by | Dec 26, 2019 | Depression and Faith | 3 comments

A Christmas Memory

I believe that Christmas Day should be the start of a week-long celebration, rather that its conclusion. Too often we feel an emotional and spiritual letdown the day after we celebrate Christ’s birth. That’s why I’ve saved a very personal story until after December 25. The story, occurring over a 3-month period, shows how God’s answers to sincere prayers are sometimes challenging, even though necessary.


Scene 1

October, 1978  An empty shopping center parking lot in Indianapolis, long before the stores opened. I chose this place for an extended quiet time with the Lord.

Having recently resigned an associate church staff position, God’s Spirit had convicted me of pride, and the need for a more others-centered ministry in my next vocational role. I wanted to serve without worrying about how people perceived me and my abilities. I wanted my motive to be pleasing God and meeting needs of others, not “looking good” and basing my identity on my success. With grave sincerity, and through tears, I pleaded, “Lord, give me a servant heart.”


Scene 2

Late November, 1978   My dad, 59, was rapidly declining due to kidney failure. I spoke with his physician from the V. A. hospital in Durham, North Carolina. “Your dad doesn’t have long,” he insisted. “Perhaps just a few weeks, maybe less. Besides, your mom desperately needs some rest as his caregiver and could use your help.”

Totally bedridden, dad didn’t want nurses or orderlies taking care of his most intimate needs, such as emptying his bedpan and cleaning him.


Scene 3

December 2-4, 1978   I flew to Durham and rented a motel room, where mom could rest. She’d been trying to sleep for weeks in his hospital room. For three nights, I took her place by dad’s side. During the day, we took turns caring for him. A bad plague of diarrhea exacerbated his need for mundane assistance. Throughout those three days and nights, he repeadly called for the bedpan.

Though physically helpless, dad’s mind was clear. I now treasure the numerous chats we had about life, including pleasant memories and my future ministry plans.


Scene 4

Near sunrise Monday, December 4, 1978   A few hours before my return flight to Indiana. In all of my 29 years, I couldn’t recall ever feeling so weary. At least hourly throughout that last night, dad called for the bedpan. I felt numb, listless from lack of sleep. My head pounded. When I finally fell asleep just before daylight, again I heard, “Son, I need the bedpan again.”

That was the last straw. Though I loved my dad fiercely, I thought, “Oh no, not again!” Selfishness marked my attitude. I wasn’t moved for compassion for my dad’s discomfort or his terminal condition. Instead, I was annoyed by my own discomfort. But as I lumbered the few steps toward his bed, I heard a clear, out-of-the-blue whisper from God’s Spirit:  “Terry, I’m answering your prayer. This is what you prayed for back in October, remember?!”

When I finished the cleanup, that’s the time dad chose to look at me and say, with deep gratitude, “Son, I’m sorry you have to do this for me. But you are even gentler with me than your mom. I really appreciate your coming.”

The Holy Spirit had changed my heart over the past few minutes, starting with when He had reminded me of my October prayer. I leaned over toward dad’s face, smiled, then said with all honesty, “It’s a privilege to serve you, dad. I love you!”

Be careful what you pray for.


Scene 5

Christmas Day, 1978   Dad entered the presence of the Lord, in the same room, while I was napping in the chair beside his bed. At first I thought, “No, Lord, not on Christmas Day! Why did You take him today, of all days? All future Christmases will be tainted by the memory of his passing.”

Then God’s Spirit reversed my thinking: “What better gift could I give your dad than an end to his pain, and to welcome him with open arms into My forever presence?

Before I told the nurse on duty that dad had died, I whispered, “Merry Christmas, dad.”

No doubt that was the best Christmas my dad ever had.


Please note: comments are closed after two weeks. You are welcome to contact me directly after that time if you would like to share your thoughts.


  1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Terry. I’m going to hang onto this one for awhile to remind myself that I most likely don’t recognize our Father’s answers to my prayers and to endeavor to pay more attention, to be more open, to seeing Him hiding where I don’t expect Him.

    Thank you and bless you! ??✝️

  2. Such a sweet, personal story Terry. Think you for sharing this with your audience.

  3. Thanks Terry for sharing another very inspiring personal story. The day after Christmas can often cause people to feel let down for a variety of reasons. For myself, being that I’m estranged from my only child and his family and no longer have any type of relationship with my sisters or my mother (by their choice) I have viewed the holidays as a time to I’d much rather “get through” as opposed to celebrating. I’ve struggled with depression and feeling rejected, but mainly a sense of guilt.

    I know most holidays are usually days to be cherished or at the very least appreciated and in the past I’ve tried to find ways that will help me to focus more on the true meaning of what the holiday represents. But no matter what I’d try or how much I’d work on keeping my thoughts centered on the reasons for the celebrations I still couldn’t bring myself to feel any excitement or more importantly any joy especially during Christmas, the day we purposely put aside to celebrate Christ’s birth. I don’t like not having these pleasurable emotions mostly because I feel like such an ingrate. But the truth is that’s exactly what I am.

    It’s still a challenge for me to not want to put my head under a pillow and sleep through the major “feel good” holidays and I’d much rather keep the celebrating to a minimum, but that’s now more due to my introverted personality as well as the limitations caused by chronic pain more than anything else. As time moves on I’m learning (through the Lord’s leading) that no matter the circumstances we always have something for which we should be thankful. If we can’t think of anything in particular then all we need to do (and should be doing first and forever) is consider the Cross and the ultimate sacrifice made on our behalf. Jesus gave His life to pay a debt we could never pay ourselves- never. We have a tendency to overlook the true and lasting worth of this gift. At least I know I do.

    So now whenever I’m feeling underappreciated or rejected during special days or celebrations (or any time for that matter)instead of avoiding these precious moments I am learning to look to Him. He not only offers me comfort and peace, but more than anything else He reminds me of the one and only thing that holds the greatest value – Salvation. The gift of forgiveness and eternal life. He’s grafted me into HIS family therefore I no longer have a need to belong to any other family. That’s not to say it isn’t a blessing to be a member within a group of people who are related, (although not necessarily related) but it’s not a necessity any more. My fulfillment comes from being in Him. He alone satisfies all my deepest longings to be accepted, valued and loved.

    Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
    (2 Corinthians 9:15)

    God bless you, Terry for being such an encouragement to so many. I pray He watches over you and provides you with everything you need as you continue to bless others. Happy and healthy New Year! May you always know the blessing of God’s love and mercy.

    PS. Looking forward to reading the new book you’ve been working on. Please let us know when it will be available.

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