Are you in pain this Christmas season? Carrying the burden of grief, the terror of a recent cancer diagnosis, the heartbreak of rejection…or the incessant ache of loneliness?
While Christmas is the most beautiful of seasons because of the hope it represents, it can also be extremely difficult for many of us. If you are one of those who is suffering, I hope you will be encouraged by the story of God’s redemptive love in the life of my friend, Lanise Shortell.
Lanise is a radiant beauty who exudes warmth and compassion. To look at her, you might think her life has been easy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Easy? No. Unspeakably painful? Yes. But Lanise has allowed God to use her pain to make a beautiful difference in the lives of others.
At age 4, Lanise was orphaned. Her family was involved in a horrible car accident and Lanise was the only survivor. Her parents and brother were killed. Think about that: orphaned at age 4. Imagine the heartache, the loneliness, and the “Why, God?” questions she has faced throughout her life.
In any painful situation, we have a choice. We can allow our heartache to fester and calcify into bitterness. Or we can allow God to create beauty from our ashes. And that’s exactly what Lanise has done.
Raised by loving grandparents, she felt called to a career in pediatric nursing. And from her earliest days in nursing, Lanise found herself in situations where children were facing life-threatening illnesses.
Great suffering can yield great compassion, and it certainly has done that in Lanise’s life. She understands grief from firsthand experience. And for the last seven years, she has used her compassion and empathy to serve as the pediatric hospice nurse for Hospice Atlanta.
Lanise’s life work is serving and supporting children facing life-limiting illnesses and their families. Day in, day out…parents wondering “how long does my child have?” “What is ahead?” “What will the end be like?” “How can we possibly go on after losing a child or a sibling?” Day after day, she walks into the brokenness and wreckage of people’s lives and provides comfort, support and encouragement.
She compares the journey of a family with a pediatric hospice patient as “people bracing for a plane crash.” Short of a miracle, every patient is terminal. And the mission of the entire pediatric hospice team is to “help the family survive the crash.” The Medical Director, the Chaplain, the social worker, and countless volunteers all work together with Lanise to support these families.
Because of losing her own family at such a young age, Lanise is passionate about ensuring that families maximize the moments with their sick child. She understands the importance of letting everything else fall by the wayside and treasuring the remaining time they have together.
Her calling is not easy. Every child and family is precious to Lanise, and continually serving families facing heartbreaking loss can seem overwhelming at times. But she presses on, allowing God to leverage the pain…and the comfort… she has experienced to support others who are suffering.
Lanise is a hero to me. Her ability to encourage others out of the depths of her own suffering is a testimony to God’s amazing grace.
Everyone’s story is different, and suffering comes in many different forms. But I hope and pray that however you are suffering this Christmas season, that one day, you, too, will be able to say:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4
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