BuiltaLife

Offering hope to those on the path behind me

What I learned creating an online dating profile…

Recently I set up an online dating profile. It was an attempt to entertain a friend who was dying from metastatic breast cancer. She was outgoing and full of life, and she had been suggesting, in her own unique way, that I should put myself back out there.

I didn’t take it seriously but I shared some stories and pictures with her and a couple of other metastatic friends (wow there are some interesting people on dating sites). She passed away not long after that.

I kept the dating profile up and was intrigued (in more of a research kind of way than an “ohh, he would be nice to date” kind of way) by the kind of men my profile was attracting. 

I ended up deleting the profile after about a week.

A couple of weeks ago I decided maybe it was worth trying again and one of my daughters “helped” me create a new profile. I will be honest, I have not found anyone that I am ready to date but I have found that reading other people’s profiles and then swiping left (or right on occasion) is more entertaining than spending the evening scrolling Facebook. 

What I learned about myself (and others) through online dating:

  • I’m not sure I’m ready to date (or if I will ever be ready to date);
  • There really is someone out there for everyone or every type; and
  • Creating a dating profile is one of the best ways to figure out who you really are. Not necessarily for finding a date. It is a way to tell your story.

Since I haven’t “dated” in 30 years, this was a completely new experience. I never used an online dating site before and it is rather intimidating.

How much do you put on a profile and how much of your story do you tell? Everyone is different, there are some that will post one picture and 3 lines of “description” – if you can even call it that – and others will write a book.

Not many men write “seeking a widow who is living with metastatic breast cancer” in their profile. In fact, about 80% (yes, I made that number up) want a woman who is physically fit, loves to bike ride, goes hiking and/or dancing every weekend, and “takes care of themselves mentally and physically”.

For those who follow my story, I thought about writing “likes short walks on flat surfaces” on my profile but since I have been working out and increasing my distance on walks I decided to let it go (although it still gets a good laugh in my circle of friends).

So how much of my story do I share? After reading what these men really want, I started to delete the online dating app. I mean, I am happy with where I am in my life; I have good friends and 2 great kids.

Will I keep swiping left/right or will I delete the app? Only time will tell. But after 4 years (yes, tomorrow, July 24th will be four years since J.R. passed away), I believe if you don’t have a story to tell by the time you are in your 50’s (yeah, I’m not embarrassed to say I am 54 years old) have you really lived? I’m going to own my story.

Like everyone who has Disney+ I recently watched Hamilton. The last song in the musical is “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” 

Our stories, or our experiences, are those things that have shaped us into who we are right now, as well as allows us to grow into who we are becoming. 

In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that have shaped you - Andrea Dykstra

A friend sent me this quote from  Andrea Dykstra this week and it completely resonated with me. “In order to love who you are you cannot hate the experiences that have shaped you.”

If you have ever lost a loved one, you can relate to how that experience can shape you. I have moved beyond the anger phase of grief, at least mostly – there are still a few triggers that bring that anger to the surface but I have finally allowed myself to feel the anger then move forward again. I have found that if I try to bury the anger it just tends to linger longer (probably true in a lot of situations). 

We each have a story. Some are more interesting than others. And it may have taken me a few years, some therapy, and finally listening to what God has been telling me, but I have reached a place where I can Love who I am because I do not hate the experiences that have gotten me here. 

During this pandemic, I shared my story with my church family, and recently I was asked to share my story with another group. God has been nudging me to tell my story (well nudging may not be a strong enough word, but you get the picture).

As I think about the lyrics from Hamilton, I want to be the one to tell my story. I am the only one with the unique perspective of having lived every part of it. My story is still being written but that makes it that much more interesting.

I may not find someone on a dating site who is looking for a widow living with metastatic breast cancer, but I am comfortable owning my story and telling it to others.

Who is going to tell your story?

“And when you’re gone, who remembers your name?

Who keeps your flame?

Who tells your story?

Who tells your story?

Who tells your story?”

Goodbye Ann…Another friend lost to Metastatic Breast Cancer

Beth, Cathy, Ann and KIm attending Art Bra Austin 2019
L to R: Beth, Cathy, Ann and, Kim at the BCRC Art Bra Austin 2019 Fundraiser

This week I learned a new term. Anticipatory Grief. You may have already determined that anticipatory grief occurs while a loved one is still alive, but their death is imminent. 

