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Now Choose Life

Choose to Live Your Life in Abundance in the after--- after the spouse dies, after the marriage ends, after the kids leave. Join me on my journey of CHOOSING LIFE in my after. This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live- Deut 30:19

March 11, 2019

What I Said- My talk at a recent women's luncheon!!

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I had the absolute honor of speaking at a women's luncheon back in Texas a few weeks ago. At the time that I agreed to do it, I had been going through a period of stretching myself, and "step outside your comfort zone" was my motto. As the luncheon got closer, I became more and more anxious! Negative self-talk became my norm! Now that the talk is done, I'm so glad that I did it. It was so well received, and everyone was so nice. It was such a positive experience!!

I had no idea what to wear for this. I knew that I would be so nervous that I would want to be comfortable. I found this cute jumpsuit on Amazon!!!

I've had several people ask for a video (which there isn't one). Others have asked for a copy. So I've copied my thoughts below. In all the trainings that I've done over my career, I've never had anything completely written out. This being so personal, I wanted it written out because there were just some things that I wanted to say a certain way. This is pretty much what was said on that Saturday.

Thanks so much to my wonderful friends and family who encouraged me! I'm so glad to have had this experience!!

I had so much support!!

Thank you- I want to start by saying that I am not an expert!!  I now live in a community full of Ph.D. scientists. Where I live places a lot of emphasis on being an expert! What I have learned and want to share does not come from formal education. It comes from the school of hard knocks. But as I’ve prepared for this talk, I realize that I don’t even have a Ph.D. from the school of hard knocks. I’ve lived a very good life. I simply stand before you this morning a woman who suffered a tragedy. It is now my goal in life to help others as so many have helped me.

I worked under the wonderful Ann S when I started as a librarian at the Jr Hi here. She used to always tell us when we went to a meeting or a conference-- “If you get ONE thing out of it, it is worth your time.”

 My prayer is that each of you gets at least one Take Away from what I have to say today.

April 29, 2012, my world changed forever when my husband of 26 years passed away. Very Suddenly- Very Unexpected. I found myself a widow at the age of 48.

I’m not going to tell that story today, I want to talk about the aftermath of that tragedy.

Not long after R passed away, Tina T came by my house with a book from the GriefShare in one arm and a hug for me with the other and told me about an organization called GriefShare which is a Christian Grief Support Group. I immediately started getting the emails.

One day in the summer, the scripture Deut 30:19 was the focus of an email.

Deut 30:19 says

19 This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

That scripture changed my life and changed my outlook. I had been trying to show my children how to grieve as Someone Who Has Faith. My kids and I had discussed it—We wanted to grieve as a family of faith. But, this verse made me realize that I had to do more-- I had to be an example of how to choose life even in the midst of losing their dad!! I wanted them to go on to live full lives. I needed to do that as well.

Many Bible commentaries will say that this scripture is referring to choosing God. I believe that. I also believe that Jesus saying “ I came that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” in John 10:10 also goes along with this verse. God wants us to live our life, not just exist in it.

Duet 30:19 is an imperative- a command for us to choose to live our lives in obedience and living it to the fullest. We have a choice daily of how we live. Our life should be more about quality-how we live than it is quantity-how many years we live!!

So how do we choose life when tragedy strikes? It may look different for every single person, but I will share with you what helped me choose life and move forward. I clumsily muddled through and luckily had family and friends who extended grace to me at every turn.
My mother and sister with me at my table. I love getting to use my Fireking dishes!!
The absolute 1st thing you have to do to choose life is:
  1.  Accept Your Life
You have to come to terms with your reality---Take just a minute and really be honest with yourself- what is your reality this morning?
            I would love to think that looking out at all these beautiful faces, it’s all
          good, but I know too many people who are dealing with really hard
          Realities this morning.

            Children not doing well in school-- kids with addictions-- Moms- there is nothing worse than a hurting child. Death of people we love, marriages that have REAL problems, Cancer, MS, Parkinson's, and Dementia diagnosis--

Y’all- everything I just mentioned has happened to someone close to me in the past year. Tragedy is part of our lives.

