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It's that time of year!Posted Friday, January 6, 2012, at 11:24 AM
Maybe I've been watching too many Goodwill commercials on television. I'm standing in my clothes closet deciding which clothes I'm ready to box up and send on their way. Then I stop in my tracks.
Before me are the 16 shirts and four pairs of pants I purchased during the winter months last year. I had great fun catching all the sales and bothering all the salespersons while I was shopping weekend after weekend.
I was going to raise my standard of attire! I was going to look like a top notch professional! Then I received my diagnosis in March of skin cancer. Within six months I had two surgeries and all of the precautions that are now an everyday part of my life.
Much like the restrictions a newly diagnosed diabetic makes right after hearing how bad it could get if you don't follow doctor's orders, I have made several adjustments I never thought I would need to make.
I can now tell you the difference between sunscreen lotions and sun block chemicals. There's been one day since early March where people saw the skin on my face, ears, neck, hands and arms. And finally I've found products that don't make me look like a Zombie!
Thanks to two helpful families in my church I found clothing that reflects UV rays. For those first months the only pants I could wear made me look like I was going fishing; they offered great protection but looked awful. A variety of stores are now carrying good clothing that allows me to blend into a crowd.
Recently friends over a meal asked us all to list our lows and highs from the last 12 months. Mine were obvious. I've had two lows in 2011: my cancer diagnosis and my brief case with my checkbooks being stolen on March 28.
At the same time I can quickly list five major highs. In Jan. I got to hold my nephew's daughter on the day she was born. The good people of our downtown PNC bank have been wonderful in helping me through the landmines from my stolen check books: Mark Nogelmeier and Crystal Boswell are saints in my book! I attended my first Relay for Life, walked the track for my "birthday", and cried like a baby upon receiving my Superman ring on the birthday cupcake, a ring that still travels with me in my vehicle. Two friends threw a birthday party for me in June, the fourth birthday party I've ever had, and people came from hundreds of miles to be there! In October I received applause after preaching a Sunday morning service, affirmation that still touches my soul. Indeed, my listing of good things about the last year could go on and on.
I've come to realize a major Truth that has eluded me until now, or maybe it's one that I've needed to learn all over again.
I'll be fine as long as I continue to see all the positives even in the face of the negatives. I'll be fine as long as I give more energy to the many positives than the depressing negatives. I'll be fine as long as my highs are greater than my lows.
So I now stand in my "clothes closet" deciding what pieces of my past can be discarded as I prepare and make room for a new year.
We don't know what tomorrow will bring, let alone the next year. But this we do know. We determine how we approach tomorrow with all of its surprises. We decide what to focus upon. We decide what to energize.
I don't know about your last year, the lows and highs you experienced, even the surprises that came your way for which you were little prepared. Yet, if you are here now, still "standing," you made your decisions on how to approach the cards you were dealt in the great poker game of life. I hope that you are able to look back and see the highs, the positives, the people who helped you make it. You can't discount the lows but you don't have to prioritize them.
It's really our choice in how we tell the stories of our past.
Even with the lows that are so bad they might put us down, it's still our choice in how we get through such times, how we accept the help others can offer, even how we live from day to day when tomorrow seems too far away.
It's our choice what "clothes we wear" and what clothes we box up and send on their way, no more useful in what we are choosing to become.
It's not our experiences that define us. It's not our experiences that shape who or what we become. Spiritually speaking, it's not the highs and lows that determine our possibilities.
It's our choices that make us who we are.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.