We all endure hard times in our lives, times we must overcome if we are ever to live out our dreams, fulfill our purpose in life and realize our destinies. These are the times when I look to the universe, to my old painter, my jaguar nahual, to the spirits of God's light to give me signs affirming for me that I'm on course with my divine plan, on the right path, doing the right thing. If my heart is open and my mind alert, the spirits never fail to show me the way.

A few years back, I was experiencing just such a hard stretch in life. At the time, I was an out of work single father, raising two kids, struggling to make ends meet. We were in a recession and teaching jobs, once in abundance, were now hard to find. With bills unpaid and my credit spiraling, I prayed for a job!

Atop a rounded boulder at the entrance of Cochise's Stronghold, a majestic network of towering cliffs and jagged rocks 60 miles outside Tucson, in the Dragoon Mountains of Arizona, I made my prayers. In the midst of a devastating drought, I looked out into the arid desert wilderness, a hawk circling high above me, and asked the spirits to bring me a job. Not just any job. In my boldness, I asked for the job of my dreams!

Then, a distant rumble.

“Thunder people are coming, Pep,” Matt, my best friend, who along with my young son, sat praying with me on that high bald rock, whispered in disbelief, “not a drop of rain all year long.”

It was Matt who first took me to Cochise’s Stronghold after my father died, more than 20 years before, while visiting Tucson for a Traditional Indian Medicine seminar. Indeed, it was Matt who introduced me to the magic of this most sacred and powerful place, where, hidden within a deep winding maze of rugged dirt trails and jutting rock formations, the great Apache chief, Cochise, made his stronghold and where, somewhere still unknown, his body was buried.

In the dark distance, I saw thick storm clouds pouring in like a tidal wave from the Mexican border.

“That’s coming out of nowhere, man,” Matt said, “Clouds where there ain’t supposed to be clouds. That’s a sign.”

As dark clouds clustered above me, I closed my eyes and in my prayers I saw the jade jaguar, surrounded by a swirling milky mist within which loomed the indistinct specters I assumed to be the spirits of the stronghold.

“Jaguar, spirits of this stronghold” I asked, “I need a job, the job of my dreams, to provide for my family.”

In that miraculous instant, rain burst from above, falling so heavily upon me that I could barely see through the deluge. While Matt and my son scrambled from the rock for shelter, I (immersed in the quetzal that moment), instead, stretched out my arms within the torrent, thanking God and the spirits for this divine sign that my prayers had been received – I had been heard.

The next day, upon my return to my home in California, I received a phone call, a job offer. Not just any job. It was my dream job - located in my favorite place on the planet, Monterey, California. I packed my bags and, with my son, took off to the Monterey Bay. Three days later, I quit.

There were just too many obstacles, I thought. Among these obstacles; my son, who missed his mother, still living in Southern California, had a breakdown, and our living conditions, as we searched for a permanent residence, were uncomfortable and not appropriate for raising a child. There were other obstacles as well, all of which were designed by God to test and temper me - all things that I could have overcome. Instead, the pressure so heated, I succumbed.

I asked God for a miracle. God granted a miracle to me. I rejected the miracle. The result, life got even harder, the struggle to survive greater, the road back to solvency even more difficult. But, even then, my own divine plan provided pathways leading back to my ultimate purpose in life.

Last Spring, Tiffany and I met up with Matt at Cochise’s Stronghold. It had been several years since my last visit, when the clouds burst open above me. Life was good now, full of glorious blessings. This time, my visit to the stronghold was not to ask for anything but to thank the spirits who had earlier embraced me there and entertained my prayers. I came to make things right.

Hiking deeper into the stronghold than ever before, we eventually separated, each finding our own spot off the trail to meditate and pray. Tiffany found herself a flattened rock where she stretched out beneath the sun, Matt prayed within the shade of an oak tree and I discovered a rocky promontory, a round patch of sand by its edge, overlooking a vast and spiraling maze of brush and rock below. Here, I sat down to pray but even after 20 minutes I couldn’t find the same oneness with land and nature that I had found here before. Somehow, I couldn’t merge with that quetzal vibration.

I stood up and asked once more before leaving, “Spirits of the stronghold, give me a sign that you hear me, that I am forgiven.” Still nothing. I opened my eyes and, dejected, looked down to see a shiny new penny directly atop the sandy patch beneath me.

Since I was a boy, I’ve been picking up pennies. It was my father who first told me that pennies were laid out by angels as good and positive signs and I’ve been sure to pick them up, whether heads up or tails, whenever they appeared along my path. For me, the appearance of a penny has always been a good sign; God’s way of telling me, “Don’t quit now! Keep moving forward! You’re on the right path! You’ve been heard.”

That penny wasn’t there before and it didn’t simply fall out of my pocket or emerge from beneath the soft sandy soil so disturbed when I sat. That penny was placed there, purposely, for me to see, at the very moment that I needed to see it by the spirits of God’s light who surrounded me. It was yet another divine sign that my nahual, my guardian angels, were and are always with me, watching me, protecting me and letting me know that I was once again on course with my divine plan, the mission for my life co-written in Heaven by God and myself.

Divine signs come to us every day and they are everywhere. The universe is always reaching out to us, God and the spirits of light are always communicating to us through our dreams at night, through the quetzal when we are in tune with it, in the synchronicities we experience each day and in the nature around; with the owl that swoops overhead, the cool breeze that ruffles the leaves, the cooing of a dove on a quiet Sunday, the coyote running alongside you on an early morning jog, the babble of a brook, the voices of thunder people, clouds that appear where there ain’t supposed to be no clouds, in the hard rain that comes from out of nowhere.