I met a young woman in a GriefShare group that I led whose mother had died 10 years before. She had never accepted her mother’s death. She had let her grief become her identity- it was just who she was. She had allowed her grief to paralyze her in life. She is a great example that:
Before you can take a step forward, you have to accept your life- whatever cards you have been dealt. You have to accept it in order to deal with it. Not dealing with it only prolongs and sometimes adds to the heartache.

It meant so much to have some of my daughter's friends there!!

The 2nd thing you can do is
2.  Take Care of Yourself-- Spiritually, Physically, and Emotionally

Take care of yourself
            --Spiritually-- If you are in a good place in your life, start now for those troubled times by reading your bible and strengthening your faith. Make sure you know God’s word. Make sure you have a firm foundation for your life so the tidal wave doesn’t completely wash you away. This takes self-discipline-I don’t really like the word Self Discipline!--------- stick with going to church, stick with reading your bible. Even when you don’t feel like it. It will make all the difference later on if you do.

I did try to take care of myself spiritually by attending GriefShare. It helped me so much!! I am a big believer in Christian counseling! I also knew that I had to turn into my faith- the faith that I said I believed since I was a little girl. Would I turn from it just because things hadn’t gone the way I wanted? No. I made a choice to continue walking in faith.

Take care of yourself
                Physically- Exercise- make sure you move- getting outside in nature is good for the Soul. There is just something about fresh air and getting your heart rate up.

I want to throw this out there!
 5 am gym classes are the best!!!! On nights when I couldn’t sleep, I knew it wouldn’t be long and I could get up to go to class

 I had support in so many areas, but my running friends were the best.     
 Beth, Ami, Angi, Donna, Laura W and our sweet, Laura C-- all ran with me at times. Beth and Laura C even trained for a marathon with me!!
Having that marathon in my future kept me outside running and getting exercise that my body so desperately needed to help me deal with the stress I was under.

 I watched what I ate. I ate healthy meals. I was worried that my body would succumb to the stress. Eating good foods that nourished my body was something that I could control in a life that I felt was out of control.

 AND I took the horse pill vitamins that my sister spent way too much
 money on just for me!! She was so worried about me!

               Emotionally- go to therapy if you need to, talk to friends, go to church- feed your soul. Emotions are all over the place after a tragedy! Do things to help keep them in check. My mother and my friend Pam S were a huge help in listening to me. They helped me realize if my thoughts or worries were irrational. Irrational thoughts can be very scary!! Don’t let them get a stronghold on your life.
I’m a huge believer in writing down thoughts!! Write and then write some more. I call it verbally vomiting on the page. It’s a release like no other. Write down your thoughts and get them out of your head!!  
Writing---- so cathartic- I started with a journal and then a secret blog. I had to find a purpose for the pain I was in. I’ll be honest. I will never know that purpose in R dying. What I had to find was a purpose for the pain I was experiencing. I didn’t want it to all be in vain. That is why I write my blog, that is why I lead grief support groups, that is why I lead a women’s group at my church--all of which require thought and writing. All those things feed me emotionally and spiritually-- they give my life purpose. They give my pain purpose.

One of the greatest themes!! Donut Worry/ Be Happy!

And thirdly--
3.  Maintain Hope--

Max Lucado calls despair and hopelessness our enemy. Think about that for a minute- it’s an enemy that wants to destroy your life. Don’t let it!!

It takes work to maintain hope. The saying- Time Heals All Wounds isn’t true- Time and a lot of hard work Heal wounds.

Pat C told me one time--  One thing a cancer patient can do is- Go shopping and buy clothes for next season. It gives you hope that you will be healthy to wear them in the next season. And, a little shopping always helps!

I love the scripture in Job 42:12--- “God blessed the 2nd half of Job’s life greater than he had the 1st.”  Yes, it really says that in the bible. I took that as a promise to me from God. I prayed that God would do that in my own life. I knew he could bless the 2nd half of my life greater than the 1st.
Good things CAN and DO come after tragedy!!

My great childhood friend Ronald called to check on me a lot that first year.
One night he told me-- Always have something down the line to look forward to. It gives hope.

That’s such good advice!! It might have been a trip to see my parents, a race I was running with Beth and Laura, my kids coming home from college, meeting Laura and Lori after school on Thursdays to talk, or my sister coming to spend a Wednesday night with me so I wouldn’t have to go all week at home by myself. I always tried to have something on the horizon to look forward to. It just helps to think of the good things that you know are coming.

