“The Struggle Ends When Gratitude Begins”


Yesterday was Thanksgiving in my adopted country of America. Millions of families sat around the dinner table.  In some homes, a prayer was offered. Everyone would be given the chance to share something they are grateful for. They will enjoy the simple act of being together as a family. Immediate. Extended. And borrowed. In other homes, a different scenario played out. In the next few days, any leftover turkey will be polished off. In soups. Sandwiches. Stews. What else? In essence, many will vow not to eat another bite of turkey until next year.

Feelings of nostalgia rushed to the surface. Memories flooded my thoughts. I remembered how I spent most of my Thanksgivings in the USA. The homes I was always invited to. The people who loved and cared for me during the holidays. Because my own family was thousands of miles away. Treated me like one of their own. Sent me off with an extra plate. The same families who had me over for Christmas. New Years. Sunday dinners. Today, I took some time to reflect on the things I am grateful for. However, before we can appreciate our blessings, there must be sacrifices. Tests of faith. Cleansing. An awakening. Realization that we have so much. Me. In the past few months.

One of my many weaknesses is not opening up to people. Yes, there is a select few. Really select. Very few. I am trying to be better. The past few months have been hellacious. One would never know by looking at me. Sometimes, I smiled when I want to cry. Say I am okay so people won’t worry. Pry. Ask questions. I employ many defense mechanisms to “get by”.  No one really wants to hear my problems. Do they? They have their own. Heavenly Father must know that I am strong enough to handle them. These are the conversations I have with myself.

It’s been a struggle against pessimism. Gloom. Doubt. Cynicism .TBH.  Let me explain. In the past 2-3 months, someone I stood by, when everyone else walked away, finally showed their true colors. Soon after, I learned the person who I looked up to as a father figure, does not deserve the honor. Never did. The news shattered my belief in role models. Shook my trust . For one month I lived with the landlady of all landladies. A horrid person. Next, unbelievable news came from SVG, that my cousin has been diagnosed with a terminal illness. Given less than a year to live. A young man in his mid twenties. Full of life.  Moving on, my carefully laid plans are being threatened by unforeseen circumstances. More recently, and in matters of the heart, love appears elusive. I will always care for this person. Deeply. What’s next? How will I end the year? Should be interesting.

Yes. It has been hard not to let pessimism rule my thoughts. And actions. A reprieve came just days ago. A bright spot amidst the dark abyss. I earned my Master’s degree. A milestone . The feat helped to soothe some of the hardships experienced this year. I want to look at the adversity differently. I want to think it’s good  “my friend” showed their true colors in the nick of time. Not later. I want to think my father figure is only human. Imperfect. Flawed. Just like the rest of us. I was the one who thought he was the closest thing to perfection there is. To think the old landlady helped me to appreciate the one I have now. The difference is black and white. Literally. To think my cousin’s terminal illness is a reminder of how fragile life is. To think the plans that I made might not be in tandem God’s. This does not sit well at all.  Hard to accept. Tough to swallow. As for romance? Well, after 30+ years on the planet, realization hit me. Or rather it has come full circle. The time has come to face the reason behind my relationhsip patterns. Fact: our childhood shapes every aspect of our lives.

So. Despite everything. I am grateful for life. And what it represents. The ability to breathe-reminds me I am alive. Live-despite the odds. Eat-because I have food. Sleep-so I can be refreshed in the am. Laugh-at myself, and my silly mistakes. Walk-because I am not confined to a wheelchair. Talk-it means I can express myself. Feel-pain,so I can appreciate joy. Believe in love-one day it will find me.Think-about my actions. Clothes to wear-there is more than enough. A roof over my head- I am not homeless. The church I belong to-a sure foundation. Parents-who love. The publication of my first book-a journey which took years. The ability to write-helps me to handle my emotions. To hope-one day I will get mine. To live in a free country- enjoy so many liberties. To have an education- make a difference. Make my own decisions-not have them dictated by anyone else. To know I am loved by so many-they have my best interest at heart. The blessings are enormous-I must always  remember.

I am not sure what problems might be troubling you today. Many of us fight daily battles. Silently. Bravely.We struggle to keep going amidst the turmoil of life. We wrestle against the odds. Winning some. Losing others. Our burdens weigh heavily on slumped shoulders. But they keep coming. Our own personal, private “Gethsemanes”. Excruciatingly painful experiences. We must be polished, like gems. I don’t know what your individual struggle is. What I do know is that “Sunday will come”. For all of us. That we will always have more than we need. The old cliché “someone else has it harder” is true. I have seen it.

This quote was shared with me more than ten years ago. It’s etched in my memory. You may recognize it : “Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself” CS Lewis. The man was a literary genius!

