As I sat down to eat my typical breakfast - an egg fried over-medium with chopped onions, tomatoes and peppers, served with cold avocado and buttered whole wheat toast - I thought about how much my taste buds have changed. Not too many years ago, I turned up my nose at the thought of eggs for breakfast. And with veggies and a mushy green avocado? Thanks, but no. Prior to early adulthood (and at the risk of displaying my picky preferences), I would have also refused salad, hummus, tacos (forgive me) and a smoothie with anything green. All foods that are included in my regular diet now.
Thankfully, however, my tastes have changed. And even though I once gagged at the though of those foods, I love what I eat now. I am happy to not be feasting on chicken strips and mashed potatoes for most meals. There is a parallel here to my life. For various reasons, what I eat has changed. For other reasons, how I live has also changed.
While Katie was receiving her cancer treatments locally, I occasionally slipped away to meet a friend at the hospital cafeteria for lunch or coffee. On one occasion, I mused to my friend, April, "I wonder how this will change me. I just think I will be different when this is all past." This being the experience of having a daughter with cancer and the myriad of ripples extending out from having this boulder dropped into my life. Not long ago, April reminded me of these words. It was a sweet memory of a conversation I had forgotten. Then she said to me, "Girl, look at you... Did you ever think this is where you would be?"
No, I didn't. I didn't set out to alter the diet of my life in a particular way. I liked the former me and was not intending to change. But I knew my experiences with Katie would make me a different person. Somehow. Some way. And I hoped a better person. Although there was no guarantee of that.
Experiences affect us. They affect the way we receive and process other life events. They affect the way we interact with people. They affect the way we view God. They affect our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual selves. And embracing the effect or refusing it doesn't make it not so.
Recognizing that I would be affected by my experience with Katie in one way or another, I embraced the remote possibility that it could be a change for the better. I sought out a counselor. I read books. I found physical and mental outlets. I invited people into the thick of it with me. I opened myself to new career options. I laid in the floor and asked God questions in the wee hours of the morning.
And I can honestly say that I love who I have become. Even while I ache over Katie's death and the experience of losing her, I am grateful for how it changed me. The way I taste words and engage in relationships is more purposeful. The feeling of emotions rising up inside of me is more defined. The perspective with which I view the plate in front of me is strikingly distinct from the way I looked at my experiences before.
My usual diet of food and life has transformed. My conversations. My activities. My "yes" and "no." What I care about. How I prioritize. Where I put my treasures and time. My boundaries. My vulnerability. The grace I give to myself and others. It is all so completely different. And it is better. Oh, so much better.
What I ate several years ago was not distasteful. Or terribly unhealthy. Or repugnant to those around me. And neither were the relationships, activities or emotions in which I participated. Yet what if I was missing something? Could I have overlooked something so savory that everything in my being would be enhanced because of it? A diet of chicken and mashed potatoes can sustain a body, but perhaps it lacks the flavors to really enjoy a life.
I may look the same on the outside. I work in the same profession. I live in the same house. I still visit the same Aldi multiple times each week. To a casual observer, my life may appear relatively unchanged. Deep in my heart, however, I am so completely different. Katie's life and death changed me. And thank God it did. Because the colors and flavors of my life are richer than ever.
How has your diet changed? What do you eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner that you would never put on your plate a few years ago?
What about the rest of your life? Have you had an experience that changed the way you see the world around you? Do you see people differently? Do you prioritize differently? Do you talk or listen or respond or act differently? Is it a good-different or a bad-different?
And if not, why not? Are you willing to accept the effects of the experiences of your life? Are you willing to pause at the table long enough to taste the flavor, to feel the fullness, and to embrace the way it may forever change you?
I pray that your diet and your life would forever be changed for good.