A friend who cares

Drew snapped this photo of Roger, Tammy, Reneé and me,  just after we got the good news that Jeff's surgery had gone well.  May 2013

Drew snapped this photo of Roger, Tammy, Reneé and me,
just after we got the good news that Jeff’s initial surgery had gone well. May 2013

“The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”Henri J.M. Nouwen

On May 16, three people spent over six hours on the road, braving the legendary traffic of the DC area.  They came from southeastern Virginia to Bethesda, Maryland to sit with Drew and me through the long hours of Jeff’s liver resection.  It was a risky surgery that would involve more complications than we had anticipated, and aside from these three people, no one else was with us that day.  Each of them, in different ways and at different times, has been there for us in the past, when we needed help that only they would give.  And here they were again, with us on a crucial day, showing us that we mattered to them.

Roger is our minister from our Newport News church; Tammy is a dear friend and neighbor who feels more like family; Reneé is the dynamo who leaves such generous comments for me on this blog.  She understands so much of my life because she has been in my shoes as few others have, and has shown me that it’s possible not only to survive, but to thrive.

These friends are close to us because of our shared faith, but also because over the years, they have cared for us in ways that set them apart.  In being with us yet again on that long day, they have given me a gift of strength that has remained with me for days and weeks since. I draw comfort from looking at the photos of us taken that day, even as we continue to endure the long and uneven process of Jeff’s recovery, the outcome of which is still frighteningly uncertain, and seems to grow more worrisome each day.  I will always be grateful that these special folks set aside an entire day to be with us in trying circumstances.

Let’s take a few minutes today to be thankful for those faithful friends who are willing to stay beside us during our most difficult hours.  Life brings us all sorts of acquaintances who bless us in various ways, but it’s hard to imagine how we would survive without those very special individuals who are not afraid of the dark.  Our gratitude goes out today to all who share sorrows as well as joys; may the compassion you show to others return to you a hundredfold.


  1. Nouwen’s words, “who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing”, seem stark.Thank you, as always, for adding words of your own that help to interpret the famous quote included with your photography. When you speak of “those very special individuals who are not afraid of the dark”, all becomes clearer.

    • Eric, Nouwen’s life was a testimony and example of his words here. He chose to live at l’Arche, a wonderful organization that builds community-based homes where disabled and nondisabled people live together as family. I first learned of l’Arche while we lived in northern California; they ran an upscale and very appealing thrift store in Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco. As a worldwide organization, their residential services to people with disabilities have been years ahead of their time. We have toured several l’Arche homes in the DC area and they are heartwarming places. In fact, Matt and any of his family members have a sort of open invitation to visit for dinners, prayer groups or other activities with them anytime we can.

  2. I am so grateful that you are so blessed by them! It means the world to have people on whom you can count! I am blessed as well ~ and always grateful for my peeps too! ♥

    • Yes, these are the extraordinary people who give us “the presents of presence.” Thanks for being here!

  3. Mike Bertoglio

    Thanks for post Julia. Holding you and family in prayer.

    • Thank you Mike. We really do appreciate it.

  4. Ann

    having just read your UR post, my heart is full of prayers and hope for you and your family. You have a host of friends you don’t even know who are surrounding you and yours with love and prayers.

    • Thank you Ann, I am so grateful for my online friends at UR and here. It touches me deeply that so many people who have never met me face-to-face have been so faithful to us in prayer. Your prayers are being answered in our ability to keep going. Thanks to all of you!

  5. merry

    Julia…what wonderful friends. Surrounding you with their love…what a blessing.
    I continue to lift you and Jeff up in my prayers. Blessing and peace.

    • Thanks Merry, we do feel blessed to have the love and concern of so many – and we appreciate your being one of them! 🙂

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I know you are facing such difficult obstacles, but prayers are being sent by so many and there is such an outpouring of love and support for you, for Jeff, and for Matt. I know that you are strong but strength can be whittled away if we’re not careful. Keep the faith, my precious friend. God knew that we needed each other! With a prayer for healing and strength, Sheila

    • Thank you Sheila, you are a never-ending source of strength and encouragement to me! All three of us appreciate your prayers and kindness. I have thought of you even more often since Salty died, and pray you are finding comfort in those precious memories. There is a book I wanted to send you, but have not gotten to it yet. However, I hope I can get it to you soon. I think you will like it as much as I did.