So. In closing. Long after family leaves. The last bite of turkey eaten. And life before Thanksgiving returns. May we remember that in our darkest days. And Nights. When the winds and waves of life starts knocking us about. Remember. He knows. He is there. May we never forget: “The struggle ends, when gratitude begins

Until the next post….

Best,

Juan

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“A gem cannot be polished without friction,nor a man perfected without trials”


 

Recent events in life have propelled me to reflect on life and its many lessons. Occasionally, there is a need to remind myself of how precious life is. The need to cherish loved ones. Reach across the divide. To mend hearts. Homes. Lives. Again, writing is therapeutic for me. I write about things I struggle with. General observations. Experiences. And one day when I am brave enough, my “gethsemanes” .Writing provides perspective. Tutors me. Reminds me of my limitations. The need for change. And everyday learning.

Today’s post is about trials. Yep. Problems. Affliction. Adversity. Burden. Stumbling blocks. Add your own soubriquet. Question: what would we do differently if we got a “do over”? Would we avoid some friendships? Relationships? Job choices? Lifestyle? You name it. I wonder. Don’t you? But there is no “do over” is there? Nope. Just one chance. You will never see today’s date again. Think about it. Recently, my face book status read: “Sometimes life will slap you in the face, well today it punched me”. Some days are worse than others. Tugged in different directions. Feel battered and torn. No one is immune. Or exempted. Sorry. However, how we manage the trials might be the most telling story of all. Read on. See if you agree. Or disagree.

Some trials are more arduous than others. They pierce the soul much deeper. Some come as a result of another person’s agency. Others we bring on ourselves. There is no explanation for the rest. Whatever the cause, we should never lose perspective. Even when they sap our strength. Bring us to our knees. Force us to examine our life. To grow. Ponder our choices. And the choices of others. Are we supposed to learn from them? Depends on the nature of the trial. If the trial is a result of our own imprudent behavior, it goes without saying. Wait a minute. This path looks vaguely familiar. Different circumstances. Yes. But same lesson. What do you know?

Here is an example using procrastination. My own personal struggle. Let’s say I have a paper due in a few weeks. Yet I decide to play hide and seek with the time. As it always does, father time comes calling. The paper is due. Without fail, everything goes wrong. Everything. And no one can help. Pleadings fall on deaf ears. Here is one trial I could have avoided. Right? So I barely made the deadline. Am I still procrastinating? YES! Did I learn my lesson? Yes. No. Maybe. But I should. Until the next crisis that is.The point is, if the trail results from our own shortcomings. If everything is coming coming at us. We are doing something wrong. Time for a reality self check. Perhaps, there is no need to learn the same lessons over and over again.

If we are not learning anything from our trials, it is rather distressing. Trials should remind us of our severely limited capacities as human beings. Show us that we don’t have all the answers. Never have. Never will. They should stretch us. Mold us. Shape us. Make us better than we think we are. Perhaps another person caused the suffering. Maybe we did all we could. But we were blindsided. Careless. Lost sight of the goal. Whatever the situation. No one is perfect. People will disappoint us. Cause us grief. Pain. Worry. Stress. Anger. Sadness. Simply put, our faith in humanity will be tested. Hopefully, through it all, something good resulted. We learned a lesson. Applied it to our lives. And our future. Some trials are actually blessings in disguise. Huh! We just don’t realize it atm.

Being required to go endure multiple trials is not a reason to be bitter. Resentful. Hardhearted. Mean-spirited. Distrustful. Instead see the future for what it is. The future. It has hope. Promise. A life of its own. New beginnings. A word of caution though. When we suffer because of someone else, it seems reasonable to have trust issues. It might be difficult to open up. Building barriers appear inevitable. Defense mechanisms become appealing. But we can cope. We will. We have to. Consider the alternative. There is someone else with even greater struggles. The quadriplegic. The man or woman born blind. Deaf. Mute. Mentally retarded. The homeless. A tiny fraction of the problems you could have. But you don’t. We are truly blessed.We have more than we need. We are alive.

As I battle personal demons. Struggle through my own “Gethsemanes”. I am comforted by the fact that I am never, ever alone. Many people hold a special place in their hearts just for me. First and foremost: “The most powerful being in the universe is the father of my spirit!” Elder Utchdorf. Family. Friends. The quiet, unassuming ones in my corner. Rallying around me to succeed. To give it my best. My trials are my own. If I could not handle them, someone else would have them. Apply these same words to you. I pray that when trials do come. And they will. You and I can find the peace we desperately seek. Whatever our trials are this moment. Remember that we can be uplifted. Supported. Comforted. To know that we can do it. We have to. Giving up is not an option. “May you have enough happiness to make you sweet, enough trials to make you strong, enough sorrow to keep you human, and enough hope to make you happy”

Until the next post..
Best,
Juan