This would have been helpful information 4 years ago as we watched JR and my dad both slip away. It certainly helps me understand the anger I had during June and July 2016. 

I learned the term this week while attending an online Breast Cancer conference hosted by Living Beyond Breast Cancer. There was a session called “Coping with Collective Grief” and the speaker, Kelly Grosklags, spoke about this “new to me” term. 

It helped me understand my feelings this week (as well as those feelings from 4 years ago). You see, today we lost another to Metastatic Breast Cancer. A beautiful, fun, brilliant, witty woman gone too soon.

I met Ann while attending a support group for women with metastatic breast cancer at the Breast Cancer Resource Center.  She was everything I am not: outspoken and loud. Not in an obnoxious way.

She had a sharp wit and a sense of humor that you couldn’t help but love. After going to meetings for a few months I became friends with Ann, Beth, and Cathy. Sometimes we would go to lunch after a meeting, go out for drinks or just sit out on my patio and enjoy a beverage and snacks (pre-Covid). 

I loved talking with Ann, she had stories that could make your belly hurt from laughing. Or she could bring you to tears. 

We have known this day was coming ever since she decided her body was tired from treatments. But until last Tuesday I was still in denial. I had seen her a couple of times since March (on Zoom calls) and she was holding her own. 

But when the text came last week to come see her it seemed urgent. When we arrived she was in bed, no energy to get up and the spark in her eyes, while still there was just a little dimmer. 

Thankfully we were able to see her while she was still coherent enough to recognize us and even engage for a bit. And for that, I will be forever grateful. 

Having watched JR go through the process of dying, I knew when I left that her time here was short. And I was glad I had dropped what I was doing to go spend a few hours with Ann and my other “bosom buddies” Later that week we received an update on her caringbridge site that she was not receiving any more visitors and she was sleeping most of the time. 

This week I have been anxious every time I open my email. Anticipating the final journal entry. Today, it came.

You will be missed, Ann. I’m so glad I got to know you, even if it was through this damn thing we call metastatic breast cancer

Imposter Syndrome – Is my story worth telling?

Every time someone suggests I should tell my story, I develop a case of Imposter Syndrome.

One definition of imposter syndrome states:

The imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments and have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraud.

psychology today

I thought I was supposed to “share my story” by writing. That is how this blog started. But I had no idea what I was doing (and I still don’t), or how to best go about sharing my story. I wasn’t even sure anyone really wanted to hear or read it other than the few friends who kept encouraging me.

My story never seemed like something that was really worth sharing, in my opinion. In fact, I felt like a fraud, or an imposter, every time it was suggested.

Recently, I was asked by one of my pastors if I would share my story of resilience (you can click here to watch the interview).

He was preaching on resilience and thought of me (“No one asks for resilience” he said in his sermon. I’m not sure it is a good thing I’m the first person someone thinks of when they hear the word resilient). I agreed, not really sure what would come of it. He was thinking it would be a 5 minute Q&A after his sermon.

During this time of the pandemic, Wednesday is the new Sunday at our church. At least it is for the filming staff and pastors. That is the day they record the service for the upcoming Sunday. So on Wednesday morning, using social distancing, Will (the pastor) and I sat in our Family Life Center, and he asked me questions and I answered him, telling my story, while trying to ignore the bright lights, microphones, and video cameras.

The lights, cameras, and microphones must have given me amnesia because afterward, I could not tell you what I said or if it was even coherent. I walked away thinking if they decided not to use it, no big deal.

As Sunday morning approached, I was anxious and nervous and apprehensive. The imposter talked me out of watching the video that morning.

The imposter’s voice kept asking me: What did I say in the interview? What if it didn’t make any sense? Who wanted to hear it anyway?

Sunday afternoon I received a couple of text messages. At first, the messages were from close friends. Those that have been there through the trials and have encouraged me all along to share my story.

Although I appreciated the messages of encouragement, I discounted them. They were from my cheerleaders, the ones who are still standing at the finish line after everyone else has given up and gone home.

