At the beginning of this year, I decided that the word “love” would be my mantra. It would be the word to which I would give all my focus. I would strive to practice it and show it to all in my path.
But, love actually found me where I least expected.
You see, I thought I would just simply focus on it, work on it, practice it. But instead, I have learned about it by watching the example of others. This is probably the most I have ever seen love in action in this short amount of time… Or perhaps it is just the most I have noticed it.
I couldn’t have found a better picture of this word than in my very best friend.
That word defined her best - love.
When she went to be with Jesus at the end of February, it caused me to really sit and reflect. Reflect on my life. Reflect on her life. And, I have learned so much in such a small amount of time.
Earlier in the year, I spoke of how love means to lay down your desires for the desires of someone else, how this life is about more than ourselves. I spoke of how in all I do and for all those in my path, I have to remember it’s not about what I want. It’s about what they need. It’s not about what's easy for me. It’s about what’s best for them.
Erika was always putting others before herself. She genuinely cared for others, wanted to see them happy. Because she had the attitude of love, this laying down of her desires was quite easy for her. And this wasn’t just true of her for her children. She had authentic love for her husband, her family, her friends (something I really struggle with most days). Her choices were never about herself.
When she found out during her pregnancy that she had cervical cancer, she was faced with a decision. She had to choose to either terminate the pregnancy or proceed with it and use chemo to help prevent hemorrhaging and growth of the tumor in the meantime. For Erika, there was no question. As I sat next to her hospital bed when the doctor asked her one of the hardest questions a person can face, Erika didn’t hesitate. Because love makes things simple. It was never about her. Without missing a beat, she decided to move forward with the pregnancy. Now none of us, her included, thought she would be giving up her life. Erika was a fighter. She planned to raise her babies cancer free. But there was no way she was going to let her little boy forfeit his life for hers. That was not an option.
Something I learned through her example is that when you have true, genuine love for others, it’s not hard to give up your desires. Because in this amazing way, their happiness and desires become yours. It brings you joy to see them have life and the very best of it.
Spending time with God is the best way to reflect His character and grow in love. This is something else I noted about Erika’s life. She was truly one of the best women I knew. A woman after God’s own heart. She was always reading His word, praying, just simply spending time with Him. I believe this is why she exemplified love so well.
When walking through her house, there was no question that she loved God and emphasized loving others. On almost every wall, there is a verse about love. In her bedroom, on every available space, there are hand-written Scriptures posted. Scriptures about love, about hope, for encouragement, for motivation. On the bedroom doors of her two little boys, she had hand-written prayers that she posted. And she would pray those prayers every time she walked through those doors.
Something I haven’t gotten down as well as I should have (especially with over 22 years of following Jesus and a more intensive focus these last 6 months), but something I am continuing to strive for is to have a relationship with Jesus like she did. She was fierce in her pursuit of Him. He was the most important person in her life. That’s where her strength came from. That’s where her hope came from. That’s where her joy came from. That’s where her love came from.
There’s not much I can tell anyone about my life and how I have been loving this year. I’m still trying to work it out. I will continue to focus on God. I will continue to focus on love. And I will continue to glean wisdom and direction from the life of my friend. I am forever grateful for the example of Erika and the legacy she left behind.
If there is one thing anyone who knew her could say about her - she loved.
I pray at the end of my life that will be true of me as well.
At the WELL, we desire to be a community of women who live out our potential and purpose in Christ, lead where God has placed us, and encourage others to do the same.
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