The Day Before Surgery

Last month my mother-in-law, Renee, earned herself a helicopter ride to the ER after having stroke-like symptoms.  Less than a week later, she was scheduled for surgery to remove a brain tumor that had metastasized from kidney cancer.  The day before her surgery, five days after her helicopter escort, she still hadn’t regained use of her right arm.

Through all the visitors who trickled in and out of Renee’s room the day before surgery, our little family was well aware that these may be our last moments with her.  We had spent much of the day laughing and storytelling.  Brittney, my sister-in-law, had the outstanding idea to pack a picnic lunch so that the grandkids could share “snacks” with Grandma one more time.

As the evening drew to a close, Brittney and I offered to wash Renee’s hair, which hadn’t been washed the entire time she’d been in the hospital.  We kicked the husbands and the kids out of the room (We weren’t sure how wet we would get, let alone how much skin would be revealed!).  We gathered towels, basins, warm water, and a little bottle of baby shampoo.  While Renee sat upright in bed with pillows propped up against her lower back and a slack right arm, Britt and I pour water and lathered suds.  We rinsed and rinsed.  We controlled drippy water like experts and Renee hummed in the satisfaction of having her hair washed.

A trio of women focused on a humanizing task…no one else in the room.  Two serving one.  Not just because Renee needed her hair washed (which she did), but because two daughters-in-law loved their mother-in-law enough to want her to feel special.

In the hallway, a nurse said, “She’s so lucky to have a family to care for her with servants’ hearts.”

That statement sat in my heart for several weeks. I wasn’t sure that “servant’s heart” was the correct phrase.  Perhaps it was; perhaps it wasn’t.  I didn’t feel like I had a servant’s heart at that moment.  I just knew that Renee had been subjected to humbling tests and treatments…ones that strip a person of their privacy.  I knew at that moment, I wanted to tag team with my sister-in-law to make Renee feel “human.”

Scripture tells us to regard our family members with acts of service.  “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” ~1 Timothy 5:8 (ESV).

Scripture also tells us how to regard our elders with acts of service.  “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another, for God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” ~1 Peter 5:5 (ESV)

The act of washing hair may be worthy of saying “servant’s heart,” but it was definitely a moment where family was taking care of family. It was an act of love.  It was one where humility was exhibited by all three women.

God blessed that action; just as He has blessed every act of service done while modeling Christ’s love for one another. He’s blessed this family and He has wrapped His arms around Renee as she has faced the uncertainty of life and death this last year.  She survived brain surgery.  After a few complications, she is doing well in rehab and is starting to regain movement in her right arm.  God is good. All the time.

Cancer is a terrible road.  I wouldn’t want this reality for any family.  But I will freely admit that I wouldn’t change one moment of that “day before surgery.”  I wouldn’t change the picnic lunch or grandkids’ giggles.  I wouldn’t change the parade of visitors or watching my husband hold his mom’s hand.  I wouldn’t change the group prayer around her bed, as we left for the night.  And I certainly wouldn’t have changed any part of the hair washing.

~Emily

Grandma’s Prayer Closet

Seeing someone’s prayer closet is exciting.  Seeing my grandmother’s prayer closet was an honor.

Wilma, or Grandma as I like to call her, is one of the most influential Christian women I know.  My Pop’s mom has been a believer since long before I was even a notion in my parents’ thoughts, and she raised her children to love and believe in Jesus Christ.  My Mom often describes her as the glue that holds the family together.

Long road trips across the country began in my late 20’s to take my children to meet Grandma and Grandpa in South Carolina.  During those vacations, there weren’t many days that went by that didn’t include Grandma meeting with shut-ins to pray with them, teaching the Sunday School class, or going to assist with the prison ministry in the women’s division.  She’s dealt with more heartache and struggle than almost anyone I’ve known.  And yet.  Her resilience is astounding.  I know that this is due to her strong faith in her Savior.

I surprised her with a quick overnight visit when I was back east several weeks ago. She had no idea I was coming, and the look of shock on her face as Pop told her that someone had left “2 hams at the door” as Emily and I strode in behind him was priceless!  It was wonderful to have a little visit with her.

The morning I left, as I chatted with her, she asked me if I wanted to see her prayer closet.  I was thrilled to be able to say yes.  As we went into her room, I saw how she had transformed the space into a cozy area to be with Jesus.

A pile of devotionals, studies, and notebooks sat at her makeshift desk.  A little side table was set up with stationery for notes to be sent out for encouragement. Concordances and commentaries were behind her chair on a bookshelf.  She even added a little coffeemaker in the room!  She told me she could get out of bed, make it, and then brew her coffee to get her time in with Jesus first thing in the morning without even having to leave the room!

Grandma knows that the time spent with Jesus to start her day is not only encouraging to others, it’s needed to help her day be well from the start.  She enjoys and loves the time she spends talking with God and soaking in His wisdom and instruction.  In that prayer closet, her children all the way down to her great-great-grandchild are prayed for.  Her friends and church members are prayed for.  Her town is prayed for.

Maybe you don’t have a prayer closet, or maybe you don’t have enough space to commandeer a space just for that.  Get creative!  I use a wall in my tiny home office to tape up prayers that I want to remember to pray for.  Because I didn’t have a lot of space, I have a large open container where I keep my Bible study materials.  It has notebooks, different Bible versions, and devotionals.  When it’s time to go to my prayer closet, I take the items from the container that I need for my time with Him.

Perhaps you don’t even have room for that.  Here’s what I would say to you.  Make whatever chair or couch or porch you sit on your prayer closet and just spend some time with Him….a little bit every day.  That time with Jesus will change you and grow you.  It always does.

~Erin

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Me, Grandma, & Andros, my grandson. (Ignore photobombing Peyton in the background!)