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You can’t always change your circumstances, but you can always change your attitude

Last night an acquaintance called to tell me she wasn’t going to be able to be involved anymore in something we’d been planning together. Why? Because she’d just been diagnosed with cancer.

As she walked me through the details of the responsibilities she was handing off so that she didn’t leave me high and dry, I just stood there in disbelief.

Facing chemo and/or radiation plus possible surgery, she was so calm, cool, and collected. She was cheerful and apologetic. She was thinking of others, instead of panicking or being overwhelmed by fear.

She was choosing joy in the midst of heart-rending circumstances.

I don’t know what you’re facing today. Some of you have probably received gut-wrenching news recently. Maybe you’re struggling with chronic pain or illness. Perhaps you’re spending much of your time caring for a loved one who is dying.

Some of you are in the midst of job loss or drastic pay cuts and you don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills this month or keep food on the table. Many of you are worried about how you’re going to pay for retirement, college, or mounting medical bills.

And there are probably many of you who see no light at the end of this very long tunnel. You’re overwhelmed, scared, and feeling on your last leg.

Maybe you can’t change your circumstances, but you can change your attitude.

You can choose to smile and sing, instead of worry and fret. You can choose to say, “This is hard, this is overwhelming, but I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep plodding along, keep hoping, keep making the most of everything I have.”

You can choose to be grateful, even if it seems like there’s little to be thankful for. There is always, always, always something to be thankful for. Challenge yourself to make a list of at least five things you can be thankful for. Once you start thinking of things, you’ll probably have trouble stopping at five!

You can choose to focus on what you do have, instead of what you don’t have. You can choose to cling to hope. You can choose joy!

photo credit

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58 Comments

  1. Nicole says:

    Thank you. I am struggling with a bad attitude today… Here is the proof: my 3-year old walked into his classroom and the first thing he said to his teachers was, “My mommy is mad at me. My mommy was mad at me at home.” It brought out a laugh and helped me change my attitude… but now that I am home alone, it only brings out tears. I know we all mess up. If my kids can give me a big wet kiss and hug extending grace to me after I was less than perfect and mean, surely, I can sit her and accept the grace that God is giving me. Right?

  2. Praying for your friend Crystal and knowing your friendship with her is and will continue to be something she is joyful over and thankful for.

  3. Amen! We’ve been through the valley (child with cancer during a cutback at hubby’s work), but it makes the mountain top all the more breathtaking. I’ll pray for your friend.

  4. Kandace says:

    I needed to hear this today. Thank you.

  5. My heart hurts for your friend. Attitude is so important to overall well being. It sounds like she has a fighter in her! I pray God would heal her and that others could be blessed and inspired by her faith and perseverance even in the face of tragedy.

  6. Marie says:

    Praying for your friend.
    In Dr. Henry Cloud’s book, The Law of Happiness, he says what goes into your happiness comes from things that are directly under your control: your behaviors, thoughts and intentional practices in your life. What you give your attention to and what you give your energy to have the power to make you happy. These are factors that you and only you control.
    Only 10% of happiness comes from our circumstances.
    I highly recommend this book.

    • Sarah says:

      Thank you for sharing this resource, Marie! I think I need to check this book out.

    • Donna says:

      Thank you Crystal for sharing and you too Marie.
      I put that book on my wish list so I can remember it.

      It’s so important to watch our thoughts-
      And bring everyone of them captive!
      Blessings to you both!- and may the Lord touch and heal this friend.

  7. Joely says:

    Thank you for this. It is just what I needed to improve my outlook and behaviors today. I will continue to look up and be thankful.

  8. Having gone through chronic pain, hormonal imbalances, burred vision, migraines, irritability, and extreme exhaustion for nearly 3 years I can totally relate to this post!

    I tried my hardest to keep a greatful and happy attitude, but too many times it got the best of me. I can honestly say that most of the time I really couldn’t help it. The irritability was something I totally couldn’t control at the time because I had no idea what was wrong with me.

