Christmas—Misty’s favorite time of the year, was fast approaching. She loved wrapping presents, decorating the house, personalizing each inspirational card to friends and family.
It was almost time to take the last batch of sugar cookies out of the oven; once they cooled, she would begin frosting and embellishing them. Her parents had offered to come over and help her prepare for this evening’s festivities, but she was adamant that this year was not to be any different than the previous ones. Her annual Advent celebration party was the talk of the church and a prelude to all of the other holiday get-togethers to follow. She liked setting the tone for the religious holiday by holding the event at her own house, with Scripture verse scramble games and plenty of carol singing. Tonight, she was concentrating on the history behind each Christmas hymn in their church songbooks.
Misty, although exhausted, hummed along with Frank Sinatra’s rendition of ‘Silver Bells’ on the radio as she worked, her rich alto voice blending in perfect harmony. Her medical wristband watch alarm rang and broke her rhythm of frosting swirls.
“Oh, bother. Time for another pill,” rising to retrieve one of many prescription bottles from the menagerie of medical supplies on the kitchen counter. She had promised her oncologist that she would take the pain medication diligently, a preventative measure to ward off anticipated migraine headaches from the last round of chemotherapy . . .
Thirty-six guests came to Misty’s party, a record. The games had been played, the carols sung, the refreshments eaten, and the dollar-store presents handed out. The latter was a fund-raiser for the care home residents down the street: for every dollar spent on the gift exchange, $4 was placed on a Christmas tree in the entryway. The proceeds would cover expenses for a surprise holiday dinner at the residential facility next week. Misty and her parents were discussing the details of this upcoming program when Carl Martin, a church newcomer, blurted out,
“Congrats, Misty—this is some shin-ding! You’ll never be able to top this next year. Hey, you look a little peeked—are you all right?”
His voice drowned out the little bevies of conversations like a fireman’s hose on a smoldering fire. The other guests held their breaths collectively, all eyes on their hostess—who, for once, was at a loss for a proper reply. Her parents brushed tears from their eyes when their lovely, but pale, daughter hurriedly left the room to collect herself. She thought everyone knew—knew that she was putting on a brave front and expected all the others to respect her decision to ignore her condition!
Others tried to pick up threads of their previous chats, but failed miserably and returned to awkward silence.
“Hey, what’d I say? Come on, you guys, this is a party, for goodness’ sakes! You’d think we were all at a funeral,” Carl continued.
Some of Misty’s friends began tearing up while Pastor Tom walked over and, putting his arm around Carl’s shoulder, whispered the sad truth into the young man’s ear. Carl’s jaw dropped, his face turning three shades of red as he mumbled an abject apology.
One by one, then, like a dam had burst open, his audience shared Misty’s story with him. A calm Misty had now returned to the room and each person hugged her and told her how much she meant to them. It was as if the ice had been broken and they felt released to discuss their feelings about Misty’s illness and her imminent departure to another world.
“We wanted to pretend nothing is wrong to spare you,” Colleen explained, “but please know we are still praying for God’s healing hand upon you.”
Misty smiled through her own tears, realizing, for the first time, that what she was going through affected others around her profoundly. Her heart lightened from the self-imposed burden she had been carrying as she shared her struggles with these loved ones. They formed a prayer circle around her, this brave, Christian young woman who, unless God saw fit to heal in this world, would be preceding them into glory.
Advent, the preparation of hearts for the celebration of Jesus’ birth, took on a new meaning for the thirty-seven people at Misty’s party that year; and they rejoiced that because of Jesus being born into this world, Misty would join Him as she was taken out of this world and into His glorious presence.
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