When I hear the words “Love in Action,” I can’t help but think of my friend Stephanie. I met her nine years ago on a preschool field trip to the zoo. I was pregnant with my 3rd child at the time and suffering from debilitating morning sickness, depression and anxiety. But she didn’t know any of that. As we toted the kids past the monkey house, I stifled my gagging as she asked me how many kids I had. I told her two, because it was early in my pregnancy and I had suffered a previous miscarriage and wasn’t yet sharing my “blessed” news. We made small talk a bit more and then she paused and asked, “are you going to have any more?” For some reason I couldn’t keep my secret any longer as I was sleep deprived, tired, and on the verge of tears. I told her about my miscarriage, the resulting pain, and the fact that I was again pregnant and struggling because I was so sick. She looked at me with eyes FILLED with compassion as she shared how she too had suffered not one but TWO miscarriages and suffered also from severe morning sickness when she was pregnant and I will never forget her words and she put her hand on her heart and said, “You have my heart.”
We left the zoo and I didn’t hear from Stephanie for a couple of days. Then my phone rang. “How are you today?” she asked. “Are you sleeping any better?” I tearfully said that things were still the same and she said, “ok. I’ll be over in a minute.” She came to my door not ten minutes later with a jug of homemade chicken soup in hand and asked if she could come in. I had on my bathrobe and glasses and had only met this woman two days before, but in she came. We talked for a while as I told her my story and she told me hers. She listened non judgmentally in my living room as my kitchen was still full of breakfast dishes and morning mess. I was embarrassed. She was not.
The next day she called again. “How’s today?” she asked. My reply was the same and so was hers. She came over again and proceeded to sweep my kitchen floor and put the breakfast dishes away.
The next day she called again. “What’s going on today?” I told her I had a doctors appointment and I wasn’t sure how I was going to get myself there between vomiting and sleep deprivation. “Time?” she asked, and then showed up at my door with a bottle of 7-UP, a bowl and walked me to the passenger side of her van and drove me to the doctor.
Another day she sent me a card that was blank on the front and when I opened it, it said that she couldn’t find an “isn’t-pregnancy-sickness-awful-card” so she had to make her own. 😉
Another day she took me to her house and made me an entire box of mac and cheese because it was the only thing that sounded good to me while her kids played with my kids.
Another day she brought my kids to school because I couldn’t. Another day she did my laundry.
The days continued and so did the things that Stephanie did for me. Finally the days came when I began to get better and I could see more clearly. I have never had anyone love me like that before, especially someone I barely knew. She and I formed a bond through that time that will never be broken. She showed me how to love not just with words, but with actions too.
I have been in many situations since where I have walked with people who are suffering and every time I think, “what would Stephanie do?” She showed me how to love well and with actions. I have followed her example many times since and swept floors and made food and done laundry for others, remembering how she taught me. Another thing I learned from Stephanie was that she never said, “if you need anything, let me know.” This is something we have all said, and with the best of intentions, but sometimes puts the burden on the person suffering to have to ask. What Stephanie did, was just SOMETHING. She checked in, she cared, and she thought of something she could do. And she did it.
I John 3:16 says, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” Stephanie didn’t die for me — Christ already did that. But she definitely gave up some of her life for me during that difficult season, and for that I will always be grateful, and I will always know the definition of love.
Chriss Pruim teaches Body & Soul Boot Camp and Power Strength programs in Byron Center, Michigan. She is also a Boot Camp trainer, and wife to Mark and mom to Owen, Grace, and Lily.