Discovering My Strength Amid Life’s Challenges

Challenges Ahead

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.”

-Bernice Johnson Reagon

My first reaction to life’s challenges isn’t always a positive one. Such was the case with certain events I encountered in the past year, particularly in the last several months. But the quote above by Bernice Johnson Reagon genuinely offers profound wisdom for people like me who find it difficult to battle life’s everyday challenges. Admittedly, life’s challenges do throw me way out of my comfort zone just when life is flowing so smoothly. But if I look at the deeper meaning behind those challenges, they provide me with a multitude of opportunities to face my fears and to rediscover myself, my purpose, my strengths and my weaknesses. These challenges allow me to refocus on my relationship with the Divine and to find ways to strengthen my faith — the faith that sometimes wavers when I’ve hit rock bottom and I can only see darkness all around me. And I sometimes forget that there is a comfort and peace that is waiting for me if only I open my heart to receive it, if only I allow God to bear my burdens, if only I become still and listen, if only I put my complete trust in God and His timing.

Paralyzed is how I felt amid some of my trials and tribulations recently. It was as if my life had come to a halt and all of my aspirations were delayed. It seemed as though all of the difficult events were controlling my life and in which direction my life would now be led. I had allowed myself to be defined by my problems and the uncontrollable challenges of my life. There were many days when the tears wouldn’t stop streaming down my face and there were countless moments when I sat in utter self-doubt, even questioning God’s ways, wondering about the turmoil and why my world was so shaken up all of the sudden. Despite the doubts and questions that had begun to creep in, God saved me yet again. Through it all, God was my strength. He reminded me that I could lean on Him when I couldn’t lean on my own understanding. He brought me back to Him because He knows that I belong only to Him. He knows that I will always be tranquil when I allow myself the time to experience His real presence. God knows that peace is promised when I deepen my knowledge of Him through nature, through others who are fighting a harder battle than I am, through the people who are ever-ready to shower me with their love, through my trials and tribulations, through His word, through acknowledging His beautiful attributes, through prayer and through my sincere efforts to become still.

During my moments of stillness, I was privileged to feel the close and authentic presence of the Divine. It was in the quietude that the small still voice within began to change into an audible whisper to bring forth God’s love and wisdom. God whispered His beautiful truth into my ears when it was least expected. He enlightened me to open my heart and see the world with eyes of love, to heal my body and all the brokenness that resides in my heart and to be brutally honest with myself so that I can dance gracefully with my soul. He afforded me with innumerable opportunities to shift my consciousness, to continually be aware of how to better myself, to count my blessings no matter what the circumstances and to believe in the abundant beauty of the Universe. Every demanding experience, every trial of faith and every adverse event that I encountered couldn’t have been survived without God’s endless love that was poured into my life. He didn’t give me everything that I WANTED but He sure did give me everything that I NEEDED in my moments of hardship. And the most precious gift that I received was my very own best friend named God who was ever-present in each and every chaotic situation I faced. It is said that people will abandon you, fail you and break your heart but God will never do that because He only loves and forgives.

So I want to take a moment now to thank my beloved God for blessing my life with His magnificent miracles. I’m so very grateful for God’s gentle nudges that remind me to stay centered while I continue to journey through this challenging phase of my life. I now stand stronger than before and more faithful than ever with only praise and glory in my heart for the Almighty and Omnipresent Creator of ALL.

 

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Thoughtful Thursday: Walking In Faith

The path ahead of me is very narrow and obscure with many treacherous twists and bends in the road. The thought to forge ahead when there are no guarantees that the walk will be smooth and pleasant is extremely scary. It takes a lot of guts and a strong-willed mindset to travel down a path where you cannot see where it leads. Time and time again, I wonder if the path I have chosen is where I should be headed or if a fork in the road ahead will result in even more strenuous challenges ahead. I worry. I doubt. I lose all of my hope and faith. Why? Because the rebel within me emerges when I find that the path I have chosen does not lead me to the end of the road as quickly enough as I would like to get there.

And then I hear His whisper, “Patience, my child. You will get there in time.”

Yes, I hear this countless times. But do I really listen and take heed?

No.

Admittedly, this path is not an easy one to travel. When certain things don’t go as I had planned, I feel unsure and unconvinced that my plans are consistent with God’s will. When I feel defeated, I lose any faith I have in myself and in His plans for me. I question myself, “Am I following the right path, the one that He wants me to follow?”

As I stand on this path feeling weary, I ask for the Lord’s guidance relentlessly to help me move forward in life and to not dwell on the past, to look ahead and not behind me where I have already been, to make choices that will serve me better than the ones I have made in the past. But when I don’t hear a clear answer from Him, I feel discouraged.

Actually, I am not being attentive to the answers He wants me to hear or see.

His way of answering my prayers is by the signs that are manifested in my everyday life. Sometimes, I ignore these signs and other times, I am careful to follow His lead. The signs remind me of why my journey is so important for me and how I can make this journey more fulfilling for myself. And to get there, I must choose faith over fear.

I must walk in faith.

One. Step. At. A. Time.

As I was perusing Courage 2 Create today, I started to ponder the following quote on this blog:

Whereas Hope is the belief that things can get better, Faith is the knowing that things will get better.”

