocery store, she is smiling. She has gotten out of bed today, gathered up the energy and courage to attempt a shower, put on makeup, styled her hair. She looks wonderful, but I know even before the words come out that physically, she feels like she is dying inside. As always, she hugs me in a way that says she means it, ready to dive into catching up as if it hasn’t been a month since our last face-to-face hello.
This friend of mine can’t help but be radiant. It’s who she is. These past few years have been the absolute hardest of her life, and I know this about her because we’ve cried and poured out hearts over tea for the longest time—not often, but consistently. She has let me into her story, and I’ve invited her into mine. We are walking through this life together, even when we are apart.
Jennifer is a survivor. He body is wracked with pain and a disease that has relentlessly attacked every last bit of her physical being. Beyond this, she is a mom to three precious, young children—three beautiful lives she has prayed for and fought for among years of waiting and heartache, infertility, traumatic adoption scenarios, and miscarriage. Jennifer has had plenty of opportunity to allow a spirit of bitterness and anger take root, and yet, when I look at her I only see broken, beautiful grace all over her life.
What amazes me about Jennifer is that she never, ever gives up. Every bit of the way she orders her days is intentional and with meaning, and she would be the first to tell you that this has nothing to do with her and everything to do with God. She lives with intention and purpose, even on days when she is crawling, hands and knees from her bed to the bathroom and back again because her physical body lacks the strength to hold herself upright. This daily reality? The literal pain and suffering she carries with her?
This narrative of her story is so different from what she could have possibly imagined.
It’s so far from where she thought she’d be. How is it then that she finds so much peace? And how does she summon strength in the day to day, such that she is still a light in my life and so many others, even when she is falling apart?
I know that Jennifer has spent much time contemplating her story. She has cried out to God, asked the hard questions, waited desperately for answers. Without a closer look, there’s nothing romantic about her current reality. For some, it might even be hard to see any sign of redemption in it. But I can tell you with assurance that in Jennifer’s determined pursuit of truth, God has been faithful to show her—in precise and life-giving ways, that He is the author of her story. Her persistence has allowed her a deep intimacy with God, and when she considers the sum of her life up to now, she can recognize His handprint everywhere in it.
Jennifer has Lyme Disease. Advanced Stage Lyme Disease and a plethora of co-infections to go with it. Her body is a literal battleground between spirochetes, infection and a relentless pursuit of health, every, single day. Sleepless nights. Cold sweats. Nausea. Breathing issues. Tremors. Neurological trauma. Heart trouble. Liver trouble. Kidney trouble. All of the troubles.
And she is fighting, one day at a time, for life on this earth, for the sake of her babies and her babies babies and their babies after that. She is a treasure.
Friends, we cannot know each other’s stories to the full unless we are doing life together in the deep. Sometimes that means that when we catch up, it has to be for hours. Sometimes that means we text daily and know firsthand how things really, truly are.
I want to encourage three things tonight, and then to leave you with one last thing to dwell on:
- Let’s not judge each other, be put off by one another, be so easily offended by others, or draw dangerous assumptions about the friends and strangers walking in and out of our daily lives. I have to work hard at this sometimes, so I’m reminding myself first and foremost.
- Find friends who will tell you how they’re really doing—and ones who genuinely want to know how you’re doing, too. Keep them.
- Please pray for Jennifer, her husband Jared, and their sweet family—for healing, clarity, hope, and rejoicing in this coming year. If you’d like to know more about Jennifer’s story, or feel led to give toward the mounting cost of her medical needs, please visit her gofundme page.
And lastly, but certainly not any less important, let’s remember this truth as we move ever closer to Christmas:
“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” Jn 3.17
God did not send Christ to earth to condemn, but to save. We can bring light and life or darkness and death to each other, through our words, our thoughts, our actions, our inactions.
I say we choose light. I’m a big fan of light.
with grace and peace,