How to return the favor? I had no clue.

Since this will be my last post before Easter arrives, I wanted to share my own personal story of grace. I hope that you are able to take something from it, and never forget.

I wasn’t that huge of a Christian just two years or so ago. I would pray on occasion and go to church every once in a while, but God hadn’t quite made His home in my heart at the time. I’ve been battling depression, anxiety, and things alike since about 2007. I just never found faith at my fingertips, even though I will admit to eventually becoming too tired and out of “survival skills” to be able to battle alone for much longer. The ache and will to surrender and accept help grew stronger over time. At last, it turned into pleading. I was waiting. Waiting for something I wasn’t quite sure of. I always have believed that God has me in His heart, but how to return the favor? I had no clue.
In early 2010, I hit a pretty low point. I was barely eating, refused to talk to anyone, and didn’t keep up with school whatsoever. Moving forward to February, I was in for a wake-up call. It changed my life in some heartbreaking ways and in other miraculous ways.
I still wonder if it was the piercing blue eyes, the gorgeous beanie covering her bald head, or the brave smile on her face that captured my attention. I’m not sure if I ever will know. The only thing I’m certain of is that it’s stuck with me until this very day, and is bound to until I’m there in heaven with her.
For the first time in my life, I was praying ever so fervently. I was half way on my bed; both knees on the ground and my head rested on the mattress. The tears simply wouldn’t stop. They were a new kind of tears, though. My head was filling with regret, fear, and sorrowful sympathy.
I just found out that an innocent two year old- only eighteen pounds but full of compassion for the whole world- was losing her fight with cancer before we could even have a chance to think. This girl was as tough as nails and undoubtedly a hero. She paved her own medical path and taught doctors and nurses things they’d never learn in school. How is it that she was so suddenly being taken from her two older sisters and loving parents?
I’m sure you have all seen the commercials for St. Jude’s and maybe participated in a Relay for Life event or two. Once you put a name to the fight… everything turns around and becomes much more real.
I’m sure her parents named her Layla Grace for a reason. It definitely did fit her personality and “sparky” attitude. To me, her name ties together the entire battle she fought for eleven months. She wasn’t your ordinary cancer patient that walks in and out of the clinic. This child captured the attention of millions of people worldwide, teaching everyone lessons through the words that she couldn’t even speak yet. She and her family had a very strong faith that held them together through it all. Her dad was deployed in Iraq a few years before she was born.

It’s the legacy that keeps her memory alive that really stands out, though. During her celebration of life in March 2010, hundreds came from across the country to gather. The lessons I continue to learn through her bringing me closer to God continues to guide me through life. It’s hard to understand, even for me, how such a small person and little interaction could completely define who I am today. It all pulls together when I realize that she was brought into my heart for a reason. She touched my life, through God’s grace. I will always believe that she was an angel on earth, and being part of her story will always be the greatest honor. She brought to me what I begged for years to have in my life. And now that it’s here, it will never be gone.
Now, I want to give you something to remember from Layla’s legacy. Her father gave me an entirely new way to look at society and our power as I watched her celebration of life program. Picture all of humanity standing on a beach, each of us holding a shovel and pail in our hands. Some of us are closer to the water, and others have different advantages. It is entirely up to us as to what to spend our time doing. Some people will try to impress with huge mounds of sand, while others will sculpt a masterpiece or lend a hand to another person. Layla, though, would drop all of the tools she was given and run across the shorelines of the beach. She would tap every person she could reach and offer an encouraging word and a drop of pure grace to brighten a day.
I believe that all of us can do the same. We have the ability to think outside the box and do greater things, things that are unheard of. The smallest actions can make a huge impact if we choose the right ones. All it takes is a little start to give an opportunity to change your life. Never miss a chance. Always remember that you have something in your hands to work with. We are never left empty-handed.

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