    When I finally cried out to God for help He rescued me and has taken me through a journey of healing. Now I am more grateful than I’ve ever been!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Natalie says:

      I’m a military wife/mommy of 4 who has struggled with many of those things, too – chronic pain, depression, overwhelmed with daily life and fears, etc. I’m praying for everyone who struggles with these things, too!
      And yes, very timely post – this past week, my brother and his wife lost their unborn baby, and my SIL is not doing well physically… my brother-in-law’s mom, still rather young, was diagnosed with rapidly-spreading lung cancer and given a few weeks to live… We all need the peace of God in our lives, and need to pray for each other so that we can have a good, positive attitude as much as possible despite every turmoil. God bless and strengthen you all, and please pray for me, too. 🙂

      • Natalie, I am so sorry you’re going through all of this and I am praying for you. I highly suggest a detox, particularly the Master Cleanse because out of all the different detoxes I’ve done the Master Cleanse was by far the best. I hate to refer you away from this site to my own blog (I love you Christal!), but you can take a look at my weekly posts I’ve been putting up on the Master Cleanse and beyond: (1)http://thriftymilitarymommy.blogspot.com/2012/02/my-journey-to-health-master-cleanse.html (2) http://thriftymilitarymommy.blogspot.com/2012/02/day-13-of-master-cleanse.html (3) http://thriftymilitarymommy.blogspot.com/2012/02/last-day-of-master-cleanse-and-beyond.html

        There’s a ton of useful information I go over I’m quite positive will help you (and anyone else with health issues for that matter). I also found out a week ago I am gluten intolerant and am shocked with how much better I feel. You may want to try eliminating gluten from your diet as well. If that doesn’t work that try something else until you figure out what is wrong.

        Ask God daily to help you and then listen for His voice to answer. I realize now that God has been trying to tell me that I was gluten intolerant for years, but because I wasn’t listening and I didn’t want to believe it I continued to suffer. He loves you more than you know.

        God Bless you and I hope you find the information useful 🙂

  9. So true! Thanks for the wonderful words of encouragement for all of us! All too often we focus on the bad and what is wrong, and not on the good! Thansk again!

  10. Julie says:

    This is so true, thanks for the reminder!

  11. Heather says:

    An excellent book on this subject is Victor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning”.
    Nonfiction, Holocaust.

  12. Kathleen says:

    I am sorry to hear about your friend, Crystal. I hope & pray that she will get better very soon. My sister passed away last year, she was very young only 37, and it was very sudden. We lived thousands of miles apart but we were in contact with each other every day through facebook, phone calls and texting. She was my best friend we were only a year apart and I loved her so much. I am very grateful for getting to be her sister & for the years I had with her. I try to keep up a positive attitude because if I chose to be miserable and angry about her death it will accomplish nothing and she would not want that.
    Live your life to the fullest & tell everyone that you love that you love them everyday.

  13. Sarah Beals says:

    So much truth here. Our circumstances are ALL in God’s hands. Thanks for the reminder!

  14. Very good post, and just at the right time. Thanks Crystal 🙂

  15. Shelley says:

    I can so understand your friend. I was diagnosed with cancer only one month after my husband started his one year long deployment. Although I was scared, the Holy Spirit completely took over my heart and mind. I had the peace that passes all understanding. I never for a moment doubted that I would “survive” this battle, as all of my hope was in the Lord. It sounds like your friend has that peace. I will pray for her healing. Thank you for this post. Sometimes it is easier to put your hope and your attitude in the hands of the Lord when it is something huge like cancer. When the day to day, “little” struggles come, it is easy to forget that He is in charge. When I was ill, I remember that I swore that I would never forget to put my hope and all of my struggles in Him. However, I often find myself in despair and worry, trying to find peace in my own power, which of course I know is not possible. 🙂

    • Natalie says:

      That’s amazing, Shelley… one of my worst fears is facing something serious, with myself or my children, while my husband is gone. If I ever do – I’m going to pray that I will have the grace to let the Holy Spirit work in my life as he has in yours!

  16. Cotton says:

    Having had that diagnosis twice I can attest to the fact that there are different times to our lives and certainly different ways to view it. I am so blessed to still be alive and to encourage others. I will pray for your friend and for her future.

