Monday, September 16, 2013

Hope Anchors the Soul

Have you ever felt your life spinning out of control? Whether it's consequences from decisions we've made, or life happening around us, many people are dealing with great personal pain. In recent months, I thought my life was settling down after recovering from pneumonia, starting a new job and moving to a new state. Then my mom passed away.

It was Friday, August 2, 2013. That morning, I'd spoken to my sister and told her not to tell mom I was coming home to Wisconsin for the weekend because I wanted to surprise mom. A few hours later that same sister called with the news that would change everything. "Karen you need to get here now. Mom just died." My mother had been struggling with the effects of Alzheimer's disease for over two years, yet one can never truly prepare for the moment. It's the moment of hearing the words "Mom died." Then in a dreamlike state you get on planes, make funeral arrangements, greet family and friends. You walk past people doing normal things, living life with loved ones and all you want to do is cry out in grief. I cannot even begin to unfold the complexities of grief, but I know that losing my mom has changed me. No matter how close or distant you are, nor how young or old your mom--a mother's bond is the strongest of all family connections. Losing my mom has indeed been a defining moment. I'm sure I'll write more about that sometime soon.

After returning to work and my new normal, I was sure that I was done with the drama that has etched this year in my mind. Nope not yet. This past week, I was in a traffic accident. I am thankful I walked away from the wreck just a little shaken and sore. My car, well that's another story. Dealing with the insurance company, not having a car to get to work and just the burden of another problem, have tested my resolve. With my husband working in another city and being new to the area, I felt so alone as I was once again left to deal with my physical and emotional circumstances of this minor traffic accident. Many people tell me they admire how strong I am. Some days I don't feel so strong. Most days I just need a hug.

I am not sharing these things to gain pity. I know there are others who have experienced far worse things than me. I share these things to remind myself and others that every where you turn there could be someone experiencing pain that you don't always see on the outside. My faith has taught me to everything there is a reason and a season--even when your heart is breaking, your body is exhausted and you don't understand any of it. 2013 has been my season in the wilderness.

For me, the only healing I can find comes from having hope. I recently came across some words of wisdom from Rick Warren, Pastor of Saddleback Church and author of The Purpose Driven Life. His tips for winning with the cards we have been dealt, resonate with me. Warren says, we all have been dealt five cards. Most of them we cannot change but one of them we can control.

1) Chemistry
The first card represents the body people are given and the chemistry that makes up their physical characteristics. We have no control over how we were created physically. While I agree that we have no control how we were physically created, I do believe that we must always take care of the one body God has given us. Even when I am overwhelmed, I try to exercise and eat nutritious foods.

2) Connections
We were made to be in relationship with others. We are wired to be connected. We all need support systems in our lives. This has been a tough one for me as I have moved to various cities throughout my career. Even when I've lived in a new place, I have often felt like a fish out of water. I have one, maybe two friends from long ago who live in different cities. I do not have the depth of connected, local friends who can support me in times of need and simply grab my hand to walk through life with me. I won't give up. I know that finding true friends is a process that requires an investment of time and shared life experiences.

3) Circumstances
We have no control over who our parents are or where we were born. Many times, we give this card way too much power. We all know we can't control circumstances. After losing my mom and being in a car accident, I have learned this in a real way. Even when you try to do things "right," negative circumstances can occur in our lives. The difference is how you choose to accept, deny or deal with the circumstances.

4) Consciousness
When it comes to this card it is all about the way you think. The way you think affects the way you act. If you want to change the way you act, start with your thoughts. If I'm acting depressed, it's because I feel depressed. You can't change a feeling – but you can change a thought. This one rings true. When I focus on all of my problems, I notice how others cannot see or experience the joy, love and openness in my heart. My entire demeanor changes. Whatever gets your attention, gets you.

5) Choices
This is the only card that you CAN control. It is the card that can either make or break the entire hand you've been dealt. It is truly the wild card. We have the power to change the direction of our lives by our choices. Perhaps God gave us the gift of choice because it can redirect all of the other cards. So today, I choose hope.

Even though I am weary and bending in the storms of life--I choose hope. When I focus on hope I am empowered to reshuffle all the other cards I have been dealt. I can only deal with life one day at at time. And I know I'll get through to the other side of all of this. One hope at a time. Helping someone in need. Encouraging someone in pain. I choose hope.What will you choose as your "wild card" to play the hand you've been dealt?  Leave your hopeful comments below...