I’m writing this from radioactive isolation.
Probably not what you were expecting, huh?
Well, it’s true. It’s the big reason why this little blog has fallen silent over the last year. There were bigger things happening. It was one of those times when life yelled, “STOP!” so loudly that there was no other choice but to listen.
About a year ago we found out that our sweet girls would be 12 months apart. I looked at the heavens and said, “You know I can’t do this.”
The pregnancy got harder and in March we learned that the hard stuff was likely a result of thyroid cancer. I looked at the heavens again and said, “Okay, now I really can’t do this.”
Heaven just smiled and sent Ada, the little one who would be my companion through surgeries and lots of days when I could hardly take care of myself. I’d cry about failing this little family of mine over and over again, and she’d just look at me with big eyes and big love and big faith, not just in God but in me. The comfort wasn’t in that she didn’t know what was happening or that she wouldn’t remember, it was more like she knew exactly what our lives looked and felt like in the last year and she knew it was partly her job to heal us.
She’s been an angel.
And she’s been one of many.
Most of the people involved in spreading this Christmas message to the world about service will share beautiful ideas of ways to do what Jesus did, to do what what he surely would do if he were physically among us this December. They’ll talk about the good there is to be done in our homes and neighborhoods, the power we have to lift and bless and love.
And I’ll tell you what it’s been like to be lifted. Blessed. Loved. Carried, really, on the wings of angels, seen and unseen, over the last year.
I’ve heard my whole life that service has the power to transform us. That in doing what Jesus would do, our hearts and natures are changed. I believe that. I’ve lived that.
But this last year, I have lived the other side. And I have to tell you, it has changed me forever in ways I never would have thought possible. You see, I have been the burdened and the blind, the lonely and the sick. It has been my little ones that needed ministering to, my family that needed to be fed. And hundreds of times in hundreds of ways, people have shown up for us. Over and over and over again, I have opened my door or my mailbox or a text message and seen the hands of heaven.
A friend appears on my doorstep on an afternoon when I’m exhausted and don’t see how I can finish the day. She takes my three-year-old for the afternoon.
Flowers and a card with words that were a balm to my soul are delivered within 15 minutes of us returning home from the doctor’s appointment when we learned it was likely cancer.
An anonymous neighbor makes sure we’re included in the neighborhood Halloween BOO-ing. They don’t just leave treats for us. They leave treats for us to take and spread the fun to another neighbor, knowing I probably didn’t have the energy to take care of it myself, and that my kids would love to ring a doorbell and run.
A ward member shows up with some extra chicken salad from their own dinner and sees a flood restoration van in front of our house-the effects of a leak gone bad. We weren’t at home, but she knocks anyway, tells the plumber a little about our year, and puts the food in our fridge. The plumbing company calls that night and hugely discounts our repairs. The restoration company brings us pizza the next night for dinner.
The young women volunteer to be at my home in the afternoons to take care of my kids. They heart attack our door another night, leaving me notes with scriptures, telling me I’m brave and that they love my little family. Some of those hearts are still on my bathroom mirror.
Dear friends who are far away send gift cards for local restaurants for nights when dinner just couldn’t happen.
A friend takes off work one day to come take care of my kids after my first surgery when I couldn’t lift my one-year-old for two weeks.
My mother-in-law makes two trips out to care for my kids, my home, my husband. She does preschool field trips and music class and logs more outside time and park play than I’ve gotten to in a year.
The young men show up and mow the lawn.
For months, off and on, the sisters in my ward show up with dinner and hugs and kind words.
Dozens of times, someone calls or texts and offers to take my kids at the exact times and days I was needing it.
A neighbor moves in, two houses down, just a few weeks before my first surgery. Now I’m sure there are lots of wonderful reasons God brought them here. But I’m also sure one of them was for me. She becomes a dear friend, my go-to-girl for anytime or thing that would come up. Tim calls to see if she can run to the store for ice packs the day of that first surgery. She shows up with four kinds, refuses to let us pay her for them, and tells us to do it for someone else when we have the chance.
My mom. There’s not enough I can say, not enough space to say it. She steps in and fills every gap. Loves my kids in my place when I physically can’t be there. Loves me when I’m hard to love.
Books, letters, packages, phone calls for these 10 quiet and sometimes lonely days.
The prayers. The prayers that have been prayed for us, that are prayed for us still, have been many and mighty. They’ve been a sure and sustaining power in our lives, a source of peace and strength that has helped us bear what we couldn’t have alone.
The journals I could fill with the kindness we’ve been shown. With the hands of friends, family, neighbors, ward members, and strangers, heaven has done its work.
So as you consider how you and your family will participate in Light(ing) the World this Christmas, please remember this. What you do will bless lives and fill needs. But more importantly, it reflects the love and life of the Savior.
For so many years, I’ve heard of people struggling and thought, “I should do something.” Often, I’ve had ideas about what I could do, but I’ve hesitated, not followed through, feeling unsure if my offering was what they really needed. Often, what people did for us was what we really needed. But always, what we needed most was to feel love-love from the people around us and the love of God. And every effort accomplished that. Every effort reminded us that the Lord was mindful of us. And that simple testimony is powerful. It’s what carried us.
So head to mormon.org, check out the calendar, and listen for promptings. But if there’s a day or two or twenty-five when you really don’t know what you “should” do, do what you can do-and in loaves and fishes fashion-heaven will take it and make it more.
Jean Newell says
Love you, Natalie. Thank you for your inspirational message. Best wishes to you and your family.
Such a sweet and powerful post that I couldn’t get through without sobbing. It touches my soul to hear of all the amazing people that have reached out to help your darling family. Perfect post for a perfect season. Xoxo. 😘
Natalie, I am sharing your story today in a RS lesson. The power of the little things, service we don’t think is grandiose makes a difference 🙂 You are amazing and always have been! You have been in my thoughts and my prayers all year long! We love you and your awesome family! Hugs and more prayers!!! Julie
Elsie Wallace says
Natalie!!!! My little sister showed me this post several weeks ago and my heart exploded for two reasons. I was So excited to see your beautiful face after so many years, but also my heart broke imagining the reality of what you are going through. I tried contacting you on instagram, but I imagine this has been a busy and overwhelming season. Just know that I love you dearly and hope to connect with you again soon:) I am speaking in our ward tomorrow about #Lighttheworld, and I hope its ok for me to share your story. You are very much so on my mind, and in my prayers.
Elsie (Theurer) Wallace