Amazing Grace

21 Aug

Grace…..what a beautiful and wonderful word.

Grace – noun – elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action.

Graceful – adjective – characterized by elegance or beauty of form, manner, movement, or speech; elegant.

Christians live every day by the grace of God. We receive forgiveness according to the riches of God’s grace, and grace drives our sanctification. Paul tells us, “the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives” (Titus 2:11). Spiritual growth doesn’t happen overnight; we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 2:18). Grace transforms our desires, motivations, and behavior.

So what is this all about? Back in early 2016 Terri and I were neck-deep in the planning stages of our #200women mammography project in Ocho Rios Jamaica and a co-worker of Terri’s (who is Jamaican) told us about Novlene Williams Mills. So we googled, researched, learned, and were amazed with what we were seeing – she is an Olympic medalist. I knew I had to try to contact Novlene so I reached out on Twitter to tell her about our project. We made contact and shared messages and information. She told me she was very busy in June and couldn’t attend our actual program in Jamaica but she would do anything she could to support us from afar. I was astounded. Here we were in Charlotte planning our free mammograms and ultrasounds for Jamaica and I was having contact with an Olympic Medalist. Me. One day at work I got a big box delivered and when I opened it I couldn’t believe my eyes! Autographed signed photos from Novlene and letters to the 200 women who were receiving our free mammograms. She also wrote 50 letters for women who would be facing a diagnosis. I was so very thankful because I knew that the contents of this box could break down any barriers we might face with our women.

Months later – off we go to Jamaica to do our mammography project. We met with each woman before her mammogram and answered questions about the test if it was her first one. We offered encouragement to those women who had already had a single mastectomy and this was their first follow-up mammogram, and we spoke to women who tried to get mammograms each year. We shared our stories, we shared laughter, hugs, tears, and hope. We shared some life changing moments with these precious Jamaican women. Our hearts were changed by the gratitude these women showed us. In meeting each woman we gave them Novlene’s photo and letter and they were amazed that she would take time out of her busy schedule to send them something through two American strangers. Little did I know that while we were in Jamaica, Novlene was racing in Europe trials for the 2016 Olympics – while we were there we heard that she won that race and that brought the excitement level up another notch for all of us. Novlene is a true hero in Jamaica…a cancer survivor and an Olympian.

So fast forward to now. We now know Novlene and #TeamJamaica won a silver medal in the Olympics! I am so excited for her, her Relay team, and her country. What an amazing thing!

When I think back to asking her to help us with our project, she was buried in training for THE OLYMPICS and she took time to give such a beautiful gift to these scared and frightened Jamaican sisters of hers. It still boggles my mind that in the middle of training she would take her time, her energy, and mind to do what she did for our mammography program. Novlene is a beautiful example of grace (see above) and have you seen her run? Talk about graceful (see above) – like a warm knife through butter!

I just want someone, anyone, and everyone to know that she did this project with us while getting ready for the Olympics! Her heart is like many breast cancer survivors hearts – all we want to do is use our gifts and experience to help other woman facing this disease or one who is concerned about it. Her heart is the heart of a God-loving woman, one full of grace, compassion, and love.

Here is an older story about Novlene and a video of her from 2012. Watch this if you want to see grace in action….she is the anchor for Jamaica so watch until the end and you will be amazed. I have watched this several times and it just makes me so excited – just like it’s happening today.

http://www.espn.com/espnw/voices/article/16432407/novlene-williams-mills-had-completely-lost-confidence-my-body

Thank you Novlene for your help in our project, for the friendship we are starting, and for giving breast cancer survivors, everywhere, hope. You have shown us all that life can go back to normal or – even get better – after breast cancer.

Goodbye Old Habits

10 Aug

(I wrote this last night and forgot to post it)

My JellyBean has a new habit that started a few weeks ago, and I love it. She likes to be held and rocked right before, and after, her nap and rocked before bedtime. You see, this is different for her – she normally goes 100 mph until she gets into the crib, settles down, and falls fast asleep. I love this new habit because she has not been snuggly since she was a baby. She is now 22 months old.

I am in Anderson taking care of The JellyBean because my daughter is in Cuba and my son-in-law has to work each day. So, luckily her other grandma and I get to split days and spend precious, quality, one on one time with this beautiful girl. There is nothing better than these moments we have been gifted.

At nap time today I was holding her and rocking her. As I felt her begin to relax in my arms I began telling her of all of the exciting things we are going to do together someday. We can visit Disney World, we can go to the American Girl store, we can get manis-pedis, and I would like to take her to the children’s movies that come out – as soon as they come out. These are, of course, all dependent on her parents letting me. But as I told her we would meet Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Daisy, and Goofy and Pluto she relaxed even more and just listened intently.

