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. 

Inspirational

Know Your Worth

by Ariane Cunningham

“We are not worthy! We are not worthy!” This infamous line from the movie Wayne’s World was said by both Wayne and Garth, played by Mike Myers and Dana Carvey, upon finally meeting their favorite heavy metal icon.

From a personal perspective, there are times that I have felt unworthy of love, praise, promotion, gratitude shown to me by others, and God’s love. I believe in God with all my heart and mind. I know that his grace is sufficient for all my needs. I am so thankful to him for his love, his grace, his blessings, and forgiveness. When I meditate on how God sees me, which is as his child beautifully and wonderfully made, I realize I AM WORTHY of love.

Lack of self-esteem and a lack belief in ourselves is something we have all struggled with at least once or, in my case, more than once. The issue with self-doubt is that it can be such a hindrance in realizing our relevance, our importance, and our worth. Self-doubt can be crippling and debilitating and cause us not to pursue our dreams simply due to a lack of fear. The great poet Langston Hughes compares a dream deferred like a “dried up raisin in the sun.” I do not know about you, but I do not want to be that dried up raisin. I want to rise above my fears, my self-doubt, and moments of lack of self-esteem so that I may pursue my dreams, inspire and encourage others and, most importantly, LIVE and realize my worth. I wish the same to all of you reading this right now. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgement.” 2 Timothy 2:7

Let us move forward, fearless, walking in self-love, not self-doubt. Pursuing our dreams with boldness, power, and sound judgement. We all have something to contribute to this world, no matter the size or scope of our contribution. There is a truly powerful quote that I love by the writer C. Allen that says, “Remember that you are needed. There is at least one important work to be done that will not be done unless you do it.”

Finally, my friends, I must disagree with the Wayne’s World infamous movie line. I AM WORTHY, and I KNOW MY WORTH.

We are ALL worthy of greatness, love, and blessings. Know Your Worth and run with it. The sky is the limit on the journey to your destiny, if you allow it to be so.

 

 

 

 

Inspirational

Healthy Boundaries

by Ariane Cunningham
I had a professional mentor early in my career say to me years ago, “Ariane, you have to set some boundaries.” Why, you may ask, did my mentor feel the need to have this ‘come to Jesus’ moment with me? At the time, I had someone to whom I directly reported to at work calling me at midnight and beyond regarding her personal life, texting me almost 24 hours a day regarding non-work related issues, and even calling me on Sundays when I would make it clear that I was spending time with my family. This individual would constantly talk negatively about our fellow coworkers, which made me extremely uncomfortable. Not only is it professionally hazardous to gossip in the workplace, but one of my core values is to strive to see the best in everyone, and not constantly speak about or focus on their flaws.
The neediness of this individual was not professional or healthy for me, and the behavior began to take a toll on my concentration at work, my private time, my personal relationships outside of work and, from a professional perspective, created quite a quandary for me as I had let the behavior of this individual continue for so long, I did not know how to stop it. After the much needed ‘come to Jesus’ moment with my mentor, I gradually began implementing boundaries for myself with this individual. I would not answer every call or text after work hours. I stopped answering calls on the weekend. I stopped sharing details about my personal life, as at times this individual would share so much (too much) personal information, and I felt obligated to share tidbits of my own personal life, guardedly, of course. If a person regularly talks negatively about others in your presence, the question becomes what are they saying about you to others.  I no longer engaged in the gossip sessions regarding our team members and coworkers; I would quickly change the subject.
Well, the reaction to me setting boundaries with this person was not accepted well at all. I had become a crutch of sorts, by entertaining her needy behavior for so long, and she definitely noticed the change in my behavior once I began implementing healthy boundaries for myself. As I stopped being the crutch, in the eyes of this person, I became the enemy. I will spare you the many horrible details, but once I went from the crutch to the enemy, the work environment became extremely toxic. The extreme toxicity affected my health and my professional confidence. Thankfully, God soon blessed me with another job opportunity, allowing me a way out of the toxic environment.
It is so essential that we set healthy boundaries not only in our professional lives, but our personal lives including friends, family members, and associates. No one will set the boundaries you need in your life but you. Setting boundaries can lead to a happier and healthier you. I outline below four ways in which you can begin to set healthy boundaries for yourself.
  1. Know your boundaries. Identify them. Whether it is your personal time or space, gossiping, consistent negativity from others, or the way in which you allow yourself to be treated. Once you identify your boundaries it is easier to begin to implement these boundaries into your life, and communicate your boundaries with others who may be overstepping them.
  2. Feel empowered to let those around you know your boundaries. In the moment of a behavior that oversteps your boundaries, it is OK to say, “I feel the behavior you are demonstrating is not OK, and makes me feel uncomfortable. I would prefer this behavior to stop.” This will make it less likely for the behavior to continue.  Additionally, it will make others fully aware of your boundaries.
  3. Stick to your core values and beliefs. Why? Because they make you, YOU. For example, if someone consistently puts others down in your presence or consistently criticizes you, address it with that individual. They may be unaware that their behavior makes you uncomfortable. If they do not respect your boundaries, it may be time to create distance with those individuals. Again, setting boundaries is about your own health and happiness. Those individuals who truly care about you will respect your boundaries.
  4. Finally, never let anyone set your boundaries for you. If you wish not to receive calls from someone after a certain time at night, do not do so. If you do not feel a comfortable need to overly explain a missed call or missed engagement, do not. A simple response, “I was not available, I will try my best to be available soon,” is OK. If you are uncomfortable with continuous sarcastic and comments made by an individual, it is OK to say “Your comments make me uncomfortable.” Additionally, do not feel the need to feel boxed in to apologize, overly explain, or justify your actions to someone who is trying to create boundaries for YOU. This does not mean you need to be rude or callous when setting your boundaries.  It does mean that in order to have peace in our lives, fully love ourselves, and live a happier and stress-less life, we can confidently and boldly set boundaries with others and kindly let them know when they overstep your set boundaries. Creating healthy boundaries for ourselves makes all the difference in our inner peace, confidence, and overall well-being.
I welcome your thoughts and feedback on setting healthy boundaries.
Inspirational, Motivational

