Today was an old-fashioned work day, the kind most families have on fall Saturdays: taking down the screens, washing windows, putting up the storms, cleaning house, doing laundry and running errands. Several of the guys also installed a hand-held shower nozzle for Nate, since climbing in and out of the tub is no longer possible, and we did a thorough vacuuming (Mary did), since Jack the dog was pronounced flea-ridden. Despite the “normal” nature of a chore-oriented day, for us it was super sweet, because all 13 of us (plus 3 in utero) were together on task. Nate was in the middle of all of it, keeping up with the ceaseless activity from the comfort of his lazy-boy.
He seemed better today than he’s been in a week. The doctor believes his radiation treatments finally began benefiting him last Wednesday. Not that this is a reprieve from what’s still coming, but it’s a mini-interlude of better energy and, Nate thinks, better breathing. It’s very possible the radiation has shrunk the tumor in his lung enough to increase air flow, which has made him more comfortable, less panicky.
The best part of today was when we gathered around Nate, the star of our family show, for a group photo. As we set up the picture with our two sweet grandbabies in the line-up, I thought of the three new babies who won’t be with us until 2010, and ached to think Nate may not be in that picture. Nevertheless, we grinned and giggled for the cameras during this bittersweet moment. What good would it do to dwell on the “bitter”? Thinking about the “sweet” was what we all wanted to do.
During the afternoon as we worked, the cranberry chicken in our oven smelled better and better, promising a delicious evening meal. It had been prepared ahead of time and brought to our door by others, which made it twice as tasty.
Each evening we have a “small group” meeting during dinner. Since sitting in hard-backed chairs is too difficult for Nate’s aching back, we gather around his chair in the living room with plates of food on our laps. During the last three weeks, many glasses of milk and cups of coffee have gone overboard on the forty year old carpeting, not to mention blobs of lasagna and wayward peas. We pick up the chunks and ignore the rest, focusing instead on each other.
Now that all of us are together, our “small group” has become large, with a meandering circle of easy chairs, dining room chairs, folding chairs, stools and one very important lazy-boy. Before we eat, Nate enjoys looking around the group and choosing someone to say a prayer over the meal, once in a while choosing himself. The Spirit leads those prayers, and the words hold power.
Come to think of it, there is much more powerful praying going on around our house than ever before. Recently, while up during the night helping Nate to the bathroom, I glanced into the next room and saw Louisa bent over her Bible with her journal underneath it, pen in hand, studying, thinking, praying. It was 3:15 a.m. To see this was a sweet blessing.
When my phone ding-dongs with a new text, sometimes it’s the kids sending what they just prayed for us. Other times it’s a Scripture verse that lifts and encourages. Bibles are open throughout the house as we search for this or that promise, and our Scripture rocks sit on the window sill above the kitchen sink. God is near, and it is sweet.
“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” (Philippians 4:8)