"Thinking of you. Praying for you.
Curious to know how you have changed lately.
In the last week, in the last month..."
Since I read this, I can't stop thinking about her words.
Has breast cancer changed me?
Am I different?
After giving it some thought, I must say that the biggest change began in my heart 6 months ago in Haiti. Meeting the people. Getting to know them. Seeing the poverty & getting a little taste of it. Watching God work. Experiencing His hope.
Then Ecuador. Our mission team - how God assembled us & His swift provision to cover ALL the costs. The orphans. Their caretakers. The women God put in my path. The prison. Spending the night in the orphanage. The STRONG, OVERWHELMING presence of the Holy Spirit. Inca Link (the ministry that took care of us - Gustavo, Matt & Sarah.) The freedom to openly express our love & adoration for God through worship at church, without worrying about what others think. ETC! ETC! ETC!
Both of these experiences prepared me for cancer. They opened my eyes & my heart and broadened my view of what REALLY matters in this world - PEOPLE. Not stuff. Not our comfort. Not money. Not our routines. Not worldly priorities. Not our schedules. Not us. OTHERS.
And breast cancer has opened doors for me to meet lots and lots of new people.
So have I changed? As I thought about this question, here is what came to mind today:
*I really enjoy doing things for other people, especially when God puts them on my heart. I am used to giving gifts. But, receiving gifts has been difficult for me, especially at first. The reason: I don't deserve your gifts. Your prayers, meals, visits, meaningful cards & e-mails, thoughtful gifts, etc. have blown me away! Not to mention brought me to tears on several occasions! I'm tearing up right now! (*I'm working on a detailed post about this too. I will be writing Thank You notes for the next year!)
But, God has been teaching me some things through your giving. He's been showing me His love. There have been so many times that I have needed something or wanted something, and God used one of you to provide it for me!!! He's been reminding me that His love is a gift. Even though I don't deserve it, He still gives it to me (& to you) simply because He is God. He IS love! (You &) I just need to receive it. Also, giving impacts both the giver and the receiver. It effects the heart of us both. So THANK YOU again for all of your generous gifts! They have changed me.
*I am not pushing myself as hard as I used to. Now when I get tired, I rest. I am learning to let myself off the hook. I am also learning to say "no" without feeling guilty. I don't have to be superwoman, just God's woman.
*Cancer has shaken up my priorities and helped me to focus more on the people in my life. In the past, if I knew someone was coming over, I would spend all day cleaning my house. Case in point, we had a family birthday party for Tanner last Thursday. Normally, I would have spent the day cleaning and preparing, but I decided to hang out with my kids all day instead! Trust me, my kids definitely noticed this change too. And I was actually able to sit down and enjoy my family at the party as well. HUGE!
*Christmas was a little different as well. I was not stressed out and running around like a mad woman. Usually I want to keep buying gifts until the stores close on Christmas Eve - remember I enjoy giving gifts. But this year, I had no desire to do that. I purchased a thoughtful gift for everyone and then I was done. Period. I was very excited that several of our gifts served a dual purpose. They were chosen especially for a family member or friend AND were able to benefit widows, orphans & the poor around the world. (Most of the gifts were jewelry made by women in Africa who use the money to feed their families and maintain their small businesses.)
Oh yeah, I actually got some sleep on Christmas Eve too! That was a first.
There are some things I was determined not to change. I just had to make some minor adjustments.
*My family and I wanted to go to Christmas at the Billy Graham Library. It was 16 degrees and windy the night we could go. It hurts me to be cold! So, instead of not going, I just bundled up with a few extra layers and grabbed 2 extra blankets for the carriage ride. And off we went. We had a great time! And God reminded me how He can impact the world through a completely surrendered life as evidenced through the life of Billy Graham. WOW!
*To make riding in the car easier and less painful, I just use my little "faith" pillow as an added buffer between me and my seatbelt. I am used to being on the go, and I refuse to stay at home!
*Our family's Christmas Eve tradition is to go to the outdoor ice skating rink in Uptown Charlotte. I was still sore and guarded but determined to participate. So, I just skated close to the wall and stayed out of traffic. But I still went skating with my family.
*My brother-in-law Jeff (aka Guest) & I get each other gag gifts for Christmas, and he likes to wrap mine in several layers. This year, my gift was in a very large box. When I opened it, there was a smaller box inside surrounded by tons of balled up newspaper (4 weeks worth!) My first thought was "snowball" fight. My second thought was "but what if I get hit on my right side?" I went with my first thought! And it turned out to be one of the best times we had all day!
*My daughter has been praying for snow for weeks. Her daddy was ready to drive her TO some snow the day after Christmas if he needed to. So when it started snowing on Christmas, there was no way I was going to miss playing in the snow with her and Tanner. I just layered up and hid behind my husband during our snowball fight! And I held on extra tight while sledding down the hill. Some risks are worth taking for the PEOPLE in our lives!
So how about you? What has happened in your life this past year that has changed you?
My pastor always says, "God loves you just the way you are. But He loves you too much to leave you that way!" What a mighty God we serve!
And although we need to be changed, our God does not. He is perfect. We can trust Him completely - no matter our circumstances. Malachi 3:6 says, "I the LORD do not change."
Loving HIM with all my heart & soul,