by Ariane Cunningham
by Ariane Cunningham
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!
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
– by Dr. Maya Angelou
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.
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.
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.
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.