In my work I have found that not one of us is immune to difficult circumstances. I have clients from around the world. Mystics, doctors, clerks, students, stay-at-home moms, attorneys, artists...different people, different walks of life. And invariably I have found this to be true: everyone has a heart, hopes, dreams, loves, desires, and everyone has the same ability to hurt.
What makes us different from each other is the way in which we face the challenges of life. When the going gets tough, do you choose to go to the light, i.e., see the silver lining instead of focusing on the dark cloud? Or do you choose to wallow in the darkness of your life circumstances?
I am always amazed when I hear stories about the triumph of the human spirit; people who overcome incredible odds and personal challenges by laboring in love, and finding purpose and meaning despite seemingly pointless circumstances. It's like the Tim McGraw song, Live Like You Were Dying. In this song, when asked what he did when he found out he had cancer, a man responds, "I went skydiving. I went Rocky Mountain climbing. I went 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu. And I loved deeper, and I spoke sweeter, and I gave forgiveness I'd been denying."
We've all heard it before: when life hands you lemons, make lemonade. Or, you could make Lavender Lemonade, or delicious Lemon-Thyme bread. Or, Lemon Meringue Pie. Or...slurrrrp!...Lemon Pepper Linguini! In other words, the possibilities are endless.
It's just that, sometimes it doesn't seem that way. Sometimes the ingredients for living a joyful life just don't seem to be there.
I know. I haven't had the best year. I've lost my mother, my friends George, Bill, "Doc" Adams, and a dog named Sunny. And, there are several other challenges to add to this list. I'm not proud of it, but I've been, um, majorly bummed out, and feeling really sorry for myself a lot of the time.
I try to be kind to myself, because it certainly hasn't been easy, and I'm only human. But, after a lot of soul searching and prayer, the only thing that I can see as being trusted and constant in life is God's love.
And so, I strive to live life with a thankful heart. I awaken in the morning, and even if I have to say it grumbling, I say, "Thank you God for this beautiful day." I thank God for His love, and I ask God for ways in which I can be a steward of His love.
Dr. Peebles says it time and again: by staying focused on the goodness, on the light of the world, our internal life begins to change. By keeping that light on inside of ourselves, the world around us naturally has to change, to conform to our brilliance. The cockroaches scatter, and the butterflies appear. The clouds lift, and a rainbow forms in the sky.
As I was driving to my post office in Cottonwood this week, I was struggling to stay focused on light and love. And, as I always do when I'm driving, I talked to God, and I spoke of my trust in Him, and I thanked him for all that I do have. But, my heart was still heavy. I look around at the dark clouds rolling in across the Verde Valley sky from the west, and...suddenly I noticed that they were indeed rolling...forming quickly...and, though the bottom of the clouds were heavy with water, the tops of the clouds were billowy and white. I felt my spirits lift, and I said with conviction, "Oh God! You are so perfect! Look at the beautiful clouds You have made! Look at this beautiful sky, this beautiful world!" And, I felt exhilarated. "You are abundant, God, and my life is abundant because Your love is with me! I have abundant blessings waiting for me!"
I nearly danced in my seat with excitement as I got to the post office in Cottonwood. My heart was bursting with love for God, thankfulness, and knowingness that everything--absolutely everything--in my life was in right order, because God's love is real and constant.
And, when I opened my mail I was astonished to read a most beautiful letter of gratitude from a client, and enclosed with it was an incredibly generous monetary gift, in honor of my work with Dr. Peebles and the lives that have been touched by it.
Yes, I stood there in the Cottonwood post office, and I cried. Not because of the gift of money, but because of the gift of acknowledgement. It was as if God was saying to me, "You see, Sum, it's all been worth it."
I'll be honest: sometimes wallowing in the darkness feels good. And, I don't think it's out of line with what is "right." It's okay to plant yourself in that fertile soil, water yourself with tears, and wait expectantly for your season of new growth to come.
But, while you're there staring at your lemons, wondering what you can make with them, don't forget to thank God for them. "Thank you, God, for these lemons. Let's take them and make something delicious together!"