Advice to my Younger and Older Self

17-year-old younger me

You know the question: What advice would you give to your younger self?

Well, I always want to say “Have more confidence in yourself. Don’t be afraid. And don’t say yes to the first guy who asks you to marry him!” (😉)

Recently, I think I’d also want to say “Don’t waste time.” Frankly, I’m saying that to my current self, not just my younger self.

As we get older, it’s easy to look back and see where we wasted time and notice the missed opportunities. I don’t like living a life of regret. Truthfully, there’s very little I regret, because everything in my past has led me to where I am today, and where I am is a pretty good place to be.

However, there are moments when I feel like I’ve let opportunities pass me by. I got lazy and didn’t work hard for what I really wanted. Other times, when I was ready to embrace an opportunity, other life events got in the way.

Then frustration builds. I’ll say to myself “I want to quit this writing gig, because I’m never going to finish my novels or get published.” Or “I really blew it this week with overeating and too little exercise, so what’s the point?”

Do you see how easy it is to let frustration, doubt, and disappointment begin to color your future choices?

Nothing changes if nothing changes. I can’t change decisions and missed opportunities from the past. But I can start again from today, right now. I can get off my butt and exercise. I can keep writing. And I can pray that God will give me another chance. If he’s closing the door permanently, then I pray he shows me the new path he wants me on.

Some days we really have to battle and pray through all of the negative thoughts. Why are they so much stronger than the positive ones. Ten people can love a story I’ve written, but the one negative comment will leap over all the positive ones.

It’s time we quit being so fragile. Yeah, easier said than done. But when we know what we’re supposed to do, then it’s time to do it. If we mess up for a day, then get right back on the path the next day.

It’s simple, yet so very hard. I admire the folks who seem to have such confidence that nothing throws them off their game. However, I bet they even have bad days. They just know how to get right back on the horse.

In days of doubt and discouragement, I’m learning to make a concerted effort to fight off those negative thoughts and keep pushing ahead. It can be a daily battle.

But I believe it’s one worth fighting.

The Cancer Journeys: Blindsided by Emotions

I’m currently planning a series of blog posts about cancer, called “The Cancer Journeys.” This will be a series of posts about my journeys with cancer that are designed to give someone else hope and courage, no matter what you’re going through.

As I was gathering old journal entries and making notes of my thoughts, my emotions started going all over the place. I stopped, and told my husband, “My brain is full.” I got really sad, and, if you ask my husband, maybe even a bit prickly. 😉

It’s taken me a few days to sort through my emotions, and I’ve come to a startling conclusion: I’m angry! This surprises me, because I’m not very temperamental, and not the anger type.

However, right before Christmas, I had surgery, and from that surgery, the pathology showed I had endometrial cancer. This is my third time with cancer, and all three are different types. With this most recent one, before the hysterectomy, we weren’t even 100% sure that it was cancer. With my other two cancers, we already had the confirmed diagnosis and had an idea of what we were dealing with. This time, we didn’t.

It’s really strange to find out you had cancer after the fact. We caught it early, and no other treatment is required. It was almost over before it began. My first symptom showed up November 1st, and by December 21st, I was in surgery. It happened quick, and before I could blink, I was recovering from surgery.

Now, here I am, just over two months later, I’m recovered, feeling great, and back to my regular activities and life. But emotionally, maybe not so much.

As many of you may know, my husband and I were high school sweethearts, who ended up at different colleges, and eventually to different lives. We reunited and married 21 years after high school. Yes, we’re one of those couples. During those 21 years apart, my husband married and had children, then tragically lost his wife in a car accident.

Over the years, we’ve talked a lot about grief, especially how grief can blindside you. You can be going along, doing okay, then hear a song on the radio or smell her favorite perfume, and bam! Suddenly, you’re a puddle of tears.

I think there’s grief with cancer as well. Please know, I’m not equating the loss of a loved one with the loss of a body part or two. But there is a level of grief and emotion when you’re battling for your health.

Even if the immediate diagnosis, surgery, crisis have all passed, you can still be blindsided. Any traumatic event is going to leave a scab. And sometimes scabs get ripped open again and bleeds.

You know what? It’s okay to be emotional. I’m good at stuffing my emotions and putting on a brave front. But once in a while, you just have to roll with the punches. And this week, I’m acknowledging my anger at a third cancer diagnosis, despite the fact that all is well right now.

I won’t carry this anger around forever – that takes too much energy! But I need to acknowledge it, face it, then put it behind me as best I can.

God has gifted me with a glorious life. It’s time to get on with it!

How about you? Have you ever had emotions sneak up on you from a past event? How did you deal with it? I’d love to hear from you.

