Encouragement, Happiness, Life Lessons

Moment of Clarity – My Love Journey

by Ariane Cunningham

Love is roses from time to time. Surprises and gifts. Disagreements and annoyances. Love is also patient and kind. Love is freedom to completely be yourself and sharing your authentic self with someone else. 

One of the biggest lessons that love has taught me thus far in my young journey in life is the sheer importance of patience, empathy, compassion, forgiveness, and deciding whether that one issue (and there is always that one issue in relationships) will make you or break you. Will love outweigh the imperfections of someone who did not ask your permission to be perfect? Do we not all have imperfections? If you cannot live without that person or their love, imperfections are the small things. 

I have learned the lesson of the importance of self-love, by loving God and myself first. There is no other path to loving someone fully than by loving yourself first. If you do not love yourself, are still upset about what someone said to you six months ago, carrying baggage that God has delivered and forgiven you from one year ago, but out of guilt you carry that baggage anyway; you are not ready for loving anyone but yourself…first. 

Love has also taught me how important it is to live in the moment in life. Cherishing the small things, looking and experiencing things like they were happening for the first time. Those are my moments of clarity on love thus far. To be continued….

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Encouragement, Inspirational, Life Lessons

When God…

by Ariane Cunningham

When God….

When do you learn the lesson? When does the light appear? 

The answers are these. When God shines his light into your soul, radiating through you for all the world to see. When God lets you know that you are not perfect, that is not how he created you to be. When God allows his Word, his grace, and his mercy to be hidden to your heart. When God lets you know that no weapon formed against you may prosper. It won’t work. When God arms you with his full armor, and you can use his word as your shield. When God answers your request for wisdom, and he gives it freely because he loves you.

When God stands at the door knocking for you to let him in. When God orders peace, and orders you to be still. When God calls you according to his purpose. When God wipes your tears and says, the battle is over, you can shout now. 

Encouragement, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivation, Motivational

Four Ways to Live Your Best Life Now

by Ariane Cunningham

My friends, I am sure this title evokes a possible side glance or two. Of course, there are more than four ways to live your best life now. My iconic role model, Oprah Winfrey, made the phrase “live your best life now” famous. So I must pay homage to Oprah. I am sure Oprah has 100 ways to live your best life now. I have narrowed it down to four ways to live your best life now, based on my life experience.

1. Laugh

My closest friends have this one attribute that is so close to my heart; they all love to laugh. One of my closest friends calls me every morning. She is quite witty, and she makes me laugh hysterically. Every morning. And, we are not laughing at other people. We laugh about something funny that happened the day before, and my infinite stories about my life as a single gal. I get off of the phone with her each day feeling so refreshed, happy, and peaceful. Laughter is often the best medicine. Laugh today and see how good you feel after a nice laugh. 

2. Do one thing each day that makes you happy

As a daughter, sister, and friend, I often go out of my way to make sure everyone around me is happy. I am constantly asking others “How are you? Is all well? If not, can I help?” I have a friend who is a therapist who said to me one day “Ariane, self-care first enables you to be the best person you can be to everyone around you.” That statement empowered me. That very day, I went to get a manicure. The next day, I sat on the deck in awe of all the beautiful flowers and rose bushes that my dad has planted so I am always surrounded by beautiful things. I sat for at least an hour, swinging in an outdoor chair, another gift from my awesome dad, and just enjoyed nature, the blue sky, and the warm sun. Since starting the trend, I do at least one thing everyday that makes ME happy. I journal, I laugh, I socialize with friends, I paint in abstract on a blank canvas. Today, my friends, begin doing at least one thing each day that makes YOU happy. 

