I used to believe that there were some things that stain your soul forever.  For the longest time, my primary pursuit was simply one of peace.  I did not think that more was possible, or at least not for me.

Some days, I was like a lost Lilliputian, adrift in a vast sea of vicissitude.  On others, I would spin, on and on, travelling along the errant artery that was my supposed path, like an out of control top, dizzy with despair.

I have witnessed and endured many a horror – death, violence, homelessness, self-deprecation, loss. I have felt immobilizing fear, until the fear itself fled.  And then, I felt nothing.

I now know that feeling nothing is worse than fear.  Fear suggests an urge for protection and self-preservation.  Feeling nothing is giving up – pretending your way through life, with each day a new act in a some sad, sordid and unceasing play, as if trapped in the twilight zombie zone.

On and on, I made my way, occasionally glimpsing slight and ephemeral flashes that seemed to suggest that some supposed “harmony” might actually exist in this wearying world.

At such an unfamiliar thought, I raised my head to pay heed.  And when I did, I saw goodness.  I let myself see kindness.  It was like removing a pair of dark sunglasses that had long held hidden all the exquisite colours of the world around me.  I saw suffering, and wanted to ease it.  I saw joy, and I wanted to be a part of it.

I found the courage to look past all the blood-painted pictures that garnished the walls of the gruesome gallery in my mind, and I ventured forth into a world of possibility.

“When you want something,
all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” ~ Paul Coelho

And so the universe seemed to conspire – and my career path veered to the right and there I was suddenly standing in front of a women’s centre – an agency for women and families who have been victims of violence.  They seemed to need me, and I quickly became committed to the mission of the organisation.  I became invested in helping others, and surprisingly, in healing “me.”  I dropped almost all my other clients and took a full-time role in fundraising and public relations – later to become Director of Development.  I would spend close to seven life-changing years there.

Growing.  Making a Difference.  Fluorishing.

I watched the women and saw a reflection of myself not so long before.  I healed alongside them, not even realising that those stains that I had surmised had been seared on my soul were somehow coming loose and washing away.

But not everyone heals at the same pace.  And it’s hard to watch someone struggle to stand.  Some women don’t leave because they think they can’t make it on their own.  Some think they deserve what they get.  Some still make excuses, pretending it isn’t real.  It is heartbreaking to watch their suffering.  I know that the physical wounds heal much more easily than do those that wither our souls.  It takes courage to make it out.

“Although the world is full of suffering,
it is full also of the overcoming of it.” ~ Helen Keller

I now believe that there is magic in every single day. You just have to open your eyes and see it.

Creating a gratitude journal helped me open my eyes to life’s awe-inspiring abundance.  This was a gift I gave to many of the women I came to know.  At first, it can be hard to see the simple blessings  that are plainly there, especially when your world seems so full of suffering.  Finding five things on a bad day when life looks bleak can seem a daunting task – but they are there to find when you look for them.

When a woman would come back to me and tell me she had nothing to write, I would tell her to look again.  “Look for a smile.  Listen for laughter.  Be thankful for tiny arms wrapped around you.  Notice the sun shining.  Hear the birds singing.  Be thankful even for the rain on a dreary day.”

“In real life, magic happens every day.” ~ Mary Calmes

I suspect many of them thought it was an exercise in wasting time.  When they were skeptical,   I would encourage, “Just try it. Give it some time. You’ll begin to see the magic. If you can’t find five, start with one.”

I started a secret stash, prestigiously setting aside one of my desk drawers.  I filled it with individually wrapped, spongy, red, clown noses.  I would often be caught working away, my office door open, adorned in this bright red accessory that always went with everything.  Such a sight was sure to bring a smile and might give something to write in their journal – such a little thing to make such a big difference.

Those that really tried and looked to discover these simple blessings grew to appreciate the lesson. As they embraced this path, they opened themselves to healing, and they seemed to move on much more quickly.  I was always sad and elated as these courageous women said their good-byes – each with a gift including a clown nose of their own. You just never know when one might come in handy. I swear by the success of this strategy!