Being Bold in a Time of Fear

There have been many blog posts, memes, and more going around recently about fear, having faith over fear, trusting God, etc. I’ve written about this previously on my blog as well.

We’re living in fearful times, no doubt. We’ll need to have strength, courage, and a lot of patience to get through this time.

Don’t you feel like you’re in some kind of limbo just waiting to get through to the other side?

For me, I’m pretty good at trying to project ahead. For example, I’m one of those people who is nervous about seeing the dentist, even though I like my dentist  and go every six months, like a good little girl. On the day of the dentist appointment, I’m projecting ahead. I tell myself “Okay, by 4pm, I’ll be home and all finished with this visit.” I know if I get through a certain amount of time, then the appointment will be behind me. I’ll be past the tough stuff.

But right now, in this crazy year of 2020, we’re not sure when the tough stuff will end. Many of us thought that surely by the start of summer, this would be behind us. Unfortunately, we’re halfway through the summer and we’re still in the thick of a pandemic.

So, do we look to the holidays? To the end of the year? Will 2021 be better?

It’s so difficult when we’re knee-deep in muck and darkness. The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t really visible yet. How do we push through?

The words from Psalm 138:3 (NIV) struck me. “When I called you, you answered me; you made me bold and stouthearted.”

Other Bible versions talk about increasing our strength, but I really like the words “bold” and “stouthearted.”

God will definitely increase our strength. He can make us bold. But the word “stouthearted” fills me with such hope and confidence.

It makes me believe I can do this for the long haul. The definition for stouthearted says, “brave and resolute; dauntless.”

Whatever trial you’re facing, whatever darkness or hardship, pray with confidence. Pray and KNOW that God will heal you, and he will increase your strength, and make you bold and stouthearted.

You can do this. We can all get through this time with a little faith, a lot of prayer and the unwavering belief that God is still here, and that through Him, we are bold and stouthearted.

What about you? How have prayers or Scripture increased your faith and confidence?

We Need a Time-Out!

2020 has been an unexpected year. No one could’ve predicted a worldwide pandemic, or riots, or the general unease and discontent of today’s world. It’s a frightening time overall, isn’t it?

Maybe we all need a time-out!

We’ve all had times that have been scary and times when we are overwhelmed with fear or anxiety. So, how do you find a way through a tough time, besides just gutting it out?

Recently a verse in Psalms from chapter 131, verse 2, struck me. It says, “I have calmed and quieted myself” (NLT). Or if you prefer NIV, “I have stilled and quieted my soul.”

On their own, those may not seem like life-altering, earth-shattering words that pierce to the depths of your heart. But they leap out at me as wise advice. Here’s why:

When I was 19 years old, back in my wicked youth, I had a boyfriend with a motorcycle. While returning from a wonderful picnic in the mountains with friends to celebrate my 20th birthday a few days early, we got into an accident. A pick-up truck turned right in front of us and we had no where to go except into the side of that truck. My right side hit the truck, bounced off, and my left side hit the pavement.

Ouch!

While I was waiting to be taken to x-ray, then surgery, for an obvious broken leg and a banged up shoulder, another patient was brought into the emergency room. I don’t remember what was wrong with her, but I do remember that she was hysterical! Not funny hysterical. She was terrified. She wouldn’t stop screaming. Her fear had completely overwhelmed her and the panic took over. I distinctly remember the doctors trying to calm her and saying they couldn’t help her unless she settled down. I even remember wanting to shout at her to be quiet so she could get help! Her hysteria was delaying treatment and relief.

When we panic, I think we cease to make smart decisions. I know it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. You can either be frozen in fear and not able to move at all, or you can scream hysterically, and prevent any action to propel you forward. Either way, you’re stuck in the same place.

When I think about Psalm 131:2 – “I have calmed and quieted myself”, I think that means we take a breath. We breathe in God’s spirit and strength. As Psalm 46:10 (CSB) says “ Stop fighting and know that I am God.”  You’ll recognize that verse as “Be still and know that I am God.”

We need to stop fighting the fear. We can acknowledge it, but we have to take a step forward into the next phase or we’re stuck. Fear does a good job of stopping us in our tracks. It can blind us with panic, so we can’t see what steps we need to take next.

I find that being still, calming myself, taking a time-out to breathe in God’s presence, can propel me to get through the tough stuff, or at least take that first baby step through the fear to get to the other side.

I’m listening to the message of these verses:  To be calm and quiet, to be still and stop fighting. And to KNOW that He is God and has all of this under control.

So, what’s stopping you these days? Do you need a time-out to talk with God?