Pushing through Life

Last Friday, I sat in a memorial service for my friend.  The day before, we stood silently as his ashes were locked behind a marble tablet at Mira Mar National Cemetery.  The tablet is currently blank with just a simple piece of paper affixed to it – Thomas A. Turner, Jr.  In 3-4 months, the tablet will be replaced with the permanent marker:

Thomas A. Turner, Jr.

Lieutenant Colonel, USMC

3/1/43 – 10/18/15

“Thanks for dropping by, but I’m not here”

We placed the ashes and it was goodbye.  We had the memorial service and it was goodbye.  People spoke and shared what an amazing man Tom was.  It is incredible how one person can impact so many.  Tom, who was such a quiet and humble man, touched so many in significant and profound ways.  Each time I say goodbye to someone I love, a piece of my heart goes with them.  I piece I will never recover. But now it’s a goodbye and we push on.

We push “through” life, moving forward, trying to better ourselves, trying to better our life. Part of that “betterment” is to constantly remind ourselves that there is always, always something to be thankful for.  No matter how good or bad life is, we need to wake up each day thankful for our life, because someone somewhere is desperately fighting for their life. Kind of a sobering thought.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to realize that happiness is not the absence of problems, but the ability to deal with them.  Peace is not about a quiet life, it’s about knowing when to press into God to receive His peace in the midst of the storm.  We are called to appreciate what we have, instead of focusing on what we’ve lost. It’s not what the world takes away from us that counts; it’s what we do with what we have left that matters.

I recently found a great list of things to keep in mind.  Here’s my take on it:

  1. Pain is part of life.  We grow through pain.  Sometimes life closes doors because it’s time to move forward. And that’s a good thing because we often won’t move unless circumstances force us to. When times are tough, remind yourself that no pain comes without a purpose. Move on from what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you. Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there. Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but eventually.  A great thing to repeat over and over in your head is that “God’s got this.”  A lot of pain comes from being in a fallen world, but God also shapes us through pain.  It is how He molds us.  There are two kinds of pain: pain that hurts and pain that changes you. When you roll with life, instead of resisting it, both kinds help you grow.
  1. Everything in life is temporary. Every time it rains, it stops raining. Every time you get hurt, you heal. After darkness there is always light – we are reminded of this every morning, but still we forget, and begin to believe that the night will last forever. It won’t. Nothing lasts forever.  If you are in a good place right now, enjoy it. It won’t last forever. If things are bad, don’t worry because it won’t last forever either. Every breath gives you a new beginning and a new ending. You get a second chance, every second. Just because life isn’t easy at the moment, doesn’t mean you can’t laugh and it doesn’t mean you can’t look for the hidden blessing.  There is truth to the old adage that “every cloud has a silver lining.”
  1. Worrying and complaining changes nothing. Those who complain the most, accomplish the least. It’s a cliché but … spending today complaining about yesterday won’t make tomorrow any brighter. Take action instead. Let what you’ve learned grow you. Happiness begins to arrive only when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have and the blessings God has given you. There is always, always something to be thankful for.
  1. Your scars are symbols of your strength. Don’t ever be ashamed of the scars life has left you with. A scar means the hurt is over and the wound is closed. It means you conquered the pain, learned a lesson, grew stronger, and moved forward. See your scars as a sign of strength, not pain.
  1. Every struggle is a step forward.  Patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working towards a goal.  If you’re going to do something, go all in.  Otherwise, why start at all? I often think patience is a test of our determination, of how much we really want it.  And, struggles along the way are just rocks along the path.  The path is still clear and visible, we just have to sidestep the rocks. Struggles are not found on the path, they are the path.  Each struggle we overcome moves us further toward our goal.
  1. Other people’s negativity is not your problem. Be positive when negativity surrounds you. Smile when others try to bring you down. It’s an easy way to maintain your enthusiasm and focus. Don’t ever let someone else’s bitterness change the person you are. You can’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of you. They do things because of them.  So worry about yourself before you worry about what others think.
  1. What’s meant to be will eventually, BE.  True strength comes when you have much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead. There are blessings hidden in every struggle you face, but you have to be willing to see them. You can’t force things to happen.  My mother used to describe it as trying to force a river to run uphill.  At some point you have to let go and let what’s meant to be, BE.  Another way to say it is Let God be God.  He does it much better than we do.
  1. The best thing you can do is to keep going. Don’t be afraid to get back up – to try again, to love again, to live again, and to dream again. Don’t let loss or a hard lesson harden your heart. Life’s best lessons are often learned at the worst times. There will be times when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. And you might feel like you will be stuck in this rut forever, but you won’t… morning will come. Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to arrive at your best.

Life can be tough, even brutal, but you are tougher. Find the strength to laugh every day. Find the courage to be different.  In the end, loving your life is about trusting God, taking risks, losing and finding happiness, cherishing the memories, and learning through experience. It’s a long-term journey.  Bottom line is: You might not end up exactly where you intended to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be.  Live simply. Love generously. Speak truthfully. Work diligently. Pray often.  Trust God. Keep growing.

And when we’re gone, we’re gone ….

“Nice of you to stop by, but I’m not here”