The Driver’s Seat

Life has been opening many doors this past week and I have realized that the opportunities in life are endless if we keep an open mind. Now I don’t believe in coincidences but I do believe that God places events and people in our life at specific times for a reason. He also gives us free will to choose what to do with these moments. It is true that not all circumstances are within our control and neither are how other people act, but how we react and what we do is.

My cousin shared a video with me on a day when I was presented with some interesting choices to make. The message continues to resonate with me and continues to help me gain further perspective on this journey. The video was from Oprah. Now who doesn’t love Oprah? I continued by looking up other Oprah quotes. There are several themes that are weaved throughout many of them and are pertinent to anyone on some sort of life journey.

We need to live our truth. Don’t be in denial of our pasts or what we’ve done or been through. Face it and learn how to move on. Oprah does say, “What you give comes back to you.” So make sure what you give is positive and life affirming, not something negative. Karma really does exist after all.

Our minds play an integral role in our successes. What we believe will greatly shape what and who we become. We can’t just say something though, we need to believe it down to the very core of ourselves. We can end up blocking our own successes because we may tell ourselves that we are not worthy enough. For many on similar journeys like myself, it is believing that we can find happiness, success, and love again. Oprah says, “I’ve interviewed and portrayed people who’ve withstood some of the ugliest things life can throw at you, but the one quality all of them seem to share is an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning, even during our darkest nights.” So maintain that hope, for it is powerful and always know that light will shine again.

Then it all came down to this message Oprah shared in the the video, “You must have some kind of vision for your life, even if you don’t know the plan. You have to have a direction in which you choose to go. You want to be in the driver’s seat of your own life because if not it’ll drive you… Let excellence be your brand.” Very true, we need to have a destination that we are aiming for. How we get there can take many paths but as long as you’re moving in that direction you are in the driver’s seat of your life. Make a conscious choice that you live your life in excellence and not just the #livingmybestlife hashtag that many of us use, but let the actions each of us do show it. Live a life that when others see you, they see the good and bad, the struggles and successes because it keeps it real. Through it all, celebrate being in the driver’s seat and look forward to the destination ahead.

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Forgiveness

Forgiveness, faith, and forward are all great “F” words that have become common words in my vocabulary and have been coming up in conversations with others so much lately. October 9th was such a turning point on this journey and only now am I finding the words to share exactly what happened. In life there is always balance. There is good to every bad, happy to every sad, and forgiveness to wrong doing. The forgiveness is not always easy.

Many of you have followed me on my journey on how life has been since Mark passed away. It has been a series of accomplishments and also many bumps in the road. A few of these bumps occurred over the past months and they truly challenged the way I looked at myself. I became angry, hurt, and betrayed. Looking back on the year, I learned that people who were supposed to be trusted were found to be the opposite. Trust is such a precious gift that when it is lost, takes so much more to get back. Yet, if I held on to that grudge (which I admit I can be very good at), it would only harm me and the progress made this year. So what do I do?

An amazing human that is like my niece started praying. I have been angry with God and had a hard time trusting in his plan. Then something changed slowly and culminated to a major moment of realization and amazing grace on October 9th. I started listening to what people were saying around me and learning to trust that gut instinct that God instills in each of us instead of what I wanted to believe. As I was driving home, I passed by the chapel that holds a special meaning in my life and there was a rainbow, truly God was talking because I was finally listening.  I continued the drive and as I passed by one of the beaches on my way home I started crying. Not just a tear, but that completely ugly cry. The phrase, “Forgiveness through hurt is God’s grace in action,” came into my head. At that moment I knew what I had to do.

Each tear that dropped from my eyes wash away all the hurt, the anger, the pain and gave me a new outlook. To truly give myself the freedom to move forward I had to forgive. Forgive those that had made bad choices that affected my family. Forgive those who sought selfish choices that would affect me. Just forgive. Being able to forgive under these circumstances is no easy task but God made it happen. Once I did that my life was able to open up to so many positive things and moments! In the days since the 9th there have been more bumps but that voice within told me they were coming and to keep my faith in God’s plan because many unexpected blessings are on the horizon that will slowly start entering my life. I am finally ready.

We are all on our own journeys. Many times we think we need to find God. We don’t. He is always there and we just need to listen. Steve Maraboli wrote, “You are not on a journey to God; you are on a journey WITH God.” Yes! Now that I have teenagers I understand this even more. I likened my moments of not wanting to talk to God to when my children are mad at me and not wanting to talk. Just as I never stop loving my children in these moments, God doesn’t stop loving us. He stays quiet while we work through what’s needed while still keeping a watchful eye just as parents do to their children. When we are ready to listen, he’s there. Sometimes, just as children, he has to help us listen by placing circumstances in front of us to guide us to these realizations. While I may not have understood them at the moment, I thank him for them now. Sometimes the true miracles are the things that don’t happen or the prayers we think go unanswered so we can really see what lies in front of us and proceed forward.

