It has been one year since my life changed.
I have been nostalgic as of late thinking about how things have changed over the past year. The Christmas season has prompted some of this reflection as we were shopping at the mall when I heard the news. In fact, my mind races back to that moment when I pass the store where I received the phone call. You know the phone call no one wants to hear. The one where your doctor personally calls you after you had routine blood word done. I still remember his voice when he stated, “How are you feeling? Are you experiencing fatigue?” Oh no, I thought this can’t be good news. “I feel great. Why do you ask?” He responds, “Your blood work came back and it strongly indicates you have leukemia.” My mind immediately explodes with a thousand questions. What exactly is leukemia? Is it serious? What does this mean for me? My immediate response was absolute silence. I mean what is a person to say when you hear this news. Penny knew something was wrong based on the expression on my face. Immediately she mouthed, “What is it? Are you ok?” I mouthed back they think I have leukemia. She immediately pulls our son closer to her as she mouths “what” with an expression of shock and confusion. The next hour is a blur as we talked as a family, shed tears together, called my mom, contacted a specialist, and weakly attempted to process this news. The entire weekend was filled with anxiety, sleepless nights, and fear. Even though life went on, I felt like I was standing still. I remember getting up to preach 36 hours later on hope. I smiled and tried to inspire the congregation while inside I was crumbling.
A year has now passed. This weekend was quite different. We went to see a holiday light presentation called “Illumination” at the Morton Arboretum. It was a quiet, cold night. It has been busy so we decided to get tickets. We bundled up with multiple layers (think stay puft marshmallow man). We made some hot cocoa and threw it in a thermos. We grabbed a few Christmas CDs. As we drove to the light show we laughed and joked as we listened to Veggie Tales “The 8 Polish Foods of Christmas.“ For the next two hours, we walked together watching trees light up when you hug them, chandeliers hanging from tall trees that give them the appearance of an outside ballroom, and strings of light seemingly hanging from the sky changing colors every few seconds (we attempted to recreate this in one of our trees the next day but it failed epically). It was peaceful. After we finished, we hopped in the car, drank some hot cocoa, and returned to our home for pizza and a movie. Oh, it was a fantastic night. I was surrounded by a family that loves me unconditionally. I was in a warm home with every possession a person needs. I was happy. I was content. I was at rest.
A lot has changed in the past year and a lot has stayed the same. I still have stress. I still experience difficulties at work. I still have the occasional fight with my spouse (I know this is just shocking for some of you to imagine). I still get angry over small things. I still get tempted. I experience anxiety and doubts. Yet, there is one thing that has dramatically changed: my perspective. This is the biggest difference over the past 365 days.
Perspective is an amazing gift. It is a blessing to stroll through a path of lights knowing that you have everything you need in the world – family, friends, basic needs, identity in Christ. Oh, what joy to have perspective that stupid things don’t have to dictate your mood for that day – someone honking behind you in order to get home two seconds earlier, a person gossiping about you because they are frustrated at life, or the disappointment over plans not working out as you wanted. They are just small things when compared with love and laughter. It is truly freeing to have perspective on what is significant in life. It is a joy to know that Christ has never abandoned me. He strengthens me and sustains me. In each moment of concern about the future, He fills me with grace.
Yet, honestly, it was the weekend of shock and despair that gave way to the weekend of joy and contentment. Truly, God has brought good from the emotional ashes of unexpected and undesired news. This is what is so marvelous about Christ. From death comes life. From pain comes joy. From paralyzing fear comes perspective. And for this, I am thankful!