What if tomorrow never comes and you blew it?

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My summer literally started off with a “bang.”  On vacation, I fell face forward onto a hardwood floor. It literally felt like someone had taken a 2×4, swung it like a bat, and hit me across the face. Free falling onto a hard surface does shake you up.

When I returned from vacation, I had an EGD and another look at my esophagus and stomach. Then a week later, off to the hospital for outpatient arthroscopic surgery to remove my gallbladder. Are we having fun yet?

Obviously, my blogs and artwork have been on hold. But that doesn’t mean that everything else stands still waiting for me to play catch up. Life goes on, spinning slightly out of control as we who are left behind try to keep our balance and maintain some semblance of control.

This is the “stuff” of life that keeps us on our toes and makes us stronger for the road ahead. We are made of human flesh that is subject to accident, disease and illness. Our job is to learn to deal with it. Pain is part of life. One woman captured it beautifully when she said to a group of younger women, “after age 60, it’s just patch, patch, patch.”

God love her! That woman is now me. The clock never stops ticking and the calendar never stops turning. If we’re not careful, we will finish last!

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How many things do you put off until tomorrow thinking you’ll have more time later? Someday, you’ll write that book. You’ll take that painting class. You’ll learn how to play the piano. You’ll go back to school. By the time you get to “someday,” you’re in your forties or fifties and realize that your dreams will never happen because you procrastinated for the wrong reasons. You allowed your priorities to get so screwed up that your life will soon be over and you haven’t even started living yet!

Another thing that may cause us to go awry is word or event association. When my mother and father moved into a new house when I was about 13, they had just painted my bedroom a bright pink thinking I would love it. But “Lo and Behold,” I came down with the flu when we moved in and forever associated pink with nausea and illness.

images (8)Of course, the bedroom didn’t get repainted, but I hated that bedroom and the color pink for years. Only recently have I come to think it’s an okay color; maybe even pretty.

When we associate the things that happen to us with something we dislike it can forever throw us off track. It may not be anyone’s fault, really, but as long as we associate that person with the bad things we remember, any good memories will forever be affected in a negative way.

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A counselor once asked me to think of all the positive things that were going on in my life and write them down on one side of a page, and then write the bad things on the other. Of course, the list on the good side of the page was far longer. This exercise helped me gain a better perspective on what was perceived and what was actual – real versus imagined.

Sometimes our memory can play tricks on us if we dwell too much on the negative elements of a relationship or of our lives. The old fable of “The Tortoise and the Hare” is a good example.

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The race was on. The hare thought he was a cinch to win. Obviously he was faster, smarter, more surefooted than the tortoise. But the turtle had one thing going for him: “tenacity.” He knew where he was going and why, and he was determined to get to his destination.

The hare, on the other hand, was flighty, easily distracted, and arrogant. He also had “friends in high places” who could fudge for him here, and cover up there, and maybe for a few bucks, cover his tracks if he made a few detours or slips.

images (5)The hare had plenty of time. The odds were in his favor. Practice and effort were pointless. It wasn’t a race against time, for heaven’s sake. This was a turtle!

We all know how the story ends. The one with the most stick-to-itiveness won. The racer who never gave in and never caved in crossed the finish line.

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And so will I.  I’ll drag my battle-scarred body and my stapled belly to the computer and plug away, even though I’m in pain. In a few days, I will manage to start painting again. Defeat is not in my vocabulary. I may never excel in ways that I would like, but I’ll “kick butt” as long as I have breath. This, my friends, is how we get through life and still hold our heads up high.

When all you have left is a “Wing and a Prayer”

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“Vikeholmen Lighthouse” Norway, acrylic on canvas

Most of us have been there. We’ve gotten by on little or nothing and all we have is hope and a prayer to pull us through.  Life is never a straight line. It’s more like a roller coaster. We don’t suddenly “arrive.” We struggle to find our footing, and we reach for the strongholds that will pull us upward.

Sometimes our fingernails scrape against dirt and grime. Our hearts get broken. We become battered and bruised within and without. This is the turning point where many fall by the wayside. It’s the crucial “trial by fire” that determines what we’re made of; either we keep going in spite of all, or we become simply a lost player in the game of life.

Those who keep putting one foot in front of the other and slog along do so because they must. To give up is not in their vocabulary or their souls. They never allow quitting or giving up to enter their minds. Experience has taught them that nothing is permanent. Change is inevitable. They accept what they have no control over. They know that at the end of a storm there’s a rainbow. They believe in the cliché “there is light at the end of the tunnel.”

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“Beach Buddies” mixed media on canvas

Those who don’t make it either haven’t experienced this transient state or they’ve not only lost confidence in themselves, but in life itself. Without hope we die, and yet all around us there is reason for optimism if we but open our eyes. After every harsh winter there is spring. It has been so since the beginning of time. Following a bitter dark night of the soul, there is always morning in all its glorious splendor and promise.

People eschew the Bible, but the Word of God is resplendent with truth and wisdom. When fear grips us with terror, these words can give us hope: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

When we’re sailing over unknown terrain and in uncharted waters (at least for us), we must not give up! Who’s to say that in the next hour or twenty-four things will change. A need will be met. The answer to our pain will be whispered softly in a forgotten refrain or in an answer to prayer to give us courage.

There are dark evil forces in the world and there are those of goodness and light. The former pulls us downward and instills fear in our hearts; the other renders peace and comfort. Why would we look anywhere else when we’re in need of solace and calm?

Music can call us out of ourselves and lift us to higher ground. It can keep dark thoughts at bay and help us overcome our weaknesses.

The beautiful Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir

The psalmist said in Psalm 121:1-2 “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help; my help comes from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

Why do we scoff or turn our backs on the very thing which could give us strength? Reach out my friends. His love is real!

The Museum “Love will Find You”