3. Live in the Present

It is so easy to focus too much on our past, and too focus too much on the future. The thoughts from the past may be “I didn’t give to my favorite charity last year. I should have saved a certain amount five years ago. I met the love of my life 10 years ago and created a mess of that relationship.” The thoughts of the future may be “I want to be a multi-millionaire in five years. I want to have five kids in the next ten years. I want to live by the sea in 15 years.” Here is my humble advice to those pestering thoughts of the past and the future: STOP THOSE THOUGHTS as soon as they enter your mind. Start saving today. Start a list of things you would like to give to charity today . Look for the love of your life beginning today. Talk to your mate or partner  about broadening you family today. Begin looking at potential properties by the sea this weekend. All of these things may not be attainable in this moment, but that’s ok. Too much time focused on things we cannot change in the past and being consumed on the perfect future can often lead to missing the many blessings we have in our lives today, in this moment. Let’s start living in the PRESENT.  

4. Turn I can’t into I CAN

You can laugh today. You can do one thing each day to make you happy. You can live in the present. You can go back to school. You can be happy with the many blessings in your life now. You can be positive. You can enjoy each day. Release the invisible barriers of “I can’t” that we often place on our lives and choose to say, “I CAN.”

Encouragement, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivation, Motivational

Four Ways to Walk in Gratitude

by Ariane Cunningham

In this wonderful, touching and moving segment of Matthew McConaughey accepting an Oscar, rather than talking about all of his accomplishments due to his own merit, Matthew McConaughey chose to talk about living in gratitude.

Living in Gratitude is absolutely essential to being whole, to being your best self, to living your best life. I have outlined four ways to walk and live in gratitude.

1. Live in Humility

We are all one step away from facing calamity in our lives.  Fame, fortune, notoriety, and success is fleeting.  Make no mistake, all of these things are attainable and are blessings.  However, when we attain these things that are fleeting, it is important to never look at yourself as better or superior to others as a result of your accomplishments.

It is so important to view other individuals based on their moral and human worth, not based on their possessions.  Others may not have the material things you possess, but it does not lessen them as a person. Never look at yourself as better than anyone.  Everyone has their own story and journey in life. Living in humility is treating the janitor the same way in which you would treat the CEO, all have worth, and all should be treated equally.

2. Live in Gratitude

I visited the gym recently and there was an older gentleman, who looked to be in his late 70s, sitting by the check-in desk.  I started a conversation with this gentleman and we began to talk about his interest in joining the gym; he said he came with a friend to observe the gym and its workout equipment.  I began to share with him my 30-minute daily workout routine of cardio, weight lifting, and muscle toning.  After we finished our conversation, he said to me, “Thank You for sharing your experience with me.” I replied, “Thank You for listening to my experience.” This exchange with the older gentleman made my day, and I was grateful for our conversation. 

The Bible says “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!” (Hebrews 13:2)  Small acts of kinds and gratitude go a long way.  Try to implement at least one random act of kindness to a stranger each day.  It could be a smile, simply saying hello, or asking about their day.  These small acts of kindness can change someone’s life, and make their day and yours.

3. Live in Forgiveness

Maya Angelou has an amazing quote that says, “Bitterness is like a cancer, it eats upon its host.” We all have feelings of bitterness as a result of being wronged by others. We have all wronged others and hence, have not forgiven ourselves.  The simple act of forgiveness can change our lives, and the lives of our loved ones and those around us.

First, we must forgive ourselves for allowing bitterness to fester. We must forgive ourselves for living without forgiveness.  You may have said something to someone that was overly critical or hurtful, or you may have done something five or ten years ago for which you have not yet forgiven yourself.  None of us are perfect.  The Bible tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) Forgive yourself today, in this moment. Whether is it through a personal prayer of forgiveness, or calling a person to whom you have wronged to ask for their forgiveness.  After taking these steps, Move Forward and Let it Go.

Secondly, forgive others.  This is much easier said than done.  There are things that others have done to us that have caused us great pain and suffering.  In order for us to live in freedom of spirit and mind, forgiving others is paramount. 

