Life Happens

From the Heart of Grace Waters…

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What Ifs Don’t Buy You Peace

If I could make someone else’s dreams come true for each time I wondered “what if” about past situations, everyone’s dreams would be coming true. Things happened. I said I moved on, but then I would begin to regurgitate the events of what happened, bringing me right back into the mindset I was in when it all happened. One situation in particular took me over a year to release, but I finally found the point where it was time to let it all go. In this situation, I often wondered, “What if I had not gone there?” “What if I stopped talking before my mouth got me in trouble?” “What if I had not allowed my emotions to override my logic?” “What if, what if, what if?” Those “what ifs” kept me lost in the past. Because I could see every logical outcome if I made different decisions, I constantly berated myself-thinking that I was only punishing myself for something I should not have done. The guilt and shame were my punishment. Thinking that I was all alone and that people would no longer respect me was my punishment. Feeling like I let everyone down was my punishment. I believed that I deserved it all. I did not realize that it was not even my right to condemn myself, nor was it anyone else’s-but I did not understand all of that until a few months ago. I was good at punishing myself. So instead of the “what ifs” bringing me clarity, they furthered my time of punishment. Each time I wondered “what if”, I felt again all that I felt in that moment. I relived the entire experience. I thought that solving the “what if” questions would allow me to move on and find some element of peace because I was able to think logically about everything, but I found that “what ifs” do not buy you peace. They buy you torment. I believe that it is human nature to wonder if things would have turned out differently had your decisions been different; however, regardless of what has happened, that does not change today. None of us can go back and defy time to change the decision we made (no matter how much some of us want to), and we should not anyways because I truly believe that everything that happens in life is for a purpose. I am reminded of the saying that “what does not break you makes you stronger”, and it makes me know that though scarred, my past made me stronger. We need to stay away from the “what if” questions which only make us fight against ourselves. Our question should instead be, “what will I do differently if I come up against the same situation again?” Release what has happened, and focus on what will be because the present and the future deserve our full attention.

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Never Too Late For a Dream

As I drove to my office today, some of the roads were blocked off. I thought that construction was going on until I saw the long line of people waiting behind barriers and police tape. I remembered that the American Idol tryouts were in Charlotte this week, and I had a moment of nostalgia. I began to think of my dreams as a child. I used to imagine myself as the biggest singer on the best stage, but somewhere along the way I allowed people to tell me I could not accomplish that dream. Because people were seemingly uninterested in my singing, and because I could not hit the same note that someone else could hit easily, I talked myself out of my dream. I could have had training, and vocal coaches, but instead I told myself that I would never be a singer. I could never be like any of those I looked up to who could sing with no training and all, and have people line up to buy their CD’s. I told myself that it was not for me—but the dream never completely died. I still sing when I am alone, but hardly ever in public. I like to tell people that I can hit two out of three notes right, but the third note runs away. I have learned to laugh at myself. At the core of it though has always been a disappointment in myself for not at least trying to achieve that dream. I sang one time in a studio, and that was the extent of my attempt. All of those people waiting in line for American Idol are at least trying to live their dream. Whether they can really sing or not, they are stepping out on faith and believing that they are good enough to be the next Idol. What if all of us had this same faith and same desire to step out and accomplish the dream we see before us? What if we at least tried? What harm does it do to try? If given the opportunity, I will still embrace this area of my passion. Singing is still a dream, and I will do it in some capacity. Maybe I will not be the next Whitney Houston, but I will be the next me. I encourage you today to pursue every dream that is in your heart to do. If in your pursuing you realize that the path you have taken is not for you, then that is perfectly alright because at least you tried and found that out for yourself. Better that than allowing people and circumstances to rob you of your right to try. So, GO. DO. BE. You owe it to yourself.

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Forgiving Yourself

I have found that my husband is my counselor. I counsel people all day long, but then I come home to be counseled. It is necessary. I had a conversation a few days ago with my husband as we were visiting family in Georgia. We began to talk about life and how we have been affected by things that have happened to us. I brought up some things that happened in our marriage and asked him if he would change anything about us. My husband said no because all things happen for a reason. I then asked him if he had forgiven me for some things. He said that he has forgiven me, but then he turned things around on me and said that it seems that I have not yet forgiven myself. That stopped me in my tracks. In that small statement, he said something so profound and life changing that it took me a moment to come back to the conversation at hand. Once I got over the initial shock, and I took an introspective look into myself, I found that what he said was true. While I had been forgiven, the one thing keeping me held up was me not forgiving myself. I began to give him seemingly valid reasons for why I had not forgiven myself. I justified my thoughts and feelings, but at the end of it all I realized that no excuse or justification was good enough to stop me from forgiving me. So, I thought it over. I felt myself resisting, but then I let it go. Because I had not forgiven myself, I had not been able to walk in confidence in the fact that I am an overcomer. I forgot, for a moment, that I am not to live in condemnation. I had placed myself in my own prison, and forgot what it was like to be free. His statement made me see myself as if I was looking at my reflection in a mirror, and I did not like what I was seeing. All too often, we lock ourselves up. We make mistakes, and then we keep ourselves stuck when we refuse to forgives ourselves. We forget that as humans we are bound to make mistakes. We think, sometimes, that if we punish ourselves enough, people will see that we are truly sorry for what we have done. What we forget, though, is that forgiveness is not about appearances. Forgiveness is about the heart. If you have messed up and truly apologized for what you have done, and you have turned away from the person you were when you messed up, then you are forgiven. If your heart is pure and your intentions good, then forgive yourself. In the end, it does not really matter if anyone else forgives you-although that would be great too. What matters is that you love yourself enough to be able to acknowledge where you have gone wrong, and know that your mistakes do not denote who you are. Your mistakes build character, and add “flavor” to your life. So free yourself. You are more than what you’ve done. You are greater than where you’ve been. Time to step up and be the you that you can be once you have released yourself.