I have no idea why this is the first story that comes to mind almost every time someone asks me about my favorite Christmas memory. I mean, you’d think I’d be more inclined to talk about the annual Christmas Eve candlelight service we always attended. Or fun and cozy family gatherings. Or at least the year I got a Cabbage Patch Big Wheel tricycle. (All the 80s/90s kids remember those, right?)
But no, whenever I get the “What’s your favorite Christmas memory?” question, I inevitably start thinking about…puke.
I know, I know. Gross. But here’s the story:
One Christmas when I was eleven or twelve, my youngest sister got really sick. She’s ten years younger than me, so she was just a little one then. She was sick enough that it scared me half to death. I had a big imagination anyway, so watching her struggle set my mind going all kinds of ridiculous directions. And I remember so incredibly clearly, in my fear, praying this prayer:
Pleeeeease, God, help Nicole get better and make me sick instead.
Now, here’s the point when we all take a mental step back and wonder just what I was thinking during that prayer. I mean, I obviously believed God was powerful enough to help my sister get well. So uh…why I didn’t I just stop the prayer there?
Dunno. But for whatever reason, my tween-age brain apparently thought that there was more chance of her getting better if the sickness transferred to someone else. So that’s what I prayed.
And that’s exactly what happened.
Within twenty-four hours, Nicole was out of bed, playing and going strong. And I…was throwing up.
But this is what else I remember about that experience: I remember being stuck in bed, an early Christmas present in my lap—a book, of course—with the infamous puke bowl beside me. And I remember feeling so…happy.
Honestly, I remember actually grinning to myself about being sick. Why? Because God had answered my prayer! I was so, SO convinced he’d heard my plea and, with a snap of his fingers, transferred Nicole’s sickness to me. (In fact, in my happiness I scribbled out a diary entry about the whole thing. I’ve still got the diary to prove it.)
I guess a person could laugh at that. Point out the reality of germs. Or get uber technical and theological and question whether God causes sickness or not.
But in my little girl perspective, he’d simply answered my prayer. He was so real to me in those moments.
I’ve had some “pukey” seasons here and there since then. And I’ve had some amazing answered prayer seasons. I’ve had seasons in which the figurative puke was the answered prayer even if I didn’t realize it at the time.
And I’m so grateful for the reminder God gave me early in life—through a silly prayer and a churning stomach at Christmas-time—that he’s with me in all of it.
Do you have any memories of a less-than-perfect Christmas?
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