I remember when I was raising my kids; I couldn’t wait for them to crawl, then walk, then talk, then run, then get big enough to ride a bike…and the list goes on. But what I realized yesterday – sitting in that chair, rocking my baby, was the ONLY thing I had to do. There was nothing more important than the moment I felt her relax all the way and start to fall asleep in my arms. Being a grandparent means enjoying the moment, the small miracles in each day, the gift of these precious children and the joy in each smile and hug.

As a busy parent, especially being a single parent with small children, I always had 9 million things to do and a million things on my mind. I enjoyed my children immensely and loved them with all of my heart – but I was BUSY; a single parent without any family in the area to help. So I take each one of these precious moments with my JellyBean and allow myself to not only rest and be present in these moments, but to acknowledge each stage she is in while she is in it. Not wish for days to come – but to be thankful for the moment as it’s happening.

This is the gift of being a grandparent. Or should I say the many gifts of being a grandparent. Being able to set aside time and to be present in each and every moment is the best gift of all.

 

 

Moments…

2 Aug

We all have them, right? Precious moments in time burned into our memories forever. Well, Kevin and I had a moment like that in Jamaica last week and I can finally write about it.

On the bus from the airport to Couples Tower Isle, we rode with three other couples. One couple got off the bus at the other Couples resort, and the six of us rode together for the extra ten minutes. Both couples had never been to the resort and we were excited to see their faces when we got off the bus. One couple is from Virginia and one couple is from South Carolina. We had so much fun on the bus ride to the resort that we shared dinner that night. We bonded very quickly with these two other couples (Tammy, Gary, Pat, and Glen) and spent a bit of time with them during the week. We all shared a fantastic dinner Thursday night and Tammy and Gary left Friday morning. We were sad to see them go after such a lovely week full of sun, fun, and laughter.

Pat and Glen came to our room on their way to dinner Friday night to pick up a photo we purchased and Glen pulled Kevin aside to speak to him. Off Pat and Glen went to dinner and Kev opened his hand and showed me a room key. It was to their room and Glen asked Kev to bring down a gift from their room when we came down for dinner. Kev went to go and get the gift and guess what? It was a large jewelry box – bigger than a ring, I thought, but smaller than a bracelet….hmmm…..nonetheless, I was excited to be part of a gift surprise – who wouldn’t be, right?

So after dinner we meet up with Pat and Glen and we are hiding the box wrapped in my sweater. Pat went out of the restaurant for a moment and Glen leaned over and explained that he was going to propose to her. WHAT??!! We were carrying an engagement ring? I was so excited! In my normal crazy bit of enthusiasm I asked Glen if I could give her the present and sadly he said “uh…no”….so we asked him if he wanted the gift so he could ask her privately. He said that he wanted to find a quiet area to ask her but he wanted us to be part of it. We were shocked! How cool is that? So we got outside of the restaurant in an area that had two large chairs and an ottoman. I put my butt in the chair and told Pat to try it out – as soon as she sat down, I jumped up, put my sweater holding the gift on a table next to the chair, along with my purse, and I jumped over to the other chair. Kev sat down next to me and then Glen went right into it. Pat was sitting there all pretty and innocent and Glen got down on one knee. Kev and I were very quiet and very still and Glen asked her. Right then and right there!! He pulled the box out of my sweater and handed it to her. She nervously opened the box and there was a beautiful wooden box inside with a gorgeous ring in it. Pat was so excited and they were hugging and kissing and Kev was all teary eyed and I was amazed at what just unfolded in front of us. Imagine us being asked to be part of this precious moment in their lives, a moment that none of us will ever forget, and I am still in shock and amazed to have seen this beautiful moment with my own eyes. I started jumping all around and telling anyone and everyone that walked by that they just got engaged. People were clapping and looking at Pat’s ring and congratulations were flying all over the place. It was so amazing to be part of. We called Tammy and Gary and did a video chat with them so Pat and Glen could share their news….it was just so sweet.

It’s moments like this – precious gifts from God that make life worthwhile. Who would have ever known that last Saturday as we were traveling to the resort on that bus with strangers that we would share moments that will be forever imbedded in our hearts? Strangers becoming friends – a dating couple becoming engaged – memories, moments, and hearts shared all the way around. It was so special to be part of.

When I tell you all that Jamaica has part of my heart, I am truly not kidding. From the kind spirited and loving people who live there, to the great couples we have met there, to the beautiful breath-taking views of the Caribbean….that country truly has my heart. I can honestly say this summer has Jamaican memories all over it (for me) from the mammography project with Terri (#200women) to a perfect vacation with Kevin – to meeting new people and sharing such a special occasion, it couldn’t have been better.