Laughter and tears were fairly common place at such partings. I am still filled with overwhelming gratitude that we helped each other along the way. I have known some wonderful warrior women, and I count myself amongst them.

We all owe it to ourselves to embrace our worthiness instead of settling for sorrow. We all deserve to feel a whirlwind of elation at new possibilities and simple joys. We all matter and we are all worthy of happiness.

We simply need to remember that…  all the happiness you’ll ever find…  lies in you.

Please share your own stories of overcoming and what helped get you through.


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19 Responses to Overcoming with Gratitude

  1. Betsy Cross says:

    Love these thoughts!
    Whenever I find myself sinking and losing light I reach out to brighten someone else’s day. Never fails to heal me.
    I have a “Believe” journal full of short and simple daily reminders that I’m watched over and blessed. Helps me to see the beauty, magic and Divine in all of my experiences, and to watch for evidence of Divine Intervention and Providence in everything!
    Love the red noses!

    • Hi Betsy. I completely agree! Brightening someone else’s day will automatically brighten your own! I like your idea for a “Believe” journal. Anything that helps others open their eyes to the magic is wonderful! I really appreciate that you took the time to stop by and share your thoughts. : )

  2. Al Smith says:

    Wow.  Thanks Shelley.  So many great words of wisdom, quotes and your story of hope, determination, inspiration and gratitude.  Very moving.  This is one of those, that needs to be read by everyone.  Love it.  Much gratitude for you, Shelley.  Thanks again for sharing your story.


  3. To be grateful is to have one’s eyes open. 

    The trick for me is to become universally grateful.  Grateful for what I DON’T have. Grateful for loss and strife.
    When I feel that kind of gratitude… I weep tears of joy and feel unstoppable. 🙂

    • That is so perfectly true! To be grateful is to have one’s eyes open. You’ve definitely got it right. Be grateful for it all – good times and bad – for what you have and what you don’t. I am in awe of your strength. You are an inspiration : )

    • Shelley Lundquist says:

      Yes, Charles… when we live in gratitude for everything, life is wonderful… and we ARE unstoppable!

  4. Sharif says:

    Such a powerful message of hope and so beautifully written. Thanks for sharing, Shelley. Have a gratitude-filled day.

  5. Jeff Hayes says:

    Your confidence, borne out of trials and an earnest desire to understand life, is quite attractive on you, Shelley.  My greatest heroes have all suffered “nothingness” before coming back to claim the rest of us.  I love who you are becoming.

  6. BobbyClubbs says:

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing your inspiration. An attitude of gratitude can indeed change everything.

  7. Katherine Krige says:

    This is a message that too many need to hear and so many others are afraid to listen to. Our journeys give us the peace and understanding to be. Your journey sounds like it was profound and worth every moment to be standing on the other side with a smile. 

    Blessings to you Shelley

    • Thank you, Katherine. It has been a difficult journey at times, but I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t come through it all. I am grateful that I am strong . I am grateful for so many wonderful blessings. And I am edpecially grateful to be able to help other’s and come froma place of understanding and compassion.

  8. Melisasource says:

    This is a very wonderful message–so many times we either subconsciously work to keep ourselves in the horrors, mistakes, and faults of our past; or we allow others to constantly drag us back into them and mentally keep us there.  It is so important that we free ourselves of all of that and live our lives in the utmost gratitude everyday. -A gratitude of survival from our past, a gratitude of the beauty of the present, and the gratitude of expectation of what’s to come in the future.  Living our lives in gratitude guarantees us joy, happiness, and most of all peace.  Thanks so much for sharing.

    • Hi Makeba… so sorry I missed your comment. I only found it today and wanted to thank you.  You are I are kindred. Gratitude is a choice and a way of living – no matter what life brings. I am grateful for the gift of  your friendship.

  9. It’s nice to be needed but even better to know you are needed. Thanks for sharing your story Shelley.

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