This article first appeared in the February issue of HomeFront magazine

Every once in a while a few simple words can completely change our lives. I do comes to mind. We’re moving has the same powerful effect. You’re hired, You’re fired, It’s a boy, It’s a girl. Small phrases can instantly alter the course of our path in big ways.

???????????????????????????????????????Fifteen months ago I discovered a new one. Positive for cancer, the radiologist spoke all too audibly on the other end of my cell phone as I wilted onto a cold chair in the teachers’ lounge at school. Willing the walls to stop spinning, I steadied myself, grabbed a pen and started scribbling on a spare napkin. Something about breast cancer statistics and the name of an esteemed oncologist in our area. Once again life had changed.

Looking back now, I’m thankful for the unexpected benefits a tough situation can bring. Somehow major trials have an odd way of simplifying our lives. Things that truly matter come rapidly into focus. Priorities are unmistakably clear. When someone close is hurting, when pain arrives, whenholding hands bad news hits, love becomes the only goal. The kind of love described in 1 Corinthians 13… We’re patient, we’re kind. We’re not boastful or prideful. There is no time for anger, no room for self-seeking. We forget wrongs of the past. We rush to extend the love that protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.

This kind of love naturally surges in the midst of difficult circumstances. It’s what kept me going through three surgeries, multiple complications and more than a few dark days of depression. Receiving this love from my husband, family and friends was a gift from God, but perhaps most valuable to me as a mom, was receiving it from my kids. Our roles were reversed in the most spectacular way.

For years I sat by my children’s bedsides through tummy aches and sore throats. Now they sat by mine.

Daily I cared for their bumps and bruises. Now they were caring for mine.

For two decades I’ve held their hands when they were sad or scared, hurt or heartbroken. Now they held mine.

Consistently I have prayed for their fears and frailties. Now they were praying for mine.

curtain closingThis surprising role reversal allowed me to see the love of Christ modeled in my kids, the love I desperately hope they’ve seen growing up in our home. My trial provided me a chance to see God’s mercy and love through my children, and that’s a role I’ll play anytime.