If Christmas Didn’t Turn Out Like You Expected (Dispatch from a Hospital Waiting Room)

December 26, 2017 | 18 comments

Right now, I’m sitting in the corner of a hospital waiting room, and I’m imagining you here with me. You’re the kind of friend who will pray, and so that’s why it was important that I stop by here for a few moments. I needed a friend like you, a prayer partner like you.

Let’s be honest: This wasn’t the Christmas we expected or wanted.

We expected a happy Christmas. This is the season of joy, after all — a time meant for light-hearted banter, gathering at the table, laughing at Uncle John’s jokes, and lots of feasting. Two weeks ago, I was envisioning what my Christmas would be: all of us in the sanctuary, holding candles while singing “Silent Night,” which is something I’ve done every year for as long as I can remember. We’d hear the Christmas story, and surely make a mess of the living room with Amazon Prime boxes and wrapping paper. There would be hot cocoa and red wine and my sister Juliann’s Spritz cookies.

But like my sister said, sometimes your own personal Christmas doesn’t look like what you had hoped for or expected. It doesn’t look like the Christmas from your favorite holiday classic. Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve experienced a Christmas that didn’t match your expectations.

That’s how it was for us this year.

We envisioned twinkling lights and Christmas cookies, while gathering around the tree. Instead, we found ourselves with blinking monitors and IVs, while gathering around a hospital bed. The short story is this: Mom is battling an infection in her body, and we might be here for a while.

As hard as these days have been, they bring into sharper focus the blessing of family, and the hope we have in Jesus — regardless of our circumstances. No matter what, God is still God, and He is always good.

We’ve been sticking through this together, cutting and hanging homemade snowflakes in a hospital room, watching old Christmas movies, eating Christmas goodies that my niece Rachel packed into Tupperware for us before the ambulance came. And we’ve been praying.

I had planned on sharing other news with you today. I had planned on sharing with you about something really special that I’ve been working on for several weeks now. I’ve created tons of free resources for you: Bible study worksheets, free printables, daily challenges, … and more. I designed it as a five-day challenge for New Year’s Resolution drop-outs.

Ironically, all of these resources revolve around happiness — even as I am having to fight hard to find happiness inside of a hospital.

But here’s the thing I know for sure: Everything I have ever written about happiness isn’t just true on the good days. Those things are either true always, or they aren’t true at all. Earlier today, I reviewed all of the resources I’ve created for you, and you know what? All of it’s still true. Yes, everything I believe about happiness is true, even in a hospital. Even when our Christmas wasn’t what was expected. Even when we don’t know what tomorrow holds.

This is the truth:

Happiness isn’t what happens around you. It’s something that happens within you.

Happiness is the heart-deep knowledge that Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our pain. Long ago, at that first Christmas, He stepped into our pain. He carried our pain. And upon the cross, He bore our pain.

This is our hope, and this is the source of our happiness: Jesus.

Thanks for sitting with me a while, here in the waiting room. While we are waiting, God is still working.

Love, Jennifer

P.S. – Thank you for praying for Mom. She is the strongest, bravest woman I know, but she needs the strength of Jesus to get through this!

Happy This Year

God-willing, I’ll launch my new challenge, “Happy This Year,” next Tuesday, right after the new year. I’ll share all the details here on my blog, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.


Hey Tell His Story crew! It is a joy to gather here every week with you. The linkup goes live each Tuesday at 4 p.m. (CT). If you would use the badge on your blog, found here, that would be great! And if you would visit at least one other blogger in the link-up and encourage them with a comment, that would be beautiful! Be sure to check the sidebar later. I’ll be featuring one of you over there!

Our featured writer this week is Becky Hastings. Her post is one we should all read as we prepare for the new year… 5 ways to find quiet in a noisy world. Don’t we all need that? Find Becky here.

