[guestpost]TWO SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENTS! First, tomorrow Thursday, September 10 and Friday, September 11 I’ll be featured on the Focus on the Family daily radio broadcast with Jim Daly and Jon Fuller. Find a station and listen in! Second, this weekend I’ll be sharing my story at Mountainview Christian Church in Highlands Ranch, CO, Saturday, September 12 at 5:30 pm and Sunday, September 13 at 9:00 and 10:45 am. Would you please pray with me? So many hurting people out there; I want to love well and multiply hope. Thank you for your ongoing presence and encouragement. Makes the world of difference. —Michele [/guestpost]

Twenty women of various ages and backgrounds gathered on a Tuesday night in an ordinary family room for book club. But the night was anything but ordinary.

It was my first public speaking engagment in nearly a year.

In spite of the temptation, I knew I couldn’t hide behind my front door forever, choosing to connect only via computer and cell phone. It was time to step out, to re-enter the world and learn how to live. Even so, the stepping out required a greater courage than I anticipated.

We’re a culture that loves an “extreme makeover,” whether of the home or body kind. Before and after photos thrill us, connecting with our need to see circumstances and selves improve, get better.

My extreme makeover was counter-cultural, you could say. The kind where you start out in pretty good shape and then, after months of demolition, come out broken. Who wants to watch that kind of trainwreck? Not exactly inspirational.

As I climbed into my car and drove the few miles to the event, I felt a wave of awareness of how much I’d changed. I moved in a different body, one scarred from head to mid-thigh. My voice sounded foreign, in both tone an articulation. From the inside out, cell by cell, I’d been shredded. As my oncologist reminded multiple times, they’d taken me to “the brink,” pushed my body as hard as they could. Then, when it was clear I couldn’t withstand any more, they brought me back to life.

Sort of.

There aren’t big enough words to describe the physical wrecking. Even after all these months, I’m still coming to terms with it. But the biggest changes, I knew, weren’t the physical ones.

As a room of beautiful, authentic women circled around, sharing their hard stories and then allowing me to share mine, I knew with absolute clarity that the Michele I used to be didn’t survive. In her place, in that living room, sat a new woman. A remade woman. And while the pain of losing my old physical self still felt like a ripping, a thread of excitement started to weave through this reborn soul. Death—and this new life— had taught me incomparable lessons which, I knew, would change everything—for the good.

Lesson #1: Very little is worth losing sleep over. You know that neighbor who keeps parking in your spot? And the coworker who talks too loud? And the church who won’t play your style of music? Frustrating, no doubt about it. But I have three words that could make a significant difference in your quality of life: Let. It. Go. (go ahead and read that goodness again). Imperfection is everywhere, especially in the people around you. Including you. So let it go. It’s not worth it. I don’t know anyone who approached the end of her life wishing she’d made a bigger deal about her neighbor’s dumb car.

Lesson #2: Relationships matter far more than productivity or platform. I’m a businesswoman. I love being an entrepreneur, and I love being married to an entrepreneur. I thoroughly enjoy what I do, and plan to do it for as long as I’m able. Even so. My perspective on my earthly investments has sobered, significantly. The sun doesn’t rise and set on the success of a project, or on me. But I would spend my last hours of sunlight and my final breaths on the people I love.

Lesson #3: Suffering is a ruthless—yet powerful—teacher. This lesson is as painful to type as I’m sure it is for you to read. No one wants to experience suffering. No one wants to feel pain. And yet suffering and pain are necessary to preserve life. We understand this from a physical standpoint. If my finger nears a flame, I pull back because of the sting. Pain saves my finger. Moreover, the wisdom gained from the encounter influences how I live, for the better. But when it comes to the heart, soul and mind, we’d rather avoid the struggle than learn from it. Here’s the catch: Whether or not you experience suffering isn’t really up to you. It’s an automatic condition of this thing called life. Better to embrace it and learn from it than waste it.

Lesson #4: The only way to embrace life is to equally embrace death. We may turn our heads or squeeze shut our eyes, but death will not be denied. It’s reality, for every living, breathing human. Like it or not, I had to come to terms with this far sooner than I imagined. But rather than crushing me, it freed me. My main aim is no longer to extend my life, whatever the cost. Instead, my aim is to LIVE IT. To use the gift I’ve been given, for as long as I can. I will not let fear dictate my days. Will you?

Lesson #5: The issue of faith is worth investigation. I won’t spend much time on this one, as I discussed it last week. But I will say this: If death is a reality and an 80-year life span is not a guarantee, the faith question and resulting conversation can’t be postponed. You don’t have to share my beliefs or claim any belief at all. The choice is yours, and I like you regardless. But if you haven’t invested significant time investigating the subject, you’re only cheating yourself.

If you’ve faced a life-and-death scenario, how did it change you? What lessons did you learn? I’d love to learn from you. Leave your comment below. 

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