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Gifted by Life’s Challenges

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

Life can throw us all kinds of challenges—whether small, medium or seeming insurmountable, they call something more from us.

This morning, fussing with my uncooperative hair and complaining to myself about the beautician who didn't cut it to meet my expectation, and noting that I must not have been clear about what I wanted, I finally submitted. “O well, what is IS,” and I grab my curling brush. It’s amazing how that little wand in hand can improve my mood. And just when I think my hair is beyond repair, it sometimes turns out better than ever!

Later this morning when I opened Pat Farrell, OP’s daily online posting, OPREACH, I was greeted with: “Even when life challenges us, it's a gift beyond all measure.” -- Parker Palmer

I got to thinking how often life doesn't give us exactly what we want or expect, but when we rise to the occasion, do what we can to make the best of it, things often work out well enough. We may be surprised how well it turns out—and sometimes even see that the challenge was really a special blessing or gift.

One day some of my Sister friends and I planned to meet near Kansas City for a weekend of prayer, sharing and relaxing together. I was going to leave St. Louis around 4 p.m, Friday after work to be there between 8:30-9:00 p.m. When I tried to pack my weekend bag, I felt an inner force preventing me from moving in that direction. Instead of doing what I had intended, I found myself redirected several times. The clock kept ticking, and at 5 p.m. I saw myself turn on the TV, sit and watch the news, making me wonder: “What is wrong with me? Why am I doing this? I need to get going!” Suddenly around 6:30 p.m. I felt released from whatever was holding me back. I flew into action, and was soon on the highway.

As I approached Kansas City, NPR news reported a terrible accident on the same interstate highway I was taking. It had held up traffic for about 3 hours and was now finally clearing. I arrived at my destination around 11 p.m. safely, mystified, and with a thankful heart. Was it intuition? God? My guardian angel?  The puzzling ‘force’ holding me back proved truly a blessing for me – “a gift beyond all measure”.

I was visiting with a 40-50 year old man who was a quadriplegic due to a diving accident when he was 19. He described it as being the worst day of his life. As he continued to talk, he shared how much he treasured his faith in Christ, and how deeply enriching and meaningful his relationship with God and with other people of faith had become to him. He had a profound spiritual depth that he shared freely and with ease. 

When I asked him what his life was like before that terrible accident, he said he was “pretty dissipated”, and had little or no faith. Suddenly, his eyes lit up as he said, “You know, I have always cursed the day I became a quadriplegic. But now I wonder if it had not happened, if I would have ever looked for or found God—the  greatest gift of my life!”

I have heard other stories of persons who found great gift hidden in some of their life’s worst challenges. Have you ever been served a life challenge that was truly a gift in disguise? I invite you to share your story.

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