To be considered as our featured writer, be sure to use our badge or a link to my blog from your post. xo Jennifer

by | December 26, 2017 | 18 comments


  1. Trudy Den Hoed

    I’m so, so sorry about your mom, Jennifer. I pray God will rid her of the infection and heal her. And give each of you daily strength. I hope your dad is doing better? I love this truth – “Happiness is the heart-deep knowledge that Jesus doesn’t abandon us in our pain. Long ago, at that first Christmas, He stepped into our pain. He carried our pain. And upon the cross, He bore our pain.
    This is our hope, and this is the source of our happiness: Jesus.” Amen! Love and hugs to you!

  2. Dede

    I’m so sorry, Jennifer. Praying for your family. (((hugs)))

  3. Michele Morin

    Jennifer, lifting you and your family in prayer: peace, comfort, and joy in the midst of all the uncertainty.

  4. Barbie

    I’m stopping in after a much needed break. I pray your mom is doing better today. Will continue to pray.

  5. Lesley

    I’m so sorry your Christmas didn’t work out as you planned or hoped. Praying for strength and healing for your Mom and God’s peace for you and the rest of the family.

  6. Sherry Thecharmofhome

    May your Mother be healed soon. May your family be blessed this Holiday Season.

  7. Rebecca Jones

    Prayers for your mother, and father and family as she fights off this infection. Sending Isaiah 53’s promises your way.

  8. Lynn Morrissey

    My dearest Jennifer!

    Please know that I am right there with you and your precious mama (I’m so sorry, but I don’t know her name…. but God does), and praying for the Lord to invade her body with His goodness and healing power, which overcomes any old infection! I think you and I spent Christmas in just the same way, linked across the miles, heart to heart, praying for our beloved mamas. And your sentiments were just mine as I sat most the might w/ Mother in an ER (which didn’t even have a room for her), beseeching the Lord to heal her as an infection invaded her own dear body, and thinking, “How can this be Christmas?” She had barely eaten her dinner (hands trembling all the while–which has *never* happened!), and I helped her to the restroom and then called 911!! We saw her again today, and her white count was so high as her body fights this infection. But you and I know who the real Warrior is! And we join Him in the battle of prayer! Am glad to pray for your dear mom.
    All my love,
    Give my love to sweet Lydia and Anna, and I know Scott is your rock.

  9. Lyli Dunbar

    Praying for Mama Dukes and her loves. HUGS

  10. Rebecca Presnell

    Still praying for your Mom. Any news on how she’s doing? How are you, your dad, and sister holding up? Please call on us if there is anything we can do. Love to you friend!

  11. Debbie Williams

    Praying for your mother and your family Jennifer. We were saddened too this Christmas with a very sick aunt. I drove down to visit her yesterday and praying that God will give her more time with us.

  12. Bettie G

    I am praying for your Mom and your whole family today. May Jesus give the strength that is needed, and hold you all so close to Him!

  13. Susan

    You know I’m praying.

  14. Richella Parham

    I’ve done an awful lot of hospital waiting room-sitting in my time. It never comes at a good time, but sometimes it comes at a very bad time, doesn’t it? And yet we do it. We are able, mostly, to put smiles on our faces because of the song in our hearts. Thank God our happiness doesn’t depend upon circumstances, else we’d be in a sad mess! Prayers of healing for your mom and of hope and strength for all of you.

  15. Nancy Ruegg

    Father in heaven and hospital rooms, we know your happiness is unfailing when it glimmers as bright as ever, even in the darkness of difficulty. I thank you for your peace and joy, filling every corner of that hospital room where Jennifer’s mom and her family await her healing. I thank you for your continual blessings and miracles that encourage every person who enters the door. And we look forward to the news that Mrs. Dukes is home much sooner than expected–a big surprise to the medical staff who cared for her. In the powerful, loving name of Jesus, AMEN!

  16. CM Hazelwood

    I just read your email this morning. I certainly pray for your mother. My mother, who is gone now, is on the right of my current photo. I hope she is doing better by this time. Continued prayers for you and all of your family.

  17. Lureta Ector

    Such a transparent post and so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing with us this vulnerable moment. I love your words “Happiness is not what happens around us, its what happens within us” So true and such a timely reminder. I pray that your Mama is recovering nicely. Blessings.

  18. Barbara H.

    So sorry to hear this – praying for your family.



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