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I was continuing an interview yesterday for my next book, talking to an amazing young mother who has endured so much- she was raped at age five, almost died giving birth to her firstborn child, and the child, because of a strange and unique set of circumstances, was born severely handicapped, a handicap she deals with every single day of her life. This mother could have only seen darkness, but she chooses life and love. Every day, she wakes up and chooses not to wallow but to embrace JOY!

This is not to say she ignores or downplays the seriousness and crushing effects of the challenges and tragedies she has experienced. This is to say that despite those, she knows there is a loving God who is leading her. She sees this love reflected in the darkness through her husband, through her children, and through every day beauty in ordinary life.

I thought that if I was good and lived according to God’s ‘rules’ I would have a perfect life the way I wanted. That does not happen. There is evil and tragedy in this fallen world. It is not God’s doing. He doesn’t will evil or sorrow. That comes from the fallen nature of mankind. But we are made for more than just this world. While I am here, I choose love and I choose life.

“I choose love and I choose life.”

These are powerful words.

What painful memories, what sorrows, what dire circumstances, what demons are you challenged with today? Do you choose love and life?

We all know the domino effect. We naturally tend to pass along what has been passed along to us. But we don’t have to live this way. By deliberating controlling our own attitude, by deliberately channeling our thinking in a positive and faith-filled direction, we can find happiness and joy in life’s most difficult situations.

Some events in our lives are so traumatic that we should seek outside medical help (dealing with depression or an assault such as rape), group support (dealing with a loved one who has an addiction or disease), and spiritual guidance such as a trusted priest and confessor (learning to forgive and also keep a cautious distance between ourselves and those who inflict pain in our lives). In addition to that, we can make a conscious decision to reject being a slave to our circumstances, to let go and to choose life and love.

Some events in our lives are not nearly so stinging as the serious traumatic ones, yet they can still rob our lives of joy. Perhaps we are dealing with a passive/aggressive in-law . Maybe we are coping with an ill-tempered boss. It could be that our own child, whom we love with all our heart, is challenging us with his behavior. These lesser events still have the possibility of robbing us of our full potential and the joy and love we can experience and reflect to others in our lives.

As a Catholic, I find that going to Confession regularly helps to keep me on the right spiritual track, and helps me focus on goodness and the blessings in my life. Other strategies to avoid being sucked into negativity and despair when confronting difficult circumstances can include:

Praying daily

Living ‘in the moment’ (also known as not dwelling on the past)

Making a conscious effort to think of and count blessings (Look at the good in front of you- start with your children and spouse)

Choosing to forgive those who have hurt you in the past (This is not the same as forgetting as in allowing them close enough to you to hurt you again. Once burned, shame on you. Twice burned, shame on me. It is possible to forgive and yet maintain a safe distance from people who continue to be destructive.)

Tackling the task in front of you and pushing worry about the past and future into the back of your mind.

Surrounding yourself with positive people. Our environments make a huge difference in our attitudes. To some extent we are all chameleons, of a sort.  We absorb from those around us. “He who touches pitch blackens his hand.” (Sirach13:1)

Exercising daily to reduce stress

Making time for enjoyable activities with those you love. Put people before things. Be responsible and do your daily duties, yes, but don’t let  your responsibilities squeeze out simple pleasures such as a walk with your spouse or throwing the ball with your toddler.

Hopefully, soon you will be able to read all about this inspiring young mother in my new book with Patti Maguire Armstrong. In the meantime, I hope it will be helpful to employ the strategies mentioned here to live today in joy and happiness. I hope that you too will choose life and choose love!

Many blessings-

Theresa

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