Life Happens

From the Heart of Grace Waters…

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Sometimes when we take a look at our lives, we may not be satisfied. Maybe we are not married with 2.5 children and a dog, or maybe we are divorced and now single. Maybe we had a baby out-of-wedlock, or maybe we had a baby with someone else while married to another. Maybe we made a horrible mistake and did someone terribly wrong, or maybe we responded the wrong way when someone did us wrong. Maybe we said the wrong thing, thought the wrong thing, or looked the other way instead of offering assistance when we could have. Maybe, just maybe, we have not been perfect, and maybe, just maybe, that made us think that we are undeserving of some things. Or maybe I am the only one who has felt that way.

When I look at my life, I can directly pinpoint the times I have messed up–and I don’t mean like a little “white lie” type mess up, but the kind where lives were disrupted, and I almost contemplated taking my own life rather than face up to the misery I had caused. Yes, I have messed up that bad. After it was all said and done, I felt that I had been disqualified from the good things in life. I could not fathom having a clean heart again and enjoying life. It was unthinkable that one day I could escape from the prison of my own mind, and live in the freedom of being forgiven. Because of my mistakes, I thought that I deserved whatever bad came my way, and me not receiving some of my greatest hearts’ desires just had to be the punishment that I endured. I was afraid to trust, afraid to believe, afraid to hope. I disqualified myself. I forgot about this God that I said I believed in–the one who said that I could be forgiven. I put aside my faith, in a backwards sort of way doing penance for the wrong I had done. Every bad thing that came up in my life, I took it as a rightful consequence for the person I had been. I was broken. Miserable. But fooling others.

Then one day, I understood that while there are consequences for every action, if something is meant for me it will happen regardless of what I have done. I began to understand that the rest of my life does not have to be a makeup session for one or two mistakes. I hesitantly began to believe in the desires of my heart, and expect them to come true. I peeked out from behind my prison walls, and began to hope, finally beginning to understand that the very things that I thought had completely made me unworthy, had actually been what qualified me to appreciate the blessings on the way. Because I had struggled, I could help someone else find their way out of the swamp of despair.  Because I had almost lost my mind, I could now be a compass for someone whose life is foggy. Because I had endured, I could offer strength to someone who feels a little weak. Because I failed, I could show others how to succeed. Because I was “that”, I could show others how to be better.

So now, though I am not proud of everything in my life, I am grateful for the lessons that they taught. I am grateful for the love that was brought out of me because people loved me in the mess I was in. I am better today than I was, and I am stronger because I refused to give up–even in the worst of times. If you are going through a rough time right now, where maybe you have disqualified yourself from receiving good things, it is time to get back up. We all fall, but what determines our future is our decision to either get back up, or stay down. I challenge you to stand. I challenge you to be more. I challenge you to be qualified.

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Holding On is Not Letting Go

We all have some things we need to let go. Maybe the thoughts of things we have done wrong weigh heavy on us, or maybe there is a certain someone who we know we need to move on from, but it seems to be too much to really let go. After all, letting go in our mind sometimes means that we then have to forget. We do not always want to forget past experiences and people. We want to move on, but not forget. Sometimes that is ok. The problem comes in when we say that we have let that or them go, but we are still holding on. What happens when old thoughts and people stop us from experiencing the fullness of our life in the present–even when we claim to have moved on. I will admit that I have been one who has struggled with letting go of some things. I justified not letting go because I said that I needed to remember everything so that I did not go back. I placed myself in a cycle, because not letting go made me face the very things I did not want to go back and face–all because I did not want to forget. Today, I had a mini conversation with someone, and as we spoke, I realized what I needed to do. Although letting go is hard, it is often necessary. Sometimes when you let go, things come back to you. Sometimes they do not. Letting go means that you can not hold on anymore, regardless of how you feel. I had to come to that hard realization. While I may never fully forget the memories, and while sometimes I may see something or someone who reminds me of things from the past, I have to be determined enough to keep going forward. If I hold on, that is not letting go. This is a hard lesson to learn because, I will admit, I like to be in control. I would be perfectly alright if I could decide when things would happen the way I would like them to, and if I could orchestrate every facet of my life with no consequences. However, that is not how life plays out. There are unexpected twists, climatic moments, roller coaster rides with severe drops, and none of it can be anticipated. When we learn to let go, we open up our lives for more, and we begin to understand that letting go does not mean the memories have to go away (unless we want them to fade). We can sift out the great memories, and the best things about the things/people we have to let go, and we can live knowing that we are forever enriched because of what was. If what we let go is meant to come back, it will, but if not life does go on. If we look back over the years at things we have released even when it was tough, we will realize that we continued to live, even after that. So if you are holding on to something, know that holding on only keeps you held back. Let it go. You will be better because of it. Move forward.

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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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The Strength That Storms Built

It’s so easy to stress when we are being buffeted on every side by winds that threaten to tear down everything in our lives. Sometimes those winds do tear down some things, and we are left to pick up the pieces of broken dreams, and of broken ideals. Eventually though we rebuild and things begin to look as if nothing ever happened, until another harsh wind blows. Unfortunately, bad weather is a part of the earth, as are troubled times in our lives. The question is not whether things will happen, but it is instead what we do after the trouble. One thing I have had to realize is that trouble is sometimes necessary to produce something great in us. If we are allowed to be comfortable, and we do not experience anything that shakes up all that has settled in our lives, then no one benefits because all the great things in us cannot be seen. We can be likened to italian dressing. When the dressing is allowed to settle there is a distinction between the oil and the rest of the ingredients. To get the best taste it is advised that the dressing is shaken before using. Without being shaken first, the dressing may taste more like oil than anything else-not really a good taste. Without some things first being shaken out of our lives, we may not be as useful. We will have things that have settled in us that do not add to the special blend that makes us unique and necessary to the world. While they never feel good, storms build endurance. After each storm we learn to build up stronger in places that were easily knocked down. We fortify our foundations-discovering just who we are and what we are supposed to do. Our strength is built by discovering our weaknesses, and allowing the storms/struggles to build up our defenses making them stronger. When we see people who are seemingly strong and confident, it is usually because they have had to deal with tough times, pain, struggle, etc, to build their strength. If you are going through a tough time, know that it is because you are strong enough to handle it. You will be even stronger after it. So stand. Allow your strength to be built. The winds do not blow all the time. Eventually the sun will come out again.