We all have a history, no matter our age or position in life. No matter what your financial, marital, or spiritual position is, it will always be filled with extremes. How you handle these situations, and the choices you make because of them, will greatly affect yourself and the people around you.

In my novel, Sons In The Clouds one of the main characters went through horrible cruelty at the hands of his father. He was beaten, emotionally traumatized, fearful, and sexually abused until he was finally able to escape toward a better future. He had a best friend (the other main character) who was always there emotionally, helping him around every corner, propping him up, and providing him shelter when he had absolutely no where else to turn. Later in life, with the support from a loving God, that certain best friend, and military training, his life came full circle giving him the courage to stand against anything which dared cause him harm. He could've stayed right where he was, boiling in that melting pot his father created, gladly using it to control him for the remainder of his life. But, he didn't allow the past to dictate his future. In the end, he won. He not only saved himself, but those closest to him while God was watching. His past definitely made him stronger than he could've ever imagined. His childhood became a distant, faded memory. His future: a rugged, new person exposed as a hero to others.

Have you gone through things which are keeping you from an abundant future? Do certain memories still haunt you, destroying your dreams, your relationships, your future goals? So, how do we roar past them? How do we clean the slate, erase the chalkboard, freeing ourselves to receive our greatest days.

Like so many others, I've had some setbacks in my life: job layoffs, relationships gone south, the sudden, unexpected loss of a deeply-loved parent. But, one thing I've noticed about happy, successful people in this world is their unique ability to rise above previous troubles. Rather, they don't look at problems and bad events as a crutch to wallow in negativity (we're all guilty of this), they embrace them as learning experiences, helping them achieve their best moments yet. Many actually enjoy tough situations and problems because it helps them distinguish the truth, and see visions of what's coming next.

Look at these lyrics of one of my favorite songs:

Wake up to a sunny day, not a cloud up in the sky And then it starts to rain My defenses hit the ground and they shatter all around So open and exposed

I found strength in the struggle Face to face with my trouble

When you're broken in a million little pieces And you're tryin', but you can't hold on anymore Every tear falls down for a reason Don't you stop believing in yourself when you're broken

Little girl don't be so blue, I know what you're goin' through Don't let it beat you up Heaven knows that getting scars only makes you who you are Only makes you who you are

No matter how much your heart is aching There is beauty in the breaking, yeah

When you're broken in a million little pieces And you're tryin' but you can't hold on anymore Every tear falls down for a reason Don't you stop believing in yourself when you're broken

Better days are gonna find you once again Every piece will find its place When you're broken, when you're broken

Oh, when you're broken

This song was performed by Lindsey Haun in the movie, Broken Bridges also starring Toby Keith. It was a story about letting go of the past, moving toward a brighter future with the ones you love. Keith was a drunken musician, a washed-out has-been who, through the events surrounding the death of his brother, was suddenly reunited with his estranged daughter. He'd gone through years of emotional abuse because of bad judgment, fear, panic, and betraying his one true love. When he finally faced the victims of his actions, they didn't toss him aside like he thought they would. They learned to embrace, and help him bury his troubled past. Suddenly, a beautiful future was bestowed upon his shoulders, giving him more happiness than ever imagined. All it took was letting go of the days of old, realizing better times were only a few moments away.

We've all been where Keith was. We all let things cloud our future. But, they don't have to. I've become a believer that with one touch of God's favor, miraculous things can happen. Hmm, so much truth in that simple statement!

So much of what makes our present, and future lives depends almost entirely on the choices we've made. We ALL make bad ones, and unfortunately are sometimes caught in the cross hairs of the results. Maybe, we shouldn't have become involved with that certain he/she who broke our heart, taken that promising-looking job that folded a year later, or allowed ourselves to be talked into making that can't-miss investment scheme. We're all guilty of at least one of these, and yes, it hurts when they come to bare. But life, no matter what we do, always continues moving forward. We can either embrace our past, or allow it to manipulate our future. The choice is clearly ours.

Whenever something happens: a tragic event, a sudden loss, a breakthrough or downturn in your career, these things are meant to pave your future, not bring you down. Look at them as new opportunities, showing you the way, carving a path for something much better. After all, everything happens for a reason. It's all part of a master plan, created the moment we were conceived.

I know a lovely woman who recently finished going through a painful divorce. A long marriage has ended, transporting her into the unfamiliar world of being single again. Children, a house, emotions running wild all played a part. For many experiencing the same, a rock to hide under might be just the ticket. But not this woman. She's shown me, and many others how a positive attitude along with an unwavering amount of spiritual guidance has kept her smile brighter than ever-that the experiences which led her life to this point made her stronger, tougher, and ready to attack what's coming next. Now, she knows what she wants. You can see it in the swagger of her walk and confidence of her voice. She's embracing her future, looking forward to new opportunities. Taking from her past and applying what she's learned.

Just like her, your future is in your hands. Make the most of it.