What are you choosing to believe today?
I was co-hosting a radio show in Charlotte, North Carolina and one morning, we asked that question. One woman’s answer left me inspired to my core and determined to make a difference in the life of this one beautiful, brave soul.
Tammy Powell called to say she was choosing to believe that God would heal her cancer. She was en route to the hospital for further testing that day. Her hopeful words spoke volumes to everyone who heard them. Tammy sounded like someone very much alive while facing what might be her death.
In a follow-up phone conversation on the air, Tammy shared that she was putting butterfly stickers up in radiation machines. She wanted to offer hurting people hope and felt the butterfly was the perfect symbol. This simple, uplifting gesture touched places in my heart that often go ignored in the midst of life’s daily chaos.
“Operation Butterfly,” was launched, a sweet, sentimental campaign to collect butterfly stickers from listeners on Tammy’ behalf.
Stickers flew in, along with letters filled with encouragement, Bible verses, positive thoughts, and beautiful butterflies made of construction paper in every color. Children drew pictures. Ladies sent lovely personal gifts for Tammy: a butterfly pendant, butterfly chimes, an elegant butterfly purse, a butterfly mobile, the devotional “Jesus Calling,” a handmade butterfly flannel blanket, decorative butterflies, and more.
One special morning, I had the honor of visiting Tammy in her precious home. It was a sanctuary, with the love of God tucked into every nook and cranny. Butterflies danced from the ceiling, from twinkling white lights in her bedroom, from paintings on the wall, created by Tammy’s own beautiful hands. Her home was a haven of comfort and hope.
Sitting in her living room, I was privileged to see and touch her prized possessions. Tammy’s favorite things were the handmade cards from children, especially the ones God purposely planted in her life. I watched as Tammy reverently held pieces of colored construction paper filled with innocent pictures… like they were fragile butterfly wings.
She had such a gentle spirit. A listener named Crystal once emailed me to say she wanted to order a box of real butterflies for Tammy. The idea was that Tammy would release the butterflies into her backyard, to remind her of hope and the resurrection of Christ, and eternal life.
She was deeply touched when I told her, but concerned that the butterflies would not live if there was another frost in the Carolinas. Her heart was large and rare.
Tammy understood life: love God and tell everyone about His love, help others, be a friend, marvel at God’s creation, hold tightly to hope… like a child gripping her Daddy’s hand.
She inspired an entire city to look up, to know that there is a God, Who never ceases to be good, that heaven is her real home; that joy in life can be found no matter what you are going through. What a gift to a broken, confused, hurting world.
To her last breath, Tammy believed that nothing was impossible with God. I spoke with her by phone in those last days, and she was telling me how her friend was coming to paint her toenails. ‘I’m picking purple,’ she said. Those words contained the dignity and hope of an immortal soul.
When I visited Tammy in the hospital, I went to her window, hoping to adjust the blinds and let more light in the room. It was a bright sunny day and it felt so lifeless and gray and sterile in her room. Peering out, I understood why: Tammy’s room was in the middle of the hospital towers and so cast in shadows. I didn’t like it and said so. “Oh, Erica,” Tammy said, “When I look out there, I feel like I’m in a castle.”
She was and is a princess in every way, because her Daddy is the King of Kings. And now she is finally Home, in her own beautiful castle. It is a Home where cancer can’t get through the door, and where words like tears, pain, fear and death are foreign concepts… God’s Home. I like to imagine flocks of butterflies soaring through her windows and flitting through each room.
I promised Tammy that I would give her butterflies away. She made me promise to give them to the saddest people I could find. And so it begins…