Okay, it’s not exactly how I imagined we’d spend our first Christmas together as a new little family…

I’m recovering from major surgery and still moving a bit slow. We didn’t have a chance to buy gifts for each other or anyone else. We have company coming in from out of town and I’m not physically able to “host” in my typical fashion. Several members of my family are sick with colds and therefore can’t be around Maggie or me. Mark’s parents are spending the day on airplanes and in airports. Not exactly a traditional Christmas.

However, when I make a gratitude list of all of the amazing things in my life right now, I have to say that this has to be my best Christmas ever. At least so far.

This is mine and Mark’s first Christmas together as a married couple. He is one of the best gifts I’ve ever been fortunate enough to receive. He continues to amaze me more and more each day. I still can’t believe that we found each other and that he is my husband and I am his wife.

I’m a mother now (!), mother to Magnolia Grace Montgomery, the baby neither of us ever thought we’d have… the little girl who changed our lives for the better before she even opened her eyes. She makes us laugh with joy and shake our heads in amazement on an hourly basis. We had previously wondered how she would fit into our lives; now we can’t imagine life without her.

Our incredible families, and how recent events have brought us even closer together. We were both blessed with great parents, siblings and extended families. They are sources of tremendous support and comfort for both of us in an endless (and ever growing) list of ways.

Our friends, new and old, far and near. The outpouring of love and support we’ve received and continue to receive, some from the most unexpected of sources, continues to blow us away. I never knew I had so many friends, and that list continues to grow as well.

The fact that I have a job that allows me to be flexible; and that I have co-workers and colleagues who, after nearly 20 years, have become like a second family to me. Even the timing of this diagnosis is serendipitous….my chemotherapy jives with my maternity leave, time off I had already pre-arranged.

And these are just the top five items on my list at this very moment. I spent the better part of the the time between two Maggie feedings during the wee hours this morning on a gratitude list (my heart was so full, I could not sleep), and never made it to the end. I suspect that that is because the list actually has no end.

A close friend of mine recently commented about how “strong” I seemed in the wake of the cancer diagnosis. I told her that I didn’t always feel nearly as strong inside as I might sound on paper, but that I was applying the “fake it ’til you make it” philosophy. Because there are no coincidences (at least, I don’t believe there are), it is no coincidence that I received an unexpected gift this morning that put that philosophy in more eloquent terms.

As I said, my husband and I did not buy gifts for each other this year. And circumstances have prevented us so far from gathering with our respective families for a traditional gift exchange. This was not a big deal to either of us, as, to us, spending time with our loved ones is the real gift of the holidays. Plus, neither of us is very big on gift receiving anyway….we both have more than we need or could ever want. However, this morning my husband suggested that we each open a gift or two from under the tree – gifts that we had been stashing there as they have been arriving from far and wide for the past few weeks.

The first gift I opened was a beautiful set of chimes from a friend of mine who had received moved away with her family. And on the clapper (is that what it’s called?) of the chimes was engraved the most beautiful quote:

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.” – Emory Austin

Sounds like faking it ’til you make it to me. And I know that it works.

The other gift I opened was from some wonderful friends of my husband’s, friends I have not yet had the pleasure to meet in person. And enclosed with the gift was a beautiful, heartfelt letter addressed to me from the wife. In it she shared a deeply personal story, and the reminder to move through difficult situations minute by minute, because each minute that goes by is one more minute that the “event” is in the past, and one more minute spent moving forward.

This cancer diagnosis, and now the surgery, is in my past. It’s part of my history. And each day that I receive treatment and endure the necessary side effects of the treatment, is one more day marked off of the Chemo Calendar. One day closer to treatment being in my past. One day closer to Cancer Free.

I’ve received so many gifts, so many invaluable life lessons in the past 20 days alone. And I know that the events and experiences to come are all part of a bigger plan for me and my family. There’s no way that all of this is happening without it serving a greater purpose. In the meantime, I’m just going to try to enjoy each and every moment as it unfolds. Each day on the calendar.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays from the Montgomery Three. May you be as blessed as we are. My guess is that if you take some time today to make a gratitude list, you’ll find that you are indeed!

Love and gratitude,
Jo & Co.

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