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: Life is too short

Clouds with heart shape

Life is too short. I often personally have to remind myself of how unpredictable life can be and sometimes, the reminders are so naturally manifested as I’m going about my day. We never know what will happen from this moment to the next. All it takes is a second for our world to turn inside out. All the plans for the future that we make in life to feel like we are somehow in control may never be accomplished. All the dreams we wish to fulfill may be left unrealized. We may be surrounded by our loved ones in this very moment and in an instant they may vanish from our lives. Yet how often do we tell our loved ones what they mean to us and how grateful we are for them? How often do we willingly forgive those people that have betrayed or hurt us at some point in our life? How often do we remember that our loved ones will not remain in our lives forever? People have an innate tendency to take life and the people in our life for granted. We may lash out in anger and express some harsh remarks to someone we love over a trivial situation or even stop talking to them. And we may think that tomorrow we will apologize or reconcile with them. But we forget that tomorrow is not promised and it may be too late to make amends.

So while we are still living our life, let us…

…never stop saying “I love you” to those that are near and dear to us and most importantly, show them how important they are or how much we love them.

…never stop saying “thank you” to those people that are truly blessings in our life.

…not lose sight of all the people that we have encountered in our life and be grateful for the lessons that we have learned from all of them.

…appreciate the people in our life for who they are as well as for the time we have spent together with them even if they are not around as much.

…forgive those that have wronged us and put all those unpleasant memories behind us.

…rekindle bonds that have been severed before it’s too late to say “I’m sorry”.

…enjoy every moment and live every day as if was our last.

And remember, we often don’t realize the value of someone until we lose them. A moment now spent cherishing those around us, loving and forgiving them can make a difference in our own life. This thing called life is just that it goes by so quickly and tomorrow may not be ours to see. All we really have is this moment to express our love so why not start now?

Thoughtful Thursday: A Leap of Faith

In every facet of my life, I encounter fear. It gets the best of me.

As of late, I have been paralyzed with the fear of losing a dear friendship. This is a profoundly divine friendship with my big brother whom I visited daily and with whom I exchanged many thought-provoking conversations in the recent past. These everyday exchanges became somewhat of a normal routine for me and sometimes the only moments of solace that I would actually get to experience. Last month, I chose to leave the company for which we both worked. The thought of not being able to see my brother day after day was beyond disturbing but it was a truth that sooner or later I would need to accept. I feared that our friendship would soon dissipate if I did not do everything in my control to nurture it.

Control. This can get the best of me, too.

In my desire to control and maintain an atmosphere of our friendship similar to what it was like prior to my parting, I became irritated and perturbed when my methods of trying to connect with my brother failed.  As a result, I began to doubt my trust in him. My faith wavered when I noticed that our friendship was not continuing the way I would have hoped for it to. In the very few conversations I had with him over the last several weeks, I acted out of fear and anger as I sensed that he did not view the need for growing our friendship through my lens. And there I was, too weak and weary to even focus on my faith in God that he would make things right.

Last Sunday when my brother and I finally connected on the phone, he asked me to take what I would call a gigantic leap of faith – a leap that would mean fully accepting, believing and trusting that he cares about me and our friendship without having to demonstrate or prove it constantly. And that everything will all fall into its own place if there is faith. All I could think was this:

He was asking for too much. And NO way was I going to do that. How could I carry on patiently without knowing that he was okay? How could I be okay with not hearing from him daily when that is what I was accustomed to for so long? 

This was going to be a difficult leap and one that was way out of my comfort zone. Not knowing daily how my brother was doing or what was troubling him and not hearing his voice would require a tremendous amount of patience and courage on my part. I was just not ready for that leap; I was not ready to let go. As always, he was very considerate and did not impose any of his notions upon me. He gave me some time to think about whether or not I can take this leap. And he would still be content if I just could not.

At that point, I was in a state of utter confusion and deep introspection. Though I absolutely knew that taking this leap was the best course of action for the growth of our friendship, I questioned any faith that I had in myself. Did I value and love this friendship enough to take such a huge leap? Was there another life lesson to be learned from taking this leap? I could only pray to God diligently and ask him to lead my way.

Over the last few days as I pondered the choice to take the leap or not, I happened to attend one of the most unique and inspirational sessions presented by Cherie Cross on accepting and appreciating human differences as well as our own humanness. The key messages that I learned from this particular session were that people are not out to get you, that you should express your love to the people in your life and believe that they are doing the best with what they can and finally, that what they do or don’t do is NOT PERSONAL; it’s just their style!

Cherie ended the session with a very touching excerpt from Og Mandino’s book called The Greatest Salesman in the World:

I will greet this day with love in my heart.

For this is the greatest secret of success in all ventures. Muscle can split a shield and even destroy life but only the unseen power of love can open the hearts of men and until I master this art I will remain no more than a peddler in the market place. I will make love my greatest weapon and none on whom I call can defend against its force.

My reasoning they may counter; my speech they may distrust; my apparel they may disapprove; my face they may reject and even my bargains may cause them suspicion; yet my love will melt all hearts liken to the sun whose rays soften the coldest clay.

I will greet this day with love in my heart.

And how will I act? I will love all manners of men for each has qualities to be admired even though they be hidden. With love I will tear down the wall of suspicion and hate which they have built around their hearts and in its place will I build bridges so that my love may enter their souls.

I will greet this day with love in my heart.

And how will I confront each whom I meet? In only one way. In silence and to myself I will address him and say I Love You. Though spoken in silence these words will shine in my eyes, unwrinkle my brow, bring a smile to my lips and echo in my voice; and his heart will be opened. And who is there who will say nay to my goods when his heart feels my love?

I will greet this day with love, and I will suc­ceed.

Interestingly enough, just when Cherie stated the last line of this excerpt, I received a text message from my brother stating “I have faith that you will make it work.” I could not stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. There are no coincidences in life, but rather signs that God has a way of revealing in the right place and at the right time, in His own time. My only thoughts at that moment were that I must let go of the fear that I have about our precious friendship dissolving and surrender to God’s love.

Love is a four-letter word but one so powerful that when offered with the goodness of your heart, it can change the world. I must act out of love for my brother and not in anger, desperation or a need to be right. It is NOT important for me to be right, but rather to get it right – to shower unconditional love in this friendship that will take it a long way, to be understanding of situations that warrant it, to refrain from taking his actions or inactions personally, to be forgiving when mistakes are made or when plans change and to completely trust him knowing that although he may not be able tend to my desires continually, that he really DOES care.

I presume that God is calling me to jump with all my heart and all my strength, and to have faith that He is already there on the other side waiting to catch me; that He will come through for me in the end.

So I eagerly wait to tell my brother this: “I, too, have faith that I will make it work.”

Thoughtful Thursday: I Tried So Hard

Sometimes I need to say these four words to myself. Out loud. Especially in those times that I have tried and failed. Though it doesn’t come easy to me, I need to praise myself for trying hard…to fully acknowledge and believe that I gave it my best shot even if the outcome was not what I had hoped…to honor myself for doing what was right and making a difference. To have tried is to have learned…and succeeded. And that is what matters in the end.