Imagine… the World Series is in the 9th inning and your team is down by just one run. The bases are loaded and it’s your turn at bat; YOU step up to the plate. Both teams and the entire crowd is waiting and watching to see what happens. The first pitch comes in. It’s directly over the plate but you misjudge and don’t swing. Strike one. You shrug it off and think “no big deal. I can do this!”. The next two pitches come in but they are high and outside.

You are feeling pretty good. All you need is just one hit. One run to seal the game. You step back into the batter’s box and watch as the next two pitches sail directly over home plate. You swing, but miss. You’re starting to feel discouraged, but you don’t have time to process your emotions. You can’t let yourself think. You know that so much is riding on this game; It’s the World Series, after all!

You step out of the box, shake off the anxiety and your nerves, and get back in the box. This is it. This is what you’ve been waiting for. Just you and the pitcher. He rears back and throws. It’s a curve ball. You swing. You miss. You strike out.

Life throws us curve balls; no doubt about it. But honestly, it’s how we persevere and deal with those curve balls that creates our character, and building our character is what builds our hope. And hope is basically all we have in the grand scheme of life.

Do you deal with life’s curve balls as an iceberg or an obstacle course?

Here’s the difference.

You’re in your boat of life floating along and then the unexpected happens. BAM! It may be a divorce, an illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job… really anything can throw us off course.

If you look at the event as an iceberg then you allow it to sink you. You can react in one of two ways: first, you could react by becoming bitter, angry, and mad at the world. Or, you could allow the sadness and depression to engulf you and become withdrawn, aloof, and sullen.

But if you look at life as a learning experience that we all venture through, then you look at life as a giant obstacle course. You see the value in the lessons, even though sometimes it’s hard because of the pain that we must go through. And I’m not saying this from a position of a lack of experience. I’ve faced and dealt with hardships, believe me.

My own personal obstacle course started when I was 4 and my parents divorced. My sister and I went to go live with my mom and then we moved to go live with my dad and stepmom. My sister got very sick when I was 12, she was 16. Then, I watched my sister, my only sibling, deteriorate right in front of my eyes because of multiple sclerosis. I bathed her, fed her, helped her walk and talk until her death at age 20; I was 16.

Then was I was 18 I got pregnant, and at 19 became a single teenage mom just 6 months after graduating from high school. I graduated in the top 5% of my high school class but was on Medicaid and food stamps. At the age of 20 I got married and then at 23 I got divorced. I put myself through college and graduated with a master’s degree in speech pathology. In 2002, after working for two years and not feeling valued as an employee, I started my own business out of a tiny house in Garland. I also got remarried that year and was successful in growing our family, getting pregnant shortly after we wed.

I had my daughter Grace in July and took a week and a half off for maternity leave. If I didn’t work I didn’t get paid. It was stressful but that was life. My husband worked nights and we rarely saw each other, but we were happy because we had a family and each other.

I have had a pulmonary embolism in 2005 and in 2012, when I was 37, I had a stroke in 2 places which required a 7 hour brain surgery. I could keep going with all of the things life has thrown me, but I think you get the gist. Life hasn’t been easy for me and I doubt it has for you, either.

My point in all of this is that life is going to throw you curve balls, but waving the white flag and packing up and going home is not an option. If you woke up then you have a reason to be here. You have a purpose to fulfill. Some days are absolutely going to be harder than others, but draw hope and encouragement from whatever sources you have and know that you, too, can pull through this.

After all, realize that it is all about learning, growing, and building relationships in this giant obstacle course called life.