  17. carrie says:

    A few days ago our friends lost their home to a fire and that day was a day that i was in a bad mood over absolutely nothing of any importance.. While we were at our little cousins bday party the tones dropped out on my husbands fire radio (he is a vol firefighter in our small town) and we at that point didnt know whos home it was but it shoved into perspective what a bad day really is.. and I am now working on staying positive as there are always so many things that are much worse than what I deal with everyday. I hope everyone steps back and notices just how miniscule their problems are a lot of times compared to others.

  18. Andrea says:

    Thank you for the reminder!

  19. Jessica says:

    Thank you for this post!

    May the Lord bless your friend, and may she feel enveloped in His love, strength, and patience as she faces this trial. I hope that at every step, she can see Him. God bless her.

  20. This is so true. Many people I meet seem so shocked that I am living with two autoimmune diseases because I don’t act “sick.” But what good can come from me moping around feeling sorry for myself? That’s certainly not the life I want to live. We all have our unique battles to fight and I believe from a positive attitude can come positive change.

    Thank you for the reminder and I wish the best for your friend.

    • Sarah says:

      Jen, I agree with you about not moping around feeling sorry for yourself, but what do you do when you need help from others and they don’t get it or can’t understand it, because you DON’T act/look sick? I don’t really expect an answer. I’ve been in this battle for 20 years and haven’t figured it out yet. I just thank God for provision and that He promised to never leave or forsake us. I cling to that.

      • I am so lucky to have a wonderful support system that understands how difficult it is to live with chronic illness. You have a few more years in fighting your battle than I do (I was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2000 and MS in 2004) but I know how exhausting it can be. Every day is a fight in some way or another but I can’t imagine how much more difficult it would be if I didn’t focus on the positive aspects of my situation. This life has taught me so much and I am very grateful for that.

        And if you need additional support, there are people out there that understand and want to help during the bad times AND the good times.

        • Sarah says:

          Thanks for the reply. I think you are fortunate to have found a wonderful support system — if you have any particular resources you’d like to share, I am open to hearing about them. I do have a small support system online but it isn’t the same as having people in “real life” who understand. Where did you find the people to help during the bad times and the good times?!

          • Crystal L. says:

            You might want to check with the hospitals in your area. Many of them have support groups you can attend (the one in my area offers some for cancer, autoimmune, depression, usually something for everyone) for free or a nominal fee.

            For me, I finally just went to a therapist. I have had ongoing battles with depression for most of my life, but it’s a very difficult subject to talk about. Therapists can be a valuable resource in cases like that.

          • I have wonderful family and friends but one of the best things I have done is get involved. I joined a CCFA fundraiser effort a couple years ago and met several people living with IBD that have continued to be a wonderful support to me.

            And don’t discount the importance of an online community! The internet has also proved to be a valuable resource for me. Feel free to find me at http://dearmommybrain.com – my contact information is there if you want another virtual supporter!

          • Jessica says:

            Sarah and Jen, I pray God blesses you both and helps you to always remember that He is with you, helping you to carry your heavy crosses. Even though others may not see or understand your suffering, the Lord sees and understands it all.

            Sarah, I hope you will consider looking into therapy. It might help tremendously to have a professional listen to you – and you wouldn’t have to worry that you were “burdening” them. 😉

      • Natalie says:

        Sarah, I’m a military wife living with fibromyalgia, a connective tissue disorder, and other chronic illness/pain. With 4 young children and a husband who might be gone at a moment’s notice, no family nearby, etc., I’ve found myself struggling with depression – which is indeed made worse because most of my friends and relatives don’t understand because I don’t usually “look” sick, as you say. This is a very hard thing, but I happened to come across another mom (from the UK, actually) on Facebook, when I made a similar comment under a post on Peaceful Parenting’s FB page. She connected me with a couple other moms who face similar struggles and they have been a great support team, even though none of us live in the same country! I am not a big fan of “friending” people whom I don’t know already, but these few women have been a great source of inspiration and encouragement.

