“It’s not about the cards you’ve been dealt, but how you play the hand.” -Randy Pausch
Hello. My name is Amber. I love God, my family, coffee, sports, and a great lip gloss. I have received accolades and awards for my academics, music, athletics, and writing. I have a wonderful husband and four beautiful girls who make me proud every day. My friends are some of the best, and I laugh daily. On the surface, I’ve been dealt all aces.
But underneath the surface, the cards tell a different story.
My name is Amber. I also battle depression and grief. I overreact in situations that upset me, and my mind races and imagines scenarios way beyond reality. I have struggled with my weight and body image my entire life, and I suffered from an eating disorder in high school. When people hurt me, I struggle to stand up to them, so I end up shouldering all of the blame, including parts that aren’t mine to bear. I am slow to make friends and have never felt like I fit in with any one group.
Life Hands Us Good and Bad Cards
This is the hand I’ve been dealt—not all of it, but enough to give you a glimpse of who I am. In the deck of life, I am the aces, but I’m also the jokers.
The ace cards are all of the great things that happen to us: winning an award, buying our first car after saving forever, graduating, receiving a promotion, getting married, starting a family. These are the cards we love to show the world. These cards are the highlight reels we reshuffle and replay over and over again because we want the world to see how great our life is. As humans, we’re constantly seeking validation and affirmation from others.
We want to feel good, so we only show the good. You don’t see me bragging about my depression or insecurities on a daily basis. It’s not the identity I want, or at least not the sole identity.
And what about those other cards—the jokers? We like to bury them deep down in the deck, not letting anyone else know we have them. Sometimes, we remove them from the deck completely in hopes they disappear forever, but they never do. They’re always a part of our hand, our story. But they’re ugly. They’re brutal. They cause more judgment than validation.
Addiction. Abuse. Mental illness. Criminal behaviors. These are the harsh and unpleasant cards of life; cards we wish more than anything we could discard for better ones. Cards we never asked for or wanted. They’re the life cards we’re stuck with. It’s a “hold ’em” hand.
I never wanted to lose my mom when I was in my 30s. I didn’t ask for thick thighs or a constant need to please people. I hate feeling lonely in a room full of people. But I can’t escape those things because they are forever a part of who I am.
These are the cards I’ve been dealt. Now I have to decide how I want to play them. Am I going to run the table, or am I going to fold?
How You Play Your Hand Matters Most
First thing’s first: before I can play my cards, I have to accept my hand. Acceptance of one’s circumstances is crucial because without acceptance, we run the risk of a never-ending cycle of unhappiness and misery. Always wishing for things in our lives to be different is flat-out exhausting.
Playing the hand we’re dealt is about being content with what we already have, with the things we’ve been given. My former boss used to always say, “It is what it is,” when I was frustrated with something at work I couldn’t change. Our lives are what they are, and when we learn to accept that and work with what we’ve got, we will be much happier.
Acceptance also ends the “woe is me” and the “if only” mentality that can poison our emotional health. Acceptance frees us to make our lives look and feel more like we actually want them to look and feel.
These are my cards, this is my reality, and thus, it’s my choice. Your cards are not mine; your aces can’t help me. I can’t be too busy wishing I could trade my cards for better ones. What if I had a royal flush and gave it away?
As much as I really don’t like some of my cards, God didn’t deal me this hand to punish me. God gave me some difficult cards because those cards always bring the greatest blessings in the end. God is using these cards to help me learn lessons and honor Him.
I can’t discount the bad cards or hide them away because that would mean hiding parts of who I am, and hiding my true self can never give glory to God. God doesn’t see our cards as good or bad, they’re just cards, and if we surrender the bad, we might never get to fully experience the good.
As a woman of grit and grace, I have two choices: I can either fold when the going gets tough, or I can play the heck out of what I’ve been given. I can tell my full story.
I choose the full story, to show all of me. I choose to post pictures on social media of me having an awful day. I choose to write about my grief and depression and let people into my messy, “brut-iful” life. I choose to highlight the good, but also spotlight the bad. God wants to use my entire hand, whether it’s to teach me something or teach someone else; whether it’s to inspire or encourage or validate or just let someone else know they aren’t alone.
And God wants to use all of you, too.
Stop and think for a moment about your cards. What do you normally show? What do you hide? How does God want to use you to glorify Him? What do you think God would choose to highlight? (Hint: an array of everything.)
We were given one life, one hand. To fully live our lives for God’s glory, we have to accept what we’ve been given and choose to go all in.
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Overcome These 5 Struggles and Live a Grit + Grace Life – 088!