My friends, forgiveness does not mean we should stay in a toxic relationship, stay in a relationship that is verbally or physically abusive, or stay in a relationship that is otherwise harmful to us.  In these circumstances, you may forgive and WALK AWAY from these situations so that you remain whole, free from abuse, free of harm, and free from the threat of harm. Forgive, WALK AWAY, and seek help.  A helpful resource to begin the healing process from an abusive relationship is ncadv.org (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence). You can use this resource to seek help, and begin the forgiving and healing process.

 4. Live in God’s Grace

We must count it all joy that in the midst of it all, God continually allows us to live in his Grace. “God gives Grace generously.  As the scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) We must walk humbly in God’s Grace, realizing that it is a gift that none of us have earned or can ever earn. God’s Grace is a gift for all of those who believe in him and trust him. With this knowledge, we are able to walk in the gift of God’s Grace humbly, boldly, and with confidence! Here are a few other verses in the Bible that reassure us of God’s Grace.

  • “My Grace is all you need.  My power works best in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
  • “So let us come boldly to the throne of our Gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find Grace to help us when need it most.” (Hebrews 14:16)
  • God saved you by his Grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. (Ephesians 2:8)

Finally, my friends, let’s Walk in Gratitude by following these four steps: Live in Humility, Live in Gratitude, Live in Forgiveness and, lastly, Live in God’s Grace.

 

 

 

Encouragement, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivation, Motivational

Phenomenal Woman

Dr. Maya Angelou. Her life story inspires me, her beautiful words calm me, and her boldness and courage mystify me. I came across this poem today by Dr. Angelou, and wanted to share it with all of you. It’s titled Phenomenal Woman. 

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

– by Dr. Maya Angelou

Encouragement, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivation, Motivational

Anchors in the Storm

Storm Image

This message by David Platt, McLean Bible Church Teaching Pastor , Anchors in the Storm, is focused On God’s sovereignty and promise to always be with us, through every storm, every tribulation, every test, every failure, and every victory.  Wow! That’s something to get excited about. 

This message spoke so much to my spirit as we all go through storms in life, literally and figuratively.  I hope these words calm and touch your spirit as much as these words have calmed and touched mine.

Below are five key-takeaways from David’s message.

  1. God’s supreme sovereignty over all things. The rock solid knowledge that God has sovereignty over ALL THINGS.
  2. God’s constant presence with his People.
  3. God’s loving ownership of your Life.
  4. God’s dependable promise of his Word. God has promised to bring you through this Storm.
  5. God’s ultimate purpose in the World.

Please watch this message when you have a spare moment. It’s uplifting.

I will leave you with one of my favorite songs, ironically titled, Through The Storm, by Yolanda Adams.  This song has gotten me through so many different ups and downs in life.  I hope it does the same for you.

Encouragement, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivation, Motivational

Imagine – Seeing Ourselves Through The Eyes of Our Creator

How many of us wake up, look in the mirror, and immediately notice all of our flaws.  You may see a silver strand in your hair that you hadn’t seen before, a blemish that just won’t go away, or those fine lines around our eyes that, although we have tried all the eye creams available to man, just won’t go away.

My friends, what if we were to see ourselves as God sees us as the “seal of perfection, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.” (Ezekiel 28:12) Wow! How powerful is that?

Powerful affirmations of one’s self should be hidden in our hearts and minds. Sometimes, we seek affirmation from others to tell us we are attractive, smart, flawlessly dressed, and an overall wonderful person.  These affirmations from others that are near and dear to us are priceless.  Sadly, all of us do not have individuals in our lives to affirm us.  My friends, this is when we must look inward and upward and see ourselves as our Creature sees us.  What does that mean, you may ask. “God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

God, in all of his holiness, created us in his image. In this, we should have hope. God also gave each and everyone of us free will, and we can choose today to say “I choose to see myself as God sees me, fearfully and wonderfully made.” We can choose to look into the mirror and see our value, not our flaws. We can choose to see ourselves as more than a conqueror.  We can choose to see ourselves as a winner, not the loser. We can choose to see ourselves as the victor, not the victim. We can choose to believe in ourselves, knowing our Creator believes in us more than we can fathom. 