Then I started getting messages from other friends. Friends I haven’t talked to in a while, but still know some of my story and have been in the trenches with me a time or two. They thanked me for being willing to open up, be vulnerable, and share my story.

As the day progressed (and I still hadn’t been able to bring myself to watch the interview), I got more messages. Some from people I hadn’t talked to in years, others from people that I have never met. They were all grateful that I had shared my story.

The voice in my began to change “Maybe my story is worth sharing?”

Perhaps the most limiting part of dealing with imposter syndrome is that it can limit our courage to go after new opportunities, explore potential areas of interest, and put ourselves out there in a meaningful way. 

psychology today

By sharing this blog and sitting down having the discussion (on video) with my pastor, I am trying to overcome that Imposter Syndrome by not letting it limit my courage to put myself out there in a meaningful way.

It is still a struggle. And I’m sure it will be for a long time. But if I don’t tell the story, who will?

What I learned about myself watching a MasterClass on Chess

Yesterday I was feeling like the walls were closing in on me. Anyone else feeling that way these days?

It was a dreary day at my house, threatening rain all day and chilly (at least chilly compared to what it had been earlier in the week – in Texas, you never really know what the weather will be – Yesterday the high was in the low 60’s, today it is going to be 88).

Tired of reading, Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime/Cable TV, and the puzzle that had been sitting on my table for a week (or more), it felt like the walls were closing in.

From past experiences, when that feeling comes over me, I know I need to do something productive.

I put on my walking shoes, grabbed the dog’s leash and we headed to the mailboxes to get out of the house. My mailbox is a community mailbox area, so a walk to the mailbox can be as short as half a mile roundtrip or I can find another way home and make it as long as I want.

Before I headed out the door on my walk, I did what most people would do, I reached out to Social Media and asked what others are doing to keep their sanity. While on my walk, my friends did not disappoint with coming up with ideas. Here are just a few of their suggestions:

  • Learn to play a musical instrument
  • Learn to crochet
  • Color
  • Take a walk
  • Organize family photos
  • Learn to cook a new dish
  • Listen to audiobooks
  • Take a drive through the country
  • Play online games such as Words with Friends
  • Watch Ted Talks (here is one of my favorites)
  • Paint the house
  • Video or audio record family stories for kids/grandkids to enjoy later
  • Learn Morse Code (.-.. — .-.. you can go here to decipher this code)
  • Take a MasterClass

Since I already have a MasterClass subscription, I turned to the online learning website and decided to try something new. I found Garry Kasparov’s class on Chess.

I’ve never really been a chess player, so to speak. I know the names of the pieces and how they can each move (at least I used to, it has been a while since I played). Learning something new would be a good use of this time.

I was expecting to learn from one of the greatest chess players, about chess. But I learned so much more.

Sitting on my back porch, thinking about life and this “new normal” people keep talking about (but that is an entirely different blog post) I listened to Garry speak about the fundamentals of chess.

When it registered what Garry said in the first sentence of the second video I had to go back and replay it several times to let it sink in.

“I like an old chess saying. Tactics is knowing what to do when there is something to do. While strategy is knowing what to do when there is nothing to do.”

GArry kasparov

Let that sink in for a minute. Read it again if you need to. It made me pause and think about how true this rings in life as well.

I have developed a lot of tactics over the past several years for dealing with life. Like going for a walk when the walls are closing in or taking an online class to learn something new.

These are tactics. Tactics that get me through the next hour or two. And that I can pull out again when I need them.

As I continued to listen and ponder “what is my strategy? Do I even have a strategy?” he slipped another nugget out.

“Unless you know who you are, it is difficult to know the best strategy.”

garry kasparov

While he was talking about chess, I could not help but think about the life application. In order to have a strategy in the game of life, you must first know who you are, or perhaps you must know who you want to become.

Currently, I am working on discovering who I am. It is like meeting a new friend and finding out who they are.

My life has changed in many ways over the past several years. Who I was is no longer who I am. And yet, I now have the chance to become who I was always meant to be. Kim.

This is my new strategy in life. Maybe I will even discover some new tactics along the way.

Chess anyone?