Dear God…

by Ariane Cunningham

Dear God,

It is me again. It’s 2:00 a.m., the second day of the New Year.  I can’t sleep. What have I done to deserve your grace, your mercy, your kindness? How can I ever thank you for preserving my life, for saving my life, so that I may fulfill the destiny you have planned for my life? The answer is simply this. I have done nothing and can do nothing to earn your grace, your mercy, your forgiveness. What a wonderful gift you give freely to all of your children without hesitation, without thinking “Do you deserve this blessing?” One thing that I can do to honor your love and mercy, as I can never repay you, is to walk in your grace, thank you for your goodness, and pray that my steps continue to be ordered in a way in which you see fit.
 
Lately, I find myself laughing and smiling more. Not because I have won the lottery, met the man of my dreams, or own an island, but because I have decided to let go and let you give the increase. I have decreased so you can increase in my life. What a joy it is to have peace in knowing that you, God, have my best interests in mind. I may not see the way out, the next opportunity, or the next breakthrough, but I have faith and trust that you see it, you have aligned it according to your will and your timing, not mine. What a peace it is to surrender to God and say, “Not my will, but your will be done in my life,” in your perfect timing that isn’t my own. Knowing that you are able and willing to supply all of my needs according to your riches and glory.
 
I find I am at my worst when I am trying to force a situation that isn’t right for me, or control something or someone that may not be best for me. I become angry, frustrated and unhappy. Why? Because, in those moments, I am not trusting you. In those moments, I forget about my faith and put “me” before you.
 
What peace I have in my heart in the blessed assurance that you have everything under control. You want the best for me, you want to bless me, and you gave your only son so that we may all have life, and have it more abundantly. As I grow older, the peace and maturity of trusting you grows stronger within my spirit. Perhaps in my younger years I was literally Living on a Prayer, as Bon Jovi sings. When I allow your peace to manifest in my spirit, I have new ideas, new reasons to smile, new reasons to laugh, and new reasons to hope. You subtly tell me in a quiet voice “It will be OK. You are loved. You are not alone,” as you are doing right now at 2:00 a.m. this morning. Thank you, God, for this blessed assurance. There is no one like you, and I will continue to strive to keep you first in my life.
 
 Thank you for a New Year, a new day of your grace, a new day for a new beginning.
 