        • Sarah says:

          Thanks to each of you for your kind and helpful responses. I’m sorry it took a couple of days for me to reply. There used to be a support group nearby, but everyone was too sick to regularly attend! LOL – but true. I only got to two meetings but wasn’t able to make any real connections there. My husband and I are Christians and this was a “secular” group – which is good if you just want illness understanding but we didn’t want to expend energy trying to make close friends who wouldn’t be able to relate to the spiritual aspects of our struggle. We already have one friend like that — it’s good for what it is but can only go so far. My husband and I are blessed to have found a Christian counselor at a local church who counsels for free, as a ministry, though we are trying to donate to the church as our “thanks” to them. We asked him recently how much of his counsel is actually giving guidance and how much is just being a listening ear and shouldering burdens. He said he does more burden-bearing than guidance-giving, which I can understand. He can’t “fix” our problems but it is helpful to have someone kind to talk with. I’m just collectively frustrated with the church as a whole (sorry, it’s true!) – it seems that if people were intentionally caring for one another like the Bible teaches us to [Philippians 2:3, Romans 12:3, Mark 12:31, James 1:27, Galatians 6:2], there wouldn’t be so much need for “professional” counseling. I am grateful for it but wonder if our priorities are misplaced. I know people are stressed out and busy just caring for their own families; I get that. But I wish more churches were following the example I heard about recently of a church whose slogan is “Don’t GO to church; be the church.” Not saying you shouldn’t go, of course, but maybe it’s time we have less “meetings” and more service to one another. Many years ago I worked at an ad/swap type newspaper, taking ads over the phone all day. It was fun to talk with people and get to know the regulars. I have never forgotten the father who called looking for a free babysitter for a few hours a couple of times per week, so he could take his wife to dialysis and not worry about their child. He had gotten desperate enough to place an ad. I called several of the largest churches in our town (I live in the Bible belt where there’s a church on every corner), trying to find help for this gentleman. I was not successful and one even told me that they could not find enough people to help folks in their own membership — they had members who could not come to church because they were caring for loved ones at home and could not find help to give them a break. This is one story of MANY I could share – not counting my own experiences. I do not know that there is an answer to my frustrations, except for revival to occur in our churches — I mean the current Christians being “revived” and stirred to action, not unbelievers accepting Christ. I am glad to know I’m not the only one relying on the internet for support. I do have a small community at friends I have made at Restministriessunroom.com. I am the moderator of the Music Therapy group there. It is helpful to be in a community of people online who mostly “get it” even though the illnesses people suffer from vary greatly and the activity is pretty sporadic, due to illness and responsibilities everyone has. My husband said the other day that our best friends are people we’ve never met face-to-face and he’s right. I am very thankful but when it comes to any practical needs or understanding fellowship, it would be comforting to know there are local people who also “get it”. I get scared and feel overwhelmed, and I have it a lot better than many people I “know” online…some who even live alone. Thanks again for every response and I am sorry for the suffering each of you endures as well; I pray God is making good out of it!

  21. This is a lesson I continue to learn. Life is full of heartaches and hurts. I am so thankful that God is good and loves us through it all.

  22. Karla says:

    Thanks, Crystal. I needed that reminder today.

  23. Prayers for your friend Crystal. We have a son (11 months) with some serious medical problems. We continue to have peace with everything thanks to the Lord! We know that the Lord has a well paved road for us and we must trust him.

  24. Tricia says:

    I was reading comments on MSM FB post yesterday and there was a mother whose child is terminally ill who was offering her baby coupons to another parent who was expecting. I did a little facebook stalking and saw a picture of this sweet child (for the record, the mother’s pictures were for public viewing). This woman’s strength amazes me. While in her own grief, she is offering coupons to help another mother!! I felt like this was such a testimony to what you’re talking about and goes along beautifully with this post.
    If that mother happens to be reading this, my thoughts and prayers are with you and I think that you are AMAZING.

  25. Beth says:

    My Heath, my parents that they are still alive, my children’s health, a roof over my head, my belief in God…..five right off the top of my head.

  26. Lana says:

    I have a friend who was diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer on Jan 2. She has been an amazing testimony of trusting God for the outcome and a possitive outlook that has been such an amazing testimony. She is a homeschool Mom to six children and it is just so hard to think of what her husband and kids are going through. I know exactly what your are feeling because my heart just doesn’t want to believe it is true.

