Start where you are; use what you have; and do what you can.
Throughout my life, whether I am faced with battling adversity, working to achieve goals, going through the pain of watching someone I love fight for their lives, or facing the death of a loved one, I do my best to remember one of my favorite quotes and to put it into practice: “Start where you are, use what you have, and do what you can”.
I am writing this blog hoping it reaches the heart of at least one person. Many times, in my life I have been faced with questions: What’s to come? What do I do next? Will I be okay? The fear of the unknown can be overwhelming. The fear of the unknown filled my spirit at age 13 when I boarded a plane alone from Haiti to Miami, Florida. At that moment, I did not know that my life was about to change. I did not know that day was the last time I would see my parents for many years to come. Those questions arose again when I was sent to go live with another family member at age 14. I had those same question at age 16 when my cousin gave me a ride to a friend’s house and she welcomed me to sleep on her floor. Every single time those questions came up I had to remind myself that it was going to be okay.
As we approached this holiday season, I know this will be a difficult season for many of you. We have had to face many challenges in the past nine months and this holiday season many of us will have to confront the reality that these are not normal times. Many of you are unable to travel to spend time with families perhaps due to COVID, health issues, or financial reasons. And many of you will be missing a loved one because they are no longer with you. Over 260,000 of God’s children have passed on due to COVID and other complications. For this reason, families are bracing themselves more than usual.
For me and my family we will be missing my loving mother who died suddenly a few months back. My mom had a sweet and loving spirit. She enjoyed cooking for her family, friends, and her church. During Thanksgiving she would have friends and family picking trays of food. I used to tell her all the time that “you are not a restaurant mommy”. Her joy was always to watch us eat her food and eat leftovers days later. It brought a smile to her face. Last year we sat around the table with my mom and had dinner. This year is different. She is no longer with us. I am well aware that I am not alone in this experience. So many of you are faced with the same predicament about a friend or family and some of you have lost more than one person.
I am faced again with remembering to start with where I am, to use what I have, and to do what I can. I am face with having to practice the things that I have been coaching and teaching for many years; to remember the promises of God; to give back; to lift up others; and most of all to be thankful and practice the gift of gratitude in the midst of going through pain and grief.
I want you to take a step back with me for a second. Take a step back away from your own pain. I want you to think about the many people who are bearing sorrows deep into their souls. Many people have had to end relationships this season. Others have lost their jobs before and even during this crisis. I encourage you to keep in mind the many who are in the hospital fighting for their lives, the children who are born into poverty, the fatherless and motherless, the families right here in the US and around the world who do not have clean drinking water, food to eat, the homeless, the widows, the divorced, the singles, the single parents, the many this year who have died from gun violence, the elderly, and so many who are alone during this season.
So many of you were unable to say goodbye to friends and family because they died in a hospital alone. Just know that I am heartbroken by your grief and pain. As difficult this may be, I pray that God will give you the strength to give thanks for the time you had with them and may you cherish every moment with the people who surrounds you with love and support. Let us stop for a second and send everyone love and peace.
We are all different and at different times in our lives we are all faced with pain and adversities and every one of our stories is unique. What I know for sure is that there is something that would take away the anger, the resentment, the bitterness, and the pressure that come into our lives. There is one thing that can add peace and even joy – and that is to be grateful.
The word of God teaches us to give thanks under every circumstance.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
I would like to share with you when someone is on their death bed what matters most is their loved ones and the relationships. According to the Book: The Top Five Regrets of The Dying by Bronnie Ware the top five regrets and unfulfilled wishes of the dying were:
1. I wish I had had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I did not work so hard
3. I wish I had the courage to express my feelings
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with friends
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier
What I know for sure is what matters most for a person who is in the final process of transitioning is their loved ones, the relationships, peace, and the memories they have created. They are not thinking about money, cars, women, men, jewelry, houses, title, ranks, degrees. It is about the love and peace that surrounds them.
How do I know this? Well I was with my mother during the process of transitioning. My sister and I were by her bed side. We were there before her last breaths. She was surrounded by the people she loved the most and who loved and cared for her the most. She was surrounded by her children and grandchild. We surrounded her with songs and prayer. The night before she passed, we were praying with her. She laid her head down on my shoulder and I was touching her back. We did not know she was going to die hours later. To me this was a gift from God and that is the memory I choose to cherish and be thankful for every second of my existence.”
Steve Job died a billionaire at 56 years old of Pancreatic Cancer and here are his last words on the sick bed: “I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life that I am accustomed to. At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death.”
As you are faced with so many difficulties or sadness during this time wondering if you should I risk traveling or should you invite friends and family over; I want to remind you to be safe and to do what is best for your family and to make sure you have done everything in your power to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.
I implore you as well; in all things to practice gratitude. Look for the things in your life to be thankful for. Remember to create memories with your family and friends. Reach out to loved ones and express your love and gratitude for them. Write a letter or put a card in the mail. Cherish the time you are spending with them whether you are face to face or through video, Facetime, Zoom, or phone calls. Be grateful and present and cherish every second.
As so many of you are faced with the pressure of gift buying this season or the pressure of having to spend what you may not have, remember to start with where you are, use what you have, and do what you can. Your loved ones and your children want your time, love, and attention. Do not go in debt or spend what you do not have. Your children want you to be happy not stressed. Find other ways to create memories that money cannot buy.
Let us all be thankful for another day and make plans to give back. Whether it is by taking time to pray for our brothers and sisters in the world or by donating to a food bank, homeless shelter or by being a servant leader, by serving others, a single parent, an elderly, a widow this season just give thanks. Whichever stage in life we are at right now, we will face the day when the curtain comes down. Remember to start where you are, to use what you have and to do what you can. When the storms come, I pray that you will you allow God to be your umbrella.
Cherish every moment and stay present. You do not always have to make sense of it all. Take everything one day at a time. Be thankful for the gift of love for your family, for your spouse, and for your friends. May you remember to treat yourself with patience, kindness, love, and care as you do for so many people. On days when you are tired, hand it all over to God. Remember the sun always shines after the rain. Enjoy the little things in life.
Leo Tolstoy says to: “Remember that there is only one important time and it is Now. The present moment is the only time over which we have dominion. The most important person is always the person with whom you are, who is right before you, for who knows if you will have dealings with any other person in the future? The most important pursuit is making that person, the one standing at your side, happy, for that alone is the pursuit of life.”
I believe that everything happens for a reason and love is all that we have. Material things that are lost can always be regained. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – “Life”.
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under heaven: Ecclesiastes 3
God is love!
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