 With Love, Adoration, and Gratitude,
 
Your Child, Ariane

 

Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivational

Four Things to Take Into the New Year – God’s Love, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Hope

by Ariane Cunningham

What a year this has been! I am sure many of us are in reflection mode as we look back at 2017, and prepare to do things differently in 2018, like exercising more, reading more, giving more.  These are all fantastic aspirations for the new year and are attainable.  As I reflect on the last year, the first word that comes to mind is “Wow”.  Did all of that really happen? 2017 was not all roses and sunshine for me.  I learned a lot, I experienced a whole lot, I was also blessed with a lot. The typical aspiration of most is to proclaim what they want to do differently in the New Year.  Personally, there are four intangible things I want to take into the New Year, including God’s Love, Forgiveness, Gratitude and Hope.

God’s Love. There is an old Christian hymn whose chorus goes like this “If it had not been for the Lord on my side, where would I be?” From personal experience, this is my summation of 2017. If it had not been for God’s love and his everlasting grace and mercy, I wouldn’t have discovered how fulfilling it is to blog and write to not only motivate and encourage others, but to also motivate myself in my darkest moments.  If it had not been for God’s divine gift of spiritual discernment, I would have walked fully into certain situations without listening to my gut, or God, saying STOP, DANGER AHEAD. If it had not been for God’s healing, I wouldn’t be cancer free in 2017, right now, today, after an emergency appendectomy in 2016 in which a surgeon found a cancerous tumor in my appendix. If it had not been for God’s faithfulness, I wouldn’t have the testimony of being diagnosed with stage one cancer in 2016, and two months later, after the emergency appendectomy, receiving a report from my Oncologist saying not only that the cancer had not metastasized and couldn’t be found, but there was a 99.9 percent chance that the cancer will NEVER return. I remain cancer free today.  God is the center of my joy, the center of my healing, and he will continue to be the center of my life in 2018 and years to come.

Forgiveness. Such a simple word, but so hard for those who have even the strongest faith.  Like most of you, I have been betrayed, deceived, and treated unfairly.  I find forgiveness very interesting as it is quite easy to say, “I forgive you,” but it doesn’t take away the hurt or pain of feeling wronged, often by those for whom we care most. As Maya Angelou famously said, “People will forget (or forgive) what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Forgiveness is a journey, but it is a necessary journey.  Holding on to bitterness, anger, and hate is more damaging to our health and our spirit than most sicknesses.  The journey of forgiveness is something I will continue into 2018 as, just as I need to forgive, our heavenly Father forgives us of all our sins and transgressions, separating them as far as the East is from the West. (Psalms 103:12)

Gratitude. One of the most important lessons I learned in 2017 is to be grateful for what I presently have, including a healthy and loving family, amazing friends that God has brought into my life within the last year, and having the health and strength to get up every morning to enjoy all the many blessings in my life.  Once we are grateful for that which we already have, God will bless us with that for which we pray he will give to us.

Hope. “But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently”. (Romans 8:25) There are so many things for which I hoped for in 2017, that have not yet manifested in my life. This does not mean the things for which I hope will never manifest. There is no “false sense of hope”, when it comes to waiting patiently for that which we hope. I will continue to hope for a loving, kind, God-fearing companion who loves God as much as I do, I will continue to hope that our children will grow up and be the integral change we need in this world, I will continue to hope that through God, all things are possible.  Lastly I will continue to have hope in one of my favorite verses from the Bible, “We boast in the hope of the Glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:1-5)

Let’s take these four things into the New Year: God’s Love, Forgiveness, Gratitude, and Hope. 

Happy New Year!

Happiness, Inspirational, Life Lessons, Motivation, Motivational

No Comparisons – Don’t Hinder Your Happiness

by Ariane Cunningham

 I feel the number one hindrance to happiness is comparing yourself to others. It is an endless rabbit hole that will make you feel you don’t measure up to what your friends have, what your neighbors have, what other family members may possess.

EVERYONE has their own story. Everyone has a unique calling, a divine purpose, an innate gift that was given just for you. Rest in that. Live life to be YOUR best self, not the best in comparison to someone else. It can make all the difference.

You were uniquely made not to be your neighbor, your best friend, your family member, you were uniquely made to be the best YOU.

YOU are enough. Live to be Your best self. Live your own story. You will surprise yourself with the happiness that comes from No Comparisons.  

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