  27. Jennifer says:

    I JUST led the women’s Bible Study group on Romans 5 yesterday – and we spent a HUGE amount of time struggling with and discussing the idea of “rejoicing in suffering” – what does it look like, how does one do it, etc. I can’t wait to email them and share this post!

  28. Patti says:

    I just went through a hard year with my Dad… after two massive heart attacks, he found out he had lymphoma (he’s 90 years old). Well, we decided to take it a day at a time. He was given two weeks to live and hospice was called in… and then he began a type of chemotherapy (at his age,it was not the toxic stuff). Well, here it is late February and he is alive and cancer-free! His doctor is amazed. We constantly say, “What if he/we had given up?” I won’t say it was easy or that it is the outcome everyone can have, but I do know a positive attitude made even the hard times better. We just trusted the Lord. I started a gratitude journal and we discussed each day what good things had happened. My whole family feels so blessed to have had this hard time together because we were able to say what needed to be said and plan what needed to be planned and then let God take over and show us His will.

  29. This is a beautiful post, Crystal. I have an uncle who has been battling Mesothelioma for over 2 years. His doctors told us that most patients with Mesothelioma don’t survive for more than 6 months after their diagnosis. It’s a miracle that he is still with us and I believe that his unwavering faith in God and his optimistic attitude are the reasons he is still with us today.

  30. Danielle says:

    Crystal, if you have the time, stop over and check out Choose Joy over at Lil Blue Boo. (http://www.lilblueboo.com/choosejoy) She has been beyond inspiring in this realm.

  31. Rebecca says:

    My 6 year old daughter just finished a year of chemo. Yes, there were hard times (and we are still dealing with chemo side effects)…but we had a blast as a family and really lived like there might not be another day with our sweet girl. In that year she was on chemo, we went to Hawaii, went ziplining several times,went surfing, went jet skiing in Michigan, ate ice cream for breakfast, danced all day long, bought a set of drums and played like there were no noise ordinances, we became minimalists and got rid of 75% of our stuff so we had less to dust, I ran two 5k’s and my first half marathon, the list goes on and on and on and then we topped it off with a fab “No Mo Chemo” party to benefit St. Jude and went on her Make-A-Wish to Disney for the first time…sometimes the word cancer can bring out many positive changes:) Please give your friend some hugs:)

    • Rebecca P. says:

      This is amazing! Thank you for sharing such a positive attitude and desire to live an abundant life in the midst of very difficult circumstances. It reminds me of Ephesians 3:20. God’s blessings to you and your family and many more wonderful memories.

    • Crystal L. says:

      That’s really beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad that your family made such a horrible thing into a bonding experience. Thank you for sharing, it definitely makes me realize I’m letting the ‘bad stuff’ overshadow the good stuff and not the other way around.

  32. Amy says:

    Thank you for this…I needed this and to read everyone’s comments. While my circumstances aren’t as bad, my attitude has definitely not been good. My husband lost his job and we ended up moving from a state and place my kids and I loved to one that is still ok, but in my eyes will never be as “good” as the previous (it was the natural beauty of the area that I loved). I’m miserable, my daughter hates it here, and my husband hates his new job. I’m trying to stay positive b/c my family is healthy and my husband has a job, roof over our head and food on the table but negative thoughts and anger continue to take over my mind of why God let this happen to us when we thought we were being the Christians he wanted us to be. I need to remember that it’s all up to me and attitude and that there is “reason” for everything”….

  33. Giselle says:

    Thank you for your words. I needed a reminder to stay positive and be thankful. I choose joy 🙂

  34. MK Jorgenson says:

    How true. I came down sick Sunday and we’ve started the getting-rid-of-the-pacifier process, so there’s been extra screaming and fighting at bed/naptime. This morning I had a root canal filled in preparation for a crown.

    It’s a week for grace in this house. When I saw your goal post for the week go up, I thought of my own:
    1. Survive Monday.
    2. Survive Tuesday.
    3. Survive Wednesday.
    4. Survive Thursday.
    5. Survive Friday.
    6. Survive Saturday.
    7. Enjoy my God, my family, and rest.

    And if I happen to get some laundry done this week…that works, too.

  35. Kari says:

    My husband has always encouraged me to remember that we have good problems, it has completely changed my perspective on life 🙂

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