I had two other very close friends there, and we didn't get pictures together!! Lori and Suzanne- thank you!!!

AND- OK I’m baring my soul a bit here!! I had what I call a plan C.

Obviously, in tragedy, our plan A hasn’t worked out. Plan B might be a safe, easy way of moving forward. And there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, I’m pretty much living my Plan B.

But I believe in having a Plan C after a tragedy.

This came to me in of all places- Paris!! My kids and I were in Paris the summer after R passed away. Just picture it- we were eating lunch at a sidewalk cafe. Beautiful!! I was taking in the architecture of the city and basking in the sun --And then- fighting. My grown kids were bickering about something. All of a sudden, Paris wasn’t so beautiful! I thought to myself,--How am I going to do this- I don’t know if I can do this!! My kids can’t even get along. I looked up to see a beautiful Parisian woman riding down the street on a bicycle. Who was she? Where was she going? I sat there thinking about her, and I thought-- that can be me someday. I can get my kids through college, I can retire from school; I can move to Paris to teach English--- that can be my life.

 Plan C is your wildest dream.  Have you ever thought about your plan C??? Having a plan C really helped me get through those terrible days. I always knew that if I wanted, I could completely change my life. We all have the ability to change our lives in some way. Having options is huge. Could I have really afforded to move to Paris? Would I have had the nerve to move to Paris-- probably not; But I had the dream that I could, and it gave me so much hope.

I didn’t know what was going to happen for my future. I’m remarried now, and very happy, but that didn’t always feel like it was going to happen. Trent and I had to work through some stuff.

What if my life with him didn’t work out? What was I going to do? Again, I had a Plan C. I was going to go back to school and take writing classes- do something just for me.

And, when I retired from school, I was going to rent out the house here to an oil company (making bookoos of money remember- this is my wildest dream) and use that money to rent an apartment in NYC where my daughter, M was living at the time.

See--- plan C doesn’t have to always seem completely rational!!! You certainly don’t have to have all the details worked out. But I do believe that if your Plan C measures up with God’s plan for your life, he will work out the details anyway!!

I still have dreams of one day living in New York City- I love it there, but it will probably never happen. But Trent and I dream of one day moving back here and having a couple of longhorns and a donkey grazing in the pasture in front of the house!! Don’t ever stop dreaming!!

Jeremiah 29:11 says- For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future.

God wants good things for all of us.

We need to be so in tune with God through prayer and bible study that we can sense the directions God has for us. I don’t think God cares where I live as long as I serve him when I get there.

I saw a quote on a Grief Support Group that I follow on Facebook- it says: “ Trauma creates change you don’t choose. Healing is about creating change you do choose.” Michelle Rosenthal

Making choices is part of the healing process—May we all make sure we are making Godly choices!!

I don’t know what you are facing today. I don’t know what the future holds for any of us. What I do know is that our futures will be full of Good times and Bad.

How we handle the bad that comes our way makes all the difference in our lives.

I encourage you to live your life and live it to the fullest. It’s the only one you’ve got!

I truly believe that accepting our lives, taking care of whole beings and maintaining hope even in the midst of tragedy can help us choose the full and abundant life that God desires for all of us.

It has been an honor to share my thoughts with you today!!

I'd love to know your thoughts on my thoughts!! How do you "Choose Life"???
4 comments on "What I Said- My talk at a recent women's luncheon!!"
  1. Sharon, thank you SO much for sharing this! You have no idea how much it means to ME to be able to hear your voice as I read this, being that I couldn’t be there on the day of your talk. You speak from your heart in such a touching, believable voice. Your words can be carried by us all! Love you!

  2. Sharon, this is really straight forward, down to earth help on getting through grief. I absolutely love the idea of having a plan C. I have to admit, I don't even have a plan B, but after reading this I want to sit down and do a little planning. I think these points are helpful for all kinds of grief, not just the grief of losing a loved one. But especially for losing someone like a spouse. I can only imagine how lost that can make someone feel. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. Thank you!! It was a gift to get to tell some of my story and how I managed to rebuild my life!! Thanks for reading.