Updated: Jan 25
Max Lucado once said “The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us.” February 2014 changed my entire world. My life, my faith, and my family would never again be the same. Pancreatic cancer came in like a wrecking ball in an attempt to destroy one of the most important people in my life, my mother in love. She was not just a mother in love to me though, she was my mother too.
You are probably thinking, well yes, cancer, especially that diagnosis, would change anyone’s life. This much is true, but it has changed me in ways that only God could have foreseen. For those who do not know me, I am a type A, like to be in control and plan everything type of person. So as I crumbled into a ball in my closet that mid-February day while my unassuming and innocent children (4 and 2 years old at the time) played on the other side of the house, I cried out to God to please help me understand why this would be happening. Did He answer me that day? No, or maybe, but I wasn’t willing to listen yet. But, I know He was listening to me and I have seen, felt, and experienced His quiet whispers (and sometimes loud shouts) of this is why, my sweet child, countless times since that February day.
The circumstances we ask God to change are often the circumstances God is using to change us.
The most important answer that my God has shown me over these six years is about the legacy I want to leave, not only for my children and grandchildren, but for all those who I have the privilege of touching in my short time on this Earth. The word legacy, in our world, is often used to describe what someone leaves behind, often in material terms and, less often, in how they touched others throughout their life. We stress and worry about the financial and other worldly gifts we will leave our family and our children. Even as Christians, we get caught up in planning for college funds, retirement accounts, heirlooms, and other material items we want to leave to our children or family. We often forget to focus on the hearts of those we leave behind. Are we instilling God, hope, faith and love in their hearts? Are we ensuring their soul is saved so they join us in Heaven one day? Are we so on fire for God that those we leave behind cannot help but want to pick up that flame and carry it on for generations to come?
Before February 2014, I feel like I was living life in black and white. I did the things I was “supposed” to do and tried my best to live out my faith, but it lacked fervor, reflection and urgency. As extraordinary as it sounds, my life has more color in almost every way now. When you get smacked in the face with the prospect of incredibly limited time with someone you love deeply, you begin to understand what really matters in this life. The ways that God paints color into your life. He was always there painting, but now I am more willing to let go of the canvas and see the majesty He is creating for me. Remembering that He is the great creator and artist of this life, not me – no matter how hard I have tried, and sometimes still try, to pick the colors. My mediocre attempts always pale in comparison to His. I don’t want to sit back and live in black and white anymore, but I want to seek all the glory and color God has intended for me in this life. Opportunities to share His word, show Christ to others, serve without ceasing, and love without failing.
Even as Christians, we get caught up in planning for college funds, retirement accounts, heirlooms, and other material items we want to leave to our children or family. We often forget to focus on the hearts of those we leave behind. Are we instilling God, hope, faith and love in their hearts?
I often over-complicate things in my life. The problem with this is it can often hinder my faith in God and trusting in His plan and, in this case, the legacy He has planned for my life. I began to ask myself what legacy did Jesus want to leave behind? Could it be valued by the world in dollars or net worth? The amazing thing is that God provides us with two simple commands that should dictate and direct our entire lives and ensure we leave a Godly legacy. First is to love God above all others and the second is to love one another. Mark 12:30-31(ESV) And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” So when I examine what God says are the two most important commands, it becomes clear to me that I want my legacy to be one of loving God completely and loving others more than myself. This is the example that Jesus gave to us during His time on this Earth.
So, if you are like me, you want practical steps to work towards the legacy God desires for your life. Once I emerged from the fog of February 2014, I decided to create a list of the things I wanted to do differently. No, I was not the one fighting cancer, but I knew for certain that this was God gracing me with the opportunity to take self-inventory and change my legacy.
willing to let go of the canvas and see the majesty He is creating
And do you know what I began to realize as I made this list? First, it was all the little things that became the big moments of love and life for me. Second, all of them forced me to think outside of myself – to lose all my selfishness. It all made sense when I looked at Jesus and how he lived. Jesus’ entire life was about fulfilling God’s work and being the most selfless man to ever walk this Earth. If my goal is to leave a legacy of faith and love in God, my life needed to be centered on God and those around me.
My list was quite long and I could talk for hours on all the small ways that life looks different for me now. However, there are two big changes that have impacted me the most that I want to share. God has truly worked in these areas of my life.
1. Quit comparing my life to those around me.
We, especially women, are so quick to compare and feel “less than” because our gifts are different or we fail to embrace each other the way God intended. I want to choose to delight in the way God is using my family in Christ for His Kingdom. Throw away all those doubts that tell me there is a “one-size fits all” way to work in God’s Kingdom.
Less comparing and more compassion. It is all about transparency. Being willing to open our hearts, good and bad, to our church family in full faith that they love us and God placed them in our lives to strengthen us, encourage us, and push us.
This past few years have shown me the beauty in vulnerability. My church family and the way they have loved on me is truly one of the greatest blessings in my life. They carried me in prayer, were strong when I was weak and held me accountable when I felt myself straying. My hope is that you have those people in your life. If you do not, please seek some out. I promise you it will be one of your greatest gifts and a wonderful part of your legacy.
2. By walking. I must take each day step by step with God. Not year by year or day or day or even hour by hour, but step by step. Understand that He knows better than me and build a very personal relationship with Him. I must know and trust in His power daily and listen intently to His Spirit’s leading. Micah 6:8 tells us “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
God calls us to WALK with Him. He doesn’t tell us to run ahead
Our world moves at such an alarmingly fast pace that it becomes easy to get lost in the shuffle and simply go through the motions of life. However, God calls us to WALK with Him. He doesn’t tell us to run ahead or worry about tomorrow. He simply tells us to walk with him and show Christ to others. How amazing would it be if we could all take the day step by step with a watchful heart, open mind, and listening ear for where God can use us? Letting go of the need to control our lives and turning it over completely to God. I can promise you our day would be filled with joy, service, love and constant worship.
This one idea of taking each day a step at a time has been the most difficult and most rewarding blessing. I don’t take as many moments for granted anymore. I see life differently. I see God differently. And I decided that I wanted to find some small and specific ways in which I could walk step by step with God. Here are some of the ways I am working towards this:
Be present. Quit thinking of what is coming or planning in my mind. Appreciate this moment God has given me and embrace it.
Get down on my knees – with my Savior and with my children. This shows my children that prayer is how they build their relationship with their Heavenly Father.
Wrap my arms around my children so tightly they can barely breathe and then remind them that God loves them even more. That God will never let go of them and that they should hold on to Him with all their might.
Forgive more easily and immediately. We are all a work in progress.
Listen longer to the people around me - their loves, their worries, their needs, and their hearts.
Apologize more often and more quickly when I lose my temper or use my words as a weapon.
Smile even when I don’t feel up to it. Others are always watching.
Find a reason to be thankful in every moment, especially the hard ones.
Worship all day long – singing with my kids, dancing to our favorite songs, reading from our Bibles, or playing in Creation.
These are the steps I wanted and needed to take. I pray that these will inspire you to make similar changes or your own list. Ways you can slow down and show Christ to those around you, whether that is your children, grandchildren, co-workers, your parents, your siblings, or strangers you encounter daily. I also pray you share your list with someone to hold you accountable.
I urge you to pray to God and ask Him to show you the areas that you need to move. He is your advocate. He gave His ONLY son for you. He wants you to finish the race strong and make disciples in His name. Building a legacy worth leaving behind begins today and is made one decision at a time. Live this year to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Now that is a legacy worth living for!