If you want to go to a perfect all-inclusive resort in Jamaica, try Couples.com. They are family owned and the amount of money they DON’T spend on advertising goes back into their resorts, their staff, their foods, their service, and their mission to allow people to have “an experience” instead of just a vacation.

We are already looking at our 2017 vacation there. Maybe it will be for Relay for Life, maybe it will be for a wedding, and maybe it will be for both!

Congrats Pat and Glen – we cannot wait to make more memories with you guys – and soon (Tammy and Gary too). May your lives be filled with laughter, love, and good health. Thanks again for allowing us to share in your special memory – it will be forever etched in my heart.

 

Pat & Glen

 

I Am Speechless

1 Aug

Today was my first day back from a perfect vacation in Jamaica and THIS happens…..who is this blessed? This is going around facebook now – but for my blog peeps who are not FB friends, I wanted to share this with you! My heart is full….over the past month and a half I have been able to spend 17 days in Jamaica. It’s where my heart lives and my love expands every single time I go. Especially now.

http://www.windriverservices.org/blog/good-will-trip-to-Jamaica

Wind River is an amazing resource for so many cancer patients from across the US. If you haven’t looked them up and checked them out – please do! You can apply to attend a retreat if you are fighting cancer or are a survivor – or you can support them with a donation! They are changing lives for cancer patients each and every single day and they are a true non-profit making smart financial decisions with their donations. They have a passion for cancer patients like I have never seen before and the cancer community is a better place because of Dave and Shannon.

 

 

Jamaican News

17 Jul

Check this out peeps!

http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/magazines/allwoman/200-women-receive-free-mammograms_66410

Such cool news coverage IN Jamaica for Jamaica!

 

The REAL Jamaican Story!

12 Jul

Here is the story written by RSM – the company who provided the money for the #pursueyourpassion contest (which we were one of the winners) which enabled us to provide 200 women in Jamaica with mammograms and ultrasounds and some follow up care.

This was such an amazing blessing – not only for the JCS and our 200 women, but for Terri and I. When you ask God to break your heart for what breaks His – the paths you will be taken on are unbelievable!

Read here:

http://rsmuscareers.blogspot.com/2016/07/200women.html

 

 

Lunch for Survivors

7 Jul

I am finally having some down time and am able to go back and start blogging our way through Jamaica!

When Terri and I were making our plans for Jamaica we had an agreement – we wanted to do something to honor, and thank, other survivors for the volunteer work they do in Ocho Rios. Seeing that a huge passion of mine has been the Reach To Recovery program in Charlotte, it seems fitting that I would be led to want to spend a little bit of time with volunteers while doing our mammography project. Breast cancer survivor/volunteers always amaze me and a lot of them inspire me every single day.

The original thought was to have a luncheon for all of them, but we were told pretty quickly that there are 150 survivors, and if we invite 150 survivors, then 150 survivors would show up for lunch. While I loved that idea, I didn’t love spending our limited funds on a huge luncheon, as much as we would have loved to. We had to keep a strict budget in mind and be good stewards with our money.

So we let the Jamaica Cancer Society handle the details and we told them the price per head we could spend and they did a beautiful job planning it. The super cool part was seeing a few of the women we had done mammograms for the day before – were now helping serve lunch. It was amazing to walk into that room with 50 strangers (except for knowing a few of the volunteers and JCS staff) – and then seeing familiar smiling faces!

The luncheon was terrific….wonderful food, wonderful fellowship, a few speakers, and lots of laughter. I said a few words thanking the survivors for what they do for other breast cancer patients and their families. Everyone wanted to hear our story, how we picked Jamaica, where we got the money from, and the background of our trip. I left that up to Terri and she did a terrific job unfolding our unbelievable story. We are already home and unpacked and I still think I am in shock that we even won the money and that we were able to provide 200 mammograms for women in Jamaica. I am still shocked that a few years ago Terri and I barely knew each other and two weeks ago we spent 9 days in a Couples resort and shared a room. There is a whole separate blog coming about that!

The women we met at our luncheon were happy and thankful. Thankful to be surviving and volunteering – and thankful to be alive. It was such an honor to be with these women and be able to photo-bomb their pictures, have our photo taken with them, pray with them, and have lunch with them.

It’s funny because we are so used to survivor events here in the states where you get bags of goodies, lots of pink items, pins, pens, mirrors, nail files, and the list goes on….and I would have loved to do that for the survivor volunteers in Jamaica but the funds were limited so we couldn’t. The things we take for granted here and the things “we expect” are really eye-opening when you give a luncheon like this and the people invited are truly thankful, not only for the fellowship, but for the actual lunch. No swag bags here – just true fellowship….we sure could learn a lot from these precious women.

lunch1 lunch2 lunch3

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