Twenty-three years ago, on November 23, the Lord gave us a miracle in the form of our son Nicholas. Doctors told my husband, Jess, and me that we probably would not be able to have children because of Jess’ spinal cord injury. So, we were shocked, amazed, and blessed beyond words when we found out I was pregnant. When Nicholas was born, I was really looking forward to being on maternity leave over Christmas because, I absolutely love Christmas. Everything about the season brings me joy—decorating the house, trimming the tree, putting up lights (lots of lights), buying and wrapping gifts, time with friends and family, and so many other things.
But, something went terribly wrong during Nicholas’ delivery and my left leg became paralyzed. Having a husband who is a quadriplegic and a newborn baby to care for felt like a lot of responsibility. But needing a wheelchair for my own mobility on top of these things was more than I could bear and left me feeling completely overwhelmed.
For the first time I knew what true, deep depression was—I did not want to get out of bed, and I was barely able to care for my precious newborn baby. I couldn’t understand how a loving God would give us this beautiful, miracle baby and then have something go so tragically wrong during delivery leaving me unable to walk.
When Nicholas was about two weeks old, I was sitting in the living room holding him. My wheelchair was positioned on one side of me and my crutches on the other side. I sighed as I looked around at my very undecorated house that was usually filled with so much Christmas cheer. At that moment, my doorbell rang and standing on our front porch was a group of women from a local church with bunches of greens, white lights, a Christmas tree, bows, and much more. In about two hours they turned our house into a Christmas, winter wonderland. It was breathtaking.
As I sat there holding my newborn baby unable to help them decorate, I had tears streaming down my face. In that moment, I realized that “church” was truly happening in our house with those wonderful women.
That was the start of my healing journey out of depression. I realized that no matter what happened, we would make it! By the grace of God, physical therapy, and time, most of the paralysis in my leg has resolved and I am only left with a few lingering issues.
Christ used a group of women, some Christmas greens, and lights to help me realize a new and true meaning of church. May we all have the blessing of connecting with an irresistible church and finding a place where we truly belong. Because in belonging, we can more clearly feel and experience the life-giving love of Jesus.
Sib Nafziger Charles is the Senior Manager for Joni and Friends Pennsylvania. She has been involved with the ministry of Joni and Friends since 1986. In 1991, Sib helped to spearhead the Family Retreat program for Joni and Friends, which has now grown to 28 Family Retreats throughout the country and 16 internationally. As Senior Manager, Sib helps equip local churches to welcome and include individuals affected by disability into their congregation life. She is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University. Sib is married to Jess Charles and is the mother of one grown son. A farming accident in 1983 left Sib’s husband, Jess, a quadriplegic. Sib and Jess together advocate for the needs of individuals affected by disability.