In June of 2010, the Anchor of Hope Cancer Ministry was blessed with a new member. "Miss Joyce", as we all came to call her, shuffled into our meeting room that evening, wearing a denim skirt and white tennis shoes. Everyone welcomed her, and then listened in fascination as she shared her story.
She shared with us how she had lost two husbands, both of them to cancer, if I remember correctly. She then told us that she had been diagnosed with colon and ovarian cancer about a year and a half previously. I'm going to quote as closely as I can recall what she said (I wish you could hear it in her sweet voice!)..."When I woke up from my surgery, the doctor told me I was terminal. So, when I came home from the hospital, I started giving away all my stuff. I was ready to go, and I knew I wouldn't need it anymore. I gave away my furniture, and my car, and my clothes. Then I waited for God to take me home. Now, I've had to get some of my stuff back, because I'm still here a year and a half later. But I don't have very many clothes, so you'll have to excuse me if I wear the same thing every month. I know that I'm still terminal, but God knows the end from the beginning, and He is keeping me here for a reason. And I'm so thankful to Him, because I never have had any pain."
She proceeded to talk about how she shared Christ with all of her doctors and nurses, and all of the other patients in the chemo room every two weeks. Miss Joyce never missed an Anchor of Hope meeting, unless she was traveling to visit family, and she never failed to encourage every person in the room with her positive attitude and sweet spirit. And yes, she pretty much always wore that same denim skirt and white tennis shoes. She never, ever complained, but constantly expressed thankfulness to her Lord. She always marveled that God had not yet taken her home, but it was obvious to all of us why He was keeping her here ... He blessed people through her.
About six months ago, Miss Joyce went to live with her son and daughter-in-law out of town a little ways and was no longer able to attend our monthly meetings. I would call her every month to check in with her, and see how our group could pray for her, and she always assured me that she was doing well, that God was still blessing her, and that she knew that she'd be going to Heaven soon. I talked to her last about two weeks ago, and she was happily shelling peas on the front porch while we visited. She again acknowledge that she didn't have long on this earth, but that she was so grateful to God for all of His blessings.
This morning, while in the frozen foods aisle at Wal-Mart, I received a text informing me that Miss Joyce passed away yesterday. After a brief moment of sadness, I was filled with a rush of joy, realizing that she was now in the place she most wanted to be. The chains of cancer were gone, and she had finally been set free. I do have to admit, I felt a little twinge of jealousy, too....Can you imagine the glorious reunions she's experiencing right now? And I know she was greeted with, "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
So tonight, in honor of Miss Joyce, who was always counting her blessings, I'm going to share some more of my "1,000 Things that Bring Me Joy" list:
145. Wildflowers growing on the side of the road (especially Indian Paintbrushes and black-eyed Susans)
146. Flip calendars
147. Seeing Bethany all dressed up for prom
148. Sleeping with the windows open
149. Hearing a song on the radio that Hannah and I used to listen to on our many trips back and forth to Little Rock
150. When the sun first breaks through on a cloudy morning
151. Weeping willow trees
152. Old, weathered barns
153. Spider webs sparkling with dew in the mornings
154. Seeing the dogwood tree planted in Hannah's memory at our church
155. Planning and pulling off a surprise birthday party for Bethany
156. A new haircut
158. A new pair of sunglasses
159. Finishing Bethany's leaf collection project
160. Reading the same book as Bethany and discussing it with her
161. Mississippi Mud Cake
162. Sunflowers turning toward the sun
163. Approaching a stoplight just as it turns green
164. The sound of ocean waves
165. Sand between my toes
166. The sound of seagulls
167. The smell of salt water
168. Walking along the beach with my husband
169. Coming home after a vacation (I bet you can guess where we went!)
170. Back to school shopping with Bethany
171. The first day of school (when I don't have to work and I'm home alone!)
172. Hearing about Bethany's day the afternoon of the first day of school
173. Getting an unexpected package in the mail
174. Listening to Bethany and Brad talk about basketball
175. Not having to pick Bethany up from school, practice, etc., anymore because she can now drive herself (although I do miss it a little bit!)
176. Being the only person in the check-out line at Wal-Mart
177. My new Tervis Tumbler from Lifeway that says "Count Your Blessings"
178. That feeling right after you sneeze
179. A good-fitting pair of jeans
180. Pre-ordering the new Casting Crowns CD on iTunes
181. "Peach Bellini" hand soap from Bath & Body Works (It smells like sugar-encrusted peach slices.)
182. Bob's shoes (a cheaper version of Tom's shoes)
183. Air conditioning!
184. Raw cookie dough
Thank you, Miss Joyce, for reminding me to always count my blessings! Please give my Hannah a hug for me, and tell her that I love her...