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.
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.