Choose today to see yourself  as God sees you. Imagine his greatness within you. You are precious in his sight.   

Encouragement, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivation, Motivational

A Letter to My Daughter

IMG_0768

Kayla2

Kayla 8

By Ariane Cunningham

My Dear Kayla,

The day you were born was and will remain the happiest day of my life. The Doctor laid you in my arms, and I didn’t want to let you go. Your dad and I rejoiced and shed many tears over the wonderful gift that God had given to us. A beautiful, gorgeous baby with a full head of black hair, ten fingers, ten toes and a healthy weight of eight pounds and 11 ounces. Raising you from a beautiful baby to the beautiful young woman you have become has been the absolute joy of my life. You are my gift from God. You are my sunshine when skies are grey. Your radiant spirit touches me everyday, as it touches everyone with whom you encounter.

You are an amazing source of encouragement. As much as I would try to shield my not-so-good days from you while you were growing up, you would make pictures for me to make me smile, surprise me with hand-crafted cards to tell me how much you loved me, and even wrote me a letter including 40 things you loved about me, your mom. I could not ask for a more caring, empathetic, sweet soul in my life, who just happens to be my only child, my beautiful Kayla.  

As I had you at a young age, I feel that in a lot of ways we have grown up together. It has often-times been you and me against the world. Every day has not been sunshine and roses, but such is life. When I am not being the mom who sets and enforces the rules, nicely of course, I feel you are my best friend. You are always encouraging, always uplifting, always hoping and praying for the best, and always blessing me with your amazing smile and amazing presence of light.

I have watched you grow up to be a beautiful, accomplished, determined, ambitious, driven, empathetic, humble young woman. I cannot be more proud of you. My love and belief in you runs deeper than the deepest sea. You are my angel on Earth, my gift from Heaven.

As you embark on your journey to University in Georgia, know that God is with you every step of the way. You will continue to excel academically, continue to build amazing relationships, and continue being my beautiful Kayla, and Kayla is enough. You are enough. You are worthy of and deserve greatness, kindness, respect, love, and loyalty. You are always worthy of God’s everlasting grace, which will never leave you.

I will leave you with this, as this is our favorite song since you were a beautiful little baby, a song I will continue to sing to you as long as you will allow me to do so.

🎼You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are grey; you will never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away 🎼

I love you, my sweet wonderful Kayla, always ever and forever.

Love,

Mom

Encouragement, Happiness, Inspirational

Sleeping Beauty

When I was in grade school I loved to read and write poetry. It was so freeing and whimsical, and even if what I wrote didn’t often rhyme, it’s something that I truly loved.  I have a poem dancing in my head in this moment, so I wanted to share it with all of you. It’s called Sleeping Beauty. Remember, I am a novice at poetry, so please keep that in mind and enjoy. 😌

Sleeping Beauty

As the Sleeping Beauty drifts off to sleep, she prays the Lord her dear soul to keep. She dreams of love, she dreams of laughter, she dreams of her happily ever after. In her dream her prince appears, and he tells her heart to no longer to fear. He is true, he is noble, he is worthy, so with him her heart does not have to hurry. The prince adores his Sleeping Beauty, to protect her Heart is his true duty. He protects her, he adores her, he is captivated, as for such a beauty he has long awaited. When she wakes the prince vows to make his Sleeping Beauty his one true happily ever after, as her Beauty and presence alone has his heart in deep capture. This dream, like all dreams, comes to an end as Sleeping Beauty awakes, wondering if her prince will come to her rescue, she prays, for her sake. The Beauty tells herself dreams do come true, and if she prays for that honorable prince, is it something God will truly do. She longs to tell others to never give up on their dreams, as difficult and hard as it may sometimes seem. There is a prince that is honest,  noble, and true, as God reassures her by telling her “When he finds you, he is just for YOU.”