Cancer, Grief, and COVID19 – The Isolation Trifecta

Isolation. A feeling we most certainly can all understand in our current circumstance. #StayHomeStaySafe #CoronaVirus #COVID19

It seems every post on social media these days is a reminder of what is going on in the world. And rightfully so. Everyone is scared and feeling the walls closing in.

Cancer

When I was first diagnosed with cancer in 2003, I was not prepared for the feeling of isolation. Even when people were surrounding me, there was still that feeling of isolation. The words “you have cancer” floated around my brain constantly. And while others tried to share their own experiences with cancer, this new path was one I had to walk alone. Don’t get me wrong, my husband and many friends were there. But it felt like I was running a marathon by myself and they were all on the sidewalks, behind barricades cheering me on. The treatments were mine alone to bear.

In 2010, when I was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, the feeling of isolation came back with a vengeance. This time the isolation was more tangible. I was unable to walk because of where the cancer had attacked. My husband would get me situated on the couch or in one of the recliners before he would leave for work. At lunch, either he would come or he would make arrangements for a friend or family member to come over and keep me company for a while. But then it was back to work. I was alone, while the kids were at school and he was at work, left to wonder what this new life was going to look like.

For me, metastatic cancer came with a new set of physical challenges. But also mental challenges. At home with nothing but time on my hands, I discovered the average life expectancy was 36 months after being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer (thankfully I have far exceeded that life expectancy, but I had no way to know that at the time). Friends and family once again rallied around us, but the isolation sat heavy in my soul.

Grief

Similarly, when my father passed away and then four days later my husband passed away, I was surrounded by friends and family. There to lift me up, to give me a shoulder to cry on, or to make sure that I had food to eat. But again, it was the times in the middle of the night, when I was unable to sleep that I found so isolating. Even going out with friends was hard. Most of my friends are happily married. I never felt more isolated than going to dinner with a group of happily married couples when I was now a widow. I have gotten better at being in those situations, but there are still times when that pain of isolation will rise up and make me understand what I lost when I see the looks that pass between husbands and wives who have known each other for decades.

COVID 19 – The trifecta of Isolation

In some way, I feel like I have been in preparation for the isolation brought on by COVID. But, it is just a little different. This one is being felt by everyone in some way.

And yet, even this new circumstance brings about a different feeling about grief and isolation.

During each of the previous life events, there were people around me. Helping me. Comforting me. Bringing me meals, sitting with me at doctor’s appointments, in the hospital, at the funerals, driving me to appointments, cleaning my house. They were sharing in my isolation as much as I would allow.

COVID 19 has reignited the feeling of isolation that I have struggled to overcome in the last few years. The isolation and grief from a cancer diagnosis, to loss of my father and my husband.

I have discovered I have a love/hate relationship with social media. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are my connection to the outside world right now, however, the posts also remind me of the other things I have lost: my husband; my limited mobility (makes it really hard to do things I used to be able to do easily), even my healthy immune system.

Thanks to my metastatic cancer and a compromised immune system, I have not left my house, other than to take the dog for a walk or go to my oncologist appointment, since March 18th. Days upon days of no contact with friends and family except via phones/computers.

The physical isolation is hard. But the reminders of the emotional isolation of past experiences is like ripping a bandaid off a wound that hasn’t finished healing.

If you, like me, are feeling the isolation from cancer, grief, or COVID I have found the following help me get out of my isolation funk:

Papers burning in fire pit
After writing down the things causing anxiety, burn them and let them go
  • Keep a pen and paper or some kind of notebook on your nightstand. When I can’t sleep it is usually because I need to process what is going on, no better way to do that than to write it down.
    • If what you have written is something you don’t want others to read, I have also found that burning the pages in my fire pit is very therapeutic.
  • Go for a walk or run (I don’t run, but you might enjoy it)
  • Find a good exercise video or sign up with a virtual trainer (I just signed up with Camp Gladiator for a 6-week challenge – all classes are on Zoom). Sweating out the frustrations has always helped reset my mind.

What have you found to help you not feel so isolated?