I can attest that the moments I’ve been through on this journey have and continue  to resonate to others and have started to have a positive impact in the lives of complete strangers. Why did they happen to me? Truly only God knows. Though through it, I have become so much stronger, found out more about myself these past couple of weeks than I have in the past couple of years, and most importantly found purpose. All during this time I have watched my own children do the same and really start to find their passions and purpose as well. What a blessing! The three “Fs” in action, forgiveness, faith, and forward. Faith being the one to open the door to a difficult one, forgiveness. Forgiveness leads to two very powerful things, and God’s grace in action, freedom and moving forward to accept the plans HE has for us. Yes God, I’m ready.

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Let’s Bring Them Home to Their Families

Tragedy can strike us at any given time. We all go through some point in life and think, “It’ll never happen to me.” Wrong. Life happens to all of us. What do you do when life gives you a catastrophic hit? You fight back. I’ve realized that after Mark passed I could be hurt, angry, scared, devastated… to name a few emotions. What I never thought I’d feel was hopeful.

I think back on what sometimes seems a lifetime ago when Mark and I were a team in so many ways. Even Facebook sent me a reminder that on this day 8 years ago, Mark turned to me on the couch and said, ” You’re my best duet ever!” True, he was mine as well. So it is no doubt that life after his death would still involve working to help others with Mark as the driving force. Today was a very inspiring meeting with two people from the American Heart Association of Hawaii. Lindsay and Lauren met me to talk about Mark’s story.

As with anyone, when you tell a story, it’s more than the age and gender that defines them. He wasn’t just a 39-year-old male who died of a heart attack. Mark Beppu was a father, son, husband and friend. Using his story to help others is a way to keep his legacy going. What is more important is that telling his story may help make sure more people never miss a son’s 8th grade right of passage to high school, a daughter’s first cross country meet, a daughter’s father/daughter dance. Telling his story can help save lives.

Today I was so hopeful and thankful. This feeling stemmed from a couple weeks ago when I toured one of our facilities and looked at their hybrid cath lab. I stood there with sadness and inspiration at the same time. I listened as they told our group how this room was designed to help people diagnosed with a heart attack get the treatment they needed quickly and could just as quickly be converted to an operating room for open heart surgery if needed. A few tears found their way down my cheek as I remember that night when the doctors fought to get a heart rate to try to get Mark to the cath lab, a heart rate that never came to be. Why was I standing right there at that moment?

It donned on me, my purpose was being called upon. My purpose and inspiration would now be to find a way that every person who comes through those doors would have the chance to make it to that cath lab and make it home to their families. Work is just one way. Working with the American Heart Association is another. If there is something that drives your passion and it also mixes with your purpose, it is both a blessing and a calling. I have worked with American Heart Association in years past but now it is with a stronger conviction than ever. I remember hugging Lauren and Lindsay before they left and telling them, “Let’s do this. Let’s make sure we help others and let’s bring them home to their families.” That’s exactly what I intend to do because like the bottom of the American Heart Association water bottle says, “Life is why.”

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Sun and Moon

Late this afternoon I went on one of my favorite hikes. I haven’t done this hike in a while so I was excited. Koko Head is a series of 1,048 steps that leads to a breathtaking view of east Oahu. Recent rains made today’s hike full of obstacles. What makes this hike so special to me is that ever since Mark passed away this hike has brought me so many moments of peace, prayer, relaxation, and realizations.

I haven’t been one to go to a physical church since Mark passed. I was so angry with God and questioned why he took him from this world. On these hikes I learned to talk to God again. I stopped with the whys and stopped being angry. In the past few months I’ve gone through more moments and situations that created more whys and of feelings of hurt, sadness, and betrayal. The whys for God came back. Last week I realized there are never any clear cut answers and in God’s time truths and purpose are revealed. This afternoon’s hike was a moment of God’s perfect timing as well.

Looking at the stairs ahead of me I knew it wouldn’t be easy. It’s been a while since I’ve done them. I said, “Well God, here we go again.” In the beginning the steps were easy and I looked up and saw the many more steps ahead of me, and then it became daunting. So I took a deep breath and started my conversation with God. It was almost like a recap of this past year. At one point I even felt THAT breeze, the one I feel carries Mark’s love and presence with it, surround me. Before I knew it, I was at the top of the stairs in time to witness a sky with every shade of blue and orange and a spectacular ray of sunlight peaking just above the horizon. It was at that moment I knew life was about to change again.

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Now I am never quite sure how or what is going to happen when I get those feelings but I’ve learned to go with it. I’ve learned to trust in God’s plan. That sunset represented the end of another chapter. A chapter closed by forgiveness and healing. Then I looked up at the sky again. There was the sun and moon together in the same sky at the same moment, creating another beautiful vision. I just took a deep breath to take in the moment. I could see the sun that to me represents new starts, purpose, life, and energy and I could see the moon that represents the mystery in each of us and our deeper emotional self.

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Of course another quote came to mind just then, “Live by the sun, love by the moon.” In that snapshot of time both the sun and moon were coexisting in harmony. Maybe this means my life is starting to shift into that harmonious phase. I’ve learned the power and healing that forgiveness can bring. Moving forward in life is about taking all experiences and allowing them to shape us into better versions of ourselves, even if some of those moments were less than stellar. To live by the sun I think logically, set a course with goals to achieve, make sure my children are living their best life and potential. To love by the moon I let go of my fears and let my heart guide my actions. The harmony of both existing in that moment was as if God was telling me that my mind will keep me focused but to not let the past harden my heart. Both mind and heart need to work in harmony, even if sometimes conflicted, in order to find our true purpose and happiness.

