Offering hope to those on the path behind me

Tag: #mystory

What is holding you back from your calling?

I have mentioned to a few close friends that I have felt the calling to be a speaker and a writer. I mean, come on, as Elton John sings “I’m still standing after all this time, Picking up the pieces of my life…” But I’ve never really felt the time was right. Maybe it was fear, maybe it was not having the qualifications. Maybe it was something else altogether.

A couple of weeks ago I signed up for a book discussion group. We are reading It’s Not Supposed to be This Way by Lysa Terkeurst. The book has been on my GoodReads Want to Read list for a long time. In fact, it had been on there so long that I didn’t even remember that I had the Audible version so when I signed up for the group, I got the hardback book and the study guide.

I have heard of Lysa through some of the podcasts that I listen to and even some friends had mentioned her name and the book (which is why it was on my Want to Read list). But I did not know anything about her story. What I did know was the title of the book resonated with me.

She is right, I thought. It’s Not Supposed to be This Way.

Certainly, if someone asked me 25, 20, 15, 10, or even 5 years ago what I imagined my life would look like in 2020, never in a million years, would I have described what my life looks like right now. To be honest, I have had to make adjustments in a lot of areas in my life. But looking back over it, as Garth Brooks sings so well, ” Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss the dance.”

Coffee on the deck at the beach
A fabulous way to start any beach vacation. Coffee, blue skies, and a view for days.

I will admit I still need to go back and read some chapters I skipped (I had an unexpected opportunity to sit on a beach for a week and relax and missed 2 of the book club meetings, but you would have made that choice too most likely).

This week, instead of playing catch up, I jumped right into the chapters we were going to discuss. I had errands and an appointment on Friday so I listened to chapter 7 via the Audible version I had purchased a long time ago. I really had no idea what would be in those chapters.

As I backed out of my driveway I heard Lysa say “Every syllable of the last chapter is true.” Hmm, ok, I will have to go back to that and read it I thought.

I continued listening while driving down the toll road on the way to my appointment at Texas Oncology. Treatment for Metastatic Breast Cancer doesn’t stop for a pandemic, so I was headed for my monthly blood work, treatment, and appointment with the nurse practitioner.

“The ink hadn’t even dried from the last chapter when the need for another mammogram turned to the need for a biopsy. Everyone, including my doctor, assured me there was little reason for concern.”

Lysa Terkeurst

Seriously? Was I listening to my story or hers? I wasn’t sure at the moment. It sounded so familiar. I won’t spoil chapter 7 for you any further, but let me say I could have written a chapter very much like the one I was listening to if I had written my story in 2003.

As most of the people I know living with cancer can attest, cancer muggles (a term I have adopted after reading it on Twitter to refer to someone who has not had cancer) will say things like “Everything happens for a reason” or “God doesn’t give us more than we can handle” when they are trying to comfort a newly diagnosed friend. Honestly, I think they say that because it makes them feel better, speaking from my own experience it does NOT help the person staring down the road of chemo and radiation.

I don’t subscribe to the “everything happens for a reason” philosophy. I do, however, believe that we can turn our pains and scars into something that is helpful to others (which can then be mistakenly identified by those on the outside as a justification for the “everything happens for a reason” comments).

I often find myself wondering “Now What? Am I supposed to take these lessons and share them with others? And if so, how?” Or in more simplistic terms…What is my new calling?

Monday night the group watched the video and delved into the study guide that accompanies Lysa’s book for Chapters 7 and 8 (or Session 4 in the study guide). For the first time, I was beginning to understand why I have not pushed forward on this calling that has been lurking in the back of my mind.

In Chapter 8 (Letting Go of What’s Holding Me Back), the author walked through a passage from Psalm 51. Written by David, his words go through a progression of Confession, Cleansing, Creating and Calling.

As I sat and listened to Lysa’s discussion the proverbial light bulb started to light up. Although I had been going through these steps in my own way over the past year, it finally made sense why I

  • recently reached out to someone to say if she “needed a motivational speaker to talk about resilience, let me know” (and why I might have taken several deep breaths when she said “I might just take you up on that.”
  • reached out to another person to ask for help in “pulling together a talk about resilience from a true getting up and speaking perspective.”
  • finally “allowed” myself to sign up for a Writing Workshop that has been on my list (yes, I like lists – my Enneagram 1 wing showing) for several months.

The calling has been in the back of my mind for a long time, but I needed to process and walk through these other steps first.

The confession – Although she was talking about sin, I don’t believe that sin caused my cancer, or my husband’s cancer. But sin also means a separation from God, which means that I had been angry with the pains I had been through and had kept God at arm’s length for a long time. I hadn’t abandoned God, and I didn’t thing God had abandoned me, but there was a distance in our relationship. Several books, therapy sessions, and lunches/happy hours with friends has helped me to understand that God is still in my corner and is waiting for me to reclaim the relationship.

The cleansing – For me, this has mostly been tied up in grief. Allowing myself to fully experience the stages – and being ok with them not being in any kind of order (that 1 wing again) – recognizing them when they happen and allowing the feelings to process. Unfortunately, there is not a timeline for processing grief. And when you continue to see friends die from a disease that you have been living with for 10 years, the process can begin all over again.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me
Grant me a willing spirit

The creating – In grief terms, this has been reaching a level of acceptance. It has taken me a long time to accept what my new life looks like. I have asked God to help me accept and love who and where I am. A new creation based on the ashes of the past. And I’m grateful He has had the patience to show me how to love the person I have become.

The calling – I am placing this in God’s hands. Now that I am ready to listen and heed the calling, I feel certain, God will put the people in my path that will lead and guide me to wherever this calling is taking me.

What is holding you back from pursuing what God is calling you to do?

Maybe It’s Not Supposed to be This Way. Maybe, just maybe, if we embrace it, life can be better once we get to the other side.

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?”

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.

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?

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