Good News – it needs to be shared not just during a pandemic

Tell me something good! (Who remembers Shaka Khan signing this? Because everyone has heard of Shaka Khan after Season 3 of The Masked Singer)

We seem to all be looking for the good news these days. If you don’t believe me, just ask John Krasinski. He made a video about “Some Good News” and he even speaks with his friend Steve Carell which made us all happy. If you haven’t seen the video, click here (I promise it is worth your time).

This week I also shared some of my own good news. And for those of you who follow me, yes, it has to do with my latest scan results.

I shared this post on my personal Facebook page.

Even though I shared this news during the #StayHomeStaySafe pandemic, I was still shocked at the number of likes and comments I received.

Granted, people are usually happy for me when I post good news about my scans. But this week I heard from people who I haven’t heard from in years even though we are friends on Facebook.

It doesn’t bother me that most people on my friend list don’t comment on my posts. I have close to 500 “Facebook friends”, but honestly I probably interact with about 75-80 regularly. I usually receive a lot of likes when I post good news regarding my cancer. But this time I got over 150 likes and about 50 or more comments.

After 9 plus years of living with metastatic cancer, I understand not everyone is as concerned as I am about my latest scans, especially since I get them every 3-4 months.

Since last June my two previous scans had both shown progression. The results from my latest scan showed some of the spots from the past 2 scans were actually smaller, which means the new medication is working. Yes, I am doing my own happy dance (I even pulled out Just Dance 2016 on Xbox to do some at-home exercise – whew, it’s a good thing no one is recording that).

I would postulate good news is not just what we need today, but we need to do a better job of celebrating good news on a daily basis. Now and going forward.

So tell me something good! I really do want to celebrate with you.

God vs the wedding rings – Learning to trust the Unseen, not the Seen

Since ancient times, the wedding ring has been worn on the left-hand ring finger. According to an article in Vanity Fair (and other research), the left-hand ring finger was thought to have a vein that runs directly to the heart. The ring itself is supposed to symbolize the eternal nature of the union, with the open center representing an open portal to the unexplored life of the couple.

Wedding Rings

I have had the same engagement and wedding rings since my husband proposed (1992) and we married (1993). I was one of those people who hardly ever took my rings off. When I played golf, or to clean the rings I would remove them, but I never really took the rings off for extended periods of time.

When my husband passed away (July 24, 2016) I researched what others did with their wedding rings. I had trouble sleeping after he passed away. There were many nights when questions would just run through my head. I’m sure there were many thoughts I looked up in the wee hours of the night during the first year

“Should you continue wearing your wedding ring after your spouse dies”

one of many questions i googled the first year

My research did not come up with a definitive answer about how long widows/widowers wore their rings. Most of the articles came to the same basic conclusion, “do what is right for you.”

That made me feel better. I did not want to take off my wedding ring because when it came right down to it I still felt married. I was not ready to date, which was one common reason people decided to remove their rings.

I continued to wear my wedding rings until December 9th, 2017.

Why that specific date? That was the day I went into the hospital to have a procedure on my hip. I took my rings off that morning before heading to the hospital (ok, hospital stays were other reasons I took my rings off in the past).

The procedure I went in for turned into much more and I was in the hospital for about 10 days and actually had all of the prosthesis removed from my body (you can read more about that here). Not only did I stay in the hospital for 10 days, but I was also on antibiotics and other medications when I did come home.

When I came home from the hospital I was using a walker to get from my bed to a recliner. I didn’t really think about putting on my wedding ring. I was just trying to figure out this new situation without a hip joint.

As time passed I thought I had made the right decision.

Until one day, a few months ago I pulled my rings back out and put them on again. Why? Well, I felt like taking the rings off in December 2017 hadn’t really been my decision. I just took them off because of the hospital visit. Additionally, I was feeling disconnected. Disconnected from my husband (yes, I know that sounds strange since he has been gone for more than 3 years, but grief can make you think strange things) and disconnected from the signs I felt he used to send me.

Putting the rings on I was hoping to feel close to him again. I think I wanted to go back to those times when I felt like I was getting signs from him that were encouraging and maybe the ring was a portal, the sign of an eternal union. The signs had been less and less and I really wanted to get that connection back. I missed them. I missed him. I missed us.