So as the evening sun set, I let go of everything! I hiked down the hill to start living a life filled with focusing on the good, focusing on the potential of what will be and knowing that happiness lies within me. Being at peace with God and life allows goodness, success, and love to follow. It’s time…

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Rainbows and Grace

I had a moment of amazing grace yesterday. It was a moment that brought me to tears as I was driving home. A moment that gave me the most peace that I’ve had in over a year. Those tears washed alway so many other moments of hurt, pain, anger, and sadness. While I still can’t put into words exactly what happened I know God is working on me right now.

Today I almost wasn’t going to be on campus to pick up my daughter from practice, but as divine intervention would have it, here I am. I sat in my car thinking of situations that have come up and how I have found that even through hurt I could find forgiveness. A forgiveness that can only come from God’s grace in action.

Then one of the other dads walked by to say hi and said, “Wow, look at that rainbow!” So I got out of my car to look at it. I noticed that behind the beginning of this rainbow was a cloud shaped like a broken heart and the rainbow was crossing the hole in the middle of it.

I started praying. I thanked God for every moment I have endured, both good and bad. I know all of these moments are shaping me for whatever he has in store on this journey. I closed my eyes and said, “God, do you thing! Whatever it is, I’m ready!” As I opened my eyes and looked up to the sky I saw that rainbow become more vibrant in color and grow across the sky. That cloud that looked like a broken heart had disseminated too. Seriously! As if that wasn’t enough, a serene breeze blows across my body as I sit here and write this. Mark is here. Somehow, some way, I have a feeling the next chapter in my journey is about to begin. I’m ready.

Icons, Inspiration, Purpose, and Rules

Throughout my life there have been certain people that have always fascinated me. As I’ve gotten older I still admire them for the grace and strength they showed throughout their life, a grace and strength I hope to show my children. When people ask how I manage to stay so positive and resilient, I remind them that I am not always. I am human. Part of my secret is finding inspiration through quotes and affirmations. Two of my childhood icons have some amazing ones that have helped me through those rough moments… Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn.

When I was younger I admired them for their fashion sense and desire to give back. As I got older I grew a greater appreciation for them as mothers and finding ways to somehow balance their children with the demands of their work life and still being able to help others. They were beautiful not only for their outward beauty but also for their heart. They both kept their dignity and heads high even when there was turmoil around them.

For my birthday this year I received an Audrey Hepburn journal. What an amazing gift to help organize my thoughts while being inspired to keep moving forward. Two of the quotes that totally stand out to me are:

1. “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”

2. “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!”

Yes! Both so very true. In this journey of finding how to cope with the grief and loss of losing my partner in life and love, I’ve been through the process of being restored, renewed, revived, and redeemed. I’ve seen how dark I could feel and how I never thought I’d get through it but then remembered her second quote of nothing is impossible. That’s where I find the positivity to keep going. Yes, I may fail at times but get up and keep going and learn through the failures of how to get better.

Even with so much sadness, life has been blessed by so many beautiful people who have shown so much support this year. I now continue to move forward with my children and show them how amazing it is and feels to give back to others, yes, pay it forward. That a kindness shown to you, when shared with others, grows exponentially. In those times I find healing and spiritual growth as well. Nothing heals a broken heart more than that.

Princess Diana and Audrey Hepburn had a beauty and femininity that was undeniable. They also had a fierceness and strength that helped them conquer challenges. While my closet and wardrobe is greatly inspired by the style and class of these amazing women, my will to make a difference during my life is too. That is the purpose I’m finding on the journey now. That is my reason and my why along with my children. Even though some may still have opinions of how I should be or act now, I think of these three quotes from Princess Diana:

1. “I want to do, not just to be.”

2. “When you are happy you can forgive a great deal.”

And mainly… “I don’t go by the rule book… I lead from the heart, not the head.” That is the only rule I follow.

You’re Really Not Coming Back

Today both me and Mackenzy weren’t feeling the greatest. She went upstairs after her game to rest while I rested on the couch. As I napped I must’ve dreamt of you because I woke up to look towards the door. Harsh reality hit home again, you’re really not coming back.

Even after a year these times still happen. I mean, I know the reality. I know you’re gone but sometimes I think my heart forgets. It never forgets you, but it says screw reality. Ah love, we miss you.

After that depressing moment there was still some good. The amazing part of today was realizing how much a part of me you are! I’ve been saying that I haven’t felt your presence as strongly ever since your one year Heavenversary. Now I know why. While you may have crossed that ethereal bridge, a piece of you has become such a part of me that I can’t always tell it’s you. We have almost become one and the same. Our children, totally! They are half you no matter what. But for you and me, that bond we had for all those years lives on in me as an integrated part of me. What a beautiful blessing! While reality does tell me that you’re never physically coming back, I do carry your love with me wherever I go and when I close my eyes I can still see you smiling back at me. That can never be taken away.