Today was a sweet day.
Today, we prepped and served lunch at the Ronald McDonald House. We grated carrots and browned hamburger and dumped in cans of beans until the biggest pot of minestrone I’ve ever made simmered with the smell basil and love.
We tossed salad and baked cookies and watched brave souls feed their bodies and hopefully their hearts.
And I remembered. I remembered being there last year. I remembered two surgeries to remove a cancerous thyroid. I remembered 8 days of radioactive isolation, being away from my littles on Thanksgiving. I remembered months of such intense insomnia when I couldn’t take care of the most basic needs, mine or anyone else’s really. I remembered a week in the hospital, my body being flooded by sleep medications, as we searched for anything that could bring relief. I remembered coming home and then the night, just a few weeks later, when we found my 3-year-old cradling his head in pain, unable to walk or move, and I remembered that drive to Primary Children’s Hospital.
We were lucky. He had a throat infection that required IV antibiotics and a handful of days in the hospital. After a few rounds of treatment, he was chatting up anyone who would walk by in scrubs. He knew where all of the biggest Transformer toys were kept in the playroom, and he was pretty fond of his twice-a-day-smoothies.
But by that night when we landed at Primary Children’s, after months of soul-stretching struggle, I was beat. I felt empty.
A couple of days into our stay, Tim and I were hungry-and tired of burgers and burritos and all things fast-casual and cafeteria. We wandered into the Ronald McDonald House Room at Primary Children’s Hospital and found the tastes of home.
It looked and felt and smelled like Sunday dinner. Smiling faces and kind eyes dished up Hawaiian Haystacks and chocolate chip cookies with a side of hope.
That night over bowls of rice and gravy and chicken and diced veggies, Tim and I made a promise. When our lives were a little more manageable, we would be back. And we would bring the food.
So while we chopped and stirred and simmered and baked today, all I could feel was this crazy-big gratitude for where we’ve come from and where we are and for the hundreds of angels, seen and unseen, who carried us from there to here.
It was the only way. The only way through was on the backs of prayers and people who loved us.
We’re still working through the effects and aftermath of everything, but we’re on our way. And on this side of it, all I can do is try to emulate the goodness that we were shown in hundreds of ways. We will never forget it. We can’t. Because it’s changed us.
Through Jesus Christ, all of our hurt and struggle and trying and failing – all of the meals and the cards and the help with my sweet kids and the prayers – Jesus took all sides and parts of what we lived, and made it into something beautiful. He made our hearts a little bigger and our eyes a little more quick to see where we can help someone else.
I guess that’s what I’ve learned. When we serve, we often meet immediate needs. That’s usually the goal. We befriend the lonely, we feed the hungry, we pray and forgive and listen and love. Those are big things. But even bigger things are happening-like turning hearts, our own and others’-to see and feel and experience God’s love.
That love, that’s as big as it gets. And it happens on both sides of the aisle. There is beauty and power and purpose and love in giving. And there is beauty and power and purpose and love in receiving. It took more courage to receive than it has ever taken me to give. So, dear friend, no matter where you find yourself this year, giving or receiving or a mixture of the two, I promise you, you can find the love of God in it.
In moments of service, moments when we do what Christ would do, we invite each other to the manger. We go together to seek the Christ child.
So yes, let’s LIGHT the WORLD this Christmas. Let’s light it in January and June, in our own homes and among strangers, remembering that the light we reflect is His, today and always.
If you’re interested in providing, prepping, and serving a meal at the Ronald McDonald house in Salt Lake City, you can find the calendar and sign up here.