      • Sheila

        Julia, I’m just hoping that y’all will come to Brookgreen Gardens or to WillowTree camping… anything that brings you to our area. Bring the book! We may be so different but we have bonded in a most special way. Bill’s mother had a saying that I loved: “You’re so smart and I’m so understanding!” That is the way I think of us. My love to your guys! I know Matt is going to make us proud tomorrow. Wish I were there, Sheila

        • Sheila, thanks so much. I am going to take you up on that invite; Jeff and I have been talking of going to South Carolina for a long time…did I mention our honeymoon was in Charleston? 🙂 Thanks so much for being here – your prayers and good wishes are a genuine strength for us.

  7. I have said to many that I bless God that He has given me the flexibility of time and such as friend as you–that I just love being in your space! I really mean that!! It takes a love for God that many cannot understand that moves us to continue to hold onto His unchanging hand as you and your family are doing. There’s a song that says: “Lord, whatever you’re doing in this season…please don’t do it without me…don’t do it without me.” Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Love you & your family beyond human words!

    • Thank you Renee, your faith is a continual strength for us, and we are so grateful for your friendship!

  8. Carolyn

    Friends are wonderful and yes they are always there. How is Jeff doing? We are praying for him and the baby that is on the way next month. Hugs and love to you all.

    • Thanks Carolyn, I was just telling Jeff yesterday how happy I’ve been that we have been back in touch more frequently via this blog. We will keep praying for you as well. Love to you and your family!

  9. Jayne Lovelace

    Julia, praying for Jeff, Matt, and you as you are going through this trial. Thanking God for the wonderful friends that have stood by you through this. Thanking and praising God for this great site.

    • Thank you Jayne, for being here and for your comment! I have been amazed how many wonderful people I have come to know through this blog – it has been a true blessing.

  10. Kathy

    Thank God for the strength and perseverance of friends who stay alongside through the dark. Very well put, Julia. Love you.

    • Thanks Kathy, I’m so happy to you here with me, here and elsewhere for many years now! Love you too.

  11. Megan

    Beautiful quote, beautiful picture, beautiful friends! Thanks for the reminder to be always grateful for the friends that are beside us during hard times. I’m thankful to have a handful of friends that ask me about Jeff every time I see them — an ever-extending network of people that praying over his healing and for the family. Lots of love.

    • Thank you Megan, I am hoping and praying that Jeff will be able to greet Grady soon after he shows up! Please give our thanks to your friends who are praying for us. Hope the next month is as easy (and cool!) as possible for you. Hard to believe the time is almost here!

  12. Sheila

    Julia, it is a sincere invitation. If you don’t fly you can take the “Denton Express”. Great conductor named Jeff! You’re on my mind. Sheila

    • I hope we see you sooner than we dare to hope for now :-).

  13. Good to see you are surrounded by love and support Julia, I have no doubt there are many more in the wings. Big hugs xK

    • Thanks so much, I have drawn so much comfort from looking at my “Boom Box” (I am going to wear it out looking at it and putting everything back just so and I have already shown every single piece to several admirers) and your happy, happy blog. Thanks for being here and for your friendship!

      • My gosh, well I never would have known when I planned it for you, but I’m ever so glad of that Julia. It was meant to be as it was a joy to make, I’m certain of that. Hopefully it’s all staying glued together. You really never know when you make these things HA. That fact to it makes you happy, makes me happy….a true win/win 😀 xoxo. Thanks for all those kind words, you’re a very special gal.

        • Everything is holding up very well! I’m going to use them as models for my own projects, when I have time – HA! (don’t’ hold your breath). Seriously, I am so glad it was a win/win. I feel the same way when people say kind things about my blog; it’s been a blessing for me to focus on it with all we are going through.

  14. Let’s hold on to the happy news you got that day and pray that more will soon be coming. I am glad that you have friends who dropped everything to be there that day and I love to put on face to the names I have heard you talk about so fondly over the years. I love you.

    • Thank you Amy! I am sure they would all love to meet you too. Thanks for being with us for so many years. Love you too!

  15. Nancy

    In almost all of Paul’s letters, he never failed to mention special friends and saints who had been there with him and for him. Blessings to all your saints, Julia.

    • Nancy, so true! Even though some of the mentions are very brief, his gratitude and affection shines through. We all owe so much to those who help to keep us going. You have truly been with Jeff and me, as couple, longer than anyone else; our very first dates always ended up at your place! I’m so glad you’re still with us after all these years.

      • singleseatfighterpilot

        Nancy, If your local congregation is like mine,mentioning other people, by name, like Paul mentioned Demas (in another light) is frowned upon. With that in mind, perhaps even the very positive habit in his letters, you pointed out, is just not “politically correct”?

        • Nowadays Paul would have to append the phrase, “I apologize if I have left anyone out, the exclusion was not intentional.” 🙂


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