And I began to tell myself these very words:  “It is not enough to hope that things will get better. It is not enough to believe that things will get better. I have to KNOW that things WILL get better.”

So I look at the path behind me that I have traveled thus far only to reflect upon the chaotic times that did in fact become easier and calmer, the then-turbulent problems that are now so trivial and the journey that has transformed me from who I was to who I am now. And I recognize that it has only gotten better.

Indeed, I stumble on my journey through the darkest valleys, the raging waters, the heaviest storms and the most dangerous fires that I encounter. But God continues to encourage me along, lighting my way to keep me from sinking. Sometimes, remembering this is all it takes for me to pick myself back up and walk along in faith because I KNOW something wonderful is waiting for me in the end which will make all the difference.

Welcoming 2012 With An Open Heart

I sat on my couch last night, drained from an eventful day anxiously awaiting 2011 to come to an end. As the 365th day of the year was waning, I heartily flipped through my recollections of 2011, reflecting on all of the remarkable manifestations that were revealed, the countless lessons that were learned and the big and bold dreams that were realized. My journey of compassionate self-awareness began around this time last year. I learned in many ways what I’m really made of. I conquered some fears. I tried and succeeded. And sometimes failed. I screamed and cried out loud as I let go of some of the angst and unpleasant events of my past. I made some very dear friends who did not let me forget how important it is to take care of “me”. I questioned some of my own beliefs and really searched hard for what I wanted — I still don’t have all the answers but I know they will come to me when the time is “right”. And I forgave so many in my life, including myself.

2011 was unlike any other years of my life. I felt as if I had lived my last 10 years in just that one year. If I were to encapsulate 2011 in three words, they would be: Struggle, Acceptance and Change.

Struggle. The year was full of internal and external struggles, all of which made me a better, stronger and braver person. While I felt defeated by my own emotions upon encountering several disheartening situations, I learned that struggle is a part of every person’s life. We just all experience it in different ways as we progress on our journey. With each struggle, I recognized the immense opportunities to grow and the many chances to develop my strengths so that I could in the end, celebrate the sweet successes of my life.

Acceptance. This was a tough one for me — a lesson that I probably would not have learned if it were not for a divine angel who appeared in my life not too long ago, my big brother. He often taught me through his experiences that one CAN unconditionally love and accept someone just the way they are despite their imperfections and the hurts that they may have caused. And that what I need to really focus on is the goodness within that person and the value that the person’s presence brings to my life.

I frequently found myself silently reciting my life-long mantra, The Serenity Prayer as I came across situations and people that were beyond my control. My efforts and energies were wasted many times in an attempt to understand why certain people are the way they are — trying to make sense of this was impractical and pointless. I realized that acceptance of others really begins with self-acceptance. And in turn, one can find it easier to forgive oneself and the others. We all have our own flaws and vices — some individuals can willingly accept these, forgive themselves for their own imperfections and move forward to an even greater depth of awareness. Believe me, to forgive was to free my own self of the painful memories that I had harbored in my heart. Forgiveness only led me to experience the serenity that I had been in search of. Honestly speaking, it is still somewhat difficult for me to fully let go of all the expectations I have for myself and for the others in my life…to forgive for what we are and what we can’t be, but I get better each time. I rebound a lot quicker now as I enrich my own being and truly understand the acceptance process. And I am still learning. Every. Single. Day.

Change. Whether I like it or not, this is the only thing that is constant in life. Like a butterfly, I spread my wings to explore the changing emotions within me in search of my soul, joy and creativity. I came to start loving myself as a unique being and appreciate my own personal qualities. As a result, I was transformed into a more loving and giving person. At that moment, I suddenly felt the love of others around me. That is when I savored the very fact that the power of change resides nowhere else, but within me…that when I stumble upon traumatic experiences, it is my optimistic attitude towards those events that will allow me to recognize these as opportunities for growth as opposed to detriments…that it is okay to alter my perspective, step outside of my comfort zone once in a while and discover myself…and that when I wholeheartedly embrace and initiate change, it will only help me thrive in this ever-changing world and liberate myself from the fear and frustrations in life.

So where do I want to go from here? To an even better place than I have been in 2011. I’m ready to welcome another wonderful year with an open heart…eager to enjoy fresh, new adventures and lessons. I can already sense what 2012 will bring to me as I contemplate my goals for the New Year. Perhaps for me, the New Year will be epitomized by these four words: Discover, Liberate, Nurture and Inspire. Who knows? Only time will tell.

In the meantime, I have a lot to look forward to within the next 365 days. I want to dream bigger dreams. I want to create more works of art and indulge my creativity by writing more on my blog. I want to make glorious, amazing mistakes because that is proof enough that I’m trying new things and that I’m not perfect. I want to relinquish even more fears and liberate myself from the troubles that come along my way. I want to really live my life and put myself first without feeling an overwhelming sense of guilt while I spend some time in solitude. I want to accept that I cannot be everything to everyone in my life. More importantly, I want to be the change that I wish to see in this world, one person at a time.

 And it all begins with ME.

 Happy New Year to all!