“Claire has courage.” My heart beat incredulously hard as those words rolled of the tongue of a teacher of mine one night prior to my high school graduation. I was attending my Senior dinner dedicated to the graduating class of 2015. Each student received praise from a specific teacher, and for me I never thought that specific teacher would say that. I had been a lot of things throughout my high school career. I never considered courage being one of them. I had been hard working and diligent. Headstrong and stubborn. Exhausted and discouraged. And a lot of other things at that time in my life… but courageous? I wasn’t so sure. Since then, those three words have echoed through my mind and heart multiple times throughout my existence as a silent sufferer. “Claire has courage.”
What exactly is courage? Some bold feat that none other would be crazy enough to attempt? Daring to be different? Daring to stand strong in your convictions and your thirst for knowledge and truth? Following your dreams and having success in high finances and authority? Maybe. These things all seem courageous enough, but I think I’ve gained a new definition of courage in the past year of my life.
Three months after graduation I stood in my apartment the first day being dropped off at college. I was alone, and I was terrified. I felt that at that single moment in time all my courage (if I even had any) had been tangibly torn from my inner being. What happened to the girl who supposedly had courage?
My courage seemed to continually plummet as I suffered each painful flare, and each life failure. Failing college, coming home from college, being sick 24/7. Everything just seemed to make me weak and useless. Eventually when your body lays in bed like a shriveled mess for such a long time, you decide to choose courage. Courage to get out of bed. Courage to try new things. Courage to develop new skills and abilities. Courage to study so hard that you know more about your disease than doctors do. Courage to grow closer to your loved ones. Courage to have compassion like you’ve never had before. Courage to enjoy the good moments, even if those moments are small and insignificant. And courage to submit to my Heavenly Father’s will, even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
I don’t know if I had courage at that moment in time when my teacher declared me as “Claire the courageous,” but I have discovered that as I strive every day to have a little more courage, faith, and hope, I start to have a clearer understanding of what those things are, and how they all go hand in hand. I may have courage now, but not because of anything I have done. For without God, I am nothing, and it is because of Him that I have become the person I am, and I have the courage that I do. Not only that, but I still have so much to be taught by the Lord, and so much more to learn. This week I wanted to strive to be more courageous, and despite feeling sluggish, exhausted, and sick, I can tangibly feel the Lord’s hand in my life, and it is Him that gives me courage to keep going. What a blessing that is!
So my message to you this day: Don’t quit. Keep fighting. Be courageous in the way that the Lord would have you be. It is the Lord that provides me with my courage on a daily basis, just like he can provide you with. Sometimes you just have to open your eyes wide enough to see it. Not only that, but seeing isn’t just about seeing with your eyes, it’s about seeing with your heart and once you understand that, you'll develop courage beyond your wildest dreams! It is not always the big worldly things that indicate courage, sometimes it the small and simple things that bless lives and give hope to others. Continue forth in courage and God will bless you to continue on with faith and hope for the future.
We've all seen those movies. Those feel good movies that inevitably end in "happily ever after." The story line being generally the same for every new movie. Guy meets girl during some romantic season of the year (which can basically be any time), guy and girl never see the inevitable in the beginning, but always end up falling madly in love in the end. Or perhaps they're childhood sweethearts that are completely blind to the romance "blooming" between them. Or maybe it's a simple story of Santa sending a "boyfriend for Christmas." (How convenient would that be?!) In the end the plot is generally interchangeable with any other Hallmark movie under the sun. It always ends in remarkable love for family, success in life, and the one and only "true love's kiss."
I personally grew up on these movies and for some reason, in the mind of a young teenage girl, I always thought that my life would eventually end similar to these fictional character’s lives. Ever since I can remember my goal in life was to find true love, settle down, have a family, and live “happily ever after.” There comes a time in life where you have to be realistic. All too quickly my “remarkable love for family” turned into a disease that seemed to rip me from my family ties. My “success in life” developed into immense effort to get well so I can live a “normal” life. And my “true love's kiss” shifted to 20+ pill intake, three times a day, in order to control pain, symptoms, and bacteria levels. So much for my “happily ever after.”
People have always stated the mantra, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!” I suppose you could look at life that way, but the realistic view of things has to take into account that if life doesn’t give you sugar and water as well, your lemonade is going to taste awful. To make matters worse, if you're lucky enough for life to give you sugar, chances are that the sugar will probably give you Cancer, or Lyme disease, or some other terminal illness.
I suppose you could call me a pessimist, but that's not exactly my point. It’s not really a matter of pessimism or optimism. It’s a matter of ignoring the lemons that life throws at you, and trying to see the blessings and opportunities that have come from hardships. I can be as positive as any well known optimist if I wanted to be, but that doesn’t change the fact that I suffer from chronic pain, I’m discouraged from life, I’ve been abandoned by people because of my illness, I’m lonely, and I’m exhausted! When you’re suffering tremendously it’s okay to be real! You don’t have to sugarcoat things for other’s convenience and comfort. My life didn’t turn out like the Hallmark movie I hoped for, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be an incredible story.
Sometimes life doesn’t become the story you hoped for, but it’s not so much the circumstances you’re in that determine success, happiness, or worth. Sometimes the happiest people are the people that simply choose to be happy. Don’t wait for the “true loves kiss.” Don’t stand idly by waiting for life success. I can’t waste my time waiting for Prince Charming when I have things I need to do in the meantime.
I believe that the secret is to look for everyday miracles. In Hallmark movies the miracles are obvious. The miraculous business decision that saves the company. The rain fall that saves a year’s worth of crops. True love coming together against all odds. Sometimes life’s miracles are not as obvious to the human eye. In reality, the secret is to see with your heart. The miracles that take place in my life are my own source of “Hallmark” moments. Those moments are a gift from God, and with such a miserable disease that seems to steal my life at times, it’s so vital that my heart be opened to every beautiful mercy that God blesses me with.
I know in the depths of my heart and soul that no matter what we go through in life, we can find pure joy in the moments. My life didn’t turn out to be the “Hallmark” story that I had hoped for, but it turned out to be so much more. I have been blessed with a certain depth to life that is only found through suffering and difficult life lessons. I have had moments that are so incredible at times they have brought me to tears. The older you get the easier it is to be brought to tears because you know the darkest and scariest corners of life, and with that comes the blessing of knowing how the Lord blesses us in so many aspects. All we have to do is open our eyes and hearts to His will, and what glorious blessings will come of such simple obedience!
I hope we all have those “Hallmark” moments that add a bit of spark to life. Granted if life is only handing you lemons at times, try and find the sweet spots that are hidden among the sour moments. I promise it will be worth your while.