A few weeks ago I had one of those aha moments (I seem to have those a lot lately about weird things but that is another story).

I was placing heavy expectations on these wedding rings. It was as though I was asking J.R. to send me signs. Signs I was making the right decisions. Signs that he was still looking down on me and watching over me.

Then it dawned on me: I was seeking signs from J.R. instead of trusting God.

The rings were an outward sign that I belonged to J.R. But honestly, I belong to God. And what outward sign am I showing that I am his child?

I took off my wedding rings after my AHA moment -not because I am ready to date (not sure that I will ever be ready) and not because I’m going into the hospital (thank goodness) – I took them off because I realized I was putting my trust in the seen (the wedding rings) and not the unseen (God). Even in this time of isolation amidst the coronavirus, I have not reached for them to put them back on. Instead, I’m keeping my focus on God and trusting the unseen.

Everyone needs to discover their own “One Thing”

“Write your own story with Grace, Grit and Gratitude”. That was the title of a seminar I recently attended.

While the speaker had some great thoughts that she shared (be on the lookout for future posts about what I learned) I was hoping, again, that I was going to learn HOW to tell my story.

I’m constantly trying to figure out the best way to share my story that will be meaningful and helpful to those on the path behind me. I have been seeking a class that will unlock the secret to storytelling. Each time I sign up for these classes (or seminars) I have great expectations. But I usually walk away still looking for that one thing that will make my writing helpful and hopeful to those who take the time to read it.

As I reflected on what I heard the speaker say at the latest seminar, my mind kept replaying the scene in City Slickers where Curly (Jack Palance) explains to Mitch (Billy Crystal) about the “One Thing”. [If you have never seen City Slickers, it is an underrated movie, click here and watch the scene]

I love this scene. First, Curly talks about all of the others that come to experience the Ranch Life at about the same age (can you say “midlife crisis?”). They are all looking for the secret of life and untying their knots.

Curly asks Mitch if he knows what the secret of life is. Mitch, listening intently, believing he is about to learn a great secret says “No. What?” Curly then tells him “It’s one thing. Just one thing.” Mitch asks what the one thing is, and Curly tells him “that’s what you’ve got to figure out.”
The scene ends and Mitch is just as confused as he was when they set out. 

Like me seeking the answers from others to meaningfully share my story, Mitch is left wondering what is the one thing.

I’ve been trying to figure out the “one thing” that has helped me through these tough years and come out on the other side. To be called by friends and others as strong or resilient. And be able to share that one thing with others. I have struggled with trying to figure out how to offer hope to people and give them the answer I think they are looking for.

But after watching and rewatching that scene from City Slickers, I realized I was still thinking like Mitch. I was expecting someone else to tell me what the one thing is to effectively share my story. When in fact, if I really listen to what Curly says – “that’s what you’ve got to figure out” – only I can figure out how to tell my story.

My hope is this blog offers hope to others who have been dealt a tough hand. To show it is possible to pick yourself up and be resilient. But I now realize it is not to tell you what the “one thing” is.  Because my “one thing” may not be the same as your “one thing.”

For me, every day I got up and faced the day after a cancer diagnosis, not once but twice, with grace and gratitude was a way to teach my daughters what resilience looked like.  And every day I chose to get up and face the day after my husband died was an opportunity to teach them that surrounding yourself with people who love you and lift you up when life is hard is worth every bit of the time invested to build those relationships.

I can’t tell you what “one thing” will solve whatever problem you are facing. But I can tell you when you find yours it will make it easier to face obstacles with grace and gratitude.

Leave a comment and let me know what your “one thing” is. I’d love to know what keeps you pushing forward.

Own Your Story – the chapters already written AND the chapters waiting to be written

“Like the story you’ve been given because it’s not going to change” 

I was listening to an interview recently and the interviewee (Sally Clarkson) made this comment. (I’m not going to lie, I have never read anything by Sally Clarkson, but I subscribed to her podcast after listening to her in the interview. I loved her energy and her insight.)

At first, I was like “Yep! Own it!” 

Then I let it percolate some more. 

Did you ever read those books as a kid (or maybe played the computer games) where you had a choice about how the story would go? Every choice you made in the book or game, would determine where the story was going to take you. Every time it could be different based on the choices you make.

