"That Our Joy Might Be Complete"

In over 40 years of marriage we’ve always sent cards. But in 2014, it didn’t happen. Instead, I sent and received prayer texts beginning Dec. 5, when my husband Jim had a colon resection after a bout with diverticulitis.  While he was in the OR, a call came from Memphis—his younger brother Carl, 53, had died that day of a heart attack.  Carl’s three children had lost their mom to cancer five years earlier. We were all in shock. Thankfully, Jim’s surgery went well, but we would miss Carl’s funeral.

Two weeks later, Jim’s oldest sister Betsy lost her battle with cancer in Houston. The whole family gathered in Memphis in late December for a graveside service. In the midst of so much loss, there was great comfort in finally coming together to grieve and celebrate two special lives.  During that visit, I was also able to visit my late sister Becky’s daughter, Kim, who had just had breast cancer surgery.

Any picture we’d paint has bright spots and shade. The shadows magnify the shine. We've just come back from celebrating Thanksgiving in Memphis and Franklin, TN with the remaining family members of Jim’s two deceased siblings. There is a tremendous void, but the families are doing well and my niece is cancer free. Jim and I have changed the way we eat and have each lost 15 pounds!

And if I’d sent out cards in 2014, there would have been a picture of our newest granddaughter, Cam’s sister Julia, born July 13, 2014. “Juju” is now walking and loves wearing shoes that “shine.” Cam recruits her to play “drive thru” and they take orders from under the dining room table. A year ago, their parents moved from Florida to Georgia and we’re enjoying having them only four hours away from Chattanooga.

In early December of 2015, I was in the backyard garden restocking bird feeders. As I poured hot water on a frozen birdbath, a bright flash of yellow caught my eye.  The hard frost had crisped the foliage and blackened all color from the blooms. Yet, there at my feet, a perfect yellow rosebud defied all odds. In the spring, I’d transplanted the bush so it could get more sun. At first, it lost its leaves and weeks went by before it mustered fragile sprouts. Throughout the summer, it continued to grow, but never flowered. Delighted, I rescued the tiny survivor and placed it in a crystal bud vase in a warm kitchen window. In a matter of moments it opened into its full glory.

Shortly thereafter, on Dec. 5, I opened up Facebook and read the following post from the 17-year-old daughter of Jim’s brother Carl: “ A year ago today I lost my father. Not only did I lose my dad but I also lost the last parent that I had. Through all the happy memories I’ve had, there are always the sad ones in the back of my mind. My life may look easy to many, but it’s one BIG struggle everyday. I’m always told many people that go through this situation can spiral out of control. My reason for not, is that I love my parents too much to ruin my life over something they couldn’t control. I choose to be happy every day even though there’s a weight of sadness on my shoulders. God chose this life for me for a reason and I am choosing to wait and see why. I live to make my mom and dad proud, and I hope I accomplish that throughout my life.”

Another Christmas rose just bloomed.

And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.—I John 1:4


O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together. Psalm 34:3

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