Those books/games mimic life. Every day I get the opportunity to make choices that help determine where my story is going. 
While what Sally said still resonates with me and I do (mostly) agree with it, I also believe my story is not fully written.

Sally is right. The past chapters of my life are not going to change. Even if I don’t like it, I have to own it. I was dealt a hand that if I had not gone all-in (in life and living), I would have folded and walked away from the table. But life is a precious gift, not something to walk away from.

The more I pondered this quote, it reminded me of a book by Adam Hamilton that I read several years ago. “Why? Making Sense of God’s Will.” There was a subsection in one of the chapters titled “Is the Story of Your Life Already Written, or Is It a Work in Progress?”

I was going through a tough time when someone gave me this book. After reading it, I wrote my own interpretation about God being “The Great Architect” – I would post a link but it was on another platform that I don’t use any longer so here is an excerpt:

My interpretation, after reading the book, is that God has a blueprint.  I’m not an architect (nor have I played one on TV as the old commercial goes), but I do know that a blueprint is a plan, a starting point.  Thinking in terms of building a home, it is easy for a new homeowner to think “oh, I would like to be able to put the refrigerator over there” after seeing the walls go up.  A thought like that can have several different impacts to the architect.  If you put the refrigerator there, we can’t put the sink here and the stove won’t fit there.  The cabinets that were ordered may not fit.  Or perhaps while looking through design magazines the excited homeowner sees a new design that they want to incorporate. While these changes may seem small to the owner, the architect is behind the scenes adjusting the blueprints so that the new homeowner’s vision becomes seamless. In this scenario, I am the homeowner and God is the architect.  Decisions by me, or even by those around me that may impact me, or perhaps even a force of nature like a tornado or fire, change the plans.  God takes the decisions/events in our lives and makes adjustments to the blueprints.  It is our choice to look at the new blueprints and decide if we like the new design.  God can take the challenges and the decisions that may not have been in the original plans and turn them into something beautiful. Every day the new blueprint is placed before us, we have to make the decision to accept the changes or throw them out.

(P.S. This was written many years ago and instead of editing I am reposting an actual excerpt from the original post)

So, yes, I do agree with Sally that we must embrace the story that is already written. But I believe I also have the chance to embrace the story that is still being written and make it even better than the one in my rearview mirror.

Are you embracing the story that has been written? How are you embracing the past to write the story that is yet to be written?

A daily reminder to Choose Joy as I start each day

My house has one of those weird art niches. It is in a strange place. Only I see it regularly.

There is a small alcove that leads to the master bedroom. The niche is directly across from my bedroom door. Unless someone intentionally steps into the alcove, no one knows it is even there.

I’ve never really known what I should put in the niche. I’ve tried several things, but nothing has ever truly resonated and I am always looking for the next right thing to inspire me.

Recently I made a big decision in my life. Making the decision released in me the chance to rediscover who I am.

I’m not going to lie. I am not a minimalist. I have a collection of penguins that rivals the Antarctic (well, maybe not, but you get the point). I like to see things that remind me of who I am and where I have been. Yes, Marie Kondo, these things do spark Joy in me.

When I was moving things around in my garage in an attempt to organize it (still a work in progress), I found a small display shelf that was my husband’s. I had been searching on Wayfair and other sites for shelves that would fit inside the niche and there was one just sitting in my garage.

Choose Joy Niche
A daily reminder to Choose Joy

I started gathering small things from around the house that as Marie Kondo says, “Sparks Joy”. A clock my grandfather made for me, a Choose Joy sign I made at a lettering class with some friends, a few penguins, a butterfly watercolor that I made at another class (can you tell I’ve been exploring my creative side?), a frog made from one of my husband’s shirts after he passed away, a ceramic horned frog a friend gave me when I was accepted at TCU, another TCU stuffed animal, and a collection of fly fishing ties I received when I went on a retreat with Casting for Recovery.

Each morning when I walk out of my bedroom I see these things. They remind me where I have come from, who I have loved, and that I am still a work in progress like the butterfly.

Finally, I am reminded each morning to Choose Joy.

How do you remind yourself to find Joy every day?

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